Lena shivered and plastered herself closer into Kara’s side, grumbling in annoyance when her bony elbow jabbed into her ribs.
“C’mon, Kara, move your arm, I’m cold .”
Her best friend huffed but did as she asked, her nose scrunching as Lena jostled her to get closer. Their breath fogged out in front of them in the cold night air that burned their nostrils and chilled their lungs.
“ Maybe you should have worn a heavier coat.” She quipped in her lilting accent.
Lena rolled her eyes and pushed her own glasses further up onto her nose. “Yeah, well, not all of us are powered by the sun.”
“You’re lucky I don’t have a test tomorrow. I would go home right now.”
“But you just got here.” Lena whined, curling her hands around the arm that she had fussed at Kara to move.
She felt her quiet laughter in her shoulder and huffed.
“You’re an ass .”
Kara laughed brightly, only to be immediately shushed. “ Stoppit . Veronica will hear us and I’ll get detention again .”
“I told you to room with Andrea.”
Lena huffed an I know and smooshed her cheek into the fleece of Kara’s jacket.
They finally fell still and studied the stars that dared to shine through the clouds over the outskirts of Metropolis. The shingles of the roof of Lena’s snotty boarding school were uncomfortably hard and chilly even through the folded up spare blanket she had pilfered from the linen closet. She curled into her best friend and started talking about the latest science equations she was going over in her advanced organic chemistry course. Or rather, complaining that they were too easy. Kara listened quietly and commiserated with her, sharing her woes of her most recent lessons and how she had to force herself to make it look like she wasn’t smarter than some of NASA’s brightest. That was something that Lena could relate to. She was already telling institutions to leave her alone and couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have to hide her love for science away. It was how they had become friends in the first place.
Lena had met Kara at an IV League sponsored summer program a couple years ago when they were both thirteen. Or in Kara’s case, looked thirteen. She had been incredibly quiet and struggled with her accent, often choosing not to speak at all. Lena hadn’t really paid her any attention the first two weeks, but one day she caught Kara frowning at something an instructor had said. It was supposedly an unsolvable equation but the quiet girl’s reaction had made Lena incredibly curious. Nosey , Lillian would say. They were given print outs of the equation and told they could use their free time during the rest of their six weeks to try and solve it.
It wasn’t until later that evening when Lena watched Kara scribble out an entire page of half-coherent numbers and letters, fold the paper in half, and stuff it into the back of her daily journal that she worked up the courage to talk to her.
“ Aren’t you going to even try to solve it ?” She had asked.
Kara had looked at her, looked around the room, and then, “ Can you keep a secret ?”
Lena had learned that it was in fact solvable, but not by any math on earth. They had become fast friends after that, teaming up when the chances were offered and blowing away the competition with goofy grins. Lena had learned that Kara was an alien and Lena told her that she could sometimes get weird twinges about how people were feeling, which wasn’t something she had ever told anyone. Two little girls from two lost worlds who didn’t quite fit in. They were two peas in a pod.
Their friendship had continued across the continent, fueled through lengthy msn chats and real paper letters, something that Lena did with Kara because her friend loved the personal feeling of a paper letter. They spent each consecutive summer together at the same camp, growing closer and challenging each other when they got bored, and just generally learned how to be a kid out from under the protective eyes of their strict guardians. When they were thirteen and a half Lena started asking Kara about where she had come from. If she wanted , of course. There was, like, totally no pressure. But Kara had leapt at the chance, teary-eyed and wistful as she told Lena about an amber planet that was nothing but dust amongst the stars. When they were fourteen Lena asked Kara if it was okay to learn Kryptonian because you’re my best friend and I wanna help you feel better . Her friend had cried a little but had said yes of course just as quickly.
Now they were fifteen and still closer than ever. Lena had jokingly told Kara that she would die for her, but deep down she knew it wasn’t really a joke. They were best friends. Kara always brought out the best in her, she was always fun, and she always had a challenge for Lena. And Lena liked challenges. Learning about Krypton was a challenge, as was learning to try to form sounds in her throat that were nearly impossible for human vocal cords. Maintaining their friendship while hiding the fact that Kara was An Alien from her family was the biggest challenge she had faced yet.
“So what’s wrong?” Kara finally asked. “It’s two in the morning.”
Lena sighed and hid her face into Kara’s shoulder with a frown. “Lex called me today.”
“Did he say something to you again about his model cars? You know it wasn’t our fault, the shelf gave away on its own.”
“No, it wasn’t that.”
“Did you call him baldy again?”
Lena almost laughed.
“No, he… said something really mean. About aliens. It was really scary. Something was… something wasn’t right. He hadn’t sounded so angry before.”
Kara stilled next to her. “You know he can’t hurt me.”
“But what if he tries ?” Lena sat up and stared at the side of Kara’s head. “What if he does ?”
Her best friend turned and took her closest hand. She was almost uncomfortably warm in the cold night. It felt like Lena had stuck her hand into a bath of hot water. Kara’s eyes were bright and wide in the moonlight, earnestly stubborn.
“He won’t .”
Lena wanted to believe her. She gripped tightly at Kara’s hand with both of hers, feeling frightened to the point of tears.
“If he comes after you, I want you to run. I don’t want him to hurt you.”
“If you run, I can find you. Promise me? Please?”
