It’s a day of nonstop drizzle in London, not unlike many other days. Flavored by a seamless white sky and grey, swirling mist near the hot grates of the street, it’s briskly cold. But Kara doesn’t quite take note of that, not today. She’s flush with excitement about visiting Lena at her laboratory. She has Streaky in tow, mewling impatiently in his (well her, according to Lena) cat carrier. Kara’s umbrella doesn’t cover the both of them, so she’s used magic to propel the rain away. It garners a few confused looks from passing muggles, but it’s a short trip. She’s not too preoccupied with getting caught or receiving a citation from the Department of Magical Secrecy.
Instead, Kara winds through the busy streets, ducking away from any muggles who loiter too closely. Streaky’s yellow eyes peer curiously out at the brightly lit shop fronts and display glasses filled with jewelry and clothing. He (she) rears back, however, when Kara’s galoshes impact the brimming rain puddles with too much enthusiasm.
After a few more minutes of navigation, Kara turns down a dingy looking alley, bounding wetly through the street. She peers around again, checking over her shoulder before she makes another surreptitious turn.
At 38 Tallis St., Kara pauses in front of a dilapidated computer repair shop with a faded, peeling sign that reads, Thorul Computer Supplies.
It makes Kara smile.
Every other business on the street is shuttered, plywood framed over the windows, and this one hardly fares much better. In the display case there are dusty computers with thick, plastic ‘brains’ (that’s what her father had called them) and tiny screens, relics of the 1980s. Surrounding those are floppy disks, beepers, and old telephones with punch number keys.
They’re so big, Kara thinks as a spider skitters across the felt and hides behind an old fax machine. They’re much larger than whatever the muggles hold squinting to their faces now.
She shrugs, reaching for the keys, heavy in her right pocket. Kara doesn’t come here often, but it is the quickest entrance to Lena’s lab from her flat. Also, it mercifully allows her to avoid the prying eyes in the L-Corp atrium. There’s perennially a cloaked, over eager Daily Prophet reporter haunting the café by the golden elevators, ready to pounce. There’s often a gaggle of protesters at the front, too, shouting whatever discriminatory take of the week there is to dish about Lena Luthor.
It’s unpleasant. Kara never knows what they’re so angry about. L-Corp is a beacon for good now. Boredom, it must be.
Kara sets one thick, silver key to the lock, the rest jangling below her hand. When she turns, it’s a satisfying sound, that kind that resounds fully down the otherwise empty street. Kara doesn’t idle to enjoy it, however, she meticulously locks the door back and checks on the protective enchantments surrounding the property with a wave of her wand (she’s finally getting them down nonverbally). Everything seems fine.
So, she passes across the shop floor and stands in front of an old looking photo booth, clearly made shabby from years of disuse. Pulling back the moth-eaten curtain, she sits down inside, Streaky’s cage balanced in her lap.
“Hello,” she says to no one, it seems.
She pops one bronze Wizarding knut into the money receptacle and waits for the machine to whir to life, a parade of pixelated instructions informing Kara to smile for a quick flashing photo. She does, brilliantly, and the screen displays the image back to her. The image doesn’t move, frozen in time.
“Welcome, Kara Danvers,” a lovely, disembodied voice greets her. “Destination?”
“Access granted, going down.”
The photo booth shakes suddenly with a rumble, and Streaky howls in question.
“It’s okay,” Kara coos through the mesh siding, pressing her fingers close so that Streaky can push his/her head against them, ruffling.
It’s not long, though. They come to an abrupt stop, and Kara pulls open the curtain again.
On the busy lab floor, no one marks Kara’s entrance. There are witches and wizards rushing by in bright white smocks, some sporting explosive blackened soot marks and others with fabric shriveled away to the elbow from some unstable compound, Kara is sure. They come and go from experimental, magically sealed rooms, both large and small and stocked with strange equipment. As Kara searches for Lena, plumes of dark, black smoke emanate from one of the rooms. A loud, monstrous roar issues from another. That door gets slammed before she can see any more, a woman scolding a nearby attendant.
“Damn it, Fletcher, you need to keep the Maladorian Dendraosp fed!”
It’s just passed working hours, and a Saturday no less, but this could be considered a quieter evening. As Kara walks by, there are still a handful of employees scribbling away on parchment and clipboards with their L-Corp signature feathered, black quills, but Kara’s seen it much busier.
Innovation never sleeps, L-Corp’s motto glitters across the grand entry to Lena’s personal lab, engraved into the black marble. It really doesn’t, not for Lena at least.
Between nanobots, polyjuice potion face distorting image inducers, magical cures, Apparition transmat portals, security breakers, and an armor that can protect Kara from kryptonite (what Lena has taken to calling it), Lena’s been busy. She’s even joined the Wizengamot as its youngest member, and sometimes Kara feels wholly unaccomplished standing next to her, even if it’s only in line at the deli. Her girlfriend is incredible.
