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not like the other moms

Chapter Text

"I think a sibling will be good for Lex."

Lillian had to put up that front. Had to make it seem like she didn't want the child. But once she laid eyes on her… Lillian was no fool. She had done her research. Lionel was no better to his Irish mistress than he was to her. And Lillian had no doubt that poor woman would feel awful if she knew Lionel was married.

So no, she had no problems with this traumatized four year old.

But. She did throw a bit of a wrench in Lillian's plans to divorce Lionel.

 

Time drug by. Lena grew, more quickly than Lillian was expecting. The girl was precocious, brilliant, sharp and soft all at once. Lillian was completely enthralled. She was all the best parts of Lex with none of his concerning tendencies towards malice. None of his obsessions.

It was months before Lena woke up with her first nightmare, screaming, and Lillian jerked awake. Lionel snored away, predictably, but Lillian was on her feet in an instant, running down the long hall to burst into Lena's room. Lillian held her and smoothed back her hair and got her a glass of water and dried her tears. Lillian rocked her back to sleep.

She looked down at the sleeping child in her arms. She was far too aware that there were things in the world and in this family that she couldn’t protect Lena from. Lena had grown on her far more quickly than she was expecting.

 

Lillian took Lena to her first chess tournament when she was six. Lena had been besting a supercomputer for a year now, and was entirely too bored. Lillian pitched the idea half-heartedly at dinner, like she didn't quite care but she would be interested to add more honor to the Luthor name. Lex's eyes lit, a little savagely, and Lillian reflected he was far too like his father, far too soon.

Lionel nodded. "It'd be good to get her out and about. We can get a servant and the chauffeur to take her."

"No," Lillian said, almost too quickly, and Lionel looked at her in surprise. "I looked one up last week, and it requires a parent or guardian be present." She shrugged, off-handed. "It's in Coast City. I thought I'd check up on our beach house there, enjoy a long weekend. There's no need to take the chauffeur from you and Lex."

Lex shrugged, looking disaffected. "Take 'em down, Ace," he told Lena, and she grinned with all the confidence that only a six year old super-genius can have.

Lionel looked much the same. "Be back for the charity gala on Wednesday, then," was all he said. "I'll expect a trophy on your return."

"Of course," Lillian said. She glanced over at Lena, who was beaming. Lillian winked, feeling her heart grow three sizes when Lena giggled and blinked deliberately in return.

 

The jet touched down in Coast City on Friday afternoon, and Lena and Lillian hit the town in matching sunglasses. "Alright," Lillian said, spreading out the map in the backseat of the cab--she made sure they took a cab, telling Lena that women always needed to know how to get around anywhere they went without a man's help-- "Where shall we go first on our adventure?"

Lena thrust her nose close to the map, squinting and searching until she found the circles she had carefully marked with Lillian on the plane. She was squinting just enough that Lillian realized with a jolt Lena would probably need glasses, and soon. Lena pointed at the amusement park, and Lena smiled. Oh, this child had her heart.

 

 

In between Lillian cheering embarrassingly loudly at the quiet stuffy chess tournaments and getting victory ice cream while they sat on the beach, Lena and Lillian learned life skills together that weren't for the rich. Stolen weekends were spent giggling while watching reality tv and cooking shows and blast pop music at the beach house. Lillian encouraged Lena to go out and have fun. Lena introduced Lillian to the concept of a selfie and they made silly faces at the camera, Lena incapable of making a normal one, and Lillian loved it.

Lillian picked Lena up from school once a week when she could, and it was always Lena's favorite kind of day. Lillian was in an old fixed-up car that screams old money but oh was it beautiful, and Lena's delighted smile when she got in the front seat always washed away whatever kind of day Lillian was having. Lena showed off her shop skills Lex taught her and Lillian was a little worried that's not the only thing Lex taught her, but she was always proud anyway.

 

Lillian stayed with Lionel for Lena, once Lex moved out a few short years after Lena moved in. Lillian was wary of Lex by this point, wary of his wiliness and his bursts of rage, wary of his unfeeling lack of compassion, and he doesn't need her. But Lena… Lena was her light.

 

"Lena, there is nothing that could make me not love you. Nothing."

Lena was a gangly teenager, in ripped old jeans she hides here at the Coast City beach house, and she'd just crushed another chess tournament, but she's crying. Lillian rubbed her back, covered by an MIT hoodie she also would never wear in the Luthor Manor, and Lillian was starting to panic. Did she kill someone? Wreck their life?

"Please," Lillian said, panicking in full. "Please, whatever it is, just--"

"I'm gay."

Oh.

Oh.

Lillian breathed a huge sigh of relief. Not sick. Not joining Lex. "Oh thank the lord," she said, and Lena recoiled.

"Thank the lord? I tell you I'm gay and your reaction is to thank the lord you don't believe in?"

Lillian was completely nonplussed. "What would you like my reaction to be?"

"I thought it would be--I don't know!" Lena looked every inch the teenager she was, her long hair blowing in the night wind, her fingers still a little sticky with ice cream and a smudge of chocolate by her lower lip. Lillian reached out to wipe it away, automatic and gentle, and Lena relaxed just a little.

"Lena," Lillian said gently. "Why would your being gay upset me?"

Lena huffed, still looking scared. "You've heard what Lex and Lionel say about gay people."

"Yes," Lillian said calmly. "But they're them. Am I them?" Lena shook her head, looking partly chastised. "Lena, my darling," Lillian said, reaching for Lena's sugar-sticky hands, hands that might belong to a fifteen-year-old but had far more age and wisdom, "I love you, as you are. You are still the light of my life. Being gay doesn't change that."

Lena's face crumpled, and Lillian pulled her closer.

"And if you want me to go to a Proud Parade, I will," Lillian said after several minutes, once Lena had calmed marginally.

"It's Pride," Lena groaned into her chest. "Please don't ever say that again. Ever."

"I'll still go," Lillian promised, smiling even though Lena couldn't see her face. "I'll start doing my research too. I won't embarrass you with any incorrect terminology. If you need to have a sex talk, just give me a week to prepare, you shouldn't have to go to a clinic or something when I'm right here--"

"Oh my god!" Lena exclaimed, pulling away forcefully and shaking her head, but she was grinning. "I'm fifteen, just because I've known I'm gay for a little while does not mean I'm having sex with anyone!"

Lillian shrugged diplomatically. "I just want to know you're safe, whatever you're doing."

Lena softened. "Okay," she said. "I'll come to you for the sex talk." Lillian beamed, feeling disproportionately proud about the victory, and Lena made an ick face again. "Just, let's just get it over with okay. Next chess tournament?" Lillian nodded, and Lena looked grossed out. "We're never talking about this again outside of that appointed time, though, to be clear."

"Scouts' honor," Lillian promised, trying not to laugh. "Wait, the gay thing, or the sex thing?"

"The sex thing! Obviously!"

"Had to check," Lillian said, holding her hands up.

"Mooooommm," Lena groaned, and Lillian laughed for real. Lena only ever called her mom when they were really caught up in a moment. Lillian encouraged the distinction in titles. She didn't want Lena forgetting her real mother. That was why she dug up photos and decorated the beach house with them, why she found out what she could about Lena's mother and shared it with her. Lena deserved all that and more.

Lillian's laughter died after a long minute, Lena still grinning against her will, that reluctant smile of hers that was one of Lillian's favorites. Make her smile. That was always the easiest attainable goal she had regarding Lena. Lena knew what she needed better than Lillian. She was always provided for. Lillian fumbled her way around in the dark of the uncharted waters of parenting a child that wasn't technically hers, but that was always the unquenchable lighthouse on the horizon, guiding her way forwards. Lena's laughter always her compass.

"Lena," Lillian said slowly, "I mean it when I say I'll accept and love you as you are. I'll never ask you to change. I'll do whatever you need, be here for you always, but sweetie, you know I can't make it s--"

"I'm not telling Lex and Lionel," Lena said, nodding heavily. "Ever. I just wanted you to know."

Lillian smiled softly. "Thank you for telling me," she whispered. "My grown up girl," she said. "I'm sorry you have to hide this. But I'll do whatever I can."

Lena smiled sadly, leaning into her heavily. "Thanks," she whispered, and Lillian squeezed her tight.

Lillian smiled for real as a wondrous thought occurred to her. "This means I don't have to worry about any more crazy men in the family!"

Lena's laugh echoed down the beach until she cried.

Lillian smiled and watched her as Lena rolled on her back in the sand, doing her best to memorize the moment. She collected these times, held the moments when Lena could act her age without restraint, held them close to her chest like precious pearls. Her most precious possession.

 

Lionel dies not two weeks after that conversation, and Lillian stood stoic next to Lena, who cried, holding her hand.

Lillian could only summon one emotion, and that was protectiveness over Lena. She glanced at Lex dispassionately, who was staring at the casket with clenched fists, and felt nearly nothing. She was horrified at herself for that, but he was someone different after all these years. Lex had moved out years ago, and was concerning Lillian with every other sentence out of his mouth to boot.

Lena on her other side stood stock still, tears leaking steadily out of her eyes. Lillian squeezed her hand and looked at the casket and felt empty again.

Good riddance of him.

Not that she'd ever tell Lena, who loved him, in a way.

 

Lena was a nervous but confident sixteen year old headed to MIT, laughing at Lillian still not being any better at cooking despite the decade of cooking shows they had watched in their Coast City beach house. This was their last time in their hideaway the rest of the family never uses before Lillian drove Lena to college tomorrow, and it felt like a stronger kind of love than ever before when Lillian came down the stairs to see her making pancakes for the both of them.

Lillian pushed at Lena with her elbow over pancakes at the table. "You're going to college. We're not keeping track of you so closely. You should let loose, date a girl, take a class in the humanities."

Lena widened her eyes mockingly, her dimples giving her away as she smiled. "Ooh, scandalous," she teased. "I could even take painting."

"Let's not get carried away," Lillian joked, laughing, and Lena grinned. Lena poked at her pancakes, though, and Lillian frowned. "What is it?"

Lena shrugged, shaking her head, and Lillian waited. Lena finally sighed, putting her fork down and her head in her hands. "And if I'm afraid to date a girl?"

Lillian put her fork down too, nonplussed. "Why would you be afraid?"

"Haven't you ever liked someone so much you're afraid of them? Like, they're out of your league?"

"No," Lillian said honestly. "Truthfully, I never did much dating. You know my marriage was practically arranged."

"You've never liked someone?" Lena pried. "Like, really liked someone?" Lillian stopped to think, the last time she'd genuinely felt romantic attraction… well, shit. She was coming up empty. Lena softened, looking at her with something like pity for the first time Lillian had ever known her. "Well," Lena said, thankfully skipping over that topic, "It's scary, okay? And it's doubly scary when it's also a girl, and there are a lot of people out there that don't like it when two girls date, and there are also a lot of people out there who don’t to date a sixteen year old in college."

