The hard part was supposed to be over by now, Kara thinks, as she refreshes the CatCo Magazine home page for the hundredth time.
Which is untrue, she knows. Her life has been filled with hard parts—losing your whole planet tends to put that kind of thing in perspective—and yet, here she is.
She had thought, most recently, that the hard part would be telling Lena that she's Supergirl. She'd agonized over it as the Cadmus trial loomed, tortured herself with the look of betrayal she could anticipate seeing so clearly on Lena's face. So she'd put it off, and put it off, only to have Lena go and steal her thunder completely.
They'd been getting lunch on a perfectly ordinary Tuesday when a school bus had crashed right outside the restaurant. Kara had sprung up, bashed her knee on the table, realized belatedly that she hadn't feigned pain, and looked over at Lena in a panic only for Lena to say "Forgot something at the office?" as though this kind of thing happened all the time. (Granted—being friends with Kara, they did.) Lena's knowing smirk had given her away, but Kara hadn't had time to talk about it; people needed her.
Later that evening, while Kara watched video of the rescue on the news, Lena had texted I imagine you have some paperwork for me to sign. And that had been that.
Kara hits refresh again.
Getting paid to hang out with Lena constantly for a week may have been the highlight of Kara's (admittedly short) journalistic career so far, but of course, it came with a cost. The new hard part: figuring out how to actually write about the time she and Lena had spent together. How to articulate it, how to capture Lena in words, without sounding preachy, or gushing, or—or like Rita Skeeter, her eyes glistening with the ghosts of her past.
And then there was the other hard part: the fear of totally undermining the whole point by including something that would make Lena look bad.
Kara still thinks of all the conversations that were left on the cutting room floor, wondering if she made the right calls. If she'd protected Lena, or just herself.
They're a few hours into the interview, and Kara still can't get Lena to act like a normal person.
Everything she says comes out stilted and rehearsed, and Kara can't blame her—she knows how important this is. But there's a reason Lena keeps abandoning their conversation to check her e-mail, and it's not really because she's truly that busy. She's terrified of being caught on the record saying the wrong thing.
Kara wishes Lena would stop trying to decide who she's pretending to be for this article, and just be herself.
But then, sometimes Lena seems to thrive on being made uncomfortable.
"You've said in the past that your brother 'went mad,'" Kara says, reading from her notebook. That gets Lena's attention. "Do you really believe that?"
"As opposed to what?" Lena asks. There's a challenge in her voice, a defensiveness Kara doesn't think she can help.
Kara adjusts her glasses. "Bigotry can be a powerful motivator."
Lena shrugs one shoulder—as much acquiescence as Kara's going to get. "Maybe. I don't know. There's no denying the fact that Lex has been twisted by hate. I won't say otherwise."
"…But there are many kinds of pathologies that only emerge later in life—schizophrenia, bipolar disorder. Other people with his level of celebrity have broken the law, only to go on to get diagnoses. Now, obviously, my brother is a terrorist. Perhaps comparing him to shoplifters and paparazzi-punchers seems callous. But I—" Lena stops, takes a deep breath. Kara watches as her shoulders slump, as the mask falls away, and thinks, there she is. "I remember what it was like. Watching him slip into these manic obsessions, locking himself away in his lab for hours. But no one seemed worried about it but me. So… I suppose I'll always wonder if things would be different if… if maybe someone had looked at him and, instead of thinking 'this man is evil,' had thought, 'this man needs help.'"
It's obvious that someone means Superman. "Do you think your brother is beyond help, now?"
Lena looks up at the ceiling—but if she's holding back tears, Kara can't see them.
"I wish I knew."
Kara did check in with Lena after testifying as Supergirl; that part wasn't completely made up. And she did find Lena asleep at her desk.
And she should have woken Lena up by clearing her throat, but—
"Lena," she says, voice as soft and warm as she knows how to make it as she tucks a few errant strands of hair behind Lena's ear. She blushes at the way Lena instinctively leans into her touch. "Lena, hey."
Lena screws her eyes shut tighter, nuzzling into Kara's hand. "Hmmm?"
