The first time Lena goes to therapy, she sits primly across from the doctor, folds her hands neatly in her lap, and stares across the desk at Doctor Smith as if they are the one in Lena’s office, paying for Lena’s time, and not the other way around. Lena sits there as the seconds tick by in absolute silence, squinting her eyes in suspicion at every single question Doctor Smith asks.
Lena knows that anybody can be paid off, and she’ll be damned if her stupid feelings show up in some news rag because she and Kara agreed they would both get the help they need.
So Lena sits in silence for the entire hour she promised Kara she would go to therapy.
Lena has a whole lifetime of lessons learned and knows that admitting to any emotion is admitting to weakness, and Lena Luthor is not weak.
So she waits the hour, glaring with her best Boardroom Bitch face until Doctor Smith offers a patient smile, and tells Lena that their time is up.
But when Lena meets Kara for lunch the next day, and Kara tentatively asks how Lena’s session went, Lena feels like her intestines are being removed.
“Well... I went, ” Lena mutters and she flips through the menu even though she knows she’s going to order a kale salad. They promised not to lie to each other. She risks a glance up at Kara’s eyes, which are soft and curious, and Lena clenches her jaw at the guilt that tears through her abdomen. “I didn’t say anything. I just sat there staring at Doctor Smith. In silence. For an hour.”
“But you went,” Kara murmurs, her voice so gentle it’s as if she thinks that if she’s too loud, Lena will flutter away like dust in a hurricane. Lena’s lips pull down in a half frown, and Kara reaches over to stop Lena’s perusal through the menu by grabbing her hand. “Baby steps, right?”
She and Kara aren’t quite the same as they used to be, but they’re trying, and with every question Kara asks, everything she says, it’s so clear that she’s terrified of breaking the delicate balance they’re trying to find together.
Lena promised she would try.
She books her next session as soon as Kara heads back to CatCo.
The second time Lena sits in that stupidly comfortable, baby blue lounge chair (which may or may not make her think of a certain pair of eyes. Seriously, why couldn’t Doctor Smith just use a fucking desk chair like a normal person?) Lena threatens death to Doctor Smith, who, despite being met with Lena’s hardest glare, merely fails at stifling a tiny grin.
“I don’t want to be here,” Lena starts, and she’s falling into defense mode before she realizes it’s happened. “I’m doing this for a friend, and so help me, if a single word of what I say to you gets leaked to the press, or if you’re too weak-willed a person to turn down somebody trying to buy my secrets out of you, I will incinerate you. Literally, physically incinerate you, and I would threaten to bury the ashes too deep for anybody to find, but I’m quite good at incinerating things actually, so I know there will be nothing left of you for me to bury.”
Doctor Smith’s eyebrows barely raise, and she clasps her hands together on the top of her desk.
“What I’m hearing is that you’re concerned I will betray your trust, likely because you’re already so negatively viewed by National City, and you don’t want me to leak information that will slander you even more, or make you appear to be weak, but you care about your friend enough to be here anyway,” Doctor Smith tilts her head to the side, her dark curls falling over her shoulder with the motion, and Lena sneers. “Am I close?”
Damn Kelly Olsen and her stupid therapist friends.
But Doctor Smith (and really, fuck her for having that spectacularly normal name) smiles at Lena as if Lena hadn’t threatened death and says, “I’m here to help you. I hear your boundaries -which are the law, by the way, I can’t tell anybody a thing unless I believe you’re a danger to yourself or others- and you can feel free to incinerate me if I cross them.”
“Well then,” Lena says as she tilts her chin up, ready for battle. “Ask away.”
It isn’t at all what Lena had expected. She doesn't have to go into her personal history at all, and Doctor Smith simply goes down a checklist of questions, asking if Lena has experienced that symptom or situation in the last month, year, more than a year, or never.
The questions are intrusive, (when was the last time you intentionally harmed another person? When was the last time you felt hopeless? When was the last time you turned to alcohol as a coping device?) but Lena can answer them without going into detail about them, and Doctor Smith repeats several times throughout the session that Lena only has to share what she wants to. The list just helps to get an idea of what sort of areas Doctor Smith should focus on.
It’s not easy to admit to turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism, or intentionally harming another person, or feeling so hopeless that she’s wanted to end her life, but Lena admits to those feelings anyway and breathes a little easier when Doctor Smith stays true to her word and doesn’t ask Lena to elaborate.
“In the next session, we can go more in-depth with the things you’re comfortable sharing.” Doctor Smith smiles. It’s placating but not patronizing, and Lena almost smiles back when her hour is up.
