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who could ever leave me, darling (but who could stay)

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Lena has heard it said that there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.

She’s always thought she’s leaned on the side just preferring to be alone.

But right now, she’s standing by her balcony and out into the belly of what makes up the National City skyline, the skyscrapers all around her penthouse jutting up toward the unseen stars like a shield.

She’s looking for Kara.

Lena clutches tightly with one hand to her glass of whiskey and even tighter with the other hand on the framed picture of her and Kara, a gift from Nia from their holiday gift exchange last year because, as Nia had said—what do you get the woman who has everything? And everyone had responded: anything that has to do with Kara.

The picture is from a night of several of them hanging out—she has a smashed frame of her, Kara, and Alex to show for it. And after that picture of the three of them had been taken, Kara had insisted on a solo shot with Lena, who had kept her arms wrapped protectively around Kara’s shoulders and Kara pressed her cheek into Lena’s and hung on to the arm wrapped around her front for dear life.

She’s kept it on her bedside table since she unwrapped it and felt a tight something in her chest, something unspeakable and inexplicable as she had breathlessly thanked Nia for it. She’d stowed it back in the gift bag for the time being during their holiday party and had pulled it out much later, when she was finally home and by herself, unable (unwilling) to place the emotion she was feeling.

She’d placed the picture on her bedside table and stuffed those emotions into the drawer underneath.

Lena feels like she’s intruding on the moment in the photo now, like its not hers to look at anymore. It feels too intimate.

She takes another sip of her drink and stares back out the window and into the bright lights, hopelessly waiting for Kara, or even just to see Supergirl flying by.

There are hundreds of people milling about on the streets below, dozens visible in windows in nearby buildings. She’s not truly alone.

But she’s lonely.

All she’d had left was Eve…Hope, she reminds herself. And even that was all a ruse, all something of her own manufacturing to keep her company.

Maybe she should get a cat.

Lena has the sudden urge to take the picture in her hand and throw it off the balcony or smash it the same way she did the other one.

She can’t bring herself to do it.

She’s tired and lonely, and for the first time since moving to National City, she’s finally slowed from the breakneck pace she’s set for herself, the pace she’s probably set her whole life (or at least since Lex began his descent off the deep end).

And this, Lena realizes, must be rock bottom, or somewhere dangerously close to it.

She’s lost her mother. She’s lost what she’d known of her brother. She’s lost Jack and Andrea and so many others and moved to National City for what?

Fate brought her to Kara.

And now their own free will has torn them apart.

She’s in National City with no one to turn to anymore, her friends all liars and surely untrusting of her. She’s in National City at the helm of a giant business and seeking to do the good she’s wanted to.

By some measures, Lena has gotten everything she’s wanted.

It’s lonely at the top.

Lena doesn’t really know what else to do.

She can’t create someone and mind-control them to listen to her. She’s tried that.

She can’t stay alone forever. Because she’s seen what a lonely obsession with a Super can do to someone, and it’s a terrifying mirror that Lena holds up to herself.

If nothing else, for the good of L-Corp, she needs to talk to someone.

So Lena decides to try and pay someone to listen to her instead.

Lena leaves a voicemail for Kelly Olsen that night asking for a session, and Kelly calls her back the next morning telling her that she’s not sure it’s a good idea for Lena to hire Kelly as her therapist because they have several mutual friends.

Kelly may even imply that she and Lena are friends.

Lena has to stop herself from laughing.

She doesn’t have friends anymore.

Who needs friends when you can save the world?

It’s not quite what she’s looking for, but maybe its something.

So instead, Lena asks, “Then can we please at least talk as friends?”

Kelly agrees.

Lena meets her at her office the next day, suddenly regretting her brief show of vulnerability and trying to think of plausible reasons to cancel the whole ride across town.

Kelly is kind and welcoming in the way Lena guesses a good therapist probably should be and offers Lena a seat in a comfortable red chair right across from Kelly’s desk. She spies the stereotypical therapist’s couch off to the side and wonders when her life became so cliché—the successful woman in the big city at the end of her rope and looking for a change.

She’s one trip to a small town away from a Hallmark movie plot.

It’s awful.

“Can you promise me that everything I say here is kept confidential?”

Kelly gives her a look that borders on confused but hides it quickly, like Kelly’s surprised that Lena is either not sure how confidentiality works or that she’s already seeking reassurance two seconds into their faux session.

“Of course, Lena.”

Lena lets out a shaky breath and tries to remember what she’s told herself the whole morning—to approach this like a business meeting. To be matter-of-fact and put the information out there to the board; in this case, Kelly.

Because really, it is. Clarity for Lena means she can get back to work and be better than ever.

And that’s the goal.

Right?

Shit. Maybe that’s something worth mentioning to Kelly.

Kelly must notice the way Lena draws into herself and wishes she could sink into the chair because this is a terrible idea.

Lena is already so ashamed of herself for how she’s handling this, for how vulnerable it’s making her feel. She should feel in charge. She is the one who’s the customer expecting a service.

She can do this.

It’s just therapy.  

Kelly’s face softens when she asks, “What’s going on? I haven’t seen you around with Kara or Alex lately.”

This was definitely a mistake. She should have just gone to someone else, or better yet, no one at all.

And then Kelly goes and asks something that breaks Lena’s whole brain.

“Did you and Kara break up? Is that what this is about?”

Oh.

Oh.

Lena, who’s been staring at the floor this whole time, immediately looks up when Kelly says it. There’s no joking behind it like when James would occasionally jab when they were dating—that sometimes he felt like she was more into Kara than she was into him, or like when Nia jokingly calls them a “power couple” at game night. She’s dead serious. Like somewhere along the lines, Kelly had taken all of those jokes seriously, and no one had bothered to tell her otherwise.