Girlfriend, Kara preens.
Just past the inscription on the wall, she spots Lena standing near a laboratory table, dragonhide gloved hands handling something that looks remarkably like a cave stalactite. Next to her is a device that hums, soft and lazy. Lately, Lena has been testing new materials from Sam, who she’d stationed at the Department of Mysteries.
Well, she had been stationed there.
Kara frowns at the thought, but right then, Lena looks up from the dusty grey rock.
“Good morning,” she greets with a shy smile she always reserves just for Kara.
Kara crosses the large, open room and places Streaky’s carrier on the table top next to Lena.
“It’s 6 PM,” she replies with returning warmth.
“Oh,” Lena quiets as Kara kisses her cheek. Lena always smells fresh like Kara’s rooftop lavender. Albeit, today she smells a little riper.
“Have you been here all night?”
“Maybe,” Lena admits, and Kara gives her an aggrieved frown.
“I wanted to be prepared,” Lena’s eyes drop to Streaky, who meows inside the carrier, offended at having been forgotten. “I know how important this is to you.”
Kara smiles, but Streaky interrupts, meowing again.
“Yeah, yeah,” Kara answers the cat with a good natured eyeroll, unzipping the front of the cage. Streaky bursts free, immediately taking stock of the surroundings and smelling every single thing on Lena’s desk.
“Is that the new model?” Kara gestures to the sneakoscope next to Lena. Streaky seems to deem it entirely uninteresting.
“Yes,” Lena sighs, looking at it. “Still the bread and butter of L-Corp.”
Kara can sense the bittersweet nature of the statement. After Lex’s escape and subsequent capture, business has been booming in the defense against the dark arts department. Witches and wizards seem to take it as irrefutable proof that L-Corp products work.
“Still adjusting to he being a she, to be honest,” Kara scratches at her temple.
“You’ll get used to it,” Lena’s expression softens. “That’s probably the only thing we know for a fact about her.”
Streaky pushes at Lena’s hand, forcing her to reach around and scratch between the ears.
When Lena had begun visiting Kara regularly at she and Alex’s flat, Streaky and Lena had been quickly reacquainted. Still fond of each other from their school years and playing chess in the kitchens, the pair often snuggled together while Kara prepared dinner. One evening, Lena had called out from the sofa,
“Your cat is a she, you know.”
“What? No, he isn’t,” Alex had balked from the kitchen island, mouth full of tart pudding. “He’s too big.”
“Yes, she is,” Lena reasserted. “And I don’t think she’s a cat.”
“You’re mad,” Alex had rolled her eyes, but Kara had listened. Lena was the smartest person she knew, after all, and she wasn’t about to ignore any observations, no matter how outlandish or off the cuff. So, they agreed to perform a few tests on Streaky, most of which were aimed at breaking spells or curses.
“What do you think Streaky is?” Kara asks for the one hundredth time.
“Oh, anything is possible,” Lena murmurs, positioning Streaky on the table, wand flicking this way and that. “But she’s fairly old at this point, or should be, and she looks the same as I remember her at Hogwarts.”
Streaky does look the same, Kara notes. Same thick coat of dark orange fur, same white streak on her head. Streaky bats at one of Lena’s feathered quills until it falls off the table.
“I’m just hoping it’s not some kind of blood curse.”
“A blood curse?”
“Yes, nasty,” Lena confirms. “Streaky could be human.”
With a flourish, Lena attempts another spell, whispering quickly under her breath, but it appears to take no affect. Streaky purrs comfortably.
“Is anyone in your family an animagus? I didn’t see any registered, but thought I would ask.”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Lena shrugs, squeezing Kara’s arm. “Can she stay here?”
Kara nods, hoping Streaky’s smart enough to avoid the room with the Dendraosp. Streaky hops off the table, seeming to interpret she’s been dismissed, and begins inspecting Lena’s bookshelf with interest.
Kara turns back to Lena.
“I’ve missed you,” she takes her hand, pulling her close once more.
At the contact, Lena exhales audibly, she always does when she’s around Kara. It’s a relaxed movement performed with her entire body. Even with dark circles under her eyes and weary limbs, she always comes to life when they touch. When Kara leans down to kiss her again, Lena kisses back languorously.
But after a moment, Kara pulls away.
“You know,” she smiles teasingly. “You kind of taste like old tea.”
“That sounds attractive,” Lena giggles, covering her mouth. She points to an abandoned cup on the other side of the table. “I think that’s congealed.”
Kara makes a yuck face and goes around the table to pitch it into the bin.
“Have you heard anything new about Lex?” she tries to ask conversationally. It’s still a tense topic.
Lena’s face darkens.