Kara says she’s proud of Lena for going back, and really, that’s all it takes for Lena to make a third appointment.
Doctor Smith asks what made Lena feel the need to go to therapy, but explaining everything, all the messy little details about how she’d teamed up with her brother who she knew would inevitably betray her, how her best friend broke her heart, how she spent three years pining after said best friend, how she lost contact with every available friend in the city because they all betrayed her too, how she lost herself in misery and clung to revenge like a lifeline… well, it just seems like too many words to fit into an hour and Lena doesn’t know where to start.
Doctor Smith asks her to talk about anything, from something that bothered Lena that day to her first bad memory, and boy does that get Lena’s attention.
So Lena talks about watching her mother drown and not understanding what was happening at the time, but the guilt that clings to her for not doing anything. She admits harboring resentment toward her birth mother for dying, even though it’s not her mother’s fault that Lena was shipped off to the Luthors. She admits to feeling guilty about that resentment too, and it’s a lot to unpack.
They spend the entire hour talking about it. Lena’s stilted words and admittances of her emotions feel like spitting out bricks, but by the end of the session, the thought of Lena’s mother doesn’t make Lena want to lobotomize herself so much.
She’s tasked with working on allowing herself to miss her mother without the guilt attached to it. That’s all she has to work on for an entire week, and that seems manageable compared to everything else.
She starts to breathe a little easier, and remember the good things, like how her mother read to her and kissed her eyelids closed before bed, without also feeling drowned in the images of her mother dying.
It helps that the story doesn’t end up in the papers.
“How was it this time?” Kara asks over their scheduled weekly lunch meet. Their relationship is still too strained for more, but it’s getting easier to exist in the same space.
“I didn’t threaten to incinerate her this time if that's what you’re asking,” Lena jokes. “We talked about how I watched my mother drown, so I suppose I made some progress.”
“Oh Rao, Lena. I didn’t know you were there for it. That’s something I wouldn’t wish on anybody,” Kara says.
Then Lena remembers again that Kara is Supergirl. Supergirl, who watched her entire planet burn to dust before her very eyes, and everyone along with it.
Lena feels like she had when Kara told her that she was adopted too; like they have some common ground (even if it is over something as morbid as watching their mothers die), but she doesn’t know what to say.
“We don’t have to talk about it. You don’t have to tell me about therapy if you don’t want to, Lena-”
“No, it’s fine,” Lena says, and she’s surprised to find that she means it. She wants to tell Kara about it. She wants to talk to her best friend. She wants Kara to feel like her best friend again. “I… want you to know that I’m trying.”
“I know you are.” Kara smiles, looks guiltily down at her sticky bun, and then says, “I’m trying too.”
“How’s yours going?” Lena asks.
Kara scrunches her nose up in the way she does when she’s embarrassed. “My therapist found out I was Supergirl.”
“What? During your third session? How?”
“I was distracted! She asked me about my apparently very clear abandonment issues, and I told her that being stuck alone in space for twenty-five years kinda had a lasting effect. It just kind of… slipped out?”
“Twenty-five years?” Lena sputters out.
“Phantom Zone,” Kara says in way of explanation and, okay. Lena didn’t know about that.
“Oh wow, so you’re like… eighty? That’s… that’s quite the age gap,” Lena says.
“I am not eighty! I was frozen as thirteen! I would be seventy-eight if I wasn’t, thank you,” Kara tries to joke, but that, being a child alone for so long, with a dead planet one way and the unknown ahead, that’s not exactly comedic material.
“I’m sorry you were alone so long,” Lena murmurs, because what else can she say? It’s no wonder Kara is so scared of losing people.
“I’m not alone anymore,” Kara whispers back, eyes gentle, and it sounds like there’s a deeper meaning to that but Lena can’t be sure. Doesn’t want to hope. She smiles anyway. Then Kara says, “You can tell her, you know.”
“Tell who what?” Lena asks.
“Your therapist. That I’m Supergirl.” Kara whispers the last word, glancing around Noonan’s to be sure nobody heard.
“But…” Lena stammers. The secret is a big deal. Kara didn’t tell Lena for four years of friendship, but it’s fine if a stranger knows? It doesn’t make sense.
“I trust you,” Kara says. “If you trust her, you can tell her. If you want to. If it’ll help you. I just… you can tell her.”