"It's late. C'mon, you should go home. I'll fly you." The death threat is still lying face-up on the desk, taunting her. Kara tries to ignore it as Lena yawns.
"How'd it go?" Lena asks, before reaching up and stretching, making a noise from the back of her throat that is just—is not fair.
Kara's forgotten the question. "Um. What?"
"Your testimony. How'd it go?"
"Fine. Unimportant. Did you figure out why the thing blew up?"
"Why it blew up, yes. How to fix it… no."
Eventually—with more effort, frankly, than it should ever take to convince anyone to leave their office—Kara had finally talked Lena into letting her fly Lena home. And they had talked about the House of El—that really did happen, too.
But then, so did the awkward transfer at the window.
"Honestly, what kind of rich person are you?" Kara whines, trying not to palm Lena on the ass as Lena shimmies into her bedroom window. "Get a balcony for easy access."
"Weird thing to say to a friend who's been getting death threats," Lena teases lightly, only Kara then spends the next half-hour checking and re-checking Lena's security system, which kind of ruins the joke.
They're only about a half hour into their drive back from the Luthor estate. In theory, the interview is over, but Kara's wracking her brains for any last minute questions she might be able to use to round out the piece.
"You might as well go ahead and say whatever it is that's on your mind," Lena laughs, side-eyeing her from the driver's seat. "I can practically hear you thinking."
"Oh, no, I…"
"It's fine, Kara. Go for it."
"Have you ever tried to get back in contact with your birth family?" she blurts out.
Just like that, Lena's good mood is gone. Like fogged breath on a window. "No. I haven't."
Lena's eyes flicker away from the road, only for a moment. "Kara. You know why." She's not begging—not exactly—but she might as well be.
Kara fidgets, wishing she'd never brought it up. "I know but—for the record…"
"Ah. Well. For the record," Lena says, smiling ruefully—and Kara knows, even before Lena finishes the sentence, that there's no way she'll be able to bear putting this in print—"I didn't think they'd want me. …To. Want me to."
Kara doesn't ask any more questions after that.
Kara hits refresh again—still nothing.
She worked on the article harder than she's worked on anything. She'd edited it over and over again, honing the words until she could barely hear herself in the writing. Partly because that was the only way it would get published—Snapper wants things to be polished, to be objective.
But mostly because… because Lena deserves for the world to see her the way Kara does.
No, more than that—the world deserves to see Lena the way Kara does. Because they're missing out.
And now is the hard part. Sitting around and waiting for the article to go live, to see how everyone will react. To see how Lena will react. Kara knows most people won't bother to read the article until the magazine itself hits stands, but still—she can think of one person who may be as anxious about it as she is, and that's Lena herself.
What if Lena doesn't like it?
What if Lena hates it?
Of course, the second that thought pops into her head, the website auto-refreshes. And there it is. Her Brother's Keeper—a CatCo Magazine exclusive by Kara Danvers, photos by James Olsen.
Kara kind of wants to throw up.
And then comes the new hard part: stopping herself from obsessively badgering Lena to find out if she's read it yet. If she liked it. If she's flattered, if she's proud, if—
Kara turns off her phone to resist the temptation.
The next morning, Kara wakes to a world that's gone up. Hits to the CatCo Magazine website are up, L-Corp's stock is up, Kara's follower count on Twitter is up (and vocal!)… she thought she'd been prepared for the world to read her article, but jeez. She never really thought the whole world would read her article.
She consoles herself with the good feedback she's gotten—the fact that Snapper even published it, the way Winn beamed at being included in it. How James had said doing photos for her had felt like the good old days at the Planet with Clark. Alex's laughter (however high-pitched and panicky it may have been) when she read the fake conversation with Supergirl.
And Kara'd been feeling pretty good about deciding to give Lena space and not bother her about it, too... right up until Lena storms into the CatCo offices waving a copy of the issue, walks right up to her, and demands, "What do you have to say for yourself?"