Kara pressed her lips together with a sigh. Lena knew what she was asking was a lot.
“Kara, please ?”
“ Fine . Fine. I’ll be safe.” She crumbled under Lena’s begging.
Lena slumped forward and bonked her head into Kara’s shoulder. “ Thank you.”
She felt Kara huff against her and they settled again. “Tell me something so I stop thinking about this please?”
Kara hummed in her chest and started talking. There was no particular subject at first, but it easily swayed to Krypton and they fell into the routine of Lena asking about subjects they hadn’t talked about yet. And because it was on her mind, Kara talked to her about death and how Kryptonians treated it. She told her how the family would mourn in silence for eleven days, one day for each of the tiv girod , the Kryptonian virtues of Rao. Lena was already familiar with the virtues, but hadn’t known they were deeply woven into mourning as well, though she should have guessed. Kara told her each day would end with a prayer of remembrance and a celebration of how the individual reflected that day’s virtue in their life. A family member would always sit with the body, so then even in death they were not abandoned. If there was no family, friends would volunteer. If there were no friends, priests and priestesses of Rao would sit with them. Even criminals were afforded this forgiveness, because no matter what that individual had done, they were still a child of Rao.
“What if there’s no body?” Lena whispered.
Kara slumped beside her. “A simple candle will do. As long as you are thinking of them, their soul is not alone.”
Lena was quiet for a moment, trying to decided if she should ask the question she was sure would make Kara sad, but she didn’t have to wait when Kara started talking again.
“The scariest thing when I first came here, besides losing everyone, was the culture shock. I remember panicking because i needed to sit the days of the tiv girod for my family but I couldn’t speak english to explain. And Clark,” She said his name bitterly. “-left me behind. My only living family. But Eliza helped me. She found me some candles and a paper and pencil so I could writer down the prayers for each day so I wouldn’t forget them.”
“Did she sit with you?”
Kara nodded. “When she could… She was very understanding.”
“I’ll try to sit with you. Next time. Promise. Hopefully next time is a really long time.”
Kara sniffled in the dark next to her and croaked out a thank you . Lena tightened her hold on Kara’s hand and decided it was time to change the subject.
“So like. Opposite of death is life, obviously. You’ve already told me you’re a pod people-”
“ Hey !”
“-so, like. What about marriage? It must be pretty uptight too since Kryptonians apparently don’t fu-”
“ Clark’s parents did.” Kara defended heatedly, and then slapped her hand over her face. “Oh, gross . Why did you make me remember that?”
They fussed at each other for a long moment, Lena teasing and Kara red faced as she tried not to think about her aunt and uncle like that . It worked in distracting them from Lex’s troubling words and Kara’s homesickness and she told Lena about how Kryptonians had originally courted like humans, but then had relied upon being matched by a machine based upon what each individual was seeking. Then she told her how the couples would craft unique wedding bracelets and pledge themselves to the other while standing on the Jewel of Honor in the Palace of Marriage. Lena had snickered at the names. Kara rolled her eyes and said they sound more regal in Kryptonian, it’s not my fault english is a childish language . Then she told her how busts of the parents would stand sentinel outside of the chamber during the ceremony, and how each prayer would begin with Rao, who kindled the sun . She told her how after the matching machine had to be destroyed because it grew sentient and began to cause harm Kryptonians were still fearful and treated marriage more like a business agreement. Like her own parents had, but even then they had grown into some kind of love for each other.
Lena was glad that Kara had been okay enough to tell her about those two spectrums of Kryptonian life. For some strange niggling reason, she felt like she wouldn’t get a lot more chances to do so. After Kara had finished telling her about divorce rates on Krypton they meandered back into their every day lives, including the woes of feeling like they were supposed to date. Lena griped about how she couldn’t even bear to think about dating with her last name. Kara mourned that she would have to keep her alien side hidden. Such were the complaints of young teens who unfortunately had a bit more baggage than everyone else. Because dating was going to suck .
Lena kicked her legs out in front of her with a groan, finally feeling her day catching up to her. Kara copied her and Lena stared at their shoes for a long moment. Well worn tennis shoes for Kara, and hers a pair of well-loved chucks that she had snuck in under Lillian’s nose.
“How about this? If we aren’t married by thirty, we marry each other. We’re already best friends, we’ll just be living together. Maybe I can finally get a dog.”
Kara laughed and knocked their toes together. “Okay. A pact then.”
“Sure, why not. A marriage pact.” Lena wiggled her hand out of Kara’s grasp and held it out, the back of it pressing against the outside of Kara’s blanket-covered knee. “Shake on it?”
Kara slipped her hand into hers and shook once in a solid pump. “Deal.”
They wormed their way back under the blanket, and then Kara straightened up. “Wait-”
“We already shook!”
“I know, I know, but… Does shaking make it permanent?”
Lena shrugged, feeling sleepy. “I dunno. I suppose it can. But it’s just a hand shake, Kara.”
Kara stared quietly at her for a long moment, and then settled back in with her again as they looked out at Metropolis.
The years scrolled by and they stayed inseparable.