Lena doesn’t tell her
There’s a chessboard on Doctor Smith’s desk. It’s been sitting there since the first day, taunting Lena. It’s sitting right there, the perfect segue into talking about Lex, or Lillian, or anything to do with the Luthors, but Lena simply can’t start the conversation.
“Would you like to talk about being adopted by the Luthors?” Doctor Smith asks, but Lena’s distracted by the chessboard, so tied into the question just asked. Lena’s whole life became a game of chess after moving in with the Luthors, whether she wanted to play or not, and it always felt like she was losing.
Except when she played with Lex. But how can Lena consolidate that gentle, too-serious teenager with the madman he turned into? How can she say that she misses her brother without being accused of supporting his actions?
She can’t. So instead she says, “I used to play chess with them.”
“Would you like to play while we talk?” Doctor Smith offers, and yes. Lena does. She hasn’t played chess in ages, and she’s sure Doctor Smith won’t be as good as Lex or Lillian, but it’s something.
So they play chess as Doctor Smith asks Lena about why she’s there, and from the third move of the first game, Lena knows she is going to win. She’s winning at chess, and maybe she’s petty, or maybe she has a God-complex that might rival Lex’s, but knocking Doctor Smith’s King over, again and again, makes Lena feel like she’s in control of something. She has the upper hand on something, and it gets a little easier to talk.
“I had to be on my toes constantly. Every day, with no exceptions, always waiting for the other shoe to drop, three steps ahead, and anticipating what would happen without letting on that I knew anything.” Lena knows she’s being vague, but that’s the best she’s got.
“Sounds stressful,” Doctor Smith says as Lena removes a rook.
“That’s not even half of it. I didn’t find out that Lionel was my biological father until four years ago because Lillian despised my presence so much, and wanted to estrange me from them even further. Or it felt like she despised me. She compared me to Lex constantly, pushing me to be better, to be more like him, but at the first shred of evidence that I was smarter or better than Lex, Lillian would… make me feel like I was just playing at being a Luthor. It was like… everything that had value was related to being a Luthor in some way, and since I wasn’t a real Luthor, I didn’t deserve to be valued.”
“But you are valuable, Lena. Do you know that now?”
Lena’s decimated the chessboard. She bites her lip and looks out the window because she’s not sure she’ll be able to answer if she looks into Doctor Smith’s kind, brown eyes. Lena doesn’t know how to respond. Her mind, one of the fastest on the planet, ceases up at the slightest bit of genuine praise, or kindness, and she Does. Not. Know. how to process it.
“Checkmate,” Lena says instead, toppling Doctor Smith’s king over again.
And then Lena gets homework.
“It’s ridiculous!” Lena complains to Kara later that day. She didn’t want to wait for their scheduled lunch, so they agreed to meet up twice that week. “Homework, Kara!”
“What do you have to do?” Kara tilts her head to the side. They’re sitting in Lena’s office again, on separate ends of Lena’s white couch, facing each other with empty Big Belly Burger wrappers strewn about the coffee table.
Just like old times.
“Come up with a list of three things that make me valuable outside of being a Luthor,” she scoffs.
“Oh, that’s easy!” Kara waves off as if Lena hasn’t been struggling to come up with a single thing all day. “What do you have so far?”
Lena falters, turns back to her fries instead, but doesn’t feel like eating anymore.
“Everything I do, I can do because of them. Donating to charities? Couldn’t do that without the Luthor fortune. I can’t say that I’d be able to invent anything without the education I was only able to get because of their money, so that’s not helpful. I know I’m a good boss, but I wouldn’t have been the CEO of L-Corp without being a Luthor first. Anything I do is to make up for what they’ve done. Everything I do, everything I am, is shrouded in them,” Lena says. They are inescapable.
“Those are all things you do for other people, though. What about being valuable on your own? You’re worth more than what you can give to people, you know?” Kara says flippantly.
And Lena has never really considered that before, but Kara continues as if she didn’t just smash through one of Lena’s mental blockages the same way she smashes through concrete walls. “You never give up. You put your all into things you’re passionate about. You like NSYNC. You have more fuzzy socks than me. You collect cute mugs with science puns on them. I value these things about you beyond their helpfulness to me. You’re valuable because you exist, and I’m glad that you do. Exist,” Kara says, and she’s just so damn earnest that Lena believes her. A little.
Lena has to swallow several times to make her throat feel normal, and she still can’t talk afterward. She hadn’t known that Kara noticed those small things, or that Kara liked her better for them.
She’s saved from having to respond when Kara’s earpiece goes off, but she’s left with a lot to think about.
