It’s 1pm on a sunny Tuesday, and Lena wishes she was dead.
Dead is relative, of course. Human ideas of vampire biology are shaky at best – how they think any creature can survive without a basic pulse, she has no idea – but technically speaking, she did die over a century ago, however briefly. And yet here she is, listening to her mother talk about LuthorCorp’s objectively evil business dealings and craving death like she never has before. She hasn’t fed in two days, she’s getting a sun-headache because Lillian refuses to close the blinds as some kind of show of resilience, and she’s not even halfway through this meeting.
A colourful screensaver bounces around the conference room screen and Lena’s eyes follow it, desperate for any stimulus besides her mother’s voice.
Go into the corner, go into the corner -
“Lena, are you listening to me?”
Lena sighs, setting her pen down with perhaps just a bit too much force. Had the sun been down, she might have cracked the table – as it is, she just breaks the pen, and the jagged plastic digs into her skin hard enough to draw blood. She knows better than to wince, to show weakness in front of her mother, even when the sunlight streaming through the windows slows her usual healing time.
“You were talking about our contract with the prisons,” Lena says, wiping ink from the tips of her fingers wearily and watching her cut slowly close until not even a scar remains. Every moment of her bi-weekly meeting with Lillian is a test to her willpower; and after listening to Lillian talk about financials, special projects, and stakeholder issues that Lena was already fully aware of because she is a competent COO and not an infant, it’s seriously starting to wane.
“Yes,” Lillian says, looking pleasantly surprised that Lena wasn’t entirely mentally absent. “Graves Industries has successfully bought out Stryker’s Island, as well as Van Kull Maximum Security. In a few months, we’ll have the entire prison system under our purview.”
“Privatized prisons. So, now our human rights violations extend to Metropolis,” Lena mutters, and Lillian’s eyes flash dangerously.
Lillian has exemplary hearing, like all vampires. Lena knows that her insubordination was heard, and Lillian is priming to strike at the next oppourtunity. So she reacts to the scold, straightening her back and shaking off her stubborn pride.
Showing Lillian her hand has never ended well. If she’s going to keep up appearances, she has to commit.
“Apologies, mother,” Lena amends, giving her best fake smile. “What I meant was, Mercy always did get things done.”
“There’s a reason Lex trusted her,” Lillian says sharply, stacking her papers together more neatly. “Now. On to our other business.” She picks up another folder, this one black rather than the classic manilla, and opens it with a flourish.
Lillian did always have a flair for the dramatic.
“Now,” Lillian says, spreading a few papers out on the table, “The werewolves are making a vie for more power.”
“All of them?” Lena says, only barely curbing the sarcasm that wants to escape. Lillian purses her lips.
“Just that ridiculous freedom group. The one led by that…London Fog, or whatever silly name he’s given himself.”
“Manchester Black?” Lena supplies, grabbing a new pen and starting to take notes. While the rest of this meeting has been mostly a repeat of things she already knew, this information could actually be useful to her. She scribbles M.B., werewolf coup into the margin of her meeting agenda, and then something benign underneath it so as not to catch her mother’s attention.
Lillian waves her hand carelessly. “That one. Trying to clean up the streets, like he thinks he’s some kind of folk hero. Causing all sorts of trouble for John.”
“Mm,” Lena hums noncommittally, trying to read Lillian’s notes upside down without being too obvious.
She’s heard of this Manchester, both from her contacts in the fae and otherwise. She’d assumed he was just another wolf with dreams of unseating the leader, someone who thinks he can do a better job than her mother’s lapdog Corben. But if he’s actually opposing the current criminal climate in National City, he might be useful. She’s been trying for years to find a way to shut down the horrible cycle that her mother and brother have always perpetuated – they control John Corben, a werewolf hand-picked by her mother to head up the various and sundry criminal activities that LuthorCorp funds. Corben controls the the city’s crime, humans get funneled into the prison system, they control the prisons and hire former convicts in their ‘LuthorCorp Second Chances Initiative’, and every vampire in Lillian’s circle gets free feeding on employees.
It makes her ill.