“What?”

Lena doesn’t really know what else to say to that. She kind of wants to hear it again, to make sure that she’s actually heard correctly.

Kelly hasn’t seriously thought this whole time that—

“Kara and I weren’t—did you think—did Alex let you think—"

Kelly’s hand comes up to cover her mouth, to try and hide a smirk, but Lena can see it in her eyes.

This isn’t a joke.

Kelly is serious.

And then the terrible follow-up to that thought comes to Lena’s brain: that Kelly isn’t just going off of assumptions based on jokes made at group dinners but is going off of her very extensive knowledge of human behavior, that maybe Kara and Lena have looked like a couple to acquaintances, to Lena’s business partners, to strangers sitting in restaurants at tables next to them.

“Oh wow, I am so—"

“No, no, no. It’s…fine.”

Lena cuts her off because she’s not sure she wants to hear the rest.

But she also kind of does.

And a small part of Lena wishes she would have gone along with it all, because this whole thing feels like a break-up, and maybe that would have been easier to explain than trying to tiptoe around the crux of what actually happened between Kara and Lena.

As bad as Lena’s hurt, Kara’s secret still isn’t hers to tell.

“I guess I just thought after you and James broke up…”

Lena feels like she’s going to be sick but asks anyway.

Her morbid curiosity has gotten her in trouble so much in her life—what’s one more time?

“Can I ask you something, Kelly?”

Lena sighs and refuses to meet Kelly’s eyes when she asks. But she’s curious. She wants to know. She has to know.

Nothing can possibly hurt her more than what she’s already feeling.

“Can you tell me what it was about me and Kara that made you think that?”

Kelly’s eyebrows raise in surprise.

“I, oh—sure.”

Lena shifts in her chair and wonders why she willingly tortures herself.

“I mean, you’re around each other all the time. Usually, when I ask Alex where Kara is, it’s with you. The way you interact is just very…loving. And for the most part, at Game Night, we’re all paired off as couples. I guess my dumb lesbian brain just assumed. And, really, the way she looks at you is—"

“Stop.”

Lena says it partially to Kelly but mostly to her own heart, which is beating a mile a minute when Kelly brings up the way Kara looks at her.

Lena knows exactly how Kara looks at her, has chosen to ignore it for so long.

Lena knows that Kara looks at her like she’s the stars that grow exponentially in number once you leave the heavy light of National City, like she’s the one who put the sun in the sky. Like Lena is the one who’s the superhero.

Lena just isn’t sure that Kara means to.

So she ignores it.

Because of all the little boxes Lena has created for herself, that one is Pandora’s.

“Point taken,” is all Lena says when Kelly notices her shut down again.

Lena clears her throat and grabs for a pillow on the couch next to her, for anything to hold on to.

“But no, Kara and I were not…romantically involved.”

Lena wonders for a brief moment if she jumped out of the window out of sheer embarrassment, would Kara come flying to her rescue.

That would be a fun one to explain.

I jumped out a window because your sister’s girlfriend brought up my latent feelings for you that I will continue to repress for the rest of time. Thanks for the rescue!

“So did you… have a best friend break-up?”

Lena shrugs and ponders how to proceed. She honestly has no clue if Kelly knows that Kara is Supergirl.

“She kept a really big secret from me for years, and I found out about it not because she told me, but because someone else told me. And eventually, Kara did tell me, and I pretended that everything was fine with us, but—"

“But it’s not fine.”

Lena nods solemnly.

“So Kara is Supergirl, huh?”

Shit. She wasn’t vague enough.

“Wh—no, I—"

But Kelly waves off Lena’s sputtering.

“Lena, Kara and Alex told me a few weeks ago. It’s fine.”

Lena isn’t sure whether to be relieved by that or be even more hurt that Kara would so casually tell someone else, and yet she felt the need to keep a secret from Lena for years. That she would so easily tell her sister’s girlfriend and not her best friend.

“So that’s where this whole wanting to mind-control the world idea came from, huh? You know Alex has enough to worry about with Leviathan without you flying off the handle over a girl?”

“Excuse me?”

This is not at all what Lena was expecting.

“I sure hope you’re more professional with your patients than this.”

“You’re not one of my patients. We’re meeting as friends, remember?”

Kelly just smirks and reaches into a drawer in her desk.

“And since you’re not one of my patients, care for some whiskey?”

“It’s two in the afternoon on a Monday.”

“Exactly,” Kelly deadpans. “And you look stressed.”

“Well you’re just full of unhealthy coping skills too, aren’t you?” Lena fires back.

Kelly chuckles as she plucks two glasses from the cabinet in her desk, along with a bottle of bourbon, and pours.

“I may be a psychologist, but I’m still human, Lena. And I’m here as a friend, who happens to also specialize in dealing with trauma.”

She pushes the glass across the desk, and Lena rises from her chair to come grab it, clinking it against Kelly’s outstretched glass.

Kelly continues as Lena returns to her chair.

“So now that we have that squared away, you can tell me the real version of what’s going on.”

Lena takes a sip and considers her options.

If she’d chosen a stranger, she wouldn’t be able to be fully honest.

If she’d chosen no therapy at all, she’d be at home crying or at L-Corp throwing herself deeper and deeper into her work.

So maybe coming to see Kelly isn’t the worst option in the world.

And Lena is at rock bottom, after all.

So she sighs and finally, maybe, takes the first step toward healing. She lets the words bubble out because Lena can’t hold them anymore. And maybe the quality bourbon Kelly has offered her helps too, but it almost feels cathartic.

“Kara kept her identity from me for years. All the while knowing how many people in my life have betrayed me and broken my trust and broken my heart. I found out because as my brother was dying, he told me the truth about Supergirl.”

I killed my brother for you! For our friends! Don’t you understand what you’ve done?