She tells Doctor Smith about it the next week when they’re back to playing chess. “Kara says that I have value just for being alive, but that doesn’t seem like enough, and I still haven’t thought of anything outside of being a Luthor.”
She doesn’t get in trouble for not doing her homework like she expects to.
Instead, Doctor Smith asks, “Who’s Kara?”
Lena stiffens in her chair, seizes up again because how the fuck is she supposed to answer that?
“Kara is…” Supergirl. My best friend. My ex-best friend. Someone I tried to destroy. The most important person in my life. The woman I love. Complicated. She settles on, “Kara is why I’m here.”
“She must mean a lot to you, then, if you’re willing to sit through my horrible chess strategies for her,” Doctor Smith jokes, and it’s funny, but Lena doesn’t feel like laughing.
She feels like throwing things.
“I don’t want to talk about her,” Lena grates out. Her blood is pumping so hard she can feel it in her neck as her fingers wrap around the corner of the chessboard like a lifeline.
“Sometimes, the things we want to avoid are-”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it!”
Lena blinks. And the chess set has somehow flown across the room and into the bookcase. One of the book’s spines is dented from the board, and their half-finished game is scattered across the floor.
A chipped king rolls into Lena’s heel.
Lena gasps, looks down at her shaking hand. She knows she threw it. But it doesn’t register. It’s like someone else did it and she watched, helpless, as it happened.
She breathes hard for a few moments, staring at her hands, so afraid of what else they could do. What else they have done, when she lost control.
She leaves without another word.
She cancels on Kara.
She doesn’t schedule another appointment and cancels on Kara again.
Kara doesn’t listen.
She knocks on Lena’s office door, worried crinkle in her brow, and Lena’s hands clench around her scotch glass to keep them from shaking.
“I just wanted to make sure you were okay? That w-we’re okay?” Kara says, and she looks so vulnerable, so soft, and it’s unfair that Lena feels so compelled to fix, to help, to ease that crinkle because Kara was the one who lied. Lena shouldn’t have to be the one to fix it, and she hates that she wants to anyway.
“I just- I need to not do this right now,” Lena says. Her mind is liquor-addled and she knows that doesn’t make her any better at having feelings. She wants to fight but she’s trying not to.
“Okay, just let me know when you-”
“Stop being so goddamned understanding,” Lena says. She’s not shouting, but her tone is frustrated. She can hear it in her own voice, and Kara winces at it.
“Um, okay. What do you… want?”
And that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? What does Lena want?
“The truth! All I’ve ever wanted was the truth, and you appeasing every single whim of mine doesn’t seem very genuine to me, so just stop!”
“I just want to help, Lena. That’s the truth,” Kara whispers it, making Lena’s scoff all the harsher.
“I told one lie by omission,” Kara croaks out. “It was one thing I lied about the whole time I’ve known you! One mistake!”
“No, it wasn’t!” Lena shouts right back. “It wasn’t just the one lie! It was every day, in everything! You were going to be the youngest Kryptonian in the science guild, and you spent half of our lunches pretending that you had no idea what I was talking about with my work! You lied when I asked you what your favourite flower was because yours isn’t even on Earth! I don’t know anything about you! You lied to my face every single day, Kara, how can I move past that? Was anything real?”
“Lena,” Kara’s voice sounds just as broken as Lena feels. “You know me better than anyone. Of course it was real. It was real for me. The way I feel about you is real, Lena, I-”
“What about how I feel?” Lena shouts, and that shuts Kara up pretty quick, which is good because Lena doesn’t want to know how Kara feels about her. Thinks it might hurt too much. “How the hell am I supposed to trust anything I’ve ever felt about you if it was all built on lies? Don’t you see that’s what we’ve destroyed? Kara, I could never trust my feelings until I met you, and now I… I can’t even trust myself. God, don’t you know how stupid I feel every time I learn some new thing that you lied to me about?”
Kara’s chin quivers and she’s trying not to let her tears fall. “I couldn’t tell you.”
“Why? You told everyone else! Everyone! And they all lied about it too. In one fell swoop, you took Kara Danvers from me, along with every one of our friends, and made a fool of me behind my back- ” and Lena’s voice cracks at that.
“Really? Because I’m pretty sure J’onn J’onzz impersonating you, and all of you letting me talk to him about kissing James Olsen made me look pretty fucking stupid. All this because you didn’t want me to know? Because you don’t trust me? Because I’m a Luthor? Because I’m not worthy of the secret?”