“His group seems to think that vampires are hoarding power and influence, and that we contribute to the oppression of lesser fae or some such nonsense,” Lillian says, not seeming to notice Lena’s discomfort. She never has. It used to seem like a curse, but these days Lena takes it as a blessing.
“Could that perhaps be because we do?” Lena says drily, setting her pen down again. “We own the prisons, organized crime, the mayor’s office, the media, and half the real estate in the state. And the werewolves have a monopoly on nothing, by your design. You can’t blame them for -”
Lillian scoffs, interrupting her easily. “It’s been this way for thousands of years, and I have no intention of letting that change.”
“Why not just promote some werewolves to key positions?” Lena suggests, closing her folder of notes surreptitiously and knowing her mother's anger at her gall will be enough to cover her tracks. “Manchester Black is clearly a charismatic leader, and he could swing opinion -”
Lillian’s tone is as severe as it is immediate. As per usual.
“Werewolves are useful as hired muscle or fall men. Outside those spheres, we have no use for them. We need to contain this.”
There are a hundred things Lena would like to say to that. It’s clear how deeply you fear them, is the first. You sound like a cartoon villain also comes to mind. Or, contain it your goddamn self, perhaps.
Instead, she clenches her jaw and nods.
Lillian seems placated by Lena’s compliance, and the conversation turns, as always, to the Supers.
“Speaking of, Supergirl has been sniffing around our underworld operations,” Lillian says, pulling a glossy 5x7 of the alien in question out of the folder and tossing it across the table. It lands in front of Lena slightly crooked, and she straightens it with a single finger, raising an eyebrow.
“She fights crime for a living. We run the crime syndicate. We should hardly be surprised,” Lena says, running a finger along the edge of the photograph. It’s one she’s sure was sent to Lillian by Corben. Supergirl is mid-fight, halfway through tossing one of Corben’s goons bodily into another as two bullets bounce off her shoulder. Her blonde hair whirls around her, the red cape flared dramatically. It’s one of the first clear pictures Lena has ever seen of her face.
Lena might find her handsome, if she were attracted to insufferable self-righteousness.
“But we should be prepared,” Lillian says, the fire in her eyes reminding Lena acutely of the mania that possessed Lex as he spat his rhetoric across the boardroom last year. “Aliens, strutting around like they own this planet when they’re nothing more than interlopers – this earth belongs to us, Lena.”
A bone-deep exhaustion seeps into Lena, the same exhaustion she’s been weathering since the day she was turned and has only multiplied since the day Superman revealed himself as the Man of Steel. The exhaustion of pretending, of wearing a mask to survive in a world she didn’t ask for. Trying to survive amongst a family she knows the world would be better off without.
Lillian is only a few talking points into their agenda, but she closes the folder anyways, and Lena’s stomach sinks with inevitability.
“It’s getting late,” Lillian says matter-of-factly. “Would you like to order lunch?”
There’s almost nothing Lena would like less. She knows what lunch will entail – two clueless humans sent up from the pool of interns, Lillian watching Lena feed like a hawk in some sort of twisted power move, Lena spending the rest of her day feeling horrible. What Lena would really like to do is leave – leave this building, leave her own family, take every one of the Luthor’s enterprises and turn them to good purposes.
But Lillian is in charge, and Lena can only make slow changes from within. Hiring people with her views, funding small projects that Lillian won’t see, secretly thwarting her mother’s more destructive plans. She hates herself for the things she has to do to survive, but she tries not to feed from unwilling hosts, at least. It’s not always possible – she’s not great at making friends, especially ones who will let her drink their blood every few days – but she tries.
Clearly, today is one of the days where it’s unavoidable. Lena has hardly finished answering in the weary affirmative before Lillian presses the intercom button.
“Could you send two lunch portions up to conference room C? Thank you.”
Lena awaits this fresh torture with her jaw clenched so tight that she knows she’s going to have a days-long tension headache.
A few minutes later two people enter the room – a man and a woman, both probably college-aged and already looking hazy and ambiently happy. Lillian likes to have her communal meals pre-thralled, so they don’t panic at the sight of someone else being fed on.
Lillian guides the girl towards Lena with a cold smile.
