"Goodnight, Kara." Lena said from across the room when she finally managed to catch Kara's eye.
It was the first time they had made eye contact since Kara had welcomed her inside at the start of the night. Kara startled at the sudden sight of Lena, waving farewell as she stepped quietly towards the door, but made no move to follow after her and when the door swung quietly shut behind her Lena knew things would never be the same.
It was Kara's birthday party (her Earth birthday party to those that happened to be in the know, which to Lena's un-surprise was a rather considerable group all things considered). Kara had invited her, further proof of the strength of their newly reaffirmed friendship. Lena had been grateful for the invite, appreciating it as the sign that they were back on the right track, and accepted it without hesitation.
She had then proceeded to spend hours upon hours thinking of the perfect gift for Kara, excitement and anticipation building in her stomach.
It would be her first proper night out in months after being thrown back into her role as CEO and dealing with all the negative press following Lex’s downfall and upcoming conviction. Her working hours had reached an excess that she had never achieved before. The blowback onto her in the form of hatred for the Luthors was even greater than last time as well, despite her crucial role in taking Lex down. She was still deemed guilty by association especially since she had been working closely with Lex for a long time before revelations about his villainy became apparent.
The news were critiquing her every move, slandering her every chance they got and rallying the masses to a fervour - she was now facing at least one assassination attempt every week.
Regardless of all that, Lena had one salvation, one light of hope that she clung onto. Her friendship with Kara. It was growing again. They were spending time together. Relearning one another or learning about each for the first time in Lena's case. The conversation was finally less stilted and the trust was back.
But there was still something missing, something stopping them from returning to exactly where they were before.
Lena, as the months ticked by, realised that they were no longer as physically close as they once were. Hugs were rare. Gentle touches of the hands were swiftly snatched back to prevent lingering. Even extended eye contact was fleeting.
Lena at first thought the problem was that she had hurt Kara so badly that the woman who sometimes communicated solely through physical affection no longer wanted to be touched by Lena. That broke something in Lena. That Kara, even though she was trying to be kind, friendly and forgiving to Lena, was not comfortable with any sort of physical contact between them, drove Lena into a drunken stupor of college-level proportions.
Once the alcohol was out of her system and she had suitably recovered from her hangover, Lena had allowed the scientist within her to take over.
No more assumptions.
She would gather evidence, make an hypothesis and work towards a solution.
If she wanted Kara back in her life properly - cuddles on the sofa and lengthy hugs a necessity of that - Lena would put the effort in.
So she observed… and what she observed was this…
Pink cheeks and bashful expressions whenever their gazes met.
A thick swallow and faltering breath whenever their hands brushed.
Deep sighs and fingers digging fleetingly into her back as if on the edge of pulling her closer whenever they embraced.
Dark eyes and teeth biting into a bottom lip whenever Lena stretched or moved her hair away from her neck.
Attraction, affection and interest .
Lena didn’t believe the results of her evidence; she re-ran the tests over and over again trying to work out if she had just interacted with Kara on an odd day, if she just happened to be thinking about something (someone) else at the same time but… it kept happening over and over again.
If it had been anyone else, Lena wouldn’t have doubted what she was seeing but… but.. This was Kara.
Kara, who she had been in love with since she had walked into her office with her cousin.
Kara, who had never picked up on or reacted to her flirts.
Kara, who had broken her heart with lies.
Kara, who meant so much to her.
Kara, who she had only just gotten back.
Was it worth the risk?
Fear had blinded her, of that she had no doubt, but was it keeping her safe from the hurtful truth of Kara not wanting to touch her anymore or from the potential happiness that Kara returned her feelings but was too sweet or shy to put herself in a position that would make Lena uncomfortable.
Lena decided to take a chance - just this once because even if she was wrong about Kara not feeling the same, she had to believe that Kara was incapable of being cruel to her if she misread it. They promised each other honesty and Lena intended to show it.
It was why she needed to buy the perfect present, something that hinted that Kara’s feelings (if Lena was right) were returned. And just a week before the party, she knew exactly what the perfect present would be.
She wrapped it personally (normally Jess would wrap any gifts she had to send out), wanting to go the extra mile. It wasn’t perfectly done, a bit messy in places and the sellotape was excessive but she had done it herself which she knew Kara would appreciate more than professional gift wrapping.
Lena, however, realised that she had made a mistake the second she arrived at Kara's.