She doesn’t bother to bring up that she’s the one who shot said brother. That’s at least a session ten story. So Lena shrugs and goes on.

“Kara told me herself a few weeks later, and I acted like I was none the wiser.”

Kelly nods and hums.

“All the while, you were plotting a way to hurt her like she hurt you.”

Lena sighs.

It’s all she’s known. It’s what Luthors do.

Every action has a reaction. When a Luthor is hurt, they attack right back, usually harder.

“I didn’t know what else to do, Kelly. I mean what do you do when you don’t know what else to do?”

Kelly groans like the answer is obvious and knocks back more of her drink.

“Ask for help, Lena.”

Another skill that was never part of the Luthor curriculum. Asking for help was seen as weak, as a way that someone could trick you into being used. Luthors aren’t used; they’re the users.

“Have you ever been to therapy?”

Lena shakes her head no and looks away.

“Lena,” Kelly starts gently, “I know we don’t each other too well, but I know enough about you to know that you’ve been through more trauma than most.”

And maybe that’s true.

But for so long, she’s been able to deal with it. Because Lena has had people she could trust. Who she thought she could trust. She didn’t have to think about it as much because she had her friends.

So what is she supposed to do now?

“So I have to ask you—how have you been coping with this your whole life?”

Lena answers automatically, robotically, in the same way she explained it to Brainy.

“Little boxes.”

“What?”

“Stuffing everything into neat little boxes and stacking them away.”

Kelly puts her drink down and folds her hands in her lap. Now she’s giving Lena a therapist look—a look that tells her to pay attention to what she’s about to say or ask because it’s worth considering.

“And what happens when the boxes fall? What happens when there’s no more room to stack them?”

And that’s just it.

Lena doesn’t know.

She thought her friends were there to help her hold them all up, to get on her shoulders and keep stacking them higher and higher.

“I guess that’s why I’m here, isn’t it?”

Lena lets herself consider that maybe stacking isn’t the answer.

“I think I thought I could heal myself somehow. Like if I undid enough of my family’s evil or if I hurt Kara like she hurt me, it would just all cancel out somehow, and I’d wake up one day just feeling better about it all.”

Maybe she needs people around her to help take the boxes down and unpack them, sort through them.

“But that’s not how it’s going to work, is it?”

Kelly shakes her head solemnly.

“Lena, your trauma is not your fault. But processing it and doing the work to move forward from it is your responsibility. And unfortunately, it’s not just going to get better overnight.”

Lena wishes it would. Lena wishes her technology could fix this.

But she has a failed attempt and a Supergirl that she almost accidentally killed to prove that it can’t.

“It’s time to unpack the boxes, Lena.”

 

//

 

Kara starts crying even harder when she realizes she’s run out of ice cream.

And of course, at the exact moment she lets out a wailing sob, there’s a knock on the door.

She hears Alex’s concerned voice through the door, no doubt able to hear Kara’s crying through the thin walls. The door is unlocked, and Alex bursts through to see the Girl of Steel hiccupping, tears streaming down her face, because she doesn’t know what else to do without Lena.

Alex comes over to the couch to sit down and nearly sits on the picture of Kara and Lena that rests next to Kara.

Alex picks it up and sighs sadly, holding it up to her.

“Kara, what the hell is going on?”

And really, there’s nothing else for Kara to say to Alex. Her sister knows the whole story, knows that she’s not okay and knows that Alex is to blame for some of it.

She’s angry. Angry that Alex and anybody else ever convinced her to keep a secret from Lena, that Alex doesn’t believe Lena can be saved.

Kara is so angry, and she just wants to leave and punch things like she normally does to cope.

But she’s so tired.

“I just want her back, Alex,” Kara croaks quietly, her voice worn and raw.

The look Alex gives her is nothing short of pitying, and Kara can’t even bring herself to look at her for very long.

Alex sits down beside Kara and puts the picture on the coffee table.

She reaches for the empty ice cream carton and spoon in Kara’s arms and places them next to the picture.

“Look, you might not want to hear this, or be ready to hear this, but—"

“She’s not a villain, Alex.”

Kara considers opening the window and flying into the night, maybe find some small crimes to deal with because she absolutely cannot deal with this right now.

Alex should know better than to be going down this road again.

Alex sighs.

“Okay. That’s not what I was going to say.”

Kara folds her arms in defiance but turns her head toward Alex, slightly more willing to listen to her.

Kara needs hope right now. Because hers is fading even though she wants to believe she can get through to Lena.

She wants to believe so badly that she won’t lose her.

“Okay. The last time I saw you this upset was when Mon-El left. And even then, I don’t think you were this upset.”

There’s a pregnant pause after that. Something twists in Kara’s stomach and sinks. It’s uncomfortable, the kind of feeling she gets when someone is about to give big news, the same kind of feeling she gets when she feels caught somehow.

Kara fears where Alex is going with this.

“What are you saying?”

“You sent Mon-El away to save the world.”

Alex stops again, like she’s giving time for Kara to make the connection herself.

But Kara has already.

Kara knows exactly what she’s done, what she’s been doing, the way she’s held Lena up on a pedestal for the past three years.

But Alex names it anyway.

“Today, you were willing to choose Lena over the world.”

Alex doesn’t say it accusingly. She doesn’t say it kindly.

She just…puts it out there to be acknowledged. Like any basic fact. Like it’s just part of the natural order of things.

The sky is blue. The grass is green. 1+1=2. Kara loves Lena.

It’s a basic fact that Kara knows is probably obvious to those who pay enough attention, but for the most part, have known better than to call her out on it.

It’s a basic fact that Kara has been holding tightly within herself for longer than she’d like to admit.

Loving Lena has become a normal part of functioning for her, just like breathing or flying.