“N-none of that is true, Lena,” Kara sobs.
“Then why was it different with me?”
“I- Lena, I… I can’t tell you that.”
“Then I guess we’re right back where we started, then, aren’t we Supergirl?”
It’s a slap in the face. Lena knows it is, and she regrets it immediately but she can’t seem to stop herself. She’s been trained to search and destroy for her whole life, to hone in on the most vulnerable weakness and demolish it with the force of a supernova.
She must win.
And she does.
Kara takes a shuddering breath, nods once, and turns to leave quicker than she came.
Lena wants to feel like she’s gained something; like she has the higher ground. She wants hurting Kara to make her feel better, but instead she feels like she does every time Kara leaves.
Like she wants Kara to turn around.
Lena’s surprised when she receives an email confirming her next appointment with Doctor Smith. She expected to be fired as a patient at the very best, if not, sued, with several news rags claiming she's a sociopath just like the rest of the Luthors. None of that happens.
The email is the same as all the others, so when the time comes, Lena arrives the same as she always had, if a little bit more fidgety than usual.
“I’m glad you decided to come back,” is Doctor Smith’s greeting, and Lena feels both better and worse for the kindness.
“I’m sorry for how I reacted. I can be-” Lena realizes that she’s twisting her own fingers so hard that it looks like one might snap, so she smoothes her palms over her shirt and sits down, treats the situation like a business transaction “-I can be rash, and volatile. It’s something I would like to work on if you’re still willing to help me.”
“Thank you for apologizing. I’m proud of you for asking for help.”
Lena simply nods once, waiting for the bomb of Kara to drop again.
“Why do you think you’re so volatile, as you put it?” Doctor Smith asks instead.
Lena has lots of thoughts about that. And she shares them.
“It’s all I know how to do. It’s… compulsive. With the Luthors, and in boarding school, I had to know everyone’s weaknesses, be constantly prepared to destroy them if they tried to go after me.”
“Did people go after you?”
Lena nods in earnest. “Yes. Everyone I ever cared about has. Veronica Sinclair, my first girlfriend, ended up being paid by my mother to spy on me. Andrea, my first friend, betrayed me by stealing something that reminded me of my dead mother. So I learned to be better. I had to be threatening and conniving. I had to use people’s weaknesses against them. I don’t want to do it, and I hate myself every time that I do. It’s like Pavlovian masochism, and I hate it, but there’s nothing else to reach for. I had to win, or Lillian… she wasn’t kind. She never hit me, but… sometimes I think it might have been easier if she had. Is that crazy?”
“No. I don’t think you’re crazy for feeling that way. A lot of people who survived abuse similar to yours feel the same.”
“Abuse?” Lena breathes out the word. She knows her childhood wasn’t normal. She knows that, but she never thought of herself as a victim of abuse before.
“Yes. You’ve experienced tremendous neglect, emotional manipulation, extremely unhealthy sibling rivalry-”
“Well, I did shoot Lex in the heart.”
Doctor Smith’s eyes widen only slightly, but she covers her shock well.
“He lived,” Lena shrugs a shoulder. “Well, he died first, then he wasn’t dead anymore, and really, it’s barely a scratch in comparison to the quarterly assassination attempts on my life... but what’s a little fratricide between siblings?”
“So this is… normal for you? Murdering your brother?”
Lena’s spine stiffens and she feels like she's going to vomit. “No. Just the once.”
“And what was the reason for it?”
Lena bites her lip and looks down at her fingers, which started fidgeting together again at some point. “I killed him to protect my friends. To protect everyone. I felt the world would never be safe with him in it. And…I killed him to protect Kara.” Lena’s hands clench together so hard it hurts, and she forces herself to let go, tucking her hands under her thighs instead. “I’m trying to forgive her for that.”
“Forgive her? For you killing your brother, but not really because he… survived somehow?”
“He was resurrected by an alien,” Lena waves off because she’s busy thinking. Lena killed Lex. She chose to shoot him for the betterment of the earth and to keep all of her friends safe. If Lena had known that Kara was Supergirl, she knows she would have done the same thing.
If Kara had told Lena from the very beginning, they still would have been best friends. Lena would still have wanted to protect Kara, and she still would have pulled that trigger.
But with Lex’s dying words, he dropped the metaphorical bomb on Lena, so her anger at Kara and her guilt over Lex had gotten mixed together when really, they were two separate entities.
Two separate issues.
Lena knows that Doctor Smith doesn’t see how it’s Kara’s fault that Lena pulled the trigger. Doesn’t see what Kara has to be forgiven for.