They still spent their summers together, Kara still visited when she could, they upgraded from msn to video chatting, and from paper letters to care packages. Kara gradually lost her accent but Lena could still hear it sometimes when she was sleepy. School was still boring in its tedium. Dating still sucked. Kara broke her first boyfriend’s nose on accident when she tried to kiss him, Lena dumped hers when she found out he was only dating her for popularity. They both had a major freak out when they both confessed that maybe they also liked girls too one night at science camp when they were seventeen. Of course then they had to play hot or not with their favorite celebrities, all of their favorite celebrities. Kara had suggested the mash game but Lena threatened to chuck her calculator out of the dormitory window. Not that Kara needed the calculator or that Lena would actually do it , but it was just the fact of an empty threat that made her say just kidding .
That new knowledge they had about the other had made them practically insufferable for the rest of the summer. But also maybe Lena realized that the annoying swoops she would get in her stomach when she looked at Kara sometimes made sense now. And maybe by the end of the summer she had started holding onto her hand a little longer than was appropriate.
And maybe she kinda wanted to kiss Kara too.
That was a little scary to realize, truth be told. But it wasn’t one sided, and Kara definitely had grown more affectionate towards her in the past year. She hadn’t dated anyone either after the whole broken nose fiasco, making flimsy excuses for being too busy with school or saying she liked spending time with Alex and Lena more. Lena had seen her looking at her that summer when she thought she wasn’t paying attention. She knew what it meant because that was the same way she was looking at Kara. They didn’t talk about it and the school year started back up and Kara was sucked into her very boring senior year. Lena had already been pushed into college early and was starting her third year of undergrad, wishing that all she had to worry about were tests and if she had packed deodorant for PE class and just being a normal girl. Her advanced biochemistry courses and her last name destroyed that wish and Lena kept her head down, often working til she was exhausted and whining at Kara over skype. When she was particularly grumpy Kara would vanish for about an hour and show up tapping on the glass of her dorm window, rosy cheeked and windswept and that swooping sensation in her stomach robbed the strength from her knees. It didn’t help her situation that Kara had grown from a timid little girl into a slender athletic young woman with a blinding smile and jawline that she couldn’t stop staring at. Her best friend was very pretty, but her crush made it even worse .
Lena had been planning on telling Kara her feelings for a solid two months… and then Lex tried to kill Superman.
It was as if Lena had been picked up and dropped into a hurricane.
One moment she was in the library blushing over a text from Kara, and then the next moment men in black suits with FBI badges were surrounding her and telling her to pack up and leave with them. They had confiscated her phone and laptop right there at the table as other students watched her flounder for answers. The next hour was a blur and she was blinking against the bright lights of an interrogation room with a sick feeling in her chest. She had thrown up in the trash can an hour later when they finally relented their questioning and told her that Lex had blown up an entire block of downtown Metropolis, killing well over a hundred people and injuring many more. A block with a heavy alien population. Lena was suddenly very fearful for Kara.
They had held her overnight, still trying to weasel information out of her until she was too numb to talk and just wanted to cry. She had told them of the things he had said, but Lena never thought that he would be capable of physically hurting another person. Much less line a block of apartment buildings with dirty bombs as a lure to draw out Superman and attempt to kill him. Lex had failed, thankfully, but Lena knew how damaging and deadly kryptonite could be. Now she was related to a domestic terrorist with a high body count. A domestic terrorist who had tried to murder one of earth’s defenders. And now people would lump her in with him because they shared blood and a name. But the worst thing was that Lena felt like she had failed to stop him, even though she couldn’t have had any clue on his plans.
Maybe her guilt stemmed from the fact that she still loved her brother, even though he had broken her heart? She felt lost.
They had also asked her about Kara, if only because she was the only person that Lena was in constant contact with other than her classmates and university staff. The only time Lena ever lied during her initial interrogation (and the investigation at large) was about Kara’s status as an alien. To the FBI, Kara Danvers was just another human girl that poor Lena Luthor had befriended and fallen in love with.
The team of the Luthor family lawyers had collected her at seven twenty-three in the morning. Lillian wasn’t with them. Lena’s phone and laptop were returned to her, and she knew physically that they hadn’t been damaged, but Lena felt incredibly violated. She had shoved them in her bag and tried not to think about how they had looked into her personal conversations with Kara. The ride to the estate had been silent and Lena made them pull over half way there to throw up again on the side of the road. One of the lawyers had offered her a mint, his stony face cracking for just a moment in pity. There were news crews from national to local stations and paparazzi lining the gate when they arrived. Lena hid her face from the cameras with her biochemistry textbook.
Lillian hadn’t greeted her when she was ushered inside the manor. Lena didn’t see her until she was sat down in Lionel’s old study with all of their available lawyers. Lillian didn’t speak to her the entire day. They were drilled on how to talk to the press, what they should say in the trials that were sure to come, and who they couldn’t talk to outside of that room. It was easier to remember who Lena could talk to instead. The list was not long. Through it all, she was still worried about her classes. It was a funny thing to fixate on, but she couldn’t help it. Arrangements were made and Lena continued her coursework from the safety of the Luthor Mansion on a specially provided laptop from the FBI. She sat for her midterms in the guest dining room. And Lena missed Kara.
Kara, bless her, hadn’t tried to talk to her or visit. Or maybe she hated Lena now? Her brother had nearly killed her cousin. Her brother had murdered nearly a hundred and forty-seven human and alien residents of the United States. Lena wouldn’t blame Kara if she never spoke to her again, which made the ache of her crush in her chest that much more unbearable. Still, she wanted to reach out to her if only to let her know that she was okay and that she was so sorry. Her chance came when she slipped her guard for no more than three minutes and dialed the Danvers residence on a payphone.
