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my youth is yours

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The first thing Lena notices about National City after she moves there is that it’s almost perpetually sunny.

It’s appropriate, she thinks, considering a certain person she knows lives there. A certain person she’s been trying to avoid thinking about. It’s been four years since she’s seen said person and yet after moving to National City, Lena can’t stop thinking about the possibility of randomly running into her - at a coffee shop, at the bank, at dinner, on the street corner.

She spends the first few weeks after moving looking over her shoulder in a near constant paranoia. It’d be unlikely, she tries to remind herself, to run into one specific person in a city as big as National City. The thought calms her and she manages to stop obsessing over the idea.

Of course that’s about the time she walks into the lobby of Luthor Corp and she sees the exact person she’s been trying to avoid standing next to a laughing Clark Kent.

Kara Danvers. Ex-girlfriend.

Someone she’s entirely unprepared to run into despite the weeks she’s spent imagining the event.

She’s especially unprepared for the sight of Kara in her dress and pink sweater. It immediately transports Lena back to a different time, in the lobby of a different building and she feels a wash of memories hit her in the chest so hard she has trouble catching her breath for a second.

Neither Clark nor Kara has noticed her yet, but the man at the security desk is looking at her expectantly and she realizes then that she’s halted just inside the doors of her own office building, jaw dropped slightly as she stares.

It doesn’t help that Kara looks exactly the same as Lena remembers her and she’s just frozen as she takes in the image of her. Kara is gorgeous, as always, and Lena can’t help but drink it all in. The way Kara laughs at whatever Clark is saying, the way she reaches up to adjust her glasses, the sight of her strong jawline and blonde hair pulled up off her neck. Lena’s brain catalogs it all, files it far back into her heart where she keeps the rest of her memories of Kara.

The security guard’s voice breaks through her thoughts, “You okay, Miss Luthor?”

Recovering, she shoots the man a tight smile and strides forward, pumping forced confidence into her posture. She reminds herself that she’s Lena Luthor. Youngest CEO in Luthor Corp history, voted most powerful under 30 in National City and made of strong enough stuff to withstand a random meeting with the former love of her life.

Her heels click loudly against the tiles and she only gets a few feet before both Kara and Clark turn.

It’s a wonder Lena doesn’t trip and fall the minute Kara blinks her pretty blue eyes Lena’s direction.

Clark smiles politely, an expression Lena returns, but Kara just stares at her - wide eyed as if she were surprised. It’s a ridiculous reaction, Lena thinks. Her last name is on the side of the damn building. Surely Kara expected to see her.

“Mr. Kent,” she greets, ignoring Kara for the moment. “To what do I owe this visit?”

“I was hoping I could borrow a few minutes of your time, Miss Luthor,” Clark says, polite as ever.

Lena gives him a practiced smile, feels Kara’s stare on her like they were touching. “Of course.” She gestures in front of her. “Follow me to my office?”

“Certainly,” Clark says and Lena moves past them to the elevator bank.

They manage to make it into an elevator and towards her office without anyone combusting, but Lena feels like it takes hours. Hours where she has to keep her gaze on the numbers climbing slowly upward, listen to Clark Kent explain to her what prompted the current meeting and pointedly not notice the way that Kara still smells exactly the same as she did four years ago when they still meant something to each other.

“There’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for why I wasn’t aboard the Venture yesterday,” she hears herself saying, but she feels robotic in her motions. She strides across her office mechanically and hangs her jacket up, her purse next to it, trying to keep up conversation.

When she turns back towards the two people in her office, Kara is staring at her like she’s seeing a mirage and Lena knows the feeling acutely. Their gazes snap together and Lena has a hard time remembering what role she’s supposed to be playing in the moment, but she thinks she’s still talking so that’s good.

She hears Kara remind her that, “Supergirl was there too,” and Lena almost laughs. She remembers the day the news broke about some mysterious girl saving a crashing plane, how not long after it was announced that National City was host to another Super. Lena knew right there and then that it was Kara even without seeing the grainy images of her ex-girlfriend standing on the wing of a plane.

They look at each other for a bit longer than appropriate and Lena’s sure her expression is giving her away.

For the sake of Clark Kent, who is looking between them like there’s something there to piece together, Lena makes a quick decision and calls on all her considerable acting skills. She tosses an amused look towards Kara and a casual, “And who are you exactly?”

Kara answers her in that stuttering way she has and Lena knows it’s partly Kara’s natural cadence and partly the same turmoil Lena’s currently feeling twisted around her heart.

They manage to get through the conversation easily enough - Clark subtly accuses her of blowing up the Venture in that midwestern righteous way he has while Lena tries her best not to just outright stare at her ex-girlfriend. Kara’s doing a much less admirable job of it because Lena feels like there’s heat vision coursing over her face with the way Kara is watching her.

“I’m just a woman trying to make a name for herself outside her family,” she tells them, trying to ignore the sympathetic twist to Kara’s eyes and mouth - the memory of whispered conversations and confessions over late night coffee and ice cream swirls up into her brain. She hates that her voice breaks a little when she asks, “Can you understand that?”

“Yeah,” Kara says, her voice equally shaky and Lena has to stand up and do something just so she doesn’t have to confront everything that’s happening in her present day.

She paces across her office to grab the flash drive she knows has the information Clark Kent is here for and hands it to him, hoping it will at least make her current nightmare end. The nightmare where she has to look at a girl that was once her entire world and act like she’s nothing more than a stranger.

Kara smiles at her before they leave, that soft shy smile that Lena remembers in her worst dreams. Lena can’t quite return the expression, just settles for watching Kara walk away and trying to settle the pounding erratic rhythm of her heart.

--

Lena can’t concentrate on anything the rest of the day. It’s like her entire brain has reverted back to four years ago and can’t stop playing images of Kara Danvers on repeat. By mid afternoon she realizes she’s going to get exactly zero work done and concedes the battle.

Of course that’s about the same time there’s a drone attack on the helicopter meant to take her to her afternoon meeting. Flying is honestly the worst. She makes a mental note to speed up research on some sort of teleportation system that could eliminate the more archaic ways of travel but before she can think more of it, two figures in red and blue pop up in front of her helicopter and Lena sighs.

She had wondered how long it would take for her to meet National City’s resident alien crimefighter. It should have occurred to her that it wouldn’t take that long, especially after seeing Kara again, but she didn’t really imagine it would happen as she’s hurtling through the air in a crashing helicopter.

Yet, there was Supergirl. Pulling the helicopter back down to the helipad and ripping the door violently off its hinges.

Their gazes connect.

“Lena! Lena! Lena!” Kara’s voice is pulling Lena’s brain out of whatever heavy fog it’s in and she’s suddenly aware of the strong smell of gas and fire in her nose. When she blinks awake it’s pure chaos around her - she has trouble focusing on just one thing. The last thing she remembers is driving, crossing through the intersection at Angela and Freemont.

Now her eyes dart between the cracked windshield in front of her, the blown out airbag sagging from her steering wheel, another car flipped over and barely visible across the road. She blinks at everything and tries to put it all together, but her brain feels like it’s running through molasses and she can’t get her body to do anything.

That is until the door of her car is suddenly ripped off with a loud shredding sound and familiar hands are on her arms, a body shoving into the car to rip her seatbelt in half and pull her out of the vehicle.

“Lena,” Kara is saying and Lena clutches at Kara’s strong biceps, the feel of her girlfriend cradling her brings Lena just a little bit back to the present and she lets Kara lift her up and walk them away from the fiery crash scene. “Lena stay with me, are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Lena murmurs, her voice feeling scratchy and pained. “I’m fine.” She tries to run a soothing palm up Kara’s bicep, but when she does she sees the blood and dirt across the back of her hand and becomes acutely aware of the sharp pain in her forehead and the one in her lower back.

“You’re going to be okay,” Kara is saying, over and over again, still walking with Lena in her arms. “I’ve got you and you’re going to be okay. You’re safe.”

And Lena does feel safe. Secure in the solid embrace of Kara’s arms, the steady heartbeat under her ear and Kara’s whispered reassurances.

“Love you,” she croaks, her palm fitting itself against Kara’s chest.

Lena must black out again after that because the next thing she knows she’s waking up in a hospital bed with Kara curled up in the window seat to her right.

“You’re safe now.” It’s spoken so intimate and personal and Lena believes her, doesn’t think to doubt Kara, torn back into the present day crash by Kara’s knowing stare.

Irritation bubbles up inside her. “What the hell was that?”

“Someone’s trying to kill you,” Kara says with this tone of accusation Lena bristles at.

“That much I gathered,” Lena deadpans, narrowing her gaze at Kara.

“Let’s get you out of here and we can talk later.” Kara is running her hands over the helicopter pilot, checking his vitals Lena presumes.

Her hands shake where they try to take her seatbelt off and she fails about three times before Kara is suddenly steadying them with her own warm ones. Lena’s nerves settle in that way they always did at Kara’s comforting touch. Kara rips the seatbelt off the seat under Lena and helps Lena out of the helicopter.

It’s the first time Kara’s touched her in years and Lena starts shaking for an entirely different reason than before. Kara looks about how Lena feels and they both break away from each other as soon as Lena’s feet touch the ground.

“I have to-” Kara gestures at the helicopter pilot and Lena understands. “Don’t move,” Kara tells her. “I’ll be right back.”

With a quick blur Kara is gone and so is the pilot and Lena’s left standing on the helipad trying to steady the shake in her hands.

In just over a minute Kara is back, landing in front of Lena and shooting her a tentative smile. Her arms open a little and Lena looks at them with trepidation. “Can I give you a ride down?”

Instinct pushes Lena forward as if to walk straight into Kara’s arms, but she pulls back a little, hesitating.

“Lena, it’s a long way down,” Kara says softly, walking forward and all Lena can manage is a little nod - she’s not sure she could walk competently at this point anyway.

Kara scoops her up like it’s something natural, something she’s done a million times. It is, Lena supposes. It’s not the first nor the hundredth time she’s been lifted up into Kara’s arms like she weighs nothing.

She has no idea what to do with her hands so she just winds one over Kara’s shoulders and clenches the other in a fist in her lap.

It’s strange to be flying with Kara again after so many years. She thinks of her earlier comments as the helicopter was just taking off - I hate flying. It’s true and she does, but there was something about being midair with Kara that always felt safer, more secure. She hates that nothing has changed.

Kara smiles at Lena reassuringly and takes a step off the tall building. Her stomach swoops, but she’s not sure if it’s because of the way Kara’s hands feel cradling her legs and back or if it’s from the sudden feeling of falling.

“You okay?” Kara asks when they touch down.

Lena runs a shaky hand through her hair and steps away, desperate to put distance between them. “Yeah, thanks,” she manages to say through the dry feeling in her throat.

Kara looks at her like she doesn’t believe Lena, but nods anyway. “Well, I’ve got to-”

“Duty calls,” Lena says with a small smile.

With one last nod, Kara turns and speeds off in the direction Lena knows Superman is, presumably fighting the other drones.

It feels like it always does, when Kara flies away from her, and Lena presses a little to her sternum to try and push out the hollowness there.

She calls her assistant as she’s walking down the block towards her new apartment. There’s no point in going back to her office or trying to get to her meeting on time. She thinks major near death experiences qualifies as a worthy excuse to take the afternoon off (she tries not to acknowledge that the real reason is: I had a painful run in with the former love of my life).

“Jess, cancel my appointments for the rest of today,” she tells her assistant when the call clicks through. “I’m going to work from home.”

“Of course, Miss Luthor! I heard the crash and they evacuated us. Are you okay? I’m back in the office now, but I can-”

“I’m fine, Jess. Just please take care of my appointments.”

“Right away.”

--

It was one of the longer weeks of Lena’s life and she had spent the majority of it in the engineering lab across campus trying to fix a prototype for her final project. By Friday she’s running entirely on shitty coffee from the basement kitchen and the few snacks she’d remember to snag from her dorm when she finally stopped by there to change clothes.

Kara had texted her, of course, to make sure she was eating and sleeping and had even stopped by a few times. But Lena had shooed her away with firm warnings not to distract her and that she’d be done soon.

She’s the only one in the lab and her eyes feel dry and tired as she tries to keep them open. She’s so close to being finished - in some respects she is, but she’s a perfectionist at heart and she’s just not happy with her work yet.

There’s a cup of coffee at her elbow and she takes a sip of it only to gag on the cold bitter taste. She’s sticking her tongue out, disgusted as she shoves the coffee cup away from here when she hears laughter behind her and turns.

“Kara,” she says with warning.

“I’m here to rescue you!” Kara announces with overly exaggerated bravado, hands on her hips and a wide grin. It makes Lena laugh, amused at her girlfriend’s antics.

“I told you not to distract me or I’ll never finish this project,” Lena says, fighting against her smile. She turns back around and tries to run her eyes down the list of calculations she has in her notebook.

“You’ll never finish this project if you fall over in the middle of working on it,” Kara retorts, now up against Lena’s back and running strong fingers over the tense muscles in Lena’s shoulders. She fights an indecent moan that she wants to let out.

“Stop that,” Lena protests, but Kara doesn’t, just runs her thumbs up Lena’s neck towards her hairline and Lena’s head sags forward with the feeling, her whole body going limp.

“Come on,” Kara entreats. “Let’s go take a quick nap, eat real food and recharge and then you can come back here and give it your all.”

It’s a tempting offer, but the desire to do so wars with an inner, deeper need Lena has to keep working, keep making everything perfect. Kara must sense it because she twirls Lena’s chair around so they’re facing each other, Kara’s hands on the arms of the chair as she leans down.

“I’m super about consent and everything and you are your own woman and I don’t control your life, but I’m also seriously invested in your well being and if I have to pick you up and fly you out of here so you don’t collapse, I will.”

The truth of the statement is right there in Kara’s face and Lena sighs, slumping back into her chair. “I’m not going to collapse.”

“You’ve been in here for over a day straight.”

Lena’s brows come together at that. Had she lost track of time that terribly? A glance at the clock on her computer tells her she had. “I didn’t realize,” she murmurs.

“Exactly,” Kara says firmly, standing and scooping Lena out of the chair. “So let’s go.”

Lena lets out a surprised exhale when Kara just plucks her up into her arms before laughing, her arms slinging around Kara’s neck automatically. “Kara put me down. I can walk.”

“I can fly,” Kara counters walking towards the exit to the lab and Lena looks around quickly at the admission, double checking no one else is there.

“Kara,” she hisses in warning.

“Oh, please,” Kara replies rolling her eyes. “No one else is crazy enough to be in here. It’s four in the morning on a Saturday.”

“Put me down,” Lena orders and this time Kara obeys, setting Lena back on her feet and looking chagrined. Lena puts her palm on Kara’s cheek to reassure her that she’s not actually mad.

“Can I at least get my stuff?”

Kara looks sheepish at that and laughs. “Yeah, sorry. Of course.”

Lena kisses Kara on the cheek before turning back to grab her things, stuffing it all into her brown messenger bag and slinging it over her shoulder. When she turns back, Kara is waiting, hand extended forward and Lena takes it, sagging tiredly into Kara’s side and letting her girlfriend lead them back towards Lena’s dorm.

She doesn’t remember much after that - the exhaustion in her body takes over and by the time she’s back in her room she’s collapsing on the bed.

When she wakes up it’s to the smell of delicious coffee - the flavored kind that Kara favors - and a warm body pressed up against her side. Lena inhales deeply, feeling recharged and sated. She cards her fingers through the blonde hair near her shoulder and smiles when Kara blinks up at her sleepily.

“I made coffee,” Kara murmurs, snuggling up more firmly against Lena’s body.

“I smell that.”

“I’ll make breakfast too and then you can go back to work.”

“Okay, boss,” Lena jokes and Kara looks up concerned.

“I’m not trying to boss you around.”

Lena laughs, kisses the pout away from Kara’s face. “I know, sweetheart.”

“I just worry about you.”

It feels a lot like I love you to Lena and even though neither of them have said such a thing, she feels it in every little action Kara does. Sometimes it feels like Kara is screaming it at her. “I know,” she says quietly, tracing one of Kara’s eyebrows with her finger. “Thanks.”

--

There’s a knock on her door that night and Lena doesn’t need to check her security cameras to know who it is. Even if the knock wasn’t so familiar, she doesn’t get many visitors. None, in fact. There’s only one person it reasonably could be.

When she swings the door open, Kara is there as expected. Glasses back in place on her face and supersuit traded for a pair of soft navy pants and a white shirt.

“Hi,” Kara says, softly with her hands held in front of her.

“Hi.”

“Can we talk?”

“Of course.” Lena ushers her inside, moves them into the kitchen because it feels like the safest territory, most impersonal.

“Drink?” Lena asks already reaching for a beer inside her fridge. The same brand Kara used to drink in college - the brand she keeps stocking in her kitchen despite rarely drinking it.

“Wow, I haven’t had this in forever,” Kara says, smiling at the label and twisting the cap off.

Lena pours herself a glass of scotch because she’s entirely sure she’s going to need it and the first peaty hit of it on her lips makes her feel just a little bit better.

“So…” Kara starts, picking at the label on her beer bottle and failing to meet Lena’s eyes for a long moment.

Lena doesn’t answer, takes another sip of her drink instead and watches Kara over the rim of her glass.

“You look -” Kara’s mouth moves a little, but silent, searching for the words and Lena wants to laugh at it. She’s sure she looks nothing like the college student Kara remembers - faded jeans and sweatshirts now traded for power suits and heels - maybe she should have changed out of her work clothes before Kara got here. “You look different.”

It’s such a massive understatement that Lena almost laughs. Lena is entirely different than the last time she saw Kara - she left that version of herself behind with Kara, exchanged it for the costumes and the lines of the role she was born to play. For a brief, terrible moment Lena wonders what Kara will think of the new version of her, wonders if she’ll like her.

Here with Kara now, however, Lena feels a bit of her old self start to seep back into her. It’s a vulnerable and terrifying feeling.

“Good different, I hope,” Lena says, eyebrow arching as she glances down to observe herself. “I usually change after work, but my mind has been elsewhere today.”

“Of course it’s a good different. I think it’d be impossible for you to look bad,” Kara answers easily and it scratches rawly against Lena’s emotions. Kara’s casual honesty was always so hard to fight against and Lena finds herself falling back under its spell.

“You look good yourself,” she replies, attempting a smile and trying to stop her brain from memorizing the way Kara’s face looks, the way her eyes are still the prettiest shade of blue Lena’s ever seen. Kara doesn’t look different. She looks exactly as Lena remembers her and it’s completely unnerving. The only time Kara had looked remotely different was - “I especially like the new edition to your wardrobe.”

Kara looks at her like she’s confused for a second so Lena adds, “The blue and red one. With the cape.”

A grin adorns Kara’s face, her back straightening a little. “You do?”

“Supergirl, huh?” Lena teases and Kara blushes.

“Ms. Grant named me,” Kara explains, biting at her bottom lip. Lena gets distracted by the motion for a short second. “It wasn’t my first choice.”

“Cat Grant knows?”

“No, of course not. She just -” Kara waves her hand around vaguely. “Branded me, I guess. That’s what she’d call it.”

“Well, you’ve been all over the news,” Lena tells her. “Even in Metropolis.”

“Really?” Kara seems to brighten at the idea and Lena finds herself smiling genuinely for the first time all day.

“Yeah,” she laughs. “I’m happy you get to help people like you always wanted to.”

“Feels like a dream sometimes,” Kara says, soft.

“I’d imagine.”

“How did you know it was me?”

Lena arches an eyebrow. “You really have to ask?”

Kara shrugs, takes a swig of her beer and just waits for Lena to answer.

With a laugh, Lena leans over the countertop of her kitchen island and taps a finger against Kara’s glasses watching her ex go cross eyed at the motion. “Cute, but still useless. Your brilliant disguise doesn’t really work on someone that’s seen you the way I have,” she tells her in a soft voice and Kara’s eyes snap up to hers.

Lena swallows, pulls away quickly and feels her heartbeat start to stutter into a quicker pace. She tries to slow it, knowing Kara could hear it if she wanted and walks away a little to put some distance between them.

“So you’re CEO now,” Kara comments and Lena feels herself calm a little at the nervous way Kara twists her beer bottle around in her hands. At least she’s not the only one having a complete mental breakdown.

“Well,” Lena says, shrugging a shoulder. “There was a vacancy.”

“Yeah, I heard about-” Kara cuts off, and Lena’s jaw goes tight. “I’m sorry about Lex.”

It’s sincere - from someone that knew how Lena felt about Lex long before anything went dark, who had been there when he was the only one calling her during college or sending the occasional care package. It’s the first time she’s gotten sympathy for her brother’s madness that doesn’t make her want to punch something.

“Thanks,” she says quietly, smiling against the heat in her eyes.

“Do you want to-”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Lena cuts her off, somewhat sharply, but it’s a topic incredibly low on a long list of things she’s not emotionally prepared to discuss with Kara Danvers at this juncture.

“I understand,” Kara says gently and Lena takes another long sip of her scotch, lets the burn down her chest sooth her.

“So you’re a reporter for CatCo?”

“What? Oh, No.”

Lena’s brows come together. “Were you not interviewing me for the magazine with Clark?”

Kara shakes her head, laughs a little. “Oh, I was just tagging along, I’m not - I don’t - You know, I’m still figuring out what I want to do.”

Lena laughs a little at Kara’s stuttering. “You could have fooled me,” she says with a shrug and Kara just sort of gapes at her.

When it’s clear Kara doesn’t know what else to say, Lena goes for a subject change. “Did you find anything out about the attack today?”

It’s not exactly something Lena’s looking forward to debriefing because she has a pretty good idea of who was trying to kill her, or at least who had hired someone to kill her. It’s painful to think her relationship with her once beloved brother has turned into this.

Rao,” Kara sighs eyes going wide as if she’s just remembering that’s the reason she’s here - not to have some emotionally charged catch up with her ex. “I totally forgot. We need to talk about your rebranding ceremony thing tomorrow.”

Lena’s gaze narrows, confused at the connection. “It’s an announcement, not a ceremony thing. More like a press conference.”

Kara rolls her eyes, looks at Lena pointedly. “Well whatever it is, we need to talk about it.”

“What’s there to talk about?”

“Not having it.”

The idea makes Lena set her drink down and cross her arms defensively. She shoots Kara an incredulous look. “I am not cancelling,” she says. “Absolutely not.”

“Lena you have to cancel,” Kara argues, standing up to striding around the counter with an angry flush in her cheeks. It’s undeniably attractive and Lena swallows thickly, the distance between them suddenly lessened. If she reached out now she could touch Kara and she has to dig her nails into her bicep to restrain herself from doing so. “Someone tried to kill you today.”

“I’m not cancelling, Kara. This company is sinking and without someone to turn the ship around-”

“Just reschedule it, Lena,” Kara interrupts. “Until we can subdue the threat.”

“In case you’ve forgotten,” Lena says lowly, fire in her eyes. “My last name is Luthor. There will always be a threat.”

“Not one so immediate or deadly.”

“Renaming the company and getting it on a new track is my number one priority right now. You need to respect that.” It mimics a conversation from years ago that Lena tries not to think about it. Based on Kara’s expression, Lena’d guess Kara is trying not to think about it as well.

“I am well aware of where your priorities lie.”

It’s feels like a low blow, so unexpected that it almost makes Lena snap back, but she stays composed. “Then, like I said, respect it.”

“Your life should be a priority.”

“That’s not your concern anymore.”

Hurt flashes all over Kara’s face and Lena hates it.

--

“Lena,” Kara warns, but she’s laughing, pulling Lena back down into the narrow little bed in Lena’s dorm room.

“Kara I have to get to class,” Lena says. Or at least she tries to, but she coughs about halfway through the sentence and the rest of the words get lost between the hacking and the sniffling.

“You have the flu. You need to sleep and drink plenty of fluids.”

“I can still go to class. Don’t be ridiculous.”

“You’ll never get anything done,” Kara argues, her grip firm on Lena’s wrist. She tugs gently, tipping Lena back over into the bed. “You need to take care of yourself.”

“I take care of myself just fine.”

“You are the worst at taking care of yourself,” Kara says knowingly. “Or was I hallucinating the week you pulled a double all-nighter and still went to class hopped up on Red Bull and adrenaline? And then you tried to convince me you could totally drive to Midvale that night.”

“I had a huge project and I didn’t want to miss Thanksgiving with your family.”

“Get in here,” is all Kara counters with, turning Lena over in the bed so they’re spooning. “Let someone take care of you for once.”

Lena coughs a little but can’t deny the desire to just stay in bed and fight the fever she can feel creeping into her body. She turns a little to look at Kara over her shoulder. “Don’t you have class?”

Kara shrugs, pulls Lena tighter against her body and the warmth seeps through Lena’s shirt comfortably, warding against the chills threatening to wrack her body. “I e-mailed my professors.”

“Kara you can’t skip class just because I’m sick,” Lena protests, but her eyes are fluttering shut and the soft feeling of Kara’s fingers stroking over her abdomen, lips against her shoulder.

“I’m skipping class to take care of my girlfriend and it’s a totally reasonable excuse.”

“You’ll get sick too.”

Kara laughs. “Superior alien biology,” she tells Lena in a whisper. “I’m immune to your earthling diseases.”

Lena rolls her eyes, but sinks further into Kara’s embrace and allows herself the simple pleasure of being taken care of.

--

“This city is my concern,” Kara says and her voice is shaky enough that Lena wants to take back her earlier words. She wants to wrap Kara up in a tight hug and tell her that she missed her and that feeling cared for again is like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert.

She doesn’t do any of that, though, and just let’s Kara keep talking, pleading. “And as a new prominent figure in this city,” Kara continues. “Your safety does concern me.”

“This argument is futile. Short of a court order, nothing is going to make me cancel the ceremony.”

“Lena, your life is in danger. Showing up to that press conference is like just asking someone to take a shot at you.”

“I have security, Kara. Don’t be dramatic.”

“Not enough security,” Kara all but growls at her.

“Are you going to be there?”

“What?”

“Is CatCo sending someone to cover the event?”

Kara adjusts her glasses, brow crinkled. “Well probably-”

“Then you’ll be there,” Lena say definitely. “So it’s fine.”

“It’s not fine, Lena. They’ll definitely try again-”

“And then you can catch them.”

Kara’s face clears then, jaw dropping a little. “I am not going to let you use yourself as bait.”

“That’s not what I’m suggesting-”

“That’s exactly what you’re suggesting.”

“It’s merely a consequence of the fact that this press conference is happening whether you want it to or not.”

Kara’s lips are pressed together angrily, her cheeks flushed, but it looks more adorable than menacing and Lena can’t help but feel warm at the obvious concern Kara has for her well-being. She tries to remind herself that Kara cares about everyone, that it’s not personal and doesn’t mean anything, but it wraps around her heart nonetheless. It reminds her of the many arguments between them in years past - of the stubborn way Kara always stood her ground even against Lena’s relentless logic.

The look on Kara’s face is still just as attractive as when they were in college and Lena tries to fight the urge to remember just how they used to resolve their arguments when they were together.

“Fine,” Kara sighs eventually and Lena lifts her chin a little in triumph.

“Good.”

Fine,” Kara emphasizes.

It’s clear neither of them know what to say to each other anymore and Lena clenches her fist at the urge to reach out and stroke an errant blonde hair behind Kara’s ear. They’re silent for long moments, standing a few feet apart in Lena’s kitchen before Kara’s shoulders sag a little.

“This is so awkward,” Kara breathes out.

“Is it?” Lena asks, with a teasing tilt to her head - an effort to alleviate some of the tension.

Sure, it’s a little awkward to be standing in her kitchen with a girl she once loved so desperately she thought nothing would tear them apart. It’s a little awkward to be talking to each other like nothing has changed when so much has. It’s a little awkward, but Lena finds herself not wanting to be anywhere else, with anyone else.

It’s easy to fall back into old patterns with Kara. Too easy, really. Arguing with Kara, talking to her, caring about each other - it’s all way to comfortable, too instinctual for Lena to do anything about it. It’s awkward when she lets herself think about it for too long, but as always with Kara, Lena can’t seem to think that clearly for much long at all.

Kara rolls her eyes and huffs, breaking Lena from her thoughts. “I hope we can be friends,” she says and Lena’s throat feels thick at the sound of it. “I care about you, you know.”

Heat spikes in the back of Lena’s eyes. “Friends,” she repeats. “Of course. Why couldn’t we be?”

The answer is obvious. They were never really friends, even when they technically were. Lena has zero idea how Kara plans to manage it now with all their history between them. Even now, with Kara looking at her with open blue eyes, Lena can’t help but have very un-friendly thoughts about the other girl.

Kara looks like she’s going to step forward into Lena’s space for a quick moment and Lena’s body just reacts. Her skin starts to tingle and her mouth goes dry and every single cell in her body wants to press forward, push into Kara’s body and put their lips together.

From the way Kara keeps looking at her, Lena thinks maybe the action wouldn’t be rebuffed.

Except they broke up for good reasons. Reasons that still exist and are now only more solidified with everything that has happened in the world since they last saw each other. Lena has a company to rebuild and a family in shambles and Kara is tasked with protecting National City, building a career of her own. Rekindling their romance because Lena can’t get a hold on her own nostalgia would be idiotic at best.

It doesn’t mean Lena stops thinking about kissing her. It doesn’t mean the curiosity isn’t there - the voice in her brain that wants to know if Kara still kisses the same way, if her fingers still feel just as soft, if she still makes the same noises when Lena runs lips up her jawline.

For a brief moment the desire to answer all those questions is almost irresistible and they’re close enough that Lena wouldn’t have to move far to do it.

But then Kara is letting out a little wet sounding laugh and stepping backwards. “I should get going.”

“Of course,” Lena says, shaking the thoughts out of her head, clearing her throat and running a clammy palm across the fabric at her hip.

They walk to the door together and Lena is careful to keep enough distance between them to avoid the temptation to touch.

“Be careful, Lena,” is all Kara says to her before she leaves.

--

“What do you think you’ll do when you graduate?” Kara asks from her perch on Lena’s bed. She idly plays with a model rocket, zooming it through the air above her head.

“Work for Luthor Corp,” Lena says automatically because that question has only ever had one answer.

“Really?”

Lena looks over from her desk, brow furrowed. “Of course, really.”

“Doing what?”

Lena shrugs. “Head of R&D to start. Lex says I’m fit to take over as CIO eventually.”

“CIO?”

“Chief Information Officer,” Lena explains, twisting in her chair and abandoning her work. “Why, what do you want to do?”

Kara keeps her eyes on the model rocket, letting it fly around a little before answering. “I dunno.”

“At all?” It’s a foreign concept to Lena who has known exactly what she’s going to be doing with her adult life since she was five.

“I mean I want to do something . I just don’t know what that is yet,” Kara says and Lena watches the subtle clenching of Kara’s jaw with interest. “I was sent to Earth with a purpose, you know?”

Lena nods, remembering Kara’s story of how she got here.

“And now that I don’t have to worry about-” Kara shakes her head, as if to herself before looking at Lena. “I just want to help people. Do some good.”

“Well you’ve got plenty of time to figure out how to do that.”

“I haven’t even picked a major,” Kara says softly, abandoning the model rocket and looking at Lena. “What if I’m not good enough for anything?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Lena says, moving to the bed.

“And I have all these-” Kara puts her hands up in the air, observing them, turning them over. “Strengths that I can’t really use.”

“I know, sweetheart,” Lena soothes, gripping a hand and holding it. “But you’re more than just super strength.”

“Am I?” Kara asks. “I could help so many people and instead I have to-”

“Kara, you have other strengths.”

“Like what?” Kara asks in a grumble, bottom lip pouting out just slightly.

Lena cups Kara’s cheeks in her hands, smiles down at her before pressing a swift kiss to her lips, laughing when Kara’s head comes up to chase the pressure. “You can do whatever you want to do,” Lena tells her. “I believe in you.”

Kara’s face lights up with a smile that Lena hopes never fades. “You think so?”

“I know so,” Lena says firmly, smiling down at her.  

“Well you are a genius so you must be right,” Kara jokes, the somber expression from earlier now gone.

“I am indeed a genius,” Lena teases back and Kara laughs. “As I’ve been telling you for a year now.”

“So that’s where I heard it.”

Lena shoves her, but Kara grabs easily at her hands and pulls her down onto the bed where they tumble together in a mess of laughter and happiness.

--

Alex Danvers is the first person Lena notices when she heads outside to do final preparations for the press conference. Kara’s older sister is leaned up against a tree on the other side of the park, jeans, leather jacket and very obvious don’t fuck with me vibes.

Lena catches her eye and Alex just stares at her, expressionless. It’s almost as bad as seeing Kara and Lena can’t decide if she should go over and say hello or ignore Alex completely and try to focus on work.

They’re close enough to each other that Lena notices the challenging arch of Alex’s eyebrow and she sighs before handing her tablet to a nearby assistant and walking over.

“Alex,” she greets.

Alex is all thin lips and narrowed eyes. “Lena,” she says dryly. “Long time.”

“Are you here for the-”

“You seem to have warranted full FBI protection,” Alex answers and Lena gives her a look, well aware that Alex doesn’t work for the FBI. Rumors have circulated for years about a secret branch of government tasked with extraterrestrial happenings and Lena would bet her bank account that’s exactly what Alex does - ever the watchful big sister.

“Well,” Lena says with a tight smile. “I feel very protected.”

Alex hums. “Kara says she tried to talk you out of today.”

“She did.”

“Stubborn as ever, I see.”

“Kara and I are friends now,” Lena tells her without really meaning to. Alex is acting like she had when she first met Lena as the girlfriend over five years ago and it’s grating. Maybe she and Alex were never best friends, but they were on good terms and Lena knows Kara wouldn’t want them to be at odds.

“Friends,” Alex repeats in the same doubtful tone Lena had just the night before.

“Yes.”

“She’s my little sister.”

“I’m well aware.”

“You know she was a mess when you guys split,” Alex tells her and Lena cannot be doing this on the same day she has to stand up in front of the news media and announce the renaming of her family’s corporate enterprise. She went four years without having to deal with all of this and now she’s getting the tonnage of it in the span of two days.

“So was I,” Lena says evenly, gaze steady. “Is there a point to this standoff?”

Alex shakes her head, unreadable as always and shrugs. “No.”

“Then if you’ll excuse me, I have things to get done.”

Lena turns to leave, but Alex’s voice stops her for a moment. “Be careful, Lena.”

As she paces away, Lena can’t decide if Alex means it the same way Kara did the night before or if the older Danvers sister is talking about something different entirely.

--

Kara shows up minutes before Lena’s supposed to walk up to the podium and deliver her remarks. Her bright smile is both encouraging and terrifying as she joins Lena on the sidewalk.

“Nervous?”

“Not at all,” Lena replies, but she shoots Kara a teasing smile.

“This is quite a risk, Lena. There’s still time to reconsider.”

“Kara,” Lena says, stopping abruptly on the sidewalk. She glances at a reporter setting up a  camera a few feet away. “This company is all that I have right now,” she says, in a voice so quiet she’s sure only Kara can hear. “You know what it means to me and why I can’t just walk away from it.”

“I’m not asking you to walk away from Luthor Corp, Lena,” Kara says stepping towards her. “I’m asking you to postpone the ceremony.”

“I can’t,” Lena says for what feels like the hundredth time, eyes pleading with Kara to understand.

It seems to work because Kara purses her lips and nods. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Lena repeats. She takes a steadying breath and turns to walk back towards the waiting podium.

“I’ll be here,” Kara tells her and it gives Lena just the extra ounce of calm she needs to step confidently up to the microphone.

“I want to thank you all for coming,” she starts, looking around the small crowd.

--

Lena hates having to go these kinds of events, but when you’re the youngest Luthor child and your family has buildings in their name all around campus you kind of have to attend. Her mother had called earlier that week all but ordering her attendance and Lena knows it’s all part of the grooming process - she’d seen Lex go through something similar when he was in school.

“You look great,” Kara says to her from where she’s lounging on Lena’s bed, flipping through channels on the television across the room. “Stop fussing.”

“I’m not fussing,” Lena grumbles, swiping a fingernail at the corner of her lips to insure her lipstick is perfect.

“You’re nervous,” Kara says knowingly and Lena rolls her eyes, picks up another bobby pin from the sink and fixes her hair.

“Not at all,” she argues. “I’m just annoyed that I have to go to this stupid thing.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Yes I do,” Lena laughs.

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

Lena shoots her a look. “My mother could call me.”

Sighing, Kara stands up from the bed, throwing the remote on the pillow and walks up to Lena. “Do you want me to come with you?”

“No,” Lena answers, probably too quickly and too sharp. Kara’s eyes flash a little with hurt and Lena reaches out to soothe it. A press of her hand to Kara’s forearm and a gentle squeeze does the trick and Kara smiles a little. “You’ll be dreadfully bored and annoyed and I probably wouldn’t get to hang out with you much the whole night.”

Kara shrugs seemingly undeterred. “Is there food?”

Lena laughs. Food would be the selling point for Kara. “Sure, but do you want to spend your night eating small portions of caviar and canapé?”

“Cah-what?”

“Little crackers with cucumbers on it,” Lena explains - it’s not an exact description but she’d bet that’s what’s being served tonight.

Kara’s nose scrunches up in distaste, but she still smiles a little. “I’d suffer through for you.”

It charms Lena, like it always does and she can’t stop that warm feeling exploding in her chest. “Well, I’m not going to put you through that,” she tells her, placing a hand on Kara’s chest and leaning forward to kiss her quickly. “Enjoy your Friday night.”

“I’m not going to enjoy it without you,” Kara pouts.

Lena laughs. “You have other friends,” she points out - knowing that some of Kara’s friends from the astronomy club are throwing a party tonight. “Why don’t you go over to Blue Shutters and see what Josie and those guys are doing? Aren’t they throwing a moon landing party?”

“Lena,” Kara whines.

It’s not that often that Kara gets this clingy and Lena searches her face to find the source. Usually Kara jumps at the idea of a party or a game night or any chance to socialize. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Kara says, the sound of it genuine enough that Lena believes her. “I just know you hate these things and I want to be with you. I hate the idea of you being all by yourself.”

Lena swallows against the sudden thick feeling in her throat. “Kara,” she says softly.

“I know, I know, you have to go and I have to... not ,” Kara says and Lena’s so ready to take it all back and just drag her girlfriend along with her.

“It’s not that I don’t want you there,” Lena tries to explain, but Kara shushes her with a finger against her lips.

“If it’s okay with you I’m going to stay here and mooch off your Netflix account until you’re done and then we can order takeout and watch that stupid medical documentary you wanted to last week.”

Lena’s brow furrows and she laughs if only to stop herself from crying at the soft way Kara loves her. “How to Survive a Plague?”

“Sure,” Kara shrugs.

“Okay, that documentary is not stupid - you haven’t even seen it!”

“Well it sounded boring when you explained it to me.”

“It’s a fascinating study of the AIDS epidemic and incredibly informative and heartbreaking and-” Lena cuts off at the smirk on Kara’s face and she shoves lightly at Kara’s shoulder even though it barely moves. “You’re teasing me.”

“Maybe.”

Pursing her lips, Lena wraps her arms around Kara’s neck and studies her. “You’re trying to make me feel better.”

“Is it working?”

It undeniably is. The dread and nerves Lena’s felt all day with the knowledge that she’d have to spend the night schmoozing in a fancy dress and impeccable makeup has ebbed away almost entirely. Just the knowledge that Kara will be here waiting for her at the end of the night is chipping away at the irritation and resentment she’s had for the event. “Yes,” she admits, feeling Kara’s hands at her hips, pulling them closer.

“Can I kiss you or will it mess up your lipstick?”

Lena sighs, sags a little in Kara’s arms. “I can fix it after,” she whispers before moving forward to press their lips together.

--

The first explosions rattle her forward so violently that her ribs press painfully into the rigid podium in front of her.

Then, everything descends quickly into chaos and Lena jumps immediately off the platform for safety, just as she feels the heat of a second explosion behind her.

She’s barely up the steps, eyes darting around looking for help - looking for Kara - when she sees a police officer she vaguely recognizes raising a gun towards her.

There is no time to react, but she doesn’t need to because the next thing she knows Alex is twisting his arm back and disarming him. Gasping she stumbles back a bit, watching as Alex fights with the man, trading blows with quick precision.

Lena feels incredibly vulnerable just standing there in her skirt and heels while Kara’s sister saves her life. She darts around for anything she can use as a weapon, something she could bash over his head or something to throw at the melee when she spots a fallen security guard not ten feet away.

She darts over, dodging a few people still fleeing the scene before dropping to his side and checking for a pulse. Knocked out, but his heart still beating.

“Just need to borrow this,” she says as she unholsters his gun. “Sorry.”

By the time she gets back to the fight, Kara has joined them and the police officer has Alex by the throat, gun to her head. She hears the conversation Kara is having, something about Lex or her family, but the bitter taste of adrenaline in her mouth is making it hard to focus. All she sees is Kara’s sister in danger. In danger because Lena went ahead with a press conference she knew was dangerous.

The minute the officer gives her an opening she doesn’t hesitate, she raises the gun at the level of his chest and fires. His body flops forward as Alex twists away, grabbing at him as he falls to the ground.

Lena feels absolutely frozen. She’s shot guns before. More than a few times, but never at someone like this. Never at a living breathing body that’s now pouring blood onto the pavement.

She can tell Kara is staring straight at her even as she talks to Alex about the wound and how they need a paramedic. Lena can’t take her eyes off the blood, her muscles feel locked and she’s breathing hard, her spine rigid. That’ll teach, Lex, she thinks.

“Lena,” she hears, soft and soothing. “Lena, put the gun down.”

A warm hand covers hers where it’s tightly gripped around the weapon and Lena sags a little at the familiar touch. “Lena,” she hears again and she finally rips her gaze away from the blood to look at Kara’s careful face.

“He’s going to be fine,” Kara tells her. “But we need to get you out of here and to safety.”

Lena just stares at Kara and tries to get air into her lungs, takes big deep inhales before she feels like she can loosen the grip she has on the gun. “I shot him,” she says quietly.

“You saved Alex’s life,” Kara says.

The paramedics arrive after that, loading up the officer - John Corben, Lena learns - onto a stretcher.

--

Even as a freshman, Lena gets her own dorm room. Luthor money goes a long way after all and Lena doesn’t need the distraction of a roommate when she’s at college to study and study only.

By sophomore year her dorm is in the farthest corner of the building on the top floor. It’s isolated and quiet and Lena loves the privacy of it. Especially on nights like tonight when her otherworldly girlfriend tries to climb in through the window.

The knocking startles her so hard that she throws her highlighter across the room in surprise, her hand flinging to her chest to stop the sudden racing of her heart. The laughter that follows immediately after makes her calm down and she turns to glare at Kara. Her girlfriend is perched outside her window with a wide grin and a pizza box.

“You could use the door like a normal person,” Lena grumbles, opening her window to let her inside. “What if someone saw you?”

“No one saw me,” Kara insists, jumping through the window deftly and setting the pizza box on the bed along with her backpack. “I’m stealthy,” she continues, turning to kiss Lena hello. “Like a cat.”

“Sure,” Lena laughs, wrapping her arms around Kara’s neck and kissing her more soundly than before.

Kara laughs into the kiss, and scoops Lena up around the waist, pulling her off her feet and pressing their bodies together.

“I missed you,” Kara says when they break apart and she sets Lena back down.

Lena laughs. “You saw me this morning.”

Kara just shrugs, plops down on the bed and opens the pizza box. “Still.”  

Lena grabs a piece and scoots over on the bed too so they’re both leaned up against the wall. “Thanks for bringing pizza,” Lena says before taking a bite.

“Well as your girlfriend I have to make sure you’re getting all your major food groups.”

“Which food group is pizza?”

“The pizza group,” Kara says, looking over at Lena with an expression that so clearly conveys duh that Lena laughs again.

They sit there on Lena’s bed quietly for a little while, eating pizza and just being together. After a bit, Kara sighs, presses a little closer to Lena’s side to tuck her head on Lena’s shoulder, still munching on a piece of pizza.

“You okay?” Lena asks, throwing her crust towards the pizza box with the knowledge that Kara will finish it later.

“Just happy,” Kara replies.

The response makes Lena smile. “Yeah?”

“Totally,” Kara says around a mouthful of food. “You and pizza. What more could I need?”

“Potstickers,” Lena answers sagely, but Kara pops her head back up from Lena’s shoulder with a grin.

“Oh, those are in my backpack for later.”

Lena rolls her eyes, but doesn’t stop Kara when she leans in to press a warm kiss against her cheek.

--

It’s suddenly like absolutely nothing in her life has changed since college because when she gets home that night, changes into her comfiest sweatpants and sweatshirt and pours herself a glass of wine, a familiar knock comes on the glass door to her balcony.

“Kara?” Lena asks, knowing Kara will hear her even through the doors.

Kara just gestures towards the door and Lena paces over, opens it to let her ex-girlfriend inside. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to see if you’re okay,” Kara says, stepping inside, still in her Supergirl suit, but holding a small bag. “Can I change?”

“By all means,” Lena says, making a gesturing motion towards the bathroom.

With a swift whoosh of air, Kara is gone and back, now in jeans and a t-shirt and looking at Lena with a strange expression, her gaze dropping towards Lena’s chest and then back up. The scrutiny makes Lena cross her arms tightly and curl a little into herself. At the motion, Kara’s face shifts to worry and she paces towards her.

“Are you okay?”

Lena’s chest tightens. Is this how it’s going to be now? Kara’s just back in her life, strolling into her apartment at night to check up on her, smiling at her, worrying about her, being around. Lena’s not sure she can handle it and stay sane. At the very least there’s no way Lena can manage some sort of renewed friendship with Kara if she has to jump into the deep end head first.

“Of course,” Lena says dismissively, trying to calm her heart rate and find the words to get Kara out of the apartment as quickly as possible without being rude. She walks back over to the couch and settles on it, plucking her glass of wine off the table nearby. “You needn’t have come all this way just to check on me.”

“Well I-”

“I can give you my cell phone number and you can check up on me that way.”

Kara looks a little lost at that, mouth floundering to find words and Lena sighs.

“Kara we can’t do this.” Biting the bullet and just talking about it seems to be the soundest strategy.

“Do what?”

“This,” Lena says, gesturing between them. She takes a long sip of her wine and watches Kara’s expressive face.

“I thought you said we could be friends,” Kara says, coming to stand in front of Lena, the coffee table between them.

“We can,” Lena says and she laughs a little, the sound coming out hollow even to her own ears. “But there have to be some…” She waves the hand holding her wine glass, trying to come up with the words. “There has to be some boundaries.”

“Boundaries?”

“Kara,” Lena sighs, setting her glass down and looking at her ex-girlfriend softly. “We were together for a while as friends and as girlfriends and it was…” Words escape her when she tries to think of how to possibly categorize the most formative relationship of her life.

“Intense?” Kara offers with a look on her face like she might cry at any moment. Lena feels that emotion so sharply in her gut that heat spikes in her own eyes.

“Sure. Yeah,” she gulps air into her lungs. “Intense.”

“And now you need boundaries?”

Lena stands, tries to find the strength somewhere inside her to have this conversation when all she wants to do is run from it. Either that or run straight into Kara’s arms and forget their separation ever happened. It’s easy to remember what it felt like to be in love with Kara when they’re standing together like this, staring at each other with matching pain.

“I can’t just jump back into our friendship like this. With you just stopping by to check on me or showing up all the time.”

“Okay,” Kara says slowly, nodding.

“It’s too confusing,” Lena says with a subtle shrug to her shoulders.

“Confusing?”

Lena bites at her lip, her stomach churning. “I think we just need to relearn how to be friends again.”

Kara stares at her with an open expression Lena doesn’t know what to do with.

When Kara keeps silent, Lena continues. “You do still want to be friends right?”

It takes a second for Kara to respond and when she does her voice sounds hoarse suddenly, like she’s struggling against something. “Yeah,” she says. “I want to be friends. And friends come and check on their friends when they go through something like you did today.”

Lena nods. “I know and I think we can get there. I’m just not ready for that yet.”

Kara’s jaw is tight, her eyes still watery and Lena tugs her arms around herself again, wrapping herself in the softness of her faded sweatshirt. Kara’s eyes watch the motion for a moment. “So you want me to stop coming over?”

“Just for a little while,” Lena says. “Just until we can figure out how to do this. I mean, we haven’t seen each other in years. We’re different people.”

“Not that different.”

Lena takes a deep breath. “We just got thrown back together by crazy circumstances. My family’s company is on its last legs, there’s someone out there trying to kill me, you’re Supergirl,” Lena explains. “Our lives are collectively insane right now.”

She doesn’t add the other part - that of all the things that are insane about her life, Kara was always the one thing that wasn’t. The constant force in her world that always made sense. Even now, with tears threatening to fall in both of their eyes, Lena feels centered, tethered to something. Her mind feels clear even as it gets muddled up by all that’s going on.

“I was so in love with you,” Lena confesses and it’s both a relief and immensely painful to let the words out, but she needs to put this out there between them if they have any hope of repairing their friendship. “Crazy, crazy in love with you.”

At this, Lena catches a tear falling from Kara’s eye. The other girl swipes at it quickly and lets out a watery laugh. “Me too.”

It spikes into Lena’s chest so painfully she almost gasps. “I think part of me will always be that crazy in love with you,” she says with a smile and a shrug. It’s the truth, one Lena is struggling to accept. “And seeing you again now, it’s…”

“Bringing it all back up,” Kara says.

“Yeah,” Lena says softly. “I have to learn how to put that part of our past away so we can start on a new chapter.”

Kara visibly swallows, her chin lifting a little and a look in her eyes like she’s bracing for something. “I understand,” she says.

“I just need some boundaries until we can figure all this out.”

“Okay.”

“So for now,” Lena says, glancing away from Kara’s expression. “Maybe you should just leave and we can start over, something small.”

“Your life is still in danger and-”

“I know,” Lena says firmly, cutting Kara off. “And if we have to see each other for reasons like that, that’s fine. But you can’t just come over here to check up on me. We need to start over.”

“Okay.”

Lena hates the forlorn expression Kara’s face, wants to wipe away her tears and soothe away the pain with soft kisses and this is exactly why Kara can’t be here right now. “Just give me space,” Lena says softly. “Space and time.”

Kara laughs humorlessly. “Space and time.”

Unable to resist it anymore, Lena moves around the table and puts a soft hand on Kara’s forearm where the muscles is tense and Lena strokes her fingers against the feeling. “We’ll get there,” she says with conviction. “I promise.”

Kara looks down at her for a long moment, their gazes locked. Lena’s heart thuds steadily against her rib cage.

“Okay,” Kara says again, but this time some tension flows out of her and when she smiles at Lena it almost looks normal.

“Okay,” Lena repeats.

“I should go then.”

Contrary to their entire conversation, Lena finds herself unwilling to let Kara leave. But she knows it’s what she needs in order to find some kind of steady footing in their relationship. She fights the desire bubbling up inside her and steps away, breaking their contact and shooting Kara a small, encouraging smile.

--

Despite having told Kara about thirty times that Lena had firm plans to stay home that Friday and finish a physics project, Lena gets about sixteen texts by ten that night pleading with her to come out.

They vary in reasoning from I miss you come out! to they have your favorite rum. When she gets the this isn’t the same without you , Lena shuts her laptop down with an aggrieved sigh. After throwing on a clean pair of jeans and a nice black sleeveless shirt, Lena heads out of her building towards the address Kara had texted her earlier.

The party is in full swing when she arrives and she pushes through the crowd of people in the front of the house, stepping around discarded plastic cups and bottles as she searches for her friend.

Kara ends up finding her first, bursting through a group of people to suddenly appear in front of Lena with a bright smile. Her friend is dressed casually for a party, jeans and a faded crew neck sweatshirt with the picture of a puppy on it. Pugs not drugs is emblazoned on the front and Lena wants to laugh at it. Blonde hair hangs loosely around her shoulders and Lena fights the wave of attraction she always has when she first sees Kara.

“You came!” Kara practically shouts, wrapping Lena in a tight hug.

Lena rolls her eyes and lets her best friend manhandle her towards the kitchen. “I’m so glad you’re here,” Kara is saying as she fixes Lena a drink. “Jake hasn’t left me alone all night. He’s so annoying.”

Lena’s spine stiffens a little at the mention of Kara’s newest suitor Jacob Barber, junior quarterback. The ass keeps asking Kara out despite her many rejections and it makes Lena want to hack into all his bank accounts and bankrupt the bastard. “He’s an asshole that doesn’t understand what no means.”

Kara hands her the plastic cup she’s been pouring rum and juice into. “He’s not an asshole, he’s just annoying.”

Lena takes a long sip of her drink and shoots Kara pointed look. “He’s an asshole.”

Pursing her lips, Kara just looks at Lena for a moment. “Well, I’m glad you’re here now.”

“We can leave if you want,” Lena offers. It’s probably the best option if Kara’s actually feeling smothered by Jake’s advances. The idea of it is appealing - they could pick up hot dogs at that place around the block and go back to Lena’s dorm, spend the night binge watching whatever TV show Kara is obsessed with this week and being together.

“No.” Kara laughs as if the idea is ridiculous and picks up her own drink before looping an arm through Lena’s as they move away from the drink table - a gaggle of freshman girls descend upon the vodka the minute they step away. “But just stay next to me, okay?”

Lena glances over at Kara. “Always,” she says softly and probably too sincere for the context of their conversation. But she’s helpless next to the look in Kara’s eyes and Kara’s body warm where it presses against hers, even tighter as they move through the crowd.

“Thanks,” Kara says and she presses a quick friendly kiss to Lena’s cheeks. “You wanna dance?”

Lena thinks to answer, but Kara doesn’t wait. Strong fingers tangle with her own and Kara tugs her through the throngs of people and down into the basement where a makeshift dance floor is already crowded with bodies.

Kara presses in close, their bodies shaping together easily and Lena struggles to keep her drink from spilling as Kara twirls them around.

When they walk home that night, Lena has to fight the chill of the late summer night by rubbing her hands up and down her bare biceps, cursing the fact that she didn’t wear something warmer. There’s still a little layer of sweat from dancing all night and the soft breeze makes goosebumps spread across her skin.

Kara must notice her shiver, because she swings around in front of Lena and adds her own hands to the ones Lena has rubbing up her arms. “Cold?”

“A little,” Lena admits and Kara smiles at her before stepping away.

Kara grips the edges of her own sweatshirt and pulls it up over her head, blonde hair tumbling back down and the t-shirt Kara’s wearing riding up a little to uncover defined abs that Lena can’t help but look at. Suddenly, she’s not that cold anymore.

For the millionth time since Kara decided to befriend her, Lena curses whatever power-that-be who decided to play this joke on her. The attraction she feels towards her best friend gets harder and harder to ignore the more time they spend together.

“Here,” Kara says, offering the sweatshirt over.

“I’m fine, Kara,” Lena replies, pushing back at the offering.

Kara’s hand remains stubbornly outstretched with a look of challenge. “You’re cold. Take it.”

“Won’t you be cold?” Lena asks, but she’s already grabbing Kara’s sweatshirt and pulling it over her head.

“I run hot,” Kara explains with a shrug and a smile, turning back to twist their arms together and continue their walk down the path.

Lena feels instantly better once she has the sweatshirt on and she tries not to think that it’s less about being warm and more about something else.

They stop at Lena’s dorm first and Kara hugs her goodbye, thanking her again for rescuing her at the party. Lena shakes her head, tells her that’s what friends are for and moves to give Kara back her sweatshirt.

“No,” Kara says, stilling Lena’s hands with her own. “Keep it.”

“Kara-” Lena protests, but Kara is already skipping away in the direction of her own dorm yelling a night! over her shoulder.

Lena just shakes her head at her and turns to walk up to her dorm.

When she gets into bed that night, she puts the sweatshirt back on and allows herself the simple pleasure of tucking her nose in its collar, inhaling against the scent of her best friend.

She knows this intense attraction she feels is eventually going to come to a head one day and the consequences threaten to be disastrous. Falling for your best friend often is. But for the moment Lena lets herself fantasize, lets herself think everything will be okay and Kara will want her back and they’ll be together forever. There will be no Jacob Barber sniffing around or no overbearing mother constantly reminding her that having a college fling is a complete departure from her priorities.

Lena lets herself believe that she’s just one of a thousand college students, ordinary and simple. She lets herself think about Kara’s bright smile, about the way it would feel if Lena leaned forward and kissed it and she imagines for a second what it’d be like if Kara kissed her back.

She falls asleep easily that night, tucked tightly into the warmth of Kara’s sweatshirt and with a smile on her face.

--

Kara looks thoughtful as she walks back towards the balcony. When she turns to look at Lena, her hands come to her hips and she looks just a little bit less sad than before, her smile just a little less morose. “Boundaries,” Kara says firmly, nodding like she’s deciding something. “I can do that.”

“I want this to work,” Lena says softly, trying to let Kara know that she doesn’t want to push her away. Quite the opposite. But if Kara wants to be friends then this is what Lena needs.

“Me too,” Kara says with a half smile. She opens the door to the balcony and steps out.

Lena follows, watches her with a hand on the door and Kara turns to give her another smile.

“You look cute in that,” Kara says with a smirk, instead of goodbye. With a gesture towards Lena’s shirt she looks up at the sky and jumps into it with a soft whoosh of air, flying speedily away.

As she fades from view, Lena looks down at her sweatshirt and only then realizes what Kara meant. An image of a small dog stares back at her with the now faded letters pugs not drugs. The sight of the old sweatshirt and the memories she associates with it cuts across her chest.

The tears are impossible to stop at this point. She barely restrains herself from full on sobbing.

Swiping at her eyes and trying to get air into her lungs at a steady rate, Lena slams the balcony door shut and heads straight back for her glass of wine.

Chapter Text

Kara respects the boundaries Lena set out and they don’t see each other for an entire week. Lena can’t decide if she’s grateful or disappointed.

It’s strange to realize that Kara’s a sort-of part of her life again. Like Lena could just pick up the phone to call her and it wouldn’t be weird. Well, not any weirder than normal.

They’ve breached that we haven’t spoken in four years wall and now Lena itches to see Kara all the time, talk to her, touch her. It’s like the months right after their breakup all over again, where she buried herself in her work to avoid calling Kara and begging her to come be with her.

Boundaries, she reminds herself. Boundaries. That’s the only thing that will help them rebuild a friendship they never really had. Lena can learn how to do this. She has multiple degrees and a working knowledge of most disciplines of science and technology. She can handle this.

She lives in National City now and Kara lives here too and it’s just a reality that their lives are going to keep colliding into each other.

The more distance she has from their last meeting the easier it is for her to focus on other things. She puts her energy into dealing with end-of-quarter financials and sorting through the tonnage of unfinished projects left lying around from her brother’s reign.

Which is how she ends up in the basement of L Corp Tower, where the R&D floor resides, a floor she hasn’t actually set foot on in almost a year. The musky smell of it and spartan look of the hallway sets off a wave of nostalgia for her first few years at L Corp when Lex was still in power and she spent all her time in labs like this.

“Miss Luthor!” A familiar voice calls out at her just as she’s walking towards the front door of their development labs. She turns with surprise to see Lana Lang walking towards her in a white lab coat and glasses.

“Miss Lang?!” Lena smiles, steps towards the other woman and shoots her a quizzical look, eying the ID badge hanging from Lana’s breast pocket. “I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know you were here.”

Lana waves her off, smirking a little. “The minute I heard you were taking over and moving HQ to National City, I got my ass out of Metropolis and applied for a transfer here. Your old job actually,” Lana says, tapping at where Director - R&D is written on her badge.

It’s weird to see someone from Metropolis in National City - someone she actually knows. Even if they were never very close. Lana had interned and later worked for the company back when it was still Luthor Corp and Lex ran the business.

“We’re lucky to have you,” Lena responds politely.

“What brings you down to the basement?” Lana scans them into the large lab there and they walk together towards Lana’s office.

“I’ve been going through the in-progress list and trying to purge it,” Lena explains. “I thought perhaps a more hands on approach would be beneficial.”

Lana arches a brow. “There are a lot of projects down here. Your brother was quite prolific.”

“I know,” Lena says, jaw tight. “But most of those projects need to be halted. Likely destroyed.”

Lana shrugs. “I guess I can’t disagree.” She waves around the floor. “Well the place is yours. Obviously.”

“Thanks,” Lena says with a tight smile.

She spends the next hour rummaging through prototypes and checking them off on a spreadsheet. It’s cathartic to actually be doing something with her hands - pulling apart objects and fitting them back together, studying how they work and what they do.

A majority of the leftover projects have to be completely scrapped and Lena makes notes on which ones to destroy, which ones to save. Some of the research is more worth salvaging than the project itself and Lena starts to compile as much data as possible, a list of new ideas forming in the margins of her notes.

Eventually a cup of coffee gets put next to her elbow where she’s leaning it on the desk, pulling apart a small object with a screw driver. She startles to see Lana Lang smiling down at her. “Thought you might want some coffee.”

“Thanks,” Lena says, brow furrowed a little at the thoughtfulness. She picks the cup up and takes a quick sip before returning to her tablet and studying the innards of the device on the table. She makes a few notes with her stylus absentmindedly, but stops when she can still sense Lana’s presence to her right.

“That’s interesting shorthand,” Lana comments when Lena looks up.

It’s then that Lena looks at the tablet and realizes what she’s done. Her brain scrambles around as she stares at a language she hasn’t written in or thought about in years.

“Oh, yeah,” she says, trying to laugh it off, but closing the application on her tablet immediately. “It’s an old thing I made up in college. To keep prying eyes away. You can never be too careful these days.”

“Looked kind of familiar,” Lana says and Lena’s sure it does. Because she’s been writing her notes in Kryptonian like a complete idiot. She hasn’t done that since college when Kara first taught her the native language of her home planet. They’d taken to passing notes that way and Lena had found herself writing in it ever so often when she’d take quick notes during class or in the lab.

In an effort to turn Lana’s mind away from her slip up, Lena picks up one of the devices on the table. “What can you tell me about this?”

“Oh!” Lana says brightly, plucking it out of Lena’s hand. “It’s like a DNA scanner for aliens.”

“Pardon?”

The device is nothing more than a small box, a little crude in its design - definitely not market ready. Lana fiddles with it for a second. “So you put your finger on this part, right? And then it can detect if you have human DNA or something alien instead.”

Lena arches a brow, picking up the device herself. “Interesting,” she says, turning it over. A simple idea, really, but Lena can see the profits in such a thing. Especially with the sudden surge of more and more aliens coming out of the woodwork. Briefly, she thinks of Kara before forcing the thought from her mind and focusing on the tangible issues at hand.

“Do you think you could make me a more aesthetically pleasing prototype?”

Lana looks at her, surprised. “Sure. Are you planning on going ahead with this one?”

“It has promise,” Lena answers, shrugging a shoulder. “And I have a board meeting in a week. With the rumors that the president is to announce her Alien Amnesty Act it could be the perfect time to launch such a product.”

Lana hums, considering. “I suppose. I could have something ready enough for a presentation in a few days.”

“Perfect,” Lena says before returning to her work and dismissing Lana with a turn of her shoulder.

--

It’s a Wednesday morning and Lena is dreadfully late to her 9AM physics class. She just barely made it out of her dorm on time, throwing on the nearest pair of jeans and a sweatshirt as she stuffed books into her bag. Her hair's a mess, but hidden underneath a Metropolis Mammoths baseball cap, and she’s practically sprinting across campus and into the science building with little regard for any obstacles in her way.

Which is the only reason she runs straight into a taller form waiting in line near the small cafe in the lobby.

At first, she thinks she’s run into some new statute or wall because whatever she hits doesn’t even budge. It’s hard as rock.

It isn’t until she’s bouncing off said unidentified object, stumbling backwards unsteadily, that she realizes she’s run into a person. A girl, actually. A girl who is grabbing her around the waist to keep her upright with surprising strength.

“Whoa, you okay?” The girl is asking, clear concern etched into her pretty blue eyes.

Lena steps away from the touch immediately, rubs at her now sore right arm and eyes the stranger. “Yes, fine,” she answers, adjusting her messenger bag. “I apologize for running into you.”

The other girl just smiles at her and Lena hates the way her body reacts to that - she tamps down the natural reaction her whole being has when pretty girls smile at her. It’s so damn inconvenient. She plays with the sleeve of her sweatshirt, pulling it down over her hand as she eyes the stranger, taking in her skinny jeans and henley.

“No problem,” the girl is saying, fiddling with a pair of dark rimmed glasses on her nose. “You late for class or something?”

It reminds Lena that she is, in fact, extremely late for class and she jumps back into action. “Yes, actually. Thanks for -” Lena waves vaguely and moves past the stranger to stride quickly down the hall. “Sorry again.”

“Nice to meet you!” The stranger calls out and Lena just shakes her head, brow furrowed and doesn’t look back.

--

Her reprieve from Kara lasts exactly nine days.

“Miss Luthor,” Kara greets when she walks into her office on the tenth day and Lena chokes a laugh back - an automatic response to Kara greeting her so formally. Her eyes rake over Kara’s form, taking it all in. As much as Lena’s wardrobe has changed in the years they’ve been apart, Kara’s has also. It concerns Lena how attractive she finds Kara in button downs and cardigans.

She waits for her office door to shut before eyeing her ex with a confused grin. “Miss Luthor? Really?”

Kara shrugs and takes a seat on the other side of Lena’s desk, setting her bag down. “We’re starting over, right?”

It’s asked with a smile Lena knows is genuine, but the words still chip away at Lena’s defenses. Even here, in her work clothes and in her pristine office, reminders of her own success all around her, Lena feels uncharacteristically vulnerable. She manages to plaster on her trademark professional smile anyway. “I’m not sure we need to start over that much. Should I be calling you Miss Danvers?”

Kara’s nose scrunches up with distaste immediately and this time Lena lets a laugh fall out of her. “That’s what I thought.”

“I was trying to be professional,” Kara grumbles, pulling a notepad out of her bag. It’s adorable.

“I heard you decided to give reporting a shot,” Lena says good naturedly. “A bit of a shock to hear my assistant inform me I had a meeting with a CatCo reporter by the name of Kara Danvers.”

Kara laughs. “It shouldn’t have been a shock. You suggested it.”

“Did I?”

“In your own way,” Kara says, voice low, personal.

Lena tries to stay composed, gives Kara a polite smile. “Well, are you enjoying it?”

“Actually you’re my first,” Kara says and Lena knows Kara doesn’t mean anything by the statement, but Lena has to recross her legs and fight a blush.

“Is that so?”

“Yup,” Kara answers, the word popping out of her mouth. “First assignment. Fingers crossed.”

“I’m sure you’ll do great.”

“I hope so.”

“So,” Lena draws out. “I must imagine that if you’re here on the same day the president is in town to sign her Alien Amnesty Act…”

“Yeah,” Kara says, looking sheepish. “I’m sorry. Snapper wants a quote from a - ah,” Kara cuts off, looking uncomfortable.  

“A Luthor,” Lena finishes for her with an unaffected expression. “Because my brother is the world’s most notorious alien hater and I’m his little sister, newly appointed CEO of the family company.”

“I know you’re not like that,” Kara says and it’s too knowing for Lena to deal with right now. Kara doesn’t know her that well, not anymore. Kara knows a different version of her, a softer one. If they’re going to be friends again, it’s time for Kara to stop living in the past.

It occurs to her then that they’ve never really talked about the disclosure of their mutual history. “I must ask, Kara. Have you told anybody about-” Lena loses her words halfway through the sentence. They had both, by some unspoken agreement, played the part of strangers at their first meeting, but Lena’s not sure if that was by design or purely a reaction to the visceral shock they likely both experienced in that moment.

“About what?”

She gestures between them, hoping that conveys the message.

“Us?” Kara asks and just thinking of them as a collective entity, an us, makes Lena’s gut clench.

“I’m just curious how many people know that you and I aren’t exactly strangers.” She laughs, playing it off as casual. “I’d imagine if your boss knew-”

“Just Alex,” Kara replies, quietly interjecting. “And only because she already knew.”

It’s strange to think that Kara wouldn’t talk about them to her friends, but Lena understands. It’s not as if she’s ever been able to talk about Kara to anyone in the four years they’ve been apart. “Okay, good.”

“Good?”

“I imagine it would be complicated trying to explain such a thing to people,” Lena says which is completely ridiculous. It’s not complicated at all - she and Kara dated in college. That, on some level, is the whole of it. The troubling part is explaining why they aren’t still together, why Lena feels incapable of thinking clearly if she’s around Kara for more than a few seconds and why Kara keeps looking at her the same way she did when they first fell in love.

Kara must be thinking something similar because a confused sort of grin spreads over her face. “Not that complicated.”

“There’s a lot going on right now,” Lena offers in exchange. “I think adding all of our…,” she falters, thinks of how to frame it, “relationship drama to it wouldn’t be the wisest course of action. If we’re leaving the past in the past then we should... leave the past in the past. It’s not that far from the truth anyway. We are basically strangers at this point.”

It sounds laughable when she hears it, but she doesn’t say anything else, waits for Kara to agree.

“Sure,” Kara says, but she looks entirely unconvinced.

“I would never deny it if asked,” Lena replies with a kind of honesty that bursts out of her unbidden.

A pause. Kara looks at her with just the slightest crinkle to her brow. “Neither would I.”

They fall silent for a bit, Lena trying to keep her heart from pounding out of her chest. She hates that Kara can probably hear it, is probably receiving a clear signal of exactly how all this is affecting her. “Anyway,” she says after a second, pulling her gaze from Kara and to a laptop at her right. “You’re here for a quote and I’ve taken us completely off track.”

Kara laughs. “That’s okay,” she says with a little wave. “The article is really just about the Alien Amnesty Act in general and I can-”

“Actually,” Lena interrupts, standing up if only to try and steady the shake in her hands. “Perhaps it would be a good time to promote a new product I’m considering rolling out.”

She walks over to a small, lead lined safe that she keeps on the side of her office and pulls out the prototype Lana had delivered to her just yesterday. She feels Kara follow her over.

“What is it?” Kara asks, peering at the device quizzically.

“An alien detection device,” Lena responds, holding it out.

“A what?”

“It scans for human DNA,” she explains. “Here, I’ll show you.”

She puts her thumb up to the scanner and holds it there, waiting for the light to change to green. “See?”

Kara’s brow is furrowed, confusion and apprehension all over her face.

Lena holds the device out again. “Here, you try.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Kara extends her thumb, presses it to the scanner and they both watch the light turn red. Lena pulls it back, pleased with the device. “Works perfectly,” she says, setting it down on her desk.

“Lena,” Kara says, and when Lena looks up there’s still confusion across Kara’s face. “Don’t you think that’s kind of-”

Kara hesitates and Lena moves back towards her desk chair to sit down. “Do I think it’s kind of what?”

“I mean, that seems contrary to what the president is trying to accomplish. And to everything America stands for.”

Lena crosses her arms, leans back in her chair and watches as Kara reseats herself. “Such as?”

“Freedom,” Kara offers vaguely. “America’s always been a country of immigrants.”

“I agree, but people are scared. Every day, you fight monsters and people see it on the news every night,” Lena argues. “This device could give people peace of mind. People have a right to know if their neighbor isn’t who they say they are.”

“You don’t actually believe that,” Kara says and Lena wants to snap at her. What part of keep our past in the past is so hard for them? Starting over as friends doesn’t really work when Kara’s so comfortable and confident in pointing out things about Lena’s character like that. They knew each other once, but that was four years ago and it’s time Lena makes Kara realize that they aren’t those same kids anymore.

“You don’t know me well enough to say that.”

Kara looks at her, a stubborn tension in her jaw. “Yes I do. And you know exactly why aliens want to hide. This will only - force them out of the closet and into danger.”

“What I believe,” Lena says, leaning forward on her desk and pumping all her CEO attitude into her posture. “Is that this device will make this company a fortune. Millions of dollars that we need right now.”

“At the expense of basic civil rights.”

Lena scoffs. “L Corp is in the business of making money, Kara. Not in playing politics.”

Kara is silent at that, observing Lena with a critical eye. Lena feels too exposed, but she forces herself to keep the gaze with Kara.

“You’re different,” Kara says. Soft and simple.

It shouldn’t hurt to hear such a thing - Lena knows it’s the truth - but it does. “I’ve been trying to tell you that.”

A wry smile crosses Kara’s face and she waves her pen at Lena. “So that’s where I heard it,” she jokes, but it comes out sounding broken.

Lena blinks rapidly and turns away from Kara, opening her laptop and typing in a few commands. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I do have some work to do. I hope you have enough for your article. If not, feel free to email any questions you need answered.”

“Of course,” Kara responds quietly before picking up her bag and exiting the office. “Thank you for your time.”

--

There’s a coffee shop on the far end of campus that Lena likes to frequent. It serves espresso like she remembers from boarding school abroad and it’s never that packed - most of its inhabitants come to study, tucked away in their separate corners.

Which is what Lena is doing - headphones in, laptop open and eyes intent on her work - when she hears a bright, “You’re the girl that ran into me!” It’s loud enough that it breaks through the music in her ears and she pulls an earbud out, turning to look at the source of the voice.

It’s the stranger from a few days ago. The one Lena ran face first into on the way to class.

She pulls out the other earbud and tries for a polite smile. “I am,” she says slowly, pulling back a little from the enthusiastic grin on the other girl’s face.

“Kara Danvers,” the girl says, extending her hand so abruptly that Lena jumps back a little.

It’s a good thing manners are something so automatic in her body because her brain is having a hard time catching up to what’s happening. “Lena,” she offers, reaching up to shake the girl’s hand. She declines to add her last name, imagines it’s obvious anyway.

“Nice to meet you,” Kara says before taking the seat across from Lena and smiling at her.

Lena looks around the coffee shop trying to figure out if she’s being pranked or something. “You too,” she says, fiddling with her headphones. It’d be rude to just put them back in and ignore the newcomer, but Lena can’t deny that she’s considering it.

“So I figured since you totally ran into me and like -” Kara makes a gesture with her hands that Lena presumes is supposed to simulate the way Lena practically bounced off her body. “I should probably buy you a cup of coffee.”

“That seems backward,” Lena answers.

Kara shrugs, eyes the small cup of espresso near Lena’s laptop. “I could get us muffins instead. I hear they make this lemon cranberry one that is awesome.”

“I’m fine, thanks,” Lena says and she puts one of her earbuds back in. She expects Kara to stand up and leave, but Kara stays seated, eyes intent on Lena.

Kara fiddles with her fingers, bites a little at her lip. “My sister says I should make an effort to make new friends,” she says.

Something unsettles her about the sad look in Kara’s face. They don’t know each other, but Lena can recognize the lost, lonely expression on Kara’s face. She see’s a similar one in the mirror every so often. “Does your sister go here?” Lena asks, for lack of anything better to say.

“No,” Kara shakes her head with a sad smile.

They’re silent for a bit, just looking at each other before Kara speaks again. “So do you want to?”

“Want to what?”

Kara grins. “Be my friend?”

Lena’s not sure why of all the people at school that Kara would think Lena is available to be a new friend, but before her brain can catch up and tell her no , her heart answers with a casual, “Sure.”

--

The newest issue of CatCo magazine is in her inbox when she gets to work and Lena studies it for a second before picking it up.

It doesn’t take long to find the article in which she’s mentioned and Lena smiles a little at the Kara Danvers scripted under the title.

If she’s honest, she expects any mention of her to be rather unfavorable. With the way Kara had looked at her throughout the interview she can’t imagine what Kara would have to say.

Except it’s not unfavorable at all. Kara talks about Lena’s vision for turning around L Corp and the distance Lena’s been trying to make between herself and the legacy of her brother. There’s no mention of the prototype she had shown Kara, but there’s a blurb about Lena being a once in a generation executive that makes her heart start to flutter uncomfortably.

It contains next to nothing of the things they actually discussed in the interview and Lena knows Kara must have drawn from their considerable history together.

She shuts the magazine and drums her fingers on her desk, considering.

There’s an uncomfortable ache when she thinks about how they last left things and Lena does want to try this friends thing out. Kara is literally the only person she really knows in National City. Now that she’s a reporter there’s both a personal and professional benefit to fostering their friendship.

She presses a subtle button on the underside of her desk that calls her assistant into the office. Jess studies her expectantly and Lena takes a breath before asking, “Can you tell Kara Danvers over at CatCo that I’d like to meet with her at her convenience?”

Jess nods obediently. “Right away, Miss Luthor.”

--

Kara shows up later that afternoon in a pretty dress and blue sweater and Lena should be more immune to the attraction she’s always felt towards the other girl, but she’s just not .

“I don’t mean to just drop in unannounced,” Kara says as she paces into the room. “I know we talked about that-”

“It’s okay, Kara,” Lena appeases from her place on her office couch. “You’re not unannounced. I asked to see you.”

Kara sits, deposits her purse on the ground next to her and gestures to an arrangement of flowers on the table. “Those are pretty,” Kara says, eying them with a little wonder.

“Plumerias,” Lena tells her. “Pretty rare, actually.”

“They remind me of my mom,” Kara says with a sad lilt to her voice. Lena wants to soothe the sound away and has to shift on the couch to stop herself. She remembers the quiet nights Kara told Lena all about her parents and Krypton - the way Kara had cried into her shoulder.

Before Lena can inquire exactly why plumerias of all things would remind Kara of her mother, Kara continues to talk, eyes on the flowers and voice soft. “You know, I have this AI program of her.”

“An AI?” Lena asks, curious. “What do you mean?”

“Yeah,” Kara says with a sad sort of nod. “It’s like a hologram in my mother’s image and with all of her knowledge. I talk to it sometimes. Tell it about my day even though I know it’s not her.”

“That must be…” Lena doesn’t know what to say to that, thinks it’s probably a more complicated thing than Kara is letting on.

“You should meet it,” Kara says suddenly, turning to look at Lena. “Or see it, I guess.”

“See it?”

“Yeah, why not? I mean, we dated for two years and you technically never met my birth mother,” Kara jokes, but it doesn’t sound that funny and Lena doesn’t laugh. Kara is still staring at her, her eyes so blue and wide and too trusting.

“Kara,” Lena says carefully, her heart starting to thud heavily at the direction the conversation is taking.

Kara must realize it too because she rips her stare away and swallows, jaw tight. “Sorry,” she replies, her hands twisting in her lap.

Lena has to clench her own to keep from reaching out.

For a moment, Lena wonders if Kara still has nightmares. She wonders if there’s anyone in Kara’s life that soothes that pain for her, that cradles her through the worst of the dreams and tells her everything will be okay. Lena’s not sure she wants to know the answer.

“I read the article,” Lena says, attempting to divert from the sadness she can see creeping into Kara’s face and her own spiraling thoughts. “You have a way with words.”

It does the trick and Kara’s face shifts as she turns to look at Lena. “Yeah?”

“To be honest I thought you’d do a complete hatchet job on me,” Lena confesses. “I was happily surprised to see you didn’t. That was why I asked to see you. To thank you.”

Kara’s smile falters a bit, her brow contracting. “Why would I do a hatchet job on you?”

Lena shrugs, leans her elbow on the back of the couch and props her head up. “After our conversation the other day I assumed the article would have taken a different tone.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Kara says and it’s serious, like she’s trying to convince Lena of something unspoken.

“We don’t exactly see eye to eye on certain things.” She bites against not anymore.

Kara smiles a little. “Disagreement doesn’t mean I’d write a disparaging article about you.”

“Well, I’m grateful for your journalistic integrity.”

Kara laughs and Lena smiles and everything feels okay for a second.

“I heard you met the president,” Lena says, laughing when Kara’s whole body goes almost rigid with excitement.

“I did!” Kara exclaims, clapping her hands together and turning towards Lena. “It was amazing.” Kara pauses, tilts her head to the side. “Well except for the part where she got attacked by Scorcher, I guess.”

Lena watches with an amused smile. She had watched the event on the TV in her office. It unnerved her to see Kara throwing herself in front of fireballs, shielding the president as they were attacked. “She was apprehended, was she not?”

“Yeah, eventually.” Kara’s head dances side to side for a second. “With some help.”

“I’m sure Supergirl did all the heavy lifting,” Lena teases and watches a smirk cross Kara’s face.

“Always,” Kara jokes, pulling a face and exaggeratedly flexing an arm.  Lena’s stomach flips at the easy way they fall back into teasing and it makes her think that maybe they can make this work, maybe they can be friends as these new versions of themselves.

They’re quiet again for a moment before Kara starts to fidget nervously, her hands playing together in her lap. “Lena,” Kara starts and Lena’s not sure she wants to hear whatever comes next.

“Yes?”

“Do you want to have lunch this week?”

“Pardon?”

“Lunch,” Kara repeats. “With me.”

It feels entirely too much like the first time Kara ever asked her out and Lena feels her chest flush with anxiety. Just like that, Lena’s sure that they actually can’t be friends. There’s too much history that keeps blindsiding Lena every time they’re together. “Kara I don’t think that’s-”

“Or a drink,” Kara amends and Lena’s all ready to tell her that that’s not better , but Kara beats her to speaking and adds, “With my friends.”

“Your friends?”

“Yeah, it’ll be like a group hang thing. No pressure, and you don’t even have to talk to me if you don’t want.”

Lena just blinks at her. She doesn’t really know how to respond. The idea of hanging out casually with Kara and her friends makes her mouth go dry. “I’m not sure.”

“I’m not trying to -” Kara cuts herself off, shakes her head in that way Lena knows is because she can’t figure out all the right words to say. “We’re trying to be friends again, right? Start over and everything.”

“Yes,” Lena breathes.

“So this is like an easy step. You can hang out with all of us, meet some new people in National City. Hey, you know Alex! And you’ll like Winn, he’s a total nerd like you.”

The response is so automatic that Lena can’t stop it. “I am not a nerd.”

Kara snorts at that, shaking her head at Lena with familiarity. “Okay sure, nerd.”

“Says the girl who took a relativistic quantum field theory class at 8AM because she just needed to fulfill an elective,” Lena teases.

Kara looks at her softly. “You know that’s not the reason I took that class.”

An uncomfortable clench settles in Lena’s stomach and she tries to breathe through it, keeping an easy smile on her face. “Right,” Lena breathes out, fighting a cringe. Lena’s the one that set boundaries on their newly forming friendship - she should probably try to respect them herself.

“So you should come,” Kara entreats yet again. “Like I said, Alex will be there so there’ll be another familiar face.”

Lena has to glance away from the soft look in Kara’s face and take a deep calming breath. “I’m sure I’m not exactly on the top of your sister’s invite list right now.”

“You saved her life, Lena,” Kara says with a narrowing of her eyes. “She’ll be fine with you coming.”

The flash of memory - the feel of the gun as it went off, the blood on the ground - makes her fist clench, but she schools her expression into something neutral.

She does want to be friends. As painful and ridiculous as the idea may be. And it’s not like she has a busy social calendar since moving out to National City. Kara is at least someone she knows, and Alex is a familiar face and it’d probably be a more fun night than her usual plans - a bottle of cab franc and whatever work she decides to take home.

Except Kara is looking at her expectantly and she’s so pretty and Lena knows that hanging out is a very clear violation of the boundaries she keeps adamantly advocating for.

“Thank you for the invite,” Lena starts and Kara’s smile fades. The urge to put that smile back on Kara’s face thrums through her just like it always has and Lena swallows against the pain bubbling up in her throat. “But I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“It’s just a-”

“Kara,” Lena interrupts before Kara continues on stubbornly with her argument. Kara was always so headstrong when she had an idea. “I can’t. Not yet.”

It seems to do the trick. Kara’s shoulders sag a little in defeat and she thins her lips when she grabs her purse and makes to stand. “I’m glad you liked the article,” she says softly and Lena stands up as well.

“Thank you for stopping by,” she says with a polite smile and Kara moves to the door. Lena stops her before she exits with a soft call of her name.

When Kara turns back to look at her, Lena takes a deep breath and looks everywhere but at Kara’s eyes.

“I’m not saying never,” she tells her. Hoping her meaning is clear. If they want to be friends they have to do it at Lena’s pace, slow and steady so she can handle the constant exposure to a part of her life she thought she’d left behind.

Kara just adjusts her glasses and shifts her bag over her shoulder. “Okay,” she replies, soft.

“I’m just saying not yet.”

It seems to put a little more life into Kara’s posture and her ex-girlfriend smiles, nodding a little before exiting the office.

--

“Kara, I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” Lena says one night - the fifth night Kara has unceremoniously just show up at her dorm room and demanded they hang out. They’re friends, Kara argues and Lena has no idea how to react to anything appropriately. She can’t remember the last time she had a casual friend.

Except she’s starting to think maybe they are friends or at the very least she’s not getting rid of Kara any time soon and Lena’d like to lay everything on the table early on if she can.

Kara turns to her with a potsticker hovered just in front of her face, wiggling in her grasp. “Okay,” she says smiling warmly before stuffing the food in her mouth. “What’s up?”

Lena thinks to laugh at the way Kara talks around her food, but doesn’t, takes a deep breath instead. “Do you know who - ” Lena pauses, considers, “You know my name right?”

“It’s Lena,” Kara says with a proud grin. “I know.”

“Right,” Lena says, narrowing her gaze. “But my full name, I mean.”

“Full name?” Kara looks completely confused, but it doesn’t stop her from snagging another potsticker and chomping down on it. “What do you mean?”

“My name is Lena Luthor.”

“Oh!” The confusion clears on Kara’s face. “I didn’t know you had a last name.”

“Didn’t know I - what do you - why wouldn’t I have a last name?”

“Naming conventions here are just so different,” Kara says sagely before her eyes go wide and she glances away. “I mean, some people don’t have last names right? That’s a thing. Here. On this plan-country. Which I am from.”

Lena’s brow comes together at her friend’s sudden babbling, but she lets it go and focuses on the point of the conversation.

“My last name is Luthor.”

Kara stares at her blankly. “Okay.”

It’s a bizarre experience to not have someone react to her last name in any way, good or bad. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”

“You’re Lena Luthor,” Kara says clearly having trouble following the conversation. “Didn’t we just go over that?”

“My family,” Lena starts, crossing her arms across her chest. “The Luthor Family.”

Realization seems to dawn on Kara and her jaw drops a little. “Oh! Your name is on a building!”

Lena laughs a little, if only in surprise, but she doesn’t correct her friend - Luthor is on more than just one building around campus. “That’s correct.”

“So you’re like a big deal,” Kara says wisely, gaze curious as she looks over at Lena. “That’s a big deal here, right?”

It occurs to Lena that Kara has a strange habit of referring to here as if Kara is from somewhere far away. But Lena knows Kara’s from Midvale and, sure, it might be a small middle of nowhere town, but it’s not that different from the rest of the region. Maybe the Luthors aren’t well known in Midvale.

“You really don’t know anything about me, do you?”

Kara sets her food down, turning to give Lena her full attention. “Well that’s what I’m trying to do.” Lena arches an eyebrow and Kara answers the unspoken question. “Get to know you.”

“Why?”

Kara’s brow furrows. “Why what?”

Lena shakes her head, laughs softly. “Why do you want to be friends with me?”

The usual answer is obvious to Lena. Most people have tried to befriend her in the past solely because of her last name and all that it means - money, connections, power. Even at a young age she’s a hot commodity in some social circles. Everyone always seems to want something from her, but there’s just something in the way Kara talks to her that makes Lena think this might be different.

“You crashed into me,” Kara answers easily with a small shrug.

“And that made you want to be friends?” Lena laughs at the absurdity of the answer and thinks maybe Kara is joking.

Except Kara’s face is serious when she tilts her head and answers Lena with a simple but sure, “Yes.”

--

They don’t see each other for another week and Lena spends the majority splitting time between sorting through projects down in R&D and sitting in her office reading e-mails from her PR team about what charity to support or what type of fundraiser to throw.

On a particularly dull afternoon of sorting through e-mails, Lana Lang walks into her office holding a small box and a bright smile.

“Afternoon, Miss Lang,” Lena greats, closing her laptop and turning to give her visitor her attention.

“Miss Luthor,” Lana says, placing the box in her hands on her desk and sliding it towards Lena.

“What’s this?”

“We finished that prototype you asked for,” Lana tells her. “The DNA scanner? Alien detection device?”  

Realization dawns and Lena pulls her fingers away from the box so violently that Lana jumps a little at the motion.

“Sorry,” Lena says, trying to compose herself. “I had completely forgotten about that.”

“You did still want it, right?” Lana’s expression is clear confusion and Lena tries to steady the beating of her heart.

The memory of her conversation with Kara slices back into her and despite everything she said to her, everything about business and playing politics and making money, Lena can’t fight the sick feeling she got at the look on Kara’s face.

“Destroy it,” Lena orders, pushing the box back towards Lana. “And all the associated research and paperwork.”

“Destroy it?” Lana asks, quizzical slope to her brow. “Why?”

Out of frustration, Lena exhales noisily and fixes her best glare on her face. “As far as I’m aware, Miss Lang, I needn’t explain my decisions to you.”

Lana’s eyebrows shoot up, but she takes the box off Lena’s desk. “Of course, Miss Luthor. My apologies.”

--

A few days later she gets a text from Kara.

friends can text right? It reads and Lena’s fingers hover over the keyboard for a long moment.

Of course. Lena replies though she’s not sure that’s the best idea. Opening up a line of communication with her ex could possibly prove disastrous.

But then all she gets back in reply is a series of indecipherable (though clearly excited) emojis and it makes her laugh so loudly that her assistant comes into her office to check on her.

--

On Tuesday, Kara sends her a picture of what must be her lunch - it’s a massive sandwich that Lena thinks might actually just be two separate sandwiches stacked together. Are you really going to eat all of that? Lena sends back, but Kara just sends her a flexed bicep emoji and no food is safe around me.

On Wednesday, Kara sends her a I just remembered I have to show you this donut place here that is - swear swear swear - better than Galaxy Donuts. It’s followed by about sixteen donut emojis. Lena hasn’t eaten a donut in four years, but her mouth waters at the memory of the chocolate cake donuts Kara used to bring her during late nights in college.

On Thursday, late Thursday, Kara sends her a simple question - chocolate is a vegetable right?

No, Lena types back with a smile. She thinks back to how Kara was always trying to rewrite the food pyramid to suit her own needs.

but it comes from cocoa beans, Kara argues. beans are vegetables .

Lena doesn’t counter that, just sends back the chocolate bar emoji with a thumbs up.

On Friday, as Lena’s walking down the hallway outside her office, scrolling through email on her phone, Kara sends her a selfie and Lena unceremoniously drops her phone on the ground.

A passing intern scoops it up and hands it back to her with a smile, but Lena snatches it back so quickly and with such force that the intern scurries away immediately.

The photo stares back at her in their text thread, just Kara holding up a ridiculously sized ice cream cone and smiling, but Lena hasn’t seen her in days and it reminds her so acutely of college that she feels a cold wash across her skin.

She doesn’t respond. Just pockets her phone and paces back down the hallway to her office.

The text on Saturday just reads brunch? and Lena sighs when she reads it.

I can’t, is all Lena sends back without an explanation.

Kara seems to understand anyway, like she always has, and responds within seconds. not yet ?

Not yet.

--

“So there’s this thing called Astrofest,” is all Kara says to her when she plops down in the grass next to Lena.

A pamphlet is dropped over Lena’s open textbook where it’s laying against her lap. She leans back against the tree behind her and pulls an earbud out of her ear. “Hi, Kara,” she greets dryly.  

They’ve been friends for a month now and Lena is finally starting to get used to the way Kara just kind of randomly pops up wherever Lena happens to be.

Kara grins and cross her legs. “Hi, Lena.”

Lena picks up the pamphlet gingerly and eyes her friend. “Astrofest,” she repeats.

“Yeah, so it’s this thing the astronomy club is doing this weekend. A bunch of people are going to hang out and bring their telescopes and we’re ordering a bunch of pizzas and stuff. Max thinks he’s going to get a good shot of the Cigar Galaxy which-” Kara scoffs. “I don’t know why he cares about that, but he seems oddly invested.”

Lena squints at her friend. “Cigar Galaxy?”

Kara nods, gestures with her hands. “The one that kinda looks like…” she draws a shape in the air that Lena tries to follow.

“Messier 82?” she ventures with a laugh.

“Yeah,” Kara nods rapidly. “So we’re all going out to that park about an hour off campus so we can get away from the city lights and stuff.”

“Sounds fun,” Lena comments, handing the pamphlet back to Kara and returning to her textbook.

“So you’ll come with me?”

It startles Lena and she looks back over at Kara. “So I’ll what?”

“Come with me. With us.”

Lena hesitates, eyes darting between Kara and the pamphlet clutched in her fingers. “I don’t know, Kara,” she says. “I have a lot of work to get done and-”

“Come on,” Kara pleads, abandoning the pamphlet to wrap strong fingers around Lena’s bicep, tugging lightly. “It’ll be fun. What’s the point in being friends if we never do stuff?”

“Fine,” Lena concedes if only to get Kara to stop looking at her like that.

It doesn’t help though because Kara practically squeals in delight before tackling Lena in a deceptively strong hug.

--

She’s working late in her office one night when the doors to her office get thrown open and the sound of her assistant apologizing quickly bursts in along with a determined looking Kara Danvers.

Lena stands at her desk and observes the scene with an amused grin. Kara looks intent and purposeful in that attractive way she always has, pacing into the office confidently like she belongs there. The sight of it squeezes Lena’s heart. It’s been days since they’ve last seen each other in person and Lena drinks in the image of her in real time for a long moment.

“I swear I just blinked and she got right past me,” Jess is saying and Lena bites against a laugh.

Kara puts her hand up towards Lena, face pleading. “Lena, I’m sorry. This is my fault-”

“She’s so fast.”

“I just need to talk to you,” Kara finishes.

There’s clear desperation in Kara’s voice that Lena feels utterly weak to. She smiles at her assistant. “Jess will you make a note downstairs that Kara Danvers is to be shown in right away whenever possible?”

“Really?” Kara asks with surprise as Jess moves away to do as she’s been asked. Lena gives Kara a look, her stomach fluttering at the open expression on her ex’s face. “Thank you,” Kara says softly.

Lena smiles and waits for the doors to her office to close before sitting back in her desk chair.

“So?” Lena asks, picking up a pen and fiddling with it. “What do you need to talk to me about?”

Kara paces forward towards the desk, wringing her hands together. “A friend of mine got involved in something shady,” she says.

“A friend?” Lena jokes with obvious skepticism.

“No, an actual friend,” Kara pushes and Lena chuckles.

“So this isn’t like the time you accidentally bought illicit narcotics from that-”

Kara cuts her off with a sharp glare. “We agreed never to speak of that.”

It makes Lena laugh again. “I apologize. You’re right. So tell me. What can I do to help your friend?”

“It’s actually-” Kara pauses, biting at her lower lip before dropping into the chair opposite Lena. “It kind of has to do with an old friend of yours.”

Lena’s eyebrows raise at that. An old friend? Lena could probably count the amount of friends she has - old or otherwise - on one hand. And one of them is currently sitting in her office. “Who?”

Kara’s lips thin for a moment as if she doesn’t want to answer. “Veronica Sinclair.”

It pulls a sharp laugh out of Lena. “I wouldn’t classify Roulette as a friend.”

“Well I don’t know what else you’d call her,” Kara retorts crossing her arms over her chest.

“How about an old acquaintance from boarding school that I never liked?”

“She sure liked you,” Kara replies and Lena knows she’s referring to the fact that Veronica often took every opportunity she saw Lena to make crude passes at her. The three of them had only been in the same room together twice, but neither time had gone particularly well.

“I can’t control what other people feel. That’s not my responsibility,” Lena says, amused at how familiar this argument is. “As I’ve told you many a time.”

“I know that and I completely agree, I just really don’t like her,” Kara says with a petulant set to her mouth and Lena laughs again. “With her tattoos and her-” Kara gestures angrily.

“Tight dresses,” Lena finishes for her, an amused smile playing at her lips.

“I just don’t like her, Lena,” Kara says with exasperation.

“I know you don’t. And neither do I.” It was an old conversation between them. “What does she have to do with your friend?”

Kara leans forward. “She runs this sort of alien fight club thing,” Kara explains. “The invite list caters to people in your circles. I thought maybe you might be on the list.”

Lena knows exactly what Kara is referring to and her fists clench. “I am,” she says with a heavy exhale. “Not that I’ve ever attended. I’ve never been particularly fond of her offered form of entertainment.”

“I broke up a fight just a few days ago,” Kara tells her, shaking her head and glancing away. “Got my butt kicked actually. We’re trying to shut it down.”

“Are you okay?” Lena asks without thinking and Kara’s eyes snap back up.

“Yeah,” Kara answers with a soft smile. “My pride on the other hand-”

Lena chuckles softly. “And then what happened? Your friend is one of her fighters? He’s a...” Lena trails off, not following where Kara is going.

“He was kidnapped,” Kara says without answering Lena’s unspoken question. “We think so at least. It’s kind of a long story that I would absolutely tell you, but I’m on a bit of a time crunch.”

Lena thins her lips, worry for whatever Kara’s gotten herself involved in scratches at her rib cage. “So what can I do?”

“I thought maybe you might know where she moved her operation for tonight. I went to the last location and it’s completely bare, no trace of her.”

“That’s the thing,” Lena says with a roll of her eyes. “Her stupid pop up stays mobile.”

“Do you know where she’s holding the next one?”

“Of course I know.”

Kara looks at her expectantly as if Lena’s just going to tell her the location. She wants to help, but instinctual worry claws at her and she finds herself protective of the invulnerable girl in front of her. Kara was always a punch first, make a plan later kind of person and Lena knows if she just gives Kara the address Kara will do something reckless.

“You’ll never get in,” Lena tells her, “not without being on the list.”

“I don’t need to be on the list,” Kara says with an eye roll. “I’m Supergirl.”

“So you’re just going to fly in there, in the middle of all of it and hope for the best?”

“That’s sort of what I do,” Kara answers plainly.  

A plan forms in Lena’s mind. If Kara’s going to run after Roulette halfcocked then the least Lena can do is be there to help with the fallout. She might not be bulletproof, but Lena has experience in dealing with people like Roulette, in navigating that world. Experience Kara certainly doesn’t have.

“I’m on the list,” Lena offers simply and Kara’s face goes dark.

“No.”

“No, what?”

“Can you just give me the address?”

“If it’s Veronica you’re after it might be wiser to go there as Kara Danvers, try to infiltrate her ring from the inside.”

“I’m not trying to infiltrate her criminal organization,” Kara says with exasperation. “I’m trying to save my friend.”

“And you need my help. Help I can give you.”

“Lena, I just came here to see if you knew where the fight club was going to be. I don’t want to get you involved.”

