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you should never know (how easy you are to need)

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i've known the warmth of your doorways
through the cold, i'll find my way back to you
oh, please, give me mercy no more

it will come back, hozier

+

Lena never got sick.

Exhausted to the bone, maybe. Driven close to madness that she was one incompetent man away from murder, maybe. It was a combination of a balanced diet, routine exercise, the occasional whisky in her morning coffee, tenacity, and sheer stubbornness. But she never got sick.

So when she broke the silence of Kara’s apartment—where she had spent the last hour and a half working on spreadsheets at the dining table, while Kara typed away her latest assignment on her couch—with a resounding sneeze that woke the sleeping Streaky by Kara’s feet, it was understandable that everyone’s first reaction was surprise.

“Was that—”

“I’m fine,” was Lena’s immediate response. It made Kara frown, and within a single heartbeat, she shut her laptop and forgot all about it. She stood by Lena with a worried look on her face. Lena met it with a pout. “It’s one sneeze, Kara, I don’t see how—”

Lena sneezed again. Streaky meowed from the couch and Lena threw him an annoyed glare, as if she understood what it was he said. Kara said nothing else; instead, she moved about the kitchen, opening and closing cabinet doors and taking what looked like ingredients for something. Her super-speed wasn’t something Lena was used to just yet, at least in these casual settings. She’d had her fair share of seeing Supergirl round up criminals and go around the world in a mere heartbeat, but seeing Kara Danvers was as rare a sight as her getting sick.

Lena considered herself lucky to witness this. Kara would tell her otherwise, with a ramble of long-forgiven apologies about why Kara had to keep Supergirl a secret and how grateful she was that Lena still allowed her in her life. And Lena would think the opposite, considering she was night to Kara’s day—and it’d be a cycle that would end with them agreeing to disagree and laughing until their bellies ached. It had been an arduous road to get where they were now, but dishonesty and half-truths couldn’t destroy what they built together. Where the cracks of their relationship lied were crevices mended with time and trust fortified by the storms they went through.

It made them stronger—much to everyone’s surprise and disbelief.

“What are you doing?” Lena asked, watching as the blonde started chopping up vegetables that Kara only ever added to her pantry at Lena’s insistence.

“I’m going to make you Eliza’s soup,” Kara said, as if that explained anything. At Lena’s silence, Kara chuckled and glanced at her. “It’s a Danvers family recipe, and it’s bound to put you back up in tiptop shape in no time.”

Lena furrowed her eyebrows. “I’m fine, Kara,” she repeated. She felt fine so far, though the beginnings of a chill drew from her spine. She cleared her throat, which felt scratchy—like a paper cut she just noticed and now started to give her hell.

Kara only looked at her, worry in those blue eyes as if she was considering whether to be stubborn or give in to whatever it was Lena wanted because it was better for her in hindsight. The latter was usually the case—like Kara’s new pantry additions, her reinforced Kryptonite suit, and her sunlamps at home. Lena was a brilliant woman who knew the best for other people, especially for Kara, but she was blind to her own needs.

That was where Kara excelled; she met Lena’s stubbornness most of the time and actually got Lena to agree with her on worse days. Alex said that was why they worked so well together in the battlefield—a force to be reckoned with, the very embodiment of El Mayarah—and were so amusing to watch on a normal day.

The blonde paused in her task and approached Lena again. “Can I—” She hesitated before raising her hand with a wordless question for permission.

“That’s not a very accurate way to take someone’s temperature, Miss Danvers,” Lena pointed out with amusement, though her heartbeat skipped at the implication of Kara touching her—an innocent gesture, sure, but despite the years of friendship, human touch was still an unfamiliar concept to her most days.

“I have super senses.” Kara grinned. “I also have thermo—”

“I’ll take the soup,” Lena relented.

“Good.” Kara reached for Lena’s laptop and closed it shut before gesturing for the couch. “That means work is over too for the rest of the night.”