"Hey," Lillian said automatically, putting a hand on Lena's arm. "You don't have to date if you don't want to, whether it's due to timing or anything else. But don't you dare let what other people think scare you out of it. You are a catch, Lena Luthor. You don't need anyone to tell you that."

Lena gave her a half smile, lopsided. "And if I'm still just…" she gave half a shrug, which Lillian had come to realize was her sign for what Lena had told her was called getting past internalized homophobia.

"Did you know that many other species have homosexual relationships?" Lillian asked matter-of-factly, trying to drown Lena's fears in facts. It had always worked before. Lena raised an eyebrow. "Penguins," Lillian started, and Lena bit back a smile. "Cats," Lillian continued, and Lena suppressed a giggle.

"Okay," Lena said. "I see what you're trying to do, and you're really bad at it, but I appreciate it."

"I thought I was doing well," Lillian said petulantly, as Lena picked up her fork, still giggling. "Made you laugh, anyway." Lena looked up at her, an echo of the shy little girl that came to her a dozen years ago, and Lillian winked. Lena smiled that brilliant smile she so rarely let out, and Lillian's heart squeezed. She was really going to miss this girl. Her other half.

 

 

Lena came home for a gala. It was fall break, and she had two days off of class, and she let Lillian bribe her into coming to Coast City for a charity event. Lillian drove and picked her up at the airport late Friday afternoon--Lena had insisted she was flying commercial this time, like a normal college student--in the old car she used to pick Lena up from school in, and went in and waited at the baggage claim, like a normal mom.

Lena emerged into the terminal soon enough, and Lillian felt her chest squeeze in affection. Lena's hair was messy, headphones slung around her neck and skinny jeans and a hoodie, and she looked comfortable in her sneakers, and Lillian's heart sang at the ease on her face. Lena broke into a huge smile at the sight of Lillian, picking up her pace until she reached Lena and slid into a hug readily.

Lillian pulled back, smoothing down Lena's hair with a smile. "You ready?" she asked.

Lena beamed. "Let's go."

They drove around the city in the early evening, Lena's hair longer than Lillian remembered, and got fast food, grinning at each other like they were indulging in some dirty secret. Lena picked up her duffel out of the trunk when they reached their beach house, grinning as Lillian commented how independent she was becoming. Lena was nearly seventeen, and she was growing into her body, her face maturing and her shoulders settling more confidently. They curled into the couch while Lena talked Lillian's ear off over a cooking show all about college and how amazing it was. She got lost down a rabbit hole of celestial bodies and how beautiful they were, and Lillian sat back and watched her gesture excitedly, completely unable to follow but loving watching Lena glow.

 

"You could have warned me," Lena huffed, sliding up to stand next to Lillian at a high top table.

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," Lillian said innocently, looking down at her daughter. Lena was positively stunning in a red dress, her hair styled elegantly and her makeup perfect, the result of their Saturday on the town.

"Jack Spheer?" Lena said pointedly.

"Darling, the poor boy can't help it he's in love with you," Lillian said, and Lena huffed again.

"Jack's very nice," Lena said. "I really like him, actually. I just don't like him like that, which you well know."

"I didn't say anything to Jack," Lillian said, and Lena snorted.

"That's sort of the problem. You not objecting seems like encouragement."

"Do you want me to warn him off?"

"No, you'll scare him." Lena stirred her drink--a virgin mojito, Lillian had gotten it for her and Lena had rolled her eyes but accepted it. "I think I'm gonna tell him I'm gay, actually."

Lillian considered this. "Just make sure he won't hurt you is all I ask," she said, and Lena pressed her shoulder into Lillian's.

"He's a good guy," Lena said. "I trust him."

"Okay," Lillian said. "And if he isn't, I'll have him killed."

"Mother!" Lena burst out laughing, and Lillian's chest warmed as she laughed with her. Oh, she had missed this girl. Missed her quirks, missed the way she was open with Lillian, missed the way she wasn't scared of her. Missed her wit at these parties, the way she lit up the room for Lillian. Missed her daughter.

She saw Lena off at the airport with a fake, dramatic show of tears that had Lena laughing, just like when she dropped her off at college. Lena shut the door of the car and blew a kiss through the window, laughing even more when Lillian made a show of catching it and pressing it to her chest. Lillian drove off and pushed away a real tear miserably, chuckling at herself.

 

 

Lena was an elegant almost-graduate, and she was refusing to do any travel around the world Lillian came with her, and Lillian looked at this light of her life and thought that her heart might just burst. This girl was all she needed.

They went tto remote locations and big shopping centers and globetrotted in general, leaving gigantic tips and donating to orphanages and every other charity they could find, everywhere they went. They booked out presidential suites and Lena giggled and on her twenty first birthday, spent in Dubai, Lillian gave her a formal lesson in holding her alcohol and not being obsessed by it the way Lionel had been.

Lena went back to MIT after a summer of travel, a healthy tan on her skin, new laugh lines around her eyes, glowing with the excitement of her impending Masters' program.

 

Lena and Lillian had just hiked up a volcano in New Zealand to celebrate Lena finishing her masters and becoming Luthor Corp's new Assistant Chief of R&D, spent six nights camping under the stars, and Lillian was the happiest she's ever been. They'd been coordinating their workout schedules for the last six months to make sure they could do this, and it had been the most beautiful week of Lillian's life, talking under the stars every night about the deepest of things and laughing themselves silly during their day hikes about anything and everything. Lena had taken up photography, and had taught Lillian the principles in between capturing breathtaking images of the scenery. They had the most beautiful photos the most silly selfies and everything in between and Lillian's heart was so full, full, wonderful.

They stopped in a diner before heading back to their hotel, filthy and grimy and smelling horrible, and the waitress chuckled at the sight of them grinning apologetically but promising a large tip. They were basking in the glow of a successful trip when someone asked to turn on the tv in the corner. And it's Lex.

Lex, going crazy.

The trip was over.

 

Lillian was interrogated, as was Lena. Lillian's heart ached at the concept of yet another thing she couldn't protect Lena from, but Lena was a woman now, and fully capable of handling herself. Lena had listened intently to her father and his lawyers since she was four. Lena had minored in business. Lena would be fine.

The agent that interrogate them both shook his head. "Are the two of you trying to cover something else? You'll both incriminate Lex to no end but defend each other, and you have a suspiciously perfect alibi?"

"Perhaps he went crazy when he knew both of us were too remote to even hear about him, much less stop him," Lillian snapped, and the agent shrugged.

"Same thing your daughter said."

"Then it should say something we both came to that conclusion while you interrogated us separately."

In the end, only after several more go-rounds, and because there was literally no evidence on either of them, they were let free.

With their assets frozen.

Lena tugged her mud-stained fleece tighter, neither of them having had the chance to do much more than change their under layers and shower. She smiled wryly at Lillian. "Good thing a woman knows how to get around without a man, right?"

And she burst into tears.

"Oh honey," Lillian murmured, and pulledher twenty-two year old not-quite-daughter to her. Right there on the street in front of the FBI building, a million cars and passersby, the pair of them still somewhat dirty, in full view of over a dozen cameras.

Lionel would be furious.

Lillian held Lena tighter, the pair of them defiant.

 

Lillian talked Lena through the takeover. She was always in the back of Lena's ear, but firmly stepped down from all her positions at Luthor Corp when Lena was tapped to take over. Lena was always on the verge of panicking, but Lillian refused to be there, stubbornly believing in her daughter. "You'll win them over as yourself," Lillian insisted. "And I won't have someone accusing you of corruption keeping me in there. I'm still your biggest supporter."

She did wonderfully.

 

Lillian was on the phone with her daughter, enjoying the sound of her voice as she sat on the deck of their Coast City beach house. "What's with the smile in your voice?" Lillian finally asked. "I haven't heard you this happy since New Zealand."

"I sort of… met someone," Lena admitted, her voice nervous over the phone.

"Oh?" Lillian glanced down to find she was literally at the edge of her seat. "Like a girl someone?"

"Maybe," Lena admitted, shy. Lillian waited, and Lena sighed, long-suffering, down the line. "It's not like that, okay. At least, not yet. But I really like her. I like being around her."

"Do I know this her?" Lillian asked.

"You might, actually," Lena said. "She's the reporter that's been covering me."

"Covering you or covering you?" Lillian asked, unable to help herself, and Lena groaned.

"That doesn't even make sense," she said over Lillian's chuckles. "I know you were trying to make a dirty joke, but it didn't even work."

"I'll have to try again," Lillian promised, smiling big at Lena's dramatic groans. "But she's the reporter? The one who gave you a fair shake on the alien detection device?"

"Yeah," Lena said, sounding a little distracted now. "I actually scrapped that. She brought up some good points while interviewing me. So, her article is moot now, but," she rustled some papers on the other side of the line, and Lillian guessed she was finding the article again. "We'll end up in the right spot."

"I'm sure you will," Lillian promised.

"Thanks," Lena said softly, and Lillian was reminded with a pang that her brother was in prison, that Lena had been so close to his madness for so long, that Lillian couldn’t protect her from traumas past. "I'm visiting you next week," Lillian announced abruptly.

"What's the occasion? You were just here two weeks ago," Lena said, sounding more amused than anything.

"Do I need an excuse to see my daughter?"

"Never," Lena promised, instantly, and Lillian smiled. She might check up on this reporter Lena liked so much. She might visit Lex in prison, just to be sure he was still there. She might see National City, and see if there were somewhere closer she could hang out, just so seeing Lena wasn't such a hassle. Lena was chattering away on the line, telling Lillian not to dare call a car, Lena would pick her up, CEO high-flying status be damned, and how'd they go get fast food. Lillian felt warmth expand in her chest. They'd take silly pictures the way they always did, and all the damage men had inflicted upon their past would be forgotten for a little while.

But the important thing, what was always the important thing, was making sure that her girl was okay.

 

Chapter Text

Lillian arrived in National City to a Lena looking more elegant and grown-up than she ever had. Like she wasn't even someone Lillian could pretend was a child all grown-up, she just was. It suited her.

Lena was glancing down at her phone, texting with one hand while she adjusted the sunglasses on top of her head with the other, and she was dressed in dark colors of business wear, and she was the most beautiful woman in the terminal by miles. Lillian moved towards her, happy for the moment to watch Lena unobserved.

Lena glanced up after a long moment, clicking her phone off, and her eyes found Lillian. She broke into a smile, striding towards her and sweeping her up in a hug.

 

"So who's this reporter?" Lillian asked, buckling herself in as Lena navigated them smoothly out of the airport.

Lena bit her lip. "She works for CatCo."

