Actions

Work Header

Merry Christmas, Lena Luthor (A Luthor Christmas Carol)

Work Text:

Prologue

The winter wind screeches and howls angrily, rattling the slightly open window of the lonely tower on Cordova street. For the better part of an hour, it has whispered quietly, providing a comforting backdrop for the L-Corp CEO who sits ramrod still as if chained to her desk, pouring over her spreadsheets. Lena glances up from her work, startled at the way the wind picks up in fury and intensity. It’s the time of year where afternoons flip directly to midnight, where the sky turns a cold shoulder and the winds come rioting around her building. They roar and wail with staunch reminders of another dreadful holiday season. Lena pulls herself from her work, frowning as she stretches the tight muscles in her back. She glances at the clock -- only 4pm -- but the thought is less comforting when she remembers that it’s Christmas Eve and she’s in her office, alone.

Christmas Eve, Lena thinks bitterly. Where has the time gone? 

She has spent the past month toiling away in a basement lab, her only companions the AI she created in a frenzy of angry inspiration and her trusty bottle of aged scotch. It would be pathetic if she allowed herself the indulgence of actually wallowing, but that’s something she refuses to give in to-- at least, that’s what she likes to tell herself. Instead, the days and nights blur together in a mess of chaotic calculations and alcohol fueled rages of creativity. Productivity and downward spirals ebb and flow, but Lena prefers this cyclical pattern to the alternative: nightmare-riddled sleep, haunted by a pair of lying, deceitful, cerulean eyes. 

“Hope, please close the windows,” Lena says without looking up, her voice scratchy with disuse. She can’t remember the last time she spoke, but it seems less important these days to keep track of things that don’t relate to her work.

Hope punches a few keys on an iPad, and the windows shut firmly, the locks fitting into place with a satisfying click. She returns the iPad to the side table and continues to sit quietly on the couch, waiting for Lena’s next command.

“Ms. Luthor, have you finished the formula?” Hope’s voice interrupts what Lena is sure would be another downward spiral, and she can’t decide whether she’s grateful or annoyed.

“Not yet,” Lena replies, shaking her head. “I can’t seem to crack these last few strings of code.”

“You have been at it for 5 hours and 53 minutes,” Hope informs, her voice automatic and void of judgement. “You may need to try again tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow is Christmas,” Lena replies automatically, without considering the implications.

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s--,” Lena begins, stopping herself before going too far into it. Hope keeps them painfully on task at all times, which Lena is mostly grateful for. The AI version of Eve doesn’t have memories of Christmas past, nor any reason to distract from their Mission. Hope is programmed to do good, to keep emotions out of it. It’s a strong reminder of what Lena is working toward, hour after hour, day after day. Excuses about holidays make very little sense when she considers her audience. She glances up at Hope’s blank face, the face of upgraded humanity, and she fixes her gaze to match. “You’re right, I think I will take a break and get back to this tomorrow.”

Lena ignores the persistent ache in her chest and instead turns her attention out the window, her eyes trailing over the dark skyline of National City. The lights from apartment buildings across the way glow cheerfully with holiday spirit. It’s a bit of a mockery, but she tries not to dwell on that right now. This time of the year is always hard, with toasts to happy futures and the nostalgia for the family she can’t help but miss. Somehow, those feelings still manage to needle into her heart even after so much destruction. But this year-- this year might just be the worst yet. Everything is magnified by the fact that her entire life has been destroyed. She has no family, she has no friends. Everything is broken beyond repair, and all Lena can do is try her best to scheme and calculate and build her way out of it.

The most wonderful time of the year, indeed.

“There’s a visitor in the lobby,” Hope says suddenly, her face impassive. “Do you wish for Kara Danvers to enter?”

Lena frowns, checking the security footage on her laptop. Sure enough, there’s Kara, walking toward the elevator, her hands tucked into the pockets of her coat. She bounces excitedly on her toes without a care in the world as she waits for the car to come, glancing around the lobby with a calm smile. Lena’s stomach twists as she slips her mask of carefree happiness into place.

It takes a moment to adjust. There’s always something about seeing Kara -- not Supergirl -- that gets Lena tangled up inside.

“Ms. Danvers, I wasn’t expecting you,” Lena says, her cheeks flushing for reasons beyond her comprehension as the sunny blonde reporter walks timidly into her office. “Did we have an appointment?” 

Lena pivots her chair away from Kara’s line of sight and  frantically checks her iPad. She glances back in Kara’s direction, where the uninvited -- but not unwelcome-- visitor simply smiles. “You can call me Kara, you know,” she says, teasingly, and it startles Lena how easy this whole thing could be.

“Okay, Kara,” Lena relents, her chest warming at the promise of friendship. Despite her earlier misgivings about making friends in National City, Kara Danvers has somehow found a way to push through Lena’s walls. “What can I help you with?”

“I don’t mean to just drop in on you, but you mentioned if I was ever in the neighborhood…” Kara trails off when Lena crosses her arms, waiting for the real reason behind this surprise visit. Instead of asking for anything, Kara just shrugs. “I thought we could go to lunch?”

“You’re-- you’re serious?”

“Yeah?” Kara adjusts her glasses nervously. “We’re friends now, right?”

“Friends,” Lena repeats. The words should feel foreign, but it all just feels inevitable.

“I mean, you’re probably so busy. Oh gosh, am I interrupting? I should have called. It’s just, after lunch the other day you mentioned if I was ever in the neighborhood, I should drop by, and I just thought--”

“Kara,” Lena chuckles, raising a hand to stop her before she spins herself right out of the office. “No, you’re not interrupting. I’d love to get lunch.”

“Great!” Kara exclaims. “Because I really want to try that new sushi place across town, you know the one? They serve sashimi in a boat!”

“A boat, huh?” Lena grins, already making her way across her office for her coat. “Well how can I say no?”

It’s been several weeks since the Pulizter party, where Kara confessed her identity and begged Lena to understand, begged her to forgive.

“Please, say something, Lena…” she pleaded, and for a second, it almost worked. She almost had Lena fooled again. The weeks of pent up rage started to simmer with just one tear-stained plea from Kara Danvers. How tragic . In an instant, Lena felt her resolve begin to crack, her ribs shifting to try to contain the absolute force of everything she felt for Kara. But she kept it together, her practiced Luthor poker face unreadable as she stared at her best friend coming apart.

To be fair, Kara surprised her by finally working up the nerve to tell the truth. Lena never thought she’d come clean, not after all this . But that’s the problem with Kara Danvers: she has a nasty habit of knowing what Lena needs and showing up to provide it. But it doesn’t change the fact that she was too late. Lena found out the truth months earlier when Lex’s dying words spilled Kara’s identity. He said it with forced laughter, using his last few breaths to mock her with her best friend’s transgression, flaunting the way the one person she never meant to love had betrayed her worse than all the others.

In an instant, her life was forever changed. She was no longer the good Luthor, no longer the one who could right so many wrongs. Instead, she was a mockery, made a fool by the one person she couldn’t stand to lose. So while Lena agreed that they would always be best friends-- choking on the words as she considered the fact that they were never really friends at all -- she returned to her lab to secretly continue toiling with her demons behind closed doors.

How could she possibly mean it? How could Kara honestly think a simple apology would be all it takes? 

This is what fuels Lena’s crusade today: the quest to fix humanity, to heal it from itself. Now, she promises that she won’t rest until she is successfully able to prevent anyone from feeling as dejected and embarrassed as she does now, at the hands of her former best friend.

But Kara can’t know any of that. Kara can’t know that things aren’t okay. Not yet. 

“Hope, will you please go down to my lab? I need you to verify the numbers again.” Lena doesn’t look at her when she talks. Even though Hope is nothing but a string of code, created by her own hand, it feels wrong knowing that she’s giving her a fool’s errand in order to keep their project hidden from prying eyes. But before Lena can formulate an excuse, Hope is already on her way to the discrete, private elevator in the corner of the office, without asking for an explanation. 

The benefits of technology, Lena supposes. 

The knock on her office door comes shortly thereafter.

“Come in,” Lena calls, settling behind her desk, trying her best to look busy and not at all flustered by Kara’s arrival. “Kara, what a surprise!”

“I was hoping I wouldn’t find you here,” Kara says, grinning. “Please tell me you’re almost done working.”

Kara walks further into the office, looking even more beautiful and radiant than Lena remembers and for the thousandth time in so many months, she wonders how she failed to see it. How could Kara not be Supergirl? How could she not be otherworldly and perfect? She beams back at Lena, the way she always does, but the way she does it now -- like she’s finally free --  sends Lena reeling. She looks the same in a lot of ways, and yet everything about her is different, and Lena supposes it’s her own mind attempting to push the two identities together. 

“I am,” Lena grins, her friendly mask firmly in place. “The real question is, what are you doing here on Christmas Eve? Shouldn’t you be celebrating?”

Just seeing Kara in front of her brings up so much -- all the hurt, all the pain, and, to Lena’s dismay, all the love--and it isn’t getting any better. Lena can’t seem to push past her feelings for Kara, and that’s what makes everything about their current relationship so much worse. 

“That’s why I’m here,” Kara says, her eyes shimmering the way they always do when she’s excited. “You never answered my text, about tonight...”

“Oh, I didn’t?” Lena asks, frowning. She feigns to look at her phone, knowing exactly which message Kara is referring to.

“I was just hoping you’d want to join us--,” Kara wrings her hands, the way she does when she’s nervous, and Lena catches her eye as if by accident. “It isn’t Christmas without you.”

“That sounds lovely, Kara, really,” Lena says, smiling. She has no intention of accepting the invitation, but she maneuvers swiftly. “I will try to swing by a bit later. I just have a few more things to wrap up here.”

The idea of spending another holiday surrounded by fake friends who smile at her face and scheme behind her back makes Lena feel nauseous. But seeing the way Kara’s face lights up and the way she bounces over to Lena’s side of the desk for a hug almost makes her miss it. 

Almost.

“Great!” Kara exclaims, clutching Lena close before letting her go. “And Alex bought the good scotch, just for you.”

“Well, how can I say no?”

Kara grins, and offers a shy wave as she departs. Once she’s gone, Lena glowers at her laptop, not seeing the work in front of her but instead just seething over her own poor choices. Kara’s impromptu invitation reminds her of when she first got to National City, when she tried to push Kara away and the rookie reporter just smiled back with sad, watery eyes. It didn’t take long after that for Lena to give in. She’s always been a sucker for a pretty face and a convincing request for friendship. She never should have wavered from her stance on isolation in National City. What a mistake. If only past Lena could see the present version.

Pathetic.

As far as Lena is concerned, Kara is either inviting her to spend Christmas with their friends out of obligation because she feels bad about lying to her, or because she’s really delusional enough to think that Lena is fine with all the lies and betrayal. Neither reason provides comfort, and all of it is something Lena refuses to get caught up in again. 

She can’t get caught up in it again. 

She shakes her head, trying to rid herself of any residual thoughts of Kara Danvers. Just the sight of her injects a fresh dose of rage that enters Lena’s veins in a rush, and fuels her for the rest of the night as she works tirelessly to figure out her calculations.

It isn’t until her cell phone vibrates, hours later, with a call from Metropolis that Lena comes back to reality. She checks the ID and sees that it’s Sam, and despite the absurdly late hour that it must be on the east coast, Lena ignores it and sends it to voicemail. She isn’t in the mood for anyone tonight. Not even her ex-girlfriend who she should probably try to keep cordial with. Unlike all the others, Sam didn’t do anything wrong, necessarily. But it’s been so long, and they have been through so much, and all of it just seems too daunting to try to unravel right now. 

Lena sighs, taking Sam’s call as a sign to give up for the night. She calls for her driver, and within the hour she’s home in her dark apartment. She doesn’t bother turning on the TV, and instead she takes to sitting by the fire with a bottle of scotch, getting drunker and angrier by the minute. She slams back the alcohol, thinking back on “happier” holidays and how they were all lies in some way, shape or form. What must it say about her life that the only thing she takes comfort in are the cold and forgotten holidays that she spent with the Luthors, and the first holiday in National City where no one tried to get near her? Those were probably the realest of them all.

Finally, after downing an impressive amount from the bottle and ignoring several calls from Kara, Lena turns off her phone and drags herself to bed. With the combination of alcohol and exhaustion, she falls asleep before she even hits the pillow, just as the clock strikes midnight.


Act 1 - Christmas Past

The church bells chime, bellowing ominously in the darkness, their sound a warning echo that stretches for miles. The booms grow steadily louder, startling Lena out of a deep, disorienting sleep. She shoots awake, sitting up and immediately searching for the source of the sound. Last she could recall, there wasn’t a church within miles of her apartment, and certainly not one with bells that toll in the middle of the night.

She glances at the clock and notices she’s only been asleep for an hour. As she searches frantically for answers, the second thing she notices is that she’s no longer in her apartment, but in the old Luthor mansion. No stranger to getting herself into dangerous situations, Lena surveys the room for evidence of foul play -- bindings or drugs or worse, a captor still on premises -- but nothing appears besides cold shadows. How exactly did she get here? Was she drugged? Kidnapped? Lex is dead , she tells herself. I saw him die . This is all just a bad dream. 

She isn’t really here.

Suddenly, the large doors to her room burst open and an illuminated figure emerges from the misty fog. Lena’s heart races in fear. She reaches for the taser she knows she used to keep in her old nightstand --an old Luthor habit -- but of course, she comes up empty. 

“Who are you?!” she demands, turning back to face the ghost. “Answer me!”

Next, she searches for her iPad, which she actually is able to find, and she starts tapping frantically. 

“I have the most advanced security system on Earth,” she starts to say, but it seems foolish as the figure is not even the slightest bit deterred.

The spirit doesn’t say a word as it crosses the threshold and glides to Lena’s side. Lena is shivering and shaking, but doing her best to hide it. As she feels the presence get near her, an inexplicable sense of calm washes over the room. She swears she knows who the person is. She can’t see their face, but somehow she knows. A golden light shines over the figure, and everything comes into focus. Lena puts her iPad down on the bed, her eyes never leaving the spirit in front of her.

“Mo--mom?” Lena’s teeth chatter. “Mom, is that you?”

“Hello darling,” the spirit says. “I’ve missed you so.”

“What are you---How are you--,”

The ghost of her mother doesn’t say anything. Instead she floats wordlessly by her side, extending a hand out.

“I’m dreaming, this is all a dream,” Lena says, trying to convince herself more than anything. “You aren’t real.”

“It might be a dream, but that doesn’t make it any less real,” Lena’s mother insists. She sits at the edge of the bed and smiles sadly. “Oh Lena, it’s been far too long.”

Lena studies her face, trying desperately to ingrain it in her memory. Her mother is beautiful, with deep green eyes that mirror Lena’s own. Her face is smooth, the curve of her jaw a less jagged version of the one Lena clenches. She knows the image isn’t quite right -- the details sit forgotten, somewhere just out of reach -- but it doesn’t matter. This is all she’s got. Her dear, sweet mother, back from a place long gone.

“Am I--” Lena glances around, pondering the creepy way the fog is rolling in and the way the mist seems to cling to her skin. She touches her own skin, which feels normal, albeit a bit clammy. “Is this hell?”

Her mother shakes her head. “Do not be afraid. You’re okay. But we have to hurry darling, we don’t have much time, and there’s so much to see,” her mother says, moving away from Lena and returning to stand at the foot of the bed. “Follow me.”

“It’s the middle of the night, surely you don’t expect to go out now?” Lena resists, staring at her mother and wondering if her sanity is finally starting to slip. She regrets not taking the therapy her assistant is constantly nagging her about all that seriously, and promises to do better whenever -- if ever -- she should wake up. Her mother seems resolute in her instructions, so with very little choice, Lena slowly angles herself off the bed and pads toward her closet.

“Get your coat, love,” her mother says, with more urgency. It’s such a common motherly request, that it gives Lena pause. She’s never really had the luxury of a mother who cares about something as innocuous as catching a cold. “We have to go.”

Lena knows better, she does. She knows better than to follow some hallucination of her dead mother. She knows this can’t be anything other than a trap, a nefarious plan by one of the many people in her orbit who want her dead. But when the gentle spirit offers her hand, and Lena can almost feel her mother’s fingers wrap around hers, she decides that her life really can’t get much worse, so she takes the chance and follows. 

They go out into the night. Instantly, the brisk night air nips at her face, causing Lena to pull her coat tighter around herself. Upon further consideration, she should have changed, but the ghost of her mother seemed insistent and on a schedule, which is ridiculous now that she’s thinking about it. Where else could this ghost possibly have to go? Lena chuckles to herself. Who even knows what’s real anymore, she thinks. Perhaps she fell asleep at work and left her VR contact lenses in. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d allowed herself to get wrapped up in a fantasy. But before she can further process what’s happening, Lena’s mother wraps her in her arms, and suddenly they’re back in a familiar countryside, far away from the sights and sounds of National City.

Lena walks tentatively toward a cottage that she instinctively recognizes, though the memory is faint. Her mother smiles and offers a small nod, and Lena looks back at the home with fondness. It’s her childhood home, the one she lived in long ago, well before her life with the Luthors. There’s a light layer of snow on the ground that crunches beneath their feet as they make their way up the walkway to the front door. Lena frowns as her mother opens the door without knocking, but instead of asking questions, she follows her lead.

The home is warm and cozy; a small bungalow with an intimate touch. Inside, Lena instantly recognizes her mother as a younger version comes waltzing out of the kitchen with a flour-stained apron, holding a large plate of cookies and smiling across the room. A baby in a high chair babbles happily, and Lena squints as she tries to piece it all together. 

“Is that--”

“That’s you,” the spirit of Lena’s mother nods, tilting her head toward the scene and watching with a smile. She turns to Lena. “You were the cutest baby.”

“I’m--” Lena frowns, watching herself as a baby flail around happily in her chair as her mother giggles and dotes on her. She can’t believe she ever used to be so small, so carefree. But then again, of course she was a child, once. It all just seems so impossibly long ago that Lena doesn’t know what to make of it.

She looks around the house and sees the Christmas tree in the corner, with a modest pile of presents underneath, all labeled with her name. She startles as another figure emerges from the kitchen -- an older woman who strongly resembles her mother, but with gray hair -- and her heart thumps in her chest. Her grandmother. 

“Why are we here?” Lena asks cautiously, afraid to smile, afraid to let herself feel much of anything at all. Still, she finds it impossible to pull herself away from the scene in front of her, as her grandmother kisses her cheek and grins at her mother.

“She looks just like you,” Lena’s grandmother says. “She has your eyes.”

Lena’s mom nods and smiles. 

“I think you know why we’re here, love,” her mother replies next to her. 

It dawns on her, then. “Oh, you can’t be serious,” Lena can’t help but roll her eyes. She looks at her mother, waiting for the other shoe to drop. When she’s only met with an impassive face, she frowns. “You’re turning my life into a Dickens novel?”

Lena’s mother chuckles and shakes her head. “I’m afraid this is the only way to show you what you need to see.”

“And what is that, exactly?” Lena retorts, feeling her walls begin to rise in defense. There’s so much Lena wants to say about this entire idea -- about visiting the ghosts of Christmas past, about atoning for her apparent sins in life -- that she can’t even begin to form the words. How dare her mother come here to walk her through her past. A past that, for better or for worse, her mother was not part of. A past that contains transgressions, of course, but transgressions that were brought on by devious family members and false friends. 

