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did time stop for you, too?

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“Did you ever hear about the girl who got frozen?

Time went on for everybody else, she won't know it”

-Right where you left me, Taylor Swift.

 

Coming back is like a slap on the face. 

 

A very metaphorical but painful slap in the face. 

 

At first it’s great. It’s amazing. 

 

She gets to the tower, weakened and tired, and falls into J’onn’s arms as soon as she sees him. She hugs him tight, marvels at the fact that he still smells the same even if he added some grey hairs into his human persona. 

 

She hugs him until it all goes black and she wakes up under the sun laps. 

 

Wakes up hearing crying, she’s not sure from who, and a hand holding her own. Alex.  

 

“Alex?” her voice sounds rough, she knows it does. But when she opens her eyes, Alex’s eyes look like she just said the best thing in the entire world, and maybe it was. 

 

She’s sitting up and her sister’s arms are around her so fast, she almost falls back into the bed. But instead she closes her eyes and holds on tight, tight, tight - so she’s never away from her favorite person again. 

 

She doesn’t know how long they stay glued like that, too busy sobbing and consoling Alex’s sobs to care if someone else is in the room. Whispering to each other words of comfort, and I love yous that they hadn’t told each other in ten years. 

 

Exhaustion catches up to her when she notices the sun is down and J’onn turns on the lights - she pushes it away and looks up from Alex’s shoulder to find everyone on the other side of the room. 

 

J’onn and Kelly are talking to each other, cups of what is probably coffee in their hands, while Brainy and Nia point to different places on the screen in front of them. Brainy has a frown on his face while Nia, in her Dreamer suit, seems to be trying to convince him of something. That’s when she notices how different it is, Nia’s suit. Similar, but clearly updated. She wants to get up, ask her about it - until the realization of who made it hits her. The only person that isn’t there. 

 

“Where’s Lena?” she asks Alex. And if she notices the way everyone suddenly looks up to them and silence fills the room, she ignores it.

 

Alex doesn’t tense, per se, but her completely relaxed position on Kara’s arms goes a little stiff. She looks over to Kelly for a second before turning back to Kara. 

 

Everything is so quiet for a second that she thinks the worst. 

 

“She’s– she’s not dead, right?” she pushes away Alex’s arms and gets up, the cold air hits her and a shiver runs through her. “She can’t– I...”

 

“No.” Alex gets up after her, hands finding Kara’s shoulder. “No, she’s not dead. She’s on her way.”

 

Kara breathes out. “Where is she?”

 

“Taking care of someo– thing, ” she stammers, runs her hands over Kara’s arms. “She’ll be here as soon as she can, I promise.”

 

She nods, not unsure, just… disappointed. 

 

Kara gets it. Lena is a busy woman, a busy woman that probably moved on from her already. Welcoming back the friend you lost ten years ago must not be a priority - especially when you weren’t even close friends when it happened. It’s still painful, the absence. The fact she isn’t as important to Lena - when Lena was one of the reasons she always found the strength to keep fighting to come back.

 

She smiles instead. That usual yeah, everything is fine, I don’t mind smile she hasn’t used in so long - she’s sure it’s rusty, and needs some practice, because when she walks over to Nia to give her a hug, the first thing the younger woman asks is if she’s okay. She lies, again, swearing that she is.

 

She’s not there when Lena arrives. She’s coming back up to the main room from a long, really needed shower downstairs when she hears her. Not hear hear her like she used to. She doesn’t hear the heartbeat, nor the footsteps everyone takes, or the ringing of phones twenty blocks away from where she is. She doesn’t hear anything special, except the muffled voices of Kelly and Lena.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want me to take her?” the first one asks.

 

“It’s just one night. Andrea won’t turn her into a capitalist in ten hours,” Lena answers. 

 

And Rao, her voice. Someone shouldn’t miss a voice so much, but the space felt empty without the melody ring of Lena’s accent. She’s too focused on the fact that she’s here, right here, after so many years that she can’t think about the fact that Andrea is still around or about who is her.

 

She’s only able to whisper her name and do nothing but stare and stare and stare. Because Lena is right here and she looks as gorgeous as she remembers. There are a few wild grey roots on her head, a couple of added wrinkles on the corner of her eyes - Kara can’t help but wonder if they’re the kind you get from too much smiling or too much frowning. 

 

Lena looks back at her just as entranced - mouth slightly open and eyes wide - before she runs towards Kara. They find each other in the middle of the room and all Kara can think it’s how right it feels to have her arms wrapped around her waist again.

 

Her eyes are closed and she knows that Lena’s are too as the woman holds onto the t-shirt Nia gave her before. She’s holding onto her as if she’s scared Kara will disappear again - and Kara can’t lie and say she’s not sure this isn’t a dream. One of the many ways she imagined she’d come back and everyone would recieve her. But she holds on, holds on tighter when she hears a whimper coming from Lena, and doesn’t let go.

 

Lena pulls back and holds Kara’s face between her hands, none of them mentions the way they’re shaking. She looks around for a second and notices that everyone left, leaving them alone in the middle of the tower. When her eyes find Lena’s again, she finds them watery but so, so full of something she’s not sure she should name - she’s sure there’s the same look in her eyes.

 

“Hey,” she whispers.

 

“Hi,” the brunnette answers, voice breaking. She’s half smiling, half crying and Kara missed her so much she’s not sure what to do with the feelings inside her chest. 

 

There’s silence again, there’s no sobs or whimpers now - only them standing in front of each other - taking the other in. Kara takes note of the way Lena has changed, not just the grey hairs and small new scar right above her right eyebrow. She takes note of the way that Lena’s eyes don’t seem to be clouded by anything. Not anymore.

 

Behind the tears, behind the relief and happiness she sees for having Kara back, she can tell that there’s peace. It’s a great look on Lena.

 

Kara watches as Lena moves her hand, the way one of her fingers move along her cheek up to her ear, tracing the big but not-yet faded scar. 

 

“A little gift from the Phantom zone,” she says, trying to laugh it off but turning serious when she sees Lena’s eyes go cold, “don’t worry about it. It doesn’t even hurt.” Kara whispers, moving her hand from Lena’s waist to her cheek, softly pushing her until she’s looking at her eyes again, and leans her forehead against hers. 

 

“I’m so sorry, Kara,” Lena utters, tears starting to fall again, “I am so sorry I couldn’t find a way to bring you back.”

 

“Lena, no. It’s not your fault.” She wipes the tears away as Lena tries to avoid her eyes but Kara keeps finding them until Lens stops their silent fight and looks steadily at her again. “None of it, okay?”

 

After a few seconds looking at her - almost as if she’s waiting for Kara to change her mind, to take it back - she nods, biting her lip. 

 

“I’m so glad you’re back,” she whispers, and it feels like a prayer, like a wish, like she can’t - won’t - say it too loud in case it fires back. 

 

Kara smiles. “It's good to be back.”

 

So, that went great. But still: coming back is like a slap on the face. 

 

It’s not until day number three that she feels the slap. 

 

Day number one is everyone together. Everyone having dinner and trying to catch Kara up about the last few years, as well as ignoring the big elephant in the room that is the fact that she was gone for a decade. Everyone laughing and drinking, as well as ignoring the big elephant in the room that is Kara getting drunk with wine when it shouldn’t have affected her at all, or the way she actually hisses when J’onn claps her on the back too hard. 

 

No one asks. She doesn’t ask, either. She’s not sure she wants some of the answers, she’s not sure she wants the answer to why Nia hasn’t mentioned CatCo in a while. Or why it doesn’t seem like they’ve haven’t heard from Winn in years. Or why there seems to be many occasions when they’re about to mention someone before they stop. Or why Lena keeps checking on her phone every couple of hours. 

 

She doesn’t ask. They don’t explain. It’s only the first day after all. 

 

Day number two is spent with Alex in her house, the fancy white-picket-fence house she and Kelly had bought years ago. All morning, all day, all night. They spent the morning talking, just talking. 

 

The small wedding Kara missed. The adoption. The pregnancy. The fights against villains. The retiring. The shelter she and Lena created for refugees. The embarrassing story of Alex finally meeting Kelly’s mom. She missed it all. And she doesn’t even try to stop the tears every time she realizes that. 

 

The morning was emotional. But still not as emotional as when Alex’s kids walked through the door.

 

A tall kid, not older than fourteen, walks in first- hands on the pockets of her grey hoodie. She’s got short black hair with green on the tips, and she looks so much like teenager Alex, that Kara can’t help but smile. She finds Kara and smiles half happy, half curious, and Kara is too happy at the fact that her sister finally got the family she wanted and deserves, to feel the pain of her own niece not knowing her. 

 

Behind her walks in a little girl, Kelly closing the door behind them. The little girl must be four, five - Kara was never good at telling how old kids are - but she hides half her face behind her sister’s leg. The resemblance of Kelly on her is clear; same skin and eyes, hair only a couple of shades lighter. She’s wearing a tiny leather jacket over her bright yellow t-shirt - Kara smiles and she smiles back, and that’s all she really wanted. 

 

Ryan, the older one, takes after Kelly, with her calm demeanor when telling Kara about the books she’s read and how she wants to be a marine scientist. Kara is already trying to find a way to help with that when Alex laughs and warns her that Ryan’s profession changes once a week. 

 

Charlie, on the other hand, is as energetic as she remembers Eliza’s stories about young Alex. She’s dragging Kara to her room to show her all her toys before Kara is even sure where they’re going. Then she’s asking to go to the park before she changes her mind and asks to watch Kara’s favorite movie. 

 

After an entire night of turning and turning in bed, and waking up in cold sweat the few times she passed out in exhaustion, she should be tired to follow a child around. But she missed five years of Charlie, nine years of Ryan - she doesn’t want to miss anything more.

 

By night, with Charlie asleep in her arms and her and Ryan quietly laughing about the girl’s favorite movie, Kara is filled with so much love - it’s all the love she thought she might have lost looking at the pitch black of the Phantom Zone. 

 

On day three she notices it. Not an it. But the absence. The lack of it.

 

It being the messages from Lena, her voice, her face. Lena .

 

The woman hasn’t called the phone Brainy had given her on day one, the one everyone had taken the time to add the number to their phones. Hasn’t texted either. Not even a simple “hey, lunch soon?” like she used to do. 

 

And Kara guesses that it’s fine, it is, it’s not before. It’s after. A really long long after. And she has no idea where they stand now.

 

So Kara calls, she texts. She tries it over and over as Nia looks worried at her as she watches her, but also ignores her questions when it comes to Lena.

 


 

She ends up taking matters into her own hands when it’s been a week of radio-silence and everything aches, agony chipping away at her resolution.

 

The first thing Kara thinks after she crosses the wide threshold giving way to a now unrecognizable building, it’s how L-Corp and its imposing infrastructure is light years away from what her memory scatters to remember. 

 

Where there used to be a left to the elevators and three confusing rights to the cafeteria, the lobby now spills to conjure an atrium, and Kara has to crane her neck up to catch where it blends into a rivulet of spiral stairs and marble sculptures that wind up in an open roof, the sunrays that sneak through along with a soft breeze of what she now knows is autumn air blowing past the rush of people and reaching her. 

 

A fountain is erected in the middle of the first floor, there lies the big L-Corp statue polished in steel and crowning the stream of water. The earthy smell of green crops surrounding it are enough to placate her and she gulps, remembering the reason she begged her sister-in-law to drive past her commute and into Cordova Street like a madwoman on a mission. 

 

Maybe it’s a mistake, maybe all of these turns she isn’t used to are a harbinger of what’s to come, and Kara shouldn’t barge into a place she can’t recall anymore. But Lena has ignored all of her calls and emails, and every single useless member of her family keeps ignoring her whiny requests for Lena’s new ZIP code.

 

So, breaking and entering a private Fortune 500 company it is. Because she needs answers, to know why all of her pleads drain down voicemail and Lena still slips from her fingers even if she’s not hallucinating. 

 

Kara won’t let her off the hook that easily, that's for sure, not when she spent over an eternity of excruciating pain fighting her worst demons and fears to come back for them. For another chance. For the things time didn’t allow them to say.

 

She’s three loud noises, two more people throwing weird glances at her and one lurch of her stomach away from surrendering and storming out of the building, but something tugs at the sleeve of her tanned peacoat, and she swirls around to meet a petite child with brown curls and bright blue eyes fixed on her.

 

“Good evening, miss. Can I help you?” The voice is nasal, like when one’s is recently abandoning the last dregs of the flu, but even through the high-pitch, the tilted diction of her accent is too matter-of-fact and formal for a kid that doesn’t even reach past Kara’s hip.

 

It’s adorable.

 

“In fact, yes,” Kara replies, beaming when the girl hides her hands behind her back and juts her chin forward, eager to help. “I need to reach the penthouse, but I cannot for the love of my good ol’ memory find the way up.”

 

Adrenaline injects the kid with a rush of joy, and she brightens up before swiveling on white, paint-dotted sneakers. “I happen to be heading there, too!”

 

“Care if I join you?”

 

The child looks pensive for a few instants, a hand cupping her hip while the forefinger of the other taps at pouty lips, but whatever parental-taught apprehension was clouding her thoughts is quickly overridden when she looks up to find identical eyes poised on her. “Sure.” She shrugs, and drags Kara by her hand, only letting go when they are safe in the square captivity of the elevator car.

 

“What is it you must do at the pent of this house?” she asks once again, punching buttons on the panel with a furrowed brow. Kara is already ninety-percent infatuated.

 

“I’m visiting an old friend. She is a busy woman and hasn’t answered my calls lately, but I really need to talk to her,” Kara confesses, crouching down to help her tie the zipper of her jacket after she struggles with it.