“You’ve already gotten me involved,” Lena says with a pointed look.

“Not in the way you’re suggesting.”

Lena purses her lips. “This is my city too, you know,” she says slowly. “I care about what happens in it.”

“I know you do.”

“Roulette is notoriously slippery and she is a woman of many connections,” Lena tells her. “Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. She might have friends in high places, but I’m a Luthor.”

“Lena,” Kara says with clear warning, but Lena can see that Kara’s starting to resign herself to it. She just needs one more push.

“You can’t just approach every single situation with a punch first, hope it works out mentality. Roulette is clever. You might get your friend out, but…”

They stare at each other for a long moment. Lena fights a laugh when Kara’s mouth twists into an angry sort of pout.

“Fine,” Kara concedes and Lena swallows the triumphant smile that threatens to take hold of her face. “Let’s go.”

Lena stands, but she chuckles a little, eyeing Kara up and down. There’s nothing wrong with her outfit - in fact the roll of Kara’s sleeves up her muscular forearms is admittedly distracting - but it won’t work for where they’re going. “You can’t go like that.”

“Like what?” Kara says, looking down at herself.

“Go change,” Lena orders, closing her laptop and shuffling some papers on her desk. “Something fancy.”

Kara cringes just slightly. “Like going to a nice restaurant fancy?”

Lena bites her lip. “Like you’re going to meet my mother fancy,” she says wryly and Kara’s eyes go wide.

“Right,” she says. “Okay, yeah I can do that.”

Lena scribbles an address on the paper and walks around her desk. She holds it up in front of Kara but moves it back when the other girl looks like she’s going to grab for it. “Meet me here,” Lena says, “but promise you won’t go in without me.”

Kara rolls her eyes. “I promise.”

Lena remains unconvinced. “Swear on Dinkel’s,” she commands, referring to a bakery Kara practically lived at in college.

Kara glares a little, crossing her arms in defiance for a quick moment. “I swear on Dinkel’s,” she grumbles.

With a smile, Lena hands her the paper and leans back against her desk to watch her leave.

--

When she shows up to their meeting location, Kara is standing there in a tight black dress and heels, her hair pulled up on her head to expose a long slender neck and Lena’s hand shakes with the urge to reach out and grab her.

Kara turns and spots her, runs her eyes up and down the length of Lena’s body in a familiar way that makes Lena’s gut clench.

“All set?” Lena asks when she’s finally in front of Kara. It’s only then that she notices two other figures over Kara’s shoulder, talking lowly. Alex, she recognizes easily. The other shorter woman is unfamiliar.

“Maggie Sawyer,” Kara fills in for her with a quirk of her lips. “NCPD science division. Alex has been bringing her in on a few cases.”

“Does she know about?” Lena makes a small gesture with her hand, scooping it between them like a plane taking off and Kara follows the motion with a small smile.

“No,” she says in a low whisper. “She thinks I’m here as a reporter and you’re just Alex’s liaison.”

Lena’s not too sure that’s true judging the way Maggie keeps glancing over and she almost says as much about Kara’s terrible ability to keep a secret, but then Kara’s talking again. “Alex seems to like her,” she says. “It’s nice to see Alex have a friend. She spends way too much of her time at work or worried about me.”  

Lena watches the two women talk to each other, standing just a little too close to be considered professional and she quirks an eyebrow, shooting Kara an amused grin. “Friend?”

Adorable confusion crosses Kara’s face at Lena’s tone and Lena just shakes her head. Kara was always kind of oblivious to certain things. “Let’s go in. It’s about to start,” Lena says, gesturing forward. She and Kara walk towards Alex and Maggie.

“Hi, Lena,” Alex greets her, looking entirely displeased to see her there.

“Alex,” Lena replies with a soft incline of her head.

“This is Detective Sawyer with the NCPD,” Alex introduces and Lena shakes the other woman’s hand.

“Pleasure,” Maggie says, eyeing Lena with that critical gaze all police officers seems to have.

“Maggie and I will take point out here while you two-” Alex points at her and Kara with a continued look of displeasure. “Go inside and get a read on the situation.”

“Right,” Kara says with a nod, hands on her hips. Lena watches the posture with amusement. It’s so like Supergirl it’s a wonder the rest of the world hasn’t figured it out yet.

“The second you see J’onn you call us in,” Alex says with clear command, eyes hot on Kara’s face. Alex’s eyes cut quickly to Maggie for a second. “Then you get out of there and we’ll send in Supergirl.”

Kara has a look of innocence on her face. “I will.”

“Keep your eyes on Sinclair as well,” Maggie adds.

Lena and Maggie eye each other for a short second - Lena doesn’t know what to do with the little smirk on the detective’s face, but she doesn’t have time to think about it because Kara is leading them towards the entrance to the warehouse.

--

The fight club is exactly as Lena expected it to be. Roulette was always so damn dramatic.

The guest list is incredibly impressive and Lena hopes the mask she’s wearing hides her face enough and that no one looks closely enough to recognize her. She hadn’t thought of the fallout that could befall her were she to be spotted at this event. Discretion, however, is the kind of thing required for attending an event like this so she thinks she might be safe enough.

On instinct, she threads her arm through Kara’s as they walk inside and they walk like that for a good ten feet before Lena realizes what she’s done.

She goes to pull away, but Kara tightens her arm at her side and keeps them connected. “It’s fine,” Kara murmurs softly to her as they head for a high top on the far side of the room, close to a massive metal cage.

A waiter passes them on the way and Lena plucks a glass of champagne off his tray. She takes an immediate gulp of the bubbly liquid before setting it on the table and avoiding Kara’s curious stare.

Kara spots Veronica before Lena does and Lena only knows that because of the dark shadow that passes over Kara’s face, visible despite the mask she’s wearing.

Lena looks over her shoulder to see Veronica, tight red dress and tattoos on display. She resists the urge to roll her eyes and turns back to Kara with a small smile. “Do you want to talk to her? See if we can get her to tell us where your friend is?”

“Want to?” Kara parrots, frowning and indicating how little she would like to interact with Veronica Sinclair.

The choice is made for them when Lena hears the arrogant sounding, “Lena Luthor,” from over her shoulder. Apparently the mask isn’t as effective as she had hoped. Lena turns and scoots closer to Kara on instinct, their arms brushing suddenly. For half a second, Lena feels Kara’s hand brush against her lower back and drop away as quickly as it came.

Kara is still glowering, but Lena puts on a polite, though tight, smile and turns towards Veronica. “Roulette,” she greets.

“I was beginning to think my invitations had gotten lost in the mail.”

Lena doesn’t reply, just takes a practiced sip of her champagne and watches as Roulette’s gaze traces the short distance between her and Kara.

“I see some things,” Veronica observes as she eyes Kara, “Haven’t changed.”

“Hello,” Kara says in greeting and it’s unclear if Veronica actually recognizes Kara or is referring to something else entirely.

“You’ve always had such awful taste in women, Lena,” Veronica says with a sardonic smile directed Kara’s way.

It makes Lena want to punch the smirk off the other woman’s face, but when she sees the way Kara’s fists clench where they’re resting on the high top, Lena channels her anger into something less violent. Kara’s never really been capable of keeping a lid on her temper around Veronica and now would be about the worst time for Kara to lose her cool.

“And you in fashion,” Lena says coldly, eyes running up Veronica’s red dress.

“What made you decide to finally grace us all with your presence?” Veronica asks with a smirk, chin lifted in that haughty way she always had.

“Curiosity,” Lena says, a bland look on her face. “I hear you have quite the event planned tonight.”

It’s fishing, to see if Veronica will disclose anything about Kara’s friend, but Veronica, as always, evades giving any direct answers. “I always have quite the event planned. You should know that.”

“I must admit, these fight clubs seem a bit beneath you,” Lena says. “Are you not afraid of the fallout in the event you’re caught? Running an underground fight club never seems to go over that well in the press.”

Veronica laughs and Lena can feel the heat rolling off of Kara in angry waves. She presses in a little so their arms are skin on skin, the touch of it seeming to soothe Kara just a little. “Fallout? They’re aliens fighting aliens. People care about dogfights. No one cares if a couple aliens get knocked around.”

Lena has to bite the inside of her cheek to stop the flood of angry words that wants to come out. She manages a smile and a lift of her chin, mimicking the arrogant pose Roulette has taken. “I suppose you were never one to shy away from a risk.”

Veronica’s lips purse and she hums through it, observing the two of them critically once more. “Well, it was good to see you, Lena. As always. I do hope you enjoy yourselves tonight,” Roulette offers, with a final disdainful look towards Kara. “Let me know if you grow tired of the mousy girls you favor between your legs. You have my number.”

Lena refuses to rise to the bait, just keeps a steady, narrowed gaze on Roulette as she turns and walks away, but Kara bristles noticeably, an angry huff of air leaving her mouth.

“I hate her,” Kara says with a frown once they’re alone again.

“Ignore her for now,” Lena dismisses. “Focus on finding your friend.”

Kara’s fist is still clenched so tightly on their table that her knuckles have gone white and without thinking about it, Lena reaches over to run a soothing palm over her skin. It relaxes the hand almost immediately and Kara’s shoulders sag a little.

Then, as soon as their eyes connect and Lena registers what she’s doing, she pulls her hand away quickly and reaches for her champagne flute.

Kara looks like she’s about to say something when suddenly the cage in front of them lights up and Roulette’s booming voice fills the warehouse.

It all goes to hell after that.

The main act must include Kara’s friend because her back goes rigid immediately and Lena hears her gasp before murmuring something with a hand at her ear - talking to Alex she presumes.

“You okay?” Lena asks, an eye on the spectacle in front of them. The two - martians, Lena realizes - square off against each other refusing to fight and Kara looks about ready to bolt into the middle of it.

“I’ve got to go,” Kara tells her in a quiet whisper, moving close enough so they can hear each other without tipping anyone off. Kara’s hand slides to the small of her back so naturally that Lena doesn’t notice it for a few seconds. Blonde hair falls forward as Kara leans in to talk directly into her ear and suddenly Lena’s whole body feels hot.

They’re in the middle of a semi-dangerous situation, surrounded by National City’s elite and all Lena can think about is tangling her fingers in soft hair and pressing her lips against Kara’s.

Kara doesn’t seem as distracted as Lena is and she imagines that’s because Kara is here on a mission more than anything - her friend in danger not twenty feet away. “Are you going to be okay?” Kara is asking, still pressed in close. Her other arm, the one not on Lena’s back, is resting on the table in front of Lena. She’s practically enveloped in Kara.

Lena nods, inhales through her nose and regrets it immediately. The sudden invasion of scent does nothing to stamp down the desire to press up against Kara and she coughs a little before looking back up at her ex-girlfriend. “Yes,” she manages to get out. “Of course, do what you need to do.”

Kara looks skeptical, as if she knows the direction Lena’s thoughts have taken, but she steps away. “Be careful,” she orders. “Stay here and keep an eye on Veronica, but don’t do anything.”

“Okay,” Lena says, but the word comes out a little shaky and she clears her throat.

“I’m serious, Lena,” Kara says, frowning. “Don’t be reckless. Stay here.”

“I will.”

Kara thins her lips, leans in for a second like she’s going to say or do something else - fly Lena out of here probably, she thinks - but then nods and steps away.

Kara’s out of sight in seconds and Lena returns her attention to the fight happening in the cage. A new alien has joined them - a huge brutish thing - and now both martians are being flung around the large space.

The fight doesn’t last long before Lena hears, “Everyone, freeze!” from behind her and turns to see Alex and Maggie entering the space with a SWAT team. Seconds later, Supergirl touches down across the warehouse and enters the fray.

Lena watches, heart in her throat, as Kara gets flung like a rag doll into a nearby shipping container, the sound of her slicing through the side of it crunching uncomfortably in Lena’s ears.

But then Kara is getting up, running back towards the other alien, and with a series of well executed maneuvers has him on the ground.

Which is about when Lena notices Veronica attempting to slip away. Keep an eye on her, Kara had said. So Lena follows, tearing the mask off her face and leaving it at the table.

“Roulette!” Lena calls out when they turn a corner into an emptier part of the warehouse. “Veronica.”

At this, the other woman turns, gives Lena a haughty look. “You’ll have to excuse my manners, Lena. I’m in a bit of a hurry.”

“You’re not getting away with it,” Lena tells her, stepping forward. It’s then that Lena notices a group of aliens emerging from around a back corner, stepping towards them. Lena thinks maybe this is what Kara meant when she said don’t do anything reckless. But she just needs to stall Roulette a little, wait for the cavalry to catch up.

“Get away with what?” Veronica asks with a laugh. “Don’t tell me Lena Luthor of all people is here to bust up my little show? I should have known.”

“What you’re doing is wrong,” Lena tries. “Not to mention illegal, and you’re not going to get away with it.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Veronica says darkly, stepping forward. “You know how this works. And you know exactly how I’ll get away with it.”

Lena does in fact know how Roulette has managed to stay afloat all these years. She’s no stranger to the kind of power that the right connections can have.

“You’re outnumbered here, Lena,” Veronica tells her and Lena eyes the group of aliens with a wary eye. They seem to take a collective step towards her, shielding Veronica. “Go now before you get hurt. I’d hate to have to kill you. We’re such old friends after all.”

She thinks to say something else, but a burst of noise comes from behind her and she turns to see Alex running towards them, gun raised.

“You’re under arrest, Veronica Sinclair,” Maggie says as she comes up behind Alex, gun in hand.

Alex comes up next to Lena and spares her a tight glare before subtly pulling her backwards and stepping in front of her. A few other agents in tactical gear surround them, faced in a standoff with Veronica and her small band of alien fighters. The aliens surrounding Veronica look braced for a fight.

Just as Alex looks ready to speak, Kara comes bursting into the room with a loud, “Stand down!”

Lena moves aside as Kara paces forward, arms spread out and a pleading expression on her face. She watches as Kara walks straight towards the group of aliens in front of her and addresses them in that careful, hopeful way she has.

It’s strange to experience this in person - Supergirl in her element. Kara somehow manages to be nothing like Lena remembers her and yet at the same time still the same wide-eyed earnest girl she fell in love with five years ago.  

Kara talks everyone down with ease and Lena watches as one by one every alien once on Veronica’s side falls easily under Kara’s spell. Veronica turns to walk away, but Kara’s speech worked and her own people block the way, allowing Maggie to step forward and arrest her.

Kara steps up as it happens and Lena watches, arms crossed. “I’m sure you figured it out by now, but it’s not a good idea to bet against me.”

Lena wants to laugh at that, the brave, proud way Kara plants her hands on her hips as she says it. The look on Veronica’s face makes Lena smirk, catching the other woman’s eye for a pleasant second.

--

When Lena wakes up it feels like her head is being weighed down by invisible bricks and she struggles to pick it up off the pillow behind it. The groan she lets out causes something to shift at her right and she turns to see Kara there, watching her with wide eyes from a nearby chair.

“Hey,” Lena croaks out, her throat painfully dry. She thinks to reach out a hand towards her girlfriend, but she’s stopped by the barricade on the side of her bed. Looking around, she finally registers where she is and the memory of her car crash comes barreling back.

Kara’s standing at her bedside in a blink, leaning over with watery eyes. “Hey.”

“What happened?” Lena asks, trying to take mental stock of her injuries. She doesn’t feel too terrible. It’s just her head mostly that feels a little foggy and slow. There’s some soreness in her arm, hip and lower back but nothing feels too bad.

“You were in a car crash,” Kara tells her, voice breaking as she says it.

Lena lifts her hand up to brush across Kara’s cheekbone, seeing the tears that are threatening to fall. “You okay?’

Kara lets out a watery laugh. “Yeah, I’m just worried about you.”

“I’m fine,” Lena insists, she looks around the room again, tries to see if she can see where they put her chart. “I think.”

“Your brother called,” Kara murmurs.

“He did?”

“He says he’s going to try to make it down tomorrow, but work is busy. He was glad to hear you’re okay.”

Lena doesn’t ask if anyone informed her mother. She already knows the answer. “I’ll call him later.”

Kara nods, her smile tight. “I almost didn’t make it there in time,” Kara says so soft that it takes Lena a second to register it all.

“How did you get there?” Lena remembers driving, remembers being late for her lunch date with Kara, and remembers the second before impact when she realized the car had run the red light. Kara had to have been halfway across campus with no way of knowing Lena was in trouble.

“I heard it,” Kara says, voice hoarse and thick.

“You heard it?” Lena asks.

“You have a very distinctive heartbeat. Did you know that?” Kara replies with a small smile. Lena looks at her girlfriend with clear disbelief. Heartbeats aren’t distinctive or different. Apart from medical abnormalities or small differences in volume, human heartbeats sound the same.

But, Lena reminds herself, Kara is different and she’s looking down at her with such honesty. “I do?”

Kara nods. “It’s not - it’s not super different. Maybe I just know you or something, but I can pick out your heartbeat across all of campus sometimes. I can hear Alex’s too, and Eliza’s if I really try. It depends on how close they are really.”

It startles Lena to hear this. She knows Kara has superhuman hearing, but she hadn’t thought about what that would imply on a personal level. “And you were listening to it - to mine - when I crashed?”

Kara seems to blush then, expression a little sheepish. “I’m not trying to invade your privacy or anything,” Kara says. “It’s just sometimes I tune in for a second to make sure you’re okay, or to see if you need anything. Sometimes hearing it calms me down if I’m feeling nervous.”

Warmth blooms up into Lena’s throat and she falls impossibly more in love with Kara. “And that’s how you knew about the crash?”

A dark look washes over Kara’s face and Lena watches the hands clutching the bed rail tighten. “That idiot,” Kara starts. “Blew through a red light and hit your car right in the side. Your car went clear across the intersection and he hit another car and flipped over.”

“What happened to him?”

Kara’s eyes spark dangerously. “I don’t care.”

There’s heat in Kara’s voice and her knuckles have gone pale white. Lena thinks she catches the sound of the metal creaking under Kara’s grip and her eyes go wide. “Kara,” she breathes softly. The anger rolling off of Kara feels palpable.

“Hey,” Lena says in a soft soothing voice. She picks her hand up and puts it over one of Kara’s, softly stroking over the skin there. “It’s fine, I’m fine, you’re fine. Everything is fine.”

Heavy emotions always put Kara completely out of sync with her own strength and Lena knows they’re about two seconds away from having to explain broken medical equipment to the nurse. She tugs at Kara’s fingers, whispering reassurance until they finally give way and Lena tugs them towards her lips, pressing a soft kiss there.

At this, Kara’s tears fall, but her shoulders sag with it and she lets go of the bed rail.

“I’m so glad you’re okay,” Kara whispers, moving forward to press her forehead against Lena’s. Lena closes her eyes and inhales the feeling of being this close to Kara, letting it calm them both in a way little else can. “I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t,” Lena tells her quietly before kissing the tears away.

--

Kara corners her as the room clears out, tugging her into relative privacy on the side of a shipping container.

“I thought I told you not to do anything reckless,” Kara hisses as soon as they’re alone.

Lena tugs a little against the grip Kara has on her arm until Kara releases her. “And I didn’t.”

“You went straight after Veronica the minute she fled.”

“You told me to keep an eye on her,” Lena points out, arching an eyebrow.

“Not that close an eye.”

“It’s Veronica,” Lena argues. “If she were going to kill me it would have already happened. Like that time I informed the headmistress of her unsanctioned gambling ring.”  

“People are different after so many years apart,” Kara says and her tone is dark with accusation. “Or so you keep reminding me.”

Lena knows that Kara’s attitude is being affected by adrenaline and worry so she fights against the instinct to snap at her. “I’m fine,” she says, stepping a little closer to Kara, seeing the way she’s clenching her jaw and her whole body is tense.

Everything in her body is telling her to wrap Kara up in her arms, to run her palm down Kara’s spine in that way she knows always turns Kara’s body into liquid. Lena wants to know if it all still works, if she still knows the tricks of Kara’s body the way she once did. The urge to wipe away the furrow in Kara’s brow with her thumb is so strong she has to put her hands behind her back in order to resist it.

“I knew I shouldn’t have let you come,” Kara grumbles, pinching the bridge of her nose and sighing. The tone of it makes Lena bristle.

“Last I checked, you don’t control me,” Lena bites out and Kara’s face sags from the tight expression of before.

“That’s not what I’m trying to do.”

“It sure sounds like it is.”

“Lena,” Kara pleads and she takes a step closer, close enough that Lena has to lift her chin to keep eye contact. “I’m just worried about you.”

“You needn’t be.”

“I do when you’re running headfirst into danger like that.”

“I ran after a woman I’ve known for years to stall her. There was a SWAT team that included your sister right behind me and Supergirl. It was hardly as dangerous as you’re making it out to be. Roulette fights with her brain not her fists anyway, always has.”

“That’s not the point.”

“Kara, I’m an adult and I make my own choices.”

“Those choices affect me,” Kara says with an intensity Lena doesn’t know what to do with. There’s fire in Kara’s eyes and she’s close enough that all would Lena would have to do is lean up just a little -

Kara’s eyes dart down to Lena’s lips and the thought is like a tangible thing between them. Lena knows they’re about to cross a line - thinks maybe they already have - but she doesn’t know how to stop it. Her fingers tense with the desire to reach out and pull Kara in close.

It isn’t until Kara let’s out a strangled, “Lena,” that the spell gets broken and Lena takes a step backward, sucking in air as fast as she can.

“Can we - can we not do this?” Lena asks, voice breaking.

Kara’s eyes stare steadily into her own for a long moment. “Boundaries,” Kara whispers.

Lena nods, maybe a little too quickly, but there’s heat in her eyes. “Boundaries,” she repeats.

--

When they walk outside, Veronica is taunting Maggie even as she’s handcuffed and Lena makes out the words clearly enough that she decides to walk over, Kara hot on her heels.

“You’re wrong,” Lena says as soon as she hears Veronica say something about being released in a matter of minutes.

“All it will take is a phone call,” Veronica says with a cocky smirk. “You know how this goes. Right friends, right time.”

Veronica’s not that off base and Lena swallows against that knowledge even as she goes through the long list of her own connections, tries to decide which ways she could make Veronica’s life miserable. It’s highly likely Veronica will manage to dodge this arrest, as Lena is sure she has many times in the past.

Kara shifts behind her and Lena feels the motion as if she could see it. It draws Veronica’s glance for just a second.

“I wasn’t aware that you’ve changed sides,” Veronica continues and Lena’s jaw tightens. “Wouldn’t your mother be proud.”

“I haven’t changed sides,” Lena argues, stomach turning at the mention of her mother. “You’ve just always misjudged me.”

At that, Veronica looks over Lena’s shoulder where she’s sure Kara is still standing - Supergirl is still standing.

“I suppose I have,” Veronica murmurs. “A Luthor and a Super,” she laughs, eyes darting between the both of them. “How the times have changed.”

Lena’s not sure how to tell her that in some ways, nothing’s changed at all.

Maggie tugs her away after that to pull her further down the sidewalk and Lena’s left alone with Kara again.

“Come on,” Kara says softly, a hand at her elbow. “I’ll take you home.”

Lena tugs away from the touch and swallows. Everything feels too raw right now and she’s so sensitive to Kara’s presence that she knows she’s seconds away from saying fuck it to any boundaries she’s been pretending they need. “I can get home on my own, thank you.”

“Lena, let me take you home,” Kara says, looking about as unsteady as Lena feels. She looks so ready to fall into Lena’s arms. Lena wants to let her, so badly.

“I’ll take her,” Alex’s voice interrupts as she walks up to them, eyes darting between them, narrowed.

“Alex,” Kara starts, but Alex puts up a firm hand to stop her.

“You need to go debrief back at the -” A quick glance to Lena. “Back at base. I’ll make sure Lena gets home.”

Kara looks like she wants to keep protesting and frankly Lena definitely does not want to be left alone with Alex Danvers. Especially not with the way she feels right now. But Alex has a determined look on her face and the two sisters just stare at each other for a long charged moment.

“Fine,” Kara concedes.

“Get out of here,” Alex tells her. “I’ll call you later.”

With one last heavy look at Lena, Kara nods and turns to jump back into the sky.

--

The air in Alex’s car is thick with tension and Lena watches National City race by outside the passenger side window with her arms crossed.

Alex is silent and Lena’s not going to be the one to change that. Frankly, a silent ride is more preferable than one in which Alex reminds her yet again of how she broke Kara’s heart four years ago.

They’re about five minutes into the ride when Alex finally says something, fingers drumming on her steering wheel. “I told Kara it was a bad idea to bring you in on this.”

“I’m sure you did,” Lena murmurs, keeping her eyes directed at the road.

“Not because of-” Alex pauses, looks over at her for a second. “You’d actually be quite an asset to our team.”

It shocks Lena into looking over at the other woman, her jaw dropping a little. “Is that a compliment I hear?”

Alex rolls her eyes, scoffs. “You did okay in there. You’re smart, you have decent instincts and you have this annoying fearlessness about you that’s actually useful in high pressure situations. You’re not afraid to make snap decisions.”

Lena smiles a little. “But?”

Alex sighs, sagging a little in her seat as if she’s already resigned to something. “You’ve got Kara all twisted up.”

It rubs painfully against Lena’s already stretched out emotions. “I don’t mean to,” she says quietly. “I told her we have to-”

“I’m not saying it’s your fault,” Alex interrupts and it’s the most honest and open she’s ever seen Kara’s sister. “Kara never really gave up on the idea that you guys would get back together.”

It’s like getting stabbed. Or so Lena imagines. The words jab into her chest painfully and she takes in a lungful of air. “I’m not trying to give her that impression,” Lena argues, pulling the words out of her mouth slowly and with a great deal of pain. “She wants to be friends and I - I’m-”

“Helpless to say no to her,” Alex finishes with a bitter laugh. “That was always your problem.”

Lena doesn’t know exactly what that means, but she looks out the window and swipes a finger at the corner of her eye, begging her body not to cry.

“Sometimes Kara just needs to be told no,” Alex continues and Lena’s jaw tightens.

“I don’t think we should be talking about this behind her back.”

“Neither of you are talking about it and that’s the problem,” Alex counters and Lena feels backed into a corner, defensive.

“We have talked about it and frankly, our relationship is none of your business.”

“So it’s a relationship?”

“Friendship,” Lena amends with a sharp tone. “Don’t nitpick.”

“Friendship,” Alex repeats, scoffing. “Right. Because you guys were so good at being friends the first time around.”

“I think that we can be friends,” Lena replies in a careful tone. “We just need some time. Everything is too new and raw right now.”

Alex laughs, the sound hollow. “Then you’re both fools.”

--

When Lena finally gets home she collapses in her bed with a bottle of wine and a box of tissues. The side of her bedroom is floor to ceiling windows and Lena spends the night watching the sky, eyes darting between the various buildings across National City and the stars that are barely visible above.

It’s close to midnight when she gets a text. Her phone vibrates on the glass surface of her end table and she snatches it quickly.

i’m sorry if things got weird tonight, it reads, and that i got mad. i just want to protect you. thank you for your help with everything.

Lena just blinks at the words, her eyes feeling dry and tired. She falls asleep with her phone in her hand.

 

Chapter Text

When she wakes up the next day, there are about four unanswered texts on her phone. All from Kara, all apologetic in varying tones.

The I’ll be better eats away at Lena. As if it was Kara’s fault that they can’t be alone together without having emotionally charged staring contests. As if Kara’s the one that keeps setting the boundaries just to step right over them. As if Kara would ever need to be better, as if she’s not already perfect in Lena’s eyes.

It haunts her so badly that Lena finally responds.

you did nothing wrong. i’m the one that’s sorry. i do want to be friends.

Kara’s reply is so immediate that Lena wonders if she’d been waiting by the phone. lunch this week?

Lena’s still not ready for that, but she so desperately wants to be. drinks next week?

Kara sends back about twenty smiley face emojis and clapping hands and Lena just shakes her head, laughs a little and tries to fight the feeling that they’re just running in circles together.

--

The news reports on the new criminal gang terrorizing National City with highly powered alien weapons. Lena watches, chest tight, as Kara gets shot by one such weapon and crumples, hit again and flies into a building.

It scares her to remember that there are things out there that can hurt the Girl of Steel. Things out there that can kill her. She thinks of her brother, of his single minded mission to take down Superman and she knows there’s a warehouse full of his projects somewhere that could do just that.

She’s filtered most of them out of L Corp’s to-do lists, but she knows that’s not all of it. Lex was always paranoid. There’s some vault out there just waiting to be found.

When she watches Kara get knocked around for the second time, Lena can’t fight the hold the image takes on her throat. Kara is vulnerable to simple alien guns, anti-grav guns from the look of them. What could she do against Lex’s cavalcade of kryptonite weapons? It feels like she’s choking on worry at the very thought.

Are you okay? is all typed up and ready to send on her phone and Lena stares at it for a good twenty seconds before deleting it.

She sighs. They’re friends and she needs to start acting like it. Friends would check up on each other. That’s what Kara had said at the beginning of it all anyway.

She looks back down at her phone and types out a careful, I saw the news. I hope you’re okay.

Kara sends back a selfie, still in her supersuit and giving the camera a thumbs up. It eases Lena’s nerves a little, but it does nothing to quell the strong desire Lena feels sweep through her to find Kara, see her in person, and personally assure she’s uninjured.

--

The damage to the National City Children’s Hospital is all anyone can talk about, and Lena sees an opportunity to both do some good and garner positive press for L Corp. Apparently Supergirl getting thrown through a building isn’t as much of a concern for National City, but it consumes Lena.

Planning a fundraiser gala lets her focus on something other than the way Kara’s face looked right before Lena was sure she was going to kiss her, the night of Roulette’s fight club. It’s only when she’s reviewing the guest list for the party that she realizes what a target it would be for any criminal in National City looking for a score. Particularly ones with electromagnetic alien weapons.  

They’d have to be stupid to go after L Corp or her, Lena thinks, but common thieves aren’t generally known for their high IQ.

A plan forms suddenly before Lena can stop it and she’s down in R&D without even thinking about it.

“Miss Luthor,” Lana greets her when she walks in, eying her warily. “You’re becoming quite the staple down here.”

“Project Hawking, are you familiar with it?” Lena asks without any pretense.

Lana looks a little taken aback, but recovers. “The field generator? Yes.”

“I’d like to take a look at what we have.”

They walk over to a storage unit in the corner of the lab and Lana scans them through, eyes on the tall shelving units until she finds what she’s looking for. Together they pull a large box from a top shelf and Lena opens it, observes what’s inside.

“That’s perfect,” Lena says. “Thank you.”

“What do you need it for?” Lana asks and Lena’s a little surprised. She’d have thought her sharp words in her office a week ago would have warded Lana off from asking such things.

“I want to see if I can get it working,” Lena says, walking it back out of the storage unit and towards an empty workstation not too far away.

“It’s not exactly a household consumer product,” Lana observes, helping Lena take all the different components out of the box.

“No, not exactly,” Lena laughs.

“You’re planning something,” Lana says with a smirk and it’s strange for someone to talk so casually to her, to be unafraid of who she is or the power she wields.

She looks up at Lana, thinks about how nice it might be to have an actual friend in National City. Not just an ex-girlfriend friend that she keeps almost kissing. “Just a surprise,” she tells the other woman.

“A black body radiation surprise?”

Lena shrugs a shoulder. “Do you want to stay and help?”

A look of surprise flashes over Lana’s help, but her smile goes wide. “Yeah, definitely.”

They sit there and work together, Lena with her head bowed over a mess of wires and coils while Lana hands her whatever tools she may need and keeps the coffee warm.

--

“I need to tell you something,” Kara says one night as they’re walking around campus. They’ve gotten ice cream at a place Kara loves. Lena scoops the last of hers into her mouth before chucking the small bowl into a nearby trashcan, turning to look at Kara.

“Okay,” she says in a slow drawl, dusting her hands together and swiping at her lip. Kara’s still clutching at a cone and there’s a bit of ice cream clinging to the corner of her mouth. Lena laughs softly and swipes a thumb over it, charmed at the sheepish expression Kara gives her, a blush visible even under the dim light of sunset.

They’ve been friends for months now, but Lena can sense something building between them. Most days she tries to ignore it. Her mother’s voice rings too loudly in her head - a college fling is one thing, Lena, but you have responsibilities. There’s no place for a relationship in a young Luthor’s life.

But with Kara smiling at her so softly, a red sky framing her face and a comfortable autumn chill in the air, Kara doesn’t feel anything like a college fling. She feels real. Significant. Heavy. Solid.

“What is it?” Lena asks when Kara doesn’t say anything else. They pause near a bench and Lena sits down, expecting Kara to sit with her. Instead, Kara paces in front of her, moving rapidly.

Lena’s never seen Kara look so nervous. She wants to reach out and grab ahold of Kara’s hand and soothe her.

“Kara, it can’t possibly that bad. Did you cheat on a test or something? Commit a crime?”

Kara shakes her head rapidly and Lena starts to get a little worried. It’s hard to think of her bright and sunny friend doing anything that would upset Lena, but from the way Kara can’t stop fidgeting, Lena’s suddenly not so sure.

“So, do you know Superman?” Kara asks suddenly, her hands gripping her glasses.

“Yes, of course,” Lena answers with a laugh. “I’m from Metropolis.”

“Right.” Kara twists her hands together and Lena watches this motion curiously.

“Are you dating Superman or something? I thought he and Lois Lane had a thing,”

“Wha - ew, no.

Lena crosses her arms over her chest, shrugs. “Well if you don’t tell me what it is I’m just going to keep guessing-”

“He’s my cousin,” Kara says abruptly and Lena’s brain stutters to a halt.

“He’s what?”

“He’s my cousin,” Kara repeats and she stops pacing, standing in front of Lena with her hands out to the side, honesty in those pretty blue eyes.

“But he’s-”

“Yeah,” Kara breathes and she looks around them quickly. Campus is mostly empty, devoid of students who have fled home for Fall Break. There’s no one within earshot.

“So you’re-” The numbers start adding up quickly in Lena’s head and a thousand little inexplicable moments suddenly make perfect sense. The clarity of it all makes her eyes go wide.

“Yeah,” Kara says. The word is soft, but sure and Kara sits down next to Lena on the bench, studying her with clear vulnerability.

“You’re an alien?!” Lena asks in a hushed whisper, she’s only barely able to stop herself from shrieking. It’s not reproach or anger, but she’s surprised.

Though, it’s not that she’s entirely shocked. There’s always been something off about some aspects of Kara’s life, but there’s a difference between knowing and knowing something.

“Are you mad?”

Lena blinks. Tries to understand what’s going on, but answers the question easily - there is no other answer for her. “No, of course I’m not mad.” Relief floods Kara’s face.

“I thought you should know,” Kara says. “I’m really not supposed to tell people, but you’re not-” Lena watches Kara fiddle with her glasses and blow out a heavy breath. “You’re different.”

Lena’s not ready to confront all that different might mean to Kara.

“Thank you for telling me,” she says quietly before reaching for Kara’s hand to hold it in a sure grip.

There’s a voice in the back of her head, her mother again, and it’s full of all kinds of anti-alien venom. Superman has always been a testy subject in the Luthor household and she can even hear her brother’s whispers about the alien threat .

But when she looks at Kara, Lena can’t understand any of that. Not with the way Kara always grins like Lena’s made her day just by existing, or the feeling Lena gets when Kara laughs, that full bodied genuine laugh that never fails to get Lena to smile. The only threat Lena can sense is the one to her heart.

“You’re my best friend,” Kara whispers like it’s just as much a confession as before.

It frightens Lena a little, to feel so much for one person, but Lena doesn’t fight it. Just wraps Kara up in a tight hug and laughs a little. A wave of protectiveness washes over her at the tremble she can notice in Kara’s strong frame. “Me too,” she says with her nose buried in the fabric at Kara’s shoulder.  

The scientist in her suddenly perks up and she sits back, disengaging from the hug. “So does that mean you can fly?”

Kara shrugs a little sheepishly. “I think so.”

“What do you mean you think so?”

“I haven’t tried to in years.”

A thousand questions start to line up in Lena’s brain, but she tries to stay on track. “Why not?”

“Using my powers could be dangerous,” Kara says like she’s reciting something from memory. “For me and for others.”

“But you have all the same abilities as…?”

“As far as I know,” Kara says. “Like I said, I haven’t really tested it all out.”

It’s natural scientific curiosity that eats at her. It’s impossible to ignore. In a quiet hushed whisper she asks, “Do you want to?”

Kara’s eyes go wide at the question. Like she hadn’t considered the possibility of ever using her powers again.

Lena runs through a catalog of open spaces they could get to around campus, calculates how far they’d have to drive in order to get anywhere private.

“You don’t think I’m dangerous?”

It’s asked so honestly and with such vulnerability that Lena swallows a laugh immediately. “No,” she says softly. “What I think is dangerous is not knowing what you’re capable of.”

Silence stretches for a long moment, Kara staring into Lena’s eyes before a cautious grin lights up her face. “Okay. Let’s do it.”

--

The decision to invite Kara to the gala doesn’t come easy. At first, she tries to convince herself that it’s an insurance policy. It’s not because she just generally wants Kara around, wants to put them back on even footing after the intensity of their post-alien-fight-club stare down.

She thinks to just text Kara, or call her, but Lena’s the one that keeps messing everything up between them. If she wants anything to get better or easier, she’s going to have to start facing her fears, so to speak. She’ll see Kara face to face and invite her to the gala. Like a normal friend would.

They haven’t spoken or seen each other in person since the fight club and Lena doesn’t trust herself to be anywhere alone with Kara. CatCo is almost neutral territory, or at the very least, they’ll be surrounded by people. That alone should reign in Lena’s emotions enough to get through a conversation.

Or so she thinks.

Except the minute Kara spots her, a flash of complete happiness brightens across Kara’s face, her whole body visibly straightening as she stands up from the desk she had been previously bent over. It spikes into Lena’s heart almost painfully.

“Lena!” Kara greets, turning to face her. Lena spares a glance for the gentleman to Kara’s left, but doesn’t acknowledge him.

“Hi,” Lena greets, crossing her arms and hoping her nerves aren’t showing. The constant movement of the rest of the office floor around them helps. Strong and steady CEO is a role Lena is very practiced at and she falls back into it without too much trouble. It’s admittedly harder with Kara around, but she still manages.

“What are you doing at CatCo?”

“I’m here to see you actually,” Lena replies and hates the immediate way Kara reacts to that - her smile growing impossibly large in an instant.

“You are?”

She takes a deep breath and affects a practiced smile, trying not to let Kara’s eyes get to her. It’s hard when she can practically feel the way Kara’s gaze is tracing her face. “L Corp is hosting a party this weekend.

“You’re throwing a party?” The smile on Kara’s face drops immediately to a frown.

“It’s a gala fundraiser for the children’s hospital after that horrific attack on their new building,” Lena explains, knowing what the look on Kara’s face means.

“Lena, that’s-”

“I was hoping you’d come,” Lena says before Kara can list off reasons why Lena shouldn’t be holding a party with a gang out there terrorizing National City.

It seems to work. Kara’s frown stutters up into another smile.  

What she really means is that she hopes Supergirl can attend as an extra ward against any attack, but with the way Kara’s co-workers keep milling about in earshot, Lena knows she can’t exactly ask such a thing outright.

Before Kara can answer, the man sitting at the desk next to them stands, shaking a Red Vine in her direction. “Uh, gala? Is that like a party?”

Kara answers no immediately, clearly trying to shut him up, and Lena’s eyes dart between them, confused.

“It would mean a lot to me if you were there,” Lena says, focusing on Kara and ignoring the newcomer even as he continues to grin at both of them. Kara’s eyes go soft around the edges.

“Of course I’ll come,” Kara says with a small smile.

“I love parties,” the man interjects again and Lena tries to puzzle out if she knows him. He clearly seems comfortable enough with Kara to insert himself in her conversations. She wonders if this is the Winn that Kara told her she’d warm up to. “Can I come too?”

“No,” Kara answers hastily and Lena gets a sinking feeling when she looks at them, like Kara’s trying to hide something. It’s not Winn, she thinks, but it’s someone. She appraises the stranger again and something tightens in her stomach. He’s a lot like the kind of guy she always thought Kara’d fall for - the kind of guy she assumed, in her darkest hours, that Kara would date after their breakup. Cute, preppy, nice smile. They look good together in a bland sort of way.

It hadn’t occurred to her to consider the possibility that Kara was dating someone. She feels a little blindsided by the idea.

Unwilling to be a slave to her past, Lena laughs a little. A smile stretches over her face tightly. “No, of course your friend can come,” she says to Kara and her ex-girlfriend gives her a wide-eyed look, clearly uncomfortable.

Lena turns to the man, tries hard not to imagine slugging him in the jaw and reminds herself that sometimes it’s smarter to keep your enemies close at hand. “What’s your name?”

“Mike. Of the Interns,” he says sagely and Lena wonders if Kara finds that kind of humor amusing.

“Well, Mike of the Interns,” she says, perversely enjoying the pinched look on Kara’s face. “Find yourself a nice suit and we’ll see you there.”

He looks entirely pleased with the idea, the red candy in his hand wiggling in excitement but Kara just narrows her eyes at her.

Lena arches a brow at Kara, as if in challenge, and Kara sighs, stepping away from Mike and grabbing Lena’s arm, spinning them both in the opposite direction. “Can I speak with you? Please?”

Lena lets herself get led out of the main floor of CatCo and down a back hallway until Kara shuffles them both into an abandoned office.

It’s then that Lena realizes her error. She’s now alone. With Kara. Again.

“Kara,” Lena starts, needing to rid herself of these circumstances, but Kara starts talking before Lena can make a move to leave.

“His name isn’t Mike,” Kara says abruptly, hands on her hips.

Lena laughs a little. It wasn’t what she expected Kara to lead with. “What do you mean?”

“He’s from Daxam. His name is Mon-El.”

Lena startles a little at the mention of a familiar planet - she remembers Kara talking about it years ago. Not so favorably. “Daxam? Isn’t that-”

“Yeah,” Kara says with clear exasperation. Lena remembers Kara teaching her some colorful Kryptonian slurs that revolved around the planet and its people. “His pod, a Kryptonian pod ironically, landed here a while ago and he just woke up.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s actually a really long story,” Kara says, rubbing at her neck.

“Why are you telling me?”

“I’m trying to get him to assimilate into society,” Kara explains. “That’s why he introduced himself as Mike. Mon-El isn’t exactly a run of the mill human name. So then I got him this job at CatCo, but it’s not exactly going smoothly.”

“No?”

“He’s such a pain,” Kara confesses with a little chuckle. “And he keeps doing completely ridiculous things. I’m trying to be patient with him, but it’s so hard.”

The memory of Kara when they first met invades Lena’s brain and makes her smile a little. “Maybe you’re forgetting what you used to be like.”

“What do you mean what I used to be like?”

“You had to look up what a date was on urban dictionary,” Lena teases.

A charming blush flushes into Kara’s cheeks and Lena’s chest feels tight. Memory swirls between them like something tangible. “Earth mating customs were foreign to me.”

“I remember,” Lena replies with an arch of her brow and it does nothing to help Kara’s blush which deepens as her ex-girlfriend bites at her lip.

They stare at each other for a bit, alone in the dusty, abandoned office and this is exactly why Lena wanted to avoid such a thing. It was easier out there with curious, watchful eyes. Here, there’s no one to stop her from crossing the floor and pushing Kara against the wall behind her.

No one but herself.

Of course then Kara opens her mouth and completely dampens Lena’s desire. “You can’t go ahead with this fundraiser. You need to cancel.”

“This sounds familiar,” Lena deadpans, crossing her arms across her chest.

“There’s a trio of criminals out there with highly advanced alien technology and this party will definitely be a target.”

“Then it’s a good thing you’ll be there,” Lena says, trying to appeal to reason. Kara looks unconvinced so Lena continues. “And Mon-El,” she adds. “Being from Daxam, he must be affected by the yellow sun as well. My party can have two protectors. You can bring him as your date.”

Kara’s eyes are narrowed, jaw tight as she considers Lena’s words.

“I’m not dating him,” Kara blurts out suddenly and with a certain amount of heat. Lena feels a lump in her throat.

“Okay,” she draws out.

“It seems like you think I am. But I’m not.”

Lena laughs and looks away, hating that exposed feeling she always gets when Kara just understands the many layers of Lena’s emotions. “I didn’t,” she lies, remembering the way she had immediately thought exactly that and cataloged Mon-El as a romantic rival. A ridiculous, instinctual reaction that she now wishes she could have stopped.

“Just in case then,” Kara says, looking at Lena critically. “I’m not.”

“That’s really none of my business, Kara,” Lena answers, gaze narrowing as she looks back at her ex.

Kara cocks her head to the side. “Isn’t it?”

“It’s not,” she emphasizes with some heat, angry at Kara for toeing at the line. At herself for dragging them back to the middle. Her invitation to Mon-El had been completely about assuming he and Kara were dating, or at least almost-dating, and it puts a sick feeling in her stomach. If they’re going to be friends she has to relearn how to see Kara and not think of her as a girlfriend anymore.

“Friends care about each other’s love lives,” Kara points out and it’s such a weak line of reasoning that Lena scoffs. Hates the sound of the word love as it comes out Kara’s mouth in this context.

“We’re not those kinds of friends yet,” she replies. They probably never will be, she thinks to add, but doesn’t. Lena can’t imagine a future in which she’d be comfortable hearing about Kara’s romantic prospects. Romantic prospects that no longer include her.

“I just think that you should know-”

“You know what?” Lena interrupts with her palm outstretched towards Kara to stop her. “We’re not going to do this.”

“Do what?”

“This,” Lena says waving her hand around. “I want to be friends, Kara. But we keep doing this and it’s not helping either of us.”

“I still don’t know what this is,” Kara retorts, brows coming together.

“It’s been four years,” Lena starts. “You’ve dated people I’m sure. I’ve dated people.” Lena tries to ignore the perceptible flinch Kara gives at that. “We’ll probably each date more people. In the future.” She can’t look at Kara as she says it, but carries on. “We don’t need to rehash all that old history. We just need to move on. If you’re not dating him, great. If you are. Good for you. For the both of you. I don’t care.”

Lena’s pretty sure that her messy tumble of words indicates pretty loudly that she does in fact care, but she refuses to keep having these stilted conversations with Kara. “So can we just not have these kinds of chats anymore?”

“We’re pretty awful at being friends, aren’t we?” Kara asks, head bowed and with a resigned tone that Lena wants to kiss away.

“We don’t have to be,” Lena replies.

Kara’s head shoots up. “Friends?”

“Awful at it,” Lena corrects.

She readjusts the purse on her arm and takes a deep inhale. The smile on her face feels overly exaggerated, but she can’t keep looking at the way Kara’s now sagged against the far wall, looking at Lena with a kind of desperation.

“I’ll send you the details for the gala,” Lena murmurs before turning and exiting the office.

--

“Do you date? Do dating? Enjoy dates?”

The questions come out of nowhere, so suddenly, that Lena feels like her brain gets whiplash. “Do I what?” she asks. She had just been doing homework, before Kara had started conjugating the word date.

“A date,” Kara says.

They’re in the library and Kara’s peering at her from across a wooden table, her pen tapping rapidly on the surface as she looks around her laptop. It’s marking up the table it’s moving so fast and so hard, but Lena doesn’t think to stop Kara.

“Do I date?”

“Are you - “ Kara spares a glance for her laptop before returning her gaze to Lena with a smile, “Are you dating someone?”

Lena sets her own pen down and furrows her brow at her friend. “You know I’m not.”

Kara looks about as confused as Lena feels. “So you’re not mat - dating - with Shawn?”

“Shawn Cady? No,” Lena answers with a laugh. Even the idea of it is absurd, but Kara doesn’t look like she’s joking.

“Jenna?”

It takes a few seconds of thought, but Lena’s eyebrows raise when she realizes who Kara is referring to. “Jenna Matthews? No,” Lena laughs again. “Jenna’s straight.”

“Straight,” Kara says, blinking. She leans forward suddenly, voice dropping down. “Do humans come in like crooked shapes?”

Lena laughs so loudly that the woman at the desk on the other side of the library looks up at her with a glare and she chokes on the sound, shaking her head at Kara and dropping her voice back down to something more appropriate.

“That’s not what I meant,” she says, bemused. “Jenna’s straight as in...she dates men. Exclusively as far as I’m aware.” Kara looks so confused that Lena closes her laptop and stares at her friend. “Do you...not know about all of that? How did this not come up in high school?”

“So what is the opposite of straight?” Kara asks, and types something into her computer. Lena laughs again, but keeps the noise quiet, mindful of drawing attention from the few students scattered about.

“There’s no -” Lena doesn’t know how to explain how there’s no such thing as opposite without confusing Kara. “Sexuality is more like a spectrum.”

Kara still looks adorably confused. “Sexuality,” she repeats like she’s just tasting the word for the first time. “So are you...straight?”

Lena blinks, takes a breath. “Kara, why are you asking me all this?”

“Mating is so weird here,” Kara all but grumbles, looking away. “On Krypton we just...there wasn’t really dating. You got matched with a mate and that’s kind of it. For life.”

The mention of Kara’s homeworld makes Lena ache. Kara’s just been able to talk about it without getting a watery look on her face or an unsteady cadence to her voice. Lena wonders what that must be like, how it must feel, to be the last of your kind.

“That sounds...like it could go badly,” Lena says, being careful not to insult Kara’s whole culture and world. “I mean, it sounds like an arranged marriage.”

“And arranged marriages are bad here,” Kara says, but it sounds more like a question, like she’s waiting for Lena to confirm that’s what she means.

“Not necessarily, I suppose,” Lena says. “Just, well, what if you don’t like your selected mate? What if they’re a psychopath, or ugly? Dating at least gives you some choice in the matter.”

Kara looks at her then, contemplative. “Mates are chosen because of something deeper. A connection that can’t be broken by distance or death or anything. You’re meant to be.” It sounds recited, but not rehearsed. “It can’t go bad. At least not permanently.”

For a moment, Lena wonders what kind of person Kara would have been mated with. “Did you have a mate then?” she asks carefully, not wanting to upset Kara but curious all the same. “On Krypton?”

Kara chuckles, shakes her head. “I wasn’t old enough.”

There’s something like relief that floods Lena’s system, but she pushes it aside. She’s still completely lost as to what the purpose of this conversation is. “So are you interested in dating someone here on Earth? At school?” The question shoots a pang of discomfort into her gut, but Kara is her friend and clearly very lost when it comes to this particular Earth custom.

Kara just kind of stares at her, lips thinning. “Just trying to learn,” Kara says quietly, but there’s tension in the set of Kara’s jaw.

“Okay,” Lena says, and she reaches across the table to set her hand on Kara’s arm. Kara blinks, and her face melts from the serious expression it had to a soft smile. “To answer your question, no, I’m not dating anyone right now.”

“Do you want to be?” Kara asks it with wide vulnerable eyes, her hand turning upward to grab ahold of Lena’s by the fingers. “I think I might want to be. Dating, I mean. Dating with you.”

“Kara,” Lena breathes out, the words sit so heavy in the air that Lena chokes on it for a second. “What are you saying?”

“According to,” Kara squints at her screen again, “Urban Dictionary dot com, a date is two people sharing an activity together with the possibility of romance.”

“You looked up date on Urban Dictionary?” Lena wants to laugh, but the reality of the conversation has finally caught up to her and she’s having trouble remembering how to breathe.

Kara shrugs. “Well, I tried to ask Alex, but she wasn’t all that helpful.”

For a brief moment, Lena wonders if maybe she’s still asleep. Or maybe she’s been drugged or something. “Are you asking me on a date?” It feels important to clarify, if only for Lena’s brain to start working reasonably again.

“I would like to explore the possibility of romance with you,” Kara says quietly and Lena’s heartbeat picks up pace so quickly that she’s sure she’s about to have a stroke.

“Usually, when you ask someone out, it’s to a meal,” Lena manages to say, all the words coming out in a comprehensible order. She’s proud of herself because her brain is screaming about a million different things and it’s a wonder she’s still capable of speech at all.

“Would you like to?” Kara asks, shutting her laptop and giving Lena her full attention.

“Would I like to?”

“Dinner,” Kara says simply. “With me.”

Lena clears her throat and fights the lightheaded feeling taking over her skull. “For a date?”

“For a date,” Kara repeats with a smile.

“To explore the possibility of romance.”

“Yes.”

They’re silent for a moment, eyes locked together and Lena feels everything shifting so abruptly that she might fall over. It doesn’t stop her answer though. She’s pretty sure nothing could stop the soft, but sure, yes she lets out.

The happy look that takes hold on Kara’s face is something Lena doesn’t think she’ll ever forget, nor the feeling when Kara sped around the table to wrap Lena up in an excited hug.

--

The party is in full swing when Kara shows up, walking towards her with a bright smile and a light blue dress. Lena’s heart beats in time with Kara’s steps and a smile spreads over her face to match the one on Kara’s.

“You came,” Lena says when Kara arrives at her side. After their conversation at CatCo, part of Lena thought maybe Kara wouldn’t come.

“Of course,” Kara says, a little furrow in her brow. “You invited me.”

“And -” Lena glances around for listening ears. “Supergirl?”

Kara laughs a little. “I’m sure she’s,” she makes a twirling gesture with her finger, “checking the perimeter.”

“I’d love it if she could make an appearance,” Lena hints and Kara gives her a look.

“Then I’m sure she will.”

Lena smiles at her, relaxing just a little. “I still hate these things,” she confesses quietly.

“I know,” Kara says with a laugh and it soothes something tight inside Lena. “At least your mother isn’t here,” she adds wryly and Lena lets out an amused exhale.

“Very true.”

“You know,” Kara starts, tone slow like she’s not sure she wants to say what she has to say. “You could have cancelled it. Probably should have.”

“No. I couldn’t cancel it,” Lena replies with a soft laugh. “You’ve never understood that part.”

“Maybe I understand it better than you think,” Kara says and there they are again, talking to each other with waves of emotional undercurrents that Lena has no idea how to navigate.

She does the only thing she can think of. “I had Irazu cater the dessert table,” she says and Kara’s eyes go predictably wide as she glances over to the table in question.

“Really?’

“Yeah,” Lena says with a soft laugh and a nod. “You should go try it.”

Kara looks about ready to do exactly that, her eyes stuck on the assortment of desserts.

“I’ll wait here for Supergirl,” Lena adds, drawing Kara’s gaze back to her.

With a nod of her head and a quick smile, Kara walks away and out of sight.

Seconds later, a different Kara is touching down in front of Lena. Hair down around her shoulders, red cape billowing around her legs, and hands on her hips as she lands.

“Supergirl,” Lena greets warmly, aware of all the watching eyes. This interaction with Kara feels somehow more comfortable than the one before. It’s easier to talk to Kara like this, with the obvious barrier of their respective adult roles between them - superhero and CEO, not Kara and Lena. “I’m glad you could make it.”

“I still think this might be a bad idea,” Kara says, walking towards her.

Lena resists the urge to roll her eyes, smiles politely instead. “Well, why don’t we see how the evening pans out?”

Kara looks ready to keep arguing which Lena thinks is entirely unfair. Supergirl and Kara may be two different people to National City, but they’re only one to Lena. And Kara can’t exhaust an argument as Kara Danvers just to try and pick it back up as Supergirl .

Lena’s eyes have narrowed in warning and Kara must pick up on it because she stops before she’s too close to Lena. “I’ll check the perimeter for any activity and I’ll be back at the first sign of danger.”

It’s more for Lena’s watching guests than Lena and the majority of the people in attendance seem completely mesmerized by the sudden appearance of their local hero.

“Sounds good,” Lena says and just like that, Kara is off, back up into the sky and out of view.

Seconds later, Kara is walking back towards her, blue dress back on as she peels the wrapper off a cupcake. “Thanks,” Lena says quietly once Kara is close and Kara just smiles, stuffs a big piece of her treat in her mouth and offers some to Lena.

Lena declines with a wave of her hand and chuckles a little when Kara shrugs and happily proceeds eating. It’s about then that Lena spots Mike - no, Mon-El, she reminds herself - walking towards them with a casual grin on his face.

She watches his approach warily and Kara must notice because she follows Lena’s gaze and straightens abruptly, shoving the rest of the cupcake in her mouth.

“Mon- Mike!” Kara greets around a mouthful of food and Lena rolls her eyes at that. How Kara has kept a secret identity this long is beyond Lena.

Mon-El eyes her warily. “What’s wrong with your mouth?”

Hastily swallowing, Kara just shakes her head and chuckles a little nervously. “Not-nothing. What are you doing here?”

Mon-El smiles, looks at Lena. “I was invited.” He pauses a little, his smile wavering just a bit. “Right?”

“Of course you were,” Lena replies, tone dripping with false warmth. They’re not dating, Kara had said, but she can’t help the paranoia in her head that tells her something is there. Something maybe Kara doesn’t even notice yet. It curdles in her stomach uncomfortably. “I should go make my rounds.”

Kara looks like she’s about to protest, but Lena turns away from them both before she can hear it, striding quickly across her party towards the bar.

--

They go on four dates and Kara doesn’t kiss her. Doesn’t even make a move to do so.

Lena wonders if maybe Kara didn’t really understand the definition of a date or romantic possibility. Maybe Lena had read the situation wrong, or Kara was even more confused about Earth customs than she realized.

Maybe there’s no kissing on Krytpon, she thinks with a slight amount of horror.

On their fifth date, Kara walks her to her dorm and hugs her goodbye and the question comes bursting out of Lena, unwilling to be held back any longer. “Is there a reason you haven’t tried to kiss me?”

Kara trips, seemingly over her own feet, but recovers and stays standing. “Wh-wh-what?”

Lena thinks about taking it back, but she’s curious. Not to mention she’s getting way too invested. If Kara misinterpreted romance and this isn’t leading anywhere then Lena needs to jump ship before it gets more awkward. She could salvage their friendship, she thinks. Probably. Maybe.

“You haven’t tried to kiss me,” Lena says stepping forward into Kara’s space. “We’ve been on five dates. On Earth, we usually end dates with a kiss. If you want.” It occurs to again her that maybe Kryptonians don’t kiss or something, but the way Kara’s eyes dart down to Lena’s lips indicates she’s following the conversation just fine.  

An attractive flush beats into Kara’s cheeks and Lena watches the flitting of Kara’s blue eyes. It takes a moment for Kara to answer. “I’m super into consent,” Kara tells her, soft as a whisper.

Lena’s brow furrows. “What?”

“I was letting you control that part of it,” Kara admits. “I didn’t want to pressure you. I did a lot of reading. On the internet.”

Lena’s brow rises. “The internet told you not to kiss me?”

Kara’s eyes flutter down to look at Lena’s mouth and then back up to her eyes. “Sort of?”

“Don’t believe everything you read online,” Lena jokes, but her heart feels like it’s in her throat because intention starts to fill the air between them. Lena can feel the moment coming like it’s something solid wrapping around them.

“Okay,” is all Kara says before Lena is pushing forward, her fingers gripping into the fabric of Kara’s shirt to pull their lips together.

It’s quick for a first kiss, just a solid pressure between their mouths, but Lena feels like her chest cracks open at the sensation.

She pulls away, looks into Kara’s eyes to make sure her friend is still okay. Kara just blinks at her, her pupils dilated and cheeks red. “Okay,” Kara repeats, licking out against her lips. “The internet is stupid.”

Lena’s laugh gets swallowed by the sudden reapplication of Kara’s mouth.

--

It’s easy to see Kara from across the party even from where Lena’s standing near the bar.

An executive from Fidelity Investments is talking to her about his stock portfolio, but Lena isn’t fully tuning in. She takes a sip of champagne and eyes the way Kara and Mon-El are still talking to each other.

Jealousy is such an ugly emotion. And it’s one she has absolutely zero right to feel. She’s the one that broke it off with Kara, she’s the one firmly demanding they give each other space. It’s been four years since they last meant anything to each other and if Kara wants to spend her time with a cute boy from a planet not unlike her homeworld, then who is Lena to stand in the way?

None of that helps, though, when she sees Mon-El grab Kara’s hand and drag them into a waltz across the makeshift dance floor. Lena’s fingers tighten around her champagne flute so abruptly that she almost feels it give way under the pressure.

“Miss Luthor?” The gentleman in front of her is saying and Lena’s startled back into her present conversation.

“Sorry-” she starts, but is saved by the loud sound of a sudden explosion that rocks the entire party.

She catches Kara’s eye immediately, the two of them staring at each other in silent communication before Kara’s jogging away and Lena moves to greet the trio of criminals striding into her party like they have a right to it.

“Oh, you picked the wrong party to crash,” she informs the leader with a smirk.

“I don’t think so, princess,” he retorts before reaching forward and tearing off her necklace forcefully. She sneers at him as she feels it happen and thinks to grab for it, or punch him or something, but Kara’s sudden presence stops her.

“Did you really think I wouldn’t be here?” Kara is asking, flying above all their heads and glaring. Lena can see the slight tinge of a glow in Kara’s eyes like she’s just barely restraining herself from blasting the three guys.

“Actually, I was counting on it,” he says and Lena watches with wide eyes as the alien weapon in his hand starts to charge. It’s different than the one she had seen him wield on the news before. A curl of worry wraps around her heart and she scrambles for a way to disarm him before he aims the weapon at Kara.

That’s the entire point of this, she remembers suddenly. There’s a black body field generator under the small stage at the far end of the party and she needs to get there to activate it.

Two of the armed men shoot at Kara and Lena watches as Kara crumples to the ground, smashing the concrete underneath her. It makes her chest burn, but she focuses on the task at hand and scrambles towards the stage, falling to her knees almost painfully and slipping underneath the white skirt.

The cylindrical device is there from when she planted it hours before, but when she goes to activate it, nothing happens. Hours in the lab poring over this thing and the moment she needs it, it’s nothing more than a paperweight.

She hits it on the side, frustrated and clicks it off and on a few times to no avail.

“Dammit,” she hisses before wrenching off the top and peering at the insides, trying to figure out what’s going wrong. She clicks on a small flashlight she had hidden in a toolbox under the stage and darts her gaze through all the wiring, poking and prodding to see what happens.

The sound of screams and crashes echo from outside, but Lena tries to put it out of mind. The image of Kara grimacing as she hit the ground threatens to derail her and she has to shake her head just to get it to clear.

Suddenly, another body invades her space, tumbling under the white skirt around the stage and turning to look at her with surprise.

“Do you mind?” She asks, sharply, angered at a new distraction. The device under hands suddenly pops with a sudden spark of life, some of the wiring starting to smoke. She clenches her teeth, frustrated it’s not working like she wants it to, even as the newcomer scrambles closer to her.

“Whoa, wait, wha - Is that a black body field generator?”

“It will be,” Lena grumbles, fiddling with the wiring and trying to focus. “If I can get it working.”

“This whole party. You - you - you set a trap for these guys!”

“Yeah, a trap that will fail unless I can get this operational.” Her mind diverts again to Kara and she hopes she’s holding strong against the alien weaponry. There’s the familiar zoom sounds of Kara zipping through the air, but there are screams, crashes, weapon fire too. Her fingers are almost shaking, and she’s praying to god that the enormous crashing sound she hears isn’t Kara getting thrown around by these idiots, or that the people aren’t screaming because Supergirl is down and not getting up.

“Uh, okay,” the stranger is saying, leaning over to observe her device. She thinks about shoving him away, but can’t waste the time. “So if the black body is at equilibrium with the alien weapons then it will absorb the electromagnetic radiation and shut them down. This is genius.”

Lena doesn’t have much time right now for praise. Nor a useless description of a device she built. She knows how it damn well works.

“I know,” she says, eying the innards of the generator and trying to see what she’s missing. It feels like it’s something obvious, something she’s just not noticing and she starts to talk herself through it, “But the frequency and the wavelength - they’re a match so -” It occurs to her suddenly as she stares at the device and she looks over at the newcomer to see matching realization on his face.

“The induction coils,” they both say at the same time.

The stranger at least seems to know what he’s doing and she lets him reach forward as she holds the light out. It only takes a few seconds of fiddling before she hears the generator hum to life. The two of them smile at each other in triumph and he nods at her.

“Punch it,” he says and she does so, feeling the moment it works and hearing an answering explosion outside the platform.

They scramble out from under the stage and Lena straightens her dress, taking a deep breath. The sight ahead of her is pleasing - the three criminals from before now crouch weaponless and afraid near where Kara is standing.

That is until she sees Kara’s face, a look of concern that morphs to relief and then on to confusion, as her eyes look between the stranger and Lena.

“Oh no,” he starts to say, gesturing between the two of them and looking at Kara nervously. They must know each other, Lena thinks, as the stranger starts to stammer out an explanation. “We weren’t - we weren’t….under there. We…”

Lena watches him fumble for words with confusion. Kara is looking straight at her now and Lena can’t help the quick once over she gives her ex, subtly checking for any signs of injury. When she looks back to Kara’s face, a hint of unhappiness is starting to bloom there, looking behind Lena to under the stage and back to Lena and the man next to her. The thousand yard stare on her face when she looks to the stage is a burst of memory for Lena, an obvious giveaway to Kara using her x-ray vision.

“We stopped it!” The stranger finally says, giving Kara a double thumbs up. It makes her ex-girlfriend laugh. Lena takes the distraction to press out the last of the wrinkles in her dress and turn away.

Kara looks like she’s going to walk over to her, but Lena would really like another drink to calm her rattled nerves, the adrenaline from before leaving her so swiftly that she feels like she could lie down and sleep for a day.

It’s perhaps bad form to leave her own party early, especially in the wake of its destruction, but Lena doesn’t want to be there any longer than she needs to be. She grabs a bottle of champagne that survived the attack and makes her way back to her own office building as quickly as she can.

She knows Kara will find her later - can tell from the heated way Kara looked at her as if she was putting everything together - and Lena’d like to be about halfway to drunk before that happens. She can’t imagine Kara will be pleased to know she was merely a pawn in Lena’s scheme.

--

“If you hate it so much, don’t go,” Kara says one evening when Lena’s putting the last of her jewelry on and straightening out her black cocktail dress.

“I can’t not go,” Lena replies, exasperated. They’ve been going around in circles about this for the last half hour, Kara insisting that Lena be her own person, and Lena insisting that she has responsibilities. It isn’t a new argument, but tonight, after a brisk phone call from her mother about what she’ll be overseeing once she graduates in four months, getting out of that “hellhole university” - after that, Lena’s patience is wearing thin.

“I don’t see why not.” Kara shrugs from her seat at Lena’s desk.

“I know you don’t,” Lena sighs. “That’s the problem.”

“Every time you go, you complain the entire time while getting ready and afterwards you’re exhausted and-”

“Kara,” Lena interjects more sharply than she intended. She doesn’t need to hear Kara tell her things she already knows.

“I understand that you have responsibilities,” Kara says, and Lena rolls her eyes. “I do, don’t scoff like I don’t understand your life.”

“Kara,” Lena says, trying to not bite her lip out of irritation. “I don’t think you do understand. One day, I’m going to help run a company, and that means doing things that I don’t like.”

“It doesn’t have to,” Kara says, and she reaches out across the distance between them. Lena doesn’t take her hand. “I just want you to be happy.”

“I am happy,” Lena says, though it comes out like there’s a gun held to her head. “I’m not going to fight with you about this.”

“We’re not fighting,” Kara says, her hands raising defensively.

“We will be,” Lena warns.

Kara’s lips thin, shoulders sagging. “I’m not trying to make you mad. You’ve just been so - stressed about graduating and going to Metropolis and you won’t talk to me about it and I’m worried. I’m just not a big fan of things that upset you.”

“You’re the only thing upsetting me right now,” Lena snaps. It’s a lie, and overly harsh. She regrets it immediately, but she’s tired. Tired of having this argument every single time Lena has to do something like this. Tired of trying to find a balance between duty to her family and a selfish desire to do exactly what Kara is suggesting, to tell Lillian to let her be and to just live a life with this girl, who sees right through her.

Kara looks taken aback by her words, curling into herself like she no longer knows what to do. On a heavy exhale, Lena paces forward across the distance between them and cups Kara’s cheek. “I’m sorry, that didn’t come out the way I meant it.”

“I don’t want to upset you,” Kara says in a small voice that makes Lena wince.

“You didn’t,” Lena denies. “I’m just-” she waves around with her free hand, hoping Kara understands.

“I don’t like the way these things make you feel,” Kara whispers, looking up at Lena with soft blue eyes. Lena hears what Kara isn’t saying. These things really mean your mother and Lena’s not too fond of the feeling either. But she has responsibilities to her family that she can’t just shrug aside, no matter how they make her feel.

“I’ll be fine,” Lena says in an attempt to reassure.

“You should always be fine,” Kara says, insists really, her hands reaching up to grip Lena’s on either side of her face. “I can’t use my powers, but I can protect you from being sad.”

Lena blinks, and lets Kara pull her hands down, raising one up to her mouth and kissing it. Kara’s hands drift over the watch Kara had given her almost a year ago. She looks so genuine, so beautiful, that Lena wants to collapse into her arms, to tell Kara how scared she is, how she’s terrified and certain that she will have to leave this room behind, leave Kara behind. How angry she is that her family’s legacy will leave this wonderful girl in the dust, how that legacy would crush her if Lena brought Kara with her into the future.

But Kara is looking at her with such love that Lena couldn’t bear to let her feel anything different. So instead, Lena protects Kara and smiles.

“I love you,” she says, and the thrilled smile that always fills up Kara’s face when she says those words fills Lena up with such joy that the rush of sadness that comes after is nearly debilitating.

“I love you, too,” Kara says, and she reaches up to press one soft kiss to Lena’s lips. “I’ll still be up when you get back. We can order some Red Dragon and watch The Wizard of Oz.

As she gets in the car, it’s hard to ignore the painful, insistent feeling that there are only so many more times that she’ll get to come home to Kara Danvers before it’s all over.

--

“You planned that,” is the first thing Kara says to her when she lands on her office balcony later that night.

Lena stands up from where she had been leaning against the rail and shoots her ex-girlfriend a bland look. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“This whole gala,” Kara says heatedly, following Lena when she turns to walk back into her office. If she’s going to get into a fight with Kara it’s probably best to move them into relative privacy. She doesn’t relish the thought of reading about a Luthor-Super catfight in the morning papers.

“What about it?”

“You threw a fundraiser so you could lure those guys there and destroy their weapons with your black body whatever it was.”

“Black body field generator,” Lena supplies.

“You set a trap.”  

Lena turns as soon as they’re both inside the office and shrugs, affecting an innocent expression. “So?”

“So you didn’t tell me!”

“What does that matter?” Lena asks, crossing her arms. “You were there to protect the party in the off chance they showed up. They showed up. You protected the party. I disarmed them with my device. The plan went flawlessly, regardless of whether or not you were in the know.”

“You took a big risk and you kept me out of it,” Kara says, stepping forward, finger pointed at Lena in clear accusation.

“And what? You think you hold the monopoly on risk taking?”

“I’m bulletproof,” Kara says, pointing at her chest and stalking in Lena’s direction. They’re mere feet apart. “It’s hardly a risk when I do it.

“You’re not invulnerable, Kara,” Lena retorts. “Things can still hurt you, kill you even.”

“Not anything on this Earth.”

“Kara, They had alien weaponry,” Lena says incredulously. “The kind that very clearly can damage you. You got blown into a building!”

“I had it under control. I don’t need you throwing yourself headfirst into dangerous situations. This is just like that thing with Roulette.”

“That thing with Roulette,” Lena parrots, defensive. “That thing where I had to tell you for the hundredth time that I make my own choices and you don’t get to tell me what to do.”

“And I told you that those choices affect me,” Kara replies angrily.

“That’s not my problem,” Lena says, matching Kara’s ire. “I saw an opportunity to do some good and I took it.”

“You put yourself in a position in which you could have been seriously hurt,” Kara corrects.

“I refuse to live in fear,” Lena says. “You more than anyone should understand that.”

“A little fear might do you some good. You’re not some sort of vigilante, Lena.”

“So what? You’re Supergirl now and you’re the only person that’s allowed to take risks in the name of justice? I’m a Luthor, right? What do I know about the greater good?”

A dark look covers Kara’s face so swiftly that Lena nearly gasps. “I do not think that and you know it.”

Lena does know it, in some deeper place. Kara had never thought of her as anything other than Lena , a independent being from her family, worthy of being judged on her own merits. “What then?” Lena asks. “I’m not allowed to do something when I’m able to?”  

“Are you forgetting that your brother has been hiring people to kill you? That you’re one of the most high profile people in this city and you have a target on your back?”

Lena doesn’t need to be reminded of something so obvious and painful. She feels her features shutter in response and Kara’s expression goes suddenly soft when she sees it. “I haven’t forgotten, no,” Lena says lowly.

“Lena,” Kara says slowly, almost as in warning. “I’m just pointing out that you need to be more careful.”

“Maybe you’re the one that needs to be more careful.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I see it on the news all the time, Kara. Ever since you became Supergirl. You just race off into dangerous situations without so much as a second thought. I’m supposed to just sit around and accept that?”

“Yes!” Kara says, looking at Lena like she’s crazy. In that moment, Lena thinks she actually might be, but there’s emotion bubbling up inside her and threatening to burst out. “That’s my job, Lena.”

“Well if I have to accept it, then so do you.”

“Accept what?”

“That I care about this city and protecting it and if I see an opportunity to do some good then I-”

“No,” Kara interrupts.

“No what?”

“You need to quit it with this reckless insane death wish behavior or I swear to Rao, I’ll-”

“You’ll what?” Lena challenges, chest heaving with the effort of bringing air into her lungs.

Kara doesn’t answer, just keeps her hands on her hips, glaring at Lena with the same kind of frustration Lena feels deep in her gut. “You make me so mad,” Kara confesses, the words pulling out of her sharply.

“Why?” Lena asks, hands shrugging upward. “Why do you feel like you have any right to-”

“Because I just got you back and I refuse to lose you again,” Kara practically shouts, cutting off Lena’s words.

And just like that there’s no sound in the office apart from Lena’s breathing, heavy and pained as they stare at each other. The tension between them is so tight that Lena’s sure it’s going to break at any second.

And it does.

With little warning Lena’s senses get invaded with Kara, their bodies pressing flush against each other and lips crashing hastily together. She doesn’t even have time to process anything - the attack on her senses so overwhelming that all she can think is Kara, Kara, Kara, Kara.

The kiss snaps something inside her and she’s helpless against her response, her hands are pushed against Kara’s chest, fingers finding purchase on the crest emblazoned there and she scratches at it, desperate to hold onto something. Kara’s arms are wound around Lena’s waist and she thinks maybe Kara has picked her up off the floor, just slightly, but Lena’s brain is in a fog.

Hands start pulling Lena’s blouse out of her skirt and suddenly Kara’s fingers are tracing the skin of her lower back. The feeling pushes her hips harder into Kara’s and she lets out a noise against Kara’s mouth.

It’s not until her back hits her office couch that she realizes Kara’s backed them up against it and floated them down.

The painfully familiar feeling of Kara kissing her surges through Lena’s whole body.

It’s like every interaction they’ve had the past few weeks has just been leading to this and Lena feels every piece of her soul react like it can finally relax, like it’s where it’s meant to be.

“Lena,” Kara breathes out, still kissing her. It suddenly tastes like tears between their lips and Lena’s not sure which one of them has started to cry, but she can’t stop kissing, can’t stop pulling Kara closer, always closer.

--

They’re in the regional airport not thirty minutes from campus and Lena cannot stop crying.

Kara’s staring at her with a pained, helpless expression and Lena doesn’t know how to make any of it stop. Her head wars violently with her heart and all she can do is try to get air into her lungs.

“Lena,” Kara says softly, her hands cupping Lena’s cheeks and swiping at fallen tears with her thumbs. “Lena, don’t cry.”

“I’m sorry,” Lena chokes out, trying to get a grip on her damn tear ducts. “I’m sorry. We’re just going different places and we have different responsibilities and long distance just isn’t something I-”

“You don’t have to keep explaining it to me,” Kara says, but her voice sounds strained and hoarse. “You said all this in the car.”

And Lena had. The drive from campus to the airport had been filled with Lena’s careful, logical, rational explanation as to why they had to break up the minute Lena got on the plane back to Metropolis. Kara had argued, of course, but Lena stayed relentless, stubborn in her belief that this was the right thing to do. For both of them.

She had graduated. It was time for her to move on. Leave college behind.

As her mother had already told her on more than one occasion. Lena was going places Kara just couldn’t follow. Lena’s not sure she’d want Kara to anyway.

College is one thing, separate and safe from all the ugliness that taints Lena’s family life. A family life that’s about to mesh with her professional one in a bond that she’ll never be able to break.

Kara is sunshine and happiness and everything good in the universe. And Lena doesn’t deserve to ruin any of that with all of her baggage.

“I don’t want to resent each other five years from now, for any of this to get ugly,” Lena says even as Kara tries to shush her. “We should break it off now before it’s worse in the future.”

“Lena, you said all this,” Kara tells her again.

“I’m sorry,” Lena says, feeling ridiculous and useless and so so so broken.

“Don’t apologize,” Kara says, shaking her head, but she’s crying in time with Lena. “Just please stop crying.”

“I didn’t want to hurt you,” Lena confesses and she hadn’t. If she been thinking clearly instead of allowing herself to fall in love, Lena would have never put them in this position. She should have known from the beginning that it would always end up like this, they’d always end up here. She wishes she could have stopped it.

“Lena, I love you,” is all Kara says in a wet tumble of words and it rips another sob out of Lena’s throat. Kara’s careful understanding manner is somehow making all of this worse. She wishes they were screaming at each other, that Kara’s eyes were angry instead of sad, that she’d feel some sort of righteous fury that would make all of this okay, better.

But there’s none of that. There’s just Kara looking at her with such empathy and love that Lena feels it all over her skin like a blanket.

She surges forward to kiss Kara then, their lips meeting abruptly. Lena can taste both of their tears and Kara’s hands slide around Lena’s waist, picking her up to press them against each other. Blonde hair tangles over Lena’s fingers and she tries so hard not to think that this is the last time she’ll ever get to feel this.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she says again when they break apart and Lena steps back to put some distance between them. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Kara just keeps repeating and they’re left staring at each other.

Suddenly, Kara’s pulling Lena into her chest again, her palm spreading out over Lena’s spine and her lips next to Lena’s ear.

“What are you doing?” Lena asks, but she buries her face into Kara’s shoulder and doesn’t resist the embrace.

“Memorizing your heartbeat,” Kara answers and Lena didn’t think her heart could break any worse, but it does. Shatters on the floor between them.

“I have to go,” Lena says, pushing away from Kara and away from the emotional black hole she’s tumbling into. If they continue on like this Lena will never be able to walk away. She’ll run straight into Kara’s arms and let the cards fall where they may, consequences be damned. Distantly, she can hear her mother laughing at her, the noise ringing in the back of her mind.

Kara’s nodding rapidly like she’s trying to convince herself it’s okay and Lena swipes again at her wet cheeks, the vision of Kara blurring as she reaches to pick up her carry-on bag and ticket.

“Take care of yourself,” Lena says, watching as Kara crosses her arms over her chest, curls in on herself.

“I’ll see you,” Kara replies with such confidence that Lena’s chest feels impossibly tight, like it’s trying to squeeze everything there is out of her heart.

An I love you sits on the tip of her tongue, threatening to come bursting out, but it feels too cruel. Like she doesn’t deserve to say it to Kara anymore. Instead, she forces a smile on her face and turns away from Kara, walks towards security and bites the inside of her cheek to try and stop her tears.

She spends the entire flight to Metropolis struggling against the continued wash of tears in her eyes as she deletes every memory she has of Kara from her phone. It’s better this way, she tries to tell herself. Out of sight out of mind.

By the time she lands she’s figured out how to compose herself, all the tears exhausted. She slides into a sleek black car sent to pick her up and repositions the mantle of the youngest Luthor child back onto her shoulders. It fits a little differently than it had before college, but it’s still familiar. It’s almost too easy to remember how to play this part, to slide back into this life. She wonders if maybe that’s because Kara’s not there anymore to remind her of how differently her life could be, how much lighter it could feel.

If she takes the first opportunity to spend three months in Tokyo opening up a new tech lab, it’s only because the distance between her heartbeat and Kara’s ears makes it easier to play the roles she’s meant to.

--

Kara’s got a hand against Lena’s hip, fingers dipping beneath the waistband of her skirt and Lena’s brain is scrambling around trying to figure out how the hell someone gets a supersuit off a superhero. She’s just managed to find a zipper in the middle of Kara’s back, beneath the cape, is tracing her finger up the line of it, prompting a shiver from Kara -

Then suddenly everything stops.

One second, Lena’s got one hand tangled in Kara’s hair, the other just finding the pull of the suit, her lip biting against Kara’s and the next she’s alone and Kara on the other side of the room staring at her with wide eyes.

“Wha-what?” Lena asks throatily, sitting up and fixing her hair. Her heart is thudding so hard against her chest that she can feel it across her entire body and Kara looks like she’s breathing hard - a rare look on a being that doesn’t live off the same oxygen intake as humans.

“Someone’s coming,” Kara hisses, still staring at Lena like she’s desperate to touch her again.

Lena shoots up so quickly she nearly falls forward and her eyes dart to the door as she readjusts her clothing - she tugs her skirt back down and tucks her shirt back into the waistband.

“Your lipstick,” Kara tells her and suddenly Kara’s back in front of her, handing her a tissue.

Seconds after she feels confident she’s fixed her makeup and rearranged her outfit enough that she doesn’t project that freshly made out look any longer, her mother waltzes into her office.

Lena’s stomach, once tight with sudden arousal, drops like a brick in water.

“Oh,” her mother says with a tight smile, glancing at where Kara is standing near the balcony. “I didn’t realize you had company.”

Kara’s looking at her mother with a look somewhere between shock and scorn, and Lena’s desperate to pull Lillian’s attention away from National City’s resident superhero and her ex-girlfriend. Kara had only met Lillian once, but the meeting hadn’t gone particularly well and Kara had never really been shy about expressing her distaste for Lena’s mother.

Lena is sure that Kara blames their breakup on Lillian in some part. This is your mother talking, Kara had said during their last car ride together.

“I was merely thanking Supergirl for her help tonight at my party,” Lena says, grateful her voice stays steady even as her fingers shake with the roller coaster of emotion her body has gone through in the last hour.

“Is that so?” Her mother says, turning to look at Supergirl again.

Lena strides forward, stepping between her mother and Kara and tries to get Kara to stop glaring at her mother like she’s going to heat vision her face off. “She was just leaving,” Lena adds pointedly, gesturing towards her office balcony.

Kara looks like she’s about to argue, but Lena just narrows her gaze in warning and hopes Kara will leave them be. The last thing Supergirl needs is unwanted attention from Lillian Luthor.

“Right,” Kara says with a glance at Lillian. “Of course.”

Kara steps backward onto the balcony and turns, shooting one last tortured look at Lena.

“I’ll call you later,” Lena whispers, subvocally, but she knows Kara will pick it up.

When she turns, her mother is eyeing the balcony with disdain and Lena’s heart is still beating so erratically that she’s afraid she might collapse at any moment.

“Mother,” Lena greets, moving back around her desk if only to put something physical between herself and her mother, something to ward against whatever her mother’s here to tell her.

“I’m sorry I missed your party,” her mother starts and Lena just looks back with an unaffected expression.  

“What else is new, Mom?”

“So that’s a no on the pleasantries, then,” her mother says with a little cluck of her tongue. Lena can hear the echo of years of lessons on manners and the like resound around them. She keeps her chin lifted and forces herself to keep eye contact with a woman who never fails to make her feel like a disappointment.

“What are you here for? Certainly not for idle chit chat.”

A brow arches primly over Lillian’s eye. “I didn’t realize you were friends with Supergirl.”

A thread of unease winds its way around Lena’s spine. “I’m not,” she denies, keeping gaze with Lillian’s despite feeling she’s being observed critically, like her mother knows there’s something there to figure out.

“Does the Girl of Steel normally make personal office calls? To Luthors?”

“I’m not a real Luthor,” Lena counters. “Or so you always remind me.”

An sardonic smile crosses Lillian’s face. “Don’t be petty, dear.”

“What can I do for you, Mom?” Lena feels desperate to be done with this conversation. It’s just one more emotional attack today that threatens to completely upend her. She wants to go home, sink into her bed and avoid all her problems.

“Can’t a mother just want to visit her daughter and apologize for missing her gala?”

“Sure she can,” Lena says, “If we had anything resembling a normal mother-daughter relationship.”

“This is still a family company,” Lillian replies testily. “A Luthor company.”

Lena glances towards the new L Corp logo displayed on a wall to her side and gives her mother a smug smile. “Is it?”

Lillian has that pinched look she always gets when they have to talk for more than five minutes and Lena doesn’t have the time for a full on Lena-Lillian stand off.

“Maybe I should come back at a time when you’ve remembered how to be respectful.”

Lena holds back a sigh, but takes the exit that’s being offered. “Maybe you should.”

Her mother scowls so deeply Lena’s positive she’s in for another lecture, but then Lillian just turns on her heel and strides out of the office.

--

When she gets home, she doesn’t call Kara. Can’t find the strength to even consider it.

Instead, she falls directly on her couch and struggles not to think about a different couch in her office, the way it felt when Kara pressed her down against the cushions.

She does everything she can not to think about that one moment when everything felt right.

It’s too hard, the memories far too fresh, and Lena presses her hands against her eyes in aggravation at herself.

There’s a bottle of 2005 Pas de Nom Pinot Noir sitting in her wine rack and she pours herself a glass before taking a way-too-large gulp considering how much the bottle costs. After pouring a second glass she strides back to her couch, sits on it and clicks the TV on, flipping through to the news.

The incident at the gala is being covered, naturally, and Lena watches her own picture get put up on the screen. Her nose curls up a bit. They always use the worst pictures of her - this one from a corporate event three years ago.

The image flips then to grainy cellphone footage of Supergirl flying over the party, her guests running haphazardly in every direction. She takes a heavy sip of her wine.

Then just like that, Kara is on the screen, hands at her hips and bright smile, and Lena fights hard not to think of the way that smile felt against her skin only an hour ago.

“I had some help,” Supergirl is saying in response the interviewer's question. “If it wasn’t for Miss Luthor’s ingenuity and bravery we wouldn’t have been able to apprehend these individuals so successfully.”

“So it’s true then,” the woman interviewing Kara says. “A Luthor and a Super teamed up to save National City?”

When Kara looks right at the camera, it feels like she’s looking straight at Lena when she says softly, “Very true.”

Lena turns the television off at that, her hand shaking where it clutches at her wine glass. Her skin burns with the memory of Kara’s lips, Kara’s fingers dipping low, and it takes everything Lena has not to give into the feeling and drown in it.

She settles for finishing her glass of wine and pouring another, taking it into the bedroom and praying she’ll fall asleep quickly and without dreaming.

It doesn’t work. When she falls asleep, it’s the same old dream, the one she had almost every night for months after they broke up. Kara is waiting for her when she gets in the door. She smiles. She kisses Lena. She says, “Welcome home.”

Chapter Text

Lena expects to hear from Kara right away - some kind of we need to talk text or something. Instead, the first she hears from Kara is a series of incomprehensible texts.

Several of them are in what Lena soon realizes is jumbled Kryptonian and Lena’s suddenly grateful she’d kept the coding in her phone that allowed it to read the alien language - without it, Lena’s sure the messages would just be indecipherable images. But even so, some of the words are hard for Lena to understand. She can’t decide if it’s because her Kryptonian is rusty or because the messages are riddled with typos that are throwing her off.

The texts are so confusing that if Lena didn’t know better she’d say Kara is drunk. But that’s...impossible. At least as far as Lena is aware. Kara’s body metabolizes liquor in a completely different way than humans and they’d never run into anything that could get Kara remotely tipsy. The only reason Kara ever drank in college was out of habit, an action bred out of a desire to fit in, to seem like any other normal human college girl.  

A few of the texts seem to be random facts about giraffes - they sleep standing up lena - and some are just typo-ed affection. The yr so nice makes her eyebrows raise. The monel knows how to drnk drinks makes her a little worried. It’s followed by another series of emojis. Lena’s been getting better at deciphering what Kara’s trying to say when she sends the little images, but this one is far beyond her comprehension.

are you okay? Lena sends. It seems like a reasonable, friendly thing to ask.

Kara doesn’t respond right away, but the text comes in later: alex is flying me dnt worry

Lena has no idea what that means, but she doesn’t inquire further.

--

 The attack on the research lab in the Arctic isn’t front page news, but Lena has “suspicious alien related or otherwise” activity flagged on her computer and she sees the blurb in an e-mail dump midday Monday.

Thorul Arctic Research Station. An animal attack from the way it’s being reported, but Lena reads between the lines. Most of the researchers stationed there died, apart from the head of the unit. Sole survivor. It’s suspicious enough to get pulled by the program she built to comb through news headlines and she idly wonders if it’s something Kara is involved in.

Even after Lena had first found out about Supergirl, she hadn’t really connected everything together. Kara and the thing Supergirl was reported on doing, the people she saved, enemies she conquered. She knew it was Kara, of course, but there was something detached about it. Like it was Kara, but it wasn’t . Having seen Kara in person, having seen her in her supersuit looking at Lena like she always has, it’s more real, more personal. She had always been worried, but a distant one, a “I hope everything’s okay out there” kind of worry.

The worry that etches itself into her ribcage now is worse, more intense. A worry she hadn’t thought to have for Kara before. She’s only been reunited with Kara for a short time, but every time she reads a headline or hears about an attack, she sees Kara flying towards it fearlessly, thinks of what could happen. And there are so many attacks - so many news alerts of fires, robberies, aliens fighting Kara in the streets.

It’s perhaps an odd time to think of her older brother, but she does. The almost crazed look in his eye when she last saw him.

The day he was apprehended, the Daily Planet ran a massive front page, full color photo of him snarling, opposite Superman. They were surrounded by pure chaos, destruction, the remnants of their last stand off. Lena remembers so vividly the tear in Superman’s suit, just above the crest. The way Superman’s usually oh-so-immaculate hair had been looser, more wild. His eyes, glowing with a kind of rage that almost rivaled the look in Lex’s.

That’s the thing people forget, Lena thinks. Lex almost succeeded. He almost won. Superman was just one mistake away from being killed. The world was one slip up away from being dominated by Lex Luthor. It comforts her, only slightly, that Lex is in maximum security (and then some) prison.

It does nothing for the dreams in which Supergirl replaces Superman in the pictures.

Lex may have been almost single-mindedly obsessed with the Man of Steel, but Lena knows it was only a matter of time before Supergirl would start to figure into his plans. Had he succeeded, Kara would have surely been the next target in Lex’s crosshairs. She can almost hear what her brother would say had he given any thought to National City’s Super. His voice resounds in her brain with that maniacal lilt it had started to take in the end. What’s better than killing one Kryptonian, Lee? Killing two.

All it would take was one mistake, one missed detail. Kara flies headfirst towards a problem without thinking and the next anyone knows she’s on the ground, broken and battered, power drained. Lex could have done it, and now - everyone knows what Lex did to Superman in the streets of Metropolis. Kara could be flying in to something so simple, and there could be someone there with a sliver of Kryptonite, and Kara would be done for.

It only gets worse on days where she doesn’t see Kara, doesn’t hear from her. Even on the days where’s she’s received small little emoji-laden texts, there’s something more reassuring about being able to see her in person, see for herself in some sort of tangible way that Kara is okay. Without it, the worry keeps her awake at night, and its intensity ratchets higher the longer she’s in National City.

On the worst of those nights she tends to sneak back into L Corp, almost invisible in her jeans, sweatshirt, and baseball cap, and tries to get some work done. The R&D lab is usually empty and she sits down there at a workstation, poring over ideas and projects, desperate to channel her energy into doing something good for the world, something to erase her brother’s legacy, to minimize the threat he still seems to pose to Lena’s world, the threat that keeps her up at night. It settles the unease just a little to have something to do with her hands and something to distract her ever-working mind.

Sometimes Lana Lang is still there and she’ll smile at Lena warmly, put on a fresh pot of coffee the minute she sees her.

The day the news of the attack at Thorul breaks, she gets woken up that night from a dream of Kara getting attacked by some horrific ice monster, and comes in to find Lana still there, tinkering with random projects and blueprints. 

“You don’t have to stay,” Lena tells her, but accepts the offered mug. It’s well past business close and most of the engineers that are usually scattered about the department have headed home to families and lives. She’d rather not be the reason her head of R&D gets no sleep.

“I was working late anyway,” Lana says with a shrug, sliding onto a stool next to Lena and sipping at her coffee.

“You shouldn’t work so late,” Lena chastises on reflex.

Lana laughs, leans an elbow on the table next to them and smirks at Lena. “That feels slightly hypocritical,” she stage whispers.

Lena rolls her eyes and boots up her laptop. “I’m the boss, Lana. I’m allowed to be hypocritical.”

“Of course, ma’am,” Lana says and it’s dripping with such feigned obedience that Lena lets out a little chuckle. “Yes, Miss Luthor.”

Gone is the almost strained way they had acted around each other before. It’s been replaced by a sort of casual friendship borne from the many nights Lena’s spent in lab acting as nothing more than a simple engineer working after hours. She doesn’t feel like CEO Lena Luthor down here. Not like she does in her office or behind her desk. She just feels like Lena, and Lana responds to that without pause.

It’s easy in a way Lena’s not used to. Lana teases her lightly, but still with some distance, and Lena allows it, sips at her coffee and lets Lana make suggestions about whatever project Lena brings up.

There’s something comforting in feeling like she has an unspoken ally on those nights, but Lena can’t fight the feeling that Lex was once an ally too.

--

A text comes in the next day when Lena’s just gotten home, around six, her pencil skirt and blouse traded for soft joggers and a t-shirt. It’s from Kara, and it’s comprehensible this time, and not in Kryptonian either.

are you at home? can i come over?

Kara lands on her balcony a few minutes later and Lena can’t deny there’s a sense of relief to see Kara standing there - whole and alive and smiling at her with a crooked grin.

“Hi,” Lena greets when she opens the balcony door.

“Hey.” Kara steps inside, red cape flowing behind her and hands on her hips.

It’s been almost three days and they haven’t talked about the incident in Lena’s office. The memory of it sits in the pit of Lena’s stomach, easily avoided in the work-filled days before, but much harder to ignore now when Kara is right here, in her apartment. It’s all she can think about as Kara perches against the arm of her couch, looking at Lena with an open expression.

“How are you?” Lena asks for lack of anything better to say, anything not related to her office couch.

“Tired,” Kara answers honestly, and Lena sees it then. Kara doesn’t just look tired. She looks exhausted. In fact, she looks abnormally exhausted. It beats away any thought Lena had about confronting their emotional moment days prior and replaces it with worry.

“Are you okay?” Lena strides forward across the distance between them to step in front of Kara, tipping Kara’s chin up with a finger and searching blue eyes.

“Yeah,” Kara says, making no move to resist Lena’s touch. If anything, she sags towards it, leaning forward a little and smiling at Lena. “There’s this...I don’t know what it is really, but something happened and now this guy has some kind of like, thing inside him and when he touches me he can...feed off of my powers.”

“The research lab in Norway,” Lena says. “The strange attack there. It’s related?”

“How did you know that?”

Releasing Kara’s face, Lena steps away a few feet away and smirks. “I have my ways.”

“You’re scary, you know that?” Kara says, but it’s clearly teasing, just a slight upturn to Kara’s lips. It makes Lena smile.

“I’m a Luthor.”

“You’re Lena,” Kara corrects with a crooked smile and it tightens Lena’s chest so suddenly that she struggles to swallow against the feeling.

Clearing her throat, she paces away, sits on a chair on the other side of the room. “So what happened? Your powers got drained, but you’re okay, right?”

“Nothing some good old yellow sunshine can’t fix,” Kara says. “Though it’s strange. He’s not just draining me. He’s like drawing my power into himself, evolving. Mutating really.”

“Like a parasite.”

“Yeah. An alien parasite. Something ancient we think.”

“So in theory, he could take enough power that you’d-” She mentally chokes on the thought, her words cutting off abruptly. This is a perfect example of the things that keep her up at night: an energy alien parasite perfectly content to munch on her ex-girlfriend’s wealth of powers.

“In theory,” Kara replies, looking unaffected by such an option.

A thought occurs to her suddenly, interspersed with the images of Kara having her powers sucked out of her. “If he’s actually a parasite, or at the very least behaving as one…”

Kara’s face grows more serious, her expression expectant. “Yeah?”

“You could always try giving him more power or energy than he can handle. Overload his system.”

Kara hums thoughtfully, looking away from Lena for a moment. “Interesting.”

“Something to think about, at least,” Lena says. “Just be careful, please.”

“Always,” Kara answers happily, with a matching smile.

Kara is just about never careful, but the grin on Kara’s face makes Lena laugh. It’s a better reaction than what she wants to do - convince Kara to run away with her until they’re so far from all the ugliness in the world that nothing can touch them. It’s a too-familiar, painful wish, to shelter Kara and to avoid the world around them.

Silence stretches between them and Lena lets her eyes trail over Kara’s imposing form. It’s such a strange juxtaposition. There Kara is. Draped in the trappings of her superhero role. And yet, the relaxed posture and the unsure twist to Kara’s lips makes Supergirl look nothing like National City’s Protector and everything like the Kara Danvers Lena remembers from college. She tries not to classify that Kara as her Kara, but that’s the only way she can think to describe it.

Kara’s voice breaks her from her musing.

“So, Alex is…” Kara looks like she’s struggling to find the words, her brow furrowed and mouth twisted. “Alex is gay. Apparently.”

Lena blinks at the sudden and unexpected subject change. “And?”

Kara’s gaze shoots up at that, bores into Lena’s. “And? And Alex is gay.”

“Oh,” Lena says, realizing suddenly what Kara isn’t saying. “And this is a surprise.”

“What do you - what - of course this is a surprise!” Kara sputters.

Lena laughs a little. “Okay, right, yeah. Completely. I am incredibly shocked to hear such a thing.”

Kara stares at her, jaw dropped a little before she rolls her eyes. “How is this so obvious to you and was such a surprise to me? You haven’t even seen Alex in four years.”

Lena shrugs. “I wouldn’t say it’s obvious. It’s just not shocking. It’s there if you’re looking for it.”

“But Alex has only ever dated men!”

Lena shakes her head at Kara’s incredulity, still laughing. “Yes. Clearly you don’t remember the disaster of a boyfriend she brought home to Thanksgiving that one year.”