Lena crosses her arms and turns away, contemplating leaving the entire scene for good. But her mother’s laugh rings in her ears and she turns her attention back to the evening of her first Christmas. She watches as her mother curls up with her on the couch by the fire. She begins to sing softly, a lullaby that is instantly familiar and makes Lena’s heart ache. She listens as the spirit standing next to her hums the same tune. 

As she watches the happiness all around her, her heart breaks for what she could have had. She wonders what life would have been like if her mother hadn’t tragically died. She wonders if she would be doing anything remotely close to what she’s doing now, if all this hadn’t been taken away.

“It isn’t fair,” she turns to her mother, interrupting the softness of the song. “What’s the point of showing me this? My life couldn’t be more different from where it began. It isn’t quaint and comfortable, it isn’t shrouded in love. This seems too detached to be valuable.”

“It’s a reminder of how loved you have always been,” Lena’s mother says, turning to her with a soft smile. “And where you learned to give love in return. You have always been a shining light. It’s why I named you Lena.”

Lena feels the sides of her mouth twitch as she tries to hold back the deluge of emotions that threaten to spill out from her lips. The words echo the same sentiment her brother spewed to her in a rare moment of empathy, one which she still isn’t entirely sure was genuine. But her mother is kind, and honest, and she runs her fingers over Lena’s cheeks, and if Lena closes her eyes, she can almost feel the warmth. 

“We seem happy,” Lena says, wistfully. “I wish we could have stayed happy.”

“Happiness is relative,” Lena’s mother says, dropping her hand back to her side. Lena’s eyes snap open. “We were happy, sure. And I adored you...” Lena’s mother’s eyes mist with tears. “But it’s no secret that I was drowning in debt before I met your father. And if it wasn’t for his generosity to me, I don’t know what we would have done. I don’t know how we would have gotten by.”

“Generosity,” Lena scoffs. “Right. You mean the pay off the Luthors gave us to keep quiet.”

Lena’s mother sighs. “The intent behind it did not matter, not really. The money saved us in more ways than one. A few months after this, you came down with scarlet fever. And if the Luthors hadn’t paid for you to see a doctor, you wouldn’t have lived to see your 2nd birthday.”

Lena frowns. She doesn’t remember hearing about that, but then again, it wasn’t like the Luthors paraded her around like she was their pride and joy. But she finds it interesting that Lillian never found a convenient time to mention that Lena wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for them. She shivers.

“I’m not telling you this for you to feel guilty,” Lena’s mother quickly corrects. “I just think you should know that there’s no telling how life would have been without the Luthors. It’s easy to romanticize what could have been, but it’s just as easy to see where it could have gone far, far worse.”

“I see,” Lena purses her lips, trying to comprehend. She isn’t convinced that a life without the Luthors, spent with her loving mother, could be anything short of perfect. But the fact that her mother would not have had any money to care for her sits heavily on Lena’s conscience. She gathers herself and squares her shoulders, bracing for whatever might come next. “I guess we’ll never know.”

Lena’s mother offers her arm and they link together, turning away from Lena’s childhood home and heading off into the crisp, wintery night once more.

Next stop, Lena finds herself back at the Luthor mansion. It hasn’t changed much, but somehow she can tell this was from the early days, when she first became a Luthor. The sprawling grounds don’t seem to have a heavy cloud of shame hanging over it, and in fact, look quite beautiful and full of promise. It’s stoic and impressive, and Lena remembers the way she felt intimidated and excited all at once. The lawn is freshly manicured, without so much as a blade of grass out of place, the walkway pristine with every pebble accounted for.

They let themselves in the front door, despite Lena’s anxiety about being seen.

“Are you sure my brother doesn’t have a weapon to seek and destroy spirits?” She wishes it was more outlandish than it sounded, but with Lex, she could never be sure. 

“They can’t see us,” Lena’s mother assures her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “We are merely whispers in the wind.”

Lena nods, satisfied. They wander the corridors, their footsteps judged by the prying eyes of the paintings on the wall, until they find the family dining room.

Even though there are only 4 of them -- Lionel, Lillian, Lex and Lena -- they are eating at the long dining table reserved only for special occasions. Lena recalls them doing this every once in awhile, more in the early years and less when Lex stopped coming home. But this particular scene in front of her is after several Christmas with the Luthors, and she knows because she is more refined and somber than a typical kid her age would be. She must have been around 8, because she remembers Lionel giving her a red ribbon to put in her hair that year. She watches as they sit stiffly at the table, taking small bites, the conversation practiced and forced.

“This is certainly different from your old life,” Lena’s mom says, watching. “Grander.”

“That’s one word for it.” Lena rolls her eyes.

The entire ordeal is cold and more proper than Lena’s previous Christmases, but she watches as Lex slips her a piece of candy under the table with a wink.

“He welcomed me from the start,” Lena explains, even though her mother doesn’t ask. She feels like she needs to apologize for something, even though she doesn’t know where to begin. “He was always doing things like that to make me smile.”

“He was a good brother,” Lena’s mother replies.

“Until he wasn’t,” Lena says and her mother is quiet.

They stay and watch as the family gathers in the living room after dinner, where Lena and Lex begin to play round after round of chess, with Lena winning the majority of the games. She catches the way Lillian smirks, like she’s almost proud, and Lena’s heart twists. When Lena beams with pride at her victory, it’s met with a classic Lillian jibe about the way Lena might fit in as a Luthor ‘one day’. It’s interesting to watch from this vantage point the way Lillian constantly studies her, the way she keeps a steady watch on Lena like a hawk the entire evening. She always assumed it was because her step mother was busy scrutinizing her every move and stewing in her hatred, but now that she’s watching it again, it seems more like a calculated fascination. It’s as if Lillian isn’t sure what to make of the child in front of her, but knows there’s something there worth keeping. 

Lena only recently got Lillian to confess that she’s always loved her, and despite the fact that Lena had to literally trick her into admitting it, the truth was still quite jarring. Almost as jarring as seeing it play out in real time all over again.

Later, Lena watches when Lex gives her a microscope as a gift, and she remembers the way she felt when she received it -- excited at something so precious being given to her, but confused at what exactly she would ever do with it. But Lex was so excited to give her a gift he picked out himself, and she was just happy to be included. She watches as she hugs him tight and thanks him. Of course, she knows now, this is what sets her entire path in motion. One small Christmas gift, almost a lifetime ago.

She feels the warmth and aching sadness of the memory as she watches the way her life used to be, the way Lex used to be. It pushes on her chest and it hurts in ways she can’t articulate, especially now. Now that he’s gone, and the way that it all had to end. She’s about to turn to her mother to ask to leave, when a conversation catches her attention.

“She really likes the microscope,” Lex says to Lillian proudly. It’s just the two of them, with Lena distracted in the other room by her new gift. “You were right.”

Lillian nods with a small smile. “I thought she might. I think you should teach her how to use it tomorrow.”

“But mother, she doesn’t know the first thing about it,” Lex complains, in that way he used to have when he was teetering on the edge of whining. “It will take months!”

“I think she might surprise you,” Lillian says with confidence. 

Lena catches herself gawking at the two of them. She turns to her mother, but she can’t find the words to begin to explain her shock. Lillian wanted to teach her science? Lillian thought she could be something like Lex? None of it made sense, especially since Lillian never once encouraged Lena actively. In fact, on more than one occasion, Lillian was known to do the exact opposite - to discourage her whenever it got too hard. Lena frowns. 

“This can’t be right…” she starts, looking at her mother for an explanation. “Lillian encouraged Lex to help me? But she never mentioned…” Lena trails off, lost in the absurdity of the idea that Lillian could possibly have been anything other than what she knows her to be. “She never once claimed credit.”

“A curious woman,” her mother replies. “But she recognized your spirit, nonetheless. She knew you were brilliant, Lena. She couldn’t get too close to you, because it hurt her too much, and who can blame her for that?”

“I can,” Lena argues, incredulous at the suggestion. “She battled me at every turn. She made me feel like I could never beat Lex, never belong. She wasn’t a mother at all. But now you’re telling me I should thank her?”

“You don’t have to begin praying at the church of Luthor,” her mother quips, and Lena almost smiles. She always assumed her wry wit and sarcasm came from too many encounters with Lillian, and too many years in business as a Luthor, but it comes as kind of a refreshing bit of news that her birth mother is a fountain of ready made sass. “This is just showing you the story from a different view. She was a mother, in her own way,” Lena’s own mother shrugs.

“I find it strangely unsettling that you are defending her.”

“Would it do me any good to tear her down?”

Lena doesn’t respond. Instead, she falls deeper into her own thoughts, wondering about what else Lillian could have done for her that she kept confidential. She doesn’t expect she’ll ever know the answer, but the thought sinks deep into her stomach anyway.

“Are you ready?” Lena’s mother offers her hand once more. “We have a few more stops we need to make.”

Lena takes a second to contemplate the alternative, but her curiosity wins out and she grasps her mother’s hand once more.

She immediately regrets her decision when they arrive at an achingly familiar house -- a sprawling mansion, to be more accurate -- overshadowing the magnificent coastline in Costa Rica. 

Lena tenses, releasing the grip on her mother’s hand.

“I don’t want to be here,” Lena says flatly. “There’s no reason to relive this one.”

“I think it’s important,” her mother says. “Let’s just watch, for a little while.”

Lena crosses her arms and works hard to calm her breathing, because she has no intention of letting her mother spin another story into a guilt trip. She watches as a younger version of herself and a young Andrea Rojas walk arm in arm up the walkway of Andrea’s father’s house. They are 15 or 16, Lena isn’t quite sure the details, but all she remembers is that this is when it all started: when Lex stopped coming home for holidays, and when Andrea started to feel more like family than anyone else in her life. 

The front door opens and the Rojas family housekeeper, Angela, ushers them in excitedly. 

“You’re just in time!” she exclaims, and Lena is already wide-eyed with how different everything feels at Andrea’s. “Your father is in his study. Are you hungry? You must be hungry!”

“Angela, this is Lena,” Andrea introduces them, and Angela wraps her in a huge hug before Andrea can even finish the introduction. “She’s my girlfriend.”

Lena watches as the teenage version of herself averts her gaze and blushes, flattered to be singled out like someone’s most important person and embarrassed at Andrea’s pride in it all. Angela beams at her. “Beautiful!” she exclaims, and her excitement is genuine. Lena glances at Andrea, almost in awe, before Angela opens the door wider. “Come in! Come in!”

Present day Lena pauses and surveys the grounds of the Rojas estate. It always reminded her of a Tuscan villa, only on a grand scale and with multiple buildings. But what she really remembers about her visits here with Andrea is feeling whole and welcome. She closes her eyes and finds she can still recall the way the kitchen smelled - savory flavors mingling together with sweet, like she’d been transported to another world entirely. She remembers how Angela would add extra sweets to her plate, and always call her beautiful. Her heart swells, even now, at the way Andrea would tell her father about Lena’s brilliance, talking her up as if she was the most incredible person she had ever known. When she opens her eyes again, she quickly tries to hide the fact that they’re damp with tears.

Lena’s mother grabs her hand and they make their way inside the house. 

“We go all out for the holidays, you have no idea,” Andrea says to young Lena with a sparkle in her eye. “You have to try Angela’s tamales. They’re to die for.”

Dinner is a small, intimate affair, with only Andrea, Lena and Mr. Rojas. Andrea doesn’t talk about her mother much, only in the quiet hours between sleep and consciousness where deep, dark secrets make themselves at home. More than once she’s allowed a few tears to escape on Lena’s shoulder as she wonders why she wasn’t enough to get her mother to stay. Lena doesn’t have the answer, and can only hold her close and offer empty certainties that her mother loves her. 

Since it’s just the two of them, Andrea is very close and fiercely protective of her father, and upon meeting him, Lena understands why. He’s brilliant like a Luthor, but where cunning and competitiveness take over a personality, in Mr. Rojas’ case, it’s replaced by warmth and sincerity. Lena likes him instantly, and she’s glad Andrea has at least one parent she can rely on in her life. 

The holiday conversation is genuine and laughter is abundant. Lena is stiff at first, erring on the side of formal until Mr. Rojas and Andrea get going with their inside jokes and commentary. Then she can’t help but join in, until they’re all exhausted from laughing and grabbing at their sides to stop them from aching.

After dinner, they sit by the tree and exchange gifts. Lena had selected several books for Mr. Rojas at Andrea’s suggestion, and he hugs them close to his chest when he opens them.

“Lena, these are perfect, what a thoughtful gift,” he says, and Lena blushes. “My Andrea is a lucky girl.”

They surprise her with gifts as well, which she wasn’t entirely expecting. From Andrea, maybe, but her father hands her a small box and another larger package and Lena has to grit her teeth to keep from crying. Inside is a gorgeous bracelet that she knows Andrea helped pick out, and a leather bound journal with her initials on the cover. She traces the letters and struggles to find the words to express exactly what it means to her.

“Thank you so much,” Lena whispers, staring down at them in amazement. “These are beautiful. I love them.”

Andrea’s face lights up and she winks at Lena, which sends a jolt of electricity straight through her body. 

Later, when it’s just Lena and Andrea by the fire, curled up around each other in a blanket, Andrea turns to her with a soft frown. 

“Why didn’t you want to go home?” she asks, quietly. Her fingers card gently through Lena’s hair, and for a moment, Lena pretends she doesn’t hear her. “Not that I’m not thrilled you’re here, of course. I love having you. I just-- is everything okay?” 

“My family isn’t one for celebrating much these days,” Lena says, shrugging it off. She stares into the fire, watching the way the flames curl and erupt. Andrea’s fingers remain gentle and soothing in her hair. “The golden boy doesn’t return anyone’s calls anymore, and it sends Lillian into a total tailspin. I would rather just avoid the whole thing, honestly.”

“Well…” Andrea squeezes a little closer and speaks low and gentle into her ear. “You’re always welcome to spend it with us. You’re my family, you know.”

“And your dad is really okay with us?” Lena asks softly. She continues to avoid looking at Andrea and keeps her gaze firmly ahead, afraid of what she might see. “Me?”

Andrea chuckles and kisses right behind her ear and the rest of Lena’s anxiety melts away with the sudden warmth that comes with it. “He really is.”

While watching the scene of her past unfold, Lena grits her teeth and tries to avoid the tears that threaten to fall. Her mother inches closer to her.

“She seems--”

“Don’t.”

Andrea reaches behind her where she must have stashed a gift without Lena noticing. She grins with a triumphant smile as she produces a card and a small, neatly wrapped present for Lena to open.

“You didn’t have to--”

Andrea rolls her eyes. “Of course I did,” she says. Softer, she adds, “I wanted to.”

Lena remembers the card vividly, having read it over and over and over again throughout the years. It’s one of the few things she ended up saving in a box of items that she couldn’t bring herself to throw away, even now. It was a simple Christmas card, but Andrea signed it with love, and Lena couldn’t believe someone actually chose to be with her.

She watches as she opens the gift next -- a heart shaped locket with a blue stone, like the heart of the ocean but on a much smaller scale -- with both their initials inside. She puts the necklace on and hugs Andrea.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you,” she says, and Andrea squeezes harder. “I’m just--” Lena pulls back, frowning, staring at the locket and turning it over with her fingers. “I’m just-- I’m sorry that I can’t tell the Luthors...about… you know…”

Andrea pulls her close and kisses at her temple. Lena closes her eyes, melting into her touch. “I’d never make you do that.”

“I know, but I wish things were different. You know -- well, you don’t really know how they are, but you know what you’ve heard and I guarantee in reality they’re much worse. I just can’t put you through that.”

“We’re in this together,” Andrea replies simply, placing a gentle kiss on Lena’s lips. It feels like home, and Lena’s anxiety simply evaporates at the way Andrea’s lips fit perfectly on hers. “Always. And when you’re ready, I’ll be right there. You jump, I jump, remember?”

Lena shakes her head as she watches the younger, naive version of herself give everything to this girl without knowing a single thing about her. “It’s so easy to say that when nothing ever challenges your relationship,” she seethes under her breath. “I don’t know how I could have been so stupid.”

Lena’s mother sighs, and Lena turns to her. “She betrayed me, mom,” Lena says. “After all of this. After all these years, all these sad declarations of love. I confided to her about the medallion, I told her how much the story meant to me, how much it meant to you! She knew how much I needed it, how everything would have been different if only I could find it. She traveled all the way to the jungle to help me, then she didn’t so much as flinch as she lied to my face!”

Lena is pacing now, unable to contain her rage. “And what’s worse, she had no intentions of telling me what she’d done after the fact. I had to find out for myself months later with the evidence around her neck --”

“I had secrets in my life too, darling,” Lena’s mom cuts her off, her face drawn and serious. She looks out into the distance, staring at nothing in particular. “It didn’t mean I loved you any less. In fact, it only means I loved you enough to protect you from them.”

Inexplicably and inconveniently, Lena thinks of Kara, but she fiercely pushes that thought away and stashes it in a tidy little box. 

“Yes well, you didn’t come with me halfway around the world only to stab me in the back.”

“No, but I did leave you,” Lena’s mother inhales sharply. “Andrea was presented with an impossible choice. One that she couldn’t explain to you, no matter how badly she wanted to.”

The words settle uncomfortably, but Lena’s mother doesn’t give any more.

“Why are you taking her side?” Lena eventually asks, though not sure she wants the answer.

“I don’t choose sides. I am nothing but a spirit, it would benefit no one,” her mother snaps, her eyebrow raised with a precise edge. It surprises Lena, the way her tone changes from soft to insistent. “What I can’t understand is why you aren’t considering other sides? Surely you aren’t so blind to think you’re the only one who is ever right. You loved her, didn’t you?”

“I--” Lena sputters. “I mean, yes, I cared for Andrea--”

“She was your first love,” Lena’s mother states, and Lena’s cheeks grow hot with embarrassment. “You never forget your first.” Her voice is wistful, and Lena clenches her jaw. 

“I really don’t want to discuss this with you.”

“I just don’t see how you couldn’t give her a chance to explain,” Lena’s mother presses. “She loved you too, you know.”

“And be made more of a fool than I already am?” Lena snarls. “I think my weakness has already been exposed more than enough, mother.”

“Oh, Lena, you aren’t a fool, don’t you see that?” her mother takes a step toward her and tries to offer a comforting touch to her cheek, but Lena shrinks from her hand. “You are filled with so much love. It’s not a weakness, it’s your biggest strength -- the way you allow yourself to love so fully, so intensely. Despite everything you’ve been through and everything you’ve been told, you find a reason to love. That’s what makes life worth living. Love is the only thing worth treasuring. If I could have chosen anything for you to learn, it would be that.”

“Then why do I always feel so awful?” Lena’s voice cracks with strain as she chances a look back at her mother.

“People will always disappoint you, but that’s what makes them real,” Lena’s mother says gently, her voice wistful. “And you will disappoint them. But it’s what you do after that -- how you work to come to an understanding -- that matters. Communication, Lena. Not grudges.”

Lena contemplates, turning back to the scene in time to catch one more glimpse at Andrea’s face. The earnest gaze in her eyes, and the way she sighs into their hug is enough to fan the flames of her anger once more. 

She has so many questions, but it feels like she’ll never get close enough to understanding. Lena pushes past her mother and walks away from the Rojas’ estate, her old life and old love lost once more as she steps into the unknown.

They go to Metropolis next, where Lena is only slightly younger than she is now. They watch from the balcony, peering inside a dark apartment to see that she’s alone, packing, while “It’s a Wonderful Life” plays softly on the TV behind her. There’s a knock on the door and Lena frowns, checking her watch before opening it.