“ This is Eliza .”
Lena glanced at her watch, nervously calculating how much time she had left. “Mrs. Danvers, is Kara home?”
“ She is-may I ask who’s call -”
“ Lena ?”
The warm sound of Kara’s worried voice crackled through on the receiver and her heart leapt into her throat.
“ Lena, are you okay? Why haven’t you called? Are you in trouble? Is- ”
Kara didn’t hate her.
She sounded like she was close to tears with worry. But Lena didn’t have a lot of time and cut her off even if her voice was the most welcome sound she had heard in nearly two months.
“I’m safe, I promise. I just wanted to tell you I’m okay. Kara, I’m so sorry.”
“ Nononono, it wasn’t your fault. I know you didn’t have anything to do with it. Lena, can I -”
“ NO . No, you need to stay away. It’s not safe.”
“ For how long ?”
The question broke her heart.
“I don’t know. Maybe forever. But-”
She could hear men shouting, her security detail assigned by the FBI. She was out of time.
“-I have to go.”
“ Lena! ”
“I’m sorry, Kara. I have to go.”
“ Lena, wait -”
She slammed the phone down onto the hook and ran to a nearby bench, arranging herself to look like she had just been sitting there trying to find some quiet. The men had found her a moment later, furious, but not as furious as Lillian was when she had found out she had run off. Lena took the temporary house arrest without complaint, it hurt far less than Kara’s pleading wail of wait that played on a loop in her head.
The holidays were bleak.
Lillian still refused to speak to her and the trials against Lex began on the last day of January. Lena had hid in her room away from her step mother’s screams of anger about due process as the United States government pushed forward quickly in their search for justice. When she was called to the stand to testify Lena looked her brother in the eye and answered every question the prosecuting lawyer hurled at her with a cold detachment.
“Lex is my brother, and I still love him, but he hurt and killed a lot of people. No one person is above the law, no matter their personal beliefs.”
“When would you say that Mr. Luthor started voicing anti-alien rhetoric?”
“After father died.”
“So… quite a while then. If you had to say, when did he start pursuing an active attempt on Superman’s life?”
Lena swallowed thickly, ignoring the warning look from Lillian. “I don’t know. I just know that he hated him.”
“Why do you think Mr. Luthor hates Superman?”
“Objection, leading the witness-”
The lawyer huffed through his nose and tried again.
“Is there a factual reason for Mr. Luthor to feel threatened by Superman?”
Lena could have heard a pin drop in the courtroom. She could feel her heart hammering painfully in her chest as the prosecutor presented one of the topics that she had been advised to talk around. But all she could think of was Kara and her bright blue eyes and her sunny smile.
“Besides being an alien, Superman is a good person. Lex is afraid of what he doesn’t understand.”
The courtroom erupted and Lex had to be escorted from the room when he wouldn’t stop screaming at Lena.
Traitor. Alien lover. You’re no sister of mine.
The questioning had continued after order had been restored, and the lawyer was still firm in his wording but something had shifted. Lena Luthor had turned against her own family.
The trials lasted for nearly two months and Lena was called to the stand for cross examination but she didn’t back down. The Luthor lawyers had switched their game plan much to Lillian’s distaste, pinning the fate of the Luthor name on Lena since Lex was beyond saving. When the jury convicted him guilty on all counts of murder and terrorism Lena had to physically fight to stay standing. She knew it was the right thing to do even though it meant she would never see him again and she would never gain Lillian’s favor.
Lena was truly the black sheep of the family now.
Somehow Lena managed to stay at the top of her classes and finished her third year in flying colors from the isolation of the Luthor Manor. In the fall she had the choice to return to the campus again, and Lena moved out as quick as she could. She found an apartment in downtown Metropolis and moved in three weeks after Lex was convicted, discreetly secured her inheritance and assets so Lillian couldn’t touch them anymore, and kept to herself.
She dreamt often about Kara. She missed her.
But it was still safer that she stay away. The last thing Lena wanted was for her to get hurt. The summer started and Lena focused on her new internship, having finally grown out of the summer program she had attended for the past seven years. Not being with other peers her age excited about anything and everything science was, for lack of a better word, depressing. She was given a wide berth at her internship, and even her supervisors barely talked to her if only to assign her to tasks. The FBI stopped hounding her though Lena knew they were still out there watching her every move. She brushed up on her coding and started carefully locking down her data, building in fail safes to protect herself. Everything was carefully put in order and even though she could go out and about, Lena still felt like a lonely prisoner inside of a world that didn’t want her.
She threw herself into her work, she forgot to eat and didn’t sleep much. By the end of July she was pretty sure that her blood was mostly caffeine. The very caffeine that was splattered on the linoleum of her kitchen floor from her shattered mug she had dropped in shock.
Kara was standing on her fire escape.
Lena blinked a few times, unsure that the Lara before her simply wasn’t a vision. The windows were cracked open and she heard the soft,
She was real .
Lena leapt over the mess on her floor and crashed into Kara as soon as she slipped into the apartment. She was warm and solid and so so real against her and Lena started to cry, pressing her face into the crook of her best friend’s neck. She smelled like fresh air and metallic ozone.
