hey anon, I appreciate you
“Villain,” she muttered to herself as she put the car in park and got out of the driver’s seat, slamming the door shut. “I’ll show you villain,” she continued mutinously, stalking over to the only building for miles.
“Uh, Lena, don’t you think maybe you should—”
“—I should what?” Lena demanded, not pausing for a moment. She pushed the door to the building open, using a little more force than strictly necessary, and stepped inside. Instantly, she coughed at the dust, looking around at the ramshackled cottage with a little bit of distaste. “I thought it would be…more homely,” she said, all her anger dissipating at the sight of her new residence for the foreseeable future.
“You bought an abandoned cottage in the middle of nowhere and you thought it would be homely?”
“It’s not the middle of nowhere,” Lena said immediately, defensive. “This is the countryside. It’s in the country.” She sounded weak to her own ears, and she knew her stalker had noticed, because she let out a soft sigh, coming up behind Lena and reaching out—almost as if she wanted to touch Lena’s shoulder.
“Lena, come on,” she said, in her annoying soft voice, “I know you’re upset, but come back home.”
“Home? Anywhere you are is not home,” Lena spat, turning to glare at her stalker. “Why don’t you just leave me alone? You’ve made yourself perfectly clear. I’m done with Lex, I’m done with you, I’m done with it all.” She gestured wildly at the dilapidated cottage. “I’m having an early retirement.”
But Lena was unwilling to listen.
“Leave,” she hissed, eyes narrowed, shoving her stalker in the chest when she didn’t immediately move. It was like pushing at a boulder. “I said go, Kara!”
And finally, with slumped shoulders and a sad sigh, Kara listened.
She noticed Kara skulking about not a week later.
Lena had bicycled down to the nearest town, enjoying the excellent weather as she rode, her thoughts on her list of things she needed from the market. There were supplies she needed to order as she continued to work on her cottage, but there were also some in-season fruits she waited all week for, still excited at the prospect of freshly picked berries.
(Not for the first time, she wished her own garden was further along, and that growing things wasn’t so…slow.)
Kara was at the market.
She wasn’t being sneaky. Not really. She was ambling about, charming the locals with her bright smile and excited questions, blushing profusely when a little girl accused her of looking familiar, almost like Supergirl. (“Pffft,” Kara had said loudly, her voice unintentionally carrying over to Lena as she tried to hide her awkwardness and failed, “that’s a strange thing—what an interesting—what would she even be doing…nooo, I look like me. Just like me.”) She clearly wasn’t attempting to hide her presence from Lena, but Lena—who remembered quite clearly telling Kara to leave—was annoyed.
So she settled on ignoring Kara’s presence entirely.
It worked, for the most part. She did find her eyes straying at one point, when Kara was busy with a little boy, her eyes screwed up in concentration, her tongue sticking out, as she attempted to fix whatever toy she’d accidentally stepped on while failing miserably at following Lena covertly.
(It wasn’t until much later, when Lena was fixing herself dinner back at her more rugged than ramshackled cottage, that she wondered if Kara had done it all on purpose. The following loudly from a distance, never approaching, never making actual contact.
To suggest her friendship and presence would go nowhere, while also respecting Lena’s boundaries—making it quite clear she would not approach unless Lena initiated the contact.
It made Lena roll her eyes, a traitorous smile tugging at her lips.)
In her third week of solitude, Lena woke up one morning to letters.
A large stack, resting innocently behind her door, held together by a waxy piece of string she recognized from the town’s bookstore. Lena looked up and around her property, but she saw no sign of blue and red, so she bit her lip and picked up the letters.
It took her another whole day before she was mentally ready to open them.
They were from everyone—or, for the most part, that was. Letters from Nia, from Brainy, from Alex and Kelly (the way that letter was worded making Lena think it was written by Kelly), even a letter from J’onn. They were apologies, pleas for her to return, admissions of fault and guilt, and one (clearly written by Alex alone, without Kelly’s soft touch) that brought up all Lena had done and how that was painful too. Nia had given updates about National City, Brainy talked about some ideas he had for some of Lena’s R&D projects—abandoned, she supposed, now that she was here and Lex was still back in National City—and J’onn wrote about heroes and M’gann, and those who managed to buck what everyone expected them to be, just to be who they actually were.
