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The Hardest Thing in This World is to Live in it

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     “Alex, are you ready?” J’onn looked out over the Phantom Zone. He saw a small patch of blonde hair clashing with crimson and navy below, it had to be Kara. She seemed to be resting, but he knew she could be in a much worse state than simply that. He worried for what Alex would find, but he knew that she was the best suited, for if Kara was alive, Alex was truly the one Kara should see first. 

     “Yeah. I’m gonna save my sister,” Alex flexed her wrist as Kelly’s shield extended downward. Kelly had lended the gift from James to her in case there was an emergency. Alex deemed a cool superhero landing (and the threat of phantoms or dwellers of the phantom zone) an emergency. 

     “Okay, commencing teleportation in 3…” Brainy started as he stared at the computer, trying to block the percentages of the failure of this rescue in his mind. 

     “And remember,” J’onn quickly added, “I’ll be keeping guard in your mind, blocking it from any phantoms.”

    “One.” 

     Alex felt her body evaporate and then solidify back into itself within a heartbeat. Suddenly, she was cold, her whole body freezing from head to toe despite being fully covered in her supersuit. 

     Damn, she thought to herself, They could have at least given me some height. Then I could have gotten her attention quick with the shield landing.

     She looked around, Kara’s spot was more obvious from up above. J’onn, how close am I?

     Fairly. There’s a large boulder on your right that might be obstructing your view, try walking past it. 

     Alex nodded and started her trek. Rocks stuck up at every angle, threatening to stab through her if she slipped. She turned her Martian gauntlet into a spear, using it as a walking stick. The sharp part of it stabbed nicely through the rocks, creating gaps where she needed stability. The rocky terrain was what made them teleport her so far from Kara, much to her dismay. 

     She wondered how Kara even made this trek in the first place. Had this been where she landed and she had just never moved? Did she get dragged here by some cruel prisoner that escaped Fort Rozz? Alex tried to shove these assumptions down. Kara got here on her own. She’s probably just walking to do something. It’s not like there’s anything else to do here.

     Alex’s thoughts settled when she saw a red fabric tied to the edge of a canyon. She knew it was apart of Kara’s cape, it had to be. She walked towards it and tore it off. She must be using this as a marker, to know where she’s been.

     Figuring there would have to be another marker near there, Alex looked around for another speck of crimson. There was one up closer ahead, near the boulder she had to round. She rushed over there as fast as she could, given the terrain, and tore the soft fabric off. Before she could congratulate herself, though, she realized something was off about this piece. There was a dark red stain in the middle of it…blood. 

     Alex looked around frantically for another piece but found nothing. She struggled to run towards the boulder, the rocks under her trying their hardest to stop her at all costs. Alex couldn’t be stopped though, she had to find Kara. Kara could be in danger, she obviously has a wound. But she was moving with it, so that’s good. Unless it got too bad. Maybe that’s why she’s not moving because she…Alex wouldn’t let herself think that. Kara wasn’t dead. She was alive. 

     She wasn’t moving when we saw her because she was in pain.

     Alex told herself this over and over, shutting out any other intrusive thoughts that tried to distract her. She jumped from rock to rock, eyes searching the gray area around her for a semblance of color. She passed the boulder and then she saw it, a navy silhouette slumped on a small rock, leaning against another cliff for support. Short blonde hair shrouded it’s face as it stared towards the ground. 

     “Kara?” Alex stopped.

     Kara’s head snapped in Alex’s direction. Alex’s eyes widened as Kara shakily stood up, eyes filled with rage. The kryptonian’s anger filled eyes were shrouded in dirt and dust, but not the average layer that covered her body and suit. No, there was a thicker second layer around her eyes, like a makeshift mask. There was a large bruise on the left side of her chin, directly above a shallow cut on the side of her neck. There were similar marks on her suit, cutting out a part of her house’s crest on the front of her suit. Claw marks covered her right arm, some slashing through the suit entirely. A patch of crimson surrounded a deep scratch from the clawed beast on Kara’s side. Blood leaked through it slowly, a single drop passing as the kryptonian limped towards Alex at an alarming speed.

     Alex noticed Kara’s staggered walk and her eyes drifted to her sister’s leg. Kara’s leg looked fine except for her left shin, which was wrapped in the familiar crimson fabric Alex had picked up on her way there. Another fabric piece was wrapped around Kara’s right arm, a blood stain slowly appearing on it as Kara drew nearer. Her boots were damaged, with the top of the right one completely gone, and her cape was cut short. Where it once draped down to her ankles, the cape sat loose behind her elbows, unevenly ripped apart. 

     Alex took in Kara’s appearance and walked closer to help her walk. As she approached Kara, she reached out a hand. She waited for Kara to take it, and she did. Kara rested her hand in Alex’s, then stared down at it, hard. Her eyes were filled with fury as she quickly moved her eyes to Alex and punched her in the face. Alex reeled back in shock, “Kara, it’s me! It’s Alex.”

     Kara grunted and made her way towards Alex once more. Alex knew she had the upper hand in this fight, but she also had to hold her punches. Well, with Kara’s condition she wouldn’t just have to hold her punches, she’d have to caress them. She continued to try to talk to Kara, “Please, J’onn and Brainy and Nia, we all flew here to find you. Lena figured out how to track you and…”

     Kara stopped for second at the mention of the Luthor. Alex immediately regretted saying Lena’s name, remembering the horrible fallout between Kara and Lena before Kara was trapped in the Phantom Zone, but then she saw a flicker in Kara’s eyes. A flicker of hope.

     “Lena, she was up all night and day with me. We couldn’t sleep until we found a way to get you here, at least for awhile. I got so tired that I fell asleep from time to time. I don’t know how Lena did it, I think she might be a robot or something, but she hardly slept. I swear she got an hour a week. When she sees you she’s gonna be so relieved.”

     Kara limped slowly towards Alex. She came to a halt in front of her sister, her eyes angrily tearing up, “You aren’t real.”

     Alex’s mind failed to come up with the words. She didn’t have the time to take in what Kara had said, though, for Kara had kneed her in the stomach and followed it with a sidekick. Alex stumbled back again, almost losing her balance. 

     “Kara, I’m real. I’m right here. Why wouldn’t I be real?” Alex stood up, Kelly’s shield held firm in front of her. 

     “You’re…never…real,” Kara gasped out. Alex knew she was tiring Kara out, her injuries were too severe to keep up a good fight for long. 

     “Maybe then, but I am now. Just trust me and take my hand. Brainy will teleport us back to J’onn’s ship. It’ll be alright,” Alex held out her other hand, beckoning for her sister to hold it. Preferably without a punch to the face this time. 

     Kara’s eyes wandered from Alex to the land around her, “No you’re just…you’re just in my head…” Tears streamed down her face, creating small windows to her skin through residue, “Please…just leave me alone.”

     “Kara I will never leave you alone because I am your sister and I am real! I did not spend the last four months working my ass off for you to not come home with me!” Tears welled up in Alex’s eyes as her voice cracked, “Please Kara, I need you to come home. I can’t live without you anymore. It’s killing me not having you around.

     “I barely slept, I haven’t been eating, and Kelly had to lock away the alcohol because it was the only thing I could use to keep myself from thinking about how much of a failure I was for not saving you sooner. 

     “I don’t know what you’ve been through here, but we can make it better. It’ll be different. You’ll be warm, and free, and safe. Lena and I already set up the medbay for you. I won’t leave your side, Kara. I’ll be with you every step of the way, whenever you need me because I need you.

     “I need you Kara. Please…come back.”

     Kara stared at Alex in confusion, her mind trying to ration fiction from reality in its dazed state. Alex waited with patience as Kara deliberated with her mind and the phantoms that lingered within it. The kryptonian looked panicked as her breath hitched. She clutched her head, shutting her eyes tight. She shook it from side to side, muttering incoherently to herself. 

     Suddenly Kara fell to her knees, sobbing. 

     Alex walked over to her sister carefully. When Kara didn’t make an offensive move, Alex knelt down in front of her, “Kara, let me take you home.”

     The Kryptonian looked up with a sniffle and a slight nod. Her arms wrapped around Alex as her sobs turned into hiccups.

     J’onn, I need you to get Lena to teleport us up and get Kara to the medbay. Get everybody else out of the main deck. Kara’s in bad shape, swarming her is a bad idea.

     Got it, just stay right there. 

     Alex waited with Kara, “It’s okay, you’re gonna be okay.”

 

Chapter Text

     Kara awoke with a startle, the world around her was shrouded in red light. She couldn’t see anything, and her eyes burned as they strained to focus. She shielded her eyes, the darkness of her arm being uncannily calming.

     A voice said something next to her, but it was muffled through her headache. She took a few deep breaths and slowly peered out into the world. She looked around, examining her surroundings. This nightmare was…odd. She was in the medbay, yes, but things were different. Normally these dreams started with her being under sun lamps. Her powers would kick in, and her senses would go haywire. Every single heartbeat and sound was amplified, her eyes seeing straight through the ceiling into the sky. She would try to calm herself down, to stop her powers, but then a burning flame of pain would spark behind her eyes and suddenly her x-ray vision wasn’t the reason she was seeing the sky. Sometimes there would be a plane in its place, crashing down due to the blast of heat vision that propelled it down. The worst times were when it was one of her friends, usually Alex or Lena, looking over her, trying to calm her down. She couldn’t see them until it was too late. Their corpse would lay across her chest, the smell of their charred flesh overriding her other senses.


     Kara saw Alex and was immediately reminded of Alex’s burned face. She remained calm as her mind transformed Alex’s face from a natural beauty to a twisted and burned clump of skin. Her eyes melted out of their sockets, and her jaw hung open. The jaw started to flap, and Kara snapped out of it and saw Alex’s put-together face once more.
“Hey, Kara,” Alex rested a hand on Kara’s shoulder for a short second, removing it after Kara’s immediate flinch to the physical contact, “Do you remember what happened before you went to bed?”


     Focusing on her thoughts for a moment, she remembered. She was in pain. Her leg was killing her, literally and figuratively. She had almost gone through her entire cape using it as a bandage. She needed to find another source, but, Rao, was walking hard. Each step felt as if she was walking with a two ton weight on each foot. She had heard a voice, Alex.
Figuring it was either a phantom vision or a telepathic alien, she started a fight with it. It persisted though, and after some tired rationale, Kara decided to go with it. At that point, they would either be killing her or actually be Alex, and Kara was content with either option.


     Her and Alex had teleported into J’onn’s ship. Lena had been there, waiting for them by the computer. Lena had rushed over to help Kara stand. Lena and Alex helped Kara to the medbay, and then the kryptonian had passed out as soon as she had hit the bed…


     “This is…I’m back?” Kara stared at this Alex with disbelief. There was no way she was just home. It couldn’t have been that easy. It was never that easy.


     “Yeah, you’re home,” Alex smiled warmly at Kara. They made eye contact as Kara stayed silent, looking around the room. Alex tried to make small talk, “Lena adjusted the sun lamps to fit with your circadian rhythm. When you’re asleep they turn on at a low level, just enough to jumpstart the healing process but not enough for your powers to kick in. Then, when you’re close to waking up, they go red. Just to ease you into your powers again.”


     Kara stayed silent, contemplating what Alex had just said. Her sister continued to fill the silence, “It was my idea. I mean when you came to Earth the first time you got so overwhelmed…I just thought this would help.”


     Silence swelled between the two. Alex bit her lip while Kara continued to look at everything around her but Alex. The kryptonian looked down at her suit, the ripped crest staring back at her. She rubbed her finger over the cut, back and forth, back and forth. Her eyes wandered for a moment, and she noticed the red cloth around her arm was gone, as was the wound underneath it. She stared at it for a moment, and then looked back to Alex.


     Alex looked…different. Her nightmares kept her from forgetting what Alex looked like, but she seemed to have aged from that visual. Her dark eyebags struck out against her paled skin. Her hair was messier and oily, not taken care of in the slightest. Her cheekbones stuck out slightly more than usual.