“Still at Azkaban awaiting trial for this newest litany of crimes,” Lena drums her fingers on the table. “I’m not sure how many consecutive life sentences a person can be given. He’s lucky to have been spared the Dementor’s Kiss.”
“I’m sure they’d still be willing.”
“I don’t doubt that’s true.” Lena smiles again, but it doesn’t reach her eyes. It makes her look more tired than before, somehow, and Kara pauses before her next question.
“Has he tried to contact you?”
Lena looks down at her hands.
“I wouldn’t get it if he did, my security measures are too—” she waves her hand. “So, I’m not really sure. It’s always been hard to tell who’s on the Lex Luthor payroll. Someone could jump out and give me a ‘message’ at any moment.”
Kara takes two steps forward, circles her arms protectively around Lena’s waist.
“You’ve got me this time.”
“True,” Lena kisses her nose, her green eyes sharp. She glances away.
“But sometimes I think it’s only a matter of time until he breaks out again. Sometimes I wonder if Azkaban and the Aurors are even the best system for criminals.”
Kara knows this is a derogatory mention of Cal, even if not by name. Lena’s lab is blocked off in lead. She doesn’t trust Cal or the Ministry at all.
“I can’t say I disagree,” Kara squeezes her hips. With a smile, she attempts a change of tone. “Maybe I can round them all up. Shoot them into space.”
“Speaking of…” Lena lifts an eyebrow.
“No-no-no,” Kara backs away hands held high.
“Come on,” Lena beseeches. “Let’s try flying again.”
Kara whines, squeezing her eyes shut. They’ve practiced this a few times, but she’s never gotten more than a few inches from the ground. She’s tried to imagine feeling weightless, free, untethered, being the air or whatever but even then. It doesn’t quite work.
“Just relax,” Lena tells her, and Kara tries.
This time, she breathes in and out steadily, feels the contraction of each breath, and listens intently to her heartbeat. When she opens her eyes, she’s levitating a foot or so from the floor.
“Woah!” she exclaims, and then she goes crashing downwards, her rain coat flying over her head in a jumble of limbs.
Lena’s laughter is musical.
“You’re laughing!” Kara whips the coat off of her face and faux scowls.
“It was funny,” Lena hides her mouth behind a hand. “And that was way better. You’re making progress.”
Kara grumbles, and Streaky rubs consolingly at her leg.
“I jumped about that high when I was ambushed by a reporter in Diagon Alley last week,” Kara murmurs, dusting herself off.
Lena’s eyebrows raise in question.
“The Daily Prophet keeps trying to get an interview about you,” Kara explains. “It’s weird being on the other end of that.”
“They are inventive. Does it bother you?” Lena asks, chewing at her lip.
“It’s worth it,” she smiles, then there’s a tense second as she works up the nerve. “Have you told your mother yet?”
“Not exactly,” Lena answers, looking discomfited. “But I’m certain she’s guessed.”
They haven’t exactly been discrete in public. There have been plenty of photos, plenty of scandalously insinuating headlines in both the Daily Prophet and Witch Weekly. When Kara had asked her boss to tone it down, Cat Grant had simply smirked and said,
“We report the news, try not to be the news, Kiera.”
So, there was no way Lillian Luthor, an eagle sitting on high and watching all the comings and goings of her daughter’s company wasn’t aware.
“She doesn’t approve of me,” Kara laments.
She’d told Lena about attempting to visit L-Corp in their 7th year. Lena had been furious then, she still is now given the dark turn of her expression.
“She doesn’t know you,” Lena reaches out and squeezes Kara’s hand.
Kara broods for another moment, tracing the lines of Lena’s knuckles.
“Have you told Cal?”
“No, but like you said,” Kara breathes. “I’m sure it’s no secret at the Daily Prophet.”
Kara had told Lena early on of Cal’s alter ego, Clark Kent. She’d already guessed, of course. If Kara’s allowed a critique, a bumbling nature and a pair of glasses isn’t quite a world class disguise.
“What if,” Kara suddenly brims with excitement, “what if we all had dinner together? Got to know one another?”
Lena doesn’t look too enthused. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
Kara’s excitement dampens.
“Why not? It could be two birds with one stone.”
Lena withdraws back to the lab table, fiddles absently with another quill while her back is turned. Kara waits for a reply, but nothing comes.
“Is it because—” Kara starts, the old insecurity flaming. “You don’t want me to meet her? Are you ashamed of me?”
“No, no, of course not,” Lena turns back quickly, eyes imploring. “We’ve talked about that. That’s never been the case.”
“Then, what is it?”
“I just know the second I tell her,” Lena blurts in a rush. “She’ll be all over me. All over my so-called ‘image with the press.”
Kara understands, she does. She’s in no hurry herself to become best bosom buddies with Lillian either, but she and Lena have been together for nearly six months. She does wonder what the appropriate timetable is for officially meeting your girlfriend’s mother.