 

The kid hums. “Mommy is busy too, but she always gets my calls, and when I’m with Auntie Andrea or with Alex, she is so fast!” Her giggles are contagious, and she turns to her wrist to check the light blue digital watch resting there, eyes of the same colour bulging when she notices something pertinent to her possible schedule.

 

A close coincidence, right? But A is quite the worn first letter for a name. 

 

“And do you? Have somewhere to be?”

 

“Uh… mommy said my break was over and I need to continue working on my howe– homework. But that was seven minutes ago.” She swallows and fiddles with her fingers, that’s when Kara notices the scratches of green and pink markers in her small hands, and the surprise etched on her face would be near comical if Kara didn’t feel such guilt for interrupting her.

 

“I’m so sorry I made you late, will your mommy get mad?”

 

“Nope!” Puffing her chest out and popping her consonants, the kid shouts and shrinks onto herself, embarrassed. “No, she’s nice, and you seem nice too.” 

 

“What’s her name?” 

 

“Mommy?”

 

“Yeah, what’s she called?”

 

“I’m not sure, I call her mommy since I was little,” she whispers and bites her tongue, then purses her lips. “Isn’t that her name? Oh! Some people call her Mr. Luthor? ” 

 

Kara chokes on a feeble breath, brain glitching at her words, and corrects her with a racing heart, “ Miss Luthor.” 

 

“Yeah! That! I think that is her name.”

 

Rao, let it be a quintessential coincidence.

 

“And who are you, exactly?”

 

Too many things happen all at once. 

 

The elevator halts to a stop with a ding and the sheer force of its doors opening to spit them out. Kara’s lift companion turns and throws a hasty Hope, my name is Hope Luthor over her shoulder before her sneakers squeak against the floor and she’s bolting out of the car to meet the woman waiting for her with arms wide open.

 

And Kara’s in the Phantom Zone all over again. Frozen in time. Desperately begging for this to be one of those awful jokes her mind used to relive to mess with her. She cannot move, compelled by her ineptitude to stare dumbfounded, her limbs too heavy and constricted to do anything else than make space for her ribs to tighten and squeeze around her chest, right where her heart mimics a flatline before it flares up and starts pumping wildness.

 

“Hope, what did I tell you about bringing strangers to my office?” Lena nudges rather than scolds, and the kid - Lena’s godforsaken kid - hides her face in the crook of her mother’s face.

 

“She said she had a friend in the pent of this house,” Hope whines, probably too spoiled and not used to hearing the stern tone employed against her.

 

“The penthouse, and the penthouse is where my office is, where we do not bring strangers without asking your mom fir–”

 

“–Lena?” The question lands on the region of licking sandpaper.

 

Kara borders on pity at the sound of a neck cracking, green eyes shooting down to stare at her. She knows she must make a ridiculous picture, kneeling in an elevator whose doors start to close before she halts their path with her hand, but the woman carrying the precious cargo on her hip doesn’t fare any better, ridiculously flabbergasted as blood drains from where it dusted her cheeks and her skin blanches the longer seconds on Hope’s watch tick down.

 

“Kara? What are you doing here?” 

 

A question mark lodges itself on her soul, along with a lump on her throat. She’s speechless, mouthing at thin air as she lifts both arms and lets them fall back against her sides with a loud thud. “I don’t– I... I had a friend in this penthouse.”

 

“Mommy, she looks like the girl in Ry’s book.” Hope’s enthusiastic smile burrows into her ribs before it flickers the flame alight and licks at her guts, like a Molotov Cocktail hitting the target and unleashing embers of inferno.

 

“Yes, baby.” Lena wipes under her nose after she leaves her daughter back on steady land, and it tugs at Kara’s heart, recognising the nervous tick. “Would you please wait for me in the office?” The pitter-patter of Hope leaving them alone drills into her ears, too loud and yet too void.

 

Is that why Lena wouldn’t take her calls? The kid surely must take time, but she’s an erudit of compartmentalization. Why didn’t anyone warn her about this? Any heads-up, a clever hey, Kara, your best friend followed your wishes and has a family now would’ve prevented the apathetic state she’s breezing into. 

 

It was her wish. For Lena to find someone and fall in love, to find happiness in the midst of loss and despair. But that was ten years ago, when she was heartbroken and recording her goodbyes, not even daring to think there would be a way back.

 

But there was, and it hurts too much to face the fruits her hopes bore.

 

“Kara–”

 

“–why didn’t you tell me?” She squares her jaw, clutching tight the belt loops of her jeans. “All of my calls… you ignoring my attempts at reaching out. Why didn’t you just tell me?”

 

“I was trying to figure out how.” Lena pinches the bridge of her nose. “You were gone for ten years and then, out of nowhere, you’re here! I’m still trying to make myself believe you’re real.”

 

I have a daughter would’ve worked just fine!” She thanks the floor is empty of any expectators, but immediately regrets shouting anyway, taking a deep breath. “Sorry.”

 

“Lower your voice or leave. Hope’s next room and I’ve set a policy of not fucking screaming at other people’s faces for you to barge in and change that,” Lena snaps and straightens her back, wrapping her arms across her chest.

 

Tapping her feet against the grey matte tiles, she lowers her head and deflates. Her thumbs tuck inside her fists and the artificial waves of cold air worm into the thin fabric of her shirt, calling the short hairs of her arms and neck to stand up. “That’s… a great thing. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have.”

 

Why is this so hard for her? 

 

“She’s beautiful.”

 

“Uh?”

 

“Hope,” Kara clarifies, “she’s got your wits, and the way she speaks…”

 

Lena laughs, and she falls more in love. It’s been ten long years. “Yeah, Brainy takes baby-sitting duties too seriously.”

 

The thought of the small family she left behind blooming into something bigger, something that bounds them even closer, draws a happy smile onto her face. It only wanes at the five-year-old walking reminder that she wasn’t there to live all of it.

 

She’s never felt more out of place.

 

“Congrats, on Hope and having found lo– love,” she grits out with a dry mouth, aimlessly reaching for the buttons behind her. “I guess I’ll see you around, Lena.”

 

There’s an attempt of reaching out on Lena’s side, at least that’s what her feverish mind tells her, but the elevator approaches faster and the worried calls of Kara and stop and please hear me out coming from her friend’s lips play in a rushed loop as she makes her way down to the lobby, still reverberating in her eardrums while she staggers on numb legs all the way to the nearest park, collapsing into a rusty bench and desperately fishing for the phone in the pocket of her pants.

 

The device turns out to be an enemy. Kara can’t find the way to unlock it and how’s it possible that Earth’s engineering is dumbing her down to a frustrated mess? 

 

When she guesses her way in, she lets out the longest sigh at the steady voice greeting her on the other side.

 

“You knew?” It’s blunt, but there’s no time for decorum. “You knew about Hope?”

 

“Shit,” Alex swears, “Lena told you?”

 

“I just ran into the kid without having a clue, Alex,” she stammers, sucks on a breath. “What the fuck happened while I was gone?”

 

“Where are you?” The telltale of keys slapping against porcelain and the background noise of what she’s sure is Kelly’s voice, probably already warned by Lena, set blaring alarms on motion and Kara hangs up before her sister starts circling around like if she was a wounded dog. 

 

The phone is new, there’s no much information to cry over losing, and apparently there are two billionaires in her inner circle now, so she doesn’t have it in her to mourn a speckle of regret when she launches the device into a bin and starts creating distance between her and the green space, trying to come up with places she could wander to to find ways to feel at home again, to feel like herself again. 

 

It’s only gut-wrenching when she ends up stranded under the neon sign addressing Hope Street.

 

The building she lived so many years is there, or barely there. The dark and sun-spent brown of the bricks had been changed by a smooth concrete painted a bright yellow. The old and spacious windows Kara loved so much had been replaced by generic and small cuadrangular windows. She can’t smell the fresh cooking of Mrs. Stein and with dread in her heart, she guesses what happened.

 

If it wasn’t for the fact that her legs automatically drove her here and the fact that the Hope sign is still there, she couldn’t even be sure this used to be her home. 

 

There’s a new family in her apartment - well, not her apartment anymore. She sees a woman opening the blinds and watches a cat on the small couch besides the window. She wonders if every trace of her is gone. If the crack on the bathroom wall was fixed, and the trace of her laser vision on the kitchen floor has been cleaned. 

 

She sits on the bench in front of her house trying not to look like a stalker as the tears fall from her eyes.

 

It’s not even about the apartment. It's about Lena and the fact that she has a child. Lena is probably married and in love and living with someone together in a fancy house with their adorable daughter - and it isn’t her. All the dreams and wishes she thought she would be able to have once she came back, ripped from her grasp before she could even voice them.

 

If she thought the pain of missing parts of Alex’s, her nieces’, her friends’ lives - missing the fact that Lena has a perfect life all on her own, it hurts. It hurts more than it should. She missed helping Lena pick out outfits for her dates only to brood in Alex’s apartment after wishing her luck. She missed seeing Lena in a beautiful engagement dress and an even more beautiful wedding dress. She missed Lena excitedly telling her she’s pregnant and watching as the baby grew and grew inside of her. She missed recommending Lena the most absurd names she could come up with and buying all the baby toys related to Supergirl she could find. She missed going to the hospital as Lena gave birth, and holding Hope for the first time. 

 

Hope . She can’t stop thinking about it. The name. The meaning. Hope Luthor . It holds so much power, so much love. She needs to know why. Why did Lena named her that? Why. Why. Why.

 

This is the slap, and it hurts so fucking much.

 

The sound of a car parking in front of her brings her back to reality. It’s a clearly modern and new car, the few days back had clearly shown she had missed a lot of technological advances. But the car is not as important as the woman stepping out of it. 

 

Lena is still wearing the black dress pants and light green blouse she was wearing at her office - Kara hadn’t taken the time to appreciate the look before she left but, as usual, she is mesmerising. 

 

The woman sits besides her and Kara uses all the strength she has left in her body to not reach out and wrap her hands with Lena’s. She’s not sure that if she touches her again, she’ll be able to stop. 

 

“I was going to tell you,” she says, looking down at her own fidgety hands in her lap.

 

“It’s fine.” It’s not. It’s not fine. But what’s done is done and nothing can be undone. She had asked for this after all. “It’s– It’s all I ever wanted for you. Move on. To be happy. Are you happy?”

 

She turns her head and finds Lena biting her lip, looking at her as if she’s not sure what to say, what to do. Kara’s heart feels like it’s beating out of her chest - she’s not sure she wants it. The confirmation that Lena is completely okay without her, that she doesn’t need Kara as much as Kara needs her.

 

“I am. Hope’s… god she’s amazing,” Lena breathes out with a little smile on her face, and Kara’s heart warms at Lena’s love for her daughter. The woman’s fingers find her palm and Kara opens her hand and lets them tangle with her own.  “But Kara…” the blonde looks up at the severity of her tone, “I never moved on, not from you. Not ever.”

 

“Doesn’t seem like it,” Kara scoffs, blinking slowly. She bends her legs, the heels of her shoes stuck to the edge of the bench, and props her crossed forearms upon her knees, resting her head in the impromptu cocoon. “I’m being unfair, I know. I really meant it when I said this is what I wished for all of you, but seeing Hope was the last straw and there’s also Ryan and Charlie and I– I missed this.”

 

“You were always with them,” Lena mutters, warm and beautiful as she leans forward to tuck an unruly lock of golden hair behind Kara’s ear. “There hasn’t been a day we don’t talk about you. They know you, know how much Kara Zor-El sacrificed to keep us safe.”

 

“It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.” She hides her face in the space between her parted legs.

 

“No, it wasn’t. But what matters now is that you’re here. I finally have you back. You have no idea how much I waited for this day to come.”

 

I waited years so we could do this together.

 

What a shame it’s too late.

 

“I’m here, right?”

 

Lena hauls to her feet, turning her upper body to Kara. “There’s somewhere we need to be. Want to come with me?” 

 

“Always.”

 

For all of its rich edges and glossy paint, Lena’s sleek car lacks in size, and Kara feels herself run out of air as she fastens her seatbelt, sitting ramrod straight and wrapping both hands around her knees. 

 

The dark windows of the car start to close on her and she tries to move the seat belt away from her neck but it only seems to push tighter around it. It’s the Phantom Zone, again - it’s like it never ends. She feels it over and over and over again. Which one is she having a panic attack for? The first one? Or the second time around?

 

A strong hand finds her face as another one clicks on the side of the seat, making the seatbelt disappear from in front of Kara. The hand on her face pulls it up and her eyes find Lena’s. 

 

The woman is moving her mouth, probably telling her to calm down, to breathe - but she can’t do any of it. She’s too unfocused and breathless to even try. She can see the panicked expression on her face, Lena says something again but she doesn’t hear. Suddenly she’s out of her vision and Kara panics even more when she reaches out and finds nothing in the place Lena was at. Was it all a dream? Rao, is she back in the place where time stands still? Did she ever leave?

 

And as quickly as she disappeared Lena is back in front of her again. She grabs the front of Kara’s shirt and drags her out of the car. Guides a sobbing Kara back to the sidewalk and goes along with her when the blonde falls to her knees.

 

“It’s okay,” she whispers, her arms around her as one of her hands goes up and down on her back, “you’re not there. You’re here now.”

 

She hears her, she feels her - but how can she know if it’s real, if Lena is actually real, and not just another hallucination she’s seen. She wishes she had her powers right now, that way she could check, she could listen to her heartbeat and make sure it’s real, make sure it’s Lena. 

 

“I– I… I don’t know if it’s real,” she breathes out, “I can’t hear it.”

 

“Hear what?” Lena prodes, her hands coming to rest on the base of Kara’s neck.

 

“Your– your heartbeat. I can’t listen to it anymore.”