     Kara opened her mouth for a moment, unsure of how to form her question, “How long have I been gone?”


     Alex sat up, enthusiasm covering her entire being, “147 days. Well, technically 148 since we got back right after midnight, but that doesn’t really count.”


     “Mmm,” Kara nodded her head and averted her gaze from Alex.


     “If you don’t mind me asking…how long was it for you?” Alex lifted her hand above Kara’s. After Kara gave a look of recognition, Alex rested her hand atop her sister’s, giving it a soft squeeze.


     “Longer,” The answer was immediate. Kara had no idea how long she was in the Phantom Zone, but she knew it had felt like years. Alex had said something about four months at some point, but to Kara it had felt like years. Her primal instinct to survive had kicked in after that day, and it was the only thing that had kept her going since then. She had started off so full of hope and drive, but it was crushed, blown to smithereens just like her father.


     Nyxly stood before Kara, “I almost killed him you know.”


     “What?” Kara said in a mixture of confusion and shock.


     “Your father, I almost killed him. I could have, but lucky for him I just broke a leg. You, on the other hand, won’t get that luxury.”


     Kara ducked as Nyxly reached for her throat. She came back up with an uppercut to Nxyly’s jaw, then made a run for the mirror portal. She was so close, she was almost home.


     Nxyly grabbed Kara’s ankle and pulled her down to the ground. Nyxly towered over her, foot keeping Kara to the ground, “Wow, I thought you said you were a superhero. I’m not impressed.”


     Looking around, Kara realized there was a sharp piece of metal next to her. As Nyxly’s foot rose in a stride, Kara slashed it with the metal. Nyxly screamed in pain, but tried to keep going. Kara stood back up, anger filling her body. She was so close, she would not let Nxyly stop her.


     Kara stabbed Nyxly in the back. Again, and again and again. All her pent up anger, fear, and sadness she had buried since getting to the Phantom Zone came out. She was covered in the imp’s blood when her father limped in, leaning on one of the control panels.


     “Kara?” He looked at her in shock and disbelief, “Kara, what have you done?”


     Kara looked down at what she had done, the metallic smell of Nyxly’s blood flooding her nose. She looked up towards the portal, the light of it had gone out. She was no longer worthy of it, “Father, I-“


     Zor-El took a weary step back, but as his hand lifted from the control panel, the lights started to flash red.


     “Self destruct initiated, commencing countdown: 60…59…”


     Kara shot up and grabbed her father. They sprinted down flight after flight of stairs, but Zor-El’s injury was slowing them down. He tried keeping up with Kara’s speed, and Kara tried to accommodate for his injury, but they weren’t fast enough.


     Zor-El stopped, “My daughter, you must go without me.”


     “No, Father, I just got you back. I can’t lose you again,” Kara pulled him harder towards the exit.


     “You’ve made it this far without me. I know you can do it,” Zor-El held his place.


     “But I don’t want to,” Kara’s voice broke as her eyes watered.


     “I know, but you must. Now go,” Zor-El let go of Kara’s hand as he turned and walked back into the doomed building. Kara wiped away tears as she ran the last few flights of stairs at the fastest speed she could muster. She was able to make it out with five seconds left. She kept running. She wasn’t far enough when the explosion came.


     Kara tried shrugging off the memory, to get back to the moment, back to…reality. This was her reality now. The medbay. Alex. Alex looked at her with worry filled eyes, “Do you want to talk about it?”


     “No,” Kara didn’t know how to put the words together to even describe her experience there. Just a few adjectives came to mind: cold, horrible, fearful, depressing. She tried not to even think about it in the first place, so trying to verbalize it just seemed like a bad idea.


     “Okay, well if you do, I’m here for you. Whenever you need to,” Alex gave another squeeze to Kara’s hand. Kara wished she could confide in her sister, but she knew that Alex would fear what Kara had to say. The visions she had kept her awake throughout the Phantom Zone, she didn’t want to share such horrific visions with Alex nor did she want to relive them.


     She couldn’t even fathom telling Alex what she had done there.


     A shiver ran down her spine as the door to the medbay opened. Her entire body flinched at the sudden entrance, but immediately calmed once she recognized the person walking through the door.


    It was Lena.

 

Chapter Text

Kara gazed doe-eyed into Lena’s eyes, which were staring and admiring the fact that the Luthor was actually in Kara’s presence. So many weeks had passed, she couldn’t believe Kara was here.

Lena realized she was just silently standing in the doorway and cleared her throat, “Glad to see you awake, Kara. How are you feeling?”

Lena was trying to stay formal. She had no idea how Kara felt about her, I mean, they hadn’t been friends for almost a year. They had just started making up before Kara was sent away, and who knows what those phantom nightmares characterized Lena as. Alex had said Kara eased up at Lena’s name in the Phantom Zone, but she had many reason to believe Alex was bluffing to keep her at ease.

“I’ve been better,” Kara stared at her with an expression that Lena couldn’t pinpoint. The kryptonian’s eyes gazed at her with an unknown intensity while the rest of her face lay expressionless.

“Yes, of course. I mean, how has physically adjusting been?” Lena’s studies had been very thorough while Kara was sleeping. She even had to remove Alex from the room for a brief period of time just so she could actually concentrate on Kara. She knew how much Kara meant to Alex, more than Alex would probably ever know, but she couldn’t work with all of Alex’s questions.

“Fine.” Kara averted her eyes at the question, staring at the ground.

Lena’s face hardened. She knew she had to be firm to get an actual answer, “Kara, I need you to be honest with me or else I won’t know how to treat you. Have you been experiencing any physical pains since you woke up?”

“I mean, you saw all the wounds. Anything that didn’t heal up last night is hurting like hell,” Kara spat out. For a moment, her eyes filled with anger and her brow furrowed. She quickly followed with a sigh, “I’m sorry, you’re just trying to help.”

Lena gave Kara a moment to recollect herself, but she did take a moment to note Kara’s rapid mood swing. Of course there would be some psychological damage from the Phantom Zone, but Lena had no way of knowing how bad it could be. Until Kara could be a hundred percent honest with her, there was no way for Lena to even help the kryptonian. Though Lena wasn’t sure what she’d even be able to do even with the information. But at least then she could try.

With a self-assuring nod, Kara looked back at Lena, “Everything hurts, but not as bad as when I was there. Now everything just feels…heavy. Like there’s this weight on me.”

Lena waited a moment in case Kara wanted to continue. After a brief moment of silence she started, “That’s probably due to the switch in air pressure and gravitational pull from the Phantom Zone. Although the difference in gravity was minute, your body adjusted to it nonetheless. Your body just needs to adjust to being in a slightly heavier gravitational field. That heaviness should go away soon. Your wounds should too, but Alex suggested…”

“Already explained it,” Alex finally spoke up, having remained unusually quiet since Lena had stepped in, “The whole sunlight thing I mean.”

“Oh…thanks. What else did you two already go over?” Lena didn’t want to go on too long of a tangent, but there were things she still needed to clear with Kara.

“Just how long I was gone. At least in…uh, here time.” Kara said, a look of anguish passing with the last of her sentence.

“She doesn’t know how long she was in the Phantom Zone,” Alex added.

“Alright. Brainy and I are working on a project to determine the ratio between a second in the Phantom Zone and a second here. Once we’ve calculated that, we should be able to predict how long it was there,” Lena swallowed, looking between the two sisters.

Kara’s eyes were pointed towards her lap, her hands picking at loose strings poking out of her blanket. She was still covered in dirt and dust. A few of her nails had come off, but those that were still on were either cracked or black with grime. Alex sat quietly as well, her eyes traveling between Kara and Lena with increasing concern.

Lena tried her best to once again fill the silence, “Well, if you would like, Kara, you can go take a shower. We have the Tower on lockdown mode, so the windows are completely blacked out, no sunlight can come in unless we physically change the settings.”

Kara nodded slowly, which Lena took fairly well. She walked over to Kara as Alex got up, both women ready to help their friend walk. Kara waved her arm at them, “No. No, I can get there on my own.”

“Are you sure? If you don’t want to be alone one of us can just wait by the door,” Alex questioned, her older sibling protectiveness coming out in full blast.

“Yes,” Kara got off the bed and unsteadily walked past her sister and Lena. She seemed stiff and sore, but she was still walking. Before she opened the door she turned around, “Are there any clothes I can change into?”

Alex quickly reached under the medbay bed and pulled out a small box, “I brought some of these from your apartment…um…take these.”

Kara took the clothes and walked out, leaving the concerned Lena and Alex to themselves.

“Should we follow her?” Alex sat down, resting her head atop her hands.

“No. She needs time,” Lena leaned against the bed with a deep sigh, “She’s not going to get over this overnight.”

“I know. It’s bad,” Alex’s voice cracked, “Lena, I knew she would be different, but she didn’t even know I was real.

“She could barely believe it was even me when I was there. Then she woke up and I had to remind her that she was here. You should have seen the way she was looking at me, Lena. It was like I was a ghost.”

Lena pinched between her eyebrows, frustration and sadness building into a maddening headache, “We all experienced Phantom visions heading into the Phantom Zone, those were bad on their own. I can’t begin to imagine how many of those Kara went through. Not to mention the other beings that were trapped there with her. I don’t want to know how she got those wounds, they speak enough for themselves.”

Tears softly fell down Alex’s face, “I tried to force away those kinds of thoughts, that bad things were happening to her. I mean, she’s Supergirl, I figured she’d fight through it…but all those thoughts I was fighting turned out to be true. I know you’re trying to find the difference between Phantom Zone time and well, our time, but I can tell you right now that Kara was there longer than we were here.”

“Well we can’t know that for sure, I mean…” Lena was immediately cut off.

“No…she told me,” Alex cleared her throat, “She asked me how long she was gone and I told her. Then I asked how long she was gone and she said it was longer than that.”

“She also said she lost track of time, she could have miscalculated her days due to monotony.”

“Lena, I don’t think she was counting by days…” Alex turned away to hide her reddened, tear splotched face from Lena.

Chapter Text

     Kara slowly closed the door behind her, trying to make as little noise as possible. The lights around her were starting to give her a bad headache, and even the tiniest noise made it worse. 

     She looked at herself in the mirror. She hadn’t seen herself in so long…this was what she really looked like now? Her face was the only part of her body not covered in dirt, somebody had probably wiped it off while she was asleep. She had yet to see her hair since she cut it, and it was a shock to see it so short. It unevenly cut off just around her chin. 

     A small cut grazed the top of her left eyebrow. She rubbed a finger over it, causing a sharp pain to run through the wound. She winced. Her eyes traveled downward towards her suit. It was covered in cuts and scratches, more than she remembered. Her cape was torn, with the uneven ends jutting out at odd angles. Her crest had a large cut through it. The kryptonian’s eyes watered as they studied the crust. Her finger ran over the cut over and over as tears fell. 

     “Who are you?” Kara slowly sat up, the harsh reality of the Phantom Zone quickly coming to her after her first of many nightmares. 

     “I should be asking you the same question. You bear the crest of my house,” The familiar man sat far from her, his eyes gazing into a fire. 

     “The house of El,” Kara stared at him, “My name is Kara Zor-El. You don’t recognize me because I escaped Krypton as a child. I lived on Earth for many years before being trapped here.”

     “Zor-El? It cannot be. I never had a child. Alura was pregnant before the explosion, but neither she nor the baby survived,” The man looked sadly at Kara.

     “No she’s alive! Argo City survived, most of it anyways. Mother said you didn’t…wait did you say pregnant?” Kara’s confusion at the situation was all over her face.

     “Yes. We were going to name her Kara, and here you are. But how?” Zor-El looked through Kara, “Unless I’ve finally gone insane here, but you seem fully real.”

     “I am…real I mean. I don’t know, maybe…” Kara thought for a moment, “Maybe when all the earths collided into one, the Phantom Zone of each Earth also collided. Maybe in your world you were sent to Earth and got stuck here instead of me.” 

