The first time it happens, Lena is convinced it’s some sort of joke. That there has to be cameras laying in wait. That someone in her security team had to have betrayed her and let them up.
Maybe she’s a bit paranoid, but Lena can’t think of any other reason Supergirl would come to her .
So, when Lena comes back from a board meeting and finds Supergirl curled up in the fetal position beside her couch, Lena is cautious. Uncertain. Sure that it’s a trap or test of some sort.
Well, she’s not one to fail tests, so she creeps forward toward the downed Kryptonian.
The alien flinches with each click of Lena’s heels, making her pause. “Supergirl?” Lena asks wearily, and the only response is for the blonde to curl further into herself, hands clamped tighter over her ears, and choke on her next gasping breath.
Lena very slowly pulls off her shoes and pads closer as quietly as she can. Even if this situation is a trap, the scene is heartbreaking. Lena has never seen the hero as anything other than put together and perfect- the very image of All American Girl USA. The blonde cheerleader with the peppy smile and the effortless words of hope that fall past pretty red lips.
Supergirl isn’t any of that right now.
She is all trembling form and damp face that screams ‘mental breakdown.’ And it’s all happening in the youngest Luthor’s office.
Lena kneels down, eyes roving over the blonde, searching for injuries or anything else that could have caused this. “Supergirl, what’s wrong? What happened?”
Lena had lowered her voice to a whisper, but even that decibel causes the alien to flinch and clasp her hands tighter over her ears. A pitiful sound escapes past her lips.
Lena takes the hint and clamps her lips shut, resolving herself to just not get answers for the moment. As another violent tremble wracks the hero’s body, Lena reaches out, before hesitating again. The heroine has always seemed so untouchable before. Otherworldly- not entirely real- a separate being from humanity.
But it’s also Lena’s floor she’s decided to curl up on, and drip tears and snot on, and she doesn’t seem so untouchable right now. She actually seems kind of pitiful, so, with one more mental shove past her lingering reservations, Lena places her hand on the Girl of Steel’s shoulder.
Supergirl’s entire body shudders before the alien lets out a loud sob that makes herself wince and press her hands harder against her ears and forehead into the floorboards. Slowly, not sure if she’s helping or making it worse, Lena settles fully onto the floor of her office and wraps her arms around the most powerful being on Earth.
For all of Lena’s MDs and phDs, she knows very little about sensory overloads. She thinks, either touch will help aground her, or it will make her a million times worse and might put Lena through a window.
Well, Lena never could handle crying girls, so she risks the contact.
Supergirl turns into her and buries her head into Lena’s lap. Lena has had a few dreams that featured the Super’s head where it is now, but it was never in this context. Lena does her best not to show her awkwardness, but the alien probably wouldn’t notice either way with how things are going, so she just strokes the hero’s caped back and cards her fingers through inhumanly soft hair.
They sit there so long that Jess peeks her head in to let Lena know that she’s going home for the day. “Miss Luthor, I’m…” Her assistant’s eyes go directly to her desk before realizing Lena isn’t there, and then sweeps the room. After bypassing the bar next, her eyes eventually land on them in the floor with wide eyes.
Lena is already holding out a hand to stop any questions, and once her assistant’s gaping mouth snaps closed, she waves her back the way she came. Slowly and quietly, she closes the door.
For the past half hour, the Kryptonian’s gasps and crying had tapered off and her hands loosened around her ears until they just lay limply next to her head. Supergirl had initially tensed when Jess came into the room, and as the door closes again, Supergirl sits up.
Lena’s lap immediately feels cold and empty as the Kryptonian takes her substantial heat away. Lena can’t drag her eyes away from the hero, even as she avoids looking at Lena as she scrubs indelicately at her face.
Lena wants to reach out again, to keep comforting the alien who doesn’t look in much better shape than she found her in, but Supergirl is the one who put in the distance and Lena wants to respect that.