And maybe Kara doesn’t need to be forgiven for Lex’s ‘death’, but she’s not blameless.
“She lied to me. She kept something hidden from me and it… it broke my heart.”
“Everyone has secrets, Lena. Partners keep things from each other all the time. Usually little things, but the big things don’t have to be the end-”
“This isn’t like that. What she kept from me… it… All I ever asked for, since the beginning, was honesty, and she ignored every opportunity she had to let me know, deliberately, while all of our friends knew. It was intentional, and she knew it would destroy me, but she kept it hidden anyway.”
“It’s interesting. You’re clearly upset with her, but you’re still guarding whatever she kept from you. You’re still protective, you still care.”
Lena has to laugh. “I tried to destroy her. After Lex told me Kara’s secret, I pretended not to know. For weeks I pretended everything was fine. We went to lunch, had wine and movie nights on her couch, and I pretended not to know so that I could expose her, and ruin her just as I had felt she’d ruined me. I… I almost did. That could have… would have gotten her and our friends killed.”
“All this from one secret?”
“I don’t take betrayal well.”
“Would you like to tell me how you reacted?”
“I tried to alter the minds of the entire human race so that the urge to harm was removed completely. And I teamed up with my brother, fully aware that he would betray me, because I knew it would hurt Kara, and because, even though I know he’s a monster, he’s the only constant I have. I know what to expect.”
“Then it sounds like we need to work on your coping mechanisms, and on building healthy relationships with people you can trust,” Doctor Smith says, and Lena scoffs, because how the hell is she supposed to trust anybody, least of all Kara who still has a secret.
But that’s who Lena wants to be able to trust. “I don’t know how to move past this.”
“Well, you can start by forgiving yourself,” Doctor Smith says.
Lena just blinks at her. “Is that allowed?”
Of course it is,” Doctor Smith chuckles out. “Everybody makes mistakes, but so long as you’ve learned from them, so long as you’re actively trying to better yourself, you can forgive yourself. You must.”
“I don't… understand,” Lena says. The words make sense, but their meaning doesn’t.
“The way I see it, you’ve spent every waking moment of your life fighting, be that with the Luthors themselves, or fighting the thought that you are just like them. You spent so long fighting that you’ve trained your brain to be on guard or in attack mode constantly. If you want to work on your rage, your need for revenge, you need to let go of those negative lessons that living with the Luthors ingrained into you, stop trying to make up for mistakes you didn’t make, and forgive yourself for the ones you have, because just by sitting here in this chair, it’s clear to me that you want to be better.”
“What if I can’t do that? What if I’m not better?”
“Oh Lena, you already are.”
Lena cries. Just a little. It’s not as embarrassing as she thinks it should be.
And they spend the rest of the session coming up with boundaries and healthy coping mechanisms for Lena to use when she gets upset (and none of them involve revenge plotting or tiny little mental boxes in which to stuff her feelings into, which are apparently ‘ unhealthy’ and ‘ exacerbating the problem’ ).
But Lena still can’t call Kara.
Lena makes a list. She’s used to categorizing, quantifying, and rating the importance of things, so she writes down every single thing that she thinks is wrong with her, orders them from least to most important, and clips the pages into a shiny, red binder.
Lena Luthor is always number one, and she is going to kick therapy’s ass.
She drops the binder onto Doctor Smith’s desk, pleased with all the work she’d spent the week doing.
“What is this?” Doctor Smith asks as she opens it and begins to scan the pages.
“Everything that’s wrong with me so we can come up with plans to fix it,” Lena explains as she sits down. She swallows nervously, trying to pinpoint the exact moment Doctor Smith’s eyes widen when she reads that Kara is Supergirl.
“Alright,” Doctor Smith says, reading through the list as if Lena’s entire history of trauma, abuse, neglect, and rage isn’t laid bare between them. As if there isn’t talk of secret organizations, close calls with world destruction, and the identity of earth's strongest hero written on the pages. “I can work with this.”
“I just don’t know how to trust her again, and the last time we spoke, she was still hiding something from me. How can I forgive her for keeping one secret when I know she’s got another?” Lena complains a few weeks later. It’s still not easy to talk, but Lena can do it now without it feeling like she’s clawing her insides out.
“You have secrets, don’t you?” Doctor Smith asks. She’s getting better at chess. A little. “Why is it different?”