Lena huffed. “You can’t tell me what to do. I’m literally your boss’ boss.”

“You’re in my apartment and it’s past work hours.” Kara shrugged. Lena stared at her as if she was considering refuting that truth. “Will you please just let me take care of you before you sneeze your human virus all over my dinner table?”

That was what finally drove Lena to stand from her seat and give in to Kara. Not the virus part; they tested that and found out the only way Kara could get sick the way humans do was if she solar-flared, which Lena would never allow to happen on her watch. It was the soft plea in Kara’s voice, one that transformed into a grin of victory as she continued with her task.

Lena felt colder now, as if accepting that she was sick opened the floodgates and shut down the rest of her body. Mind lost over matter some days. She padded to the couch where Streaky napped, right in the middle of it, where Kara left him earlier. He opened one eye to look at Lena before closing it again, remaining unmoving where he was comfortable. She’d call him an asshole, but Kara would hear her. Lena would never admit it too, but the stubborn black cat had grown on her in the past months since the blonde adopted him.

Settling on the other end of the couch, Lena watched as Kara super-sped her way through her said Danvers-family-recipe soup. Preparation didn’t take long, but Kara took her time to do the actual cooking: a slow, methodical way of stirring the pot that probably drove the heroine insane, considering she could fly to the moon and back in the snap of a finger.

Almost twenty minutes later, Kara held the bowl of soup in her hands, cooled down just enough for Lena to already eat, and offered it to Lena. “It isn’t as great as Eliza’s, but I think I nailed it just fine.”

Lena didn’t need to have super-hearing to pick up the nerves in Kara’s tone. It could taste like mud and Lena would appreciate it because Kara cooked it for her. She didn’t have to lie about it though because it did taste great—made her feel better, warm in the best of ways, but that was probably an effect of Kara’s mere presence. The blonde sat with her on the couch—displaced Streaky from his position, which the feline did not appreciate, but he soon found his new bed on Kara’s lap—and put on an old black-and-white film that wasn’t her thing but was one of Lena’s favorites.

“Thank you,” Lena murmured when she finished eating and Kara took the empty bowl from here. She already felt so much better.

Kara just smiled before echoing the words Lena told her so long ago. “What are friends for?”

+

She swore she wasn’t doing it on purpose.

It had been two weeks since her immune system betrayed her and caught up on almost three decades of not being sick. She woke up with a scratchy throat—which wasn’t that much of an issue these days considering she let her employees handle day-to-day L-Corp business unless she had to intervene—but it wasn’t the most comfortable of feelings either.

She still went to work. Jess advised her to take it slow, Miss Luthor, before shaking her own head as if she already knew what Lena would say. She offered to make tea instead, and Lena accepted it with a grateful smile.

Around lunchtime, her personal phone rang. Kara’s smiling face greeted her on the screen; Lena answered it with a clearing of her throat that felt more painful than it should have. “Hey.”

“Are you okay?” Kara answered back. The worry in her tone was obvious through the line. Lena could imagine just the concern in her blue eyes, much like that night two weeks ago.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Lena chuckled. “Just an itchy throat.”

“You should try some honey.” There was some rustling in the other line. “I could bring you some, if you aren’t busy. Wait. Are you at work?”

“Yes,” Lena answered, and before Kara could chastise her, she continued. “It’s just a sore throat. I can still work. And don’t worry. Jess made me tea with honey.”

“Okay. Okay, that’s good.” Somehow, Kara sounded distracted, but Lena just assumed she was at CatCo. When she said nothing else, Lena hummed in amusement.

“You called?”

“Oh. Oh, yeah!” Kara laughed nervously. “I wanted to ask if you wanted to grab lunch together, but I’d rather bring you food instead. If you aren’t busy, that is?”

“Not at all,” Lena assured, already saving her work on her laptop so she could get ready to go meet Kara. “What were you craving?”

“Nothing really, but I feel like some ramen might do you good?”