(Or re-meeting. The first introduction hadn’t been so great. Vomit was involved.)
“I’m just not ready for her to butt into our relationship,” Lena further explains. “I want you to myself for as long as I can have you, is that so wrong?”
“I just want,” Kara pauses, taking a moment to assess what it is she really wants. “I want our families to be united. For once. Stronger together.”
Lena’s shoulders sag, her face eloquent with despair.
“I think we need more time.”
Lena and Kara are still holdings hands on their way to the hospital the next morning. Their conversation from the lab is just a minor roadblock, Kara thinks. Just a small disagreement that sits in between them like a bad smell or an unconscious thought that worms its way into Kara’s subconscious that night. She’d dreamt of Lena flying away.
But Kara’s willing to wait. She knows family is a complicated subject, especially for the both of them.
The journey is quick, anyway, not allowing for much idle conversation. There’s very little foot traffic on the roads. When they arrive at a large, old fashioned yellow brick department store named Purge and Dowse Ltd., they give their names to the chipped dummies in the front glass. A faded sign hangs in the window reading, Closed for Refurbishment. The whole building looks very old and drabby, but like Lena’s lab St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries is hidden underground.
“We’re here to see Samantha Arias,” Lena whispers.
One of the dummies, wig askew, gives a small nod, and Lena and Kara disappear through the display glass. Inside, a crowded reception area awaits them. Witches and wizards sit on rickety wooden chairs, some with gruesome disfigurements, others making peculiar noises.
Kara easily spots the attendants in their characteristic lime green robes with a crossed wand and bone stitched to the chest.
“Ms. Luthor,” they are quickly received by one of the healers. “This way.”
Kara’s not surprised by the special treatment nor the cloudy looks of awe and admiration among the staff. There’s a whole wing named after Lena, the Lena Luthor Children’s Ward. It’s on the sixth floor and normally Lena stops by, but Kara’s not sure if they’ll make the effort today.
Instead, they follow through the double doors and along the narrow corridor beyond, lined with portraits of famous Healers. At the end of the hall, they take a left, past a plaque that reads,
Artefact Accidents……………………………………………………..Ground Floor
(Cauldron explosions, wand backfiring, broom crashes, etc.)
They pass by several rooms housing patients with gruesome burns and large casted limbs until they reach a blocky wooden door that bears the words HELGA JACE WARD: UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENON. Underneath this, there is a card in a brass holder on which had been handwritten Healer-in-Charge: Lauren Haley, Trainee Healer: Kelly Olsen.
The woman does a little bow before she departs, and they enter to find the Healer-in-Charge taking notes on a clipboard.
“Oh, good morning, Ms. Luthor,” Haley greets.
“You know you can call me Lena,” Lena politely reminds her.
The healer smiles fondly and hands Lena the clipboard.
“No change,” Lena frowns reading the nigh illegible script, but the woman only chuckles to herself.
“I always said you should’ve been a healer,” she states with a warm smile. Kara’s heard it several times before. “It’s not too late, you know. You’ve always got a position here if you like.”
The offer is hopeful, but Lena waves it away.
“You’re too kind.”
“Alright, alright,” Haley gracefully accepts the rejection, glancing at Kara. “I’ll leave you two alone.”
After Haley leaves, Lena places the clipboard absentmindedly on a side table and makes her way over to Sam.
The truth is, the hospital hadn’t known where to put Sam when she’d first been admitted, all but catatonic. Kara knows Lena doesn’t like the room, but she hadn’t wanted to draw attention to Sam’s condition; how it had happened, where it had happened. So, they’re hidden in this small ward with only one narrow window set high in the wall. Most of the light comes from the shining crystal baubles that drift near the ceiling, but at least she has privacy. Sam is the only patient occupying the bed in the middle of the room. Kara has surrounded her with plants, beautiful flowers that she uses her wand to refresh when they’ve wilted every few days, but Sam’s skin still looks pasty, her hair matted, her eyes closed.
Lena runs a hand over her head in a delicate caress.
“Oh, Sam,” she says.
It makes Kara’s heart clench, so she busies herself unpacking their lunch. After it’s arranged, she’s about to say something to Lena when Alex whirls into the room, looking harassed.
“Sorry, sorry,” she apologizes, throwing a black duffel bag onto the floor. “I was held up by a troll that had wandered into a muggle fish market.”
“We just got here,” Kara informs her with a weak smile.
“How is she?” Alex snaps up the chart. She doesn’t seem impressed with what she sees, casting it back down with a clatter. Ignoring the food, she takes her place on the other side of Sam, gripping her limp hand.
“This is so frustrating,” she growls.
“I know,” Lena agrees. “I’m this close to taking her back to my own lab.”
“You have too much on your plate already.”