     “I’m not sure what you mean,” Zor-El eyed Kara curiously.

     “It’s a long story, but,” Kara looked around at the small cave, “I think we have plenty of time.”

     As Kara fell out of the memory, she ripped off her suit as fast as she could. The speed at which she was moving hurt her sore and wounded limbs, but she couldn’t have that suit on any longer. She had to get it off, get the blood of her father, Nyxly, and all the others she had killed in the Phantom Zone off of her. 

     Kara turned on the shower and stood under the warm water. Drops rushed down her body in random directions, but she felt every single one. Her senses had been severely deprived in the Phantom Zone, so even without her super senses, her normal senses were at an all time high. Every light, every noise, every touch, she was hyperaware of it all. 

     As each droplet rolled down her skin, they slowly grew darker and darker. The grey drops of grime left trails as they went by. They overlapped with each other, making an intricate series of dirt roads. Kara rubbed some shampoo through her shortened hair, feeling the lack of length as she rubbed the cleanser through. Her hair started to smooth out as each speck of dust was forced out of it. The kryptonian scratched every last bit of it off her scalp, taking some skin and dandruff out with it. She couldn’t have any more of that place on her anymore. She needed it off. 

     Once her hair was cleared, she scrubbed furiously at her body with soap. The bar tried to escape her hands over and over, but Kara held it hostage as she scraped off each dirty trail left on her skin. She was a demolition crew and her body was an adaonded church. She scrubbed and scrubbed until she could see what she thought was the original color of her skin. She wasn’t completely sure from all this time, but she hoped it was. 

     Finally rinsed off, she stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around herself. She hadn’t been this naked in what felt like years. Her body felt free now that it was no longer trapped in spandex. The towel loosely wrapped around her, barely pressing on her wounds. Oh how she wished she could just wear this around, but she knew that would be very awkward for everybody else. 

     She didn’t bother with the bra that she knew would be too tight fitting for her wounds, reluctantly putting on the loose polo. She could feel the sleeves brush up against a cut on the back of her shoulders. The shirt rubbed against the clawed scratches on her torso, causing her to wince through gritted teeth. She slipped on the underwear with relative ease, though the pants were another subject. Her right leg still had a deep cut on it that made it impossible to lift after the shower water had been running through it. It burned with pain as she tried to slip the soft pant leg over it, filling her eyes with water. Once that pant leg was up, she tried to balance on her injured leg to get the other up, but it was no use. She wobbled, catching herself on the sink before she stumbled into the door. Putting all her body weight on the sink, she was able to get the other pant leg on. The waistband was tight around her sensitive skin, but it was enough to handle. 

     As she walked back to the medbay she could feel her pants rubbing against her legs, creases opening and closing with each step. Her shirt fluttered slightly with the air-conditioned breeze. Her feet stepped softly along the cool tile of the floor accompanied by an echo of her presence throughout the hall. She knew Alex and Lena could hear her walking closer. She pictured them waiting by the door in anticipation, then running to a “normal” spot as she opened the door. They would try to act normal, act like they weren’t talking about her the entire time she was gone, all of thirty minutes. They would ask her direct questions while somehow managing to walk on eggshells the whole time. 

     Kara stopped in front of the door, hesitating to open it. She honestly just wanted to stay alone, as odd as it sounded. As alone as she was in the Phantom Zone, she thought she would never leave her friends’ sides as soon as she returned. Now, all she wanted was some peace and quiet, alone time with her raging thoughts. 

     Her mind had been focused on one thing in the Phantom Zone: survival. Now, it was complicated. Now that she had time to think her mind wandered. She knew that if she stepped into this room her mind wouldn’t be there, it would be back in the Phantom Zone. 

     She walked in anyways. 

Chapter Text

     Lena studied the results from the multiple scans and readings she had gotten from Kara. Her body was taking in the sun rays well, but her healing was accelerating at a lesser rate than before being trapped. Lena hypothesized that Kara’s body was becoming accustomed to even being able to heal itself again, but she would have to do more research.

     Kara stirred a little in the small bed. Alex had fallen asleep right after Kara had, her torso laid on the bed with her head resting on her arm. Kara continued to stir, her eyelids moving at a rapid pace. Lena could tell the kryptonian was having a nightmare, so she slowly walked over to Kara and rubbed her arm.

     The kryptonian shot up at the touch, taking in a sharp breath of air. Her eyes raced around the room until they landed on their finish line, Lena. Kara breathing slowed to a normal pace as she made eye contact with the Luthor. Lena continued to rub Kara’s arm as she whispered, “It’s okay, Kara. It’s okay.”

     Kara’s eyes lingered on Lena’s as she took in the reality of the Luthor in front of her. Lena tried her hardest to maintain eye contact, fighting the impulse she had to look at the kryptonian’s lips. She swallowed anxiously, focusing instead on Kara's baggy eyes.

     The dim light of the reddening sunlamps illuminated the two as they stared at each other in comforting silence. Lena was the first to speak. A whisper escaped her lips, “I missed you.”

     Lena’s impulses couldn’t be fought anymore, as her eyes traveled to Kara’s lips and back up to her eyes. Kara had an unreadable expression as she tucked a lock of hair behind Lena’s ear. Kara whispered back, “I missed you too.”

     Lena was at a loss for words as the two stared at each other. Her breath slowed as she took in all of Kara. The Kara that was here, in front of her. The Kara she had imagined saying so much to, doing so much to, was right here. All Lena could feel was the beating of her heart as her skin tingled from the heat of the sunlamps. The two started to lean into each other, Kara’s eyes closing for a moment.

     Then something broke, the energy between the two was sucked away as Kara turned her head, facing the wall. “I’m sorry, Lena. I can’t,” A watery haze came over her eyes, a single tear escaping as she tried to hold the drops in a blinking cage.

     Lena stood up straight, rubbing her hands anxiously on her pants, “It’s okay, I understand. You just got back, the last thing you need is me changing your environment’s status quo when you are just starting to adjust.”

     “No, no. It’s not that,” Kara looked down on her sleeping sister, “It’s not that at all.”

     “Well, whatever it is, you know you can tell me,” Lena grabbed Kara’s hand.

     Kara remained silent, more tears falling quietly down her face. Lena took a deep breath, remembering the words Kara had said to her when she needed the kryptonian most “Whatever it is, you don’t have to be afraid. I’m right here, and I am not going anywhere. I will always protect you.”

     A small smile appeared on Kara’s face as she remembered the conversation. A light chuckle escaped her lips, “Promise?”

     “Promise,” Lena smiled back at Kara, thankful she remembered the conversation between the two. That moment was the first time Lena had felt truly cared for by somebody in a long time, and she would never forget that day. It was the first time she had put her entire trust into somebody, letting herself go as all her walls came crumbling down.

     Kara’s eyes traveled back to Alex “Lena,” a sniffle, “Thank you.”

     “Of course,” Lena smiled softly, squeezing Kara’s hand.

     The kryptonian let out a deep sigh and turned back to Lena. Her eyes hardened, “You have to promise me something else.”

     “What is it?” Concern laced Lena’s eyes.

     “You can’t tell anybody else,” Kara looked back over to Alex, “They won’t think of me the same again, but you…”

     Lena looked down, thinking for a moment. She was slowly hit with the realization of what made her the exception to Kara's secrecy, "Because I've gone into the darkness headfirst."

     “Lena, you’re the only one that could understand…please promise me you won’t tell a soul.”

     “I promise. Your secrets are safe with me,” Lena gave Kara’s hand an affirming squeeze. She forced herself to smile, forcing any intrusive thoughts that Kara thought of her as evil down into the smallest of boxes. She couldn't obsess over herself, she had to be there for Kara.

     Kara took in a deep breath, “Okay…here goes…”

Chapter Text

     Kara took a pause, “After that, when my father was gone, I didn’t know what to do. I lost all hope. The only reason I kept going was like this primal need to survive.

     “I got stuck under some rubble from the explosion, and I remember wanting to get out. I didn’t know why I wanted to leave so badly, I had just lost everything I had left in there: my father and any possibility of a way out. Phantoms swarmed me as a lay there, but in between nightmares I was able to shift the rubble. When I was stuck, that was when I lost count of time.

     “I know you said the conversion of a Phantom nightmare is around seven minutes, but you know how dreams are. It felt like days, weeks, sometimes months. It was horrible. But I somehow managed to free myself in between, and once I was free, I ran.

     “I don’t know how long or far I went for, but I was able to find a cave to live in. It was small and cramped, but so was my father’s. I was there for a good bit until a gang of aliens came in, Fort Roz escapees.

     “They looked at my crest and decided that I was their enemy. Their leader cut my crest and then pinned me to the rock, sword to my throat. He ordered me to get out, to give his crew the cave, and that if they ever saw me again I’d end up like ‘the rest of the kryptonian suckers.’”

     “So I left and continued to search for shelter. The caves were the only spots the Phantoms couldn’t reach you in, so I followed the mountains. Phantoms and nightmares came and went throughout, but I found my way into another, larger cave.

     “This one had another alien in it. He wore a mask tightly wrapped around his face and held a sword tightly in his one hand. His other arm was cut off, a bloody shirt tightly tied around the wound. He lunged at me…

     “My survival instincts kicked in. He was an easy opponent, he was already weak and injured, compared to him I was in my Phantom Zone prime. His sword cut into my arm, but I was able to grab his wrist when he did it. I twisted his wrist with everything I had and his sword dropped. I picked it up and held it to his throat. 

     “I gave him two options, to be my ally, or to run. He said neither. He wanted me to put him out of his misery. He had no need to be alive. He had been wasting away in that cave for what felt like an eternity, and he felt like it was somebody else’s turn to do so. 

     “I gave him his wish.”

     Kara looked down at Lena’s hands. Lena nodded solemnly, waiting for Kara to continue. Kara wiped a tear from her eye and continued, “I threw his body out of the cave. It wouldn’t decompose there and didn’t take up much space, but I just couldn’t keep him in there with me. “ Kara paused for a moment.

     “I used his sword to cut my hair, it had gotten all dirty and matted and just became an overall annoyance. I watched it fall to the ground. It was basically just a giant knot at that point, but it still felt symbolic…in a way.

     “In my heart  I knew that there was no going back to Earth for me. I was cutting ties with it in a way, becoming one with the Phantom Zone. I had killed twice now…I was turning into something else. I was losing myself to the Phantom Zone, though I wasn’t realizing it. I thought if I kept my sanity and stayed alive that I would be fine, but I was wrong. Looking back…I became a monster.”

     Kara looked into Lena’s eyes, her hands were shaking, “But I was a fool to have left out the body, or so I thought. Another gang found my cave, but instead of hurting me, they let me become one of them. I gave them my shelter and they gave me their respect. They all had smudges of dirt caked around their eyes, and they gave me the same look. It was a symbol of unity.

     “There were a few who had horrible wounds that constantly needed bandages applied to them, like my arm. There were supplies for what felt like a few years, but then they became scarce. I, along with a few others, had been killing other wanderers for supplies, but word had spread of what we were doing. I volunteered with a few others to hunt down a beast that had been rumored to live in another cave not far from our’s. It had enough skin and fur that we could not only use it for bandages, but make some clothes from it too. It would keep us from bleeding out until either word died down or we could find another location. 

     “The cave wasn’t far, and we made our way in. I had my sword, and the others had their own makeshift weapons. I don’t remember them in particular, but one had a club carved out of rock. Anyways, we made it inside and there it was. It was huge, taking up most of the cave. It was sleeping, an easy kill. 

     “The leader of our troop struck a blow to the beast’s head, but instead of killing it immediately, it just woke the creature up. It grabbed our leader, squeezing him tightly until,” Kara couldn’t say it, she just made a small blowing motion around her head.