Lena hummed as her stomach agreed with her. “I’d love that. Where do you want to—”

There was a knock on her balcony doors—always left open for a certain caped heroine, but it was Kara Danvers in her dress shirt and oxfords that greeted Lena when she rose from her seat. Kara grinned at her, phone in one hand and a paper bag in the other.

“Super delivery,” Lena greeted with amusement as she invited Kara in with a wave of her hand.

The blonde laughed, a bright grin on her lips but with the same care in her eyes from two weeks ago. “Watch out, Uber Eats.” She fidgeted with her glasses as she eyed Lena up and down. “You okay?”

“It’s just probably a sore throat, Kara,” Lena insisted with a small chuckle. It felt like two weeks ago all over again. “I’m glad you’re here though.”

They eat lunch over a conversation about work and some new shows Kara wanted to watch with Lena. She was halfway through her ramen—and Kara was done with her rice bowl—when the blonde had to leave for an emergency downtown.

“Feel better soon,” Kara said as a goodbye, her hand squeezing Lena’s before she flew out of the CEO’s office. Her warmth lingered, and for a moment Lena wondered if it was the beginning of a fever until reality caught up with her.

She was feeling better that night, but when Kara asked, she may have said otherwise, if only to have the blonde over for tea and honey and some Netflix show about fairies in college.

+

Her immune system was more forgiving the following weeks; at least, until Lena had to go on a series of trips out of town and the jetlag got to her. That—along with weather changes and the stress of having to deal with people professionally when all she wanted to do was punch them in the face for being so full of themselves—had her with the beginnings of a terrible migraine that worsened into a fever come evening.

Kara arrived at the New York hotel she was staying at before Lena could even tell her National City needed Supergirl more than she needed babysitting. The reply she got on the phone was silence save from rustling, like wind, and a few seconds later there was a knock on the closed balcony doors that spiked her heart rate.

Lena swore she didn’t pick the room for that reason. Jess booked her hotels for her.

She jolted from bed and Kara looked sheepish as she waved from the other side, blonde hair and red cape billowing in the frigid evening air.

“You almost gave me a heart attack,” Lena muttered, opening the door for her.

Kara responded with an apologetic grin and powerful arms that could break bones and move mountains but wrapped around Lena like she was the most delicate thing on the planet. “Sorry,” Kara whispered, burying her face into Lena’s neck and sighing. “I missed you, so I guess I took the first excuse to see you.”

Lena melted into her touch, the chills from her fever disappearing at the warmth of Kara’s arms. Just as she was sunshine personified, Kara felt like the summer sun herself, and considering how cold Lena felt despite the sweater and sheets over her on the bed, she was grateful for Kara’s embrace.

“I missed you too,” Lena admitted softly. “I hope you’re not in trouble being here.”

“Eh,” Kara shrugged. Moments later, Kara’s arms lowered to Lena’s waist, and with a soft warning, the heroine was floating them back to the bed. “I’m right where I need to be.”

Lena hoped upon all hope that Kara assumed her racing heart and her flaming red cheeks were from her fever.

+

They ordered room service that night, even when Kara offered to fly out and just get them something else. Lena wasn’t in the mood to eat, anyway. The meds she took—begrudgingly, and under Kara’s watchful eye—had her drowsy minutes later. She didn’t even remember returning to the bed from the dining table.

She did hear Kara’s soft good night, Lena, and felt the most fleeting of touches to her hand before the cozy sheets replaced Kara’s warmth.

+

Lena woke up early the following day feeling lighter and much warmer than she had the past few nights during her trips. She was better rested, too, despite her headache and fever from the night before.

It took her five solid seconds to realize that it was Kara Danvers lying beside her on the bed, her arm draped over Lena’s side. Her Kryptonian best friend wore one of her looser sweaters, and she definitely was far too close than Lena ever imagined waking up to her, ever, despite their occasional sleepovers.

Panic rose in Lena’s chest. Kara must have heard her thundering heartbeat because she started, arm over Lena pulling her closer before blue eyes fluttered open.