In storms a younger, but still just as intense, Sam Arias, holding a bottle of half-empty scotch and wearing an expression Lena wishes she could forget. 

“So you haven’t left yet?” Sam says by way of greeting, waltzing into the apartment. Lena braces herself at the way Sam staggers past her, offering only a side eye instead of her usual, warm hugs. “Were you even going to tell me that you’re leaving Metropolis for good, or do I have to find everything out from Jack these days?”

Lena pinches the bridge of her nose and sighs, gesturing for Sam to come in, despite the fact she’s already halfway to the counter. This is not how she wanted to have this conversation. If only Jack could keep his big mouth shut for five minutes, then she wouldn’t be about to have a fight with her girlfriend on one of her last nights in town. 

Sam whirls around, catching Lena with a fiery scowl. “Well?”

“It’s not personal,” Lena says flatly. “I need to go. You know I need to.”

“So it’s true.” Sam shakes her head, chuckling angrily to herself in that way she has when she’s worked up. Lena approaches slowly, watching as Sam opens the cupboard and pulls down a glass -- only one -- that she fills with a heavy hand. She stares back at Lena before taking a long sip.

Lena has only seen Sam get angry a handful of times, and only once has that anger ever been directed at her. She’s been frustrated, and overtired, and downright cranky -- mostly when she’s sick -- but Lena has never felt the kind of furious heat radiate off her the way it does now. 

Where Lena is sharp edges and jagged feelings, Sam is smooth, easy lines and even-keeled tempers. Despite the tension, Lena still warms at the thought of Sam, with her casual smile and stupid jokes, the ones that get Lena to laugh even when they aren’t that funny, just because it’s Sam delivering the punchline. Sam, who can spin a spreadsheet like nobody’s business, but doesn’t care about family politics and business deals, instead preferring low key nights at home, or dragging Lena to dive bars to serenade her with awful karaoke.

Lena notices the way Sam’s cheeks are windblown and crimson, from the chill in the air and the chill in the room, and she knows before either of them speak again that their relationship is over.

“That’s a bullshit excuse and you know it,” Sam argues, slamming the glass down. “You have everything right here. You have friends who love you, and people who believe in you. And I--,” Sam falters, then frowns at herself and clenches her jaw. “I need you. You don’t have to go across the country to make a point.”

“That’s just it, Sam. I do . I need to go where I can do good. Where people don’t look at me like--like I’m just the sister of a maniac. I need to do this,” Lena insists, and then, a little softer, she adds. “Please try to understand.”

“Then I’ll go with you.”

“You’re drunk. And you can’t do that,” Lena says immediately. She knows that even stone cold sober, Sam wouldn’t hesitate to drop everything and go with her. But the amount of guilt Lena would feel over that decision is precisely why she has to shut it down, no matter how enticing the offer. “You have Ruby, and you have a life here. I need to do this on my own. A fresh start. I can’t bring my past into this.”

Lena barely manages to get the words out, swallowing heavily as she does. Anything to force it down.

“Oh, wow,” Sam says, dumbfounded. “You really are a stubborn ass, you know that?” 

“I’m sorry, Sam, I--,”

“--So that’s it, then? You and me we’re just --” Sam’s words drift off into nothing as her eyes fill with tears. Something in Lena’s chest shifts and settles uncomfortably between her ribs. She doesn’t want to hurt her, but there’s no other way to handle this than to cut ties. It feels like she’s ripping apart, even if she knows it’s for the best. 

Sam is trying hard to put on a brave face, but it doesn’t reach her eyes and Lena feels it. She goes to the cupboard to grab her own glass, gesturing for the bottle. Sam nudges it a few inches toward her, begrudging the request but not enough to completely shut her down.

“Sam, listen,” Lena says, forgoing the drink entirely and holding out her hands for Sam to take. She glances down at them before placing her hands delicately in Lena’s own. “It isn’t about us. You know how much you mean to me.”

Sam flinches at that, and Lena squeezes tighter. “I’m serious, Sam. You’re the one who saved me from… everything. I don’t--,” Lena’s eyes burn hot with a sudden storm of tears, but she blinks them away and tries to smile. “I don’t want to know what my life would be like if I never met you. You got me through those years in Boston, you’ve been there for me time and time again. You’re everything I never dared myself to want. I just--” she takes her hand away slowly, frowning. Sam watches, her lips twisting in recognition of Lena’s deflection. The fact is simple: Lena can’t possibly keep her. No matter how much she wants to forget who she is, how badly she wants to forget her last name and legacy to pretend they really could have it all, she can’t. Sam is everything Lena knows she will eventually destroy. She’s good, and she’s kind, and she deserves the world. Lena has kept her selfishly for too long as it is, and the only way to make it out of this situation with any semblance of a salvageable relationship is to leave.

She hopes they can be friends, one day. She almost says it, but Sam doesn’t need that kind of burden. So she doesn’t.

Instead, Lena starts pacing in the opposite direction, back to the box she was already packing. It’s easier than looking at Sam’s face.

Lena’s mother clears her throat softly, jolting Lena back to herself, back to the present day. She wants to say something, anything, to defend herself, but there really isn’t anything that will cover this . Instead, she makes the mistake of focusing on Sam’s face, and the way her normally upticked lips are trembling in an uncharacteristic frown. She watches the way she props her elbow on the counter and covers her mouth with her palm in order to muffle the sounds of heartbreak. Lena feels the tears begin to build behind her eyes, and she does nothing to stop them from falling.

She wishes she could reach out to Sam now, to cut this scene short and tell her it’s all an awful dream, but the problem is this is her reality and the only dream is the one she’s standing in. She chances a glance at her mother, who doesn’t look back, and she chokes back a sob.

“I just can’t sit here and do nothing.” Lena watches as the past version of herself continues the long winded explanation that says everything other than what she wants. “This is bigger than all of that. I need to correct what’s been done. I need to atone for Lex. The Luthor name is being slaughtered, and I have the power to fix it. I’m the only one that can. You see what’s happening in National City--I can go there, and make a difference. I know I can.”

She throws a nameless item into the box, not caring what she’s packing or where it goes. She hardly flinches as it lands with a clunk. Just as long as her hands stay busy. 

“How is it any different than what’s happening here?” Sam asks loudly from behind her. “Metropolis needs you, too.”

Lena stops what she’s doing. She closes her eyes, contemplating if she should really explain. She doesn’t want to get into it, and knows that showing her hand is only going to cause more problems. But when she looks back at Sam and sees her face, silently pleading for Lena to give her something , she breaks. 

“There’s another one,” she eventually says, almost inaudibly.

“Another one,” Sam repeats, like a question. Lena drops her shoulders, before turning to the coffee table and waking her laptop from sleep. She turns it over for Sam to view the page where Lena left off. The front page of the article shows Supergirl, her fists on her hips, proudly standing tall over the city. Her cape practically billows off the screen. Sam doesn’t react.

“If I can go there -- if I can work with her, I won’t be the Luthor that ruins humanity. I’ll be the Luthor that shares her home with a Kryptonian. Together, we’ll be able to change the world for good.”

“So you’re picking your name over me,” Sam finally says, defeated. She stares hard at the girl’s image on the screen with the perfect blonde locks and the deep blue eyes that don’t match any color on this Earth. She takes a long sip of her drink before her eyes slowly roll back to Lena. “You’re picking her over me.”

“I’m not picking her ,” Lena argues, but it falls flat. “You aren’t listening.”

“That’s literally what you just said!” Sam exclaims, her voice rising with frustration. “The Luthor that does this, the Luthor that does that. Kryptonian this, Kryptonian that. You know, for someone who is so concerned with her image, you’d think you’d make it a priority to avoid making the same mistakes as your brother.”

Lena recoils as if from a slap. The words sting, branded across her heart with Sam’s signature. She feels the way her face frosts over, the way her jaw welds itself shut to steel away the anger. This is exactly why she didn’t want to do this. 

“I am nothing like my brother.”

“You’re obsessed, just like he was! You’re ready to uproot your life, just to tempt fate,” Sam argues, the tears steadily falling now. “You want to ruin everything here just to prove you’re better than him. Maybe if you stopped chasing trouble, it would stop finding you!”

“You don’t know anything about what it’s like to be me. Don’t you dare pretend to understand what I’ve been through.”

“No, you’re right,“ Sam agrees, on the verge of slurring. “You won’t let anyone close enough to understand that part of you.” Sam shoves the laptop away and downs the rest of her drink. She slams it on the counter, empty. “Just do us all a favor and don’t play the victim when your own poor decisions backfire.”

“Well, that’s none of your concern,” Lena slams her laptop and spins on her heel, returning her attention to the useless box in the corner of the room.

They’re both too stubborn to break the silence for several long minutes. Lena pretends to be occupied with packing, but her mind is stuck reeling with all things Sam. She’s teetering on the edge of rage at Sam’s harsh words -- how dare she compare her to Lex -- and sorrow, for everything she’s throwing away, but she can’t admit any of that out loud.

She hopes Sam will just get fed up and leave, but she knows that isn’t her style. 

“She knew how to push your buttons,” her mother says, nodding toward Sam with an amused expression. “I like her.”

“She was wrong,” Lena emphasizes quickly. “I am not like Lex. All I’ve ever wanted is to help people. I couldn’t do that from behind closed doors in Metropolis, dodging questions from the press and tinkering away in a garage, hoping for a breakthrough that would never come. It wouldn’t have done anyone any good, no matter what I felt for Sam.”

“Clearly,” her mom indicates, and Lena frowns.

“I’m just curious,” Sam finally breaks, clearing her throat and trying to hide the fact that she’s been crying. “If I hadn’t barged in here tonight, were you even going to say goodbye?”

“I--,” Lena hesitates, before giving an exasperated sigh. The truth is, she knew she wasn’t going to be strong enough for this. Even while in it, and facing Sam’s disappointment, she knows this to be a fact. She wishes she could be anywhere else than here. 

No, her plan, had Jack not ruined it, was to write a long letter explaining her decision to go to National City that she intended to leave on Sam’s doorstep, along with a small token and several of Sam’s belongings. 

That way, she’d be several thousand miles away by the time Sam’s heart shattered.

Lena reaches for the letter burning a hole in her pocket and extends it toward her.

“Are you fucking serious?” Sam asks, her nostrils flaring as she scoffs. “Oh, wow, Lena. A letter, after all we’ve been through.” She rips the envelope from Lena’s hand and gestures at it with an annoyed expression. “I should consider myself so lucky.”

“What do you want me to say?” Lena finally asks, feeling suddenly very exhausted from it all. 

“Nothing,” Sam says, looking down at the floor. It’s clear she’s feeling the same exhaustion, the same defeat that Lena’s feeling, but for very different reasons. She sighs, running her fingers through her hair in exasperation. “I just wanted to be enough for you to stay.”

Lena is quiet, and Sam nods to herself. She brings her gaze slowly up from the floor, landing hard on Lena’s face. Her eyes are dark and dead, like all the love has been drained out of them. She looks like a stranger, which is startling, because even when they technically didn’t know each other, Sam was always friendly and approachable. The woman in front of her now is not her Sam, and it hits Lena like a freight train. She watches as Sam gathers her coat and takes the near empty bottle with her as she storms toward the door.

“Good luck with your life, Lena. I hope National City has everything you’re looking for,” Sam says, the words laced with vengeful sarcasm. She makes it across the room in three determined strides. “Merry Christmas.”

Lena jolts as the door slams, and she watches as her letter falls off the counter and on to the floor, unopened.

In the present, Lena swallows heavily. She hates that she broke Sam’s heart, hates how it happened, hates everything about how their relationship ended. Mostly, she hates herself for not being strong enough, in any capacity. 

“I couldn’t keep her,” Lena whispers, turning to her mother by way of explanation. “It would have hurt too much.”

Lena’s mom is frowning. 

“What? Not you too…”

“I understand your intentions darling, but from where I’m standing, you really hurt someone who cares about you,” her mother says, her voice laced with disappointment.

“It was for the best.”

“Was it?”

Lena sighs, and looks back at the scene, where her former self is back to packing, wiping the tears away at random intervals. Knowing what she knows now, and how National City turned out, she isn’t sure she wants to respond.

“Sam is a good person,” Lena finally says. “She never needed me.”

“She wanted you,” Lena’s mother scolds. “And she was willing to make it work. That’s the part that bothers me the most. If you felt it wasn’t working, that’s one thing, but from the excuses you gave her-- well, you didn’t really explain anything of the sort.”

Lena scowls at that. “So what was the point of coming here, then? To show me I’m the villain?”

“None of us are ever the villain in our own story,” Lena’s mother explains. “But sometimes we need to consider if we’re the villain in someone else’s.” She points to the closed door where Sam disappeared moments earlier. “You aren’t the only one with scars, love,” Lena’s mother says, pulling her close. “Just try to remember that. I have one more stop to show you. Are you ready?”

Lena sighs. “Do I have a choice?”

They go to National City, and Lena’s heart goes to her throat when she sees where they’re standing now. They’re on the balcony  of a cheery loft apartment, where she can hear laughter and Christmas carols and - inexplicably, but somehow not at all surprising - Star Wars. 

Kara’s apartment.

“No.” 

Lena turns away, but her mother glides into her path, refusing to let her leave.

“Mom, stop,” Lena says, holding up her arms and rooting herself to the spot. “I do not need to relive this embarrassment. I am fully aware of what takes place on this Christmas.”

“It’s your second Christmas in National City, and the first one you spend surrounded by love and friendship,” Lena’s mother says, ignoring Lena’s plea. “We are going to watch it.”

Lena bites her lip to keep from shouting, and glances over her mother’s shoulder. She catches Kara tossing her head back and laughing heartily. Upon further inspection, she sees that she’s the source. Something she is saying has caused Kara to smile one of her brightest smiles, and Lena loses all will to fight against her mother. She isn’t sure what the alternative is, or how to get back to present day reality, where none of this matters. So she stays.

They watch from the balcony as Sam scurries in to Kara’s apartment with cookies, apologizing for her lateness with an excited Ruby in tow. Alex takes Ruby aside to allow Sam the chance to get a drink, and Lena watches the way Sam holds Alex’s gaze a few seconds too long with a smile that transcends appreciation. She wonders how she never noticed that before. But then she hears Kara’s laugh again, and she turns to see herself practically wrapped around her, and she realizes the answer.

If Kara was in a room, Lena didn’t notice much of anything.

The party carries on with the whole crowd together - playing games, laughing, drinking. She’s partnered with Kara for Taboo and Charades, and they dominate everyone with their inside jokes and understanding. It burns red hot in her chest as Alex scowls while marking down their third absurdly high score, one that even beats the Danvers sisters record-setting one from game nights’ past.

“You guys are cheaters,” Alex complains. “You can’t be partners anymore.”

“I don’t recall there being an issue when it was you and Kara beating everyone,” Lena says briskly, with a playful raise of her eyebrow.

Alex throws a piece of popcorn at her, and Lena laughs. She remembers feeling so happy to be included, so relaxed to have one single night without worrying about who she is and what her name represents. It was a perfect Christmas. She was even considering buying a condo in National City that coming new year, to make her roots a little more permanent.

Watching herself from this angle, knowing the truth, that everyone in the room is playing her, makes the entire scene significantly less cheerful.

Just another tainted memory on a long list of broken holidays.

The party continues and Lena watches the way Kara never seems to orbit too far away, always glancing in her direction and offering a warm, cheerful smile. At the time, she was dazzled by Kara’s attention, and flattered to be a focal point. Now, she wonders why Kara doesn’t seem to relax when Lena is out of earshot. She frowns at the way Alex consistently jokes with her, wondering why she even bothers, and she stews over the way James and Winn geek out about L-Corp projects with her. She wonders if Kara asked them to keep tabs on her, wonders if all of the playful excitement is really just a way to get her to slip up about something confidential.

She looks around the room and watches herself in a conversation with Sam, who she dragged to National City because she was desperate and needy. She hates the way Sam didn’t ask questions, and is just there, treating her with warmth and generosity, as if she deserves any of that. She tenses when Sam asks if there’s something going on between her and Kara, her eyes sparkling like she knows something Lena doesn’t. 

Maybe Sam recognized Kara as Supergirl, and thought Lena really was making her home with a Kryptonian. The thought lights a new fire to her already burning flame. How could she be so impossibly stupid?

It isn’t until Kara pulls her into the back room to give her a gift that she crosses her arms fully in front of her chest, her entire body aching with strain.

“I think I’ve seen enough--” she starts to argue, but stops abruptly as her mom simply holds up a hand to silence her.

“You didn’t have to do this!” Lena says to Kara, the blush so evident on her cheeks that present day Lena brings her hands to her face and feels the same warmth reflected back.

“Of course I did. You’re my best friend,” Kara says, her dazzling smile enough to make Lena dizzy, even now. “It’s not much! I just know how much you like them, so I wanted to add to your collection!”

Lena opens the small box to reveal a beautiful pair of earrings that must have cost Kara an entire month’s salary.

“Kara they’re gorgeous,” Lena breathes, holding them up to the light. She walks across the room and puts them on in the mirror. She shows them to Kara who beams.

“Beautiful,” she says, and Lena’s crimson face deepens in shade.

Lena pulls out a gift for Kara that she spent months agonizing over. Despite knowing better, and against her intentions to remain friendless and detached in National City, she swiftly fell under Kara’s spell. And as a result, the gift had to be perfect.

Kara tears open the package to reveal a leather bound journal. Lena watches the way her entire face lights up like Christmas, and it kills her the way she recognizes that face as being the one Kara also uses anytime Lena walks in the room. 

Lena remembers thinking this -- if I could only keep this forever -- I’d never want for anything.

“For my ace reporter,” Lena says shyly, as Kara traces carefully over the binding.

“Lena, I love it so much,” Kara exclaims, pulling her in for a hug. She holds her tight, and Lena seems to melt like putty in her arms. “It’s perfect. Thank you!” When they detangle themselves, she looks back at the journal and smiles with fondness. 

“You’re the reason I’m a reporter, you know.”

Lena shakes her head, uncomprehending. “What?”

“When I first met you, in your office, with Clark--,” Kara says, placing the journal down and tracing over the binding. She frowns, in a focused way, like she does when she’s being serious. It reminds Lena of the early days when Kara would come to Lena’s office for interviews and try hard to be professional. The memory settles warmly in Lena’s chest. “You didn’t make me feel awkward for tagging along with him even though I wasn’t a writer yet. You gave me the confidence I needed to really take the plunge and be a journalist myself. I felt like if I could get you to see me as a serious reporter, I might be able to do it after all. You gave that to me. Now when I see this I’ll always think of you. I just--,” Kara adjusts her glasses, her cheeks flushing as she talks. She finally glances back at Lena, embarrassed. “Thank you for believing in me.”

“Kara, I had no idea,” Lena breathes, reaching her hand out. Kara takes it and squeezes it. “Of course I believe in you. Always.”

Kara scrunches her nose and smiles, before her eyes brighten at the other gift sitting by the journal. She points to it -- a silent ‘may I?’-- before Lena grins and nods. 

Kara opens the package to reveal an ornament -- one that captures a silver silhouette of the skyline of National City. It shimmers in the light as Kara holds it up. The sky line is something Lena has come to associate with Kara now, especially on late nights while she stands on her balcony to look at the stars. 

“It makes me think of you,” Lena says, but she doesn’t explain further. She doesn’t tell Kara that she’s made National City feel like home, or that the stars don’t seem to shine as bright as Kara’s smile. It’s too much, and Lena simply tucks it away for later. 