     “We all started to hit, stab, and shoot the beast with what we had, but it was no use. Those around me died left and right. I ran out of the cave, but the beast wasn’t done with me yet. It reached for me, but I barely dodged out of the way. She left a bad scratch on me, but I couldn’t feel it at the time. All I felt was a warm feeling on my side. 

     “Shouting, I ran into our cave, telling everybody to hide immediately. We barricaded the entrance the best we could, but there was no use. The beast came through. I was a coward. I slipped behind the beast as she slaughtered my friends, my family. I ran. I ran as far as I could. 

     “I was back to being a wanderer, and the Phantoms were quick to smell my fear. The smell of blood radiating from my wounds didn’t help either. I went through what felt like an eternity of nightmares as I walked, until I couldn’t tell what was a nightmare or reality. Aliens would beat me to a crisp as I walked, only for me to stand up unharmed. One of you would shout to me, telling me you had finally come to save me. Sometimes I’d be saved and then kill you, or you would turn into some shapeshifter or something and kill me. 

     “It’s all kind of a blur from there until when Alex came, but she came at the perfect time. I had woken up from a nightmare, and I guess I had fallen at an odd angle when I got knocked out. A rock had pierced through a part of my leg, and it was killing me to walk. I had used up most of my cape taking care of my arm, and I knew I didn’t have enough to patch up my leg for long. I also had those cuts from the beast that were dripping blood. My suit was already soaked in it, and I just gave up. 

     “I told myself that I would just sit there and bleed out. Either that or some other creature would come and put me out of my misery. If I hadn’t lost my sword it would have been ironic. I could practically hear my second victim’s voice saying that the cycle would continue. That the Phantom Zone takes all that enter it. I wasn’t special, I wasn’t going to survive. 

     “Then Alex came. She promised me she would take me home, and by then I was tired of the nightmare bullshit. If this was another nightmare, then I would fight it again. I was so close to dying, to peace, and it was just going to end up with being another dream. I fought her, but I was weak. Most of my energy was going into standing up, not punching. 

     “I was so angry and tired, I couldn’t understand anything Alex was saying, until she mentioned you,” Kara stared into Lena’s eyes, “I don’t know what she was talking about but she had said your name. I don’t know why or how, but all of a sudden I had hope again. There was no nightmare where Alex mentioned you, my mind never thought she would after what happened with us. Then she went on about what happened while I was gone, and I just gave up. Nightmare be damned, I had nothing else to lose.

     “So I went with Alex. I swore that it was probably some telepathic shapeshifting alien like J’onn that had gotten into my head and was using everything they had to lure me somewhere to do Rao knows what, but a small part of me had hope that it was really Alex, and it was.”

     Kara looked up at Lena, her eyes watering, “If Alex finds out any of this, she’ll think I’m a monster. She’ll hate me.”

     Lena cupped Kara’s cheek, rubbing a tear with her thumb, “Kara, this won’t make Alex hate you. She’s your sister, she’ll understand”

     “And you?” 

     “Nothing could make me love you less,” Lena softly kissed Kara. The kryptonian’s lips tasted salty from her tears. She felt Kara lean into it, but only for a second. Kara suddenly reared back, her quick movement waking Alex.

     “What’s wrong?” Alex groggily mumbled, her head shooting up next to Kara’s legs.

     “It’s nothing,” Kara looked sympathetically at Lena, “nothing at all.”

Chapter Text

     “Kara’s wondering if she can go back to her apartment to get some more clothes,” Alex leaned against the doorway of Lena’s lab.

     “Why can’t you just get them?” Lena looked to Alex quizzically. 

     “I tried telling her I would but then she went on this tirade about how most of her clothes are too tight and I would probably get the wrong ones,” Alex rolled her eyes but then smiled, “I just think she wants to see her actual home for a bit.

     “Also, obviously we’d let her go at night so no sunlight. The last thing she needs is her powers kicking in all of a sudden, especially near all those clothes. I saw her use her heat vision on them once, and that fire was not easy to get out,” Alex forced an awkward laugh.

     “Yes. Most fires aren't,” Lena said dryly.

     “So, does she have the doctor’s blessing to go?” Alex raised an eyebrow at Lena.

     “Oh yes, just make sure it’s quick and once the sun has completely set,” Lena said quickly. 

     “Well actually,” Alex took a large step towards Lena, “I was hoping you could take her.”

     Lena’s eyes widened at the thought. She hadn’t let herself be alone in a room with Kara since their kiss, and now there was a possibility of Lena having to be alone with her for an entire night. 

     “It’s just Kelly and I haven’t been able to have a date night since Kara got back, and you’ve been cooped up in here all week. I figured you could use a break,” Alex smiled awkwardly.

     “I don’t know. I’m almost done analyzing Brainy’s configurations in order to find a formula for the time conversion from the Phantom Zone to here,” Lena explained the excuse matter-of-factly, hoping Alex would spare her.

     “I didn’t understand half of the words you just said, but I’m sure it can wait until tomorrow. As much as we want to know how long she was in there, I wouldn’t say that’s as important as Kara’s comfort,” Alex looked down at the floor, biting her lip, “And we still don’t know what happened there. She doesn’t ask for much, so maybe being more comfortable in her clothes will get her to open up.”

     Lena looked towards Alex sympathetically. It had been just over a week since Kara had explained her time in the Phantom Zone to her. She wanted to tell Alex something, anything, to ease her worries. Alex was clueless, and Lena hated hiding these things from her. Lena knew how horrible it was to have somebody hide a secret right in front of you, and she felt like a hypocrite standing in front of the redhead. 

     “Okay, I’ll do it,” Lena sighed. If she couldn’t tell Alex the kryptonian’s secret, then she’d at least do this favor. 

     “Thanks so much Lena, I’ll let Kara know, and you can just grab her whenever the sun sets,” Alex ran out of the room, leaving Lena standing alone with her studies for the afternoon.

     Minutes passed like hours as Lena worked on her calculations. As sunset approached, Lena looked at her laptop in horror. She had figured out a way to convert Phantom Zone time, but it was abnormal. She noted the date and time ratios on her phone, shoved it in her pocket, and walked towards the medbay.

     She wondered whether she should tell Kara her news now or wait until at least Alex knew. Then again, Lena had no idea what Alex’s reaction could be. Maybe it would be better if Kara knew and could tell Alex. It could also be a good gateway to get Kara to actually tell her sister about the Phantom Zone.

     Lena opened the door slowly, peering her head in. Kara laid in bed, staring at a wall to her side. Her arms were crossed across her chest, rising and falling with each subtle breath. 

     “You can come in,” Kara stated, turning her head to Lena, “You don’t have to be a stranger.”

     Lena’s walls melted away at Kara’s soft smile, and despite her stubbornness, she smiled back, “Sorry, I didn’t know if you were asleep or not.”

     “No way, I’ve been waiting all day to get out of this place,” Kara got out of the bed and shakily stood up, “I mean seriously, my legs are starting to get out of shape. Who knew a week of rest could take away so many leg days?”

     Kara’s laughter surprised Lena. Kara hadn’t been this cheery since before the Phantom Zone. She’s probably overcompensating to make you feel better. Lena held that thought close, gripping the possibility that Kara at least cared about how she felt. 

     “Do you need a hand?” Lena reached out for Kara, but the kryptonian waved her hand away.

     “No, no I think I got it. Just give me a second,” Kara leaned onto the bed for support. She let go once she found her footing and walked over to Lena, “Alright, let’s get out of here.”

     Lena and Kara walked out in silence, the moon shining overhead. As Lena kept walking, Kara stood in front of the Tower, taking in the full moon’s light. 

     “Are you alright?” Lena asked, slowly making her way back towards Kara.

     “When I first got my powers I would go flying at night. The breeze always quieted my mind. It was quiet enough to think clearly, but not quiet enough that it brought back memories of the Phantom Zone.

     “I know you’re a scientist and all so you already know this, but the moon still gives off the sun’s light. It just reflects it, so it’s less strong,” Kara’s eyes stayed fixed on the moon as her feet lifted off the ground.

     “But it’s still strong enough to fly,” Kara held a hand out to Lena, beckoning her to join.

     “Are you sure?” Lena looked up at the kryptonian.

     “I’ve been dying to fly since I got back. It’s the one thing I’ve been looking forward to since seeing you,” Kara smirked.

     “But your strength, it hasn’t come back,” Lena kept her arms at her side.

     “My strength might not exactly be superhuman, but you’re human, and my strength is human enough,” Kara lowered herself back to the ground with a smile.

     “Lena, you can trust me on this. I haven’t felt my powers in what feels like forever, I know that a little of it is back, and I want to use it. With you,” Kara stared into Lena’s eyes while beaming. The Luthor could feel the excitement radiating off of the kryptonian.

     Lena put her hand in Kara’s, “Fine, okay. But promise me if you feel the slightest bit off you will put me down immediately.”

     Kara let out a soft laugh as her feet lifted once more, “I got you, Lena.”

     As she flew higher, Kara pulled Lena up into a bridal carry. The two flew through the sky, towering over the trees and streetlamps below. Kara hadn’t flown as high as she used to, sticking to about ten stories high as opposed to the clouds, which Lena appreciated. Kara’s short hair flew about in the wind. Its shortness was still something the Luthor was getting used to. It was different but a good different. While it didn’t wave in the wind like her longer locks used to, it had a fiery flare to it as it was slicked back by the wind. 

     The two softly landed on Kara’s balcony. Kara tried to open the door, but found it locked. She tried again with a bit more force and knocked it loose, “Sorry,” she muttered to herself or possibly the door. 

     As the kryptonian walked into her apartment she gaped at everything around her, “It’s exactly like I remember it.”

     Lena stood beside Kara, “Yes, I paid your rent while you were gone. I also paid somebody to come in weekly and dust off your things. It’s like you never left.”

     Kara’s eyes watered, “Thank you, Lena. I…I don’t know what to say.”

     “You don’t need to say anything,” Lena looked at Kara as Kara looked over to her. Their eyes met and held onto each other for a brief moment, but a moment nonetheless, “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to insinuate anything. I just meant…it was nothing.”

     “No it wasn’t nothing,” Kara lifted up Lena’s chin, forcing the Luthor to make eye contact with her, “You and Alex and the others worked so hard to get me back, and yet you still had room in that brilliant mind of yours to just get somebody to dust in here.” 

     Lena stared breathlessly into Kara’s eyes. She wanted so badly to lean in, to close the gap between them. She could feel the energy she had felt with Kara under those red sunlamps, and she wanted to keep feeling it. She leaned into Kara’s lips and the kryptonian leaned into hers. It was a long, passionate kiss, until Kara suddenly pulled away.

     Lena stared back, sadness and disappointment covering her face. She looked down to the floor, “I’m sorry, Kara. I can’t keep doing this with you.”

     “Sorry,” Kara put her hands on her hips as she looked down at the ground, “Lena, I’m not trying to lead you on or anything, I swear.”

     “Could have fooled me,” Lena let out a sad chuckle.

     “I like you, Lena. Like I really like you. It’s just…Rao every time I look at you, every time I touch you, it’s like I know that sooner or later you’ll be ripped away from me. Like all the nightmares,” Kara pinched between her eyebrows.

     “But this isn’t a nightmare, Kara. It’s really me, and I’m not going anywhere,” Lena lifted Kara’s free hand and held it between her palms.

     “You don’t know that,” Kara snatched her hand away as her eyes started to dart around the room.

     “What are you talking about?” Lena raised an eyebrow. 

     “Nobody in the dream knows it’s a dream but me,” Kara stared intensely at Lena, “Nobody knows the truth but me.”

     “Kara, please, you’re not making sense,” Lena watched as Kara walked away from her, pacing the apartment.

     “It makes so much more sense now…the medbay was different because I was delirious when they got me. It messed up the way I thought of things…” the kryptonian was muttering to herself as she paced the apartment. 

     “Kara, please calm down. You’re not thinking straight,” Lena reached out a hand to Kara, only for it to be swatted away.