"Kara Danvers. I read. She's just starting out."

"Anything else you dug up that you'd like to share?" Lena asked, her voice amused.

"She looks wonderful in pastel," Lillian said, winking when Lena glanced over, and Lena burst into laughter, her face slightly pink. "Something you seem to agree on," Lillian said wisely.

"Oh my god," Lena said, and Lillian felt her heart thud strongly. Lena sounding her age was something she'd never grow tired of. "She is a friend, Mom."

"That's not what you said on the phone last week," Lillian said nonchalantly, breezing past the way she loved it when Lena called her mom.

"That is exactly what I said on the phone last week. That it isn't anything. And it won't be."

"Then why are you blushing?" Lillian asked, and Lena's jaw tightened, the edges of a smile still playing on her lips. Lena's phone buzzed in the cupholder, and Lillian motioned towards it questioningly. Lena nodded. "Speak of the devil," Lillian said, delighted. "It's from one Kara Danvers."

"What does it say?" Lena asked, voice even.

"She's asking you if you're still on for dinner this evening," Lillian read off, feeling a giddy kind of joy at her daughter's blush. "Lena, you said it wasn't anything, but are you sure--"

"We have dinner sometimes. As friends!" Lena said, reaching out blindly to yank the phone back. Lena tucked it under her thigh, eyes still on the road. "She likes to eat. A lot."

"Mmkay," Lillian said, facing the road again, trying hard not to smirk. "You should go to dinner with her, though. You never know what could happen."

"I'm not going to dinner with her when you're in town," Lena said, the reply easy, a duh in her voice. "I like her, but I can see her anytime."

"So you do like her!"

"Not like that," Lena groaned, and Lillian smiled.

"Whatever you say, dear." She examined her nails idly. "You should invite her over tonight. Show off your cooking show skills."

"You'd want to meet her?" Lena asked quietly, hesitant and shy again.

"Of course," Lillian said immediately. "Whether or not I should be teasing you about your huge crush on this reporter, she seems to be important to you as a person, not just a potential love interest. I'd love to get to know her."

Lena focused on the road for a second. She pulled up to a red light and looked over at Lillian. "You won't tease her," Lena said carefully.

Lillian smiled a tight smile, trying not to get too happy and freak Lena out. "Scout's honor," she promised, winking.

"You won't tease me in front of her."

"Not too badly," Lillian promised. "But what's a meet-the-parents dinner without some humiliation?"

"I wouldn't know," Lena said, easing the car forward as the light turned green. "The last time I had someone over for dinner, Dad and Lex almost made Jack Spheer cry. I'm pretty sure he did cry, actually, in the bathroom before dessert."

Lillian snorted inelegantly. "He was always a little fragile," Lillian said, still trying not to laugh at the thought of a thirteen-year-old Jack Spheer sniffling in the bathroom.

"Mom," Lena said sternly.

"He recovered," Lillian said, brushing it away. "It's nothing like when I met Lionel's parents." She nearly shivered at the memory even now. "But I'll be nice to Kara, I promise."

Lena considered it for a long moment. "Okay," she finally said softly. "I'll ask her."

 

 

Lena: So, about dinner.
Kara: ??? We can reschedule if you're busy!
Lena: No, it's not that. My mother's in town.
Kara: Oh! You should spend time with your mom!
Lena: She felt bad about imposing on our plans. Any chance you'd like to come over and have dinner with both of us instead? I promise she's nothing like Lex.
Kara: Of course!!! I can't wait. I'd love to meet her. Can I bring anything?
Lena: Alcohol.

 

Lillian tried to pretend she wasn't reading over Lena's shoulder as Lena bit her lip and stared at her phone, waiting for Kara's replies to come in.

"Honestly, Mother, she won't reply any faster with you pacing."

"You're the one chewing half your face off in anxiety." Lena stuck her tongue out, very maturely. "You really like this girl, don't you?" she asked softly.

Lena shrugged, trying and failing to look indifferent. "She's… different," Lena admitted, and there was a quiet kind of wonder in her voice. "Even everyone else who was in our circles, they looked at me differently because I was a Luthor. But something about her…." Lena frowned, like she didn't have the words. "It's like she gets it."

"Gets what?" Lillian pressed.

"I don't know. The way I am, maybe? I've just never felt like I had to explain myself to her. Like maybe she's felt all the same things I've felt that no one else has understood." Lena shook her head. "It's ridiculous, but I sometimes feel like Kara's had a whole past, just like mine, that she's never shared with anyone. That that's why she gets me."

Lillian watched her daughter puzzle it through. She laid a hand on her knee. "Anything's possible," she said softly, and Lena squeezed her hand.

"Come on," Lena said, standing. "She's in for dinner. I'd better get cooking." She paused, her hair halfway down and her shoes already toed off. She pointed a stern finger at Lillian. "I don't want you anywhere near my kitchen for this meal. You can handle the salad, if you think you can manage it."

Lillian raised her hands in surrender. "Yes, ma'am."

When Kara's knock sounded on the door an hour later, Lillian had Lena laughing as she stirred a large pot--an alarmingly full, alarmingly large pot--of stew, giggling about the time she came home with her first tattoo and freaked Lillian out.

Lillian opened the door to a face full of blonde curls, and Kara Danvers smiled brightly at her.

"Hi!" she said, extending her hand immediately. "You must be Lena's mom!"

"I must be," Lillian agreed, taking her hand and finding her grip to be firm--very firm. She winced slightly, and Kara flinched in sympathy, loosening her grip immediately.

"Sorry!" she apologized quickly. "I, uh, work out a lot."

"Don't worry about it," Lillian soothed, and Kara's glance skipped over to Lena.

"I brought alcohol, as promised," Kara said, holding up a bottle, and Lena grinned over at her. "I got your favorite, since you're cooking dinner." Kara set the bottle on the counter as she navigated Lena's space with a cautious ease, one that said she was comfortable around Lena but hadn't been here before. "You have a beautiful apartment," Kara added, halfway to breathless, and Lena smiled.

"Thank you," she said. "Kara, this is Lillian, by the way, my adoptive mother."

"Oh!" Kara said, eyes snapping back to Lillian. Her smile got a notch brighter, if that was possible. "I didn't realize you were adopted. I am too!"

Lillian's eyes narrowed as Kara's eyes slid back to Lena, and Lena's lips parted, still mindlessly stirring as she examined Kara with a slight smile. "How about that," she murmured, and Kara pinked.

Lillian bit down on a grin. Oh, this was going to be fun. "So, Kara," Lillian said, sitting down at the table. "Tell me about yourself."

Kara, as it turned out, was all sorts of lovely. She shook her head as Lillian praised her articles, smiling and blushing slightly. "Did you read up?" Lena asked incredulously, eyeing her and leaning forward. Lena, casual in her blouse from earlier but unbuttoned one or two more so it was looser, with loose blue jeans instead of a tight skirt and barefooted. Lena, comfortable in front of someone. Lena, interrogating her to make sure she didn't embarrass her in front of her new friend.

Yes, Lillian was having an excellent night. "I am a Luthor, dear," Lillian said with a wink, and Lena slumped dramatically in her chair, rolling her eyes.

Kara chuckled at Lena's reaction, whatever nerves she had washed away as Lena groaned, "Ignore her, she's actually harmless."

"I am not," Lillian said, aghast.

Lena narrowed her eyes. "Summer of 2000. Spider. Upstairs bathroom. Which one of us screamed and called for the six-year-old to come get it out?"

Lillian sniffed, surprised Lena would bring that up, but not really. "I maintain it was an excellent chance for you to hone your skills."

"Six. Years. Old," Lena repeated, deadpan. She rolled her eyes towards Kara. "I'm sure she actually considered leaving nice little comments on all your articles instead of whatever menacing thing you were expecting."

"I did not consider that," Lillian said disdainfully. "I actually did it."

Lena suppressed a laugh, not quite successfully. "See?" she told Kara, who was watching the interaction with wide eyes, and Kara's expression softened into a smile. "This one's defective. Not a Luthor at all."

"If I'm not a Luthor, you're not a Luthor," Lillian shot back. "Maybe the girls don't count."

Lena chuckled, nodding into her wineglass. "Maybe," she muttered, taking a sip. "We don't require a chauffeur to get around, right?" she shot a wry look at Lillian, her eyes a little sad with the memory, and Lillian smiled softly.

"Well," Kara said, reaching forward for her--seventh? No wonder Lena made so much--bowl of soup. "Here's to not living up to family standards, then." She raised her soup bowl in a mock-toast. "Cheers. By the way Lena, this is delicious, where'd you get it?"

"I made it," Lena said, sounding mock-offended, and Kara shot her an eye-rolling grin that had Lena pushing down another laugh, entirely charmed.

Lillian was more distracted by her first comment. "I'm sorry, Kara, I don't mean to pry, but, you--"

"Oh, it's nothing," Kara said, waving her hand. "I was just, um," she shook her head, trying to smile away the problem, not meeting Lena's gaze either, which was now narrowed in curiosity. "It's nothing," Kara insisted.

Lena glanced at Lillian, looking unsure. "Kara, is everything alright?"

"Yep!" Kara said breezily, the slow motion of her spoon in the soup giving her away. She shook her head. "It's stupid. I shouldn't have said anything." She looked up, smile in place, eyes suspiciously bright.

Lena glanced at Lillian again. Lillian sat back, a strange sort of calm overtaking her. "You know," Lillian said conversationally, twirling the stem of her wineglass in her hand idly, "My parents all but forced me into my first date with Lionel." Lena's gaze snapped to her. "They kept telling me how wonderful he was, how wonderful his family was, how brilliant he was, how well we'd match."

Kara's eyes were fixed on her, a sorrowful sort of fear in them. "You never told me," Lena said softly, reaching for her hand, and Lillian rolled her eyes gently, squeezing Lena's fingers. "I knew about the marriage, but the…"

"It was common, in our circles," Lillian said, shrugging. "Lionel was never violent with me, never really forced me to do anything. I got lucky, really. My parents left us well enough alone after maybe a decade. They passed not long before you arrived, actually," she said, squeezing Lena's hand.

Lena frowned. "You never--"

"You were four, Lena," Lillian said, shaking her head. "You had your own mother's death on your mind, and my parents' deaths wasn't a tragedy by any means." Lillian didn't mention that their deaths were what she considered the green light to start the divorce process. Lena's arrival put a halt to her plans. She didn't need Lena knowing that, wondering how bad the marriage truly was, and taking on that burden. That had been Lillian's choice, and she didn't regret a moment of it.

"Still," Lena said softly, and Lillian smiled. She really, really loved this girl.