 

Pedestrians bestrew the path, dodging the vulnerable human puddle that is Kara with long strides and fiery glares in retaliation for having their way interrupted, but she’s busy struggling to let her lungs catch a break to worry about the esplanade’s spatial charting.

 

“What do you mean you can’t–”

 

“I made a deal. My– my powers in exchange for coming back,” she croaks, splays her hands upwards to recover motion in the furled, numb digits. “I can’t hear your heartbeat, nor Alex’s or… that was the only way I could focus and it’s not worki–“

 

“–you did what?”

 

“Not right now.”

 

“Sorry, here.” Lena undoes the lone button of her suit jacket and snatches Kara’s hand from where it was pulling at the ends of her faded eyebrow, latching her palm against the curve of her chest. “It’s not the same, but it’s real, Kara. This is real. You’re not in the Phantom Zone anymore. You’re home with me, with us.”

 

It takes strings of shaky reassurances from Lena, multiple offers of walking to Alex’s instead and professional approaches for Kara to return to herself, and yet, she declines her friend’s thoughtfulness with a polite shake of her head, yanking the door handle and plummeting back onto the leather seat with flushed skin and heavy lids.

 

Under a cloud, she lowers the sun visor to check the running tears consequence of her predicament. Angry red rivers wreath her eyes, overshadowing the dimmed blue of her irises. The apple of her cheeks still blazes to the touch, and her hands feel like they just came out of slumber in a cryogenic bath. However, Lena’s pulse thumps in her wrist without altercation, and Kara doesn’t let go of her hand even as she revs up the engine and backs out from the lot and into the crowded highway.

 

“You keep water in here?” Exhaustion coursing marrow-deep, Kara asks and tilts her head towards the headrest, licking chapped lips.

 

“Check the backseat, there should be some bottles.” 

 

She notices the absence of a certain chair there, and a bout of protective hostility surges within her throat before she can gulp it down. “Where’s Hope’s booster seat?”

 

“I don’t have one for this car,” Lena says, carefully switching the shift knob as if not to stir Kara’s hand. “This is a Mercedes AMG motor. I’m not letting my daughter anywhere near an engine that could easily compete in F1.”

 

She quirks an eyebrow. “Still reckless, I see.”

 

“Never. It’s responsible speeding, a luxury some of us decent drivers can afford.”

 

“Are you bashing my methods?”

 

“If the shoe fits…”

 

Kara throws her head back, shoulders shaking with laughter. She missed that charming snark. Phantoms aren’t exactly known for being sources of comic relief, they rather delve into screaming horror and dread and leaving its prisoners in catatonic states. But that’s a box for later unpacking. 

 

“I missed you, so much,” she speaks in hushed tones, turning her head to have a peek at Lena, yet avoiding bright eyes when she glances back. Maybe it’s out of fear of diving further, even if she hit deep bottom a long time ago. But back then - back there - she didn’t have a speckle of colour to cling to, and this specific shade of green that brands into her with such tenderness is a fresh reminder of the love she was so close to losing, but fought to death for. 

 

“Me, too. Me too.” Lena’s subdued smile is all she needs to believe she’s home. 

 


 

The suburbs area where her sister lives is rather devoid of motion for the early hour, but she chalks the lack of toddlers in the swings and new parents blocking the bike paths with their strollers to the rows of strewn leaves and the rush of crisp air that flies in when Lena opens her door for her. 

 

“Why so chivalrous?” Kara teases and rejoices in the way Lena’s ears are set aflame, her cheeks catching the spread of her blush next, and swallows the love-struck compliment melting in the tip of her tongue. “Is it guilt? You fear my back will suffer because of how low this car is?”

 

“Shut up,” Lena weakly retorts, a hand secure on the small of Kara’s back as she shepherds them to the old-fashioned picket fence bordering Alex’s fort.

 

Kara shoves her hands in the back pockets of her jeans, shuffling closer to Lena to steal heat from her. “Pretty neat shack, uh? You should get a house here.” 

 

It’s the blueprint of her dreams, with the wide fences, wooden doors and ample windows panes that allow peeks at the warmth that huddles inside, the intimacy that flows from the vents and into a home born out of love and planned futures, out of choosing bathroom tiles and picking baby names together.

 

A place like this, almost in the middle of nowhere, quiet reigning… she can see herself living that way in a couple of years. Maybe with a dog, and a hammock hanging in the porch - two green-eyed kids and…

 

Who’s she kidding anyway. Her legacy was meant to be finished with Krypton. And the slight chance she thought she had at family now has someone else, and a five-year-old daughter named after everything Kara stands for. 

 

“One can easily see the appeal, but your sister is a hideous roommate, I can only imagine the worst if she ever became my neighbour, too,” Lena discloses, letting her in first after the screen reads her thumbprint and blinks green. “Plus, I’ve always been more of a condo girl.” 

 

“Oh, trust me, I’m well aware. But how do you know about that?” Kara quickly drops her hand when she realises its intentions, and waits for Lena to close the door and take the steps to reach her. 

 

“The first year after you… uh– we spent many nights sleeping in your loft.”

 

“Ah.”

 

“I know now tossing pillows to the floor is kind of a Danvers thing.”

 

“Oh, that’s our brand!” Kara laughs, the prickle of tears beating in the rear of her eyeballs.

 

“We didn’t want to give up your apartment. When the building went on sale, I didn’t hesitate to buy it, then she came up with the idea for the shelter.”

 

“That’s where it is?” 

 

“You didn’t notice?”

 

“No, not exactly. I don’t think I was paying attention.”

 

“It’s there,” Lena affirms, “there’s housing for lots of alien families and… we thought you’d like the idea.”

 

“It’s an honour for me, thank you.”

 

Like clockwork with perfect timing, the front door slides open and Kelly pops her head from the side of it, her mellow smile growing wider when she sees the two of them standing in her foyer, and she pushes the door to materialise the rest of her frame, a peculiar shape hiding behind her legs scurrying to be concealed in camouflage a little while longer. 

 

“What are the odds that’s my offspring standing behind you?” Lena inquiries, a smile of her own gradually blooming on crimson lips.

 

“Pretty high, considering.”

 

“My Hope, would you let me see your pretty face? It’s been too long,” she coos, prodding her kid out of hiding with the chant of a nurturing mother. 

 

Kara bites her lip, anxiously on edge, and it takes point-nine seconds for her to be struck by wave after wave of that kind of unadulterated love she had only felt the day she met her nieces. She is swift to realise she’s never felt so much appreciation so quickly for a kid she’s seen two times in her life, but Hope’s blue eyes shine and reflect the same curiosity she is familiar with from Lena’s gaze. That kid is the flesh-and-bone anthology of all the wonderful traits she inherited from her mother. The sharp facial structure that is noticeable even underneath chubby cheeks, the kindness with which she approaches newcomers, the quirk of an eyebrow while she looks at Kara and then at her mother, who just nods in approval. Of what? Kara has no idea, this smells too much of an earth-shattering situation to think of anything else. 

 

And this wonder isn’t born out of ignorance or fear. But because, unbeknownst to Kara, Lena Luthor’s child is finally meeting the woman, the hero her mother always told her about.

 

“Hey there, you.” Kara bends in one knee in front of Hope. “It’s nice to see you again, thank you so much for helping me find my friend. I’m Kara, by the way, your–”

 

She’s cut short by a wheezing oof, tiny arms wrapping around her neck and a loud sob that, months later, she would still be asking where it came from. Hope hugs tight, with good form, like she was trained since a young age with daily doses of physical embraces. And Kara can finally breathe, going to sleep in peace with the knowledge that she has people to care for her and cherish her, because now, Kara’s beyond sure she would die and murder and start global wars for this kid. 

 

“Hi,” Hope speaks in the smallest of voices, a stark contrast to the confident girl she interacted with earlier in the day. It’s funny that her fair skin is intact, the face of a doll where Kara’s is splotched with red patches everywhere, eyes rimmed with unshed tears and the tracks of the ones that did leak. “I’ve heard lots of things about you.”

 

“Good things, I hope.

 

Her mouth slacks agape, and she covers it with wide eyes and low giggles. “My family does speak very highly of you, Mrs. Kara.

 

Miss Kara, and I can say the same thing about you. You seem to be quite the most perfect kid.” 

 

“Uh?” She perks up at the praise, but sobers up at the pace of a kid with different priorities. “Charlie is waiting for me in the playroom. Join us if you want, tea party is starting soon.”

 

Kara wipes her tears with the sleeves of her coat and stands up, shoulders curling inwards as she glances at the duo already looking at her. She lifts her eyebrows, props her fists on her hips. “So, that happened.” Her voice breaks and she has to take another deep breath to flee the pollution.

 

“With all the things your sister and Lena here have told her, you’re her idol,” Kelly says, squeezing her elbow.

 

Lena interlocks her fingers and shifts on her heels. “I’m sure Hope loved meeting you.”

 

“I’m the cool auntie. Of course she was going to love me.” 

 

She has a degree in English Language, has worked as a journalist for a long time and studied body language in between meetings with sources and showdowns with the weekly enemy. But for all of her skills, she’s beyond oblivious to notice how Kelly chokes on air and pats Lena’s shoulder, prompting her to stumble. 

 

“Yes! Yeah– of course!” Lena laugh-stammers, overly enthusiastic. Kara frowns. “You’re her aunt– her auntie. She adores you.” 

 

The word sounds wrong in Lena’s mouth and it sounds wrong in Kara’s mind too. But there isn’t much she could do, could she? Better to have them in her life in some way than not at all - that seems to be the only rule the universe keeps telling her when it comes to the Luthor girls. You can have them, just not the way you want. Never the way you want. So, friend and auntie it is.

 

Nia greets her excitedly when they step into Alex’s backyard, she’s perched half on top of Brainy’s lap half on top of the outdoor loveseat. “Oh my god, finally. Alex wouldn’t start the grill without you. I’m starving,” she says, winning an eye roll from Alex and a gentle pat on her thigh from Brainy.

 

“This will literally take ten minutes, you drama queen.”

 

Kara laughs quietly as they bicker with each other. She walks closer to the table and picks up a beer, she tries to open it with her hands before a small cut on her finger reminds her of her new situation. She turns around, smiling at Lena as she figures out how the opener works. “Do you want one?”

 

Lena looks distracted, her eyes focused on a far away point on Alex’s garden before they snap out to Kara’s face at the sound of her voice. “Oh, no. Thank you. I don’t drink anymore.”

 

“Really?” The disbelief is a little too much in her voice and she cringes. But in her defense, Lena I need a drink Luthor and Lena I won’t come to game night without at least two bottles of wine Luthor not drinking is surprising. But if she was offended by Kara’s surprise, she doesn’t show it. Instead, she laughs.

 

“Really, I'll get my seven years chip in a couple of months.”

 

“That’s– that’s amazing.” Before she can even tell her arms are around her, the crook of her neck filled with a strong jaw and being tickled by long dark hair. She whispers, “I’m so proud of you.”

 

“Thank you,” Lena says, and Kara ignores the little crack in her voice before the small cough, “you should congratulate Alex too, she’s getting her ninth next month.”

 

She wants to go to her sister and hug her too but she can’t move away from Lena right now. There’s a small yelp when she picks her up and walks over to Alex, freeing one of her arms to wrap around her sister. Alex, confused, moves one of her arms around Kara, squeezing for a second. “Any reason we’re doing a hug sandwich?”

 

“I’m so proud of you.”

 

“I mean, it’s just grilling Kara. I was gonna learn at some point.”

 

Lena chuckles and Kara feels it on the right side of her body and it sends a shock of love and warmth from the tip of her toes to the tip of her ears, she had missed that too much. “She found out we’re both sober.”

 

“Oh,” Alex melts more into the hug, Kara marvels at the way both her favorite people are now close enough to each other to be comfortable enough to stay in a minutes long bear hug, “well, we had a lot of help. But thank you.”

 

“Support,” Lena corrects, “not help.”

 

“Mr. Johnson’s preaches got to you, so sad.”

 

“Shut up. I meant everyone else.” She rolls her eyes. “It’s a family thing.”

 

Family . Right, Lena has a family. All of her own. Hope and the husband? Wife? Other? Rao, she should probably ask about it before she puts her foot in her mouth. She’s sure whoever Lena chose to spend the rest of her life with is supportive, kind, funny - everything Lena wanted and she couldn’t give her, because she never even got the chance. Still, she guesses no partner would love for their wife to be wrapped up in someone else for minutes on minutes on minutes, just whispering and chuckling. 

 

The absence of their warmth feels like she’s been suddenly thrown under water, in the iciest lake someone could find. But she only smiles, even at Lena’s and Alex’s confused faces at the sudden interruption of the hug. 

 

“I– uh. I think I have a tea party to attend?”

 

Charlie’s room is a mess of toys and colors. The wall is painted a soft light blue with a big dragon flying in the high corner. There’s a shelf with a lot of books on one of the walls filled with children’s books and Kara laughs at Nia’s probable gift: Harry Potter and the philosopher's stone . All around the floor there are toys, teddy bears and a set of blocks forming half of a castle, the rest of them abandoned on the side.

 

In the middle of the room Charlie and Hope sit in a table as small as them. The tea cups get emptied of its imaginary content whenever they drink from them and the jug’s liquid never ends. The girls seem to be great hostesses to the ragged giraffe and dark blue elephant sitting beside them, offering drinks and cookies when they decided their friends had eaten everything. 

 

From the bed, Ryan laughs, lazily moving through the pages of the book on her hands, whenever Hope tells the giraffe that too many cookies make your tummy ache. Kara gets closer to her first, sitting on the feet of the bed. “They got you for the tea party too?”