     “No…no this isn’t real. I’m getting better. That’s why my apartment looks the same, that’s why the plot is thinning. I’m waking up soon,” Kara looked around the apartment, tears in her eyes, “That means something bad is about to happen…”

     “What? No, Kara, everything is fine, you’re fine, you’re in your apartment. Remember what I said about having it cleaned…”

     “What can I say, Lena? I’m really good at making up excuses. Conscious or subconscious,” Kara laughed to herself, the laugh being full of dread, “But you know that, Lena. It’s why you hate me so much.”

     “Kara, I don’t hate you. That’s in the past. What’s important to me now is you and you getting better.”

     The kryptonian started to shout, “No! No…you hate me and…and that’s why you haven’t saved me yet. You convinced them all to hate me too. You made them think they don’t need me, that I wasn’t worth the trouble of saving. If it weren’t for your brother this wouldn’t have happened in the first place! I’d be happy! I’d be…” Kara’s voice cracked as it lowered, “I’d be with you.”

     “Kara…” Lena approached her friend, wiping a tear from her cheek, “You are with me.”

     “I am?” The kryptonian’s voice was small and strained.

     “You are.”

     Kara wrapped her arms around Lena tightly, holding her in a strong embrace. Sobs shook her standing body. Lena stood still, rubbing circles on Kara’s back, “It’s okay, Kara. It’s okay.”

Chapter Text

     Lena closed the final set of blinds in Kara’s apartment, “A bit of sunlight is still going to get through, and it’s more than you’ve been exposed to so far.”

     Kara looked down at the floor. This was supposed to be a quick trip, but Kara’s breakdown had ended up with the two spending the night in her apartment, “Yeah, I think I’ll be fine.”

     “Okay,” Lena walked up to Kara, “But if you need anything just let me know. I can go out and buy anything if you need it, or I can make Alex go and get it if you don’t want to be alone.”

     The kryptonian looked into her friend’s emerald green eyes and smiled softly, “As long as I have you, I’ll be fine.”

     As Lena started to turn around to the kitchen, Kara stammered, “Lena, about last night…”

     The Luthor turned around to face Kara, a sad smile formed on her face, “It was nothing, really.”

     “No. No it wasn’t,” Kara grabbed Lena’s hands and held them firmly, “What I said to you, it wasn’t right. I just…you’re the only one that knows what happened to me, and I know you said you wouldn’t tell anybody about what I said, but some part of me deep down…it knows that if you gave out that information you’d have the power to turn everybody that I love away from me. It scares me, it horrifies me, but I know you would never do it. It’s just that part of me from the Phantom Zone, it keeps dragging me down into those doubts.”

     “Oh, Kara,” Lena looked into the kryptonian’s eyes, “I have said and done so much to you in the past year, that was nothing.”

     Kara looked at Lena’s hands, “But that’s not all I did.”

     “The kiss?” Lena’s eyes widened.

     “Yeah, that,” Kara made eye contact with Lena. She took a deep breath and continued, “Lena, I love you. I didn’t realize it until it was too late and I was gone. My nightmares…they showed me fears I didn’t even know I had. After my father, I kept getting these nightmares. We were together, happy. Then all of a sudden something happens, an explosion, a gunshot, something, and then you’re gone. Your body is there, but you aren’t. Then I’m hit with this thought that seems so real I can hold it: that the reason you died was because you loved me, and I can’t have that happen,” Kara looked away for a moment.

     “Almost everybody I loved on Krypton died. My adoptive father left us and ended up being experimented on, my first boyfriend was killed, and James just never worked out. Don’t even get me started with Mon-El and that situation…

     “But, Lena,” Kara shook Lena’s hands, “I was able to move past those losses. Losing you, though. I could hardly manage after that. The nightmares where I lost you were the harshest. I realized I loved you, but that that love would kill you.

     “So when I kissed you, the reason I pulled away…it’s because I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want you getting hurt because of me,” Kara’s eyes watered as they gazed into Lena’s. 

     Lena’s mouth curved up slightly, “Lex Luthor is my brother, Kara. People have been trying to kill me since before we met. If anybody is going to get me killed, it’ll either be him or my mother.”

     The Luthor’s eyes softened, “And I love you too.”

     Kara’s mouth opened, but she had no idea how to respond. Lena waited, her eyes fixated on Kara’s lips. Kara heard Lena’s silent request clearly, and leaned in once again. Their lips were like waves, going in and out with their loving tide. Kara’s hands left Lena’s, finding a new home on the Luthor’s hips. Lena followed suit, pulling Kara closer to her, closing any space there had been between them. The sun’s dim light peeked down onto them as their feet slowly raised from the ground. Neither of the women noticed though, they were occupied with their embraces. 

     Kara’s head bumped against her roof, and she stopped to catch her breath, “Sorry, got a little excited.”

     “It’s okay,” Lena breathed, staring intensely into Kara’s eyes, “Just makes it more magical.”

     Lena leaned in as Kara smiled, the two continuing their pursuit of lust. Lena’s hands moved up Kara’s back and into her hair. The Luthor ran her hands through the short strands, feeling their softness through her fingers. She accidentally pulled at Kara’s hair in a flash of passion, causing a soft and pleased gasp to escape Kara’s lips. 

     One of Kara’s hands traveled under Lena’s shirt and started to unhook her bra. Kara looked to Lena for confirmation, and Lena quickly nodded, not even opening her eyes. Kara unhooked the bra and let it drop to the floor. The kryptonian’s hands traveled to Lean’s boobs, caressing them. It was Lena’s turn to let out a moan, “More.”

     Kara squeezed Lena’s boobs, feeling them in circles as they continued to kiss. As Kara’s hands moved on Lena’s chest, Lena’s lips fell to Kara’s neck. The Luthor kissed the kryptonian’s soft skin. Since Kara’s lips were freed, she was able to let out all her sounds of pleasure for Lena to hear. Lena’s lips curved upwards at the sounds Kara was making. She stopped for a moment, looking into Kara’s eyes as her hands went to the bottom of Kara’s shirt.

     Kara nodded to Lena and the Luthor lifted the kryptonian’s shirt off. Kara then did the same for Lena. Their shirts hit the floor softly, with Kara’s bra following them shortly after. The two hovered in the apartment, kissing and caressing each other. Lena bowed her head kissing Kara’s chest. Kara moaned in delight, gripping the back of Lena’s head for support. Whether she was supporting Lena’s gravity or her pleasure was something she didn’t feel like rationalizing right now. Lena’s lips traveled around Kara’s breasts, settling on her left nipple. Lena softly bent down on it and tugged. 

     Kara couldn’t be hurt by the tug, but she could be aroused. A loud moan came out of her lips, “Harder.”

     Lena tugged at the nipple again, this time biting harder. As the nipple was let loose from her lips Lena heard Kara’s moan of pleasure. Lena’s mouth went to Kara’s other boob, repeating the same process. 

     “Oh Rao,” Kara let out, “Keep going, keep going.”

     Lena followed Kara’s orders, kissing a pathway down Kara’s stomach and towards her pants, “Are you sure?” Lena looked at Kara, who stared down at her, eyes wide open.

     “Kara?” Lena’s eyes filled with concern.

     The kryptonian shook her head as she lowered the two to the ground, “I’m sorry, Lena. I just…I can’t take that step yet. It’s too much.”

     Lena cupped Kara’s face with her hand, “It’s okay, I won’t rush you or force you to do anything you don’t want to.”

     “Rao,” Kara gazed at Lena, taking her in, “You’re perfect.”

Chapter Text

     Lena opened the door to greet the delivery boy, swiftly taking the togo bag from him and sliding a wad of cash in his hand, “Keep the change, it’s the tip.”

     The Luthor quickly yet softly closed the door and turned around, “Alright, who’s ready for some potstickers?”

     Kara’s eyes lit up, “I always am.”

     Lena laid the food out on the table, the smell wafting through the thin styrofoam box that tried to encase it. She opened one box and slid it over to Kara, who sat on the other side of the table. Then, she grabbed her box and lifted the lid to unveil her meal, a box of white rice. She looked over to Kara, who was already chewing on a potsticker, “How is it?”

     “Good,” Kara said, her mouth full of food. She took a moment to finish and swallowed, “I didn’t realize they were this, uh, doughy.” 

     “Don’t worry, just eat more and you’ll get used to it,” Lena waved a hand at Kara as she took a bite of her rice. 

     Kara chuckled, “That’s what Alex said the first time I had one.”

     Lena noticed a shift in Kara’s eyes after the statement. They were somewhere else, maybe in a memory, “Kara, it’s okay. It makes sense after how long you were gone. You’ll get used to it, just have another one.”

     Kara lifted another potsticker to her open mouth, but instead of just popping the whole thing in, she took a small bite out of it. Her eyes looked at the potsticker before her, which was dropped to the table. Kara’s eyes just laid on the potsticker, staring at it, “I don’t want to do this.”

     The Luthor reached out a hand to Kara, “It’s okay, we can just share this rice and save the potstickers for dinner.”

     “No. It’s not the potsticker. It’s…” Kara looked at the closed curtains beside her, “It’s all of this. It’s such an adjustment and I’m just supposed to get used to it again after I fully adjusted to the Phantom Zone. It’s like when I came to Earth as a child except this time everybody expects me to know how to be normal, not just the people at school.”

     Lena pulled her hand back, “Nobody expects you to just flip a switch and get better, especially after so many years in the Phantom Zone. It wouldn’t make sense.”

     Kara’s eyes quickly traveled to Lena, “Years?”

     Lena swallowed, realizing she had misspoken and revealed some of her own knowledge, “Yes. I, um, I finished those time calculations.”

     “You know how long it was for me?” Kara asked quietly. 

     “Yes, but the results were rather odd,” Lena started, “Each day had a different conversion formula. Obviously time passes differently there, but minutes here could be days there. One of the days you were gone was about five seconds in the Phantom Zone. Other days could be months or up to a year. The longest day ratio I could calculate was just a few days under a year.”

     Kara interrupted Lena’s rambling, “But you know how long it was?”

     “Yes,” Lena hesitated, “Are you sure you want to know?”

     “I doubt the answer will surprise me.”

     “Twenty-seven years.”

     “Really? It felt a lot shorter than that,” Kara’s eyes widened as she sat up straighter. 

     “Yes, well I know I said that Phantom dreams converted to about seven minutes in our time when the rest of us experienced them, but after some calculations, the time conversion between here and the Phantom Zone changed daily. I believe Phantom dreams probably differ in length depending on the day here as well, so I’m guessing more than half of your time in the Phantom Zone was spent unconscious.”

     “So…having nightmares?”

     “Yes,” Lena looked Kara in the eyes. The kryptonian’s eyes had a glossy look to them.

     Kara responded, her words coming out slowly, “So...I just had nightmares for what? Over a decade?” 

     “Yes, though from what you said not consecutively.”

     “Still…” Kara looked back down at the potsticker, “Twenty-seven years. That’s longer than I’ve been on Earth.”

     The kryptonian’s eyes filled with realization as her voice cracked, “I’ve spent more time in the Phantom Zone than living on this planet. 

     Tears started to fill Kara’s eyes. She wiped them quickly with her sleeve and sat up straighter, “Sorry…I just-,”

     “No, no it’s okay,” Lena walked over to Kara, leaning on the table and grabbing Kara’s hand, “It’s a lot to process.”

     “Yeah, isn’t everything,” Kara smiled softly, an anxious chuckle escaped her lips. 

     “It’ll get easier, Kara. I promise,” Lena squeezed Kara’s hand. 

     Kara’s voice was small and shaky, “When?” 

     “I’m not sure, but look,” Lena pointed to the closed curtains around them, “The sun’s about to go down. We can go back out soon. You can fly again.”

     “Yeah, I can fly,” Kara slowly stood up, a small bit of energy coming back to her. She walked into her room and started to shut her door. With the door just at a crack, she poked her head out with a weak but cheesy smile, “Lena, text Alex and tell her we’re bringing her some leftovers.”