"My parents," Lillian said slowly, and she turned her head to look at Kara, who faced the table now but lifted her head to meet Lillian's eyes, "Were deeply flawed individuals. Redeemable?" She tilted her head. "Perhaps. But they never did redeem themselves."

Kara's lips twisted as she examined Lillian thoughtfully. "I've learned a lot about my parents in the last year," she admitted. "Both sets of them. And none of them were anywhere near as perfect as I thought." She dropped her spoon against the side of her bowl with a clatter. "I miss the days when I thought I had perfect parents. Now even the memory of the ones that are gone is," she gestured uselessly. "It's tarnished."

"Kara," Lena said softly, releasing Lillian's hand to reach for Kara's.

"I'm alright," Kara insisted, though her eyes were red. She let Lena take her hand and squeeze. "I mean really, no matter what they did or didn't do, they still loved me. They still tried to do what was best, in their own way." Kara shook her head, looking disgusted for a second, before she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, like she was forcibly pushing the memories back. She opened her eyes and took another breath, squeezing Lena's hand and disentangling their fingers. "But, if you and Lena have been together since she was six at least, I'm sure you have all the fun stories."

"Since she was four," Lillian amended, smiling gently at Kara, letting her shift the mood.

"No," Lena said flatly.

"I'm pretty sure I know how old you were when you came to us," Lillian said, and Lena kicked her under the table, lightly.

"You know what I meant."

"I'm sure I didn't, dear. Kara, did you know what she meant?"

Kara shook her head, lips pursed together in mock-concentration. "She probably meant she was four and a half." Kara took a big bite of soup and propped an elbow on the table, planting her chin in her palm and smiling endearingly at the pair of them. "So, what'd she do?"

"I'm not sitting here for this," Lena declared, scooting her chair back and gathering up the miraculously-empty pot from the center of the table.

"What?" Kara laughed, reaching out for her waist, but Lena danced out of reach. "You have to be here! Moms embarrassing you in front of you friends is like a rite of passage! I've had two different moms do it to me, plus Cat, plus Alex! You can't skip out now."

"Cat?" Lena asked, depositing the pot in the sink and hovering back over, looking curious. "You mean Cat Grant, media mogul, would-be-multi-millionaire-if-she-settled-down-with-her-investments, married four times Cat Grant?"

"Yeah," Kara said, grinning slightly, eyebrows raised as she took in Lena's shock. "Also who I was a personal assistant for for like three years?"

"Oh my god," Lena breathed, sitting down in her chair, heavy with shock. "You're Kiera."

Kara flushed and ducked her head. "Yeah, I, uh, I made it pretty hard for you to get a couple meetings with her, huh?"

Lena's shock turned into a glare. She turned to Lillian. "This is the woman who single-handedly gave Jess a near-mental breakdown." Kara winced.

"Sorry about that," she said apologetically. "Cat was dealing with some sleazebags on the board trying to do a corporate takeover and really could not take a meeting. There may have been some corporate espionage involved that Cat definitely does not know about--nor should that leave this room," Kara added, her eyes going wide at her slip.

"I don't know," Lena said, swirling her wineglass thoughtfully. "Only if you tell me who the espionage was against."

Kara sighed, looking martyred. "You promise not to tell?" she asked warily.

Lena held up her pinky. "Pinky promise."

Kara rolled her eyes with a grin, locking her pinky with Lena's. "James and Winn and I sort of accidentally spied on the guy who got locked up. That's how we figured out who to look into aboveground."

"James, your ex and the senior art manager, and Winn who was in love with you for two years but now is basically your little brother, that James and Winn?" Lillian suppressed a chuckle, enjoying the play of both their expressions as they steadily forgot more and more about her.

Kara winced slightly. "When you put it like that, I sound pretty bad, but yeah."

"Corporate espionage," Lena repeated.

"Only a tiny bit! Lucy helped us legally tackle the problem. Without the, uh, espionage."

"Lucy?"

"Lane."

"As in Lois Lane?"

"The one and only," Kara said, adjusting her glasses with a grin.

"Huh." Lena sat back. "How many semi-famous people do you know?"

"Are you counting yourself?" Kara asked, and Lena made a face. Kara grinned. "Uh, a few." Lena narrowed her eyes. Kara shrugged. "I was the personal assistant to Cat Grant."

"I should hire you," Lena muttered. "You nearly made my assistant cry while simultaneously making one of the worst fiascos CatCo's ever seen go away without a hitch."

"It was definitely not hitch-free, and I'm still really sorry about that," Kara defended herself. "Please don't tell Jess it was me, she scares me."

"Kara, you're the one who made her cry."

"I didn't mean to!" Kara said, covering her face with her hands. "What did I even say?"

Lena gestured vaguely, like she was trying to remember. "It was more of the cherry-on-top of an awful week, if you know what I mean. I wasn’t in a particularly good mood, and it was still her first month or something."

"Oof. Sounds like my every other week with Cat," Kara said, sounding sympathetic. "But please, can we not tell her it was me? I'm trying to bribe my way into friendship with her and this would be a serious setback."

Lena chuckled. "We'll see," she said, getting out of her chair again.

"Based on what?" Kara asked, twisting around in her chair to watch Lena.

"I don't know," Lena said airily. "We'll see how I'm feeling at the end of dessert, shall we?"

Lillian raised an eyebrow, impressed. "I guess that means I'm supposed to behave," she said dryly, and Kara almost startled, like she'd forgotten Lillian was present. Like Lena made the world fade away. Oh, Lillian was going to make sure things happened between them.

"No, please," Kara said, half-laughing. "Please, I really want to hear Little Lena stories."

"I'm sure something can be arranged," Lena said airily, moving to fill the pot with water. Kara hastily got up and started clearing the rest of the dishes. Lena's eyes followed her around the room. "In what circumstance did Cat tell embarrassing stories about you anyway?"

"Please don't ask about the time Eliza visited CatCo," Kara muttered. "I can't relive that again." Lena's eyes lit with delight, but just then, Kara's phone rang. "Sorry," Kara said, looking deeply apologetic as she checked the phone screen, looking frantic. "It's my sister, it's uh--"

"No, go," Lena said, waving her off. Kara shot them one more apologetic glance as she stepped several feet away.

"Alex?" There was a garbled sound on the other end. "You didn't--didn't J'onn specifically say not to--I told you not tonight--why was he near the--yes, ugh, yes, it's fine, ok. Now?" There was an exclamation on the other end, and Kara sighed. "Ok. I'm on my way." Kara hung up, her jaw clenched. "I am so sorry," she said. "There's a bit of an emergency, Winn was being dumb and if I don't go now, we don't really know--"

"Is everything alright?" Lena asked, and Kara nodded, across the room and sliding her arms into her coat already.

"Oh yeah, I just, I definitely need to go, I am so so sorry to skip, but I do genuinely have to run--Lillian, it was so wonderful to meet you, I hope we can do this again sometime. Lena thank you so much for dinner it was amazing, I really have to go--bye!" And she was out the door.

"I forgot to tell you," Lena said, taking a deep breath and staring at the door, looking a little forlorn in Kara's sudden absence. "She does that sometimes."

 

 

Lillian received an email from one Kara Danvers a couple days later, after she had left National City. It was a short reply to one of the comments she had left on an article, a thank you so much! It was lovely meeting you, I'm so sorry I had to run.

Lillian replied back with her phone number and a call me anytime if you need anything. I'm glad Lena has such a good friend in you.

Lena didn't know. Lillian intended to keep it like that for a little while.

 

"Lillian Luthor speaking."

"Hi, it's Kara Danvers."

Lillian broke out into a smile. "Hi, Kara," she said warmly. "How can I help you?"

"Hi," Kara said. She sounded sheepish and a little nervous. "I'm so sorry to bother you, but I just had this quick question and it's a little ridiculous but I thought you could answer--"

"Anything, Kara."

Kara let out a deep breath on the other end. "Do you have any ideas for Lena's birthday?"

Lillian blinked in surprise. "She told you her birthday?"

"Not exactly." Kara's reply sounded frustrated and a little petulant. "Mine was a couple months ago and she went overboard, but she wouldn't give me anything for hers, so I did some digging. Anyway, I know she doesn’t want anything but I thought we could at least go out or something."

"She'd like that," Lillian told her. "Make it small. Just the two of you, even."

"You think?"

"She loves fast food," Lillian revealed. "We never really had it in the Luthor household. It still feels like a secret indulgence every time, for both of us. She'd love it if you took her out."

"Fast food is my specialty," Kara promised. "We can even do a drive thru or go at midnight or something."

"That would be wonderful," Lillian promised. "I have some appointments I can't miss and I'd prefer she wasn't alone again, so thank you, Kara."

Kara chuckled on the other end of the line. "She's been there for me through more than she should have to. Fast food on her birthday is the least I can do."

"Well, if you're looking for something else, I hear the carnival's coming to town soon…"

"Oh yeah?"

 

 

Lillian waited by her phone.

Midnight ticked by.

It was close to three am and Lillian was yawning when Lena finally called.

"I knew you'd be up," Lena said happily into the phone. "Fast food at midnight is very Kara, but her choosing to do that on my birthday had your fingerprints all over it."

"Are you calling to reprimand me?" Lillian asked, deeply amused, her chest expanding with warmth at the happiness in Lena's voice.

"I thought about it, but no," Lena said, the distant sounds of her getting into bed accompanying her words. "I called to tell you about it, actually."

"Go on then," Lillian encouraged her, settling into her own bed. "Gush."

Lena did. "She dragged me out of my office at eleven thirty. I mean, she brought me lunch with a happy birthday cupcake from that bakery across town and texted me happy birthday with like a million exclamation points and emojis this morning, but I thought that was it. That was more than enough. But then she just showed up all late at night and threw some jeans at me and said to come on, and it was like…" Lena made a sound that was half-sigh, half-squeal, and Lillian laughed at her elation, joy seeping through the phone line. "Mom, it was magic. It was that thing in movies that you always think is so dumb, but we talked for hours about the littlest things and I don't think either of us checked our phones once the whole time, I just--" Lena tried find the words, "I've never felt so… so paid attention to. So, so cherished, I guess."

Lillian's heart was actually going to burst. This was like fanfiction. Better. "Lena, that's wonderful."

"Anyway, she hugged me goodnight and it was just, it was so amazing, Mom."

 

 

Lillian was staring. Next to her, Alex Danvers, Kara's sister, took a long sip of her wine with the same exasperated blankness on her face.

"Have they always been like this?" Lillian asked in a hushed voice, and Alex nodded.

 

 

 

"You didn't tell me you were dead-set on seducing her, Lena."

"I am not," Lena hissed, horrified at Jack's choice in words. Lillian, on the other hand, was delighted as Lena's oldest friend grilled her about her love life at his own unveiling event.

"She's hanging off your every word. She's practically drooling."