Ryan chuckles, “Mom says I should make sure they’re okay, since I’m not doing much anyway.”

 

Kara nods seriously. “Important job. We wouldn’t want them to get a stomachache of air cookies before lunch.”

 

The girl laughs and some pride grows inside of Kara at making her niece laugh. She’s about to try and crack another joke when Charlie calls out to her to try the tea as Ryan gets up from the bed and leaves the room with a quick be right back .

 

The poor giraffe, Mrs. Dots, was simply pushed to the side to join the rest of the toys living on the floor. Kara is carefully sitting down on the miniature chair and cautiously picking up the tea cup before she remembers that, unless she actually tries, she can’t break them.

 

She’s dramatically expressing her delight for the tea and the cookies every time she is offered when Ryan walks into the room and the object on her hands makes her pause. The girl is nervously biting her lip and she holds the comic book close to her chest. A comic book that reads, in big bold letters, The Adventures of Supergirl

 

“What’s that?” she asks, begging her voice to not sound as shocked and weak as she feels right now. 

 

“Supergirl comic,” Ryan says, moving the elephant and sitting on the little chair in front of Kara, “volume III. It’s my favorite.”

 

“That’s– that’s nice,” she tries not to think too much about it, how it’s probably about her life, how they marketed her even after death - even more than when she was alive. “What is it about?”

“It’s called Attack of the World Killers,” she says excitedly, inching closer towards Kara. Charlie and Hope also look at her with rapid interest. “Is it true that you were able to beat her because you threw yourself in the sun?”

 

“What?” she frowns, “No. Of course not.”

 

But Ryan didn’t seem to care too much that she had answered, instead decided to keep asking question after question - the youngest girls joining soon after.

 

“Is it true that Reign had psychic abilities?”

 

“No, but–”

 

“–did she seriously throw you off a building?”

 

“Why didn’t you just punch her really hard?”

 

“Is it true that you can cook turkey with your laser vision? Can we see?”

 

“Can we go flying?”

 

“Okay, everyone stop,” she says, not raising her voice but strong enough to have three sets of eyes looking at her curiously and surprised. “Yes, she threw me off a building. I did punch her really hard but she was stronger than me. Yes, I was able to cook turkey with laser vision but I can’t do that anymore, the same way I can’t fly anymore.”

 

The children look at her with their mouths closed for a couple of seconds. Ryan speaks up, “Why can’t you fly anymore?”

 

“I lost my powers,” she explains, “my abilities only involve karaoke and maybe journalism now.”

 

Hope frowns, looking at her with sad eyes that tug at Kara’s heart. “But I thought Supergirl was supposed to protect us?”

 

“I’ll always protect you,” she says, her hand enveloping a smaller one, “all of you. We don’t need superpowers to be heroes, okay? I promise.”

 


 

The harsh, bright stream of autumn daylight has dwindled to lethargy, the sun angling to hide on the far side of horizon. Brittle breaths of air blow past the bed of clouds and bite at the sunburnt skin of her arms, smelling of fired wood and charcoal. 

 

Kara lays all the blame of her loose tongue on the fuzziness the fifth bottle of beer provides, stomach full and heart happy as she flops down into the outdoor rattan armchair, besides Alex and in front of Kelly, Brainy and Nia, lightly hanging in the L-shaped piece of furniture. J’onn and M’gann stand in the far corner of the patio, busying themselves with sips of sangria while hiding from the last sun rays under the parasol.

 

“I understood being fashionably late, busy professional and all that,” she spits out, bitter as the brew that goes down her throat. “But not making it for family lunch? As far as first impressions go, they’re not getting brownie points with me.”

 

“What?” Nia puts voice to the confusion etched on her friends’ face, feeding herself a healthy portion of tiramisu. “Context, Kara. We need context.”

 

“You know, her wife, or husband or– Hope’s other parent.” Kara gestures with her bottle towards the pergola, where Lena is helping Ryan tidy up the remnants of lunch and late dessert. “I haven’t seen them around and… are they even on good terms? Lena isn’t wearing a ring or anything,” she huffs, picks at the skin around her thumbnail with a sour expression. If she was the one wearing Lena’s ring… she sure as hell wouldn’t leave her side for a second.

 

Kara was used to life slapping her on the face, but she is taken aback when it is her sister hitting the back of her head with an open palm, muttering you moron under her breath before she jumps to her feet and throws incredulous glances at the rest of the group, actively calling for backup.  

 

“Oh, boy, you’ve got it wrong.” Kara looks at Nia, then at Brainy nodding.

 

“Believe me, Lena was quite busy trying to get over–”

 

“–you’re still in love with her, aren’t you?” It’s Kelly the one who interrupts Alex, her brown eyes piercing and delicate as they seek Kara’s, approaching the truth with such certainty that all she can do is burrow deeper into her seat, taking a deep gulp of her beverage to avoid bursting into tears.

 

Nevertheless, Kara blanches, her legs bounce as she sucks on her lower lip and scratches at the bottle’s tag. “You know?”

 

“Seeing how devastated Lena was, we took a trip down memory lane and figured some things out,” Alex summarises, sitting in the armrest of Kara’s seat, carding her fingers through her sister’s darkened hair. “It’s always been her for you, isn’t it?”

 

“Well, it’s not like I had Phantom Tinder to try and find some other options,” she chuckles. Kelly fixes her with a cold glare and the sneaky grin matures into a grimace instead. Right, apparently they moved on from joking about the bad feelings that wither the sanity of your mind. “Could I? Ever stop loving her? I’m not really sure that’s a possibility for me.”

 

“Then you must do something about it!” Brainy dares to give his input, urging her with fierceness he barely allows to show. “It’s easy to construe you are the rationale behind Lena choosing to settle down without a counterpart to fulfil the role of a romantic partner.” 

 

“Brainy!”

 

“C’mon, dude.”

 

He doesn’t flinch, but Kara does. Her stomach drops, her body being filled with tendrils of hope she’s too battered and bruised to hold onto. “What?”

 

“That was Lena’s secret to tell, but she isn’t married and there’s no Hope’s other parent.” Alex groans, scratches her eyebrow with her forefinger. Kara thinks she shouldn’t blink lest she misses something crucial. “I don’t know what made you believe otherwise.” 

 

“Single as a pringle, for years.” The delivery of Nia’s pun seeks to act as a catalyst, but it backfires and Kara is just so confused.

 

Why didn’t Lena say anything when she insinuated the possible existence of a significant one? Why would she stay quiet about that? Like if she was actively trying to protect herself from the outcome of Kara realising there wasn’t someone else.

 

What if…?

 

She can’t even contrive a coherent thought.

 

"Really?" she asks, voice tight and too hopeful- too emotional when you're finding out your best friend hasn't, in fact, found love. Probably not a good thing to be happy about but sue her, she doesn't care because she might have a chance .

 

Alex rolls her eyes and punches her on the shoulder, playfully this time. Nia and Kelly nod at her before sharing a curious and excited look between them.

 

Evening bleeding into nightfall, it comes to Kara’s attention that Lena hasn’t taken her eyes off her the whole day, and she is aware because she has been doing just the same, eyes finding Lena like a magnet finds metal. Moth to the light. Kryptonian to the sun. 

 

But now, the woman is so focused on Ryan it looks like she is in the middle of a business meeting instead of hearing her niece babble about the difference between a sea turtle and a mud one, so immersed into discussion that she doesn’t even notice her daughter approaching m with dragged steps until Hope is tapping on her shoulder, asking something only for her to hear. But Kara does notice, and a tired smile pulls at the corners of her lips as she watches Lena effortlessly pick Hope up without taking her eyes away from Ryan, a well learned dance that has given the woman the skill to act on autopilot. 

 

By the time Kara’s head is bobbing and she’s tiptoeing on sleep, worn to the bone from the day’s revelations, Lena walks out into the patio and the starry night, a sleepy toddler draped on her shoulder. On shaky legs, she rises to her feet and ambles to the small family, stopping and staring after realising she doesn’t know what to say. 

 

“Leaving so soon?” Nia snatches the words from her lips, standing next to her.

 

“We had an early morning today,” Lena explains, “and a long day, for that matter. I don’t like driving with her so late into the night, so it’s better if I get going.” Jade eyes momentarily flit up to side-eye her. 

 

“Yeah, I should too– not get going, I mean, but making my bed instead, you know, given I’m crashing here and all that.” Squaring her shoulders, Kara shakes her head, aware of how ridiculous she sounds. But give her a break, her game still needs polishing.  

 

“We really have to get you a new place, Kara.” She recoils when Alex materialises out of thin air, summoned from Cupid’s army. “That couch must be a bitch to your back.” The faux pity doesn’t help her case. 

 

“I’m not made of steel anymore, but it’s not that bad.” She tries to put them at ease, getting three iterations of a scoff back. “Really, after sleeping so long on pointy rocks, that couch feels like heaven.” Well, perhaps that doesn’t do much to raise spirits, even if it’s the truth.

 

“You can always stay with us.” Repositioning Hope in the cradle of her arm, holding a hand to her head, Lena makes a passing offer, and her sister is taking it for her before she can refuse. 

 

“Yeah, Lena has a spare room in that humongous apartment of hers–”

 

“–no, I wouldn’t want to intrude,” Kara says.

 

Lena shakes her head. “You wouldn’t–”

 

“–besides, I paid someone to come and fix our kitchen tomorrow so–”

 

“–and you have Hope with you–”

 

“–she would love to have you around–”

 

“–Kelly also said we–”

 

“–Alex!” both Kara and Lena shout at the same time, then they turn at Hope and mutter a heartfelt sorry when the toddler in Lena’s arms shifts and groans into the fabric of her jacket.

 

“Would it be okay if I stay with you for a couple of days?” She addresses Lena this time, low and hopeful and eyes fluttering under the moonlight to increase the chances of her saying it’s okay, taking Kara under her wing. 

 

“All the time you need.” 

 

“Thanks.” Her smile is too wide and joyful for such a mundane act, but the thought of being closer to Lena and Hope tugs at her heartstrings, warm honey dripping down her spine with the sweet absolution of having her kind friend back. “I’m gonna pack some clothes real quick and then we’ll be set to go.” 

 

“No need,” she wearily warns, “I kept some of your things with me, so there should be… maybe it’s best if you bring–… I’d understand if you don’t want to wear your old clothes.”

 

It feels like a knife is slowly twisting into her heart. “I want to.” Kara clasps a hand on Lena’s hip, gasping as she finds bare skin where her blouse untucked from her pants. 

 

Rushed goodbyes thrown over shoulders, the makeshift trio is nearing the backyard door when someone clears their throat and she sees Lena roll her eyes from the corner of hers before she pivots and faces whoever is slowing them down. 

 

“Missing me already?” Lena asks.

 

“You got here in the Mercedes, big brain.” Alex jests, tosses a keychain towards Kara’s chest, who hisses when they dig weirdly into the muscles of her hand. “Take the SUV, I’ll take your car to your building first thing tomorrow.” 

 

“You are just looking for an excuse to drive it.”

 

“Or you can fuck off and walk all the way downtown, you know.”

 

Lena wrinkles her nose, yet she approaches Kara and softly requests, “can you get the keys for me, please? Front pocket.”

 

She retrieves the set from the silky depths of the garment, blushing all the way, and walks to Alex to drop them in the space of her upturned palm. Kara lets herself be engulfed in a tight hug, humming with the comfortable pressure across her ribs. Her sister kisses her temple, cradles her jaw with tender mirth dancing in her hazel gaze. “I love you, kid.” 

 

“I love you, too.”

 

“And, against my better judgement, I love you.” Alex lifts on the tip of her boots to peek over Kara’s shoulder, giggling when Lena flips her off in return. “I do love her, but she’s problematic,” she whispers, affection washing over her tone. 

 

It’s understandable that her heart becomes a time bomb.

 

“Bye, Alex.”

 

“Be a good guest.”

 

“Always am.”

 

“And talk to her.” 

 

“Never will.” Kara raises her voice to be heard over the exertion of her jog, reaching Lena with quick strides, not looking back until they come across the garage. From there, she spots the woman struggling to adjust the booster seat, and it is her innate benevolence that drives her to act on muscle memory, ending up with an armful of Hope while Lena fixes the backseat. 

 

She’s the lightest of weights, taking little space on Kara’s broad shoulders as she lodges deeper into the joint curve of neck and shoulder. And yet, there are steel chains tugging her down, fastening around her shaky limbs and threatening to barrel through until she falls on her knees. Kara doesn't know how, but this little girl is already wrangling her heart out of her chest to make home there. 

 

Like mother, like daughter.

 

Scattering to get herself together, Kara flashes the beginning of tears away and carefully dismounts her precious cargo when she’s ordered to do so, leaning against the door with a nervous smile that girates into a symphony of laughs when Lena gives a half-shrug and two crooked thumbs up. 

 

“Good form for an amateur,” she says, frame tilting towards Kara without thinking. For a show-stopping second, Lena’s gaze takes a trip on the area around her mouth, but she blinks out of stupor and surveys Kara as a whole deity, contemplative as if noticing her for the first time. “You look different.”

 

“Is that a good thing?”

 

“We’ll have to wait to find out.” She taps the key fob against Kara’s collarbone, swiveling and disappearing into the driver’s seat, leaving her biting her lip and glancing skyward in search of divine guidance. 

 

Kara is quiet, not sure if she should blame that on being nervous about seeing Lena’s home after so long, or because Hope is sleeping on the back seat and she’s too scared to wake her up - kids complain when they get abruptly woken up, she has heard humans say. 

 

“I thought we were going to your apartment?” she asks, quietly, inching her head closer to Lena when she takes a right instead of a left on the ice cream shop.