Lena doesn’t answer, black eyebrows still furrowed as she gazes down at her best friend.
“It’s not your fault, you know,” Alex tells her.
“She knew the risks. We all did.”
“Still,” Lena’s eyes are faraway, mirthless. “I asked her to do it. I told her to take that position.”
“And there’s a reason why,” Alex argues back, passionate. “They shouldn’t be allowed to withhold information from an active investigation. We need to know what’s going on.”
Alex reaches across the bed, squeezes Lena’s shoulder.
“Trust me, I’ll get to the bottom of it.”
“Sam might’ve been a Legilimens,” Lena whispers.
“What?” Alex’s eyes widen, her posture stiffening.
“She was acting oddly before this. Maybe she had the ability all along.”
“Do you think—do you think she came into contact with something in there? Something classified?” Kara voices from behind them. She and Lena had discussed this before, but not with Alex. Alex merely glances at her briefly before looking down, hardened.
“Or someone attacked her. The Office of Misinformation is already trying to cover up what happened. It’s just not fair.”
Alex pauses, a thoughtful silence. Her eyes look glassy.
“I wish I’d done more. I wish I’d gone with her into the Ministry. I wish we’d spent more time together. Now I’m just—there was more I could’ve done.”
Lena glances at Alex, her expression difficult to read. She glances back down to Sam.
“We’re going to bring her back,” Lena promises.
They decide to stop by the visitor’s tearoom and hospital shop after their somber visit with Alex. There’s something about Healing Grounds that always makes Kara feel instantly better. It’s warm, for one, kept so by the curling steam from all of the buzzing appliances and the muted fireplace, always crackling. Green cabinets line the walls with glass doors that show off an eccentric collection of cups. There are sweet smells, too, and boxes and boxes of assorted and foreign tea types: Mahoutokoro jasmine, Hippogriff English breakfast, Dragonclaw black, all stacked high and wavering perilously. On each of the spindle legged tables are pressed napkins and friendly potted plants. The chalkboard menu changes daily, rewriting itself in looping fonts, beautiful purples, oranges, and blues.
In short, it’s nothing like Madam Puddifoot’s in Hogsmeade, and Kara loves it.
In the queue leading up to the register, Lena curls her arm inside of Kara’s, laying her head on her shoulder.
“What are you going to try today?”
Lena always orders the same thing: Barry’s Irish tea. She insists that she prefers the consistency and routine, but Kara will try anything once, a predilection that’s often backfired on her.
“Oh, Lena, look!” she points at the shelf excitedly, buzzing a little, and Lena squeezes her arm. It may be a bit of a warning squeeze not to super speed through the wall of the shop. It wouldn’t be the first time (at home, at least.)
“I’ll have the Hungarian white chocolate! In the Erumpent cup, please.”
After the barista takes their orders, they seat themselves in the polished wooden chairs along the large, rectangular glass windows and watch the swooping golden canaries fly by in the hospital atrium. It’s filled with greenery. Sunlight pours in from a skylight above, and a pond floats several meters from the ground, water rippling and casting glimmering patterns over the grass. A toddler stands below, tossing crumbs to the overlarge koi fish swimming above and an old couple sits nearby reading a brochure on “vampire bites.”
Lena watches the scene, looking pensive. Kara has a sharp desire to kiss the crinkle out of her brow.
“Are you alright?” she asks tentatively, holding her wiggling erumpent cup. It turns its horn this way and that and makes a little roar.
Lena continues to stare down into the atrium below, not answering immediately.
“I’m just thinking about what Alex said about wishing for more time,” Lena finally says before looking up and into Kara’s eyes. “I don’t want to ever feel that way about you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Kara,” Lena speaks her name like a hushed prayer. “I don’t want to have regrets.”
Kara takes a moment to parcel through her meaning.
“Is this about—?”
“Dinner, yes,” Lena nods. “I’m not ashamed of you, really, I’m not. I’m just—” she pauses, shrugs her tense shoulders. “Scared.”
“Scared of what?”
“Of my mother, I guess. Of Cal. That he’ll never like me. That he’ll always see us like…” she trails off.
“I’ll be there,” Kara encourages her again, reaches for her hands across the table.
After a moment of staring into each other’s eyes, Lena appears to resolve herself.
“Let’s do dinner.”
Kara beams, breaking into a huge smile. She squeezes Lena’s hands tight (although, not too tight, she doesn’t want any broken bones.)
It doesn’t take much to coordinate the dinner party, certainly not enough to warrant the emotional tax Kara puts into anticipating it. It feels like ten N.E.W.T exams rolled into one, and that Kara hasn’t studied at all and will also, inevitably, end up naked at exam time. She’s nervous enough to have broken three different pieces of furniture before she’s even left their apartment.
Alex takes her by the shoulders and shakes.
“Get it together.”