"Enough," Lena insisted, and Jack snapped his mouth shut as Kara walked back towards them. Lillian bit back a laugh, smiling at Kara, whose face was set as she approached their little group again. "What did that man need?" Lena asked, gravitating towards her unconsciously, and Lillian exchanged a wry look with Jack.

"I can't say," Kara said, looking regretful, her tone apologetic. "But I, um," she shot a glance at Lillian and looked back at Lena before examining Jack thoughtfully, "I have to go. I'll catch up with you all later?"

"Oh, yeah," Lena said hastily, looking surprised. "Of course. Thanks for coming." Kara flashed a smile at her, her face becoming minutely stiffer as she reached to shake Jack's hand again.

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Spheer," she said, and Jack nodded politely, his face tightening for a moment as she squeezed his hand. With a quick one-armed hug for Lillian and a wave for Lena, she was gone.

"That was odd," Jack remarked, watching her retreat, and Lena elbowed him.

"Leave her alone."

 

Lillian walked into Lena's office two days later to see Kara headed out, head down and looking preoccupied. "Kara!" Kara's head snapped up, and she smiled weakly at Lillian, gave a half-hearted wave, and kept walking.

"What was that about?" Lillian asked, dropping her purse on Lena's couch. Lena looked up, her eyes lost in thought, and Lillian clarified, "Kara."

"Ah." Lena sat down heavily in her chair. "She's found something." Lillian sat down across from her. Lena put her head in her hands. Took a deep breath. Two. Her voice came out strangled and muffled. "She thinks Jack's killed people. She showed me the video. The nano swarm around the city, the killings, they were him, they were him--" Lena's voice cut off with a strangled sob, and Lillian rushed towards her. Lena dropped her forehead to Lillian's shoulder. "She asked me not to go near him, but I can't, I can't do nothing, I can't stay away, this can't be him--"

"I know, I know," Lillian soothed, her mind swirling. Not like Lex again, not again, not again. "We'll get to the bottom of this." And she held her daughter until they were ready to take the next steps.

 

When Lena went to confront Jack at his warehouse, Lillian was her backup. It was Lillian who called Supergirl, Lillian who stepped in front of her after Beth threw a punch and Lena knocked her down, heart swelling in pride and body thrumming in anger, Lillian who helped a gasping Supergirl keep the nanobots occupied with some very creative uses of a fire extinguisher and an improvised flamethrower.

"You'll kill him," Beth gasped from the floor, while Jack pleaded with her to end it, to shut down mainframe. "The override will kill him, the nanobots have merged with him."

Supergirl was barely holding them off, she maybe had another twelve seconds. "Fly in an evasive pattern, not a teasing pattern!" Lillian snapped towards the ceiling, and Supergirl glanced down in surprise. She changed her flight pattern immediately, and the bots raced after her, but she had another minute. "Lena," Lillian said sharply, kicking Beth in the ribs, and Beth wheezed inconsequentially. "Take down the mainframe piece by piece. We'll hold them off."

"Will that work?" Lena cried, already typing rapidly.

"We have to try," Lillian shot back, racing towards the chemicals on the far wall with the intent of making a small bomb. Several off the nanobots dropped from the sky a few moments later.

"It wasn't me!" Supergirl yelled, nearly caught by now. "Whatever you're doing, keep doing it!" A couple dozen more dropped, and Jack gasped in small relief, still on his knees.

Lena doubled over the keys, her fingers flying faster, and Lillian began to mix chemicals in earnest. She had been a chemistry minor, after all. Lillian chucked a beaker about to blow towards where the swarm was headed, and it blew off with a satisfying bang. The bots scattered in confusion, and then they started dropping by the dozen. Lena's face was set into a deep frown of concentration as her fingers flew across the keyboard, and Lillian's attention was drawn to a stirring Beth. Lillian punched her down again.

Supergirl let out a cry as she was trapped in earnest, pinned on top of a podium. Lillian stared for a moment, but Lena shook her head. "I think I can-- got it!"

The bots clattered to the floor, completely deactivated. Jack let out a gasp and toppled forward, and Lillian and Lena both raced for him. Lena turned him over gently, and his eyes found her face, his hand seeking hers.

"Jack, you're gonna be fine," Lena promised, her voice thick and strangled. She looked at Lillian desperately, and Lillian nodded, smoothing back Jack's hair. "Just fine," Lena continued, rambling now. "I'm so sorry I didn't see it before, but Jack, I think we did it, I know you were innocent, I'm so sorry--"

"Lena," he coughed, his body rattling, interrupting her. "I'll be alright." He squeezed her hand weakly. "Thanks to you."

 

Lena wouldn’t see Kara.

"Don't be ridiculous," Lillian told her, shooing her out of the chair by Jack's hospital bed. "The poor girl is desperate to see you."

"I can't," Lena said, shaking her head.

"Why?" Jack asked, his voice still weak.

"Embarrassed?" Lillian guessed shrewdly. "You think you should have seen it or something?"

"Lena, the whole point is that no one would see it," Jack said, coughing lightly at the end.

Lena shot him a glare with no heat. "Don't think I won't stop coming to see you on all my lunch breaks, Spheer."

"I wish you'd see her instead," Jack shot back petulantly, sitting up a little straighter. "You have a company to run and a girl to woo. It's been three days, Lena. Stop thinking about your pride and think about how much you miss her."

"I am not wooing her," Lena sputtered, incredulous, and Jack and Lillian both laughed.

"Sure you aren't," Lillian said. "But in the meantime, go tell your friend thank you."

"I already did," Lena sniffed, and Lillian narrowed her eyes.

"Buying out a local flower shop doesn't count."

"She seems to think it does," Lena said disdainfully.

"Who seems to think what?" Lena whirled around, her lips parted as she saw Kara hovering awkwardly in the door.

"How much of that did you hear?" Lena asked, and Kara shrugged.

"Something about a flower shop?" Kara took a hesitant step into the room, proffering a bouquet of her own. "Speaking of, I got you these." Lena blushed, and Kara chuckled awkwardly, stepping past Lena to move towards Jack. Lena's cheeks were definitely on fire now, and Lillian and Jack were both holding back the giggles at the misunderstanding that seemed to have flown over Kara's head.

"What a gentleman," Jack teased, and Kara ducked her head, chuckling. "Thank you," Jack added sincerely, reaching for the flowers, smiling as he examined them. "And I'm glad you stopped by. I'm told I owe you a debt of thanks for more than just the flowers. It was your intrepid reporting that uncovered my dark side even I didn't know about."

Kara shuffled her feet. "Do you remember anything?" She asked, looking awkward at her own question, but Jack didn't take any offense.

"Bits and pieces," he said slowly. "I imagine more will come back eventually. I'm more frustrated that I didn't just not make it work, though, I made it evil."

"Jack," Lena said softly at the foot of the bed, "No."

Jack waved a hand. "I'll make my peace with it. I know it was taken over. But," he took a deep, cleansing breath and let it out. "Thank you, Kara Danvers. I can't thank you enough for bringing the monstrosity that lurked in the dark to light."

Kara watched him seriously, sincerely, for several long moments before smiling gently, sadly. "We all need help sometimes. I'm glad I could help you. And I'm sorry for assuming you were guilty at first."

"That's alright," Jack chuckled. "I would have too. And you did more than help," Jack promised, and he reached out to take Kara's hand. He squeezed weakly. "Your courage saved us all."

Kara squeezed back, careful and gentle. "Don't give up on healing people, okay?" She smiled. "We need more people like you." She let Jack's hand go, backing out slowly, eyes still on him. Her gaze darted to Lena, shy, before she shook her head minutely and turned to walk out the door. She paused at the doorframe, fingers tapping thoughtfully. She turned back after a moment, smiling at Jack, a little brighter. "You ever need anything investigated, call me," she told him, and Jack grinned.

"I just might," he said. "Lena can give you my number, Ms. Danvers."

"Oh please, it's just Kara."

"Kara," he said, smiling. "Then it's Jack to you."

Kara smiled once more at him, that face-scrunching smile that lit her up, and Lillian glanced at Lena, who was watching Kara quietly. "Jack," Kara said, and tapped the doorframe once more. "I have to go, but I'm glad you're doing better."

Kara slipped out the doorway backwards with one last poorly-disguised glance at Lena. They all watched her through the window, Kara's hand going to rub the back of her head as she walked down the hall, head down.

"Lena," Jack said delicately, and Lena looked at him. "I am honest-to-god going to explode. That was painful. That is the best woman you will ever meet in your life, she's completely gone for you and it's awkward for no fucking reason, get your fucking act together and go talk to her."

Lena's mouth opened. Closed. She looked at Lillian, and Lillian looked back at her. Lillian tilted her head as if to say what are you waiting for?

Lena took a breath. She batted a hand against Jack's calf under the blanket. And she ran out the door.

 

"Kara!"

Kara spun on her heel as Lena's voice chased after her. Kara watched in slight disbelief as Lena Luthor ran down the hall towards her. Well, more like a dignified jog that she made look elegant and refined while still hasty, but still. In the crowded hallway, she would have made Queen Clarisse proud.

Kara swung back around awkwardly as Lena got close, setting a much slower pace, feeling nothing but uncertainty. Lena hadn't reached out, hadn't said anything since their awkward please don't go see him, he's the one killing people chat, and then Kara knew Lena had definitely gone to see him. And then she had filled Kara's apartment with flowers. One card had been delivered with the massive order, Lena's elegant hand scripting out two words: Thank you.

But there hadn't been anything. Maybe the flowers were a gentle goodbye? But why was Lena chasing her down now? Kara hadn't meant to run into her at the hospital--well, okay, that was a total lie, she definitely had.

"Kara," Lena repeated, reaching her side, a little short on breath, and Kara glanced towards her. Lena seemed to be searching for words, and Kara waited as they kept walking. "I'm sorry," Lena said after a moment, and Kara watched their shoes  move against the floor. "I'm sorry," Lena repeated, "For not reaching out, for not telling you what happened, for not telling you that you helped." She reached out and caught Kara's arm, and Kara let herself be spun to face Lena, still facing the floor. "You did help," Lena promised, ducking to meet Kara's eyes, and Kara picked her head up. "Immensely," Lena added.

"I'm still sorry," Kara said, not sure what she was sorry for, scuffing her feet against the floor.

"For what?" Lena asked, like she was reading her thoughts. "I'm the one who should be sorry. I kicked you out and went radio silent on you when you brought a genuine issue to my attention."

"No, it wasn't like that," Kara said, shaking her head, but Lena was smiling.

"It could have been--would have been a lot worse if you weren't there," Lena said. "Doing your job. Like you were supposed to. Even when I'm basically the one that got you fired last time."

Kara frowned. "The alien registry article? No, Lena, you gave me an idea. I'm the one that ran with it."