Knew she had misread… everything …
Because Kara… Kara couldn't stand to be near her for longer than it took to say hello, accept the present and then disappear off.
Lena hadn’t expected to be with Kara for all of the party; it was Kara's party and loads of her friends were in attendance, all of whom wanted to spend it with Kara. Who wouldn't?
It's just… Lena…
Lena didn't have anyone else.
It was made abundantly clear to Lena within the first thirty seconds that she was not welcome. Alex gave her a gruff nod from across the room before turning her back to her - she still didn't trust her and Lena had prioritised winning Kara back over the last few months above everything else. Brainy and Nia smiled at her but they were deep in conversation with CatCo employees all of whom were practically snarling at Lena (clearly not Luthor fans). James was here as well and dear God did he give her such a blazing look of hatred Lena was surprised she didn't burst into flames under its ferocity. (They hadn’t dated in this rewritten universe, much to Lena’s pleasure, though his original dislike for her was clearly a mainstay of every universe).
So… Lena grabbed a drink and stood in the corner as Kara moved seamlessly between her various groups of friends and colleagues, never once sparing Lena even a glance. The majority of her movements were accompanied by William Dey, who repeatedly tried to sling an arm around Kara's shoulder - the only joy Lena got from the evening was watching Kara repeatedly squirm out from under his touch.
She held out for two hours, sipping three beers and glancing intermittently at her phone as she stayed in her corner, hoping that Kara would come over for just five minutes.
Five minutes with Kara wasn't too much to ask for, was it?
Five mere minutes with Kara would have made the whole night worth it, made the glares and malevolent whispers sent her way worth it.
It was at the two hour mark that Lena accepted the truth.
Kara wasn't going to come over to talk to her.
Kara hadn't been pulling away from her due to a sudden realisation of feelings and attraction.
Kara hadn't expected her to accept the invite. Hadn't wanted her to accept.
Kara was ashamed of her, that was why she pulled away, why she didn't acknowledge her.
Lena couldn't really blame her but that didn't mean she had to stay and take it. So gathering what was left of her dignity, she shuffled towards the door, caught Kara's eye, waved and slipped outside… though, not before retrieving the present she had brought for Kara… it would have revealed far too much and Lena didn't need to deal with that on top of everything else.
Lena returned to her office for no other reason that she still had some good liquor stored there - Kara had encouraged her a couple of months ago to cut back on her drinking and she couldn’t deny the baby blue puppy dog eyes. She staggered into her office, chucking the present she had spent hours creating onto the sofa - she would buy Kara some random meaningless gift like a nice scarf or jumper tomorrow instead - and poured herself a full tumbler before flipping open her laptop and getting to work. She lost herself in designs and business plans as she made her way through the bottle.
She used to sit and brood when she drank but Sam had made her promise she wouldn’t do that anymore, hazel eyes filled with concern at where Lena’s mind wandered when unoccupied and fuelled by alcohol. Whilst Lena was in a pretty bleak space, she refused to hurt her last (and only) friend by breaking the one promise she had made to her.
It must have been two am when Lena heard a familiar thud from the balcony followed by a gentle knock that could only belong to one person.
“Kara, to what do I owe the pleasure?” Lena called out, not bothering to lift her gaze away from her laptop screen - she wasn't sure whether the sight of Kara would evoke tears or fury and she wished to give Kara neither.
“Hey… I just wanted… I was…" Kara stammered out; Lena didn't need to see her to know that she was fidgeting with the edge of her cape as she tiptoed nervously closer. "You know… flying around and saw the light on and figured I would check in on you, see how you were doing…”
“I’m fine. Just working.” Lena replied brusquely taking a sip of her whiskey.
“And drinking…” Kara muttered, her tone more worried than disapproving but Lena took offense regardless.
“Yes. It’s a Saturday night, cut me some slack.” Lena snapped back, defiantly swallowing what was left in her glass before slamming it down onto her desk.
The loud clack as it connected with the surface was followed by a heavy, almost suffocating silence.
“You left early.” Kara whispered into the unnatural stillness, shattering the fraudulent focus Lena had on her computer screen with those three words. Kara didn't sound confused or upset, just painfully neutral as if to emotionally step back from the situation so that she could garner some emotional truth from the CEO instead.
Well, Lena was done with that, done with giving more of herself than Kara wanted so she took a deep, calming breath and allowed her painstakingly crafted mask to slip into place.