“I know you told me to stay away but I missed you so much .”
Lena could hear the tears in Kara’s voice and held her tighter, trying to commit her to memory. She had almost forgotten what Kara’s hugs felt like. And then she remembered why she had almost forgotten.
“Kara, it isn’t safe for you to be here.” She managed to say, and pried herself almost out of Kara’s arms.
She finally looked at her and nearly crumbled. The love in Kara’s expression was insurmountable, and she knew it was reflected in her own. What a pitiful situation.
“I know, I’m sorry.”
Lena swallowed against the burn of tears, even though they had already cut tracks down her cheeks.
“You shouldn’t be here . Being around me is dangerous.” She gasped against the heartbreak.
“You need to leave.”
“But I just got here-“
“I know, but you need to leave -”
“ No .”
Lena froze. Kara had taken her by the elbows and nearly shouted. She had never raised her voice in dissent like that before. Or at least not where Lena could hear her. And certainly never in Kryptonian. It made it hurt all the more when Lena knew what she had to say.
“Kara, they’re still watching me. I don’t know when they’ll stop watching me, if ever.”
She watched with a sick feeling as Kara’s face fell. “What are you saying?”
“That… maybe one day we can be friends again.”
Kara’s face twisted and Lena curled her fists tighter into her shirt against her ribs. She could feel Kara’s breath hitch painfully against her hands.
“One day. But not now. Not for a long while.”
Kara bowed her head and Lena could feel her struggling to hold herself together for a long moment. She hated herself for what she was asking but it was the only way she knew how to protect her best friend.
“Can I stay here for a little bit? To say goodbye?”
Lena almost hadn’t heard her, but she pulled her into a bone crushing hug. “Just a little bit.”
Kara held her close and cried, her hands flat and greedy against her back. Lena let her hold her for a long moment as the cold emotion of the moment but everything into perspective. She was pushing her best friend away. The best friend she had unfortunately fallen in love with.
When they caught their breath Kara pulled back just enough to look at her. Her eyes were sad, but understanding. Warm hands slid up to cradle her face and thumb away her tears and Kara was looking at her with a new heavy look, her eyes dropping to Lena’s mouth. She knew what what going to happen and it made her heart break all over again as she clung desperately to Kara’s wrists.
“ Don’t do that. It’s not fair .” She croaked.
Kara leaned in anyways and paused just close enough to let the tip of her nose brush against hers.
It wasn’t fair .
Lena surged forward and kissed her.
When she woke up the next morning her bed was cold, the mess in the kitchen had been cleaned up, and Kara was gone.
Lena didn’t see Kara again for a long time, but she kept tabs on her.
While she finished up her last year of undergrad and blew through her Master’s into her PhD, Kara graduated from National City University with top marks in journalism and began working at CatCo Worldwide Media as Cat Grant’s assistant. As Lena was building her real work experience in the Labs at Luthorcorp, Lillian was removed from acting head of the conglomerate by the Board when she started pushing into the same anti-alien fear mongering behaviors that aligned with Lex’s. The company fell into Lena’s very unprepared hands and Supergirl stepped into the world’s spotlight. Kara was beautiful and brave and nobel and wonderful as Supergirl. Lena loved her all the more.
In the best interest of the company, Lena acted as the public figure head on paper while she continued to put her degrees to use. It had been her one stipulation when she accepted the offer. Let her get to work, get to know her employees, and then when she was older she would step in as chief executive officer. She became the head of the Luthorcorp research and development divisions and Kara lifted an entire Kryptonian prison into orbit. Lena made progress on nanotechnology and had a weird disappointing fling with a friend and colleague Jack Spheer whom she did like to a degree, and Kara became the woman of steel when Superman retired. Lena had sent Clark and Lois a personal written congratulations on the birth of their first son. She got a sterile polite ten word response. Lena found a picture of Kara as Alex’s maid of honor, standing with James Olsen as they watched their sisters dance. Kelly Olsen was a beautiful woman and Lena was jealous that Kara got to know her. The jealousy didn’t last long and Lena printed and folded the picture to only show Kara. She pinned it to the cork board in her home laboratory.
Lena turned thirty and was promptly elevated to CEO of Luthorcorp. It was cold, thankless, and Lena hated it but she was finally in a position of power to start changing things. Two months later she saw Kara shaking hands with Wonder Woman on the news reel, the headline A New Super In The League scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Lena kept her head down, stayed out of the press, and a little over a year later Luthorcorp was now L-Corp. Two years later at thirty-three Lena had steered L-Corp completely away from weapons manufacturing and had brought in new clients for medical advancements. And then Kara won a Pulitzer for an article on exposing a massive alien civil rights violation spurned on by, who else, Lex . Lena discreetly directed funds and legal assistance to those affected and ignored the suspicions and death threats that flooded L-Corp’s phone lines for weeks . Just a few months later Lena learned that Kara was now the head of the Justice League when Wonder Woman left of intergalactic business.
They had both accomplished so much on their own, but Lena mourned that she didn’t get to share any of it with Kara. Especially since now at thirty-five, L-Corp was moving impressively towards concepts of zero-emission travel and using nanobots in medical fields to fight against inoperable growths or sudden trauma treatments. She made up with Jack and now held him as a close friend after talking him down from a foolhardy self experimentation. But he was nothing more than that. Lena’s heart was still safely in Kara’s hands.