"Still," Lena insisted. "I still feel bad."

"Well," Kara ventured, taking a slow step forward as she pivoted, feeling the need for motion. "You don't have to feel bad anymore."

"What do you mean?" Lena asked, falling into step beside her and walking a little closer.

"I sort of… got my job back," Kara said, smiling.

"What?" Lena yelped in excitement, and Kara grinned. "Kara, that's amazing!" Lena exclaimed, and before she knew it, Kara was being pulled in for a hug. "Congratulations," Lena said, letting her go and smiling hugely. "You deserve it."

"Thanks," Kara said, grinning bashfully under Lena's attention. "Speaking of thank you's, it seems someone couldn’t find an office to find flowers to send this time."

"Really?" Lena's lips pursed in mock thought. "How incompetent of them."

"Honestly," Kara huffed, stomach flipping in joy at the fake frown on Lena's face. "I've been giving them out to all my neighbors instead of coworkers this time. It's gotten me a couple casseroles from the old ladies on the second floor, though."

Lena laughed, bright and loud in the hospital corridor. "Well then I guess I should say you're welcome instead of I'm sorry."

Kara glanced at her, feeling shy again. "You didn't have to, you know."

"Yeah," Lena said, just as soft as the first time she said those words. "I did."

Kara felt a blush rising on her neck. "You should, uh," she said, rubbing at her neck with a sleeve pulled over her fingers, and Lena's eyes lingered on her hand, "You should get back to them."

Lena bit her lip, looking halfway regretful but still smiling. "Yeah, I guess I should." Lena was still watching her as they walked. "But we should have dinner tonight."

"Yeah?" Kara asked, feeling her stomach flip. "Will your mom be there?"

"If you want her to be," Lena said, smiling. "But I'll be the one cooking no matter what."

"Will Jack be there?"

"Are you trying to find all the embarrassing stories about me?" Lena asked, looking bemused, and Kara felt warm all over.

"Maybe," Kara said, holding up her hands and grinning. "Maybe I just like the people in your life."

Lena smiled widely. "Alright, Ms. Danvers. I'll cook, we can bring it over and eat it here, if you like. Jack won't be discharged for another couple days."

Kara felt a steady warmth seeping through her at the prospect, a lightness at Lena's renewed attentions. "Sounds perfect," she promised. "I'll come over after work and help?"

Lena snorted. "If by help, you mean bring dessert and eat half of it and talk to me while I cook, then yeah, you can come over and help."

"Hey!" Kara protested, laughing with her. "I'm not that bad!"

Lena was chuckling shamelessly. "Yes, you are, and it's wonderful." Lena pulled her into another hug, wonderful and tight and warm. "But I'll see you tonight."

 

Lena answered the door that night with an apron and a smile. She pulled the door open for Kara, eyes watching her with something Kara couldn't put her finger on. Something had changed, Kara thought. She couldn't put her finger on it, but she and Lena were closer. Some barrier had fallen in the space between the hospital visit and now. Maybe it was Lena realizing she really did want Kara in her life after those few days of absence, or that she really could trust Kara after everything with Jack.

Either way, Kara would take it.

"What've you brought me, Ms. Danvers?" Lena asked, closing the door behind her and leading the way to the island counter.

Kara dropped her spoils on the surface and spread her hands on either side of it, looking Lena in the eye. "Cherry pie with a side of chocolate cake."

Lena forcibly bit down on a laugh. "You know Jack's not eating that much, right? I know you can put away a lot, but do those flavors even go together?"

"I dare you to try a bite of both at the same time," Kara said, not breaking eye contact, and Lena straightened, spine stiffening.

"At the same time?" she asked, and Kara grinned. "Give me the forks."

Lena turned to open the silverware drawer, pulling out two forks with a flourish while Kara pulled the lids off the containers. They each took a careful half-bite off both, balanced precariously on their forks. "No, wait," Lena said, "We have to do this shot style, here, interlocking the elbows--" Kara giggled and twined her arm through Lena's and looped it back to her own mouth, eyes on her fork. "Ready?" Lena asked, and Kara nodded. "Drink," Lena commanded, and Kara tried hard not to laugh as they both took the bite.

"Whoa," Kara said, eyes widening, and Lena giggled, hand over her mouth as she pulled her arm out of Kara's. "That's--"

"Actually not bad," Lena said thoughtfully, and Kara stared incredulously.

"Freaking incredible, I think you mean," Kara corrected her, and Lena's smile widened.

"Tolerable," She corrected.

"Amazing."

"Manageable."

"Wondrous."

"Acceptable."

Kara glared. "Don't diss my invention, Luthor. Not all of us have seventeen patents, but we make do."

Lena spluttered. "I do not have seventeen patents!"

"No?" Kara asked, pulling out her phone. "Hey Siri--"

"That's enough of that," Lena said hastily, swiping the phone out of her hand. "Sit. I haven't even started dinner beyond basic prep."

Kara chuckled and sat, picking up her abandoned fork and pulling the cake and pie towards her. "Are you still not allowing me to help cook?" she asked, taking another bite of both and moaning at the taste. Lena paused for a moment. "What?" Kara asked.

"You should cut pieces out of those," Lena said, pulling a plate out. "Or cut half off of each. Make it less obvious you were snacking when we get there."

"I'm not snacking," Kara sniffed disdainfully. "I'm pregaming."

Lena rolled her eyes and held up her hands. "My bad. And no. You are not allowed to help. I'm not even sure you can hold a conversation right now with that deadly combo in front of you."

"I am perfectly capable of multitasking," Kara informed her, taking the proffered knife and slicing each dessert in half, transferring them to her plate. "Just because I haven't proved myself to you yet doesn't mean that I can't."

Lena's laugh lit up the kitchen, and continued to until they left, boxing up the food to take to the hospital. "How'd you get here, anyway?" Lena asked, sliding out of the driver's seat as they arrived at the hospital. "You live on like the opposite end of town."

"National City has great public transportation," Kara said breezily, pulling the containers into her arms. "And I love walking."

"Ugh," Lena said, faking a shiver. "I could do without parking, but I don't think I'd do well on buses. I always take the wrong one."

"Rich people problems," Kara said, mock-disdainfully, rolling her eyes as they stepped into the elevator. "Does your butt hurt sometimes too?" Lena looked at her in question. "When you sit on your wallet," Kara clarified, grinning. "Because your wallet is too fat."

Lena burst out laughing. "Not in the twenty-first century, it doesn't. Everything's digital."

Kara laughed as well. She was still chuckling when they arrived at Jack's hospital room. Jack brightened as they walked in, breaking off whatever he was saying to Lillian. "The merry band arrives!" Jack said cheerily. "Welcome back to my mancave."

Lena rolled her eyes. "As if your mancave would ever exist not smelling of expensive cologne."

"At least it's expensive, love," Jack said, winking, and Lena snorted, moving to kiss Lillian's cheek. "What have you brought us?" Jack asked. "Anything has to be better than hospital food."

"Preach," Kara muttered, depositing the boxes on the table.

Jack raised his eyebrows interestedly. "You've spent time in the hospital, Ms. Danvers?" Kara eyed him warily, and Jack amended, "Kara."

"Not me personally," she said, pulling a chair towards her. "But a number of visits. A particularly memorable one my sophomore year of high school." She shivered at the memory. "I sort of… broke my boyfriend's nose. Twice."

"What?" Lena spluttered, looking half-delighted at this information. The other half of her expression was something Kara couldn't pin down, but Lillian and Jack both had a knowing expression that also meant nothing to Kara. "Yeah, I'm definitely going to need that full story," Lena told her, pulling the lids off the food and handing out forks.

Kara chuckled awkwardly. "Alex probably remembers more of it," she said, flashing a smile at Jack's appreciative moan as he dug into the food. "I've definitely repressed the memory."

"I'll call Alex," Lena promised. "But in the meantime, I need more details than that."

"Wrong angle?" Kara tried, shrugging, wincing at the memory even now. Alex had looked briefly ill when they had come helplessly into her room, blood streaming out Johnny's nose and Kara close to tears. Alex had been studying for med school by that point, and had had plenty of lessons from Jeremiah besides on things she might need to know living with Kara. Apparently, resetting a nose was one of them. Alex had stoically reset his nose before driving them to the hospital, Eliza out of the house at the time.

Johnny had looked at her with these puppy dog eyes, promising he was fine, there was a vague memory of him asking for another kiss as he sat down on the hospital bed before being wheeled in, and Kara being so stressed that she heard another crack when she relented and kissed him again. It had maybe caused a small amount of hyperventilation.

Johnny hadn't lasted long after a couple shared hospital meals and a nose splint. Kara still felt wracked with guilt every time she looked at him, and he was way too gone on her to work out their problems like adults. 

Lillian was looking at her now with a gentle kind of pity, and Kara flushed under the attention, ducking her head away from Lena and Jack's matching delighted grins and Lillian's acceptance. "Alex reset it," Kara muttered. "It broke again when we made it to the hospital, because, uh," Nope. Not sharing the second part. "Reasons," Kara finished lamely, and looked up to see Lena's grin.

"Reasons," Lena echoed, and oh, despite the topic being bad, Kara liked when Lena used that tone. "Okay," Lena said, still fighting a laugh for Kara's sake. "Could happen to anyone, I guess."

No, it couldn't, Kara thought, but didn't say anything. "Yep," she squeaked.

"We all have skeletons in our closet," Lillian said calmly, and Kara looked at her gratefully. "I seem to remember a certain thirteen-year-old crying at our dinner table once."

Jack flushed. "I thought we agreed not to talk about that," he said stiffly. "It was traumatic."

"You get over trauma by facing it," Lena said idly, zeroed in on him now, playing with her container of food.

"That seems like bullshit," Jack said grumpily, and Lena shrugged.

"Go to a shrink then."

Jack glared. "Fine. I very much did cry, but it was in the bathroom before dessert, not in front of the men of the Luthor household, thank you very much. They made fun of my hair and my huge crush on Lena and told me I'd never be worthy of her."

Lena snorted again, and Kara watched, spellbound. "That's all they said? They were worse every Tuesday night."

"Learning you'll never be enough for Lena is a hard thing to come to terms with," Jack shot back. "They broke my heart that night!"

"You got over it," Lena pointed out. "Enough to ask me out every time you saw me from when we were sixteen until I told you I was gay."

She's gay.

The information splashed over Kara like a shock of warm water, entirely welcome, for some reason, but leaving her incredibly aware of nothing but the fact. Lillian was watching her with a little smile that said she knew entirely too much, and Lena was determinedly not looking at her. Kara ducked her head and poked at her own dish, trying not to show that a whole new world of thoughts were screaming for attention in her mind.