But it doesn’t matter anymore.

And Kara certainly doesn’t want to discuss this with Alex.

She’s so angry.

“Get out,” Kara growls.

Alex rises and opens her mouth like she’s going to say something, but Kara glares at her that eyes that burn red.

It’s an empty threat, but a deeply cutting and mean one. She doesn’t even mean for it to happen, but Kara feels so lost and out of control that her eyes blaze a heated red.

Everything about this making her lose control.

But it’s the only way her exhausted brain can think to get her out of here and let her mope alone.

To be alone and not acknowledge to anyone else in the world that she wants Lena in ways a best friend shouldn’t.  

“Kara—"

“Alex, get out.”

Her sister looks at her, defeated. Kara hopes she’s sorry for what she’s done, that maybe Alex will make it up to her somehow.

But right now she feels that addictive brand of anger that means to do nothing other than hurt, and she wants no one around for that.

Alex leaves without another word. Just a sad look and gentle hand on the shoulder that Kara allows just to placate her sister.

Kara stares down the picture on the coffee table and thinks about burning a hole right through it.

Lena…

Your words mean nothing to me anymore. Spare us both the drama and leave me alone.

Wait!

Wait.

Seeing Lena again felt like taking a breath of fresh air after being underwater and being shoved back under in the middle of the breath.

Seeing Lena and not being able to reach out and touch her, not being able to keep talking to her, was torture.

Maybe Lena had hung up on her because she knew exactly what Kara was about to say.

What she ended up saying silently to herself so no one in DEO would hear her.

Wait!

I love you.

And even though it probably isn’t true, Kara lets herself believe that Lena hung up on her because hearing Kara say she loves her was one of the few things that Lena knew would pull them both under.

Or finally bring their heads above the water.

Kara can’t decide.

Kara texts Alex an apology the next morning and asks if J’onn is able to put out the small fires that may pop up today. She says she needs some time. She tells William to let whoever is in charge at CatCo right now (Andrea has called in the last few days mysteriously) know that she’ll be working remotely because she’s not feeling well.

Alex doesn’t question it.

William sends her a text telling her to get well soon.

Kara stays in bed until after noon and cries for a home she never got to grieve, for a family she’s lost, for a love she never got to confess.

Later, Alex sends her Kelly’s number and tells her to reach out if she needs to.

Kara cries even harder—because it all feels like it’s months, years, too late. Kara’s pushed down the pain of Krypton and everything wrapped up in it with constant responsibilities of saving the world, and other worlds, and being a journalist.

It drives her mad to think that Lena knew none of this for so long.

That the traumas they’ve experienced are more relatable to each other than they realize. Not the same by any stretch, but common themes woven through.

The abandonment, the feeling lost, the carrying the weight of the universe on their shoulders for a family name.

The only person she wants to talk to right now is Lena.

Kara toys with that idea all day until the sun sets, ruminates for hours on what would happen if she tried to go see Lena, if she even just watched her balcony from afar.

There.

Maybe that’s a place to start.

Maybe it’s enough for now just to see her.

Because zeroing in on her heartbeat throughout the day isn’t cutting it.

So as the sky grows dark and the lights come on in National City, Kara flies into the night and perches herself in the air outside Lena’s penthouse.

She can see a small figure standing out on the balcony holding something. Kara’s wishful thinking wants to say it’s a picture, but she can’t be sure.

She stays away.

She listens to Lena’s heartbeat.

But after years of having Lena Luthor in her orbit, in her house, in her workplace, everywhere, surrounding her…

This feels like nothing.

And Kara’s never been good at staying away from Lena. So like Icarus, she flies closer to her sun.

Lena looks small and worn out, and some terrible part of Kara is comforted knowing that them being apart is hurting her in the same way it hurts Kara.

But that feeling is squashed when Kara remembers exactly what put them in this situation.

The anger takes over again—at herself, at Alex, at everyone.

Even at Lena.

Because Kara has heard Lena’s speeches about trust and betrayal so many times. And sometimes she just wants to scream.

Because Kara gets it.

Kara knows what its like to lose everything.

And Lena just won’t see it.

The anger burns hotter, and Kara leans closer.

Kara hears Lena’s heartbeat quicken, and she knows Lena must know she’s here.

Lena hasn’t looked up yet, but Kara is close enough now that she can see that she is indeed looking at a picture of the two of them—the same picture of them Kara had been looking at last night. Kara feels a deep pain in her chest, and she can’t understand why Lena keeps looking at the ground when the real thing is hovering right above her.

Kara’s feet make quiet contact with Lena’s balcony.

It’s the closest Kara’s been to her since she left her in the Fortress of Solitude, and Kara wants to cry just from being close to her again, to be within hugging distance, to smell Lena’s perfume and to be in her space.

And then Lena looks up and sees her standing there, Kara’s eyes glued to the picture Lena holds.

Lena doesn’t even try to make a move to hide it.

“Were you hoping I’d show up?” Kara asks timidly, daring to look up at Lena’s face.

It’s wishful thinking again maybe, but it’s all Kara has to cling to.

“No, I just—no,” is the answer Lena finally decides on, not making eye contact with Kara.

And then they’re in a stalemate. Lena looks too tired to fight, and Kara is too afraid to ruin the tenuous moment.

It’s not much of a moment.

But Lena’s right here.

She doesn’t want to scare her off.

But Kara is angry still.

“I just want to get a few things off my chest, if that’s okay. You don’t have to say anything. But I just need you to know.”

Lena keeps staring at the picture and won’t look Kara in the eyes, but she doesn’t leave.

“You make me so angry sometimes.”

This makes Lena look up, a confused, almost mad expression crossing her face. She looks like she’s about to interrupt Kara, but Kara doesn’t give her the chance.