Kara's stomach drops right down to her shoes. Lena hated it, of course she did, and now everyone in the office is watching, and—
"Can we not do this here?" Kara begs, taking Lena by the wrist and leading her, on instinct, to the abandoned half-renovated office she used to use with the boys to talk about Supergirl at work.
Lena seems a little less livid by the time they're in private, but Kara knows better than to think that means she's not mad.
"Are you avoiding me?" Lena hisses, and—oh.
"I'm not! Or, I didn't mean to, I was just—I wanted—I didn't want to pester you. About it. So."
"So you thought you'd just drop this on me and then not let me talk to you about what you've done?"
"Well when you put it like that—"
"I just. I don't understand you, Kara." All the fight goes out of Lena, just like that. She gestures uselessly with her copy of the magazine. "Is… this… really what you think I'm like?"
Kara's heart is racing, but… she meant every single word of that article. She doesn't want to take it back. She opens her mouth to try to find a response, but Lena's apparently not done yet.
"I tried to wrap my head around it, but I think—I just need you to—Kara. This article, you made me…" Lena swallows, trying to find the words. Kara stands dazzled, mesmerized by the play of muscles in Lena's jaw and throat. "…loveable."
All at once, it sinks in that they're having a very different conversation than Kara thought they were having. "Oh, Lena—no. You did that yourself. It was easy."
Lena scoffs. "I've never thought of myself as easy to love."
"Well, you are for me."
Kara hadn't meant to say that.
She screws her eyes shut, wincing at the way her words hang in the air. Still, she can hear Lena swallow again. Hesitate.
"No," Kara interrupts, because more than her own embarrassment, she can't stand the way Lena sounds right now. Quiet and defeated, like she's trying to let them both down easy. Rejection is one thing—Lena doesn't feel the same, she'll get over it—but she won't let Lena be so down on herself, not now. "I don't want to hear it. Call me biased if you want, say I only wrote a nice article because I think you're amazing, but I think you're amazing because you are. You're so good, Lena, you're so good, and I just—"
All of a sudden, everything stops. Because Lena smells like lilies of the valley—no, she tastes like—no, she—
Lena Luthor is kissing her, and Kara's in sensory overload. She can feel everything. The individual whorls on each of Lena's fingertips where they're pressed against her cheeks—the jackhammer thrum of Lena's pulse at her neck, her wrists, her chest—her chest—Kara snakes her arms around Lena's waist and holds on for dear life as her powers go haywire, because she's been kissed before but it's never felt like this. Like the cover of her pod breaking open and feeling the yellow light of the sun; a hand reaching toward her.
(Like stepping out into the world. Like coming home.)
"Kara," Lena says, again, but it's like a different word this time, the tone is so changed from before. Playful and reverent and… amused?
"Yeah?" Kara murmurs, leaning their foreheads together. Keeping her eyes closed just a little bit longer, to try to make the moment last.
Kara blinks and finds that—yep. They're hovering three feet above ground. Lena's Louboutins dangle from her toes haphazardly.
"Whoops," she mutters, blushing, and sets them both back down gently. Lena doesn't step away from her when their feet touch the floor, though—if anything, she leans in closer. "So… I guess you liked it?"
Lena laughs, incredulous. "The world's most magical first kiss?"
"No, the article," Kara grumbles, but her pout doesn't remain long; Lena pecks it away impishly.
"They were both more than acceptable. In fact, I'd say they're ample reason to continue our… exclusive relationship."
Kara gasps. "Was that—did you just make a journalism pun?"
"Of course not."
"It's your word against mine. No one will ever believe you," Lena jokes breathlessly, just as caught up in the moment as Kara is, and it's this—the teasing, the light in her eyes—that Kara had been aiming for this whole time.
All she's ever wanted since she met her is to see Lena happy.
She can't help herself. She wraps her arms around Lena, squeezing as tightly as she dares—and relishing the way Lena all but melts into her. She presses a kiss to the crown of Lena's head. "You're pretty great, you know that?"
She feels Lena burrow a little deeper into the crook of neck; feels her take a shuddering breath, feels the smile start to grow there, against her throat. Lena's quiet, when she answers.
"I do now."