"It still sucked," Jack was saying, looking marginally good-natured about the recollection by now.

Lena rolled her eyes. "I'm so sorry."

"I'll get over it," he said, grinning. "But you know what would help me get over it faster? If Lillian told the story of--"

"Nope," Lena cut him off. "I will take this dinner and I will leave. I think it's time for someone else's embarrassing stories right now. Kara?"

"What?" Kara said, jerking her head up. "No way. I literally just told one."

"But you tell stories better than anyone here," Lena said, and her eyes widened a fraction, and damn she was good at this. "You're a reporter at a national news organization." Lillian chuckled and Jack grinned deviously as Lena began to work her magic. "Every time you tell a story, you practice your craft. Plus," Lena said, picking at her dish and flicking an eyebrow up in an unfairly seductive gesture, "You did mention a story about Eliza visiting CatCo I've been dying to hear for forever…"

Kara glared. "Do not make me relive that. Do not."

Lena looked at her fully, and Kara resisted a shiver. Something had just changed. Right there. In the last minute. She still felt warm and secure, but there was something else, too. An edge. And she liked it. "Please?" Lena tried.

Kara closed her eyes. Fuck, this was what love felt like, wasn't it? She'd do anything Lena asked, with Lena's oldest friend and her mom right there.

Kara sighed. "This does not leave this room," she said warningly, and Jack cheered while Lena and Lillian exchanged matching grins. Kara groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Okay, so it was like maybe a year before I got promoted to reporter. Eliza my adoptive mom was coming in for a visit, and she like, she came up just to see the floor to pick me up for lunch, we were going out, and it was like…" Kara shivered as the memory of Cat biting at the end of her sunglasses as she shook Eliza's hand with a contemplative look came back over her, Cat's oh yes, Kara has been just wonderful, with a side glance at Kara as she intentionally pronounced her name correctly.

"It was like," Jack prompted. "Wait, Cat as in Cat Grant?" He realized abruptly.

"I was her personal assistant for three years," Kara told him, and Jack gaped. Kara smiled wryly. "Whatever you're thinking, it's probably true. But she's more than what they say. I learned so much from her. But her meeting my adoptive mother?" Kara shivered. "I specifically told Eliza to come at a time when she wouldn’t meet Cat, but Cat came back from an appointment early and ran into her. The look she gave her…" Kara shook her head. "I thought Cat was going to flay me alive for inviting my mom to work, but she just gave this devilish grin and started singing my praises. Loudly," Kara added. "I think half the floor heard and stopped and stared. It was even worse."

"Ohh," Lena said sympathetically, trying not to laugh. "That is even worse."

"Eliza didn’t really know what to do. I couldn’t just say that she wasn't my mom or anything, you know, I was so panicked. It only lasted maybe half a minute before thankfully I got a phone call, but it was…" Kara shivered. "One of the most harrowing experiences of my life. The looks Cat gave me that whole week afterwards…"

"Looks like what?" Jack asked.

Kara shrugged, uncomfortable. "The same sort of looks she gave me that month surrounding when I dated her son. I could never figure it out--"

"You dated Cat Grant's son?" Lena and Jack spluttered in unison, voices raised, and Kara flinched.

"Let the girl breathe," Lillian commanded, and Lena and Jack both sat back, chastised.

Kara groaned. "I was really probably not supposed to let that slip," she said, pinching the bridge of her nose again. "Not Carter, if that's what you're thinking. I babysat him a couple times though, he crushed me in Settlers of Catan."

"Nuh uh," Lena said, completely enthralled. "Go back to the part where you dated your boss's son." Kara eyed her warily, and Lena softened. "Kara, we all know what it's like to have our names dragged through the mud, or personally, be the half-blood child of a tycoon. Cat's secrets are safe with us. Promise."

"Scout's honor," Jack said solemnly, winking at Kara, eyes sparkling kindly, and Lillian nodded, looking more reassuring than ever.

Kara sighed. "Adam. He's her older son. She's only got the two." Kara tilted her head. "As far as I know. But that's not important. Long story short, Adam came to town, and I met him without realizing he was her son at first, and then I sort of got caught in the middle of them and got to know him, but we broke up when I got kidnapped and realized I didn't have the space in my life for someone right then--what?" They were all staring at her, open-mouthed. "What'd I say?"

"You got kidnapped?" Lillian asked, alarmed.

"Oh," Kara said, chuckling. "Yeah. By Bizarro. Did you guys see the news when Bizarro came up? She was like that alternate m--alternate Supergirl clone gone wrong thing? Really said, actually. It was just this misunderstanding. I was totally fine." She waved her hand to prove it was nothing.

Lena's lips were parted in shock. "What do you mean it's fine?" she all but hissed. "How'd you get out?"

"Alex is FBI," Kara said, raising an eyebrow. "She made sure I can take care of myself. And she showed up with a whole team. Honestly, it was less than twenty minutes."

"Are you okay?" Jack asked. "I mean, like--"

"I'm fine," Kara promised. "It was like, over a year ago anyway."

"Is there anything else entirely shocking you'd like to tell us about?" Lena asked, eyes still glued to Kara. "Any other kidnappings or scandalous affairs? Secret missions you've accompanied your sister on, perhaps? Other planets you've visited?" Kara felt her jaw tighten and she faced her food again. It was a joke, don't answer those seriously, don't, don't, don't, don't don't don't do not do not--

"None off the top of my head," Kara joked weakly. "I'd love to go to Mars, though." She wiggled her eyebrows enticingly. "I'm sitting in a room with two of the biggest tech moguls in the world, though. If anyone other than NASA could make that happen, it's you two. Any plans?"

Jack laughed. "I like you, Kara Danvers. If I ever make a space program, I'll make sure you're on my cosmonaut list."

Lena rolled her eyes. "Try me again in twenty years."

Kara pulled out her phone, scrolling through her calendar. "In twenty years it'll be…. Let's see, twenty-forty? Twenty-thirty-eight? Hmm… New appointment… ask… Lena…about…space travel." Kara looked up with a triumphant grin to see Lena roll her eyes fondly. The warm, laughing conversation continued with Jack and Lillian exchanging quiet glances.

And so the night passed.

 

Chapter Text

Lillian rang the doorbell on a Saturday afternoon of her next visit only to have it answered by Kara.

"Lillian!" Kara said brightly, opening the door wider and hugging her warmly, sliding her bag out of her hand smoothly. "It's so good to see you."

"You too, Kara," Lillian returned sincerely, not missing the way Kara trotted off to deposit her bag in Lena's guest bedroom without instruction. She raised an eyebrow at Lena, who shrugged in a I don't really know what to make of it either type of way.

"You're early," was all Lena said out loud her tone warm and a happy kind of surprised, moving to wrap her arms around Lillian, squeezing tight on her tiptoes.

"I am," Lillian agreed. "My meetings finished early and I had my flight moved. I can go if you need…"

Lena rolled her eyes. "You're not going anywhere. Sit, I'll get you a drink."

"So, Lillian," Kara said, walking back in to flop dramatically on the couch, her eyes widening momentarily as the springs creaked. She covered smoothly. "Please tell me you know how to beat your daughter at chess."

Lillian let out a bark of laughter, accepting a glass of wine from Lena as she sat down in Lena's favorite chair and Lena said nothing. "Lena was besting supercomputers in chess by the time she was five. I may have taught her, but never assume I could beat her. The last time she lost, she was four."

Kara's lips twisted to the side in displeasure. "All streaks can be broken."

Lillian bit back a smile at the petulant look. "Keep trying, dear. I can give you the strategy books she devoured as a child on my next visit if you like, but unless you dedicate countless hours with her as your tutor, I'm afraid you'll spend the rest of your life losing to her."

Kara's eyes cut to Lena, who was perched on the arm of Lillian's chair, elegant but pressing warmly into Lillian's side. Kara quirked a smile. "I think I'll suffer, then. I might surprise her someday, though."

"You always do," Lena smiled.

Lillian fought a sigh and resigned to text Jack. She couldn’t believe they weren't engaged already.

"So," Kara said, focusing on the previously abandoned chess board on the coffee table. She made a move that seemed halfway between haphazard and previously calculated, and Lena leaned forward to examine it as Kara sat back. "Any special occasion for visiting this time, or you just couldn't stay away from my charms?"

Kara winked, and Lillian smiled back at her, enjoying Kara's ease in her presence. Lena hummed as she took out Kara's rook, leaning back and clearly enjoying the dismay crossing Kara's face. "Flirting with my mother, Danvers? That's more of your sister-in-law's style, isn't it?"

Kara bit her lip distractedly as she toyed with her queen, and only addressed part of Lena's callout. "They're not married yet. Three and a half more weeks."

"Coming up, though, isn't it?" Lillian asked, rolling the stem of her wineglass. "How's the planning coming along?"

Kara moved her queen and winced as she did it, like she knew Lena was going to murder her for the mistake, but focused back on Lillian, one eye still on the chessboard as Lena leaned forward. "They're still trying to find the perfect venue, but nearly everything else is coming along really well. I'd say they're 80% of the way done."

"They move fast," Lillian commented, impressed. "How big is the wedding?"

"The 'biggest, gayest wedding National City has ever seen,'" Kara said, holding up air quotes and grinning. "Probably not the biggest, but certainly the biggest gay one. And yeah, the lesbian U-Haul jokes really make themselves some days when it comes to Alex and Maggie. It's made the planning super fun--seriously?"

"You knew I was going to do it as soon as you made that move, you can't even blame me for that," Lena shot back, completely unaffected by Kara's moan as she captured her queen. "Check, by the way." Kara groaned. She moved her bishop in to protect her king, and Lena promptly took that out of the way too. "Checkmate," Lena announced triumphantly.

Kara closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose in defeat. Lena giggled, standing and scratching the back of Kara's head on her way to the kitchen to refill her glass. Kara laid down on the couch, hands pressed to the side of her head. "I can't believe I didn't see that," she muttered.

Lena laughed again, returning and tapping at her feet. Kara lifted her legs without opening her eyes, and Lena sat down, Kara's legs following to prop on her lap. Lena patted her shins. "I'm sure you'll see your next defeat coming," she promised, her tone sweet and laced with an evil kind of victory that was about as evil as Lena ever got.

Kara opened her eyes to narrow them in a glare at Lena, who smiled serenely back. Kara closed them again, leaning back against the pillows. "This daughter of yours is a real monster, Lillian," Kara groaned. "Absolute terror."

Lena glanced at Lillian quickly, afraid of the words triggering the bad memories that Lillian associated with the children she had raised being world-dominators--but Lillian hadn't felt anything other than warmth at the words. Something about the way Kara had phrased it, the love with which she had said it, had washed away all the fear. Lillian chuckled dryly in reply. "Evil to her core," she agreed, and Kara opened her eyes to grin over at Lillian, who winked.