They day finally came for Lena to see Kara again and she was close to panicking in her hotel bathroom.
She wasn’t ready.
She was , but also she really wasn’t .
She didn’t know who Kara was anymore. Of course, that was her own fault. She had pushed them apart, which had probably been one of the smarter things she had done, and she missed nearly seventeen years of life experiences.
Seventeen years .
Lena gulped down air against the swirl of sickening heat in her chest. Her grip on the edge of the sink basin was nearly painful and she stared down her pallid reflection. She didn’t have to talk to Kara, she just had to be in the same room with her for a few hours. Maybe being in close proximity would help ease some of the anxiety that was threatening to make her think about skipping the event altogether. But that would be cowardly and unprofessional. She was attending this Green Summit gala as a representative of the world’s leading pioneers. Lena couldn’t play hookie no matter how badly she wanted to.
“ Okay . Get it together , Lena.”
She sucked in a deep breath, held it until her lungs burned, and then let it go in a slow hiss. Lena gathered herself and returned to her stylist to finish getting ready, slipping into one of her more sleek floor length gowns, silky deep green with long sleeves and a low narrow v neckline. Her hair was combed out straight one last time and her makeup touched up and soon enough, Lena was stepping into her heels and tucking her clutch under her arm as she left the room. The gala and seated meal that evening were the welcome event to a week-long conference. Her strongest test of will was to get through this evening. Lena knew for a fact that the rest of the week would be a walk in the park. She just had to get over this hurdle tonight.
Her ride to the event was a sleek electric car that navigated the Parisian streets with ease. The pre-event happy hour was already in full swing by the time she got there and she slipped into the crowd. It was easier for her to keep a lower profile amongst so many accomplished people if she stayed on the edge of conversations. The lower under the radar she cruised, the less likely she was to be noticed. Even taking those precautions, a low profile was never nearly low enough thanks to her name. At least now she knew who politely tolerated her. If she was lucky she’d find a person or three who actually liked her for herself. She wasn’t unpopular , but the name Luthor still had heavy connotations.
A murmur went about the room and the crowd’s attention turned towards the front entrance. Lena could hear the camera shutters going wild, almost as wild as when she had walked in, and turned in curiosity to see who it was. She couldn’t see over the people in front of her, and was about to ask the man next to her if he could see when she heard bright laughter.
It was as if her world had been put into slow motion.
She knew that laugh better than anyone else’s in the world.
Lena knew Kara was supposed to be in attendance. Kara was the keynote speaker after all. The recently-minted Super woman was slowly enveloped into the crowd and Lena let her feet take her in the opposite direction. She wasn’t ready . Not yet . She thought she had another two hours left before she was thrown into the frying pan. It seemed she had been scooped up and hurled right into the fire instead. Lena didn’t know if there were any other superheroes in attendance, and at this point she wasn’t too keen on finding out. But by some miracle, it was time for the main event to start and Lena slipped into the crowd and found her seat-which was far closer to the stage than she would have liked. There was nothing to be done about it now , and Lena braced herself for the inevitable.
There was a parade of people in front of the podium and the meal was served. Lena forced herself to make small talk with the other guests at her table and choked down about half of her meal. She hated that her nerves wouldn’t let her taste it, she was sure it was delicious. Lena passed on dessert completely but did accept a new flute of champaign to nurse through the rest of the event. She nearly changed her mind to down it in one gulp when the master of ceremonies introduced their keynote speaker, Kara Zor El. Lena felt her heart leap up into her throat as the familiar head of blonde wavy hair rose up out of her seat a couple tables away. Lena watched Kara take the stairs on the side of the stage, much to the amusement of those in attendance.
Kara looked beautiful .
Lena knew what she looked like, but seeing her in person for the first time in years was like being plunged into pure sunlight. She was warm and confident, exuding a gentle understated nobility that was rooted in simply who she was. Tall and slender, looking unfairly attractive with her hair in soft curling waves, Kara Zor El was regal in her navy blue Kryptonian gown as she thanked the emcee and took the podium. She pointed back towards the stairs.
“I hope you don’t mind, I’m trying to get my steps in today.”
The crowd laughed again and Lena’s heart ached.
“Rao’s light warm you and guide your way.” She began with a soft smile.
“Thank you for inviting me to speak with you this evening. It’s an honor to be included with so many impressive people in this room whom care so much about this planet. If you’ll allow me to reminisce for a few moments, I’d like to tell you about my home. It is, unfortunately, a sad tale and more of a warning to you, but I believe it can also be used as a goal marker that we can work towards.”
The room stilled. There wasn’t a lot of public knowledge about Krypton. At least not any personal anecdotes. The only other person in the room who knew about the long lost planet in depth, was Lena.
“This is normally a very private subject for me, and I have selfishly only shared it with a few other people in my life. I…”
She had found Lena in the crowd.
And now she was staring at her as if she had seen a ghost.
A ghost she was happily overwhelmed to see.
Seeing the unbridled joy and the same love that she had always looked at her with… Lena knew that everything was going to be okay.
The room rushed back into focus and it felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Lena nodded, blinking back tears and reigning in her own smile and Kara cleared her throat, a blush coloring her cheeks.