“Sometimes I think you think you’re the only one who’s had this kind of trauma. I lost everything, Lena. Everything. My whole world was destroyed. I watched Krypton burn—and then I was expected to come here and take care of Kal. I was supposed to protect him, and I failed.”

Kara can’t help it as the tears come seemingly from nowhere and start trickling down her face, and her voice cracks.

“And I was stuck in the Phantom Zone for 24 years. I had to come here and make up for lost time and figure out Earth, and then save a world that never quite felt like home. Like I could try and make up for the loss or make sure what happened to me didn’t happen to billions of people.”

Lena’s eyes are filled with unshed tears too now as Kara’s voice gets louder.

She’s not yelling at Lena.

She doesn’t want to scare Lena.

But she yells for all the anger inside of her clawing its way out.

“I lost my family—Alex killed my aunt. I lost a clone of myself that your brother tried to train into a killing machine. I’ve had all these little pieces of home taken away from me, and at the end of it all, Lena, you’re the only one I ever really wanted to keep. And now I’ve lost you too.”

A sob escapes Lena, and now they’re both crying, broken fragments on this balcony, with no clue how to pick up the pieces.

“Lena, what I did was wrong, but there is so much about me you don’t know yet, and if you let me, I’d really like for you to get to know Kara Zor-El.”

Lena hasn’t said much of anything since Kara got here, and she continues to stay quiet, her face covered with her hand while she wills herself to stop crying.

“Please,” Kara pleads quietly.

“We’ve both lost so much.”

But all Lena does is shake her head and mumble “I can’t. I’m sorry,” through her sobs.

Kara’s wings melt, and she feels like she’s drowning.

 

//

 

Three days after Kara comes to visit her, Lena gets a text from Kelly asking her to meet her somewhere different for their next not-quite-official therapy session.

Lena groans when her driver pulls up to a wooded area that looks like some sort of retreat center and spots Kelly at the mouth of a road that leads right to a large ropes course. Her driver looks back at her to confirm that they’re not lost, and Lena just sighs and exits the vehicle.

Kelly greets her with a smile, and Lena spots a group of people in climbing gear setting up shop near a 25-foot vertical pole.

Oh, she is not…

“What are we doing here?”

Kelly holds up a waist and chest harness in each hand.

“It’s time you apply some of what we’ve been talking about.”

Lena hasn’t climbed in years, and even then, it was indoors, in a gym, as a summer hobby with Lex. Not scaling a wooden pole.

“By climbing?”

“Experiential work can be very powerful, Lena. We have our VR sets, but I thought we might try reality reality today.”

Lena agrees and starts re-familiarizing herself with the waist harness, only because she just sat through a thirty minute drive, and she knows that going back to the city at this time of day will only get her stuck in traffic.

It has nothing to do with the fact that she can’t think about anything else besides Kara showing up on her balcony the other night to continue pouring her heart out, and she needs a way to process that.

Nothing to do with that at all.

Lena and Kelly walk closer to the pole, and Kelly explains the full climb—up this ladder to where you can reach the staples on the poles, and then up the pole, then standing on the pole and jumping off of it to trust your belay team to lower you down safely.

Honestly, when Lena considers the several assassination attempts on her life, this feels like nothing.

“Remember, making it through the whole climb doesn’t mean its been successful. Just like not doing the whole climb doesn’t mean it was not successful.”

Lena fights the urge to roll her eyes.

“So what is success then?”

Kelly smirks and hands her a helmet.

“Finding meaning in the climb itself, Lena.”

Lena takes hold of the helmet and straps it on, adjusts it to make sure it fits properly. She introduces herself briefly to the rest of the belay team and has Kelly clip her in to the belay system. Lena takes a step back at stares straight up at the pole, how it starts wider at the base and narrows in size toward the top.

“What’s this climb about for you, Lena?”

Lena keeps staring skyward, and she thinks about how she could easily give Kelly a cookie cutter answer and tell her what she wants to hear.

She also doubts that Kelly would let her get away with it, as her ability to read Lena’s bullshit thus far has been pretty dead on.

It’s clear what this climb is about—Lena’s need to accept support from these people, to have to ask them for help, like Kelly’s explained to her is going to be necessary going forward in her life.

(Not just help like in business projects, Lena. Like real, genuine help from people who care about you, Kelly had added when Lena protested and said she’s definitely asked for help in her life.)

The climb is about Lena’s Achilles’ heel. About the one thing she can’t give to Kara again, not yet.

(But wants to.)

“Trust.”

Kelly smiles and nods. She walks Lena through the belay commands, and Lena begins a quick ascent up the ladder and starts reaching for the staples on the pole.

It’s an easy way up so far, and Lena keeps climbing quickly.

Kelly asks her to pause.

Lena supposes that climbing quickly and avoiding taking in the experience is probably exactly one of the points Kelly is trying to process.

“On a scale of one to ten, how afraid are you right now?” Kelly asks.

Lena looks around, looks down, and sees how far up she’s gotten. She’s only a few moves away from the top already.

Lena wonders if this is exactly the kind of metaphor Kelly was hoping for—that Lena has spent the past few years going going going—

Only to be forced to stop and realize she has no idea where or how to go from here.

“Like a five.”

Kelly takes it as a quick check-in and lets Lena keep climbing. Lena reaches up and feels her left foot slip. She curses under her breath but hangs on and feels both harnesses tighten against her body.

She thinks of begging Supergirl to drop her, to not save her. How Kara had begged her to keep climbing.

Climb, Lena!

Her breath hitches as she steps up again and reaches closer to the top.

Thinking about Kara is just going to make this harder.

But then again, she supposes that that’s probably part of the point of all this.