“I wasn’t the first to leave.” Lena pointed out calmly, finally turning to look at Kara, certain she could keep her voice and face blank. It was then that she saw how… small Kara looked, which was never a word Lena would have used to describe Kara in full Supergirl regalia in the entire time she had known her. Kara looked defeated and lost, a tremble to her lip and very being that she tried to hide behind a shy smile.
“Well… I didn’t get a chance to talk to you…” Kara replied, ducking her head meekly as she admitted. “I wanted to talk to you.”
Lena pursed her lips at that, “I was there for over two hours, Kara. You could have come over whenever you wanted. It wasn’t like I was occupied.”
“Yeah… what was that about?” Kara laughed, rubbing the back of her neck, trying far too hard to make her tone light as if even the idea of Lena being without company was an entirely absurd concept.
The high-pitch to Kara's laugh and the unfamiliar tension around her eyes revealed to Lena that Kara knew exactly why Lena had been standing all alone that evening.
“I’m a Luthor, Kara." Lena replied sharply, not interested in trying to smooth over the harsh truths like Kara was always so keen to do when it suited her. "No one wanted me there and they all made that very clear.”
“I wanted you there.” Kara replied so soft and earnest that Lena nearly believed her.
“I highly doubt that.” Lena scoffed derisively.
“I did.” Kara insisted, eyes desperate and pleading.
Lena merely shook her head, turning back to face her computer, “If you say so…”
“Kara… I can’t…” Lena muttered, her voice cracking in the exact way she didn’t want it to. “I can’t do this. Just leave me alone.” Lena requested, hating how it verged on begging.
“What?” Kara murmured in shock.
“I can’t just… pretend that I’m not hurt or upset.” Lena confessed, fingers curling into fists on her desk, eyes slamming shut to lock in the tears. “I just need… time to get over it and accept what we are. So until then… please just leave me alone.”
“I hurt you.” Kara repeated, her voice broken and raw .
“Kara, I didn’t…” Lena shook her head angrily, she didn’t want to do this, didn’t want to inflict herself on Kara who had tried so hard to be her friend. “It's your birthday, Kara.” Lena sighed sadly, “You get to spend it anyway you like with whomever you like.”
“I wanted to spend it with you.” Kara breathed, and Lena could hear the sharp inhales between each word that revealed that Kara was crying.
“Kara, you don’t need to…” Lena assured, with a wave of her hand, eyes focused on her lap, “let’s just leave it, okay?”
“No…” Kara gasped, and suddenly Lena felt a trembling hand connect with her own tightly curled fists, “wait… what did you mean ‘get over it’ and ‘accept what we are’?”
Lena sucked in a sharp breath at the question, biting down harshly on her bottom lip.
“Lena?” Kara pressed.
“Fuck it, fine.” Lena snapped, yanking her hands away from Kara’s infinitely soft touch and shoving herself out of her chair before storming away from Kara, desperate for space. “I thought you liked me.”
“I do-” Kara began, taking a tentative step after her.
“No, Kara.” Lena yelled, spinning back to face Kara, with a twisted snarl of total self-loathing. “Liked me.” Lena stressed, before throwing her hands up into the air as it all just boiled out of her, “God, I sound like a teenager. I thought you liked me. I thought you were touching me less because you were attracted to me. But then… I go to your party and you don’t… it was like you were ashamed of me, I sat in that fucking corner for two hours as everyone wished - out loud, I should say - that I would go. I sat in that fucking corner in the hope that you would speak to me for five minutes. For just five minutes. Because that… that would have made it all worth it. But you could barely look at me. And I realised you didn’t - don’t - like me… you’re ashamed of me, but you’re too kind to abandon me. Too noble and generous but even you have your limits. Of course, you didn’t want to spend your birthday talking to me. Of course you didn’t.”
Lena wanted to punch a wall, wanted to down the rest of her whiskey, wanted to do literally anything than be here in this moment watching the horror-struck expression on Kara’s face grow and grow with every word, watch Kara’s body tremble and shake with each harsh sweeping gesture.
“Lena, no… you…” Kara sobbed, striding towards her with fingers twitching at her sides, “you have got the complete wrong end of the stick. Actually, you’re right but also really wrong. And…” Kara swiped aggressively at the tears rolling down her cheeks as she approached Lena, stopping when the raven-haired woman flinched at their sudden closeness. “I screwed up but-”
“No. You don’t need to do this.” Lena cut in, holding a hand up to stop Kara, wanting Kara to know that her guilt was unnecessary and that she could finally be free of Lena.