Predictably Kara's phone rang. She scrambled to answer it with a rushed sorry, just a sec, sorry, yanking her feet off Lena's lap and jumping off the couch to answer. "Alex? What's up? …there's a what?" she sighed. "And you need… okay, okay, yeah. Two seconds." Kara turned back around, entirely apologetic. "I'm so sorry. I have--"

"By all means," Lena said, waving an airy hand, her back to Kara. Lillian could see the hurt in her eyes though. The continual letdown, the only real downside that came with being friends with Kara, came with caring about her. The way Kara kept leaving. She always came back, but that didn't mean she hadn't left in the first place. And that Lena was never told why.

Kara winced, like she knew it was hurting and she hated it. "I'm sorry," Kara repeated. "I'll be back for dinner, if you want me? I can bring something--"

Lillian cut in smoothly, sensing Lena was going to make a choked affirmation only to hurt herself more without processing her own emotions. "Kara dear, I'm so sorry, but Lena and I have some business-related things to catch up on I don't think you want to be here for. Raincheck?"

Kara's mouth pulled down at the corners, upset but understanding, and Lillian was glad Lena wasn't looking at her, was spinning a white knight chess piece in her fingers instead. "Of course," Kara said, her answer prim and polite and practiced and sincere, and honestly, Lillian didn't understand her but she knew there was something else going on here. "Of course. Have a lovely evening. I'll text you?" Her voice tinged up in question, and she looked at Lena hopefully as she picked up her jacket off the couch, jammed her feet into her shoes.

Lena's expression was flawlessly forgiving and gave no hint of displeasure. "Of course," she said smoothly.

"Okay," Kara said, still looking upset. "I'll see you, then." She flashed a smile at Lillian and bent down to press a kiss to Lena's hair--Lillian felt her eyes go wide--and she was gone.

Lillian waited until the door had closed before she looked at Lena carefully, like making sure she wasn't spooking at a hurt animal. Lena looked up at her, closed her eyes, and shook her head. "Every time," Lena muttered bitterly, picking up her wineglass and draining it in one. She stood up and stalked to the kitchen, setting her glass down in the sink, gripping the counter and breathing heavily. "I shouldn't be this upset."

"You're allowed to be," Lillian said gently. "I would be."

"You would?" Lena's voice was fragile, and Lillian was smacked in the face, again, with the fact that Lena had never really dated, not really.

"I would," Lillian promised.

Lena took a shaky breath. "She doesn't do this every time. She's always sad to go. But she does go. And it seems like every time we're on the verge, like we're getting closer, she goes. She pulls back. Like she wants the same thing I do but she won't let herself have it. And if she would just talk to me--"

Lena cut herself off. Lillian watched her, heart breaking for her. "Lena," she whispered. "Come here."

Lena turned to her with tear-filled eyes, her twenty-six-year-old CEO daughter, the most elegant and graceful and wonderful woman in the world, crying over her crush. Lillian opened her arms, and Lena huffed, half a laugh that didn't quite get there. Lena sat down carefully in her lap and Lillian wrapped her arms around her. "Let it out," Lillian instructed gently. "I'm told it's healthy."

That one got Lena to laugh. As did Lillian over dinner, when they ordered a pizza and sat watching Netflix, curled together on the couch, thoughts of a certain heartbreaker in pastel far away. Lillian pushed down her quiet fury at Kara for the night. She worked doubly hard to push it down when Lena bit her lip at Kara's apology text.

Lena answered the text without letting a minute go by. Lillian resolved to talk to Kara.

 

Lillian was fairly positive she wasn't supposed to do this. But several fathers in the tv shows or movies Lena had watched with her on Netflix had intimidated the young men their daughters had gone out with, so Lillian figured she was on steady footing.

Lillian stayed with Kara for a moment in the restaurant when they had brunch the next day and Lena went off to the office to pick up a few things. "Kara," she started with calmly, and Kara looked up at her, eyes bright and trusting, and Lillian hated to do this to this girl who she loved too, but Lena came first. Lena would always come first.

"What's up?" Kara asked, rubbing her napkin against a spot in the table.

"I wanted to talk to you about something," Lillian started. She had no idea how to do this without scaring the pants off Kara, something she knew Lena wouldn’t appreciate. She knew Lena wouldn't appreciate this at all, actually, but Lillian didn't care. Not after she had cried in her arms the other night. "About a habit of yours, actually." Kara raised her eyebrows in question. "The way you often have to leave abruptly," Lillian clarified, and Kara's expression shifted minutely, alarm in her eyes.

"My family has… special needs," Kara said evasively.

"I had no idea," Lillian said, not entirely surprised. "And by my guess, neither does Lena." Kara's jaw clenched, and Lillian softened slightly. "Kara," she said quietly, and Kara looked her in the eyes, defensive and apologetic and upset all at once. "You don't owe people the minute details of your life, or the big ones, for that matter. But I think it would be extremely beneficial to any relationships you are trying to uphold that you give them a peek behind the curtain every now and again." Lillian leaned closer, evasive language dropped. "If you're going to be in my daughter's life, something I think we both want very much, then I ask that you be honest enough with her to not leave her wondering if you really do want to be in it."

Kara spluttered. "Of course I do!"

"I don't doubt that," Lillian said calmly. "I don't doubt you. I never have. But Lena's been abandoned and betrayed and tossed aside by many people, and I'm telling you now that you need to show her you won't do that if you expect to maintain what you have." Lillian picked up her purse and stood. "A show of honesty, no matter how small, would go a long way to securing that." She paused after taking a step out, considering. "And we never had this conversation."

 

Kara was more nervous than Lena had ever seen her.

Lena let her into the apartment the afternoon after they had had lunch, and Kara paced right past her, wringing her hands and already talking. "Okay so I have to tell you something, and I understand any way you react, and if you want me to leave, I totally will. But despite all the people telling me not to tell anyone, I've owed you this truth for a really long time and it's way past due but I always just thought you of all people had enough on your plate without this of all things--"

"Kara," Lena said, projecting a false calm forcibly.

Kara took a deep breath as Lena closed the door carefully behind her. "Sorry."

"What's going on?"

Kara bit her lip, hands shoved deep in her pockets, swaying side to side on her feet, her face miserable and nervous in equal measure. "I trust you," Kara said. "Please know that. This was never about not trusting you."

"Kara, we've been friends for over a year, what's going on?"

Kara took one more deep breath and pulled her hands out of her pockets. She hung her head for a moment, her hands moving at the top button of her shirt. Lena frowned, Kara wasn't--oh.

"I'm Supergirl."

Lena stepped closer in a trance, reaching out. Her hands pulled away Kara's glasses, pulled down her pony tail. Kara watched her silently. Lena's fingers found the top of the crest on the suit, traced along an inch of the edge in wonder. "Of course," she breathed. Kara frowned. "I should have seen it," Lena murmured, eyes tracking upwards. She touched the scar on Kara's forehead, and Kara's eyes lightened with understanding. Lena didn't have the same relationship with Supergirl, but she'd been there often enough.

"I'm sorry," Kara whispered. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, I'm sorry about all the times I ran out--oh."

Lena's arms had wrapped around her, tight, and was hanging on for dear life. "Thank you," Lena said into her shoulder. Kara's arms wrapped around her slowly, hesitantly, like she wasn't sure it was a trap or not. "Thank you, for all the times you ran out. To save people. To keep us safe. For all the times you saved me. Jack, all of us. Thank you."

Kara tightened her hold and slowly let Lena take a little more of the weight off her shoulders.

 

Lillian noticed something was lighter this time. Lillian walked in the door the evening after she had had a little chat with Kara, hearing Lena tell her to just keep stirring and don't you dare burn it, smiling wide and uninhibited when she saw Lillian. "Hey! I'm trying to teach Kara to make pizza, but I made the mistake of trying homemade marinara with her, hope you weren't too hungry."

"It was just a couple meetings, I think I'll survive," Lillian said, pulling off her coat. "Besides, I have every faith in Kara."

Kara looked over at her with a small smile. One that was reserved, like she wasn't sure where she stood with Lillian now. But the light in her eyes when she looked at Lena was freer than Lillian had ever seen it. "Thanks," Kara said softly. She nudged Lena with her hip. "See, someone trusts me."

Lena raised an eyebrow, full of unsaid things that Kara seemed to understand. Kara rolled her eyes, blushing slightly. Lena smiled and pushed her back with her hip. Interesting.

Interesting enough that after another forty-five minutes of easy banter and Lillian sharing about her day, the two of them giggling at unexplained things like when Lena tasted the marinara and declared it to be super, Kara leaned over the counter towards Lillian when Lena went to the bathroom. "I, uh, Lena and I had a chat."

Lillian raised an eyebrow. "And how did it go?"

"I told her the things I felt like I couldn’t earlier. I had wanted to tell her for a long time, really, I guess I just needed the push to remind me it was going to be better this way. And it is. It brought us closer and I'm not hiding anymore, and things are so much better." Kara cocked her head, listening for something Lillian couldn't hear. "And I wanted to say thank you, for that."

"I'm glad it all worked out," Lillian said sincerely.

Lena walked back in the room just as Kara's phone rang. Kara picked it up with a glare at the offending device the usual garble on the other side, and Kara looked apologetically at Lena, but Lena smiled without a trace of the hurt that usually plagued her. "Back in twenty?" Kara tried. "Quick holdup."

"Drive safe," Lena said with a secret smile, and Kara rolled her eyes to fight a laugh. "The pizza will be out of the oven by then, go."

"Thanks," Kara said, so softly and so clearly meant for only Lena that Lillian almost wished she hadn't heard it. And without grabbing her coat, Kara was gone.

Lillian raised an eyebrow at Lena, who was watching the door with an expression that hid absolutely nothing. Lena quirked a smile at her. "We had a chat," Lena said simply. "I hope she's able to let you in on it someday, but it's not all up to her. But I really appreciate knowing."

"As long as you're happy," Lillian said, resigning herself to the darkness, happily, so long as Lena could live in the light. "As long as you trust her."

"More than anyone," Lena said quietly, shaking her head. "I never thought I'd get so lucky."

Lillian pushed down the voice in her head begging Lena to ask Kara out. Lena would get there on her own in the next--hmm, Lillian would give it two weeks--or else Lillian would have a chat with her next.

Kara blew back in with a hug that swept Lena off her feet with a laugh, windswept hair, crooked glasses, and an exclamation of delight at the pizza coming out of the oven. Well, the four pizzas. Kara was only marginally upset that they had cleaned the kitchen without her.

Lillian pushed the mental deadline to ten days. Someone who wanted to clean the mess she had helped make needed to be taken off the market yesterday.