“Disaster?” Kara asks like she doesn’t remember the ridiculously uninterested expression Alex carried throughout all of dinner nor the way Alex all but shoved her then-boyfriend to the ground on reflex when he slid his arm around her during the evening’s board game. The memory seems to come to Kara then, but she merely counters with, “Well Kevin was kind of the worst.”

Laughing, Lena smiles. “Sure, but then remember when your neighbor Ashlyn came over to bring us pie?”

Kara’s eyes go wide in recollection. “That mocha cream pie,” she breathes out with a certain amount of reverence.

Lena barely resists putting her hand over her face. That would be the only thing Kara remembered about the encounter. “I was referring to how excited Alex got to see her.”

“It was mocha cream pie, Lena,” Kara says with a seriousness Lena knows she’s not faking.

“It was gay, Kara,” Lena corrects, biting at her lip to hold back the laugh that wants to keep coming out. Kara looks entirely put out at the idea of not realizing this fact about her sister.

“How did I miss that?” Kara asks with a resigned sigh.

It charms Lena a little to see Kara in her supersuit, shoulders sagging and exasperation all over her face, looking like how she used to when something about Earth absolutely confounded her. “It was never something you needed to know,” Lena answers. “So you never thought about it.”

“And what? You needed to know it?” Kara asks, with suspicion in her tone.

“Not necessarily,” Lena answers with bemusement. “I just had an inkling. I definitely know when I’m meeting another gay woman.”

“She’s my sister,” Kara argues. “I should have known.”

“Maybe Alex wasn’t ready to know herself. Much less have anyone else be aware,” Lena offers with a shrug.

Kara sighs, twists her lips together, looking adorably confused. “Maybe.”

“It’s that cop she was with, right?” Lena asks, remembering seeing them at Roulette’s fight club. “Detective Sawyer?”

Kara’s eyes narrow. “Do you have psychic powers you never told me about?”

“No,” Lena denies with a soft chuckle. “I just see details you miss sometimes. Call it human intuition.”

Lips pursed, Kara shakes her head. “Yeah. Maggie. Alex is…” Kara smiles. “Super into her actually. It’s kind of cute. I’ve never seen Alex crush on someone so hard before.”

“Good for Alex,” Lena says, feeling a fondness for Kara’s protective older sister.

“I hope it works out for her,” Kara replies and Lena tries not to hear the wistful edge in the words, like Kara’s not really talking about Alex and Maggie.

“You’ve had quite the week,” Lena observes, hoping to change directions.

“No kidding,” Kara laughs. “And to top it all off, Mon-El has been working for street gangs to shake people down for money. Using his dumb leaping and punching powers, obviously.”

Something sours in Lena’s mouth at the mention of Mon-El, but she ignores it. “That’s not good.”

“I don’t know why I thought I could trust a Daxamite of all people,” Kara spits, a disdainful curl to her lips.

Lena shrugs, not too invested in defending Mon-El, but not loving the stubborn look on Kara’s face either. “People change,” she offers, but Kara just shrugs. “You never know.”

“I guess.”

It reminds Lena suddenly of the incomprehensible texting adventure they went on just a few days ago and she can’t stop herself from asking suddenly, “Were you drunk the other night?”

Kara kind of startles back, eyes widening. “What?”

“The other day,” Lena repeats, arching a brow and crossing her arms. A little smirk takes hold of her mouth before she can stop it. “When you sent me some...interesting text messages.”

A hint of a blush dusts Kara’s cheeks, the tips of her ears going a little red even as she cringes just slightly. “I’m sorry about that.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Lena says with a laugh. “It was just strange. I was worried. What happened?”

“So it turns out I can get drunk,” Kara says with a shrug. “There’s a bar we found that serves some off world liquor. Super toxic to humans, but for me it’s just like...really strong alcohol.”

The scientist in Lena is intrigued. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Kara sighs and rolls her eyes a little. “Mon-El basically bribed me into doing it.”

At the second mention of the Daxamite, Lena can’t stop the expression that shadows her face, but thankfully Kara doesn’t notice, too invested in staring across the room towards the expansive balcony windows.

“How was it? Being drunk for the first time?”

Kara chuckles, turns to Lena and shakes her head. “Weird,” she answers. “I broke Alex’s car door off accidentally. Drunk me isn’t so good with remembering the super strength.”

Lena winces. “I’m sure she wasn’t too pleased about that.”

“Not so much. Didn’t help that when I got home I watched a Too Cute marathon on Animal Planet and texted her about puppies all night while she was basically doing my job investigating the attack in Norway.”

“Good thing we didn’t discover any sort of alien booze in college then,” Lena muses wryly, thinking of the kind of destruction a drunk Kara Danvers could have gotten into. “Could have been dicey. You probably would have blown up my dorm room somehow.”

“True,” Kara agrees, smiling. “Or made you watch shows about puppies all night.”

“You already did that,” Lena laughs. “Without any alcohol.”

Kara pulls a face and laughs as well. “You liked it,” she teases and Lena’s heart flutters.

It occurs to Lena then that they’re talking about basically everything except what they should be talking about - the office incident as she’s come to refer to it as in her head. Just thinking about it again makes Lena tighten her arms over her chest and clear her throat. Kara must realize something similar because she sits up suddenly, mimicking Lena’s pose and looking over at her with an ominous expression.

“Listen,” Kara starts with and Lena tenses, feels what’s coming and isn’t nearly emotionally prepared enough for it. “I know we need to talk about...the thing that happened.”

No we don’t, Lena thinks. Talking about their heated office makeout session isn’t something Lena thinks she can entirely handle right now. It doesn’t matter so much that Kara’s right. They do need to talk. Kissing in the middle of strained emotional outbursts doesn’t exactly solve any of their problems. In fact, all it likely does is confuse the issue entirely - but she still doesn’t want to, is enjoying this rapport. “Okay.”

“I’m not trying to avoid you.”

Lena’s brows come together. “I didn’t think you had been.” If anything, Lena was happy that she didn’t have to talk to Kara right away. Not with how vivid the memory of their kissing sat in her brain for the entire night and well into the next day. There’s no way she could have gotten through a conversation maturely with that in the forefront of her mind.

“There’s just, like, a lot happening, right now,” Kara says and the exhaustion is evident again in the way Kara looks down at the floor and tightens her jaw. “I mean, all these weird Cadmus videos, this parasite, Alex…”

It seems like Kara has some sort of Big Speech prepared and Lena’s not sure she’s ready for it. They kissed. It was a mistake. That’s the whole of it and Lena’d just like to get back to the road to being friends again, without having to navigate the emotional minefield that is talking about it.

“Kara,” Lena offers softly, before Kara can say anything else. “Why don’t we just forget it?”

Kara’s head snaps up so rapidly Lena jumps a little. “I don’t want to forget it.”

“I think it’s best we do,” Lena says, carefully, even though she knows she won’t forget it herself. “What happened was-” 

“Don’t say it was a mistake,” Kara says, dropping the words between them so quietly that Lena feels herself pull forward to catch them all.

“It’s not helping either of us become friends again.”

“Lena,” Kara says, drawing her name out incredulously, staring at her like she can see straight through her and Lena feels her heart rate start to pick up a little, hates the idea that Kara can probably hear it.

“Look, even if we were to -” Lena shakes her head, struggling to find a way to explain herself, settles for gesturing between them. “We can’t just crash back into each other like the last four years didn’t happen. We’re different people, Kara.”

“You keep saying that,” Kara replies with clear exasperation and a hint of disbelief.

“Because it’s true,” Lena insists. Kara might look exactly the same, smell the same, feel the same, but it has been four years and that’s just simple fact. Lena knows she’s not the same as the college version of herself and they haven’t spent nearly enough time together for Kara to know if Lena’s still someone she’d want to be with. “And you’re right. Our lives are crazy right now. I mean, my brother keeps trying to kill me from his maximum security prison. You’re saving the world from parasites. There’s a secret anti-alien organization gaining momentum. We don’t have the time to try to hash things like what happened out. So let’s just forget about it.”

“I can protect you from Lex,” Kara says, and she looks suddenly staunch, looks a world away from the tired girl who had just been slouching against Lena’s couch cushions. It brings a rush of heat through Lena’s chest, makes her feel like she can’t breathe.

“I know you can, Kara,” Lena says, then sighs, rubbing at her forehead. “But you have to agree. Both of our lives are a mess. Neither of us have any business trying to do this right now.”

Kara huffs a little with impatience, looks like she might argue the case for a little bit, then looks at Lena carefully. Whatever she finds there seems to settle her.

“Fine. Let’s forget it,” she says, but each word sounds like it’s being ripped out of Kara’s mouth.

“So, why don’t we get back to focusing on being friends again?”

“Friends,” Kara repeats with a disbelieving, amused tone wrapped around the word. It sounds just like Alex in the car ride home after Roulette’s club, when she called them both fools.

“Kara,” Lena sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose and sagging back into her chair.

“Sorry,” Kara says softly, and Lena looks at the tired lines around Kara’s eyes, wants to lead them both back to her bed and run her fingers through Kara’s hair until the visible evidence of her exhaustion fades. Her hands war with her head, wanting to reach out to Kara, knowing the girl would come if she did so.

“Don’t be,” Lena tells her. “Go home. Get some rest.”

Kara stands, looking resigned, and paces over to Lena’s balcony. Lena stands to follow. “Okay. You’re right.”

“And you really should stop flying onto my balcony,” Lena jokes. “People will start to talk.”

Kara doesn’t laugh and the lack of response sits heavy in Lena’s chest. But then, Kara is turning suddenly, looking at Lena with a pleading expression. “Drinks Friday? With my friends?” Kara pleads in a hasty scramble of words, calling back to Lena already having agreed.

The look on Kara’s face unhinges something in Lena’s heart and she feels helpless to deny Kara anything else tonight. “Okay.”

“Yeah?” A look that could only be described as hopeful flashes onto Kara’s face.

“Sure,” Lena says with a smile.

“I’ll text you,” Kara murmurs and she moves so close that Lena’s sure she’s going to kiss her. Except Kara just snatches Lena’s hand and squeezes it warmly.

Lena tries not to think about how the gesture is somehow so much more intimate than the feeling of Kara’s lips against her own, and squeezes back.

“Fly safe,” she says, just after Kara jumps up and away into the air.

--

“It’s going to be weird,” Kara says one night, when they’re walking back to Lena’s dorm hand in hand.

“What is?”

“Being away from you for the whole summer.”

The reminder of Lena’s upcoming summer plans - a prestigious internship at the family company - and the fact that it will separate them for the next three months pains Lena a little, but she smiles through it and tries to be reassuring. “I’ll try to come visit. And, I hear there’s this new thing called cell phones and the internet.”

“Don’t tease me,” Kara pouts, bumping her shoulder against Lena’s slightly. It still amazes Lena how Kara manages to be gentle with all the superhuman strength flowing through her body.

“I’m sorry,” Lena says, tightening her fingers where they’re intertwined with Kara’s and gripping at Kara’s forearm with her free hand. “I’m going to miss you too. It will definitely be weird.”

They get to Lena’s building and Kara pulls Lena to a stop, fidgeting with the corner of her glasses as she does. Lena’s eyes follow the motion and she rubs the skin of Kara’s forearm, the muscle there tense. 

“You okay?” Lena asks softly, wondering what’s got Kara so suddenly nervous. It could just be the reminder that they’re about to spend three months away from each other, but she wouldn’t think that’d make Kara nervous. Just sad.

“I have something for you,” Kara says, instead of answering Lena’s question. “Like a present.”

Lena’s eyebrow arches and she laughs a little. “You got me a gift?”

“Yeah,” Kara replies, nodding rapidly. Lena brings up the hand she’s holding and presses a warm kiss there in an attempt to soothe. It doesn’t seem like it works, but Kara still smiles.

“Why are you nervous about my gift?” Lena asks with a teasing lilt to her voice.

“I’m not,” Kara denies, but her eyes are looking everywhere except at Lena and she can’t stop readjusting her glasses and Lena knows better.

“Is it like,” Lena waggles her eyebrows a bit. “A sexy gift? Because then we should probably go inside.”

An attractive blush beats across Kara’s cheeks and she rolls her eyes. “Lena,” Kara complains with a little whine.

“Just making sure.” Lena leans up a little, pressing closer to Kara and kissing her cheek, smiling at the sheepish demeanor Kara’s suddenly adopted. “So where is it?”

“Where’s what?”

“My present.”

Kara’s hand shoots into her pants pocket and Lena tracks the motion, wondering what kind of gift Kara could have gotten her that would fit in a pocket.

“Okay. So, like, we’re going to be far away from each other in a few days.”

“Not that far,” Lena laughs. Lena will be in Metropolis, for the start of the summer, at least, and Midvale isn’t that far away at all. It’s further than their dorm rooms on campus, but it’s not across an ocean kind of far.

“Far enough that I won’t be able to hear your heartbeat,” Kara says softly and Lena’s laughter cuts off immediately.

“Kara,” she says softly, squeezing her girlfriend’s fingers and trying not to remember the first time Kara mentioned being able to hear the sound of Lena’s heart. Sometimes at night she can still smell gas and fire and hear the hoarse sound of Kara’s voice screaming her name.

“And so I wanted to give you something that would remind you of me - of us - and still had like a practical use.”

Puzzled, Lena looks again to where Kara’s hand is still stuffed into her pocket. “What is it?”

It takes a few seconds, but Kara slowly pulls her hand out of the pocket and dangles a small velvet jewelry bag between them, looking at Lena carefully.

With delicate fingers, Lena takes the bag, releasing Kara’s hand so that she can open it and peer inside.

It’s a watch. “It’s gorgeous,” she murmurs, smiling at Kara, who just watches her, face neutral.

At first glance it doesn’t look to be anything but a watch. Gold band. Pretty pearl face. But upon closer look, Lena catches sight of an inscription on the inside of the face. The familiar shapes that make up the alphabet of Kara’s native language.

Some of the words she recognizes immediately. The ones like always and love make her heart flutter. There’s a word at the end that she can’t quite translate. Her brain scrambles through her lexicon of Kryptonian in an attempt to understand it.

“I’ve never seen this word,” Lena says, picking her head up to look at Kara.

 If Kara looked nervous before, now she looks downright terrified. “We don’t really have a word for girlfriend in Kryptonian,” Kara answers on a shaky breath. “So I improvised.”

Lena thinks to interrogate her girlfriend further, but Kara’s fingers are snatching the watch back and pressing a button on the side Lena had assumed was purely for setting the time.

“If you use this here,” Kara explains and they both watch as the face pops open suddenly to reveal a second red button inside. Lena looks at it with wide eyes. “One hit on this and it’ll let me know you need me.”

It occurs to Lena suddenly what Kara means and she feels a sudden burn prick in the back of her eyelids. “Kara,” she says, putting her palm over Kara’s and smiling. “I’m just going to Metropolis. For what’s essentially a desk job. I’ll be fine.”

“And you were just going to lunch when a car ran a red light and almost killed you,” Kara points out, turning her hand over to squeeze Lena’s fingers.

“It wasn’t that bad.”

“Lena,” Kara sighs, shaking her head. “That’s not the point.”

“What is the point then?”

Kara’s lips thin for a moment. “It will make me feel better. Knowing you can get to me if you need me.”

“I always need you.” The responding smile pulls so brightly across Kara’s face that Lena feels her own mouth stretching in reaction. “Even when you worry too much.” 

A blush blooms across Kara’s face and Lena kisses against it. “You’re teasing me again.”

“Thank you,” Lena says softly, pushing forward to kiss Kara again, this time on the lips. “I love it,” she murmurs against Kara’s kisses, melting into the way Kara immediately wraps an arm around her waist and picks her up a little.

--

Lena hears the crashing and screaming first. It sounds distant from her top floor office at L Corp, but the sound still breaks through the open balcony door behind her and she startles, dropping her pen onto her desk.

She can’t see anything from her balcony, but she can guess the general direction of the chaos. It doesn’t take long to use her computer and tap into police camera feed - there are enough of them along the downtown blocks that she should be able to see something. On her phone, she pulls up a local police scanner Twitter feed to see if anyone is talking about what’s happening.

Eventually she gets to the right video feed in time to see a huge brutish looking thing stalking down 16th Street. It must be the alien parasite that Kara had faced earlier and she watches as it engages first with a young man - Mon-El, she realizes when his face flashes clearly enough for her to recognize him - and then later with a newcomer in silver armor.

Kara is nowhere to be seen. Lena tries to fight the instant spike of worry that cuts into her as she observes Kara’s absence. Kara’s fine, she reminds herself. If Supergirl were seriously hurt Lena would know. National City would know.

It’s not seconds later that she sees Kara come speeding into the scene, knocking the alien off his feet and slamming him into the pavement.

When Kara takes the monstrous thing down, slamming what looks like plutonium into his body, Lena feels a wave of triumph rush through her and she barely contains a little fist pump at the sight.

She texts Kara later, just a short good job tonight.

Much later, when Lena’s home and getting in bed, Kara responds. couldn’t have done it without you.

--

The texting continues as if their office incident had never happened and nothing is different between them. Just two old friends reconnecting.

On Wednesday Kara sends her about sixteen different recommendations for sushi. you still like sushi, right? Lena does, in fact, still like sushi, even though it reminds her a little of the three months she spent in Tokyo right after after their breakup. Of course, she replies and considers adding, we should have some together, but stops herself.

Late afternoon on Thursday, Kara sends her about five consecutive pictures of a random dog - each of them just slightly blurry, shaky even, like Kara tried to take the picture while flying. There’s no text apart from a dog! and Lena laughs. Cute, she sends back and Kara just sends twelve red and blue hearts back.

A random animal fact comes on Thursday: did you know turtles can breathe through their butts? Lena stares at it for a good minute before responding with why do you know that? She can easily imagine the proud smirk on Kara’s face when she gets a I know things Lena in reply.

In the middle of a development meeting, Kara sends her another selfie. This one of Kara holding a stack of what looks like seven pizza slices in her hands while she makes a maniacal open-mouthed face towards it. Lena has to stifle her laugh with a cough, but she must not be entirely successful because the entire table turns to her and goes silent. It’s a good thing that Luthor intimidation has always been something she’s excellent at; it’s not hard to drop her face into a heavy glare, eyes glancing at every occupant of the room until they all look away. Everyone except, of course, Lana Lang, who just shoots Lena a tiny smirk before carrying the meeting on, pitching a new nanotechnology she read about in a recent science journal.

Under the safety of the table, Lena looks down at the picture of Kara one more time, sends back a pizza around the world must fear you, before closing her phone and focusing on her work.

--

“You’re getting faster,” Lena says with disbelief as she enters the data into an encrypted spreadsheet on her laptop.

“Really?” Kara leans over her shoulder and looks at the data as Lena types it in.

“Really,” Lena murmurs back, leaning forward to double check her numbers.

“Awesome,” Kara breathes out, kissing Lena on the cheek quickly before tumbling away from her to lay down against the grass of the open field.

They’re about an hour outside of campus and civilization has been left behind them. All that surrounds them are a line of trees to one side and then open fields as far as the eye can see. Lena knows there’s a lake about a mile west and a farmhouse two miles east, but they’re as safe as they can be from prying eyes. Which was why she had picked the place months ago for Kara to test out her ever-growing abilities.

“Good job,” Lena praises and Kara smiles happily at her, crossing her feet and putting her hands behind her head.

“Thanks.”

“You’re actually almost on par with Superman’s numbers.”

Kara sits up a little, leans on her elbow to look at Lena. “How do you have Superman’s stuff?”

Focusing on encrypting the files on her computer with Kara’s data, Lena doesn’t even spare Kara a glance. “I’m from Metropolis,” she answers absently.

“That’s not really an answer,” Kara replies and it sounds so serious that Lena pulls her head up and looks at where her girlfriend is staring at her, concern in her features.

“Sorry,” Lena says with a short shake of her head. She closes her laptop and sets it aside in the grass before leaning back against the tree behind her. “I just meant that I grew up with Superman around in some capacity.”

“Do you know him personally too?” Kara asks with clear confusion. “How would that have not come up?”

“No,” Lena says with a laugh, kicking her foot a little against where Kara’s elbow is planted in the ground. “Lex is just a little obsessed with him.” It sounds weird when she says it like that, but it’s the truth. As Superman grew in popularity, Lex became fascinated. It quickly became a hobby of his to study Superman and his abilities in the interest of harnessing such power for humans to protect themselves. He may not be around forever, Lee, Lex had said to her once.

“He is?”

“Yeah,” Lena says with a shrug. “He’s gathered some data in the last few years. It’s not exact of course, but it’s a pretty good base level.”

“Why would he do that?” There’s a thread of suspicion in Kara’s tone that Lena bristles as. As if Lex has some ulterior motive for studying an alien. She reigns in her natural reaction to snap. It makes sense, she reminds herself, for Kara to be naturally concerned about any scrutiny towards herself or her cousin. There’s a reason, after all, that Lena drove them to this field hours away from school.

“Because we can’t rely on Superman to save us forever,” Lena answers, hearing her brother’s voice in her head. “He thinks there’s a way to recreate some of Superman’s abilities for humans, that way we can learn to protect ourselves.”

It takes a few seconds, and Kara’s expression shifts between confusion and worry before settling on something more casual. “So I’m really almost as fast as him?”

“Yeah,” Lena says with a soft laugh. “You are.”

--

Mid-Friday afternoon Kara texts with a location and a reminder that happy hour starts at four - pretty sure you can leave work early if you’re the boss the text says.

It goes against just about everything Lena believes in about work ethic, but she can’t stop thinking of the defeated way Kara looked in her apartment, of the quiet pleading in her voice when she asked Lena to come. So around 3:30 that afternoon she packs up her desk and tells her assistant she’s taking the afternoon off. It’s Friday anyway and her assistant looks pathetically excited at the prospect of an early night.

The location they’re set to meet is just the middle of a sidewalk in downtown and Lena looks around, confused. There isn’t really a bar in sight. She texts Kara to let her know she’s here and moments later Kara is jogging around the corner and waving her over.

“What kind of bar are you taking me to?” Lena asks with a laugh when Kara leads her down a side alley, grabbing her by the hand and pulling her.

 “The super secret alien bar I told you about.” Kara sounds appropriately excited about it, but waves of hesitation pass through Lena. She’s sure that a Luthor is the last person an alien wants to see while enjoying their afternoon drink.

“Kara,” Lena says with a careful tone of apprehension. “I don’t really think I should be walking into an alien bar.”

“Why?”

Lena doesn’t know how to respond to that. The answer should be obvious. “I’m kind of a known entity,” she settles on and realization seems to dawn on Kara’s face.

“Lena, it’ll be fine,” she says, tugging Lena forward a bit. It’s not a strong tug, but Lena stumbles  anyway, following after Kara towards a metal door at the end of the alley. “This place is a dive bar before it’s an alien bar. Trust me. Everyone’s so involved in their own stuff they won’t even notice you. Plus, I’m here. I’ll keep you safe if anyone tries to do anything.”

Lena doubts Kara’s sunny disposition, but knows Kara would without a doubt protect her, and walks with her into the small establishment. She immediately feels out of place in her immaculately pressed blouse and trousers and tugs her purse up higher on her shoulder to fight the feeling. Kara releases her hand as soon as they get inside and it only makes the feeling worse. 

But as it turns out Kara is mostly right. They walk through the bar towards a table in the far corner and Lena only pulls a few glances their way. Not exactly the riot she expected.

At the table, Alex is setting down a tray of beers and shots, handing them out to two other men. The first is immediately familiar to her and it only takes her a moment before she places it. James Olsen.

The other man turns as they approach and his eyes go wide as soon as he spots Lena. It’s the stranger from her gala. This one must be Winn, Lena thinks and fights a smile at the way his eyes dart between them.

“Hey guys,” Kara greets before gesturing towards Lena. “This is Len-”

“Lena Luthor,” James says quietly, with a smile caught somewhere between polite and wary. He extends his hand and Lena takes it, refusing to react to the tight way he grips at her, just on the gentle side of painful. Lena remembers him when he still worked for the Daily Planet. Remembers the articles and pictures that were run about her brother at the height of his madness and during his trial.

Nonetheless, she smiles back at him. “James Olsen,” she says enjoying the way his smile falters just a little at Lena’s complete refusal to be intimidated. “Your reputation precedes you. I didn’t know you knew Kara.”

“We work together at CatCo,” Kara explains, but there’s something overly hasty about the way she says it and Lena turns to her with a little furrow to her brow. “Actually, James is the new Cat Grant.”

Lena inclines her head back towards James. “Congratulations.”

“Winn,” the other man at the table interjects suddenly, extending his own hand which Lena takes. “Winn Schott. We kind of already know each other.”

“Nice to officially meet you, Winn,” Lena says as Winn vigorously shakes her hand.

“You know each other?” Kara asks, glaring a little at Winn until he lets go of Lena’s hand.

“Remember? From the gala? We totally saved everybody,” Winn says with pride and Lena smiles indulgently 

“Winn went into hiding under the stage where I had planted the black body field generator,” Lena adds and Kara purses her lips as she looks at both of them, settling on Lena with a heavy stare. Kara’s disapproval practically radiates out of her and Lena gives her a little eye roll.

“Science bros!” Winn exclaims, extending his fist towards Lena. She has no idea why he’s looking at her expectantly, but doesn’t have a chance to respond because Kara reaches out and swats at his fist.

Alex clears her throat suddenly and Kara jumps a little, looking at her sister. “Oh, right. And Alex, my sister,” Kara offers, pointing to her sister as if they’ve never met.

Lena nods at Alex, who nods back.

They take a seat and Alex passes her a beer with an inquiring glance. Lena hasn’t had beer since college. Her lips thin at the idea of drinking it now. “I think I’ll go for something stronger, actually,” Lena says hoping it doesn’t sound rude. Or snobby.

Alex gives her an almost impressed look, hidden by a smirk and Kara stands suddenly. “I’ll get it,” she offers before scrambling towards the bar.

Lena’s left at the table with Kara’s sister and her two friends looking at her critically with varying expressions. She wishes she had a drink in front of her if only to have something to do with her hands.

Not a single one of them says anything, but Lena can feel Winn, next to her, open and close his mouth like he’s trying to figure out something to break the ice.

“Nice weather today,” Lena comments casually, but all she gets are noncommittal hums as an answer. She sees Alex nearly snort into her beer.

Kara comes back with a cocktail and sets it in front of Lena, setting her own stout glass of clear liquid on the table next to it. Lena eyes the drink Kara’s got for her and something settles low in her gut. It’s a Manhattan, that much she can tell just by the color and the lemon twist.

When she takes a sip, it’s just how she likes it - cherry whiskey, dry vermouth, twist of lemon for that little something extra. Kara remembers her drink order and the knowledge of it tightens an invisible band around her chest.

“Good?” Kara asks her, eying her with a clear request for approval.

“Perfect,” Lena admits before taking another long sip and looking away from the pure expression of happiness Kara exudes at her answer. When she looks around the table she wonders if anyone noticed that Kara ordered her a drink without asking what she wanted, but they all seem involved in their own beers.

“So, Lena,” James says politely, looking up and propping his elbows on the table. “How are you enjoying National City?”

“It’s not that much different from Metropolis,” she answers and he laughs a little.

“I miss Metropolis sometimes, though,” James says and he seems somewhat more comfortable than his initial reaction to her. She can’t tell if it’s genuine or just for Kara’s sake. She assumes the latter based upon the way he keeps glancing towards Kara as he speaks.

Lena digs inside herself to try and remember how socializing works when you’re actually trying to be friends with someone. “I especially miss Uncle Franky’s,” she says and James’s expression shifts to something pleasantly surprised, his grin widening just a bit. 

“No way. You were not an Uncle Franky’s girl,” he says and Lena shrugs.

“A guilty pleasure, I must admit.”

James laughs, but Kara leans forward in confusion. “What’s Uncle Franky’s?”

“It’s an old hot dog joint,” James explains, still smiling. “Clark and I used to get it for lunch at least once a week.” He laughs again, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, I’m trying to imagine Lena Luthor of all people in that dive and it just-” He makes a vague gesture and Lena smiles.  

“Oh, I think I’ve been there,” Winn adds. “I remember they wouldn’t put ketchup on my hot dog.”

“How have I never heard about this?” Kara asks, glancing between them with a clear look of betrayal. Alex takes a sip of her beer and looks away, clearly distracted by something across the bar. Lena glances over and sees what keeps capturing Alex’s attention - one NCPD detective racking up a set of pool balls. When Alex catches her eye for a brief second, Lena smirks a little but Alex doesn’t even react other than taking a deep breath and looking down at her lap.

“Why would you have heard about it?” James asks, laughing at Kara.

“As my friends, you should be informing me of any interesting restaurant you know of. For research.”

“Well, now you know,” Lena tells her, just barely resisting placing a placating hand on Kara’s forearm where it’s braced on the table.

Kara whips her gaze to Lena. “Is it better than Nighthawks?”

Lena laughs at the mention of their favorite hot dog spot in college. “Is anything better than Nighthawks?”

“I’m pretty sure I still get free hot dogs there,” Kara says proudly and Lena remembers, with some level of disgust, the eating challenge Kara had to go through to win the lifetime of free hot dogs.

She pulls a face and laughs a little. “Don’t remind me. I don’t think I got the smell of chilli out of my nose for days after that.” This time she does reach out and touch Kara’s shoulder, shoving at it lightly in a friendly manner. Kara charmingly goes with the motion, lets herself get pushed to the side just slightly.

The table has gone suspiciously quiet after that and Lena suddenly realizes what she’s said. Her eyes go a little wide and not long after so do Kara’s. She turns back towards her drink and takes a gulp of it. Anything to stop her stupid mouth from saying more ridiculous things. It’s like she’s completely forgotten who she is every time she’s around Kara for more than five seconds.

It’s James that speaks first, eyes darting between them before settling on Lena with clear suspicion. “I thought - Didn’t you just move here? From Metropolis?”

“Yeah, I thought you guys just met,” Winn adds.  

Kara and Lena glance at each other. During their agreement not to intentionally bring their relationship history into the light, Lena had said she wouldn’t deny it if asked and she finds herself aching at the idea of it now. Denying Kara’s place in her life has never been something Lena’s grown used to even after all these years. Here, with Kara inches from her, Lena’s positive she wouldn’t get away with it convincingly.

Frankly, Lena didn’t really think it would come up so soon. A ridiculous notion, really. She can’t spend five minutes in a room with Kara without dragging their history up into the present.

“We, uh,” Kara stammers a little, looks at Lena again like she’s waiting for permission.

Lena sighs. “We went to college together.” It’s the truth even if it’s so much more complicated than that. It should be enough to appease the group.  

Out of the corner of her eye she sees Alex make a face of pure annoyance and put her beer back on the table. “I’m getting another round of drinks. Who needs one?”

Without waiting for an answer, Alex turns from the table and heads to the bar, leaving Lena and Kara alone with James and Winn.

“You went to college together?” Winn asks, looking between them, confused.

James cocks his head to the side. “And you two-”

“We were friends,” Kara fills in for him with a tight smile. “In college.”

“It was a long time ago,” Lena adds before taking a long sip of her drink.

“You never mentioned that you knew a-”

“It never came up,” Kara cuts him off, looking angry, but Lena knew what would come next. She understands the wariness in James’s eyes. It’s a well known fact that James and Clark Kent are close friends. It’s a lesser known fact that Clark and Lex used to be too.

The table goes silent again and Lena feels tense.

Then Winn speaks, turning to Lena with friendly eyes she’s not sure she deserves. “I heard a rumor that L Corp was working on replacing silicon chips with something based on the behavior of molecules,” he says and it’s such a random divergence from their earlier conversation that it takes a second for Lena to reply.

“If that were true,” Lena says carefully, but she smiles a little. “It’d be a highly classified project.”

“Sure,” Winn says with a cocky shrug. “But is anything really classified?”

The conversations turns into something Lena feels much more capable of navigating. Winn asks her a litany of questions about L Corp’s advancements in technology and she answers those that she can. She catches Alex listening avidly a few times after she returns with new drinks, but as soon as she catches the other girl’s eye, her gaze flits away with a practiced air of indifference.

There’s a TV on the other side of the bar and Lena can sense Kara’s eyes darting over to it occasionally with a look of distaste. Lena turns to see what has Kara so upset, but the TV is merely playing the news, the anchor reporting on National City’s new vigilante - the man in silver armor.

Kara lets out a scoff. “The new guy,” she glowers and Lena laughs a little at the frown on Kara’s face. “Of course.”

“Guardian?” James interjects from across the table. “I thought you said he helped you.”

“He did,” Kara says with a shrug, the words coming out with a tinge of displeasure.

Lena senses the but coming before James even asks.

“I don’t know,” Kara continues, shaking her head. “I just don’t think the city should be putting its trust in him so quickly.”

James defends the vigilante with a kind of suspicious vigor and Lena catches Alex’s eye for a moment, the other woman’s eyebrow twitching just a bit as she sips her beer and listens to James.

“What do you have against the guy?” James asks and Kara laughs.

“Well for starters, why wear a mask? Why cover your face up if you’re on the up and up? I don’t wear a mask.”

“You wear glasses,” Lena says, bumping her shoulder with a teasing smile. “Maybe he doesn’t have the luxury of your brilliant disguise.”

Kara shoots her a look and Lena almost expects Kara to stick her tongue out petulantly.

The table has gone suspiciously quiet and Lena turns to see Winn looking at them with wide eyes. Next to him, James’s gaze is narrowed, darting between them. It occurs to her what she just said. Or rather what it implied.

Before she can say anything else, Winn is leaning over the table towards Kara and hissing, “She knows?”

It takes a second, but Kara rolls her eyes, waves him away with casual ease. “Of course she knows.”

“What do you mean of course?” Winn asks, glancing at Alex who is doing everything she can to seem disinterested. Her eyes roam everywhere in the bar except the table and she sips at her beer.

“She’s Lena,” Kara answers like that means anything to Winn of all people, but it tugs at something inside of Lena that she tries to ignore. Her throat feels uncomfortably thick and James is staring at her like he knows exactly what Kara meant.

Winn moves straight past it, looks to Alex again and repeats the question, “She knows?!” 

Alex just looks at him, takes another sip of her beer. “Yes. She knows,” Alex deadpans in a clear don’t fucking ask me about it tone. “Move on.”

“Aren’t secret identities supposed to be secret ?” Winn continues, which Lena thinks is ridiculous considering everyone at the table is aware of Kara’s alter-ego. “This is why Guardian wears a mask,” he adds, looking at Kara pointedly.  

Alex sets her beer down on the table, loudly enough that Winn jumps. “Whoever Guardian is, he’s got a sidekick. That’s for sure.”

It’s clear from the way Alex glares at Winn that the conversation is officially over and he seems to accept the unspoken directive, leaning back in his stool and pursing his lips at Alex. “Sidekick,” he scoffs. “Likely a partner if anything.” James laughs at that, evidently willing to move on as well. 

Kara leans forward at the table. “You know, my cousin worked with a vigilante once,” she says, joining her sister in moving the attention away from speculation as to why Lena would be in on the Supergirl Secret. “Tons of gadgets. Lots of demons.” 

“The Bat,” Lena adds, realizing whom Kara is talking about. It had been all over the papers for weeks. “The man in Gotham, right?”

“Yeah,” Kara says with a roll of her eyes. “Vigilantes are nuts.”

“Or maybe you are afraid of the competition,” James says with a teasing smile and Lena scoffs before she can stop herself. He looks at her, brow raised in question.

“I highly doubt the Guardian poses much of a threat to Supergirl in any competition,” she tells him with the kind of confidence she usually reserves for board meetings and corporate acquisitions.  

Kara practically preens at the praise, grinning and sitting up straighter in her seat. It’s an adorable reaction and Lena can’t help but respond to it, smiling in kind even as James eyes them warily from across the table.

Before anyone can say anything else, a loud, “Danvers!” interrupts them and they all turn to see Maggie Sawyer standing a few paces away.

 “Hey,” Maggie says with a smile and Lena watches as Alex struggles not to choke on her beer. “It’s been a hot minute. How are you?”

“Yeah, good, yeah. Yeah,” Alex fumbles and Lena fights a grin, Alex’s discomfort distracting her from the emotions of seconds before. Kara scoots closer to Lena almost immediately as if on instinct, shooting her a raised eyebrow look that Lena manages to interpret as pay attention.

“Everybody this is Maggie. Maggie, this is everyone,” Alex introduces, naming them all around the table.

“Oh, the sister,” Maggie says, with a polite grin when Alex introduces Kara. “I’ve heard so much about you from Alex.”

“And I’ve heard all about you,” Kara says, with one of her too-wide smiles that Lena can read so easily.

It must not have gone well, Lena realizes as she watches Kara’s fist clench under the table even as she takes an indifferent sip of her beer. Maggie must notice the frost in Kara’s tone, because she startles just a little, eyes darting to Lena and back to Kara before she turns to Alex and asks to speak with her.

When the two women walk away from the table, Lena brushes her hand against Kara’s arm. A quick, barely there motion, but Kara’s fist unclenches and her shoulders drop into a more relaxed posture. She glances at Lena with a small smile, and it takes everything in Lena to not grab ahold of Kara’s hand underneath the table.

“That looks intense,” Winn comments as he studies Alex and Maggie on the other side of the bar.

“Leave them be,” Kara admonishes.

James, however, is still studying Lena in what she’s sure he thinks is a subtle manner, but she can feel his gaze every time it passes over her face. She has no idea what he’s looking for, no idea what his expression means as his eyes dart between her and Kara.

“So, college, huh?” He says eventually, cutting through the bickering still continuing between Kara and Winn.

Kara’s eyes whip to his and Winn sits back in his seat, looking at Lena again. Lena smiles, undeterred by the critical glint to James Olsen’s eyes. “It was a long time ago,” she says and he seems to be pleased by that answer, nodding just a little with a small smile. 

“Wow, I seriously cannot imagine you in college. Like, I know you went, but still,” Winn adds looking at Kara. Kara laughs, pushes her glasses up and twirls a little on her stool. Lena notices, finally, how close she and Kara have drifted, because her legs brush Lena’s.

“Well, like Lena said. It was a long time ago.”

“Only a couple of years, right?” James counters, leaning his elbows on the table and playing with his beer bottle. “Did you guys keep in touch?”

“Four years, actually,” Kara corrects, a hint of melancholy in the way her smile wavers. “Lena graduated early.”

Alex returns to the table before Kara can answer James’s question. No, they didn’t keep in touch is putting it lightly, and everyone’s attention turns to Alex.

--

“I think that went well,” Kara says as they walk out of the bar later that night. It feels familiar, like it’s four years ago and they’re leaving a date at the one nice restaurant on campus. Lena could sling her arm through Kara’s and it’d be like nothing had changed.

Lena laughs a little. “Your friends are nice.”

“Yeah,” Kara says with a little answering laugh. “They can be your friends too.”

“I don’t know about that,” Lena says trying to keep mirth in her voice even as her gut tightens uncomfortably. The idea of Kara’s friends being her friends feels far too much like college, too much like a time when their lives were so intertwined that it was natural for their friends to all be mutual friends.

Everything feels so wildly fragile since that night in her office and just the little sense of familiarity threatens to topple her.

Kara must notice because her chest puffs up a little bit and her chin goes with it before she puts on a smile that Lena knows is forced. “Just saying,” Kara says, shrugging a little. “They like you.”  

“They don’t know me,” Lena counters, trying not to scoff at such a preposterous idea as present-day-Kara’s friends liking her. Kara turns to her as if to protest, so she keeps talking. “I’m glad you asked me out.”

It occurs to her from the look on Kara’s face how that sounds and Lena scrambles to correct it. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant-”

Kara laughs dismissively, kicking at something with her foot. “I know you didn’t,” she says softly, but picks her head up to look at Lena with her bright blue eyes. “I’m glad you came.”

“Thanks, Kara,” Lena says softly, and they pause on the street, just around the corner from the alley that leads to the bar.

“For what?”

“For wanting to be my friend again,” Lena replies because it’s true. It’s not like before, but it still feels right to have Kara in her life in some capacity. Like something has been returned to her that she’d forgotten about, or tried desperately to avoid thinking about. “And for being so much better at making it happen than I’ve been.

Kara’s brow furrows. “That’s a dumb thing to thank me for.”

“Nonetheless,” Lena says quietly.

“You’re not the one that kissed me,” Kara says, just as quiet and Lena’s heart thuds so solidly against her chest she’s sure even a human being could hear it. “I haven’t been that good with this friend stuff.”

Lena thinks to add that she was the one with her hand on the zipper to Kara’s suit, she was the one arching against Kara’s touch and pulling her closer, but she doesn’t. Just the memory of it has her skin heating up. She’s afraid to find out what will happen if they keep talking about it.  This is why she had suggested they just forget about it.

“That was a momentary lapse,” Lena counters refusing to focus on the way Kara is looking at her like she’s just as lost in memory as Lena is. “You’re still making an effort when I would rather just run, hide, and avoid the situation.”

“That’s not like you.” Before Lena can even respond, Kara’s adding, “And don’t say you’re different now.”

On a deep inhale, Lena puts on a practiced smile, the kind she reserves for particularly stubborn corporate executives. “I merely meant that I’m glad we’re still trying to be friends. Even when it’s not easy. I’m happy you’re still willing to try.”

Confusion crinkles around Kara’s eyes. “I’ll always want-”

“Kara,” Lena interrupts with a dry laugh. “Just say you’re welcome and let’s move on.”

Kara smiles, rolls her eyes at herself sheepishly. “Yeah, okay. Sorry. You’re welcome.”

“Good job,” Lena says, whispering it in a teasing manner. It makes Kara laugh and Lena feels something loosen inside her.

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” Kara asks so randomly that it takes a second for Lena to understand.

“Pardon?”

“Thanksgiving,” Kara repeats. “Do you have plans?" 

Lena blinks. In all honesty, Thanksgiving hadn’t really been on her radar. “I’ll probably just get some work done. Take advantage of everyone being out of the office.”

Kara looks completely horrified at the idea and Lena should really have sensed where Kara was going with her initial question, but she’s sure the emotions of the last few hours have fried her normally high brain speed. “Lena, you can’t spend Thanksgiving working!”

It sounds so much like conversations they used to have in college that Lena feels a wave of affection settle over her. “Kara, it doesn’t bother me. You know that.”

“Well it bothers me. You know that.

“Like always, I don’t know how to help you with that,” Lena replies with a laugh.

“You can help me by coming over for Thanksgiving.”

“What?”

“We’re doing Thanksgiving at my apartment. Alex, Winn and James. You should come.”

“Kara,” Lena starts, but Kara preempts her hesitation with a wide smile.

“It’s just dinner, Lena,” Kara says, as casually as someone can invite their very serious ex-girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner with their friends and family. “We’re going to eat a lot of food and then play a board game and hang out. Super low pressure. If you can handle the bar, you can handle Thanksgiving. We’ll play Monopoly! You love Monopoly!”

Lena is very certain that happy hour drinks and a family Thanksgiving are two completely different things, but she can’t deny the part of her that misses the feeling of being a part of something during holidays. The last time the Luthors all sat at a table and had a meal together as a family was long before she had even met Kara. Her first holiday with the Danvers had involved Alex flipping the Monopoly board and all its pieces in Lena’s direction, angry at Lena’s beginner’s luck as she had called it.

“Just dinner and Monopoly,” Lena says, looking at Kara’s face. The other woman grins that huge grin that had always set Lena’s heart on fire. 

“Just a great dinner with a lot of cookies and then you beating us all at Monopoly,” Kara reassures, reaching out to nudge at Lena’s arm. “I promise I won’t let Alex flip any tables this time.” 

“That doesn’t seem like something you could prevent,” Lena says with a wry smile.

Kara shoots her an incredulous look. “Please, I’m Supergirl,” she says in a conspiratorial whisper, ending it with a crooked smile that beats against Lena’s chest.

Lena laughs, shakes her head at her ex-girlfriend. “Okay,” she says on a deep exhale. God, to think people believe she’s capable of Lex’s supervillainy when she can’t stand up to Kara Danvers’s smile.

“Great!”

“Do you need me to bring anything?”

“Just your pretty face,” Kara jokes with a bright grin and she knows Kara doesn’t mean it to be flirty - Kara had never really mastered the very human art of flirtation - but it comes across that way nonetheless. Lena struggles to control a blush.

It’s not that she’s never been hit on or flirted with by people other than Kara, but for whatever reason when it’s Kara saying things like that, Lena feels like she’s eighteen all over again with a crush on her best friend.

“I’ll be there,” Lena manages to get out and Kara nods, clearly unaware of Lena’s inner reactions.

“So,” Kara says, moving her hands to hold them in front of her. “You want a ride home?" 

It takes a second for the question to register in Lena’s brain and she almost jumps back from Kara when it does. The last thing she needs to do right now after two Manhattans and an onslaught of emotion is touch Kara, to feel her right there. It’s all so much worse now that they’ve kissed, very nearly did a whole lot more than kissing.

“Thank you, but my driver is right there,” Lena says, pointing towards a black car parked at the corner. 

Kara looks over her shoulder at it and shrugs, looking halfway to sad. “Right. Yeah, of course.” 

“Have a good night, Kara,” Lena says, smiling.

“You too, Lena,” Kara says and the second it looks like Kara might move in for a hug, Lena bolts to the side and strides quickly for her vehicle.

She doesn’t turn back, doesn’t want to see the look on Kara’s face, just gets into the back seat of her car and takes deep, steadying breaths.

--

Lena’s never been much for parties or going out to bars, but Kara drags her along often enough that she starts to build up a resistance to her distaste. It’s time spent with Kara anyway, and Lena’d suffer through a lot for just that reason. Kara’s friends from astronomy club are nice enough, so Lena doesn’t mind it as much when Kara tells her they’re going to a local campus bar named Legend’s with them on Friday night.

Kara flashes her fake ID at the door and the bouncer looks appropriately skeptical - Kara’s fake is terrible, and she’s pretty sure it’s the same one Alex used in college. Lena stands behind Kara, visible over her shoulder and glares at the bouncer, urging him to recognize who she is and see the threat in her gaze.

After a few seconds of looking at Kara’s ID, the bouncer does finally notice Lena and locks stares with her for a second before handing Kara her ID back and ushering them both inside.

Kara’s friends are all congregated at one end of the bar, huddled around a high top and arguing about what kind of shots they want to take next.

“Kara!” Max greets loudly when they approach. “Lena!”

With an enthusiasm Lena can never seem to match, Kara says hello to the entire group, Lena following behind and repeating the sentiment.

They order drinks and the night goes by fine. It’s not unlike any other time at the bar. Lena leans into Kara’s side and lets her control the flow of conversation while she sips at her drink. Inevitably Max or Aaron will challenge Kara to some sort of challenge - drinking, eating, some feat of strength that Kara will have to fake an inability to do.

They’ll laugh and tell stories and grow louder the more they order shots.

Lena will get comfortably buzzed and Kara will smile at her indulgently when her hand slips under Kara’s shirt at the small of her back, tracing heated skin there. It’s one of her favorite places on Kara’s body, and when she’s got enough alcohol in her system, it’s all Lena can do to not put her hand there.

Everything goes just exactly as it usually does until suddenly Kara’s entire body goes rigid and her head whips around.

Having no idea what’s made her girlfriend so tense all of a sudden, Lena follows her gaze to see a group of boys at a booth across the bar, laughing and passing around a pitcher of beer. She shoots her girlfriend a puzzled look, but Kara’s just glaring in their direction.

“Kara,” Lena whispers, aware of how the rest of the group have suddenly noticed the change in Kara’s demeanor.

“Assholes,” Kara grumbles loud enough to be caught by Max, who is sitting at their right. He turns to look at the group of guys. It’s rare for Kara to curse - it usually only happens in times of intense or severe emotion - and Lena feels a chill down her spine.

“Do you know them or something, Danvers?” He asks and Kara doesn’t even turn to acknowledge Max.

“They’re talking about you,” is all Kara says, shifting just slightly to indicate she’s referring to Lena.

Max looks puzzled and Lena realizes Kara’s error immediately.

“You heard them talking about me earlier?” Lena asks, more to clarify for Max than anything and to try to get Kara to realize they have an audience.

It doesn’t entirely work, though Max at least looks a little less confused and Aaron has turned back to his conversation with Josie for the moment. Kara, however, is still glaring across the bar and Lena thinks she almost catches the beginnings of a telltale glow in the rim of her eyes.

“Why don’t we go outside? I could use some fresh air after that last whiskey,” she says urgently, sliding off her stool and gripping Kara’s forearm, tugging against it. It feels like trying to pull a marble statue across the room, but it at least gets Kara’s attention. Her girlfriend looks down at where Lena’s hand is on her arm with puzzlement. 

“Come outside,” Lena grits out warningly. “With me.”

Kara looks ready to argue, but Lena puts as much plea into her expression as possible. The anger doesn’t fade from Kara’s face, but she nods and lets Lena lead them outside the bar and around the corner to a place of relative privacy.

“I’m going to go over there,” Kara says as soon as they’re alone, pacing in front of Lena. “Let them know how I feel about what they said.”

“You are not,” Lena tells her, crossing her arms and trying to understand where all of Kara’s ire is coming from.

“They can’t talk about you like that. I won’t let them,” Kara argues, and her eyes spike with color.

“Kara, you need to calm down,” Lena says, sensing the almost palpable feeling of Kara’s powers warring inside her.

“I’m calm.”

“You are anything but calm right now.” 

“You didn’t hear what they were saying,” Kara retorts, pointing a finger at Lena as if she’s the one to blame.  

“I don’t care what they were saying,” Lena replies, and she means it. She’s used to being talked about. There’s not much that hasn’t been said about her, even as a nineteen year-old. Everyone has an opinion and she learned how to tune all that out years ago. “I’m a Luthor, Kara. People talk about me. That’s just a fact of life.”

“Well it shouldn’t be, Lena.”

“And yet it is.”

Kara kicks a nearby dumpster and the sound of it is so loud she’s sure the bar’s bouncer is going to come flying around the corner. The metal container screeches across the pavement underneath it, careening away from them a few feet with a brand new foot-sized dent in the side.  

“Kara!” Lena exclaims, rushing towards where her girlfriend is still seething, grabbing ahold of Kara by the arm. Kara sags suddenly against the brick wall of the building, blowing out a breath so violently that it’s almost as if the discarded trash near the dumpster blows away from them.

“I’m sorry,” Kara says, shaking her head and putting a hand to her temple, ripping her glasses off her face and bending over as if in pain. There’s a wince forming on Kara’s face that Lena recognizes and she grabs Kara’s other hand, cups the back of Kara’s neck soothingly.

“Listen,” Lena orders, bending to try and catch Kara’s eye. “Hey, hey,” she says until Kara looks at her. “Listen.”

“It’s too much. I can’t - I can’t,” Kara says, looking tearful, and Lena knows what she means. Lena releases Kara’s hand so that she can hold Kara’s face in both of her own, trying to get Kara to keep eye contact. Distantly, she hears Kara’s glasses fall to the pavement with a soft clink.

“Listen,” Lena repeats, but Kara just shakes her head.

“I can’t,” she murmurs. “Lena, I just want to - it’s too much.”

Emotions often get the better of Kara and her restraint on her powers goes right out the window. It’s a sudden sensory overload where suddenly Kara can hear everything and the noise of the entire world comes crashing into her ears.

“I know,” Lena soothes, and she grabs Kara’s hand again to bring it up to her chest, flattens Kara’s palm on her sternum. “Listen,” she says again. “Can you feel it? Can you hear it?”

Lena breathes deeply, steadies her heartbeat and keeps her eyes locked into Kara’s blue ones.

Fingers spreading, Kara finally nods a little and lets out a meek, “I feel it.”

“Okay, good,” Lena says encouragingly, watching Kara’s eyes flutter closed as she focuses. Their foreheads connect and Lena takes an audible breath, steady and slow. “Just feel that. Let yourself feel it. Listen to it.”

It takes a good minute of just standing there together before Kara relaxes, Lena tapping on the back of Kara’s hand in time with her own heartbeat and repeating the soft command over and over again. Listen to my heart. Feel the beat. Focus on me.

“You’re okay,” Lena whispers, her thumb stroking against Kara’s cheekbone soothingly. When Kara opens her eyes again, Lena’s happy to see that the angry glow has faded and the muscles of Kara’s arms are no longer coiled in tension.

--

Ever since Lena had given Kara her number, the texts had been coming in on a consistent basis. So consistent in fact, that Lena could almost tell time by them. One in the morning, usually something benign - hello, good morning, hope you have a great day, etc. Then one around lunch, usually a picture of whatever Kara is eating or a recommendation for a new restaurant. The quirkier texts start around mid-afternoon and range all the way from random facts about elephants to questions about philosophy.

In a way, Lena’s grateful for Kara’s constant persistence. It’s an easy way to get to know each other again. Low pressure. It feels a little like when they first met - Kara would barrage Lena with a litany of questions in an attempt to learn more about her. They know all the big stuff about each other already, but Lena finds that she’s discovering new things about Kara.

The texting becomes such a staple of her day to day that the minute it stops, Lena notices. As far as Lena is aware, Kara drops off the face of the Earth for two entire days.

At first, she tries to think nothing of it. Kara’s under no obligation to be texting her every single day and maybe Kara just got tired of Lena’s less imaginative responses to texts like did you know walruses bark? Except as soon as Kara seems to disappear, so does Supergirl. From the news, from the skyline of National City, from everywhere. There’s not a single mention of the Girl of Steel for two days even when the warehouse on 8th Street goes up in flames.

When speculation starts to grow that National City’s new vigilante - the Guardian - might be actually be more serial killer than superhero, the worry in Lena’s gut grows tenfold. There’s no way Kara’s absent while this goes on unless something is seriously wrong.

She thinks to text Alex and ask. It would require a certain amount of detective skills (or hacking skills) to acquire the older Danvers’s number, but the situation seems to warrant such a thing. Just as she’s about to do just that, a heavier-than-normal thud resounds through Lena’s apartment from the direction of her balcony and she turns to see Supergirl standing there, hunching a little with a desperate look to her face.

“Supergirl,” Lena breathes as she moves out to the balcony, just barely restraining herself from yelling Kara’s name. “Are you okay? Where have you been?”

Kara’s lips twitch a little at that, but it’s not from amusement. Something twists inside Lena’s gut and her skin tingles in silent foreshadowing. Whatever Kara’s here for, it’s not good.

“I need to talk to you,” Kara says simply, walking inside the apartment. There’s a heavy look to her step that unsettles Lena.

She runs a hand through her loose hair and follows her inside. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah,” Kara sighs, but it sounds off. Lena responds to it instinctively, paces over to where Kara is and puts her hands on her cheeks, pulling Kara’s face until they make eye contact.

“What happened?” Lena asks, eyes darting over Kara critically, looking for some physical sign of injury. But it’s only the shuttered, haunted look around Kara’s eyes that’s worrying her. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Kara leans into the contact for a brief moment, her eyes fluttering before she pulls away, backs up and sits down on the arm of Lena’s couch, fingers twisting together as she studies them. “I’m fine, for real. I just need to talk to you.”

The sudden absence of Kara’s skin under hands shudders something cold down Lena’s spine and she swallows against the feeling, throat thick. “Okay, sure,” she replies, trying to get the shaky feeling to subside. Her hands ache to touch Kara again, to seek out a tangible reassurance that Kara is okay. “About what?”

When Kara turns to look at her, a pained expression is all over her face that likes of which Lena’s not sure she’s ever seen before. “Your mother,” Kara answers and Lena takes a step back reflexively at the dark tone in Kara’s voice.

“Kara,” Lena says carefully, unsure of where this could possibly be going. Why Supergirl would rush over here looking unsettled and asking questions after her mother. “What does my mother have to do with anything?”

From the looks of Kara’s expression, she wants to be doing anything but answering that question, and Lena crosses her arms defensively. Kara’s eyes track the motion and she sags, perching against the arm of the couch. It’s a position Lena seems to always find Kara in when they’re about to have emotionally exhausting conversations. “Why don’t we have a drink?” Kara suggests. “And I’ll tell you about it.”

“You don’t drink,” Lena answers, trying not to snap. “Answer my question.”

Kara looks at her dead on, jaw tight. “Let’s have a drink,” she repeats. “And I will.”

“Stop being obtuse,” Lena snaps, unable to stop herself this time. Worry and irritation mixing and bubbling up into her throat. “You know how much I hate that.”

“I’m not trying to be,” Kara says softly, cutting through Lena’s anger. “I’m just,” she sighs heavily, “It’s not a simple answer.”

They stay locked in a silent staring contest for a few moments and Lena catalogs the tired look in Kara’s eyes, the concern etched into her strong jawline, and the resigned curl of her spine. It’s the quiet, “Please,” that Kara lets out after a bit that finally defeats Lena and she throws her hands up before walking further into the apartment towards the kitchen. “Fine,” she sighs. “I’ll make hot chocolate.”  

Kara actually laughs a little at that, the sound of it at such a contrast with the tense feeling that’s stretched between them. Lena lets herself smile, for just one moment.

Chapter Text

Lena puts milk in a pan and pulls out a jar of chocolate powder from a cabinet. Kara takes a seat at the kitchen island, rearranging her cape around her legs and watching as Lena finds a mug and starts adding chocolate powder and sugar to it. It eases a little of her nerves when Kara gives her a look as she only puts a single scoop of sugar in her mug. Lena rolls her eyes, adds some more and fights a smile. 

They don’t speak, Lena just works methodically to bring the milk to a simmer and pulls out a glass of wine for herself. Anything to calm the subtle shake that hasn’t left her hands.

The feeling of Kara’s eyes tracking her doesn’t help.

“Well?” Lena asks, once she finally sets a mug of hot chocolate in front of Kara. She leans against her kitchen counter and watches as Kara takes a sip of her drink.

There’s no answer, just the silence of her kitchen while Kara looks down into her hot chocolate and lightly taps her fingers against the mug. The irritation from earlier is worming its way back into her body and she rolls her eyes when Kara continues to do everything except start talking. “Why don’t you just spit it out, Kara?”

“I’m trying,” Kara grumbles, leaning back on the stool and releasing her drink. Her head falls back a little as she eyes the ceiling and Lena’s gut churns. She can only imagine what Kara’s so afraid to tell her.

“Try harder,” Lena replies, setting her wine glass down and leaning on the kitchen island with both hands.

Kara crosses her arms and takes on a determined look. “It’s your mother,” Kara says, puffing her chest out a little. It draws unneeded attention to the crest across Kara’s suit and Lena glances away for a moment.

“We’ve been over that,” Lena replies, shaking her head. “Can you please get to the point? My imagination is coming up with worse upon worse scenario here.”

Kara blows out a breath, looks away for a second before locking gazes with Lena, tension evident around her eyes. “Your mother is the leader of Cadmus.”

It takes a few seconds for the words to make sense to Lena, but when they do, she laughs. Loudly and without pause for a good moment. Kara stares at her with confusion furrowed between her eyebrows. “Lena,” she says.

“Cadmus,” Lena manages to say between laughs. She straightens away from the island and crosses her arms. “The anti-alien paramilitary organization that keeps broadcasting creepy, terrorist videos to everyone?’

“Yes.”

“My mother,” Lena continues, voice filled with mirth. “Behind Cadmus.”

“Lena,” Kara draws out, face serious and Lena can’t help but laugh again. The idea of it so absurd. Lillian might not be winning any mother of the year awards anytime soon, but to think she’d do something like this...it’s a considerable struggle not to think immediately of Lex, how people had looked at her since he went insane.

“You’re mistaken,” she tells Kara, with a shake of her head. “My mother is a lot of things, but to think she’s capable of-”

“Lena, she kidnapped me,” Kara interrupts forcefully and Lena’s laughter cuts off immediately, the sound dying in her throat.

“She what?” Lena asks.

“That’s where I’ve been,” Kara answers, uncrossing her arms and looking at Lena with a look of such twisted sadness that Lena feels it seep into her, chilling down her spine. “She kidnapped me. And Mon-El.”

Anger rushes through her so swiftly she has to take a quick inhale of air just to speak. “Why?”

“I’m not sure yet,” Kara says with a shrug. “She made me solar flare to blow out my powers. Then she took a sample of my blood. Had her henchman throw me around the building for good measure.”

It’s such a chilling thought that Lena has to shake it out of her head, can’t process it yet. Her fists clench so hard she’s sure her nails are going to draw blood against the skin of her palms and her chest starts to ache. She forces her fingers to spread back out, takes a deep steadying breath.

“Are you sure?” she asks, and Kara sighs, looking everywhere but at Lena.

“I’ve met your mother before, Lena,” Kara says. “I know who she is and what she looks like. I’m sure. She threatened to kill Mon-El if I didn’t cooperate with her.”

“My mother is no killer,” Lena argues, but the words feel thin, hard to hold on to. If she thinks about it hard enough she can easily picture Lillian steady enough to do such a thing. People can be capable of a lot of things if they’re pushed hard enough. Lex had taught her that much.

“She shot Mon-El in the leg,” Kara counters, “and was about to shoot him in the heart if I didn’t do what she wanted.”

“It’s just not possible,” Lena breathes, unwilling to think her mother is capable of that level of villainy. Rampant xenophobia sounds appropriately her speed - but being the head of Cadmus? Threatening to kill people?

“It is,” Kara insists and Lena feels overwhelmed with an onslaught of feelings from all different directions.

“You’re lying,” Lena argues, snapping a little. The words are ripped out of her forcefully even as she cringes at herself. Kara has never lied to her and even standing here after a four year absence, Lena doesn’t actually believe Kara to be capable of it now. But she can’t reconcile that with the deep belief that her mother couldn’t be capable of doing what Kara’s accusing her of.

Kara looks taken aback by the suggestion that she’s lying, a look of hurt shadowing her face. “I’m not lying, Lena. I swear. I wouldn’t lie about something like this.”

“I don’t understand, Kara,” Lena says and she starts to pace a little, shaking her head.

“Lena, I know it’s hard, but-”

“No, you don’t know,” Lena interrupts, stopping to glare at her ex-girlfriend.

“Don’t do that,” Kara argues with sudden heat, standing up from her stool. “Don’t act like I don’t know you.”

They stare at each other for a long moment and Lena thinks that somewhere the universe is laughing at her. For a brief moment, Lena understands her brother. Here she is, a Luthor, standing in front of a Super and she can almost see the line being drawn between them. There’s a choice in front of her and she can sense it.

Kara’s jaw is tight, her eyes vivid with a sense of desperation pulling Lena in, and the crest on her chest feels like it’s the only thing in color in the entire room. Lena can’t stop looking at it, all of a sudden.

“Can you change?” Lena asks, deflating from the anger of before just enough that her shoulders drop.

Kara looks down at her suit and frowns. “Why?”

Lena swallows. “Because I’m not having this conversation with Supergirl.”

There’s a look of hurt on Kara’s face, masked only but the conciliatory smile she shoots Lena. “It’s still me,” she says in a small voice that slices against Lena’s frayed nerves.

“I know, but you wear that symbol on your chest and you-,” Lena doesn’t know how to explain how she feels without hurting Kara further. “Just, please. There’s some sweatpants and shirts in my bedroom,” she says, “you’ll be more comfortable anyway.”

Kara hesitates for a few seconds, but concedes, nodding. “Okay, sure,” she says before walking towards the bedroom, the movements looking unnecessarily slow and stilted.

Lena takes a heavy sip of her wine, tries not to think too hard about Kara in her bedroom nor confront the idea that her mother is spearheading an anti-alien initiative intent on killing her ex-girlfriend.

When Kara comes back the supersuit has been traded for a pair of faded grey sweatpants and a white t-shirt and Lena’s throat goes a little dry. All she had wanted was to no longer have to stare at the Crest of El. She hadn’t considered that the alternative meant Kara would be in her clothes. It’s a throwback to weekends when neither of them had anything to do and Kara would laze around in Lena’s small dorm room in shorts and t-shirts, and Lena would find her so beautiful.

“Better?” Kara asks, hands out at her sides as she glances down at herself.

After another deep sip of her drink, Lena manages to nod. “Thanks.”

Kara retakes her seat and pulls her mug towards her. It must have gone cold because Kara makes a disgusted face after the first sip. Kara gives her what can only be described as a helpless look and it takes a good few seconds for Lena to piece together what it means. She sighs a little.

“It was just the suit,” she tells Kara, gesturing towards the mug. “It’s fine.”

With just a moment’s more hesitation, Kara seems to accept what Lena’s saying and looks as though she’s going to send a quick jolt of heat vision into her drink, but her eyes just spark with color and nothing else. Lena watches as Kara shakes her head like she can rattle her heat vision back to working order, and tries again, fails, tries again, fails. It takes five tries for the laser beam of heat to come out of her eyes and into the hot chocolate and Lena watches it all with a dropped jaw, worry clawing at her throat.

The tonnage of what Kara went through becomes much clearer. “Kara,” Lena says softly, moving around the counter until she can put her palm against Kara’s forearm. The skin there isn’t as warm as Lena remembers it to be and it’s almost as if Lena can sense that the muscles are weaker. “Are you okay?”

Kara laughs, but the sound falls short of funny and Lena scans Kara’s body critically. “After a solar flare it kind of takes some of my powers a little bit to get back to full working order.”

“But they will?” It must be terrifying, Lena thinks, for Kara to feel so uncharacteristically weak, so human.

“They will,” Kara reassures her, with a squeeze to the fingers Lena still has wrapped around Kara’s forearm. “Don’t worry.”

Despite an almost inescapable urge to confirm for herself that Kara is okay, that there isn’t any lasting damage as a result of solar flaring, Lena nods, detaches from Kara and walks back to her wine glass.

For a minute they just sit there in silence, Kara sipping again at her drink and Lena trying to untangle the knots in her stomach, letting her brain take over and piece together everything Kara’s been saying.

“My mother is the head of Cadmus,” she says quietly and Kara winces.

“Yes,” Kara replies with a nod.

“And you know that because she kidnapped you, and threatened to kill your friend if you didn’t…”

“Blow out my powers so she could take a vial of my blood.”

There have been times in her life when she’s hated her mother, but none of them have rivaled this moment. She’s never known Kara without her powers, can’t conceive of what it’s like to bleed for Kara. Lena can’t even imagine it. This is different than Lex’s betrayal, but she feels just as blindsided by it. “What did she want your blood for?” Lena asks around the lump in her throat.

“I’m not sure,” Kara says, looking like all she wants to do is grab Lena and comfort her. Lena thinks she might actually let her, boundaries be damned. “I thought you might be able to tell me.”

Lena goes rigid at that and feels unstoppably defensive. “Because you what? Think I’m in on my mother’s secret evil plans?”

“What?!” Kara says with such incredulity that Lena feels a twinge of guilt at having even thought such a thing. Kara's out of her seat again, halfway around the island, her hands extended towards Lena. “No, of course not.”

Running a hand down her face, Lena tries to take deep steady breaths and remind herself how to think like a rational human being that doesn’t let emotion control her every thought process. “I’m sorry, I’m having trouble thinking clearly right now.”

“I know,” Kara replies. “I’m sorry too.”

“It’s not your fault,” Lena says, closing her eyes for a brief moment. 

“I thought you might be able to tell me what your mother could be up to because you’re the smartest person that I know. And you know your mother.”

 “Clearly I don’t,” Lena rebuts with a mirthless laugh.

“I know this is a lot,” Kara says softly, carefully even, like Lena’s liable to break at any moment. “But I thought you deserved to know. I could use your help. And I don’t want there to be secrets between us.”

Lena thinks this might be the point where she should say thank you, but she’s not sure it would come out sounding sincere. All she really wants to do is go back to a time where her biggest concern was how to be in a room alone with Kara and not want to kiss her. She doesn’t want to think about her mother following in Lex’s footsteps, or how the threat to Kara’s life is somehow much more real now, more personal.

“Okay,” is all Lena can say.

Seconds later, before Lena can do anything about it, Kara’s crossed the distance between them and wrapped Lena up in her arms. Lena’s head goes immediately into Kara’s shoulder, her hands trapped between their bodies. On instinct, Lena’s fingers tangle into the soft fabric of Kara’s shirt and she can’t help the way her entire body sags into the contact, loosens entirely from the tense moments of before. It feels like she could cry if she let herself, but she doesn’t, just closes her eyes and inhales against the sudden scent of Kara, mixed up in the fresh laundry smell of her clothing.

“It’ll be okay,” Kara murmurs and Lena feels the words against the her hair, comforting her against her will. “Your mother’s not going to hurt you or me or anyone.”

I won’t let her, Lena thinks, but doesn’t verbally respond, just buries herself deeper into the feeling of Kara surrounding her. It feels like the world shuts out for a peaceful minute.

They both stand there, Kara all but cradling her, for a long quiet moment until Lena knows she needs to step away before she becomes both physically and emotionally incapable of doing so. With a soft clearing of her throat she moves just enough that Kara notices and releases her hold, allowing Lena to back away from her.

Kara’s eyes are rimmed with red like she’s one second away from crying and Lena knows if that starts neither of them will stop. It helps to ebb the tide of tears threatening in the back of her eyes. “So what now?” Lena asks with a shrug, turning from Kara and going back to where her wine glass is.

“Now, we just have a good Thanksgiving, eat way too much pumpkin pie and turkey and potatoes and-”

“How are you thinking about food right now?” Lena jokes, if only to distract herself from the sad, tense feeling threading between them.

“I’m always thinking about food,” Kara replies with a shrug, not a hint of tease in her voice.  

It makes Lena smile despite the churning in her guts and Kara reacts to the expression with a grin of her own. “We can worry about this after all that, okay?” Kara says entreatingly. “Let’s just focus on friends and food and board games and not think about this for a few hours tomorrow.” 

“I don’t think I’ll be able to concentrate on anything else.”

“Yes, you can,” Kara tells her with an encouraging nod and smile. “There’s nothing we can do about it right now anyway.”

“There’s always something we can do,” Lena argues, already planning out where to start in her head.

“Lena,” Kara says, with a little laugh. “I think we both need to mentally reboot. It’ll help us think more clearly.”

“Okay,” Lena concedes on a shaky breath. “You’re right.”

With an arched eyebrow, Kara shoots Lena a teasing grin. “Can I get that on record?”

Lena rolls her eyes, knows Kara is just teasing her in an attempt to distract her from everything that’s going on and she hates that it works so easily. “Very funny,” Lena deadpans, shoving Kara just slightly on the arm. It’s like shoving at a brick wall, but Kara sways backwards in reaction anyway.

Kara shrugs, unrepentant. “Are you going to be okay?” The question soft, concerned even as Kara’s face stays smiling. Kara’s hand extends between them, brushing past Lena’s elbow.

“Yeah,” Lena laughs, running shaky fingers through her hair. “Once I stop thinking about my mother out there somewhere devising ways to kill you.”

“I’m pretty hard to kill,” Kara jokes, but Lena doesn’t laugh this time.

“Don’t joke about this,” Lena says, and she’s upset to feel her eyes spike with heat, knows Kara is frowning and looking at her with intensity.

“I’m sorry,” Kara whispers, and when her hand arrives back at Lena’s elbow, it stays there. It’s warm and it feels like it sinks Lena to the floor, centering her and helping her get the image of her mother hurting Kara out of her head.

“It’s okay,” Lena says, reaching against better judgment to grab Kara’s hand and squeezing it. “Just not exactly something I want to hear jokes about.”

Kara looks at her for a moment. “Do you want me to stay tonight?”

Something goes tight inside her the minute the question registers, and she drops Kara’s hand. “What?”

“Tonight,” Kara repeats. “Would you feel better if I stayed?”

The thought of Kara there overnight sends a multitude of feeling through Lena and she can feel heat starting to bloom in her cheeks. “No,” she says almost too hastily judging by the expression on Kara’s face. “No, I’m fine. Thank you though.”

“Are you sure? I can sleep on the couch, too, obviously.”

“Positive,” Lena replies, forcing calm into her expression. It seems to work because Kara only looks at her a moment longer before nodding.

“Okay, well, you know how to reach-” Kara’s words cut off abruptly and Lena watches as a wave of deep thought shadows over Kara’s face.

“You okay?” Lena asks, when Kara doesn’t say anything else.

Kara’s gaze locks into Lena’s, a hint of worry crinkling around blue eyes. It takes a few seconds before Kara suddenly asks, “Do you still have the watch I gave you?”

The question startles Lena, her chest feeling suddenly hollow. She hadn’t thought about that particular gift in what feels like forever. “I - I don’t know,” she stammers out. A lie. And a big one. She knows exactly where that watch is despite not having looked at it for years.

“You don’t know?”

“I’m sure it’s somewhere,” Lena corrects, hating the immediate look of hurt that’s stretched over Kara’s face. “I just haven’t worn it in years. It didn’t feel appropriate.”

“Yeah, sure,” Kara says nodding, but she looks unmistakably like she’s close to tears. Lena wants to reach out and calm Kara, tell her that of course she never got rid of the watch. “Well you should find it, if you can.”

“Why?”

“It would make me feel better,” Kara says quietly, mimicking the words she said the night she gave Lena the gift. “To know that you could get to me if you needed me. Especially now.”

“I’ll see if I still have it,” Lena says with a slight clearing of her throat, and Kara seems to accept that with a sad nod.

“I’ll leave you to it,” Kara replies, looking no better than when she first landed on Lena’s balcony. Lena hates it. The urge to grab Kara, tell her to stay, lead them both back into the bedroom and fall into the bed is so strong she has to put her hands behind her back just to stop it from happening.

Kara’s just at Lena’s balcony door when she turns suddenly, looking down at herself. It’s as if Kara just remembered that she’s wearing Lena’s clothing and not her supersuit, because she’s  turning to Lena with a lost expression like she doesn’t know what to do. Doesn’t know if she should change back into her suit.

“Just keep those,” Lena tells her. “You can give them back to me later.”

It seems to appease Kara and she smiles a little. “Thanks,” is all she says before shooting Lena one last comforting grin and jumping up up and away into the night sky.

Lena presses a hand against her sternum, tries to steady her breathing and sits down on her couch. What a mess.

--

There’s a box hidden so deep in Lena’s storage unit that it takes a half hour of maneuvering to even so much as get a glimpse of it. She hasn’t looked at its contents in close to three years and she’s not entirely sure she’s ready to dig it up, but here she is, tugging it out from around a corner.

Inside the box is almost the entirety of her relationship with Kara. Just opening it gives Lena the waft of a smell that transports her back to that time in her life. It feels like a century ago.

There are about sixty things in the box that Lena isn’t emotionally prepared to think about and she pushes them all around to find the thing she’s looking for. It’s towards the bottom under a tattered copy of Dune and on top of a folded up red t-shirt that Lena absolutely cannot look at. She snatches the small jewelry bag sitting there and pulls it out, shutting the box as quickly as possible.

Inside the bag is a pretty gold watch and Lena remembers the moment Kara gave it to her like it was yesterday.

For if you ever need me, Kara had said. Lena had told Kara that she’d always need her and it had never felt far from the truth. There had been many times in the past four years Lena had thought about pressing the button - lonely nights staring at a Tokyo skyline, exhausted afternoons after a particularly tough day at work, the day Lex had been arrested. There were times too when she’d watch Superman fly through the buildings of Metropolis, fight some enemy - her brother sometimes she’d realize later - that Lena would think so hard about the watch. It’d be a good excuse, she’d think. Something real, an actual threat.

On bad nights Lena would sometimes wonder if Kara would even come anymore. What if she pressed the button and nothing happened? Could she really blame the girl? The thought of it made it easier to keep the watch hidden away, out of sight.

But the past few weeks around Kara tells her how foolish that notion was. Even now Kara looks at her with a kind of significance that conveys just how fast she would have shown up had the button been pressed. She imagines it for a long moment. Her apartment in Metropolis. Kara on the balcony. It hurts as much as it soothes.

She almost doesn’t want to look, but her fingers are turning the watch over anyway, her thumb stroking over the inscription on the backside of the face.

The Kryptonian lettering isn’t faded even in the slightest and she stares down at the words with an ache in her chest. The always is especially painful. The word on the bottom is still unknown to her. Something like girlfriend Kara had said, and Lena wonders, not for the first time, what Kryptonian words Kara twisted around to come up with an equivalent.  

She can’t bring herself to wear the watch just yet, but she takes it with her out of the storage unit and puts it in her purse. Close at hand will have to do for now.

--

Lena’s not in a great mood. Her final engineering project won’t work the way she wants it to, her mother has left three voicemails on her phone and they’ve all managed to make Lena feel inadequate as a daughter, and she hasn’t seen Kara in nearly a week.

Exhaustion has started to stress the muscles in her back and her eyes feel dry and tired. The feeling is dark enough to make her want to drop out of school, grab Kara and escape their lives, move somewhere remote and peaceful. Find a place without the ever present pressure from her family nor the hectic schedule of graduating earlier with multiple degrees.

Then, as if her prayers have been answered, a familiar thud of feet land on the carpet by her window and Lena’s whole body relaxes on instinct. “That’s not an entrance,” Lena says dryly and smiles when Kara laughs.

“It was open,” she protests, walking up to Lena and pressing, strong capable fingers against the sore muscles of her neck.

Lena hums, but doesn’t turn to look at her girlfriend, just lets her head fall forward against the pleasurable feeling of Kara’s hands.

“Hey stranger,” Kara says softly, kissing the top of Lena’s head.

“Hey,” Lena greets, standing and turning to give Kara a proper hello. “I missed you,” she murmurs before pressing their lips together firmly, drinking in the taste of her girlfriend after such a long absence.

“Me too,” Kara says, smiling against Lena’s mouth and sliding her arms around Lena’s waist. Lena yelps when Kara picks her up off her feet and keeps kissing her, laughing a little.

“I thought you were working late,” Lena says when they disengage. They stay close together, Kara’s hands keeping them firmly pressed up against each other. Kara is as warm as ever, and it’s calming Lena by the second, distracting her from her phone and her work.

“Bryan let me go early,” she says with a crinkle between her brows like she’s embarrassed by something. “I may have been complaining a lot about how I haven’t seen you in centuries.”

“Dramatic,” Lena jokes in a deadpan, smoothing out the wrinkled skin on Kara’s forehead with her hand.

“That’s what it felt like to me,” Kara pouts and Lena laughs.

“Me too,” she admits, kissing her again. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“And guess what,” Kara says with an exaggerated wiggle of her eyebrows.

“What?”

“I brought Dirk’s,” Kara tells her with a crooked grin.

Lena tries not to moan at the mention of her favorite sandwich shop on campus, but her empty stomach makes itself known at that exact second and her mouth starts to water. Kara laughs at her wide-eyed expression.

“You’re my favorite,” Lena says softly, smiling fondly at Kara, who scrunches her nose up delightedly and fixes her glasses.

Kara says something in reply that sounds suspiciously like it’s in Kryptonian, but Lena can’t translate it.

“What does that mean?” Lena asks, twisting her fingers in the loose ends of Kara’s ponytail.

“There isn’t an easy way to translate it,” Kara says quietly, but looking at Lena with such love that she has a pretty good idea of what it might mean. “I guess it kind of means I love you.”

Lena can’t help the way her body presses forward at the words, still new enough that her heart flutters rapidly at hearing it. “Is that so?” she murmurs, tugging lightly on Kara’s hair.

“Really it just means that you’re my favorite too.”

“Yeah?”

Kara kisses her swiftly. “Definitely.”

-- 

It doesn’t actually occur to her until she’s leaving her apartment the next morning that it’s the first time she’s going to see Kara’s place. The realization derails her so much that it’s blissfully the only thing she focuses on the entire ride over.

There’s noise coming out of Kara’s apartment that can be heard even down the hall and it stops Lena in her tracks. She can make out Alex’s laugh and what sounds like Winn’s voice booming through the door. And then Kara’s laugh, not unlike her sister’s, but louder, more exuberant. For whatever reason, the sound of it pins Lena to the floor and she can’t seem to bring herself to walk the few feet to the door and knock.

It ends up not mattering, however, because the door is suddenly swinging open and Kara’s poking her head out with a wide grin that only grows larger when she spots Lena.

Lena tries to smile back, thinks she manages. But Kara steps out into the hallway and shuts the door behind her. “What are we doing out here?” Kara whispers, looking mischievous and so sweet.

“How did you know I was out here?” Lena asks, hands gripping at the brown paper bag she’s holding.

Kara taps an ear, still smiling, but looking a little quizzical at Lena’s tense posture. “You okay?”

“Yeah, sorry, I just-” she stumbles over her words a little, can’t decide what to say. She settles on a vague, “Holidays.”  

Only then does Kara’s smile falter just a tad. “Come on,” she says, sliding an arm around Lena’s waist, taking a half-step towards the door. The familiar weight of Kara’s arm comforts her, and it also terrifies her. “You’ll be fine. Alex has saved you some wine. She’s really nervous because she’s been trying to come out all day.” 

“What happened with Maggie, by the way?” Lena asks, looking upward a little at Kara’s eyes. It helps to focus on something that isn’t the sudden racing of her heart nor the feeling of Kara’s body in suddenly close proximity. Kara frowns, shrugs a little, her hand drifting absently to the middle of Lena’s back as they just stand there outside Kara’s door.

“Maggie wants to be friends, I guess. It’s…” Kara pauses, mouth twisting a little in a way Lena recognizes as confused anger. “It seems really stupid. Alex likes her so much you know? And I encouraged her to say something because,” Kara laughs a little, shrugs at Lena. “Why keep that feeling inside, right?”

“Right,” Lena says softly but feeling herself tense up, heart thudding solidly.

“Apparently Maggie doesn’t like Alex the same way?” Kara looks adorably confused by the notion. “Who wouldn’t like Alex?”

Lena laughs. “No idea,” she says with a soft smile.

“So they’re friends, I think. But it’s ridiculous if you ask me. I’ve seen them together a bunch and like Alex still makes this face if you say Maggie’s name so…”

Lena has almost nothing to say about that, because well. The parallels are obvious enough to her in the language Kara’s using. But Kara keeps talking, and Lena tries to ignore how Kara’s hand is sliding along the fabric of her coat.

“I mean, Alex cried a lot,” Kara says with this wide eyed expression. Lena thinks she understands, just imagining Alex Danvers crying is making her eyes go a little wide as well. “I almost asked Winn to look up where Maggie lives just so Supergirl could go pay a visit.” Kara flexes the arm not wrapped around Lena’s waist and it makes her chuckle.  

“You can’t just go threatening people that make your sister cry,” Lena jokes, but her body is heating up having been pressed against Kara this long and it’s becoming harder and harder to control her reaction to it the longer they stand there talking.

“Yes I can,” Kara replies, but she’s smirking and Lena feels breathless at the almost cocky expression on Kara’s face.  

“But anyway, all that doesn’t matter now, because it’s Thanksgiving, and you’re here, and you look beautiful, and - your heart is beating really fast, what’s wrong?”

Kara’s hand has made its way to one hip, and she turns fully to look at Lena carefully. She very carefully backs out of Kara’s hold, and when Kara realizes what she’s done, she has enough sense to look half-apologetic.

“Sorry,” she says, and then she seems to forget her apology, because she grabs Lena by the hand and reaches for the door. “Come on, everyone’s waiting for you!”

The sight inside Kara’s apartment does little to calm her nerves. Alex is the first to greet her. Her expression relatively neutral all things considered, but she actually pulls Lena into a brief hug after taking the bag from her hands.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” Alex murmurs, releasing her quickly.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” Lena repeats and they nod at each other in some kind of silent understanding. It feels like something’s changed between them, but Lena isn’t sure what it is. Maybe it’s just Alex Danvers in the holiday spirit. Alex pulls the bottle of whiskey out of the bag Lena brought and sends Lena an impressed look before turning to set it in the kitchen. Lena had picked it out with the exclusive goal of trying to make Alex be somewhat less cold, so she thinks she’s done a good job.

Winn comes up next, grinning easily and greeting Lena as if they’re old friends. James is less friendly, but not rude. Shakes her hand and tells her he’s happy she’s here. Mon-El is lounging on the couch with a beer and he waves at Lena, tilting his head in a silent hello. It’s only when she hears a familiar voice that Lena’s nerves ratchet back up to high alert.

Kara’s adoptive mother comes towards her with a delighted smile and Lena cuts a bewildered look in Kara’s direction. She hadn’t known Eliza would be here. Kara has an expression of such feigned innocence that Lena realizes she wasn’t supposed to know. She thinks to put on her serious CEO glare, knowing it would cow Kara a little, but Eliza’s in her space before she can pull it out.

“Lena!” Eliza is exclaiming with a level of enthusiasm Lena’s not prepared for. “It is so good to see you, dear.” Before Lena can say anything in response, Eliza embraces her warmly, pulling Lena into a hug for a long moment.

“Thank you for having me,” Lena says politely when they disengage and Eliza gives her an indulgent smile.

“Oh please, you’re family. I was so happy when Kara told me you’d be joining us. It’s been too long. I guess I hadn’t realized you were in National City at all!”

Lena’s mouth goes a little dry and she looks at Kara again, briefly. She’s not sure how to react, doesn’t know how to process the genuine happiness Eliza is exuding at her presence nor the idea that she’s still considered a member of the Danvers family in some capacity. Of all the reactions she’d expected, this was not one of them. “It’s been a long time,” Lena manages to say, forcing herself to remember how to act normally. She’s stared down Fortune 500 executives with less nerves. “Good to see you as well.”

“Let me get you a drink,” Eliza says, turning to where Kara is watching them with a look of such longing that Lena has to blink against the heat spiking in the back of her eyes. “Kara, get Lena a drink.”

“I’ll get it,” Alex says, an amused expression on her face when she looks at Lena. Better than displeasure, Lena thinks. On her way to the wine that looks half drunk already, Alex bumps into Kara solidly, and Kara startles from her staring, nearly knocking over her trash can.

“I did not,” Kara says, adjusting her glasses and then pushing them up her forehead. “I did not see that there.”

It makes Lena laugh, and Kara is laughing sheepishly too, and then they’re just staring at each other, smiling.

Eliza clears her throat, and Kara startles again, bumping backwards and towards her sister, who she begins vigorously whispering at while Alex laughs. Lena is left blushing, trying not to acknowledge that she just stared at her ex-girlfriend in front of her adoptive mom. But Eliza just smiles gently, clearly and obviously happy, because she runs a final warm palm down Lena’s arm, squeezing companionably before letting her go and turning back to the massive spread of food on Kara’s kitchen counter.  

--

“I met someone,” Lena tells her brother over the phone, the words just above a whisper and her hand shaking where it’s playing with a pen on her desk. Her dorm room is quiet and uncharacteristically devoid of her alien girlfriend. She’s not sure what possessed her to call her older brother and divulge details about her love life, but here she is, waiting for Lex to respond.

There’s silence for a bit before Lex chuckles. “Mom won’t like that,” he says, but it comes out mostly teasing. “She has plans for you after all.”

Lena rolls her eyes even though her brother can’t see it. “Stop. I get that enough from her.”

Lex laughs again and it makes Lena smile. “I’m happy for you, Lee. What’s she like?”

“How do you know it’s a she?”

“Oh, please,” Lex says and Lena feels her cheeks warm.  “Remember who you’re talking to.”

On a deep breath, Lena looks at the cork-board over her desk and spots a picture of her and Kara from Halloween. “She’s…” Words appropriate to describe Kara to her brother fail her. “She’s special.”

“Must be if she’s caught your eye,” Lex says and Lena feels a wave of affection for her older brother. It’s the first time she’s told anyone about Kara, anyone important at least and it feels good, like there’s something more real now about her relationship even though they’ve been together for months.  

“I want you to meet her,” Lena replies, eyes on the way Kara’s grinning at Lena in the picture, the casual way Lena’s sitting on her lap holding a blue plastic cup and leaning into Kara’s forehead. Kara’s hand is just short of inappropriately high on Lena’s thigh and Lena’s got a free hand clutching long locks of Kara’s hair. Lena didn’t even realize her face could make that kind of happy expression until Kara showed her the photo.

“Well I have to meet her if you’re serious about her,” Lex says with an obvious smile in his tone. “Who else is going to make sure she’s good to my baby sister?”

“She’s good to me,” Lena counters genuinely, thinking of how Kara waited outside Lena’s 8AM lab just the other day for the sole purpose of giving Lena coffee.

It makes Lex laugh again. “I’m glad, Lee. Really.”

Lena smiles, relaxes back into her desk chair. “Thanks,” she sighs.

“Now, tell me about that bot you’re building for Robot Wars this year so I can tell you what you’re doing wrong and fix it for you.”

This time Lena laughs even as she shakes her head. “Says the guy who couldn’t beat my minibot three battles running.”

“I let you win,” Lex argues, but he’s laughing too and Lena sinks into the contented feeling that surrounds her.

--

It’s only when Alex has finally handed her a glass of wine and steered her towards the living room where the boys have congregated that Lena has a chance to actually look around Kara’s apartment.

She immediately wishes she hadn’t.

Where Lena’s apartment is relatively spartan, clean and mostly devoid of personal effects like pictures, Kara’s is full of life, full of personality. It’s intimate in a way Lena isn’t used to. She hasn’t been around it since college.

And the worst of it? Lena can see herself in far too much of it. Their relationship is everywhere in a subtle way that she’s sure no one but she can notice.

There aren’t pictures of the two of them - Lena idly wonders if Kara actually has any still - but there’s a picture of their bench from college sitting on a side table. To most people it’d look like a generic picture of a pretty setting. But Lena recognizes the tree immediately and nearly chokes when she realizes it’s a picture of the bench they used to sit on, on long nights when Kara had nightmares and Lena would take Kara out to look at the stars, or when they picked up ice cream and would watch squirrels dart across the courtyard.

On the couch, Lena spots a throw blanket that she hasn’t seen in four years. The last she remembers it sat at the end of her small dorm room bed and Lena can almost picture a younger version of herself and Kara snuggled underneath it. Her fingers itch to grab at it and pull it to her face, see if it still smells the same, feels the same.

It takes about every ounce of strength in her body to sit on an armchair and keep her face from reacting. She forces herself not to look at anything else in too much detail. Out of the corner of her eye she’s already caught the sight of a stack of books she knows Kara’s never read. She can’t imagine Kara has much use for owning The Telemore Effect nor The Cosmic Serpent. The memory of Kara scanning Lena’s bookshelf with an absent look of boredom and distaste comes to mind as she recognizes each title sitting there.

Which is about when Kara catches her eye from where she’s standing in the kitchen next to Eliza, the two of them preparing a turkey for the oven. The look on Kara’s face makes Lena think maybe Kara knows exactly what Lena is thinking and for a second Lena thinks Kara might come over to her. Just the thought of it squeezes her throat a little and she shakes her head subtly at Kara, silently telling her to stay put. Kara tilts her head to the side, looking like she might just ignore Lena’s warning.

Thankfully, she’s saved by Winn who plops down on the couch opposite her, next to Mon-El, who has his eyes trained on the television - a football game plays quietly from the screen.

“So Lena, no Luthor Family Thanksgiving this year?”

The question startles her and brow furrowed, she shoots Winn a bewildered look. He’s grinning, however, in a way she thinks is meant to be teasing. “No,” Lena says slowly, twisting her wine glass around in her hand. “Finding out my mother might actually be a genocidal maniac like my brother kind of puts a damper on the mood.”

It comes out before Lena can stop it and she feels her eyes go wide. It’s probably way too honest and not funny at all for this group. She’s not even sure Kara’s told the rest of them about Lillian, but she must have, because Winn laughs loudly. James just shakes his head and drinks his beer, leaning back in his chair. Mon-El mostly looks confused.

“Yeah,” Winn says, “I know all about homicidal family members, trust me.” Lena arches an eyebrow in question and he adds, “My old man is the, ah, Toyman.”

“Oh,” Lena says with a note of surprise, remembering those old stories. “I’m sorry.”

Winn shrugs. “Hey, it happened. I’m getting over it. Kara’s helped a lot with that, actually.”

A rush of pride spills through her, as it always had when people said good things about Kara - not that people said bad things about her often.

 Kara appears with a tray of appetizers and she sets them down on the coffee table between them all with a wide smile. “Anyone need another drink?”

A chorus of no and I’m good resounds in reply, but Kara doesn’t turn to move right away, she sends a look to Lena, one that clearly conveys you okay? and Lena puts on as good a smile as she can manage just to reassure her. It seems to work and Kara turns back, bouncing away towards the kitchen.

“Is Kara mated to someone?” Lena hears from the couch and she chokes a little on the wine she had been sipping on. Mon-El has directed the question to James and Winn, who are looking about as befuddled by it as Lena feels.

“Say what?” James asks, looking like he wants to laugh.

“Well on Daxam, we have arranged marriages at birth and when you reach a certain age, you’re mated,” he explains. “I think on Krypton they did something similar.”

Lena’s stomach turns over a little when she realizes why Mon-El would be asking such a thing about Kara, his eyes tracking her movements in the kitchen. It reminds her of Kara’s similar line of questioning years ago, but she can’t feel any affection for the recollection in this moment. Not when it’s Mon-El doing the asking.

“On Earth, we call it getting hitched,” Winn says and Lena just takes a gulp of her wine, wondering how rude it would be if she just got up and walked away from this personal hell. Of course, she’d just be wandering into the kitchen with the Danvers family, and that’s another can of worms. “And you pretty much choose your husband or wife. Or, I guess, your mate.” 

The answer clearly pleases Mon-El and if she wasn’t positive it would break her hand, she would punch him in the face. It’s silly and possessive over something she gave up a long time ago, but the urge is still hovering inside of her.

Alex walks up to the conversation, toting a glass of what seems to be just whiskey, just as Mon-El asks, “Has Kara chosen?”

“Chosen what?” Alex asks, handing James another beer before sitting down on the arm of his chair.

“A mate,” Mon-El answers and Alex pulls such a disgusted face so quickly that something unravels inside Lena, makes her want to laugh.

Except, Alex answers, “Yes,” with such finality that Lena’s gut just clenches again, chest uncomfortably tight.

Mon-El looks only slightly defeated by the response, but James and Winn just look at Alex with confusion.

“Hey!” Kara calls out from the kitchen and the whole of them startle a bit at the sound. When Lena turns Kara is looking at them with confusion, wiping her hands on a towel while Eliza fiddles with the oven. “Can someone set the table?”

Mon-El gets up immediately with a wide grin that Kara returns. “I’d love to,” he says and walks over to where a stack of plates is waiting for him. Kara starts singing something in Kryptonian that Lena thinks she might have heard before, bouncing over to the kitchen and grabbing utensils.

James looks up at Alex with an amused smile playing at his lips. “Not liking our resident Daxamite going sweet on your baby sister?”

Alex just blinks at him, takes a casual sip of her drink. “I don’t care,” she replies with a shrug.

Winn laughs and tips his beer in Alex’s direction. “You told him Kara is mated,” he says with a disbelieving smile. “Or has chosen a mate or whatever. Seems like you care.”

“I know what I said,” Alex says plainly and Lena glances to where Kara is giving instructions to Mon-El. She wonders if Kara can hear them, but considering Kara hasn’t so much looked in their direction, she thinks perhaps not.

“Why would you tell him Kara’s chosen a mate if you weren’t just trying to throw him off her scent?” Winn asks with a chuckle.

“I told him that,” Alex replies with that deadpan way she has. “Because it’s the truth.”

Both Winn and James look taken aback by that answer, their jaws dropping open and closed in silent disbelief and Lena feels like she needs to calm the sudden racing of her heart. She’s sure Kara is going to pick up on it at any minute and come over to see what’s wrong.

Alex stands up before anyone can say anything else, but she shoots a smirk at Lena before she does. It does exactly nothing to help her calm down.

“What did she mean by that?” Winn asks, clearly puzzled, but James is looking at her with the same scrutiny he had at the bar last week. “I mean, it’s not one of us, right? I think she was pretty clear about us.”

James pushes his lips together, turning his gaze from Lena to Winn. “No, I don’t think she meant one of us. She’s never even mentioned Kryptonian mating.”

Winn shrugs, leans further into the couch and takes a petulant sip of his beer. “Well you got further than me, so who knows.”

It’s confirmation of something Lena had already suspected, but it still takes a little breath out of her. She and James lock eyes in a moment of silent understanding. It’s odd to realize that every single person in this apartment aside from Alex and Eliza has had or does have a romantic interest in Kara. It’s something Lena’s never experienced before, at least not without the security of being Kara’s girlfriend.

“Whatever even happened between you two? I feel like we were all caught up with the other Supes being in town, I never got to ask,” Winn says casually, glancing every so often at the football game. The timeline has started to coalesce in her mind, and now she’s catching up to the staring and suspicion that James has been treating her with since they met.

“We decided we’re better off as friends,” James answers, still looking at Lena. She looks away, tries to focus on the football game herself, tries to calm down a little. This time, she’s saved by Mon-El returning, though it doesn’t entirely feel like a save necessarily and he plops down next to Winn, plucking the beer out of his hand and taking a long sip.

“I still don’t understand the rules of this game,” he comments, watching as the team on TV celebrates a touchdown.

James and Winn both start to explain the game, but Lena tunes them out, focuses on stopping the sudden racing of her heart. The next thing she’s really aware of is a body sitting on the arm of her chair and Kara looking down at her with obvious concern. Lena jumps a little, swallows against the thick feeling in her throat and smiles up at her ex-girlfriend. Absently, she hears Winn trying to explain what a two point conversion is to Mon-El.

“You okay?” Kara asks softly. It’s hard not to imagine a world in which Lena would answer that question with a soft smile and a quick kiss. There’s something possessive deep inside her that wants to wrap her hand Kara’s neck and put their lips together in front of all the boys in the room. It’s a guilty feeling and one Lena does her best not to have, but the desire is so strong her fingers ache from restraining herself. The worst part is knowing that Kara would be happy to participate.

Kara’s looking at her with searching blue eyes and worry and Lena realizes she hasn’t actually answered her question.

“Yeah,” she says with a quick nod and a small smile. Kara looks unconvinced and Lena’s positive it’s because she can hear the rapid thumping of her heart. She puts a hand on Kara’s knee without thinking about it and adds, “I promise.”

Kara’s hand arrives atop hers, her index finger diving beneath some of Lena’s own fingers, and it does nothing to quell the want Lena feels pooling in her stomach. They stare at each other for a longer-than-appropriate moment and Lena’s sure that her face is telegraphing her every thought and emotion, but the spell gets broken by the loud sound of Winn groaning in pain.

When they look up, Kara’s friend is hunched over his hand, Mon-El watching him warily and James trying not to laugh (and failing).

“We’ll work on that,” Winn wheezes out, clearly in pain.

“What did you do?” Kara asks with concern. Her hand is still weaving with Lena’s, playing with her fingers with a clear absent-mindedness. Kara had always been like this, had always touched Lena with such open and unthinking care.