“Let me get you some water,” Lena whispers, and when the hero doesn’t flinch and clamp her hands over ears again, Lena climbs to her numb feet and slowly crosses to the bar. Her hand shakes as she reaches for the water pitcher, and shakes as she pours it, and shakes when she turns around.
It drops from her unsteady hand when she searches the floor, then the entirety of her office, only to find it empty.
The second time it happens, a bomb had gone off unexpectedly and without warning, rocking the whole city and killing hundreds of people. Lena had watched numbly from her office, as Supergirl, on TV, returned with more and more people. Only it looked like more of a body retrieval than a rescue.
By the end of the hour, Supergirl’s face was soot and blood smudged and entirely impassive. There are no bright smiles or speeches of hope. Just… blankness.
It’s only slightly less surprising when she shows up as Lena finally slowly starts to straighten any things that tipped over from the initial blast that trembled through the city. She pauses in her fiddling when Supergirl suddenly appears in the middle of her office, still sooty and bloody and blank faced as she wrings the end of her cape with her white knuckled fingers.
“Supergirl…” Lena says slowly, watching the hero who doesn’t even seem aware of her surroundings. She has a far off look in her cerulean blue eyes, and she staggers in a looping circle like she can’t quite find her balance as she paces.
Mumbled words fall past her painted lips, words that Lena has to cautiously creep closer to hear. She’s more reluctant to get close this time around, because the alien is mobile. Lena knows she’d never hurt anyone on purpose, but the hero isn’t in the right mind and accidentally hurting anyone (even Lena) would likely only make the alien spiral further and quicker.
So she keeps her distance as Supergirl staggers in a circle and tries her hardest to rip a hole in an impenetrable cape.
“I could save them; I could have saved them…” Her words jumble and become gibberish. Or… a different language. Not an Earth one.
“You couldn’t have saved them. There was no warning.”
“There was plenty of warning- no one was listening. I could have saved them. I just needed a little time. I was smart. The youngest ever. I could have saved them-” Her leg buckles, and Lena reaches out instinctively, without a thought. Supergirl clutches her arm, staring up- through- Lena’s face, and it hurts. Her hold is bruising and tight, and Lena resists trying to rip herself away. “Is it too late? Krypton is shaking. Everyone is screaming- everyone is dying. Is it too late?”
Lena’s breath catches and leaves her, and Lena hurts for this alien- this hero.
Supergirl releases Lena in favor of burying her face in her hands with a moan. “I could have saved them. Why wasn’t anyone listening? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“Supergirl,” Lena whispers, when she can gather air back in her lungs and speak past the lump in her throat. “This isn’t Krypton.”
The hero looks up again, face etched in agony. “But- but the ground is shaking.”
Lena reaches out and cups her hands over the Kryptonian’s ears. That seemed to help last time, and even now the distant blue eyes sharpen a little more and are actually able to focus on Lena’s face for the first time.
“There is no shaking. This is Earth; the world isn’t ending. It was just a bomb, Supergirl. You did the best you could, but you couldn’t have saved them. Even you couldn’t have saved them.”
Supergirl reaches up again, wrapping her hands around Lena’s wrists to hold her there- as if she would have pulled away before the hero was anything other than okay again. The grip hurts again, for only a second, before it loosens to a feather light grip.
“I-I could have-”
“No,” Lena says. “You couldn’t have.” Tears suddenly flood the hero’s eyes and streak wide trails through the grime on her cheeks in the same instant from one moment to the next.
Once Supergirl calms down, she leaves once again without a word. But Lena does catch the guilt and shame on the hero’s face, this time, as she makes her escape. Lena can’t help wondering why it’s her, out of everyone, that the Super comes to, to have her breakdowns.
The part of her that sounds a lot like Lex, looks down at the blackening bruises on her arms and wonders what would happen if one of the Supers (or anyone with powers) has a complete mental break, or if Supergirl gets poisoned again with another mind altering drug. Just because it’s not their fault, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t prepare, right?