“Hey,” Kara greeted, worry in those ocean eyes and sleep still in her voice. “You okay? How are you feeling?”

“Yeah, just…” She swallowed, and only then did Kara seemed to realize how she had her arms around Lena. The blonde cleared her throat and slowly pulled away.

Lena would never admit to missing her warmth.

“Sorry, I… You were trembling from the cold last night, and, well, body heat’s the…” Kara sighed. “I’m sorry, I should’ve—”

“No, no, don’t apologize,” Lena assured, reaching for Kara’s bicep to squeeze it. Oh. Bad idea. “I- I appreciate it. I was just surprised, but thank you for not letting me freeze to death.”

Kara smiled at that. The concern in her eyes ebbed away, replaced by a fondness that brought a semblance of ache in Lena’s chest in a way that was familiar and unknown at the same time.

“I took one of your sweaters and pajama pants, by the way,” she explained, tugging on the collar of the charcoal gray cashmere sweater she wore. A strand of blonde hair fell to her face, and in the sunlight filtering from the slightly parted drapes in the room, Kara almost seemed to glow. “I could’ve flown out, but I didn’t want to leave you. Also, this is really comfortable and probably more expensive than my wardrobe combined.”

Lena laughed at that, her earlier panic easing into adoration of Kara’s antics. She resisted the urge to reach out and brush away that stray golden lock, or map the way the freckles seemed to appear on Kara’s face like stars on a canvas. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Kara didn’t even hesitate. “I’m always here for you.”

+

With Lena feeling better that morning, they decided to get breakfast together. After all, one didn’t visit New York without trying out a stack of blueberry pancakes from Clinton Street Baking Company—regardless if they could travel at the speed of light. Lena insisted over breakfast, too, that Kara could carry on with the rest of her day at National City, that Lena could take care of herself, and despite Kara’s huffing and puffing, she agreed.

But only at the promise of Lena letting her come over again that night. Just to stay and watch over Lena, just in case. It wasn’t like Lena Luthor had the audacity or the heart to say no to that.

Kara left the exact second Lena had to leave so she wouldn’t be late for her last meeting in New York. The heroine grinned at her, brighter than the sun, and flew off from her hotel balcony.

And Lena—well, Lena was the epitome of workaholism, and for a rare moment, she willed for the rest of the workday to fly by as quickly as possible so she could see Kara again.

+

Nothing was out of place that night—no headache, no fever, no itchy throat to bother Lena—so the raven-haired woman fully expected Kara to leave once she made sure her best friend was truly okay. What she didn’t expect was Supergirl landing on her hotel balcony—doors left open in expectation of her guest—with a paper bag of dinner and a backpack that Lena assumed was a change of clothes.

“I’d get you pizza but you’ve been in New York for a week you’ve probably had that for dinner at least once, and Alex advised against it if you’re recovering. I got you some chicken soup instead, and a, uh”—Kara made a face—“salad, so I hope you’re hungry.”

Lena accepted the paper bag with a small laugh and a grateful look over at the blonde heroine. “You’re the best, but I could have—”

“I’m still faster than Uber Eats, Lena,” Kara pointed out with a grin warmer than the bowl of soup the brunette took out from the paper bag.

And Uber Eats didn’t offer cuddles, Lena thought, and she thanked whatever higher being there was that Kara couldn’t read minds.

+

Dinner, a movie, and a cup of ginger tea with honey later, Kara urged Lena to bed. The brunette didn’t complain, not with her early flight the next morning or the quiet care in Kara’s eyes as she turned off the lights in the bedroom to leave the lamp on. In the dimness of the room, Lena watched while Kara took her time, padding bare feet on the carpeted floor as she shut the balcony door and drew the curtains with such gentleness; she barely made a sound.

Lena broke the silence. “Why do you always go out of your way each time to take care of me?”