“High-five?” Mon-El says with a tone of question, holding his hand in the air cautiously.

Lena laughs.

--

“Kara, that’s heavy,” Lena hisses in warning as she watches her girlfriend pick up her robot from the back of the car, her keys dangling from her hand. Kara is wearing Lena’s engineering department sweatshirt, giving no care at all to appearing like she isn’t an alien.

“No it’s not,” Kara replies dismissively. The robot is small for its power and purpose, but it still weighs 115 pounds.

“Yes, it is,” Lena insists, trying to get Kara to understand what she’s saying. With a glance over her shoulder to make sure no one is watching, she drops her voice to a whisper. “You need to at least act like it is.”

Kara seems to understand then, looking behind them as well towards the stream of people walking into the arena. “Right, yeah. Super heavy,” she says suddenly making an exaggerated face as she pretends to struggle with the weight.

“Kara,” she laughs, rolling her eyes. “Darling, I love you, but you’re hopeless.”

Kara just shrugs, but her eyes light up the way they always do when Lena says things like I love you. “I still think you should call this guy raogrhys,” she comments, setting the robot on the nearby cart Lena had procured.

“And how would I explain where I got that name?” Lena asks, making sure the robot survived the ride over from campus. It’s a sleek little thing, but it’s been her pride and joy for the past few weeks.

Kara shrugs, picks up Lena’s tool bag from the back seat and slings it over her shoulder, forgetting to look hurt when it smacks into her back, though Lena winces for her. “You made it up?”

“Mockingbird is fine,” she says, brushing past Kara to reach into the back seat and grab the controller she had spent two whole days wiring together.

“You named it after a bird,” Kara complains. “Not exactly the scariest of beings on earth.”  

“You’ve clearly never seen the movie The Birds,” Lena says dryly, locking the car and following Kara as her girlfriend begins pushes the cart towards the building. A couple of kids stare at the shiny outer surface of the robot, making excited noises.

“I’m just saying that if I was betting on a fight between like... DestructoBot and Mockingbird, I know which one I’d choose,” Kara says, reaching behind her and wiggling her fingers for Lena to grab her hand. She does, lets Kara pull her a little closer.  

“Names aren’t everything,” Lena argues, rolling her eyes and lacing their fingers together.

They’re just at the door when she hears a voice call out her name from behind her. They both turn to see her older brother striding towards them with confident steps, a charming smile on his face and a Midway City Robotics Club sweatshirt and hat. Lena brightens when she sees him, letting go of Kara’s hand to rush back and hug him.

“What are you doing here? I thought you were in London!” Lena says, laughing when he picks her up a little off the ground and swings her back and forth.

“I wasn’t going to miss the finals,” Lex replies, setting her back down and shooting a glance over her shoulder to where Lena knows Kara is standing. “That her?” Lex stage whispers.

“Yes,” Lena says pointedly with a look of warning for her brother. “Be nice.”

He mocks offense at that. “I’m always nice,” he says stepping around her to introduce himself to Kara.

“You must be the girl,” he says, extending his hand.

Kara takes it in her own and Lena sends up a silent prayer that Kara remembered the exact amount of pressure needed for a handshake to feel human. “I am a girl,” Kara answers, with some confusion written across her features, and Lena sends her eyes up to the sky for a moment.

“Kara,” Lena provides for Lex, stepping up next to them. “Kara, this is my brother, Lex.”

“Oh!” Kara says with a sudden smile. “Lena talks about you all the time.”

“All terrible things I hope,” Lex says with patented Luthor charm. Lena shoves his shoulder, but he keeps grinning.

“Nice to meet you,” Kara says happily and Lena moves to stand next to her, twining their fingers back together and facing Lex.

Lex watches it happen, grins knowingly at Lena and shoots her wink. “We can do the real meeting of the minds later,” he says, reaching out to touch them both on a shoulder. “Let’s get this robot inside and watch my sister destroy those peasants from Hub City.”

After Mockingbird sends the opponent’s robot so high into the air that it sends out sparks when it lands, she gets smacked into the plexiglass boards surrounding the arena. Her brother’s hug is exuberant and it thrills her to know he’s proud of something she’s built. When Kara joins the hug, gently steering them off the rattling boards, she smiles at Lena so brightly that Lena thinks she’s never been happier, sandwiched between the two most important people in her life.

--

Dinner starts off fine for the most part. Until James gets up to give a toast and Alex all but berates him, sipping heavily from what Lena knows is her fourth glass of wine. It’s an odd exchange. James is only halfway through telling everyone how grateful he is for how understanding a friend Kara can be when Alex shuts him up with a no she’s not.

Kara and Lena send matching looks of confusion towards Alex, who merely glares up at James and keeps drinking. Mon-El interrupts them both and stands, clearly about to make a speech of his own. Lena’s sure she doesn’t want to hear whatever he has to say, but Kara’s bumping her shoulder from where she’s sitting next to her and it helps a little.

“Out of everybody that could have found me in that pod,” he says, smiling at Kara charmingly. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world that it was you.”  

Kara laughs a little, bowing her head sheepishly as she often does when being given a compliment and Lena hates how flirty it suddenly feels. The crush he’s developed on Kara is painfully obvious, but who is Lena to blame him? She wonders if this was how she used to act when she and Kara were merely friends and Lena spent most of her time trying to ignore the growing attraction she felt for the other girl.

Before she can process anything else, Alex is standing, only slightly unsteady on her feet and looking uncharacteristically nervous. Lena watches with some concern as Alex fumbles her way through what she’s thankful for and by the time Lena’s realized oh wow Alex is about to come out they’re suddenly interrupted by a massive anomaly bursting out of thin air above their dinner table.

They all jump to their feet, backward and away from the table, chairs falling over and screeching against the floor. Kara grabs Lena’s arm immediately and tugs her until Kara’s body is between Lena and whatever thing is hovering in the air above the table.

But then, just like that, it’s gone with a pop and a rush of air.

“Does that normally happen? On Thanksgiving?” Mon-El asks. It’s such a funny question that Lena snorts, and Winn, across from her and Kara, also laughs.

Kara’s gaping at the space previously occupied by the blue cloud-like thing, but she doesn’t look worried. In fact, if Lena had to categorize Kara’s expression she looks excited. “Do you know what that was?” Lena asks softly and Kara quickly hides her growing smile when she looks over at Lena.

With a shrug, Kara hums noncommittally. “Not sure,” she answers, but there’s a look in her eye that Lena thinks means I’ll tell you later.

“What the hell ?” James exclaims and Lena catches sight of Alex reaching around to her back as if to grab for a weapon.

“I think we’re fine,” Kara says, arms spread wide to calm everyone down. It takes a moment, but everyone does seem to settle, slowly moving back towards the chairs and retaking their seats. 

“Well that was interesting,” Eliza says with a laugh. “Never a dull moment in National City.”

The table laughs and a noticeable ease falls back over them.

--

Later, when they’re appropriately stuffed and after Lena plays so intentionally poorly at Monopoly that Alex wins, Kara walks Lena out of the apartment and towards a waiting town car.

“Thank you for having me,” Lena says with a smile. Despite the emotional rollercoaster she seems to be constantly riding on whenever she’s around Kara, the day had been pleasant. Normal even. There’s a contented feeling growing in her stomach that not even the looming threat of her mother can trample on.

“Of course,” Kara replies brightly. “You’re always welcome here.”

“It was fun,” she says and Kara practically glows in response.

“Better than dinner at your desk?”

“Infinitely,” Lena agrees with a warm smile.

They idle around each other for a moment, halted on the sidewalk outside Kara’s building. Lena gives a look to her driver who’s leaning up against the black car and he nods in response, opening the car door and sliding inside to start the engine.

“Lena,” Kara says with a hint of nervousness. “I have to ask.”

Lena’s brow furrows, but she keeps smiling. “Sure, what is it?”

“Did you find it?’

“Did I find what?”

Kara fidgets, adjusts her glasses. “The watch.”

Without thinking of it, Lena pulls her purse higher onto her shoulder, all too aware of its contents. Her smile fades a little. “I did, actually,” she asks, clearing her throat slightly.

A wave of relief seems to wash over Kara and she smiles a little crookedly. “Good.”

It reminds Lena of why Kara had asked her about the watch in the first place and she fidgets a little with the strap of her purse. “I think I have an idea as to what to do about my mother.”

Kara frowns, hands at her hips. “You don’t need to do anything.”

“She took your blood, Kara,” Lena argues. “And you don’t know why.”

“She’s dangerous,” Kara warns lowly. “Don’t do anything stupid.”

“I just want to talk to her. See if she’ll tell me anything.”

“She’s not going to tell you anything, Lena. Do not seek her out. If she gets wind that we know-”

“Kara it’s my mom. She’s not going to attack me. Certainly not in the middle of L Corp Tower.” 

“We don’t know what she’ll do,” Kara snaps, anger evident in her expression. Lena bristles a little, conflicted between the warm feeling of Kara wanting protect her and her natural aversion towards being told what to do. “Promise me you won’t go trying to find her.”

Lena rolls her eyes and scoffs. “Kara,” she says, drawing the name out in warning.

But Kara just repeats herself. “Promise,” she demands.

“I’m not promising that,” Lena says with a shake of her head and Kara’s lips go thin with displeasure.

“I’m not trying to tell you what to do,” Kara starts slowly and Lena laughs again.

“That is exactly what you are trying to do,” Lena grits out heatedly, fist clenching.

“I’m trying to protect you,” Kara exclaims in an angry hiss.

“It’s hardly necessary in this instance,” Lena tells her with exasperation. “All I’m suggesting is having a conversation with my mother in broad daylight in my office.”

Kara’s entire posture is rife with tension and Lena feels an instinctive need to soothe it. This time, she doesn’t fight it. Instead, she steps into Kara’s personal space and puts a hand on the other girl’s bicep, smiling a little when Kara relaxes into the contact. “I have the watch,” Lena says softly, searching worried blue eyes. “If I need you, you’ll know.”

“Promise you’ll use it,” Kara says, putting her hand on Lena’s hip. The warmth of it shoots across Lena’s skin and memories of all the times Kara’s had her hand there before, tracing across bare skin or pulling her closer in bed bursts into her consciousness. Her throat grows thick quickly and she just nods, stepping away from Kara to break their contact. They’re still close, but no longer touching and Lena feels like she can breathe again.

“I promise.”

“You haven’t before,” Kara replies quietly, looking almost distraught.

“I haven’t had a reason to use it before,” Lena answers, struggling to ignore the look of pain in Kara’s features. It’s not a whole truth, but Lena doesn’t know what else to say.

“I would have come even if you didn’t have a reason,” Kara whispers, turning the conversation in another emotional tailspin. Lena wants to tell her about all the times she almost did press that button. But the specter of her mother’s recent ascent to terrorism reminds her of why she’s been so insistent on being friends with Kara - there’s too much going on in their lives, too much of a mess between them. No matter how much Lena wants to reach up and fold herself into Kara’s arms.

The moment feels too dark, out of sync with the happy feelings of earlier and Lena is desperate to cut through it all. With little regard for consequences, ignoring for just one moment the reminders flitting through her head, she steps back into Kara’s circle and leans up to press a warm kiss to Kara’s cheek. “Happy Thanksgiving,” she murmurs before moving away quickly, unwilling to see Kara’s reaction.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” is all she hears from behind her when she slides into the backseat of her car. As they drive way she can’t help but catch the way Kara’s still standing on the sidewalk with a dumbstruck kind of expression, her hand at her cheek.

--

The next day, before she goes to work, she slides a watch on her wrist that she hasn’t worn in years. The knowledge of the inscription pressing against her skin burns through her and she’s hyper aware of it the entire day.

Thoughts of Kara run through her mind on repeat.

It’s not long before she’s thinking about her mother, about all Kara had told her and Lena feels lost in a swirl of betrayal. Maybe they never had the best mother-daughter relationship, but to think her mother has gone this far into the deep end...it’s as equally hard to believe as it is easy. Why wouldn’t her mother follow in her beloved son’s footsteps?

If she can just talk to her mother, maybe she can stop this insanity before it goes too far, before people get hurt and yet another Luthor makes front page news for trying to rule the world. Before there’s another Super bruised and battered on the cover of every newspaper and magazine in the world.

A voice in the back of her head reminds her that she tried to talk Lex off the ledge too to no avail. Some people are just bad.

Despite that knowledge, that deep seated belief that you can’t save everyone from their own evil, Lena has her assistant contact her mother that afternoon with a request to meet at her earliest convenience.

--

A frost seems to cover the room as soon as Lillian waltzes into it, setting her bag down on one of Lena’s office chairs and going straight for the liquor cart on the side wall. Lena watches as her mother inspects the bottle of wine there, turning her nose up in distaste. It’s oddly comforting. For a moment she can pretend this is all her mother is - a woman that’s always made her feel like a disappointment. Not some mad super villain hell bent on wiping out the alien population of National City and then the world.

“So,” Lillian starts, smirking at Lena from across her desk. “To what do I owe the pleasure for being summoned to L Corp?” She says L Corp like it’s a dirty word and Lena tries not to react. “Planning on apologizing for our last meeting?”

Lena returns her mother’s smirk, remembers all the lessons she’s had about not being intimidated by anyone. “I have nothing to apologize for,” Lena says simply.

Her mother’s lips thin in distaste and Lena’s uninterested in running circles around each other for the next few minutes. She stands and moves around her desk to face her mother.

“Let me ask you something, Mom,” she starts, crossing her arms over her chest and watching her mother’s face for a reaction. “What the hell are you up to?”

It’s a vague question, but her mother does indeed react to it, her face screwing up into what Lena’s sure is meant to be shock and innocence, but merely comes across as irritation. “We’ve hardly spoken since Lex’s trial,” her mother says and Lena feels a stab of pain at the memory of that specific meeting. “I thought maybe you called to make amends. It’s a holiday, after all.”

Lena tries not to laugh. “There have been some rumors,” she says, thinking of how to formulate this without incriminating Kara. “A reporter has been sniffing around and they know something about you. What is it?”

“Lena,” her mother drawls in that condescending way she has.

“You’re up to something. They seem to have information on you and whatever it is. Something incriminating I’m guessing.”

Lillian scoffs. “I won’t stand here and be attacked like this by my own daughter.”

“I’m not your real daughter,” Lena says, digging her nails into her bicep. Absently, she’s aware of the weight of the watch on her wrist, takes comfort from it. “Or so you never let me forget.”

“You may be adopted, Lena, but I do love you. In my own way.”

It burns over Lena unpleasantly. Her mother has never really been able to get out an I love you and have it sound genuine or true. “But not as much as you love Lex.”

Her mother shrugs, completely unaffected by the accusation. “Every parent has favorites. Anyone that says differently is kidding themselves. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

Lena’s eyes narrow, seeing now the truth of what Kara had said. It’s there in the barely perceptible crinkle around Lillian’s eyes, the clenching of her fingers and the almost angry set to her jaw. “What have you done, Mother?”

“I have no idea what you mean.”

“You’re lying,” Lena accuses with a smile.

“You have no way of knowing that.”

“Yes I do,” Lena says coldly, feeling a new kind of distance between her mother that hadn’t been there before. The lines drawn between them solidify as the seconds tick by. “You told me you love me,” she says with a wry smile. “Which we both know isn’t true. And you only say it when you need something from me. So what is it, Mother? What are you gunning for? What could you possibly need from your youngest adopted daughter?”  

Her mother’s eyes go hard at that, withdrawn and her chin lifts haughtily. “Don’t concern yourself with things you’ll never understand.”

“So there is something?” Lillian’s eyes flicker around the room as Lena asks it and Lena thinks to follow the motion, wonders if there’s something in her office that would give her mother away, something she’s looking for.

Silence fills the room and her mother just smirks at her with a short shake of her head. “I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving, Lena,” her mother says, managing to make it sound as insincere as possible before turning on her heel and waltzing back out of the office.

Fiddling with the watch on her wrist, Lena watches her exit and blows out a low breath.

--

The attack on the alien bar breaks on the news that afternoon and Lena watches it in her office in horror. Her thoughts go immediately to Kara and by that afternoon when a death count scrawl appears at the bottom of her TV screen, Lena’s calling her before she can even think about it.

“I’m okay,” Kara opens with as soon as the line connects and Lena sags in relief.

“I’m glad,” she murmurs, pressing a hand over her eyes and taking a deep breath. “Do you know what it was? Who?”  

There’s silence over the line that puts a pit in the well of Lena’s stomach. “Kara?” she says when the other girl continues not to respond.

“Are you at work?” 

“Yes,” Lena responds, spinning her chair around until she’s facing the expanse of windows leading out to her balcony. Her eyes roam the skyline. “Why?”

“I’m coming to get you,” is all Kara says before the line cuts out. It’s only a matter of seconds before a red and blue blur shows up at the far end of the city, zooming straight for L Corp.

When Kara lands on her balcony, Lena’s already at the door, opening it to usher the girl inside. Kara walks in, hands on her hips and looks at Lena with a nervous flickering of her eyes.

“Are you actually okay?” Lena asks, reaching out to circle her fingers around Kara’s wrist.

Kara’s gaze shoots down to the touch and her whole body goes suddenly rigid. As soon as Lena notices she moves to release Kara, but her hand is grabbed, pulled up into Kara’s eyeline. “You’re wearing it,” Kara breathes almost reverently and Lena realizes what she’s talking about then, both of them staring at the gold watch on her wrist. 

“Yeah,” is all Lena can think to say. Everything feels overly significant then. Kara’s eyes look wide and watery and Lena’s wrist burns under the scrutiny of her gaze.

“I’m glad,” Kara says, and then as if realizing she’s about to cry over a piece of jewelry, she lets go of Lena’s hand and steps back, laughing a little. It sounds off, but Lena allows it, smiling in response.

“So what’s wrong? What couldn’t you tell me on the phone?”

“Oh, yeah, sorry,” Kara says, shaking her head for a moment. “Let’s go.”

Kara moves as if to scoop Lena into her arms and Lena takes a step backward immediately, her hand out. “Wait, what ?”

“Let’s go,” Kara repeats, waving her hand to beckon Lena closer and Lena just shoots her an incredulous look.

“Why don’t we start with where we’re going?”

Kara looks appropriately sheepish after that. “Right, totally. The DEO.”

“The DEO?”

“Department of Extra-Normal Operations.”

Lena blinks, tries to fill in all the blanks. “Which is...?”

“I work there,” Kara explains before shrugging a shoulder. “Well I guess Supergirl works there.”

“Okay,” Lena draws out, trying to convey her confusion.

“And it’s time to bring you in.”

“Bring me in?” Lena asks because it sounds suspiciously like she’s under investigation. Kara must catch her tone.

“Not like that,” she says bringing her hands up to reassure. “The attack on the alien bar was some sort of chemical weapon that killed every single alien in there.” Lena’s stomach turns over with thoughts of her mother. “Mon-El was there.”

“Is he...”

Kara looks away. “No, but he’s not doing very well.”

“What does this have to do with me?”

“You’re a genius, Lena. And you have a background in biology and chemistry and -”

“And anti-alien warfare,” Lena adds dryly.

No,” Kara denies, but Lena imagines that has to be part of it. Has accepted it in some way.

“So you want to bring me into the DEO because…”

“Because I think you could help us,” Kara says, hands out to her sides in an open pose. “And because I’d feel better if everyone I cared about was in one place right now.”

Resigned to the determined look in Kara’s eye, Lena sighs. “Can I at least pack my stuff up?”

It reminds her of many a conversation in college when Kara would come to collect her from whatever mountain of work she’d been hiding in, and Kara must be thinking of the same thing because she smiles crookedly when she answers, “Of course.”

A few minutes later Lena’s packed up her computer, shut down her operating terminal and informed her assistant that she’s taking the afternoon off. Kara’s leaned up against her balcony door, ankles crossed while she plays on her phone and it’s such an odd image to see. The red and blue of her suit is the most vibrant looking thing in the office. Kara’s got her brow scrunched up while she looks down at her phone, swiping her thumb idly.

“Everything okay?” Lena says when she steps forward, bag held in front of her.

Kara jumps a little, covering her phone. “Yeah. You ready?”

Lena nods even as her chest flutters a little at the idea of being close to Kara again. “We could drive,” she offers, if only to avoid the weak feeling she gets just thinking about Kara lifting her up off the ground.

“It’s a secret government operation, Lena,” Kara jokes. “You can’t just drive up.”

“Right,” Lena laughs, fingers tightening on the straps of her bag.

“I’ll be fast,” Kara murmurs, before stepping forward, arms held out.

Lena takes a deep breath and smiles, reminds herself that this is just Kara and she’s been held like this a million times. It’s not that big of a deal.

Except she gets that same swoop in her stomach the minute Kara slides her arm under her knees and scoops her off the ground. With one hand she holds tightly to her bag, the other winding around Kara’s neck.

--

It amazes Lena on a consistent basis that a girl capable of crushing cement blocks in her fist like it’s nothing is somehow one of the most gentle people she’s ever met. It’s one of Kara’s more impressive qualities really, but right now it’s working against Lena instead of for her.

They’ve been dating for months and it’s been going great and Lena is especially a fan of all the kissing that it’s added to their relationship, but every time she thinks anything is going anywhere Kara is pulling away suddenly and making up excuses for being anywhere else apart from around Lena.

It’s not unlike the careful way Kara avoided kissing her the first time and Lena knows she’s the one that has to confront the issue if anything is going to change. Maybe Kara’s not interested in anything more than kissing, maybe she’s wildly insecure about what to do, maybe sex just isn’t a thing on Krypton. Whatever it is, Lena doesn’t care, but she does want to know.

They’re in Lena’s dorm room, on her full size bed, with a movie playing like white noise in the background. Lena’s straddled over Kara’s hips, and they’re kissing heatedly. The moment feels rife with intention and Lena can’t stop pressing down against Kara’s lap, hoping this is the one time Kara doesn’t stop them.

Strong arms wrap around Lena’s waist, keeping them close together, and Lena smiles into Kara’s kisses, biting softly at her lower lip and tangling her fingers in long sandy blonde hair. Kara makes a content noise, her palms sliding under Lena’s shirt and against the overheated skin of her back.

Everything is going fine. Lena’s lost in the sensation of Kara pulling her in closer and the need to feel bare skin against bare skin threatens to consume her. She pulls back suddenly and without pause pulls her shirt over her head, tossing it to the side. Just as she moves back in to continue kissing her girlfriend, Kara is wrenching away, her eyes squeezing shut and hands stilling on Lena’s back before moving off to rest against the bed beside her.

The heat of the moment before seems to come to a standstill and Lena feels derailed by the reaction. Kara looks like she might throw Lena off her lap at any moment and Lena’s desperate to root out of the source of this behavior, confront it once and for all. She reaches out to pull at Kara’s chin in an attempt to stay close together.

“Hey, hey,” Lena whispers, holding Kara’s face in her hands, their foreheads pressed together. “What’s wrong?”

Kara’s breathing way too quickly for someone that doesn’t actually need a steady intake of oxygen and her fists are clenched like stone against the mattress. “I just need a second.”

“Kara,” Lena says softly, soothing Kara with soft strokes of her thumbs. “Talk to me, sweetheart.”

“I’m fine,” Kara replies, but her eyes are closed tight and there’s tension everywhere.

“You’re not fine,” Lena counters, pulling back to look at Kara. She moves her hands to card fingers through Kara’s hair in an attempt to get her to calm down. “Talk to me,” she repeats.

Taking in a heavy breath, Kara opens her eyes, responding to the gentle strokes of Lena’s fingers. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. Just explain.”

Kara looks lost as she looks up into Lena’s eyes, but her fists unclench and she puts warm hands on Lena’s hips. “Did you know I dislocated Alex’s shoulder once when we were younger?”

It’s seemingly a random anecdote and it takes Lena a moment to respond. “No, I didn’t.”

Kara hums, nods a little, her thumbs stroking at the skin of Lena’s hip just above her waistband. “We were just messing around and I guess I just like-” she swallows visibly and looks away for a moment. “I forgot about the fact that I have crazy strength and I wrenched her arm out of her socket. It’s a wonder I didn’t break it.”

“That sounds scary,” Lena comments, her hands moving to rest against Kara’s chest. The heart under her palms is thudding heavily in way Lena’s not sure she’s ever felt.

“It was,” Kara agrees.

It takes her a moment to connect the dots. “You’re afraid of hurting me,” Lena whispers sadly, sagging in Kara’s lap.

Kara nods, eyes watery. “Sometimes when we’re kissing I feel like I get so lost in it and - and I - I just -”

“I get it,” Lena soothes, cupping Kara’s cheeks again and swiping her thumb over Kara’s bottom lip. “I get it.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to...you know,” Kara says with wide eyes, and Lena laughs.

“I didn’t think so,” she replies, eyebrow arching at the feeling of Kara’s hands sliding around towards her backside.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Lena shakes her head, feeling a little lost herself. “We’ll just - we’ll go slow,” Lena says and Kara looks all ready to protest. “Trust yourself. If it gets too much we can take a break.”

“Lena,” Kara sighs, looking so defeated that Lena’s heart aches.

“Kara, it’s okay,” she says. “Let’s just try. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, okay?”

Kara bites at her lip, a sad crinkling around her eyes. “If it doesn’t work-”

“It’s okay, Kara,” Lena tells her in the most gentle voice she can manage. “This isn’t a dealbreaker for me.”

“I want it to work,” Kara says in a quiet voice that Lena melts towards. “I want you.”

“You have me,” Lena reassures her, smiling. “With or without this.”

“I want this,” Kara replies firmly.

“Then let’s try,” she whispers, pecking Kara on the lips softly. She keeps her kisses quick, just soft pressure to try and relax Kara, bring them back to the heat of earlier. “I know you would never hurt me on purpose, Kara,” she says between kisses. “Let yourself try.”

“Okay,” Kara says with a nod.

Smiling, Lena kisses her more solidly this time, pressing her chest in close and tangling her hands in Kara’s hair like they were before.

Something must have switched in Kara’s brain, because the next thing Lena is aware of she’s being flipped over, her back hitting the mattress with a soft whoosh of air and Kara pushing in between her thighs comfortably, a hand under Lena’s knee pushing her legs open wider. Just like that, all the arousal that had cooled during the conversation comes bursting back into Lena like wildfire and she barely keeps a moan inside her throat when Kara kisses down the side of her neck, Kara’s hips pushing insistently downward.

The sudden shift in power makes her head swim and she becomes acutely aware of just how strong Kara is.

“Your heartbeat is going crazy,” Kara murmurs, lips against Lena’s jaw.

“That’s a good thing,” she answers, gasping a little when Kara’s fingers trace the curves of her hips, hook into the waistband of her jeans.

“It’s really distracting,” Kara says, but she doesn’t sound like she’s complaining.

“I can’t help it,” Lena retorts breathlessly, her hips seeking friction against Kara’s stomach. Her hips move in an insistent rhythm and Kara practically falls forward into her body, her forehead pressing into Lena’s shoulder with a barely audible groan.

“You okay?” Lena asks after a few moments of stillness, Kara’s hand at her hip keeping Lena still.

“Yeah,” Kara sighs, puffs of air against Lena’s bare skin. “You’re just really…”

“We can stop,” Lena says, despite her entire body screaming at her not to. The words come out hoarse and thick and Kara shakes her head, laughing slightly.

“No, I’m good. I’m good,” Kara replies, and it’s comforting to know that Kara wants this just as much as Lena does.

Lena presses a kiss against Kara’s temple, soothes her hands over Kara’s back to get her to relax and after a few moments Kara does, kissing at Lena’s collarbone and seemingly back to the task at hand.

Eventually Kara's lips finally make their way back to Lena's and she gets lost again in the heat of it, Kara’s palm sliding over the skin at her side, brushing up against the fabric of her bra.

Lena’s fingers play under the hem of Kara’s shirt, slide just a little under the waistband of Kara’s jeans. When they suddenly grow bolder, dip a little lower, a loud cracking sound echoes into the room so abruptly that Lena jumps underneath Kara’s tense body.  

Breathless, but no longer kissing her girlfriend, Lena blinks up at Kara’s tight expression trying to locate the source of the sound. She follows the line of Kara’s arm up behind her head where she notices it’s curled over a post in Lena’s headboard. Or what was a post in Lena’s headboard, and is now completely severed from its former position, crumpled dust in Kara’s hand.

“Kara,” she says in a panted breath. Kara’s just staring at her hand, wide eyed and unmoving. “Kara,” Lena repeats and Kara shifts then, slides off of Lena so quickly that a rush of chill waves over Lena’s skin.

Kara’s still holding a handful of what is basically just sawdust in her hand, curled into a fist. Lena reacts to the distraught look on Kara’s face, curling her fingers around Kara’s hand soothingly. “Hey, it’s okay.”

“It’s not okay,” Kara says, shaking her head and looking about seconds away from bolting from the room. Lena’s desperate for that not to happen and she puts her other palm against Kara’s cheek.

“Yes, it is,” she replies with as much conviction as she can muster while shirtless and desperately turned on.

“Lena.” Her name sounds hoarse, like it’s being ripped out of Kara’s throat. “That could have been-”

“Hey,” Lena interrupts, stroking her thumb under Kara’s welling eye. “It wasn’t.”

“It could-”

“I don’t believe in dwelling on would have, could haves,” Lena tells her in a firm voice.

“Well I do,” Kara snaps and the set of her jaw conveys anger. At herself, Lena presumes.

“Kara,” Lena says in as gentle a way as she can, scooting closer and smiling. “We’re not going to get it perfectly the first time.”

“Stop acting like this is something trivial like - like - like not knowing what to do or something,” Kara sputters, ripping the fist holding the broken post out from under Lena’s grasp and opening it above the floor near the bed. They both watch as the crumpled remains of wood fall to the floor silently.

“I’m not trying to,” Lena says and she moves until she’s straddling Kara’s lap again, both hands on her cheeks like before. She’s a little surprised when Kara doesn’t stop her, just puts hands on Lena’s hips to keep her steady. “When I said this wasn’t a dealbreaker for me I meant it. But if you want to do this, then I’m willing to try, risks included.”

“Those risks aren’t worth it to me,” Kara replies, looking up at Lena with sad blue eyes.

Lena thins her lips, thinks of a different tactic. “When it happened,” she starts, then stops. “Walk me through what happened.”

“You - your - I mean I was -” Kara fumbles with her words, a blush starting to become visible in her cheeks and Lena feels charmed by it. “We were kissing.”

“Yes,” Lena laughs, despite the tense atmosphere around them.  

“And I was really into it,” Kara admits, looking away. Lena moves her hands until they’re in Kara’s hair, scratching lightly at her scalp. Kara’s eyes flutter a little at the feeling and Lena smiles softly. “And your hands were - and my hands,” Kara shakes her head. “I don’t know. I got overwhelmed and I moved my hand up to the headboard so I didn’t hurt you or anything and next thing I knew-”

“Kara,” Lena sighs, kissing her quickly. “You’re not going to hurt me. The fact that you moved your hand to avoid exactly that-”

“That could have been a fluke!” Kara exclaims.

“Was it?”

“There are just a lot of things that happen when we-” Kara gestures around, a flailing motion more than anything. “I can sense like a million things,” she explains and Lena tries not to blush when she realizes just how much Kara can probably smell, hear, feel.

“Look. No one gets anything right the first time around.”

“You get everything right the first time around,” Kara counters grumpily and Lena laughs.

“That’s not true.” Kara hums, unconvinced and a little pouty and Lena kisses her again quickly. 

“I love you,” she says quietly and it puts a still calm in Kara’s face that wasn’t there before. Lena doesn’t say the words often, despite feeling them near constantly, and every time she does a sort of wonder lights up in Kara’s face. “And I trust you.”

“I love you, too,” Kara says. She blinks up at Lena, her hands drifting up the skin on Lena’s back and back down. “I do want to do this. Obviously. Can we just - try again later?”  

Lena smiles, presses a kiss to Kara’s lips. It lasts maybe a little too long, and Kara’s hands are strong against her lower back, pulling her close again. One hand takes an adventurous trip underneath the back strap of Lena’s bra, and Lena’s gasp manages to break the kiss off. Kara’s eyes are wide again, but a charming one that seems like a normal terrified.

“Please put your shirt back on,” Kara practically whispers. Lena laughs, falling forward a little and tucking her head into Kara’s shoulder.

“You act like you’ve never seen a girl in her bra before,” Lena says, reaching down to the floor to grab her shirt and letting Kara’s hands keep her on the bed as she does. “You have x-ray vision, Kara, are you telling me you’ve never once seen through my shirt?”

“I - no,” Kara splutters, looking mortified and adorable. “No, I am extremely respectful.”

Lena slips off of Kara’s lap, pulling on the shirt and then settling against her pillows. Kara follows after her, and it’s maybe unintentional on the other girl’s part, but Kara crawling across the bed toward her looks predatory and it sends Lena’s heart off again.

But then, of course, Kara collapses on top of Lena, her head tucking right into her sternum, her arms wrapping around Lena’s body. Kara directs her attention towards the television, where the movie is still playing, but not before placing a kiss right over Lena’s heart.

--

The rumors about a secret branch of the government tasked with extraterrestrial activity were something Lena had been aware of for some time, but it’s an odd thing to be confronted with the truth of it. Kara sets them down just inside on a small platform and the first thing Lena notices is Alex’s pinched look of irritation.

The older Danvers sister is standing in front of them, arms crossed and dressed in what Lena can only assume is a DEO uniform. 

“This is supposed to be a secret government base,” Alex says to Kara with clear censure.

Kara rolls her eyes. “It’s Lena.”

“That can’t be your catch-all reasoning for everything,” Alex retorts and Lena feels her cheeks warm with the implication. It flutters in her chest for a comfortable minute.

“She’s here to help,” Kara says, grabbing for Lena’s hand and moving down the steps towards where Alex is standing. Lena follows after, noting the seal of the DEO on the ground, looking around as agents bustle past Supergirl and her sister.

“You were supposed to be under quarantine,” Alex continues, falling into step with Kara and Lena as they start off to somewhere.

“I had things to do,” Kara counters, and Lena whips her eyes between them.

“You were under quarantine?!” Lena asks, pulling Kara to a halt.

Kara waves her off with an eye roll and a casual hand gesture. “It’s fine.”

Alex is nodding behind Kara’s back, arms crossed and glaring at her sister. Lena sighs.

“Kara,” she chastises, thinking of how long they spent just idling around in her office while Lena got ready. Had she known Kara was in some kind of danger, or that Alex was waiting, she would have moved a little faster, or yelled at Kara.

“You can yell at me later,” Kara says, tugging at Lena’s hand and pulling her further into the base.

The base is loaded with all kinds of technology that Lena has never seen before and she should probably be paying attention to the conversation happening beside her, but her eyes can’t stop roaming over everything, cataloging it in the back of her mind.

She’s so preoccupied with looking around that she doesn’t even notice she’s being led to what looks like a medical bay until she’s stepping inside and Eliza Danvers is there to greet her with a wide, somewhat surprised smile.

“Lena,” Eliza greets, not unlike how she had at Thanksgiving. She strides forward to hug her and Lena recovers enough to return the embrace, smiling.

“Good to see you again, Eliza,” Lena says and she’s hyper aware of Kara just over her shoulder watching the exchange.

“I wish it was under better circumstances,” Eliza says and when she steps away, Lena notices the body on one of the beds, a man she doesn’t recognize standing over it with his hands on his hips, authoritative.

“This is J’onn J’onzz,” Kara introduces. “He’s director of the DEO.”

Lena shakes his hand warmly, smiles. “Nice to meet you, Director.”

“You as well, Miss Luthor,” he says, looking at her with an overly critical gaze. It feels piercing and for a brief moment Lena feels uncharacteristically vulnerable.

“J’onn is a martian,” Kara whispers with an excited little smile and Lena startles, realizes this must be the friend they rescued from Roulette’s fight club.

Alex steps up to them and gestures towards the monitor Eliza’s been looking at.

“We’ve been analyzing the chemical agent they released at the bar,” Alex tells her, stepping up beside her mother and typing in a few commands on a nearby computer. Lena’s eyes scan the machinery around Mon-El’s bedside, tries to put together what each piece does. “Kara’s under the impression that you might be able to help.”

“She can help,” Kara grits out defensively and Lena places a calming hand on her forearm.

“I’d be happy to take a look,” she says, smiling at Alex and Eliza and walking over to where they’re hovering around a monitor. “Where do we start?”

Eliza gestures to the screen in front of them. “I’m trying to isolate a strand of the virus from Mon-El’s blood,” she says and Lena moves around to squint at the screen. It takes a second, but she sees it about the same time she feels Eliza’s hand suddenly grab at her forearm.

“I recognize that protein code,” Lena says softly and Eliza is looking at her with matching realization.

“What is it?” Alex asks, looking over their shoulder. Kara hovers around them in a nervous sort of pose, one arm crossed over her stomach and the other reaching up to twirl a strand of hair around.

“It’s from Krypton,” Lena says with a certain amount of confusion. How could that be possible?

Alex voices the question immediately. “The virus is from Krypton? How did Cadmus even get their hands on it?”

“My blood,” Kara adds suddenly, with rapidly growing fear on her face. “That’s why they needed it. To get in.”

“To get into what?” Alex asks, looking at her sister with trepidation. 

“The Fortress of Solitude,” Kara says, already turning to walk away from the group.

Alex calls after her, but Kara’s taken to a run and seconds later she’s blasting out of the base and into the sky.

“The Fortress of Solitude?” Lena asks softly, looking at Eliza for an answer, but the other woman looks just as confused as Lena feels.

--

When Kara returns, it’s with angry steps towards where they’re all congregated near Mon-El’s bedside, but Lena detects something else simmering just beneath the surface of Kara’s skin. She looks shaky and unsettled and Lena wants to reach out and hold her.

“Medusa is a weaponized virus made on Krypton for the express purpose of attacking non-Kryptonian physiology,” Kara explains without any pretense. Her hands rest in clenched fists on her hips and her eyes stray to Mon-El as she talks. “They took the formula from the fortress and now Cadmus can make as much of the virus as they want.”

The knowledge that her own mother has a virus capable of exterminating all alien life on Earth burns through Lena. But there’s something else Kara’s upset about. Lena can tell in the way her jaw stays tight and her eyes can’t stay on one thing for more than a few seconds.

“That explains why Mon-El survived,” Alex comments. “Kryptonians and Daxamites share similar DNA.”

“So he’ll live?” Kara asks, looking up and directly at Eliza for the first time since she’s returned.

“He’s fighting,” Eliza responds, looking at Kara with a gentle expression. “But he needs a cure.”

Kara takes a deep breath and holds out a small object towards them. “Here’s everything I could find about the virus from the fortress.”

Eliza takes it with a soft smile and Alex reaches out to reassure her sister. “We’ll start working on it right away,” she tells her before linking arms with her mother and walking back towards the labs.

J’onn looks at Kara for a moment longer. “You alright?”

Kara sends him a smile, but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

It’s clear he doesn’t buy it, but he nods and walks away, leaving Lena and Kara alone in the room with Mon-El, unconscious on the bed.

It’s quiet except for the beeping of machinery and the idle sounds of DEO agents shuffling around outside. Lena watches Kara for a moment before walking closer and settling a hand on a tense forearm. “What happened?”

It takes a few seconds for Kara to tear her gaze from Mon-El’s unmoving body and look at Lena, but when she does it’s with an expression that radiates pain and betrayal. “My father,” Kara says softly.

“What about him?”

“He created Medusa,” Kara confesses, looking like she can’t decide if she’s angry or sad. “He made the virus. The weapon.

“How do you know that?”

“Remember when I told you I have an AI of my mom?” Kara asks and Lena nods. “The Fortress of Solitude has basically everything Kal and I have from Krypton. Entire archives of history and - I asked it about Project Medusa. My father, a hologram of my father, told me that he created the weapon as a joint project between the science and military guilds to fight against alien invasions.”

Lena can practically feel the way Kara is vibrating with a dark energy and Lena slides her hand down until it’s tugging at Kara’s clenched fist, begging it to unravel and tangle with Lena’s fingers. “Kara,” she says softly.

“I thought my parents were the good guys,” she says, sounding tired and broken. It’s a pain Lena knows all too intimately.

“They were trying to protect your planet. They thought they were doing the right thing,” Lena argues, trying not to draw parallels to her own situation. Kara does it for her anyway.

“Just like your mom,” Kara retorts, shaking her head. “Like Lex.”

If it were anyone else speaking about her brother that way, Lena would feel an unstoppable need to shut down and clam up. But Kara looks lost and in pain and Lena just smiles in an attempt to soothe her. “We are not our family, Kara,” she says softly, not entirely sure if she believes that or not. “We are our own people.”

The sad look around Kara’s eyes doesn’t go away, but she does relax a little from the angry tension she walked in with. The hand Lena’s pulling at relents, letting their fingers twine together between them. There’s still red around her eyes, a slight hint of color like she recently used her heat vision and Lena wants to do whatever she can to make Kara smile again.

“What do you need?” Lena asks in a quiet voice, squeezing the hand she’s holding.

Kara returns the squeeze and looks at Lena with the slightest twitch of her lips. “Just stay here. With me.”

Lena nods, her chest tight with emotion. “Of course.”

Chapter Text

The DEO, it turns out, has a gorgeous view of National City from the small landing balcony on the far end of the base. It reminds her of her own office and she understands why Kara pulled her out here after long minutes of watching Mon-El do absolutely nothing in a medical bed.

Kara sags her head forward on crossed arms, leaned up against the balcony’s railing. “I hate feeling like there’s nothing I can do.”

“Alex and Eliza are two of the brightest minds in astrobiology and medicine. They’ll figure it out,” Lena soothes, stroking a palm down Kara’s back, underneath the cape, and watching as Kara leans into the touch.

They’re silent for a few moments, just the sounds of the city around them. Despite the looming danger of their circumstances, Lena feels at peace.

“It’s beautiful,” Lena murmurs.

“Yeah,” Kara breathes out, picking her head up and smiling a little. “Reminds me of Argo City, actually.”

The mention of Kara’s hometown makes Lena smile, her curiosity piqued. “Really?”

“It’s a lot like my bedroom when I was a kid. I could see the whole city from the window,” Kara says, eyes roaming National City. “All the lights and the pods zooming by.”

Lena hums encouragingly and tries to imagine what the city of Kara’s youth must have looked like. Kara had talked about it before, trying to create the image for Lena out of fragments of memories from her childhood and Lena feels a longing to see something she knows she’ll never be able to.

“I loved that city,” Kara confesses in that broken kind of voice she always has when she talks about Krypton. It’s darker now, something Lena didn’t know was possible, and Kara lets out an uncharacteristically bitter laugh. “What a joke.”

“Your memories aren’t a joke, Kara,” Lena says, turning to face her. Her hand presses into Kara’s back, trying to get Kara out of this slump.

“I went my whole life thinking my parents-” Kara shakes her head, looks out towards the city. “Now their legacy is nothing but death and destruction.” The crushed and betrayed tone in her voice is something Lena understands on a deep level.

Hating the defeated look of Kara’s entire body, Lena shifts closer, slides her arm through Kara’s until their fingers are tangled together. “Did you know you were the first person in my life that ever wanted to be my friend without any agenda?”

Apparently confused by the random divergence, Kara’s brow furrows when she looks at Lena. “I couldn’t have been.”

Lena hums, smiles fondly at the memory of running headfirst into Kara in the lobby of the science building. “My last name comes with some baggage,” Lena says softly, watching Kara’s face. A wave of understanding passes over it. “It’s especially true today. Most people wouldn’t touch a Luthor with a ten foot pool.”

“Those people are dumb,” Kara grumbles. “About you at least.”

Lena laughs a little. “I was used to people making all kinds of assumptions about me. Whether it was because they knew my brother, or they had heard of my parents, or maybe they’d noticed that my last name was on a few buildings around campus.”

“Lena,” Kara draws out, a little sadly.

“You never saw me as a Luthor,” Lena says quietly. “I remember being so surprised when I realized you didn’t even know I was one. You made me feel so...normal.”

“You’re more than your last name, Lena,” Kara says defensively, like she always had, and it wraps around Lena’s ribcage tightly.

“Yeah,” she sighs. “I know. But I like my last name. It’s the only one I’ve ever really had and I’d like to think I have some say in its legacy. Regardless of Lex or of my mother.”

“You do,” Kara answers quickly, squeezing Lena’s fingers.

“And so do you,” she says emphatically. “You’re the legacy that matters. The House of El lives on in you. Not in anything else. You’ve done so many good things, Kara Zor-El. Saved so many people here on Earth. Are you telling me all that can’t outweigh the sins of your parents? This one thing they’ve done?”

Kara’s lips thin, her jaw cutting a tight line as she looks at Lena thoughtfully. It’s only then that she realizes just how close they’ve gotten, Kara’s hip is touching Lena’s and their sides are pressed together. If Lena leaned forward just a few inches their foreheads would touch. The air around them heats up just a tad before Kara breaks the tension with a soft, small voice.

“I missed you,” she says and Lena eyes well up a little. It’s a wonder something hasn’t broken in her body with how often she’s had to restrain from crying the past few weeks. “Missed having you around,” Kara adds with a wry smile. “Even just as a friend.”

“I missed you too,” Lena confesses, soft but sure and she leans heavily into Kara’s side, ignores the warning bells that go off as she places her head against Kara’s bicep. “I’m glad we’re friends again.”

“You make me feel normal, too,” Kara says. It isn’t a new sentiment, but the fact that Lena can still help Kara feel at home nearly breaks her heart, like it always had. “Thank you for helping me with this.”

“Of course,” Lena whispers. Kara’s fingers are playing with hers now, tracing the bones of her hand.

“You know you were wrong about something,” Kara says suddenly, and she sounds like she’s smiling. Lena’s brows pull down as she picks up her head to look at Kara. She’s hardly ever wrong.

“About what?”

“I had an agenda,” Kara says, but there’s a curve to the edge of her lips. “When I wanted to be your friend.”

“Did you?” Lena asks with a matching smile, enjoying the teasing glint to Kara’s eyes.

“Yeah,” Kara replies, lifting her chin a little. “You were so pretty. How could I not want to be around you all the time?”

“Kara,” Lena all but groans, rolling her eyes.

“I was just trying to get some coffee and all of a sudden, someone was running straight into me. And then I had to catch you, because you like bounced right off me and humans are so fragile,” Kara says, and she pokes at Lena’s side. “And you looked so mad.”

“I thought I had run into a wall,” Lena says, and she tries not to lose herself in the memory, of how she had turned her eyes up and stared at a beautiful girl. Definitely not a wall.

“You had that stupid baseball hat on and that thick navy sweatshirt with the little horse guy on it,” Kara says and Lena shakes her head, remembering the disheveled way she had dressed hastily for class.

“Stop,” Lena commands in a whisper, fighting a smile as well as a blush.

Kara relents with a sigh and straightens, turning with a more serious expression. Their hands unclasp and Lena steps back to put some space between them. “You should probably go find Alex,” she says even though she looks about as pleased with the idea of separating as Lena feels about it. Being near Kara had always intoxicated her. This is no different. “Your brain is put to better use than sitting out here trying to cheer me up.”

“I’m where I want to be,” Lena replies softly and Kara deflates noticeably with a soft smile.

“But not where you need to be,” Kara says wryly. “I’m okay.”

Lena looks at her skeptically, but Kara laughs it off. “I really am. Go find Alex. Figure out what the hell is going on with this virus so I can punch something.”

“We’ve both had a really long past couple of days,” Lena says pointedly. “It’s okay to need a few minutes to decompress.”

Kara blows out a heavy breath. It ruffles the edges of Lena’s dress. “Yeah, but we have a responsibility. One I’m letting you neglect.”

Everything in her wants to say out here with Kara, try to smooth out the last wrinkles of despair that still linger around her eyes, but another part of her wants to be in the lab, doing something with her hands and her mind that can figure out the key to stopping her mother’s plan.

“Lena,” Kara says, interrupting her internal debate. “Please go put that big brain of yours to use.”

“I’m here if you need me,” she tells Kara softly. 

“I know,” Kara replies, with the prettiest of smiles. If it were four years ago Lena wouldn't’ be able to stop herself from kissing it. Even now she’s having trouble resisting the urge. They’ve crossed some barrier that’s allowed them to touch more freely now and it’s only making it worse. The smart thing would be to revert back to the boundaries Lena so strictly advocated for weeks ago, but she’s not sure she could even if she tried.

They touched as friends like this anyway, soft and sure and often absentmindedly. She can handle it now. Even if every time she feels Kara’s hands on her all she wants to do is press full bodied against her ex-girlfriend and drown the world out.

“I’ll see you later,” Lena says against the thick wet feeling in her throat.

Kara reaches out, squeezes Lena’s bicep lightly in a way that does nothing to help the warm feeling pooling in her stomach. “You will.”

Before she does something that will further blur the fading lines drawn between them, Lena turns and leaves Kara on the small platform as she walks back into the base in search of Alex and Eliza.

J’onn is standing just inside when Lena starts down the stairs and he watches her with an unreadable expression. She smiles at him and he returns it, though it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. He glances outside to where Kara is still standing, and Lena looks back as well - Kara is leaning again against the railing, looking out on the skyline and rubbing at her wrist absentmindedly. She feels a burst of affection rush through her, wants to go back out there and hold Kara. But she turns back, and J’onn is looking at her again, nodding to himself as if he’s decided something.

She thinks to ask him, to say something, but he’s already walking past her, up the stairs towards Kara before she gets a chance.

--

Tokyo is a city that never seems to truly sleep and it fits Lena like a glove. She works all day and all night. The new lab is coming along swimmingly and her almost maniacal devotion to working through the night fits right in with the normal Japanese work ethic. It’s not hard to convince a few techs to burn the midnight oil with her or find a restaurant still serving food when she takes a break at 4am.

The work is the only thing preventing her from calling Kara and breaking down. Every time she stops, takes a moment for herself she can't stop the avalanche of emotion that floods through her - wishful thinking that Kara was there with her, still a part of her everyday. If she closes her eyes it's easy to imagine Kara sitting on the edge of her bed talking absently about her day, or pressing up against Lena before bed, laughter traded between kisses. The images haunt her so badly that sleep seems an unreachable goal. So she gets back out of bed most nights and stares at blueprints and readouts and sets her phone in the hotel room safe so she won’t give in. It would be so easy to just call Kara. Tell her she misses her. She knows Kara would be there in a heartbeat, zooming across oceans to find Lena.

When she does sleep, it’s exhaustion-induced, after days of being awake. Those are the worst days, because she’ll wake up and the sun will be shining on her bed, and she’ll forget for a moment. Forget that Kara's not here. For a brief heart stopping second it's easy to believe that if she reached out across sheets, her hand would hit a warm body and Kara would roll over sleepily, tug Lena into an embrace and coax her back to sleep. The feeling of cold that fills her out when she realizes that Kara’s not there is earth shattering, every time. So she works, and avoids sleep, and works some more. And it goes on and on.

After two weeks of nearly nonstop working she’s surprised to walk into the lobby of her hotel and see her brother waiting there, dressed immaculately in a pinstripe suit and scrolling through his phone in an oversized chair.

She paces over to him quickly, “Lex!”

His head picks up and he grins wide and easy when he spots her, standing and pocketing his phone. “Hey, little sister,” he says stepping forward and wrapping her up in a hug.

The familiarity of his embrace settles something thick in her throat and it feels so undeniably good to see him. The cold, isolated feeling she’s had the last few weeks ebbs away in that moment and she grips at her brother’s shoulders longer than normal.

“You okay?” he asks when they break apart and she just nods, knows that if she tries to talk her shaky voice will give her away. He seems to notice, but he doesn’t push, just wraps an arm around her shoulders and steers her towards the elevators at the far end of the lobby. “I hear things with the lab are going well.”

“They are,” she says, grateful to be talking about something neutral like work. “Did you come all the way to Japan just to check up on me?” 

He laughs. “No, of course not,” he tells her, squeezing her shoulders a little. “I was actually hoping you’d help me with something.”

“Really?” Lena asks, turning to look up at him. She presses the button to call the elevator and waits for him to elaborate.

“Let’s go get a drink and I’ll tell you all about it,” he says with a charming smile. “I’ve been craving a Suntory 30 ever since I touched down.”

“You have disgustingly expensive taste,” Lena teases as they step into the elevator.  

“I have great taste,” he retorts, adjusting his tie with exaggerated movements and winking at her. While he waits for her to freshen up in the hotel room, he doesn’t talk - doesn’t mention the stack of coffee cups on the desk or the way she’s drawn all the windows closed so the sunlight won’t get in.

They end up at at some bar Lex insisted they go to - it’s way too far from Lena’s hotel in her opinion, but he raves about the view and goes on for twenty minutes about the whiskey selection, so she relents. It’s better than trying to sleep.

“So,” Lex says, taking a sip of the amber liquid in his glass. Lena cuts into her steak and arches an eyebrow at her brother. He’s been looking at her carefully since they’ve sat down, and she doesn’t love his tone.

“So.”

“Takano says you’ve been working almost non stop since you got here,” he says, observing her with a critical narrowing of his eyes. “Barely stopping to eat or sleep.”

Lena scoffs. “You’ve been speaking to my employees?”

“They’re my employees too,” Lex reminds her, setting his glass down and reaching over to pluck a potato off her plate.

“I’m just trying to get this lab open. It’s a lot of work.”

“Sure,” Lex agrees with a shrug. “But I don’t think that’s it.”

She laughs, sets her silverware down and takes a sip of her wine. “I don’t know what you mean.”  

His face grows serious and Lena looks away for a moment, out at the city lights and dark water below them. “Tell me you’re not throwing yourself into work to avoid…” he trails off, looking just a pinch uncomfortable. “Personal problems.”  

“Personal problems,” she repeats with an incredulous tone. “Lex, please.”  

A part of her wants to scream, all of a sudden, that Kara could never be a simple personal problem. That Kara not being with her was a life problem, a broken thing that could never be tinkered at or solved. She sips her wine instead.

“Lena,” he says, sounding so big brotherly that Lena responds to it, her shoulders dropping. “I know a little bit about working hard as a distraction tactic.”

“That's not what this is.”

“Your decision to break up with Kara,” he starts and just the sound of her name jolts something inside her so violently she has to set her wine glass down for fear she might break it. It’s the first time anyone’s spoken it to her in weeks and it feels like she’s slipped a bone from its place.

“You wouldn’t have done it any differently,” she interrupts and she tries not to sound angry, but isn't entirely successful. 

“I understand why you did it, yes,” he says, picking his whiskey back up. The liquid sloshes against the sides of the glass and Lena watches it to avoid looking at the kind expression on her brother’s face. “But I’m worried about you.”

“You needn’t be,” she says, clearing her throat and picking her silverware back up. She cuts another piece of her steak, eyes trained on her plate. “It’s only been a few weeks. I’ll be fine.”

“Lee,” he sighs. “You love her. You’re torturing yourself by doing this.”

“Lex,” she says. “I don’t want to talk about this. I thought you came for my help on a new project, not to check up on me. Or give me-” she waves her fork around, stumbling over her words just a little, "relationship advice." 

He stares at her for a long moment, jaw tight, before reading the warning in her eyes and relenting. Pulling his phone out of his inside jacket pocket, he brings up a blueprint on the screen and passes it to her.

“What is it?” She asks, abandoning her food to flip through the images.

“A suit,” he responds. “A Superman suit.”

It startles her, reminds her of Kara, and she looks back up at him, confused. “You’re making a suit for Superman?”  

“No,” he laughs. “It’s for me. Or I suppose for anyone that needs it.”

It occurs to her then what she’s looking at and her eyes race over the table of equations Lex has laid out, the plans for all of its different components. “You finally figured it out?”

He nods, smiling gleefully, proud even as he leans back in his chair and takes a heavy sip of his drink. “We can harness his power. It’s going to revolutionize this world. If we get this suit to work, we won’t have to rely on one single Superman for the rest of our lives to come and save us. We could save ourselves.”  

It reminds her of Kara immediately and she struggles to quash the images of her ex-girlfriend, the sound of her voice in her head. Kara’s hands, wrapped around her, carrying her away from her car crash. Kara's voice confessing a desperate need to help people, to use her powers for good, to do the things her cousin gets to do. Fear claws at her chest like it always does when she imagines Kara flying headfirst towards a disaster, an enemy, a fight. She clears her throat against the feeling. 

“What do you need me for?”

“Well,” he says with a playful smile. “I’m having a little trouble with the cooling system and the bio readings are all over the place if the suit is in use for too long. I also can’t seem to get it to stay in flight for long enough to be viable. I thought the second smartest person I know could maybe see something I can’t.”

She thinks of the encrypted spreadsheet she has saved on an encrypted hard drive, stored in her safe. Kara’s powers, all laid out and measured. She could do this. Help save the world. Help Kara from having to save the world.  

“The second smartest person?” She teases with an arch of her brow.

“After me, of course,” he says with a wide grin and a shrug.

Later that night, she falls asleep and dreams of the suit. Imagines a world without Superman, a world without Kara ever feeling the need to walk in his shoes. It’s the best sleep she’s had in weeks.

--

Eliza and Alex are hugging tightly when Lena shows back up at the lab and if she hadn’t just opened the door noisily enough to startle both women, Lena would have backed out and left them alone.

“I’m so sorry for interrupting,” Lena says, eying them apologetically.

Eliza waves her off. “Not at all,” she says and Lena tries not to look at the way Alex wipes at the corner of her eye. “I should go check on Mon-El’s vitals. I’ll be back in a minute.”

And with that, Eliza walks past Lena and out the door. Alex sits back down on a stool and Lena approaches her cautiously, noticing the shaky way she takes a breath.

“You okay?” Lena asks, unsure if Alex will even respond.

Alex smiles though, wide and rare and Lena finds herself responding to it herself. “Yeah, actually. I’m great.”

“Good,” Lena says, eying Alex a little warily as she walks over. It doesn’t seem like Alex is going to offer anything further, not that Lena would expect her to. She glances at the monitor in front of Alex. “What are you working on? Can I help?”

“I’m breaking down the virus at a molecular level,” Alex tells her, reaching out her hands and starting to type at her computer. “See if we can find anything out from that.”

Lena watches over her shoulder and hums affirmatively.

Alex turns a little to glance at Lena. “So…” she starts. “What do you think of the DEO?”

“Impressive,” Lena admits with a small shrug of her shoulder. “But some of your equipment is a little dated.”

“This equipment is state of the art,” Alex argues and Lena tries not to smirk. It’s true that there is a significant amount of tech she’d love to get a closer look at, but she doesn’t need to give Alex the satisfaction of knowing that.

“I work with state of the art everyday at L Corp,” Lena says with an air of indifference. “Just because you have access to alien technology...”

Alex thins her lips, crosses her arms. “If L Corp would consider government contracts, you could have access to that alien technology.”

It’s an intriguing thought, but Lena laughs. “You can’t afford me,” she says plainly.

“And if I sent Kara to negotiate the contract?”

Arching an eyebrow, Lena shoots Alex a half smile. “Do you play chess, Alex?”

A bemused smile spreads over Alex’s lips. “Not if I can help it.”

“You’d be a formidable opponent,” she tells her kindly.

Alex is still smiling, but there’s something serious in the set of her eyes. “Not against you, I’d imagine.”

Before Lena can respond, Winn walks into the lap holding a tablet and is halfway through a sentence about synthesizing the virus when the words choke to a halt in his mouth when he sees Lena.

“Lena!”

“Hello, Winn,” Lena says with a smile, watching his mouth flounder around as he looks between her and Alex.

“I had no idea you were here,” he says, walking forward and setting his tablet on the desk. He looks surprised, but happy that she’s here.

“It’s Lena ,” Alex tells him dryly, leaning back in her chair. It’s meant to be an imitation of Kara, that much is clear, and Lena blushes.

“Of course,” Winn says with a knowing look, and Lena wonders if it’s merely because he knows she and Kara are friends or if he’s figured something else out.

“Did you find anything out about the virus?” Alex asks him and he shakes his head with a shrug.

“So far, all the crystal Kara brought back has is a lot of information about how to synthesize and disseminate the virus, but I don’t think they ever considered a cure,” Winn says with a helpless shrug.

Eliza comes back into the room, Kara trailing behind her. “How’s Mon-El?” Alex asks. 

“Not getting any better,” Eliza says and Kara purses her lips. “He needs a cure.”

“The entire alien population of National City is going to need a cure if Cadmus successfully weaponizes it,” Winn adds wryly.

“Maybe we need to start thinking like Cadmus,” Alex offers. “They have the formula. What’s missing? What do they still need?”

Lena tries not to notice the way everyone but Kara seems to glance right at her.

“A dispersion agent,” Eliza answers. “But the virus is Kryptonian. There wouldn’t be one available on this planet.”

A molecular breakdown of the virus is still up on Alex’s screen and as Lena stares at it, the answer pops straight into her brain. “Isotope 454,” she whispers to herself, remembering long nights spent cataloging Lex’s old projects.

No one seems to hear her and they keep talking to each other, bouncing off ideas, but Kara’s eyes are trained on her and it’s clear that her superhearing picked up what Lena was saying.

“Lena,” Kara says, and the sound of it cuts the rest of the group off mid sentence. “What is it?”

“The dispersion agent,” she says. “There’s an analogous one here on Earth.”

“How do you know that?” Winn asks, brow furrowed.

“When I took over from my brother,” she says, trying not to stumble over the last word. “I went through a lot of his old projects. Primarily to weed out some of the more world domination oriented ones.” Kara shoots her an encouraging smile. “He created a lot of different biological weapons - synthetic plagues really.” No one noticeably reacts, but Lena can sense the unease that settles over them. “Isotope 454. It’s nearly identical to the Kryptonian version. My brother spent a lot of resources on trying to create Kryptonian elements on earth.”

“Isotope 454.” Alex repeats. “What is it? Where could Cadmus find it?”

“It’s incredibly rare,” Lena adds. “Because it’s produced exclusively by my company.”

The room is silent for a long moment before Eliza speaks, looking at Lena with quiet sympathy. “It’s all Cadmus needs to weaponize the virus. With the isotope they’d be able to spread the virus all over the city.”

“I just spoke with my mother,” she says without thinking of it. “I’m surprised she didn’t just ask me for it. Or at least hint at it. She had full access to the building, but I checked the security logs.”

“You what?” Kara replies with a deep disapproving glare that Lena pulls back from, just realizing what she’d confessed to.

“I checked the security logs,” Lena repeats, looking at Kara and trying not to notice the small, barely there thread of distrust that swirls its way among the group. “She didn’t go anywhere apart from my office.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Kara grits out, frowning.

“I set a meeting with my mother because she has no idea I know about Cadmus and I thought-”

“After you promised not to,” Kara interrupts, hands on her hips.

“I never promised that,” Lena replies, chin lifting in defiance. “I wanted to see if she’d give anything away. I told you I was going to.”

Kara keeps glaring at her, but Alex’s voice pulls Lena’s gaze away. “Well did she?”

“No,” Lena says. “I mean, she acted a little suspicious, but other than that it was a normal frosty meeting with my mother.”

“Maybe she knew you wouldn’t give it to her if she asked,” Eliza says and Lena feels something warm inside her at the subtle way Eliza presumes which side of it all Lena would fall on.

“She needs it though,” Lena says, shaking her head. “She’ll try to acquire it somehow.”

“Probably send her henchmen for it,” Winn comments. “You guys store it at L Corp?”

“There’s a stockpile there,” Lena replies. “It has a very unique radioactive signature. You could track it. Make sure it hasn’t been moved.”

Winn straightens at that, picks his tablet up off the desk and puts his finger up in the air as he walks out. “On it.”

“Winn’s right,” Alex says, standing and grabbing her phone. “If Lillian needs that isotope it’s highly likely she’d send someone for it. Tonight.”

“Then we should secure it before she can,” Lena says thinking of the employees that might still be working over the holidays, the night security shift.

Before anyone can say anything else, Lena walks away from the group, intent on collecting her bag with her keycards and computer and heading straight to her office. If she can get there in time she can do something with the isotope before Cadmus or her mother gets to it. Distantly, she hears Kara yell after her, but she keeps walking until a strong hand is pulling her to a halt just outside the door to the medical lab.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Kara asks, looking furious.

“Getting my bag,” Lena answers, trying to pull her arm out of Kara’s grip. When Kara notices, she releases her immediately, but steps between Lena and the door.

“And then what?”

Realizing that there is no way she’s going to get Kara to let her return to L Corp without a fight, Lena changes strategies. “And then you’re going to fly me back to my office and-”

No,” Kara says vehemently. “You stay here and I will go to your office to get the isotope.” 

“We’re on a clock here, Kara. We don’t have time to argue about this,” Lena retorts, hands on her hips in a mimic of Kara’s own angry posture.

“I’m not letting you go back to L Corp Tower where I am sure Lillian will send her goons to collect the isotope. I brought you here to keep you safe.”

“You don’t know what you’re looking for,” Lena insists. “I will be perfectly safe if you come with and the longer we stand here arguing about it the less time we are going to have to stop my mother.”

“She’s right,” Lena hears from behind her, and she turns to see Alex standing there.

“Stay out of it, Alex,” Kara warns.

“Kara, we do not have time to debate this. Lena is the best person to get the isotope for us and you’re the best to protect her while she does it. Stop arguing and get moving,” Alex says with a certain amount of authority that even Lena finds herself responding to. “I already sent Maggie and whatever units she has available that direction.”

Kara looks all set to fight her sister and lock Lena in a closet somewhere, so Lena moves forward, shielding Alex from Kara’s eyeline. She puts her best pleading expression on and smooths a hand down Kara’s arm. “We’ll be fine,” she says softly and after a brief moment of staring, Kara relents, stepping aside to allow Lena back into the lab.

“In and out,” Kara says, when Lena steps back next to her, bag slung over a shoulder.

“In and out,” Lena agrees with a raise of her eyebrow. This time she doesn’t hesitate before stepping up into Kara’s personal space and slinging an arm around her shoulders.

Kara looks a little taken aback by the action, but recovers quickly and slides an arm around Lena’s waist, bending to put another under her knees.

--

The first time Lena meets Alex Danvers is one of the most terrifying and nerve wracking experiences of her life. And considering she grew up in a household run by Lillian Luthor, that’s saying something.

It doesn’t help that Kara talks about her older sister like she hung the moon and the stars and Lena’s pretty sure that Alex’s approval of her is a make or break it kind of thing.

The fact that she was raised to keep calm in intimidating situations is the only thing that saves her when Alex gives her an immediate once over with a critical stare that can only be described as frosty. Kara is watching them with a wide easy grin like she’s completely unaware of what is happening and if Lena wasn’t so afraid to break eye contact with Alex first, she’d cut a glare in her girlfriend’s direction.

“Nice to meet you, Alex,” Lena says with a smile. “Kara has told me a considerable amount about you. I hear you’re in medical school?” 

“Yes,” Alex responds simply.

They’re at a local bar, one of Kara’s favorites because it serves its full kitchen menu until 3am, and Alex has said about three words to her since they sat down.

“I’ll get us drinks,” Kara says, bouncing away from the table and Lena almost yells at her for suddenly leaving her alone with her sister.

Except Alex is leaning forward now that it’s just the two of them and a smile plays a little at her lips. “So. Kara thinks you’re pretty great,” Alex says, watching Lena with a hard stare.

“I think she’s pretty great too,” Lena responds, glancing away only to see Kara leaning over the bar trying to get the bartender’s attention.

“Yeah, because she is,” Alex deadpans like it’s unspeakable for someone to think otherwise. “I love my sister.”

Lena just barely bites back against the I love her too that wants to come out. “I know.”

“And I trust her judgement,” Alex says, the tense lines around her eyes softening for a moment. “But Kara likes to assume the best about people.”

Feeling suddenly defensive, Lena bristles a little, but before she can say anything Alex continues. “I don’t know you,” she says with a little shrug. “I just want Kara to be happy.”

“I do too,” Lena replies and Alex seems to transform into a normal human being, smiling genuinely.

“Then we’re good,” Alex says just as Kara returns with three beers clutched in her hands. She hands one to her sister before sliding in next to Lena and pressing a quick kiss to her cheek as she sets the drinks down in front of them.

“What are you guys talking about?” Kara asks, glancing between the two of them.

Alex points at Lena with her beer, smiles like they’re good friends. “Lena here thinks she can beat me at pool.”

“Alex is really good,” Kara stage whispers to Lena with something like worry in her eyes.

Lena laughs a little. “I’m always game for a challenge.”

Later, when she and Kara say goodbye to Alex and walk back to campus, Kara swings their hands happily between them. “I think Alex likes you,” she says.

Lena’s not so sure that’s true, but all in all it seemed to work out. “She’s very protective of you,” Lena observes.

“Sometimes Alex forgets that I’m invulnerable,” Kara laughs with a shrug.

It’s not really what Lena meant, and it’s not what Alex is protective over, but she lets it go. “I like her,” she admits. Once Alex dropped the cold overprotective big sister routine, they got along just fine. Alex is smart and funny and good enough at pool to give Lena a run for her money.

Kara grins wide, happiness practically bursting out of her. “I’m glad.”

--

L Corp is quieter than Lena expected despite the late hour. The desperation of earlier had her convinced Lillian would have already sent a cadre of loyal Cadmus followers to raid the place. Kara sets them down in her office and Lena slides immediately into her desk chair, pulling out her laptop and logging into the L Corp mainframe.

“What are you doing?” Kara asks, eyes searching the room on high alert and one hand arriving at Lena’s shoulder, warm, heavy, and somewhat reassuring.

“This company is massive,” Lena tells her, bringing up project inventory logs. “It’s not like I can just walk to the hall closet and find the isotope. I’m figuring out which storage unit it’s in.”

It occurs to her that even at this late hour Lana Lang might still be awake and in the lab despite the holiday weekend. Just as she’s about to see if Lana’s logged into the system, Kara gasps loudly, her entire body straightening in a telltale sign she’s picked something up with her superhearing.

“What is it?” Lena asks, fingers hovered over her keyboard.

“Stay here,” is all Kara says in answer, zooming out the balcony door and out of sight. What was wrong with explaining things before flying off to punch them?

Instinct pulls her in the direction Kara fled to, but she turns back to her computer and works quickly to find out where the isotope is, locating it a few moments later and mentally cataloging the location.

The security alarms go off not seconds later, and without a moment’s more hesitation, Lena flees her office, heading for her private elevator and hitting the button for the lobby.

The minute she rounds the corner from the elevator banks, she spots Kara engaged in a battle with a man that looks suspiciously like J’onn J’onzz except with a metal plate obscuring half his face. With wide eyes she watches Kara get thrown like a rag doll into the large cement L Corp sign and it topples over with the force of it.

Lena feels frozen at the sight of Kara on the ground looking hurt and broken, like she’s been ripped straight from Lena’s nightmares.

She’s so stuck on it that she doesn’t even notice the sight of the man Kara’d been fighting walking over to pick up a heavy piece of the cement L and throw it in her direction. The last thing she sees is Kara picking her head up to look at her and the next second she’s in Kara’s arms, flown around the corner into relative safety.

“I told you to stay in your office,” Kara growls, setting Lena back down and looking over her shoulder. Her hands are holding at Lena’s waist, and she looks frustrated, but Lena doesn’t care.

“Are you hurt?” Lena asks, running her hands down Kara’s arms. The wall suddenly reverberates loudly and Kara pulls Lena’s head down protectively, covering her with most of her body and her cape. It must be the rest of the L Corp sign being thrown in their direction, Lena thinks.

“Get somewhere safe,” Kara orders her, when they straighten back up. “Now.”

Kara steps away, pokes her head around the corner before looking back at Lena, who hasn’t moved. “Lena,” Kara says with force. “Move.”

“I have to get across the lobby,” Lena hisses, gesturing towards the other set of elevators that lead to the basement levels on the other side of the lobby. They both cower a little when they continue to hear crashing and growling. Kara looks at the elevators in question with a helpless expression like she can’t decide what to do.

“Stay here,” Kara seems to settle on, echoing her earlier command. And with that she’s gone, speeding back around the corner and Lena hears what sounds like two bodies colliding forcefully.

The sound of the fight rattles in Lena’s brain painfully and she tries not to imagine Kara fighting, not to imagine the pained expression she had on her face just seconds ago. Back pressed against the wall just around the corner from the lobby, Lena hears sirens pull up to the building and the loud yelling of what must be a SWAT team storming through the front door.

When the bullets go off, Lena can’t help but jump. She listens as they bounce around the walls of the building. Something shatters and it echoes across the space and she spares a thought for the amount of money it is going to cost to clean up after this. L Corp doesn’t really need any unnecessary expenditures right now.

But then all sound cuts off so suddenly that Lena’s curiosity pulls her forward until she’s poking her head out around the corner and gasping at what she sees.

It isn’t so much the fact that the J’onn doppelganger has Kara pinned to the floor, an angry maniacal expression on his face. It’s the blueish anomaly floating in the air above the front doors that has her wide-eyed. The same anomaly that appeared over Kara’s dinner table on Thanksgiving.

Kara must have picked up on her gasp because she turns her head to Lena and while the man attacking her is distracted by the floating thing above their heads, Kara takes advantage and gets out of his hold, kicking him down in an efficient motion. Just as he’s down on the ground the blue anomaly pops out of existence as quickly as it appeared, Kara turning to look before it disappears. Lena can’t place the look of disappointment on her face when it goes away.

Which is about when the man shoots what looks a lot like Kara’s heat vision towards the cadre of police officers on the other side of the lobby and hits one in the shoulder.

“Maggie!” Kara yells and Lena’s heart squeezes in realization. Kara abandons her fight and scrambles over immediately. With a window of opportunity, the man leaps to his feet and takes off just as Lena comes out of hiding. She’s halfway across the lobby towards Kara when she realizes he’s disappeared.

Maggie Sawyer is on the ground clutching at her shoulder where a wound is flashing blue and red and Kara’s face is a mixture of fear and concern as she comes to her knees next to her. Absently Lena wonders if Maggie is aware of Kara’s identity. Kara’s hands hover over Maggie’s body like she doesn’t know what to do and Lena watches from over her shoulder.

“Just get the bastard,” Maggie grits out in obvious pain, sparing a glance to where Lena is standing.

“He’s gone,” one of the SWAT team members calls out and Kara stands, spits out a word that Lena recognizes as a Kryptonian slur and blows out a heavy breath.

“We need a medical team over here,” Kara says to a passing officer and she turns back to Maggie to help her to her feet.

The wound is still glowing a little, but it’s fading, and suddenly, Alex Danvers is bursting into the L Corp lobby with her gun raised. “Alex!” Kara exclaims, propping Maggie up with an arm around her waist. Alex’s eyes go wide when she sees the scene and Lena understands that feeling so intimately she nearly laughs.

“What happened?” Alex asks, stalking over, but only lowering her gun halfway. The question is directed at Kara, but her eyes stay trained on Maggie.

“Henshaw was here. He got away,” Kara replies, moving Maggie until she can sit in an abandoned chair at the security desk. Lena follows, throws a tight smile to Alex when she glances over.

“The isotope?” Alex asks, this time finally looking at Lena.

Kara turns to her as well and her expression startles a little as if she just remembered Lena was there. “Did you find it?”

“I did,” Lena responds watching as Alex crouches over Maggie’s sitting form to observe the wound in her shoulder. “Or at least I know where it currently is.”

“I’ll take Maggie to the DEO,” Alex says, her hand on Maggie’s unwounded shoulder. Lena watches the soft way the detective observes Alex through the pain still evident around her eyes. “You guys go secure the isotope.”

“Right,” Kara says with a nod, hands on her hips and looking grateful to have some kind of instruction. Turning on her heel she shoots Lena a tense expression and ushers her away by the elbow in the direction of the elevators Lena had indicated earlier.

“You okay?” Lena asks softly when they’re alone in an elevator car, the soft whoosh of it the only sound.

Kara’s body is tight, rigid even and there’s a look of exhaustion permanently etched into her features even when she looks at Lena. “I told you to stay in your office,” Kara says, but the words don’t come out angry. The tone is sad, almost scared.

“We’re here to get the isotope,” Lena says reasonably, keeping her tone light and even. What she wants to say, to reiterate for the millionth time, is that Kara is no position to be telling her what to do. But she doesn’t want to argue, not with the worried crinkle around Kara’s eyes. “I was making sure that part got done.”

“Lena,” Kara sighs, backing up against the wall of the elevator and throwing her head back a little, eyes on the ceiling. Lena knows Kara hates small spaces, knows the look on Kara’s face of anxiety and fear, and she can’t help but let her own annoyance drift away.

“Relax,” Lena murmurs, reaching out to run her hand down Kara’s forearm, her fingers tracing the smooth fabric of her suit. Kara takes a deep breath, and squeezes Lena’s hand when it arrives in her own, just briefly.

The elevator doors open and Lena strides out of the car, taking long steps towards the labs at the far end of the corridor.

To her surprise, Lana Lang is in fact still in the labs, taking a screwdriver to some device at a workstation as if there wasn’t just a massive showdown in the lobby not five minutes ago. The sound must not have reached this far down, but the alarms should have evacuated the building.

“Lana!” Lena greets, shock coloring her tone. Lana’s head picks up immediately and she smiles wide at Lena, setting her device down and only hesitating when she glances over Lena’s shoulder where Kara must be standing.

“Supergirl,” Lana says with a strange kind of reverence. Lena knows for a fact that Lana has met Superman on more than one occasion, but from the look on Lana’s face it’s as if it’s the first time the other woman has ever encountered a Kryptonian in the flesh.

Kara just sort of glances between the two of them, hands at her hips. “Hello.”

It makes Lena want to laugh, a quick moment of normalcy amongst all that’s happened in the last few hours, but she bites her lip instead. “Lana Lang, Supergirl. Supergirl, Lana Lang.”

“Nice to meet you,” Kara says, but she doesn’t move forward to shake Lana’s hand, just continues to look at the both of them with a wary expression.

Lana must pick up on it because she stands suddenly and focuses on Lena. “Something I can do for you, Miss Luthor?”

It’s formal, as if Supergirl’s presence requires some kind of professionalism and Lena’s struck that for most people it probably would. Supergirl is some kind of icon, an otherworldy figure, a symbol more than anything. She forgets that sometimes. Forgets that Supergirl isn’t just Kara the way she is to Lena.

Before Lena can answer, Kara steps forward, close enough to Lena that they touch, and sends Lana a polite smile. “We’re just here to get something,” she says vaguely and Lena turns a furrowed brow her direction. Kara puts a palm at the small of Lena’s back, just a little pressure that says move on and Lena sighs, understands Kara’s meaning.

“She’s right,” Lena says, knowing how thin the reasoning sounds. “We’ll be out of here in just a moment.”

Lana shrugs a little and continues to look confused, but nods. “Okay.”

Already feeling Kara pushing them away from Lana, Lena smiles at the other girl. “Go home, Lana. It’s late.”

“Yes, Miss Luthor,” Lana says with a little laugh as her shoulders relax.

They leave Lana there and pace to a back door leading out to a long hallway full of storage units. Lena leads them down the corridor until she can find the right one.

“I didn’t know Lana Lang still worked here,” Kara says quietly, while Lena’s swiping into the correct room that holds the isotope. When she pushes the door open, the storage unit’s lights flicker on.

She sends a curious glance over her shoulder. “You know Lana?”

Kara’s arms are crossed as she follows behind Lena, her gaze raking over the shelves upon shelves of cataloged projects. “Not really.”

“Then why would you know if she worked here or not?”

“I don’t know,” Kara says softly, squinting to read the name on a nearby box.

Lena stops, turns to look at Kara full on. “You’re being particularly evasive.”  

“No I’m not,” Kara denies so hastily that Lena almost laughs.

“Kara,” she chastises.

Kara deflates a little. “My cousin knows her,” she admits and while Lena had been aware that Lana had run into Superman a few times in Metropolis, the way Kara says it implies something more intimate than the casual rescue now and then. “Or, he used to.”

“I didn’t know that.”

Shrugging, Kara looks away, traces her fingers over a shelf. “It’s not really something people know I guess.”

Kara had always been protective over Superman, and it makes sense that she might be confused to see a maybe former love interest of his, but she’s still acting strange.

“Is there something I should know -” Lena steps closer, lowers her voice. “Lana is my employee and -” she stumbles a bit, “a friend of mine. If there’s something I should be aware of-”

“No,” Kara says, cutting her off firmly. “No. I was just surprised to see her. She doesn’t even know me and I don’t know her.”

“Okay,” Lena says unconvinced.

“I’m happy she’s your friend,” Kara says with a strange emphasis on the last word. Kara’s reaction makes even more sense then, but she doesn’t have time to think about it.

With a roll of her eyes, Lena turns back around, paces down the row of boxes to find the one she’s looking for and she pulls it off the shelf with a heavy tug. “This is it,” she says, double checking the tag on the shelf.

“Great,” Kara says, plucking it from her hands immediately. “Let’s go.”

--

They get back to the DEO with little trouble and Lena feels a certain amount of ease as soon as she hands over the isotope to J’onn.

“Good work,” he says to them and she feels Kara puff up a little at the praise.

Eliza smiles from behind J’onn where she’s standing next to Alex and she gestures towards the briefcase Lena’s just given him. “Hopefully this can bring us closer to finding a cure for Mon-El,” she says, taking the isotope when J’onn hands it over.

“How is he?” Kara asks with concern.

Eliza doesn’t answer, just thins her lips and looks at Kara with a gentle expression. “We’ll work hard,” she says, and then looks at Lena. “I could use another pair of eyes.”

Lena blinks, a little surprised even though she’s been helping this whole time. Part of her assumed her role at the DEO up until now had been more to keep her under surveillance than anything. A very small part, but the inkling had been there nonetheless.

“Of course,” Lena says, stepping forward towards Eliza. As they turn to go she hesitates just a moment, looks at Kara over her shoulder who is watching them with worried eyes. Kara looks tired and Lena knows she’s the cause of some of it.

But her ex-girlfriend merely smiles when she notices Lena’s glance. “I’m going to go check on Mon-El,” she says and stalks off in the opposite direction. Alex watches her go for a minute, before shooting an identical smile at Eliza and Lena.

“I’m going to make sure she’s okay,” is all she says before following after Kara.

J’onn looks at Lena for a moment, his expression the same as it has always been and Lena feels something prick at the back of her neck, but he just smiles at the both of them and it manages to look genuine. “Let me know if you need anything, ladies,” he says before walking over to where Winn is twirling in his chair, typing away at something on the computer in front of him. 

“Come on,” Eliza says to Lena, gesturing with her head towards the labs. “Let’s go cure this thing.”

--

The first thing Lena ever notices about the Danvers family home is that it feels like home.

It’s so different than how she grew up and though she has deep affection for the house she was raised in, it’s never quite felt so full of life as Kara’s home does.

“So this is my room,” Kara is saying, spinning around in the small bedroom and Lena looks around, observes how different it is than her bedroom in the west wing of Luthor Manor. Not better nor worse, just different.

“I like it,” Lena says, running her finger over the desk against the wall and looking at the plethora of pictures of Kara and Alex as kids. She laughs at one in which Kara is shoving a pie in Alex’s face, a murderous look on Alex’s face and an expression of pure joy on Kara’s.

Kara paces over to see what Lena’s looking at and smiles. “Alex wanted to kill me,” Kara laughs.

“She looks like it.”

“Well, Alex always kind of looks like that,” Kara jokes, wrapping her arms around Lena from behind and setting her chin on Lena’s shoulder. “I’m glad you came.”

Tangling her fingers with the ones sliding over her stomach, Lena sinks against Kara. “I didn’t have much of a choice,” she teases, thinking of the horrified expression Kara had affected when she learned Lena didn’t have plans to go home over Thanksgiving break.

“You had a choice,” Kara tells her, straightening to turn Lena around in her arms. 

“I’m teasing, Kara,” she says, tugging on a strand of loose hair. Kara doesn’t have her glasses on and her hair is down around her shoulders. It’s a look Lena doesn’t get to see very often. Kara is comfortable here, in her childhood home and surrounded by her family. Lena likes it, wants to live in the feeling of it forever.

“Right, I knew that.”

Lena laughs, presses forward to kiss Kara and lets it go on a little longer than she should considering they’re only a floor away from Kara’s adoptive mother and her older sister. Kara’s hands are lower on her back now, warm and strong, and Lena’s happy.

As if sensing what’s occurring, Eliza’s voice calls out from down below. “Girls! Come help set the table.”

Kara jumps out of the kiss with wide eyes and an attractive blush that makes Lena smile. Just as Lena’s ready to tease her for it, Alex’s voice interrupts her and they both jump this time, turning to see Kara’s sister leaned up against the door to Kara’s room. “You guys going to spend all your time up here making out or are you going to help?”

“Alex,” Kara hisses, her blush deepening and Lena feels her own cheeks warm. Alex laughs, shaking her head at her sister and Kara grips Lena’s hand, tugging them both towards the door. When they get there, Kara makes a point of shoving past Alex, bumping her on the shoulder and Alex feigns considerable pain, gripping at her arm and mock crying out.

Kara rolls her eyes, but she laughs, and Lena laughs, and Alex laughs, and in that moment everything feels so normal. It’s the first time Lena’s ever been to the house, but she doesn’t feel like a stranger in it, like she’s an outsider watching a family interact. It makes her miss her brother for a brief, fleeting moment, but then Alex is shoving at Kara, laughing and then yelping when Kara tackles her into the air, hovering up above the stairs with Alex dangling from her hands. It’s such an open display of Kara’s powers that Lena can’t help but smile at it, even as Alex is yelling curse words at Kara.

“Put me down, Kara! I swear to God, I will tell Lena about that time in gym class-” Alex gets out, and Kara immediately has Alex on the ground, grinning nervously up at Lena and gesturing for her to come down the stairs.

“Kara, please don’t tell me you were flying your sister around the house again against her will,” Eliza says, and Lena can see her peak her head out from the kitchen, counting all their heads and smiling gently at Lena. Kara looks sheepish then, and Lena can’t help the feeling she gets to soothe Kara, reaching out to squeeze her hand.  

“She was, mom,” Alex says, looking victorious and then grabbing Lena by the shoulder, pulling her toward the dining room. “Please yell at her while Lena and I, your two competent and nice guests, set the table.”  

“I’m competent!” Kara says, glaring at Alex while Eliza comes closer to her. Lena can’t hear what she’s saying to Kara, but the smile that breaks across her face is certainly not a response to a lecture. It’s complete, unburdened happiness, and Kara’s eyes glance over to hers long enough that her smile grows wider, listening to Eliza speak.

“I’ll still tell you about the gym incident, don’t worry,” Alex says, and Lena laughs, taking the dinner plates Alex hands to her, setting the dinner table for four.

--

They work in relative silence. Eliza shares with Lena the work she’s done so far on trying to reverse engineer the virus and Lena works on inputting the data she has from Isotope 454.

It’s comfortable, soothing even, for Lena to have something to focus on with the warm presence of Eliza working at her side in tandem.

That is until she sense Eliza looking at her, clearly gearing up to say something. After a few seconds of feeling the stare, but no words forthcoming, Lena arches an eyebrow at her in question. 

“How are you doing, sweetheart?” Eliza asks in a kind voice, setting her tablet down on the desk and looking at Lena with an expression Lena’s seen on Kara’s face many a time.

“I’m fine, Eliza,” she says, shifting her eyes back down to the microscope back in front of her.

“It has to be hard,” Eliza continues and Lena has to take a deep breath to avoid her usual defensive reaction to this line of questioning. “Everything with your mother. Kara told me some of it.”

“It’s not,” Lena denies with a casual shrug, but Eliza continues to stare, the feel of it hot on the side of Lena’s face. She sighs, knowing Eliza is almost as unrelenting as Kara in these situations. “It helps to focus on something like this,” she says, gesturing around the lab.

“If you ever need someone to talk to,” Eliza offers and it settles warmth in the hollow of her chest.

“Thank you,” she says, meaning it.

Eliza nods in understanding, smiling softly. “And how are things with Kara?”

“Things with Kara?” Lena asks, just barely managing to keep her voice even. It feels a lot like the first time she ever met Eliza after she and Kara started dating.

“Are you two…” Eliza trails off, but there’s a hopeful look in her eye that makes Lena’s heart rate increase. She takes a deep breath against it - the last thing she needs is Kara walking in right now, asking why her heartbeat is going crazy.

“No,” she says with a sound somewhere between a laugh and a scoff. “We’re friends.”

“That’s nice,” Eliza replies, but she looks utterly unconvinced and Lena wonders why it is no one seems to believe she and Kara are capable of being friends. They were friends for months before they ever dated.

“It is,” Lena agrees, turning back to her desk in hopes the conversation is over.

But Eliza clearly isn’t done and she takes a step closer to Lena, leans her hip up against the table. “You’re good for Kara,” she adds and Lena shoots her an incredulous look. Eliza smiles when she sees it, stares at her kindly.  

“I’m not sure about that,” Lena says, each word slow and careful. She eyes the door to the lab and considers making a completely indiscreet exit, but Eliza is talking before she can even move.

“You were always too hard on yourself, honey.” The only reaction she can think to reasonably have is to laugh, but Eliza is staring at her with kind, sympathetic eyes and Lena feels heat spike in her own. “Kara needs family in her life. A family you are a part of.”

“She has Alex,” Lena answers because she can’t think of anything else to say. The knowledge of how close Kara and Alex are had comforted her in the dark moments of guilt Lena had often felt, the feeling like she had abandoned Kara as so many other people in her life had.

“Alex gives Kara strength,” Eliza says with a fond smile. “You give her calm.”

This time she does laugh because she’s fairly certain nothing in the past few days between the two of them has been calm. “Kara and I are complicated,” she says, feeling adrift in this conversation, and it isn’t as though she needs to hash this out with her ex-girlfriend’s mom. “We can’t just - it’s been four years and I -”

Eliza cuts her off mid sentence with a soft smile and a casual, “I’m not saying you two should get back together.” She studies Lena for a moment like she’s an equation capable of solving, but her smile never falters. “I’m merely expressing my joy that you’ve found each other again. Even as friends.”

It sounds a lot like Kara telling her I missed you a few hours ago on the balcony and Lena swallows against a lump in her throat. “I’m happy to have her as a friend again,” she says quietly.

Eliza smiles affectionately and pats Lena on the arm. “Do me a favor and go check on Mon-El’s vitals?” She says and Lena sees the reprieve that’s being offered. She smiles, nods and without another word, leaves the lab.

As she’s walking up to the medical bay checking off things on a chart glowing at her from the tablet on her hand, the sight inside the small room stops her in her tracks. She blinks and inhales sharply.

Mon-El, now conscious, is sitting up in bed and has pulled Kara’s face close, pressing their lips together for what feels like a long frozen moment. Lena can’t do anything but watch it happen wide-eyed until suddenly Kara’s shoving him away, stumbling backwards and crashing into about four different pieces of equipment that Lena’s sure are all expensive.

Everything Kara hits breaks in some measure, and Mon-El is watching it happen with a stunned, feverish expression. Lena doesn’t know if laughter is appropriate, but it’s catching in her throat because Kara’s still flailing about trying to get away from the man on the bed. It’s at least a better reaction than the burn she feels low in her gut at watching Kara kiss someone else.

She must actually laugh at some point because Kara turns towards her suddenly, her eyes growing impossibly wider just as Mon-El flops backward on his bed seemingly falling immediately back asleep. “Lena!” Kara exclaims loudly and Lena regains her ability to move again, striding into the small medbay with a bemused expression.

“Hi,” she draws out with a hint of tease.

“That - that was - I didn’t - you know he - you see,” Kara sputters, gesturing at Mon-El in a series of nervous movements. She hits a monitor, cracks the screen and nearly trips on the broken arm of a surgical laser.

“Kara,” Lena laughs, walking over to a small, thankfully still functional console next to Mon-El’s bed and double checking a few numbers. “It’s fine. Though I think the bill is going to be pretty high for all that equipment you just broke.”

“I didn’t want to kiss him,” Kara blurts, still sputtering a little. “He kissed me.”

Lena looks over her shoulder and shrugs one casually. Her conversation with Eliza burns in the back of her mind and Lena just wants to brush aside all the complicated cadre of emotions she keeps feeling around Kara. They’re friends and Lena has to start acting like it - she accesses the young freshman college student she once was and tries to remember how it was to be friends with Kara Danvers. The smile on her face stretches across like an old memory. “Kara, it’s fine,” she says, laughing a little. “I could tell you didn’t want to kiss him by the three computers you broke jumping away.”

“He just - I mean I was just sitting here checking on him and he woke up and was all -” Kara gestures vaguely, eyes wide and Lena laughs.

“He has a pretty heavy fever,” Lena tells her, checking something on the monitor. “Not that he’d need that to want to kiss you.”

Kara blushes, and Lena doesn’t know what possessed her to say something so overtly flirty - maybe tapping into her freshman self was a mistake, but Kara’s reaction makes her feel warm all over her skin. “I just want to make sure you’re aware. Of the - of the circumstances.”

“Okay,” Lena says, because she can’t control the part of her that’s pleased to discover Mon-El’s crush is extremely one-sided. “You don’t have to explain it to me.”

“Still,” Kara says, twisting her hands nervously, fingers plucking at the cuff of her suit.

Knowing they’re wading into dangerous territory, Lena focuses on recording Mon-El’s vitals onto the chart in her hands. “Any word on whether or not my mother has discovered we’ve secured the isotope?”

“We don’t think so,” Kara replies, fiddling with a broken piece of monitor to her right. “Now it’s just a waiting game to see what her next move is.”

A crawling feel of fear wraps its way up Lena’s spine and she hates it. Playing defensively is one thing, being unable to read her opponent’s moves is another one entirely.

Kara must notice the uncomfortable expression she feels spreading over her face because she steps a little closer, bending slightly to catch Lena’s eye. “We’ll get her, Lena. I swear.”

“Yeah,” she says with a smile Kara clearly doesn’t believe. “I just wish there was more I could be doing.”

“Right now all we can do is focus on figuring this virus out and seeing if we can cure Mon-El,” Kara says, glancing again at the bed. There’s a sheepish expression on her face that Lena wants to laugh at. “We couldn’t do anything to her right now anyway. We don’t have any proof apart from my word that she’s leading Cadmus.”

It occurs to her that they may never have that kind of proof. Her mother is a lot of things, but stupid she is not ,and she’s slippery, clever, discreet as all Luthors are taught to be. If they’re going to do anything significant to her mother they have to catch her red handed. An idea starts to form.

“Lena,” Kara says, interrupting her formulating.

Clearing her throat, Lena goes back to swiping through chats on her tablet, ignoring Kara’s critical stare. “Yes?”

“Why do you have that face?”

“What face?”

“That I have a genius plan to sabotage Bobby Fuller’s robotics project face,” Kara says, hands on her hips.

Lena laughs, startles to learn Kara can still read her so easily. It secretly pleases her, but it’s not something she needs right now. “That was a flawless plan and he deserved it.”

“Sure,” Kara agrees easily. Bobby Fuller was easily one of the skeeviest guys they went to college with and when he finally crossed a line with one of their friends it was all too simple for Lena to figure out a way to take him down. “But what are you trying to plan right now?”

Knowing that there’s no way Kara is going be agreeable to any plan that put Lena in harm's way, she shrugs off the question. “Trying to think of ways to reverse engineer the virus and find a cure,” she answers, with a tight smile for her ex-girlfriend.

She doesn’t allow Kara time to answer, just turns on her heel and walks away as her brain continues to piece together a strategy to effectively defeat her mother.

--

It’s surprisingly easy to sneak out of the DEO, all things considered. The only person that even looks at her twice is Eliza when she strolls back into the lab to grab her computer bag.

“Going somewhere, honey?”

Lena smiles engagingly, long practiced at fooling people. Even people that know her reasonably well. “Just moving my stuff,” she lies, glancing at the tablet Eliza is holding and diverting her attention. “Any luck with the virus?”

“It’d be a lot better if I had a living sample of it,” she muses, focusing back on the data in her hand.

“I’m sure,” Lena murmurs. “It’d be easier to engineer a cure that way.”

“Absolutely,” Eliza agrees and Lena reaches out to give her shoulder a friendly squeeze.

“I’ll leave you to your work,” she says with a soft smile.

“Are you okay, dear?” Eliza asks just as Lena’s at the door. A hand on the frame, she turns back and keeps a casual smile on her face.

“Of course,” she answers and Eliza has the same look Kara gets when she’s not buying any of Lena’s bullshit.

“If you need to talk to-”

Lena waves her off, growing a little impatient and nervous Kara is going to spot them at any moment, foiling Lena’s window for escape. “I’m just worried about my mother,” she says and it’s not entirely untrue. “I’m really not ready to talk about it.”

“I understand,” Eliza replies with a caring smile. Lena returns it before waving goodbye and heading out of the lab.

It doesn’t take much for Lena to find her way out. There’s a guard stationed near one of the landing platforms and Lena risks asking him where the exit is - he responds so promptly and obediently that for a second Lena suspects Kara’s strong armed most of the base into respecting her. It’s definitely something Kara would do.

When she finally gets outside the base she’s surprised to find that she’s not far from her office in downtown National City. She had known, of course, that they were still within city limits, but it’s disconcerting to know that a secret government base existed less than a mile from where she worked every single day and she was none the wiser.

Back at L Corp, she’s happy to see that the previously destroyed sign in the front lobby has been removed, the area cleaned and she walks past it with an air of determination as she heads towards the elevator that will take her down to the R&D labs. She makes a mental note to give her night clean up crew a raise. 

Predictably, Lana Lang is still in her office despite Lena's previous orders and she's standing with another engineer whom she's giving brisk orders to. It’s not often that Lena comes down here in the light of day and the man shoots her a bewildered look clearly conveying disbelief - like he wasn't sure Lena was real until this very moment.

“Miss Luthor,” Lana greets politely and Lena smiles, grips tightly at the strap to her bag.

“Hello, Lana,” she says, sending an arched eyebrow towards a man standing to their right, clearly waiting for instruction from Lana. He notices her expression and his eyes widen before he scurries away. When she looks back at Lana there’s an amused smile playing at her lips. “I’m beginning to think you live here.”

“Not far from the truth,” Lana jokes with a shrug. “I like my work.”

“I’m glad,” Lena says, understanding a devotion to work as few others do. 

“No bodyguard anymore?” Lana asks with a teasing smile and it takes a second for Lena to catch her meaning.

A spike of guilt hits her, but she smiles despite it, chuckles a little. “I’m afraid Supergirl has more important things to be doing.”

“I can’t imagine what,” Lana replies, still smiling. “Anything I can help you with this time?”