Chapter Text

     Kara slowly drifted down onto the Tower’s balcony. Her feet slowly fell onto the pavement as her body weight shifted downward. Gravity slowly took over her, and she slowly put Lena down, allowing the Luthor to gain her footing before letting her go. The kryptonian stretched her arms, noting the strain it had taken to fly Lena back.

     She followed Lena into the Tower. It was devoid of people, but there were weapons and items scattered about. The pair walked slowly around the empty floor, their eyes wandering for anybody who may be nearby. The eerie quietness of the place was unnerving, especially to Kara who nervously spoke to fill the air with some noise, “So they didn’t plan a surprise party for us after all.”

     Lena shook her head, “They must be out on a mission.”

     “Well,” Kara smirked, “I guess that leaves us to ourselves.”

     Kara grabbed Lena’s hips and pulled the Luthor towards her. Their heads tilted in unison, slowly coming towards each other. Their lips parted, about to kiss. That is until a soft thud came from the balcony. The women quickly stepped away from each other and looked towards the noise. It was J’onn and Alex. Although, as soon as J’onn landed he immediately took off, leaving the three standing there awkwardly. 

     Alex quizzically raised an eyebrow, “Why are you two just staring at me? Are you up to something?”

     The kryptonian awkwardly laughed, “No…we just…we brought you leftovers!” 

     Lena raised the delivery box in front of her face to hide her harsh blush. Her hair rose and fell behind the box while she nodded. 

     The redhead walked briskly down to the two once they had spoken, “Thanks.” Alex then opened the box, realizing there were a few potstickers left within it, “Kara did you forget to eat these?”

     “Kara’s still adjusting to the texture,” Lena stated matter-of-fact. Kara stared wide-eyed at Lena and then to Alex. She waited for her sister to start interrogating her with the typical concerned questions that came up whenever the kryptonian had an issue with something. 

     “Oh okay, gotcha,” Alex finished chewing, “Anyways, sorry for not stopping by your apartment today. Kelly and I had a long chat this morning, and then as soon as I was about to stop by J’onn called me over to help him with a case. I’ve been with him since like two.”

     “It’s okay, Alex. You probably needed a day off from babysitting me,” Kara smiled at her sister, a playful tone etching at her voice. 

     “Looking after you is basically in my DNA at this point,” Alex laughed, leaning in to give Kara a hug. The kryptonian reciprocated, and the two sisters held each other tightly for a moment. 

     As Kara leaned out of the hug, she looked to Lena, “Oh! We had some leftovers from our takeout order. Lena held onto it on our way here.”

     Lena was beckoned over by Kara, and she handed the kryptonian the takeout. Lena’s hand were paler than normal and a bit shaky. The two sisters’ eyes lingered on them for a moment before Lena started, “Kara’s speed increased over the day. It took all of me just to keep the takeout from flying away.”

     “I had no idea I was going quicker than last night, sorry,” Kara looked over to Lena, “I didn’t know my powers were getting better yesterday.”

     “Honestly, I’m surprised they didn’t increase more. With all the sunlight coming in through those curtains, I expected you to either require your heat vision or freeze breath before the day’s end.”

     Alex looked quizzically between Lena and Kara, “Wait, so basically nothing happened when she was in the most sunlight she’s ever been in? Shouldn’t we be concerned about that?”

     Lena turned to Alex, “It could potentially be an issue. Either it’s her body just regulating sunlight at the slower rate it’s used to, or it could be tied to her emotional recovery.”

     Looking to Kara for affirmation, the Luthor continued after getting a nod of confirmation, “Last night was exhausting mentally and emotionally. Something like that can physically tire the body out. Her systems that take in sunlight and convert it to energy could have simply slowed down while her mind recovered.”

     Alex nodded slowly, “Still, it’s something we should look into.”

     Lena looked concerned for a moment, “You want me to increase her sunlight dosage?”

     The redhead concentrated for a moment before speaking, “Not by a lot, but we need to make sure her boy is working alright.”

     “I’m not so sure, Alex. We don’t know how she’ll react to her sensory based powers, especially with her history of overstimulation. The last thing we need to do is push her powers too far.”

     “I agree with you a hundred percent on that, but we could just increase it enough to notice if there’s a difference.”

     “But that’s what I’m saying! We don’t know if even the smallest push could be too much.”

     “She’s been doing fine now. And even if things go south we can just turn on the red sunlamps again.”

     “And restart the entire process? She’s just started flying, we can’t start her over now.”

     Kara finally spoke up, “She’s right here. Shouldn’t she have a say in all this.”

     Alex and Lena immediately grew silent. Kara continued, “Look, we’ve been increasing my sunlight dosage in the medbay a little bit every week. We can keep the amount the same but switch the schedule to twice a week instead of just once. How about that?” 

     Lena and Alex looked at each other briefly before nodding. Lena spoke up first, “Okay. I can do that. Are you sure you can?”

     Kara nodded affirmingly, “When I first came to Earth I had to get used to all my powers all at once. That’ll be nothing compared to that,” Kara chuckled, “I’d say it’s pretty generous that you two aren’t shoving me into the park in the middle of a clear skies day.”

     “You know we wouldn’t do that,” Alex said quietly.

     “I know, but Eliza definitely tried a few times,” Kara laughed, wrapping her arm around her sister’s shoulders.

     “Really? I never knew that,” Alex looked stunned by the information.

     “Well duh. You were too busy brooding and blasting Nirvana.”

     Lena laughed as Alex’s face reddened. Kara could hear the embarrassment making Alex’s heart race. Wait a minute, she could hear Alex’s heartbeat. She focused over on Lena,  her ears pinpointing the Luthor’s heartbeat as well. She grined, “You guys will never guess what just happened.”

     Alex and Lena looked at Kara expectantly. The kryptonian spoke excitedly, her fingers pointing in the air with each word, “I just got my super hearing!”

     Rather than the excitement Kara was expecting, Alex’s face laced itself with concern, “Are you okay?”

     Kara shrugged, “Yeah. I mean, it’s not hearing the entire city super hearing, but I can hear your heartbeats.”

     Lena’s face reddened slightly as her heartbeat increased a bit. Kara and Lena realized at the same time that now Kara could hear Lena’s heart beating faster. Kara smiled at Lena sheepishly, and Lena smiled at the floor. 

     “Oh my God,” Alex looked between the two. She noted their red faces, their awkward mannerisms, and their very close positioning from when she had dropped in. Something good had obviously happened between the two. She was very grateful Kelly had come up with the setup idea. Not only did it benefit the two “friends” but it also finally gave Alex a night off, not just to take care of herself for a change, but also so she could finally spend some "quality time" with her girlfriend.

     Starting soon, she wasn’t going to be the only Danvers sister with a girlfriend.

Chapter Text

     “Strength?”

     “Haven’t tried it yet, but I feel more toned.”

     “Speed?” 

     “I mean, I’ve been stuck in bed, but I did get through all of the Harry Potter books within a day so…”

     “Definitely increased. Flight?”

     “Still able to.”

     “Super senses?”

     Kara squinted, “If I focus I can see up to the city limit, but just twenty blocks with ease.”

     Lena tilted her head into her clipboard, jotting down her notes, “And your hearing?”

     “I can hear pretty much everything going on in the Tower. It’s honestly giving me a headache.”

     “Have you tried different ways of blocking them out?”

     “I’ve been working on my breathing and focusing techniques from before, but they’re not working like they used to.”

     “I’ll talk to Alex and see what we can do about that. Any updates on the heat vision?”

     Kara shrugged, “I mean, I kinda feel the heat behind my eyes, but I haven’t exactly tried to zap a hole through the door.”

     Lena chuckled, “I figured. Here,” the scientist reached behind her, grabbing a metal sheet, “Try this.”

     “Are you sure? That looks really thin?” Kara’s smile faltered with uncertainty. 

     “It’s nth metal, practically indestructible.”

     “Gotcha,” Kara remembered her brief bout with the metal and Agent Liberty. She let the heat she felt envelop her eyes and go forward towards the sheet. Her vision blurred into a bright blue as the faint smell of burning metal rose around her. She quickly brought in the energy, blinking her eyes into focus to see the metal sheet. It was still intact, though it had two small darkened circles where it had been blasted. 

     “So heat vision is back. What about freeze breath?” 

     “Nope. Super breath is pretty good though. I sneezed and blew off my blanket the other day.”

     “Sounds like you’re having trouble controlling it?” 

     “Nope. That was when I realized I had it back.”

     Lena looked up from her papers, smiling at Kara, “So besides from the freeze breath and your underdeveloped super senses, everything is pretty much under control?” 

     “Yeah. I think so,” Kara let out a sigh.

     “Alright, I’m going to put in these physical results. I’ll be back in about half an hour for the psychological examination.”

     “Psychological examination?” Kara raised an eyebrow at Lena. They hadn’t done one of those before.

     Lena took a deep breath before speaking, “I didn’t do it before just because you had just gotten back, but Kara, we need to make sure you’re okay in here,” Lena motioned to her head with her pencil, “before we can let you go out there.”

     Kara’s eyes followed Lena’s pencil, which was now pointed at the door, and sighed, “Are you sure? I feel fine.”

     “We’ll see in half an hour,” Lena smiled sympathetically at Kara and left the room. 

     Shit. Kara thought to herself. As much as she didn’t like cursing, it felt appropriate for the moment. Rao, she just wanted to get to her apartment so she could have some time alone and not be watched.  Then again, the last time she went to her apartment didn’t work out so well. At least not at first. She felt somewhat ready to leave, but after last week’s breakdown and her consistent nightmares and anxiety, there was no way she was getting out. 

     As the time ticked by, Kara’s anxiety grew. It consumed her as she considered how much longer she’d be stuck in this room. Sure, they’d let her out once, but after how it had gone they would never let her out again. Not after she could barely compose herself and figure out what was real or not. She was going to be stuck here just like she was stuck in the Phantom Zone. All she would know was this drab room and this uncomfortable bed and…

     Kara’s racing thoughts were interrupted by Lena opening the door, “Sorry to keep you waiting. Those results were so much better than the last, it was shocking.”

     Lena smiled at the kryptonian before continuing, “Anyways, I want to keep this as brief as possible, so let’s just get into it.”

     Kara swallowed, sitting up in the bed, “Okay.”

     “In the past week, have you felt any increased bouts of sadness or depression?”

     “Um, not any more than usual.”

     “Alright. In the past week have you felt any increased in anxiety?”

     “A bit, yeah.”

     Lena looked up from her paper, her eyes laced with concern, “And do you know what may have caused that?”

     “Other than the fact that I’m never going to get out of this room?” The words quickly left Kara’s mouth before she had a moment to think about it.

     “Of course you’ll get out of here. You just need to get better, and that’ll take some time. Now-“

     “That’s what everybody keeps saying! I just ‘need time’. What I need is to get out of this room.”

     “Of course, I just need to adjust the tower settings and-“

     “No. I want to go home. I want to go back to my apartment, sleep in my bed, watch tv on my couch. I want to stuff my fridge with food and open it when its dinnertime and be greeted with all the possibilities there are to choose from and then get frustrated because I can’t pick out what to eat and just order takeout!”

     “Kara, as much as I want that for you too, you still don’t have complete control of your powers. What happens when your superhearing kicks into full gear? You said it yourself, you have no control over blocking it out. What happens if nobody is there to help you in that situation?”

     The kryptonian looked to Lena speechless. She had no answer. She just wanted to get out. She felt trapped. She had been in the Tower for almost a month, excluding the one day out. She felt like Rapunzel, she had gotten a taste of the world outside her Tower and needed more. 

     Lena sighed as she took in the downtrodden kryptonian in front of her, “Look, let’s just get through these questions and then I’ll see what I can do.”

