Lena gets there too late.
She lands on the beach in her exosuit, runs past the body of her dead brother still strapped inside his warsuit, and instead she falls to her knees beside Kara.
Somehow, somehow, she’s still breathing, and Lena lets out a sob in relief.
“Oh god, oh god, you idiot.” She strokes some errant hairs away from Kara’s face, and Kara opens her eyes.
“Hey, Lena,” she croaks, and has the gall to offer up a charming smile from where she’s sprawled flat on her back, a Kryptonite—tipped sword sticking out of her stomach. “Where did you come from?”
Lena ignores her, assessing the damage to Kara’s body with mounting horror. She’s as pale as anything, blood soaking through her cape and sinking into the soft sand, her skin damp and clammy, and there— under the surface, Kara’s downfall, her doom: sickening green tendrils of Kryptonite snaking through her system, poisoning her from the inside out.
“How's it looking, doc?” Kara’s eyes flicker from her wound and then up to Lena’s face. “Oh, wow," she says, her chuckle bordering on hysterical, "that bad?"
“That bad,” Lena confirms, because this could be it, this could be the end, and well—
They’d promised each other never to lie again.
“Doozy,” Kara coughs, biting back a groan as she lies her head down on the sand, and it prompts Lena into action. There’s not a lot she can do about the Kryptonite, and removing Lex’s flashy sword before it's out of Kara’s system could be fatal, so she focuses on the puncture would. She releases herself from her suit, strips off her jacket, positions it around the sword as best she can, and with shaky hands she presses down.
Kara hisses through her teeth. “Ouch.”
Lena doesn’t look up. There’s so much blood, there’s too much blood—
“Why didn’t you wait?” she asks, distracted, watching in horror as her jacket turns sodden beneath her fingertips. She presses harder. “Why didn’t you wait for me? I had the anti-Kryptonite suit ready, Alex was bringing it to you, you could have—”
“Couldn’t wait,” Kara interrupts her, her voice strained. “Lex had his drones trained on the Tower. You were there. He knew that.” Kara’s hand closes around her wrist, and she tugs lightly to get Lena’s attention, waiting until Lena looks up before she says in the quietest, loveliest, most devastating voice, “I couldn’t wait.”
Lena is momentarily speechless, and she hates Kara for it.
Now? she thinks. Now. After six fucking years, she's going to do this now?
She tries to shake her head clear, an impossible task when all she can focus on is Kara. “We said— we said we had to stop him, no matter the cost. You weren’t supposed to risk it for—” Lena falters, but she can’t look away from Kara, not now, not ever. “You weren’t suppose to risk it for me. You were supposed to wait.”
“Some costs are too high.”
“I got him, didn’t I?” Kara asks, her smile grim. “And I saved you. That’s all I really wanted to do,” she says, dogged, determined, and oh so pleased with herself, and Lena glares at her, this noble, self-sacrificing, stupid fallen hero who fell for her.
She doesn’t feel proud; she feels angry.
“I hate you,” she says, and shifts to tenderly cradle Kara’s head. “I hate you,” she says, and gently brushes the sand off Kara’s cheeks.
Kara wheezes out a laugh and blinks up at Lena, her eyes as bright and burning blue as the day they first met. “Well, that’s awkward then,” she says, and smiles, and Lena knows what Kara’s about to confess and she hates her all the more, “because I’m pretty sure I’m in lo—”
Lena cuts her off with a kiss— a kiss six years in the making— and Kara smiles beneath her.
"You idiot," Lena whispers, pulling back when Kara's breathing becomes dangerously sharp. "You idiot."
"Is this your equivalent of pulling my pigtails in the playground?” Kara’s grin is warm, and her eyes shine and shine. “You got a crush on me, Luthor?"
Lena scowls and kisses Kara again, if only to shut her up, but Kara just laughs into her mouth, delighted, surges forward and opens herself up to Lena until the only thing Lena tastes is blood.
"Wait, wait,” Kara pants moments later. She’s shaking, and the whimpers coming from her mouth are not the sexy kind, so Lena lowers her carefully back to the ground. “That was a super sneaky distraction,” Kara starts, before attempting once again to break Lena’s heart, “but even kissing me isn’t gonna stop me from telling you that I—”
“Shut up, Kara,” Lena cuts her off again, fresh tears dropping from her cheeks to Kara’s, rolling down her dirtied skin, disappearing into her hairline. "Just stop. Please."