It’s a gamble to trust anyone at this juncture and something Lena has made an almost lifelong habit of not doing, but Lana doesn’t need to know the whole of it to offer assistance.

“Yes, actually,” Lena answers with an easy smile before pulling Lana away from listening ears and telling her what she needs.

--

It feels a little like there’s a ticking clock in the back of her head the longer she is away from the DEO. Kara will surely notice that Lena isn’t there at any point and her ex-girlfriend has never had particular difficulty in locating her when she needs to. Isn’t exactly known for her patience either, and the last thing she needs for this plan to work is Supergirl flying through the window right when she’s trying to convince her mother that she’s on her side.

Thankfully it doesn’t take much to talk her mother into visiting her office again and Lena’s only a little surprised. It must help that Lena prefaces the request with a I believe I have something you want.

Her mother walks in on the offensive, just as Lena expects she would and it eases something inside her. She can see all the pieces on the board now, can predict the moves. Confidence builds as she turns and affects a smug look.

“The Medusa virus,” she tells her mother. “You sent your goon here looking for Isotope 454.”

An exact replica of the isotope sits in a briefcase on her desk and she notices her mother glance at it briefly. “You’re in charge of Cadmus,” Lena finishes.

A smile spreads over Lillian’s face. “Am I in for another one of your little lectures now? Like you used to give to Lex?”

The mention of her brother spikes an ache in her chest, but she forces her heartbeat to stay calm and she walks towards the case on her desk. “No,” she says, trying to look at her mother with as kind eyes as possible. “We’re family, mother. Ask me for my help and I’ll give it to you.”

Lillian glances at the briefcase again, shoots Lena a disbelieving smile. “It’s that easy?”

It’s almost tragic how simple it is to get her mother to believe her. Then again, it’s always been simple to lie to people that don’t know her at all.

“It’s that easy,” Lena answers with a smile, opening the briefcase and showing it to her mother, the red glow of the isotope flashes across Lillian’s face.

“I didn’t think you believed in the cause,” her mother says, almost reverently. Lena imagines for a moment what it would be like for her mother to actually be proud of her, to love her. What it would be like to garner the kind of look on Lillian’s face through something genuine instead of a lie.

Arching an eyebrow and playing the part of the dutiful daughter, Lena smirks. “Then maybe it’s time you got to know your daughter a little better.”

--

The fake isotope is as close to the real deal as Lena could make it, as deep as the radioactive signature she knows Winn is tracking. It’s as much as she’s willing to involve the DEO and by extension Kara, in the plans.

As soon as they move offsite towards a warehouse her mother has informed her houses the nearly completed weaponized versions of the virus, Lena knows the DEO will be alerted. There won’t be much time between that and Kara showing up.

They make their way quickly to the Port of National City and Lena tries to wheedle as much information out of her mother about Cadmus as possible. She doesn’t get very far - her mother is a master of avoidance and it’s clear she hasn’t completely bought into Lena’s sudden showing of loyalty.

Hands in the pockets of her jacket, Lena follows her mother to a massive weapon sitting in the middle of the port like it belongs there and she pulls the tarp off it with a flourish. Lena can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the moment. Especially when her mother pulls a chain off her neck from which the keys to the weapon dangle.

“Some mothers wear lockets with pictures of their children,” Lena says with some amusement. “You wear the keys to a bazooka.”

“It’s a rocket launcher,” Lillian corrects like she’s teaching Lena about the Sicilian Defense in chess. “And it’s yours,” she adds, turning to Lena with a careful smile. Lena had expected this. The test of loyalty. “Take it. Prove you’re with me. Unleash Medusa and end Earth’s alien menace once and for all.”

The words turn her stomach over, but she’s no novice at hiding emotional reactions. With one hand still in her pocket she reaches out with the other and takes the keys. The weight of the watch on her wrist feels heavy and she wonders how long she has until Kara touches down.

It turns out not long at all. Just as she’s sliding the launch key into its slot a telltale thud resounds behind her and both she and her mother turn. Kara is standing there with J’onn and they both take a few steps her direction. A look of complete and utter confusion is plastered across Kara’s face and Lena falters for a moment, doubting her decision to keep Kara in the dark.

“Lena!” Kara exclaims with wide, hurt eyes and a desperation. The look of it makes Lena feel guilty, but she forces herself to focus on the task at hand.

“Get out of here, Supergirl,” Lena warns darkly, ever aware of her mother’s watchful gaze. “It’s too late. We have the isotope and now Medusa will do its job.”  

Kara shoots a bewildered expression towards her, a glance at J’onn. “Lena, what are you doing?!”

It comes across far too familiar to not register with Lillian, and Lena knows she needs to do something about it. “I’m a Luthor,” she says even as her hand shakes where it’s still holding the key. “What do you think I’m doing?”

And with that she turns the key to release the weapon, watching Kara’s eyes go impossibly wide in reaction. Lena’s sure her heart is going to come bursting out of her chest it’s beating so quickly and loudly.

J’onn doesn’t have the same concern on his face that Kara does, but his mouth is set in a frown of disapproval before he turns to Kara. “I’ve got that,” he says, eying the rocket that’s just shot out of the launcher. “Watch her.”

Lena and Lillian both watch as he transforms into another form, different this time than what she remembers from the fight club, and shoots off into the sky after the rocket. It leaves Kara there staring at her like she’s a stranger, her eyes darting between Lillian and Lena like she’s trying to figure out what’s happened.

“You heard my daughter, Supergirl,” Lillian says stepping up in front of Lena to face off against Kara. “It’s too late.” 

“I - I don’t understand,” Kara stutters, taking a step towards them. From behind her mother’s back Lena’s eyes grow wide and she tries to communicate with Kara, tell her something, but before she can, J’onn look-a-like, Henshaw, she remembers, comes stalking towards them. Her mother turns just enough to give him a sardonically pleased smile.  

“Now, if you don’t mind,” Lillian is saying and Kara is just staring at her, a silent plea for an explanation in her eyes that Lena finds herself pulled towards.

“It won’t work,” Kara yells out, coming closer to Lillian and Lena, her eyes starting to glow. She gets one step closer before she’s being launched backwards, into two shipping containers. Henshaw is grinning, saying things about how Kara is a monster. Kara’s body thumps awkwardly to the ground and one of the containers falls on her. Lena tries not to gasp, tries to school her expression for when her mother turns back to grin at her.

“To think that alien defended you to me,” Lillian says. “If only she had known.”

Her face is so motherly and kind, a smile that Lena would have once been so thrilled to receive. And now it feels like poison, seeping through her, as Kara rockets through the shipping container and grips ahold of Henshaw, pulling him up into the air. The punch she gives him is thunderous, sends his mask flying off, and he crashes into the ground so hard it leaves a small crater.  

“Goodbye, Supergirl,” Lillian says. Kara is coming toward them then, her eyes glowing red. She looks undisciplined, angry and upset, and it wouldn’t be obvious to anyone else. But she can tell from the unsteady way Kara’s hands shake. Lena’s mother flips a switch, and the sky explodes above them. Kara’s head turns upward, watching the bomb plume outward, curiosity coming across her face. Lena wants to rush forward, to Kara, but if she does now, Lillian will know. J’onn lands, his face looking calm as the orange, inert virus falls from the sky and drifts over them like snow.

It doesn’t work. J’onn doesn’t fall to the ground gasping for air, and there are no screams echoing around National City. Pride floods through her, along with relief.

Kara’s face turns to Lena, and it’s silly, but Kara looks so beautiful surrounded by what could almost be small, falling stars.

“They should all be dead,” Lillian says, and Lena’s distracted from Kara’s gaze by her mother staring at her.

 “You,” her mother says with clear accusation, but there’s this hint of surprise in it that Lena latches on to - it’s wrapped in something almost like pride, as if her mother didn’t expect Lena to be capable of such an underhanded plot. It disturbs her to feel warmed by such a thing, but she feels it nonetheless. “You switched out the isotope. You made the virus inert.”

A smile crosses her face as her jaw lifts and it’s a strong feeling to stand in front of her mother like this, to know that her plan succeeded. “I did,” she says just as red and blue sirens come flashing into her peripheral. “And I called the police.”

Lillian turns to see the cars arriving and Lena can sense Kara watching them from a distance, her hearing picking up on the conversation no doubt. “You’re making a mistake,” her mother says, but it doesn’t hold the same kind of condescension as it usually does.

A few police officers stalk towards them, hands on their guns. One steps up close to them, “Lillian Luthor, you’re under arrest for the-” Lena tunes it out, focuses on her mother’s stare, unwavering as she’s handcuffed and read her rights in front of Lena.

“We’re family, Lena,” her mother says with a half smirk that stutters in Lena’s chest just a little. It’s almost impressive the way Lillian exudes a commanding presence over the situation despite her hands being literally tied behind her back. “You’d do well to remember that.”

“We’re not really family, mother. Remember?”

“This isn’t over,” Lillian says even as she’s being pulled away. Her chin stays high in the air, a dare in the way she observes Lena, looks down at her. “The cause is bigger than both of us. Your brother understood that.”

“It’s over, mom,” Lena replies, stepping forward as Lillian gets pushed towards a waiting patrol car. “You’re going to jail for a long time. Last I heard, attempting to commit genocide doesn’t go over great in court.”

It unnerves her a little that Lillian’s smile barely falters. “Oh, Lena,” her mother says, shaking her head and tutting like she’s scolding her for not having proper manners or forgetting to do a chore. “Don’t think you’re so safe out there,” she continues and the threat is obvious in the hard cut of her eyes. “This little blip changes nothing. You’d do best to choose the right side before anything has to get too messy.”

Any response she might have gets preempted by the firm slamming of the car door and Lena’s left to watch her mother’s smiling face through the window as the police drive her away. An officer steps up to her immediately, hesitation in his stance as he eyes her warily.

“Miss Luthor? I need to take your statement,” he stutters out and she takes a deep breath, plasters on a practiced smile and turns to him.

“Of course.”

-- 

The first few weeks after Lena’s car accident, Kara won’t even touch her. Every move her girlfriend makes is as if Lena’s liable to fall apart if she so much bumps into something.

Lena allows it for awhile, understands Kara’s fears and the unease they’ve both felt since it happened, but Kara doesn’t seem to recover from it, can’t move past it. Lena’s woken up on more than a few nights when Kara’s stayed over to the telltale signs that her girlfriend is having a nightmare.

It’s not unusual, but she knows Kara’s not having the nightmares she usually has - the ones of her planet exploding, of her parents faces, of Alex dying along with them. This time, Lena knows she’s the star player in the dreams, can tell from the way Kara mumbles her name out in a pained broken whisper while still asleep.

She knows they both need to heal, but Kara’s treating her like she’s made of glass and it’s not helping either of them move on.

Like most moments in their relationship, Lena realizes she has to be the one to push through it, to confront the problem and solve it. So when Kara sits down on Lena’s futon with about two feet of space between them, Lena sighs heavily and stands. Before Kara can so much as realize what’s happening, Lena’s straddling Kara’s lap, both hands on Kara’s cheeks. 

“Lena!” Kara exclaims, but her hands grip at Lena’s hips immediately, and Lena settles into the feeling.

“I’m not going to break,” Lena says softly, and Kara’s eyebrows pull down, her lips thin.

“I don’t know what you-”

“You’re walking on eggshells around me,” she says with a pointed look, daring Kara to argue.

Kara looks away, but doesn’t move her hands and Lena’s fingers play with the ends of Kara’s ponytail, hoping to relax her. “I don’t mean to be.”

“Kara, what happened was a freak accident,” Lena says, bending a little to force eye contact. “I’m okay.”

Kara chews on her bottom lip nervously. “Humans are so fragile,” she says in a whisper and Lena laughs a little.

“Well compared to you, sure.”

“That’s my point,” Kara says, so sadly that Lena feels her eyes heat up in response. “You almost died.” The words are barely whispered between them and Lena struggles to keep the memory of the car crash out of her mind and focus on the here and now. 

“I’m okay,” Lena tells her for what feels like the hundredth time since the accident. “You were there, you got me out. I’m okay.”

“I’m literally invulnerable,” Kara replies with a half smile. “And I couldn’t even save my girlfriend - What if I hadn’t been able to hear your heartbeat? What’s going to happen when you’re -”

“Kara,” Lena admonishes, suddenly realizing what this is about. “There was nothing you could have done differently.”

“I just keep thinking about it in my head. Over and over and over again and I-”

“You have got to stop,” Lena says, cupping at Kara’s cheeks and smiling at her, trying to provoke a similar expression. It doesn’t quite work, and all Lena sees is despair swimming in those pretty blue eyes.

“I can’t,” Kara confesses on a shaky exhale, her hands running form Lena’s hips to the center of Lena’s back, pressing there.

Lena observes her for a long moment, her thumbs stroking at soft skin. “Did you know that when my dad died it was from a disease that maybe one in every six million people contract?”  

Kara startles out of her sadness for a second, confusion shadowing her face that Lena’s sure is because she rarely talks about her father. The memories sometimes too painful to face, still too fresh even though it’s been years.

“One day he was fine and the next he was dying from something inside him that none of us saw coming,” she says, ignoring the ache in her chest when she remembers being pulled out of school and whisked away to the hospital. “My mother is a doctor. The best in her field, and she couldn’t do anything but watch him die. All the wealth and the genius in the world and we couldn’t save him.”

“Lena,” Kara says softly and her arms are wrapping around Lena’s waist in comfort, pulling them closer. It warms across Lena’s skin and gives her the strength to make her point.

“And he apologized,” Lena tells her with a watery laugh. “Apologized for dying. Like it was his fault.” She shakes her head and clears her throat. “Things happen. Things completely out of our control,” she says quietly. “And the only thing I can remember thinking after he died was that I wish I had let him win just once at chess.” 

Kara laughs a little and Lena smiles. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” Lena says quietly, her thumb running over Kara’s bottom lip. She kisses her quickly because the need becomes too much and Kara’s hands run up under Lena’s shirt, the warmth of it comforting against the skin of her back. “But what I do know is that if something does happen, something bad, I don’t want to look back and think I wasted one second of my life with you.”  

“I hate the idea that you could go somewhere I can’t follow,” Kara says softly and it cuts across Lena’s chest so painfully she has to swallow against the harsh feeling. She knows Kara means it in a more morbid manner than Lena hears it, but she can’t help but think of the not-so-distant future, of a life after college and responsibilities Lena has been unwilling to confront so far. She wants to live in the present, here with Kara, and without the looming possibility that their whole lives might change.

“You can’t live in fear,” Lena tells her, pressing a palm against Kara’s chest to feel the comforting thud of her heartbeat.

“Help me,” Kara says soft and pleading and Lena gets wrapped up in it.

She kisses Kara again, solid significant pressure. “Always.”

--

It takes about twenty minutes for Lena to get her whole statement out to the cop that interviews her and she can feel Kara hovering in her peripheral the entire time.

The rest of the DEO agents that had finally made it there have spent the time sweeping the area, collecting the rocket launcher and what was left of the fake virus. They’ve since cleared out, but Kara remains after they’ve left.

When she’s finished and the cop walks away from her with a grateful smile, she turns to Kara, lifting her shoulders up and taking a deep breath in preparation. Kara doesn’t come closer, just stands where she is, arms crossed as she watches Lena with an inscrutable expression.

They stare at each other for a moment and Lena isn’t sure what to do. Kara seems as if she’s not going to say anything soon and it’s chilly enough that Lena isn’t going to stand out here for hours and have a staring contest. With a heavy sigh she pulls her gaze away and makes as if to leave. It’s only Kara calling after her that stops her.

“Yes?” Lena asks, feeling defensive even though Kara hasn’t said anything yet.

Kara steps closer, looks as if she’s going to reach out, but doesn’t. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Lena shrugs, doesn’t have an answer to that other than, “Would you have gone along with it if I had?”

“Yes,” Kara says with a kind of conviction that Lena knows is forced. She gives Kara a look until Kara relents just a tad. “Maybe.”

“Exactly.” 

“That was dangerous,” Kara says and it’s then that Lena notices the shake to Kara’s hands where they’re resting against her biceps as if it’s the only thing holding her together.

“It was fine,” Lena tells her. “I’m fine. And now we have my mother in custody.”

“You shouldn’t-”

Lena puts her hand up to forestall whatever Kara’s about to say and exhales noisily out her nose. “Kara,” she pleads, taking a step closer. “I’m tired. Can we do this some other time? You’re free to tell me all about the risks of my behavior later, but for tonight can we-”

“Yeah,” Kara says, uncrossing her arms, but her jaw trembles just a bit like she’s going to lose it at any second. “Sure.”

Neither of them move and they just idle there together for a long moment.  

“You were just gone,” Kara confesses in a small voice and Lena feels like her heart is in a vice grip at the sound of it.

“What?”

“You just left and I didn’t know where you were and-” Kara looks away, her face screwing up like she’s in pain and her foot tapping a little on the ground. “Your heartbeat was going all over the place and I just-”

Lena sees the terror there now, hadn’t considered this kind of reaction when she had first devised her plan. Kara would be angry, sure. Lena expected anger - the kind she had gotten after the incident with Roulette or after the gala. She hadn’t expected Kara to be looking at her with an expression Lena’s only really seen one other time - from a hospital bed.

“It wasn’t hard to figure out what you were doing - well Alex figured it out - and when I realized you were somewhere out there with your mother who for all we know wants to -” Kara’s words choke out suddenly and Lena feels her heartbeat start to pick up, the thud of it almost painful against her ribcage.

“Kara,” Lena says sadly, approaching her with the kind of caution she’d give a wounded animal. Kara looks liable to break at any moment and Lena hates that she’s the cause.

“I’m sorry,” Kara says with a shake of her head and a smile that doesn't meet her eyes. “I’m not trying to - I’m sorry.”

Lena’s instincts are yelling at her, a natural response to Kara looking like she does, and she stops fighting it. She crosses the distance between them and wraps her arms around Kara’s shoulders, one hand resting at the back of Kara’s head to bring her into a warm hug. Kara goes practically boneless the second Lena touches her and collapses into the embrace, her fingers clutching at the back of Lena’s jacket and her face pushing into Lena’s shoulder.

“I’m the one that’s sorry,” Lena murmurs, hugging Kara as tight as she can, the words whispered into loose blonde hair. “I didn’t think.”

They stay there for a long moment and Lena spares a thought for being glad no one else is around. She’s sure the sight of Lena Luthor cradling Supergirl would draw attention from more than a few people.

After Kara seems to relax from the shakiness of earlier, she pulls back just a little, still holding onto Lena’s body tightly. Lena takes in a lungful of air as she does and Kara clears her throat, the sound thick and significant.

“Can I take you home?” Kara asks and Lena doesn’t have the heart to say no.

“Yeah,” she says with a watery smile. “Sure.”

Something eases in Kara’s posture and it validates Lena’s decision. With a step forward, Kara scoops Lena up in her arms and jumps up into the air.

--

They land on Lena’s balcony with a soft thud, but when Kara sets Lena on her feet neither of them move away from each other. Lena eyes the dark expanse of her apartment through the glass door of the balcony and takes a shaky breath. The thought of being alone right now spikes a tendril of fear through her that she’s not used to. She can’t get the smiling image of her mother out of her mind and Kara’s close presence feels like the only thing keeping her calm at the moment.

“I’ll call you tomorrow?” Kara is asking, her palm resting on the small of Lena’s back.

“Sure,” Lena croaks out with a nod, eyes still on the dark furniture of her living room.

Kara steps away then, though her fists clench like she’s trying to resist something. Likely the same thing Lena’s trying to restrain herself from doing. “Goodnight, Lena,” Kara says and her knees bend a little as if she’s ready to take off.

“Stay,” Lena says so softly she’s afraid even Kara won’t hear it. But she must, because her ex-girlfriend’s eyes go a little wide and she bounces in place a little.

“What?" 

“Stay,” Lena repeats, but doesn’t raise her voice, afraid if she says it too loud something will break between them. “The night. With me.”

“Lena,” Kara starts, looking unsure. “What happened to boundaries?” 

It’s odd to hear Kara being the one advocating for something Lena had been so adamant they needed. And she’s not wrong. An invitation to stay the night crosses over the lines Lena’s been so careful to draw, but there’s a need for it that Lena is too tired to fight against.

“Just tonight,” she clarifies with a shake of her head. “After everything with my mother and with-”

Kara reaches out and grabs Lena’s hand, warmth shooting up across Lena’s chilled skin. “I’d feel better if you were here,” Lena finishes with a soft smile. “And I think you’d feel better too.”

The truth of it flashes like relief over Kara’s face and she nods quietly, allowing Lena to tug them inside.

The inside of her apartment feels cold and impersonal and despite Kara’s warm presence at her back, none of it comforts her. She flips a light on and it’s too harsh, the way it bursts through the darkness. The shakiness only grows as she walks into her kitchen and spots a pile of unread mail on the counter and the invitation to the annual Luthor Family Fundraising Gala sits starkly on the top of it.

Thoughts of her mother threaten to consume her and suddenly her own apartment doesn’t feel as safe as it used to. It feels far too wrapped up in everything threatening about her life.

Kara must notice the wide-eyed way she’s staring at the invitation because she comes over and places a calming hand on the small of Lena’s back. “Lena,” she says, voice barely above a whisper. 

Lena turns to her and takes a deep breath, tries to force a smile. Kara just shakes her head. 

“Do you want to stay with me instead? At my place?” Kara asks soft and slow like if she says it too quickly Lena might bolt. It’s not far off from the way Lena feels, but her desire to say yes, to sink into Kara and let them both comfort each other is too much.

So she agrees with a nod and a shrug of one shoulder and Kara smiles. “Get some stuff and we’ll head over there. I’m going to check around your apartment.”

--

When they end up back at Kara’s apartment, Lena realizes the error in this plan. Kara’s place is significantly smaller than Lena’s and it’s so full of their relationship that she doesn’t know how they’re going to survive being around each other in such a tight space.

But Kara seems completely unconcerned with any of this and just trounces on in, setting Lena’s bag on the couch and speeding into the bedroom. When she comes back out, her suit is traded for soft sweatpants and an oversized long sleeved shirt. “Bathroom is back there,” Kara says. “You can change and I’ll make tea.”

Lena thinks to say something about her internal dilemma, but Kara is already in the kitchen pulling items out of her cabinets and Lena thinks maybe a few minutes alone is all that she needs. She grabs her bag and heads for the bathroom, locking herself in there and observing herself critically in the mirror.

She’s still in the same outfit she’s been wearing all day, her hair still immaculate in its bun. With a quick kick she rids herself of her heels and lets her toes clench against the subtle ache that’s settled there after the events of the evening. It takes her longer than usual, but she strips and trades her dress for a pair of soft pajama pants and a thick sweater. She spends time washing the makeup off her face and taking her hair down. It’d probably do some good to take a shower, but she has neither the time nor the energy to even attempt such a thing. 

When she reemerges, Kara has two cups of tea steeping and Lena picks one up, grateful for its heat bleeding across her palms. Kara watches her as she takes a sip and Lena’s eyes flutter a little at the comforting taste and the feeling of her chest warming up.

“Tired?” Kara asks, leaning back against her kitchen counter.

Earlier, Lena had felt exhausted. So tired she could have collapsed on her floor and slept like the dead, but now she feels like her brain is running too quickly to really sleep and if she gets in bed she’ll just spend the night replaying images of her mother laughing at her from a cop car. “Not really,” she answers.

“Come on,” Kara says, gesturing with her head towards the couch. “I have the best remedy for a crazy night of crime fighting.”

Lena allows herself to laugh a little and follows Kara to the couch, sinking into the cushions with a grateful sigh and taking another sip of her tea while Kara walks to a small shelving unit next to the television. She watches Kara peruse a row of DVDs and Lena can just barely make out some of the titles. “I’m not watching Mamma Mia,” she says with a little smile, feeling lighter than the darkness of earlier.

Kara shoots her half of a pout from over her shoulder, but Lena watches her bypass the movie in question and pluck a different from the shelf. “Singin’ in the Rain,” she says, putting it up in the air with flourish.

Lena shakes her head, but lets Kara put the movie on and settles down further into the couch. The familiar sound of one of Kara’s favorite movies fills the apartment and Lena stops fighting the contented feeling that threatens to wash over her. It had been a long day, after all, and she deserves just a small moment of comfort, a small moment of pretending everything in her life isn’t hanging together by threads. If she closes her eyes, she can almost see the four walls of her dorm room and the way Kara’s smile looked against the blue fabric of her couch as they marathoned movies and TV shows on lazy Saturday mornings.

Finished with her tea, she sets the mug down on the coffee table and trains her eyes on the television, hyper aware of Kara just inches away from her on the couch. Her fingers clench a little on her thigh with the desire to reach out and pull Kara towards her, tangle their bodies together as they have hundreds of times. Instead, she just takes a deep breath, inhales against the scent of Kara all around her and the comfortable feeling of doing something so menial, so normal. Everything in her relaxes.

The feeling of contentment is so strong that Lena doesn’t even remember falling asleep. It feels like her dreams and reality are all blurred together because the next thing she’s really aware of is Kara picking her up from the couch and walking her to bed.

It must be a dream. It feels far too good. Dream Kara sets her down on the bed and Lena sinks into soft bed sheets that smell like they came straight out of her past. Her head feels swampy and slow and she can feel her consciousness getting dragged down deeper into sleep, but she’s barely aware of Kara stepping away from her and her hand reaches out immediately to grip the hem of Kara’s shirt, pulling at her.

“Darling,” Lena murmurs, tugging dream Kara towards the bed, can’t handle the idea that she’d leave right now. Can’t handle being in bed, without Kara, alone after this terrible day. “Stay.”

It feels like it takes forever for Kara to move. But, eventually, her familiar presence is sliding in bed next to Lena, their legs tangling together easily like this is something they’ve been doing every night for the past four years. Lena sighs into the feeling and smiles when Kara wraps her arms around her, tugging their bodies together tightly. A good dream, for once.

Chapter Text

Lena wakes up slowly, awareness coming in inches. Sun is piercing into her eyes and she squints into it as she tries to blink awake. 

The first thing she notices is that she’s not in her apartment and it takes a stuttering moment to remember that, of course she isn't. She had made a foolhardy decision to stay at Kara’s last night. She winces at the memory of leaping so far across the boundaries of their friendship that they might as well just ignore them.

The second thing she notices is that she’s warm, comfortable even, and she goes stiff when she realizes why.

How Kara’s body wrapped tightly up around her own wasn’t the first thing she had noticed, Lena has no idea.

Kara mumbles something grumpily, likely reacting to the way Lena’s body had gone rigid. Lena forces herself to relax, turning over a little to confirm for herself that it is in fact her ex-girlfriend that’s latched to her back.

The sight of Kara still sound asleep, gripping at Lena and frowning in her sleep, flutters uncomfortably in Lena’s chest for a long, still moment. She manages to turn completely around without waking Kara, and can’t resist reaching across the short distance between them to smooth out the crinkle between Kara’s eyebrows. Kara’s face relaxes and she murmurs something incomprehensible, something in Kryptonian, before tightening her hold on Lena.

It makes her want to smile just a little - Kara was always a deep sleeper and it seems that nothing has changed. For a moment, Lena sinks into the feeling of Kara around her, lets herself pretend like she did the night before that nothing has changed between them. That Kara will wake up soon and she’ll smile at Lena without opening her eyes. They’ll exchange soft good mornings and linger far too long in the comfort of the bed.

The rational part of her brain is screaming at her to get out of the bed, to slowly extricate herself from Kara’s grip - a harder prospect than it sounds - and move away. But nothing in her body seems to agree, and all she can do is fall into the warmth around her for a few more minutes - hold onto it until the real world breaks its way in and shatters it all. She catalogs the feelings and stores them away, saves them for another day, when she can’t have this.

She must fall back asleep. The next thing she knows, a loud pounding sound is echoing into her foggy brain and she’s sitting up in an empty bed. For a fleeting second she wonders if the earlier moments were just a part of a dream.

But then Kara is coming out of the bathroom, piling her hair on her head in a messy bun, her sleep shirt riding up inappropriately high on her stomach as she does it, sweatpants hanging low on her hips and Lena hasn’t had nearly enough coffee to deal with any of this, and certainly not enough to deal with spotting Kara’s abs.

The pounding sounds out again, and Lena finally registers it as heavy knocking. Kara notices her sitting up on the bed as she passes, shoots her a shy smile before rolling her eyes as the knock comes again.

“I’m coming, Alex!” Kara yells and Lena’s spine stiffens. Her heart starts beating uncomfortably fast and Kara’s steps falter as she’s walking towards the door. She turns to look at Lena over her shoulder. “What’s wrong?”

Lena shakes her head, shuffles out from under the covers and manages a smile. “Nothing.”

Kara looks skeptical, but Alex is still knocking and Kara huffs a little at the interruption, padding over to the front door and throwing it open.

Lena barely has time to smooth the wrinkles out of her shirt and run her fingers through her disheveled hair before Alex is barreling into the apartment with a tray of coffee and a box of baked goods.

“Hi,” Kara says to her sister, plucking the box out of her hands and opening it immediately. A donut is in her mouth before Alex can even respond.

Alex drops the tray of drinks off on Kara’s kitchen counter and Lena eyes the excited look in her eyes, wonders what has the older Danvers sister over at - she glances at a wall clock - six in the morning.

“What are you doing here?” Kara asks around a mouthful of food. It’s just then that Alex notices Lena lingering near the bedroom. Her eyes go wide immediately, and Lena realizes how the entire scene looks - both she and Kara still in sleep clothes, hair in disarray and she’s walking out of the bedroom.

“Oh no,” Alex says, straightening and pointing between Kara and her. “I have a thing, okay? I have a thing to be excited about and it is not going to be usurped by you two doing -”

“Alex,” Kara interrupts with a sharp snap, swallowing her donut hastily and glancing briefly at Lena. “We’re not - Lena just stayed the night because - we didn’t -” Kara fumbles around and Lena needs coffee if this how the morning is going to go because, sure, they didn’t sleep together the way Alex is implying, but what they did do feels so much more intimate, so much more real.

“I stayed the night because I wasn’t exactly feeling safe in my own home,” Lena finishes for her, clearing the sleep out of her throat and walking over to a coffee maker on Kara’s counter. She only counts two cups on Alex’s tray and she’s not going to sit here and suffer the delicious smell of it without having her own cup.

“You can have mine,” Kara says when she notices what Lena’s doing and Lena tries to wave her off, but Kara is slapping her hands away from the machine and pushing a styrofoam cup into her hands, steering her back to the kitchen island. 

Alex watches it all with a pinched expression and sighs, shaking her head as she takes her own coffee off the tray and sips at it.

“So,” Kara says after a moment. “What are we excited about?”

The box of donuts is open on the counter and Lena watches as Kara eyes it with glee, picking up her second treat and taking a big, happy bite out of it.

Alex is looking at Lena with a wary expression, like she’s not sure she wants to say what she has to say with Lena there and Lena gets that, wonders if she should offer to leave or head to the bathroom under the excuse of getting ready for the day. But the look only lasts a few moments and fades into a happiness Lena’s sure she’s never seen on Alex’s face before.

“Maggie came over last night,” Alex says to Kara who sits up a little straighter, surprised. Lena smiles, realizing exactly why Alex looks so pleased.

“She did?” Kara asks, blinking at her sister and slowly setting her donut down. “Why?”

Kara is clearly not picking up on Alex’s very clear body language because she’s frowning a little, looking like she’s readying for Alex to start crying again and Lena fights a smile at the protective stance Kara’s adopted.

Alex’s mouth opens like she’s going to answer Kara, but no sound comes out. Her jaw moves helplessly and her eyes flicker around the room like she can’t find the words and something in Lena understands that feeling like a warm memory. When Alex catches her eye, Lena smiles encouragingly, full and easy as she remembers trying to explain Kara to her brother all those years ago.

“I think we’re dating,” Alex confesses in a soft hushed whisper, managing to sound excited and completely confused at the same time. “She kissed me.”

“What?!” Kara says, jumping a little and her expression shuffling to one of wide eyed surprise. “Really?”

Alex nods so rapidly Lena’s a little afraid she’s going to give herself whiplash and then suddenly Kara’s squealing in happiness, bouncing towards her sister and wrapping her in a tight hug. Alex laughs, and Kara laughs, and Lena smiles as she watches the two sisters embrace each other.

“Oh my god, Alex. I’m so happy for you,” Kara is saying, swaying Alex back and forth. Alex just clutches at her sister’s shoulders and smiles.

“I’m happy for me too,” she says, but it comes out like she doesn’t quite believe any of it is happening. It pangs in Lena’s chest.

She takes a slow sip of the coffee in her hand, but can’t help the sour expression she makes at the first taste. Whatever Alex brought for Kara has to be the sugariest thing on the menu because it tastes like liquid candy. She coughs at the unexpected taste and it brings the attention of both Danvers women her way.

Licking her lips a little, she smiles, sets her coffee down. “Congratulations, Alex. Maggie is a lucky woman,” she says politely and Alex just grins at her, a testament to just how lost she is to the moment.

“The luckiest,” Kara agrees with an arm around Alex’s shoulder and a grin for Lena. It feels so normal in that moment. Like she and Kara belong in this apartment together and Alex would naturally come over to break the news to both of them.

They all sit there for a minute, comfortably, a blanket of happiness swirling around them.

“Well,” Alex says after a moment, looking at Kara pointedly and then at Lena. “I just came over to tell you, but I can see that you guys are -”

“No, Alex, stay,” Kara says at the same time Lena tells her, “It’s fine, Alex. Stay.”

They both look at each other and then back to Alex, whose face has regained its pinched look from earlier. 

“We can catch up later,” Alex says.

“I want to hear all about it,” Kara tells her with a finger towards her sister and Alex grins again, wide and genuine. Lena feels an ache in her chest at the knowledge that Alex has figured it all out, gets the girl and the happiness and here Lena is with Kara. Where everything feels unattainable, like a fleeting dream.

“Later,” Alex replies walking back towards the door. “We can have a sister night.”

Kara claps her hands excitedly and follows Alex over. “Definitely,” she says. “Thanks for the coffee and donuts.”

With a nod to Lena, Alex hugs her sister goodbye and exits. Kara turns, a disbelieving but happy expression on her face and she walks back to the kitchen island to pick up her donut and resume eating.

“Good for Alex,” Lena murmurs, taking another sip of the sugary drink in front of her, this time less surprised at the sudden saccharine taste.

Kara hums around her food, shrugs and a little of the excitement of earlier fades from her face. “Do you think I should give Maggie the talk?” Kara asks after she swallows. 

“What talk?”

Shrugging a shoulder, Kara takes another bite. “The hurt my sister and they’ll never find the body talk.”

Lena laughs. “I don’t think that’s necessary,” she says and Kara looks a little skeptical so she adds, “Alex owns a lot of guns.”

“True,” Kara says with a thoughtful nod.

The excitement of earlier is subdued now and Lena’s left to yet again confront the fact that she’s alone in Kara’s apartment after a night of sleeping together. There’s a memory lingering in the back of her mind of her voice begging Kara to stay in the bed, her fingers pulling Kara towards her and she’s hoping it’s the fading images of a dream and not something she actually did.

Kara is regarding her from across the kitchen island, watching as she takes careful sips of her coffee. It’s not exactly the way she likes her coffee, but it’s caffeine and she needs the boost to get her brain to start working properly. After a few more pulls of the drink, Kara laughs, popping the last of her donut in her mouth and dusting her hands off.

“I’ll make you real coffee,” Kara says, plucking the cup out of Lena’s hands and taking a long drink of it.

“I can make it,” Lena protests, half standing until Kara waves her off.

Kara goes about turning her coffee maker, pulling out a container of ground beans from her fridge and Lena gets lost in the domestic feel of it.

“Are you going into work today?” Kara asks, glancing over her shoulder at Lena. She startles a little as the memories of the previous day come flooding back.

She sighs, eyes her bag where it sits on Kara’s couch and thinks about how her phone is probably overflowing with notifications. The headlines must be full of her name this morning, or at the very least her mother’s, and she can’t decide if she even really wants to see what L Corp’s stock is going to do when trading opens, what it did overnight in Japan.

“I suppose I have to,” she says, for the first time truly dreading the idea of stepping foot in her office and having to play the part of stalwart CEO.

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, Lena,” Kara says, turning to lean against the counter while the coffee maker starts to percolate. “You certainly deserve a day off after what you went through.”

Lena laughs softly, shakes her head. “There aren’t really such things as days off in my world.”

“There should be,” Kara says pointedly, crossing her arms and Lena rolls her eyes a little.

Ignoring Kara’s expression, she gets up and walks over to her bag, pulling her phone out from its depth and feeling unsurprised to see the flood of notifications on her lock screen.

“Maybe I do need a vacation,” she confesses with a chuckle and she turns her phone off, willing to put off having to answer anyone for at least another hour. The world can have her after she’s at least two cups of coffee, taken a shower, and gracefully exited her ex-girlfriend’s apartment.

Kara’s expression is sympathetic as she slides Lena a mug of coffee and they both retake seats at the kitchen island.

“Do you want to talk about last night?” Kara asks after a few quiet seconds of just sitting there.

It causes Lena to choke a little on her coffee and she wonders which part Kara means - the part where they had just barely stopped her mother from committing genocide, or the part where Lena’s pretty sure she all but begged Kara to sleep with her.

“What about last night?” Lena asks, managing to keep her tone even and steady. She takes a sip of coffee just to have something to do, while Kara fiddles with her own cup.

“Everything with your mother,” Kara clarifies, and Lena relaxes a little. It’s somewhat easier territory to navigate, but only just slightly. “Did you want to talk about it?”

“Honestly?” Lena starts. “Not really.”

Kara reaches out across the counter and twists her fingers with Lena’s softly, the feel of it shooting straight up Lena’s arm. “Well when you do…”

“You’ll be the first to know,” Lena says, with a quick squeeze to Kara’s hand. It’s not untrue. Lena can’t imagine who else she would trust enough to talk about things with her mother. Who else would understand everything she’s going through.

The moment feels comfortable, not unlike how it was earlier when they were still wrapped up in each other under Kara’s comforter. Lena loathes to think that anything could break this feeling, that reality is calling out to her and she’ll have to leave all of this in a few short moments and face everything the day has set out in front of her. Just the thought of having to read what the press is saying about her makes her want to scramble back into bed and hide under the bedsheets there.

Before either of them can say anything, a loud whoosh sounds out behind Lena and she ducks away from it quickly. Nanoseconds later, Kara is pulling Lena off the stool to stand behind her and Lena’s eyes go wide to see the same blue anomaly from Thanksgiving and L Corp pop into existence in front of Kara’s couch. It wavers there for a moment longer than it had the first two times and Lena feels frozen as she watches two men come jumping out of it like it’s a portal.

It’s a portal, she realizes when it pops away, and she’s left standing behind Kara observing two strangers in the middle of Kara’s apartment.

Everything is still for a long moment before Kara is squealing again, jumping forward with a loud, “Barry!” and rushing towards the taller man’s arms.

So. Not a stranger, Lena thinks and she’s left to watch Kara embrace - Barry apparently.

“I knew it was you,” Kara is saying, breaking apart and Barry smiles widely at her. “I knew it was you in that weird space portal thing.”

“Yeah,” Barry says, shrugging. “It took a couple tries to get here.” He gestures to the man standing next to him. “This is my friend, Cisco.”

Cisco reaches out to shake Kara’s hand. “I have to say,” he starts. “This is a nice universe you got here.”

Lena’s brain tries to put it all together, but she’s only barely had one cup of coffee and there are about twenty parts to what’s happening that aren’t adding up. Barry notices her then, his eyes going wide and jaw dropping as he looks between she and Kara in a similar way to how Alex had earlier.

“Oh,” he says, gesturing around a little. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you had - I didn’t mean to interrupt you guys. The breaches are kind of hard to control where we -” He paces over to Lena and smiles engagingly. “Hi, I’m Barry Allen.”

Lena shakes his hand, still entirely confused as to what is happening, and Kara bounces over to them. “Oh, wow, sorry, yeah. This is Lena. Lena this is my friend Barry!” Kara looks excitable and happy and Lena reacts to it, relaxing a little despite not knowing anything about what’s going on. “Barry is from another universe,” Kara says to her, in a lower voice, and Lena blinks, tries to decide if she maybe hallucinated hearing that.

“You’re Lena,” Barry says with a knowing tone that surprises Lena. “Like -” he turns to Kara, drops his voice a little. “Lena Lena?”

Kara nods, and Barry’s smile goes even wider than before and Lena can’t keep up with it. It reminds her of Kara, in a way, like Barry is vibrating at an entirely different frequency than the rest of them. “Wow, I’m so happy for you guys. I mean, that’s awesome. I know all about - I have an Iris back home. Well, she’s not, I don’t have her, she’s a person - you know what, I’m going to stop talking now.”

The words come out in a quick and jumbled mess and Lena is fairly confident she might actually still be dreaming.

“I’m Cisco,” the other man interrupts, shoving at Barry just enough to move past him and shake Lena’s hand. “You can call me Vibe,” he adds in an exaggeratedly low tone. Barry makes an apologetic face behind him.

“Kara,” Lena draws out slowly, maintaining a polite smile for the two men in front of her.

Kara looks at her expectantly, but frowns when she notices the expression on her face. Good, Lena’s communicating her feelings correctly. 

“Can you please explain what is going on?”

“Oh! So,” Kara gestures at Barry. “Barry is from another universe.”

“You said that,” Lena replies and she tries to force her brain to boot up to its normal processing speed.

“A parallel universe,” Barry adds with a shrug.

“Parallel universe,” Lena parrots. She realizes she must sound like an idiot right now, but she’s pretty sure that Kara has just implied the multiverse theory is real and she’s standing here in front of two people not of this Earth.

“What are you doing here anyway?” Kara asks, and Barry turns back to her, clearly not caring that Lena’s having mental whiplash trying to keep up with everything that’s happening.

“So you remember last year when I like helped you out and you promised to do the same for me?” 

Gone is the excitable Kara Danvers of before, replaced by a more Supergirl-looking woman, her spine straightening. Despite her disheveled clothes and messy hair she looks confident and ready for action. “What are we up against?”

“Aliens, actually,” Cisco answers, smiling a little. “Barry here thought we might get a ringer for our team. Even the odds.”

“Well, I’m happy to help, Barry,” Kara says, and Barry grins at her. “Of course.”

“Thanks, Kara,” he says and he glances at Lena for a moment. “We kind of have to get going as soon as you’re ready-”

“Oh yeah,” Kara says, waving around. “I just need to change.”

Barry is still eying Lena, but he keeps smiling. “Cisco and I will go get some food. I’m starved.”

“You guys have Big Belly Burger on this Earth?” Cisco asks, as Barry ushers him to Kara’s front door and out of the apartment.

Alone again, Lena finds herself incapable of forming a complete sentence, settles instead on shooting Kara a perplexed look and just blinking at her. Kara stares back at her, clearly trying to find a way to explain.

“So Barry’s from another universe,” Kara says slowly.

“We established that,” Lena replies. 

“And now he needs me to go over to his Earth and help him out.”

“Okay,” Lena says, drawing the word out slowly. “I’m going to need you to start from the beginning.”

“Barry is from another universe,” her ex-girlfriend repeats.  

“Kara,” Lena warns, and Kara straightens a little, tapping on the counter and thinking.

“Do you remember last year - there was this thing in the news about the Blur?”

Lena digs through the archives of her brain, has a fuzzy recollection of such a thing. “Sure.”

“Well that’s Barry. He’s like, insanely fast. Superhuman fast.”

“Faster than you?”

“No,” Kara scoffs, snorts into a dismissive laugh. “Of course not. But close.”

“Is he an alien?”

“Uh, he’s a metahuman?” Kara says, and Lena no longer needs coffee. She needs a drink. “So, like, he got struck by lightning and now he’s the fastest man alive. At least on his Earth.”

“And he got to this Earth because-”

“He ran way too fast and accidentally showed up here,” Kara says with a soft shrug.

Lena’s brain finally feels like it gets up to speed and she attempts to unpack everything Kara is saying. It helps when she adds what she already knows about multiverse theory into the conversation. “Okay,” she says, rubbing her temple a little. “I think I understand. Sort of.” Not entirely, but if Kara keeps explaining it, Lena feels like she’ll just understand less.  

“Now he needs my help and I have to, uh-” Kara pulls a face, crosses her arms.

“Go to another universe and help him,” Lena finishes for her.

“Yes.” Kara pauses, then brightens like she’s just had the most genius idea of all time. “Hey, why don’t you come with?”

Lena’s jaw drops. “To another Earth?!” The words come out with a little squeak she feels immediately embarrassed about, but the world feels like it’s moving way too fast and she can’t keep track of anything in a coherent manner.

“You said you needed a vacation,” Kara points out and Lena shoots her an incredulous look.

“When I said that, I was thinking more like a weekend in Coast City or Happy Harbor, not a different universe.”  

“Come on,” Kara entreats, and she adopts this look on her face that Lena can’t categorize as anything other than seductive, even though she’s sure Kara doesn’t mean it that way. Lena’s body doesn’t really care about Kara’s intentions, however, and she feels her chest heat up a little at the sight. “Don’t tell me that the nerd inside you isn’t totally dying to see what another universe looks like.”

Kara’s not wrong, the scientist in her is completely interested. But she has responsibilities here on this Earth and she’s still reeling a little from the events of the previous night along with the way she woke up just moments before. It’s like she can still feel Kara pressed tightly against her and she swallows against the tingling that rushes over her skin.

A laundry list of things she needs to do today pours into her mind and she thinks of the chore it’s going to be handling her inbox at L Corp.

“Look,” Kara says, stepping a little closer to Lena and Lena straightens a little at the feel of Kara’s body radiating warmth towards her as it always had. “You can either stay here and deal with the hell that your work day is probably going to be or you can come with me to a universe in which neither of us have to worry about your mother or about…” Kara looks around, trying to find words, like she can’t figure out what it is Lena actually does in her day to day. “Stock prices?”

It makes Lena laugh and she considers what Kara is saying. Her work day is going to be hell and just the thought of her mother, sitting in a jail cell, likely plotting revenge is making her itch. Kara is standing in front of her with sleep mussed hair and wrinkled pajamas, offering Lena a reprieve from the stress of all of that and Lena can’t help responding to it.

“It sounds like it’s a job for a superhero,” she says as a last ditch effort at resistance. “I don’t want to get in the way of your saving another world.”

Kara’s brows pull down. “Lena,” she laughs. “You helped save the world literally last night.”

“I thought you didn’t like me taking risks,” Lena says, and Kara rolls her eyes.

“I don’t like when you take risks without me. If we take one together, it’s way more fun,” Kara clarifies. "And safe." 

“Barry came to find an alien. I don’t think I exactly qualify,” Lena jokes and Kara shrugs.

“Barry came because he needs help fighting aliens and you’re like the smartest person ever and you probably know more about aliens than anyone he’s got on his team so…”

“That’s quite an assumption,” Lena replies, but she feels pride start to swell a little her chest.

“Come on. Let’s go save another universe. You and me.”

Lena purses her lips and crosses her arms, regarding Kara for a long moment. With a deflating sigh she shakes her head and laughs. “Fine,” she concedes. “I’ll go.”

Kara’s eyes go wide like she didn’t really expect Lena to agree and then she’s practically vibrating with excitement, jumping forward to hug Lena with exuberance. “It’s going to be awesome.”

“I’m going to regret this,” Lena grumbles, but she smiles at the sound of Kara’s laughter, clear and bright in her ear. She grabs a bag, shoves a few clothes in it, dashes off an email to Jess telling her to put out a press release asking for privacy, with clear instructions to not do anything else until she hears from Lena. And then Barry and Cisco are back, and Kara’s pulling her by the hand into another universe.

--

They take a trip during the spring of sophomore year, because Lena can’t stop stressing about her early graduation and Kara can’t stop stressing about Lena’s stress, and they both decide they need some time away from campus and Lillian’s badgering phone calls. If only just for one weekend.

So they buy plane tickets to go to Midway City for the weekend, even though Kara tries to convince her that she can fly them both. Lena texts Lex making sure the family yacht that’s docked there is available for the next few days.

“We need to do this more often,” Kara observes from behind Lena. She’s spread out on one of the foredeck’s small little lounge beds, watching Lena as she leans to look into the water. Kara’s clearly happy to be in the open air, free of the hours of airport, plane, and town car that had preceded their arrival at the yacht.

“Do what?” Lena asks, making sure they’re anchored correctly and glancing over her shoulder to look at Kara. Behind the dark of her sunglasses, Lena allows herself a moment to admire all the skin Kara has on display. It’s an unusual sight - Kara tends to favor pants and sweaters and long sleeved shirts - but the unseasonably warm weather of the day called for shorts and tank tops and Lena is not complaining.  

“Be lazy,” Kara answers, craning her neck a little in Lena’s direction. She tips the edge of her own sunglasses down so she can look at Lena. “Come here,” she murmurs enticingly.

Satisfied that the anchor is hooked properly, Lena abandons her post and pads over to Kara, dropping down and curling up against her side with a soft sigh. “It’s nice.”

“No homework to worry about, no job to get to,” Kara lists off, tracing her fingers down Lena’s bare arm, her lips ghosting over Lena’s forehead.

The combination of Kara and warm sun makes Lena feel boneless as she sags against Kara’s body, her leg sliding over her girlfriend’s. “Enjoy it while it lasts,” Lena says wryly, closing her eyes against the subtle rock of the boat.

“We should get a boat,” Kara responds and Lena props up a little to look at Kara, her palm spreading out over unfairly toned abs.

“We’re on a boat.” Lena laughs. “One that I do, in fact, own.”  

“Well, we should go on it more,” Kara clarifies and she puts her hand against the small of Lena’s back, pulling her closer. Lena’s hips press in solidly against Kara’s and heat blooms up in Lena’s gut that has nothing to do with the abundance of sunshine. Her hand slides up Kara’s body until it’s resting against her sternum where bare, tanned skin is on display thanks to this miracle tank top.

“If we did it all the time it wouldn’t be special.”  

“After you graduate then,” Kara says, her fingers sliding up under Lena’s tank top to trace her spine. It’s a distracting feeling tempered only by the mention of graduation and the imminent separation that Lena knows will follow. It cools a little of the heat building between them.

“Can we not talk about graduation?” Lena asks softly, her fingers smoothing against the exposed skin over Kara’s collarbone.

“Sorry,” Kara replies, equally soft and genuine.

Lena shakes her head, pushes forward a little until she can kiss Kara properly, a solid pressure of their lips. Kara smiles into the kiss and Lena’s chest flutters with happiness. “I don’t want to think about the real world right now,” Lena murmurs between kisses and Kara’s hands fit to her hips, lifting her slightly until she’s stretched out fully on top of Kara. “I just want to be here with you. Just us. Nothing else.”

With a sudden movement, Kara flips them over, pressing Lena down into the cushions. “I can do that,” she says.

Kara kisses her then. The kind of kiss that sparks through Lena like wildfire and she wonders for the millionth time how someone that isn’t even human , that had to google what dating was, can be so good at something like this. She manages to push Kara’s sunglasses off her face and pulls her own off as well, tossing them to the other lounge bed on the bow. Kara’s weight is steadying and warm, and Lena’s hands are traveling through Kara’s hair, down her back.

Warm hands are pushing up Lena’s tank top and Kara’s lips are sliding insistently against her own and just like that Lena gets what she wanted - the entire world distills down to this moment and everything else gets shut out. All she is aware of is the careful way Kara dusts kisses down her jawline and whispers affection directly into her ear.

She’s so distracted by the fingers tracing her ribs that she doesn’t notice Kara’s switched from English to Kryptonian until she’s mumbling words Lena’s never heard before. Pulling away a little to force Kara to look at her, Lena affects a quizzical look, her hand reaching up to trace a thumb over the swell of Kara’s lower lip. “What did you just say?”

A blush beats over Kara’s cheeks and Lena realizes maybe there’s a reason Lena doesn’t know those particular phrases. “I said I love you,” Kara murmurs, voice thick and attractive. It beats heat into Lena’s gut.

“No, you didn’t,” she says with a smirk. “I know what that sounds like.”

Kara’s eyes dart away guiltily and Lena laughs as realization dawns. “Kara,” she says in a teasing tone, voice dripping with feigned shock. “Were you saying something dirty?”

“No,” Kara immediately denies, but the truth is in the deepening of her blush and Lena grins even as Kara moves off of her with a heavy roll of her eyes.

Lena follows the motion immediately and settles on top of her girlfriend, grinning down at the sheepish expression on her face. “I can’t believe you wouldn’t teach me all the dirty Kryptonian words. That’s easily the best part of learning a new language.”

“Stop teasing me,” Kara complains, with a certain amount of whine and a pout that Lena has to kiss.

“I’m sorry,” Lena says softly against Kara’s lips, but she’s smiling and Kara makes this little noise into their kisses that tightens something low in Lena’s gut.

“No, you’re not,” Kara retorts, but she brings her hands up to grip Lena’s hips and sits up a little to keep their lips together. Lena wraps her arms around Kara’s neck and enjoys the feeling of Kara cradling her in her lap.

“Kara,” Lena says, pressing a trail of kisses across Kara’s jaw until she’s nosing under her ear. Kara hums out a questioning sound and slides her palms up under Lena’s shirt at her back. “I love you.”  

It’s whispered straight into Kara’s ear and the reaction is instantaneous. Kara’s body relaxes into Lena’s and her fingers clench a little against the skin over Lena’s spine.

“But I’m not having sex on the bow of this ship.”  

Kara startles a little bit and pulls back to look at Lena. “I wasn’t trying to - I mean I want whatever you - I didn’t.”

Lena shushes her with a finger over her lips and a short chuckle. “We’re not alone on this lake,” Lena says and gestures without looking to where she knows another boat is anchored not far away. In the distance she can hear the gentle roar of an engine speeding past. “Do you think you can handle carrying me down to the cabin?”

Without responding verbally, Kara just stands up, lifting Lena with ease and all but floating them down to privacy.

--

As it turns out, parallel universes don’t exactly have significantly noticeable differences. At least not right away.

Earth-1, as Kara had called it, isn’t much different than their own earth (Earth-38, she learns) and Lena finds herself just a tad disappointed by that.

Barry has assembled what looks to be an entire superhero team together in a big airplane hanger and Lena feels a little out of place. The feeling settles just slightly when Kara grabs her hand and keeps her close by her side.

“Barry, I thought you were bringing an alien,” a man calls out from across the hangar as they make their way towards him.

“Yeah, we did,” Barry says and he smiles at Kara, stepping aside for the group to observe her. Lena drops her hand on instinct and allows Kara to pace forward. “Everybody, this is my friend, Kara Danvers, or as she’s known on her earth, Supergirl.”

It’s odd to hear Kara’s secret identity so casually disclosed like that, but she supposes it’s not as important a secret on a completely different earth.

A man to their right speaks up. “What makes her so super?”

Lena smothers a smile at the quick response Kara has to that, jumping up to hover in the air. Her laser vision whirs to life and they all watch as she draws the Crest of El into the cement right behind them.

“I’m convinced,” Lena thinks she hears someone say punctuated by an excited, “Best team up ever!”

Kara touches back down beside Lena, eyes bright and Lena shakes her head. “Show off,” she whispers.

The man from before, the one asking Barry if he brought an alien, steps forward. “And you are…?”

It takes Lena a second to realize the question is directed at her, but Kara answers for her anyway. “Lena,” Kara provides, rocking forward a little on her toes. “She’s with me.”

The man looks like he’s waiting for some other sort of explanation, but Kara doesn’t give him one, just keeps smiling and looking around. Lena doesn’t offer one either, just crosses her arms and stands beside Kara.

Barry steps forward and claps his hands together. “Right, so let’s get some introductions out of the way,” he starts and proceeds to name each person in the hangar, Kara watching with intelligent eyes as she nods at every single one of them.

There are a lot of names to remember, and a lot of aliases that go along with them, but Lena keeps up and idly wonders what it would be like to live on an Earth with this many superheroes. On their Earth, it was only a couple Supers, a new Guardian, and a rotating cast of Bat-people in Gotham. And that was only because Gotham was so crazy, she was sure of it.

When they’re done, they congregate around a bank of monitors and Barry runs them through the threat they’re all gathered there to fight. The Dominators. Kara adds in her own two cents about what she knows of them from their universe. Lena only half listens to it as she idles by Kara’s side. She marvels a little at what it’s like to be confronted with a problem that really has nothing to do with her. That doesn’t actually pose a threat to her day-to-day.

It’s also only slightly unnerving to be in a warehouse full of strangers and realize that not a single one of them knows who she is. At least not who she is apart from some woman Supergirl brought with her from another universe.

Eventually the group decides on running a training exercise against Kara, and Lena grins a little at the excited glint Kara gets in her eye at the prospect. When they all clear out to get ready, Lena’s not entirely sure where to stand or what to do. It occurs to her that she really just is a bystander in this whole thing. Every single other person seems to have some kind of role or contribution to the group, but Lena is just there observing, standing on the sidelines and watching.

Kara, who is far too excited about pretty much everything to do with this, merely gives Lena’s hand a warm squeeze before skipping away to talk to Barry and the grumpy man named Oliver Queen. Lena just kind of looks around the room and tries to find a place to stand that is relatively out of the way.

“Lena, right?” The woman named Felicity walks over to her with a cautious smile, pointing at her in question.

“That’s right,” Lena answers, straightening a little.

Felicity’s smile grows to something more warm and easy and Lena can’t help but respond to how friendly it seems. It’s freeing to realize that she’s meeting people that seem to have zero presumptions about her. “You can stand with us,” she says. “In the command center. It’s where the brains of this operation usually congregate.”

Lena follows her into what looks like a mobile tactical unit with S.T.A.R. Labs painted on the side. Lena’s never heard of such a company, but from the looks of the massive hangar they’re currently standing in and the amount of tech around them with the same logo, it’s as big a deal as L Corp in this universe.

They watch the training exercise from the safety of the van, occasionally stepping out to run some tests or take down data. Lena lingers around Felicity, Cisco and Caitlin and watches over their shoulders. It’s fascinating to discover what each member of the team can do - between highly powered weaponry and lethal combat skills they make a formidable squad. But they’re no match for Kara.

“Heat vision,” Cisco breathes at some point when Kara yet again lets the beams shoot out of her eyes. “Damn. That’s cool.”

Felicity hums agreement, types something into her laptop and Caitlin looks over. “I wonder how hot it actually is. It just cut through tungsten.”  

“It can exceed 50,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit,” Lena answers without thinking and the group turns around to collectively stare at her with matching looks of surprise. She can’t decide if it’s because the number is almost incalculably large or if it’s because it’s the first time she’s spoken aloud to them in almost an hour.

“That is seriously hot,” Cisco says in a way Lena’s not entirely sure is about the numbers. Lena laughs a little, clears her throat at the feeling of being observed critically by all the three of them.

Felicity turns her chair entirely around, leans back in it and looks at Lena with narrowed eyes. “What is it exactly you do? On your Earth?”

“I run my family’s company,” she says simply.

“Sounds quaint,” Cisco adds, turning back to his computer and typing in a few commands.

She smiles at the idea of L Corp being considered anything of the sort. “It pays the bills.”

“What’s the company?” Felicity asks.

“L Corp,” she responds promptly. “Formally Luthor Corp. After my family. The Luthor family.”

There’s no visible response and Lena finds herself a little baffled at the experience. Not a single person in the room reacts to her last name and she hasn't had this kind of feeling since meeting Kara for the first time.

Felicity just sort of blinks at her. “What does the company specialize in?”

Lena can’t help but laugh a little. “I wouldn’t say we do exactly. Though our technology division is probably our most lucrative. We also hold interests in industry, communications, financial, and some property ventures.”

“Okay maybe not so quaint,” Cisco says, twirling around like Felicity. Lena can make out the small smile Caitlin lets out at that.

“Well you’re in good company,” Felicity says wryly, but Cisco is watching her with interest now and he wags a pen in her direction.

“Technology. Talk more.”

Lena shrugs, feeling comfortable with this line of questioning. It feels nice to talk about L Corp to people that have absolutely no preconceived notions about its legacy. “Mostly bio-engineering, robotics, pharmaceuticals, software.”

“I knew it,” Cisco says sagely with a shake of his head. “You’re totally a nerd.”

Eyebrows raising, Lena smiles, crosses her arms. “I know a few people that would disagree. Myself included.”

Caitlin turns after that, sending Cisco a short glare before looking a Lena kindly. “So does Supergirl work for L Corp?”

It pulls a sharp laugh out of Lena. “No, not exactly.”

“But you guys work together?” Felicity asks and Lena wonders how she found herself in this position being interrogated by these three.

“We’re friends,” Lena answers and it seems like a massive oversimplification, but it’s all she has. Felicity gives her a skeptical look, like she knows just how generic that response is, but she lets it go.

“Is that how you know all her numbers?” Cisco says.

“Her numbers?”

He nods. “Yeah, like her powers. You’ve tested them?”

It’s habitual to shield people from knowing too much about Kara, knowing about the wealth of information she’s gathered regarding Kara’s powers, but the room seems to hold something trustworthy in it. “I have.”

Caitlin’s eyes light up a bit of that and so do Cisco’s. Felicity has an amused smile on her face she can’t read, but doesn’t get a chance to before Cisco is nodding rapidly with a wide grin. “Awesome. You have got to tell me everything. Let’s start with just how strong she is because I’m thinking she could probably drop kick Grodd into cyberspace based on what I’ve seen, but maybe it’s even more than that.”

“Grodd?” Lena asks, perplexed.

Caitlin glares at Cisco again. “He’s this -” she wavers, gestures inarticulately.

“He’s a gorilla,” Cisco provides. “It’s a long story.”

“Doesn’t seem that long,” Felicity mumbles, but she spins back around in her chair and eyes the monitor that’s playing a live video feed of the hangar. Out of the corner of her eye Lena can spot Kara’s happy grin as a stream of bullets bounce off her chest.

“So how powerful is she really?” Cisco is leaning towards her eagerly and she can tell Caitlin is just as curious about the answer.

Lena shrugs, thinks of the encrypted spreadsheet she still has on a dusty harddrive in her storage unit and does some easy calculations in her head. “On a good day, with significant yellow sun exposure, she could likely support somewhere in the range of 200 quintillion tons.” If she inflates the numbers a little it’s only because she likes the awed reaction she gets as she says it, the way everyone glances at Kara who is now tossing around Ray Palmer like he’s made of paper.

--

It happens mostly accidentally, but she’s working on a robotics project one day when she discovers how to make a self-repairing alloy.

It wasn’t her intention when she had set out to modifying her newest battlebot, but as she’s reviewing some of her research results and sipping on a lukewarm mug of coffee she realizes that the metal she’s been tinkering with in the simulation was...healing itself.

For a frozen few seconds she can’t do anything but blink at her computer screen.

She checks her results three times. Runs them through four different programs.

All the same.

Her first thought is that she could revolutionize architecture, industrial design. An alloy that when broken intuitively binds itself back together has limitless possibilities.

Her second thought is about Kara. And as if summoned by Lena’s wandering brain, her girlfriend saunters into the enclosed lab with a bright smile and a brown paper bag.

“Hey,” Lena greets, craning back a little to accept the kiss Kara drops on her lips.

“Hi,” Kara says before plopping into a chair next to Lena and leaning back to prop her legs on the table. She deposits the bag next to Lena’s laptop. “I ordered potstickers, but I think Great Wall shortchanged me again.”

“That’s probably because no one that works there thinks one person could reasonably want twelve orders of the same thing at once.”

Kara hums disapprovingly and glances at Lena’s computer. “What are you working on?”

Glancing back at her screen, Lena just sort of shakes her head, flounders around for what to say. “I’m not sure.”

Kara sits up then, her feet thudding back on the floor and she leans in close to Lena to properly see the program that’s still running Lena’s numbers through a series of algorithms. “Whoa,” Kara says after a few seconds of blinking at the screen. The expression on her face is a lot like how Lena felt just moments ago when she realized what was happening. “Is that - I mean is it repairing itself?”

“I think so.” Lena nods grateful that someone else is seeing it too. At least she’s not hallucinating.

“Rao,” Kara breathes out, looking at Lena with awe in her expression. “That’s amazing. It’d make it virtually unbreakable wouldn’t it?”

“In theory, yes,” Lena answers and she’s back to thinking of all the implications - she makes a mental note to call Lex later and send him the results.

“I knew I was dating a genius, but this is like -” Kara smiles at her as she makes a gesture with her hands, opening them up near her head and letting a small explosion sound come out of her mouth. It makes Lena laugh and roll her eyes.

“Stop,” she says, fighting a blush. Kara relents with a quick kiss to Lena’s cheek and a smile.

“I wonder what that would feel like,” Kara comments with a hint of wonder in her voice and Lena looks at her curiously.

“What do you mean?”

Kara shrugs, leans back away from Lena’s computer and reaches into the bag of food on the table to pull out a plastic box of potstickers and set it on her lap. “I’ve never held an Earth metal I couldn’t snap in half or at the very least bend.”

Lena had never thought about that. Never thought about how Kara doesn’t really understand anything on this earth that’s unbreakable. She reaches out to hold Kara’s hand and warms at the gentle way Kara twists their fingers together. “Well if I can get it out of the theory stage, I’ll make you something with it.”

“Really?” Kara perks up a little at the idea, and Lena is, as always, helpless against Kara’s smile.

“Definitely,” she responds with a quick, solid kiss to Kara’s lips.

The metal does, in fact, end up working. Her brother sends her a bottle of Macallan 1939 after she sends him the results and a sample. The note on the bottle reads: you’re going to make us obnoxious amounts of money. It makes her feel a kind of pride she can’t deny, fills her with purpose and for a few seconds she looks forward to the future - working with Lex at Luthor Corp to revolutionize the world.

Kara takes her out to dinner to celebrate, and when they’re back in Lena’s dorm room later, she hands Kara the bracelet she made out of the new metal.

“What’s this?” Kara asks, taking the small metal circlet from Lena’s hands. It’s a shimmery, anodized metal that picks up colors easily, and it nearly shines in Kara’s hands.

“A bracelet,” Lena answers simply. “Made from the first samples of the new alloy I discovered.”

Kara looks down at it with something like reverence and she’s holding it gently in her fingers like it’s liable to break. Which it’s not. That’s the whole point.

Lena laughs a little. “Go on,” she tells Kara. “Try to break it.”

There’s hesitation in Kara’s demeanor, but after a few seconds, she tries, pulling at the bracelet in an attempt to snap it in half. The metal bends a little, but doesn’t break, stays interlocked in a circle. It’s thin, but incredibly heavy - Lena had to use two hands just to present it to Kara.

“Wow,” Kara says, looking between Lena and the bracelet. “You really did it.”

“I did,” Lena replies, feeling proud of herself.

“I love it,” Kara whispers and her smile beats across Lena’s heart like a drum.

“I would have had it engraved,” she adds softly and she fiddles a little with the watch on her wrist. “Like you did with my watch, but you can’t really carve into a metal that’s built to repair itself.”

It’s said as a joke, but Kara’s gaze whips up so fast and serious that Lena’s smile swipes off her face in response.

“What would you have said?” Kara asks and her voice sounds hoarse and scratchy. “If you could have?”

With a casual shrug, Lena tries to ignore the significant look in Kara’s face. “Something like mine,” she answers, aware of the Kryptonian lettering that sits against her skin. “Something saying how much I love you. How I’ll love you forever.”

Kara’s chest is moving up and down perceptibly and it’s such an odd image that Lena starts to get a little worried. Especially when Kara doesn’t say anything else, just stares at Lena with an inscrutable expression.

“Kara,” Lena says, keeping her voice soft, but reaching out to stroke a palm down Kara’s arm. “Darling, are you okay?”

Without answering, Kara just pushes forward and presses the sweetest kiss to Lena’s lips.

--

The training lasts a few hours and Lena can’t stop the swell of pride as she sits back and watches Kara handily beat back any attack thrown at her without breaking a sweat. As it goes on, though, Kara starts to look a little uncomfortable with it, and as happy as Lena is to see Kara beating everyone up, she still doesn’t love Kara being used as a training dummy.

“Are you sure you want me to keep going?” Is a question Kara asks more than once and it’s always met with the gritty grumble of Oliver Queen telling her not to stop.

There seems to be some other drama happening among the group and she’s heard the term time travel thrown around about seven times. There’s a lot to process.

She follows along with some of it, but she’s frankly so grateful to not be at the heart of some epic conflict that she’s happy to watch the rest of them argue amongst themselves and throw distrustful gazes at someone that isn’t her. It isn’t until a beeping sound interrupts them and Lena turns to see Felicity staring at her phone with clear worry.

“Guys! It’s Lyla. The president’s been abducted by the Dominators. She needs us now.”

Just like that everyone tenses and looks around and what had felt like just fun and games for most of the day seems to get palpably serious. Kara’s spine straightens and she locks eyes with Lena.

The group, still clearly unnerved by their own internal drama, splits in two. Oliver and Barry hang back and Lena can’t decide if Oliver is upset about it or if the surly attitude is just normal for him. Judging by the way Felicity seems to constantly be rolling her eyes at him behind his back she thinks it’s probably a consistent personality trait.

Most of the team shuffles out with purpose, but Kara walks over to her and grips lightly at her bicep, clearly conflicted at the idea of leaving Lena alone in the hangar. It occurs to her then that they really are isolated in this universe. They have only each other.

“You going to be okay?” Kara asks, her hand warm and solid on Lena’s arm.

“Of course,” Lena replies, reaching up to grip at Kara’s hands, their fingers slipping together. “Be careful.”

“Always,” Kara says with a bright grin that makes Lena laugh.

Without any time to realize what’s happening, Kara leans forward to press a quick brief kiss to her cheek, just a little too close to her mouth to be considered friendly and they both kind of stare at each other wide eyed when Kara pulls back.

“Okay, cool,” Kara croaks, stumbling back a little. “Yeah, okay I’ll see you later.”

Speeding away just a little faster than human, Kara is gone and Lena is left staring at the empty hangar space hangar.

--

“So how long have you and Kara been dating?” The question comes out of nowhere and Lena nearly chokes on the rum runner she had been sipping on. She bends over, away from the wall she’d been leaning against and coughs for a good few seconds.

She turns wide, confused eyes to her left, where the voice had come from and squeaks out a, “Excuse me?”

It’s Max’s new girlfriend, who’s sitting on the far end of the couch and she’s eying Lena with her brow furrowed, clearly puzzled by Lena’s reaction. They’re at some party the astronomy club is hosting and Kara had just bounced away to make sure to Aaron and Josie were ordering the right kind of pizza, leaving Lena in the living room with...apparently a very curious new addition to their friends group.

“You and Kara,” the girl, Hayley, Lena thinks, is saying. “Have you guys been dating long? Did you meet here, at college?”

“We’re -” Lena tries to get her brain to start working again, idly wonders how many drinks she’s had. It can’t have been that many. Maybe two. Maybe three. “We’re not dating.”

This gets what can only be described as a shocked expression and Hayley sort of rears back a little, looking at Lena like she’s just told her that the world is indeed flat and the sky is actually purple. “You’re not?”

“No,” Lena answers, the word slow like she’s explaining something to a child. Max steps over then, handing his new girlfriend a drink and he grins at both of them.

“What are we talking about?” He asks and then catches Lena’s expression. “Why do you look like someone just told you the Earth orbits the moon?”

“I was just asking about her and Kara,” Hayley confesses and she scoots over so Max can join her on the couch. “I thought they were dating.” She winces a little, sends Lena an apologetic look. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be awkward.”

Max bursts out into laughter, loud and nonstop for a good thirty seconds. Both she and Hayley shoot him perplexed looks, clearly not getting the joke, but before she can say anything, Kara is gliding back into the room and heading straight for Lena.

It becomes obvious to her quickly both why Hayley was convinced they’re dating and what exactly Max found so amusing because Kara plops down on an armchair to Lena’s right before reaching up to circle Lena’s wrist and tug until Lena is falling right into Kara’s lap.

She just sort of freezes, her heart starting to thud a little quicker than usual, but it’s not from sitting on Kara’s lap. That, she’s starting to realize, is a completely normal experience. Kara is a pretty tactile person and she’s always touching Lena in some capacity. But now she notices that Max is fighting a smile when he looks at them and Kara wraps her arm around Lena’s waist in a manner less than friendly and she leans her head against Lena’s shoulder as she plucks the plastic cup out of Lena’s hand and takes a long sip.

It takes a few seconds, but Kara must notice Max and Hayley staring at them and she’s likely picked up the sudden increase in Lena’s heartrate because she leans forward a little bit to catch Lena’s eye before glancing warily at their other friends. “What?”

With a slight cough, Lena recovers and doesn’t want Kara to feel self conscious about what she’s doing so she slings her arm around Kara’s shoulders like she always does and smiles at her. “Nothing,” she says, ignoring the pointed way Max takes a slow sip of his beer.

Kara looks completely unconvinced - Lena’s sure it’s because her heart is still fluttering - so Lena twists her fingers in the ends of Kara’s ponytail to try and reassure her. “Did you get the right pizza ordered?”

Brightening at the prospect of food, Kara bounces a little, setting her chin on Lena’s shoulder with a happy grin. “Yes, and I made sure they ordered you a salad.” She says the last word like it’s something dirty and Lena laughs.

She’s aware of Max and Hayley still watching them even as Aaron and Josie walk back into the living room, but she finds she doesn’t actually care. Kara’s body is warm as it wraps around hers and she’s smiling like Lena is the only person she cares about in the room and there are worst things to be accused of doing than dating Kara Danvers.

The crush she’s developed on Kara since they started being friends two months ago has become harder and harder to ignore - especially with the way Kara has no idea what the near constant physical contact between them does to Lena - but Lena’s pretty sure she wouldn’t trade their friendship for anything.

It’s odd. Lena had come to college with zero intention of developing any significant emotional attachments, but it seems she was wholly unprepared for this girl in her life. A girl that is still unaware of the implications of some Earth customs, unaware that holding hands and cheek kissing and lap sitting could all be easily misinterpreted.

But Lena stops caring when Kara laughs at something Aaron is saying and the sound of it comes straight into Lena’s ear, puffs of air against her neck. She tangles her fingers in the ones spread out against her thigh and takes her drink back from Kara.

--

The tech team heads to the actual S.T.A.R. Labs and watches the mission from what looks like some kind of command center. Cisco and Felicity take seats next to each other in front of a bank of computers and Lena takes stock of everything they’re looking at. Before long, everything goes to hell - as it seems like it does with this crew. The terrible feeling that rockets through Lena when she hears Kara screaming in pain isn’t settled by Barry and Oliver rushing out to go help them, and it certainly isn’t helped when the team, including Kara, starts attacking them.

Eventually, Barry gets Kara alone, leading her back to the warehouse where the team had started.

“What is he doing?” Felicity asks and Lena feels the exact same way, would like to know exactly what Barry thinks his plan is.

Cisco answers. “He’s making her angry.”

Lena thinks to tell them how bad an idea that is - she’s seen Kara Danvers angry, has been there while trying to calm her - but settles for keeping her eyes on the little map that tracks Barry and Kara’s movements.

“But he knows Supergirl is invincible,” Caitlin argues and Lena feels something turn over in her chest. Because Supergirl has weaknesses and this is alien technology that she knows Kara’s never been up against. Worry spikes hard in the back of her head at the idea of Kara getting hurt because of someone overestimating her invulnerability.

It occurs to her then what Barry is probably doing and she exhales noisily in realization. “He’s trying to get her to destroy the device. Fly right through it.”

She can’t fight the wave of irritation that flows through at that because she hates the idea of Kara being used, but it’s not seconds later that both figures on the map seemingly collide and then stop abruptly.

Everything in the room stills and they wait for what feels like a minute, but is likely only seconds before Barry’s voice is breaking through the silence telling everyone that everything is okay and they’re back.

Lena fiddles with her watch and takes a deep, steadying breath.

On a monitor to her left she can see the video images of the rest of the team, congregated just outside the labs, but no longer fighting each other. They stand around just staring at each other and as soon as it’s confirmed the fight is over, Felicity is fleeing the room and heading outside.

The group is all assembled there and Barry shows up in a flash, but Kara is nowhere to be seen.

Lena walks over to take a seat at the chair Felicity just vacated and looks at Cisco. “Do you have Supergirl on the communication systems?”

Cisco turns to her, gives her a look that could only mean duh and hands her a small earpiece. “Sorry, probably should have hooked you up earlier.”

“It wasn’t necessary,” Lena tells him, smiling in thanks as she slides the small device into her ear. Cisco reaches across and pulls up a program on the computer she’s sitting at and she recognizes the software with relative ease.

“Know how to work that?” He asks with a little smirk and she sends him a confident look of her own.

With a few keystrokes Lena connects to Kara’s earpiece and hears it click open in her left ear. “Kara?”

Kara’s voice returns, surprised. “Lena?”

“Are you okay?” Lena asks because no one else seems overly concerned about Supergirl and that’s a role she easily steps into.

“Yeah,” Kara says but the tone sounds anything but convincing. “I’m going to go scan the rest of the city. Make sure there aren’t any more of the devices that were controlling us.”

It doesn’t seem like the brightest idea, frankly. If Kara does come across such a device what’s to stop it from controlling her again? Of the entire team to be put under that kind of spell, Supergirl is the most dangerous of all of them.

She can feel watchful eyes on her, from Cisco and Caitlin, who are still loitering around the room. In the interest of privacy, Lena clears her throat and speaks a language she hasn’t spoken in four years. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? ” Her Kryptonian is rusty and feels awkward at first, but she thinks she got the words out right.

It takes Kara a second to respond, likely because Lena’s accent was never quite perfect, but she comes back through the line, answering in kind. “I'll be careful.

 "See that you are,” she says, and then goes for levity. “It’d be pretty bad form to abandon a girl in an alternate universe.”

Kara laughs and Lena smiles. “I’ll be home for dinner,” Kara jokes and it feels so normal.

Lena tries to remember the Kryptonian phrase Kara used to say to her all the time, the one that was supposed to be something like take care or until we meet again. It takes a second of scrambling through her memory to find it, but she does, and she says it softly across the comms.

There’s another pause, long enough that for a second she thinks maybe Kara already disconnected, but then her voice comes through again, quiet. She repeats it back, and it floods Lena with the warmth it always has 

With that, Lena clicks out of the line and closes down the communications program, sliding the little device out of her ear and standing.

Cisco is looking at her with his jaw dropped and confusion in his eyes. It nearly makes Lena laugh as she hands back the earpiece.

“You guys have some secret language or something?”

Lena just smiles, declines clarifying and settles for, “Or something.”

A gasp of alarm interrupts them before he can ask anything else and Caitlin is rushing towards a computer, pulling up a video feed. Lena turns just in time to catch a yellow light stream down over what once was the figure of Ray Palmer. Then again over John Diggle. Their bodies disappearing in an instant and suddenly everyone is running back into the lab.

They watch for a moment as Barry rushes straight for Oliver’s body, missing him by just a hair before he too is taken away.

Cisco gapes at the video feed. “Well, this just got a whole lot more complicated.”

Lena sees her vacation getting longer by the second and wonders how possible it is to send e-mail across universes.

--

Kara comes back later, much later, and Lena watches as Barry tells her what they suspect happened - the Dominators abducted five members of their group. Kara’s face falls immediately and she reaches out to touch Barry, to reassure him that they’re going to get the rest of the team back.

Kara notices her then and paces forward. Exhaustion is evident all over Kara’s face and in the sluggish way she walks towards her. She’s quieter than normal too and Lena can tell it’s because she’s fighting something inside herself. Lena ventures the mind control has affected Kara more than the others and she files the information away for a later conversation.

“You heard?” Kara asks when she gets close and Lena fights the urge to wrap Kara into a hug, to murmur affection into her hair until the other girl stops looking like she’s carrying the weight of multiple universes on her shoulders.

“I saw actually,” Lena says, and she doesn’t hug Kara, but she reaches out to stroke fingers down the fabric of Kara’s suit spread out on her forearm.

“Are you okay staying here for a little longer?” Kara asks and Lena sees the question for what it is, knows that Kara needs her there even if she won’t say it.

So she answers easily, “As long as we need to.”

Kara relaxes then, smiles a little and reaches out to grab Lena’s hand.

--

After a considerable amount of time spent having a very vocal freak out over her team getting abducted, Felicity offers to put Lena and Kara up in a hotel room and they gratefully accept. She even offers access to some kind of superhero fund they have going and Lena attempts to refuse any kind of financial handout - Luthors do not take handouts - but Kara gently reminds her they have no money and that food isn’t free.

With a strongly worded promise to pay the team back in full, Lena allows the loan and she and Kara make their way to the hotel with a quick stop to grab some kind of dinner. As soon as Kara is holding three paper bags full of cheeseburgers and fries, she starts to relax from the tense exhaustion of earlier.

It seems some things never change and at the first bite of one of the burgers, Kara lets a smile pass over her face.

They make it to their hotel room with little incident apart from a few strange looks at the voracious way Kara is shoving food into her mouth, incapable of waiting until they stop. She only does pause when they finally get into their hotel room and she superspeeds her way out of her suit and into a pair of sweatpants and an oversized sweatshirt that hangs off one shoulder.

Kara plops unceremoniously onto one of the double beds and tugs her bag of food back over, digging in and pulling another burger out while Lena is left to roll her eyes and set her bag down on the desk against the far wall. She had brought an extra pair of clothes, just in case - and now she suspected that she was probably going to need to stop and buy some more.

It’s curiosity more than anything that propels her to open up the laptop Cisco had loaned her earlier that day and do something she usually avoids at all costs. She googles her own name.

For the first time since she was a kid, absolutely nothing comes up from the search. Not a single headline.

It takes considerably more digging than it usually does but she actually manages to locate this earth’s version of her and she can’t decide if she’s happy that her alter-ego exists or if it’s weirding her out. The Luthors don’t seem to be the powerhouse family they are in her world, but they are still a family - just one of moderate wealth that doesn’t make the news half as often.

Kara, who has been scarfing down her seventh cheeseburger while she lounges on one of the beds, looks over at her curiously. “You okay?” The words are garbled around a huge bite of food and Lena rolls her eyes. “Your heartbeat is being weird.”

“Don’t do that,” Lena chastises, but she smiles to take the heat out of it. Lena’s palm pushes against her sternum lightly and she takes a deep breath.

Swallowing the rest of her food, Kara affects a sheepish expression. “I can’t help it. Your heartbeat has always been super loud to me.” 

It feels like a much more significant fact than Lena is prepared to unpack, so she moves past it and focuses back on her laptop. There’s a webpage pulled up with a picture of Lionel and Lillian Luthor on it, and she can’t stop staring at it. There’s another one of her and Lillian and they look almost happy, normal even.

The differences between this earth and her own are then starkly apparent. Her father is alive. Lex isn’t in jail. Lillian doesn’t have any sort of paramilitary group under thumb (as far as she can tell). Even the pictures she finds of herself look...mundane.

“This Big Belly Burger stuff is really good,” Kara comments, fishing in the paper bag by her side and shoving a handful of fries into her mouth. “We need this on our earth.”

“We had it,” Lena replies, absently, clicking through pictures of the Earth-1 Luthors. “It was a subsidiary of Luthor Corp that my brother shut down to divert resources to other endeavors.”

Kara makes a horrified gasping sound and Lena arches an eyebrow back at her. “It’s really good,” Kara says in defense, wiping her hands and jumping off the bed to pace towards where Lena is sitting at a small table. “What are you looking at?”

After a second’s hesitation, Lena moves the laptop so Kara can see it. “I was curious if I existed on this earth.”

“And you do?”

Lena shrugs, gestures at the computer. “It seems so.”

“Wow,” Kara breathes out, looking at a picture of her parents looking like a normal middle-to-high class couple. “Weird.”

“Apparently my father is still alive,” Lena says, smiling even though the thought of it is settling an uncomfortable band around her chest. “And Lex is -” She can’t finish the thought, but imagines she doesn’t need to. Not with the sympathetic twist to Kara’s mouth and the kind set to her eyes. “I think I might even have a relationship with my mother.”

“That makes sense, I suppose,” Kara says, shutting the laptop and sliding it away from Lena. She’s settles on the edge of the bed closer to the desk, and Lena spins around to look at her.

It doesn’t make sense to Lena and she says as much. “How do you mean?”

Kara’s lips thin for a moment. “Well, there aren’t aliens here,” she says. “On this earth. Not until now of course, but that doesn’t totally count.”

Lena’s brow furrows as she tries to catch Kara’s meaning, and when she does her jaw drops. As if her family’s entire problems could be simplified to such a thing. “You mean there’s no Superman,” she says softly and doesn’t add the obvious. No Supergirl either.

“Krypton is still out there,” Kara adds with a wistful lilt to it. “At least, I assume it is. So there was never a reason for Kal to come here, or me to be sent to protect him, and none of my pod dragging Fort Rozz out of the Phantom Zone.”

It hadn’t occurred to her to consider that if Supergirl wasn’t on Earth, then the logical conclusion was that Krypton had never exploded. Everything Kara’s lost on their earth is here, in this universe, and intact.  

“Kara,” she starts slowly, her eyes starting to well a bit as the significance of what they’re talking about starts to become clearer. Kara must recognize what Lena’s thinking because she shakes her head with a soft smile, reaching out to grab at Lena’s hands and squeezing them.

“On Krypton, we believed that every moment is a bridge to the next. That everything happens for a reason,” Kara says, a serious set to her eyes. “If Krypton doesn’t explode, I never get to Earth. I never meet Alex or live with the Danvers. I never meet you.”

Lena hurts just imagining such a world, and then realizes she’s in it. Somewhere out there is a version of herself that’s never known Kara Danvers. At first, when she had realized that her family was more intact, she had assumed that in some way her life was happier here, more at peace. But as she faces the reality that Earth-1 Lena Luthor never has a Kara Danvers...

“I miss my planet,” Kara continues with a half smile. “Of course. I miss my parents, and Rao’s light, and Argo City. But I love the life I’ve built on Earth, and the people in it.”

“Me too,” Lena says, and is surprised to discover how much she means it. They blink at each other for a moment, their fingers winding together between them.

“I’m sorry we have to stay here longer than expected,” Kara says, her thumb rubbing over Lena’s knuckles.

“Don’t be,” Lena says with a dismissive shrug, happy for the subject change. “I told you I needed a vacation.”

Kara hums agreeably, dropping Lena’s hands and leaning backwards. “It’s kinda nice when you think about it.” 

“Think about what?”

“We’re just us here,” Kara says, looking at Lena softly.

Lena’s brows pull together. “I don’t know what you mean.”

With a shrug, Kara bites a little at her lower lip before continuing. “We’re not - I mean here on this Earth we’re not - there’s no DEO or L Corp, and your mother isn’t trying to kill anyone here and apart from a massive alien invasion going on, I don’t know…it feels like we’re playing hooky or something.”

With a slight pang in her chest, Lena understands what Kara’s trying to communicate and the truth of it sits over her like a blanket. “Less pressure,” she murmurs.

“Kind of,” Kara agrees.

Lena’s not sure it’s entirely true, considering Kara was brought to Earth-1 for the express purpose of being a heavyweight in the team’s fight against the Dominators, but she understands that’s not really what Kara’s talking about. “It’ll be nice,” she says, wanting to reach out again for Kara. “To just be us for awhile.”

“We can learn how to be friends again,” Kara says softly and suddenly the room feels so small to Lena. She clears her throat a little against the sudden thickness that claws up into it. “Without all the other stuff getting in the way.”

“That’ll be nice.”

“I haven’t had a real vacation in like forever,” Kara confesses in a soft voice and Lena smiles warmly.

“Me neither.”

“Like not since sophomore year when we went to Midway City and went on the lake,” Kara adds and Lena almost chokes when the memory of the trip Kara’s talking about comes to mind. They learned things about each other, but it wasn’t as friends. Kara must realize what she said and she straightens, coughs a little and stands. “Anyway, we should probably sleep.”

Lena turns away from Kara, organizes things on the table just to have something to do and nods. “Yeah, absolutely. Sleep.”

“Hey,” Kara says and Lena turns with a questioning arch of her eyebrow. “I know Barry wants to chase down some leads tomorrow around town, but I was thinking afterward we could like...I don’t know...do something?”

“Something?”

Kara shrugs, twists her fingers together and looks generally fidgety. “Go for lunch?”

It’s about the fortieth time Kara has asked her out for lunch since they reunited and each time never fails to remind Lena of the fumbling way Kara had first asked her out. It’s no different now, but Lena finds herself unwilling to say no. Not in a universe that’s comprised of only the two of them and nothing else. 

“Sounds good,” she replies, and smiles at the grin that takes ahold of Kara’s face.

“Really?” Kara’s so genuinely surprised at Lena’s answer that she almost feels guilty.

“Really,” Lena repeats and her chest swells at the happy way the skin around Kara’s eyes crinkles.

--

Jack Spheer is exactly the kind of guy she knows her mother would be thrilled if she married. He’s well mannered, successful, and he comes from the kind of money that almost matches the Luthors. The fact that she knows her mother would approve of him almost makes her dislike him immediately, but Jack is undeniably charming and nice in an unassuming way.

Plus he’s brilliant, and he has a passion for saving the world that reminds Lena unerringly of Kara.

And maybe that at the end of the day is the reason why Jack’s request to take her out to dinner spikes a stab of pain into her chest.

“I can’t,” she says almost immediately, trying to get the hollow feeling to fade from her chest.

“You mean not tonight or -” He’s still smiling and his invitation is almost casual, no pressure. But he keeps looking at her with kind, soft eyes and Lena’s avoided emotional attachments for two years for a reason.

“I’m not really looking to date anyone right now,” she answers, trying for a practiced and polite smile.

His expression barely wavers, but he shrugs. “I get it,” he says and it just makes it worse that he looks so understanding about it. They’ve been nothing but friendly with each other and she loves working with him and she really needs to stop thinking about Kara right now.

“I’m just not over an ex,” she tells him, reaching out to grasp his forearm. A worry that her rejection might ruin their friendship wraps around her chest, but he’s still smiling at her, shrugging like it’s no big deal. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he says immediately in a way that feels genuine. “Bad breakup?”

The answer to that isn’t really simple so Lena doesn’t give him one. Just shrugs. “Sort of.”

He grins like she didn’t just reject him in favor of an old flame and reaches out to pat her hand where it’s still resting on his arm. “Look, Lena. We’re friends, right?”

“Sure,” she says. Professional colleagues is more what Lena would categorize them as, but they’ve been working together on a joint project for the past few months now and it’s involved spending a considerable amount of time together - maybe friends was just as apt a description.

“Come have dinner with me,” he says again and puts up a finger to stop her response. “Come out, have a meal, you can tell me all about this moron that let you get away. No pressure. Not a date.”

She laughs a little, if only at the teasing half-smirk he has on his face. “Jack,” she sighs.

“Or we don’t have to talk about that at all,” he adds, putting his hands up in a half shrug. “Your choice. Either way, you get a free meal.”

“I can pay for my own meal,” Lena says with a roll of her eyes.

“Sure, but how else am I going to convince you to spend time with me if I can’t bribe you with free food?”

A smile threatens to take hold of her face and she purses her lips to prevent it. Jack has laughter in his eyes and she finds herself no longer wanting to resist.

“Fine,” she relents, shouldering her purse. “But I get to pick the place.”

Dinner ends up being far more enjoyable than Lena expected. Jack is an interesting conversationalist and he listens to her with a kind of patience she’s not used to. Apart from having a romantic interest, Jack seems to have no other agenda. He doesn’t need her money, and he already has corporate resources of his own, so he doesn’t need anything she can offer from her position at Luthor Corp.

He’s funny and he has good taste in wine and Lena feels comfortable with him in a way she’s only really felt with two other people.

“You have to tell me,” he says after ordering dessert and pouring the last of the bottle of wine in her glass.

“Tell you what?” She smiles at him over the rim of her glass, leaning back in her chair and crossing her legs.

“About the idiot that broke up with you,” he says, flashing her a charming smile.

It doesn’t hurt as bad as it usually does when she thinks about Kara, but there’s still that little twinge of pain in her chest. “Actually, I was the one that did the breaking up.” 

Arching a brow, he leans forward, plays with the stem of his wine glass. “Really?”

With a slow nod she takes another sip of her wine, shrugs one of her shoulders. “We were at different places in our lives,” she answers. Another massive oversimplification, but not that far from the heart of it. Idly, she wonders what Kara is doing right now, if she goes on dates like this, if she has to explain Lena to a new person - she wonders what Kara says about it. “It was for the best.”

“Sounds more complicated than that,” Jack says with a knowing glint in his eyes.

“Speaking from experience?” She asks with half a smirk, but his face grows serious when he answer.

“Yes,” he says simply and with a kind tone.

Any trace of a smile erases from her face and she sets her wine glass down to look at him, feeling affection burst unbidden from her chest. “Thank you for dinner, Jack,” she says softly and his lips twitch upward just a bit.

“The pleasure is all mine, Lena.”

--

The next morning, she and Kara both head back to meet up with Barry and see if they have any leads on where the Dominators could be or where they would have taken their teammates.

Lena hangs back with Cisco, Caitlin and Felicity, who have seemed to accept her as a de facto member of their nerd squad (their words, not Lena’s). She helps where she can and keeps an eye on Kara where they have a tracking program running up on a large monitor.

Nothing comes of it the first day. Nor the second.

At the end of the second day, Barry tells them to go back to their hotel with a we’ll call you if we need you and a sorry you’re having to stay longer than you probably intended.

Felicity makes plans to head back to Star City with Cisco and check in with her team. She hands them all small communication devices and basically puts them on call. Kara assures her that she can be anywhere at the drop of a hat and that she’s faster than Barry (he scoffs at that immediately, but the two of them share a smile).

The third day, Lena wakes up around 8am - a late start for her - and realizes she has absolutely no reason to get out of bed. No responsibilities, no pressing work to get done. It’s an odd experience.

She sends a fleeting thought for L Corp and the firestorm she’s surely abandoned it in. Guilt races through her, but she can’t deny that the past few days have been a reprieve from the usual stress of her life, and they’ve pumped a newfound strength into her. 

Kara gets them both coffee that morning and sits on the edge of her bed as Lena sips at it. 

“What?” Lena asks, after a few seconds of Kara glancing her direction.

Kara shrugs. “What do you want to do today?”

Lena blinks. The idea that she can do whatever she wants, that she has no obligation to be anywhere or be anyone floors her a little and judging from the small smile playing on Kara’s lips, her ex-girlfriend is having similar thoughts. “I don’t know,” she answers honestly. 

Kara plays with her coffee cup a little, shrugs. “Iris mentioned that on this Earth there’s seven seasons of Buffy.”

“What?!” Lena exclaims, sitting forward and laughing a little. “No way.”

“Yeah,” Kara answers, responding to the happy look on Lena’s face. “And she said I could borrow six and seven if we wanted.”

It feels like a lazy Saturday in college. “I could go for a TV marathon,” Lena admits softly admiring the wide grin Kara gives her in reply. 

“Can we order Hawaiian pizza?”

“I don’t know,” Lena says slowly, fighting a smile. “Do they even have that in this universe?”

Kara makes a horrified noise, puts a hand to her chest in exaggerated shock. “Any universe that doesn’t put pineapple on their pizza is a universe I do not want to live in.”

“It’s disgusting, Kara,” Lena replies and enjoys the mock glare she gets in response.

“Just for that I’m ordering three huge, disgusting, high-calorie meat lovers pizzas and eating every single slice in front of you.”

Lena cringes, but she laughs and kicks out at Kara’s thigh, which is like kicking a rock, laughing even harder when Kara makes a show of falling off the bed in a flailing of limbs.

--

Their fourth day on Earth-1 is gorgeous. Bright sunshine and blue skies, and Kara immediately pleads with Lena to spend their afternoon in a park she found not too far from the hotel. It feels a little wrong to be enjoying themselves when the rest of their compatriots are worrying over their abducted friends, but Lena can’t resist the half pout Kara gives her when she asks. 

They find a nice spot under a huge oak tree that allows Lena some shade - she burns if she’s in direct sunlight for more than five minutes - but still lets Kara soak up the rays of the yellow sun. Lena puts her back to the tree trunk and swipes through a tablet Cisco had loaned her with all kinds of information about how the multiverse actually works, how breaches are formed, and what metahumans are. The notes on how Barry’s biology works alone are fascinating. 

“What are you reading?”

Lena looks up at where Kara’s hanging from one of the tree branches and squints a little at the sunlight that streams through the leaves. “Cisco gave me some of his notes on the particle accelerator. Apparently its explosion is what gave Barry his powers.”

Kara lets go of the branch and falls to the ground, floating a little before she hits the grass. “So boring stuff,” she huffs, dropping down onto her back and resting her head unceremoniously on Lena’s knee.

With a roll of her eyes, Lena tugs at a strand of Kara’s hair. “It’s not boring.”

“Is there math?” Kara asks, crossing her ankles and craning her neck a little to look at Lena.

“Yes.”

“Then it’s boring,” Kara replies in a whisper, like she’s confessing a deep dark secret. “Math is the worst. It’s hard.”

Lena scoffs. “I hate when you do that.”

“Do what?” Kara’s fingers twist together where they’re resting on her stomach, the stretch of her shirt lifting just enough to reveal the skin of her hipbones. Lena tries very hard not to notice.

“Act like you’re stupid when you’re not.”

Kara turns a little so her cheek is against Lena’s thigh and she looks up at her, the sunlight playing attractively in her loose blonde hair. “I’m not doing that. I’m just lazy. Math is hard here. It takes like so many conversions for me to even understand anything and I would rather spend my time doing something fun.”

Lena smiles fondly at the memory of Kara slipping up a few times trying to remember little things like how many days there were to a week - instead of six zeytar to one fanff. “Okay,” Lena concedes, shutting her tablet down and setting it to the side. “What would you rather do then?”

With a wide easy grin, Kara presses a little closer to Lena, her head pushing further into Lena’s lap until her shoulders are hitting the side of Lena’s thigh. “Tell me something about yourself.”

“What?” Lena asks. 

“Tell me something about yourself,” Kara repeats, watching Lena expectantly.

“Kara, you know almost everything there is to know about me,” she says with a little laugh.

“Not really,” Kara says and Lena’s smile falters, falls into a frown. “I mean I haven’t actually been around you in four years and you’ve spent a lot of time trying to convince me you’re all different now so…” Kara shrugs, twists her fingers together and wiggles her foot in the air. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

The words stutter into her chest and her heartbeat threatens to start thudding far too loudly so she swallows against it and looks away, out into the park, for a long moment.