“This is perfect,” Kara says, practically vibrating with excitement. “Come help me find a place on the tree for it -- right in the middle!” She grabs Lena’s hand and they return back to the party, arm in arm, with Lena laughing at how contagious the excitement is. 

“This is my favorite memory,” Lena’s mother says, pulling Lena out of her trance. “Kara Danvers looks at you like you hung the moon.”

Lena’s mouth goes dry. She sees it, too, and it’s why everything about Kara hurts in ways none of the others did.

It kills her how much of this is an act.

They go back out to the party where Kara makes a whole scene about how Lena gave her the perfect ornament. Sam eyes them, but shakes her head into her drink and takes a sip.

Once they find a place to hang Lena’s gift, there’s a toast -- “To the best friends anyone could ever have!” - and Lena, foolishly, drinks right along with them.

At that, Lena slams her hands on the window but no one can hear her. She turns to her mother.

“Why did you bring me here?!” she finally feels herself cracking. “It’s all fake! ” 

Lena’s mother is quiet.

“You’re not even real!” Lena accuses, pointing at her and then turning back to Kara’s. “NONE of this was real. Don’t you get it?”

“Lena…”

“It was all an act!” Lena shouts. “This memory is ruined. All of it!”

“Lena, wait--”

“No. I don’t want to talk about it. You need to understand something. These people are not my friends. Lex was right, I was a fool to ever think this was something other than deceit. Take me home, I don’t want to see anymore.”

“Don’t you want to see the rest--,” her mother tries, but Lena only becomes more enraged.

“If you don’t take me home this instant--”

Before Lena can finish her empty threat, she opens her eyes and she’s back in her apartment in National City, where she began this treacherous evening.

“Thank you,” she says, sheepishly, trying to bring her voice down to a more normal level. 

“This is … nice,” Lena’s mom looks around the apartment with a frown. The room is cold, the decor minimal. Everything is shockingly white, or some sort of shade of gray. Lena always finds it depressing after being in Kara’s warm, cozy apartment, but somehow after this night, she doesn’t see how she can feel any worse.

“It gets the job done,” Lena says, shrugging. “It isn’t permanent.”

“Why not?”

“What does it matter?” Lena doesn’t expand beyond that. She looks at her mother with sadness. She swiftly changes the subject. “What really happened to you, mom?”

Her mom just smiles sadly and traces Lena’s cheek. “Someday you’ll have all the answers, darling,” Lena’s mom assures her. “But first, you need to start making changes. Or I fear it will be too late for you.”

“I promise I’m trying--”

“Not in your lab, Lena. These kinds of changes have nothing to do with science.” Lena’s mother faces her and holds her arms gently. “These holidays of the past should show you what you have, what you should be trying to hold on to. I hate to see you sabotage every single one of your relationships just because of hard times.”

Lena doesn’t answer that, focusing instead on the prickle of heat behind her eyes and the emotion in her throat. She looks away from her mother’s face and at the clock on the wall. It’s close to 2am, and Lena knows what happens next.

“Do you have to go?”

Her mother nods sadly. “You will be visited twice more--”

“--Yeah, I know how the story goes.”

“Let’s hope you do. Take care of yourself, darling girl.”


Act 2- Christmas Present 

Before she knows it, the clock strikes 2 and Lena’s balcony doors fly open with a crash, ricocheting off the wall and vibrating with the forced entrance. A ceremonious flash of lightning strikes, illuminating the sky and casting a heavy shadow on the figure in the doorway. 

The sky goes dark, and the next spirit glides in quickly, landing with a loud thump before stumbling into the post of Lena’s bed.

“Shit!” the familiar voice curses, rubbing at her shin. She kicks back at the bedpost in protest. “Since when do you have furniture?”

Lena flips on a light and cranes her neck to check at the end of her bed, her mind still racing to catch up with what’s happening. It takes a few seconds for everything to come into focus. 

“What the--,” Lena exclaims, before recognizing the figure in front of her. “It’s -- you?!”

Sam Arias smiles and offers a cheeky bow. “Pretty cool, right?” She takes a look around. “Although I have to admit, I thought I was going to be coming into your office. I didn’t even know you had an apartment…”

“I--,” Lena begins, running her fingers through her hair, suddenly very conscious of her appearance. “I’m not homeless ,” she says, exasperated. She gets up out of bed and straightens the comforter. “I just wasn’t expecting…. you …” Lena gapes, still uncomprehending the person in front of her. 

“No, that’d be weird, right?” Sam crinkles her nose and laughs. “Nice to see you, Lena.”

“You too,” Lena says, before a feeling of dread takes over. “You’re not like -- actually dead, right?”

She blinks a few times to try to focus harder, but that does nothing to clear the situation up. If anything, she’s even more confused than before. The figure of her ex-girlfriend and long lost friend is still in front of her, masquerading as a spirit on one of the strangest nights Lena’s had in recent memory. She’s not disappointed to see Sam, not by a long shot, but it does complicate things. Just a tad.

“If you called me once in awhile, you’d know the answer to that,” Sam jokes, shaking her head. “No, I’m not dead. I’m just here, despite absolutely knowing better, in order to help you. Again , I might add.”

Lena crosses her arms at that. “So you’re supposed to show me the present, I take it?”

“Something like that,” Sam plops down on Lena’s bed, bouncing on the mattress for a second before nodding. “Nice. This is way more comfortable than mine. Can I try it?”

 Lena quirks her eyebrow at the suggestion. 

“Not like that . I mean, unless…”

Lena rolls her eyes and Sam grins. She lays back on the mattress and crosses her arms behind her head. She closes her eyes for a few seconds with a lazy smile on her face. Lena clears her throat.

“Comfortable?”

“Incredibly,” Sam says, her eyes still closed. She opens them slowly and sits up, gesturing outside. “So, you ready?”

Lena reaches for her discarded coat and puts it back on. Sam eyes her critically.

“What?”

“That’s what you’re wearing?” Sam asks, giving her a once over. 

“Oh honestly-- this isn’t real .”

“Suit yourself. For once, I’ll look better than you,” Sam shrugs. She pulls on the lapels of her blazer to straighten out the lines, and for the first time, Lena notices she’s dressed to impress in an expensive looking 3-piece navy suit. She pockets a watch into the vest and looks out over the city. 

“Impressive,” Lena grants her. 

“Custom,” Sam grins, putting a hand in the pocket of her form fitting pants. “I guess I learned something from you, after all.”

It’s a lifetime away from Sam’s grad school look, which was comprised mostly of tattered sweatshirts and cut up jeans. In those days, Sam denounced any other kind of pants, declaring them all “too formal”. Lena always thought Sam looked perfect with very little effort, no matter what she wore, but she finds herself wondering if underneath all of this new regalia, she’s actually happy.

A pang of sadness hits Lena as she studies Sam’s profile, her handsome silhouette perfectly reflected by the moon. She’s a little firmer now, her jawline more defined with years of strain. She still has the same laughter lines, but a few more creases in her face from stress. Understandable, considering the time she spent in National City recently was anything but calm and normal. Lena reaches out and touches the sleeve of Sam’s jacket, wondering quietly if things are really back to normal, and if Reign is truly gone. 

“It’s really you?” she asks, and Sam tilts her head back to look at her. She recognizes the seriousness in Lena’s voice, and before she can make a snarky joke, she nods.

“It’s me,” Sam says, and she offers a sad smile. “I’m back, thankfully. Thanks to you.”

Lena nods, satisfied. Sam’s smile is still there, but it comes with a little more effort than it did before. She’s crisp and precise, and a little more practiced than her younger self, and Lena wonders if this version of Sam still likes baseball games and beer, or if everything is colder and more formal now. She didn’t get a chance to find out the answer to that question, since as soon as Sam came back to National City to help with L-Corp, they were faced with a supernatural crisis of Kryptonian proportions. 

Before she can get too lost in that type of heavy thought, Sam offers her arm. 

“Shall we?”

Lena smiles and allows Sam to guide them into the night.

Unsurprisingly, they remain in National City and head straight to L-Corp, where Lena sees herself sitting at her desk. The scene is slightly different than what Lena expects. She recognizes the old layout of her office as the way she had it when she first arrived in town. She squints, confused, because other than the obvious decor shift, and a different outfit, it could have also been a vision of her from a few hours ago. 

The sight of herself -- alone, at work on Christmas Eve -- tugs at Lena’s soul. 

“This isn’t today,” Lena argues, pointing at the window. 

“This is technically not in my jurisdiction but I do what I want,” Sam shrugs. Lena throws her an unimpressed grin. “What? I’m a spirit.”

“Okay…” Lena says, studying herself in the window. “So what am I looking at?”

“This is your first Christmas in National City, right after...everything,” Sam gestures vaguely, as if she’s trying to throw away the idea. Lena doesn’t miss the way her voice carries sadness, and she knows it has more to do with the way Lena left and less to do with witnessing her loneliness. It wraps itself into a wreath of pain in her chest, nonetheless. “You left everyone behind in order to...I don’t know...save humanity, or bang a Kryptonian, or something.”

“Real nice,” Lena hits her arm and Sam shrugs. “You know why I left,” Lena says, a little more defensive. 

“The sad thing is, besides your outfit--,” Sam looks at her pointedly. “I can’t tell if this is from a few years ago or a few minutes ago. You’re basically in the same place.”

“It works better this way,” Lena argues. “For everyone. What’s the point of pretending anymore?”

“Oh, wow, okay.” Sam holds up her hands. 

They watch as Lena’s phone rings, and how she turns it over and sends it to voicemail.

“Thanks for that,” Sam says with an unimpressed scowl.  

“Sorry,” Lena replies. She doesn’t say what she wants to say: how she was too weak to face Sam then, how she couldn’t bridge their relationship, despite the fact that she wanted to, more than anything. Instead she just stands in silence.

Sam waves her hands and the scene changes only slightly, with present day Lena apparently working on Christmas, going back and forth on her calculations with Hope.

“You shouldn’t be seeing this,” Lena says immediately, trying to pull Sam away. “We aren’t finished with our project yet--”

“First of all, do I look like I’m going to take your trade secrets and sell them?” Lena rolls her eyes. She knows that’s not it, but it’s the whole concept of Project Non Nocere that she just doesn’t feel like unpacking for someone else. “Second, is that Eve?”

“It’s a long story.”

They watch in silence as Lena toils away at her calculations, with Eve/Hope offering trite answers to Lena’s occasional questions.

“So let me get this straight,” Sam says after a few minutes. She points through to the scene in the office and looks at Lena with a skeptical gaze. “You implanted an AI in Eve’s head and now she’s basically a robot, programmed to do exactly what you say?”

Lena’s eyes snap to attention as she focuses on Sam. She isn’t sure how she gathered that much information from a few minutes of random dialogue, but she doesn’t want to ask. “I don’t control her,” Lena argues. “She is simply programmed to do no harm. She is incapable of hurting anyone.”

“And she...volunteered for this?”

“Not exactly,” Lena stumbles, gathering herself quickly with a harsh glare. She remembers the way Eve held the gun to her head, whirling on her heel and defending Lex’s honor. Lena seethes at the memory, even now. “She owed me a favor.”

“Do you like, hear yourself when you talk?” Sam asks, her eyes widening with more horror than fascination. Lena feels strangely exposed. “This is creepy, even for you.”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh, because I don’t have the mental capacity to save humanity?”

“No, because you haven’t been betrayed by every single person you meet!” Lena bursts. She clears her throat in an attempt to settle herself. Softer, she adds, “It’s exhausting. A person can only take so much.”

“So this is how you get back at them?”

“No. I don’t want revenge. Revenge is petty, and it won’t fix the root cause of the problem. While, yes, it would feel good to make Kara hurt in the same way she hurt me, that’s not going to prevent it from ever happening again.” Lena paces along the balcony, tracing her fingers over the frigid cold of the railing. “I am going to make it so that people are incapable of deception. They will stop hurting each other and in turn, make humanity better.”

“--by taking away free will?”

Lena glares, but Sam stares back at her long and hard. Finally, her shoulders drop and she sighs.

“Oh Lena, this is worse than I even thought. I hope we can detangle this in one night.” She grabs her hand. “C’mon. Let’s take a look at another Christmas in National City.”

It happens before Lena can blink, but there they are, arriving at Kara’s apartment, exactly where she doesn’t want to be. She stops on the threshold of the entrance.

“Sam, stop,” Lena says, turning away from the door and trying to force herself back toward the elevator. Sam is too tall, and too quick for Lena to sneak by and instead just holds her there with little effort. “I don’t care what Kara is doing.”

“You can try to fool yourself into thinking that, but you aren’t going to fool me,” Sam says. She grabs Lena’s shoulders and turns her around again to face the door. “Let’s go.”

They enter the apartment, where Kara’s annual Christmas Day dinner is taking place. The crowd is a little smaller and a little different this year, but the apartment is still filled with decorations and cheer. It’s so painfully Kara, that Lena has to take a deep breath just to keep herself balanced.

Alex, Nia, Brainy, Kelly, James and J’onn are all around, but the mood is a bit more somber and a bit more sleepy than in Christmas’ past.

As they walk further into the apartment, Kara walks right by them. Lena tenses, trying to steel herself from reacting, but it proves fruitless. Despite her mind’s protests, her stomach still does flips and her cheeks still blaze, even though she knows Kara can’t see her or smile back at her. Lena swallows heavily, trying to force herself to look unaffected. Sam rolls her eyes.

Kara, meanwhile, is holding a tray of cookies and walking toward the table. Her smile is genuine, but smaller. She looks...different.

“Kara?” Lena whispers out loud, despite herself, but no one answers.

“We should play a game!” Alex says, arm in arm with Kelly. “What do ya say, Kara?”

“Sure,” Kara says, glancing at the door. Her shoulders sag a little before she forces a bigger smile on her face. “Yeah, that’d be good.”

“Kelly, can you grab us some more drinks?” Alex asks. Kelly obliges, and Alex takes Kara aside.

“I know you’re disappointed Lena isn’t here…” Alex starts, her lips twisting as she tries to understand. “But I’m sure she has a reason.”

“No, it’s okay, she had to work,” Kara shrugs. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine,” Alex says, pointing to the crinkled lines in Kara’s forehead. Lena’s chest aches at seeing Kara’s trademark tell for when she’s stressed -- and how she’s part of only a small group of people who can recognize it on her. 

“I just--,” Kara sighs, and a tear threatens to fall. “I want so badly to believe that things are okay with us. But they’re not, I know they’re not. She would never skip out on Christmas with us, not now, not with us truly being us--,” she eyes Alex, who doesn’t say anything. “But she did, and I can’t help but think she’s still upset about what I did and I don’t know how I’m ever going to get her back. I’m so worried about her--,”

Present day Lena turns to Sam with a questioning frown. “This isn’t real,” she states. “You’re manipulating it to make a point.”

“I don’t have that kind of power, Lena. I’m only in charge of showing you what happens if you proceed as planned,” Sam replies. “This is how Christmas looks without you.”

“If she cared as much as she seems to, she never would have done what she did,” Lena says, crossing her arms. “She made me out to be a fool. She treated me like a villain behind my back -- ever since I’ve known her, I might add -- and now she’s going to feel how badly it hurts.”

“An eye for an eye, how diplomatic of you,” Sam jeers. 

“You don’t get it.” Lena shakes her head in frustration and turns away.

“What I don’t get is this whole thing of yours--,” Sam pauses, gesturing to try to find the words. “This hypocritical idea about betrayal and getting even… how is this you? How is this fair?” 

“Fair? You want to talk about fair?” Lena asks incredulously, turning back with a raised eyebrow. “Being lied to for years isn’t fair, Sam. I’m distancing myself from people who never wanted to truly know me in the first place.”

“And who is that?” Sam fires back, crossing her arms. “Who is that person that they don’t know? Because from where I’m standing, you’re not the girl I used to know, either.”

“Oh really? Then who am I?” Lena challenges. 

“Look in the mirror and figure it out,” Sam replies. “Because this--,” she gestures over Lena. “This is flat out wrong. You aren’t the keeper of morality, and you don’t get to decide how people act or react to things.”

“And you don’t know anything,” Lena argues, turning back to Kara.

Kara is still talking to Alex, the conversation getting more animated as she seems to be coming up with ideas.

“Maybe I’ll stop over there later tonight just to check in,” Kara is in the middle of saying, and Alex’s shoulders slump a little. But despite the obvious misgivings on her face, she offers a small smile of encouragement. “I know! I’ll fly to France - I’ll get those croissants she’s always raving about. Do you think--”

“I think she’d like that,” Alex finishes for her, but her face doesn’t match the sentiment.

Sam rakes her fingers through her hair and turns to Lena, who can’t seem to take her eyes from Kara’s broken face. “Let me break this down for you, since you clearly don’t understand,” she says strongly. “What you’re doing right now is a cry for help. This entire mission you’re on is because you’re spiraling. Kara was the straw that broke you. I’m not saying what she did was right, Lena. I get that she hurt you. But you need to acknowledge why it hurts so much -- why this hurts more than any of the others.”

Lena freezes. “What--”

“--You’re in love with her, and that terrifies you.”

“I’m-- what? I’m not in love with her,” Lena deflects. “That’s absurd.”

“Why else would you even care so much? Why would you be so hellbent on getting even, on fixing everyone ? Why is this pain so much different than the others?”

“You don’t understand,” Lena says, for what feels like the hundredth time. But even she isn’t sure anymore.

“Jesus Lena, wake up,” Sam exclaims. “Kara loves you more than anything in this world. I could see that as soon as I saw you two together. Do you remember last Christmas? God--” Sam is pacing now, the emotion getting her worked up. “It was sickening, actually. The two of you were so lost in your own world, I thought you were joking when you told me you weren’t actually dating.” Sam chuckles at that, and Lena wants to join, but can’t seem to find it in herself to laugh. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing with my own eyes. You were both so in denial about your feelings, both so engrossed in each other that you couldn’t even notice anything else going on. Of course you’re hurting right now. You’re heartbroken!”

“But don’t you get it?!” Lena cries out, startled by her own outburst. “That’s what I’m saying. It was all fake, Sam. None of it was real. She fooled me into thinking our relationship was exactly that : larger than life and fantastic and grand, and meanwhile, it wasn’t anything like that. I fell for her lies, and I’m sick about it. I admit, I may not have processed my feelings for her--,” Sam snorts at that, and Lena glares. “Not really -- but even if what you say is true, it doesn’t matter. It’s too late. She never felt the same way about me, and in the process, she destroyed my heart.”

“Lena,” Sam says, softer this time. She takes a step forward and places a comforting hand on Lena’s shoulder and tries to smile. “Think about it. If she didn’t feel the same way, this wouldn’t be the huge deal that it is for both of you. And besides, why would she want to change anything about your relationship? It was perfect the way it was-- and I have to think it was perfect for her too. She got through to you, and she got closer to you than you’ve ever let anyone. Don’t you get it? You never would have had the same relationship with only Supergirl. She didn’t want to be seen as only some super powered being -- someone to be used when it was convenient. She wanted to just be Kara. You gave her that.”

“Oh that’s rich, considering how much she used me! ” Lena exclaims. “Why are you defending her?”

“Listen, I’m not defending her entirely, but I know what it’s like to have two sides...” Sam’s voice trails off as she gives a small shudder. 

“You weren’t in control of Reign, Sam -- it’s different.”