 

“We are. I got a new place two– three months before Hope was born,” she explains, a tint of question in her voice when she says the date, “I realized a lot of people knew where I lived and I didn’t want to put her in unnecessary danger.”

 

Bombings. Druggins. Gunshots. Zip ties. They all come to the forefront of Kara’s mind as she remembers every single assasination attempt Lena has suffered. She doesn’t know why they’d have stopped without her there to stop them – if anything, they probably went up. Criminals getting braver and Lex’s goons getting cocky.  

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Lena frowns. “What are you apologizing for?”

 

Kara looks down, tries to hold down the tears - not make this a big scene or a big moment. She’s tired and sleepy, and she knows Lena is too. “That I wasn’t there to protect you, both of you.”

The air leaves her lungs like a waterfall falls into a pond. Eyes never leaving the road, her hand reaches over and tangles itself on Kara’s - it’s different, even her hands are. The expensive moisturisers Lena uses every day are not enough for the passage of a decade, the skin is lighter, the veins more prominent like lines on a renaissance painting. The memory of the smooth and almost-scarless hands is replaced by drier limbs filled with small little lines of unfaded scars here and there - she wants to ask, wants to know if it happened while she was tinkering in the lab or during careless mistakes.

 

“Kara–”

 

“–I know what you’re gonna say. It’s not my fault, I just wasn’t here,” she says, voice exasperated and mimicking Alex, “but I should’ve. I should have been here. For all of it.”

 

The tears she had been trying so hard to hold onto fall into their joined hands and once she sees the first one, she can’t stop the rest. She doesn’t want to look up to Lena, doesn’t want to know what she’ll find. Pity? Pain? Nothing? 

 

“I wish you would have been here, too,” Lena murmurs after a few seconds. Her words are both empty and full of meaning at the same time. It’s barely a wish, for the both of them. An empty idea because Kara wasn’t there, she didn’t see any of it. Her hand squeezes Kara’s again, “But you’re here now. That counts, right?”

 

“Yeah,” she sighs, then looks around confused, “why did you stop the car?”

 

“We’re here,” she says, stepping out of the car and walking over to Hope’s door, Kara close behind her.

 

“Already? We got here so fast.”

 

Lena chuckles, “One of Alex’s rules when we were apartment hunting. No more than twenty minutes away from my house,” she says, with the worst impression of her sister Kara has ever seen. But her heart jumps at the mention of Alex clearly wanting to have Lena close - using the same rule she had used with Kara when she moved to her condo.

 

Kara surveys her surroundings, surprised. The neighborhood is fancy but it’s not extravagant. It’s not the forty floors building Lena used to live at. The security is as extensive as always but as she walks into the foyer, she wouldn’t have guessed this was where Lena Luthor lives - but, she knows the old Lena Luthor, not the new. 

 

Maybe now Lena is a big fan of bright colors, she thinks as the red in the kitchen jumps out with all the black electronics in it and sees the many blue, purple and red pillows on the couches. Maybe now Lena is a fan of displaying her love, she thinks as she takes in the portraits on portraits on portraits on the walls; pictures with just Hope, with Lena and Hope, Hope and Charlie and Ryan, of everyone together - smiling, ever so happy. 

 

She pauses in the middle of the room when she stumbles upon her own face - sees that picture she had spent an entire night looking at, wishing there was a way of getting Lena back. Lena’s arms around Kara as her own smile fills her face, little wrinkles of happiness on the side of her eyes.

 

“It’s still my favorite,” Lena says, showing up besides her and almost making her jump, “the picture I mean.”

 

Kara nods, “It was a fun night. Is Hope still asleep?”

 

She motions her head towards where she saw Lena disappear to. She kind of hates that she doesn’t know this place. Before, she used to know it all about Lena’s place - she was the only person privileged enough to see it, to walk in it, to know where the nice cups were and which side of the couch was more comfortable. 

 

“Yeah, heavy sleeper luckily,” she cracks a smile, “Nia could start blasting Taylor Swift and she’d still be sleeping.”

 

Kara looks away when her empty smile makes Lena frown, “I should probably go to sleep.”

 

She receives a nod in answer and Kara wishes she knew where to go because the silence feels like too much, it’s too heavy. Lena watches as Kara paces around, takes in all the pictures - all the pictures she’s not in, even when she should have.

 

“I want to give you something,” Lena says, moving to the book shelf on the side of the room and picks up an album, turning to Kara with her lip between her teeth, “I know you weren’t here in physical form but… you were with us. For all of it.”

 

Kara takes the extended book with trembling hands and watery eyes. The moment feels important, it probably is. She’s not sure what to expect but as she opens the first page, Lena’s anxious eyes on her, and reads for Kara in beautiful italics, the tears fall. 

 

The first picture on it it’s everyone on the tower. Alex’s arms around Kelly, Nia’s hand on Brainy’s, J’onn and M’gann on the right and Lena standing on the left. The smiles weren’t too big, Alex wasn’t smiling at all. Brainy had a black eye and Lena seemed uncomfortable. Under the picture it’s written, on Alex’s hand writing; first mission solved without you. I We miss you. 

 

“What’s– what’s this?”

 

Lena says nothing, guides her towards the couch and wraps one of the fuzzy blankets on it’s back around Kara. She looks at the book for a moment, an unreadable expression on her face. She breathes in, “A little after you– after it happened, we were sure you were going to come back soon. We didn’t want you to miss anything and we thought we would forget something. So uh… we bought a book and a polaroid camera, wrote it all down so we would remember what to tell you when you came back.”

 

Kara is enraptured on Lena’s face, the way she moves her mouth, the way her eyes keep tracing the side of the book along with her hands. The words ache, the you were going to come back soon feels like another slap in the face because she didn’t, she came back absolutely not soon. 


“After a while… failed attempt after failed attempt to bring you back, it became more of a remembrance book, where we wished you would have been at, where you should have been at.” Her hand moves as to grab Kara’s before it goes into her own lap. “Now that you’re here, you should have it.”

 

The next picture it’s just Lena and Alex. Her sister is lying on the middle of a couch - her old couch - one leg on it’s arm, a bottle of beer on her hand, while Lena has half her body on top of the couch and her legs throw carelessly on the floor. Bottles of alcohol can be seen littering the small table. Under it, in Kelly’s elegant writing she reads: Happy earth birthday, Kara. As you can see, those two idiots got drunk. Normally, I don’t think you’d enjoy this kind of picture (we both talked about it and complained enough times together) but today: Alex told Lena, and I quote, “Well, your brother always sucked, I can be your sibling from now on.” I thought you would have liked to see that. We miss you. 

 

She goes through all of them. Pictures of Nia and Brainy on their first date back together, accompanied with a long rant of Nia’s that’s half exasperation and half endearment. Pictures of Alex and Lena both with One Month chips in their hands, then just Alex with her Five Months chip. Pictures of J’onn and M’gann solving a case together. Nia making funny poses with her brand new suit. 

 

She stops on the picture of a tiny four year old Ryan. She’s wearing clothes a bit too big for her and she has a very cautious smile on her face - very unlike the girl that belly laughs at all of Kara’s jokes. Alex wrote; This is Ryan, my daughter. Wow, that feels weird to say, or well write. She’s adorable. Loves dinosaurs and mint ice cream. I love her so much. I know you would have too. I miss you even more today. 

 

She reads about Sentinel and Guardian, Dreamer and Martian Manhunter, L-Corp and its developments. Pictures of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. She lets out a wet laugh when she sees a picture of Kelly and Lena, both with their shirts rolled up, belly in front of belly and an excited “two more on the way” in capital letters under it. Lena tightens her arms around her as she moves on to the next.

 

It’s clear how the picture was taken in the hospital, white sheets and white walls - all surrounding the colorful family in it. Kelly is sitting on the middle of the bed, her hands holding up a small baby on her chest. Alex, sitting beside her with her arms wrapped around her and one hand holding the baby’s, she looks like she’s talking, explaining something to Ryan, who’s standing in front of her, a curious and excited smile as she looks at the baby. It’s an adorable family picture, and Rao if Kara doesn’t wish she had been there to see it in person. 

 

Kid number two. It’s crazy, right? We knew it was going to happen eventually though. You were so so so important to me, I couldn’t leave my daughter without a sister. 

 

The next picture is way more simple. The white sheets also scream hospital but this time there isn’t a whole family pressed together on the bed. This time it’s just a little baby, maybe a week old - Kara can’t be sure. Her little hand is holding onto one long finger, Lena’s finger. Under it, on Lena’s handwriting, a simple message. Dear Kara: today, I have Hope again.  

 

“You were here, Kara,” Lena whispers in her ear when she sobs so hard she can’t keep moving through the pages, “you were always here.”

 


 

It's better. But it's also not good. 

 

It's better because she's not trapped in the middle of nowhere, stuck in a place where darkness is the norm and the only company it's loneliness and beings that live off your hope. 

 

It's not good because, on top of all the trauma and pain she had before, now it has been doubled. And because that's doubled, so are the nightmares. 

 

She wakes up every single, sometimes more than twice, in cold sweat. Not knowing what's real and what isn't. Not knowing if she got out or didn't. Thinking that maybe she’s hallucinating the soft sheets and comfortable pillow, and that at any second the rocks will start to pinch her back again. 

 

She feels stupid, so childish, for having to sleep with the lights on again. As if she’s a five year old back on Krypton, that wants to call out for her mom whenever she wakes up at night and the dark is too consuming. 

 

It’s been six days since she moved in with Lena and Hope. And it’s amazing. She’s usually awake when Lena’s alarm goes off, so she uses her restless energy into making breakfast - as well as she can, at least. Her breakfast isn’t much more than brewing Lena’s coffee and preparing toasts with jam for Hope. She can’t really cook better than that but the smile that Lena sends her way every morning, it’s worth it.

 

Normally, she wouldn’t get up this late. She hadn’t in any of the other nights. But tonight the walls in her room were getting too close to comfort, so she guessed that one of Lena’s fancy teas could get her calm down.

 

She knows the process, has seen Lena do it enough times. Boil the water, put it in the cup, add the tea–

 

“What are you doing?” A small voice says behind her, tea bag and spoon clattering to the floor.

 

“Rao.” She turns around, hand on her chest, and breathes out when she sees blue eyes staring up at her. “Hope. You scared me.”

 

The little girl only chuckles, walks over to Kara, the tail of her lion pijamas trailing behind her. “Who’s Rao?”

 

“Oh, well, Rao is my god,” she kneels and picks up the falling objects, her eyes aligning perfectly with the little girl’s. “Back from when I was on my planet, up up in the stars.”

 

Hope’s eyes tinkle with curiosity, like every time Kara mentions something about her planet or Brainy talks about science she’s yet too young to learn. “Is he nice?”

 

“Very nice,” Kara says, melancholy in her voice, “Rao gives us life.”

 

“Do you miss him?”

 

Kara sighs. She’s not sure how you should go about explaining to a kid about the destruction of a planet, the destruction of a sun - the destruction of a culture. Or how to explain that the tinted red of his light doesn’t give as much comfort now, having spent ten years looking at reflections of red suns too out of reach to give her life.

 

“What are you doing up, miss?” she asks instead. A lip gets captured between teeth before a whisper comes.

 

“I had a bad dream.”

 

“So did I,” Kara explains, her hand reaching out to tame one of Hope’s messy curls behind her ear, “do you wanna tell me what was yours about?”

 

The little girl shakes her head, then frowns, “I don’t remember much of it now.”

 

“Well, I always hate being alone after a bad dream, do you want to stay with me? I’ve been told my hugs are comfy,” she prods, moves Hope’s attention back to her before the unsettled child remembers why she woke up. Hope nods and takes her hand, tea and water left forgotten in the kitchen, as they climb into Kara’s bed.

 

Kara fixes an array of pillows on what she assumes is Hope’s side of the bed, making a fluffy wall to prevent her from falling off, but the kid doesn’t seem interested enough about curling up under the heavy blankets and let sleep lull her back to dreamland. Rather, she crawls up the mattress to meet Kara, resting on her haunches as she stops to examine her like a curator does a brand new piece. 

 

Hope’s blue eyes glisten below the mild nightlight, never straying from Kara’s own cerulean orbs. She studies, analyses, compares and nods with a happy hum what probably is the final outcome. “Mommy talked about you everyday.”

 

Kara hollows her cheeks, pressing her eyes shut. Children always tell the truth. “Well, there wasn’t a day where I didn’t think about her, either.” And so do drunk people. 

 

“What happened to your face?” she asks, straight to the point. Kara wraps an arm around Hope’s waist when she inches forward, closing a hand on her shoulder for support while the other slowly trails up and small fingers trace the silvery slashes blemishing her face. A weird sensation seizes her where Hope drags the pad of her pointer finger across the fragmented length of the scar that goes from her brow all the way down her lid and the bags under her eyes. “It was one of your adven– adventures?”

 

“A fight with a big shark.” Kara deflects, because no one deserves to be in the secret of that atrocious story. Even less the kid she swore to protect from the dark cracks of entropy.

 

“But sharks are nice guys.” 

 

“They are!” seeing the springs of a pout, she quickly corrects, “it was just, um. A mistake. Wrong place at the wrong time, but we figured it out and ended up as good friends.” 

 

Hope makes a curious sound from the depths of her throat, props her elbows upon Kara’s chest and leans her face onto her palms, nagging at her pinky. “Mommy never said you can talk with sharks.” 

 

“I don’t, actually. But my friend Arthur could help if you’re interested.” From up there, languidly resting against the headboard, watching Hope brighten up is easy to be considered a wonder. 