“It doesn’t have to be something hard,” Kara murmurs and her hand reaches up to tangle with Lena’s. It’s a comforting gesture, though it does nothing to help the sudden racing of her heart. “Tell me something easy. Like...what did you do on your twenty-first birthday?”

A laugh bursts out of her, loud and unbidden, as she thinks of the answer to Kara’s question. “Lex took me to Germany.”

“Germany?” Kara repeats with a furrowed brow, her fingers stroking against Lena’s in an absent motion. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Lena says, smiling at the memory of her brother taking her around to all his favorite spots in Bavaria. “It was…” distracting is what she wants to say. It had been her first birthday without Kara and the closer it came, the more depressed she had started to feel. Work was something she had become used to using as a distraction tactic, but when Lex noticed she’d logged over ninety hours in the R&D lab days before her birthday, he whisked her away immediately. Using some tech conference as an excuse, they took the earliest flight to Munich and didn’t tell their mother until their layover in Amsterdam.

“It was fun?” Kara ventures and Lena nods. It had been, in its own way.

“Lex got ridiculously drunk on German beer.” Lena laughs a little, wrapped in a happy memory of her brother.

“And you?”

“I made sure he didn’t offend anyone in his stunted German,” Lena says wryly, remembering how her brother had learned all the local slang and attempted to use it at one of the beer gardens to pick up girls.

“Sounds like him,” Kara says and it squeezes tightly in Lena’s gut to be trading memories of her brother with someone that don’t include his rapid descent into madness or the crazed way he had last looked at his trial.

“What about you?” Lena asks to avoid thinking too hard about a time in her life when Lex was just her overprotective brother and not some sort of famous criminal, locked away in prison for life.

“What about me what?” 

“Tell me something,” Lena says. “It’s only fair.”

Their fingers are completely intertwined now and resting against Kara’s stomach without Lena even noticing. It seems her free hand has a mind of its own as well because she’s stroking through the loose hair splayed over her lap absently. 

Kara seems either completely unaware of any of this, or completely unaffected, because she just keeps her eyes trained on the leaves and branches above them and taps a little against Lena’s hand. “You know when I came out?”

Confusion pulls her brows down and she looks at Kara. “What?”

“As Supergirl,” Kara clarifies with a half smile.

“Oh,” Lena says, laughing at herself a little. “When you saved the plane.”

“Yeah,” Kara says, the word a little breathy like she’s getting lost in the memory of it. “Alex was on the plane.”

“How did you - she was?”

A little nod. “Yup.”

“So that’s why you did it?”

Kara looks down to where their fingers are twisting together and plays with the watch on Lena’s wrist with her free hand. “I was on a - a date,” she confesses and Lena’s stomach flips a little. “It was going really bad actually.” Kara laughs a little and Lena relaxes. “And I saw it on the news. I knew Alex was on the flight and I…”

“You weren’t going to let your sister die,” Lena finishes for her, squeezing Kara’s fingers and smiling at her encouragingly.

“Alex was really pissed,” Kara replies, nose scrunching up a bit at the memory. “Like super pissed.”

“Why?” 

Kara shrugs. “She’s spent her entire life trying to protect me and keep my secret and I just kind of came barreling out into the public eye without any regard for the consequences.”

“You saved your sister,” Lena tells her, carding her fingers through Kara’s hair soothingly. “And now you’ve saved the world so many times I’ve lost count.”

Kara scoffs. “Not that many times.”

“Alex loves you,” Lena says and Kara’s brow crinkles as she gives Lena a very clear yeah I know that expression. “I’m just saying.”

“It felt good actually,” Kara says, turning back to look at the sky. Her fingers click open and close the face of Lena’s watch in a fidgety motion.

“Saving the plane?”

“Saving Alex.”

Lena watches the sun come down through the branches, shading and lighting up Kara’s figure in equal measure and the tree sways a little in the breeze. “I can only imagine,” she murmurs.

“Okay, now you go again,” Kara says, looking at Lena expectantly.

Taking a deep breath, Lena tries to think of some benign memory from their time spent apart. It’s a little difficult because so many of her memories either involve throwing herself into work or - she tries not think of Jack. “Do you remember Logan Bell?”

“The guy who interned with you freshman year?”

Lena nods, ignores the way Kara has now spread Lena’s palm out across the defined muscles of her abdomen and is tracing her fingers there. “He got a job with us after graduation. In my department actually.”

“Okay,” Kara says, drawing the word out in confusion. 

Thinning her lips for a moment, Lena takes a breath. “I might have punched him,” she confesses, thinking of the day she finally lost her cool with the man. It was lucky for him she didn’t have anything heavy to throw at him and had to settle for using her fists.

“You what?!” Kara exclaims, sitting up a little and dislodging Lena’s hand from her hair. Kara props up on her elbow to turn and look at Lena and their hands slide down so abruptly that Lena has to pull hers away before it ends up somewhere inappropriate.

She laughs a little at the utterly shocked expression on Kara’s face. “I punched him. And then I fired him.”

Still looking relatively bewildered, Kara stutters a little, shaking her head. “What did he do? That made you punch him I mean.”

With a slight wince, Lena looks away for a brief second. “His work was always subpar anyway. He was lazy and entitled and he had absolutely no passion for the actual job we were trying to do.”

“That’s believable,” Kara says, but she narrows her eyes a little. “But you usually don’t punch people for that.”

“He had a couple of complaints against him. From the women in my department.” 

Recognition dawns on Kara’s face and this time her tone drops a register. “What did he do?” 

“Just something that absolutely warranted the broken nose I gave him,” Lena answers with a shrug. Just thinking of the way he grabbed at his face, bloody and contorted, still gives her a little thrill of satisfaction. “My mother was infuriated, but I remember Lex standing right behind her, laughing, and then he gave me a set of boxing gloves for Christmas that year.”

Kara laughs, her hair tumbling down in waves that draw Lena’s attention for a brief moment. “Next time you need to punch someone, how about you just let me know?”

Lena pushes lightly at Kara’s stomach and Kara pretends to sway under the pressure. “I did just fine myself, thanks.”

“Yeah, but when I punch people my knuckles don’t bruise,” Kara tells her, holding up a hand between them and grinning. “Your hands are so pretty,” Kara adds, picking up the limb in question. “And they do so many good things. I’d hate to see them get hurt.”

It’s not meant to be flirty, Lena knows this, but it comes out that way and Kara is so close to her and everything about the moment makes Lena think about their field outside campus with Kara zooming around trees and floating in the air as she kissed Lena. Heat blooms across her chest and she tugs her hand out of Kara’s grip with a soft clearing of her throat and a low, “Kara.”

Kara must realize how charged the moment has gotten to because she sits up a little more and puts some distance between them. “Sorry,” she says, licking at her lips. Blinking slowly, Kara shakes her head a little as if she can rattle the feelings out of it and takes a deep breath Lena knows she doesn’t need. “It’s easy to forget here.”

Lena knows exactly what she means. Without the ever constant pressure of their lives and responsibilities back home it’s easy to forget that it isn’t four years ago, that they’re not sitting at a bench on campus or in their field. It’s easy to forget that Lena can’t just lean forward and press their lips together when she wants to. 

It’s ridiculously easy and Lena can’t deny that on top of that, it feels good . She had said she needed a vacation and she had, but what she really needed a vacation from was all the stuff in her life that made everything with Kara complicated. She needed to feel like she did in college, the easy casual way she could be with Kara and the way she could let happiness wrap up around her heart without trying to fight it.

“Let’s,” she’s saying before she can stop herself.

Kara’s eyes snap up to meet hers. “Let’s what?”

“Let’s forget,” Lena says softly, holding Kara’s gaze as if it’s the only thing keeping them together.

“Forget what?” Kara asks and her voice is so soft too, like if she speaks any louder it will break whatever’s building between them.

“You said it’d be nice to be just us for a while, right?” Lena replies and the moment feels risky, dangerous even. Adrenaline pools a little on the back of her tongue and she’s sure Kara’s being deafened by the heavy staccato of her heart. “So let’s do that.”

“Lena,” Kara says slowly, still quiet. “What are you saying?”

Reaching out to take ahold of Kara’s hand again, Lena smiles, relaxes her shoulders. “I’m saying let’s forget that everything is crazy complicated between us. We’re here in another universe where we don’t have to worry about either of our jobs or about my crazy family. It’s just us.”

“Just us,” Kara repeats.

“Let’s just do that,” Lena says with a resigned sort of shrug. She’s done fighting constantly against what all her instincts tell her to do around Kara. It’s exhausting trying to resist it. “I want to get to know you again and be around you without second guessing everything.”

“You’re the one that said it would make things too confusing,” Kara says warily and she’s not wrong. At the outset Lena was positive that being around Kara again too much would make everything so much worse, so much harder. But not being around her, not acting normal around her is what’s making everything feel so complicated. 

“It doesn’t have to be confusing here,” Lena says.

Kara’s mouth twitches at the corner. “You sure?”

About Kara? Lena thinks. Always. “We’ll likely be here a few more days,” she says. “I’d like to enjoy my vacation before I have to go back and dig L Corp out of whatever hole my mother’s arrest has surely put it in.”

“Okay,” Kara says, squeezing the fingers twined with Lena’s. “I can do that.”

They’re quiet for a bit, just observing each other and breathing in the feeling of things settling between them.

A mischievous look crosses Kara’s face that Lena arches an eyebrow at. “What’s that look?”

“So if we’re being normal,” Kara says and that’s not entirely what Lena meant, but she understands what Kara’s saying. “Does that mean that if, say, I wanted to…”

She trails off and Lena’s brow pulls down in confusion before suddenly Kara’s speeding to a stand and slinging Lena up into her arms like she weighs nothing before taking off at a run towards the pond in the middle of the park. Lena lets out something between a yelp and a shriek as the air gets whooshed out of her and it takes a disorienting second to realize Kara’s intention.

“Kara, put me down!” Lena orders, but she’s laughing as she yells it and Kara’s laughing. Lena shoves at Kara’s arms and Kara makes an exaggerated show of falling to the ground, both of them tumbling against the grass in a fit of laughter until they’re side by side on their backs. It draws attention from an elderly couple feeding the ducks a few feet away, but Lena can’t find it in her to care.

No one knows her here. There won’t be some headline in the gossip section about the youngest Luthor child being seen cavorting around in the park with grass stains on her pants. Her assistant isn’t going to call her in a few minutes to inform her of some fire she needs to put out. There’s no looming presence of her mother to worry about and no one is shooting her looks purely because they know she’s Lex Luthor’s baby sister.

It’s just Kara. Kara looking at her with amused eyes and a happy face and everything feels like it’s out of a dream she’s never really let herself have.

They’re being normal, Lena reminds herself. She thinks back to what she’d do right now if they were in college. If she’s honest, it’s not so much that she’d do one specific thing or act a certain way, it’s that she wouldn’t hold back, she wouldn’t stop herself from touching Kara if she wanted. Wouldn’t stop Kara from touching her.

So she gives into desire and scoots into Kara’s side, dropping her head on Kara’s shoulder and winding her arm across her stomach until their fingers are tangling together. Kara’s arm goes automatically to her back, the palm resting where it always had just above the waistband of her pants and Lena sinks into the familiar way their bodies fit together.

A bird chirps and flies overhead as a breeze ruffles through Lena’s hair and for the first time in nearly four years, Lena feels like herself.

“I missed you,” Kara says, the words ghosting over Lena’s hair. They had said it to each other just days ago, standing on a balcony in National City, but the sentiment feels different right now, more heavy.

“I missed you too,” Lena whispers and this time her heart stays calm, steady in her chest. Kara tightens her hold on Lena and dusts lips against Lena’s hairline. There are no warning bells that go off trying to remind her of boundaries, no spike of heat in the back of her eyes. Just the sound of Kara’s heart pumping in her chest and the contented feeling of coming home. 

Chapter Text

When Lena wakes up on day six of their excursion to Earth-1, it’s to an empty hotel room and a note on the bedside table that reads ran out to get coffee and breakfast - k

It’s another day of absolutely nothing planned and Lena double checks her computer to make sure the team isn’t looking for them.

With the hotel room empty, she takes the opportunity to get ready for the day, hopping in a long, hot shower that she wouldn’t usually indulge in when she’s home. Showers tend to stay quick and tepid, a functional thing rather than something pleasurable, but now, with no agenda for the day, Lena stays under the hot spray for over a half hour. It feels sinfully good.

Walking out of the bathroom, Lena doesn’t think to realize Kara has probably returned and that’s her only excuse as to why she walks back out in nothing but a towel, loose wet hair falling over her shoulders. She doesn’t even notice Kara until she hears something like a small explosion burst through the room, and Lena jumps so forcefully her back hits a wall.

Hand at her chest to stop the sudden racing of her heart, Lena blinks up to see Kara staring at her, her fist clenched midair and what must be coffee all over the front of her shirt.

They stare for a long moment, Lena trying to keep her breath even until she feels like she can reasonably talk again. “Kara,” she says, still gasping a little. “You scared the hell out of me.”

Kara doesn’t respond. She just stands frozen in the middle of the room, jaw moving silently up and down. The only other movement she makes is to point at Lena inarticulately, and that’s when Lena realizes what the problem is. 

Tightening the towel wrapped around her body, Lena forces herself not to react too much. She clears her throat and gestures at Kara’s now soaked shirt, the dark liquid dripping off it onto the carpet. “You should probably change and soak that before it stains too terribly.” The shirt is far beyond repair, but it’s something to say.

It takes another few seconds for Kara to respond, but she blinks down at herself, startling at little, as if she didn’t realize she exploded an entire cup of coffee in her hand. Lena spares a moment to feel disappointed she won’t get to actually drink the coffee Kara had clearly bought for her.

“Right, yeah,” Kara is saying and her eyes dart around the room to avoid looking at Lena. She flails about to try and find her bag until Lena points at it with another gentle clearing of her throat.

Then, as Kara is scrambling for it, getting coffee over everything, she seems to uncharacteristically lose coordination and stumbles, bumping into the corner of her bed so forcefully that something cracks loudly and the entire frame crashes down into the ground.

They both stare at it with wide eyes for a few seconds before Lena bursts out laughing and passes a hand over her eyes. “You know what,” she says with considerable mirth. Kara’s nose is scrunched up as she chuckles, an attractive blush beating into her cheeks. “I’m going to go back into the bathroom while you…” she waves around the room. “Deal with your life.”

Kara makes some sort of strangled noise, but Lena doesn’t stay around to unpack it. She reaches over to grab a set of clean clothes from her duffel and retreats to the safety of the bathroom. The heat of Kara’s stare burns into her back.

-- 

“I wasn’t objectifying you,” is the first thing Kara says to her when she comes back into the room, the words coming out in a heated rush like they were dying to burst out of her the entire time Lena was in the bathroom.

“It’s okay, Kara,” Lena says with a laugh, waving her off. “Honestly.”

The coffee-stained shirt has been traded for something clean and Kara fidgets a little where she’s sitting at the small table in the corner, adjusting her glasses as she looks at Lena warily. “I mean, you’re attractive, obviously. I’ve always found you - you’re pretty I mean - you know I don’t - I just don’t want you to think - we’re so much more than-”

“Kara,” Lena cuts off, stepping forward to put a finger against Kara’s lips. “It’s okay.”

“I feel bad,” Kara confesses when Lena releases her mouth.

Lena arches a brow, is determined not to make a big deal about this. They’re being normal, right? Kara’s seen her half naked so many times it’s hard to count. Even before they dated.  

“The only things you should feel bad about,” Lena says with a warm smile. “Is destroying what I’m going to presume was my coffee and then breaking a bed. This room is under Felicity’s name.”

Kara looks appropriately sheepish at the reminder, but she grabs a small coffee cup to her right and holds it out to Lena. “I got you another one,” she says and Lena’s a little surprised she had the time to do that while Lena was changing.

She plucks the coffee out of Kara’s hand and takes a small sip of the hot liquid, arching her brow over the rim of it. “Then you’re forgiven,” she says when she’s done, smiling down at Kara, who beams back. 

“Do you want to go to the planetarium?”

The sudden change of subject startles Lena a bit, but she recovers, goes to sit at the table next to Kara and sips at her coffee. “The planetarium?”

Kara nods enthusiastically. “Cisco gave me, like, free museum passes to Central City because apparently S.T.A.R. Labs has some kind of reciprocity with everyone I guess. They have a planetarium and it’s only a few blocks from here.”

“Okay,” Lena answers easily.

“Awesome,” Kara breathes. “I want to see if they’ve discovered the same amount of planets here as they have back home.”

“Or if they even have the same amount at all,” Lena adds, considering it. It’s an interesting thought.

“I hadn’t thought of that!” Kara says perking up with wide eyes.

Lena laughs. “Come on, nerd,” she says, standing and holding her free hand out to Kara. “let’s go.”

“Hey,” Kara replies indignantly, but she takes Lena’s offered hand and stands. “I’m not the nerd in this relationship.”

It warms something in Lena’s chest and she doesn’t fight it, just smiles at Kara and tugs them towards the door. “Says the girl that suggested we go to a planetarium and count planets.”

“You’re the one going with me,” Kara accuses, but she’s smiling and all Lena wants to do is kiss her. The urge is so strong that her mouth goes a little dry.

“Only because you’re literally my only friend in this entire universe,” Lena teases and Kara shoots her a dry look.

--

The planetarium is actually fairly impressive as far as museums from other universes go. Kara is completely enamored with the place, which Lena finds endlessly charming.

“You’re from outer space,” Lena reminds her in a soft whisper.

“It’s all relative,” Kara says, spinning a small display of the solar system. “To me you guys are the aliens.”  

Lena hums through a laugh and observes a display case hosting a piece of a dwarf planet. 

It’s comfortable to stroll through the exhibits arm-in-arm with Kara. There’s a relief in not having to second guess threading her arm through Kara’s elbow or leaning into her as they wait in line for one of the shows. She marvels for the hundredth time since coming to Earth-1 that not a single person bats an eye towards them. They’re all but invisible amongst the crowd. 

“What are you thinking about so hard?” Kara asks after a particularly long stretch of silence. She’s staring at some sort of sextant behind a glass case, glancing up at Lena with a smile. 

Lena laughs. “Nothing important.”

They walk through a long hallway with a curved ceiling that maps the history of the universe along its sides and ceilings. A recreation of the big bang echoes through the hallway in a sudden burst of light and sound and Kara laughs, delighted by it as some children skitter by, frightened by the noise.

It reminds Lena of times spent out in a field with the astronomy club drinking spiked hot chocolate out of a thermos and listening to Kara map the stars with her friends, Kara whispering in her ear about which galaxies she had visited.

“Do you keep in touch with anyone from school?” Lena asks as they walk. 

Kara stills noticeably and disengages from Lena’s hold to look at her warily. “Why?”

Lena shrugs and can’t figure out why Kara looks suddenly closed off. “I was just curious. Your friends from astronomy club. Max, Aaron, Jos-”

“No,” Kara says cutting her off with a dismissive shake of her head which is noticeably forced. “I didn’t.”

Lena’s brows pull together. “How come?”

Kara’s eyes dart everywhere but at Lena and she fiddles with a nearby display that tracks how long it would take for a postcard to arrive from Neptune. It’s clear that Kara doesn’t want to talk about this particular subject, but Lena can’t imagine why. 

“I just didn’t,” Kara answers with a shrug, pressing buttons on the display absently. Lena steps forward, close enough that her arm brushes up against Kara’s front. 

“Okay,” Lena says with an encouraging smile. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me. I was just curious.” She pauses and Kara still doesn’t look at her. “I didn’t stay in contact with anyone after I graduated as I’m sure you know, but since you were there for anot-”  

“Actually, I transferred. And I didn’t really talk to anyone back at school after,” Kara interrupts with a thin smile as she finally looks at Lena.

“You transferred?”

Nodding, Kara laughs, but it doesn’t sound happy. “After you graduated, I just...I transferred.”

She thinks to ask why but she’s terrified of the answer. It’s written all over Kara’s face even as she tries to smile, shaking her head and looking down. “It’s not because of what you’re thinking it is,” Kara adds.

“What am I thinking it is?” Lena asks in a soft voice, her chest suddenly tight with emotion.

“I missed Alex,” Kara says instead of answering. “You know that.”

“Kara, I said you didn’t have to explain and I meant it.” Certainly not if their breakup was the main reason Kara had to go to another school entirely.

“Campus was just so quiet after you left,” Kara admits, laughing at herself. “I couldn’t concentrate.”

A tense silence stretches between them and Lena struggles to keep her heart from racing. “Kara,” she say softly and Kara reacts immediately, steps closer and puts a hand at Lena’s elbow in comfort.

“It wasn’t - I don’t regret that decision. It ended up being really good for me and I got a great internship in Midvale and I worked at Noonan’s for a while and then I got to be Cat Grant’s assistant and now here we are and-” Kara blinks, her stare heavy. “I told you that on Krypton we believed that every moment is a bridge to the next. Things happen for a reason. Even bad things.” 

It’s hard not to think of Lex suddenly or of her mother, but it’s even harder not to think about how their breakup seemed to fundamentally change the course of Kara’s life. “I’m sorry,” is all she can think to say.

“It’s not your fault,” Kara says with a kind of sincerity that Lena is surprised to find she believes. “No one is responsible for my feelings apart from me. You taught me that.”

The moment feels far too significant and the entire point of this vacation is to forget about all these messy emotions between them so Lena takes a breath and tries to smile. “You’re right.”

Kara squeezes Lena’s arm where she’s still holding it and smirks. “You’ve been saying that a lot lately. Are you sick or something?”

Lena rolls her eyes, but she lets herself laugh and when she pushes her fingers against Kara’s stomach in jest, her ex-girlfriend makes a predictably exaggerated reaction to it, pulling away from the touch in mock pain.

“Come on, dork,” Lena says, and she lets Kara tangle their fingers together. “If we’re going to make the Cosmic Wonder show we need to get moving.”

“Isn’t it cool that they named a show after me?” Kara comments as they start walking, and it takes Lena a good five seconds until she understands the joke. She groans loudly when she does and Kara laughs, the sound of it bright and easy as it threads its way around Lena’s heart.

--

They eat lunch at some restaurant down the block from the planetarium and Lena spends most of the time trying to convince Kara she should include some greens in her meals. Her efforts are repelled by Kara ordering a sandwich that comes with a massive amount of meat on it. 

“So,” Kara says, elbows propped up on the table as she takes a huge bite of her sandwich.

“So,” Lena parrots, spearing a carrot out of her salad and arching an eyebrow.

“Tell me something else,” she says, thankfully after swallowing her food.

Lena rolls her eyes, but she smiles. “Tell you something else about what?”

“The getting to know each other thing,” Kara answers, setting her sandwich down and going straight for her fries. “Or re-know each other I guess. The getting to know each other again because we spent four years apart and are now super different people thing.”

It hasn’t felt like they’ve spent four years apart. Not these past few days. Their time on Earth-1 has felt disturbingly similar to college and Lena’s starting to feel like a fool for constantly insisting they’re two entirely different people now.

“What do you want to know?”

Kara dips a fry in her ketchup before swirling it in a small ramekin of mayonnaise and Lena sets her fork down and takes a long sip of her drink to hide her grimace. “I don’t know,” she shrugs. “What did you do after graduation? I remember seeing something on the news about...Japan?”

Clearing her throat against the memories of her months in Tokyo, Lena affects a smile and takes a sip of her drink. “I went there a few weeks after graduation to open up a new technology branch in Tokyo.” 

“What was it like?” Kara asks earnestly and Lena doesn’t know how to tell her how isolating the experience felt, how cold and lonely.

“Have you never been?”

Kara shakes her head. “Nope. So tell me what it was like? I have to live vicariously through you.”

Lena laughs a little, picks at her salad. “It was…rainy.” 

Kara’s nose scrunches a little. “Rainy?”

“Yeah,” Lena says with a shrug of her shoulder. “It was rainy.”

“That’s it?”

“Pretty much,” Lena answers with a half smile. “I mostly just worked the entire time I was there. And it was rainy.”

Skepticism shades part of Kara’s face, but she doesn’t push Lena, just picks her sandwich back up and takes an exaggerated bite of it, smiling at Lena’s immediate expression of disgust.

“You’re doing that on purpose,” Lena says, but she’s laughing and Kara smiles wide, food bulging one cheek.

“What?” Kara says after swallowing. “You didn’t miss eating with me?"

“That might be the only thing I didn’t miss about you,” Lena teases and she presses her foot against Kara’s shin under the table in a friendly gesture.

“So you’re saying you missed everything else?” Kara asks with a dorky waggle of her eyebrows that makes Lena laugh. 

“Okay, your turn,” Lena says.

Kara sits up a little straighter, sets her sandwich down. “What do you want to know?”

There are a million different things that run through her head, but she settles on something that’s been sitting in the back of her brain for the past few days. “When you were mind controlled by the Dominators…” Kara deflates a little, a wary expression taking hold of her face. “You seemed upset. More so than the rest of the team.”

Kara purses her lips a moment before answering. “Well, being out of control is kind of dangerous,” she says softly and Lena sees something in the crinkle of skin around Kara’s eyes.

“I know that, but...is that all?”

It takes a second, but Kara leans forward a little across the table. “Last year, I was exposed to red kryptonite.”

It wasn’t what Lena expected and she mimics Kara’s pose, leaning forward with a quizzical expression. “Red?”

“It was synthetic. Maxwell Lord created it.”

“Maxwell Lord?” Lena rolls her eyes. “Why does that not surprise me?”

“You know him?”

Lena sighs a little. “Lord Technologies and L Corp have a bit of a storied history. Not all of it friendly. Let’s just say we’re aware of each other, but we won’t be dining together anytime soon if we can help it.”

“He’s kind of gross,” Kara agrees. “He totally tried to get with Alex.” Lena’s face contorts into an expression of distaste and Kara laughs. “Exactly.”

“What does red kryptonite do?”

Kara swallows, serious again. “It sort of,” Kara gestures around her head. “Destroys inhibitions, I guess. Takes away any emotional restraint I might have had.”

“That sounds awful.”

“It was,” Kara says with a sad smile Lena feels desperate to fix. “Every negative thought or feeling I’ve ever had just came out and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.” Kara’s voice sounds shaky now, thick with what Lena can tell are tears at the corner of her eyes. “The things I did, the things I said to Alex, and James and Ms. Grant...I couldn’t control it.” 

Lena reaches across the table to grip Kara’s hand, strokes her thumb over the knuckles soothingly. “You don’t have to talk about it.”

“It’s fine,” Kara says, but her voice is uneven and Lena squeezes Kara’s hand as tightly as she can. “I just don’t like the feeling of being out of control of my own mind.”

“I understand,” Lena replies in a hush.

Kara seems to recover then, turning her hand over to return Lena’s grip and smiling. “Okay, I told you something hard, now you have to tell me something hard.” 

Lena just stares at Kara for another moment. “Kara,” she says slowly, but Kara shakes her head.

“I’m fine,” she replies, clearly reacting to the concerned look in Lena’s face. “For real. So it’s your turn again.”

Letting go of Kara’s hand, Lena sits back in her chair, reaches forward to fiddle with her silverware and thinks of something to say. “I was surprised,” she says, looking down at her plate. “When Lex was arrested.”

When she looks back up Kara has an unreadable expression on her face, but she’s still leaning forward, arm out across the table towards Lena. It takes a second until Kara replies, but when she does it’s with a soft, “So was I.” 

“I didn’t know,” Lena continues feeling suddenly desperate to impart this knowledge onto Kara. “I didn’t know what he had planned or that he felt that way about -”

“I know you didn’t,” Kara says and she reaches further until she’s holding Lena’s hand again. “You don’t need to convince me.”

“I just didn’t want you to think that I...”

“Lena,” Kara says and she smiles sadly, tangles their fingers together. “I knew Lex too. I was shocked when I first heard. When my cousin told me about-” Shaking her head, Kara thins her lips a moment. “I never once thought you had anything to do with it.”

Lena did have something to do with it, considering she was instrumental in getting Lex’s warsuit operational, but she doesn’t tell Kara that. The layers of guilt are too thick and she’s not sure she could get it all out without breaking down. “I tried to stop him.”

“I’m sure you did,” Kara replies kindly and Lena feels something like a weight lift off her for a moment. There’s a trust radiating out of Kara that Lena’s not used to and it’s comforting to talk about her brother without seeing suspicion in someone’s eyes, without feeling like she’ll never get anyone to understand that she loves her brother even if she believes he belongs in jail. Kara understands.  

“I had to realize that you can’t save everyone,” she says with a mirthless laugh. “Some people are just bad.”

“I don’t believe that,” Kara says softly and Lena sighs.

“I know you don’t. But that doesn’t make it not true.”

Kara is clearly ready to argue the point, but Lena doesn’t want to. She wants to enjoy her vacation and the careful steps the two of them are taking to reconnect and none of that involves a philosophical debate over whether her brother can be saved.

So she pulls out a tried and true tactic. “Do you want to get dessert?”

The determined set of Kara’s jaw fades instantly and her eyes go a little wide as she smiles.

--

It’s only a week into the semester and Lena already feels like she’s behind. Saturday morning she lugs all of her books over to the coffee shop on the far end of campus and sets out to do as much studying as humanly possible so she can feel more on top of everything by Monday.

She sends a quick text out to Kara to let her know what she’s doing and then promptly turns her phone off, stows it in the zippered pocket of her messenger bag and focuses on her work.

Hours pass by fairly quickly as she goes through her notes for her solid mechanics class and then moves on to differential equations. By the time she’s gotten to relativistic quantum field theory, a body is sliding into the chair across from her and a coffee cup is replacing the empty one near her laptop.

“I told you I was studying,” Lena says dryly, but she smiles warmly at Kara and accepts the offered drink.

“And?” Kara asks, leaning back in her chair and propping her feet up against the bench Lena’s seated at. “I know that’s code for ignoring things like food and sleep and fun so I decided I should check on you.”

Lena rolls her eyes and takes a sip of her drink. Her free hand drifts down to sit against Kara’s ankle, stroking against the strip of skin below her pant leg. “I just feel so behind already.”

“It’s only been a week, Lena,” Kara teases and then reaches across the table to pull one of Lena’s textbooks towards her. “What are you behind in?”

“Everything, it feels like. That’s for an elective.”

Kara flips through the book, hums a little as her eyes scan the pages. “Quantum field theory?”  

“Yup,” Lena answers with a little pop of the word. She leans back a little further, strokes her fingers up under Kara’s pant leg and spends a moment enjoying the way her girlfriend looks this Saturday. Body draping over the chair, glasses slipping a little down her nose, hair piled messily on top of her head and a sweatshirt Lena immediately recognizes as one of her own.

“It’s like reading a history textbook,” Kara complains, shutting the book and tossing it back down on the table with a solid thud.

Lena laughs. “I apologize on behalf of my primitive planet,” she teases and Kara sticks her tongue out a little. “But I do have a lot of work to do. Do you want to get dinner later?”

Kara shrugs. “Sure,” she answers, craning her neck to peer a little at Lena’s notebook. “Do you want me to do your homework for you?”

“No,” Lena says indignantly, and she kicks a little at Kara’s shin under the table. “I actually have to learn this stuff.”

“Boring,” Kara sighs, sinking further into her chair. “Can we get Ping’s tonight?”

“Not Great Wall?” Lena asks with an arch of her brow.

“I’m breaking up with them,” Kara says in a huff. “They screwed up my order three times in a row last week.”

Smothering a laugh, Lena twists her lips a little. “Well, as your girlfriend I support you in whatever you want to do.”

Kara hums, picks at her nails a little. “How much longer do you think you’ll be?”

Observing the books and papers she has spread out over the table, Lena shrugs. “I don’t know. I have a lot of work left.”

Letting her head fall back Kara makes an exaggerated groaning sound, but she sends a teasing smile towards Lena. “It’s Saturday,” she all but whines.

“I know, darling,” Lena says with a chuckle. “But I really need to get this done.”

“Fine,” Kara says after a moment, removing her leg from Lena’s grasp and setting her foot back down on the ground as she sits up. “I support you too.”

It makes Lena smile, especially the feigned exasperation in Kara’s face tempered by an affectionate grin. “I’ll text you later for dinner.”

Kara stands, rounds the table and takes Lena’s hand in a loose grip. “I get to pick the movie.”

Pretending to consider it for a moment, Lena purses her lips. “Then I get to pick the dinner order.”

Kara’s eyes narrow a little in consideration and they stare for a long moment before Kara concedes and rolls her eyes. “I guess that’s fine,” she says, but she smiles before she kisses Lena. It lasts a little too long to be truly decent, but Lena brings her hand up to cup around Kara’s neck and keeps her there. There’s practically no one in the coffee shop anyway and everyone that is is far too involved in their own private worlds to notice them.

“Bye,” Lena says when they part, the words whispered between them.  

“Bye,” Kara parrots, pressing a final peck to Lena’s lips before striding away.

By Monday, Lena only feels slightly more on top of her work, and she makes an entire thermos of coffee before walking to her 8am class.

She takes her usual seat on the side of the auditorium and is in the process of pulling out her laptop when a presence suddenly slides into an empty seat next to her.

It’s a familiar presence and she has to blink for a few seconds to process it. “Kara?”

“Hey,” Kara says, acting like everything is normal as she sits back in the chair and pulls out her small tablet.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m in this class,” Kara answers with a casual shrug.

Lena looks around to see if maybe she’s being pranked. Or dreaming. “No, you’re not,” she says, slowly, like maybe Kara confused their schedules or something.

“Yes I am.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes I am.”

Lena pinches the bridge of her nose. “Since when?”

“Since today,” Kara says brightly and Lena starts to catch on to what’s happening.

“You just registered into this class?”

Kara nods, twirling a stylus in her hand a little. “I did.”

“Why?”  

Kara shrugs. “I needed to fill an elective.”

An incredulous look crosses Lena’s face and she lowers her voice as the professor walks into the front of the room. “With relativistic quantum field theory?!”

Kara shrugs again. “You’re in this class,” she says, smiling. “And if we’re both taking notes, we can study together and stuff.”

Lena’s jaw drops a little, but Kara’s grin is unwavering and she leans forward quickly to kiss Lena on the cheek. “We’re talking about this later,” Lena says, but she can’t stop the smile from spreading over her face at the relaxing feel of having Kara next to her.

“Sure thing,” Kara replies and the professor starts the class with a loud greeting.

The class goes by fairly smoothly, but Lena can’t decide if it’s because of all the preparation she did that weekend or the notes Kara slide her all throughout class with anecdotes about whatever the professor was covering.

--

They spend the rest of the afternoon walking around Central City. They wander aimlessly and without purpose aside from being with each other. It’s something Lena hasn’t done since college and she wraps herself around the feeling of not needing to be anywhere but next to Kara.

“You should come to game night,” Kara comments as they walk. “When we’re back home.”

Lena doesn’t want to think about when we’re back home because it threatens to shatter the careful balance Lena’s found on this new Earth, but she squashes the feeling down and manages to smile. “What’s game night?”

“Just a night where everyone comes over and I kick their butts at Settlers of Catan,” Kara says with a proud smile. “Or whatever game we end up playing.”

Lena laughs. “Then are you sure you want me to come?”

“I’m not scared of you,” Kara says with a playful puff of her chest.

“If you’re still as bad at chess as you were four years ago…”

“Okay, first of all, that’s because you play a super simple version of chess that I am not used to,” Kara points out and Lena smiles at the memory of Kara listing off the varieties of intergalactic chess she was more familiar with. “And second, you’re very distracting as an opponent.”

“I haven’t a clue as to what you’re talking about,” Lena says with a smile as Kara mock glares at her.

“With your,” Kara gestures at Lena’s face and it makes Lena laugh. 

“Well, that shouldn’t be a problem for you anymore, right?” Lena teases and Kara wraps a comfortable arm around Lena’s shoulders.

“You’re right. After four years I’ve built up a complete immunity to your distraction tactics.”

It’s overtly flirty and if they were on Earth-38, Lena would be scrambling for an escape from the line of conversation, but with the freedom of not having to overthink everything it’s much easier to sink into the feeling. To smile at Kara genuinely and without reservation and to laugh when Kara attempts to wink at her but fails miserably. 

“So you’ll come to game night?” Kara asks again. “When we get back to our earth?”

And just like that the reminder that this vacation will undoubtedly end stabs through her. Her throat feels a little thick at the thought of it, but she pushes through to keep smiling. “I’ll consider it,” she replies and thinks she manages to make it sound teasing.

Kara grins widely, tightens her hold over Lena’s shoulders. “That’s all I can ask.”

They stop and buy ice cream at some place Barry had told Kara about and it’s the first time Lena’s had the treat in years. It tastes as delicious as she remembers it. Even more so with the happy expression Kara gets when she takes her first bite of it. 

The park they hung out in just the other day isn’t too far and they stroll that direction, talking about everything and nothing at all.

“What was it like being Cat Grant’s assistant?” Lena asks. “I’ve always heard that position has a notoriously high turnover rate.” 

Kara chuckles. “Ms. Grant was - is - tough, that’s for sure. It wasn’t an easy job, but the rewards of it were-” Kara shakes her head a little. “She’s one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met and she was all I could ask for in a mentor. She’s smart and strong and successful and-”

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you have a crush on her,” Lena teases and a blush flames in Kara’s cheeks immediately.

“What?! No!”

“I’m teasing, Kara,” Lena says with a placating hand to her forearm. Kara relaxes, but she smiles sheepishly.

“She’s just one of the best people I’ve ever known,” Kara says and then turns a soft smile to Lena. “Apart from you.”

“Ah,” Lena replies with a little chuckle. “Flattery.”

“I’ve learned a lot about flirting while you were away,” Kara says with exaggerated pride that makes Lena laugh again.

“Are you flirting?” She brings a hand to her chest in mock incredulity.

“If you want,” Kara says simply and Lena has to bite her lip and look away to keep from kissing her.

“Well if we were flirting then I’d feel compelled to tell you I find you very pretty,” Lena says, turning with an overly flirty smile. “Some might even say…” She pauses and Kara’s brow scrunches a little. “Your looks are out of this world.”

Kara groans, her head falling back as she laughs. “Four years and we couldn’t let that joke die?”

“It will never die,” Lena says, threading her arm through Kara’s and laughing along with her. 

The moment feels too good. Solid and fragile at the same time.

Lena finishes the ice cream in her hand and chucks the empty cup in a nearby trash can at the same time Kara takes a final bite of her waffle cone. They walk towards the pond in the park, and stride out onto a small dock there. The sun is barely setting, just red and orange hues reflecting over the water and Lena drinks it in as they stop at the end of the walkway.

Kara leans her elbows on the railing there and looks at Lena with half a smile, her eyes moving up and down Lena’s figure in a way that makes Lena feel suddenly exposed.

Running a palm down the side of her jeans, she eyes Kara warily. “What?”  

Kara just laughs and her hair waves around as she shakes her head. “You look…I don’t know.”

“Bad?” Her eyes dart down to her ensemble and she knows it must look odd. She didn’t really pack her normal wardrobe. Instead she’s dressed in the only pair of denim she owns, a soft navy sweater and pristine white sneakers she rarely wears. It’s been some time since she’s worn such an ensemble for any stretch of time, but she doesn’t think she looks that terrible in it.

“No,” Kara answers hastily, waving her hand forward. “Of course not. Just...you look like how I remember you.”

Lena tilts her head to the side, isn’t quite sure what Kara means. “Because I looked so different before?”

“It’s been weird seeing you in suits and professional clothing all the time,” Kara comments, smiling. “I’m used to the Lena that wore jeans and sweatshirts and combed her hair with her fingers when she was late to class.” 

Lena laughs, rolls her eyes to the side. “I’d like to think my style has improved,” she says dryly.

“I wouldn’t say improved. Just changed,” Kara says softly before her eyes widen just slightly and she adds a hasty, “Not in a bad way. You’re still - I mean you’re still you - I’ve always thought you were gorgeous. No matter what you wear and it’s just-”

Lena stops the tumbling of words with a finger against Kara’s lips and tries to smother a wide grin. “I get it, darling.”

It slips out so easily that Lena doesn’t even realize it, not until Kara’s eyes go large and her cheeks start to color. For a long tense moment she considers taking it back. Her heart is beating so fast she’s sure it’s deafening Kara, but she just clears her throat a little and smiles, pulling her finger away from Kara’s mouth.

“Anyway,” she says, turning back to face the sunset and prop her arms on the railing next to Kara.

“It’s gorgeous,” Kara murmurs and Lena can feel the way Kara’s still looking at her even as Lena stares out at the horizon.

“It is,” Lena agrees and when she turns to Kara, they both smile.

--

They stay out late into the night and Lena finds herself loathing the idea that it has to come to an end. It feels all too much like a date, trailing off into the night when they walk slowly back towards their hotel. In college, after their dates, Kara would follow Lena up into her dorm room more often than not, and the week stays true to its form. Kara piles into the elevator after Lena, smiling exuberantly at some of the other people in the small enclosure, and smiles even more when Lena’s hand drifts down to grip Kara’s.

The obvious problem they face doesn’t make itself known until they’ve both gotten ready for bed and Lena comes out of the bathroom to find Kara staring at her bed with a worried expression.

That’s when Lena realizes what’s wrong. Kara’s bed is destroyed, hanging off a cracked frame and obviously out of commission for the evening.

“I can sleep on the floor,” Kara says, when she notices what Lena’s looking at.

“Don’t be silly,” Lena says, though the words feel thick as they come up her throat. “You can sleep with me.”

Kara looks frozen at the idea, just standing there and blinking at Lena like she can’t quite process the idea. “I don’t know about that…”

“We’ve slept together before. Not even a week ago,” Lena says, but Kara continues to stare at the bed with trepidation. Lena reaches out, circles Kara’s wrist with her fingers. “We’re not second guessing, remember?”

The words seem to hit Kara, shifting her expression from one of hesitation to something more neutral. With a shaky smile, she nods and paces towards the bed, slipping into it and scooting towards the edge to leave room for Lena. The sight of it makes Lena second guess her decision, despite her reassurances to Kara that they weren’t doing that. She falters for a moment before moving the sheets aside and sliding into the bed.

Kara’s body heat radiates towards her and Lena shifts a little closer without thinking about it. They’re facing each other, each on the edge of their pillows and even in the dark of the room Lena can make out the way Kara’s eyes are tracing her face.

“Sorry that I broke the bed,” Kara whispers and Lena laughs softly.

“It’s okay,” Lena says and she shifts around the bed, tries to get comfortable.

Kara rolls over onto her back, shifts just as restlessly as Lena feels before huffing a bit. “This shouldn’t be awkward.”

“I can think about fifty reasons why it would be,” Lena jokes and Kara turns back over on her side.

“We’re not second guessing, right?” Kara asks and the question seems suddenly very significant.

Lena swallows. “No.”

“Okay,” Kara says, and Lena can make out a decisive nod before Kara reaches out to drift her hand over Lena’s hip, pulling them in close enough that Lena’s body practically falls onto Kara’s, her face pressing into her collarbone and leg shifting until it’s sliding between Kara’s. The sudden proximity change makes Lena inhale sharply, but her body relaxes against Kara’s as if it has a mind of her own. 

The world seems to shrink to this bed and in the darkness Lena feels something shift and settle between them. It’s even easier to shut out the rest of the universe - the multiple universes. It reminds her almost too much of the first time they shared a bed and simultaneously the first time they slept together after being intimate. 

There’s nothing sexual about the moment, but Lena can’t stop her mind from wandering. Not when Kara’s body feels so warm and Lena’s fingers can feel defined muscle under Kara’s shirt.

Memory swirls up so strongly that Lena can’t stop herself from pressing closer, the desire for contact suddenly burning over her skin. Her eyes flutter closed when Kara strokes Lena’s hair off her shoulder, fingers carding through it soothingly. Lena’s fingers trace over Kara’s ribs and it’s so much more warm than when they did this in the park.

A voice in the back of Lena’s head tells her that she’s crossing a line that can’t be uncrossed. That when they’re back on their Earth all of this will have consequences, not easily forgotten.

But it feels so simple in the darkness of their hotel room, so easy to shut off all the different voices screaming in her head.

“Goodnight, Kara,” Lena whispers and Kara’s arm tightens around her, a warm hand at the back of Lena’s head.

“Goodnight, Lena,” Kara says, the words hushed over Lena’s hair before warm lips press down and Lena sighs into the feeling.

--

The first thing she learns about Kara, really learns, is that she has an almost inhuman appetite. Her penchant for consuming her body weight and then some in food invariably leads to a very sleepy version of her best friend. Lena presumes it’s because her body has to expend the energy of a nuclear reactor just to digest it all.

It’s an interesting thing to learn about Kara, but not nearly as interesting as the fact that sleepy Kara is somehow an even more tactile person than wide awake Kara.

It wouldn’t be a problem - Lena has finally grown used to the way Kara is constantly touching her, holding her hand, playing with her hair, hugging her for no reason at all - except it’s rounding midnight on a Wednesday and after inhaling a family size serving of buffalo wings and a large pizza, Kara’s snuggled on Lena’s bed, strong fingers twisted in the fabric of Lena’s sweatshirt.

Lena’s not entirely sure what to do. One minute, they were just lounging there, watching some documentary about sharks Kara had heard about from Max and the next minute, Kara’s snoring softly, her head at Lena’s shoulder and her fingers pinning Lena to the bed with a deceptively strong grip on her clothing.

“Kara,” Lena whispers, trying to shake her awake, but Kara barely moves, just mumbles and scoots closer to Lena, her face nosing further into Lena’s shoulder.

Lena considers her options. She can try harder to wake her friend - though considering how peaceful and content Kara looks Lena’d feel a little guilty.

She can attempt to leave the bed, pull a pillow and some blankets to the couch and sleep there. Though, she doesn’t know why she’d need to really. It’s not that big of a deal to share a bed with her best friend. People do it all the time. Right?

Except Kara’s body is so warm and it’s pressed up against Lena’s side in a way that’s making it hard for her to consider any of her feelings as friendly.

Warm breath is puffing against Lena’s neck and Kara mumbles again, her fingers tugging at Lena’s sweatshirt insistently despite being asleep. With a sigh, Lena concedes the battle, decides that it won’t kill her to let Kara sleep in her bed. It doesn’t change anything and she can be in control of her own damn feelings.

Grateful she at least changed into something she can sleep in, Lena lets herself settle down into the mattress and attempts to turn over on her side. It’s an immediate mistake.

Kara lets go of her sweatshirt, which is good, but she winds her arm around Lena’s waist as a substitute and suddenly Lena’s back is flush against Kara’s front.

It takes her a good ten minutes to relax, but she manages it, tangles her fingers with the ones sliding over her stomach and lets herself imagine this is a normal thing for a moment. Lets herself imagine that if she wanted to she could turn over her shoulder and kiss Kara goodnight, that Kara would murmur affection into the skin of her shoulder and that her crush wouldn’t be so unrequited.

Another ten minutes later, with imagination squirming in her head, she falls asleep to the sound of Kara breathing against the back of her neck and a warm palm at the top of her abdomen.

When she wakes up she feels uncharacteristically well rested, but Kara has already left the bed. She finds her friend sitting at Lena’s desk chair, twisting her fingers together and looking worried.

“Kara?” Her voice is a little rough with sleep and her brain a little foggy, but she sits up and runs her fingers through her hair, trying to wake up.

“I’m sorry,” Kara says immediately, her leg bouncing almost too rapidly for Lena to really register the motion. She assumes it’s because her brain hasn’t fully booted up yet. The urge to sink back down into her mattress is strong, but Kara looks concerned and she forces the desire down.

“What for?”

“I didn’t mean to fall asleep or, like, be in your bed all night and make you - I just - I know you-”

“Kara,” Lena cuts her off with a hand reaching out. “It’s fine.”

“I feel really bad I know you like your privacy and everything and I-”  

“I said it’s fine,” Lena says because her body feels ridiculously relaxed and it’s the first time she’s ever really shared a bed with someone just for sleeping and she’d do anything to wipe the sad look off Kara’s face. “Come back to bed.”

Kara stares at Lena’s outstretched hand for a good moment before taking it and standing. She paces back to the bed and slides in next to Lena yet again. “Are you sure?”

Lena’s already halfway back to sleep, but she glances at the clock - six in the morning. Thursday.

“I’m sure that I don’t have class until nine this morning and neither do you.”

The next time she wakes up, at eight, her head is tucked into Kara’s shoulder and they’re tangled together once more.

--

The next morning Lena wakes up still wrapped around Kara and for a few seconds she forgets everything. The bed is warm and soft and Kara’s snoring just a little. It threads around her like something tangible and when she shifts, it’s to nose against Kara’s jawline, her lips pressing there for a long enough moment that Kara’s hold tightens around her.

Kara mumbles something that sounds a lot like five more minutes and Lena smiles, content to spend the rest of the morning just lying there.

It’s the sound of tires screeching outside that brings her back to present day and when she remembers where she is, she moves away from Kara’s body with a sigh. Kara protests the movement immediately, rolling with Lena and reaching out to keep her in place.

“Kara,” Lena whispers, sagging back down and running a hand up through Kara’s disheveled hair. “Kara, it’s morning.”

“No, it’s not,” Kara protests, eyes still closed and a sleepy pout on her lips. Lena finds it adorable, wants more than anything to kiss the expression off Kara’s face and wake her up with a few well placed touches.

“If you wake up, I’ll buy you breakfast,” Lena says and hopes the allure of food will convince Kara to relinquish her hold.

“You don’t have any money in this universe,” Kara replies, sounding more awake as she pops an eye open.

Lena laughs and tries not to notice the way Kara’s hand is sliding over her hip, her thumb tucking under the hem of Lena’s shirt. “Are you really going to split hairs over the promise of food?”

The other eye opens and Kara smirks a little. “You make a good point.”

--

They get the call from Barry just as Kara’s shoving the last of a foot long hotdog into her mouth and Lena is doing everything in her power to avoid seeing it happen. Kara had tried desperately to convince Lena that hot dogs are totally a breakfast food, but Lena was fine with her coffee thank you very much.

Mouth stuffed with food, Kara all but throws the little communicator at Lena with wide eyes and she dutifully picks it up, but not before shooting Kara a dry look.

Barry doesn’t tell her much information apart from instructions to meet back at the hangar. The abducted members of the team have apparently been rescued, but he doesn’t go into detail as to how.

Still chewing on her food, Kara looks at Lena quizzically. “Who was it?”

“Barry,” Lena replies, standing up from the bench they’d been sitting on and holding her hand out to grab at Kara’s. “He wants us back at the hangar.”

They make their way back to the hangar where the group is gathered just in time to see their missing teammates walking in looking no worse for wear.

“What’s our status?” Oliver asks as soon as he stalks in.

Barry sighs, walks forward. “Nothing since the Dominators paid their little visit to mess with our heads.”

It had been quiet since the first day they got there. Quiet enough that a part of Lena had forgotten this wasn’t a real vacation. They were here on a mission.

“Maybe they were trying to pit us against each other,” Ray posits, looking around. “In order to get intel on metahumans.”

“I wish they would just send us an IM with a questionnaire,” Felicity jokes. She catches Lena’s eye and smiles.

“Metas pose the biggest threat to their invasion,” Kara offers. “It makes sense they’d want to get to know their enemies.”

“Maybe it’s time we return the favor,” Oliver says and Lena sees his intention before the group even starts to formulate the plan.

“What do you want to do? Kidnap one of them?” Diggle asks.

“They’re not exactly lingering around Earth,” Barry counters, shrugging.

“But we do know where some are,” Lena adds from behind everyone. They all turn to her with a certain amount of surprise and she shrugs. “Or at least where they were.” She amends again. “When they were.”  

Varying degrees of confusion flood their faces and she sighs. “You have a time travelling ship, right?”

Sara smirks a little. “I do.”

“So you know that the Dominators came to earth half a century ago in a failed invasion attempt,” Lena comments and out of the corner of her eye she sees Kara smile, her chin lifting a little in pride.

“You’re suggesting we travel to 1951, abduct a Dominator and interrogate it to determine their intentions?” Professor Stein asks with a certain amount of incredulity.

Lena shrugs, crosses her arms over her chest. “I was just commenting that if we wanted to talk to one of them, we technically have that option.”

“They kidnapped us,” Sara says suddenly and Lena looks over to where she’s standing with half a smirk on her face. “Seems fair.”

Oliver steps forward. “We’ll send a few people to 1951 then. Sara, it’s your ship. You pick the team,” he says to Sara, who nods at him.

“Time travel,” Cisco breathes out reverently and Lena understands that emotion personally. Felicity joins in with equal enthusiasm. “I don’t want to lose my geek cred,” she says as an excuse and she smiles at Lena when she laughs. Barry seems heavily against sending Felicity or Cisco on the timeship, but he reluctantly agrees.

Felicity walks over stealthily while Oliver and Barry discuss the plan, who is going where. “Do you want to come?” Felicity asks out of the side of her mouth and Lena blinks at her for a moment before she realizes what she’s asking. 

“To 1951?” Even the question sounds absurd as she says it, but Felicity nods enthusiastically and she can see Cisco behind her watching them with an excited grin.

Instinct says to answer yes because who in their right mind wouldn’t want to experience time travel first hand, but she catches a glimpse of Kara out of the corner of her eye. Kara’s not looking at her, too focused on what Barry is telling Oliver, but Lena suddenly finds the prospect of leaving her close to unbearable. 

“No,” she answers with a half grin at Felicity’s shocked expression. “I’m going to stay with Kara.”

A wave of understanding passes over Felicity’s face and she nods a little, smiling. “Totally understandable.”

The team breaks up then and Cisco and Felicity head off to the time travelling ship, the Waverider as Lena has learned.

“Oh,” Barry adds as they watch the group walk away. “The new president called. Which would be cool under different circumstances.” Kara nods at him and Oliver sighs. “She wants to meet with us.”

“Let’s bring Ray and Sara as back up,” Oliver says and Kara immediately perks up, bouncing a little on her toes.

“What about me? I can do backup.” Kara is far more than backup in Lena’s opinion, but she can already see the brush off Oliver has prepared. It’s written all over his face even before he looks at Kara and asks her to step aside.

Kara looks back at Lena for a fleeting moment who just shrugs and sends a narrowed gaze at Oliver Queen’s retreating back.

Eyes on the conversation Kara is having, Lena doesn’t even notice that Sara Lance has sauntered over and when she finally does notice, Sara has this knowing look on her face as she regards her.

“Hello,” Lena says warily, but she straightens, affects her best CEO neutral expression and arches an eyebrow at the woman.

It doesn’t have its usual effect, Sara’s smile just sort of deepens and she reaches into a crate by Lena’s side, pulling out what must be some sort of weapon and tucking it into her belt. “Lena, right?” Sara asks, digging further into the crate in search of something.

“Yes,” Lena asks simply without giving her anything more. There’s something intentional in Sara’s face that Lena can’t read yet and she’s content to sit back and let Sara make her move.

Sara glances over her shoulder to where Kara and Oliver are still talking, shoots the scene an amused smile. “Kara’s pretty badass,” Sara comments, looking back at Lena as if to judge her reaction. “It’s kinda hot. You guys a thing?”

It becomes crystal clear then what exactly is happening and Lena purses her lips, crosses her arms and sends Sara a practiced smile. “We’re very close friends.”  

Sara’s face twists a little. “I see,” she says, straightening up from the crate and mimicking Lena’s crossed arms.

“Can I help you with something, Sara?” And she doesn’t mean it to sound rude, but Sara is becoming more and more of an unknown entity the longer she stands there and Lena feels slightly unnerved by it.

Sara seems to consider that, glances back over to where Kara and Oliver are before shrugging. “Not yet,” she answers with a smirk before striding away. “See you later, Lena.”

As Sara passes by, Kara turns and walks away from her conversation with Oliver, an exasperated expression on her face that floods any thoughts of Sara Lance from Lena’s mind.

Hands on her hips, Kara stomps forward, her steps sounding significantly heavier than usual, and Lena’s a little afraid she’s going to crack the floor under her feet.

“What was that?” Lena asks when Kara steps in front of her.

“He wants to,” Kara huffs a little, rolls her eyes. “Minimize my involvement.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s dumb,” Kara answers petulantly and Lena laughs a little.

“That much is obvious,” Lena replies, glancing over to where Oliver has retreated to speak in low tones to Sara and Mick. “But tell me why for real.”

Kara shrugs. “Doesn’t trust me. Doesn’t trust aliens, I guess, though I’m beginning to think he just doesn’t trust anyone.”

“I’m sorry,” Lena says, reaching out for Kara’s fingers.

“It’s fine,” Kara says, but the crinkle between her brows says otherwise. Lena aches to make her feel better.

“So,” she says swinging their hands a little. “Does that mean you’re free for lunch?”

It does the trick. Kara’s chin lifts a little and a grin spreads over her face.

-- 

They’ve only been on Earth-1 for less than a week, but Kara’s managed to befriend no less than five restaurant owners and they all brighten the minute they see her walk through the door.

They’re halfway through their meal and Kara’s reaching across the table for the ketchup when she notices it. As soon as she does, she can’t figure out how she hadn’t seen it before. But hanging off Kara’s wrist, like it’s always been there, is the bracelet Lena had given her years ago. The sample of self-repairing alloy she’d fastened into jewelry.

Kara must notice the way Lena’s ceased all movement to stare at the item in question because she brings the ketchup bottle over slowly, setting it down with sluggish motions and looking at Lena warily. “You okay?”

It pulls Lena’s attention away and she clears her throat, blinking against the heat in her eyes and picking her silverware up. “Yeah, of course.”

Except Kara knows her too well and she doesn’t buy it for a second. “You don’t look okay,” Kara comments, bending over the table a little to catch Lena’s eye.

Lena laughs humorlessly and glances again at the bracelet. After a deep breath she goes for a casual smile, hopes she succeeds. “I didn’t know you kept that,” Lena says quietly, trying not to read into anything. But Kara’s eyes sit significantly on the item in question and her fingers ghost over it just as reverently as the first time Lena had given her the bracelet. 

“I couldn’t throw it away,” Kara says. “If anything, it’s like a marvel of science.”

Lena laughs a little, preens at the subtle praise. “Well, you’re not wrong. I just meant that-” She swallows the rest of the sentence. Kara keeping it and Kara wearing it are two different concepts altogether.

“You meant because it’s an us thing,” Kara finishes for her and Lena nods a little when Kara looks up.

“I like the reminder,” Kara confesses softly, looking back at the bracelet and hooking a finger inside the loop to pull at it lightly. Lena doesn’t want to ask what it reminds Kara of, is too afraid she knows the answer, but Kara continues talking anyway, lifting her eyes to look at Lena. “That there are some things in this world even I can’t break.”

Lena smiles, her heart thudding solidly against her ribcage. “That’s why I made it for you,” Lena says and Kara’s lips thin.

“To remind me that there are unbreakable things?” Kara asks, voice barely over a whisper, and Lena swallows against the lump in her throat.

The conversation feels like it’s about something else entirely - Lena knows that it is, but it doesn’t stop her from nodding and reaching out to cover Kara’s wrist with her palm, right over the piece of metal she hasn’t seen in four years.

“I’m glad you kept it,” she says and when Kara looks at her with stormy blue eyes, Lena has to pull her hand away to avoid tugging Kara across the table and kissing her.

--

Summer drags on in a way Lena’s never felt it. The months are spent not unlike how she’s spent most of her summers since she young, but the day-in-day-out work schedule has somehow become mundane to her. She used to love the work, love throwing herself in the lab for hours on end and working some problem to death.

And it’s not so bad when she’s elbows deep in some new project. It’s just the going home at the end of the day part that’s become tiresome.

Her bedroom at Luthor Manor feels empty and isolated and without Lex in the house this summer, the hours pass by slowly and without excitement.

Lena tries hard to pretend like it has nothing to do with missing a certain person who is currently in Midvale, but the truth of it screams in her head in the middle of the night when she curls around a pillow in bed.

It’s the kind of want that Lena’s always tried to avoid, a consequence of being attached to someone. So she doesn’t call Kara too often, tries not to sound needy on the phone, but she’s not sure how successful she is.

Kara chats about going to the beach and having family dinners and board game nights and movie marathons. She talks endlessly about Alex and Eliza and some local friends from high school.

Lena listens, laughs when appropriate and asks a litany of questions to avoid having to fill the silence with information about her own day. It wouldn’t be very interesting. Went to work. Came home. Had dinner with my mother. Went to sleep.

“Are you okay?” Kara asks one night, when Lena feels exhausted and incapable of keeping up the pretense that she’s not dying to feel Kara in the flesh, have her next to her in bed.

“I’m fine,” she manages with a soft clearing of her throat. “Just tired.”

“Oh,” Kara says, and if Lena closes her eyes she can almost picture her girlfriend’s face. “Well I’ll let you go then.”

“You don’t have to,” Lena protests, stuck between the desire to fall asleep listening to Kara’s voice and knowing that if they stay on the line she’ll keep herself awake just to keep hearing it.

“Go to sleep, Lena. Call me tomorrow.”

Refusing to seem clingy in any way, she agrees with a soft, “I love you.”

It doesn’t take her long to fall asleep, but the next thing she knows she’s waking up to the soft sound of something tapping on her window.  

When the noise registers she shoots up in her bed and looks out towards the small balcony off the side of her room to find a familiar figure standing there and waving excitedly. It takes her a few seconds of just blinking at the image until she realizes she’s not in some sort of dream state.

Kara is grinning widely when Lena opens the balcony door and seconds later she’s being pulled into Kara’s strong arms. The sudden overload of her senses overwhelms her for a minute.

“Hi,” she says after a few seconds, her voice a little rough from sleep.  

“Hey,” Kara says brightly, pulling away to look into Lena’s eyes. “I missed you.”

“Why are you here?” Lena asks, enjoying the feel of Kara’s palms on her back, thumbs stroking against the fabric of her shirt.

“I missed you,” Kara repeats, before moving forward to kiss Lena swiftly.

Something in the house creaks loudly enough for both of them to jump and it’s then that Lena remembers where they are. Her eyes go wide and her heartbeat starts to pick up so quickly that Kara’s eyes dart down to her chest.  

“My mother will kill us if she finds you here,” Lena whispers, remembering to be quiet. Her mother’s room is far from Lena’s, but she knows the woman keeps odd hours and she doesn’t want to risk a confrontation in the middle of the night.

Kara looks unconcerned. “I’m super sneaky,” Kara whispers back, though her voice is considerably louder than Lena’s was.

Lena slaps a hand over her mouth and shoots her a pointed look, gesturing with a finger to her lips to be quiet.

Kara pulls Lena’s hand away and leans forward, lips against Lena’s ear in a way that undeniably sends a shiver down her spine. “Do you want me to leave?”

It’s the last thing Lena wants and she shakes her head. “I missed you too,” she confesses in a hush, moving in closer to her girlfriend. “A lot.”

And emotionally it’s very true, but there’s something physical about the yearning that’s just now presenting itself low in Lena’s gut. Just being this close to Kara is making her body feel more awake than it has in what feels like forever.

Kara is all smiles and bright eyes that can barely be seen in the moonlight streaming into Lena’s room. It pulls a matching expression onto Lena’s face that she can’t control and then Kara is pushing forward, nose brushing her own before their lips meet again. It surges warmth down Lena’s body and she barely suppresses a laugh when Kara wraps her arms around her waist and picks her up, pressing them flush against each other.

The only way to keep quiet is to keep her mouth pressed against Kara’s, which Lena is absolutely fine doing, and she keeps kissing her even as Kara moves them towards Lena’s bed and floats them down onto the mattress. Kara’s body feels good against her, a pressure that she had no idea she had missed so much.

It gets hot fast. Kara’s mouth is insistent and her hand is sliding up Lena’s soft sleep shirt and Lena knows that after a month of not feeling this there is zero chance of her staying quiet for the duration.

“We can’t,” she gasps out while Kara’s lips trail down her jawline, her fingers tracing her ribs.

Kara ceases movement immediately, though her head stays tucked in against Lena’s neck and her body sags down into Lena’s. “Sorry,” she murmurs.  

“Don’t be,” Lena says softly, her hands tracing up Kara’s spine and into her hair. “I definitely want to.”

“Me too,” Kara chuckles, the words mumbled against the skin of Lena’s collarbone. It does nothing to quash the desire pooling in Lena’s gut.  

“But there is no way either of us can be quiet enough,” Lena tells her. “And the thought of my mother somewhere in the house kind of kills the mood.”

Kara coughs against a laugh, but rolls a little off Lena, her thigh nudging in between Lena’s legs and her head coming to rest against Lena’s shoulder. “Do you want to get out of here?”

Lena looks down at her girlfriend with an amused smile. “To have sex?”

“No,” Kara denies hastily, but loud enough that Lena has to slap her hand on Kara’s mouth again.

“I’m just happy you’re here,” Lena confesses and smiles when she feels a grin spread under her palm. She pulls away and Kara picks her head up to kiss Lena again, soft and slow.

“Fourth of July,” Kara says, suddenly, after she’s laid her head back down on Lena’s shoulder and Lena blinks for a moment.

“Yes?”

“Come to Midvale?”

Lena’s brows pull together. “Why?”

“For fireworks and a cookout and hanging with your super amazing girlfriend,” Kara says with a half-grin. “That’s me,” she adds, pointing a thumb at herself. “I’m the girlfriend.”

Lena has to bite her lip to keep from laughing. “I’m aware.”

“Just making sure you didn’t forget. It’s been like a month.”

“Too long,” Lena says seriously, tracing the lines of Kara’s face.

“I completely agree,” Kara replies with a nod. “So you’ll come?”

It will probably be impossible to get away, or convince her mother she can take the time off, but Kara’s smile is already putting an energy into her body that Lena’s feeding off of and the idea of a small vacation somewhere far away from Luthor Manor and Luthor Corp and all her responsibilities sounds close to heavenly. She agrees with a soft nod and Kara surges back forward to kiss her again, smiling against Lena’s mouth in a way that burns all over Lena’s body.

--

When they get called back to the hangar, the team is idling about with a clear vibe of unease threading among them. Kara gives Lena a worried look, and Lena grabs her hand in response, squeezes it lightly before taking a seat near where Cisco is typing rapidly at a computer.

The information the time travelling team has isn’t good and after days of almost nothingness Lena can feel the final confrontation creeping up on them.

A metabomb, Oliver tells them.

Kara shoots her a look and Lena knows they’re both thinking about Medusa. Another universe. Same kind of problem.

It also seems the Dominators have given them a classic ultimatum. Surrender Barry Allen and they’ll leave Earth alone. Fail to do so and they’ll drop the bomb. A bomb with a projected non-metahuman casualty count over two million.

In true superhero fashion, Barry makes an impassioned speech about how he plans to give himself up, make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. Kara has something like pride in her face, but Lena knows she won’t let Barry go through with it.

Neither will anyone else, as far as Lena can tell, and as soon as Barry walks away, Oliver steps forward, the rest of the team standing to join him. Without even thinking about it, Lena stands as well, paces next to Kara.

“Barry,” Oliver calls out. “I’m not letting you leave.”

“No offense, Oliver, but you and what army?”

As Barry turns, Kara crosses her arms. “This one,” she says simply and Lena fights a smile.

It feels good, powerful even to be standing there with this group of people who have seen her as nothing more than a part of their team. It doesn’t last. A beeping sound blares through the hanger and the monitors flare to life behind them.

“Guys, that ship in Central City,” Sara suddenly says, breaking the silence. Everyone turns to her warily. “It’s opening up.”

Everything revs into action then. Everyone is running around, grabbing gear and suiting up, while the tech team is booting up their equipment and handing out nanoweapons that are designed to incapacitate the Dominators. Everyone is already halfway out the hangar when Kara turns back, looking at Lena with her serious Supergirl face. 

“Be careful,” Lena says, and Kara steps forward into Lena’s space to press a warm kiss against her forehead. 

“Always,” she murmurs, and then she’s gone, out with the rest of the team.

Lena’s left to watch the battle from the bank of computers with Felicity and Cisco and if she tries she can hear the sound of the fight echoing from somewhere outside the hangar. The fight goes smoothly, from what Lena can tell. Kara stays in the air most of the time and the team works to plant as many devices on each Dominator as possible. Biting a bit at her thumb, Lena clicks through some monitoring programs on a computer next to Felicity.

“We’ve still got Dominators virtually everywhere,” she comments softly and Felicity nods, clicks on the comms.

“Good work planting Professor Stein’s nanoweapons, but we’ve still got Dominators all over the country.” Felicity smiles at Lena. “This looks like a job for Supergirl.”

The little dot that represents Kara zooms away from the group in an instant and Lena watches the map light up with indications that more devices are being planted just as Barry’s voice fills the space. “Thanks, Felicity,” he says dryly. “I’m not the least bit insulted.”

With a sheepish smile, Felicity raises her eyebrows at Lena who tries hard not to laugh and only half manages. “Sorry. I meant Supergirl and Flash. This is totally a job for the both of you, that’s what I meant. Supergirl and...Flash.”

Lena laughs then and Felicity swats at her with a hissed shut up even as she smiles. It’s a friendly, comfortable feeling and it distracts Lena for a second from worrying about Kara, who is still flying across the country planting devices.

It’s not long before they get a signal from Oliver to turn the nanoweapons on and Felicity presses the button with a sense of triumph. It only takes a few seconds before they watch the icons indicating Dominator ships blink away one by one and Lena feels the tension ease as each one leaves the screen. 

“They’re retreating,” they hear and Felicity grins.

“It’s not just them,” she says looking at Lena. “It’s all around the world.”

Felicity jumps a little and before Lena can react, she’s surging forward, wrapping Lena up in a triumphant hug and squealing a little in her ear. “We did it!” 

At first Lena goes stiff, but then she relaxes, allows herself to feel a sense of success and hugs Felicity back.

--

When the team has returned and traded their weapons for champagne flutes, Lena can’t help but smile at the accomplished feeling that seems to settle over the entire hangar. Felicity pours her a glass of champagne and Kara clinks their glasses together with a soft smile.

“We did it,” Kara says and Lena reacts to the happy way her face is lit up.

“We did,” Lena agrees.

“Saved another universe together,” Kara says with a conspiratorial smile. “We make a pretty good team.”

“I think we had some help,” Lena laughs, and Kara makes a feigned scoffing sound.

“I think it was mostly me and you, but whatever.” Kara’s biting against a smile and Lena wants to kiss her so badly. It’s part the triumphant feeling that’s thrumming around the group, intoxicating in its nature, and another part the way Kara looks right now, bright eyes and a flirty half smile Lena has always been weak to.

A voice interrupts them, low and knowing. “Ladies,” Sara says as she steps up to them, holding a small silver flask in front of her. “Whisky?”

Kara declines with a shake of her hand, but Sara is arching an eyebrow at Lena with a kind of challenge in her expression. Not one to be intimidated or to back down, Lena reaches out and takes the flask, putting it to her lips for a long pull.

It burns immediately, bitter and rough against her tongue, but she doesn’t react. Even as it hits the back of her throat and slides down like fire into her stomach she just passes the flask back to Sara, who is observing her with an impressed expression.

“I like a woman who can handle her liquor,” Sara says with a smirk and Kara just sort of looks between them with a confused expression. “This stuff is no joke. Plucked it from the seventeenth-century. Quadruple distilled.”

There are no less than three things in that sentence that Lena doesn’t fully comprehend, but doesn’t comment, just takes a sip of her champagne to wash out the taste of the whisky in her mouth.

Sara has a look in her eye that Lena recognizes easily and she shifts a little towards Kara automatically.

“So, Girl of Steel,” Sara asks in a low flirtatious tone that makes Lena’s spine straighten a little. It reminds Lena a little of college when everyone would attach their eyes to Kara and stare at her for hours. Kara at parties was some sort of magnet; apparently that hadn’t changed. “I have to ask,” she says and Lena bites back on the no you don’t that she wants to say. “Do you lift or anything? I mean, what’s your workout routine?”

Kara’s frowning, looking at Lena in confusion for a brief second before looking at Sara and smiling.

“I uh - I don’t really need to work out,” Kara says, shrugging. “I do some sparring, I guess.”

“Are you telling me that these are just...natural?” Sara asks, reaching out to run a quick finger down one of Kara’s arms. Lena’s eyebrows raise a little and she fights a smile. This kind of brazenness she can almost respect. “Damn, I’m kinda jealous,” Sara comments casually. “Has Felicity seen you knock out a salmon ladder workout yet? She’d probably have an aneurism.” 

“What’s a salmon ladder?” Kara says and she looks down at Lena with even deeper confusion. Lena’s sure Kara thinks it has something to do with food, but before she can even open her mouth to explain, Sara’s talking again.

“And you,” Sara says, looking Lena up and down and grinning. “You’re too hot for the nerd squad.”

Lena laughs a little, shaking her head. “I’m sure Felicity would love to hear that,” she says, keeping her gaze even with Sara’s.

“Good point,” Sara says, gesturing at Lena with her flask and smirking. “Beauty and brains clearly.” 

Kara seems to catch on to the conversation the moment Sara flat out winks at Lena and her reaction is a none-too-subtle arm sliding around Lena’s waist, hovering at the small of her back. Sara notices it, and the worst part is that her grin widens.

“Ah, I thought so,” she says, and then knocks back another shot. “Ollie told me that I was making shit up, but he’s an idiot. I should’ve stopped listening to that guy when I was fifteen.”

“You’ve known him since you were fifteen?” Kara asks, and her curiosity makes Lena smile.

“Before that, even,” Sara says, shrugging. “We’ve all got stories. He took me on his boat and then we got stranded on an island for a few years.”

“I was stranded in a pocket of space called the Phantom Zone for twenty-four years,” Kara says, and this time, when Sara offers her a swig of the whisky, she takes it. The face she makes at the taste makes Lena laugh.

Later, after Sara’s left, Kara turns to Lena with a scrunch of her nose. “She was hitting on us, right?”

Lena tries to control her grin and only half succeeds. “Yes.”

Kara gives her a little triumphant nod and adjust her glasses. “I told you I’m so much better at this flirting thing.”

With a shake of her head, Lena just smiles at Kara, bumps a little into her side and laughs, allowing Kara’s arm to pull her in closer.

“So what is a salmon ladder?” Kara asks, whispers, right in Lena’s ear. It just makes Lena laugh harder, and when she’s finally done laughing, looking up at Kara’s red face, Lena suddenly wants to reach up and kiss her. It’s not a new urge, but it rushes up in her like an ache. She brushes it aside, along with all the other feelings being stirred up just by being this close to Kara. No overthinking, not now, when it’s clear they have so little time left here.

-

Towards the end of the party, as people are peeling away and the champagne is dying, Cisco walks up to them with a careful smile on his face. “Hey, guys.” He’s holding a black box in front of him and Lena eyes it for a moment.

“Hi Cisco,” Kara greets, and Lena takes a sip of her champagne.

“I made you something,” he says, and Kara perks up a little.

“What?” She glances at Lena and then back at Cisco. “You didn’t have to do that.”

He shrugs and smiles a little, handing the box over for Kara to take. She opens it to reveal a small, circular device that Lena has to lean over to get a look at.

“What is it?” Kara asks, turning it over in her hand.

“It’s an interdimensional extrapolator,” he explains, looking at Lena as he answers. “It creates small breaches so you can use it to cross over to our universe any time you need to.”

“That’s amazing!” Kara says with a bright smile, but Lena realizes what the device really means. They’re going home soon. She tries not to think of it too much, focuses on the feeling of Kara right next to her.

“I also included communication functionality so if you ever need any help, you can always contact the team.”

“Thank you,” Kara says and she hands the device to Lena to look at before wrapping Cisco up in a hug.

“Of course,” Cisco says with a smile for both of them.

Lena turns the small device over in her hands, studying it for a moment before Cisco bends down into her eyeline. “I’ll send you the schematics,” he says with a wink and she can’t help but laugh a little.

And then they’re saying goodbye to everyone else - Sara gives Lena a very firm hug and a whispered warning to take care of Supes. Felicity grabs ahold of the both of them at once, with excited gibberish pouring out of her mouth. Oliver walks over to lead Felicity away with a wave and a grim-looking half smile. Barry and Kara hug for a full five minutes, and when he gently places a hand on Lena’s shoulder and smiles at her so happily, she smiles back.

Kara takes her by the hand, and they begin walking back to the hotel, as something icy begins to pool in Lena’s chest.

--

When they get back to their hotel, Lena packs up with sloth-like motions as the reality that their vacation is over starts to sink in. Even Kara moves unusually slow, doesn’t superspeed her way through it like she usually would.

“You ready?” Kara asks eventually, and Lena almost answers honestly, let’s the not at all drop between them.

Instead she takes a deep breath and nods. Fights the growing despair clawing at her stomach.

Kara’s got the device Cisco’s given them in her hand and Lena’s staring at it like it’s a ticking time bomb, waiting to destroy the careful balance they’ve found between them in the past few days. The minute Kara opens the breach they’re back to Earth-38, back to the DEO, to L Corp, to having to worry about her mother or whatever threat Kara is up against next.

They’re back to the watchful eyes of Kara’s family and friends, the press.

The dread Lena feels threatens to choke her and she’s reaching out to stop Kara from opening the portal before she can stop herself.

“Lena?” Kara asks, soft and concerned.

“Can we - I’d - can -” The words get lost somewhere between her heart and her mouth, but she clears her throat and forces full sentences to come out. “Do you think we could stay here for just a little longer?”

Kara lowers the hand holding the device and she looks at Lena with her brows pulled down. “Sure. If that’s what you want.”

Lena nods, shoulders relaxing only when Kara slips the small extrapolator back in her pocket. “There are just things I still want to do here that I haven’t yet.”

“Like what?” Kara asks and it’s hushed between them, so low that Lena’s heart starts to thud loudly in her chest.

It’s probably the three glasses of champagne and whatever weird, suspiciously high-alcohol whisky Sara had, but Lena finds some kind of emotional bravery bubbling up inside her as she studies Kara’s blue eyes. By tomorrow they’ll be back in their normal lives, surrounded by all the reminders of how complicated their relationship is and Lena needs to take something with her from this perfect week.

So without an answer, she surges forward. Her hand grips at the back of Kara’s neck to pull her closer and their lips slide together so easily that Lena thinks Kara whimpers a little at the feel.

There’s a second where both of them freeze. Right as their lips connect, and Kara’s body goes rigid in surprise. Lena’s fingers clench where they’re pressing against the skin of Kara’s neck and she waits to see if Kara will push her away. 

It shouldn’t surprise her that when Kara does move, it’s to deepen the kiss and slide her arms around Lena’s waist to pick her up a few inches off the ground, but relief floods through her anyway. It feels so good that Lena smiles against Kara’s mouth. Her fingers trace upwards, pulling Kara’s hair out of her ponytail and tangling in the strands. Kara turns them then, backs Lena up until she’s propped up against the wall near the door and Lena swallows a moan at the feeling of Kara pressed completely against her.

“Lena,” Kara is murmuring, but she’s still kissing her, still gripping Lena’s hips and keeping them together. It’s an intoxicating feeling to realize that there is no one here in this entire universe to interrupt them right now, nothing pressing they need to attend to. Just the reality of the way their bodies still fit together so easily and the tight feeling low in Lena’s gut that’s begging her for release.

The feel of it all swarms Lena’s head so completely that she feels like she’d fall over if Kara weren’t holding her upright. “Please,” Lena says quietly because she can feel the confusion in Kara, the questioning even as she doesn’t stop pressing their mouths together.

Kara has a hand sliding up the back of Lena’s shirt and her lips are trailing over Lena’s jawline. Her head snaps back at the feeling of Kara kissing her neck and it’s a melting, liquid feeling that floods all over her skin.

There’s a crunching sound next to Lena’s ear and when she looks over, it’s because Kara’s slammed a hand into the wall next to her head, strong fingers breaking just slightly into the plaster there. Lena reaches up to hold onto it, the muscles relaxing at the first feel of Lena’s touch and Kara’s whole body sags against her, pressing ever closer, and Lena feels her body get lifted up off the ground again just by Kara’s body holding her tightly against the wall. It’s a show of unconscious strength that sends a thrill through Lena, and when she moans, Kara makes a sound Lena hasn’t heard in four years.

A warm hand is tracing Lena’s side, dipping below the waistband of her pants and pulling a strangled sound out of the back of Lena’s throat. Lena brings her free hand up to cup Kara’s chin, bring their mouths back together, and then, once Kara’s kissing her again, she drifts a hand down to the front of Kara’s shirt, finding purchase on the buttons there and trying to pry them open.

The feel of Kara’s leg threading between her own rips a noisy exhale through her nose and she needs them to be horizontal now. The bed is just visible over Kara’s shoulder and she struggles to think of a way to steer them that direction without having to break apart.

Halfway through a low order to take me to bed, Kara is suddenly zooming away from her, hitting the opposite wall with a loud thud Lena’s positive left a mark. The movement is so abrupt that Lena’s left thinking about the incident in her office just weeks ago, the chill of Kara’s body being ripped away from her.  

“Wha-” It’s a battle to get air into her lungs, but she manages and she eyes Kara with confusion.

“I can’t,” Kara is saying, but she’s staring at Lena with hot eyes, her narrowed gaze raking over Lena’s disheveled clothing and her chest heaving in a telltale sign of arousal.

“Kara,” Lena says and she gulps a lungful of air to steady her voice. “What’s wrong?”

Kara shakes her head and even across the distance of the hotel room Lena can tell her eyes are watering behind her glasses, tension settling in her jaw line. “I don’t want it like this.”

The look in Kara’s eye scares her. It’s profound and determined and Lena feels like they’re both stepping up to the edge of a cliff. “Don’t want what like what?”

Kara straightens from the slumped posture she’d taken up against the wall and takes a deep, visible breath as if trying to steel herself. “If we were at home,” Kara says in a soft voice. “On Earth-38. Would you want this?”

Lena doesn’t know how to say that she always wants this because she knows what Kara is really asking and Lena hates that the question doesn’t have a simple answer aside from, “I’m not sure.”

“This matters to me,” Kara replies in a thick voice, as she gestures between them. Lena pulls at her shirt, runs her fingers through her hair. “I need it to matter.”

“It always matters,” Lena whispers, the uncomfortable feeling of tears heating up in the backs of her eyes. The with you goes unspoken, but she hopes Kara hears it.

Kara’s fingers clench visibly, and she looks like she might walk back over towards Lena, but she stays put, nods a little. “I need it to matter at home. I need it to matter when we still have all the crazy stuff happening in our lives.”

“Kara,” Lena says, the name dropping out of her on a broken sigh, and Kara smiles a little despite the visible tears threatening to drop.

“When we do this again,” Kara continues and Lena’s heart flutters at the when. “You need to be sure.”

“I’m sure that I want this,” Lena manages to get out through the thick feeling in the back of her throat.

“I mean everything else,” Kara clarifies. “Sure about me.”

The truth sits on the tip of Lena’s tongue, scrambles to get loose, but she bites against the I have always been sure about you that threatens to break her.

“I want you in any and every universe,” Kara confesses and Lena’s sure she’s going to have a stroke with the way her chest feels. Everything has gotten far more serious than she ever intended, and she feels like the farther they walk down this path the harder it will be to turn back. “I don’t care about all that stuff back home, like how I’m Supergirl, and you’re trying to rebuild your company, and your mother is apparently some supervillain and all that. I don’t care.”

Silence stretches for a tense moment until Kara’s saying words in Kryptonian that slice across Lena’s insides. Words Lena was sure she’d never hear again. They’re the closest thing Kara’s language has to an I love you and it smacks into Lena like something physical.

“Kara,” Lena says with a shake of her head. She swipes a finger at the corner of her eye and keeps her jaw tight.

“So, I don’t care about all that other stuff, but I know that you do,” Kara continues with kind, understanding eyes that Lena’s not sure she deserves. “I respect that. I’m just not going to do this with you until…” She shakes her head, shrugs a little. “Until I can have all of you. Not just this fleeting moment in another universe.”

“I’m sorry,” Lena croaks and her throat starts to ache with the strain it takes to keep from crying.

Kara paces forward then, reaches out to wind her hand around Lena’s neck with solid, profound pressure. “Don’t be,” she murmurs. They’re close together again and just the sudden invasion of her senses with Kara threatens to break lose the dam keeping her tears back. “You have to know it’s not because-”  

Lena’s gaze snaps to Kara and she sees the want in her face mixed up with all the other emotions. It’s in the way Kara’s eyes flit down to her mouth and the way the hand on the back of her neck is warm and tight.

“It’s not because I don’t want to,” Kara finishes. “I’m always going to want you.”

It does nothing to quash the desire to press forward and kiss Kara again, but her words are echoing around in Lena’s skull and she understands on a deep level that this isn’t something they should do now, here, no matter how much she aches for it.

Lena lets out a watery laugh that comes out a little more bitter than she intends, but she reaches up to grip the forearm resting against her shoulder. “I know,” she whispers, sagging into the hold Kara has on her neck. “It’s the champagne,” she jokes, if only to get the emotional waterfall they’re standing under to ease a little. 

“It’s not,” Kara denies, staying serious in a way that tethers Lena to the moment. “I’ve been thinking about kissing you since the day in the park.”

Lena’s chest feels tight with the memory of it, the memory she’s been desperate to hold onto. It’s a feeling she’s so sure is going to evaporate as soon as they step foot through the portal to their Earth.

“Since the day I walked into your office with Clark, really, but in the park it felt -”

“Yeah,” Lena says, clearing her throat and trying to smile. “I know. Me too.”

“I have waited four years for you to come back,” Kara whispers between them and Lena’s heart shatters. It feels like standing in a regional airport years ago with Kara dropping hushed affection as Lena made a decision that would change both of their lives. “I can wait longer.”

It’s an awful feeling to be caught between telling Kara not to wait around for something Lena isn’t positive she’ll ever really let herself have, and the desperate feeling to drown in the security Kara’s words give her. She isn’t sure where Kara gained some kind of infinite capacity for patience, but it’s clear she has and it only makes Lena feel like she keeps making the same mistakes with Kara. Keeps hurting her.

“When did you get so patient?”

Kara makes an indignant scoffing sound. “I’ve always been patient.”

“You don’t have a patient bone in your body,” Lena teases, but Kara doesn’t laugh, just looks seriously into Lena’s eyes.

“I do when there’s something worth waiting for.”

The silence between them then is profound Lena feels like it’s something tangible, settling over her shoulders and pressing against her chest. 

“I’m afraid I’m just going to hurt you again,” Lena confesses and it’s at odds with her actions earlier - as if she didn’t realize that attempting to cross a line on Earth-1 wouldn’t have consequences on Earth-38.

“Lena,” Kara says, drawing the name out into a smile. Their foreheads press together and Kara sighs. “I have never in my life regretted a single moment you and I have spent together. Even the painful ones.” She pauses, takes in an unsteady breath and repeats the words in Kryptonian. I love you.

The tears come then, unable to be restrained any longer, and she hates the creeping feeling of despair that’s threading around her spine. Lena has regrets. A wealth of them actually. But she doesn’t tell Kara that, doesn’t let her know how much it aches to think about the list of things she’d change about their history if given the chance.

It goes against every single thing Lena knows they need, every single boundary she’s set up between them and she knows that there’s just no going back after she says it, but it’s too hard to keep it in anymore.

“I love you too,” she says in a shaky whisper, even though the words feel like they burst out of her, crashing through all her walls to smack Kara in the chest. It feels a little like a weight has come off of her entire body. 

“I know,” Kara replies after a few seconds, the words coming out on a wet sounding laugh. She picks her head up to press a warm kiss to Lena’s forehead and Lena leans into the feeling, her eyes closing briefly. “That was never our problem.”

Lena laughs mirthlessly, her fingers reach out a redo a few buttons on Kara's shirt just to have something to do. "This weekend felt amazing," Lena says softly. "Thank you." 

"That feeling doesn't have to stay here," Kara tells her in a whisper, but Lena doesn't know how to believe that. She nods anyway and Kara looks at her sadly, but doesn't push. 

Then Kara steps away, holding out her hand for Lena to take and pulling the extrapolator out of her pocket and holding it up.

“Come on,” Kara says, with a wry grin. “Let’s go home.”

Home had always been a fleeting concept to Lena, but as her palm slides over Kara’s, the solid, sure pressure of it grounds her in the same way it always has. It feels like the park when they were all wrapped up in each other. Go home, Lena thinks. She hasn’t left home for the past week.

Chapter Text

It had been easy to think of Earth-1 as not that different than Earth-38, but the differences come flooding in just as soon as Lena and Kara step through the portal into Kara’s apartment. Here, she’s a Luthor, and Kara’s a Super, and the world is not as kind.

Kara’s words still ring out between them we don’t have to leave that feeling here. But Lena can’t help but feel the walls between them come back up. Less solid than before, sure, but there nonetheless. She tries not to immediately stiffen in reaction or let Kara catch on to what she’s feeling, but she knows that’s a long shot.

“Lena,” Kara says, and her tone indicates pretty clearly that she sees right through Lena.

“Yes?” Lena asks with a gentle clearing of her throat. She drops Kara’s hand and runs a palm down her side, hating the sudden clammy feel in it.

Kara’s lips thin and she hands over the small duffel she carried for Lena through the breach. “You don’t have to pull away from me,” Kara says. “I’m not going to pressure you.”

Lena shakes her head, still feeling completely unstable from their emotional confrontation of moments before. There’s a lingering sense of Kara all over her skin and if she licks out against her lips it’s like she can still taste her there. “I’m not pulling away,” she says quietly, each word coming out slowly, carefully.

“You can stay here tonight. If you want,” Kara says and she moves as if to touch Lena again, but hesitates and something goes tense between them. “If you’re not ready to face real life yet.” 

There are what feels like a thousand different emotions rattling around in her head, voices yelling at her to do one thing or another and she can’t seem to think straight. There’s one begging her to let Kara take care of her, to avoid the world, and the familiar voice of her mother urging her to be a Luthor. But she also knows that the comfort Kara’s offering is emblematic of a larger question, about the path she wants their relationship to take from here on out. And that - she has no idea what to do about that, right now.

“Thanks, but I’ll be alright,” she manages to say and Kara looks at her sadly. “I have responsibilities I neglected for a week that I need to tend to.”

“I know,” Kara says and she sounds so resigned, defeated, like she knows what Lena’s going to decide at the end of the day and Lena doesn’t know how to tell her that she hasn’t made any decision. That her lips still feel swollen from kissing and she still remembers what it felt like to get pressed against a wall by Kara’s body. The skin at the small of her back still tingles from the feel of Kara’s fingers tracing there and there’s absolutely no way she can come back from that.

Lena opened Pandora’s box. With no regard for what would come out. Their I love yous still sit solidly between them and Lena just needs some distance to sort out her brain before she continues to crash into Kara consequences be damned. If she keeps going, it’s going to destroy both of them and it will be entirely her own fault.

“Hey,” she says softly and she sets her duffel bag on the ground to walk up to Kara. Just being close again makes Lena’s body start to hum and her mouth goes a little dry when Kara’s eyes drop immediately to Lena’s mouth. “I’m not forgetting. I couldn’t even if I tried." 

There’s no hesitation when Kara reaches out this time and their fingers tangle out together. “Okay. I’m not trying to - I want to give you whatever you need. I don’t want things to be weird between us just because we’re back here.”

There seems to be a disconnect between what Lena needs and what she can have and it’s darkly apparent in this moment when all she wants to do is press back against Kara’s body and fall in a tumble down onto Kara’s bed. “I know. We’re fine,” she says softly. “I promise.”  

“I want to give you the space to figure us out. No pressure.”

Figure us out, Lena thinks and she feels the ball get placed even more firmly in her court. Kara’s decision is all over her face and Lena knows that all she has to do is say yes and Kara is all in again. Part of her thinks that Kara never stopped being all in. It was Lena who had walked away, after all.

When she leaves it’s with a warm kiss to the corner of Kara’s mouth and a tight hug that Lena feels her entire ride over to her apartment.

--

The first sign that something is wrong with her brother is the sloppy way his tie hangs from his neck, the top button of his shirt open, and the disheveled look of his hair. The second sign is the bottle of whiskey dangling from his hand.

Tullamore DEW. Whiskey Lex likes to drink when he’s sad.  

He’s draped across an armchair in the living room when she gets home and concern flashes through her immediately.

“Lex?” She throws her purse and jacket onto the couch and paces over to him. His head lolls a little on the back of the chair and he smiles at her even if his eyes can’t quite focus. He’s not obliterated, but he doesn’t seem that far from it either.

“Hey there, little sister,” he drawls and he makes a finger gun gesture with his free hand at her.

“Are you okay?” Lex likes to drink, but he never gets sloppy drunk, is always some form of put together. It’s the Luthor way, after all. She sends up a silent thank you that their mother is in Madrid and doesn’t have to berate her golden boy for not handling his liquor appropriately.

“Oh, I’m great,” he answers in a tone that conveys he is quite the opposite.

She sits down on the coffee table across from him and reaches out to touch his knee. “What happened?”

Silence stretches for a long moment and he just looks at her, gaze glossy and unfocused. 

“Nothing,” he shrugs and she gives him a look until he sighs. “I was seeing someone,” Lex admits, his eyes rolling to the ceiling. He props the bottle of liquor against his knee and points at her. “I was like really seeing someone.”  

It comes as a complete surprise to her and she feels a stab of guilt that she wouldn’t know something so vital about her brother’s life. She gets so wrapped up in her own things, in doing well at her internship, pleasing her mother, graduating early, Kara. “Lex, what happened?”  

“Clark,” Lex answers, the name clicking off his tongue bitterly.

“You were seeing Clark?” Lena asks, trying to figure out what her brother is saying. “Who’s Clark?”

“Clark happened,” he clarifies before taking a pull of the whisky. “I was seeing someone and then Clark happened.”

“Who is Clark?”

“Clark is my best friend,” Lex answers and then he laughs mirthlessly. “Was my best friend.”

For the first time in her life Lena feels entirely distant from her brother. The idea that he could have two important people in his life that she knows nothing about squeezes painfully at her heart. Has she she really been that wrapped up in her own life so selfishly?

“Bastard,” Lex bites out, but Lena recognizes the look in Lex’s eyes. He’s not angry at Clark. He’s angry at himself.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Lena asks in a careful tone.

He shakes his head, but sits up suddenly, looking serious. “You and Kara,” he says. “You guys are good?”

Lena’s chest aches a bit to think of her girlfriend up in Midvale, and her voice is hoarse when she finally speaks. “Yeah, we’re good.”

He nods, slowly, eyes narrowed. “You hold on to that,” he tells her, pointing with the bottle of whiskey. The liquid sloshes violently against the glass sides. “Enjoy it before it’s over.”

“Lex,” she says softly, sadly. Talking about Kara as something that could ever be over feels painful.

“We’re Luthors, Lena,” he says, licking out against his lips, eyes fluttering. “We’re not meant to have things that last.” He laughs again, this bitter broken sound she’s never heard come out of his mouth. “I mean look at mom and dad,” he continues with a sardonic smile and she assumes he means their father’s untimely death. It only confuses her more and Lena wants to fix the almost maniacally hurt look in Lex’s eyes.  

He shakes his head and waves the bottle around again. This time she grabs out for it and easily takes it from his hand.

“Why don’t we stop drinking out of the bottle like we’re uncivilized,” she says in a light tone as she puts the whiskey out of his reach.

His eyes roll over a little and he licks his lips. “Okay, Mother,” he replies sarcastically and Lena just shoots him an exasperated look.

“Do you want to talk about what happened?”

“Nothing happened,” Lex answers and Lena sighs until he continues. “No, really.”

He leans forward, sitting up and clasping his hands between his knees. His tie swings down and a curl of his hair tumbles forward on his forehead. “Clark is a good guy, you know? Like the best guy I know. I get it.”

“So…” Lena ventures a guess. “This...girl?” She pauses to confirm and Lex just gives her a droll look. “Okay so this girl that you’ve been seeing. She left you for Clark?”

Lex laughs, falls back in the chair with a thud and Lena wishes he were sober so she could get a grip on this conversation. Then again, if he were sober she doubts they’d be talking about it at all.

“I left her actually,” Lex says with this haughty smirk that seems all out of place.

“You left her for Clark?” Lena tries and Lex laughs again.

“Do you know who Clark is?” He asks and she doesn’t, but she thinks it’s more a setup question than an actual one. “He’s this great wholesome perfect American boy. Good guy Clark. Who wouldn’t fall in love with Mr. Perfect?”

He says it in what she’s sure is supposed to come off as sarcastic or mocking, but Lena can read the actual respect, maybe even love that Lex holds for this mystery man. “And do you know what I am?”

“Lex,” she says softly because she starts to sense where this is going and her chest aches for the pain in her brother’s eyes.

“I’m Lex Luthor,” he tells her, voice dripping with disdain as he says his last name. “I’m the genius billionaire golden child of Lionel and Lillian Luthor and I love my work more than I could ever love anything else.”

“That’s not true,” Lena tells him seriously, leans forward a little to get him to hear her.

“Isn’t it?” His eyes narrow critically, lips thin. “We’re the Luthor children, Lena,” he tells her again, like she’s going to forget any time soon. “Our sole purpose on this Earth is furthering our family’s legacy. You and me.”

“You’re sounding too much like Mom,” Lena says in a soft careful voice, not knowing how to help him. 

“Mom has a point,” Lex says with a shrug of his shoulder and that’s when she knows Lex is too far gone to be rational.

“You’re drunk,” Lena deadpans.

With a sloppy grin, Lex shrugs. “Doesn’t make me wrong.”

“We’re more than just our last name, Lex.”

He nods slowly, looks away with a sad twist to his lips. “I loved her,” he says and it takes Lena to realize they’re back to mystery girl and not still talking about their mother. “I loved her as much as I’m capable of.”

A twist of guilt digs deeper. All the times they’d talked about Kara, about Lena’s love life and her fears and everything and not once had she thought Lex might be going through the same thing. “But you left her,” she says softly and he smiles. The kind of smile Lena knows hides pain.

“Better to leave someone before they can do the leaving,” he says sagely and Lena thinks there’s red rimmed in his eyes, but she doesn’t think she’s ever seen her brother cry. Isn’t sure she’d know what to do if he starts now.

“Why does anyone have to do the leaving?”

His smile deepens, darkness swirling in his eyes. “They’ll all leave in the end,” he says with such dramaticism to his tone that she almost laughs. “I’d rather be the one that leaves than the one that gets left.”

“That’s hyperbolic.”  

He rolls his eyes, ignores her statement. “I left her so she can be happy and go off with the most perfect of all humans, Clark. Clark who gets the girl and the happiness and everything and -” he laughs again. “He was my best friend.”

Lena’s throat feels thick with empathy for her brother. “Let me get you some water,” she murmurs. “Maybe some food.”