“My secrets would never have hurt her the way hers did me. Besides, we promised complete honesty after we started talking again, and I’ve held myself accountable to that. I would never have hurt Kara. That’s why it hurt so much when she betrayed me,” Lena explains.
“But you did. You did hurt her,” Doctor Smith points out, and Lena’s stomach churns.
“Yes. And we’re both trying to move past that.”
“No chance of water under the bridge?”
“It can’t be water under the bridge unless we build a fucking bridge, and I feel like I’ve never held a Goddamned hammer, I haven’t got any nails, and the lumber I was supposed to use is nothing but a pile of ashes because I burned them to a crisp in a fit of rage,” Lena says as she flicks over Doctor Smith’s king. Again.
“Why is it so important to you to fix your relationship with Kara?”
“Because… I- because!”
Not exactly on par with her usual speeches, but Lena looks at Doctor Smith as if all explanation has been given. No such luck.
“She’s my best friend. She inspires me to be a better person while accepting who I am now. She- she taught me how to open up. Showed me what someone caring for you looks like. She showed up, no matter how hard I tried to keep her at arms-length or push her away, she just kept coming back, demanding I eat lunch, or take breaks, making me laugh, really laugh, by being so kind and so earnest. No matter what I did, even after I tried to destroy her, Kara never gave up on me. She makes me feel safer than I ever thought I would. I don’t want to give up on her either.”
“Sounds like a good friend to have,” Doctor Smith smiles.
“She is. She was. I… have no idea how she forgives so freely, how she’s forgiven me. I want so badly to trust her. I want her in my life. She is the most important person to me,” Lena says, and as she says it, she realizes it. She wants Kara in her life, faults and all.
And then Doctor Smith throws a curveball. “How do you want her in your life?”
“What do you mean?” Lena asks.
“Do you want her to be your friend again? Best friend? Lover?”
Lena blushes at the last word. “I… however she wants to be in my life.”
“But what do you want, Lena? How do you feel about her?”
Lena closes her eyes, takes a deep breath. It’s been years, but Lena’s never admitted it out loud before. It’s too much of a risk. Everything Lena has ever loved was taken from her by Lillian or Lex, or some stranger looking for revenge, and for Kara to have such a target on her back, it’s too big a weakness.
Except it’s not so much of a risk, is it? Because Kara isn’t just Kara, she’s Supergirl. She’s the strongest being on the planet and no stranger to fighting the Luthors.
She has a target on her back regardless of how Lena feels about her, and Lena’s not sure if that makes her feel better, because her emotions don’t put Kara in danger, or worse for wasting so much time trying to keep her feelings hidden.
Doctor Smith, though Lena has said nothing, seems to know Lena’s thought process in exact detail.
“Can’t very well keep it a secret after reacting the way you have to her keeping one,” Doctor Smith says.
“No, I suppose not,” Lena says as she fidgets with her fingers. “What if I ruin things by telling her?”
“I doubt you will,” Doctor Smith says. “If you can move past the whole Supergirl thing, this seems comparatively small. I’d like to do an exercise that helps with anxiety if that’s okay with you?”
At Lena’s nod, Doctor Smith asks, “What’s the worst thing that could happen? The absolute worst thing?”
“She rejects me, tells me she never wants to see me again. I binge drink an entire bottle of scotch and plot to destroy her, hurting us both, ending up in Arkham in the cell next to Lex’s,” Lena rants. She’s thought about it a lot.
“Okay. What’s the best-case scenario?”
“She returns my affections, we start dating and we’re both very happy. We never fight, and we’re happy for the rest of our days.” Lena’s thought about that a lot too.
“Alright.” Doctor Smith says. “Realistically speaking, what actually happens will fall somewhere in between.”
“Somewhere in between,” Lena repeats. She can handle that.
So Lena, after almost two months of not seeing Kara, knocks on the door to Kara’s apartment. She hasn’t been there since Leviathan, but everything looks the same.
The picture of her and Kara is still hanging up on the fridge. The plant she’d bought for Kara’s birthday is thriving. One of Lena’s MIT sweaters hangs off the back of Kara's couch, and Lena had been wondering where that was.
At home, apparently.
Kara is standing wide-eyed with the door open, blocking Lena’s entry, just like every other time.
“I was hoping we could talk. I’d like to apologize… and I have something to say to you,” Lena explains.
Also like every other time, Kara nods, takes a step back, and Lena fidgets with her fingers as she walks through the threshold.
Kara is just staring at Lena, waiting, and for two people who are so good with words, Lena hoped their conversation would be better than silence.
She has to start it first.