The absence of Kara, in any of it, was glaring. No mentions of Kara (or Supergirl) in the letters, none of them written in Kara’s neat, loopy hand, not even a whiff of anything to do with the reporter, even though she was the only one who could’ve brought all these unmarked letters to her doorstep.
For whatever reason, it made Lena angry. She had been stalked and followed, Kara popping into town every time she happened to be there, but she couldn’t get a single, measly letter?
Well, she would show Kara, she thought to herself as she folded all the letters back up and shoved them in the envelopes. She would show her.
“You,” she told Kara unceremoniously in the middle of town—in the market, right in front of a stand full of cabbages—eyeing her former best friend with as much heat as she could muster (which, well, wasn’t much), “are such an idiot.”
And then she left.
It took a few days, but the next time she saw Kara, it wasn’t as she hid behind locals and pretended to be endlessly interested in fresh vegetables. It was outside her door, moments after a soft knock.
“Hi,” Kara said, not quite meeting Lena’s eyes. “I brought you some things I thought you might miss from National City.” (An enormous bag was at her feet, full of what looked to be books, some tech Lena had been tinkering with in her spare time and had left in her apartment, photos and the like, and even takeout from Big Belly Burger.)
“Right,” Lena said slowly, letting out a breath. “Thanks.”
(If Kara expected to be invited in and was surprised when she wasn’t, she didn’t show it. If anything, she looked pleased at the two words Lena did speak.)
“Right, well. I’d best be off. Alex is making me spend time with her and Kelly. She says I’ve been distant lately and she doesn’t like what it’s been doing to our work relationship. By which I think she just misses me, but doesn’t want to admit it,” Kara rambled, taking several steps back as she spoke. (Lena missed that, she realized suddenly. She missed Kara’s stupid quirks, her soft voice. No matter how tainted their friendship now was, she still missed her best friend.)
Kara’s fingers had reached up to her glasses when Lena found her voice.
“How did you find me?” she asked, swallowing a little bit, wanting to hide just how much she wanted the answer to this question. “I took so many precautions, to make sure Lex couldn’t track me. New bank accounts, buying this cottage in another name….” She trailed off, suggesting all the work she’d put into finding this cottage without anyone knowing. “So what did I miss? And why hasn’t Lex been here yet?”
It was a mildly suggestive question—what did you do, she wanted to ask, but didn’t. What did you do that made Lex not find the same thing that led you here? What did you do to Lex?
“I didn’t find you because of a paper trail, Lena,” Kara said, her tone changing so much that Lena felt her heart pound harder and faster in response. “I don’t think you made any mistakes.”
“So how did you find me? You were at the cottage the same time I was. How?”
For a moment, it didn’t look like Kara would respond. But then:
“When I’m overwhelmed, especially by noise, I latch onto things that are familiar and comforting to me,” she explained slowly, shaking her head when Lena tried to interrupt. “I listen for Alex’s voice, Nia’s snores, and um,” she paused, her cheeks flaming, “your heartbeat.” She fiddled with her fingers, not meeting Lena’s eyes anymore. “Since we, well—I’d been listening to it more often. And then one day it was gone from National City, and I panicked, so I started searching for it…and found you while you were on your way here.”
“You found me by my heartbeat?” Lena asked, incredulous.
“It’s one of my favorite sounds,” Kara said, clearly without thinking, her hands nearly flying to her mouth and her eyes widening in panic. (And Lena’s traitorous heart pounded harder and harder in response, as if crying out for Kara to hear it.) “Lena,” Kara continued after a long moment, “are you planning on staying here?”
(Lena wondered what this was. A question for a question? Answer for an answer?
Or was it what it actually sounded like? Kara, her former best friend, longing to have Lena come back.)
“I don’t know,” Lena answered honestly. “There’s nothing for me to go back for.” She managed to leave off the yet, but just barely. Oddly, Kara didn’t seem to notice, if her crestfallen expression was anything to go by.
“Okay,” she said, nodding curtly. “I understand. I’ll leave you, uh, to it then.”
“I could use company. Sometimes. If you’re free,” Lena blurted as Kara bent at the knees and one hand went up to her glasses. “It would be…nice, I think.”
And Kara’s blinding smile was answer enough for Lena’s unasked question.