“Lena, I’m so-”
“You don’t need to apologise.” Lena insisted, taking a deep breath to rein back in her swirl of her emotions. She could do this. She could let Kara go. “You were trying to be kind but you shouldn’t… god, if I make you that miserable, that uncomfortable, you shouldn’t have to force yourself to interact with me.”
“LENA!” Kara bellowed, stamping her foot to the ground and lifting her chin to reveal a determined expression.
Lena blinked in shock at the sudden volume and intensity; falling obediently quiet.
Kara placed her hands on her hips, took a deep breath, looked Lena straight in the eye with earnest, beseeching blue and declared, “I want to kiss you right now because that would be the big sweeping action that would prove to you that I mean what I’m about to say next but… you’ve been drinking… heavily from the looks of things.” Kara shot a displeased pout at the nearly empty bottle of whiskey as if it was all the bottle’s fault for Lena’s current state of inebriation and not the youngest Luthor’s unhealthy coping mechanisms. Kara turned back to face a stunned Lena, with a fond smile, “And I really want our first kiss to be one you remember and one you can fully consent to. So, you’re just going to have to believe me… please, please believe me when I say… I’m in love with you and I fucked up massively tonight. Really, really fucked up.”
“You never swear.” Lena murmured quietly, and it probably wasn’t what she should have been focusing on but her brain was currently stuck like a record scratch unable to fully comprehend what Kara had just told her; and the swear was just the cherry on top of an entire sundae of confusing and out-of-the-blue revelations.
“Which shows how much I believe that I fucked up.” Kara replied with a helpless shrug.
“You were the only person I wanted to spend my birthday with.” Kara confessed, “Well, Alex at some point as well. But you mostly. Alex planned the party and I couldn’t…” Kara huffed out a frustrated breath and rolled her eyes, “she did this whole thing and I didn’t want to turn around and say I didn’t want it. That all I really wanted was a quiet night watching films with you because…” Kara sighed, “because then she’d know… To make it more bearable I invited you but there were so many other people, and I will be honest… I don’t even like half of them. Alex, just invited everyone I was friends on facebook with which is not a good barometer of friendship.”
Lena cleared her throat, none of it making sense, “Then why-”
“Did I ignore you?” Kara guessed with a painful wince.
“Yeah…” Lena muttered, wrapping her arms protectively around herself.
“Because… because I knew, or at least I thought I knew, that you hadn’t noticed how I felt about you.” Kara explained inching just that little bit closer towards Lena, attempting to bring them within touching distance of one another. “And I knew it was only a miracle that you hadn’t until now because…” Kara smiled a lopsided, rueful and self-deprecating smile, “Lena, I am not subtle. Not at all. And I knew… I knew if I interacted with you at the party… everyone else would be able to tell in an instant how I felt.”
Lena exhaled slow and deep, arms tightening their hold around herself, “And you didn’t want them knowing you liked me?”
“Love. Not like.” Kara corrected, patient yet firm, “Love. And no, I didn’t.”
Lena nodded once in understanding, letting out a hollow laugh, “I get it. I wouldn’t want anyone to know I loved me either.”
“Lena… no… no… you…” Kara rushed to explain, finally stepping close enough to reach out and place her hands gently on Lena’s curled biceps. Lena couldn’t help how she instinctively shifted closer, wanting to increase contact with Kara after being denied it for so long. “I didn’t want anyone knowing before you.” Kara admitted.
And that… that snapped something back into place for Lena.
Made the doubts screaming inside her head quieten down just enough to think… maybe…
Because… it was being last that had broken them the first time. Being the only one not to know and now…
“I didn’t want Stacy, who used to cheat off me in exams in college to know how I felt about you before you did.” Kara said, thumbs moving back and forth against the bare skin of Lena’s arms causing a swathe of goosebumps to rise like a wave in the wake of Kara’s every touch. “They didn’t deserve that. They didn’t deserve…” Kara’s jaw clenched, eyes darkening as she studied Lena’s face, “I was trying to protect you from them. They said horrible things about you and you should know, the minute after you left, I kicked everyone who so much as looked at you funny out. It was just me, Nia, Brainy and Kelly left… Alex, as well, but we had a rather heated argument before she was allowed to stay.” Kara bowed her head in shame, “I should have kicked them all out immediately but-”
“Then they would have known.” Lena finished for her.