Lena tries to push through, but she’s shaking now as her torso comes even with the circular top of the pole she now has to try and stand on. She feels shaky and scared and this time, Kara isn’t here to make sure she doesn’t fall and die.

“Are you sure this is safe?” Lena yells down to Kelly.

Lena doesn’t look down, just looks out over the treetops and tries to hang on.

“Do you trust us?” she hears.

Lena’s not sure.

“Where’s your fear at now?”

Lena’s arms are burning now as she wraps her arms around the top of the pole. Her legs are twitching from the lack of movement. There’s still no Kara to come to her rescue.

She’s afraid she’s going to fall. She’s afraid she won’t make it to the top, and she has to make it to the top. She has to finish this.

“A nine. Maybe bordering on ten.”

“Are you remembering to breathe?”

No.

She’s not.

Lena pauses and closes her eyes for a moment, trusts that she can hold herself—more importantly, that maybe the belay system can too.

She takes a few deep breaths.

Lena wants to stand.

Lena wants to jump.

And it all clicks as she wills herself not to cry.

Kara is putting herself out there for her on the edge, and Lena has to take that leap across if they’re ever going to fix this.

She has to take a risk.

She has to trust.

She has to jump.

And she can start trying right now on this stupid fucking pole.

“Okay, how do I do this? How do I stand?”

Another member of the belay team offers some tips, and Lena starts by pushing one of her knees onto the top.

Lena’s left leg shakes as she pushes it up off the last staple and onto the top, as she braces her hands on her left knee, and pushes up.

And Lena stands, firmly planted on the top of the power pole. Her arms are outstretched as she balances, she’s not sure how her legs are still working properly, and she hears the cheers from the team below.

It’s freeing, she has to admit.

Lena’s pretty sure Kelly is asking her some follow-up questions, and she answers them somehow, but she’s too caught up in the adrenaline of being on top that she’s unable to give more than quick answers.

Kelly asks her if she’s ready to jump, and Lena figures she might as well.

Lena jumps off the pole and thinks of jumping off a cliff, falling off the L-Corp balcony, all the times that Kara has caught her.

Lena feels the tug of the chest and waist harness against her body and comes crashing back to reality as she’s lowered to the ground, realizing Kara isn’t going to catch her this time.

Lena’s feet his solid ground again as Kelly unclips her, and Lena shrugs out of the chest harness and tries to breathe.

“How was that?”

Lena collapses to the ground at the question.

She can’t keep the tears at bay anymore, and Kelly ushers her over to a more secluded part of the course.

Kelly sits her down on a makeshift chair that’s really just a tree stump.

“Are you okay?”

Lena takes off her sweaty helmet and tosses it to the ground, shaking her head and sniffling.

“No.”

The worst part is that Lena knows that Kelly is going to ask what’s wrong, and Lena doesn’t know where to start. Everything feels so wrong. Everything hurts. Everything felt better up on top, and now it just feels…wrong.

“Can I ask you something?”

Lena lets out a shaky breath and nods, staring at the grass.

“You identified that you were pretty scared up there.”

Lena just nods and is too focused on breathing properly to understand what direction Kelly is going to take with this.

“What’s something that scares you as much as that just did?”

Fuck.

Lena says the first thing that comes to her mind because she knows it’s the truth, and she’s still too high on adrenaline to be able to stop herself from saying it.

“Kara.”

“What about Kara?”

“Everything,” Lena chokes out.

 And then, because her brain hates her, Lena thinks back to a lunch date when she asked Kara what she knows about quantum entanglement.

The idea that two particles can be so linked that they can affect each other even at great distances.

It’s exactly what it feels like to love Kara. She can be on Lena’s balcony or nowhere around and still cause a reaction so strong it literally brings Lena to her knees.

Everything about Kara is terrifying to her.  

Because even if she forgives Kara, if she talks to her, and they work this out, what if she loses her again? What if Kara breaks her heart again? Betrays her? Or worse—what if she has to watch her be killed by something Lena can’t control?

What if Kara gave up on her after she came to see her? What if that was Kara’s last ditch effort?

“Losing her. Loving her. Getting her back again.”

“You’ve lost a lot of people, Lena. And you’ve always gotten through it.”

Kelly’s right.

“What’s different about Kara?”

Oh.

And Lena already knows.

Because even if they make it through all the what-ifs, there’s still one thing that holds Lena back.

Because she’s not sure that she can keep it to herself anymore.

What’s different about Kara is simple:

A basic fact.

The sky is blue. The grass is green. 1+1=2. Lena loves Kara.

Lena’s made the climb.

Now she has to jump.

 

//

 

It should come as no surprise to Kara that the overuse of her powers from crushing cinder blocks in her spare time juggled with using her powers to actual fight off threats plus the physical and emotional stress of grief leads to her blowing out her powers.

In the middle of a fight.

It comes on the tail-end of a showdown with another threat from Leviathan, when Kara feels the strain of it all catch up with her. Her heat vision gives out, so she tries to land a punch and instead gets blown out of the sky, the wind knocked out of her as she free falls into the ocean.

The last thought Kara has before passing out and crashing into the ocean is that she truly has flown too close to the sun.

When Kara is roused later by the steady beeping of a heart monitor and someone else’s sharp intake of breath above her, she slowly blinks her eyes open to bright lights and Lena Luthor’s awestruck face.

Kara figures she must be dreaming and closes her eyes again.  

She hears a softly whispered “Kara” that sounds too dream-like and too kind to be the real Lena. The real Lena wouldn’t even be here right now.

Until she feels a gentle hand press against her cheek, and Kara cracks her eyes open again to see Lena again, tearful and smiling and looking exhausted. 

Kara prays to Rao that this is real.

“Lena?” Kara croaks out.

Lena lets out a relieved laugh, and Kara feels Lena’s forehead press against hers, and she hopes she never wakes up from this dream.