“Maybe, but if I was in control, and had that ability to turn into that person, I would imagine all my relationships would be different once I told people about it. Everyone would know that side of me, and it would take a lot of getting used to. It would put people I love in danger, and I could never, ever again be...just Sam. I’d be Sam with an asterisk. I am Sam with an asterisk. I saw the way you looked at me tonight, Lena. It was different, and it will never be the same again. Everything is different.”

“That’s not true,” Lena tries to defend, but Sam just cocks an eyebrow in a silent challenge. Before she can really get amped up to argue, she lets it go. “But Kara kept it up for years ! Meanwhile, half of National City knew her identity, I was the ONLY one that no one told. Why do you think that is?”

“I--”

“She lied to my face day in, and day out, like it was nothing,” Lena argues. “They all did.”

“How do you know what she felt like? How do you know it was so easy?” Sam asks.“There’s a reason she singled you out, and I don’t think it’s the reason you’re so sure of. Did you ask her?”

Lena is quiet. She turns to Kara and faces her, her jaw clenching while the tears threaten to spill.

“How could you possibly think everything is okay ? How could one apology make years of lies go away? How could you do this ?!” Lena stands in front of Kara now, talking to her directly. “I trusted you! Against my better judgement I let you in, and I begged you not to make me a fool. I gave you so many chances to come clean, so many chances to just tell me the truth, and you never did. Instead, you held me close and you swore you would never hurt me, knowing full well you were doing just that! I never thought to suspect you of anything… and now I feel so impossibly stupid…

“Kara didn’t owe you this, Lena. It’s her thing, her secret,” Sam says in her ear. “You don’t get to lay claim over it simply because you’re her closest friend.”

“I told her everything --,” Lena says, side eyeing Sam, but still positioned in front of Kara. 

“Then that’s on you!” Sam retaliates. 

“I killed my brother for you!!” Lena explodes, ignoring Sam and screaming into Kara’s oblivious face, the tears falling relentlessly down her own. “For our friends! Don’t you understand what you’ve done?!”

Sam pulls Lena away and pushes her toward the exit. “Let’s go.”

“Get off of me!” Lena orders, but Sam continues to hold her hands. “Sam, I mean it.”

“Breathe.”

Lena takes a few desperate inhales, closing her eyes and trying to place all of her spilled emotions back into the little boxes they came from. 

“You know you need to tell her this yourself, right?” Sam asks, releasing her grip on Lena’s hands. “You realize that skulking around in your lab and lulling her into a false sense of security with your manipulation is just wrong on literally every level, don’t you?”

“I’m done arguing with you about this. It’s none of your concern how I handle this.” Lena crosses her arms. 

“You’ve told me that before, but it is my concern. You’re my friend. And they--,” Sam gestures at the closed door. “They are also your friends. They tried to do what was right. It wasn’t their secret to tell. So now we have to deal with it and fix it. Friends don’t just walk out of each other’s lives when it gets hard. Let’s go.”

Sam pushes past Lena before she can argue, leaving her no other choice but to follow along.

She stalks behind Sam, keeping a distance, not caring where they need to go or what else they need to see. Her mind is a chaotic jumble of mixed images -- Kara’s smile, her warmth -- versus Supergirl’s clenched jaw and crossed arms. All she keeps coming back to is the fact that she’s gotten used to the idea of thinking about Kara as her Kara, and the fact that she isn’t is bad enough, but the idea that she never was?

Lena isn’t sure she can take it.

Sam stops abruptly in front of her and Lena blinks in confusion. They’re in front of an apartment complex that Lena doesn’t recognize. She tries to rack her brain, but she comes up empty. 

“Where are we?” she reluctantly asks, not sure she even wants the answer.

“Andrea Rojas’ apartment.”

“Why would I be here? It isn’t like I turned down an invitation from her,” Lena says, rolling her eyes. She scoffs at Sam. “Besides, I thought you hated her.”

“Not the biggest fan, for obvious reasons,” Sam says. “But this isn’t about me.”

Sam takes her hand and the next thing she knows, they’re walking into Andrea’s apartment where she’s sitting, curled up on her couch, alone. She’s crying, watching an old black and white movie, and scrolling through pictures on her phone. She stops at one of her and Russell, and breaks down. 

“Well, this is an uplifting scene,” Lena says.

Andrea continues to scroll through her phone and comes to an old picture of her and Lena. She stops and stares at it for a long time, the tears falling heavier still, before she throws her phone across the room.

“The feeling is mutual,” Lena replies, to no one.

“Well, as fun as this is to watch--,” Sam starts, but Lena whirls around and interrupts quickly. 

“You don’t understand what happened in our past, and I’d rather not rehash it with you on Christmas Eve, if that’s alright.”

“Except I do know what happened, because I’m here to help you,” Sam shrugs nonchalantly. “For the purposes of this entire exercise, I know everything about you, Lena Luthor.”

“That’s not terrifying,” Lena smirks. “Well, I don’t know what you want me to say, I can never trust Andrea again after what she did.”

“Not even after what, 10 years of friendship?” Lena clenches her jaw, feeling the rumble of anger burn in her chest. Sam continues. “So you’re telling me if the tables had turned -- and you fell down into that cave, and someone told you that the medallion your girlfriend wanted would actually save Lex from destruction and protect the Luthor name, you wouldn’t take it?”

“No, I wouldn’t,” Lena says, but her voice wavers. “I cared about Andrea more than anyone in the world. I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

“Wow, it must feel so good to be superior to everyone around you,” Sam digs. 

“I never claimed to be a saint--,”

“--Then how dare you act like you’d never make the same choice? How can you even say that?”

“Why are you doing this?” Lena shouts, turning to Sam with venom. “Why are you even here?”

“Listen, this isn’t exactly my favorite thing either. I don’t love watching you spiral and I definitely don’t like encouraging you to make amends with the ex-girlfriend I always felt like I could never live up to -- but you need to hear it. You’re going to lose everything and everyone if you keep this shit up.”

“I don’t need any of them,” Lena spits, her voice low and rumbling. “Not one. Not even you.”

“You’ve made that abundantly clear, thank you. And how’s that working out?” Sam shoots back angrily. Lena scowls. “You didn’t even give her a chance to explain. You never do. One mistake and that’s it - relationship over.”

“Mistake? You call what Andrea did a mistake? What Kara did -- a mistake?!” Lena raged. “Forgetting a birthday, or arriving late to an appointment, those are mistakes . This was calculated. She made A CHOICE--”

“--and you never let her explain it. You never even tried to hear her side.”

“Why should I?”

“Because if you had, maybe you would have understood her circumstances a little better. It wouldn’t make it right, but it’s a hell of a lot better than assuming the worst about everyone. God, Lena, for how brilliant you are, you really don’t understand how this works. This is what friends do: Friends give their friends the benefit of the doubt. Friends forgive. Forgiveness is part of this whole messy world we live in. We try, we mess up, and we forgive. You can’t just take away everyone’s ability to make choices. What you should be focusing on is yourself, and forgiveness. Christ, Lena, get some therapy.”

“Easy for you to say. You’ve never been betrayed.”

“I forgave you ,” Sam says pointedly. 

WHAT? ” Lena explodes. “I never betrayed you--”

“--From the Lena Luthor definition of betrayal, you made me trust that you’d always be there. Against my better judgement, we started making plans for the future, and you left me with barely an explanation and hardly a good bye. Now, it sucked, and personally I think it’s more of a dick move than a betrayal, but, you broke my heart, Lena! I was furious with you!”

“Sam I--” 

“--And you never wanted to talk about it, never once wanted to hear my side,” Sam continues. “You just decided you were done. You ignored my calls, you refused to have a conversation. You left at the first chance to fix your family name. I think it’s hilarious that you can look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn’t take the same opportunity Andrea did when it’s exactly what you did to me. Do you know how awful it was when you left? You don’t, because you never even tried to understand. But it was …”

Sam inhales sharply, her breaths shallow and uneven. She steadies herself. “You were everything to me. I loved you so much it was stupid. And then, suddenly, you were gone and I was alone. You knew how sensitive I was to being abandoned, and you didn’t so much as flinch when you pushed me away. I had no choice but to pick up the pieces. Every day I had to give shallow answers to Ruby about why aunt Lena doesn’t come around anymore, why she doesn’t call. I didn’t even want to get out of bed, but I had no choice because I had no one else to help me. It was the worst time of my life.”

“Sam, I had no idea--,” Lena mumbles, taking a tentative step forward. “I’m so sorry…”

Sam steps back, avoiding her. “Until, of course, you called me a year later with a business proposition where you were cold and meticulous, choosing your words like you were avoiding grenades.” Sam rolls her eyes. “Thanks, by the way. Reducing me to just a business partner after all we’d been through, and how things ended? It was beyond insulting .”

“But you agreed to come…” Lena’s voice lowers. She shakes her head, uncomprehending. “You didn’t even ask questions.”

“You’re right. By your way of doing things, I should have canceled you a long time ago,” Sam smirks. “But I didn’t. I came when you called because that’s what you do when you love someone. You forgive them! You find a way to heal and you make it work.”

“Now who thinks they’re superior?” 

“That’s low hanging fruit and you know it. I took your past and your experiences into account and I decided to give you another chance. Maybe others wouldn’t have done that, but I made the choice to.”

“So by that logic, I should have just run back into Lex’s arms when he came back around?” Lena raises her eyebrow in defiance.

“You did though, didn’t you?”

Lena’s face falls. She looks back at Andrea and touches the glass of the window. “I don’t know how to get back what we had,” she laments. “I know she’s a good person. I know she gave me a chance when she barely knew me...but how do I ever trust her again?” She turns to Sam and points at Andrea. “That’s why I’m working so hard with Hope. I need to finish this, to make everything okay again.”

“No Lena, that’s not how it’s done. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. All of this--,” Sam gestures around her, and between them. “It takes time. It takes work, and sometimes it downright sucks. It doesn’t happen overnight. But if you’re open and honest, you can come to a good place.”

“And what about Kara?” Lena asks, hesitant. “How can you ever come back from that ?”

“That part is up to you both,” Sam says. “No one else can do that for you. Not even artificial intelligence.”

Lena feels more deflated than ever when Sam reaches out to grab her hand. They head back to Lena’s apartment, and fortunately it happens in an instant, otherwise Lena is sure it would have been a tense and quiet journey home. 

“You’re going to be okay, Lena,” Sam says once they’re safely back inside. “But you’re destructive when you’re alone. You are at your best when you have good people around you. And here in National City, you somehow managed to find the best of the best. Please don’t let them go.”

“Sam I--,” Lena reaches for Sam’s arm and pulls her back. “I’m so sorry for what I did and how I treated you all those years ago. It wasn’t-- I never should have left you the way I did. I should have heard your side, and treated you better. I can’t promise I would have made a different decision, but I should have been there for you, regardless.”

“I forgive you,” Sam says simply. “I forgave you long ago. It is what it is. I’m stronger now.” She wraps her in a hug, and Lena can almost feel her touch.

“I really loved you, you know,” Lena says softly, pulling her a little closer. “I still do, for what it’s worth.”

“I know you do. You saved me, after all.” Sam straightens up and strokes Lena’s cheek. “I promise I didn’t come here to tear you down. Just to give you tough love. It’s what friends do, you know.”

“Apparently I’m not so good at that,” Lena chuckles, staring at the floor. 

"You'll figure it out," Sam says, shrugging.“You have one more visitor coming,” she warns and the way she says it sends shivers down Lena’s spine. “And I’m hoping this one can help you realize the harm your project will cause now and in the future.”

“What? But I--" 

Before she can sputter a protest, Sam is gone and her apartment is cold and empty once again.


Act 3 - Christmas future 

When the clock strikes 3, Lena doesn’t even flinch. She’s sitting at the kitchen island, tapping her fingers impatiently, just...waiting. There’s nothing else she really can do, at this point. She’s too terrified to go to sleep, and too anxious about what’s to come. Her coat is already on, since she knows she has little say in how the rest of the night plays out. As she waits for the inevitable, she replays through her conversation with Sam, which only serves to fan the flames of her simmering anger.

“Mistakes,” she mumbles to herself. “...and she says I’m the hypocrite…”

There’s a loud crash of lightning that startles her out of her reverie. She turns toward the balcony doors, her free hand reaching for the cold steel of her pistol that she has in the pocket of her coat, just in case. It’s an old habit after too many close calls, even though she knows tonight is far from an ordinary night. The doors open slowly, but nothing happens right away. Where the first two spirits were bright and abundant, this one is slow, shrouded in quiet. There is nothing but silence, and a swift rolling fog swirling through the darkness. Finally, a hooded figure appears out of the mist, gliding silently before coming to a stop at the threshold. They stand imposingly at the entrance, tall and commanding, taking up most of the surrounding space.

“Lena Luthor!” the voice booms, echoing loudly throughout the apartment. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“Who the fuck--”

The figure’s hood falls back slightly to reveal a handsome and familiar face. 

“Oh bloody hell!” Jack exclaims, pawing at his perfectly coiffed hair that has been knocked slightly out of place. He looks at Lena with a pout. “This hood ruined my entire look.”

“Jack! You idiot, you scared me half to death,” Lena scolds, grinning in spite of herself. 

“Mission almost accomplished then, love,” Jack says, smiling mysteriously as he crosses the threshold. He stops several feet away and pauses. Lena hesitates, unsure what he’s going to say, or how this is going to go. A very real sense of dread stalks into her mind as she recalls Jack’s final moments, and the way she never truly got to say goodbye. She wonders if his return is punishment for what she’s done. 

“Jack--,” she starts, but she realizes she doesn’t know what to say. Should she be apologizing? Begging for forgiveness? There’s a reason it’s him. There’s a reason he’s the one sent to show her the future. Before she can formulate a thought, he breaks into a chuckle.

“Well, well, well. You just couldn’t stay away from me, hey?” Jack grins, and Lena instantly relaxes. He’s still handsome Jack, exactly the way she tries to remember him, with his goofy humor and easy smile, and very much still the friend she always cherished from all those years ago.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Lena shakes her head, pierced with the reminder that unlike Sam, Jack is very much gone for good. He steps up offering his open arms and Lena gives him a long hug. “I’ve missed you, Jack.”

“The feeling is mutual,” Jack says softly. He clears his throat and steps back. “Best be on our way, though. This is important, and we can’t afford to leave anything out.” Lena steps back and watches as Jack adjusts his coat and offers his arm. 

“I assume you understand the particulars: we’re going to visit Christmas future, no, no one can hear you talk, yes, this is all technically a dream but a very accurate prediction and yes--,” Jack grins, opening his coat slightly. “This suit is fantastic, thank you.”

“Lead the way,” Lena says, hooking her arm through his and rolling her eyes.

Their first destination turns out to be downtown National City, where Lena is apparently giving another one of her infamous L-Corp speeches. She’s already at the podium when they arrive, the corporate logo bold and visible in every direction. The crowd is dense, and Lena is side-eyeing in various directions, apparently on guard for something, or someone.

She turns to Jack. “These never seem to end well for me,” she says, by way of explanation. 

“You seem to be counting on it not to,” Jack says, gesturing back toward the podium with his chin.

The Lena at the podium is eyeing the crowd suspiciously, her free hand fumbling with the watch on her wrist. It’s the watch designed to call Supergirl whenever there’s an emergency, a piece now easily recognizable to Lena’s eyes. After all, she hasn’t been able to put it down since Kara gifted it to her. She pulls the coat sleeve further down over her own wrist to cover the evidence, but she’s sure Jack already knows.

“It’s a spectacular piece,” he chimes in, nodding at her. “A bit gaudy for my taste, but authentic.”

Lena swats his arm.

She frowns as she continues to watch herself give a practiced speech that seems disjointed, her main objective set on surveying the crowd. She begins to mimic herself, scanning the scene for whatever it is she could possibly be on the lookout for. Suddenly, there’s a long rumble and a quake, and the building behind them begins to crumble. An explosion goes off several feet behind her, and Lena watches as her future self pushes the watch on her wrist and turns for an open window. She jumps without a second thought.

“Oh my God--!” Lena cries out, holding a hand to reach for herself. She looks at Jack. “What am I doing?!”

Before Jack can answer, a comet of red and blue swoops in and catches Lena in the middle of her descent. 

“What was that?” Kara asks frantically, searching the skies for the threat with Lena clutched safely in her arms. 

Lena forgets everything for a moment, absorbed in the way Kara comes -- the way Kara always comes -- and how delicately she cradles her while still looking to attack whatever threatened them. She doesn’t think about what she’s doing, or why, all she thinks about is Kara, Kara, Kara and how she’s here . She glances at Jack, but he doesn’t seem to notice the way her cheeks blaze with heat.

Future Lena offers a veiled explanation to Kara’s questioning eyes -- Leviathan , she says -- but it doesn’t mean as much to her at present as it seems to in the future. She watches as Kara nods with a determined glare, saying something about needing to go to the DEO.

“Are you okay?” Kara checks in, her brows furrowed in concern. “I’ve got you.”

“I’m okay,” Lena assures her, and she smiles weakly. Kara nods, before taking off into the sky once more.

“I don’t--,” Lena looks back at Jack. “I don’t understand. It seems Supergirl and I are still on good terms. I’m not sure what the problem is. Besides those ghastly shoes I’m wearing.”

“Things are definitely taking a downward turn if you’re starting to wear sensible footwear,” Jack chuckles. “But good is relative, love. If all that matters is getting what you want, then yes, you’re still on good terms.” Lena blinks in confusion. “You’re using her,” Jack clarifies, still watching the scene play out in front of them. They’ve switched locations and are now watching the action at the DEO, where an overly frightened Lena and a determined Kara speak to Brainy and Alex about what just occurred. “You’re going to use this as an opportunity to force Kara’s hand. She will be convinced to bring you to the Fortress of Solitude. You need something there, and Kara’s the only one who can retrieve it.”

“The Fortress of what now?”

“Just watch.”

“I--,” it dawns on Lena what she might need from the Fortress of Solitude. The name sounds familiar, and she’s sure it’s something Lex mentioned in one of his many tirades, a place he would be hellbent on infiltrating if given the chance. Presumably, there is something there that helps her with Project Non Nocere. She purses her lips. “Well, you have to admit, it’s kind of brilliant.”

“Lex would be proud of you, if he was still around,” Jack’s voice is harsh, and he’s frowning as he looks back at her. “You didn’t destroy a Super -- you decided to control one. It must feel good to hold all the power.”

Lena swallows heavily. It looks different in this light, from this vantage point. “I have my reasons,” she shrugs, still keeping her head high. 

“They always do,” Jack responds, and it bothers her the way he distances himself.

“She doesn’t have to be so self-righteous. She doesn’t have to save me,” Lena points out.

“You don’t have to bait her,” Jack argues. “You don’t have to exploit the fact that she’s loyal to you, or that she cares enough about you to put you first.”

“If that was the case, we wouldn’t be in this position,” Lena says, angrily. “I never asked for this. I never asked for her to lie to me.”

“You’re daring her to prove you right. You’re daring her to give you the reason you need to fully turn. But she keeps showing up, and she keeps proving that she’s deeply invested in your relationship and in your well being. It’s what keeps you hanging on.” Jack shakes his head, the disappointment all over his face. “This is pathetic behavior, Lena, and frankly, a bit hard to watch.”

Lena watches the way Kara goes to her side, always protective, always gentle. She watches as they have a conversation about Leviathan-- what, or who, he is-- and begin to strategize about how they can possibly hope to contain him. Part of her wants this to play out differently, to prove Jack wrong, but deep down, she knows everything about this is heading for disaster.