Kara gives her a giddy smile. “But Lena, I love—”
“No,” Lena says. “No, you don’t get to say that and then die on me. I don’t— this is not how this is supposed to go.” They were supposed to have time. They deserve to have time, after all they have been through.
“Lena,” Kara says, lovely and sweet, “it’s going to be okay.”
No it isn't. Lena knows exactly how this story ends. It’s not the first time the universe has given her a taste of hope and then pulled the ground from beneath her feet. It's not the first time she's held her lover in her arms, death casting it's long, lifeless shadow beside her.
"You're going to be okay, Lena," Kara says, and Lena laughs, cries, swallows back a scream— pretty damn sure that’s supposed to be her line. Underneath her Kara shivers violently and coughs again, tears prickling her eyes. She grasps at Lena’s forearm. “Lena," she says, sounding panicked for the first time, "it really hurts.”
“I know, darling.” Lena makes the mistake of glancing down at Kara's wound and has to bite her tongue to stop a casual, comforting lie spilling from her mouth. She doubles down on her jacket. "I know. Alex is on her way and she’s bringing help, okay? Just hold on for me, just— just wait with me a while.”
“I don’t— Lena, I need to tell you, I—”
“No,” Lena says, stubbornly.
Kara laughs, though it takes her a lot of effort to do it. “Will you just let me say it?"
“Lena, please let me say it.”
“No, don’t you dare. Not unless you plan on taking me home tonight. Not unless you’re going to stay.”
“But I want to say it,” Kara whines, and then pouts, honest to god pouts. Lena’s never loved someone more in her whole life. “Lena Luthor, I lo—”
“Shut up,” she says and steals Kara’s words before she can finish her sentence. “I love you,” she says, and her heart drums on the walls of her chest as Kara smiles up at her, dazed with affection. “I love you, but you don’t get to say it and die.”
“Yeah?” Kara says, giving Lena a dopey grin. Then she frowns. “Wait, that’s not fair. Why do you get to say it and I don’t?” she asks, but her protest is weak and her grip on Lena’s forearm starts to go slack. “Why do you… Lena, I—” Kara’s eyes suddenly blink wide, “—I don’t want to die,” she says.
“Then don’t,” Lena says, and shakes Kara’s shoulders. The reaction is immediate: Kara gasps in pain as the sword jostles inside her, and she lets out an agonising groan. "I'm sorry," Lena whispers against her forehead, pressing a kiss there in apology. "I'm so sorry." Another kiss, this time to Kara's temple. "We've got to keep you awake, okay? Just stay with me."
"Okay, jeez, okay. You're being mean," Kara says when she regains her breath, but those blue eyes are shining, and there is that smile again, that stupid, charming smile. “Alright. I promise I won’t die, I won't even sleep, not even a wink, but…” she pauses, ever the drama queen, and waggles her eyebrows, “only if you let me say it.”
Lena stares down at her, utterly and hopelessly enamoured. “Are you really bargaining right now?”
“Yes,” Kara says, with a grave, solemn nod. “How about it, Miss Luthor? Have we got a deal?”
“Yes,” Lena says, desperate, and so, so terrified. “Yes, of course we have a deal.”
Kara reaches up and traces Lena’s jaw with icy fingers, her thumb lingering on Lena’s cheek. Her eyes blink once, twice, three times slow, and she sighs. It’s a sigh that Lena usually associates with a contented Kara. Kara full up on takeout and fried dough, Kara lounging in the sun on Lena’s balcony, Kara laughing, radiant, stealing Lena’s fries from her plate.
“You’re so beautiful,” Kara murmurs, and a sob claws its way out of Lena’s throat.
Alex is coming, she thinks. Alex will save her.
But she looks up and the road winding down to the beach is quiet; she looks up and the skies are clear. There are no drones, no choppers, no caped superheroes swooping in with a last minute save. It’s just the two of them on warm sand under blue skies. Just the two of them, in the end.
A thumb rubs lightly across her wrist, drawing her attention back down, and Lena stares, love-struck, into the bluest eyes she’s ever known.
“Oh," Kara breathes, "that’s much better—” and her eyelids flutter shut and Lena’s world goes dark.