     Kara answered Lena’s endless questions on autopilot. She didn’t have the mental strength to think about what she was saying, just letting out either a “yes” or “no” whenever needed. She didn’t want to pout, but it wasn’t like there was anything else she could do in the moment. If she tried to break out through the door, Lena wouldn’t hesitate to block her. And they both knew that no matter how much Kara wanted to leave, she would never hurt Lena in order to accomplish her goal. 

     Lena grew silent as she wrote down the last of her notes. She looked to Kara, her mouth open as if she was about to say something, but no words came out. She simply turned around and left through the door. 

     Kara immediately focused her super vision on the Luthor, watching Lena walk all the way to her lab. After a few minutes of watching Lena type her notes, Kara stood up and slowly walked up to the medbay’s door. She slowly turned the knob, using her super hearing to make sure Lena wasn’t on her way back. 

     The kryptonian leaned out of the door, staring down the hallway. Lena hadn’t left her lab yet, so this was Kara’s time to make an escape. She stepped out of the hallway and made a run towards the Tower’s balcony. Before she could take off, however, she was met by a familiar presence. A shape of air on the balcony started to solidify. J’onn stood on the balcony, sun reflecting off of his newly formed armor, “Kara, it’s been awhile.”

     Kara gulped, she had been caught, and by J’onn no less. Not only was she never getting out of here, she would never hear the end of it from Alex, “Yeah. It has.”

     “Shouldn’t you be resting still?” J’onn raised an eyebrow, but his playful smirk suggested a less serious tone to his words. 

     “Needed to stretch my legs,” Kara reached behind her, anxiously scratching her neck. 

     “Ah I see,” J’onn nodded and smirked, “Alex called me. She didn’t want you sneaking out before she could get ahold of you.”

     “Get ahold of me? She’s been with me all week,” Kara squinted with suspicion. 

     “Yes, but she has a special plan for today. She just needed to grab something from my apartment.”

     “From your apartment?” Kara raised an eyebrow, “Why did she go to get it and not you?”

     “Because he’s not the one using it,” Alex shouted from behind, climbing the steps up to the balcony. A pair of car keys jangling in her hand. 

     “Plus I wanted to see you again,” J’onn gave Kara a warm smile, “It’s been quite awhile. I had to see your face before you left.” 

     “Before I left?” Kara turned to Alex, confusion splashed all over her face. 

     Her sister was beaming, “You have to follow me.”

     Alex grabbed Kara’s hand and started to drag her away. J’onn gave the kryptonian a big smile and a light wave as she was basically flung down the balcony’s stairs. Kara rose a hand up in return as her legs wobbled under her, barely able to get a footing with Alex’s sprinting. 

     The two ran through the Tower’s halls for a few minutes until Alex suddenly stopped. This door was no different from the others, and Kara had no idea why they had stopped at it. She had barely spent any time at the Tower before getting stuck in the Phantom Zone, so she never familiarized herself with its intricate layout. She was about to ask Alex what this door led to, but was interrupted by the redhead dramatically opening the door. 

     Kara walked past Alex, who was grinning from ear to ear as she held the door open for Kara. Once Kara past her, Alex ran into the vehicle that sat in the garage. It was familiar to the kryptonian. The two sisters had borrowed the car once a few years ago, and she had gone to Mars on it.  

     Alex hopped into the drivers seat, popping a pair of sunglasses on. She then pulled the sunglasses forward to reveal her eyes and a piercing yet enthusiastic gaze, “What are you waiting for?”

     Kara slowly approached the car. She stared at the passenger seat. There was no way Alex was just taking her out of the Tower. And even if she was, where was she going? Maybe this was the part of the dream where something bad happened. Maybe Alex was going to take her through an endless void of space, where she would transform into a horrific being and try to eat Kara alive. That had been a weird dream, but it had also been a lot shorter than this. 

     As Kara silently stared at the seat, Alex pressed a button. The garage door slowly opened, sun falling through the opening and onto the floor. Kara’s eyes jumped to the light, taking in its beauty and its promise of good. 

     Alex snapped Kara out of her stupor with a shout, “Get in loser, we’re going to Midvale!”

Chapter Text

     “So…you and Lena?” Alex dragged out the Luthor’s name with a smirk. 

     “How many times have I told you I don’t want to talk about it,” Kara blushed, turning towards the car window.

     “Okay and? You gotta tell me, this is important news!” Alex grinned widely. 

     “Ugh, it’s nothing really,” Kara’s smile refused to leave as her face reddened like a tomato. 

     “Bullshit. I’ve seen the way you two look at each other. I’ve been waiting for you to get together for years,” Alex laughed, the bright sun reflecting off of her shades. 

     Kara quickly turned to face her sister, “Years?”

     “Look, it may have taken me forever to realize I was gay, but come on. Just look at Lena.”

     “What? No, I mean, she dated James for a bit.”

     “Bisexuality, Kara. I know you’ve heard of it.”

     “Okay…I just wasn’t thinking about her that way.”

     “Bullshit again.”

     “Ugh,” Kara rolled her eyes, “Okay maybe but…I just didn’t know it.”

     Alex playfully raised an eyebrow, “When did you know?”

     “A year or two ago,” Technically it wasn’t a lie. She did spend years in the Phantom Zone after all.

     “Oh so before the big ‘breakup',” Alex nodded, “Makes sense why you never made a move.”

     “How was I supposed to know she felt the same way anyways?”

     Alex looked stunned, “Really?”

     Kara was slightly taken aback, “Yeah. I had no idea.”

     “Kara, she bought an entire company for you.” 

     “No, she was saving Catco from Morgan Edge,” Kara stated matter-of-factly. 

     “That was totally a coverup. No way she didn’t buy it for you.”

     “I mean maybe…” Kara looked back out of her window, watching the trees pass by. 

     “But enough of what happened a few years ago, I need to know what happened at your apartment.”

     “Well you don’t need to know,” Kara started, knowing that Alex’s stubbornness would eventually prevail in the end. 

     “Yeah, I mean leave out all the things I don’t want to hear about, but like what happened?”

     “Nothing!” Kara raised her hands up defensively before lowering them with a sigh, “Okay, maybe we kissed a little.”

     “A little?” Alex raised an eyebrow.

     “Okay, maybe a lot,” Kara failed to surprise a smile as her face reddened once more. Heat filled her cheeks as Alex giggled next to her. 

     “Would you do it again?” Alex asked. 

     “What?” 

     “I mean, would you kiss her again? Or was this a one time thing for you?” Alex’s face took on a more serious expression. 

     “I guess…I mean I enjoyed it…yeah,” Kara sputtered out sheepishly. 

     Alex laughed, “Okay, cool. Cool. And don’t worry, I’ll keep it on the down-low until you tell me otherwise.”

     Kara’s eyes stoned over serious towards Alex, “That includes Kelly.”

     “Sorry, we’re a secret package deal. Plus, she’s a therapist, she’s great at keeping secrets.”

     “Fine,” Kara pouted, “But nobody else. Not even Eliza.”

     “Secret’s safe with me,” Alex beamed once more as the car drove down a bumpy dirt road. Alex made a soft left leading into a familiar driveway. They had finally made it to their old home in Midvale. 

     Alex parked the car, shifting the gear shift unnecessarily hard. Kara immediately got up and headed inside. The door had thankfully been left unlocked, so the kryptonian strolled into the home with ease. She was immediately greeted by her adoptive mother, who enveloped her in a hug, “Oh, Kara. I’ve missed you so much.”

     “I missed you too,” Kara took a step out of the embrace and smiled warmly at Eliza. 

     “Where’s your sister?” Eliza craned her neck towards the door, “I thought she came with you?” 

     “She should have been right behind me…” Kara looked behind her to be greeted with the front door being slowly opened. It inched open bit by bit before Kara walked over and pulled it open. 

     Alex fumbled into the house, two suitcases in hand, “Really could have used some super strength here.”

     “Sorry,” Kara suppressed a laugh, “I didn’t know we had luggage.”

     “Of course we have luggage, how else would we have clothes?” Alex grunted, “Hi, Mom.”

     “Hello, Sweetie,” Eliza walked over to Alex, cupping her face and laying a soft kiss on her cheek. 

     “So how long are you two staying?” Eliza grinned ear to ear. 

     “No idea,” Alex said. Kara used her x-ray vision to see Alex’s eyes through her sunglasses, eyes that were looking directly at her. 

     “What? You don’t know?” Kara was shocked.

     “No. I mean probably like a week tops, but I’m not completely sure how long we’ll need to be here,” Alex grunted, lifting up the suitcases again, “I’m going to take these upstairs.”

     “Are you sure you don’t want me to do that?” Kara questioned as Alex waddled away with the suitcases.

     Alex shouted, “I’ve made it this far on my own, I think I can make it upstairs.”

     Eliza and Kara giggled amongst themselves as they watched Alex slowly make her way up the stairs with the suitcases. 

     “God, she’s so stubborn,” Eliza laughed.

     “Yeah,” Kara breathed out, finally able to contain her laughter.

     Eliza’s face softened as she took Kara’s hands, “How are you? Really?”

     Kara sighed, looking back at the staircase to make sure Alex wasn’t near, “I don’t know.”

     “Are you okay?” Eliza squeezed Kara’s palms.

     “I…” Kara started, “It depends on the day.”

     “And what kind of day is today?” 

     “A not okay day,” Kara let out a nervous laugh, “I mean the ride here was nice but before that I thought I was going to go crazy in the medbay.”

     “Well you’re here now and you have me. You know you can tell me anything, right?” Eliza softly looked at Kara.

     “Yeah, yeah I do,” Kara breathed out, “It’s just, it’s a lot.”

     “I know, Sweetie, I know,” Eliza enveloped Kara into another hug. 

     “I’m getting better, I swear,” Kara muttered over Eliza’s shoulder, “It’s just so much.”

     “But it’s going to be okay,” Eliza ran a hand through Kara’s short hair, “This haircut looks good on you.”

     Kara chuckled lightly, “Thanks.”

     “Whatever happened to you or whatever happens in the future, I’ll always be here,” Eliza said softly. 

     “I know,” The kryptonian quietly said as she nodded into her adoptive mother’s shoulder. 

     “Okay,” Eliza backed out of the embrace, though keeping her hands firmly on Kara’s shoulders, “It’s your turn to help with dinner.”

     Kara playfully groaned, “Didn’t I help the last time Alex and I came over?”

     Eliza giggled, “Yes, but Alex has definitely done her share the past few visits.”

     With a roll of eyes accompanied with a smile, Kara walked over to the kitchen. Eliza pointed to a recipe from a cookbook she had, and the kryptonian sped through it. Kara ran swiftly throughout the kitchen, grabbing ingredients and cooking utensils as she went along. She mixed with speed and used her heat vision to quickly heat up the pans being used. Within five minutes she had a dozen pancakes stacked up on a plate, ready to be served. 

     “I’m surprised you wanted me to make pancakes of all things,” Kara put her hands on her hips, marveling at her crumby creation.

     “Well I know for a fact your sister didn’t eat breakfast today, and I figured she hadn’t given you any quality breakfast foods since you got back,” Eliza smiled warmly at her adoptive daughter.

     “You aren’t wrong. Normally she just grabs me a bagel or two from the coffee place next to the Tower. She did get a box of donuts the other day though…”

     Before Kara could start listing every breakfast she had had for the past month, Eliza spoke up, “Either way, who doesn’t love warm pancakes?”

     “Probably K’nolk,” Kara laughed to herself for a moment, picturing the brooding pink alien that was apart of her tribe in the Phantom Zone. 

     “Who?” 

     “Oh, uh,” Kara was taken aback by the normality of the thought, how it had come to her so clearly without any angst to back it up with, “He was a friend from the Phantom Zone.”

     While a bit of grief struck Kara, that was the best she had felt ever remembering a part of the Phantom Zone. Of course, thinking that filled her with guilt. The casual and fleeting thought of a being she got killed should have meant more to her. The more she sat on the thought the more nauseous she became. 

     “Honey, are you alright?” Eliza made eye contact with the kryptonian, her soft expression trying to reach her daughter. 