“No,” he says when she gets up to move and he reaches out to grab her wrist, keep her there. “Can you just stay for a bit?”

With sad eyes she tries to smile reassuringly, grips at the hand holding onto her arm and sits back down. “Of course.”

In the morning, after Lena makes sure Lex wakes up to a bottle of aspirin and a large Gatorade, her brother is all apologies and has only vague recollections of their conversation.

Lena doesn’t have the heart to drag him through it all over again and he looks leagues better than he had the night before. His hair is back to being immaculate, tie in a perfect knot and suit tailored to perfection. He buys her lunch at her favorite restaurant in Metropolis and acts like nothing is wrong.

Lena lets him.

--

Her apartment isn’t as swarmed with press as she had thought it might be and she assumes that’s largely because she up and disappeared for a week. There are only a few reporters camped out, a few flashes that go off as she dodges them and ducks inside her building.

She isn’t there for long, just to drop her bag off and change into something more appropriate for heading into L Corp.

It’s late afternoon, but she knows her inbox has to be overflowing with things she needs to take care of and based on the three hundred notifications on her phone, all from today, she’s sure even her team of secretaries haven’t been able to handle everything.

By the time she gets to L Corp the evening security shift is just coming on and the man at the desk shoots her a surprised smile when he sees her, waving her through the checkpoint with a, “Welcome back, Miss Luthor.”

There’s very little of her looking forward to having to spend the next few days putting out fires and facing the fallout of her confrontation with her mother, but there is undeniably still a part of her that feels better just walking into this building, her heels clicking with authority against the floor. Painful as it may be, stressful as it may be, this is an area she knows how to navigate. She knows the players and the rules and has rarely felt out of her depth here.

Jess is at her desk when she gets up to her office and she sends Lena a relieved smile the minute she sees her, standing up. “Miss Luthor, so good to see you.”

“I’m sure,” Lena says with a wry smile. She hikes her bag higher on her shoulder and takes a deep breath. “I’m going to go through my inbox, catch up on what I’ve missed. I’d appreciate not being bothered.”

“Of course, Miss Luthor,” Jess replies and Lena sends her a warm smile.

“Thanks, Jess.”

There’s a pile of files waiting for her on her desk, including a stack of cards detailing all of the phone calls she missed over the past week. It’s overwhelming, but she has to start somewhere and with a deep sigh she sits down at her chair and pulls the stack over.

It takes her hours, but she puts a dent in the paperwork she’s behind on and responds to as many messages as possible before she feels like she might pass out at her desk. She packs up whatever work she can bring home and spends another two hours in her bedroom cleaning out her inbox and checking up on the progress of a few projects.

There are about ten different letters and messages from her legal team as well as her mother’s, and she knows one of them is a notification of the court dates, but she can’t think about that yet.

Kara texts her somewhere around three in the morning: hope you’re okay. sleep well, Lena. She doesn’t bother texting back, but the text brings some measure of comfort after a long, tiring day of phone calls and emails and panicked investors.

She falls into a restless sleep eventually surrounded by a scattering of papers and her laptop still open and glowing into the dim light of her room.

--

In the morning, Lena forgets for a second where she is. For half of a second, she thinks she’s in the hotel room on Earth-1, and that Kara is going to come striding in with a cup of coffee and a smile. She blinks awake and stretches the ache out of her shoulders and neck for sleeping in an awkward hunched over position.

With a heavy sigh she pulls herself out of bed and mentally preps herself for another day of playing catch up. She’s walking into the lobby of L Corp when she gets a text and her heart flutters a little to see Kara’s name pop up on the screen. The unanswered text from last night floats above a new one on her screen.

is it bad that i kind of miss jitters? the text reads and Lena smiles fondly at thinking of the local coffee shop they frequented in Earth-1’s Central City.

Before she steps into her elevator she types out a quick why would that be bad?

The response comes as she’s sitting down at her desk. isn’t it kind of mean to noonan’s?

A laugh drops out of her before she can stop it and the tense feeling she’s had since waking up starts to ebb, just a little. I don’t think coffee shops have feelings.

It’s a quick interaction, but it’s easy and lacks the kind of emotional depth that their last meeting had. She hasn’t seen Kara since they came through the breach, but the casual way Kara slipped back into their text conversations as if nothing’s changed makes Lena feel like she can breathe a little easier.

--

As Lena plunges herself into damage control at L Corp, Christmas season falls over National City like a blanket of green and red and white lights. It largely escapes her attention until a memo about the annual Luthor Family Fundraising Gala passes her desk - a Christmas tradition as much as she’s ever had one.

Lex is in prison and her mother is on her way there. Holding the gala seems pointless to some degree, but she hates the idea it would look like she’s admitting defeat, surrendering her family’s name and reputation.

After a moment’s consideration she sends a quick email to her assistant and drafts a short memo about changing the name and purpose of the gala - L Corp instead of Luthor Family and New Year’s instead of Christmas - as well as revising the guest list. It’s a gamble to do something so drastic this close to the date of the event, but she never got anywhere by playing it safe.

It’s late into the evening when a knock interrupts her part of the way through responding to an e-mail about a weekly development meeting.

Jess walks in and Lena startles a little, suddenly remembering she’s kept her secretary here so late. “Jess please go home, you don’t have to be there.”

With an indulgent smile, Jess ignores the directive completely and walks a little closer to Lena’s desk. “A Winn Schott is here to see you. I told him you didn’t want to be disturbed, but he was insistent. He said you were expecting him?”

Brows pulling down, Lena closes her laptop and sits up a little. “Send him in.”

Jess retreats and soon after Winn walks into her office looking hesitant and holding a white plastic bag. Standing, Lena tilts her head to the side, a quizzical smile on her face. “Hello, Winn. What can I do for you?”

“Hey,” he says with a little wave before walking towards her. “Sorry, I know it’s super late.”

“Not at all,” she says and gestures towards a chair opposite her desk before taking her own.

“Kara sent me,” Winn replies and Lena feels a smile pull across her face unbidden. “With food.”

In the week since they’ve been back on Earth-38, Kara and Lena have barely had a chance to see each other. But Lena has grown used to the rhythmic nature of their texts, has settled back into expecting Kara’s odd, off-topic greeting in the mornings, and the even stranger late night commentary on things happening in the city or questions about Lena’s day. It reminds her, the littlest bit, of the summer they spent apart in college. It’s a comfort in a complicated time at L Corp, and Kara is reaching even further to ease her with this.

Lena arches a brow as he sets the bag on her desk and takes a seat. “Food?”

“I believe she called it ‘no pressure vegetable chow mein’ and told me to make sure I emphasized the no pressure part,” he answers.

Lena laughs a little. “Just because?”

Winn shrugs. “I’m just the delivery boy.”

“She didn’t have to do that,” Lena says, but she tugs the bag closer and peers inside. The smell alone is making her mouth water and she realizes quite abruptly that it’s been hours since she last ate. She wonders if Kara had known somehow, or if she had simply predicted. “Neither did you.”

“Ah, it’s nothing,” he says with a dismissive wave.

“Can you please inform my ridiculous girlfriend that she doesn’t need to send her friends to bring me food and if she does it herself it doesn’t feel like pressure?” It’s meant mostly as a joke, but Winn doesn’t laugh and after a second she realizes what she’s said. A glance at Winn, who has a slack jawed wide-eyed look about him, lets her know he heard it loud and clear.

It’s a testament to her years of practice in not visibly reacting to anything that she doesn’t so much as flinch when she rewinds the sentence in her head. Girlfriend doesn’t have to mean anything. Women call girls that are their friend girlfriend all the time.

It was the kind of slip that Lena was certain would provoke a few pokes and prods from a therapist, but right now - there’s no room to confront what her subconscious and mouth have just combined together to do. She’s had so little time to think about her and Kara’s relationship and its future, and has simply reveled in the companionship Kara’s given her without pressure. But as always when it comes to the two of them, something is hovering under the surface.

There’s absolutely zero way her sentence could be construed in a friends way, judging by Winn’s face, but she forces her expression to remain neutral as Winn gapes at her in the hopes he’ll become convinced he hallucinated it.

“I’ll - I’ll let her know,” he finally croaks out, still looking completely bowled over.

They both sit there for a bit in only slightly uncomfortable silence before Lena realizes she needs to do something before the memory of what she said is the only thing Winn walks away with. There’s been something nagging at her brain for a few weeks now and it’s no better time than any to bring it up. “Actually, it’s good that you’re here. I was hoping you could take a look at something.”

Surprise pulls across his face, but he sits forward a little. “Really?”

“Yes,” she answers succinctly before standing up. “Come with me.”

She walks towards her office door turning only when he doesn’t follow right away. He has a worried expression on his face as he glances between the bag of food on her desk and her face. “Kara kind of made it really clear that I make sure you eat the no pressure chow mein.”

With a touch of exasperation, Lena laughs, raises her eyes to the ceiling and gestures for Winn to follow her. “It will keep. And I won’t tell her if you won’t.”

He looks torn for a moment long before conceding and following after her quickly, a wide smile on his face.

--

After getting Winn the requisite security clearance and fitting him with a visitor’s badge, they make their way down to the labs at the basement of the building and Lena watches Winn’s wide-eyed stare around the room with growing affection for Kara’s best friend.

The minute they make it through the door Winn shoots away from her towards a nearby desk and stands in front of a small display of computer monitors that light up the minute he gets close. “This is face activated isn’t it?” he breathes out as the computer runs through a scan of his head.

Lena crosses her arms and watches him with a bemused smile. “It is,” she answers.

“I read a rumor about this. That you’re not just tracking points on a face, but scanning about seven layers deeper than that. I heard it’s part of a larger robotics program, like you’re going to have sentient robots in every household.”

“I’d love to talk about it,” Lena says, and she glances over to see Lana Lang walking her direction. “But that’s not what we’re down here for.”

“Right, yeah, of course,” he says walking slowly backward and waving at the computer.  

“Miss Luthor,” Lana greets when she gets close enough and Winn turns to step up back next to Lena. “I’d say that you’re here late, but I think that’s becoming our thing.”

Lena laughs warmly, but Winn just looks between them, a little confused, so Lena introduces them. “Lana, this is Winn Schott,” she says and then pauses a moment before adding, “A friend of mine.”

It’s a strange sentence for her mouth to form, but she pushes through it and Winn looks so suddenly pleased that Lena can’t help the way a smile takes hostage of her face. “Nice to meet you,” he says, shaking her hand.

“Can I help you guys with anything?” Lana asks and Lena shakes her head, puts a warm hand at Lana’s arm and squeezes in a friendly gesture.

“No, we’re fine. I just wanted Winn to take a look at something. Fresh pair of eyes and all that.”

“Of course,” Lana says with a polite smile for both of them. “Let me know if you need anything.”

“Thank you, Lana,” Lena says before stepping past her towards a back hallway that leads to their more secure workstations.

Inside a room at the end of the hallway that requires a triple security check holds some of the projects Lena keeps most private. The room only opens to a scan of her own DNA and Winn watches with some fascination as she presses her hand to the small device on the wall.

“Is this where you hold the keys to a proton cannon or something?” Winn asks when they step inside. “Because that would be cool.”

She laughs, arches an eyebrow at him and he just smiles. “Not exactly.”

The room is fairly large, and she leads him towards the back where a long table holds the plans to something she’s been working on ever since she came to National City and saw Kara again.

With a deep breath, she inputs a few commands and a hologram of a suit pops up. “Kara mentioned that you built her suit,” she says and Winn’s eyes roam over the information Lena’s displaying. “I was hoping you’d be open to suggestion.”

“No way,” Winn breathes, stepping forward as Lena pulls up a few different schematics for some ideas she’s had. “You and me, you mean? Working on Kara’s suit?”

Lena shrugs. “I just had some thoughts.”

A moment of silence happens and Winn’s face looks tight with something before he breaks out into a wide, enthusiastic grin and extends his fist towards her. “Science bros!”

Perplexed, Lena just sort of stares at his fist for a moment, but his smile never falters and he just wags his fist around like she’s supposed to do something with it. Intuition tells her this is akin to a high five and she hits her own fist lightly against his. It only makes him smile wider, triumph lighting up in his eyes.

She laughs and so does he and it feels so easy.

--

Later, after she and Winn have spent a few companionable hours toiling away in the lab, Lena texts Kara to thank her for the food.

You didn’t have to do that, she sends.

It takes Kara a bit to respond, but when she does it’s a pointed, i hope you ate it or winn is in trouble.

Lena wavers on a reply for a few seconds before sending if you’re worried about such a thing you should do the delivery yourself. She waits a moment longer before adding a no pressure.

The response is immediate and Lena smiles a little at Kara’s okay i will accompanied by three smiley faces.

--

It’s a random Thursday afternoon when she hears what she thinks is laughter coming from outside her very thick office doors and she sends a puzzled look at them for a long while.

When the laughter comes not just once, but more than five times, Lena gets up to investigate who is standing outside her office hosting a comedy of show of some kind and is greeted by the image of her ex-girlfriend standing in front of her assistant’s desk. The two of them laughing at some apparently hilarious joke.

Jess notices her immediately and startles, sitting up in her chair and wiping the smile off her face so quickly that Lena feels a twinge of guilt that she interrupted the happy moment. Kara however, doesn’t stop smiling. If anything, her expression grows when she looks at Lena.

“Hi,” Kara says brightly.

“Are you here to see me?” Lena asks slowly.

Kara grins. “Duh.”

“Sorry, Miss Luthor,” Jess adds. “I was just about to send her in.”

“It’s no problem, Jess,” Lena replies with a shake of her head. She feels a little foolish now that she’s come out here, but Kara steps forward with a warm expression.

“Jess was telling me about this place called Lulu’s that has a burger made with grilled cheese as the buns,” Kara says, in a nearly reverent tone. “It’s also got fries and cheese curds on it and if you can finish it you get your meal for free and a t-shirt.”

In a natural reaction, Lena lets out a soft chuckle and rolls her eyes fondly. She looks at Jess. “Do me a favor, and don’t tell her such things. You’re not the one that has to watch her eat it.”

It seems to make Jess relax a little and she puts her hands up in front of her. “Of course not, Miss Luthor. Never again.”

Lena backs up into her office door to open it and gestures for Kara to walk inside even as her ex-girlfriend lets out a grumbled, “No one told you you had to watch me do amazing things.”

Jess laughs at that and so does Lena and they share a quick smile before Lena follows Kara into her office.

“What’s up?” Lena asks as Kara walks over to the couch and sits down. It’s only then that she notices a brown paper bag in her hand.

“I come with food,” Kara says with a grin.

Lena quirks a brow. “More no pressure chow mein?”

“No pressure burgers this time,” Kara corrects and Lena sighs.

“You’re atrocious for my diet. Not everyone has your metabolism nor your lead lined stomach.”

With an affectionate laugh, Kara pulls out a foil wrapped item and looks at Lena knowingly. “I didn’t just meet you, you know,” she says with a touch of exasperation. “I got you a black bean burger instead.”

“Oh,” Lena says with a little laugh. She walks forward and takes the offered item before sitting down on her couch next to Kara. “Well, in that case.”

Kara frowns a little, distaste twisting in her lips as Lena unwraps her food. “And you say that I’m the one that’s gross to watch eat.”

They share a companionable silence for a moment, as Kara takes the food out and hands over napkins and condiments.

“So what’s the occasion?” Lena asks after a minute of unwrapping the food and setting things out on the coffee table. “First you send Winn with food and now this? Are you actually afraid I’ll forget to eat or something?”

Kara shrugs. “No, just wanted to,” she says. “You said I could come by with no pressure foods of my own.”

“Well, thank you,” Lena says softly and Kara smiles so prettily that Lena has to look away.

It feels a lot like college and, once again, Lena’s reminded of the limbo she’s somehow put them into. The feeling of Kara when they pressed together in their hotel room on Earth-1 still lingers in her memories, still haunts her late at night when she dreams. The attraction that has always been between them has seemed to only intensify, even though they’ve hardly seen each other since they got back. Sometimes, Kara will send a text before Lena goes to sleep, and she just desperately wants. It’s terrifying, all over again, how badly she wants Kara Danvers - and it’s made worse by knowing what she’s missing.

The knowledge that she has to do something about this chips away at her sanity. They can’t stay in this undefined area forever. Lena has to make a decision.

It’s just hard to remember all her reasons for keeping them apart when Kara is smiling at her a few feet away while she munches on french fries. They felt like thin reasons before. Now, after all they’ve been through recently, they feel mostly ridiculous.

“How has your week been?” Kara asks around a mouthful of food and Lena shrugs a little.

“A lot of lawyers,” she says wryly and Kara gives her a sympathetic look.

“Stuff with your mom?”

Lena nods, sets her food down on the table in front of her and dusts her hands off. “Her trial is set for after the holidays, but her lawyers and mine have been in and out constantly. Trying to set up witness lists, square away discovery.”

“Are you going to testify?” Kara asks and Lena leans back on the couch, crosses her legs and looks out the wide bank of windows across the office.

“Yes,” she answers simply and when she looks over, Kara’s setting her food down, leaning back against the couch and facing Lena.

“Is that what you want to do or something you think you have to do?” Kara asks softly and if it were anyone else Lena might scoff at the question.

“I want her to answer for what she did,” Lena says and when Kara doesn’t say anything for a moment she adds, “But she’s still my mom. As much as I ever had one.”

Kara reaches out across the couch to touch Lena’s shoulder, a warm palm sliding over the fabric of her shirt there and Lena sags into it just a bit, sighing through a dry smile. “Can we talk about something else?” Lena asks and Kara smiles sympathetically.

“Of course,” Kara says, taking her hand back and Lena nearly leans towards it to chase the contact. “Though I don’t have anything interesting to talk about. My week has been seriously boring.”

“Really?” Lena asks, a tad surprised. “No big bad for Supergirl?” 

“Nope,” Kara answers with a shrug. “And Snapper’s got me doing fluff pieces mostly. Holiday season I think. Everyone is being good and boring.”

Lena laughs a little. “When you think of what could be considered interesting in our lives that might be a good thing.”

Kara laughs too, smiles. “Very true,” Kara says softly. “Kind of like we brought a little of Earth-1 back with us.”

“Are you forgetting we went to Earth-1 to stop a large scale alien invasion?”

“No,” Kara says with a roll of her eyes. “But you know that’s not what I meant.”

That feeling doesn’t have to stay here, she remembers Kara saying and in that moment Lena’s sure the feeling came with them.

A decision, she thinks wryly as Kara hands her a french fry and an easy smile. Her mind scoffs at her. It’s becoming more and more obvious that there isn’t much of a decision to make. It’s clearly more a matter of accepting something her heart has been trying to tell her for years.

“I know,” Lena says and Kara gives her a crooked grin that skips across Lena’s heart.

--

The decision to take over Luthor Corp wasn’t so much a decision as something Lena just did. It seemed natural after all. A Luthor had to be in charge and with her mother all but washing her hands of the company after Lex was convicted, it left only one person really capable of filling the position.

The decision to move HQ to National City takes a bit longer to come to.

Moving out of Metropolis has to happen. The city is far too tied into the company. Her brother’s reputation is at the forefront of just about every resident’s mind, shadowing Luthor Corp’s public image with his madness. The company is never going to recover in Metropolis - Lena knows that, the Daily Planet’s rabid reporters know that, and so does her board of executives. Even Jack knows, though he’s barely spoken to her since she’s taken over the company and withdrawn herself from his life.

She holds meeting after meeting to decide the most viable option and tries oh so very hard to avoid the obvious choice.

National City.

It’s on the other side of the country from Metropolis, they already have corporate property there and a wealth of other subsidiaries are located nearby. It’s the perfect fit.

It’s also where Kara, and now Supergirl, live.

(She learned this two years ago because of a random phone call from CatCo shortly after Lex was arrested. Lena received a message that Cat Grant was looking to set up an interview and frankly, getting a call from the Queen of All Media wasn’t something Lena could readily ignore. If she was going to be answering questions, she might as well answer them from the best, and not from the sanctimonious Clark Kent at the Planet.

So she returns the call casually one afternoon only to feel her heart stumble at the clear, bright voice that picks up the phone.

“Cat Grant’s office, how can I help you?”  

There’s no introduction, but there needn’t be and Lena curses herself for not letting Jess set the phone call up instead so she could have avoided this. Lena feels frozen and apart from a quick sharp inhale, she makes no noise. It doesn’t matter though, Lena knows she’s making noises her human hearing can’t detect, but someone else’s can.

And when the voice comes back, Kara’s voice comes back, it’s hesitant and somehow knowing in its tone. “Hello?”

Lena slams the phone back down before anything else can be said and tells Jess she won’t be doing any interviews about Lex’s arrest. If anyone from CatCo calls, she doesn’t want to hear about it.)

So Kara is in National City and Lena’s faced with the decision of moving her family’s entire company that direction. It’s juvenile that Kara’s presence there is what deters her from making the best choice immediately. Even though her mother’s left the board and has absconded off somewhere to grieve, Lena can feel her taunting voice in the back of her mind, reminding her that Luthors can’t be bogged down by small people problems. Her ambition should override her apprehension, but it’s still there, like a rock in her heart.

It’s a big city, she tries to tell herself. Kara might not even work at CatCo anymore. She might be a permanent superhero now, only let out in the night hours to fight crime and do good.

She tells herself to stop thinking so much with her heart and stick to matters of the brain. This is the right move for Luthor Corp (soon to be L Corp) and her own personal drama shouldn’t stand in the way of that.

It shouldn’t matter at all - it had been years since she had said goodbye to Kara in that airport, and though it was rare for her to go a day without thinking of Kara or, now, Supergirl, it was silly. Kara Danvers is part of her past. A fond part, sure, but the past is meant to stay there.

When she finally delivers her decision to the board, she’s pleased at the reaction she gets. Part of her expected a bit of a fight, but most of them seem somewhat impressed and it pumps confidence behind her decision that she didn’t have before.

A week later she has an apartment and her Metropolis penthouse, the one she’s lived in for three years, is already on the market.

She tells Jack as soon as the decision is made - doesn’t want him to hear it in the news. He’s not shocked, but there’s anger simmering just beneath his sad smile and Lena aches at the sight of it. It doesn’t seem to stop him from offering to help her pack and that only makes her feel worse.

“You’re too good to me, Jack,” she confesses when he comes over with a stack of packing boxes and other supplies.

He smiles the same crooked grin he’s been giving her for years, but it’s sadder than it usually is. “When are you going to learn that there’s no such thing?”

They work methodically. Most of her bigger items are being handled by a moving company and some of it is either being donated or sold with the penthouse. She and Jack focus on her more private items, the things stored in her bedroom and deep in her closet.

In the midst of clearing out one of Lena’s bookshelves, Jack stops, a copy of A Brave New World in his hand. “You know. You don’t have to do this. You don’t owe it to anyone. Least of all your family.”

She turns from where she’s kneeling near her bedside table, sorting through a drawer there. “I’m not doing it out of duty, Jack,” she tells him.

“You’re telling me this has nothing to do with your family?” Jack asks and he drops the book in his hand in the box in front of him. “Moving all the way across the country? Leaving Metropolis and the entire life you’ve built here. The life we’ve built?”

Lena stands, faces him. Doesn’t know how to tell him that this is old hat for her. Uprooting a life she’s built is something she’s done before and this time it won’t hurt nearly as bad as it had before. “I’m not going to just up and leave my family’s company twisting in the wind,” she says quietly, willing him silently to understand.

“You don’t have to run Luthor Corp, Lena. You could stay here. Work with me at Spheerical on Biomax,” he pleads and she feels heat start to build behind her eyes, guilt twisting in her gut. “We could change the world together, Lena. You know that.”

Lena’s lips purse, knows there’s truth to what he’s saying, but it doesn’t sway her in the slightest when it comes to the decision she’s made. They’ve been debating this in some manner for the past few days and Lena doesn’t know how to get him to understand.

Tightening her ponytail, she turns away from her bedside table and walks into her expansive closet, observing what’s left there. She sighs when she feels him follow her and he leans up against the door frame.

“I’m a Luthor, Jack,” Lena says. “That hasn’t changed. I’m the only one that can captain the sinking ship that is my family’s legacy right now and I plan to do so.”

“You are not responsible for your family’s legacy.”

She starts to shift some of the boxes she had already packed in the closet and shoves them towards the door where he’s standing. “It’s not about responsibility,” she tells him with a clenched jaw and when she hands him a box to set outside with the others she maybe shoves a little harder than necessary.

Breath pushes out of him with the motion and he shoots her a pointed look. “I don’t understand why you have to leave, I’m sorry.” He sets the box outside and looks back at her, reacts to her skeptical expression. “I am. I mean, do you even want to be doing this?” 

There’s a question hidden there that Lena can sense. Jack is finally asking what he really wants to know - is he worth less to her than her family’s company, her family’s legacy, her own career.

Lena doesn’t have a simple answer to that. She loves Jack. Even if it’s not in the same way he loves her. He’s been nothing but supportive and steady and he’s filled a portion of a void inside her heart that she thought could never be touched again. He’s her best friend at this point and the only stabilizing influence in the insanity that’s been plaguing her for the last year.

But the hard truth of it is that none of that is going to stop her from moving to National City. None of it is going to stop her from leaving him behind.

She thinks of Kara for a moment, thinks of her face in the regional airport close to four years ago and thinks that if that wasn’t going to stop her back then, Jack certainly wasn’t going to now.

“I do want to,” she answers in a soft but firm voice and she watches Jack’s shoulders deflate. He shakes his head, but steps further into her closet with a sigh.

“Okay,” he says and it’s with a resigned shrug of his shoulders. With a deep breath he scans the closet in front of them. “What else needs to go?”  

She starts pulling more boxes out, taping up a few that were left open and after a few more minutes of handing off boxes to Jack and giving him instructions, she stumbles upon it.

She’s been meaning to get to it, but her Kara box is sitting in the corner, dusty and untouched for years. The sight of it pulls her breath in abruptly and she feels frozen, incapable of doing anything other than stand over the box and stare down at it. It’s a nondescript box and there’s no indication as to what’s inside, but Lena knows what is. There’s a telltale bump in the packing tape from when her shaky hands couldn’t quite get it to go straight in her haste to pack everything up.

She stares at it for long enough that she doesn’t notice Jack come up behind her until he wraps his arms around her waist, ducking his head into her neck. “Are you okay? I didn’t mean to make you feel worse about this.”

Her fingers twist with his own large ones where they’re settling over her stomach and she tries to laugh. “You’re fine. I know this is hard.”

“For both of us,” Jack murmurs and Lena just blinks watery eyes at the box on the ground.

“Yeah,” she says softly. 

“What’s in that?” Jack asks after a moment, his chin jutting out from Lena’s shoulder towards the box.

“Some stuff from college,” is all Lena can think to answer and he straightens a bit.

“The classic ex box?” He asks in a way that almost sounds like it’s funny and Lena jumps a bit at the idea of being so easily read. He laughs, jostles her in his arms a little. “Oh come on, that’s literally the only thing you ever talk about when it comes to college. What else would it be?”

“I should probably get rid of it,” Lena says though just the idea of that burns uncomfortably in her throat. “I just can’t.” 

“I burned the one I had for my high school girlfriend. She was the worst.”

Lena laughs as he lets her go and turns her around to face him, a teasing grin on her face. She tries not to wonder if Jack will have a Lena box and if he’ll burn that one too. “I’m not going to burn it.”

Jack shrugs. “Just a thought.”

Lena abandons the box in question in the closet and tugs Jack back out into the bedroom, decides to focus her efforts on finishing her bookshelves and some of her more personal items. They work in companionable silence for a long while.

“I’m sorry,” Jack says eventually, soft and sincere. “I really don’t mean to make this harder for you.”

“It’s okay,” Lena says, shrugging and walking over to put a palm against his cheek. He’s looking at her softly, a small smile quirking on his lips. “It means you care.”

He scoffs, smirking with that teasing wrinkle around his eyes. “Care? I would never,” he says, and it makes her laugh.

A week later, when he hugs her goodbye at the private air hangar she’s procured to leave the city, he tells her to say hi to Supergirl for him in what’s clearly meant as a joke. They both laugh and she rolls her eyes if only to keep herself from reacting any other way to the reminder that the plane waiting for her is only going to take her closer to Kara.

“I’m sorry, Jack,” she says when they pull apart and she’s not sure exactly what she’s apologizing for, but there’s understanding in the sad smile Jack gives her.

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” he tells her with such sincerity that Lena finds herself believing it. “Have fun conquering another city.”

She kisses him goodbye, hugs him again and holds him close for a long moment just inhaling against the familiar and comforting scent of him. “I’ll miss you,” she murmurs.

“Me too,” he says before letting him go.

Despite the fear and anxiety that grips a hold of her heart as she boards the plane, leaving Metropolis for National City feels a lot less like running from something and a whole lot like moving forward.

--

On a random Saturday afternoon she full on runs into Kara. Actually runs into her.

She’s been back in National City for months now, has never seen Kara randomly once and then it just happens. It’s in a liquor store not far from her building and as she rapidly turns the corner onto the pinot noir aisle, focused on answering an email on her phone, she smacks into Kara’s side.

At first she’s sure she’s hit a wall until a familiar pair of arms are holding her up by the waist and for a moment, she feels as if she’s a teenager again in the main floor of the science building outside a small coffee shop.

“Hi,” Kara says and unlike the first time this happened, she doesn’t let Lena go right away. They stay interlocked, Lena pressed into Kara’s body by strong hands at her hips. It’s hard to not mind when Kara’s face is stretching wide with a smile.

“Hi,” she repeats blinking surprised eyes at Kara and trying to catch her breath.

After another moment of staring at each other, Kara slowly lets her go, but doesn’t take a step back, her body heat reaching easily through Lena’s coat. “This feels familiar,” Kara says in low tone that can only be described as intimate. Lena’s cheeks feel a little warm at the sound of it.

With a gentle clearing of her throat, she shifts a little to put some space between them. “What are you doing here?”

Kara adjusts her glasses and it brings unneeded attention to the bracelet on her wrist. Lena swallows and moves her gaze away. “I’m going to Alex’s for dinner tonight and I wanted to get something to bring over,” Kara answers and Lena’s brow furrows.

“At this liquor store?”

“Yes,” Kara says slowly, her eyes looking away and smiling sheepishly.

“You live across town.”

“I was in the neighborhood,” Kara says and Lena wants to laugh. Technically, Kara is in every neighborhood always considering the speed with which she can travel.

“Sure.”

“This is the only place that carries Alex’s favorite wine,” Kara adds, reaching in front of her and grabbing ahold of a bottle. Lena raises a skeptical eyebrow that makes Kara chew a little on her bottom lip.

“Right.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Just stocking up,” Lena says and she pulls her trench coat a little tighter around her waist. “My lawyers are bleeding me dry of my office scotch and I keep drinking all my home scotch.”

“Can’t have that,” Kara says, laughing, and she turns suddenly, holding the bottle of wine and heading off further down the aisle, toward the whisky and scotch aisle. Lena follows after her, bumping into Kara’s arm companionably. “I don’t know how anyone can drink that stuff. It tastes like antifreeze.”

“There’s no accounting for taste,” Lena says, and Kara gasps, looking affronted at the insult. Lena reaches upwards on the shelf to grab ahold of the bottle she needs when they arrive, and Kara places a hand on the small of her back to stabilize her. It feels like fire, right through her coat.

God, she really should devote some time to thinking about this, before she runs into Kara on the street and somehow ends up in Kara’s bed.

Kara straightens a little. “Hey! Do you want to come over for dinner tonight?”  

“Sorry?” Lena asks, juggling the three scotch bottles she’s procured from the top shelf. Kara takes one out of her hand, and it becomes much easier to manage as they walk their way toward the front of the store.

“Do you want to come with me to Alex’s?” It’s an earnest question that Lena almost says yes immediately too before she remembers herself.

“I don’t want to intrude on sister time,” Lena replies and she glances over to where a man is scanning the cabernet sauvignon on the other side of the aisle. He looks at her, clearly recognizing who she is and Lena can’t help the way she shifts a bit, uses Kara’s body to block his line of sight. The blatant staring has become more and more prevalent as news increases about her mother’s trial. It reminds her too much of when Lex first got arrested.

“It’s not sister time,” Kara replies and she looks over her shoulder at the man. Whatever Kara’s face looks like, the man doesn’t linger on it long before scurrying to another aisle. “Maggie will be there.”

“Oh,” Lena says and Kara looks back with a half smile that looks more irritated than happy.

“Yeah.” Kara rolls her eyes. “I’m a total third wheel, but Alex really wants me and Maggie to get along.”

“Do you not get along?”

Kara shrugs, turns over the bottle of wine in her hand and traces the label. “We do, for the most part. It’s just Alex and I have been kind of weird since they started dating and I don’t know. I could use a buffer. If you’re interested.”

Lena’s not really sure what to say. It sounds suspiciously like a double date and though Lena feels weak to the uncomfortable way Kara talked about the dinner she also isn’t sure it’s something they should be doing.

Apparently, however, Kara is a mind reader because the next thing she says is a hasty, “Not like a date. No pressure.”

It’s not like she has other Saturday night plans other than finishing some work and ordering takeout. “Okay,” she says and Kara brightens so quickly that Lena’s heart feels light.

“Yeah?”

“As long as it’s okay with Alex. I don’t want to intrude.”

Maggie’s the one that’s intruding,” Kara grumbles and Lena’s brow furrows a little.

“Did Maggie do something to you?” Lena asks, tilting her head a little to keep eye contact with Kara.

“What? No,” Kara denies but it sounds overly hasty and draped in feigned dismissiveness.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Kara sighs. “So you’ll come to dinner?”

Lena only hesitates a few more seconds. “If you’re sure Alex won’t mind.”

With bright eyes, Kara shakes her head so rapidly Lena almost loses track of the motion and she laughs. The man at the register looks up at the noise, and his eyes linger on Lena’s face as she hands over her scotch. He stops staring when Kara clears her throat and sends a heavy glare his way, handing over Lena’s last bottle. He doesn’t look up once through either of their transactions, actually, and it makes Lena laugh, that Kara Danvers has finally managed to cultivate a scary expression.

“I’ll pick you up at six,” is all Kara says, once they get outside, before she presses a kiss to Lena’s cheek and speeds away, into the late afternoon of National City.

--

“Maggie’s not here yet,” is all Alex says to them when they show up at her door. Kara shrugs and pushes past Alex into the apartment and Lena smiles, hands over the bottle of wine to Alex - it only marginally shifts the frown on her face.

“She’s late?” Kara asks, heading to Alex’s kitchen and beginning to open cabinets. Alex follows in her direction and picks up a corkscrew, the two of them working to pour three glasses of wine without so much as a word about it to each other.

“Got caught finishing paperwork,” Alex answers.

“That’s never fun,” Lena adds with a wry smile for both sisters. Alex hands her a glass of wine and Kara smiles.

“What are you making?” Kara asks, looking at the oven. She tips her glasses down her nose and answers the question herself. “Lasagna? Like...Eliza’s lasagna?”

Alex shrugs, takes a sip of her wine. “Yes.”

Kara licks out against her lips and Lena smiles at a vague memory of eating leftovers in college. “Awesome. You made two of them.”

“One of them is heavily modified,” Alex replies, a disgusted curl to her nose suddenly. “Maggie’s vegan.”

Kara looks affronted by the idea, but smothers the expression quickly with a, “Well that’s fine. More for me.”

Alex’s gaze narrows. “Neither of you are getting any until I’m done yelling at both of you.”

She and Kara both let out simultaneous, “What?!”

Alex is glaring from where she’s leaning forward against her kitchen island and she points at each of them with purpose. “I’ve kept my mouth shut since you got back because obviously you guys are going through something but if I ever find out you just up and left for an entirely different universe without so much as a plan or backup or…” Her expression is a threatening shadow of anger and Lena looks at Kara with wide eyes.

“Alex,” Kara starts with a disbelieving smile tugging at her lips. “We didn’t-”

“A text message, Kara,” Alex grits out, her attention slicing to her sister. “You sent me a damn text message saying you were off to another universe to help Barry and that was it!”

“We were fine!” Kara protests.

“You took a civilian to another universe on a whim without so much as a check-in with me or anyone else at the DEO.” Alex says and Lena can sense the tendril of fear that underlines the anger.

“She’s not a civilian,” Kara argues and Lena thinks to tell her that’s splitting hairs a bit, but Alex and Kara have squared off with matching glares. Lena’s not exactly eager to jump in the middle of that. “It’s Lena.”

Alex face shadows at the words.

“I expect this kind of behavior from her,” Alex says pointing at Kara and Kara’s nose curls up a little, defensively. “But you,” Alex continues, looking at Lena. “You’re supposed to be the rational one. How could you-”

“Don’t talk to her like that,” Kara interjects heatedly and she shifts a little until she’s more in front of Lena.

“Kara,” Lena says, but Alex plows through, keeps talking.

“Oh don’t do that, she’s fine,” Alex says, glowering. “She can handle it.”

“That’s not the point,” Kara retorts, puffing up a little.

“You’re right. The point is that you both made a decision to basically vacation over on another universe for a week without a second thought!”

“It wasn’t vacation,” Kara argues. “We were there to help Barry fight off an alien invasion.”

Lena clears her throat a little and looks away from where Alex is glaring at them. Sure they went to Earth-1 to help fight the Dominators, but that felt more like a side purpose for the trip. Most of the week could easily be described as vacation. They had even called it as such multiple times.

Alex’s frown deepens as if that were even possible. “What if you had died over there, Kara?! What then?! It’s not like I can just pop over to another dimension to save you.”

“I wasn’t going to die, Alex. Don’t be dramatic,” Kara waves off. 

“That’s not something you can control!” Alex retorts and Kara takes in a deep breath in preparation for something. It’s a sign this argument is about to escalate even further and Lena steps forward, puts a hand on Kara’s arm that deflates her instantly.

“We’re sorry, Alex,” she says with a placating smile. “It won’t happen again.”

Alex is tracking Lena’s hand where it’s stroking the skin of Kara’s arm and her glare almost intensifies. It makes Lena pull away a little and Alex sighs.

Before anyone else can say anything, there’s a knock at the door and the three of them jump a little.

“This isn’t over,” Alex tells them, pointing at Kara first, then Lena.

“Jeez,” Kara whispers sheepishly as Alex walks towards the door to answer it. “I didn’t know she was that mad.”

Lena retakes her grip on Kara’s arm, slides her palm down until they’re holding hands for a moment. “Not as mad as that one spring break.”

Kara groans a little at the memory and they both laugh. “That was your fault,” she accuses in a whisper.

Lena rolls her eyes. “It was your idea. Don’t go blaming me now five years later.”

They mock glare at each other until Alex clears her throat and they turn to see her standing with Maggie, a tight expression on her face that Lena’s starting to think is just how Alex looks these days.

“Maggie, right?” Lena says politely and she steps forward, away from Kara, to shake her hand. Maggie looks surprised, but she recovers with a smile, shakes Lena’s hand and nods.

“Yeah, good to see you again, Lena,” Maggie replies, gaze shifting behind Lena to Kara. “Hi, Kara.”

“Hi, Maggie,” Kara says and Lena can sense Alex’s exasperation.

The timer on the oven dings then, as if it can sense a growing tension in the room, and Kara turns quickly around.

“Let’s eat,” Alex says, hand at Maggie’s back as she leads her to the table.

--

Dinner is relatively uneventful until they’re mostly finished with the meal and have seemingly run out of the polite icebreaker types of conversation topics because Maggie picks up her glass of wine and smiles at Lena and Kara from across the table.

“So how long have you been together?” Maggie asks and Alex chokes so violently on her wine that everyone looks over. 

“Sorry,” Alex mumbles looking uncharacteristically sheepish as she wipes liquid off her chin and sets her glass down. “Wrong pipe.”

Maggie runs a palm down Alex’s back soothingly for a moment before turning back to Kara and Lena with an expectant expression, easy smile on her face.

Lena spares a glance for Kara before answering. “We’re not, actually,” she says and tries to ignore how much it feels like lying.  

The answer pulls such a quick look of surprise across Maggie’s face that Lena starts to wonder if she’ll ever be able to escape the constant assumption that she and Kara are together. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Alex answers for her with a dry tone. “Feels like they’ve been together for like seven years doesn’t it?”

When Lena looks over, Kara is glaring at her sister and Maggie’s smile is shadowing into something more confused. “Sorry,” she says with a shake of her head. “I don’t mean to be awkward. It’s just the way Alex talked about you and -” She laughs a little, looks at Lena with a touch of hesitance. “I mean there are rumors.” 

“We get it all the time,” Kara tells her with a wave of her hand and Lena’s brows pull together when she looks at Kara. Lena knows that she gets asked all the time if she’s dating Kara, but she hadn’t realized Kara was getting the same kind of questioning.

“What rumors?” Alex asks suddenly, turning to her girlfriend.

Maggie shrugs, glances at Lena again. “Nothing, just talk.”

Lena catches on and laughs a little. “That I’m gay you mean?”

The table goes a little still, which she thinks is completely ridiculous considering, and Maggie nods.

With an amused smile, Lena brushes it off. “It’s not a rumor. Nor a well kept secret.”

Maggie relaxes some at that, but the Danvers sisters seem to be locked in some kind of staring contest. “I don’t mean to bring up something unpleasant.”

“It’s hardly unpleasant,” Lena says with a tilt of her head, quizzical at the slightly uncomfortable look in Maggie’s face.

“Kara and Lena are old friends from college,” Alex suddenly says, ripping her gaze away from her sister to join the conversation. Kara takes a stab of her food and grumpily shoves it in her mouth.

“Oh,” Maggie replies, looking between them and picking her wine glass up. Her gaze seems to narrow critically, a lot like it looked the first time she met Lena. “That’s cool.”

“So, Maggie,” Kara interjects with one last hard cut of her eyes to Alex. “I hear you worked with Supergirl a few times this week.”

Alex shoots Lena an exasperated look that almost makes her laugh, but Maggie is answering before she can with a heavy sigh. “I did, yeah.”

“What was that like?” Kara asks and it’s clear that she’s preparing for some kind of praise, if the here, watch this look she gives Alex is any kind of indication.

Maggie’s lips twist a little as she considers the question. “It was fine,” she answers. “If you like the feeling of doing all the hard work and then having someone swoop in last minute and take the credit.”

“What?!” Alex and Kara both ask at the same time, turning to Maggie. On instinct, Lena’s hand drifts to Kara’s leg when she feels tension run through Kara’s body.

Maggie shrugs, her smile never wavering. “Supergirl is great,” she says though it only sounds half sincere. “But nothing can beat out good old fashioned police work. I spend weeks on a case, conducting interviews, collecting evidence, setting up stakeouts and stings and everything. Supergirl shows up last minute, punches a few guys and she’s the hero.”

“She’s just trying to help,” Kara says defensively and Alex’s gaze is darting nervously between her sister and her girlfriend. Lena understands the wary expression in Alex’s face and thinks a little of the one and only time Kara and Lex got into an argument not unlike this one.

“I don’t think Maggie is saying she isn’t,” Lena adds, squeezing Kara’s leg under her hand. Kara’s fingers grip at Lena’s and she relaxes a little. It doesn’t escape her attention that Maggie notices the motion even though it’s under the table.

“I’m not,” Maggie agrees and she takes a sip of her wine.

“Dessert,” Alex blurts out and stands. “Kara why don’t you help me out with dessert?”

Everyone else startles a bit and Kara looks at her sister for a long, very unsubtle moment before standing. “Yeah, dessert. Okay.”

That leaves Maggie and Lena to smile at each other and shrug while the Danvers sisters continue a hushed argument in the kitchen.

--

The walk home is silent, but companionable, and it’s probably the most content Lena’s been on a Saturday night in forever. At least as far as her life on Earth-38 is concerned.

As they get to the front steps of Lena’s building, they stop, and it feels so much like stopping off at Lena’s dorm room that Lena almost tugs Kara inside on instinct.

It doesn’t help that Kara lingers in the same way she would in college, hesitating in Lena’s orbit for a long moment, not saying anything and Lena heart stops with the sudden idea that maybe Kara’s working up to kiss her goodnight. That is, until Kara starts talking.

“What did you think of Maggie?” 

Lena’s brow furrows and she shrugs. “Alex seems to really like her. And Maggie seems to really like Alex. I’m happy for them.” 

“That’s not really what I asked,” Kara says and Lena feels puzzled. 

“I don’t really know Maggie,” Lena answers, and as she watches Kara’s expression something clicks in her brain. “Is this about Maggie or about Alex?”

Kara pulls a face and tries to brush the question off with an obviously forced laugh. “What? Why would it be about Alex?”

Lena hums a little. “Do you remember when we first started dating?”

Kara’s face clears, a smile taking hold suddenly and Lena reacts to it in kind. “Of course,” Kara says.

“Do you remember the big fight you and Alex had over Fourth of July when I came out to Midvale?” 

Looking away, Kara seems to consider that with a twist of her lips. “Yes.”

“You and your sister have an insane bond,” Lena says with a soft laugh. It’s hard not to think of Lex, but she manages to stay focused. “Sometimes when other people get introduced to the mix there’s an adjustment period.”

“That’s not what this is,” Kara protests, but Lena just smiles knowingly until Kara rolls her eyes.

“I just want you to know that to many people I’m mysterious and unknowable,” Kara says, and it makes Lena laugh, imagining there are people in this world who can’t read Kara’s emotions as clearly as she can. They’re all written on Kara’s face.

“Try to remember that you love your sister and that you’re happy that she’s happy,” Lena says.

“Well, obviously,” Kara says with a certain amount of petulance that Lena finds adorable. She wants to run her thumb over Kara’s lower lip where it’s poking out just slightly. It’s hard to remember why she shouldn’t. The memory of their last kiss burns through her and for a heartstopping second she almost throws caution to the wind and steps into Kara’s personal space. It’s only Kara’s sudden change of subject that stops her.

“So, Christmas,” Kara says with a determined expression. “I’m not going to even ask you if you have plans and I’m just going to tell you that you should come over. We’re celebrating at my place like Thanksgiving and everyone is coming over. Winn, James, I think even Lucy might stop by.”

Lena’s brows pull together. “Lucy?”

“Lucy Lane,” Kara supplies and Lena’s eyebrows shoot up.

“You’re friends with Lucy Lane? As in Lois Lane’s sister?” Metropolis and National City are an entire country apart from each other, but sometimes Lena thinks they’re a lot closer than she could have ever imagined. 

“Well, I think she’s a lot more than just Lois Lane’s sister, but yeah,” Kara replies with a teasing lilt to her voice.

“I didn’t know that.” 

“She’s deputy director of the D.E.O. actually.”

Lena blinks as she takes in this information. “How have I not met her yet?”

Kara shrugs. “She spends most of her time at our other base or travelling around the world. She’s kind of a big deal. Hotshot lawyer and everything.”

“Really?” 

“Oh yeah,” Kara gushes with an almost dreamy look in her eyes. “She’s like stupid smart and successful and don’t tell Alex, but I’m pretty sure she would win in a fight between the two of them.”

Lena laughs. “You’re joking.”

Smiling, Kara just shakes her head. “Nope. She’s awesome. I haven’t seen her in what feels like ages.”

Feeling amused, Lena smirks a little, decides to tease Kara. “Wow, first Cat Grant and now Lucy Lane. Do you just have a thing for women in positions of power?” 

Kara gapes a little, sputters when she realizes what Lena’s implying. “What?! No.”

Lena pulls her lips into her mouth a bit through a smile. “You clearly have a type.”

“Lena,” Kara admonishes, but she flushes attractively and Lena grows warm at the sight.

“Just an observation.”

With a roll of her eyes, Kara shakes her head. “She and James used to be together, actually.”

“Really?” Lena starts to piece together parts of Kara’s life that she’s missed, the timeline slowly making more sense.

“Before you and James?”

Kara stills. “Before me and James what?”

“Before you dated.”

“Who told you we dated?”

“Kara,” Lena says with a knowing drawl. “Even if no one had said anything, it’s not that hard to figure out.” 

Kara’s eyes are wide and there’s a faint dusting of red in her cheeks. “Who said something?”

Brows coming together, Lena steps closer, reaches out to squeeze Kara’s arm. “Why are you acting so weird about this?”

“I’m not,” Kara denies and Lena’s mouth thins for a moment.

“It’s okay,” she tells Kara and meaning it. “You could do a whole lot worse than James Olsen.”

Kara can’t quite meet Lena’s eyes and Lena’s not entirely sure what the problem is. Both of them had dated other people and maybe it’s not the first subject she wants to talk at length about, but they’re certainly capable of such a thing. 

“He’s won a Pulitzer after all,” she jokes, if only to get Kara to react. Kara does, a short twitch of her lips.

“We didn’t really -” Kara shrugs a little. “I wouldn’t say we dated. We kind of...almost dated.” 

“We don’t have to talk about it,” Lena says. “I was merely asking about James and Lucy.”

“It’s just kind of weird to talk about with you.” 

“Kara,” Lena says with a gentle smile. “We’ve been over this. Both of us have dated other people. It doesn’t have to be weird.”

“I don’t think I want to hear about who you’ve dated yet,” Kara says in a soft, careful tone, half-wary, half-defensive.

Lena’s jaw drops a little as she decides how to reply. “I wasn’t - I was just-,” she shakes her head to get her brain and mouth to connect better. “Let’s rewind the last minute and go back to Christmas.”

It takes a moment before Kara seems to acquiesce, nodding and dropping the tense look. “I’m not trying to pressure you,” she says and then rolls her eyes a little. “Even though I guess I am trying to pressure you because I know you and am sure you have some kind of ridiculous plan to make it a working holiday or something and I refuse to allow that to happen.”

Lena laughs, but doesn’t deny it. It’s not too far from the truth, though that’s more because of her family situation than anything else. “I feel appropriately pressured,” she answers and Kara grins.

“So you’ll come?”

Knowing that arguing with Kara will get nowhere and that the majority of her doesn’t even want to argue, she nods. “I’ll come.”

“Okay, good, because I already made you a stocking,” Kara answers with a little rock forward on the balls of her feet.

Lena’s eyes start to widen and Kara seems to notice, hastily adds, “a no pressure stocking.”

“It’s fine, Kara,” she says, laughing. And it is. Of all the things to feel pressured by, a stocking doesn’t exactly make the list. She plays with her watch a little and smiles. “I already bought you a gift and it’s, frankly, I must say, amazing, so you better bring your A game this year.”

“Oh so we’re doing that again?” Kara asks with a playful smile. It’s an old competition in college to see who could out gift the other. Lena had an obvious advantage in spending limit, but Kara had always been the better of the two of them when it came to expressing sentiment through presents.

Lena shrugs, feigning indifference. “Are you scared?”

“Of you?” Kara scoffs. “Please." 

They both laugh at that and a warm feeling swirls around them so swiftly Lena inhales deeply against it, eyes fluttering just a little at the strong swoop of desire to sink into it. Kara is smiling and Lena wants nothing more than to tug her inside, pull her into the bed and drown in the solid feeling of being together. 

There’s an answering look in Kara’s eyes, but it’s different than before. There’s no longer the almost achy longing that sat between them when Lena first came to National City. It’s changed somehow since their trip to Earth-1 and Kara has this crooked grin on her lips. 

Inevitability, Lena thinks. It feels inevitable in a way she fought against before.

“Thanks for coming tonight,” Kara says, breaking Lena from her thoughts before stepping forward to pull her into a warm hug. Lena clutches at the back of Kara’s jacket and inhales against the comforting scent of Kara’s body pressing against her.

“What are friends for?” Lena responds and feels a puff of air against her hair when Kara laughs.

“I’ll see you soon,” Kara says when she pulls away and Lena nods. There’s an almost giddy feeling about the moment and she can’t help but feel eighteen again, breaking under the weight of an unstoppable crush on her best friend.

“You will,” Lena replies and with that Kara walks backwards and away, waving at Lena before she turns the corner. A burst of sound later and Lena catches sight of a telltale blur streaking up into the night sky.

--

When it finally happens neither of them plan it. Perhaps that was the key all along, Lena will think later, but at present, nothing of the sort is running through her head.

The only thing she can think about is Kara’s hands dipping lower than they ever have before, tugging at the waistband of her jeans.

They’re supposed to be studying. Lena’s notes for their quantum field theory class are spread out on the floor near the bed and they’re supposed to be going over them, but Kara had looked so pretty with her glasses slipping down her nose and the open collar of her shirt exposing a strong collarbone. Lena couldn’t be held accountable for the unstoppable need that shot through her. Why would she resist kissing her girlfriend if she doesn’t have to?

Which is how they ended up here. Because kissing had led to more kissing which had led to Lena’s shirt ending up somewhere across the room and Kara’s hanging off a bed post.

They’ve gotten this far before. Eleven times before actually - not that Lena’s been counting.  

Each time seems to inch closer and closer to what they both seem to want, but Kara always pulls back eventually. It hasn’t bothered Lena and they seem to keep making progress.

It’s especially evident now when Kara doesn’t seem to be stopping as she pulls Lena’s pants down her legs in a swift motion.  

The thud of her heartbeat distracts even her and she wills it to slow down lest Kara tune into it and lose her confidence. But then Kara’s smiling down at her, their hips fitting together and Lena can’t help but arch against the contact. The soft fabric of Kara’s joggers rubbing on the now bare skin of Lena’s thighs.

“Are you okay?” Lena asks, bringing her hands up to cup Kara’s cheeks. Her body feels like it’s buzzing with need, but she doesn’t want to push Kara too far, wants to keep checking in with her.

Kara nods, her gaze flicking down between their bodies and Lena feels the heat of it all over. “It helps to listen to your heartbeat,” Kara says in a soft confession.

“I thought that made it worse,” Lena says.

Kara shakes her head. “Not if I focus on just that.”

Lena can’t imagine that’s true. Her heartbeat feels erratic and unsteady and the electric feel of Kara’s palm sliding up her side isn’t helping. “Really?”

With a nod, Kara presses further down, noses against Lena’s jaw to press kisses across her neck. “Sometimes, when I’m really nervous or freaked out I like to listen to it and if I can focus the world down to just your heartbeat. It helps me calm down.”

“I thought you said it was distracting,” Lena says and she’s not really sure why she’s still talking while Kara’s mouth is against her jawline, but maybe Lena’s just as nervous about this as Kara’s been. If it continues the way it’s been going, it would be her first time, and as certain as she is that Kara’s her perfect choice, it’s still a new thing.

“It was, but it’s not anymore,” Kara says and she pushes up, a hand pressed down into the mattress near Lena’s head. “It’s better when I push all the other white noise out and just focus on you. Everything feels so much clearer.”

Lena smiles at that, cups Kara’s cheek with one hand and swipes her thumb across Kara’s bottom lip. “Yeah? Are you sure? I don’t want to pressure you into something that is too hard-”

“Yeah,” Kara breathes, interrupting her. “Are you okay? Do you need to stop?”

“What? No, I’m fine.”

Skepticism crinkles between Kara’s brows. “You usually don’t talk this much.”

Lena feels indignant at that, scoffs and Kara kisses her cheek swiftly. “I didn’t mean it to be rude,” Kara adds. “I just want to make sure.”

“I’m fine,” Lena repeats and she swallows against the thick feeling of arousal in her throat. Kara’s hips are still pushing insistently between her thighs and everything feels warm and rife with intention. “I’m just worried about you.”

“I’m okay,” Kara says reassuringly, her free hand travels down Lena’s side until it’s cupping at her hip. “More than okay.”

They’re kissing after that, slow and soft and the kind of kissing that melts Lena’s insides. She doesn’t notice the slow roll of her hips into Kara’s, or how it feels like there’s no air in the room, or how, when Kara pulls off her underwear, she stares with the most wondrous expression.

There’s only Kara, and it’s perfect.

--

we’re doing secret santa do you want in? Is the text she gets on Wednesday and Lena stares at it for a good ten seconds before googling what Secret Santa is and responding.

who is we? seems to the be most important question, but Kara merely responds with an extremely unhelpful all of us as if that answers anything.

Instead of engaging in what could easily be a back and forth text chain that leads nowhere, Lena picks her office phone up and dials Kara’s number.

“Hi,” Kara says, a little breathlessly when she answers. 

“Hi,” Lena parrots, brow furrowing at the background noise coming through from Kara’s end. “Are you flying?”

“Yes,” Kara answers casually, like that’s a normal thing to be doing at six in the evening in the middle of the week. “What’s up? Are you in on Secret Santa?”

“Who else is participating?”

The wind tunnel noise seems to slow and Kara’s voice comes through a little more clearly. “Alex, James, Winn, possibly Maggie but Alex won’t get back to me about that, Mon-El, me, you, hopefully.”

“I’m not sure I know James or Winn well enough to play. I don’t want anyone to be disappointed,” she says, scrolling down on the wiki page open to the Secret Santa article.

“You’ll be fine,” Kara says and the distinctive sound of a crash resounds down the line. 

“Kara, are you okay? What was that?”

Kara makes a noise like she’s lifting something heavy - a sound Lena’s not sure she’s ever heard before. “I’m fine, just stopping this robbery - will you quit that, I am on the phone!”

Lena’s eyes go a little wide and she turns to look out her office window as if she could see Kara there. “Kara,” Lena breathes.

“Don’t worry about it, just come to the bar tonight at eight, we’re picking names out of a hat,” Kara says in a rush of words. There’s another sound like breaking glass and a crunching of metal before Kara is grumbling again. “Why do people try to outrun me? I mean, come on.”

“Kara maybe now is not the time to-” The sound of gunshots breaks out down the line and Lena’s heart starts to thud uncomfortably against her ribcage on instinct.

“Actually yeah, I should probably go,” Kara replies and there’s a quick rush of wind followed by a grunt of pain. “Okay, yeah, see you at the bar at eight, love you, bye.”

And with that, the line disconnects and Lena’s left to stare at her phone, bewildered and wondering when exactly her life became like this.

It doesn’t hit her until minutes later that Kara ended the call with a casual love you and when it does Lena thinks she’s starting to understand why everyone in their life assumes they’re together.

Frankly, Lena’s starting to assume it herself.

--

Everyone is already at the bar when she walks in a little after eight and not a single one of them bat an eye when she slides into a stool next to Kara. In fact, Winn actually smiles at her widely and James gives her a companionable nod. 

When she offers to head to the bar and grab everyone a fresh drink, Mon-El gets up with her and offers her a charming smile. “I’ll help,” he says, following her.

They order a full round for everybody and while they wait Mon-El leans an elbow on the bartop, looks over at her with an expression that seems somehow ominous.

“So,” he starts and she eyes him warily.

“Yes?”

“You and Kara are close, right?” Mon-El asks, playing with some short straws in a jar near his hand. “I think Winn said you guys were like,” he pauses, looks up as if trying to find the phrase and then makes air quotes, “BFFs? And that that is some sort of high distinction on this planet.”

Lena glances to where Winn is sitting, gesticulating wildly at James. “You could say that.”

“Great,” he answers immediately, a wide smile. “I was hoping you could help me.”

“With Kara?” Lena asks, eyebrow arched. She has a sinking feeling that she knows where this conversation is going and makes a mental note to talk to Winn about whatever the hell he told Mon-El.

“Yes, you see I have, what I believe you guys here call a crush on her,” he explains casually and Lena just blinks at him for a moment before he clarifies further. “I have feelings. Of a romantic nature.”

“I know what crush means,” Lena says slowly.

“Oh good,” he replies and his smile widens. “I thought maybe you could put in a good word for me or help me figure out how to tell her.”

“I don’t think I’m the right person to ask,” Lena says, and she glances again to the table where Kara is now laughing at Winn. It’s an attractive look on her and Lena can’t help but smile at the sight despite her current conversation.

Mon-El must notice her gaze because he follows it and smiles himself. “Yeah, she’s like ridiculously pretty, right?”

Lena sours a bit, frowns. “Objectively true,” she deadpans and looks to where the bartender is still making their drinks. Next time she goes up to the bar with Mon-El she needs to remember to order something easy. Like a bottled beer instead of anything that involves pouring something.

“I know Alex said she’s chosen a mate, but I don’t get it. I haven’t seen her actually with anyone.”

Lena fights the urge to scrub her palm down her face in exasperation. “Maybe you should just ask Kara,” she says with a sigh.

“Since you’re her best friend I was thinking you might have some insight,” he replies with what she’s sure is meant to be an engaging smile. “A mate isn’t exactly an insurmountable obstacle anyway, but it’s always good to know what I’m up against.”

Lena bristles just a little at that, turns a confused expression his way. “Not an insurmountable obstacle?”

“We’re not on Krypton,” he says leaning closer to whisper it as if it’s a secret. They’re in a damn alien bar. “Or Daxam. And according to Winn, the concept of mating is like, pretty old fashioned here. People don’t really like to be bound by it.”

“I’m not sure Winn is your best source for advice on this subject,” Lena says wryly if only to counter the line of assumptions Mon-El continues to make about Kara’s love life.

“Well, that’s why I’m coming to you. Do you know who her mate is?” He asks with an earnest tone that Lena almost feels bad for. “I’ve seen her with that bracelet lately, but no sign of an actual mate to go along with it.”

Lena stills, processes the words. “What do you mean bracelet?”

“She’s wearing a bracelet,” Mon-El says with a confused twist to his smile like Lena should understand what that means.

The only bracelet Lena’s seen Kara wear is the one Lena herself gave her years ago and that’s been a relatively recent development as far as Lena is aware. “What does that have to do with anything?”

Mon-El shrugs. “I thought maybe it was a mating bracelet.”

Before she can inquire further, the bartender steps up to them and puts the first two drinks down between them.

“Anyway,” he says when they’re alone again. “Any advice? I hear flowers are a thing here. Should I get her flowers?”

Lena feels torn for a moment.

She could tell Mon-El the truth. That he’s setting himself up for failure, that Lena would bet her family’s fortune on Kara rejecting him and that she’s fairly confident that she’s part of the reason Kara wouldn’t be receptive to his feelings.

She feels a certain claim on Kara. It’d be foolish to think otherwise after all they’ve been through. As she thinks on it, the last few weeks have felt suspiciously like they’re dating again - the only thing missing is Lena explicitly agreeing they are. Kara made it clear that it was Lena’s decision to get back together and she feels like every interaction they’ve had recently has merely inched her closer and closer to that point.

But they’re not dating. Not in the official sense. And Kara is her own person and if a cute boy from Daxam wants to hit on her, Lena isn’t going to turn him down on Kara’s behalf.

“I would just tell her,” Lena says after a moment. “Put yourself out there and see what happens.”

“Just tell her?” He asks incredulously and the bartender comes back with the rest of her drinks.

Arching a brow and lifting her chin a little she just smiles, the kind of smile she likes to shoot at unsuspecting old white male executives that consistently underestimate her. “That’s right. All you can do tell her how you feel and see what she says. There’s nothing complicated about it.”

He still looks entirely skeptical, but she doesn’t stick around to explain. Grabbing as many drinks as her hands can hold she turns away from him and walks back to their table.

Kara is smiling at her as she approaches and Lena tries to ignore the way her eyes keep getting drawn to the piece of metal wrapped around Kara’s wrist.

It’s not a mating bracelet, obviously, because Lena had never intended it to be as such, but she feels something nag at the back of her brain. How had Kara never mentioned the intricacies of Kryptonian mating? They’d had millions of conversations about Kara’s homeworld and its culture yet somehow it had never come up.

It’s a struggle not to start to connect the dots in her head. She’s fairly positive she’s not prepared for the big picture of it.

“You okay?” Kara asks when Lena slides on a stool next to where Kara’s standing and hands her a drink.

“Yeah,” Lena says even as her brain feels all over the place. “So when do we do this Secret Santa stuff?”

“Now,” Winn answers from across the table and he points to a small bowl in the middle filled with tiny pieces of paper.

They pass the bowl around to pick names out of it and Lena feels nervous at the idea of having to buy a decent gift for anyone at the table that isn’t Kara or maybe Alex. James would be difficult, Mon-El would be near impossible, but her nerves settle a bit when it’s her turn and she pulls a piece of paper out with a crooked Winn scratched over the surface.

Winn is someone she’s pretty sure she can handle, and about six different ideas pop into her head immediately.

Kara leans over with a clear intent to spy on her paper and Lena pulls away so abruptly she bumps into James, who just laughs at them.

Eyes narrowed and lips thin, Kara eyes the spot on Lena’s chest that Lena’s pressed her paper against. “I have x-ray vision, you know,” she comments, touching the rim of her glasses with the tip of her finger.

Lena is suddenly very aware of where exactly she has her slip of paper pressed and she arches an eyebrow at her ex-girlfriend. “You wouldn’t dare.”

Kara fights a playful smile and goes to say something before a peanut hits the side of her head and they both look over to find Alex glaring at them. “Can you keep the gross to the privacy of your own homes?” Alex asks dryly and Lena clears her throat a little, folds the piece of paper and slips it into her purse where it hangs on her chair.

It’s exactly the way Alex used to talk to them when they were dating and when Lena glances at Kara she thinks, not for the first time, that there really isn’t a choice to be made. No matter how hard they try, they always end up like this, like a couple even when they’re not.

It’s only made worse when Kara continues to stand next to where Lena is sitting, her hand brushing over the small of Lena’s back at random times. Lena doesn’t notice it for long moments until she spots Alex eyeing them with exasperation and Winn looking at them both with a grin he is clearly trying unsuccessfully to suppress.

--

They don’t meet up to exchange their gifts. Apparently the object of the game is to leave them in random places to be found by the recipient. Lena’s a little grateful she doesn’t have to have an audience for both the giving and receiving.

Her gift shows up one afternoon as she’s coming back from a lunch meeting. It’s a brown paper package tied with string and leaning up against her desk.

“From your Secret Santa,” Jess says with a certain amount of mirth in your voice. “I’m under strict orders not to disclose their identity, but since you’re my boss you obviously outrank this person. I had it scanned by security. It’s safe.”

Lena laughs a little, picks up the rectangular looking package. Thin, but relatively large. “It’s no problem. Thank you, Jess.”

“Anytime, Miss Luthor.”

She sits in her desk chair and rips open the gift, wondering who it’s from. It’s been a long time since she’s received a Christmas gift, or a present at all, and even though she expected this one, it still warms a soft spot in her chest.

As soon as the brown wrapping is torn away it becomes clear who got her for Secret Santa.

The picture is from the gala L Corp held for the children’s hospital months ago. She and Kara are standing facing each other, or rather she and Supergirl are. The photo seems to capture nothing and everything all at once.

To anyone else it might just look like two people smiling at each other, but Lena can see it between them. Kara’s got her hands on her hips, but there’s a happy crinkle around her eyes and Lena’s body is leaned in towards Kara as they talk. They look together even though they’re standing feet apart.

James. He’s the only one capable of taking such a picture in the group and probably the only one that could see what Lena can see.

She hits a button on her phone that connects her to Jess. “Can you get me James Olsen over at CatCo on the line please?”

It’s only a few minutes later that the call is clicking through and a bright sounding, “Good afternoon, Lena,” is coming down the line.

“It’s a beautiful picture, James,” she says warmly and he laughs.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says, but there’s a clear amount of tease in his voice. It’s so different than the cautious distrust he’s had for her in the past, or the wary acceptance he’s seemed to have of her presence. “But I’ll pass along the note to Santa.” 

Lena laughs. “I just wanted to thank you. You have quite the eye.”

“The camera did all the work,” he replies.

“I doubt that’s true.”

“I appreciate the compliment, but it helps when you have a great subject.”

“You’re too kind.”

There’s silence for a bit before he answers. “I know I may not have been the warmest to you in the past, but I want you to know that it’s only because I care about Kara.”

Lena exhales through a smile. “I know that and it’s understandable I assure you. I’ve had much colder receptions. You’ve been fine.”

James chuckles. “Kara might disagree with you.”

With an affectionate roll of her eyes, Lena laughs. “She often does.”

“I’m glad you like the picture.”

“I do,” Lena says genuinely. “Thank you again.”

“Merry Christmas, Lena.”

“Merry Christmas, James.”

--

It’s not hard to acquire a gift for Winn and most of what she needs for it is stored in L Corp. It only takes her an extra few hours during the work week to finish it.

She has absolutely no idea where Winn lives and abandons subterfuge for texting him to come to her office instead.

It’s more than worth it, because she gets to see his face when he sees his gift and Lena feels about ten stories high just at the sight of it.

“How did you know?” Winn asks incredulously, stomping forward towards his gift with childlike excitement in his face.

“Kara mentioned that you were a fan of the sport,” Lena says casually, leaning up against her desk and watching him eye the small robot on the floor. “I used to dabble in it in college.”

Winn turns to her with a look of pure surprise. “Dabble in it?”

She shrugs. “It was a hobby.” With a gentle clearing of her throat, she makes a decision. “Lex and I used to build them together actually. When we were children.”

There’s strangely nothing but sympathy in Winn’s expression and he doesn’t even comment on what she’s said. Instead he rubs his hands together excitedly and picks up the small remote control that’s sitting on top of the robot. “This is awesome. I can’t wait to test it out.”

She chews a bit at her lower lip, glances towards her office door. “There might be another one downstairs in an empty storage unit.”

Winn’s eyes widen and a slow smile crawls over his face. “You’re so my new best friend,” he breathes. “Don’t tell Kara.”

She just laughs. “Merry Christmas, Winn.”

When he walks over to hug her, it doesn’t feel forced and she doesn’t hesitate to return the gesture. “Merry Christmas, Lena,” he whispers over her shoulder.

--

Christmas ends up being not entirely unlike Thanksgiving except that it’s hosted at Alex’s apartment.

Even though this time Lena doesn’t hesitate before walking up to the door that’s just barely muffling the laughter and conversation inside, Kara swings it open before she even gets two feet away. There’s a wide easy grin on Kara’s face and she’s dressed in the most ridiculous ugly Christmas sweater Lena has ever seen with what must be reindeer antlers propped up on her head, a little askew.

“Hey,” is all Kara says before rushing towards her to wrap her up in a tight hug. Lena laughs and returns it with a swift kiss to Kara’s cheek that she doesn’t even think about before doing.

“I’m so happy you’re here,” Kara says when they pull apart and Lena breathes in against the warm blanket of affection that covers her suddenly. There’s a delicious smell wafting out of Alex’s apartment, the door only slightly ajar, and she can hear the familiar voices of Alex and Winn arguing over something.

“I am too,” she replies with a smile she couldn’t smother if she tried. She reaches up to tug at Kara’s fake antlers until they sit straighter on her head. “Merry Christmas.”

A faint blush dusts Kara’s cheeks, but she smiles back at Lena, reaches out to tangle their fingers together. “Merry Christmas.”

When she walks into the apartment, it’s an overwhelming feeling to be greeted like she’s one of the family.

Winn ambles over immediately to hug her and starts talking animatedly about a modification he’s been considering for his battle bot. Mon-El waves excitedly. James smiles at her genuinely and kisses her on the cheek in greeting. He introduces her to Lucy Lane who looks unsurprised to see her there.

“So nice to finally meet you,” Lucy says with a bright smile. “I feel like I’ve heard a million stories between James and Alex and Kara.”

Lena laughs politely. “Nice to meet you as well. I always heard that Lois Lane had a much cooler younger sister.”

A crooked smile crosses Lucy’s face in reaction and she sends an impressed look at James. “I told you I’d like her.”

Even Alex doesn’t so much as blink before greeting Lena with a quick hug and a swift instruction to grab the damn pot holder will you I think the casserole is burning. Lena does as instructed and pulls the object out of the oven just as Eliza comes over to say hello and shoots Alex a disdainful look.

“Don’t make the guests do that, Alex,” Eliza says after hugging Lena tightly.

“She’s not a guest,” Alex waves off, dipping a spoon in a dish of mashed potatoes and testing a bite. “She’s Lena.”

It makes Eliza laugh, and when Lena catches Kara’s eye they smile warmly at each other.

Eliza pours Lena a glass of wine and with an apology for her daughter’s manners, pushes Lena into the living room to socialize while they finish cooking.

James and Winn are in a heated argument about what to put on the television, which Mon-El is observing with curiosity. Lena is left to talk to Lucy Lane, and she smiles at the other girl before coming to sit next to her on the couch.

It’s a pleasant conversation. They have a surprisingly large amount of things in common, from growing up in the shadows of overachieving siblings to overbearing parents to moving out of Metropolis.

Not for the first time, Lena finds herself talking about her personal life with someone other than Kara and not feeling out of sorts. Lucy doesn’t even flinch at the mention of her brother and Lena’s left wondering why exactly that would be.

It should be expected by this point, but it still blindsides her when Lucy casually asks, “So how long have you and Kara been together? I have to admit last time I was in town I thought that she and James might…” Lucy trails off with a quick glance to where James is standing with Winn towering over Alex’s DVD collection. 

Lena laughs this time because she no longer knows how to react any other way. “We’re not together, actually,” Lena says and she shrugs at Lucy’s surprised expression.

“I’m sorry,” Lucy says, with wide eyes. “I just assumed from the way everyone talked about you two. I guess I shouldn’t have.”

Lena shakes her head, swirls her wine around little. “You’re not the first. Frankly, I doubt you’ll be the last.”

Lucy’s gaze goes critical then, a little narrowing of her eyes and she glances over Lena’s shoulder a few times before saying, “Are you sure you’re not together?”

Brow furrowing, Lena tilts her head. “I imagine that’d be something I’d be aware of.”

Lucy’s lips twist a little in amusement and she looks over Lena’s shoulder again. “You might want to tell Kara that because the way she looks at you reminds me a little too much of the way she used to look at James last year when I was sure they were in love with each other.”

Lena twists around to follow Lucy’s gaze and finds Kara smiling at them before turning away so swiftly she bumps into Alex, who lets out an indignant noise and swats at her sister with a spatula that immediately bends on Kara’s arm. When she turns back to Lucy, the other girl is smiling over the rim of her glass.

“Kara and I have a history,” Lena confesses in a lower tone and she wonders why it’s so easy to talk about this with a virtual stranger when it’s been something she’s all but avoiding bringing up around anyone else.

“That much is pretty obvious to anyone,” Lucy says dryly. “I’ve been in a room with you less than a half hour and I can tell.”

“Maybe you merely have heightened observational powers.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Lucy says with a smirk and before Lena can answer James is sliding into a spot on the couch next to Lucy, his arm winding above her shoulders. “Did you two decide on a movie?” Lucy asks him, leaning into his body a little.

“Winn thinks Die Hard is a Christmas movie,” James says with a little laugh and Lucy looks at him plainly.

“It is,” Lucy replies and Winn brightens from his spot on an armchair opposite them.

“See!” He says pointing at Lucy but looking at James, who just rolls his eyes.

Lucy smiles at her as James and Winn continue what sounds like an old argument and Lena half listens as she sips her wine and sinks further into the couch cushions.

The rest of the evening is spent eating far too much food than should be humanly possible and even Kara looks somewhat stuffed by the time they’re done.

When it’s all finished James and Winn kick everyone out of the kitchen with an insistence that they do the clean up. Despite Alex’s many protests that they’re not allowed to mess up her kitchen, she finally acquiesces and grabs a bottle of wine to bring into the living room. 

They spend entirely too long debating what game they should play. In the end they decide on Monopoly and Kara puts on It’s a Wonderful Life on mute in the background.

It reminds her of long Christmas nights when her father was still alive and the family would gather in the oversized den in Luthor Manor. Her parents would sip on brandy alexanders and she and Lex would sit on the floor and fall asleep to whatever movie was playing late that night.

The feeling isn’t that different from now except there’s a touch more laughter and teasing and Alex doesn’t even glare at her when Lena wins the game. Instead she just rolls her eyes in exasperation and lets out a tired, “Of course.”

--

By the time they’re walking out of Alex’s apartment, Lena feels full of food and perhaps a glass too many of wine. She’s not drunk, but she’s not sober either and she can’t help but lean into Kara when they make it out onto the sidewalk. Kara immediately twists an arm around her waist and holds her upright with a solid embrace that Lena sighs against.

“Can I fly you home?” Kara asks lowly, voice close to Lena’s ear.

The wine is making her a touch sleepy and generally more agreeable and she just nods. “I have to give you your gift.”

“Me too,” Kara says and she gestures towards the large tote bag slung over her shoulder 

They walk around Alex’s apartment building towards a side street that’s empty and quiet. Kara glances around furtively for a second before pulling Lena up into her arms and jumping up into the air.

The flight is quick and Lena spends it with her face buried in the crook of Kara’s neck fighting the urge to fall asleep there.

“Make yourself comfortable,” Lena says when they walk into her apartment. She tosses her coat and purse onto a stool in her kitchen as she passes by and waltzes back to her bedroom where Kara’s gift is stored. She changes quickly into something more casual than the black dress she had been wearing before and when she comes back out, Kara is standing in the kitchen with a red and white wrapped package is in front of her.

Lena sets her own gift on the table next to it and smiles. 

“You first,” Kara says, pushing the gift across the table.

Lena takes her time pulling the wrapping paper off in precise motions that she knows irritates Kara, if the way she huffs a little is any indication. It only makes Lena move a little slower and fight a smile.

Inside the box is a folded up navy sweatshirt and when she pulls it out it has S.T.A.R. Labs printed across the front. Lena laughs.

“I wanted to give you a reminder of our epic adventure to Earth-1,” Kara says proudly. “Plus, I know you’re super lacking in the sweatshirt department these days so…”

“Thank you,” Lena says, with a grin that Kara returns.

“There’s more,” Kara adds, pointing to the box where there are indeed two more items.

The first is a framed picture that Lena lets out a little surprised laugh when she sees them. The first is a picture of Felicity, Cisco, Caitlin and herself bent over a computer monitor and discussing something. Cisco is gesturing towards the computer and Felicity is shooting an exasperated look in Lena’s direction while Caitlin squints at whatever is on the monitor. “Who took this?” Lena asks with a quizzical look for Kara.

“Iris,” Kara answers. “She was cataloging some of our work for a story of hers and she passed along a few pictures. I know you don’t really keep pictures around anymore, but I thought it’d be kind of fun to have.”

Lena can’t stop staring at her own image. The casual smile she’s giving Felicity and how easily she fits in the group - she doesn’t look out of place at all. She looks like a natural extension of the team. She looks like she belongs. The memory of what it felt like on Earth-1 beats across her skin for a heavy moment. “It’s great,” she says. 

The last item in the box holds a long square metal plate that Lena looks at quizzically for a moment before Kara reaches out to tap a hidden button on one of its sides. Suddenly a hologram bursts forth and Lena nearly drops the device in reaction.

“What…” Lena says softly as she observes what she realizes must be game pieces spread out across the board. If she didn’t know better-

“Imperiex chess,” Kara tells her and Lena’s eyes go a little wide at the mention of a game Kara had only told her about in passing many years ago. “I had Winn help me create something similar from the files in the Fortress of Solitude.”

“I don’t know how to play,” is all Lena can think to say and she eyes the different pieces, the way the game board spreads out across the kitchen island. It doesn’t look too far off from the chess she’s used to, but she can spot a few differences - a different arrangement of tiles, more pieces.

“I know,” Kara says and she presses the button again to shut down the game. It pulls Lena’s gaze back to Kara’s. “I thought I could teach you.”

It’s just an offer to learn a new game, but Lena feels it beat heavily against her chest. “Really?”

“If you want,” Kara says softly and Lena smiles, imagines long nights spent with Kara over a table trying to learn a game Kara had once classified as chess on steroids.

“You’re my favorite,” Lena replies equally as soft and a smile stretches so widely across Kara’s face that Lena feels her own mouth mimicking it in reaction.

“Still?” Kara asks, but there’s a teasing bent to her lips. 

Lena smiles and the truth drops out of her before she can keep it inside. “Always.”

They stare at each other for a long charged moment, matching smiles stuck on their faces before Lena takes a deep breath and pulls a small box over.

“Okay, your turn,” Lena says handing the present over to Kara’s eagerly awaiting hands. 

Kara tears into her gift with none of the precision Lena had. The gift wrapping flies off the small box and when she pulls out what’s inside, a small silver circular device, she stares at it with clear confusion on her face.

Lena takes it from her hands with a small smile. “I’ll show you how it works,” Lena says.

“What is it?” Kara asks, tracking Lena’s movements.

“I’m going to show you,” Lena laughs and she steps towards a light switch. With a flick of her finger they’re shrouded in darkness and Lena sets the device on the kitchen island, presses the button.

Seconds later the small device hums to life and a massive hologram springs forth, shrouding them both in a projection of a star chart. It’s three dimensional and massive, extending far outward - there’s a cluster of stars situated right in front of Kara’s face, and she reaches out to touch them. Lena watches as Kara’s eyes widen when an informational display pops up, explaining the name of one of the stars.

It takes a few seconds of Kara’s eyes wandering through the projection before her eyes land on a large red star. She lets out a soft exhale and a breathy, “Lena,” as she advances on it. Lena comes to meet her in the space.

“It’s like a star chart,” Lena explains and Kara laughs a little, looking around.

“This is a little more than a star chart,” Kara says and even in the dark Lena can see Kara’s growing smile. “This is - I mean this is-” Kara walks through the image for a moment. “This is Rao, right, and here’s Krypton, and Daxam...”

Lena nods slowly. “It’s programmed for both the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies, but the area around Krypton is the default. So...watch this.”

Lena reaches out to grab ahold of the much smaller bright speck of Krypton, next to Rao, and when she pulls her hands apart, Krypton expands right in front of them, coming to the size of a beach ball. It’s surface is not extremely detailed, but Kara reaches out to rush her hand over it anyway, spinning it in the air as a factbook pops up in front of her.

Kara steps closer to Lena, close enough that they can see each other’s faces more clearly and there bodies are brushing against each other. “How did you even do this?”

“It was an idea I had in college,” Lena admits and it comes out easier than she thought it would. “You used to chart the surrounding stars, remember?”

“Years ago,” Kara says with a bewildered expression.

Lena shrugs. “I still have some of the charts, and Winn helped me fill in the rest with some of the DEO resources. It wasn’t that hard to build, data-wise. The hologram technology was a lot harder to work with, really.”

“You’re a genius,” Kara says, and she looks away from Krypton to stare at Lena with such open admiration and love that Lena nearly kisses her right then and there. “I love it.”

“It can also project the night sky. Ones for Krytpon too, if you just,” Lena says, trekking back to the machine at the center of the room. Kara’s face drops into shock when she flicks a switch and an unfamiliar night sky appears on her ceiling.

“You used to talk about how much you missed the night sky back home and I thought maybe you’d like-”

“I love it,” Kara interrupts, looking upwards and reaching behind her blindly to grip Lena and wrap her up in a tight hug. “I love it so much. Thank you so much.”

“Merry Christmas, Kara,” Lena murmurs, her face buried in the soft skin of Kara’s neck.

Kara doesn’t respond, just presses a warm kiss to the side of Lena’s head and hugs her a little tighter.

--

The office is blissfully empty during the week after Christmas right before the New Year. Most of the employees have the time off and even Lena’s team of assistants were given paid leave for the holiday as a bonus for all the insanity the past few months have been.

Lena takes the opportunity to get as much work done as she can and returns to her habit of spending late nights in the R&D lab wading through projects.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Lana Lang one of those nights, but she still jumps a little when a steaming cup of coffee is set next to her tablet at her workstation.

“It’s the holidays, you know,” Lana teases, sliding into a stool opposite Lena and bringing her own mug of coffee up to her lips. 

Lena shoots her a dry look, but picks up the offered drink with a smile. “What are you doing here?”

Lana shrugs, leans her elbows on the table and smiles. “It was either come in and get ahead on some work or sit at home with my two cats and drink a bottle of wine by myself. Easy choice.”

Lena laughs, sets her stylus down and rolls her head a bit around her neck to ease the ache that’s settled there. “Well, I am grateful for the coffee as always.”

“What are you working on?” Lana asks, peering a little at Lena’s screen.

“Nothing really,” Lena answers, pushing some of her notes away from her with a noisy exhale. She’d been trying to solve a problem with one of their robotics projects, but her brain can’t stop replaying the image of Kara’s face and it’s all she’s been able to concentrate on.

Lana observes her for a bit, her gaze narrowing subtly. “Are you okay?”

The question surprises Lena a bit, unused to anyone but maybe Kara asking after her wellbeing. She laughs on instinct. “Of course. Why do you ask?”

With a shrug of her shoulder and another careful sip of her coffee, Lana’s lips thin in consideration. “You’ve just seemed out of it. Haven’t been down here as much. Is it everything that’s going on with…” Lana gestures with one hand and it takes a second before Lena realizes what’s being implied. Stuff with her mother. 

Startled to discover she hasn’t actually spent significant thought on her family drama for some time, Lena actually laughs. “No, it’s not that.”

“But it’s something.”

Lana has become somewhat of a friend since Lena moved to National City. A bond had been forged over long nights in the lab and easy collaboration over project after project. There’s a trust there that Lena didn’t create purposefully, but realizes is there nonetheless. It’s comforting to have a friend so separate from anything to do with Kara or her family. And that’s the only reason the truth comes dropping out of her before she can stop it. 

“I’ve been going through some things with an ex of mine.”

Lana arches an eyebrow in clear surprise and sets her coffee mug down to give Lena her full attention. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Lena sighs. She doesn’t really want to talk about it, doesn’t feel like navigating that emotional minefield right now, but she thinks maybe saying some of what she’s feeling out loud will help her sort through it.

“We dated in college,” she tells Lana. “And now we’re back in each other’s lives and…”

“You want to get back together?” Lana ventures and Lena shrugs, lips thinning.

“It’s more complicated than that.”

“What’s complicated?”

Lena chews at her bottom lip a moment, slides her palms around the hot mug and takes strength from the heat seeping into her palms. “I broke up with her, “ she says simply after a moment. “And when I’m around her sometimes I forget why.”

Lana blinks. “Well if you broke up I’m sure you had good reasons.”

“I’m not so sure anymore,” Lena confesses, softer than before. “They made sense when we were in college. I was graduating early and I had so much responsibility ahead of me and now we’re different people, but we still fit together the same way we used to.”

It feels good to say this to someone else, to put it out there in the universe instead of keeping it locked up inside.

“Then maybe you need to stop thinking with your heart for a second and use your head,” Lana offers and it surprises Lena. It’s exactly the opposite of the kind of advice she’d expect from someone in this context and her confusion must show on her face because Lana laughs.

“We’re scientists, Lena,” Lana says simply, standing up and taking her mug with her. “Maybe you just need to go through it logically. Think of each reason and decide if they still matter now or not. If they do, then stay broken up. If they don’t, stop torturing yourself over it.”

It’s a wonder why Lena hadn’t thought to really do that before. She’s been so caught up in the onslaught of emotion being around Kara again had brought about that she’d failed to step back and look at the situation like a scientist, questioning and logical.

“It’s not a bad idea,” she muses.

Lana rounds the workstation, sets a warm companionable hand on Lena’s shoulder. “Don’t be the one who stands in the way of your own happiness,” she says with a sad twist to her smile. “Trust me.”

Lana walks away then, retreats to her office and Lena is left to stare at the steam still curling up from her coffee while she contemplates what Lana’s said.

--

She makes a list.

There are a few items on it detailing the reasons her younger college self had for breaking up with Kara all those years ago. They’re not all the reasons she had, but they cover the big stuff and Lena spends an evening at home going through each one with a glass of wine in her hand.

They all get crossed out in some manner.

They no longer live in different parts of the country. Not that that was ever an insurmountable obstacle in the first place all things considered.

Her mother isn’t a governing influence in her life anymore. In fact, Lena is the only member of her family not in jail or heading there. For all intents and purposes, she’s the head of the Luthor family these days.

Their careers are much more settled than they were in college. Lena may still have workaholic tendencies, but they’re no longer fueled as much by a driving need to prove herself to her mother or to climb a corporate mountain she’s already conquered.

Their lives are admittedly much more dangerous than they were in college, but if the past few months have taught Lena anything, that’s something that isn’t going to change whether they’re together or not. With Lex in prison and her mother about to follow him, the danger Lena brings to the relationship has been significantly lessened at the very least.

None of her reasoning holds up as she walks through each line in the list.

As a scientist, the conclusion is obvious.

Her heart tells her that she and Kara still have things to talk about, to work through, to figure out before they actually dive back into anything at all, but Lena no longer feels a pressing need to be the one keeping them apart anymore.

As she gets to the end of her list and finishes her glass of wine she realizes there’s nothing keeping her from taking the next step forward. Logically, she has no reason not to.

It’s a heartstopping kind of moment and she feels her chest squeeze as her heart catches up to her brain. She wonders if Kara can hear her right now, if across the noise of the city she can pick out the way Lena’s heart is beating, faster and heavier and with a purpose it didn’t have before.

--

L Corp rents out an old massive train station that’s now been converted into an event space and hosts a New Year’s party in place of the Luthor Family Fundraising Gala. The guest list remains the same, but the name changes from Luthor Family to L Corp and she sets up donation plans for a variety of charities instead of funneling the money into the family foundation as it’s always been done.

The company invites many of the usual suspects - though she eliminates some of the people more loyal to her mother or brother from the list. It’s a snap decision a few days beforehand to invite Kara and by extension the rest of the friends.

It’s on a whim more than anything, and while she expects Kara to say yes she doesn’t expect the enthusiastic response she gets from the rest of them.

Winn sends her a text with a selfie of him in oversized plastic glasses that say Happy New Year across the darkened lenses. A this is black tie appropriate right? accompanies the picture. She laughs before sending back a note that he can wear whatever he wants.

The party is a raging success and they manage to pack the event - they reach their projected fundraising goal less than two hours after the doors open.

With a glass of champagne and a practiced smile, Lena spends her time working the room, shaking hands and thanking guests for their attendance and generosity. It’s sometime around ten - or at least Lena thinks it is - that she spots Kara hovering near the appetizer table in a sleek black dress, hair piled on top her head.

She looks gorgeous even as she stuffs a potsticker into her mouth and grabs three more into a cocktail napkin. 

Winn is next to her, but he’s facing away from the table and he’s the first to spot Lena, face brightening immediately as he waves. With a polite goodbye to the group of investors she’d been speaking to she makes her way over to where Winn and Kara are.

As soon as she’s close enough Winn moves in to greet her and Lena shouldn’t be surprised that he goes for a hug, but she is a little and Kara’s lips are pressed into a small smile at the sight. 

“Happy New Year,” Lena says to them, and when Winn releases her, Kara steps forward with a quick kiss to Lena’s cheek that could easily be misconstrued as friendly, but it makes Lena’s throat go a little thick. “Thank you for coming.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Winn says. “James and Lucy are at the bar with Alex.”

With a quick glance that direction, Lena smiles to see the trio standing in line near one of the many bars around the room. “I’m glad you all could come.”

“I’m just here for the free food,” Kara jokes with an adorable scrunch of her nose that makes Lena laugh.

“I don’t doubt it,” she teases back and they smile at each other for a long enough moment that Winn has to clear his throat. 

Jess approaches her then, subtly from the side and touches her briefly on the elbow, leaning close to whisper. “I’m sorry, Miss Luthor, but you wanted to be informed when Mr. Graves arrived.”

“Thank you, Jess,” Lena says with a tight smile and a glance towards the entrance where the man in question is indeed walking in. “I’ll be right over.”

Turning back to Kara and Winn she takes a deep breath and smiles regretfully at them both. “Sorry to cut and run, but this is work for me.”

“Totally,” Winn says with a shake of his head and a wave of his hand. “No worries.”

Kara looks at her with the kind of understanding she remembers from late nights in her dorm room after a particularly draining family event. It makes her want to reach out and grab Kara’s hand so Lena can have her by her side the rest of the night. She takes a sip of champagne to quench the desire and with a last smile walks away.

--

The problem with the highly attended, overly successful event that she’s hosting is that she doesn’t really get to enjoy herself. It’s only made slightly worse by the glimpses she gets of where Kara is standing with her friends, drinking cocktails and laughing at a high top on the side of the room.

After what feels like the millionth stale conversation riddled with pleasantries and disingenuous condolences about her mother, Lena needs a break and retreats to a back hallway where a bathroom takes residence. She spends a good moment checking her makeup and fiddling with her hair, taking deep breaths before she has to go out and face the party again.

For a bit, she runs through her New Year’s toast in her head and makes sure she remembers all the talking points before exiting the bathroom with her armor back at full strength.

Kara is waiting for her, propped up against the wall opposite with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. It startles her and she jumps back a little, hand to her chest.

“Hi,” Lena says when she’s caught her breath and her heart isn’t racing. She runs a palm down the front of her dress to ensure it’s straightened. Kara looks dangerously attractive right now and she’s looking at Lena with darker eyes than normal and a tiny smirk on her face.

“Hi,” Kara parrots. “I saw you sneak away. Are you okay?”

“Of course,” Lena says on reflex and Kara gives her a knowing smile that urges her to tell the truth. “These kinds of things always exhaust me,” she admits and after a beat adds, “Even without my mother." 

Kara laughs a little. “Well,” she says, and she holds the items in her hand up. “Do you want to go hide away with me? It’s almost midnight.”

The idea is so appealing that her stomach tightens just thinking of it, of leaving the loud sound of the event space for something quiet. “I can’t leave my own party, Kara,” she says with a certain amount of regret.

“Yes you can,” Kara insists and she pushes the glasses into the hand holding the champagne bottle before reaching out to grab Lena’s hand. “It’s almost midnight. Everyone is focused on the countdown and who they’re going to kiss when it hits the new year. Winn met some girl from your IT department and has been flirting with her all night. It’s gross and I don’t want to be there for that anymore.”

“I’m supposed to make a toast,” Lena argues, but her brain kind of derails when she remembers there’s a kissing tradition associated with this holiday and Kara’s suggesting they be alone for the big moment.

After midnight,” Kara says. “They won’t miss you for the next few minutes.”

Lena thinks to protest further, but Kara is already pulling her away, heading to a back stairwell like she has a plan. “Where are we going?”

“I know a place,” is all Kara offers and not long later they’re walking out a roof exit. Lena feels suddenly grateful the building they’re in doesn’t have too many floors. Kara often forgets that not everyone has her stamina nor her ability to walk up several floors in heels and not break a sweat.

The roof has a small patio section off to the side with tables and Kara leads them that way, setting the glasses down on the table before releasing Lena’s hand. The exhaustion from earlier starts to settle over Lena and she’s suddenly grateful for the relative silence of the roof space and the calm feeling she gets as she leans against the railing to overlook the city.

Kara comes up next to her, leans close enough that their arms brush. “Do you remember New Year’s Eve sophomore year?”

Lena laughs. “I remember you getting hit by fireworks trying to fly in Metropolis,” she says with the same kind of disapproval in her voice as she had years ago.

The smile that stretches on Kara’s face starts sheepish, but then it deepens into something more warm. “Worth it, though,” she says in a low tone that clenches in Lena’s gut.

The party can still be heard from inside the building, muffled but distinct enough that Lena can hear a countdown starting. A companionable silence stretches between them as they listen and watch a few stragglers on the street below jump around and yell out the numbers.

When the clock strikes midnight, Lena turns to face Kara with a smile. Lena opens her arms for a hug that Kara easily steps into and they hold each other for a long moment before letting go.

It feels safe. Warm.

“Happy New Year,” Lena says, still in Kara’s personal space, close enough that she can feel body heat against the chill air. Kara’s eyes dart to Lena’s lips so obviously that her whole being pulls forward on instinct. 

“Happy New Year,” Kara repeats and then before anything else can be said, Lena moves to press a quick, almost friendly peck to Kara’s lips.

It’s a nothing kiss. Easily dismissed and moved on from - New Year’s Tradition and nothing else - but neither of them leave each other’s airspace for a long profound moment and something that’s been wavering between them shifts into place.

There’s intention in the moment and Lena feels it like a string tugging at her ribcage towards Kara. A decision she made ages ago flares up in her chest and starts to feel solid, tangible.

“I really want to kiss you again,” Kara confesses in a hush, the words dropping with a small puff of breath against Lena’s mouth. 

She swallows, pokes her tongue out briefly to wet her suddenly dry lips. Pandora’s box, she thinks.

And then she decides to stop thinking. “Okay,” she murmurs and it isn’t like before. Kara doesn’t surge forward and neither does Lena. There’s no sense of urgency or desperation. No pent up emotion demanding to come bursting out.

It’s just soft and warm and wrapped in a field full of memories when Kara smiles and then presses back against Lena’s mouth. It feels right in a way nothing has since they’ve been back and it somehow feels better than the kiss in Lena’s office or the one on Earth-1.

Lena’s arms wrap around Kara’s neck and strong arms weave around Lena’s waist until she’s getting pulled up against Kara’s body like she has thousands of times.

Kissing Kara is always a full body experience and her heartbeat thumps loudly where it’s pressed against Kara’s chest. She feels lightheaded and free and she can’t stop smiling against Kara’s lips, laughing a little when Kara keeps grinning too.

She thinks to say I missed you, missed this, but it’s been said between them before and she’s not sure how to convey how differently she means it.

The opportunity to say anything is ruined anyway by a soft clearing of a throat from not too far away and they both jump, Kara setting Lena down immediately as they turn to see who’s interrupted them.

It’s Jess. Looking entirely sheepish and hesitant, but that’s when Lena remembers where she is and who she is and she steps away from Kara with an apologetic smile.

“It’s time for your toast, Miss Luthor. I’m sorry to interrupt.” Jess has a bit of a playful smile on her face when she nods at Kara. “Miss Danvers.” 

“Yes of course, no need to apologize,” Lena says and she swallows thickly, adjusting her dress and sparing a thought to fix her makeup when they get back inside. She’s sure her lipstick is a mess. “I’ll be right down.”

With a nod and a smile Jess leaves them be and Lena turns a wry smile towards Kara. 

“Hi,” Kara says with a laugh and she reaches out to grab Lena’s hand, swinging their arms loosely.

“Hi,” Lena repeats and she laughs too.

“Could have been worse,” Kara comments, tilting her head towards the roof exit Jess just used. “Could have been Alex.”

Laughing again and nodding sagely, Lena wags a finger at Kara. “Very true.”

“Come on,” Kara says, turning to head back inside. “I want to hear your toast.”

They make no mention of the kiss or all that it meant and Lena thinks maybe that’s because they don’t have to. Understanding passes so easily between them that words sometimes can’t quite measure up.

Except that’s how it’s been ever since Lena came to National City. Ever since they saw each other again for the first time, since they kissed in Lena’s office, on Earth-1. Since they started texting every single day and talking and integrating into each other’s lives again. They’ve been wavering in this unclassified area, circling around each other over and over and over again.

Kara had made it clear that it was Lena’s decision. That if she wants to stop this back and forth between them then she has to take the leap first.