Kara smiles lazily as she feels a gentle press of lips between her brows. She’s still not entirely sure this is real.

“What happened?” Kara mumbles.

She blinks several times to focus on her surroundings. She recognizes that she’s in the DEO med bay. Everything feels fuzzy, and the room spins when she tries to sit up in the bed.

Kara feels a hand against her shoulder press her back down.

Alex.

“She saved you.”

Alex sighs and brushes a few hairs out of Kara’s face.

“And now I’m going to leave you two alone to figure your shit out.”

In her dulled awareness, Kara still doesn’t miss the glare Alex gives Lena and the way Lena’s cheeks burn red as her sister walks away.

“I thought you—why did you—you saved me?”

Lena gives her a small smile and a look that’s nothing short of adoration.

“Dangerous saves are kind of our thing, right?”

And Kara remembers—the little inside joke from the Fortress, before it all went wrong.

Rao, they have so much to talk about. She doesn’t even know what happened still, or how Lena saved her, and is Lena okay—

“Lena—"

“Shh. You need to rest. We can talk later.”

Kara closes her eyes again to the feel of Lena’s hand combing through her hair.

Kara falls asleep and dreams of Lena.

It’s another few days before they speak again.

Kara is finally back home and has most of her strength back when Lena calls her. Much to Alex’s annoyance (“You’re not back up to full strength yet!”), Kara bursts out of the window before she can be stopped and lands softly on Lena’s balcony a few moments later.

“Hey.”

Lena is standing in the glow of the moonlight, nervously shifting back and forth on her bare feet.

“Hi.”

Kara can hear Lena’s heartbeat quicken, and she imagines that hers is about matching the same pace.

All Kara has thought about for the past few days is the phantom feel of Lena’s lips against her forehead and the tender look in her eyes when Kara woke up.

So maybe that’s a place to start.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s hope that Lena loves her too.

“I don’t even know where to start, Kara.”

Kara smiles sadly.

“Me neither.”

She takes a tentative step closer to Lena.

“But I think the important thing is that we do.”

Kara is still close to the other side of the balcony, but even from there, she can see Lena’s lip trembling when she shakes her head and replies, “I don’t want to lose you, Kara.”

Kara feels herself relax just a little bit because, Rao, that is a perfectly acceptable place to start.

“I’m sorry for acting out of hurt. I never wanted to physically harm you—"

“Just emotionally.”

Kara doesn’t say it rudely. Just that it is what it is, the same way she tried to explain to everyone around her that Lena’s been acting out of hurt this whole time, that Kara just wants to fix it.

That they’re not too far gone.

“Everything I shared with you: all the speeches, all the yelling, all the pain. I wanted you to fight for me.”

Kara’s chest tightens, and it feels like she and Lena are edging dangerously close to the precipice of something big and terrifying, and Kara is internally begging them not to crash.

“Lena—"

“I told myself everything about you and I was a lie, but I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted you to make me reconsider. It was a misguided cry for help, and I just…I’m sorry, Kara.”

Kara takes a few steps closer.

“I could never give up on you.”

Lena’s lip continues to tremble as she smiles, and Kara has to restrain herself from reaching out and wrapping Lena up and never letting go.

Not yet.

“I don’t understand why. You deserve someone with way less baggage and unhealthy coping skills than me.”

Kara doesn’t know the exact moment she fell in love with Lena.

She can’t tell you the day or the seemingly trivial moment that seemed to change everything. Kara thinks of it as a sequence, a bunch of little things all added up. Somewhere along the lines, she realized that her life was divided not into before becoming Supergirl and after, and less before and after coming to Earth, and mostly before and after meeting Lena.

Kara’s felt it for awhile, longer than she’d like to admit, and maybe that’s why she can’t quite pinpoint it either.

Kara just knows that somewhere in between the lunches and late nights at L-Corp and saving her life multiple times as Supergirl and nearly losing her too many times to count, all the jealousy she tried to hold down while Lena dated other people, all the spin classes and kombucha and even eating kale for her, Kara finally acknowledged that she loves her.

“I don’t want anyone else.”

Kara doesn’t mean for it to come out like that, and she’s not sure that Lena gets the full meaning—that Kara wants her—but its enough for Lena to be the one to take a step closer to Kara this time.

“You care so deeply about people, and I hate that people’s mistakes, that my mistakes, have made it so difficult for you to do that. You’re so good, Lena. You are smart and thoughtful and brilliant in so many ways. And I’m so sorry that the world has made you feel like you’re not. And yeah, maybe some of your attempts at making the world a better place were a little misguided, but who isn’t sometimes? I’ve been misguided too. I convinced myself I was protecting you by lying to you.”

And for the first time, when Kara brings up how misguided they’ve both been in how they’ve chosen to handle things, Lena’s lips quirk into a smile. She doesn’t cry or yell or have that pained look on her face.

She looks like she’s ready to acknowledge both of their mistakes as just that.

And maybe move forward.

“So maybe if we stopped trying to do this alone and without each other…”

Kara trails off and takes a hopeful step forward.

Lena doesn’t back away, and now they’re about arms length apart.

It’s the closest Kara has been to her in weeks, and this time, when Kara comes up for air, she doesn’t feel like she’s pushed back under.

“A Luthor and a Super, who would have thought?” Lena whispers.

Kara smiles again and launches into the next part of her speech.

She has this all planned. It’s going to go well this time.

She wants Lena to know Kara Zor-El.

“El mayarah,” Kara says plainly.

Lena cocks her head in confusion and then down at the crest on Kara’s suit when she points to it.

“It’s Kryptonian for stronger together. It’s the House of El family motto.”

This time, Lena steps into Kara’s space.