She does, a little, by the time Lena shows up, looking stunning. She’s wearing a stark green and black dress, her hands clenching around the empty air in front of her.
“Do I look okay?”
“Beautiful,” Kara takes her by the hand, kissing her cheek. “Let’s go!”
They’d chosen a relatively neutral territory with the Danvers residence in Middleton. Kara had been positive her family would find Luthor Manor too intimidating, and also thought it best not to give Lillian a home field advantage. She had no idea where Cal even lived, and their apartments were just too small. Plus, they couldn’t risk public exposure if there was some sort of outburst, too, so Middleton it was.
They arrive early to Eliza’s, a warm scene awaiting them. The flowers in the garden are just blooming in the dewy, early spring. The dusky sun cuts across the sky and through the towering trees out in the back lot, first leaf buds still forming. Eliza passes them fresh glasses of prepared lemonade (Alex slips some fire whiskey into hers), and they take Lena exploring. They beat the familiar path into the woods, and Alex shows her the tree under which she’d buried Kara’s broom in third year.
“I would’ve found it,” Kara complains.
“Not in a million years, sis.”
Lena laughs, and a gust of wind fans her black hair out behind her. She looks gorgeous.
Kara and Alex continue to bicker further up the path leading back to the house until Kara sees the shape of Cal watching them with hard set eyes through the window.
Alex and Lena follow her gaze, too, and their laughter dies down. Kara keeps Lena’s hand fisted in hers, determined not to let it go, to prove something, and Lena’s eyes narrow with the air of someone who will not be beaten by a tricky rune equation. Despite it all, Kara maintains an impossible hope that things might still turn out alright.
“Come on,” Kara reassures. “Let’s go meet him.”
As they near the house, Cal exits through the back door, bending for a moment to check on the garden. The dittany they’d so carefully cultivated is still there. Lena’s eyes dart briefly to the purple rose bush as they pass it, her fingers lightly grazing one of the petals. It still radiates a scent just like Lena’s.
“Hello Cal,” Kara greets as they approach, a forcible cheeriness to her smile.
“Hello,” Cal’s eyes flick to Lena.
“This is Lena Luthor,” Kara introduces, stepping to the side.
“I know who she is.”
Kara’s breath cuts off at the slight rudeness, and Lena presents her hand with a stiff formality, eyes icy. Cal looks for a moment as if he may refuse.
“My girlfriend,” Kara clears her throat, and Cal glances at her as if this is somehow not new information. Maybe he’d been prepped beforehand by Eliza or Jeremiah. Or he’d seen the rampant gossip in the pages of the Daily Prophet. Either way, he finally takes Lena’s hand.
“Cal El.” They shake, short and brief. He’s spared the glasses today, the disguise of Clark Kent. His hair is black as ever, greased back, a small curl free at the front.
“Your reputation precedes you,” Lena says with a removed, business-like etiquette.
“That was some Patronus at the Ministry,” he replies, and Lena seems surprised to hear that it’s a compliment.
“Thanks,” she offers sparingly. “Kara taught me.”
At that, Cal regards Kara once more, a weighted silence between them.
“Did you teach her the Shield Charm?” Lena asks curiously, and Cal nods after some reluctance.
“It’s really good.”
“She needed protection,” he returns his gaze to Lena, the intentness of his stare a steely blue.
Fortunately, Eliza saves them from more of the same awkwardness.
“Lena, dear,” she smiles warmly. “Your mother is here.”
A flicker of anxiety crosses Lena’s face, but otherwise she politely excuses herself from Cal. Towing Kara with her by their joined hands, they intercept Lillian hanging an expensive, loud in color travelling cloak in the hallway.
Kara hasn’t seen her in a long while. She’s dressed in red, with a hat and heels just like Lena’s. She looks awfully like a muggle sometimes with their understated fashion, their affinity for matching prints. But Lillian could be wearing a brown paper bag and still strike an imposing and regal picture of elegance.
Lillian turns to them then, removing the hat, her eyes immediately dropping down her nose to look at their hands. She sighs with the kind of impatience a mother might have for a toddler who’s spilled for the third or fourth time, but she ultimately reserves comment.
“Lena, Ms. Danvers.”
It feels like a mercy, and Kara remembers to exhale.
“Good evening, Mrs. Luthor.”
Lillian looks slightly appeased but brushes past her en route to the dining area.
“There better be whiskey,” she murmurs.
There is, and after a glass of it, Lillian’s honestly not that bad. She’s civil, attentive, still a little reserved, but Kara suspects Lena has coached her within an inch of her life. She wonders at the kind of background bribery that’s occurred to ensure Lillian’s compliance. She even catches the pair of them exchanging exasperated glances in the garden while Eliza gives them a tour of the house.