The third time it happens, it’s storming. National City doesn’t get storms- it’s always sunny, maybe a few clouds- so, it’s the first time it’s stormed since being in National City even though Lena’s lived here over a year now.
It comes on suddenly, and out of nowhere, as Lena is reluctantly home for the evening. Jess had forced her out of the office early with threats of quitting- and Lena would be lost without her- so she left.
It’s a little late to be cooking dinner, but she skipped breakfast and missed lunch, so she shuffles around her rarely used kitchen. She’s halfway through her late meal when the first drops of water hit the balcony doors, and then it’s pouring with deafening, fat, raindrops. The power goes out through half the city with the first crack of thunder.
With a grumble and frown, Lena abandons her plate to search around for the candles and lighter she vaguely remembers buying.
That’s when Supergirl shows up. She comes falling out of the sky, crashing through the wall of windows in a shower of glass and limbs and wet fabric. Lena feels like she’s about to have a heart attack until she processes the superhero in a sobbing, gasping, panicking pile on Lena’s penthouse floor.
She can hardly see the primary colors of the Kryptonian’s suit, but Lena can see a vague outline of her shape, and she goes to the hyperventilating alien. This is starting to be normal, but the broken glass and pelting rain is new and its own struggle.
Lena slips as she gets to the half of the room where the ground is water slick and the rain bombards the hardwood floor through the gaping hole the Super crashed through.
The glass crunches and skitters under Lena’s houseshoes.
When Lena reaches Supergirl, the alien is practically vibrating in fear. Lena tugs at the hero’s arm, trying to get her up. Without help, Lena would never manage to move the Kryptonian.
“Come on, Supergirl. Let’s just get out of the rain. Just a little farther. Come on.”
It’s a huge effort that has Lena sweating toward the end, but she manages to get the cape-clad alien to her feet and stumble further into the apartment- fully out of the rain and shattered glass.
The couch is soaked through, so Lena moves them toward her room as the hero clings to her with just enough care to not break any bones, but still be nearly painful. Lena fumbles with the clasps of Supergirl’s cape until it falls away, and she wants to take off the alien’s boots as well, but she won’t allow Lena to pull away, so she just guides her onto the bed.
She’s not embarrassed anymore to be cuddling the Maid of Might.
Her hands just come up all their own, without a thought, to cup over the Kryptonian’s ears, and the hero’s body shudders and presses closer with another sob, and Lena just holds her.
The Super doesn’t calm until the storm passes at some early hour in the morning and the power flickers back on. The heroine looks even more wrecked under the light of day, and Lena decides she should maybe take the rest of the day off. When she returns, though, after talking with Jess on the phone, she’s unsurprised to find the Girl of Steel gone from Lena’s bed like just another one of her one-night stands.
Lena still decides to take the day off and sleeps till noon before she goes about calling someone to fix her window and get her a new couch that isn’t rain ruined.
Supergirl seeking her out becomes routine. Something that Lena doesn’t even blink at when she shows up, and even expects when the rare storm hits.
They don’t talk about it, and Supergirl always leaves without a word.
But flowers sometimes appear on her desk. Sometimes her fridge is magically filled when Lena gets home and has low expectations when she goes looking for something to eat. Sometimes, the Girl of Steel stands closer to her when Lena is helping to stop some plot (usually devised by her brother or her mother). Sometimes the Super sends her soft looks that she really shouldn’t look at Lena with, lest someone see and get the wrong idea.
Lena had stopped counting, but she was sure that it never would have happened again. Supergirl looked so angry and betrayed when she found out Lena was making synthetic Kryptonite. Lena felt her own betrayal, despite herself, because the Super spied on her to find out. But she also never wanted the Super to find out. To look at her in that way.
So, Lena thought that, whatever was happening, whatever reason Supergirl came to her for, they were done. That the Super would never come to her for comfort- to be vulnerable in front of- again.
When a breaking glass sound wakes her up, Lena automatically assumes it’s another assassin come to kill her. So she reaches for the gun in her bedside table and reluctantly creeps out into the main room of her penthouse apartment.