Barely surprised—probably because she knew Lena wasn’t asleep just yet—Kara turned to Lena. Her eyebrows furrowed. “What do you mean?”

“I mean...” Lena paused. Despite the dim orange in the room, she could feel Kara’s eyes on her. She avoided the heroine’s gaze and laid on her back, verdant eyes on the empty ceiling. The pillow of cloud on her head almost felt uncomfortable with the situation she put herself in. “You cooked Eliza’s recipe for me. Left National City to… You flew to the opposite coast for me and back—granted you have super speed—but I just…”

Something clicked in Lena. She sat up from bed, gaze landing on Kara’s ocean eyes already on her.

“I’m not complaining though,” Lena clarified. The blonde chuckled in response, and Lena sighed. She couldn’t blame any drug or fever dreams for this outburst. Not even food coma. Fingers reached for the hem of the sheets over her legs and fidgeted with anxiety. “I just…”

When Lena trailed off and gaped, fish out of water and unable to find the words, Kara took the chance to respond as if the answer was the most obvious.

“Because I care about you.” She stepped forward—floated, probably; Lena couldn’t tell—and sat on the edge of the bed beside Lena. “You’re my best friend.”

It shouldn’t feel like Lena wanted to throw up at those words. She wasn’t sick enough to have something to blame for the harrowing feeling that built in her gut, for the sudden ache in her chest that made her want to sink into the mattress and make rain clouds of her pillow.

Why did she expect something more? Of course Kara just cared for her like a friend.

“Right. Of course.” Lena smiled and hoped it didn’t look as awfully forced as it felt. “I appreciate that, as I’m sure the rest of your friends do.”

Kara blinked slowly at that. She looked at Lena—stared, more like—and after a few moments, Lena couldn’t handle the silence or the weight in her gaze anymore.

“Please don’t shoot lasers out of your eyes.”

“I’m not gonna—” Kara paused and chuckled. She looked down at her hands, then at Lena again, before reaching for the bridge of her nose to fidget with her absent glasses. An awkward gesture, Lena knew from experience. Kara twisted her fingers on her lap instead. “I enjoy taking care of you. Not only because you sometimes forget to take care of yourself”—she quirked up her lips in a half-smile—“but because. Well. You matter to me.”

Lena worried her bottom lip between her teeth. After a while, she nodded, as if she resigned herself to what Kara said. After all, hope and all its well-wished intentions often never made it to reality.

“You caring about me like this confuses me,” she admitted, in a whisper far too soft for anyone else but her Kryptonian best friend to hear. “But that’s probably just because I’m not used to anyone caring. And… I shouldn’t really read much into it.”

Lena laughed. It sounded humorless and empty more than anything. She leaned back against the headboard. Her gaze settled on the blank ceiling and she wished for it to tear open.

“Well. I…” Kara sighed. “What if there was something to read?”

The confusion on Lena’s face was more apparent now. Kara looked torn.

Lena tilted her head. “What do you mean?”

“You matter to me, Lena.” Another sigh. Lena turned to meet her gaze again and found in those blue eyes the stars she wished to see on emptiness above their heads. Kara swallowed. “More than you could ever imagine. And I… am not good with words.”

“You’re a journalist.”

“You make me forget the words,” Kara shot back, sounding almost like a whine. “And it’s just… Easier to show you.”

“It’s fine, Kara,” Lena assured. “I was just,” a pause, a smile, a moment far too long, “curious.”

“No. Lena. It’s—”

Kara looked visibly conflicted now. Lena didn’t even know what compelled herself to ask, and she had inadvertently distressed her friend, who just wanted to make sure she was alright. Lena bottled the dark clouds in her mind and against her better judgement, she leaned forward where she sat and placed a gentle hand on Kara’s fidgeting ones.

“Kara, it’s fine,” Lena promised. She squeezed Kara’s hand and smiled. “Come on. Lie with me.”