     “Yeah,” Kara swallowed, “I just…I forgot about him for a bit.”

     Kara’s stomach turned at the thought of just forgetting a member of her family. The people who had been there for her when she thought nobody else would, “I forgot about him.”

     “It’s okay, trauma can make your memory odd,” Eliza said, “things will come and go from your time away and you won’t have any control over it.”

     “But I can’t forget them,” Kara’s voice was small as she looked away from her adoptive mother.

     “I know, sweetie. But they’re gone now. You have to accept that.”

     “I’ve accepted that they’re gone,” Kara wiped a tear from her eye, “I just can’t accept that I’m not.”

     “Oh, baby,” Eliza gave Kara a tight squeeze, “We are all so happy you’re back. Maybe your friends here can help you get your friends from the Phantom Zone as well.”

     “No, no it’s not like that,” Kara stated as her adoptive mother let go of the embrace, “They aren’t…they’re dead.”

     “Kara, I’m so sorry.”

     “It’s okay. You didn’t know,” Kara looked into Eliza’s eyes, “They died because of me. They deserved to live, each and every one of them. And here I am, happy, about to eat pancakes with my family when they will never get to see their’s again. Don’t get me wrong, I know everybody gave up so much to bring me back, so I’m trying to be grateful, but Rao. I don’t deserve any of this.”

     “Of course you do, Kara,” Eliza cupped the kryptonian’s face in her hands, “You have saved countless lives. You might not have been able to save your friends in the Phantom Zone, but you can make up for that by saving the billions of people on Earth. You’ve been given a second chance to come here and save the world again. Don’t give up because you’ve failed before, let the strength of those lost fuel you into becoming a better version of you.”

     Kara sniffled as a few more tears escaped her eyes, “I don’t think I could ever be Supergirl again. Not after all the things I did in that suit…I can’t look at it the same way as I used to.”

     “Who says you have to go back to being Supergirl? You can become something else, something just as powerful and impactful. You could go by a completely different name, get a different suit. Completely start over.”

     “You think I could go back to saving people?” A soft smile came across Kara’s face. 

     “I think my daughter is very strong and capable and has a heart too big to stop helping people. No matter how down she might be, she always comes back up to do the right thing. She may have a bunch of superpowers, but no matter how strong or fast she is, her biggest power will always be her heart.

     “She’s my Power Girl.”

Chapter Text

     “Couldn’t sleep?” Alex stepped onto the porch, greeting Kara. The kryptonian stood wrapped in a white cardigan, sipping a steaming mug of hot cocoa as her pajama pants waved softly from the light breeze. 

     “No. You?” Kara stared ahead, eyes focused on the dawning sun. 

     “My sleep cycle is still shit,” Alex walked up to her sister, standing beside her, “What about you?”

     “Another nightmare,” Kara’s gaze remained on the large star.  

     “Sorry,” Alex leaned her back on the balcony rail, turning to face Kara, “What was it about?”

     “You remember that Kaznian clone?” 

     “Yeah.”

     “She killed me and took over my life,” Kara deadpanned as she took a sip from her mug.

     “Was that a new one?” Alex raised an eyebrow.

     “Surprisingly, no. I had it a few times in the Phantom Zone, just it was more real there.”

     “In what way?” Alex inquired, eyes wide with curiosity, “I mean, if you don’t mind saying.”

     “The Phantom nightmares were just more lucid. I had more control there than in my dreams here. In the Phantom nightmares I was a spirit, I could feel that. Last night it just felt like I was watching a movie.”

     “That’s good right, that you can tell the difference?” Alex straightened her shoulders.

     “Yeah, I guess so,” the ends of Kara’s mouth curved up slightly. 

     “That’s good,” Alex looked down and then back to Kara, “Thanks for telling me.”

     “It’s nothing, really.”

     “No, it’s not nothing. It means you’re getting better. This is the first time you’ve ever talked to me about what happened to you in the Phantom Zone. Ever.”

     Kara’s eyes glossed over as her stare towards the sun hardened. Her small smile disappeared into an emotional flatline, taking away any previous joy from her, “I didn’t realize that.”

     “I mean, it doesn’t have to be important if you don’t need it to be,” Alex started to ramble. 

     “No, no I just-,” Kara started then stopped for a moment, regaining her composure, “I just didn’t realize how long I had been holding it in.”

     “Well nothing like an ole’ Danver’s family reunion to get the heart bursting,” Alex said in an overly sappy tone.

     After a brief silence from Kara’s end, Alex continued, “I totally stole your idea from when Maggie and I broke off our engagement. It worked for me, figured it might help you.”

     Kara’s eyes watered, “I’m not doing as bad as you think I am.”

     “Probably not, but I know you were about to start scratching the walls of the medbay if you weren’t let out soon,” Alex smirked. 

     The kryptonian chuckled, “Yeah. It was smart of you to have J’onn out there for me to find. Really threw me off my escape game.”

     Alex playfully shrugged, “What can I say? I’m literally a genius.”

     The sisters laughed in the dawn’s light before another silence fell upon them.

     This time, Kara was the first to break it, “Alex, you would never think of me differently, would you?” 

     Alex thought for a moment, trying to figure out what on Earth Kara could be talking about, “Being with Lena? Of course not. I’m literally gay.”

     “That’s not what I meant,” Kara looked to the wooden floor of the patio. 

     “Then what do you mean?” Alex inquired, curious as to what her sister could possibly be referring to.

     “I just…” Kara swallowed, “There are things that I’ve done that I haven’t told you about. Things I did to survive.”

     “Kara…”

     “No, let me finish,” The kryptonian interrupted, “I killed people, Alex. Innocent people who were just trying to survive like I was.”

     Alex gave a sympathetic gaze to Kara, “Why?”

     “To take their supplies. We needed them for our wounds,” Kara muttered.

     “We?”

     “The tribe I was with. There were a lot of us who were injured and we needed clothes to use for bandages. People wear clothes, so we killed them and stripped them of their clothes. Sometimes their hair or fur if there was enough of it.”

     “That last part was a little gross.”

     “All of it was.”

     “But you feel remorse for these people?” 

     “Of course I do. In the moment I was justifying it. People would bleed out to death if they didn’t get their bandages. Now, though…maybe we could have just asked them for their help.”

     “Kara, you were in an impossible situation. Whatever you did in the Phantom Zone was done with the intention to survive. Simple as that. Plus, you obviously feel remorse towards it. I’m not saying it’s the best thing you could have done, but I can understand.”

     “You can?”

     “Of course. And whatever you did won’t change how much I love you. You’re my sister, you’re stuck with me forever.”

     Kara laughed, “I should have known you hadn’t given up on finding me. You’re too stubborn to let me go.”

     “Fuck yeah I was. Kelly almost had to sedate me just to get me to go home and sleep. I didn’t travel to the Phantom Zone and back just so I can ditch you over what happened in there. Even if you came back batshit crazy, I would never give up on you.”

     “Alex,” Kara said softly, “Thank you.”

Chapter Text

     “So? Got any plans when we get back?” Alex turned the steering wheel sharply, barely missing a truck on the highway. 

     “You mean if we get back. You are going to kill us on this highway,” Kara held on tightly to her seat. 

     “Oh please, you do not get to say anything about my driving. You almost killed us that one time trying not to hit a possum!” 

     “That possum came from nowhere!” Kara defended herself with a laugh.

     “I definitely warned you about it, but you were too busy singing to Britney Spears to listen to me.”

     “I have super hearing, Alex. I would have heard you.”

     “But you were focusing on Britney!” 

     The two sisters continued their Britney banter as they made it to National City. Alex swerved into the garage, accompanied by a horrific shriek from Kara. 

     Lena ran into the garage to see what the commotion was and sighed as the two sisters stepped out of the car. Alex stood triumphantly, confident in her awesome driving skills. Kara, on the other hand, stumbled out of the passenger’s side, looking like she was about to hurl. 

     “What happened to you two?” Lena raised an eyebrow in concern.

     “Despite having superpowers, Kara can’t handle a bit of wild driving,” Alex stated as she headed for the trunk. 

     “You’ve gotten too used to driving emergency vehicles,” Kara said as she composed herself. She made her way over to Lena, “Hey.”

     Lena looked down, “Kara, before you say anything, I just want you to know that I never meant to make you feel trapped. I just wanted you to get better so that when you left things would be different than last time.”

     Kara’s posture relaxed, “It’s okay, Lena. I probably should have voiced my feelings better. Especially right before I left.”

     “Possibly,” Lena looked into Kara’s eyes, “Kara, I just don’t want you to get hurt again. Seeing what happened the last time you left…it scares me to think that it could happen again if you were alone.”

     “I completely understand, Lena,” The kryptonian grabbed Lena’s hands and held them gently, “And I’m grateful that you’re worried, it means a lot that you care.”

     “Of course I care, Kara. You’re important to me,” Lena smiled softly. 

     “And you’re important to me too,” Kara smiled back at the Luthor. The two stared at each other in silence for a few moments. 

     Then Alex barreled past them with her and her sister’s luggage, “Get a room already.”

     The two nervously laughed before Kara lit up, “I think I just thought of a way to solve both of our problems.”

     “Oh do tell,” Lena smiled.

     “Well, I want to get out of here, and you don’t want me to be alone…I know a place that’s outside of here where we can be together," Kara gave Lena's hands a squeeze as her grin grew.

     Lena smirked, “Kara Danvers, are you suggesting we move in together?” 

     “Maybe,” the kryptonian leaned onto her heels, “If you don’t mind the company.”

     “I don’t mind as long as it’s you,” Lena leaned in and kissed Kara. 

     As their lips parted Kara spoke once more, “I have one more favor.”

     “Anything.”

     “I need some changes to my suit.”

Chapter Text

     The heroine hovered in the air, her large red cape flowing in the wind. The sun reflected off of two round gold plates that held the cape in place, connected to each other with a golden chain. The chain laid atop white spandex, no crest to be found. The hero slowly descended down towards the familiar balcony, her white knee-high boots slowly landing on the ground. 

     Her legs, wrapped in blue spandex, moved slowly as she approached the sliding glass door. Her cape had fallen into its resting place around her shoulders, covering the blue sleeves on her shoulder. Her forearms were covered in white, with blue inching through it at her fingers, ended at the start of her palms. A red belt tightly held itself to her waist, it’s gold accent lining the top of it. The heroine’s short hair slowly rose and fell with the winter’s breeze. 

     She opened the door, being greeted with a white apartment. She stepped in. Nobody was there. She couldn’t pick up on anybody with her super hearing or vision. She strained her ears, listening for her lover’s heartbeat. She picked up on it and flew as fast as she could.

     She reached the Tower with relative ease, rushing in from its balcony and to the lab. There she was greeted with long dark hair and the most beautiful eyes she’d ever seen, “Lena, there you are.”

     “Kara! I was wondering when you would show up. How’s the suit?” Lena lit up at the sight of Kara in her newest super suit.

     “It’s perfect. I love it,” Kara strode towards Lena and gave her a passionate kiss. 

     As their lips parted Lena started, “So when do you think you’ll be saving...” 

     Kara cut Lena off, “Soon.”

     “As Supergirl?” Lena asked.

     “No, I can’t go back to being Supergirl. It’s not the same anymore,” Kara looked into Lena’s eyes, “I can go back to saving people, I can be a hero again, but the things I did as Supergirl…even if nobody else will know what happened in the Phantom Zone, I can’t wear that crest again. It would be a disrespect for the place I put my father.”

     “I was wondering why you didn’t want the crest on your suit,” Lena frowned slightly, “But there’s always room for it if you change your mind.”

     Kara muttered, “Maybe someday, but not now.”

     Lena swallowed as the energy built between them, “So if you’re not saving people as Supergirl, who are you going to be?”

     “I got an idea when I was back in Midvale.”

     “And that is?” Lena’s eyes lit up with anticipation.

     “Power Girl,” Kara whispered as she leaned in for another kiss.