 

Sleeping the rest of the night away is the most untroubled rest she’s had in years, Hope snugly tucked under her arm and filling the bedroom with puffs of air that slip from parted lips. It’s safe and real and home, unlike the frigid cold nights where she wandered through labyrinths that never saw broad daylight, wide awake and ready to fight the night shift phantoms that crept out of hiding to ingrain pictures of death and terror in her weakened mind.

 

She’s no longer there. It’s safe. It’s real. It’s home.

 

All in all, energy fuelled by the near presence of loved ones, Kara doesn’t complain when her slumber is interrupted next morning by a blushing Lena Luthor, hastily trying to cover the flash of the camera with her fingers. She can’t complain. Not when she gets a forehead morning kiss, too.

 


 

“Have you talked to her?” Alex’s voice urges through the speaker, tired of Kara’s ineptitude.

 

“Not yet.” She sighs, her hand traces the newest entry in the scrapbook. A Polaroid picture of Hope sleeping on top of her, written underneath in loopy calligraphy is: You found us.

 


 

Life is good.

 

Life is pretty.

 

Life is starting to look worth living again.

 

Time flies, and Kara’s no longer paralysed by it. 

 

It’s impressive how fast she settles back into normalcy. It doesn’t take more than two weeks for all of her family and friends to get the news, her new phone ringing nonstop to quick exchanges of when? how? and a couple of tearful visits from the handful of people whose lives were affected by her sudden absence. She’s showered with so much love and good news, there isn’t time to dwell in the myriad of events she missed.

 

The cover story Lena and Alex had set for her years ago holds weight even now, so stable that by the end of the best winter break of her life spent with her whole family, Kara is part of NCU’s Humanities and Social Sciences professoriate - all thanks to a few called-in favours, a fake degree Lena got for her from a University in Budapest and endless rows of praise and work references from certain Cat Grant. 

 

Life is perfect. Because she now gets to have breakfast with two sleepy Luthors instead of one, because she gets to see Lena rolling her eyes when she and Hope fish at the same time for the last bite of cantaloupe. Because their morning routine includes her too as Lena asks her to help Hope tying her shoelaces up while she gets ready for work, and Alex beats the honk of her Tahoe without caring about her children, stealing little doses of sleep in the backseat before making it to school.

 

Life has never been better than when they’re finally alone and Lena approaches her with careful steps, hiding something behind her back.

 

“Whatcha got there?” Kara wonders, checking her attire in the body length mirror, pulling at the collar of her button-down.

 

“These will help you fit in,” Lena replies, handing her a lead case. “People will start asking questions about Supergirl making a comeback as a professor.” She pops the lid off, finds her old glasses resting in the velvety insides of the box, the crystals polished and well kept even through the years and moving in and on and everything else. 

 

Oh, you still have them.”

 

“Alex kept the suit, I kept your glasses. Kara Danvers has always been my favourite, after all.” Lena smiles, wide and honest and so, so beautiful. “Let me help you.” 

 

Kara has no doubt she’s burning up where Lena’s hands graze the skin of her face, settling the frames with utmost care in the shallow curve of her flushed ears. The specs still don’t make a difference, but actually feeling the weight of the material is the finishing blow. There’s no doubt in her mind. She is home now.

 

“How do I look?” twirling around, Kara gives her her brightest smile back.

 

“What a dreamboat. You’ll have plenty of sapphics dying to enroll in your courses by the end of the week.” 

 

She’s too busy launching hungry glances at Lena’s painted lips to notice her friend doing the exact same thing. “That’s my goal, to teach our brightest minds only.” 

 

“Don’t let Dean Hawthorn stop you, then.” Breathing room steadily starts fading away when Lena ambles closer, her hands travelling to meet the north end of Kara’s tie. Idle fingers secure and tighten the Windsor knot, tucking the fabric underneath her hound’s tooth woollen vest. “You look… so handsome.” 

 

“Th– thanks.” The blush spreads further, reaching past her neck and well into her beating heart. “You are quite gorgeous yourself.” She shoots back and, after a lifetime, Lena is the reason she fiddles once again with her glasses.

 

“Good luck, Kara.” Those are the vestiges of their last goodbye, but she breaks through the darkness of her mind and smiles, knowing she’s coming back. She will always come back for her. 

 

“You, too.” 

 


 

“So, you’re still single.” Kara shoves a handful of popcorn into her mouth, washing it down with a healthy swig of a lone artesanal beer she found lost and abandoned in Lena’s fridge. “I told you getting Tinder would help with that.” 

 

“Have you?”

 

“Nah, I’m just going with the flow.” She stretches her legs, burying her toes into the cushions at their far end of the couch. On the sly, Kara vaults her arm behind the headrest, greasy hand freezing when Lena fixes her with a stone-cold glare and all but flings the army of napkins at her. “I wasn’t even gonna–“

 

“–you’re just incorrigible, Kara Zor-El.” Lena’s sitting close, given there’s a wide range of seating charts, with her legs tucked underneath her and her head lolling to the sides as she turns to address Kara. “How’s that for you?”

 

“Uh?”

 

“Going with the flow.” 

 

With completely different intentions, Kara keeps her arm where it was, ready to cushion Lena when the exhaustion of the work’s day gets to her. Reaching out for her wallet, sitting next to her keys and phone in the coffee table, she unzips the back pocket and hands Lena three business cards. “Leonard from the department of physics. Amelia from Visual Arts and Saskia, laws.” 

 

There’s something obscure that flashes in Lena’s eyes, but is fleeting and gone when she looks up. “It’s been like… three weeks,” she hisses through her teeth, roughly tossing them back onto Kara’s hand. 

 

“With a face like mine–”

 

“–you reached back?”

 

“What?”

 

“Have you called any of them?” Lena presses.

 

“Should I?”

 

“Do you want to?”

 

Is she being tested? Is Lena testing her? Why does it feel like she’s being tested by her?

 

“Not really. I’m holding my reins, trying to catch up with the ten years snatched away from me.” Kara tilts her head backward, clenching her teeth while she stares at the high ceiling. “There’s no space for dating in my mind right now.” 

 

That was the right thing to say, wasn’t it? She can’t even start to comprehend why Lena deflates like a thorn-pricked balloon.

 

“I suppose you’re right.” 

 

“Why haven’t you? Start dating, I mean. Hope’s old enough to understand and, besides, I honestly thought you had a husband or something like that when I came back.” 

 

“You know I’m not the husband type,” Lena says, traces the rim of her canned Coke. “And, to answer your question, no one really loves a Luthor that way. So it was doing it all by myself or not doing it at all. However, I'm glad I went through. Hope is my entire world."

 

Kara has to bite her tongue because she’s no one, she loves Lena that way. Has loved her from way before everything went downhill.

 

“I didn’t want to, at first. I didn't think I would be able to raise a child on my own, and... the only person I ever pictured myself doing this with, wasn’t exactly in the picture. It was so hard, like karma cashing out with the most painful coincidence, to wake up and see her blue eyes staring at me like I was her whole world, the same way you used to look at me.

 

"It was gut-wrenching, but I kept replaying your legacy download in my head for the longest time. You telling me to find love, to be happy. And every time I thought about what I wanted, I knew it was for someone to love me as much as I’d love them. Staying that cold, guarded CEO wouldn't have made you proud, and I just wanted to make you proud.

 

“You were always saying how everyone should live by hope, and that’s what I did. I found love in Hope, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my little girl. She saved me in so many ways and yet sometimes I wonder, will I ever find someone to share this with?”

 

I’m right here. "You– you named your daughter like that because of me?"

 

"Hope deserved to know everything about you, to have you with her. Even if there was a time we thought she was never going to meet you, I couldn’t give up on your legacy.” Lena strokes the back of her hand, where it’s curled and wrapped around hers. “But her name also represents that, she’s my hope: for a better world, for finding love again, all of it."

 

Kara glances back up to find Lena’s gaze bored onto her, tears glistening in the cusp of thick eyelashes. “You’re the reason I didn’t give up in the Phantom Zone,” she blurts out, nervously swallowing and licking her lips. 

 

Whatever retort was stewing in the top of Lena’s tongue, gets cut off by the patter of small feet running down the stairs, a kid-shaped lightning bolt storming in the room and melting into Lena’s lap. 

 

“Nap time is over,” Hope says, all but shoves her wristwatch to their faces. “Can we watch Finding Dory now?”

 

“What’s wrong with Finding Nemo?” Kara’s finger pokes a chubby cheek, earning a giggle for her efforts.

 

“Bruce is a mean sharky there, I don’t like it.” This time, Hope climbs into Kara’s lap instead, digging a bony knee into her bladder. “He’s like the shark that did this to you.”

 

Scepticism rides in waves, barges in like a tide and Kara can feel Lena’s judging glare burning the side of her face, where her daughter doodles around the scar on her cheek. Overlooking her seems like a wise decision, and so she wraps her hands around Hope’s ribs and hoists her up, up in the air, rejoicing in the gasp-like chuckles the half-asleep girl lets out.

 

“But he’s a reformed shark now, remember?” 

 

“Wha– what’s reformed?” Hope breathes hard, trying to balance herself in Kara’s grip.

 

“That means he changed, for the better.” 

 

Uh, I still love Dory more. Can you go higher, please?” she requests, and Kara is way too smitten to deny her wishes. Stretching her arms to full length, she lifts Hope as high as she can, grinning when she turns to find Lena biting her lip, trying to tame an indomitable smile of her own. 

 

“She’s just like Supergirl!”

 

“You don’t know how much trouble you’re in for if you let my child fall,” Lena intervenes, head on her fist, sideways with her elbow propped up in the cushioned headrest.

 

“There’s a reason they called me Girl of Steel. She’s in safe arms.”

 

“Trust me, I know,” she says, short-winded. Kara lifts a curious eyebrow because… 

 

“And I would never hurt my favourite person in the galaxy, would I?” Hope comes back down to steady land with a sad oof, only getting back her perky demeanour after Kara blows rows of raspberries on her neck. “Don’t tell your cousins I said that.” 

 

Lena clears her throat, and two pairs of baby blue eyes shoot to her. “I thought I was your favourite?” 

 

“My apologies, but you became a close second the moment I laid my eyes upon Hope.” Little things to almost none have come closer to curing her pain and anger the way Hope wrapping her arms around her neck and sloppily kissing her cheeks has. 

 

“You’re my favourite, too!” 

 

“Okay, okay. You’ve known each other for months, and I’ve known each of you for years. Stop ganging up on me, it hurts.” Getting synced shrugs from her daughter and Kara, Lena huffs. “You two are a big menace.” 

 

“Yet you love us.” 

 

“That I do,” Lena sighs, resigned to the idea that these two blue-eyed cherubs have taken up too much space in her heart. “God, I forgot to ask." 

 

“Ask what?”

 

“Could you pick her up tomorrow from school? I have a board meeting and your sister said she and Kelly have something to do. I didn’t ask what,” Lena says, effectively shutting Kara up. 

 

"Am I allowed to do that? I thought there was a list or something.” 

 

“I uh– I added you once you came back." 

 

Kara nods, wraps a finger on a dark curl. “Kiddo, want me to pick you up?” 

 

“Yeah, sure.” 

 

“Then it’s settled.”

 

It’s settled, she said, I’ll use my lunch break to sit through traffic and drive to the other end of the city to pick up your daughter just because I’m in love with you and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you and your sweet kid. 

 

Static pierces her absent-mindedness, Lena’s raspy voice coming through the slits of the speakers. “Where are you?” 

 

“Uni’s parking lot, what ‘bout you?”

 

“What do you mean the parking lot? You’re supposed to be picking Hope up in less than twenty minutes.”

 

“Oh no, am I?” she teases further, hitting the pedal and turning her blinker off after entering the highway and overtaking a Civic. “Maybe you should ask J’onn or Nia to pick her up.” 

 

“Kara.”

 

“Lena…”

 

“You are making my headache even worse.” 

 

Kara laughs, but takes pity on Lena’s poor heart. “I’m almost there, but I think I underappreciated super powers. Traffic is a heck of a nightmare today.”

 

"Well, us powerless people can get it done without complaints. So you know, maybe it's a you thing." 

 

“Rude?”

 

“I’m just saying, it’s funny how midday traffic became your worst enemy.”

 

“it’s always been the enemy.” She blows a long breath, drumming her fingers against the wheel. "Can you, rich person, create something to fix it?"

 

"Unfortunately, that's not in my jurisdiction."

 

“What a shame. Things will be easier if you used that world-saving brain of yours.”

 

From the corner of the windscreen, she can see the bright letters pointing to Hope’s school, and she slows down the engine, not wanting to hang up just yet. There are guardians parked on both sides of the street, waiting for the gates to open and the people in pick-up duty to let them in to go in search of their little ones. Kara waits inside the car, following Lena’s wishes of letting Hope have an additional amount of playtime with her friends before diving in the hunt. 

 

Lena, who was eerily quiet until seconds ago, takes a deep sigh and repeats once more, “pick our– my, my daughter up.” The abrupt end of the call leaves Kara hanging, clutching tight to the rope of hope that’s beginning to sprout all throughout the length of her spine, like the flowers that bloom after you give up on something that was allegedly spoiled. 

 

Our daughter has a certain ring to it. 

 

Kara can’t stop thinking about it, not even after Hope sees her from the playground and runs to her without grabbing her Procompsognathus plushy first, jumping into her arms and whispering a muffled you’re here against her neck.

 

It only becomes worse times infinity when a teacher approaches them with an easy smile on their face, handing Hope’s backpack and plushy to Kara.

 

“You must be Kara Danvers,” they guess, looking up to meet her gaze. “Your name was probably Hope’s first word, she’s been talking about you since she started kindergarten.” 