“I had this whole thing planned.” Kara breathed out, her hands gradually shifting away from Lena’s arms around to her back, surrounding Lena in a loose hold, Kara’s eyes flickering over Lena’s face and body rapidly searching for even the slightest sign that Lena was uncomfortable with their contact. “Once everyone left, I had set-up the roof with lights and cushions and… I was going to tell you how I felt. I just had to make it through the birthday party from hell and I was trying so hard to keep to the plan. To not spoil it. To keep it a secret so that it could just be ours but... I…” Kara’s eyes slid shut and she inhaled a shuddering breath filled with pain. “I hurt you. And there is nothing I can say to make you forgive me, but I do… I do love you so much. And I will never, ever be ashamed of you.” Kara blinked her eyes back open and leaned forward to place a kiss on Lena’s forehead. “I just wanted it to be ours and not theirs. I didn’t want to share. You’re the only thing in my life that… I didn’t want to share.”
“Open your present.” Lena demanded, stepping out of Kara’s loving embrace.
“Lena-” Kara whimpered, pained at the sudden loss of closeness.
“Open your present, Kara.” Lena repeated, jerking her chin towards the sofa where the roughly wrapped present lay.
“I… okay…” Kara replied, watching Lena closely as she tried to make sense of Lena’s clear request. Kara walked cautiously over to the couch, picking up the gift with gentle hands. “Did you wrap it yourself?” Kara asked, her entire expression brightening as she stared down at the crooked, over sellotaped wrapping.
Lena harrumphed at the question, pursing her lips.
“You did, didn’t you?” Kara teased.
“The present isn’t the piss poor wrapping.” Lena replied with an exaggerated roll of her eyes that had the corners of Kara’s lips quirking even further upwards.
“Lena Luthor wrapped my present herself…", Kara whistled in awe, blue eyes twinkling with true delight for the first time that day, "what better gift is there?”
“Open it and you might find one.” Lena said, heart leaping into her throat as Kara’s deft fingers found a line of wrapping paper she could tuck them under.
The sound of paper ripping was deafening in the stillness; all Lena could do was watch and wait.
The paper fell away leaving behind a small black box, Kara shot Lena a hesitant look and it wasn’t until Lena nodded for her to continue that Kara clicked it open.
There was a pause.
A heavy, endless pause in which Lena couldn’t bring herself to even breathe.
“What is-” Kara began before cutting off immediately as she lifted up the beautiful bracelet made of nth metal and inscribed with ‘stronger together’ in Lena’s own cursive handwriting in both english and kryptonian.
The bracelet shined under the lights in Lena’s office, but in Lena’s opinion, Kara’s eyes shined impossibly brighter.
“You’re in love with me.” Kara whispered, seeing the present for everything Lena had hoped it would convey.
“Yes.” Lena confirmed because there was no hiding it now.
With trembling fingers Kara clasped the bracelet onto her wrist, long fingers tracing the words delicately inscribed with no small amount of wonder. Finally, she turned around and stared at Lena with so much sheer love that the youngest Luthor felt overwhelmed and like her heart might burst right out of her chest in its desire to be in Kara’s possession
Clearing her throat and clasping her hands behind her back, Lena gathered her courage and asked, “If I promise you I’ll remember it and that I am fully consenting… will you kiss me now?”
Kara was in front of her in the literal blink of the eye, hands reaching out to cup Lena’s cheeks as Lena’s hands moved to rest on Kara’s hips gently encouraging their bodies closer with a light tug.
“There is nothing I want more.” Kara assured with the widest grin that Lena had ever seen and couldn’t help but return.
Their first kiss could barely count as a kiss.
Their smiles were too wide to allow for it, but Lena wouldn’t change it even slightly. They pressed their smiles against one another, teeth knocking together and noses brushing.
It may not have been a successful kiss but it was tender and filled with so much joy that Lena wouldn’t describe it as anything less than perfect.
Their second kiss was an actual kiss, lips slotting together, tongues seeking each other out and teeth tugging whimpers and moans from one another in an endless cycle.
Their second kiss turned into a third, a fourth, a fifth.
They kissed until the sun rose.
Kissed until their lips ached and any remaining doubts Lena may have had were pushed back into the shadows by the light of Kara’s smile and blue eyes.