“It’s small,” Lillian comments, and Kara thinks she hears Lena hiss ‘be nice.’ Lillian returns a heavy lidded glance of resentment before her face falls back into a faultless guise of courtesy.
“Quaint, I mean,” she smiles to Eliza. “I even see a few rarities.”
“All thanks to Kara,” Eliza beams at her adoptive daughter. “She has quite the green thumb.”
Lillian gazes at Kara, eyebrow raised, as if she knows exactly where her thumbs have been.
But Lillian is, ultimately, nice. If such a word could ever be used to describe her. Even if she is most certainly engaging in some sort of high level mind game where she never looks at Cal or references him directly.
Until dinner at least.
“The new sneakoscopes will be coming out in May,” she tells Jeremiah impressively, raising her glass of fire whiskey for theatrical effect. “My dear Lena wanted to push the release while we continue to develop a spattergroit vaccine, but she finally saw reason. We can’t do research without galleons, after all.”
Lena lifts an eyebrow and takes a silent sip of her water. Lillian lends a look of mocking derision in Cal’s direction, the first of the night.
“By the way, that proprietary information is off the record.”
It’s the equivalent of a Filibuster Firework exploding over the table. Forks and spoons freeze, Alex and Jeremiah hold glasses half way to their awaiting mouths, Kara stops breathing. Next to her, she witnesses Lena’s fleeting expression of horror. When Kara turns slowly to look at Cal, however, his face is so red, it’s almost purple.
“Off the record?” he asks evenly. “What are you implying?”
“You’re a member of the press, are you not?” Lillian responds, cloying. “Or are those credentials only a part of your little charade.”
It’s what everyone was hoping Lillian hadn’t been saying: that she was entirely aware of Cal’s secret identity as Clark Kent.
Cal turns to glare absolute daggers at Kara.
“I didn’t tell her,” she defends automatically.
“No one had to tell me, dear,” Lillian still speaks to Cal, drink relaxed in the palm of her hand. “I thought everyone knew.”
“Everyone does not know,” Cal snaps. “Which I believe you are perfectly well aware.”
Lillian shrugs, takes a drink.
“And you don’t need to tell me when something is off the record,” he continues. “I’m a reporter not an undercover informant.”
“I’m sorry if I couldn’t tell the difference,” Lillian readily snarks back.
Cal rumbles, squeezing his fork. Kara hears it bend, break.
It’s downhill from there.
“That’s your ignorance, not mine.”
“I fail to understand,” Lillian replies, her tone turning colder by the second. “Deficient though you might be in the realm of public service—”
“Mother,” Lena warns.
“No, please explain,” Cal insists in a threatening tone. It does not discompose Lillian.
“Do you know how many lives Lena’s products have saved?” Lillian cocks her head with the thin curl of a smirk. “How many injuries averted? Thousands. That’s help on a global scale. That’s more than you can hope to do in a lifetime, super speed and all.”
“Ah, yes,” Cal derides in a snarl. “Defense against the dark arts has long been the Luthors’ favorite disguise.”
“A disguise?” Lillian laughs, high, mocking. “Hardly. Although I’m sure you see the act of plucking cats out of trees and smearing the Luthor name in the papers as the very pinnacle of heroism, that’s your ignorance, Mr. Kent, not mine.”
There’s a deadly silence at the table.
“A lifetime of penance will never undo the crimes you were party to,” he cuts quickly to the chase, a knife to the very heart of their discussion.
Kara sees Lena’s brow furrow in her periphery. She can sense the anger and guilt spiking like a bite of cold air.
“This isn’t about you,” Kara musters her nerve, turning to Cal. “Or your prejudice.”
“No, it’s about you,” he snaps back at her. “And your misplaced trust.”
“You’re wrong,” Alex pipes in to his left, but Cal ignores her, still focused on Kara.
“Did you ever think this might be a different Luthor method of using you? Of getting to our family?”
Kara’s cheeks flush in anger. She’s not sure if she’s ever been more insulted.
“Have you ever thought about how Lois is using you?” she replies in a hot rush. “How many bylines does she have because of you? How many awards has your paper won because of your ‘advance knowledge?’ I, more than anyone, know that you are not operating on a level playing field.”
Cal’s face goes red again with fury.
“This is not about Witch Weekly and The Daily Prophet.”
“No, but it is about trusting in the people we love. And I have as much right to question you and Lois as you do to question Lena and I.”
“Lois is not a Luthor.”
“And Lillian and Lena are not Lionel and Lex. We’re going to move past this,” Kara opens her palm flat on the table.
“And what of Samantha Arias?” Cal feels the need to press his point.
Lena chills further next to Kara.
“You have no business mentioning her,” she says.
“She was stealing information for L-Corp, wasn’t she? How is that not my business?”
“Shut up, Cal,” Alex snaps.