 

“Has she now?” Kara shoulders the revelation with pride, jutting her chin out and offering her hand. “Nice to meet you…”

 

“Miss Huang, she’s my art and crafts teacher,” Hope intercedes.

 

“Miss Huang, it is.” Kara shakes her hand, tossing the warm smile back. “I’ll be seeing you around.”

 

“Right back at you. It’s nice to finally have the Luthor family together.” 

 

Well, what the frick. “Oh– I’m not… Lena and I– we’re not together together.

 

“Oh, sorry! I shouldn’t have assumed you–“

 

“–no, it’s okay! It’s okay, really.” Her matrix is glitching, but it’s okay.

 

It’s so okay, that she calls her next class off and takes Hope to the closest ice cream parlour the GPS points - playing the innocent, caring card to nudge some needed intel from the kid. No that she needs to act around her, per se, but it’s easier to not feel guilt if she pretends she isn’t doing it on purpose. Kara has to fold Hope’s sleeves, make four trips to the station to get new spoons after she drops them to the floor, and wipe the fabric of her plushy to save it from permanent harm before the girl is paying attention to her, having stoked up enough sugar. 

 

“Something bad happened?” 

 

“What? No!” Frightened to frighten her with the unnecessary mystery, she gulps a deep breath, launching the napkin-ball to an ice cream cup. “I need to ask you something.” 

 

“About what?”

 

“About your mother.” 

 

“Something bad happened to her?” 

 

“Nothing bad happened to anyone, baby. I just want to figure something out, and thought you’d be the perfect person to help me.” 

 

This is it. The moment where she uses a five-year-old to get the answers to questions she’s afraid of asking the adults. Without a point of departure set before, the intervention being prompted by a grammatical error and a sudden stranger connecting logical dots, Kara heeds the course of conversation and dispatches her doubts, believing that Hope will take the role of a guide and drive her to enlightenment through murky waters. 

 

“Our family told you about me before, right? Aunt Alex has talked with you about her sister and how she left to be somewhere else.” Hope nods, listens. “Can you tell me what your mommy said about me?”

 

“She, um, she told me you needed to leave to protect us. She said that there was a bad guy trying to hurt you, but that he’s gone now.” 

 

“And he will never come back.” 

 

“Mommy showed me some pictures of you two, when I wasn’t born yet, you were wearing your suit and it was so cool!” Hope discloses, wonder shining crystal clear in her features. “We have a deal where she tells me new things about you every day, so we don’t forget you.” 

 

“When she does that, she calls me her friend? Your aunt?” 

 

“Just Kara, which I don’t get. I have aunts and uncles but they never call you my aunt. Does that mean you’re my other mother?”

 

A low blow, with a taser… underwater. “Is there a reason you think that?” Kara asks, holding onto hope, holding onto Hope.   

 

“The grownups I know come in two.” She lifts her index and middle finger, taking another spoonful of bubblegum ice cream. “Uncle J’onn and M’gann, Brainy and Nia, and your sister Alex and Kelly. Charlie and Ryan have each other too, but mommy doesn’t have a number two.”

 

“She has you.” 

 

“Yup, but sometimes it makes me sad because she doesn’t have anyone who loves her like I love her.”

 

“And how do you love her?”

 

“Forever, she’s my hero.” 

 

“She’s mine too, I’m glad we’re on the same page.” 

 

Hope drags her words, deliberately choosing to take her time, as if she knows she’s the only one with the elixir, and Kara finds herself at her feet to have a taste of salvation. "Mommy always says I am her hope, and that you are her heart,” she says, “that’s what makes me think you’re her person.” 

 

"What do you mean?" 

 

"Well, aunt Alex says auntie Kelly is her person because she loves her very much," the child explains, Kara hanging to her words as if she's a preacher giving her all the answers, "and because when she gets a tummy ache she tells her first because her kisses are a magic cure. Mommy had a headache on Monday and she told you and then you gave her a kiss on her forehead." 

 

Children's logic has always been an illogically logical thing - making sense of the hardest stuff in the simplest way. The forehead kiss wasn't supposed to mean that much, it was just a kiss after all, just Kara's inability to be able to stop touching Lena. 

 

"Aunt Nia says that Brainy always makes her smile the most too," she continues, unaware of Kara's inner turmoil, "and mommy has been smiling even more now that you're here." 

 

Kara nods, unsure what to say. The big feeling in her chest comes back with full force on her heart as she watches Hope use her pink plastic spoon to pick up the too-melted ice cream left in her cup.

 

“Hey Hope?” she receives a little hum in response, “I love you. You know that, right?”

 

Her smile lights up her whole face, the dimples visible on her face the same way they show up on Lena. “I love you, too.”

 


 

By the time afternoon arrives, with a sleeping Hope on her bed and an apartment empty of Lena’s usual chatter, Kara hasn’t been able to stop thinking about it.

 

It being way too many things. Lena’s slip up. The professor’s slip up. Hope’s words that feel too much like something, too much like a confession for Kara to not think about it.

 

It’s not long before she has pans and ingredients out along with Hope’s A Princess’ Kitchen book open on the table. It should be embarrassing that recipes thought out for five years olds are the only one she’s able to pull off. But if she’s cooking dinner, she'd rather not give any of her girls food poisoning, or burn down Lena’s kitchen - especially when she won’t be able to blow off the fire now. 

 

The door clicks the same way Lena’s heels do on the floor and Kara can tell she’s tired by the loud sighs she hears before watching Lena walk into the kitchen, feet dragging, as she leaves her phone and keys on the bowl assigned to anything and everything that fits. 

 

“You’re cooking?” she says as a greeting, not waiting for an answer, “I don’t know if I should be scared or thankful.”

 

“Maybe both? I’m following Hope’s cookbook.”

 

That was definitely not the expected answer because Lena stops halfway through taking out her suit jacket, looking at Kara, “You know that’s not actually a cooking book right?”

 

With greasy fingers, she lifts the book cover and frowns. “What?”

 

“You can’t really believe goddamned Belle will help you cook linguine, can you?”

 

“I trust the power of a princess.”

 

"I know you haven't been around but She-Ra is so last decade."

 

"Ouch."

 

“The book works,” Lena concludes, pops a piece of ham into her mouth, “but I cannot guarantee success. How did your day go? Wasn’t she a handful?”

 

“Never. It went pretty well, actually, I took her to the ice cream parlour and–”

 

“–you spoil her way too much.” 

 

“Well, I do have ten years of spoiling to make up for.” Shrugging, she lowers the stove and turns around, bracing her elbows on the counter, finding Lena’s awkward gaze locked in hers.

 

“Right.”

 

“Also, uh– the weirdest thing happened today.” She laughs, stiff and uncomfortable at the possible outcome of her following words. “Hope’s teacher, she said something funny–” there’s another laugh, adjoined by suspicion Lena exudes– “she thought we were, you know, together. Funny right?”

 

Kara hears a weird sound coming from where Lena’s head is stuck in the fridge, but she makes her way without a hair out place. Radiantly composed. “Hilarious,” she says, dry as drought. 

 

“I– I mean, you’ve been doing this on your own for so long.” The praise settles, and she summons courage from a feeble speck of whatever swims in Lena’s eyes. “It’s not like you need someone to– to help you with this, right?”

 

Standing in front of her, the tip of her stiletto kicking Kara’s bare feet to the side, Lena crosses her arms across her chest. "Yeah, well… I’ve come to realize that I never needed someone to do this with, but given the chance…” she trails off, yawn interrupting her train of thought.

 

Given the chance, you’ll find someone that isn’t damaged the way I am. “I’m sorry– you’re tired, you should go take a nap or something.”

 

“Hope…” 

 

“Already gave her a bath and put her in her pajamas. She’s sound asleep.” 

 

Lena chuckles, and the disbelief in it has Kara’s mind reeling. “Well, you really are the missing piece of her family, aren’t you?”

 

Dread courses through her vessels without hindrance, filling the rivers with a sense of fear that she overstepped. Perhaps, Lena just needed her to play Hope’s chauffeur for the day, to be her substitute for a busy day of work. And she should’ve known earlier, because she was Lena’s third option - over her driver and Alex - so it makes sense if she pissed her off by crossing boundaries she wasn’t asked to. 

 

There’s also the chance that she’s unnecessarily freaking out. But it’s her fight-or-flight response kicking in, and she’s sliding down into the rabbit hole and finding deep bottom before she can stop and think it through. 

 

Dinner for two veers into one woman show, but she doesn’t think her guts are in the right place to stomach anything but disappointment. 

 

But it can be that bad. She knows Lena loves her - it doesn't have to be like that, but Lena does. She loves her. Whatever she feels can be explained. 

 

Lena had told her, three days into their living arrangements, to talk to her, to ask her, anything she wanted. At any point. She wanted Kara to get up to speed, to be comfortable here. 

 

Lena has always been open since Kara got back - probably a defense, a way to make sure they won't end up the same way they did years ago. And Kara didn't intend to overstep, it felt too much like before - too much like that time she asked James to catch Lena's vault. But the words make her stop before she's able to knock on the door, and she's too far into hearing to not get to the end.

 

"I mean I can't just tell her to go, Sam." She can hear Lena's shoes dropping to the floor, the sound of the sheets against sliding when she sits down. "She's been here for a while. What– no– come on, you know she's been doing more harm than good lately." She sighs, and Kara can almost imagine her running a hand through her hair. "I love her but she's just not a good fit."

 

The words feel final, decisive. She won't overthink it, if she's to keep what she has left of Lena and Hope, she won't push her presence on them. She picks her phone, a decision made. “Alex, I need your help.” 

 


 

The next week isn’t awkward. In fact, Kara tries everything to make sure it isn’t.

 

She makes breakfast. She picks Hope up on Monday. She ignores Miss Huang's retort about their relationship status again. She brings lunch for her and Lena and goes to her office on Wednesday. She dwells into the mistakes and lousy faults. She gets caught on Friday night. 

 

It isn’t interesting per se. Most apartments are too far away. Some have way too much fixing to do to even be worth of renting. And any that Kara considers good enough, are way too expensive for her new professor’s salary. 

 

She’s debating whether living a block away from a club is manageable now that she doesn’t have her powers when Lena’s head shows up on the space between her door and wall, a lazy smile on her face. 

 

“Please, don’t make me set parental control on your laptop,” she says, walking into the room and sitting besides Kara on her bed, dropping her head on her shoulder. The blonde doesn’t have time to even blush about her thigh touching Lena’s when a frown shows up on her face as she looks at the computer. “What are you doing?”

 

It’s a rhetorical question, clearly. It’s very obvious what she’s doing. Lena can tell by the many pictures of kitchens and empty bedrooms - she’s smart enough to come to a conclusion. And unless Kara took a sudden interest in interior design, she's looking for a new apartment. 

 

“What are you doing, Kara?” she repeats herself, her tone colder than the breeze of air that rises goosebumps on Kara’s skin when Lena leans back, sitting away from her.

 

“I’m looking for apartments, that’s quite obvious.” Absentmindedly dragging her finger across the touch pad, numbers and figures blurring in the screen, she provides information for Lena, steadily trying to keep her cool.

 

“Why for? Isn’t a million dollar apartment enough for you?” 

 

“I’m… um, I just don’t want to overstay my welcome here.”

 

“You’re always welcome here, Kara.”

 

There’s a scoff, a harsh roll of blue eyes and an incredulous glance over her shoulder. They are past this, past the lies and omitted truths. It took months of building back trust, years of being lost to understand what would go missing if they didn’t stay true to their oath of loyalty. “Thought we had a no lying policy.”

 

“What are you talking about?” A hand tries to hold onto Kara’s as green eyes try to find hers, all to no use as the blonde stands up and disconnects her laptop from the outlet.

 

“Do you have a printer I can borrow? There’s this nice landlord who sent me a form, said he needs it filled by tomorrow morning.”

 

“Kara,” Lena begs, unable to move from her position on the bed, “what happened? Talk to me.”

 

She cups her hips, straying far away from the woman in her bed. Kara can’t face her, knows that whatever she finds in her body language will be enough to make them or break them. She’s not ready to get that sand-grain of cognition.

 

She doesn’t really need anything from her desk. Moves over there anyway and picks up the first thing she finds, her eyes avoiding the sight that she knows might break her heart. So, like with anything that hurts her, she dismisses it. “It's nothing, forget it–”

 

“–Kara.”

 

“Do you have a printer or not? I can go to Alex’s if you don’t.”

 

“It’s one in the morning,” Lena sighs and takes defeat, well aware that she won’t win a fight with Kara when she’s set and geared up for battle. “There’s one in my office, knock yourself out.”

 

Lena watches as Kara disappears from the room, and somehow it feels exactly like ten years ago when she saw her dissolve into the Phantom Zone. And once again, she feels like there’s nothing she can do to stop it. 

 

As everything else in the Luthor’s household, the office is filled with mementos narrating a storyline Kara is privy to via the words and stories she’s been told. A mahogany desk lies in the far corner of the room, right in front of the window pane that makes up for a wall. On the far right of the desk, there’s an elegant cube that Kara guesses is the printer. She mentally curses because, like with every new device she has encountered, it doesn’t had any fucking buttons - how is she supposed to connect a computer on it, when there’s no cable?

 

She follows the instructions Lena gave her months ago for the toaster and sets herself to find the control - a black and simple rectangle, with buttons , that makes the device work . Except it’s not on top of the desk. Or in the table on the other side of the room, nor in any of the shelves on the walls. She’s desperate, searching for it like a madwoman, but the moment she hauls the pocket of the desk open, she wishes Phantom Zone timing was a real life thing, wanting to stop the world from spinning as her windpipe clogs with an ugly sob.