“I forgive you,” Lena says. The words, she’s not sure she’s ever said them, but she means them. “I think I understand why you never said anything, at least I hope that I do. I’m sorry it took me so long.”
“It’s okay,” Kara says, even though it isn’t okay, and both of them know that. “I’m sorry, too, and you know I forgive you.”
Lena laughs at that. Of course Kara forgives Lena. She always does.
Lena hopes Kara never has to forgive her again.
“I want to be in your life, Kara, but there needs to be rules,” Lena says. “I need to not be treated like a Luthor because I am more than just my last name. I need you to tell me why you never told me you were Supergirl. These are my boundaries, and if we’re going to move on from this, then I need you to tell me that.”
Lena was expecting some hesitation, some debate. Instead, Kara nods.
“Yes. Okay. But… I have boundaries too, Lena. I need you to tell me when you’re upset. I don’t have to be the one to help you, I know I can be… intrusive, but I need to know that you are getting help from somebody. I can’t handle it if you pretend things are fine again, Lena. I can’t take it-”
“I won’t,” Lena cuts off Kara’s progressively more anxious ranting. “I won’t do that again, I promise. I’ll tell you if I’m upset. I’ll make an appointment with Doctor Smith. I won’t do that to you again.”
Lena’s throat hurts, and she knows she’s crying. Only a little. She’s not embarrassed about it at all.
“Good, okay, I won’t either. I won’t keep anything from you,” Kara says, smiling through her teary eyes. Kara reaches out a hand for Lena, pulling her to the couch, and they sit together, closer than they have in months, waiting for the other to start the conversation that they’ve both ignored for years.
“I-” Kara begins, cutting herself off with a shake of her head. “You are different, Lena. I let that keep me from telling you I was Supergirl because I was selfish and afraid of how angry I knew you’d be, angrier each day I let it go on, but I couldn’t stop. I wanted to tell you, but…”
Kara sighs, looking at every inch of Lena’s face.
“But?” Lena whispers.
“You were too important for me to lose. You still are, the most important.”
“You’re the most important to me too, Kara. When I came to National City, it was impossible for me to let someone in. I knew I couldn’t trust anybody, but you proved me wrong. And now it seems impossible to get back to the way things used to be, but Kara.” Lena takes a second to close her eyes and take a deep breath. “Prove me wrong again.”
Kara tries to fidget with her glasses, only to find they aren’t there. She tucks her hair behind her ear instead and blushes. “What if I don’t want things to go back to the way they were?”
“That’s fine,” Lena whispers, even though it feels like her heart might crumble. “I can accept that. I hope, at least, we can still be in each other’s lives in some small way-”
“What? No!” Kara says, grasping Lena’s hands almost hard enough to hurt. “No! I didn’t mean I wanted less of you, geez, Lena. I mean, well, I was hoping- ugh, I’m so bad at this!”
Kara takes a deep breath and straightens her shoulders, a look of determination on her face that’s not quite Supergirl and not quite Kara Danvers, but somewhere in between.
“Lena,” she says, blue eyes boring into Lena’s so strongly that Lena can’t look away. “I want everything with you. I want to get back to lunches and movie nights, and to talk about science, but joining in this time. I want everything we had, but I don’t want to just be your friend, Lena. I don’t want to hold anything back. I didn’t know how I felt at the time, and I’m sorry it took me so long to figure it out. Maybe if I was honest with myself, this whole thing would never have happened, but it did, and almost losing you made me realize that I never want it to happen again. I love you. I’ve always loved you.”
Kara’s eyes are watery, her breathing shallow, and Lena’s heart is beating hard enough for both of them to hear it. Through the emotion in her throat, Lena asks, “You love me?”
“So much, and not in a friend way. I love you in a ‘want to see you in my clothes’ way. In a ‘pick love songs to sing to you on karaoke nights’ kind of way. I love you in a ‘wake up together every morning and kiss each other goodnight’ kind of way. In case that wasn’t clear,” Kara says, and her cheeks get pinker the longer she rambles on.
Lena knows she has a stupid grin on her face, but she really can’t help it.
“That’s how I love you, too,” Lena whispers, and Kara chuckles through her tears. “But there’s no way I’m singing karaoke.”
Kara throws her head back in a laugh before she’s beaming at Lena as if Lena is the best, brightest, most important thing in the world. “Rao, I’ve missed you.”
Lena’s chin quivers as she nods, and Kara pulls her into a hug, and though it’s crushing, Lena feels like everything is being released.