“Excuse me, I hadn’t realized my best friend was going to be here.” She offered and straighten up with a laugh. “Sorry.”
The crowd buzzed with soft laughter and curiosity and Lena knew the people at her table had put two and two together. But she paid them no mind because all of her attention was on Kara.
“As I was saying before I interrupted myself, Krypton has been a sensitive subject for me but I think I’m ready to start sharing a little more. So forgive me if this is a little shorter than you were hoping for.”
Kara told them about how even though Krypton was beyond advanced, her people had severely damaged the ecosystem. She told them about how by the time she had been born, Lena thought pod people , there were more mutant wildlife species than healthy ones thanks to the poisoning of radioactive kryptonite jutting up out of the world’s crust. She mentioned with a laugh that she still got pooped on by birds because Krypton didn’t have any, and Kara thought they were still some of the most wondrous creatures on earth and always tried to be near them. She told them how the more populated cities were mostly enclosed structures because the air quality was so terrible, how all of their food had to be grown or processed in special environments because the soil was barren or poisoned or both .
“And while all of this was happening, Krypton was dying in other ways. But that’s a story for a different venue.” Kara straightened her shoulders and let her eyes wander the room.
“Earth is no where near the state that Krypton was, but if we continue on this path it will be. Our saving grace, is the reassurance that you are here now. The fact that you all have been actively pursuing change for the better not just within your own companies and work spaces, but in your government legislature and in your own homes is a testament to that. Through the efforts that you all have put forward we have started seeing marked change in greenhouse gasses. But we aren’t done yet. Your home- our home, still is in dire need of help.”
Kara’s gaze wandered back to Lena.
“I have people here now that I love deeply. I’ve lost so many like them already, and I must admit I don’t know if I’m strong enough to lose them again. I don’t want you all to experience that pain.”
Lena blinked against the sudden burn of tears. Kara inhaled slowly and looked away.
“My challenge to you all, is to dig deeper into your communities and start spreading education on a grassroots level. This isn’t just our world, it’s our children’s world. Don’t let them grow up in a world that is bleak and barren like I did. There is still so much to see here, and I think we all deserve the chance to enjoy it. I know that we can do this, because we’re always stronger together. El mayarah . Thank you.”
The crowd erupted into raucous applause, jumping to their feet.
Lena rose with them, clapping politely and holding back a strong swirl of emotions as Kara’s blue eyes found her again. The emcee returned to Kara’s side and the spell was broken, leaving Lena to discreetly dab at the corners of her eyes with her napkin. Kara left the stage and the crowd settled again as the emcee called the dinner to a close with excitement for the rest of the week. By the time Lena had collected her clutch Kara had been swarmed and there was no way she could possibly get to her. She couldn’t even catch her eye through the crowd and resigned herself to the fact that she’d have to see her a little later.
And it sucked .
Lena had spent so much time being afraid, and that now that she knew she didn’t have to be all she wanted was to see her. Lena missed Kara and she was here in the same room, just out of her reach. She swallowed down the disappointment and politely bid her table mates a good evening. She hadn’t even made it a few steps when she felt the familiar weight of Kara’s gaze on her back. Lena turned and found her immediately, nearly giving in to the urge to bulldoze through the crowds when she saw she was watching her apprehensively.
Fuck it .
Lena knew right then that she wasn’t going to push her away ever again. Even if it had been in a poor attempt to protect her. She whispered the name of her hotel and Kara slumped in relief. I’ll be at the bar , she added on and Kara nodded. They stared at each other in blatant wonder until someone stepped in between them and broke the spell. Lena reluctantly left the banquet hall but it felt as if she were walking on air.
Lena spun her glass of single malt in the little puddle of condensation on the polished wood table.
It had only been an hour but it was already her third drink. She had tried very hard to pace herself but her nerves were getting the better of her again. Lena at least had been drinking water and had ordered a charcuterie board to pick at, eating all of the black olives and spacing out the meat and cheeses. She had set aside the green olives for Kara. Her nose was a little numb and she knew her legs would probably be a mess soon if she didn’t eat some real food. It was her own fault, really. She hadn’t eaten most of her meal at the event and now she was actually hungry. Lena huffed and took another sip from her drink.
“May I sit?”
Kara’s voice, warm and soft, spoke up just next to her. Lena blinked and looked up, her mouth falling open. She was even more beautiful right next to her. An awkward silence accidentally stretched between them as Lena drank her in from the freckles on her cheek bones to the sleek muscle of her arms. Kara’s face flushed pink under her heavy stare and she fiddled nervously as if to adjust a pair of glasses, remembering last minute that she wasn’t wearing them. The action pushed Lena out of her gaping and it was her turn to blush.
“Oh, yes. I’m sorry. Please, make yourself comfortable.” She stuttered out, gesturing to the only other chair across from her.
Kara murmured a thank you and slipped into the seat, politely ordering a drink as their waiter appeared next to them without a sound. The waiter left and Lena could only stare at her again, hardly believing that Kara was sitting in front of her.
“Thank you for, um, seeing me.” Kara managed, twisting her fingers together in her lap.
Lena opened and closed her mouth a few times, unsure of what to say. Or what to say first . Her guilt and anguish must have shown loudly on her face because Kara nearly panicked and reached across the table on instinct, pressing the pads of her fingers into the back of Lena’s hand. Her touch was still so warm.