 

There’s many things inside of it. There’s pens, markers, those light blue post-it notes Lena has everywhere with reminders. None of that makes her pause - makes her feel like the world stopped spinning and the air on her lungs has disappeared. Inside the pocket of the desk there’s a simple grey velvet box, and what’s inside… it builds Kara’s edges into a firmer foundation, pilling bricks of hope and frenzied longing before it compresses into an energy sphere and implodes. The death of a star, yet the birth of a supernova. 

 

Kara never thought she’d see something like this. Much less in Lena’s office, Lena’s sanctuary - the place where she knows the woman keeps every single thing that is considered sacred, only Lena’s

 

Her hands tremble as she holds open the box, she has to throw her body onto the chair as tears start to dwell in her eyes. Because behind the questions, the whys, the hows, there’s hope. There’s a silver lining of hope that she doesn’t want  to be crushed and destroyed, again.

 

It’s like entering the depths of her personal Pandora box. The intricate design of the bracelet cushioned in the velvety bed isn’t too much - sits like a perfect candidate for everything her loved ones know she’s been dreaming of. The elegant word engraved in golden loops on the inner side of the silver band eases her down from cloud nine, and settles into a promise, a wish and everything in between. 

 

Always

 

It’s the promise of a perfect partner to call her own. 

 

“Were you able to work the printer?” A voice asks behind her - it’s a bit nasal, a bit too crooked for Kara to not see it for the red flag it is, that Lena has been crying or, at least, is trying to keep the tears at bay.

 

“Kara?” the voice sounds closer, yet there’s nothing she can do except look at the bracelet with wonder as she softly traces the word with the tip of her finger, “What are you– oh.

 

“What’s this?” her voice cuts through the silence that had been formed when Lena gave up on her question. She’s scared to ask, but she needs the answer. 

 

“You weren’t supposed to find that.” It’s all she gets. Deflection. Lena walks in, prowling to her with loud steps, and snatches the box from her hands, throwing it into the surface of the desk, her back facing Kara as she takes ragged breaths.

 

“Lena.”

 

Don’t, ” she cuts her off, then softly, “please, don’t.”

 

But Kara won’t let her do this. Won’t let her hide again. Won’t let half truths and unexplained reasons to come in between them again. It makes no sense. None of it. One day Lena is inviting her to stay forever and the next she’s telling Kara she overstepped and doesn’t fit in this house. All while having a goddamn engagement bracelet on her desk.

 

“That’s a kryptonian bracelet,” she says, her voice ignoring the shake of her legs and fast beating of her heart, “why do you have that?”

 

Lena sighs, turns around. It takes everything in her not to look away from glassy green eyes. “What do you want me to say, Kara?”

 

“Why do you have this?”

“Does it matter?” she sounds resigned, tired.

 

“Of course it does! You can’t have this lying around and expect me to sweep it under the rug.”

 

“You’re leaving anyway.” She looks away, finger playing with her long sleeve.

 

“Not if–”

 

“–not if what, Kara? What could possibly change your mind when you already have it made up in leaving me– us ?”

 

“Isn’t that what you wanted?” her arms flail, chest doing somersaults in the birth of whatever is happening. 

 

“This is quite literally the last thing I want, ever,” her voice shakes, “how could you think that?”

 

“I heard you, when you were talking on the phone with Sam. You said I wasn’t a good fit anymore.”

 

Lena looks confused at her, disbelief in her face before she starts laughing. “That wasn’t about you, it was about the incompetent head of the R&D deparment! You really think that– I spent ten years looking for you, you really believed I didn’t want you close?”

 

“I thought–”

 

“–stop thinking things and just ask me, Kara.”

 

Lena’s words echo in her mind. She doesn’t want her to. She doesn’t want her to go. But the sudden rush of relief gets once again overcome by the twinkling star of hope. 

 

“Why do you have a kryptonian bracelet on your desk?” Lena looks away biting her lip, Kara pushes on, “Lena–”

 

“–it was for you,” she rushes out, “okay? It was for you.”

 

“Please,” Kara heaves, clenching her fists. She just needs an answer, to know why Lena never gave up on her. “Please tell me there’s a reason you didn’t move on. Tell me you were waiting for me, as much as I dreamed of coming back home to you.” 

 

Lena’s eyes are washed with tears and Kara’s aren’t much better, there’s a lazy smile on the brunette’s face as she looks at Kara - it takes everything in her not to run and wrap her in her arms.

 

“I- I told myself I was going to use it. The bracelet I mean,” she moves her hand towards where it’s lying on the desk, “I want to. I wanted to see it in your wrist. Logically…. I know I probably would have chicken out but-”

 

“But?”

 

“I wanted to kiss you once you came back,” she says, like a revelation, like a prayer, like all weight it’s lifted from her shoulders, “I wanted to kiss you then. Like I wanted to kiss you that first time you brought me lunch and the first time you invited me to game night. Like I wanted to kiss you when you told me your secret, even though I was blind mad. And… like I wanted to kiss you after I told you good luck back in the fortress.”

 

It’s everything she ever wanted to hear. Plays in crescendo until it weaves into the threads of her and her and soul, climaxing into an emotional finishing piece where Lena is the symphony, and Kara runs to meet her on the other side.

 

“Do you still want to?” she asks, voice low, scared to break the moment, “kiss me, I mean.”

 

“Kara,” she says her name and next words like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, “I never stopped.”

 

It takes two grand steps for Kara to be in front of Lena. The lack of heels on her feet made their height difference more prominent than usual, so when Kara leans down Lena is already on her tiptoes searching for her lips. 

 

Kara surges forward, meeting her in the middle like if she was born to do so, slotting their mouths together in the sweetest kiss she’s ever known. Lena darts her tongue out, charting the territory, and traces across the seam of her lips, pulling her closer by the collar of her pajama shirt. 

 

She had always found it dumb, that saying about knowing which one it’s your last first kiss. But as Lena’s tongue finds her own, she knows there’s no one she’ll ever want to kiss again. Her hands fit perfectly on Lena’s waist as the woman tangles her fingers in her hair- a low moan leaves her mouth when she lightly tugs and she actually feels it.

 

“That feels good,” Kara whispers, shuddering as it rumbles on both their mouths. A tiny gasp escaping her slack jaw.

 

“Don’t tell me we’re already discovering your kinks after one kiss?” Lena chuckles and raises an eyebrow at her.

 

Kara’s mouth opens and closes, caught off guard, before Lena hides her face on her neck and starts to leave a trace of kisses there, “You’re so mean.”

 

When Lena hums in acknowledgement, Kara feels it travel from her throat to her heart, making it raise and raise in speed- the feeling of home more visible than ever. Because if she thought hugging Lena again after ten years was coming back home, then kissing Lena is like creating a home - it’s as if she found all those answers humans have been wondering for years and years.

 

“I love you,” Lena whispers in the crook of her neck, her words like lightning bolts to Kara’s heart, “I love you so much.”

 

It’s galvanic, devastating, what dreams are made of. There’s nothing she can’t do except lean in for another bruising kiss.

 

“I love you too,” she repeats, resting her forehead in Lena’s, keeping her close to her chest in a warm embrace. This is real, she’s here with her. “There was a time I was afraid I wouldn’t get to tell you, but I love you. I love you through highs and lows, through victories and losses. Through the darkest days of my life, and beyond.” 

 

“You’re rushing,” Lena whispers, no actual bite on her words, “I think those are the wedding vows.”

 

“Well, you are the one with an engagement bracelet in her desk.”

 

“Then I’ll be the one to propose.”

 

Their laughs are lighthearted, carefree, following the weeds of a tale with the happiest of endings. 

 

“I have another question,” she says, while leaving small kisses on Lena’s jaw and cheek, “Hope said something… about her being your hope and me…”

 

Kara trails off, unsure how to form the question that has been in the tip of her tongue since the child mentioned it. Luckily, Lena is already finding her eyes, smile on her face as she rests her hand on Kara’s cheek, fingers trailing her scar. 

 

“Yes,” she says, “my little girl is my hope. But you– you’re my heart. You have always been my heart.”

 

“What a sappy gal,” Kara teases, her grin growing brighter when Lena swats at her shoulder. She grabs her hand, instead, and trails a path of kisses from her knuckles to her inner wrist, all the way up the crook of her elbow and shoulder. “You’re my sun.”

 

In true fashion, the office door creaks open and through the small gape, a small frame comes in, kneading her lids and yawning. 

 

“I want to be part of the sandwich hug too,” the small figure says, half sleep, half awake.

 

Lena and Kara chuckle and blush at what Hope could have walked into. Lena fixes her hair, never leaving Kara’s arms as she turns to her daughter. “Come here, baby. Did you have a bad dream?”

 

She shakes her head as she walks closer to the duo, resting her head on Lena’s shoulder when she’s picked up. “No, my sippy cup fell over and I don’t want to look under my bed.” 

 

“That’s okay,” Kara says, rubbing her hand up and down the little girl’s back, “do you want me to check for you?”

 

Another shake of her head and a small question, “But what if there is a shark under it?”

 

“I told you,” she laughs softly, “sharks are friends. But we can check once the sun is up, if you want.”

 

Hope nods, huddles closer in her mother’s arms. “Can I sleep with you?”

 

“Sure baby,” two voice say at the same time, catching the other off guard before laughing. 

 

“How do you feel about a sleepover in mommy’s bed?” Kara asks, before getting closer to Hope and whispering in her ear, “I’ve been told I can do a great pillow fortress.”

 

“In the morning,” Lena adds when Hope raises her head to look at Kara, “you’re going to need a lot of light to make a nice fortress.”

Pieces fall down into place, fitting in the thawed edges she thought would never find its missing pieces. But this is it for her, the flash and bone allegory of the legends and myths she someday hoped would make part of. 

 

Family, love and hope. All found with the two girls that stole her heart. 

 


 

“I can’t believe you almost made us late for Ryan’s graduation, we've been planning this for months,” Lena huffs, takes Kara’s hand when it’s offered to help her off their car. She grabs tight onto her, clutching her purse to her side. 

 

“You weren’t complaining forty minutes ago,” Kara whispers, “in fact, if I remember correctly, you were quite enjoying me making us late.” 

 

“I needed the endorphin release.” Craning her neck to see the rest of their group approaching them, Lena pulls at the end of Kara’s tie, prompting her to reach the same height level. “I’m in the last days of the last trimester, Kara, your child is going to break my back at any moment.” 

 

“Stop calling them my child when we both made them.” 

 

“Gross. But what about calling them by their name?” Nia interrupts them, too close in their vicinity to not hear the conversation.

 

Lena and Kara look at Nia, before looking at each other again. A well known tell for everyone in the family, Nia sighs. “You still don’t have a name, don’t you?”

 

Lena jumps in first, “Kara still doesn’t like any of the names I recommend–”

 

“–I do like them,” she says, hand raising in her defense, “I just think it needs to be perfect.”

 

“It’s just a name, Kara,” Alex says as she walks closer to them, hand intertwined with Kelly’s - none of them needing to catch up, knowing the conversation by heart after almost seven months of it.

 

“It’s not just a name,” she exclaims, “it has to mean something.”

 

Lena rolls her eyes, breathing out heavily when she feels another kick. “What about Love, I thought we both like that one?”

 

“Isn’t kinda lame though?” she turns to her wife, “reminds me of the girl from the psychopath show.”

 

“That was two decades ago,” Nia adds, “no one remembers that show.”

 

“I’m not caught up yet okay? Leave me alone,” she smirks slightly when Lena wraps her arms around her in support, resting her head on the crook of her neck, Kara looks down to her, “What about Faith? Don’t you like that one?”

 

Lena chuckles, along with Alex - who wins an angry glance for her sister. “I’d rather them not have a religious name since I’m not, you know, religious.”

 

“What about Grace?” Kelly tries, “It’s a beautiful name.”

 

“We’re not naming them like my first nanny,” Lena says, everyone sighing along with her.

 

“What about Harmony?”

 

“What? Like the restaurant?” Kara asks, deflating Nia’s hope at having found the name.

 

“By the time you find a name for your kid, they’ll be already graduating high school, and you’ll be there to see it. But I don’t want to miss my daughter’s graduation, so, if you let me…” Alex side steps them, throwing a hasty hurry up over her shoulder. 

 

“What about Destiny?” Lena freezes in her arms, Kara following suit. Hope’s choice pierces through them like coming down to an Age of Enlightenment. “Jeju said getting to Earth and meeting all of us was like fate, and mommy says that coming to National City was like an invisible string pulling her to Jeju.”

 

It’s perfect. 

 

“What was stopping you from asking your kid about her sibling’s name before?” Nia prods, jabbing an elbow into Kara’s ribs, careful of disturbing the pregnant woman she’s hugging. 

 

“They were too busy bickering to hear my options.” Hope shrugs and takes Nia’s hand, waving to where Brainy is flailing his arms at them, trying to act like a beacon in the sea of proud parents occupying the seats. She almost reaches Nia’s chest now, her hair lighter due all the hours she’s spent under the sun in track practice. Hope’s cyan eyes glimmer with joy even as she walks away from them, overconfident that she’s the reason her parents stare astounded.

 

“Destiny, it is?” 

 

“Destiny Luthor-Danvers,” Kara repeats, fastening her arms around her wife from behind. “I love it.”

Lena looks down to her belly, puts her hand on top of it, Kara’s not far behind. The pair of bracelets shimmer proud under the daylight. “What do you think, were you our destiny?”

 

“Give them two or three years and they might answer your question.”

 

“My feet are killing me,” she says, “they better fucking adore the name after another nine months of torture.”

 

“Want me to carry you to the bleachers?”

 

“Don’t you even think about it,” Lena threatens, her head tilting to Kara’s shoulder. “Maybe later, when we’re back home.”

 

“It’s always home when I’m with you.”