Despite their recent hostility, Lena is pretty sure Supergirl will still come if she calls.
Lena is entirely shocked to find Supergirl herself standing there in the middle of her living space, staring down at the broken vase on the floor with a heartbreakingly lost look in her eye. The balcony doors are open and the drapes are swishing in the breeze.
Maybe it’s not the wisest thing to do considering all the assaination attempts (in her own home to boot) but she’s stopped locking her balcony doors a long time ago.
Lena drops her firearm onto the closest flat surface and strides closer to the eerily still hero.
She’s not shaking or staggering or muttering to herself in another language. She’s just… standing there. Still as a statue.
It’s new enough that it has Lena hesitating as she gets close enough to see the lack of tension that normally is suffused through the alien’s entire body. Her hands are limp at her sides. She doesn’t even react as Lena gets closer or as she turns on a lamp.
“Supergirl,” Lena calls, trying to snap her out of… whatever is happening. She doesn’t even blink. Doesn’t twitch. Lena grabs her shoulder, wondering, briefly, if she’s actually somehow injured and in shock. She doesn’t react to that either and the complete… emptiness, raises all the hairs of Lena’s body. A bit of panic seeps into Lena’s bloodstream, and she shakes the hero- hard. She doesn’t hold back because she knows she can’t physically hurt the hero.
“ Supergirl. Hey. Supergirl .”
Lena steps directly into the path of the alien’s disconnected gaze, grabbing her face and manually tilting it to face Lena. “ Hey . Come on, Star Girl. Look at me.” Slowly, so very slowly, the blown pupils shift and lock onto Lena. She blinks, sluggish and slow.
“Is… this real?” she asks slowly, in a strange voice that sounds nothing like any of the versions Lena has heard before. “Is this… real?”
“Yeah.” Lena doesn’t know why her voice cracks. “Yeah, this is real.”
Supergirl’s gaze starts to drift off again, and Lena shakes her harshly, until blue eyes are staring deeply back into green
“This doesn’t feel real,” Supergirl informs Lena. “I think…” she starts to drift again, and Lena taps her several times on the cheek. “I think I died a long time ago, and now I’m dreaming. I think I died in my pod, away from Rao, and now I’m just dreaming- lost- as I try to find my way back to him.”
“This is real, Star Girl,” Lena says, sliding her hands up until she’s cupping her hero’s ears on either side of her head. “This is real. I’m real. You’re real.”
The alien’s eyes flutter closed as she tilts her head into Lena’s touch. “I can hear your heartbeat, but where is mine?”
Lena startles more than she probably should. She hadn’t realized that it was Lena’s heartbeat the Super listened to when she did this. That seems… a lot more intimate than the idea of doing it to help muffle the other noises.
Still, now isn’t the time to be agonizing about this. Lena grabs the hero’s limp hand and presses it against the bold S on her chest.
“It’s right here. You are alive. This is real.” Lena doesn’t know what else to do other than to reaffirm this over and over.
She thinks this - Supergirl like this - is more terrifying than the panic attacks or breakdowns or when the hero’s control over her powers slip.
Lena pushes her backwards until Supergirl’s legs hit the edge of the couch and she’s forced to sit, then Lena straddles her lap and tugs at her head until her ear is pressed against Lena’s chest. She cups the Super’s other ear with one hand and drags the other up and down her caped back.
If the hero were in any other mind, Lena would be terribly mortified to be sitting where she is, but one thing she’s learned is that Supergirl is a very physical person. She always clings to Lena as soon as Lena makes a gesture to allow it, and then she doesn’t let go until she’s ready to disappear back out the window.
She’s very slow to respond this time around. It takes several minutes before the Kryptonian’s limp hands slowly lift off the couch cushions. They hesitate in the air for another minute before slowly and carefully wrapping around Lena.
After Kara, Supergirl gives the best hugs (when she’s not on the verge of breaking one of Lena’s ribs). After Kara, Supergirl is the only one who ever hugs Lena.