“Stealing?” Lena asks, moments behind her. “That’s rich, coming from you, the self-appointed and sole proprietor of astral artefacts.”
“Spoken just like your brother. Just like a Luthor.”
“You don’t know the first thing,” Lena nearly hisses, starts to rise, but Kara places a hand on her thigh.
“That’s enough,” Eliza states loudly.
Everyone’s eyes snap to the head of the table.
“Cal,” Eliza directs to him. “Lena and Lillian deserve a chance at atonement.”
Cal opens his mouth, but she holds up a hand. He closes it. Eliza looks to Lena, Alex, and Lillian.
“And Cal is doing his best. He’s always been alone—”
“Not alone,” Kara interrupts in a mutter. Eliza considers her for a moment before continuing.
“He has never known who he can trust, and trust is hard to build and easily destroyed. Let’s focus on the fact that everyone at this table is willing or else they would not be here. Let’s keep that faith we have in one another.”
They manage to move past the conversation and eventually ease into lighter subject matter, but there remains a rain cloud over the rest of the evening. Lillian leaves early, hand twitching like she wants to hug Lena. She doesn’t. And Cal leaves after her, terse in his farewells.
Lena and Kara Apparate together back to Lena’s new loft. It’s higher up than Kara’s, a big wide open space with shiny floors and a wall of windows. It feels like a bank with its antique crown molding and ornate metal support beams. There’s a whole library on the open second floor, strewn with books and step ladders. All of Lena’s downstairs furniture is mahogany, heavy looking and glossy. It would look professional, a little stale were it not for the moving puzzles on the table tops, fabric stitching itself into a breathtaking view of the city on the leather sofa, the word LONDON partially written across the top of the closest one. Lena's old chess set sits in front of a warm fire, the pieces groaning and grumbling when they see Kara.
She ignores them in favor of crossing over to one of the giant windows and lingering there. Tonight the city lights are obscured by clouds, twinkling blurrily through the fog, but Kara is happy to be cloistered back in their own little world again, happy to get a chance to be alone with Lena.
Lena drops her things off in the kitchen, reaching first for a bottle of oak matured mead.
“I’m sorry,” Kara breaks the ice, crossing the room between them.
She’s not sure why she’s apologizing, but she feels partially responsible for Cal’s unpleasantness. Mentioning Sam was way out of line.
Lena only sighs.
“We made it through.” She pours an even, dark brown liquid into two glasses.
“It’s a start?” Kara states questioningly, reaching for hers.
Lena nods, and they lapse into a silence, thoughtfully consuming their drinks until Lena’s tense shoulders relax and Kara’s fidgeting hands go calm.
“This is good,” Lena remarks, gesturing to the bottle. “You need to thank your assistant.”
“Yes, maybe we could have her over some time? For game night?”
Kara smiles. Lena has never been particularly social, too busy, too shy, but little by little, Kara’s getting her out of her shell.
“That’d be great.”
“What would you like?” Lena asks, wand in her hand, fire springing to life below a pot in the kitchen. “Soup?”
“Oh, yes,” Kara breathes. Sure, they’d already eaten, but they both know Kara needs two, sometimes three meals.
After, Lena would normally stay up to read, but tonight, she turns to Kara, head pillowed in her hand in bed. Kara instinctively envelops her in her arms, as natural as breathing.
“How did you get your mother to behave, by the way?” she asks curiously.
“I showed her my Patronus.”
“And I agreed to do about a hundred interviews and exclusives with only her personal seal of approval around messaging.”
“There it is,” Kara shakes her head. “And the sneakoscopes launching sooner?”
“At least, she agreed to come. She was nice for a bit there,” she squeezes her arms around Lena’s waist. “You okay?”
Lena hums against her pajama shirt. After a long moment with Kara’s eyes fluttering open and closed, she breathes in.
“Why do you think Cal is so convinced we’re not any different?”
Kara considers the question, running a hand through Lena’s soft hair.
“He’s probably afraid from what happened to Lex. They’d been friends. Cal thought he was good.”
“What changed with my brother, do you think?”
Kara’s given this one a fair bit of thought.
“He felt safe. Powerful. Free from consequence.”
“Will that happen to me?” Lena unconsciously touches the scar at her eyebrow, still visible. It never had healed right. “Cal was wrong, you could be wrong, too.”
Kara shifts Lena’s face up to look at her, fingers cupping her under the chin. Lena’s eyes are so vulnerable, so evergreen. She meets her lips in a soft kiss.
“No,” Kara eventually tells her, certain. “Not you, Lena.”
Lena sighs against Kara’s mouth, replaces her head back on her chest.
“I’m glad we did it, then.”
“He’ll come around.”
On ground level floor of St. Mungo’s in the empty and quiet Unexplained Phenomenon ward, silvery magical instruments stir to life. The sole occupant of the room, Reign, opens her black eyes.