She nearly blasts off the balcony on accident when Lena reaches out a hand and traces right over the S on Kara’s chest.

And then Lena doesn’t pull back but instead, presses the palm of her hand against Kara’s heart and looks up nervously.

Kara hopes so badly that Lena’s trying to say the same things Kara wants to.

The ground hand on Kara’s heart and that hope are just enough to push Kara over and let her next words tumble out.

“You know, there’s one more secret I’ve been keeping from you,” Kara whispers.

Kara knows she has an out here. She can think of something else to say, call an audible, turn around, pump the brakes.

Instead, Kara cuts the brake lines.

“And I know I just got you back, but… I need to be honest with you.”

Lena doesn’t move, and Kara places a shaking hand over the one on her heart, wrapping her fingers around Lena’s.

“Lena, I was ready to risk the fate of the whole world just to get through to you. Because, in my head, none of it was as important as the fact that my whole world was already falling apart. And in the Fortress? When you left me there, I didn’t even want to fight it. I just stood there and took it, and I just wanted to die because the biggest mistake of my life is how I’ve handled all this. I’ve lost so much, and I don’t want to lose you too, and I might after I say this but Lena, I love you, and there is nothing in this universe or any other universe that could stop me from protecting you.”

Kara wills herself to look in Lena’s eyes as she says it because at the very least, she owes her that. She owes her honesty after all she’s put Lena through, and she deserves to be looked in the eye.

The hand on her chest grips into the fabric of Kara’s suit, and she doesn’t miss the small gasp in Lena’s throat when Kara tells her she loves her.

Kara pauses and lets the words sink in.

Lena’s face is unreadable, and the silence that falls once Kara is done is too much. What’s probably five seconds but feels like minutes is unbearable, and Kara wonders if she’s made another terrible mistake.

“And if you don’t feel the same, I completely understand. But I can’t move forward without you knowing—”

Lena swallows the rest of Kara’s words with her lips.

It all happens so quickly—Lena’s hand wrenching away from her chest and then joining her other one to grab her face and crash against Kara—that Kara doesn’t really react.

It’s sensory overload, and Lena’s lips are so soft, even just pressed against her mouth while Kara anchors herself with her hands on Lena’s hips.

Lena pulls back and must see the stunned look on Kara’s face and she smiles and searches her eyes for signs that Kara is processing even half of what is happening.

“I love you.”

Lena says it so earnestly that Kara wonders how she ever could have believed anything contrary. And then Lena is closing the gap between them again, and this time Kara kisses back.

Kara pulls her closer by the hips and kisses Lena with a hunger that’s sat quietly stewing in her body for months, maybe years—never allowing herself to think this far ahead, never letting her mind wander here for very long if she could help it.

The real thing is so much better anyway.

Kara takes Lena’s bottom lip and grazes her teeth against it. Lena lets out a sound that Kara wants to hear a thousand more times and suddenly turns them and walks them backward to press Lena up against the balcony door. She’s careful to keep a gentle strength about her, to convey to Lena how desperately she’s wanted this, how she wants to kiss her with an urgency that comes from the slow burn of longing for her for such a long time, while being mindful of her superhuman strength.

Kara’s mouth leaves Lena’s lips to kiss a trail from her cheek to her jawline and down her neck. Lena’s hands take purchase on Kara’s shoulders, gripping tightly and digging her nails in as Kara easily lifts her up.

“Fuck, Kara,” Lena mumbles as her legs wrap around Kara, and Kara’s hands grab Lena’s ass.

Lena moans and reaches blindly for the handle of the door in Kara’s arms, and Kara has to slow down and remind herself that now is not the time to just bust through Lena’s door.

Lena finally pushes it open, all while Kara is kissing across her collarbone, and then Lena kisses her soundly on the lips once before insisting on peppering Kara’s neck with her lips and licking a line back up when she’s done.

Kara lets out a low, rumbling sigh and is stumbling through the threshold to Lena’s bedroom in seconds.

Kara wastes no time laying Lena down on her bed, and then, as Kara looms over her, Lena’s arms circled around her neck, the full weight of what’s happening hits her because wow wow wow Lena looks so beautiful and she’s in Lena’s bedroom and they’re kissing and maybe they should slow down or talk more or—

“Is this okay?” Kara asks carefully.

Lena looks up at her with a devilish grin.

“This is more than okay. Amazing. Perfect. Wonderful.”

Kara laughs shyly, and she wonders why she’s not as nervous as she thinks she should be.

But then she remembers this is Lena.

And loving Lena has always come so easily, even when it takes on new forms.

“Are you sure you don’t want to…talk anymore?”

Lena throws her head back and sighs dramatically, then leans up to kiss Kara’s nose.

“Haven’t you heard enough of my speeches?”

Lena kisses her forehead and mumbles an I love you against her skin.

It’s all so new and so much and it all feels so right.

“Besides,” Lena whispers against the shell of Kara’s ear. “I’ve been told an experiential approach can be very powerful.”

They don’t talk much for awhile after that, aside from Lena’s moans and some initial directing Kara, who very quickly learns all the places Lena likes to be touched, and works on finding more on her own.

(Hours later, when they’re exhausted but still lying awake, Kara does make sure to call Lena out for using such a cheesy line on her. Lena responds by pinning Kara to the bed—Kara lets her—and going down on her.)

Kara wakes the next morning to a bed that’s not her own and the hot feel of someone else’s back against her front, her arm draped around a waist.

When Lena turns in her arms and bites her lip to try (and fail) to hold back a smile, when Lena whispers “good morning” in a voice rough from sleep and crying out as Kara made her come, when Lena leans forward and kisses her gently, Kara is reminded of the things she knows to be true.

The sky is blue. The grass is green. 1+1=2. Kara loves Lena.

Lena loves her back.

And Lena feels like home.