“Why did you make Kryptonite?” Supergirl breathes after several hours of just holding each other. “Why did you make the one thing that could kill me?”
Lena doesn’t want to answer. Doesn’t want to tell the hero- Lena’s hero- that sometimes Lena is afraid. Afraid of Supergirl (slightly- when her control is questionable), but mostly afraid for her. Because Supergirl comes to Lena and has breakdowns about people she fails to save- people who she had no responsibility to or hope of saving. What would happen if it was Supergirl herself who hurt someone or- Rao forbid- killed someone? Accidentally or not, it would destroy the Kryptonian.
Not to mention all the other rogue Kryptonians who have periodically shown up throughout the years. What if one of them is finally able to overpower the heroes? It’s a last resort. That’s it.
Maybe Lena should just tell her that, even if the Super doesn’t believe it. Doesn’t trust her anymore. But if she doesn’t trust Lena anymore, why is she still showing up when she’s at her weakest.
“It’s a ‘just in case,’” Lena eventually says, still staring at the same wall she’s been staring at the last few hours. “I like to be prepared- for every eventuality- so I have it. If it’s ever needed, for any reason, I have it.”
Lena winces, because that doesn’t sound very good either. It sounds like she’s preparing- is expecting- for the eventuality of Supergirl turning evil or going crazy.
“To stop me,” Supergirl says dully. “To protect against me.”
Despite the conversation, and her empty voice, Supergirl doesn’t withdraw from Lena. This seems like a very odd conversation to have sitting in the Super’s lap, and to have the Super’s arms loosely holding her, and strong fingers tracing foreign star patterns into Lena’s sides.
“If the need arises. Or if another rogue Kryptonian shows up. It shouldn’t fall completely on you or Superman to stop threats.”
The tracing stops. “If… If I gave you another way to stop Kryptonians, could you please destroy the Kryptonite and forget how to make it?” she asks slowly, twisting her head until it’s her forehead pressing against Lena’s chest rather than her cheek. “It’s just-” her fist clench in Lena’s nightshirt. “Kryptonite is… awful. It doesn't just weaken me; it kills me. Just being around is like dripping acid over my skin. My cells die over and over, and all of my energy goes just into healing- to keeping me alive. It’s a slow and agonizing death. But- but red sun lamps- radiation- that’s like being back on my home planet. It takes away my powers, neutralizes me, without the pain. Just- even if it’s a rogue- please don’t use Kryptonite. It’s awful.”
Lena’s body feels cold. Her throat bobs several times ineffectively before she’s finally able to swallow.
In some part of Lena’s mind, she knew Kryptonite crippled Kryptonians (that's why she needed to make it), but she didn’t know .
“Okay,” Lena manages to whisper, and a tension she didn’t realize that had crept into Supergirl’s body, releases.
She should have talked to Supergirl about this in the first place. Red dwarf planet energy. She should have thought about that. She should have done a lot of things.
Lena doesn’t keep count anymore. It’s happened too many times, and she just reacts now.
This time, it happens when Lena is with Kara. It is just after noon and they are together on the couch as they eat. Lena has just made the reporter blush all the way down her neck past her blouse-line, and Lena is enamored.
Lena is in love (with Kara, obviously) and decidedly not thinking about any Kryptonians, when the storm hits suddenly as storms tend to do here when they do pop up.
There is a deafening crash, and Kara yelps . Lena is about to laugh and tease her about it, even though Lena jumped too, but then Kara falls apart so quickly Lena isn’t even sure what’s happening at first. Then Lena is reacting out of instinct and pushing Kara down flat on the couch, crawling on top of her, and pressing her into the cushions.
Kara gasps and whimpers and clutches at Lena so hard that Lena bruises, and her mind whirls, and her reality rewrites itself.
Because Kara is also begging Lena, begging Rao, in another language- an alien language- in Kryptonian- saying the same words Lena has come to memorize and know the meanings of- that she’s asking Rao to spare her people- to not let the world end again.