They’re almost at the door that will lead back into the building and Lena feels nerves buzz across her skin as her mind makes a decision her heart had already solidified years ago.

“Kara,” she says softly Kara stops, turns to Lena expectantly. “Would you like to have dinner? With me?”

Silence stretches and distantly Lena can hear the sound of more fireworks across town, the celebratory screams of people on the street. 

“What?”

“Dinner,” Lena repeats, her heartbeat heavy in her chest. “With me. To talk about everything.”

Kara bites at her bottom lip for a moment. “Like a date?”

Lena takes a deep breath if only to steady the shake in her hand. “Like a date,” she answers and Kara’s mouth slowly transforms into a brilliant smile. “Sort of.”

“A date,” Kara repeats like she can’t really believe what’s happening.

It’s a vulnerable moment and Lena beats back an insistent voice in her head that says she might regret this, that she’s making a mistake she’s been trying to avoid making for years. “Yes, a date,” Lena says with an encouraging smile. “You remember what that is, right? It’s where you explore the possibility of romance.”

“One day, you will stop making fun of me for that, right?” Kara asks, then gets a little more serious, stepping closer to Lena. “Are you sure?”

The question brings back an image of Kara leaned up against a hotel room wall, staring at Lena with desperate, sad eyes. When we do this again you have to be sure.

“I have always been sure of you,” Lena tells her quietly. 

Kara smiles, looks down with an adorable scrunch of her nose. “Yeah?”

“I don’t want to be the person that stands in the way of us,” Lena says and Kara looks back up at her. “Not anymore. I want to figure this out. Together. If you want.”

Kara’s eyes seems to search Lena’s, darting around for a long moment before Kara grins wider. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Dinner,” Kara says with a nod. “To explore the possibility of romance.”

It isn’t exactly being together again, because there’s still so much they need to talk about. It isn’t dating, or calling Kara her girlfriend, but when she makes it back to the main room and climbs up the stage, she feels like the circles they’ve been chasing around each other all these years might finally be stopping.

--

They’re naked in Lena’s small bed, and somehow the conversation turns into Kara explaining myth after myth about the old Kryptonian Gods. Lena’s not sure how it happened really, but she listens with rapt attention.

Religion had been something fairly taboo in her very science oriented family and she finds herself undeniably intrigued when Kara speaks of the different belief structures on Krypton.

“So Flamebird was like, this god that would refresh the world through fire basically.”

“Like a phoenix?” Lena asks, tracing Kara’s ribs with her finger. Kara’s body feels blissfully warm against the chill of the room.

Kara thinks for a moment, likely trying to remember what a phoenix is exactly before nodding. “Yeah, I guess it is kind of, but a little different. Vohc, her brother, would build the world and then Flamebird would burn it down and he’d build it again in an endless cycle.”

Lena laughs a little. “I think Lex would appreciate this myth,” Lena comments and Kara pulls a face.

“Except they were kind of in love too,” Kara says and Lena’s lips twist even as she continues laughing.

“Okay, nevermind. Why do all pantheons have so much incest in their stories?”

Kara shrugs. “I don’t have an answer to that.”

Lena laughs a little. “Aren’t you supposed to have the answers to everything?”

“You’re confusing me with you,” Kara says, reaching up to tug on a loose strand of Lena’s hair.

Lena smiles indulgently, presses a warm kiss to the skin under her chin that makes Kara smile. “Okay, so there’s Flamebird and Vohc and they’re stuck in a cycle of build and destroy. Is that it?”

“That’s where Nightwing comes in. He was created by Rao to hunt down evils, but he wasn’t really allowed to walk among the other Gods. He was just stuck in the shadows keeping Rao safe.”

“Sounds lonely.”

Kara hums. “But he was allowed to be with Vohc and they were really close friends and then one day Vohc introduced Nightwing to Flamebird and they instantly fell in love.”

Lena props her chin up on Kara’s chest, slides a little closer. “Why do I get the feeling that isn’t going to end well?”

Kara’s palm slides up Lena’s spine. “Love triangles rarely do?”

“Remind me never to get involved in one.”

Kara laughs. “Why would that ever happen?”

Lena shrugs teasingly. “You never know.”

A look of feigned consideration shadows Kara’s face. “You did have lunch with Emily the other day,” she muses and Lena swats at her.

“Stop it,” she chastises, but she laughs when Kara pretends to get hurt by the hit. “Tell me the rest.”

“Vohc built this huge monument that was supposed to represent his love for Flamebird, but Flamebird’s duty was to destroy everything Vohc built. Rao had commanded it. So she did and it destroyed Vohc in turn. He stopped being a builder and became a breaker.”

“Loss can do that to a person,” Lena murmurs and Kara leans forward a bit to kiss her. They get lost in the feeling for a short moment before Lena laughs against Kara’s mouth.

“Finish the story before you try for round three,” she orders and Kara falls back against the pillows, groaning and smiling at the same time.

“Vohc was enraged,” she says with a shrug. “He wanted revenge, so he took a bunch of sunstone crystals and sealed Nightwing in the Phantom Zone.” 

“The Phantom Zone? Like where you were?”

Kara nods. “Yeah. It’s separate from all time and space.”

“How sad,” Lena comments, dragging her hand over Kara’s stomach and enjoying the shiver that it brings up in Kara. “So they were just separated forever? Nightwing and Flamebird?”

“Not forever,” Kara says her tone turning into something more reverent, fitting a religious myth. “The point of the story is that Nightwing and Flamebird are interconnected in a way that can’t be denied or broken. Throughout the centuries no matter what tries to come between them they are destined to repeat the cycle over and over again.”

“The cycle of separation?”

Kara shakes her head. “They will always return to the world in some form, find each other and fall in love. Even though they may be betrayed by friends or separated by circumstance they’ll be reborn again and again solely to find each other.”  

Lena is silent for a moment, thinking.

“Do you believe in that?”

Kara’s brow crinkles. “In the myth?”

“In destiny,” Lena clarifies.

Kara mulls over that, considers for a moment. “I believe in fate.”

“There’s a difference?” Lena asks.

“This is why you shouldn’t cut your philosophy credit,” Kara says pointedly and Lena groans, rolls her eyes.

“I’m a scientist, philosophy hardly feels important. I do the readings.”

An affectionate smile spreads across Kara’s face and Lena pushes up to kiss her, smiling against Kara’s mouth and enjoying the lazy feel of their bodies pressed together. “So you believe in fate,” Lena says when the pull apart, her finger tracing the line of Kara’s lip for a moment.

“Fate is like the way your life goes regardless of what you do about it. Like inevitability. You can fight against it, but you’ll always end up in a specific place. No matter what Nightwing and Flamebird do, they will always die and be reborn and meet. Those are like fixed points in time.”

“And destiny?” Lena asks.

“Destiny is something you have to take part in. Like an inner potential that you have to access. So like my cousin,” Kara says and Lena nods encouragingly. “I think my cousin was destined to be a hero, but he had to decide to be one for it to happen. He could have just as easily stayed hidden, never revealed himself to Earth as Superman.”

Lena’s not entirely sure she sees the distinction, but she smiles at Kara anyway. “So fate?”

“Fate,” Kara repeats, pulling Lena more solidly on top of her. “Are we done with the philosophy lesson now?”

“I don’t know. You had a point,” Lena teases. “I have been slacking in that class and it’s a graduation requirement. I should probably consider a tutor.”

“I’m very expensive,” Kara replies, before twisting them over so Kara’s the one pressing down against Lena.

Lena pretends to be confused. “I was talking about Emily,” she says barely able to smother her teasing smile. “She’s a philosophy major, I think, and-”

The rest of her words get drowned out by the sound of Kara’s laughter and the solid press of her lips against Lena’s.

--

They don’t manage to have dinner for the first week after New Year’s day entirely because Lena’s schedule goes crazy. The closer they crawl towards her mother’s court date the more work she’s had to do between meeting with lawyers and her PR team.

L Corp saw a bump in popular opinion after the charity event, but they’re still walking on thin ice as news coverage over her mother’s arrest continues, interspersed with anecdotes about Lex’s trial.

Lena’s had to cancel five dinners in a row each with profuse apologies that Kara’s laughed off. “No pressure, Lena,” Kara says with a smile in her voice.

“I don’t want you to think I’m avoiding it or going back on what I said,” Lena tells her and Kara just laughs again, soft and intimate.

“I know you’re not doing that. And I know you’re busy,” Kara says. “Sometimes I think you forget that I used to date you and I know what you’re like.”

They finally set a date almost three weeks after Lena actually asked her to dinner and she’s so close to being able to attend this one. It’s just a matter of clearing out her inbox and signing off on a few projects and she’s homefree.

As soon as the thought crosses her mind, she gets a call from an unknown number. For a good five seconds she considers letting it ring through to voicemail, but something possesses her to answer.

“Hello?" 

“Lena? It’s Alex.”

Surprised, Lena sits back in her chair, turns a little to face the balcony. “Is everything okay?”

“I would like you to come into the DEO,” Alex says her voice unnaturally even, like she’s forcing it to stay steady. “Today. I’ve sent a car for you.”

“It’s the middle of a work day, Alex.”

“It’s an emergency,” Alex grits out and Lena’s stomach drops.

Silence for a brief moment, she turns more fully to the balcony and studies the blue sky. “Where’s Kara?”

“There’s a car outside your building,” Alex answers and Lena’s heartbeat picks up as she stands. “Please get in it.”

“Alex,” Lena protests, but the line has already disconnected and Lena is left glaring at her phone.

For a long moment she contemplates ignoring the directive, a tad irritated that Alex thinks she can just order her around, but there’s a tight feeling in the pit of her stomach that tells her Kara is in trouble. It’s the only reason Alex would reach out like that.

Lena checks her phone again, looks at the last messages Kara sent. Their conversation that morning had been a discussion about a story Kara had picked up - finally something interesting! not that i’m excited a girl is missing - and reminders about their date that night.

There was even a casual mention of maybe meeting for lunch before Kara told her i have to meet maggie to see if she can help with this case but i’m excited for dinner!

me too Lena had sent. be careful - hope you find the missing girl.

always is the last thing from Kara she has in her phone.

It’s been radio silence all afternoon and while that’s not unusual, necessarily, it does nothing to assuage her growing fear.

After packing up her stuff and informing Jess that she’s taking an offsite meeting, she heads down to find a black car waiting for her and a very DEO-looking gentleman at the wheel.

The ride towards the downtown base is silent and Lena tries to stop her brain from imagining worse upon worse scenario. She calls Kara halfway there because she can’t stop herself and three calls in a row go straight to voicemail.

Her watch hangs heavy on her wrist and she considers for a long moment pressing the button, but stops herself. Knows that if Kara is in trouble, but still in a place where she could hear the signal, it would be torture. If Kara’s hurt or - Lena tries not to go down dark mental paths, but her mind has never been great at straying away from those.

Alex is waiting for her when she gets to the DEO, pacing back and forth in as nervous and agitated manner as Lena has ever seen. She only stops moving when she sees Lena stride towards her.

“What happened?” Lena asks even though she can read it all over Alex’s face. 

“Kara’s-” Alex’s lips purse, her hands on her hips. “Kara is missing.”

Lena’s jaw drops down a little and she blinks, perplexed. “I’m sorry?”

“Kara’s missing,” Alex repeats. 

It’s like something physical dropping heavily in the bottom of her stomach.

“What does that mean?” Lena asks because her brain can’t wrap itself around the idea. Neither can her heart.

Alex looks uncharacteristically speechless then, no answer forthcoming and she can see the worry now in the rim of Alex’s eyes, in the unsteady way her hands sit on her hips. Alex never looks anything but stalwart and focused and seeing even the tiniest fracture in the girl across from her makes Lena ache with concern. 

“I need your help,” Alex says softly and Lena steps forward and reaches out to squeeze at Alex’s forearm briefly, a swift gesture of comfort and solidarity.

“You have it,” Lena says firmly and Alex’s chin lifts a bit in response before she nods and turns.

Lena follows her up towards the central platform and wonders if wherever Kara is she can hear the heavy drumbeat of her heart.

Chapter Text

The DEO is a flurry of movement that does nothing to calm Lena’s suddenly raw nerves. Her brain feels sluggish as it tries to process what it could mean that Kara’s missing. She tries not think of what it means for National City that Supergirl is missing. That concern feels far more distant than the fear creeping up her spine because Kara seems to be in some kind of trouble.

Lena’s always been worried for Kara - emotionally, for most of their time together, and even sometimes physically. Ever since she saw Supergirl arrive, that worry has only gotten worse. Most of it’s been motivated by knowing what kind of example Lex has set for how to attack Kryptonians, but now - now Kara is missing, unable to be helped easily, somewhere Lena can’t reach her.

As she follows Alex further into the base, she tries to compartmentalize her feelings, shoving the unease she’s started to feel to the side and focusing on the fact that Alex brought her here to help. Having some kind of mental breakdown isn’t going to go far in the way of contributing to the effort of helping Kara.

On the central platform of the base Lena spots J’onn standing there, hands at his hips as he observes a bank of monitors with a wealth of information spread across them. Winn sits in front of him, typing vigorously at a computer and Lena tries to follow what’s happening on the screens. Not much of it makes sense, however, until Alex starts to give her context.

“We think she went through some kind of transmatter portal,” Alex says as they step up next to J’onn. Lena follows where Alex is pointing, where a picture of some kind of half-oval device is displayed on the monitor.

With a shake of her head to push out her more distracting thoughts about what kind of trouble Kara could be in, Lena squints a little at the picture, reading the information there and studying what’s being displayed. “I’m sorry,” she says, clearing her throat. Her fingers play with the clasp of her watch in fidgety motions, popping its face open and closed, but it helps a little to calm her rattled nerves. “A transmatter portal? I’m not sure I understand.”

At the sound of her voice, Winn spins slightly in his chair seeming to just notice her. “Lena,” he greets with a relieved sounding sigh and a small smile. “Finally someone here that can speak my language.”

At the first glimpse of his face, Lena jumps a bit, tilting to get a better look in concern. “What happened to you?”

Winn waves her off, smile fading. “Long story, don’t ask.”

He spins back around, grabbing a tablet and holding it out in her direction. When she rounds the desk to grab it, a layout of design schematics stares up at her. It takes a second for her to realize what she’s looking at - the blueprints to the portal. She pinches her fingers together on the screen and then pulls them apart, studying the various parts and what it all means when it’s put together.

For a moment she forgets that she’s looking at this because it’s the key to helping Kara and thinks about the different ways this kind of technology could be applied in the real world. It stuns her for a moment as she realizes the industries a portal like this could revolutionize.

Alex’s voice breaks her from her thoughts and brings her careening back into reality. “There was a pile of Kara’s clothes on the ground near this portal. We found it in a warehouse across town and we think she went through it intentionally.” 

Lena frowns. “Then we know where she is? Where the portal leads?” Lena asks, looking around at the grim faces of the team. This doesn’t sound like Kara is missing and then it occurs to Lena. It’s not so much that Kara’s missing, but that she’s in danger. A new spike of fear takes hold of her throat, stronger and more insistent than before. Alex frowns heavily, her jaw tightening as she looks up at the large central screen.

“We do,” J’onn replies and he sounds distressed by it. “Agent Schott?”

“Yes,” Winn says with a twirl of his fingers in the air before he starts typing and a new window pulls forward displaying a planetary system Lena isn’t fully familiar with. “The ionization trail leads to the Arcturus System. Planet 51 ARC B.”

Lena struggles to remember nights when Kara would ramble on and on about distant planets, stars and systems, tracing patterns and constellations on Lena’s ribcage, but nothing triggers as she looks up at the planet on the screen. The name isn’t at all familiar.

“Maaldoria,” J’onn clarifies and his face conveys nothing but anxiety. “They call it Slaver’s Moon.”

“Sounds friendly, right?” Winn asks with a dry look for Lena.

“Was she -” Lena has to swallow against the sudden dry feeling in her throat. “Was she aware that’s where it would take her?”

“Unlikely,” Alex replies with a frown. “Maaldoria has a red sun.”

The low level of edginess that Lena had been fighting since the minute Alex had called her ratchets up instantly, and worry takes over in her brain, her stomach turning over suddenly. She stares down at the schematics on the tablet before turning wide frightened eyes towards the informational screen Winn still has displayed on the bank of monitors. She knew that Kara’s powers were derived from the yellow sun, and if Maaldoria has a red sun like Krypton did, Kara would be powerless, alone and unprotected on a strange planet with an ominous name. It feels like her heart nearly falls out of her chest. Next to her, Alex’s hands clench the desktop so hard that they turn white.

“Yeah,” Winn says softly, staring at her as the realization washes over her like ice water. For the first time since she’s arrived, he looks worried and scared and about as sick with the idea of Kara alone and vulnerable as Lena feels. 

“Is there a - I presume you have a plan for her retrieval,” Lena says, in a careful enunciation of the words. There’s an overwhelming feeling of concern, fear and agitation growing in her gut as she starts to realize just how serious this situation is. Her hands feel like they’re numbing around the tablet, and when she looks down at them, they’re almost white. The look of unrest on Alex’s face does nothing to make her feel better. 

“Agent Schott is working on getting the portal open,” J’onn supplies, his voice softening as he looks between she and Alex. “Once we’re able to do so safely we’ll send a team through.”

The DEO sounds too quiet as the four of them stare around at each other, each of them looking as terrified as Lena feels. 

The only contribution Lena feels she has to offer is worry at this point and she can’t help the helpless look that crosses her face. She looks to Alex. “Is there something I can do to help?” She glances at Winn. “Do you need another set of eyes on the portal mechanics?”

Winn turns to her, but before he can speak, Alex is stepping forward. “Actually, I brought you in to help me.”

Lena turns back to Alex, quirks an eyebrow. “With what?” Anything to get her mind off of the danger Kara is in sounds like a great plan to Lena.

“I’ve been working on a device that harnesses the power Kara gets from a yellow sun,” Alex starts, looking a little more settled to be talking about something other than where Kara is stranded. “Sort of like a sun grenade. We’ve been prototyping it for a few months, but I’d like your opinion.” 

It doesn’t fully explain Lena’s role, but it gives her a better sense of purpose and she nods at Alex. “You think she’ll need her powers?” 

“Maaldoria isn’t exactly known for welcoming visitors,” J’onn adds. “Our team can handle themselves, but it’d be a nice thing to have when we find Supergirl. Any little bit helps.”

Lena tries not to focus on what not welcoming to visitors might mean for a powerless Kara.

“I’ll do what I can,” Lena replies and Alex makes a this way gesture with her head, and she’s already halfway off the platform by the time Lena realizes she needs to follow quickly. With a squeeze to Winn’s shoulder and a nod for J’onn, Lena follows Alex away from the platform and back towards where the labs reside.

When they’ve achieved relative privacy, Lena asks the question that’s been worrying her. “Is she alone over there?”

Alex rolls her eyes a little before answering and the causal reaction surprises Lena. “We think Mon-El went with her,” Alex says, holding the door to a small lab open for Lena to walk through. “His glasses were on the floor next to Kara’s clothes.”

“Do you think it was connected to the missing persons case Kara was working?” Lena asks, following Alex to a small workstation, where a cavalcade of tools sit out, waiting for someone to put them to use. “With that girl, Izzy? She mentioned she was meeting Maggie this afternoon to discuss it.”

“As far as I can tell, yes,” Alex answers, pulling a small case over and opening it. “Leave it to Kara that right after I tell her how dangerous it is to just go jumping through portals to places I can’t follow without backup or any kind of planning, she goes and does exactly that. All because of one missing girl and her raging hero complex.”

The turmoil in Alex is nearly palpable and Lena reaches out on instinct, grips Alex’s forearm in what she hopes is a comforting gesture. It would work on Kara, but Kara isn’t here - maybe Lena needs this small connection just as much as Alex does.

“She’ll be okay,” Lena murmurs and tries to get herself to believe in it. “She’s always been a fighter.”

“Yeah,” Alex says with a noise between a scoff and a laugh. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

They look at each other in grim understanding for a solid moment before Alex picks up a small tablet nearby and hands it to Lena. “Let’s get to work,” she says softly and Lena nods.

--

The day a mystery girl saves a plane from crashing in National City, Lena is in London. It’s well past midnight, but she’s still on Metropolis time and doesn’t tend to sleep that much anyway, and after a long day of meetings, Lena’s eternally grateful the bar in her hotel is still open and still serving food.

Halfway through her second glass of wine and just as her late night dinner is being set in front of her, a breaking news alert bursts across the TV hanging over the bar and Lena watches as blurry footage appears.

The words plane disaster averted by unknown hero captions a grainy picture of the scene - a plane that looks like it has just performed a water landing and a figure standing on the wing, dripping water into the wind. Lights are flashing all around them, but their face is tilted downward, looking down at the wing of the plane.

It’s a girl, that much is obvious, and she stands there for a long moment before jumping into the air and away. That’s all it takes for Lena to know. She’s seen that jump a million times. Has witnessed it first hand.

Kara.

It doesn’t fully hit her until the morning. The news runs a story calling Kara Supergirl and it feels like only moments later there’s images of Kara everywhere in a blue and red suit not unlike Superman’s.

Days later Lex calls her and asks quite derisively if she’s seen the news that the newest Super has leaked oil into the National City bay. It’s hard, to not act defensive, and it’s even harder not to worry when she sees footage of Kara getting blasted around by Reactron, a couple more weeks later.

The copy of CatCo Magazine that ends up in her pile of mail is what hits everything home for her. The face on the cover is undoubtedly Kara, wide blue eyes and tousled blonde hair. She looks determined, and strong, and so utterly like the girl who used to tell her quite firmly that skipping lunch was not allowed, even if she was on the verge of almost being done with her work.

The interview seems stilted and Cat Grant takes quite the brush to the story, but Kara still manages to come shining through off the page in a way that’s familiar and new to Lena all at once. It’s especially evident in the irritated way Kara grits out that she doesn’t want to be asked about starting a family if her cousin isn’t going to be subject to the same questioning.

It burns through Lena to think, for half of a second, that perhaps Kara doesn’t want to talk about a family because of the two of them. It’s why Lena avoids the questions herself when asked.

The arrival of a new Super means even more eyes than usual have turned back to Metropolis and if anyone is looking that direction, it’s practically Luthor tradition to step into the spotlight. Her brother and mother are all too happy to provide quotes about living in a city with an alien superhero, about what kind of relationship Luthor Corp has with Metropolis’s very own.

Making front page news has made it harder and harder for Lena to ignore Lex’s growing vitriol for Superman and aliens in general, which has seemed to only have gotten worse in the last few years. It had seemed distant before, something she just accepted about her brother. But now that Kara’s suddenly been thrust in front of his crosshairs, conversations with Lex seem to end in argument nine out of ten times.

It comes to a head one afternoon when Lex’s assistant finds her in her office to hand deliver a short press statement about a proposed Alien Amnesty bill with instructions to sign on the bottom. Lena barely gets past the first sentence before she’s storming up to the penthouse level of the building and barging into his office.

“Lex, what the hell is this?” She asks without any preamble. The paper in her hand crumples a little in her grip as she holds it up in front of her and her lab coat swings around her as she takes long angry strides towards his desk. Lex’s laughter sounds off-key and strange when he turns around in his chair.

“Good afternoon to you too, Lena.”

It gives her pause for a moment and she takes a breath, levels a narrowed gaze at her brother. “What. Is. This?”

“It’s a statement against Senator Crane’s introduction of the Alien Amnesty Bill,” Lex says, shrugging and adjusting his tie. His hair is unkempt, and there’s a glass of scotch on his desk. She stares at him for a beat, before looking down at the words written across the page in her hand.

Aliens are a danger to a modern society, and Luthor Corp strongly disagrees with the so-called Alien Amnesty bill. It is no work of amnesty; it is an invitation to our destruction." Lena reads, stepping forward and slamming the paper down on the desk. Lex tilts his head to the side, considering it.

“Sounds well crafted to me,” he responds with an unaffected expression. “You didn’t even get to the best part.”

“Since when are we in the business of making political statements?” Lena asks. What she really wants to say is what the hell is your problem but isn’t prepared for that kind of throwdown with her brother.

“Since there’s a new Super over in National City trying to play God like her dear cousin,” Lex all but spits out looking nothing like the loving brother Lena’s used to. He stands, props his hands on his desk and paints an imposing picture, the skyline of Metropolis looming behind him through the floor to ceiling windows. “There’s two of them now, Lena. Wake up. There’s probably more lurking about the country like sleeper cells.”

“National City has been nothing but protected since Supergirl came out! Just like Metropolis has been for years,” The argument isn’t new to them, but Lena feels like her brother is slipping farther and farther away from her each time they have it.  

There’s unchained anger in his eyes and the smile he plasters on hasn’t felt friendly in months. “And what if they decide they no longer want to play protector?” Lex posits in a calm tone that manages to sound maniacal regardless. “What if they turn on us? What then? Who will protect us then?”  

“Superman has been nothing but a hero, Lex,” she says carefully, having heard this line of argument a hundred times.

Her brother regards her for a moment, critical and unyielding. It’s the kind of look she’s seen him give corporate rivals and competitors, but never at her. “Sign the statement, Lena,” he commands, sounding more like a CEO than brother.

“I won’t put my name on that,” she says, refusing to back down. “And you shouldn’t either.”

“Your name’s already on it,” he bites back and when he picks up the paper on his desk he thrusts it forward with a finger tapping against the Luthor Corp letterhead.  

“Don’t release this statement,” Lena all but pleads, shaking her head. “This is bad business.”

“It’s not about business, Lena!” He all but yells, slamming the paper back down on his desk so forcefully that she jumps back. The glass of scotch sitting nearby sloshes violently and threatens to topple before he grabs for it. “Luthor Corp is Metropolis. And I will not sit idly by while a ticking time bomb waits to detonate. Superman is a wrath on this city. And so is his cousin.”

“Superman-,” she starts, but barely gets the name out before his face is darkening even further and he slams another fist down on the table.

“You don’t know him like I do,” he says in a low ominous tone that Lena has no idea what to do with. “He has to be stopped. And so does she.”

“Lex,” she breathes and she searches her brother’s face, finds only anger and pain. “You sound like you want to kill them.”

For a long moment he doesn’t respond. Then a smile crosses his face that almost looks normal, almost looks like the brother that practically raised her. He sets his drink down and fixes his tie again, tightening the knot at his throat before smoothing an unruly hair back onto his head. “We have to stop them,” he says. “They can’t win. And I will do whatever is necessary to protect you, this company, this family, the world. Whatever is necessary.”

“Lex,” Lena whispers, watching him as he stalks over to his drink tray. His hands are shaking, and when he turns to offer her a drink, the ice he’s slipped in the glass rattles loudly. Fear shakes through her, fear for Kara and her family, for Lena’s own family - for Lex, who doesn’t seem like Lex, anymore.

“It’s the truth, Lena,” he says, the glass still extended between the two of them. The gulf seems like it’s widening. “Someday I hope you’ll understand.”

A little more than a week later, after Superman gives a quote to Clark Kent that he’s concerned for Lex and his anti-alien rhetoric, Lex destroys a swath of downtown Metropolis in an attempt to kill the Man of Steel.

-- 

They work in relative silence for long minutes, Alex walking Lena through how the device works and what she’s trying to accomplish. It’s a brilliant design and Lena spares a moment to feel impressed by the eldest Danvers woman. Kara had always talked about Alex as though she had hung the moon and stars - getting to know Alex had shown how interesting she actually was. But clearly, her time with the DEO had done even more good for her.

The grenade is nearly finished as far as Lena can tell, and all she’s really contributing at the moment is handing Alex the tools she needs and humming confirmation whenever Alex explains a certain part or mechanic. It occurs to her that her presence in the DEO is a tad redundant. They’ve already found Kara, they’ve assembled a team to go through the portal to retrieve her and Alex seems to need little help in completing her yellow sun grenade.

Perhaps bringing Lena in is some kind of protocol or something Kara had requested in the event of an emergency. She tries not to think that they brought her in under some kind of suspicion and assuages the thought with the knowledge that Alex, at the very least, seems to trust her.

Curiosity, however, gets the better of her after long moments of working in silence and she can’t stop the question from bubbling up. It’s better than handing off small screwdrivers and imagining how exactly Kara could have died by now.

“Alex,” she starts slowly and waits for Alex to acknowledge her. “Why did you really bring me here?”

Alex looks up with a knitted brow. “What do you mean?” 

“You clearly don’t need my help with this,” Lena says, gesturing towards the grenade. “And you already know where Kara is. I’m just curious why you felt the need to bring me in.”

Alex looks at her for a moment, lips thin in consideration before she shrugs and turns back towards the device. “Honestly? I needed someone else to worry with.”

Once she processes the words, Lena laughs and detects the hint of a smile at the corner of Alex’s lips. “I’m fairly certain everyone here is pretty worried. I’m sure the whole DEO has been on high-alert since you realized she was gone.”

Alex face grows serious when she looks back at Lena. “That’s different,” she says softly and sets the device back on the table. She sighs, stretching her hands into the air.

“Different?” Lena asks, until it dawns on her what exactly Alex means and she clears her throat in realization, glancing away from the hard set of Alex’s eyes. “Right.”

Silence stretches between them while Lena tries to think of what to say. She wonders briefly how much Kara’s talked to Alex about everything that’s gone on between them in the past few weeks, or months even.

“Look,” Alex says after a few seconds, turning more to face Lena and putting a hand on her hip. It’s not hard to sense the turn in conversation and she finds that she isn’t entirely thrilled to be having an emotional confrontation with Kara’s sister at the moment - certainly not while the turbulent feelings of concern over Kara’s wellbeing are still churning in her stomach.

“Alex,” Lena says, and it comes out like a warning that Alex easily ignores.

“Can I just say something?”

Lena shrugs her shoulders just slightly, sighs. “Can I stop you?”

Alex gives her a bland, unimpressed look, but pushes forward. “Kara’s too nice to give you an ultimatum.”

“An ultimatum regarding what?” Lena asks, though she imagines she knows the answer.

“About you two,” Alex answers and she looks entirely uncomfortable to be having this conversation. “It’s that hero complex. She sometimes forgets she’s allowed to feel things, to be angry about stuff.”

Lena can’t disagree with that. It was true even in college when Kara would often disregard her own feelings in favor of the feelings of others. She can’t imagine that habit has gotten any better considering Kara’s new roles as city protector and superhero.

“When you guys broke up she wasn’t even mad about it. She went a little a crazy for a while there, but she wasn’t mad,” Alex says and there’s bewilderment in her tone. “The only time she’d really talk about you was to say how she hoped you were happy or that she was proud of some ridiculous thing you had done that made the news. It was so…”

Kara, Lena adds in her mind and can’t help but smile even as her chest starts to feel constricted. All those times she had turned on the news only to feel frightened for Kara, and Kara had only managed to be proud. Alex shakes her head and lets out a sad laugh.

“Do you know I caught her once eating an entire vat of mashed potatoes and watching one of your TED talks?”

The words startle through Lena with a mixture of affection and a heavy dose of despair. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Alex says with a wry smile. “She made me watch it with her. She kept talking about how smart you were and how she always knew you were going to do amazing things. All while shoveling an inhuman amount of mashed potatoes in her mouth. It was gross.” 

Lena aches for the image of Kara Alex is presenting. It feels like she can’t breathe, all of a sudden, picturing Kara watching out for her in all the years they were apart, and not being angry - not hating her, like she had thought she would in her darkest moments.

“Normal people would be just a little mad if their girlfriend unexpectedly broke up with them and then went radio silent for years,” Alex continues and Lena can’t disagree.

“Kara’s not exactly normal,” Lena says just for the sake of having something to say. Her throat feels like it’s swelling with emotion. Talking about this stirs up memories of lonely hotel rooms in Tokyo, then later in London, Oslo, Capetown, Buenos Aires, Sydney, of how she did all she could to avoid thinking about Kara - and Kara had apparently embraced it.

“Kara’s amazing,” Alex corrects with conviction in her eyes for a heated moment before they soften and Alex adds, “And so are you.”

It surprises Lena and does nothing to make the heavy weight against her chest feel better. “Alex,” she breathes.

“I’m not saying any of this to be mean,” Alex tells her and the truth of it is written in the earnest expression on Alex’s face. “You are great. You’d have to be for Kara to be this attached to you.”

Lena laughs, but the sound is thick with emotion and she feels jittery with the conflicting swamp of emotions in her brain. “I know you’re not trying to be mean,” she says softly, drawn to the way the Danvers sisters always seem to look out for each other.

It’s a struggle not to think of Lex, but she restrains herself knowing that that mental path will only topple her already tenuous control over her emotions.

“I know that you guys have some weird, complicated thing happening,” Alex says. “Or I guess I should say that you guys think you have some weird complicated thing going on, but for Kara’s sake, at the very least, you have got to figure it out.”

Lena sighs, knowing this is the heart of the conversation Alex has started and she’s frankly a tad surprised it’s the first Alex has said anything to her. Another part of her feels amused it’s coming up long after she and Kara had already taken the first steps towards doing exactly what Alex is telling her to do. The amusement doesn’t last long when all it does is remind her that Kara is missing and those steps are in danger of being the only ones they end up taking.

“Clearly, something happened when you were on Earth-1,” Alex states definitively and Lena arches an eyebrow at the assumption, no matter how correct it may be. Alex mimics the expression as if in challenge for Lena to deny it. “Kara’s been weird ever since you got back and even weirder since New Year’s.”

The memory of a rooftop, of fireworks and cheering and the feel of Kara’s smile against her mouth washes over her like a warm blanket and she fights a smile. “Alex,” she says softly, but Alex just puts her hand up.

“Let me finish,” she replies, frown serious. “I think you love my sister. I think that you guys weren’t together that long, but it was still,” she makes a gesture with her hands, her eyes going a little wide and lips pursing. Lena thinks she understands.

“Yeah,” she agrees easily. It’s still that way, even having not been together for four years.

“And I think you’re one of the smartest people I know, but that doesn’t always work for you,” Alex finishes with a wry smile.

Lena laughs a little, rolls her eyes. “I think it’s worked quite well for me,” she ventures and Alex gives her a dry look that makes Lena lift her hands up in surrender. “Just saying.” 

“The point is that Kara is all this,” Alex continues, putting a hand to her chest with a fond smile that Lena feels pull across her own face in reaction. “Sometimes too much. And sometimes you let yourself be all this.” She points to her head, shrugs a little. “Definitely too much.” 

Her brow arches at that and doesn’t know how to tell Alex that it was listening to her head over her heart that put her back on the path towards reconciliation with Kara. If the way she’s felt since coming to National City is any indication she wishes she knew how to be a lot less heart. It’d certainly have been much less painful to leave Kara four years ago, less painful to see her again, less painful to keep them apart.

“Like I said before, Kara’s not going to be the one to say this. She doesn’t know how to put her foot down when it comes to you.” Lena almost laughs thinking of all the times Kara’s all but ordered her to do something in the past few months. “This dance you guys are doing is ridiculous and acting like everything's just fine is getting exhausting. If you’re just doing this to leave again like you did before you will break Kara and I for one am not going to-”

“Alex,” Lena interrupts as Alex starts to ramble, not unlike the younger Danvers is often prone to doing. There’s a heat building behind her eyes at the thought of leaving Kara again. It scratches at her throat and Alex looks at her, brows raised in expectation. “I do love her,” she says and the words come out rough around the edges, wet and thick sounding. It reminds her of Kara’s absence and the possibility of never getting to say the words to Kara again spikes a hot flare of anxiety through her. “I haven’t been trying to hurt her intentionally and I have no intention of doing so in the future.” 

It takes a moment of clear consideration before Alex’s shoulders sag. “I know,” she says sounding somewhere between sad and fond. “But for a genius, you make incredibly stupid decisions when it comes to stuff like this.”

It makes Lena smile a little and she plays with her watch in an attempt to quell the shaky feeling in her hands. “And what, in your opinion, is a smart decision about this?”

Alex’s lips thin as she observes Lena for a long moment before her mouth twitches up a little at the edge and she huffs out a little laugh that doesn’t sound all that funny.

“I care about both of you. I’m not trying to…” Alex shakes her head, seems to lose the words, but Lena thinks she understands. Her chest feels swollen with emotion and affection for Alex she’s not used to and for the second time, thoughts of Lex knock on the back door to her mind.

Reaching out to grasp Alex’s forearm, Lena smiles and catches Alex’s eyes with a solid gaze. “I have made a decision,” she tells her, allowing herself another moment to reminisce the way Kara had looked on the rooftop of the L Corp party, beautiful in the lights of the city, looking at Lena with a smile on her face. “Has Kara not told you?”

“Told me -” Surprise shadows across Alex’s face, brows knitting together. “You’ve made a decision?”

Lena nods, thinks of the way Kara had looked as Lena asked her to dinner. “Yes.”

Alex studies Lena’s face for a long moment before clearly finding something she’s looking for, the tense lines around her eyes relaxing. “And you’ve told Kara?”

Rolling her eyes just slightly, Lena laughs. “In a way.”

After a second more of consideration, Alex lets out a little disgusted sound, but she’s smiling. “I knew you guys were doing something weird when you both disappeared at your party.”

Lena pushes against the forearm she’s holding, enough to sway Alex just a little and they both laugh. “Your big speech was really inspiring, though.” 

That pinched expression Lena’s grown used to seeing on Alex’s face returns and her lips thin. “You could have stopped me at any point.”

“And deprived you of your Big Sister Moment? Never,” Lena says with feigned seriousness and a teasing twitch of her lips.

Alex makes a noise halfway between a scoff and a laugh and turns away. “How did you get more annoying with age?”

Lena props her hip up against the table they’re standing near and asks a question that’s been bothering her ever since this conversation started. “Has Kara really not told you any of this? You guys talk about everything.” 

It’s odd to think that Alex hadn’t been the first person Kara had went to after their moment on the roof. Lena had been there, after all, when Kara and Alex had a weekly phone call that would last hours in college. In fact, some of those conversations involved a little too much detail for Lena’s comfort.

Alex turns back to the desk, leans forward with her arms spread out to prop herself up and blows out a heavy breath that seems to be an answer within itself. “Things have been weird lately,” she admits in a small voice and the fear Lena’s felt since Alex uttered the words Kara’s missing sits under Alex’s words and threads into Lena’s chest. “I don’t really know why.”  

Before Lena can prod further, Alex straightens abruptly, her gaze locking on something outside the glass walls of the lab and when Lena turns it’s to see Maggie Sawyer standing outside in the hallway smiling hesitantly at them. Alex, however, doesn’t look happy at all to see her girlfriend. Her jaw clenches visibly and she mumbles a what is she doing here before abruptly exiting the lab.

Lena watches through the glass as the two of them engage in a conversation that seems to grow heated the longer it goes on. Maggie’s face is the only one Lena can see from this angle and she watches as it goes through a journey of emotions - worry, confusion, sadness. Eventually Maggie seems to affect an expression of resignation and with a last glance through the glass towards Lena turns to walk away. 

Alex watches her leave for a few moments before turning back to reenter the room. Lena busies herself with the grenade on the table and futilely tries to look like she wasn't watching the confrontation. The uneasy vibe that had floated around them since Lena walked into the DEO seems to intensify, filling the room. 

Alex wordlessly picks up a tablet, glances at the grenade Lena’s holding and inputs a few commands. Lena allows the silence for a few seconds before asking, “What was that about?”

“Nothing,” Alex says and it almost sounds genuine, apart from the telltale crinkle around Alex’s eyes that gives her away. Kara, somehow, has a similar giveaway, and the thought of Kara reminds Lena, all of a sudden, why she’s here. Another shot of fear goes through her.

Lena considers leaving it be for a moment. Alex clearly doesn’t want to talk about it and neither of them are particularly adept at these conversations, the last few minutes aside. Talking about Kara is one thing, talking about Alex’s love life feels much more tumultuous.

The thoughts of Kara, however, makes Lena feel a twinge of responsibility for the eldest Danvers sibling. If Kara were here right now, she’d be prodding at Alex further in an effort to comfort her sister.

Eyes drifting to the ceiling for a brief moment, Lena takes a deep breath and pushes on. “It didn’t look like nothing,” she says pointedly and Alex noticeably bristles.

“It’s nothing,” Alex repeats and when she drops the tablet angrily onto the table, Lena doesn’t even flinch. That kind of emotion she understand fairly well and she smiles sadly. 

“You know,” she says slowly, trying to decide which angle to approach Alex’s emotions from. “We’re going to find Kara.” Her voice breaks a little on the words and she’s sure that’s lessened their credibility, but she focuses on keeping it together. Worry for her sister would explain Alex’s uncharacteristically loose grip on her emotions. It seemed to be a family trait: once, in college, Kara had nearly flown to National City in the middle of the night when Alex had mentioned she had a stomach flu on the phone. 

“I know that,” Alex grits out and it sounds about as certain as Lena had. She reaches out to take the grenade from Lena’s hands and starts to fiddle with it in quick, angry motions. 

Silence stretches for a bit and Lena glances out of the lab towards where Maggie once was, considering a change of tactics. “Does Maggie know?” 

“Does Maggie know what?” Alex asks and she looks around the desk for something until Lena reaches over and hands her a screwdriver. Alex glares at it for a second before taking it begrudgingly from Lena’s hands. 

“About Kara,” Lena answers. “That she’s missing.”

“Of course not,” Alex answers, tone dripping with incredulity. “That would require telling her Kara’s secret identity.”

“It just seems like something you might consider sharing with your girlfriend,” Lena says carefully, knowing how protective Alex feels over Kara’s identity. Idly she remembers the conversation Kara and Alex had after Alex realized Lena knew Kara’s secret - Kara walked around in a slump for a week before they finally reconciled. “Maybe not the Supergirl part, but at the very least what you’re going through. I’m sure she’s worried about you.” 

It feels somewhat settling to focus on something like this instead of the fear over Kara’s well being that’s threatened to consume her. 

Alex exhales noisily, finishes her fiddling and all but slams the grenade back on the table. Absently, Lena’s grateful the grenade is seemingly harmless to humans. With the way Alex is moving, the device is liable to detonate at any moment. “She’s not my girlfriend anymore,” Alex says, the words sounding like they’re ripped out of Alex’s mouth and Lena startles a bit in surprise.

“What? What happened?” 

With a clearing of her throat and a straightening of her spine, Alex affects a casual expression that doesn’t fool Lena for a second. “I broke up with her.”

“Just now?!” Lena asks and she tries to keep her voice from raising, but isn’t that successful. 

Alex’s face darkens, jaw clenching for a moment. “I’m not taking relationship advice from you of all people,” she snaps lowly and Lena knows it’s the fear and the sadness mixing up to make Alex want to lash out. The urge to bite back bubbles up in her throat, but she keeps control of it.

“Alex,” Lena says, but it doesn’t come out as a soft as she wants it to. She clears her throat a little and tries again. “I’m just asking.” 

“I just want to focus on getting this to work and then finding my sister,” Alex says, visibly shaking her head and blinking as though fighting against tears. Lena’s chest aches a bit, but she understands what Alex is saying, understands the need to focus on something as a coping method against strong surges of emotion. 

After a moment, Lena concedes with a soft, “Of course,” and pulls a tablet towards her, pushing the grenade back towards Alex.

They get back to work in companionable silence, but Lena feels the need to add one more thing and she takes a deep breath before speaking.

“I know a little bit about pushing people away out of fear.” Her voice is quiet as she says it, soft and careful as to not startle Alex and it seems to do the trick.

Alex’s shoulder sags a bit and she blows out a low breath. Lena continues before Alex can respond, hoping to get the words out before Alex has a chance to snap at her. “Just...if you want to talk to someone.”

It looks for a moment like Alex might say something scathing again, her jaw clenching for a long few seconds before she visibly deflates completely. “Thanks,” is all Alex says before turning back to her work once more. 

They’re just finishing up with the first grenade when J’onn steps into the lab, striding forward with authority and purpose. She and Alex both straighten to greet him. 

“Agent Schott believes he can open the portal,” J’onn says and anticipation starts to curl in Lena’s gut. “It’s time.”

“We’ve only had time to make the one,” Lena says, worried that even this one will actually do the trick, especially after Alex has just slammed it into the table a few times.

“Then we better make it count,” J’onn says. “Suit up, we’re heading to the portal in five.”

He leaves them alone again with a terse look and Alex takes a deep breath before turning to Lena.

After a moment of hesitation, Alex reaches out, squeezes Lena’s shoulder warmly for a long, profound moment. The contact relaxes her, feels solid in a way she reacts to. “Thanks, Lena,” Alex says softly and Lena waits a second before doing something completely out of her comfort zone. 

Alex stiffens the second Lena brings her arms up to pull Alex into a hug, but she softens soon after and they both cling to each other for a long moment. “We’ll get her back,” Lena murmurs before they step away from each other.

“I know we will,” Alex says with a confidence that starts to restore some strength into Lena’s bones. “I’m glad you’re here.” 

Lena allows herself a wry smile. “Because I’m the smartest person you know?”

“Because we both love her,” Alex says simply, but with the most genuine smile. The words beat against Lena’s chest and sit there for a few warm seconds. The fear and anticipation feels easier to control just knowing that Alex shares it, that she understands.

Lena nods, takes a deep breath. “And because you wanted someone else to yell at her for jumping through a portal without backup.”

Alex laughs and Lena feels lighter. “She had Mon-El with her.” 

Lena picks up the grenade from the table and hands it to Alex with a dry look. “My point stands.”

Humming through a smile, Alex takes the grenade and turns to leave. Lena follows.

--

“So Alex is coming this weekend,” Kara tells her casually as they’re eating lunch in one of the campus dining halls.  

Lena pokes around her plate and tries to control the look of distaste on her face. Campus dining is something she only tolerates when Kara forces her to and she’s mostly able to limit that to Pizza Wednesdays and Asian Fusion Fridays. “What for?”

After taking a big gulp of soda, Kara shrugs and goes for indifferent, but Lena can detect the almost tangible way she’s buzzing with excitement. “It’s my -” Kara looks around a bit, leans forward across the table until Lena does too. “It’s my Earth birthday.”

“It’s your birthday?” Lena asks and feels a stab of guilt she wouldn’t know something so fundamental about her girlfriend.

“Kind of,” Kara answers and Lena’s brows knit together.

“What does that mean?” Dropping her fork onto her tray she abandons trying to eat her food and makes a mental note to stop by the campus store. Kara is shoveling rice and orange chicken into her mouth at a near-reckless speed. It’s disgusting.

“It’s not my real like day-I-was-born birthday,” Kara says, and then shrugs. “It’s the date of when my pod landed here and Kal took me to the Danvers. Alex and I always celebrate it with this whole big thing.”

“Isn’t that a bit-” Lena trails off, not sure how to frame the question. Kara cocks her head to the side, clearly confused, and Lena tries to explain. “I mean...it’s kind of sad, right? The day you landed here? Or rather, why .”

Kara blinks, then a small smile comes across her face, as she leans across the table to grab ahold of Lena’s hand.

“I love the Danvers,” Kara says and she lowers her voice again as a couple passes by their table. “I was really, really sad when I landed here, because it meant that Krypton was - Krypton was gone. But they’re my family. And I like celebrating when I became part of their family.”  

Lena suddenly wants to stand up out of her chair and hug her girlfriend, whose smile is soft and whose hand is tracing over her knuckles, as though Lena is the one who’s discussing the death of her home and forceful introduction to a whole new planet.

“You know, the symbol Kal wears, the S-shape,” Kara says, drawing it in the air just over her own chest. Lena nods, lacing her and Kara’s fingers together, watching Kara’s smile as she looks at Lena. “It’s not an S. It means el mayarah. Stronger together. That’s what it means to be a part of the House of El. On Krypton, my birthday was a celebration of being a part of my family. And so on Earth, I like to celebrate that too.”  

“Stronger together,” Lena repeats, watching as Kara’s fingers and hers interlock on the wood of the table. Kara grins, tugging at her hand.

“Usually, Alex takes me out into the woods for a camping trip where she lets me do stuff I normally can’t like start the fire with my eyes,” Kara says. “And we eat so many marshmallows. It’s awesome.”  

Kara’s back to shoveling food in her mouth, and the thought of marshmallows taking the place of the rice and chicken nearly makes Lena shiver in disgust.  

“Alex must really love you if she’s willing to take you into the woods and watch you stuff marshmallows in your mouth for a weekend,” Lena says, with a teasing smile.

There’s food bulging out of one side of Kara’s cheeks when she smiles and Lena rolls her eyes and looks away. “You watch me eat almost every day, so what does that say about you?”

Lena laughs. “I must love you too,” she replies in a dry tone and after swallowing, thankfully, Kara smiles again.

“I mean, Alex sort of hated me when I got to Earth,” Kara says. “Last night, on our phone call, she lectured me for thirty minutes about how I shouldn’t use my powers around you, so I think she still sort of hates me sometimes.”

“She loves you,” Lena says with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Yelling at you is how she shows that she cares.”

Kara hums a little, shovels another helping of food into her mouth. “Kind of like when Lex sends you twenty page long critiques on some new engineering project you showed him?”

It makes Lena smile to think of her idiot brother, who’s somewhere down in Rio right now, setting up a new factory location. “Yeah, kind of exactly like that.”

“He must super love you then,” Kara says with a wise tone that sounds unnecessarily exaggerated.

“Be nice,” Lena warns and she pushes her foot up against Kara’s shin under the table.

Kara just shrugs, sets her fork down for a moment and looks at Lena with a soft smile. “I super love you.”  

It hangs in the air a moment and Lena savors the feeling of hearing it, of seeing it so obviously reflected in Kara’s expression.

“I super love you, too,” she replies after a few seconds and the smile that stretches across Kara’s face is unmatched.

The one that comes when Kara gets back from her weekend with Alex only to find a Happy Birthday cake on Lena’s desk comes close, though.

-- 

The ride to the portal site is filled with Winn walking her through how the portal works, showing the tablet he’s preprogrammed and explaining what the various controls do. Lena listens as much she can, watches as Alex checks settings on her gun, rechecks them, checks them a third time. The tac team is in some other van, and so Winn’s talking is the only thing making any noise. She’s managed to borrow some more comfortable clothes for the trip, tired of walking around in heels and a skirt.

When they get to the warehouse and stand in front of the portal, Lena allows herself a quiet moment of awe, her eyes running over its edges while the team sets up equipment and double checks their gear. It’s so alien-looking, and she wishes that it was simply an engineering marvel, not a barrier between her and Kara.

Winn hovers over a small panel and Lena strides over to him watches over his shoulder as she fiddles with the controls. He shifts a bit so she can see better and she follows the commands he’s inputting with her eyes.

“Are you going to tell me what happened to your face?” Lena asks eventually in a quiet whisper. There’s a repeating loop of Kara, injured and alone on an unfriendly planet in her mind and just like it was with Alex, it’s helpful to focus on someone else’s problems.

Winn’s lips push together in consideration for a moment. “I was mugged,” he answers and Lena sees the lie for what it is. This particular evasion tactic is far too familiar to her.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” she says in a deadpan tone she hopes conveys to Winn that she doesn’t believe him. From the way his eyes skitter away from hers she imagines it was successful.

Eventually Alex calls them over and Winn shows her the tablet he’s programmed, moving to hand it over to her until she waves him off. 

“Keep it,” Alex says. “You’re both coming with me.”

It surprises Lena, but she has to admit she’s a bit pleased. She had assumed Alex would force her to stay here, protected and safe. It’s something Kara would have tried to do. Tried being the operative word.  

Winn, however, is less than thrilled. His eyes go immediately wide and he tries to shove the tablet towards Alex, and then toward Lena when it becomes clear Alex isn’t budging.

“N-no. Look, it’s preprogrammed, so you just hit the button and you’re thinking with portals. You don’t need me.” He looks at Lena with a desperate plea in his face, fear etched around his eyes. It feels very out of character from what she knows of Winn and she wonders what she’s missing, imagines it has something to do with his claim of having been mugged.

“I want your hands at the controls,” Alex says. “And Lena there to back you up.”

Winn shakes his head, backs up a step. “No,” he says in a slow drawl of the word. “Lena knows this just as well as I do, she’ll be fine.”

“If you think for one second that Kara won’t murder me for leaving Lena alone at the portal while we go retrieve her, you’re an idiot. I need both of you there,” Alex persists. “If we can’t get the portal to work from that side we’ll be stuck there and I want two sets of eyes on it.”  

“Agent Schott,” J’onn adds in a firm authoritative voice. “She wasn’t asking you. That’s an order.”

Shoving the tablet suddenly into Lena’s hands, Winn backs away with wide eyes, waving his hands in front of him. “I’m sorry, no,” he manages to get out in a tumble of stuttered words before walking away.

Alex sighs, watches him go before looking at Lena for a moment. “You want to come, right? Because I can’t exactly order you.”

Lena just gives her a droll look that Alex rolls her eyes at before walking away after Winn.   

That leaves Lena with J’onn who smiles at her kindly. “Come on,” he says with a jerk of his head. “Let’s get you some gear.”

-- 

If anyone had told her years ago that she’d be stepping foot on a planet distant to Earth on a rescue mission because Kara had jumped through a transmatter portal, she would have laughed incredulously. 

In college, the most exciting thing she had ever dreamed she and Kara might do together was get married. Maybe a honeymoon in an exotic location or start a family. Those dreams had seemed big enough. Interstellar travel hadn’t really made the list, but now they’ve done things like foil the genocidal plans of her mother and save an alternate earth from an alien invasion, so it seems perfectly in line with everything that’s happened so far.

“Outer space,” Winn breathes out reverently as he looks around them and Lena follows his gaze. She feels exactly the way he sounds and a smile crosses her lips unbidden as she takes in the sight of an entirely new planet. It’s very orange, and there’s a hulking planet up in the sky, bearing down on them. It’s amazing, reminds her of how excitedly Kara had talked about traveling through the stars with her father.

Winn turns to her with wide disbelieving eyes and an excited grin. “We are in outer space,” he whispers and she laughs.

Alex steps up to them, all business, her gun already up and ready. “And if you don’t want to stay in outer space forever, figure out how to dial us home,” she says, pointing back at the portal. She looks at Lena. “I’m tracking Kara’s earpiece. Make sure this thing is open by the time we come back.”  

Instinct pulls her in the direction Alex is walking, with a strong desire to be there when they find Kara, see for herself that she’s okay, but she knows her particular skill set is put to best use here with Winn.

“You’re leaving us here alone? No guards?!” Winn asks with the same fear from earlier creeping into his voice. Lena reaches out to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

Alex puts on what Lena’s sure is supposed to be a comforting smile and waves him off. “You’ll be fine,” she says, already backing up to walk away. She gives a final nod to Lena before turning and jogging after the rest of the team. 

“I am not a red shirt,” Winn starts chanting under his breath and Lena squeezes his shoulder, wonders if his fear is just a normal anxiety over being left basically alone on an unfamiliar planet or if it’s something deeper. 

“Come on,” she says softly. “Let’s get this thing up and running.” 

They work together efficiently, Winn standing in front of the control panel and attempting different commands, Lena watching information feed through the tablet in her hands. Winn moves with agitated motions, punching in different commands with shaky, almost angry pokes of his fingers and he keeps grumbling under his breath in a way that’s starting to give Lena a headache.

“Do you want to talk about it?” She asks after a few seconds of Winn mumbling something about his own imminent death.

“Talk about what?” He asks absently, eyes still on the control panel. 

Lena watches him for a moment. “We can start with why you’re lying about getting mugged.”

He jumps at that, finally pulling his gaze up from the device and eying Lena warily. “I’m not lying.”

“Sorry,” she says with an apologetic tilt to her lips. “But I’m not very easy to lie to. And you’re not a particularly competent liar.” 

“We don’t have time for this,” he says with a trace of heat as he turns back to the panel and hits a few more buttons. When nothing happens he lets out a frustrated noise and balls up his fist like he’s going to punch the thing into submission.

“Letting the fear take over isn’t going to help us get out of here,” Lena says in a slow, steady tone.

He scrubs his hands over his face, pressing against his eyes for a long moment before blowing out another angry sounding breath. “Fine. I wasn’t mugged and I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay,” Lena says, hands up defensively. “I’m just asking. We need to stay focused here and if there’s something-”

“How are you so calm?!” Winn interrupts, looking at her incredulously. “We’re here in outer freakin’ space because Kara’s powerless and got trapped here and now we’re all alone which means if we get ambushed, which we probably will be because they’re most likely watching this portal in some way, we’re going to-”  

“Winn!” Lena interjects before he spirals completely. She steps up to him and puts a calming hand on his shoulder. “I’m not calm.” 

“You sure could fool me,” he says bitterly, but he relaxes a little at the contact.

“Up here,” Lena replies, gesturing to her head. “I’m right there with you. There’s a lot of insane stuff going on. My girlfr -” she chokes a little on the word, shakes it out of her head. “Kara is out there powerless, you’re right, and that’s terrifying, and I’m worried about her. But the team is relying on us to get this portal open again. Which means that wasting time worrying is only preventing me from helping her. She needs us focused.”

“I - I - can’t,” Winn says, looking at her desperately. 

“Yes, you can,” Lena tells him with as much conviction as possible. 

“Alex gave me this speech before we left, but I’m not Alex, okay? And I’m not you, either. I don’t carry a weapon or have combat training and I’m not a cool CEO who’s a genius. I like computers and staying inside and-”

“Winn,” she says again, firmly, in a way that demands attention. “We’re in this together, okay? We’re going to open this portal and Kara and Alex are going to come back and everything is going to be fine. But only if you put your fears aside and focus.”  

They look at each other for a long moment, Winn breathing visibly deep as he seems to mull over what she’s saying. On a final long inhale he nods, lifts his chin up in a show of bravery. “You’re right.”

“I am right,” Lena says, and she smiles. “Thank you for noticing.”

Winn glares a little, shaking his head and adjusting his flak jacket on his body from where Lena’s grabbed it to get his attention. He turns back to the portal, cracking his neck before trying again.

The portal remains dormant through the first few tries and Winn hits the side of the panel he’s working with in frustration. Suddenly, the portal flashes to life in a burst of purple energy before growing immediately dark again.

“That did not happen how it was supposed to happen,” Winn says to her with a sigh. Lena agrees, walks a little closer to the portal and checks something on her tablet, trying to ignore how it’s been over thirty minutes since Alex and the tac team left them, how the portal won’t open even if the team or Kara ever gets back. 

A sudden yelp turns her attention back to Winn and she drops the tablet in her hands when she sees some creature pulling him away from the control panel and throwing him to the ground. She’s frozen for a moment when the alien pulls a gun on Winn who scrambles backwards a bit in fear.

“Hey!” Lena yells out because it’s the only thing she can think to do, and it does the trick. The alien pulls his weapon away from Winn and points it at Lena who puts her hands up immediately. “It’s two versus one here.”

It distracts the creature for just long enough and Winn suddenly jumps into action, picking a heavy rock up off the ground and shoving it at the gun until it’s knocked away from both of them. As Winn pushes up off the ground and winds back to punch their attacker, Lena runs towards the weapon, getting there in seconds and picking it up off the ground.

With a small hope that guns work relatively the same no matter the planet, Lena points the weapon in the direction of Winn and the alien, hovering the fight in her sights until she can get a clear shot. 

Winn is handling himself just fine from what Lena can tell, but she keeps the weapon trained forward in case it turns ugly. A few seconds later Winn gets in a final punch, the alien flinging down on the ground with the impact.

Lena relaxes the weapon and tosses it aside, smiling when Winn looks at her with an expression of pleased surprise.

“I’m not the red shirt!” Winn exclaims with a happy triumphant smile, throwing his arms in the air and then grabbing ahold of her by her own flak jacket, pulling her into a tight, victorious hug. “I’m not the red shirt!” 

Lena laughs a little at him, her heartbeat still pumping with adrenaline as he releases her and she bends over to pick up the tablet she dropped, grateful to see it’s still intact. Winn is still jumping around in victory over the creature on the ground.

“You! You’re the red shirt,” he’s telling it and just then she hears the distant scream of a familiar voice. When she turns around, Kara is sprinting towards them, followed by Alex and the rest of the DEO team, and a crowd of twenty or so random people she seems to have accumulated since coming here. Lena had long resigned herself to Kara gathering friends at absurd rates, but coming to an alien planet only to find twenty human friends seems a bit crazy.

“Winn!” Kara yells out followed by an even louder shout. “Lena!”

Lena feels relief flood through her as Kara closes in on them, even though Mon-El is gesturing wildly at Winn, “Start the car! Start the car!”

Winn moves quickly towards the control panel and starts to input commands just as Kara comes rushing up to her, swooping her into a tight hug that Lena immediately returns, the tablet dropping back to the ground with a distant thud. She feels the portal whoosh to life behind them and Alex yelling at the team and Kara’s new friends to go through, but she can’t concentrate on much apart from the feel of Kara in her arms again.

It feels different than it usually does, and Lena suddenly realizes it’s because Kara’s powerless. Kara's body feels warm with exertion and she's breathing like she actually needs to. There’s strength in the arms that have wrapped around Lena’s waist, but it’s not the same kind of strength as before. It doesn’t feel like Kara’s restraining herself or teetering on the edge of squeezing too hard.

Instead it feels like Kara’s really hugging her and Lena sinks so quickly into the feeling that everything else blocks out for a profound moment as Kara squeezes her.

“You okay?” Lena asks quietly, into the soft feel of Kara’s hair and Kara’s arms squeeze even tighter, the feel of a smile against Lena’s neck making her grin.

“Better now,” Kara murmurs against the skin of Lena’s neck and she just barely hears the words, but they make her pull Kara in closer.

“Kara!” Alex is yelling and they break away, turn to Alex who is gesturing at the portal with a pointed look on her face. “Hug later, portal now.”

“Right, yeah, of course,” Kara says, moving backwards and just as she’s about to pull them both through the portal a strangled, “Supergirl!” cries out from behind them and Kara freezes. They all turn to see a young blonde girl getting pulled away from them and back behind the rocks.

Kara doesn’t hesitate. She drops Lena’s hand immediately and rushes off towards the scream with a loud, “Izzy!”

“No, no, no, wait!” Mon-El yells, and Kara sort of feels similarly, but Alex just looks at Lena and pulls out the grenade they worked on from her side with a small nod.

“Let’s hope this thing works,” Alex says before pulling the pin and throwing it up into the sky.

Lena watches with anticipation caught in her throat as the grenade detonates and they’re clouded in yellow light so intense she flinches away from it, squinting. When she looks back up, Kara is hovered into air with renewed strength pumping through her and a happy smile on her face that Lena feels stretching across her own in reaction.

“What was that?” Mon-El asks as they watch Kara shoot her laser vision at an oncoming spaceship. The ship explodes into pieces around them and Lena feels herself relax.

“Yellow sun grenade,” Alex answers with a pleased smirk on her face. “A little taste of home.”

Mon-El smiles at both of them as they watch Supergirl do what Supergirl does best. “Nice,” he says with an impressed tone.

Danger abated, Kara comes speeding back to them, girl in tow, and she pushes Izzy, Mon-El and Alex through the portal. “Let’s go,” she says, grabbing at Lena’s hand and pulling them through quickly.

On the other side, Kara wastes no time in turning towards the control panel and destroying it, shutting the connection off immediately. After a tense moment, the entire warehouse breaks out into a relieved round of applause and cheers and Lena feels everything relax.

Kara lets out an exhausted sounding laugh and she squeezes Lena’s hand before stepping away to hug Alex firmly. Lena can just make out the, “Thanks for coming to get me.”

Winn bumps Lena’s shoulder companionably and Lena smiles at him while J’onn steps forward.

“Welcome home, Supergirl,” he says, before wrapping Kara up in a hug.

“Thanks, J’onn,” Kara replies with a wide grin.

The joy twists around the entire group warmly and Lena feels a sense of togetherness she’s only just starting to get used to.

“Well,” Alex says, noticeably more put together than Lena had seen her all day. Kara wraps an arm around Alex’s shoulders and they lean into each other. “Celebratory drinks?”

Kara perks up a little, looks at Lena. “Celebratory drinks on me,” Kara agrees with a little smirk.

“Yeah, they better be,” Alex says with a frown returning to her face. “But don’t think that’s going to get you out of the don’t jump through space portals without backup lecture.”

Kara groans, but she’s smiling, and Lena laughs when Alex winks at her.

--

They reconvene at the alien bar a little over an hour later and they pack the place with DEO agents and friends. Kara settles immediately next to Lena, listening as Winn explains his whole fight sequence and smiling happily as their legs bump together under the table.

A few minutes after posting up at their usual hightop in the back corner, James comes striding in with a look of concern on his face. Lena taps Kara gently on the thigh when she sees him and Kara stands up.

“James!”

“Kara!” He says, walking forward with purpose. “I just heard about what happened. Are you okay?”

Kara steps up into his arms immediately and they hug tightly. Lena can see the way James visibly relaxes at the contact and she smiles, understanding that feeling personally.

“I’m fine,” Kara reassures him, stepping out of the embrace, but keeping her hands on his biceps and smiling up at him.

“You should have called me,” he says with a little heat and he glances at Winn. Lena follows the gaze, sends Winn a quizzical look, but he just looks into his beer.

Kara’s head tilts a little, brows together. “There was nothing you could have done, James. I was trapped on another planet.”

Alex comes over to the table with a round of shots and sees the exchange. “James,” she greets with a tight looking smile and a gesture towards the drinks. “Celebratory tequila. You in?”

James looks like he’s ready to say more, but manages a nod and matching smile for Alex. The entire moment makes Lena feel like she’s missing something. From the way Kara glances at her after James steps away, it seems as though they share the feeling. Kara just shrugs a little and slides back onto her stool next to Lena, their shoulders bumping together.

They all take a shot off the tray and clink their glasses with a triumphant resounding, “Cheers!” Lena laughs at the sour expression Kara makes after throwing the tequila back and Lena hands her a lime from the small cup full of them that Alex has brought with the shots. Winn is nearly gagging across from her, with Alex patting him on the back.

“I would have thought after four years you’d be better at that,” Lena comments quietly with a fond smile, and Kara sucks on the lime in her hand for a quick second before rolling her eyes at Lena. She spins in her stool a little more so that their knees knock together, leaning closer to Lena.

“Has tequila suddenly stopped being gross in the last four years?” Kara asks, chucking the lime in her empty shot glass and throwing it back on the table. There’s still a lingering look of distaste on Kara’s face and she swipes the back of her hand across her mouth. Lena gives half a thought to kissing her to taste the tequila, then, but thinks better of it.

Lena just laughs, licks out against her lips and enjoys the taste still present there, a little salt and lime mixed in. “You don’t have to take it,” she says in a soft whisper she’s sure only Kara can hear. “It’s not like it does anything for you.”

Kara shrugs. “I don’t wanna be left out,” she says and it’s the same answer she’d given Lena years ago when Kara would choke down whatever weird shots one of their friends would order at the bar.

“Doesn’t this bar have that offworld liquor you were telling me about?” Lena asks, remembering the drunken string of text messages she had received from Kara months ago.

Kara’s eyes go wide in remembrance and she shakes her head at Lena. “We’re not drinking that.”

“Well, from what you told me I can’t drink it,” Lena laughs.

“Trust me,” Kara starts with a teasing smile on her face. “Neither of us can drink it.”

“I don’t know,” Lena says, bumping her shoulder a little against Kara. “You’ve seen me inebriated far too many times. Turnabout is fair play.”

“That’s not the same,” Kara argues. “You’re like an unfairly composed drunk person and I’m…” Kara gestures around in a way that makes Lena laugh.

“I’m sure you’re fine,” Lena says smiling even deeper when Kara looks appalled at the suggestion.

“Are you forgetting that I told you I ripped Alex’s car door off?”

“I’m not forgetting,” Lena laughs. “But I imagine avoiding that is as simple as not allowing you anywhere near cars or things equally destructible.”

Kara’s eyes narrow. “Everything is destructible for me.”

It makes Lena laugh again. “Not everything,” Lena says and she reaches out to tug at the heavy bracelet on Kara’s wrist.

For a moment, as Kara tracks the motion of Lena’s hand, she goes entirely still, her face frozen as they look at the jewelry together. “You’re right,” she says after a second, with a tight smile for Lena. “Not everything.” 

Suddenly everything seems to have gotten more serious than Lena truly intended and Kara’s eyes drop significantly down to Lena’s lips. There’s still a mix of adrenaline and lingering anxiety from the events of the day warring in her system and the desire to press up against Kara’s body burns across her skin like wildfire. 

“I’m glad you’re okay,” Lena says in a voice barely above a whisper and Kara scoots somehow closer, their heads ducked together amidst the noise of the bar. One of Kara’s hands has settled on the back of Lena’s stool, brushing against the small of her back. 

“I’m sorry I worried you,” Kara murmurs, and she reaches out to clasp Lena’s wrist right above her watch, sliding down to hold her hand for a warm moment. Their hands come together easily, settled on Lena’s thigh.

“I think that’s something I’m just going to have to get used to,” Lena comments wryly and a look of consternation crosses Kara’s face. 

Before Lena can comment, something rattles the table violently and Lena jerks backwards while Kara leans forwards to steady their drinks before they tip over, her hand on Lena’s back pressing tighter. They both look to where Alex is sitting, her fist clenched on top of the table and Winn standing next to her and staring at her with wide eyes. Over Alex’s shoulder James is making a big show of not looking at anyone and Lena observes the scene with confusion as the three of them hastily try to look like they weren’t all three having a tense conversation.

“Sorry,” Alex says, looking over at them, but she doesn’t look all that apologetic as she turns away from the table. “I’m getting another drink.”

Kara looks to Winn as if for answers, but he just shrugs at them with an exaggerated look of ignorance on his face before picking his beer up and turning to James, muttering something that Lena’s sure Kara could hear if she wanted to. But Kara’s turning back to Lena.

“Anything happen to Alex while I was gone?” Kara asks, following the retreating form of her sister with critical eyes.

Lena considers the questions, but imagines Alex’s ire is largely derived from worry over her sister all day. “She spent most of the day worried about you,” Lena answers and thinks of Maggie’s impromptu visit to the DEO. Some of Alex’s edginess no doubt is also coming from that.

Kara chews at her bottom lip. “Do you think she’s actually really mad at me for going through the portal?”

Lena quirks a brow at Kara. “She wouldn’t be the only one, if that were the case.”

A startled look crosses Kara’s face before she shuffles the expression into something more chagrined. “You’re mad?”

“Perhaps mad isn’t the correct word,” Lena starts and she does best not to bow immediately to the apologetic almost-pout that takes hold of Kara’s face. “But for a person that spends so much time lecturing me on risky behavior…”

With a slight narrowing of her eyes, Kara huffs a little. “I don’t know how many times I need to explain the difference between invulnerable superhero,” Kara says in a hush, jerking a thumb at herself. “And very vulnerable human to you.”

“Remind me again just how invulnerable you were on Maaldoria,” Lena says with a pointed raise of her eyebrows.

“Well I didn’t know I was going to be powerless when I jumped through the-,” Kara argues and then seems to recognize the mistake in her line of logic the minute Lena’s eyebrows rise.  

“I don’t want to fight about this,” Kara adds, but from the way her chin lifts Lena thinks maybe she actually does.

“We’re not fighting,” Lena counters. “I’m merely pointing out your hypocrisy.”

“Lena,” Kara sighs, looking exhausted for the first time since she got her powers back. Lena takes pity on her and runs her palm down Kara’s back soothingly. Kara melts a little bit, grabbing again for Lena’s hand and playing with her fingers.

“Alex might also be upset because she broke up with Maggie earlier this afternoon.”

It takes a second for Kara to compute what she’s saying, but when she does her spine straightens abruptly and a shocked expression takes hold of her face. “She what?!”

Lena hums, picks up her martini glass from the table and takes a prim sip of it. “You’ll have to ask her as to why, but as far as I know, Alex called it off before we went to rescue you.”

Kara’s jaw is dropped in an incredulous expression for a good few seconds before she looks up again at her sister and shakes her head disbelievingly. “She didn’t.”

“She did,” Lena says. “And I have to imagine it’s because Alex copes with high emotional stress about as effectively as I do.”

That brings Kara’s gaze back to Lena quickly and she gives her a startled look until she notices the teasing smile playing on Lena’s lips. “Funny,” she deadpans with a scrunch of her nose.

Lena merely sips at her drink and shrugs.

“I’m going to go talk to her,” Kara says, glancing to where Alex is leaning up against the bar talking to one of the DEO agents sitting there.

“Okay,” Lena says. “Probably a good idea.”

Kara lets out a noisy exhale before puffing her chest out a little as if bracing for something. With a quick barely-there kiss to Lena’s cheek she, strides away towards Alex.

In seconds, the stool next to Lena is occupied by a grinning Mon-El who taps his beer bottle against the glass in Lena’s hand. Her grip tightens on the drink in an effort to stop it from spilling and she sends him a startled look that he seems to ignore. Kara’s managed to push their stools close enough together that being this close to him is jarring and not particularly welcome.

“So I think I’m going to tell her tonight,” he says, with no preamble and Lena sets her drink down, turns a little towards him while moving her stool away. Out of the corner of her eye she catches Winn and James arguing over something, Winn gesticulating animatedly while James watches with his arms crossed.

“You’ve lost me,” she tells Mon-El. “Tell who what?”

It occurs to her before he even answers what they’re talking about and a feeling of dread crawls up her spine.

“Kara,” he says sagely before taking a long pull of his beer. “I’m going to tell her tonight.”

She resists the urge to roll her eyes, but only just barely and manages a practiced smile. “I’m happy for you,” she says even though she knows she’s setting him up for failure. She considers for a moment letting him know this, but decides he’s likely obtuse enough to ignore her warnings regardless. Something from their previous discussion comes nagging back into her brain suddenly and she adds, “Still unconcerned with the fact that she’s mated?”

Mon-El shrugs, leans his elbows on the table and takes another sip of his beer. “I figure at this point her mate either died on Krypton or just...doesn’t want her.” He pauses for a moment and Lena fights the uncomfortable turn of her stomach. “But that’s not what I’m talking about telling her.”

“What -” Lena stops in the middle of reaching for her drink again as she starts to think maybe the alcohol is affecting her more than she realizes. “I’m not sure what you’re referring to.”

“I want to be a hero,” Mon-El says with this proud little smirk on his face. “Like Kara.”

Lena blinks, isn’t sure why he felt the need to come to her of all people with this information, but tries to remain polite. “Good for you.”

“You should have seen her on Maaldoria,” he says in an awed kind of tone. “She was awesome.”

Lena doesn’t doubt it. Kara had always seemed amazing to her and the past few months have only solidified it in Lena’s mind. “I’m sure.”

“I mean there she was, no powers, no backup, no plan, and she just stood up between a bunch of strangers and a gun that could have easily killed her like it was nothing. They hit her a few times with some serious electricity and she still protected everyone.” Mon-El tells her this like he’s reporting something benign and not letting Lena know just how close she came to losing Kara forever. It feels like ice is pumping through her veins, and she imagines that Kara can probably pick up her rapid heartbeat.

“She’s amazing like that,” Lena manages to get out in an even tone, even though her hand feels like it might start shaking at any moment. She crosses her arms and digs her fingers into her biceps just to stay steady.

Mon-El hums appreciatively and Lena’s not thrilled with how that sounds, but he seems oblivious to the exasperated look on her face. “Plus, I think working with her will definitely go a long way in proving myself worthy.”

Lena arches a brow. “Worthy?”

He smiles. “Of mating?”

“Excuse me,” she says no longer willing to engage in this line of conversation with him. She stands up with a soft clearing of her throat. “I need to use the facilities.”

“Of course,” Mon-El says with another grin and a saluting gesture with his beer bottle. Lena swallows a sigh and walks away.

As she rounds the corner to the bathrooms, the familiar sound of the Danvers sisters arguing halts her in her tracks.

“You went through the portal without so much as a second thought!” Alex is saying and Lena doesn’t have to see the two of them to visualize their faces - the glare on Alex’s face and the stubborn indignation on Kara’s.

“I told Mon-El to tell you what I did. It’s not my fault that he has terrible decision-making skills.”

“You should have called me yourself,” Alex argues.

“Why don’t we talk about the fact that you brought Lena to space!” Kara says, her voice rising in pitch.

“Oh don’t try to change the subject-”

“I’m not changing the subject. I’m asking you why on earth you thought it was okay to bring my - my - to bring Lena to space. Especially after you lectured me not weeks ago about bringing a civilian to another universe.”

“It’s Lena,” Alex retorts and Lena barely suppresses the laugh that wants to come out at that, her eyes darting to the ceiling as she covers her mouth.

“Oh, so that’s a good enough reasoning when you use it, but when I-”

“I use it for different reasons than you do, Kara and-”

“She didn’t need to know I was in trouble, Alex. Everything was under control and all you did was freak her out and then put her in a dangerous situation.”

“Oh, I’m sure Lena would just love to know you wanted me to keep her in the dark about things that affect you. I don’t know if you’re aware of this but typically you tell one’s-”

Considering she’s now become the subject of this argument, Lena feels entitled to interrupt them and turns the corner with a clearing of her throat loud enough to startle both sisters.

Kara’s eyes go wide at being caught, but Alex just rolls her own, shoulders sagging in exasperation.

“Hi,” Lena says simply, looking at them both with amusement playing at her lips. “Don’t mind me. I’m just trying to use the restroom.” 

Lena points beyond them and she sees a blush start to dust Kara’s cheeks even as Alex continues to glare at both of them. 

As she squeezes past them and towards the door at the end of the hallway, brushing against Kara’s front as she does, she barely makes out a snapping of fingers and Alex’s hissed, “Focus, Kara.”

--

The explosion can be heard all the way across campus and even in the small enclosed study room in the library, Lena feels the walls rattle. Grabbing her laptop and notebook before it goes skittering across the table, Lena freezes, waits to see if anything will follow and wonders if it’s possible to have earthquakes this far inland.  

Long seconds pass before another boom can be heard reverberate against the walls. This one muted, but still loud and Lena grabs her cell phone out of her bag.

Just as she’s unlocking her phone, a group of students go running down the hallway past her study room and she stands quickly to open the door. It lets in a sound of muted panic and she catches the next person that comes jogging towards her.

“What happened?”

He doesn’t stop much, but turns to answer. “Explosion in Newland,” he says, slightly out of breath. “Chem labs I think.”

The information drops like a weight in her stomach. Newland Science Hall. Kara’s there right now, working on a project with her lab group.

Abandoning her stuff, Lena tears out of the room and follows the stream of students already heading towards the building in question.

It’s chaotic.

The sound of the fire alarms can be heard blaring out of broken windows and there’s shattered glass all over the ground. The building is still standing, but Lena can smell the scent of something burning, chemical and acrid in her nose.

There’s only one thought in the forefront of her mind and she doesn’t hesitate in running towards the building entrance knowing Kara’s likely still inside. The only thing that stops her is a hand latching onto her arm and pulling her to a halt so abruptly her heart leaps up into her throat.

“Hey, hey,” the familiar voice of Kara’s friend Aaron beats through the chaos in her mind. “You can’t go in there, Lena. It’s not safe.”

It takes a second for her to react, but when she does it’s to pull her arm so violently out of his hold that he has no choice but to let her go. Kara’s inside and Lena doesn’t really care what anyone has to say about what she can and cannot be doing right now. Without saying anything to him, she makes as if to leave again, but his words stop her.

“She’s not in there,” he tells her softly and she looks back at him to see his hand outstretched, finger pointing to the side where a group of people has congregated.

Pushing people aside with little regard for how aggressive she’s being, Lena makes her way through the crowd until she finally finds what she’s looking for.

Kara is kneeling next to another person Lena doesn’t recognize, holding a small cloth to the girl’s head. The fabric is bright red with blood and Lena does a quick visual rundown of her girlfriend. It’s impossible, as far as Lena knows, for Kara to bleed, but she can’t help but needing to reassure herself regardless. Her heart feels like it’s going to pound out of her chest with anxiety and she takes long purposeful steps towards Kara.

A few feet away, Kara’s head cocks suddenly, one side tilting upward, and then she’s standing, instructing the girl to keep pressing the cloth to her wound in a soft murmur.

Lena doesn’t stop. There’s soot as if from a fire on Kara’s cheek and her hair is in complete disarray. The fabric of Kara’s jeans is ripped at her knees and Lena knows Kara is invulnerable, unbreakable, made of steel, but none of that knowing stops the shake in her hands.

Kara takes a step away from the group, turning around with her arms open and Lena walks right into them, arms wrapping around Kara’s neck. It isn’t until Kara’s arms wind around her waist and she gets picked up into Kara’s body that she relaxes, blowing out a low breath.

“I’m okay,” Kara says softly, strong hands spreading out over Lena’s back. “I’m okay.”  

Lena just pushes her face into the crook of Kara’s neck and closes her eyes, blocks out the sounds of panic and confusion in the crowd around them for a long moment, trying to fight back the tears crowding her eyes. “What happened?” Her voice is no more than a whisper into the skin under Kara’s jaw, but she knows her girlfriend can hear her.

“I don’t know,” Kara says. “I think I was closest to the explosion, though. I should probably get away from here before someone notices. I think this was your shirt, too, so I’m sorry about that and I promise to-”

“Kara,” Lena whispers, and Kara’s arms tighten around her, pulling her somehow closer. She thinks she’s being moved further away from the insistent sounds of the crowd, but it’s hard to keep track as she tries to listen to Kara’s breathing and her heartbeat.  

“Your heartbeat is going crazy,” Kara says, right in Lena’s ear. Her hands are drifting up and down Lena’s back, clearly trying to calm her - but she can’t. She imagines running up the building only to be told that Kara was inside still. It’s an impossible thing, but it fully terrifies her, makes her feel like she can’t stand, makes her hands feel shaky and numb.

“You could have died,” Lena whispers, and she hears ambulances suddenly. This hug has probably gone on too long to be normal, but she can’t quite extricate herself from Kara’s arms. She needs this. She needs to know Kara is okay.

“I really couldn’t have,” Kara says, and she laughs a little. “I think - I think some other people might have if I hadn’t been so close to it, though.”

“That isn’t better,” Lena says, suddenly, rearing back to glare at her girlfriend, who looks bewildered at the anger being directed at her.

“Lena,” Kara says, her hands coming up to wipe at Lena’s face.

“If you - if you had been human, you would have died,” Lena whispers, and Kara’s face is almost impassive for a moment, before it softens. “I can’t do that.”

“You can’t die?” Kara asks, like she’s trying to make a joke. It makes Lena angry, that Kara would joke when Lena’s terrified, when Lena had thought - for one second of her life - that Kara Danvers was dead and wasn’t coming back to her.

“No, you can’t die,” Lena says, shoving a little at her girlfriend’s shoulders. “I can’t live with you being dead. It’s not acceptable.”

“I’m not dead,” Kara says. “I’m right here, Lena. I’m not going to go anywhere. I promise. I love you. Please calm down.”  

She tries to let Kara help her, but she doesn’t start to feel okay for a few hours, after Kara’s ditched her burnt clothes, showered, and held Lena through four documentaries. Even when Kara falls asleep later that night, Lena’s head presses as close as she can to listen to Kara’s heart beat.

--

When they leave together and walk out of the bar, it feels so natural that Lena doesn’t hesitate in allowing Kara to fly them home when she asks. Perhaps it’s the tequila or the gin still settling in her system, but she feels drowsy and content when Kara picks her up. The adrenaline of the day has washed through her system and exhaustion has started to take its place. The only thing she can think of doing is setting her head on Kara’s shoulder and falling asleep to the steady sound of her heartbeat.

After everything that’s happened, Lena dreads the idea of putting distance between them now and her fingers itch to keep Kara in touching distance as a constant reassurance she’s alive and well. When they get to Lena’s apartment and Kara escorts her inside, she tries to think of a way of asking Kara to stay without sounding desperate.

Things are still just uncertain enough that Lena’s not sure how to act. As a girlfriend she’d merely tug Kara further into the apartment and push her into bed. As a friend she could ask Kara to stay the night without it sounding suggestive.

As something in between, Lena has no idea what to do.

“Would you like a drink?” Lena offers as she hangs her jacket up in the hall closet and strides towards the kitchen. Kara follows her and idles in the entryway.

“I’m okay,” Kara says, sounding subdued and tired.

“Food?” Lena replies, though as she runs through a mental list of what might be in her kitchen she thinks perhaps takeout might be their only option. “We missed dinner, after all.”

Kara seems to react to that, managing to straighten up and cringe at the same time. She takes a step into the kitchen towards Lena. “I’m really sorry about that by the way,” she says and a look of abject worry passes over her face.

“For missing dinner?” Lena asks with a little laugh, not understanding why Kara looks so concerned suddenly.

“Yes.”

“Kara,” she says stepping forward until she can reach out and grab Kara’s hand. “You needn’t apologize. I think you had a pretty good reason.”

“I just-” Kara hesitates, twists their fingers together nervously and Lena tracks the motion with confusion swirling in her head. “I was really looking forward to it and I’m sorry I screwed it up by getting stranded on some planet.”   

“I was looking forward to it too,” Lena says with a genuine smile, studying Kara in an attempt to read whatever Kara’s hiding between the words. “It’s not entirely your fault that we had to miss it.”

“It’s not as if anyone forced me through that portal,” Kara argues. “Not for lack of trying, I suppose.”

Lena laughs a little if only because she can’t understand the hesitant look on Kara’s face. “Kara, I cancelled on you nearly five times because work got in the way. Surely you were due a rain check as well.”

“That feels different.”

Shrugging, Lena squeezes Kara’s hand to stop her fingers from fidgeting and smiles. “It’s not.”

There’s a skeptical crease to Kara’s brow when she looks to Lena. “Are you sure?” 

“Sure I’m sure,” she says. “Maybe we should just set a date for four different dinners as contingency plans. That way we always have a backup date.” 

There’s surprise in the way Kara’s face shifts that Lena’s not sure how to decipher. “So you want to reschedule?”

Maybe she’s had more to drink than she realized. It’s the only thing that could account for how much trouble she’s having following this conversation. “Why wouldn’t I want to reschedule?”

“I just wasn’t sure if what happened made you rethink your position,” Kara answers softly.

And after a moment of unpacking that, Lena figures it out.

“You’re afraid I’m going to change my mind,” Lena says in a quiet voice, realization making her tone go breathy around the edges. “Kara.” 

“I mean, I missed our date because I jumped through a portal without knowing where it would take me and I did that because I’m Supergirl and that’s my job now and that’s obviously a little different than college and maybe you don’t want to-”

The words start to ramble together as they continue to tumble out of Kara’s mouth and Lena reaches up to stop her with a finger at her lips. “Kara, stop.”

Kara obeys, closing her mouth with a soft click.

“We’ve spent all that time talking about me and my feelings,” Lena says softly, kicking herself for not realizing something as simple as this earlier. “We haven’t really talked about yours.”

“What do you mean?” 

“Why are you afraid I’m going to change my mind?” Lena asks and she thinks of her conversation with Alex at the DEO just hours ago.

“We’re different people,” Kara says but the words sound forced and awkward. “You kept telling me that and I realized that if anyone is different here it’s me. It’s not like you fell in love with Supergirl all those years ago or signed up for all the baggage she brings with her.”

Lena thinks on that for a moment watches Kara’s face carefully. “Why do you refer to Supergirl in the third person?” 

Kara shrugs. “That’s how it feels sometimes.” 

It brings back a memory of Kara in her kitchen months ago as she told Lena about her mother and Cadmus. The symbol on Kara’s chest had felt like a beacon at the time, blinding Lena and making it hard to focus. The image of Kara’s face falling when Lena sent her from the room to change spikes a cold feeling of guilt in Lena’s chest.

“You’re just as much Supergirl as you are Kara Danvers,” Lena tells her. “Or Kara Zor-El for that matter. I fell in love with all of them.” Lena pauses, realizes there’s no point in hiding a truth that’s already been spoken between them. “I’m still in love with all of them.”

“My life is way more complicated than it was in college,” Kara says in a whisper and Lena tries not to laugh.

“Kara, darling,” she says in as soothing a tone as she can manage. “No one’s life is as easy as it was in college. Mine certainly isn’t.”

“If you could walk away then,” Kara starts in this small voice that makes Lena’s throat burn with the threat of tears. “I don’t see what would stop you now.”

It takes a second before Lena feels like she can speak without breaking the dam holding the sudden wave of tears back. “Walking away wasn’t easy for me back then,” she says and forces herself not to remember the way Kara’s face had looked all those years ago. “It was brutal and the only thing that kept me going was a stubborn belief that I was doing the right thing.”

Kara nods, a sad smile teasing her lips that makes Lena want to pull her close. But this needs to get said before Lena loses the moment. 

“I don’t want to say I regret it,” Lena continues carefully. “I regret that I made decisions based on things that didn’t matter to me as much as us. But you’re the one that always says each moment is a bridge to the next. Things happen for a reason, right?”

“Right,” Kara breathes and her smile shifts a little bit into something warmer than before.

“All that time we spent apart - I have to believe it happened for a reason. Maybe part of that reason is so that I could stand here in front of you and say with confidence that I don’t want to walk away from this again. Not without fighting for it first.”

Lena takes a deep breath, smiles and feels the rims of her eyes fill just a little. “I’m probably going to make at minimum thirteen more mistakes when it comes to us.”

Kara laughs suddenly, relaxing the tension. “Lena Luthor admitting she makes mistakes all the time?”

“Don’t be smug,” Lena warns at the growing smirk. “And I said thirteen mistakes.”  

“That’s oddly specific.”

“As a scientist, I pride myself on accuracy,” Lena says, grateful for the way Kara’s eyes have softened from earlier. 

“Nerd,” Kara teases and Lena rolls her eyes, shoves Kara with enough force that Kara immediately reacts to it with an exaggerated sway that makes Lena laugh.

“After all that we’ve been through,” Lena says, still smiling, but growing serious once more. “I’d be crazy not to give this a shot again. I need you to believe me that I’m not going to change my mind about that.”

Kara sighs, but she nods, adjusting her glasses with a quiet chuckle. “I believe you.” 

“Okay,” Lena says and she reaches out to cup Kara’s cheeks, bringing their eyes into contact. “Please know that I love you. Regardless of anything else.”

Kara’s expression is serious then and her hands reach out to grip Lena’s hips. “I know.” 

“Good,” Lena says and with a final smile she lets Kara go to step away. “Now that that’s settled do you want that drink? I think I might have some food in here, but we can always order from Gordo’s down the block.”

They step deeper into the kitchen and Lena opens her cabinets, surveying what’s inside.

“Is Gordo’s the place with the red velvet cheesecake?”

“Probably,” Lena replies, shutting her cabinet with a look of distaste for its barren innards. She fishes in the bag she’s left on the counter and pulls her phone out. “Do you want me to order some?”

“I’ll do it,” Kara says immediately reaching for Lena’s phone and she knows that means they’re going to end up with far more takeout than they actually need.

“Kara, don’t over order,” Lena warns and Kara scoffs. 

“I have never in my entire life over ordered,” she says with a look of feigned indignation that makes Lena laugh.

The moment feels easy and warm in a way that’s so comforting after all the events of the day. Lena wants to sink into and live there forever, the rest of the world blocked out indefinitely. Kara is looking at her expectantly like she can trace where Lena’s thoughts have gone.

It strikes Lena for the hundredth time that day how close she was to losing Kara forever.

“You okay?” Kara asks after a moment of silence and Lena nods, smiling tightly.

She rounds the counter and reaches out to grab Kara’s wrist, palm sliding over the solid feel of Kara’s bracelet.

“I’m really glad you’re here,” she says softly and without overthinking it presses a soft but significant kiss on Kara’s lips. Kara returns it, slipping closer and pulling Lena in, lifting her up off the ground just the littlest bit. It centers Lena, pulls her away from the anxieties that have been plaguing her all day. 

Kara is the one who pulls away, a smile stretching across her face as she raises Lena’s phone up.

“I love you,” Kara says, pressing a kiss to Lena’s forehead. “But I’m starving. Please tell me you want cheesecake.” 

Lena rolls her eyes, knowing she’s going to have a fridge full of takeout by the end of the night.

Later, after she takes delicate bites of a slice of cheesecake, and Kara’s managed to eat four entire pieces, Kara mumbles something about having to go. The clock is hovering around one by now, but Lena still feels shaky at the thought of Kara being away from her.

“Just stay,” Lena says, and Kara, who’s halfway off Lena’s couch, blinks at her. “I know we still need to sort some stuff out, but I - I don’t want to be away from you, right now. So just stay, if you want to.”

“I - uh, I, sure,” Kara starts, looking a little shocked at the offer. She clears her throat, manages a smile. “Yeah, okay I want to.”   

So Lena hands over some sweats and a t-shirt and packs up what’s left of their Gordo’s order and slips it into her fridge.

When she finally makes it into her bedroom, Kara is playing with the Imperiex chess set Lena had set up on her dresser, humming down at the pieces with a look of intent focus that charms Lena to the core. 

“When are you going to teach me how to play?” Lena asks, letting her hair down from her bun, feeling Kara’s eyes latch to her as she reaches in her dresser for her sleep clothes. Kara makes another humming noise. 

“Probably ten years from now after we have our date,” Kara wryly and with a short laugh. Lena glares over at her, but is happy to see the insecurities of earlier seem to have evolved into teasing. She shakes her head a little before slipping into the bathroom and changing quickly. When she comes back out, Kara’s still in the midst of her game, but she’s moved it to the bed, sitting up against the headboard and staring down at the holographic pieces.

Lena slides into the bed next to her, but Kara barely looks over, just studies her game and Lena props her elbow into the mattress to watch as the game pieces hover in the air over the board. Before she gets a chance to ask for the strategy or even the most basic rules, Kara is moving one piece across the board quickly, and the game board begins shooting off holographic confetti with a large display that says she’s won.

“Congratulations,” Lena says, laughing as Kara huffs and turns the board off, moving it back to Lena’s dresser and flopping back into the bed.

“That was just the AI,” Kara tells her and manages to look completely petulant about it. “I wanted to see how difficult Winn programed it.”

“Clearly no match for you,” Lena says, sliding further onto her pillow as Kara follows, rearranging the blankets until they’re both settled.

“Well sure. Beating a computer is one thing,” Kara replies. “It’s not really a challenge.” 

“Maybe you can get Mon-El to play you,” Lena says. Kara groans, glaring up at Lena as she leans over to turn out the light. She can’t see Kara’s face particularly well in the darkness, but as her sight adjusts she can just make the indignation cutting lines around Kara’s eyes.

“A Daxamite playing Imperiex chess,” Kara scoffs out in a tone that conveys just how ridiculous that notion apparently is. “Sure. When Lumirs fly.”

Lena laughs, her brow knitting. “What’s a Lumir?”

“Something that doesn’t fly,” Kara replies promptly. “Obviously.”  

“Obviously.”

Kara shifts and Lena tries not to jump when their legs brush against each other. “Did I mention that Mon-El told me tonight that he wants to be a hero? He like wants me to start training him.”

“I can’t imagine why,” Lena deadpans, really not interested in talking about Mon-El of all people while she’s in bed with Kara.

Kara stills. “What does that mean?”

Lena purses her lips and decides she feels no fidelity to Mon-El’s secrets, if his crush could even be considered one. “Well, he likes you, Kara. I’d think that would have something to do with it.” 

Kara makes a strangled noise, like the idea is both surprising and disturbing to her.

“He does not,” Kara whispers, and Lena laughs at the expression that’s contorted Kara’s face, visible even in the darkness of the bedroom.

“Is it a Daxamite cultural tradition to kiss people you don’t like?”

“He had a fever,” Kara retorts. “And I already confronted him about it. He doesn’t like me.”

“How are you still so oblivious about stuff like this?” Lena asks but she can’t help the laughter that keeps coming out of her, charmed by the innocent bewilderment on Kara’s face.

Kara doesn’t answer for a moment, just glares at Lena through the darkness before her eyes grow suddenly wide. “Rao I totally forgot,” she breathes.

“Forgot what?”

Kara affects a smug kind of look. “Speaking of obliviousness, guess who was on Maaldoria?”

Lena jerks back a little, surprised at the sudden turn in conversation. “Who?”

“Your ex-girlfriend,” Kara answers with a haughty lift of her chin. It only confuses Lena more until Kara clarifies, “Veronica.”

It takes Lena a second to realize what Kara’s saying but when she does she narrows her eyes and shoves Kara’s shoulder. “How many ways do I have to tell you that Roulette and I never so much as dated before you understand?” Lena mutters and Kara grabs at the hand Lena’s used to push at Kara’s body, tangling their fingers together between them.

Kara hums in a disbelieving tone that makes Lena want to smack her again, but she keeps talking before Lena has the chance. “She was running the operation on Maaldoria with the Dominators,” Kara says. “I knew she was the worst, but human trafficking is really a new low.”

“I wish I could say I was surprised,” Lena says wryly and Kara shrugs a shoulder, shifts a little closer on the bed.

“She’s trapped there for now at least. I don’t feel bad about it,” Kara says looking almost guilty for saying that. “I don’t blame her for hitting on you all the time, but I do blame her for being a generally terrible person.”

A comfortable silence stretches between them and Lena yawns, eyes fluttering closed when Kara’s feet brush her shins. 

“Mon-El said you were very brave over there,” Lena whispers, clinging to the feeling of Kara so close now that their fronts are almost touching.

“Not really,” Kara says dismissively and Lena keeps her eyes open, studies Kara’s face in the dim moonlight illuminating the room. 

“He said you stood in front of the group and let them electrocute you,” Lena points out and she untangles her fingers from Kara’s to reach out and brush away a strand of hair from Kara’s temple. It makes Kara hum a little and shift impossibly closer, her eyes fluttering on the verge of shutting completely.

“Yeah, that didn’t feel great,” Kara answers easily and she licks her lips in a sleepy motion. “But I couldn’t let them hurt the others.”

It burns through Lena, suddenly, the heady mix of fear and love that’s always blended through her as she’s watched Supergirl. “Always the hero,” Lena murmurs and Kara’s hand drifts to Lena’s hips, sits there warmly over the fabric of her pajamas.

“Just doing my job,” Kara jokes but Lena knows it’s so much more than that.

The fear threatens to take over once again, but Lena steadies herself with the feel of Kara so close at hand.

“Thanks for staying,” Lena whispers, and Kara smiles back.

“Thanks for letting me.”

When Lena finally drifts off to sleep it’s with her head on Kara’s shoulder, her arm thrown across Kara’s body and wrapping around her ribs. It feels comfortable and content and Lena truly relaxes for the first time in what feels like weeks.

Chapter Text

Lena wakes up to an empty bed and cold sheets. None of that is unusual, but she’s pretty sure she didn’t dream Ka