“So how are we supposed to fight a highly secretive, thousand year old alien with powers that we have no idea how to beat?” Alex asks the group, exasperated. She looks exhausted, and cautious, her eyes darting between Kara and Lena like she’s trying to decide how to proceed, and not just with Leviathan. 

“Well I know one person who spent his life fighting all types of aliens -- real or imagined,” Lena says quietly. She looks at Kara specifically while she says it. 

“Your brother,” Kara finishes, her voice breathless. Alex places a warning hand on her hip but Lena ignores it.

“I know most of his minor weapons are in Fort Summitt, but the truly horrendous ones were destroyed by Superman.” Lena frowns, her words drifting off as she waits for Kara to put together the pieces. 

“That’s not entirely true,” Kara replies quickly, talking to the entire group. “A lot of his weapons are locked away in the Fortress of Solitude.”

Alex clears her throat in a warning, but Lena just stares blankly, searching the room for an explanation.

“Oh!” Kara’s hands flutter as she chuckles at herself. “It’s a place Superman created. We keep weapons there that can hurt us.”

“Well then, you’ll go there--,” Lena says slowly, like she’s planning. “And I will give you a list of all of Lex’s weapons.”

Kara shakes her head. “Why don’t you come with me?”

It seems to come easy to her, now. She just offers confidential information like she’s chatting about the weather, like she has no reason not to trust Lena implicitly. It makes everything so much more complicated, and it makes their past that much more infuriating. 

Why now? Why did she wait so long? Why, why, why? 

“She doesn’t even stop to think,” Lena says to Jack. “She’s falling for it completely.”

“She trusts you,” Jack says, as if it’s obvious. “She always trusted you. That was never the issue.”

Lena frowns, because none of it makes sense. Kara doesn’t even stop to consider the implications, and instead immediately volunteers classified information before extending an invitation for Lena to join her somewhere few have ever gone. She doesn’t understand how this can be happening, not really. Kara has come clean, sure, but it’s almost like she flipped a page and forgot about the previous chapter. Lena didn’t have to be briefed about confidentiality, didn’t have to sign a waiver. Kara just seemed to wake up one day and decide the guilt was too much. So, where does that leave them?

Can Kara really be fooled into thinking it’s that easy? 

Alex frowns at Kara’s suggestion and glances at Brainy, who is already gathering data for their next move. In the present, Lena focuses on Alex and crosses her arms as if declaring a challenge.

“She never liked me,” she says to Jack, jutting her chin at Alex.

“All things considered, should she?” Jack fires back and Lena clenches her jaw. 

“So it’s settled. Lena, you’ll come with me to the fortress,” Kara says, nodding once again at her decision. “Only-- you’ll need a coat.” She grins at her own joke, and bounces to Lena’s side. For a comical moment, she’s Kara Danvers dressed in a caped costume, excited at the possibility of hanging out with her best friend. She’s treating it like a happy adventure and an exciting prospect instead of a dangerous mission. “Road trip!” 

Lena’s heart drops. It’s the first time she’s really seen Kara as Kara when she’s wearing the crest, and the image makes her entire world feel like it’s tilting on its axis. She realizes she’s been able to process the fact that they’re the same, and has even gone so far as to reconcile the identities, but she hasn’t really seen it. She has been able to recognize Kara as Supergirl; she recognizes the flashes of bold courage and strength underneath those pastel sweaters, but she has never seen the silly excitement, or the dorky, genuine energy of Kara Danvers exuded by Earth’s hero. It’s so perfectly charming, and downright unnerving, that Lena almost starts to cry.

Something shifts in her heart, and she isn’t sure she wants to see what’s coming next. 

“You’re so lonely. Can’t you feel that?” Jack asks, staring at Lena as if he can see everything she’s thinking. “All you’ve ever wanted was to be loved, and  you’ve found such a great love -- probably the greatest of your entire life. Most people would think that’s a thing worth protecting, worth rebuilding. Instead, you want to destroy it.”

Lena doesn’t respond. Jack takes her hand and within seconds, the Fortress of Solitude becomes a bit more crowded.

Despite the seriousness of the mission, and the fact that apparently, a mythological being is chasing them throughout the cosmos, Lena can’t seem to focus on anything other the way Kara lights up while showing her around a piece of her home. The mysterious ice palace is something out of a fantasy, and even the Lena with deception in her mind and rage in her heart seems momentarily enamored. In the present, Lena isn’t sure if she’s just become an incredibly good actress, or if she’s truly taken aback by the piece of Krypton that Kara has managed to preserve, but she has a feeling that despite her intentions, there’s true wonder on her face nonetheless.

Kara grins, extending her arms and welcoming her grandly, and Lena feels everything she’s ever wanted to say to Kara threaten to spill out over her lips. The worst part is, it isn’t all vitriol and rage. Instead, most of it is just hidden away feelings and confessions she wishes she didn’t have to make. She’s thankful Kara can’t hear her, because she isn’t confident in her ability to keep quiet. She watches herself clench her jaw and manage a brave smile, and she knows deep down, even in the future, she must feel the same ache.

Suddenly, the fortress swirls with smoke and Lena is surrounded by sharp icicles enclosing her in a prison of Kryptonian making. The siren blares.

“Intruder! Intruder! Luthor DNA detected! L-Protocol Activated!”

Kara’s eyes widen. “I’m so sorry--,” she starts, racing over to the control panel and tapping at it furiously. “I’ll fix this! I’ll fix it -- I promise!”

Lena watches the way her own face contrives it, the way her eyes widen and she leans into the lie. “I’m not Lex! I’m not going to hurt anything! Kara-- you have to shut it down!”

“I know you’re not--,” Kara says, apologetic and frantic, pressing at more keys. 

Lena squints and watches herself tapping at her pockets, claiming innocence, and she frowns. She may not know when anyone else is lying, but she can pick it up on herself -- she knows her tells, knows the way her voice lilts upward in pitch and her gestures become exaggerated -- and she gets a sinking feeling in her stomach.

Kara manages to shut down the trap at the last second, causing the icicles to disintegrate and a relieved Lena to fall into her arms. 

“Thanks,” Lena says, graciously, smiling at Kara’s face.

“I shouldn’t have had to do that,” Kara apologizes. “I didn’t realize my cousin had this set up, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“Are you kidding?” Lena is really hamming it up now. “Of course he had to, I don’t blame him. Do you know what Lex would give to come to a place like this? No, Kara, you don’t have to explain. I understand.”

It seems sincere, and Kara wraps her hand around Lena’s with a gentle squeeze. They continue into the Fortress, bonding over the fact that they’re nothing like their families.

“We’re beyond those boys with their sticks and stones,” future Lena says through a smile and Kara nods happily.

“We’re heart grenades and back stabbing,” Lena mumbles to herself, and Jack sighs.

They walk around a corner and into an ice armory of sorts, which seems to be the target of their mission. Lena studies the various pieces of technology, cringing at the fact that they are mostly Luthor-branded and aimed at hurting Kryptonians. Each one seems to be placed with careful precision, as if just touching them will make them go off. Lena eyes one of them in particular -- Myriad, she learns -- and tilts her head in curious fascination.

“Myriad,” Lena says under her breath, looking at Jack. “Of course . That’s why I’m here.”

“It’s the piece you need to complete Project Non Nocere, to be able to distribute it worldwide in an instant,” Jack agrees. “And Kara, unknowingly, has handed it to you.”

Lena’s attention is grabbed as Kara begins to speak again. Lena is holding Myriad with questioning eyes, and Kara’s shoulders seem to shift under an invisible burden. She explains the weapon with a sad smile, explains the origins and the demise of her family due to its power. 

“If there was one weapon in here that I could get rid of, it would be that one,” she says, and her eyes seem to hold enough pain for both worlds when she says it.

Lena watches herself place it down delicately. She wants to believe that Kara’s silent plea has reached her heart, made her reconsider, but she knows herself better than that. She watches herself take a mental note of where they are in the fortress with a single observant glance, and knows without a doubt that she’s going to steal it.

Her fears are further confirmed when the next thing Lena does is ask for permission to be the one to send the signal back home to Brainy. 

“I’ve just never seen one of these before,” Lena says, her eyes sparkling at the machine in the corner. “I’d love to try it.”

“Knock yourself out,” Kara grins, turning her back as she continues through the Fortress.

“I’m setting a trap, aren’t I?”

Jack purses his lips and shrugs, but it says everything Lena needs to hear.

It isn’t long before Leviathan finds them, and Kara is forced to contain him. Lena offers her assistance, and for a brief, glorious moment, both of them are side by side fighting together. Lena’s heart aches at finally being treated as a true equal, standing up with Supergirl, her best friend, and knowing it’s all too late. She eventually retreats, undetected by Kara, to return to the armory and snatch Myriad.

She stands there, holding the weapon in her hands, delaying the inevitable. 

“Why am I waiting?” Lena questions, looking at Jack for answers. “If I were really going to do this, I’d have a transmatter watch in my pocket. I would just disappear and leave Kara behind.”

“You want to get caught,” Jack replies easily. “You want to make sure she knows it was you.”

“I don’t--”

“Lena, why do you have Myriad?” Kara’s voice interrupts them, as she walks on unsteady legs toward where Lena is standing. Her eyes are wide with uncertainty as she approaches, searching Lena’s face for a reasonable explanation as to why she’s holding Kara’s most feared weapon. A weapon that, until today, Lena had no idea was somehow even more damaging than Kryptonite. 

“You caught me,” Lena says with a slow, angry smile. She draws a steady breath and looks Kara in the eye. “I’m using you, the way you’ve used me.”

“Jack, do something--,” Lena begs, turning to him for something, anything. “I don’t--I don’t want to watch this.”

“It’s what you’re going to do, love,” Jack says, with only a hint of apology in his tone. “This is both a declaration, and a cry for help.”

So this is how it all comes crashing down, Lena thinks. She turns and watches herself spill everything to Kara in a snarling, calculated rage that ends with her screaming about everything she’s done. She watches as Kara stands there, shellshocked, her chest rising and falling with desperate, anxious breaths. The tears stream steadily down her face, but Lena is firm in her anger.

She turns to Jack. “She needs to know,” Lena explains simply. “Kara was... everything to me.”

Still, her display is embarrassing, and she wonders how exactly she’s gotten to this point. This chaotic display of emotions is completely out of character for her and she hates being out of control. But when she looks at Kara’s face again, all she sees are the multitude of ways her best friend has caused her to come completely unhinged. 

When Lena watches herself press the hidden remote in her pocket, and the Fortress turns on Kara, her heart twists in her chest.

“Does it feel good?” Jack asks, turning to her with an expression of pure disappointment.

“Does what feel good?” Lena asks, annoyed.

“To make her hurt the way she hurt you?”

She wants to say yes, she wants to say this isn’t her fault, but all she can see are the neon green lines going through Kara’s veins as she cries through the ice at Lena’s retreating form.

“She doesn’t even...try…” Lena frowns, watching her. She watches the way Kara remains locked away in the prison Lena put her in, despite the fact that she could easily detach if she wanted. “She isn’t even trying to get out.”

“She believes she deserves it,” Jack says. “You made your point, and Kara knows she failed you. This is what you wanted, so she’s giving it to you.”

“Why would she do that?” Lena asks, her voice strangely watery for the first time. “I set a trap to defer her, not to permanently thwart her. I don’t understand. It’s not like I wanted to make her weak. I just needed… time. Why is she making this so hard?”

Jack holds up his arms, not giving any answers. Lena looks back at Kara, broken and sobbing as the ice closes in around her, and she tries not to think about how badly she wants to reach in and get her out.

She crosses her arms defensively and turns to walk away. She can’t break down, not here, not now, and if she looks at Kara for even another second, that’s exactly what she’ll do. She faces Jack with as cold a Luthor branded face as she can manage.

 “Now what?”

Next, they’re off to Washington DC, landing in the middle of what is apparently a top secret war room. They watch the government officials talking strategy. It appears the US is at war with someone -- or something, but Lena can’t quite make it out.

“Jack, what year is it?”

“2025.”

“What’s going on?”

“Just watch.”

The doors burst open and Supergirl walks in calmly, flanked by officers on either side. She looks calm, and poised, and Lena lets out an inaudible breath. Kara is still alive. She’s still...here.

Her suit has had another upgrade -- gone is the familiar S, replaced with a triangular plate of 50 white stars. Her cape billows in the wind, still that sharp, recognizable red, only with an American flag pressed right in the middle.

“Seems Supergirl’s feeling very patriotic these days,” Lena tries to joke, but her stomach twists uncomfortably as she looks at Kara’s slack jawed face.

They watch as she stands quietly while the Commander in Chief gives her clear instructions. She stands still, her shoulders broad and her back straight as she is told she must attack the Russian border.

“You can’t be serious,” Lena shakes her head. “Kara isn’t going to listen to this. Jack, are you seeing this?”

Lena watches in horror as Kara nods dumbly, the Commander in Chief’s eyes glowing green as he tells her what to do. Kara’s eyes flash the same green as she agrees, repeating the instructions back in an emotionless chant.

“I will go to the border,” Kara repeats, her voice dead and nothing like her own. “I will take America back.”

“Kara?!” Lena yells. “Jack-- what’s happened to her? She’s been incepted--,” Lena frantically starts searching the room for something, anything, that can fix this. But there’s nothing. 

“The government controls Supergirl,” Jack says, casually, as if it should be obvious and not at all terrible. “It was only a matter of time. They used your technology and now they control the most powerful being in the cosmos.”

My technology?” Lena repeats, not comprehending. “But I never-- No, that’s not-- it can’t be mine--”

“A bastardized version, of course, but L-Corp property all the same.” Jack stands there watching with an eerie calm. He turns to Lena. “This is your legacy, Lena.”

“But that’s not what this was about!” Lena exclaims, frantically. She circles the room, trying to get the attention of anyone who will listen, but of course, they can’t hear her. “You aren’t supposed to hurt each other!”

“Even if they wanted to stop, most of them have been robbed of free will,” Jack says, almost mechanically. It’s haunting for Lena to see him like this. “Do you know what that feels like, Lena? To be hostage to your own body? To not even have any control of yourself, or your actions? I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, let alone try to give it to the people I love.”

“But I don’t want to control anyone--”

“But that’s what you’re doing,” Jack argues. “You’re literally making decisions for people, whether it’s by rewriting the code in their brains, or using martian powers for your own research. How is what you’re doing any different? How do you not recognize that?”

“I want to help humanity,” Lena says, her voice losing conviction in her own vision. “I only ever wanted to help people.”

“That’s all I ever wanted too,” Jack agrees. “And it didn’t end so well for me. It wasn’t worth it, even if BioMax could have cured cancer. You can’t rob people of their free will. You can’t play god. Besides, you always run the risk of it falling into the wrong hands,” Jack adds. “BioMax did. And so does Project Non Nocere.”

Lena is silent. She looks again at Kara, who is standing there, a weaponized version of herself, and she wonders if any part of her is still inside. She isn’t sure what’s worse: knowing that Kara is trapped in her body, without being able to answer for herself, or knowing that she’s gone for good, taken over by whatever is programmed in her head. 

“Where am I? Surely I could help stop this--explain the intent of the project--,” Lena says, but Jack just looks at her sadly. “What?” 

He snaps his fingers and they arrive at a maximum security facility outside of New Mexico, a prison that houses only the world’s most dangerous villains.

Lena watches herself, sitting in a cell, furiously writing in a journal -- the same kind Lex used to have -- calculating something, her brows furrowed in concentration.

“Why--,” Lena’s voice cracks. “Why am I here?”

“Well you can’t expect the government to be okay with someone having that kind of power at their disposal.” Jack says, as if it should be obvious. “With Supergirl in your pocket and a lab of people programmed with whatever you’ve deemed appropriate, they finally saw you as too big of a threat. And then the launch of Project Non Nocere -- that put the target on your back.”

“How do they catch me?”

Jack looks down at the ground, then back at her. He doesn’t answer.

“Supergirl.” Lena’s voice cuts through the silence. She chokes on the name, even if she already suspected it. “We end up just like--”

“Yep,” Jack says.

“What? No long monologue telling me ‘I told you so’-- no getting on your high horse to talk about how I’m a hypocrite?”

“Ah, so Sam has already been here then, yea?” Jack grins. “No, there’s nothing more to say really. It was always destined to be this way, don’t you think?”

“N-no--,” Lena shakes her head. “No. I am not my brother. I only ever wanted to try to help people. And Kara-- Kara and I are not Lex and Superman. We are-- we were different--”

“You could have been,” Jack agrees. “It really could have been so great. I have to say, I was rooting for you.”

Lena clenches her jaw, watching in terror at her frenzied calculations on the walls of her cell. It’s too similar to the way Lex’s prison cell looked, and she hates that despite all her efforts, and all her best intentions, they both end up the same.

Alone, as criminals.

“Are you ready to see more?” Jack asks harshly, as if he’s also wondering when Lena will break. She turns to him with tears in her eyes. 

“I don’t know how to answer that.”

Jack takes her by the hand and they’re transported back to National City. The downtown area has somehow exploded in population, with high rises and neon lights dominating the strip. It’s 2029, and National City looks like a small scale Times Square with only one logo glaringly absent.

“L-Corp has all but dissolved,” Jack explains as Lena searches the buildings for evidence of some sort of revival. “With you and Lillian in prison, the government takes over your property and it’s no longer a private entity.”

Lena inhales sharply, trying to steady herself. The reality of failure hits her squarely in the chest and she doesn’t quite know how to react. The company she swore she would rebuild, to make a symbol of hope and humanity, has crumbled and it’s all her fault. There’s nothing left of her legacy, besides prison bars and lines of code that are used for all the wrong reasons. 

“The world is different now, though I think we were always trending in this direction,” Jack says, as he gazes around at all the ads for entertainment and technology. “Everyone is using technology and virtual reality-- distancing themselves from the problems they’ve created.”

Lena catches the familiar glimmer of the Obsidian logo and wonders briefly if Andrea is still leading that effort, but decides not to go there right now.

Jack brings them to the outskirts of town, toward a small, hidden cemetery basically in the woods. Lena notes the way the ivy and moss is severely overgrown, covering a landscape that hasn’t been tended in years. It seems like even the gravestones look embarrassed to be there.

Finally, Jack pauses, and Lena has a feeling deep in her gut about what she is about to see. Several yards ahead there is a jagged looking stone, cracked through the middle after what seems like a shoddy attempt to rebuild. The stone seems heavily vandalized, but even the offenders seem to have forgotten its existence by now. She walks toward it, only seeing part of the name. She crouches down and clears away the heavy underbrush to reveal the full name on the stone: Lena Kieran Luthor.

“I’m--”

“Yes,” Jack says, softly, standing above her. He touches her shoulder.

Somehow, the first thing she thinks of is not how she died, or how this could have happened -- it’s Kara, and whether she knows.

“Does Kara know?”

Jack stares at the ground long and hard. Lena waits.

Suddenly, in front of her eyes, a type of silver screen monitor appears that begins playing a montage of news clips. At first, Lena thinks she is just being shown more dastardly acts that Supergirl has been programmed to complete, but then she sees Kara as Kara . She immediately stands up. Lena squints her eyes and walks tentatively forward, watching as the vision continues.

She watches Kara from years ago, when they first met, standing somewhere that Lena now recognizes as the DEO, vehemently defending Lena to all her friends. It was back when Lillian first framed her for storing Kryptonite, when their friendship was still too tender to navigate, when Kara had no reason to stand up for her. Lena brings her hand to her mouth.