And Lena’s heart breaks all over again realizing this is Kara . It’s been Kara all along coming to Lena, having panic attacks and breakdowns and PTSD episodes believing she’s on her home planet and Lena had to tell her she wasn’t. Had to break her heart over and over again and tell her it’s too late , they’re gone, Krypton is gone .
Lena’s hands find Kara’s ears and she tries to drown out the unwavering force of nature with only her heartbeat and presence. Lena presses her forehead against her best friend’s and doesn’t complain about the slightly too-tight grip squeezing her shoulders.
“When I was a kid,” Lena says nervously, “before I decided I was going to be a scientist, I wanted to be a trashman.” Kara looks up at Lena in bewilderment, blue eyes focussed and questioning, and Lena nods, moving the reporter’s head with her own. “It was just after I came to live with the Luthors, and I thought trashmen were so cool. They got to drive these cool trucks and control the arm, and they took away all the things no one wanted. I thought it was the coolest thing, and I’d tell anyone who’d listen that I was going to pick up trash when I was older. Of course, mother did not find that amusing in the slightest.”
Kara laughs. It’s a slightly hysterical and breathless sound, but she’s paying attention to Lena over what’s going on outside.
Lena searches for another small, somewhat amusing story, from her childhood that she could tell as a distraction. She’s never tried this before, with Supergirl, but Lena didn’t know Supergirl all that well. But Lena knows Kara. And for some unfathomable reason, Kara loves listening to Lena talk. Kara always listens to whatever Lena has to say.
“One time, I accidentally got high just before a gala Lex was hosting. I made the mistake of eating some brownies my old boarding school roommate made. I was sure I invented time travel and wasn’t afraid to tell all the investors there about it.”
Lena has the entirety of Kara’s attention locked on her, despite the pounding rain against the windows. There is only the barest tremble of her body. “Is that why you don’t eat any baked goods?” Kara asks, looking up at Lena with interest.
Lena rears back as a relieved laugh bursts from her lungs, before she’s impulsively diving forward and kissing her friend.
Kara squeaks. Her hands on Lena’s shoulders lose their tight grip, then loosen further, before dropping limply to the couch cushions.
Lena’s brain quickly catches up to the rest of her body, and she pulls away with a curse. She sits back on her heels, giving the alien further room after acosting her in her vulnerability.
“I’m sorry,” Lena pleads. “Shit- sorry . Now is definitely not the time to-”
Kara stares up at Lena with wide eyes. She’s not shaking anymore. She doesn’t seem to notice the storm outside at all, and the starry blue wonder of her best friend’s eyes make Lena’s thought process cut off. It’s an unfortunately frequent occurrence for the scientist when the blonde is around.
Kara sits up so quickly she’s a blur, and they accidentally knock noses. And before Lena can process the close brush with a broken nose, Kara is kissing her .
Lena’s heart quickens and throbs, and when Kara presses her palm against Lena’s chest with a curl to her lips, she would feel embarrassed if not for Kara dragging her lips against Lena’s again. And again.
Lena reaches up and pulls the reporter’s glasses, which keep stabbing and distracting her, from Kara’s face. She sets them carefully aside before Kara is pulling insistently at her face again.
Maybe it’s a little more urgent than she imagined for their first kiss, but Lena’s the one who started it so suddenly, at a time where Kara is desperate for a distraction (and Lena is desperate to distract her).
“If I knew this is what it took to bring you out of your panic, I would have done it a lot sooner, Star Girl,” Lena murmurs. Kara pauses, drawing back and searching Lena’s eyes worriedly. Lena doesn’t want her looking so close. She doesn’t know what the alien will find because Lena herself hasn’t had time to fully process yet.
So, Lena tugs at the collar of Kara’s signature blouse and drags her forward again (Lena knows, now, that if Kara doesn’t want to go somewhere Lena directs, there is very little Lena can do about it).