Kara stared at her hand. Turning her right one palm-up, she threaded their fingers together and cradled Lena’s hand on her lap—ever so gently that her touch echoed in the emptiness in Lena’s chest. When Kara met Lena’s gaze again, it felt like looking into the horizon above the calmest seas, only to see the storm overhead.

“I love you.”

Maybe that was why Kara held on to her like Lena would try to run away. Her hand anchored the brunette where she sat, even if Kara’s words played themselves over and over again in her head like Lena wasn’t certain she heard Kara right the first time.

“I love you. I’ve loved you for”—Kara chuckled listlessly, just as hollow as Lena felt seconds ago—“a while, and I was just.... Terrified that I’ll lose you again if I said that. I just got you back because I never told you about being Supergirl and maybe I- I don’t—I’m not very—”

Kara took a shuddering breath and fought a losing battle against her tears. Here was the Girl of Steel, the Earth’s Champion, breaking in front of Lena fucking Luthor.

“I can’t lose you again.”

“Kara.”

The single utterance of her name shone a sliver of hope in those blue eyes, as if Kara, Supergirl, wasn’t the very epitome of the word.

“You’re not going to lose me,” Lena whispered, echoing the same words Kara promised her years ago. She held onto Kara’s hand just as tightly and scooted closer to the blonde, her free hand cupping Kara’s cheek. It had been an arduous road to get where they were and this—Kara looking at her like Lena held her world in her hands when it was Kara who brought the sun back in Lena’s skies—this felt right. “I love you. All of you. Kara Danvers. Supergirl.” She quirked her lips, and against her own will, felt a tear roll down her cheek. “Kara Zor-El.”

Kara brushed it away with her thumb and took with it the air in Lena’s lungs. The heroine glanced at her lips where words no longer remained until she finally closed the distance between them to tell Lena what her words missed to say.

What was that warning on a firework? Light tab and stand far, far back. Instead of doing that, Lena held on to the damned thing: kissed Kara back like she was humanity’s last hope and clung onto her like wet fabric on heated skin.

Only human, Lena pulled away to breathe. She kept Kara close, forehead against the blonde’s. Kara smiled against her lips as she pressed a lingering kiss on the corner of her mouth—what felt like an apology which form Lena much preferred, and a promise.

“Is that clearer?”

“Much,” Lena whispered. She sighed, a single breath of life made new. “Show me again.”

+

“Call in sick.”

Lena pouted from the bed, buried under duvets and cool sheets as she watched Kara shrug on a dress shirt.

“I don’t get sick, babe,” Kara shot back as she buttoned the offensive thing. Lena glared at it before finally sitting up to scoot where Kara sat on the edge of the bed.

“Fine.” Lena sighed and kissed the back of Kara’s shoulder. “I guess being super has its downsides.”

Kara chuckled and turned to press a kiss on Lena’s lips—one more chaste than anything, but took away the raven-haired woman’s breath all the same. “It does mean I can get home in a heartbeat as soon as I’m done.”

Lena hummed at that and replied with a kiss that promised something more when Kara got home. She carded her fingers into Kara’s hair, golden locks still loose over her shoulders, and gripped a fistful for a moment—just enough to wrench a gasp out of Kara’s lips from surprise.

“Miss you already,” Lena whispered, and when she pulled away to smirk at Kara, dark gaze met her green ones.

Three buttons remained undone as Kara reached for her phone. Her eyes were still on Lena’s, and the CEO bit her lip in anticipation.

“Hey, Alex,” Kara spoke. “I don’t think I can come in this morning.”

“Why?” A pause. Lena swore she heard Alex sigh on the line. “Don’t answer that. I can cover for you but you need to—”

“Owe you.”

Kara ended the call and dropped her phone. Where it landed, Lena couldn’t care less; not when Kara kissed her again. Hot breath danced on Lena’s heated skin before Kara gave her an icy kiss.

Lena whined. Dating a superhero sure had its perks. “Kara—”

“Don’t worry.” Kara silenced her with another kiss. “I’ll take care of you.”

+