There’s Kara, in her office clothes, in the basement of the DEO, punching through a wall of cement, her eyes flashing with rage. Lena doesn’t have to wait long for the source of her anger, when Kara whirls around on her own sister to declare Lena’s innocence, before driving her fist through the rest of the concrete slab and obliterating it into dust.

Lena swallows heavily, too stunned to even respond.

There’s Supergirl, on one of Lena’s first months in National City, saving her from the plane crash and promising her safety.

There’s Supergirl, catching Lena from being thrown off a balcony, fighting to infiltrate the Daxamite ship, saving her from Morgan Edge’s plane. All rescues that somehow carry infinite more weight with Lena understanding whose arms she fell in each and every time.

There’s Kara again, putting herself in front of anyone who confronts Lena-- standing up to Morgan Edge in her office, going face to face with Mercy Graves, and challenging her sister and her own friends anytime anyone so much as questioned Lena’s motives.

The tears are flowing heavily down Lena’s cheeks as she watches Kara’s side of events, the side she had no idea existed until now. It’s overwhelming and horrible all at once, to think that possibly, maybe, she could have been wrong.

Maybe Kara really did love her, after all. 

There’s Kara again, as Kara, flying across the city with a poisoned Lena in her arms, not even bothering to change into Supergirl, risking everything to save her. Lena’s heart stops at the fact that the dream she had where this happened was very much a real thing.

There’s Kara as Supergirl, trying to save Lena from herself, her arms raised in surrender as Kryptonite canons are pointed directly at her chest.

There’s Supergirl begging the DEO not to go after Lena, begging Alex not to allow them to aim a rocket directly at her lab.

There’s the government finally getting a hold of her, despite Kara still swearing that Lena can be redeemed.

Up until the end, when they finally turn her into something else, Kara stands in defense of Lena Luthor.

“Kara is gone,” Jack says when the screen fades to black, his face twisting in sympathy. “They destroy her with the remaining resources from L-Corp.”

Lena sinks to her knees, sobbing, not for herself, but for Kara.

“This was never supposed to happen!” she wails. “This isn’t what I was trying to do, Jack, you have to believe me!”

He gets down close to her. “But it is what will happen, Lena. This is the path you’re on.” Jack looks off into the distance. “She’s gone.”

“I never wanted to hurt her like that--, ” Lena’s words come out in gasps. “I just-- I just wanted her to understand-- oh God--”

It feels like an entire lifetime of feelings being let go. Lena can’t stop herself even if she wanted to, and she can hardly breathe as the sobs rack through her body.

“What have I done?” she whispers through hysterical tears.

“What I find telling is that you’re more upset about Kara than the fact that we’re staring at your own grave--”

“I never cared much about what happened to me,” Lena sniffles, staring at her gravestone through blurry tears. “But this-- I can’t let this happen. Jack, I have to fix this! A world without Kara-- a world without Supergirl-- we can’t-- I can’t let this happen.”

“You hold all the cards,” Jack says. “You can make this right.”

“Take me home, please,” Lena says, completely exhausted and unwilling to fight anymore. “I can’t stay here another minute.”

Jack snaps his fingers and they arrive back home, back to reality. 

“It’s okay,” Jack assures her, taking her into his arms. “Everything is still okay. Kara is okay, and you’re okay. You can change all of this.”

 Lena pulls away and takes a long look at Jack.

“I hope you know-- I never meant to kill you, I never wanted to hurt you,” Lena says softly, her words coming out like a whimper. “After the things you saw tonight, I know you won’t believe me, but I promise, I never--”

“You had no choice,” Jack says, shrugging. “I know that. I would never hold it against you.”

“I did have a choice,” Lena says. She remembers watching the way the nanites were attacking Supergirl, the way she had to choose one or the other. “I mean, I sort of did.”

“And I understand why you made it,” Jack holds out his hand. “You’re my best friend, love. Of course I understand.”

“Thank you, Jack--,” Lena squeezes it gently. “For everything.”

Jack gives her another big hug. “You know what you have to do. Please take care, Lena. I don’t expect to see you in my realm for quite some time, you hear?”

Lena sobs into his coat and nods.


Act 4 - Christmas Morning

Lena watches the clock flip to 6am on Christmas Morning. She hasn’t slept a wink, not since Jack left, not since this entire night came crashing down around her. She’s been busy pacing around her apartment, trying desperately to put into words everything she’s thinking, everything she’s seen, and everything she needs Kara to know. She can’t let this be how it goes. She can’t let her poor decisions ruin so many lives.

She won’t.

The city is sleepy; outside only a few lights begin to flicker and stir. She walks out to her balcony for some fresh air, hoping for a moment of clarity. She stares out over the calm, quiet skyline as the sun begins to peek over the horizon. She closes her eyes and thinks of Kara without even trying, and hopes that somehow, Christmas has enough magic left for one more miracle. When she opens her eyes, she looks down at the treasure in her hand, the one she’s been keeping a little closer, ever since Lex ruined her life with one sentence. The faces look back at her, pressed together, a moment in time that captures so much more than what is on the page. Lena doesn’t recall exactly which night this was taken. She knows there were definitely other people around, but she couldn’t say exactly who. The smiles are bright and shining, with Kara’s simply dazzling and Lena’s just on the verge of losing control. Lena’s arms are around Kara’s shoulders, and Kara’s hand is softly enclosed around her own, and they’re so happy

The picture captures everything they are, and even if part of it is fake, she wonders if she can deal with that.

Maybe just having Kara, in any capacity, is enough.

“This is all my fault,” she says quietly as she touches the side of Kara’s face, as if she can bring it to life. The images from earlier that evening are burned in her brain, all of Kara’s acts of heroism in the name of their friendship and Jack’s words repeating “ She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone…

She turns to go back inside, deciding that despite the absurdly early hour, she can’t wait another minute. Before she can really get her head on straight, before she can find an excuse not to, before she tries to waste anymore time, she needs to get to Kara’s.

The next thing she knows, she’s pounding on Kara’s door like her life depends on it.

For all intents and purposes, it just might.

A sleepy, disheveled Kara appears a few moments later, her face lined with sleep, her lips turned down in a slow, lazy pout. Instantly, her eyes widen as she recognizes Lena.

“Hi--,” she starts, but before she can even take another breath, Lena wraps Kara in a full bodied hug. “I--ooof--,” Kara grunts, before relaxing into the contact. “Lena?”

“You’re okay,” Lena says, by way of explanation, which isn’t an explanation at all. She pulls back and stares at Kara, holding her face in her hands in disbelief. She didn’t realize that part of her anxiety was due to the fact that she couldn’t be completely sure the entire ordeal she went through was just a dream. Or a nightmare, she thinks. She had to see for herself. She had to feel Kara one more time. “You’re okay.”

“I’m--,” Kara swallows heavily, because Lena is touching her face, and she’s here, and this is… different. “Yeah? Merry Christmas, Lena.”

“Merry Christmas to you too,” Lena remembers herself suddenly, and pulls her hands away. Kara shivers at the distance. “I’m sorry to just burst in on you--”

“No, no, I was--,” Kara stops mid-sentence in order to yawn. “I was already awake.”

Lena gives her a disbelieving quirk of her eyebrow, but Kara smiles and ushers her in. She offers to make coffee and Lena obliges, because she needs something -- anything -- to be a distraction from why she’s here. Suddenly everything is very real, and their relationship is still very strained, but Kara is alive, and Lena can still make this right.

She has to make this right. She just doesn’t know how to begin.

“You didn’t come last night,” Kara says flatly, her voice small and deflated. She busies herself with the coffee maker as she speaks. “I-- we missed you.”

“About that, listen, Kara--,” Lena looks around the room, taking in all of Kara’s things, things that make her Kara , and it’s overwhelming to think what that signifies. She looks back at Kara, who is waiting with a questioning expression, and she sighs. “I don’t even know where to start.”

“Okay,” Kara says slowly, bracing herself. “Maybe try the beginning? Like maybe why you came in here afraid that I wasn’t okay?”

Lena walks by Kara’s fridge, pausing to survey the place where she always keeps pictures cheerfully plastered on every space inch of space. There’s a notable one in the middle, one of them, the same one Lena has in her pocket.

“A bad dream,” Lena dismisses, and Kara’s silence means she doesn’t necessarily believe her. Lena continues to stare at the pictures on the fridge. “Was it ever real?” Lena almost whispers, the tears already threatening to spill even though she told herself she’d be brave. She told herself she could do this, she could face Kara and ask the questions she’s so longed to hear.

She isn’t going to break now.

“Was ...what ever real?” Kara asks softly, walking up behind her and taking in the site of pictures.

“Us,” Lena says. She pulls the picture off the fridge and holds it up, almost accusingly. “Was there ever a single, honest moment in our friendship?”

“Lena--,” Kara breathes, retracting like Lena slapped her. She takes a small step closer. Lena braces herself, but she allows it. “Of course there was. There is! Just because I’m Supergirl, doesn’t mean the things I told you weren’t true.”

“Which things were true, Kara?” Lena asks sharply, dropping the picture to the floor. She turns to face Kara, crossing her arms in defense, almost like she needs it for protection. She does it unconsciously, a habit picked up from many years of bitter confrontations. “The sweet, caring words of affirmation uttered as my best friend? Or the cold, harsh words often used to condemn my actions as a Luthor, that you so easily launched with venom as Supergirl?”

Kara silently combs her fingers through her hair. 

“It isn’t that I feel entitled to your secret,” Lena explains further, her voice finding its way back. “It’s the duality of it all. It’s the fact that you could--that you did -- look me in the eye and spit on my name as Supergirl, but come waltzing into my office a minute later with a smile, carrying lunch and opening your arms for a hug. What am I supposed to think? How am I supposed to know which one is real?”

Lena isn’t sure where the sudden surge of bravery comes from, but she can’t focus on that right now. Somehow, in the midst of everything, she’s managed to find exactly where her heart is breaking. At the crux of it all, she doesn’t know Kara. Not really. She can see the flickers of Supergirl in Kara Danvers, and now, if she strains hard enough and thinks about it, she can see flashes of Kara in Supergirl. She knows Kara cares about her, enough to go through all the trouble to save her time and time again, but that’s always been the Kryptonian prerogative. She needs to know who she really is.

Is the Kara she loves even real?

“So tell me, Kara,” Lena says, practically begging. “Is it the girl who told me she’d always be there for me? Or is it the one who looked coldly into my eyes while standing next to her cousin, regarding me like I was exactly like them ?”

“It wasn’t always like that--,” Kara says after a moment, chewing on her lip. “For awhile, when it came to you--Kara and Supergirl were one in the same. I believed in you so fiercely--I--there wasn’t a difference. There wasn’t always a difference, Lena.”

“And then there was,” Lena says, clenching her jaw. “One day, you and I were on opposite sides, you said it yourself. And I did -- I never stopped loving Kara.” Kara swallows visibly, her cheeks crimson with something Lena can’t quite name. “But Supergirl was starting to feel more and more distant from me. And if part of it was an act, I’d like to know which part. I am not asking for you to do anything differently or apologize, but as far as an explanation, you do owe me that much.”

Kara doesn’t answer right away. She picks the picture off the floor and stares at it with a sad, watery smile. She looks back at Lena. “I never meant to do this,” Kara starts, taking deep, painful breaths. “I never wanted to hurt you. You’re--,” Kara pauses, her lips quivering under the strain. “We’re not okay, are we? We haven’t been okay.”

Lena looks toward the ceiling, an angry image blazing in her mind of all the times Kara had to lie, lie, lie. Kara, with Lena’s back turned, catching bullets with her bare hands while Lena urges her to run away. Kara, turning a corner only to whip off her glasses and use laser vision to destroy a secret bunker in Kaznia, before returning to Lena at the last possible second. She smirks at herself, at how completely oblivious she was at everything happening in the spaces she couldn’t see it. She suppresses the urge to grimace at the fact that while Supergirl was busy saving them, Lena was carrying on in full blown panic mode over losing her poor, sweet, innocent best friend.

“Do you remember when we were in Kaznia, and I was so, so worried for your safety? We were attacked, and I knew I had to land that plane quickly or we’d surely be in trouble-- not even knowing that my best friend could fly --” she looks at Kara pointedly, urging her to understand what it feels like to almost lose her. 

“I’m so sorry I put you through that--”

“All those times when I thought I had to protect you, my fragile, human friend,” Lena chuckles at herself, shaking her head. “All those times I thought I was so close to losing you. You’re a fantastic actress,” Lena trails off, before allowing herself to look at Kara once more. Her voice lowers. “You let me believe I was going to lose you...”

“No--no, I wouldn’t have let it get to that point--I wanted so badly to tell you I was just--”

“You were scared,” Lena finishes, shaking her head. “I know. I just wish it was different. I wish I had found out from you earlier. What hurts the most is the time we lost, the time we could have spent being real, true, best friends,” Lena says quietly. “You shut me out. You kept me in the dark with real things, Kara. You never felt like I could understand you? I lost my entire family, too, you know. I sent people away; friends lost their lives at my hand just the way you thought Mon-El might have lost his, and you never once came to me. You let everyone else help with those things, but you kept me on an island, only visiting me when it was convenient.

“No, that’s not why I waited--,” Kara starts to respond, until a staticy buzz goes off in her ear. She raises her hand, exasperated, and mouths a silent ‘I’m sorry’ to Lena. 

Lena can hear Alex on the other end. “Supergirl, we need you down here--”

“Guess that’s your cue,” Lena says, her shoulders slumping in defeat. The world doesn’t stop just because Lena is having a crisis, and it isn’t Kara’s fault, but she can’t help but wish everything was different. That they were somehow different.

Kara doesn’t offer a defense, doesn’t really offer much of anything, and Lena is beginning to wonder if this is all a lost cause.

“I--,” Kara fumbles with the clasp her necklace before getting an idea. “Wait here.”

She goes to her bedroom, and Lena can hear her rummaging through her things at a speed too fast to be human. Before she can blink, Kara is back, as Supergirl, clutching a book. 

“This-- I don’t know, this might not mean much, but I hope what you find here helps you understand what I really think about you,” Kara says, a broken smile on her face. “I--I have so much more to say, I just can’t say it to you right now.” She glances over Lena’s shoulder out the window, her face straining, and Lena know she’s listening for whatever threat might be out there, trying to gauge how much time she has. “I’m so sorry, Lena.”

Lena wipes a stray tear from her eyes and takes it in shaky hands. “But you already gave me Lex’s diary.”

“This is mine,” Kara explains quietly. “I’ve had this diary since my first days at CatCo, when I first started becoming a reporter. I think--I just think it will explain some things better than I ever could hope to.”

Lena studies it, skeptical. She doesn’t want another set of false promises, more ways to get her hopes up, only to have it all come crashing down.

“Promise you’ll read it?” Kara is insistent, and it’s all Lena has, so she takes it and nods. Kara touches her shoulder gently. “I’ll come back later, I promise,” she declares, and Lena almost believes it. “If you’ll have me.”

Lena offers a weak smile and clears the way to watch her go. Kara shoots off into the sky and it takes all of Lena’s strength to try to gather herself before stepping back outside, alone.

Since she has nowhere else to be, Lena heads to her lab, the wounds from the night still fresh and burning. She has only one other goal in mind today, and that’s to end Project Non Nocere. The title is comical after all the destruction it’s bound to bring. She can’t believe she didn’t anticipate this, didn’t see any of this coming. But that’s one thing she knows makes her very much a Luthor: the absolute tunnel vision a project like this can create. She hates how she’s so easily attracted to proving something to herself and the world, making her success more important than unintended consequences. 

She must look ashen and downright awful by the time she reaches her office, because Hope looks at her with a look that can only be described as manufactured concern.

“Ms Luthor, is everything alright?”

“Yes,” Lena says simply, heading straight for her iPad. She begins rapidly plugging numbers into the device, refusing to look up. Hope comes closer, eyeing her.

“Then why are you initiating the termination sequence?”

“This is what’s best...for everyone,” Lena replies, finishing the code and looking at Hope once more. “Thank you for your help, Hope. You’ve been a great friend.”

“I’m not your friend, Ms. Luthor,” Hope replies automatically, and she doesn’t say it with malice, because that’s not in her code. Still, it hits Lena unexpectedly in the heart. “I was created for a purpose.”

Lena straightens herself from the emotional blow and nods. It’s classic, after all. Her emotions have gotten her into trouble again, and she has no one to blame but herself. This time, she’ll do it differently. This time, she isn’t going to let herself get torn up over something artificial. Not again. “I think I have what I need now.”

Hope places her hand over Lena’s, and tries to interrupt the sequence, but Lena is prepared for any attempts to override.

“I can’t let you end this,” Hope says. “It is not our mission.”

“I created you,” Lena says, swiftly punching in the final sequence. “And I will decide what is our mission.”

Hope goes silent, powering down, and Lena types in a few more sequences in an attempt to reverse the protocol. She takes a deep breath and pushes the final button.

“Ms. Luthor?” Eve asks, searching around the lab, her face completely bewildered. “How did I get here?”

“Eve,” Lena acknowledges, nodding. She still doesn’t know what to make of Eve Tessmacher, but this is the only thing she can think to do right now. 

“What are you going to do to me?” Eve asks, a look of wide-eyed panic taking over.

Lena holds up a hand. “It’s already done,” Lena explains, which leaves out quite literally everything that’s transpired. The reversal has left Eve with no memory of Hope, no traces of invasion. But Lena knows she will always have to carry the scars of what she’s done. “You’re free to go.”

“I never wanted to betray you--Leviathan--,” Eve begins, but Lena shakes her head sadly.

“It’s okay, Eve,” Lena replies. “You don’t have to explain. I already know. You don’t owe me anything, not after what I’ve done.”

There is nothing that will erase her actions, but giving Eve back her life is the only way Lena knows how to make peace. Eve skeptically gathers her things and leaves without a protest, and Lena waits until she’s alone again to pick up her cell phone. She figures she might as well keep her grand tour of apologies going if she hopes to right her wrongs all in one day. 

She dials a number and waits desperately for someone to answer.

“You’re calling me from your office aren’t you, Scrooge?” the voice on the other end asks and Lena can’t help the relief that washes over her.

“Sam,” Lena breathes into the phone. It feels good to hear her voice - in real time - and know she’s still taking Lena’s calls. Even if she has every reason not to.

 “Hey stranger, thanks for finally calling me back.”

“I--,” Lena pauses. Admittedly, she didn’t really think this through. She wants to thank Sam for everything, but Sam will have no idea what she’s talking about. But the night brought more clarity than she can hope to contain, and just seeing Sam’s face, even in a vision, has been enough to force her to deal with her past. “I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas.” 

It doesn’t convey anything, but it’s what she settles with in order to keep Sam from suspecting she’s on the verge of a breakdown.

“Back at ya,” Sam replies. She seems cheerful enough, but Lena’s heart is weighed down by years of guilt. “Hey, you know, I had the weirdest dream--”

“Oh yeah?”

“You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I swear you were in it-- I don’t know, I’m not remembering it entirely right, but I’m pretty sure you went out in public in your pajamas--”

“Well now I know you’re being ridiculous,” Lena scoffs, but her heart flips in a way that she can’t entirely say is unwelcome.

“Right? Wild. But then you called, so that’s got to mean something, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Lena agrees. “Hey, what are you guys doing for New Year’s eve?”

“Oh you know, raging hard at rooftop bars, partying like it’s 1999, usual single mom stuff.”

“What do you say you and Ruby come out to National City? I’d really, really love to see you both.”