“How are you all managing without me there, anyway?” Lena asked some weeks later, somewhat used to their new give and take, somewhat used to Kara’s presence in her small cottage, feeling safe enough to ask and her curiosity finally getting the best of her.
Kara didn’t even look up from the recipe she was trying to work out, biting her lip as she leaned closer to the book, her forehead resting on the page, as if she hoped she’d learn how to cook through the power of osmosis.
“Not great,” she answered honestly, not looking up. “But that’s to be expected.”
“What does that mean?”
Kara pulled away from the book, eyeing Lena oddly, as if she was missing something obvious. “It’s crazy that you don’t see how important you are to m—us.”
Lena didn’t comment on Kara’s slip, nor did she allow herself to think about how it was her personally that mattered, and not her contributions, in Kara’s mind.
At least, she didn’t allow herself to think about it too much.
“Sometimes I get bored out here,” Lena admitted.
“I could bring you more things to do. More of your projects, more books?”
“That’s not it,” Lena sighed, pushing a cup of tea Kara’s way. Her cottage was homely now. Full of light and flowers and smelling of freshly baked cookies. She wondered why it didn’t feel like home unless she was sharing it with someone else. “I supposed I’m jealous. Of you and the others,” she clarified at Kara’s curious look. “Game nights and lunch and all that? I miss it.”
“Oh. Well, you’re not missing much.”
“We haven’t done any of that since you left. It’s not the same without you.”
“Why do you keep coming back?” Lena asked one day, months down the line. Kara was helping in the garden, mud drying on her forehead where she wiped at it with the back of her hand. “Surely there’s something else you’d rather do. What about that guy, the one who asked you out?”
“Who?” Kara answered absentmindedly, tugging on a stubborn weed. “Ohh,” she continued, laughing a little as it finally clicked and she used a bit of her super strength, the weed flying out of the ground. “I always forget about him. Is that terrible?”
“Kara,” Lena admonished, waiting for an answer to her actual question.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Kara admitted, leaning back so that she was sitting on her heels, turning to face Lena with a frown. “This is where I want to be.”
“Are you just here to convince me to come back?” Lena asked, several hours later, when the two of them were at her small table, having dinner. “Is that it?” (Fear made her ask. Anxiety made her ask. Curiosity made her ask. But also…well, hope made her ask.)
Kara was silent for a long moment, then she let out a deep breath. “I think, in the beginning. Yes. I kept coming because I wanted you to come home with me.”
“Now, I just want you to be happy. Wherever that is.”
Lena nodded, looking away from Kara after a moment. “National City was never my home,” she said, unsure why she said it, why she didn’t explain when Kara’s face fell but nodded knowingly.
“I get it,” she said, tone sad, but eyes flaming with promise. “I’m glad you made a home here. And I’ll keep you company as long as you’ll have me.”
No, you missed the point, Lena wanted to say. This cottage wasn’t her home either.
She didn’t worry when Kara didn’t visit for a week. She didn’t even worry when it stretched out for two. There was always something going on in the world, and she knew she couldn’t monopolize Kara’s time. But when two weeks stretched into a third, Lena knew something was wrong.
It was confirmed the moment she entered town, and walked into the nearest pub, seeing nearly half the townsfolk in there, all of them watching the television screen intently. Lena followed their gaze, and immediately, her heart sank at the breaking news playing out on the screen:
Supergirl still missing, traces of kryptonite at last spot she was seen
Lena turned around and rushed to her cottage, biking furiously, grabbing everything she needed for a trip back to National City.
Back to Kara.
After days of furious work, helping Alex and Brainy, allowing Nia to bully her into a nap, sighing in resignation when Kelly mediated an awkward hug between herself and Alex, and avoiding J’onn’s knowing gazes, Kara finally woke up.
She was still groggy, but a smile immediately tugged on her lips the moment her eyes fell on Lena.
“Am I dreaming,” she asked, holding her hand out for Lena to take, seemingly shocked when Lena actually took it, “or are you actually here with me?”
“I had to come back home,” Lena whispered, heart thudding in her chest. Kara’s eyes shut, even as her smile grew wider, and Lena knew she understood.
National City was never her home. Neither was that cottage.
(And from the way Lena’s heart pounded when Kara’s fingers intertwined with Lena’s, well, she didn’t think that would change anytime soon.)