“I know why you did it.”
Kara was nothing but kind but it just made Lena feel worse. She was shaking her head and Kara leaned forward in an attempt to comfort her.
“No, it’s okay. I promise.”
“No it isn’t. I wish I hadn’t done that to you.” She choked out, abandoning her drink to let Kara take both of her hands together. “I miss you.”
Kara slumped a little, her thumbs stroking soothingly over her knuckles. “I miss you too.”
A million words passed between them without a sound and Lena finally felt like everything was clicking home again.
“Will you stay and talk for a little while? I want to know how you’re doing.”
“Only if we can get something to eat.” Lena blurted out, feeling a little lightheaded for more reasons than that.
Kara laughed freely and let her hands go as the waiter returned with her glass of wine. “Can we order french fries?”
“What ever you would like.”
They put in an order for a ridiculous amount of food, saying yes to just about everything that sounded good because why the hell not , and an order of french fries. They talked, plainly, at Lena’s request. She wanted to know what Kara was thinking and feeling and she didn’t want her to sugar coat any of it. Kara explained that she had felt betrayed after Lena pushed her away, but understood that she had done it to protect them. The act had put space in between their families, reduced the tension the media liked to perpetuate, and gave them a chance to try to become their own persons out from under the woes of their families. It had helped that when Lena did answer a rare question or correct a bias about Supergirl, she only did so with the utmost praise and trust.
“Really though, that was very brave of you to say that.” Kara muttered with a blush. “And very nice. You didn’t have to.”
Lena studied her for a long moment, debating on how exactly to reply to that comment. On one hand she could play it safe, but Kara had been nothing but an open book to her. Nothing but love and compassion and relief that they were sitting there together again.
“I did. And I couldn’t really tell them that I’ve been deeply in love with Superwoman since I was seventeen. That would look rather suspicious.” Lena finally admitted, taking a chance.
Kara’s face flushed bright red and she sputtered around a smile. “Oh, um. Yeah, okay, I um. Wait, really ?”
Lena just shrugged and smiled softly, not bothering to hide the affection she had kept locked away for nearly two decades. Kara softened and let go of the control she had been harboring, letting her own love reflect back to Lena. A comfortable silence fell between them, and then Lena remembered something that she knew she needed to tell Kara.
“When I heard your aunt had died, I took off work and sat the tiv girod for you.”
“You did?” Kara whispered.
Lena nodded. “I told you I would.”
Kara blinked back tears around a weak smile. “I wondered who the daily flowers were from. Thank you.”
It was Lena’s turn to reach across the table and take her hand, squeezing all the words she couldn’t say into her fingers. They continued talking through the rest of their meal and Lena abandoned her scotch in favor of water to be more present, and before they knew it the bar was closing. Lena put the entire meal on her room, much to Kara’s protest, and left an obscene tip for their waiter.
“You could have at least let me pay for your drinks.” Kara argued as they strolled out of the hotel bar.
“I wanted to treat you. I’m trying to make up for years lost.”
Kara hummed in her chest, the way she always had when Lena was being stubborn and it made her stomach swoop at the familiarity. They made it to the elevator bank and neither one of them were ready to say goodbye.
“Can I walk you back?” Kara asked, just as Lena was asking, “Would you like to come up?”
They both laughed shyly and Lena pressed the call button. “I don’t have any plans for tomorrow morning if you’d like to keep catching up?”
Kara nodded, her face still a little pink. “I’d like that.”
They stepped into the car and rode up to Lena’s floor, Kara blushing again when she told her that her speech had been amazing, and then they were standing outside of her hotel room. Lena paused when Kara’s fingers stilled her hands as she was looking for her key card.
Her heart leapt into her throat again. It was the first time she had said her name that evening. Lena realized that she hadn’t said hers yet either and rectified that.
“Yes, Kara?” She answered, looking up and into her face. She watched the muscles in Kara’s throat work nervously.
“I’m still in love you too, in case that wasn’t clear.”
She did know, but it felt completely different to hear it. Kara stepped closer and Lena could smell her faint perfume.
“Don’t you have someone…?” She trailed off, letting Lena lace their fingers together.
Lena shook her head no . She could count every freckle on the bridge of Kara’s nose under the fine dusting of powder. God , she loved her.
Kara shook her head no , and Lena was tugging her closer, tilting her head up and meeting her in the middle. The kiss was soft and gentle. It was like coming home. Kara kissed her back with reverence, sinking into her with a sigh. Lena quickly realized that she would never let Kara ago again. She was about to lead them into the room when Kara mumbled a question into her lips.
“Is our marriage pact null and void now since our families had the smackdown of the century?”
Lena laughed brightly and couldn’t help but press another kiss into Kara’s grin.
“I thought we decided shaking on it meant it was permanent?”
“I guess , but didn’t you say it was just a handshake ?”
“Fifteen-year-old-me was an idiot child.” Lena finally pulled her keycard free with one hand and smoothed her other across Kara’s cheekbone in a caress. “Come inside? I don’t want to say goodbye again.”
Kara leaned in and kissed her with a crackling heat that made Lena cling to her.
“Me either.” She murmured.
Lena slid the key through the lock and pulled Kara in with a happy grin, pressing another kiss of promise and new beginnings into her lips as the door clicked shut behind them.