“You would?” Sam sounds skeptical. ”Are you feeling okay?”

“Honestly, for the first time in awhile, I think I am,” Lena says. “You can use my jet - how about it?”

“The jet huh? Well then I’m already packing,” Sam agrees. There’s a beat of silence before Sam continues. “I guess you figured things out after all, huh?”

“What do you--”

“--See you in a few days!”

The line goes dead before she can even think to respond, leaving Lena looking at her phone, bewildered.

How impossibly like Sam to be cryptic and therapeutic and infuriating all tied up into one charming pain in the ass package. Lena shakes her head, making a mental note to really dig into everything Sam might know when she comes into town, before she pushes that off to a future to do list. For now, she has one more stop to make before she can try to face Kara again, and she needs all her wits about her if she’s going to make things okay again. 

Andrea Rojas is daunting in her own right, but with their past, and the things Lena has said, she wonders if she can really hope to show up at her doorstep on a holiday and beg for forgiveness. It isn’t the Luthor way to admit fault, but if anyone can recognize the sincerity of that kind of gesture, it would be her first best friend and first love.

Instead of talking herself out of it, Lena pulls out a bottle of her finest wine, grabs her coat, and keeps her feet moving before she can find a reason to stop.

Andrea answers the door with a defensive scowl. 

“Lena?”

“Andrea--,” Lena starts, clearing her throat. She looks down at the floor, trying to gather herself, before she can launch into a whole litany of tangled explanations and too-late apologies. Andrea is poised and controlled, her face a mask of impassive steel. She’s still beautiful, and it isn’t shocking, because Lena has seen her recently, what with all their business dealings and efforts to dance around each other in the same city. But it’s profound nonetheless, the way she is no longer hers , and she curses herself internally for pushing away another person who truly loved her. “Um, Merry Christmas,” she starts with, handing out the wine. 

A peace offering, if nothing else.

“Thank you,” Andrea says softly, taking the wine, her frown softening ever so slightly and turning more into confusion. With her brows furrowed and her lips pouting, she still looks like she’s 16 years old and something sticks in Lena’s throat. “Do you-- want to come in?”

Lena nods and Andrea holds open the door.

“You’re probably wondering why I’m here,” Lena begins, and Andrea shrugs, before crossing her arms.

“I figure you’ll tell me,” she says, and it isn’t entirely hostile, but definitely far from warm and fuzzy.

“I’m here to apologize,” Lena says too quickly. She inhales sharply, trying to keep herself composed. She walks further into the apartment, noting the couch where she knows Andrea will be spending Christmas night in tears. She turns to face her and Andrea’s eyes are already watering, which causes Lena to bite her lip. She can’t start crying, not yet. “For… everything. I’m so sorry, Andrea, I don’t know-- I don’t even know how to begin to tell you how sorry I am. I never should have turned my back on you. I was wrong to get so angry, and I know what happened to us happened years ago but I just… I need to tell you, from the bottom of my heart, that I know I was wrong. And I’m sorry.”

Andrea’s eyes glisten as Lena speaks, and she bites her lip to keep herself from interrupting. Lena takes a deep breath and offers a sad smile, hoping Andrea can understand the genuine place her apology is coming from.

“Do you know how long I’ve waited for you to say that?” Andrea says softly, so softly Lena can barely hear her. She sighs, looking at Lena with so much pain that Lena almost hugs her on the spot. But she remembers herself, remembers their past and stays rooted. “I-- I never, ever wanted to hurt you, Lena. I guess none of that matters now, because I can’t take any of it back. But I felt like I had no other choice--”

“I know that now,” Lena explains gently. She holds out her hand and Andrea takes it without question. “I know. And I would have done the exact same thing.”

Andrea’s eyes snap to attention. She sniffles slightly. “Y--you would? I thought you said--”

“Forget what I said, I was a prized idiot,” Lena rolls her eyes at herself. “I understand now.”

“What made you change your mind?”

Lena thinks of her mother; she thinks of Sam and Jack and Kara, she thinks of everything in her life and the way it’s all gone-- some right, but most of it horribly wrong. She offers a sad smile. “Everything,” she says, and Andrea tilts her head, like she’s trying to understand. “You. Seeing you again, knowing what we’ve become. I’ve just had a lot of time to think, is all.”

Andrea sighs, the corners of her mouth turning up slowly into a half smile. “Well, I’m happy you came.”

“I know things can’t go back to the way they were, but I’m still here for you, if you still want that,” Lena says. Andrea glances at the floor, nodding to herself like she’s made up her mind.

“I really, really missed you.” Andrea glances back at Lena, her lips twisted in order to suppress a smile. She holds up the bottle of wine, her eyes sparkling with mischief for the first time in so many years and Lena feels the warmth cascade over her. “So, are you going to help me with this wine?”

“You jump, I jump, right?” Lena teases, and Andrea’s smile widens. When they hug, Lena feels a little piece of her heart return home. 

Xx

Kara’s journal is a treasure trove of insight, and Lena is immediately sucked in despite her reservations. She had only intended to read a page or two, to get the gist of what Kara might be saying, but when she realizes that she’s the topic of so many entries, she finds it impossible to put the book down.

She curls up on her couch by the fire and loses herself in Kara’s handwriting, hearing her voice in her ears as she reads her words. It comes off the page and wraps itself around her like a cozy blanket, and Lena has no intention of breaking the spell. It might be the closest she can ever get to Kara Danvers again.

“Lena doesn’t realize how much potential she has, I hope that now at least the world will.”

“If only Lena could see herself the way I see her… she wouldn’t ever doubt her strength and her heart.”

“Lena is so brilliant, she’s going to do more good for the world than anything Supergirl can ever hope to accomplish.”

“I don’t understand how people still think Lena is anything like her family. If they only spent 2 minutes with her, they’d understand that she’s different, that she’s good. I won’t be able to rest until everyone knows how incredible Lena Luthor is.”

Lena pauses, sniffling away the heavy emotions as she tries to settle her rapid heartbeat. Kara’s words are so strong in their conviction, and so completely opposite from Lex’s, that it seems surreal that this could all be true.

Several more passages jump out at her from when they first became friends:

“I know Lena is guarded, but I want her to know she has someone on her side in National City.”

“I think Lena just needs a friend, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to give that to her. Eliza says the best way to show someone love is to feed them, but since I’m a terrible cook, I’m going to invite her to lunch.”

“Lena turned down my invitation to game night, but I think she’ll come around...someday.”

She had only been in National City for a few months when Kara wrote these passages, and the idea that she was at home thinking of her is astonishing. 

She flips a bit later in the book to find passages from when Supergirl and Lena were at odds:

“It’s killing me to look at her and have to hide. I said some things I never would have said under any other circumstances. It was like watching someone else take over my body. I just wish I could just explain…”

“I trust Lena more than anything, but I just wish she could see my perspective. She would take the time to listen to me if she knew what Kryptonite does, what it feels like when it tears through my veins. She would be more careful if she knew it was me, her best friend, but I can’t tell her when I’ve made such a mess of things. I just want her to understand that I can’t have it around - I can’t have it fall into the wrong hands. I CAN’T fail. I won’t.”

Lena swallows heavily, remembering the way Supergirl -- now Kara -- would clench her jaw and flex her neck anytime Lena got close to her. Those days when they were strained, disagreeing on seemingly everything, but forced to come together for their friends. Lena isn’t sure she would have been able to help Sam if she knew it was Kara she was hurting in the process. She pushes the thought aside.

There is a lot in this section, mostly stemming from when Sam came to town, which apparently caused Kara a lot of stress: 

“I’ve never felt like this before. It feels like I can’t catch my breath whenever Lena looks in Sam’s direction. It feels like everything is closing in on me, and I don’t understand why. Sam is lovely, and kind, but she has a bond with Lena that I can’t ever compete with.”

“She was jealous,” Lena muses to herself, and it’s satisfying in places it shouldn’t be. 

“I don’t know how to tell Lena everything, and the fact that I’m Supergirl compromises it even more. I want so badly for her to know who I am, for her to just understand my feelings-- but if I lose her, I don’t know what I’d do--”

There’s a quiet knock on her door that interrupts her reading. Lena knows who it is before she even reacts. When she opens the door, her heart leaps to her throat when she sees Kara standing on the other side with a tin of cookies and an apologetic smile. She’s in a cheery white Christmas sweater with a reindeer on the front and her hair is curled like she spent a few extra minutes making sure it falls perfectly, and Lena has never been more happy to see her than right at this moment.

“Kara,” she breathes, and she opens her arms for a hug. Kara obliges, and Lena marvels at the way that Kara holds her gently, despite the fact that it must take so much patience, so much control. Ever since the reveal, Lena is even more impressed with everything Kara Danvers, and that’s saying something.

“I’m so sorry I had to leave earlier, believe me, I didn’t want to,” Kara begins, pushing past her in a flurry of blonde hair and hand movements. “Oh, these are for you. I think I got the recipe right this time. Not like last year--,” she all but shoves the container in Lena’s hands, and it’s perfectly charming how nervous she is. Lena laughs.

Last year, Kara swapped the sugar for the salt and handed Lena the equivalent of a chocolate chip saltine. It was horrendous, and Lena ate every last one.

“Can I get you anything?” Lena asks, turning to Kara with a grin. “Hot chocolate?”

Kara starts to decline, but the prospect of hot chocolate stops her in her tracks. She nods sheepishly and Lena gets to work boiling water.

“Everything go okay earlier?” Lena asks, making small talk as she arranges the cookies on a plate and gets out the hot chocolate mix.

“Oh, yeah,” Kara waves her hand dismissively. “Piece of cake.”

Lena cocks an eyebrow but Kara just smiles, offering nothing further. They head to the couch with drinks and treats in tow, settling around each other awkwardly. 

“I feel like I have so much to say, but at the same time, I don’t know what to say,” Kara fumbles, drinking the hot chocolate without any regard to the temperature. Lena wonders how many times Kara slipped up right in front of her with something as innocuous as a cup of hot chocolate and Lena was too distracted by everything else to notice. “I’m not making sense, am I?”

“You are,” Lena says. “But maybe let me start?”

Kara nods, placing her mug down on the table. 

“You’re not the only one at fault. I have secrets I’ve been keeping too,” Lena takes a deep breath. This isn’t how she wanted to come clean. She pictured this situation a thousand different ways, all of them ending with her finally driving the point home, really sticking it to Kara. In none of her variations did it involve hanging her head, and admitting her faults. But then again, it seems if things go according to her previous plans, they would both be in for a world of hurt.

“When I found out you were Supergirl, I promised myself that this was the last time. This was the last time anyone was going to break my heart and turn on me. Once I could pull myself together, I swore I would do something to...fix...this gap in humanity.” She glances tentatively at Kara before looking away. “The way we so easily lie and manipulate each other -- the way we can’t seem to help ourselves from making bad choices, and betraying one another. So that’s what I did. I started to get to work making it better.”

Kara gulps. She doesn’t like where this is going, but she just offers a small smile and a comforting hand on top of Lena’s.

“I did something terrible,” Lena admits, as she gets into the details about her project with Hope. She tells Kara how she kidnapped Eve, mostly to get her back for betraying her with Lex, but mostly because she was a perfect ragdoll for the AI she built. “I built Hope in order to prototype the idea. She was created to prevent people from hurting each other: to reprogram the way we relate to each other.”

“Oh Lena,” Kara begins, but Lena just smiles sadly. 

“Don’t feel bad for me yet,” she insists. “I also used you. I used you the way I felt you had used me all those times in our friendship. I convinced you to steal those diaries for me. While yes, they are quite sentimental, I needed them for my purpose. Lex had the formula in code in his work, and I needed to detangle it for this project.”

Kara exhales heavily and grabs her drink with a shaky hand, but Lena presses on.

“I knew you would do anything for me,” Lena continues, looking away from Kara and studying her mug. She’s even more ashamed now that she’s saying it out loud. “Not because you wanted to, but out of obligation. I knew your secret, so who knows how I’d exploit it, right? And I’m not proud of myself, necessarily - but I did exploit it. My intentions were not purely honest.”

Kara shifts in her seat. She places her mug down and stands up, pacing nervously. Finally she turns to Lena, her eyes shockingly blue and brimming with tears.

“That wasn’t why I got your brother’s diaries for you. That was never the reason I did it, and I think, deep down in your soul, you know that. You were grieving your brother, and you asked for my help. I didn’t need any reason beyond that, Lena. You can think I’m a fool all you want, but my best friend was in pain and I wanted to help you any way I could.”

“Part of me wanted so badly to believe that,” Lena says softly. “The other part wanted you to be as bad as me. I wanted to push you, to see how far you would go. I wanted you to prove me right, so I could be justified in my anger.” 

“You are justified in being upset with me, Lena. I understand your pain and I am not trying to downplay it. I’m not exactly thrilled to hear what you’ve been up to for the past few weeks, but it doesn’t change the fact that I hurt you, and I will always be so terribly sorry for putting you through that.”

Lena nods. “Thank you. I--I know you will think differently of me from now on, but you needed to know the truth. I’m not as good as I always hoped to be.”

Kara comes back to the couch and sits down deliberately, taking Lena’s hands in her own. “Lena, you’re one of the best people I know. You’ve saved so many lives in just the time I’ve known you. You saved all of National City from Cadmus’ virus. You saved Sam from Reign, which is something none of us could do. You saved me, by building a suit to protect me from Kryptonite. You saved James with the Harun-el which no one else could have made. You built the transmatter portal for good , and despite the ramifications, it is used for good. You saved Argo -- you saved my mother! How can you say you aren’t good?”

“Why do you still believe that? How can you still believe that?” Lena asks, her voice shaky. Despite the fact that Kara is right, there is a louder voice of doubt in her head. 

“Because I believe in you ,” Kara insists. “Besides, you told me this completely unprompted. Why tell me now? You’re good, Lena Luthor. You always have been.”

“I’ve had a few moments of clarity--,” Lena explains, dodging the true reason for the change in her behavior. “There can be a lot of consequences to my actions, consequences I cannot have happen, and I see that now. So I need to face my feelings instead of hiding behind a microscope. And for what it’s worth, I stopped my work. I’m not going through with it.”

Kara nods, seemingly satisfied. “Thank you for telling me.” Lena shrugs and takes her hands from where they are still in Kara’s lap. She grabs her mug to steady herself. Kara spots the diary laying open on the couch and she nods towards it.

“Speaking of feelings,” Kara clears her throat. “Did you--did you read it?”

“Yes,” Lena says softly. “I think I understand a little better than before.”

“Supergirl is what I can do,” Kara wrings her hands together and looks at the floor. “But Kara is who I am. And I know there’s still a part of me -- the part of Kara Zor-El that is still that little girl from Krypton who came to a new planet with no powers and no family, just looking to belong. And I haven’t gotten to introduce her to you yet. But I hope now you might want to know all of me, the proper way. I’m just so sorry it took this long.”

“And you didn’t think it was funny, how oblivious I was to all of it?”

“Funny?” Kara frowns. “Lena-- I never-- if you were oblivious, it was because I wanted you to be. Sometimes the people closest to us are our biggest blind spots, and I relied on that. I couldn’t find the right way to make it okay, but I never went home and sat back to have a laugh at your expense. If anything, it was the opposite-- I was so upset, I spent so many hours writing you letters, and crying over the fact that I knew this day would come, and that there was a bigger chance of you hating me than ever accepting me again.”

“I don’t think I could ever hate you, Kara,” Lena says gently. “But I know I would have been harsh. There’s a reason you had to second guess your decisions, and I respect that, now. I do.”

“You would have been understanding,” Kara interjects strongly. “Especially if I had explained everything properly. But I just couldn’t bear the idea of hurting you, of being another person to let you down when you’ve been through so much. I was in over my head, and selfishly, I just wanted to keep everything the way it was for a little longer. I didn’t want to change us. I was wrong to do that.”

“And I was wrong to place an impossible expectation on you,” Lena says, shaking her head. “I’ve learned that I can’t expect everything to be perfect, and that I need to learn to work harder at understanding people. We all make mistakes. The blame shouldn’t always rest solely with you just because I wasn’t available to hear what you had to say.”

Kara smiles, then. She doesn’t speak, instead choosing to enjoy the tentative olive branch extended by both of them.

“You really have always cared about me, haven’t you?” Lena eventually asks, tentatively. “That part is true?”

“No matter who you thought I was, yes,” Kara says, nervously fidgeting as she talks. Lena can’t help but think it’s perfectly charming to see Supergirl reduced to fumbling. “I don’t--I don’t really know how to--,” she inhales and takes a pause. “It’s different, with you. It’s always been different with you and up until recently… I didn’t know why.”

“Different in a good way, I hope?” Lena tries to joke, grinning smugly, but Kara only nods. The way she doesn’t grin back and remains perfectly serious makes Lena’s heart flip. “What changed?”

“I thought I lost you for good,” Kara says through sniffles. “And of all the loss I’ve endured, and pain I’ve been through, I couldn’t-- this one I couldn’t handle. I couldn’t handle the idea of being here without you. I didn’t want to be here without you, and I am ready to do whatever it takes to get back to that place.” She reaches out and carefully, so carefully, touches Lena’s cheek where a tear has unexpectedly started to fall. “I care about you so much, Lena, to the point where I don’t even know how to explain it. And I don’t expect you to do anything about it, I don’t need anything from you, but you just have to know that I love--,”

Kara’s words suddenly become muffled against Lena’s lips as Lena pulls her in and kisses her with everything she has. Of course she loves Kara, she just needed to know that Kara still existed in the way that Lena knew her before, all strength and gentleness and warmth wrapped in an unbreakable package for Lena to try to handle. The fact that there might be a chance she feels for Lena even more than what they were before, well, that’s just a bonus. 

Kara’s lips taste like chocolate and she leans into Lena’s kiss instead of breaking away, and everything feels right .

Lena doesn’t know how she never saw it before. But she doesn’t want to force it. She doesn’t want Kara to feel like she has to. Not yet.

“Don’t--,” Lena whispers against her lips. “Don’t say it until you’re sure.”

Kara frowns and pulls back, searching Lena with questioning eyes.

“I’m afraid,” Lena confesses, speaking into the comforting lines of Kara’s neck instead of to her face. Kara holds her steady. “I’m afraid of the person I am, I’m afraid of hurting you. I’m afraid of everything I don’t know.”

“I’m scared too,” Kara admits softly, her words a whisper above Lena’s head.

Lena tenses and pulls back, looking in her eyes. “Of me?”

“Of falling,” Kara says, a sheepish smile on her face. “I know I can’t afford to be vulnerable, but I don’t have a choice when it comes to this. I need you. You make me better. We’re stronger together, you and I.”

“You really felt this way? The whole time?” Lena asks, just to be sure, just so she can start this with a clear head. 

“Of course I did--I do--,” Kara smiles, shaking her head at Lena’s doubt. “How could I not? You’re you.”

Lena kisses her again, slowly this time, committing the feel of Kara’s lips to memory. 

“I’ve always loved you, Kara,” Lena says softly, gazing into the endless expanse of her eyes. “Even when I didn’t want to. Even when I thought I hated you. And I don’t deserve you, but if you let me try, I know I can do better. I will be better.”

“Me too,” Kara insists. “We’re in this together.”

“Always,” Lena replies, allowing herself to be wrapped in Kara’s arms. This time, she actually means it. “Merry Christmas, Kara.”

“I think this is my favorite one,” Kara says, crinkling her nose and kissing Lena’s forehead. “Until next year, anyway. Merry Christmas, Lena.”