“Let it never be said that I don’t accommodate your preferences.”
Lena knows exactly which preferences Lillian is referencing, and she’d rather not discuss them with her mother. Instead, she gives in to the temptation to snap back.
“Considering you know that my preferences also include only feeding from people who consent, I’d argue that isn’t true.”
Lillian scoffs, pulling the young man towards her carelessly by his tie. He smiles, tilting his head innocently.
“Humans are cattle, Lena. Over a hundred years as one of us, and still you feel for them? It’s like I haven’t taught you anything.”
Lena almost snaps out a reply – you never let me forget that I’m not one of you, am I – but Lillian, whose fangs are already sunk into the neck of the dopey-looking boy in front of her, has clearly stopped listening.
It’s probably for the best, anyways.
Lena smiles at the woman, who grins back absently.
“Are you all right?” she asks quietly, and the woman nods, looking dreamily into Lena’s eyes. Complete, mindless trust. She’s practically catatonic, and Lena’s stomach churns.
She’s never enjoyed feeding from thralled victims. Sometimes it’s necessary, when she’s absolutely starving and on the verge of losing control or in a social situation like this, but it’s always left her feeling uneasy and sickened with herself, even if the human won’t remember it. It feels like an invasion. Predatory.
Lex used to berate her mercilessly for her empathy. He called it weakness.
Whatever it is, it means she gets less than half of the meal she usually would, and the second portion of the meeting goes even less smoothly than the first. She leaves frustrated, feeling beaten-down and bested, and it’s only when her office door has slammed behind her and she’s kicked her Louboutins halfway across the room that she notices the figure on her couch.
“Oof, the shoes are off already. Bad day?”
The tension in Lena’s shoulders dissipates slightly, and she sinks into her office chair with a long-suffering sigh.
“You have no idea.”
Sam makes a concerned face, putting down the tablet she’d been using. It makes Lena feel a tiny bit better, knowing there’s at least one person in this godforsaken building that’s firmly on her side.
Lena had never met an Old Soul, before Sam. She’d heard of them, obviously – otherwise ordinary humans who can somehow remember every single one of their past lives, every reincarnation, and inevitably end up entangled with the fae – but they’re rare, and Sam keeps her identity close to the chest. She has enough reincarnations under her belt to know exactly how Lillian would react to knowing there was a human around who knew the intricacies of their society after centuries of experience.
Sam is the only person on earth that Lena trusts completely.
“Well, maybe eating will help. It’s lunchtime.” Sam taps at her wrist easily with her stylus, a wordless acknowledgement of another one of Lena’s oddities – she won’t feed from the neck, if she can help it. Too intimate.
Lena shakes her head tersely. Sam often volunteers for this to help out – she calls it a charity blood drive, much to Lena’s chagrin – and Lena appreciates it. But today, it’s the last thing she wants.
“I already ate.”
Sam’s expression turns sympathetic. “Lillian ordered lunch, huh?”
Sam nods, seemingly even more resolute in her offer. She stands from the couch and approaches Lena’s desk, baring her wrist more insistently.
“Well, that usually means you barely ate anything. Come on, fill up. You didn’t eat yesterday, either.”
Lena shakes her head tersely. She’s not sure she can feed directly from another human right now without being ill, after that disaster of a lunch. Sinking her teeth into someone will just remind her of what Lillian wants her to be.
“Thank you, Sam, but I’m really not in the mood right now.”
Sam huffs, rolling her eyes and doing an about-face. She walks towards the other side of the room instead, and Lena pinches the bridge of her nose between her fingers as Sam continues talking.
“Fine, be a drama queen. At least drink some of the stuff you have stored. You know what happens when you starve yourself.”
Lena knows, all right. One of the many curses of her nature. After a few days of not feeding, pure instinct takes over, blotting out whatever humanity she has left and replacing it with feral animalism. It makes her do stupid things, like going to a human bar and pulling the first person who responds to her thrall into the alley to feed until they almost pass out.
Stupid things, that get people hurt.
“I hate it when you’re right,” Lena grumbles. She lays her forehead on the cool surface of the desk, wishing once more for the sweet embrace of death that will never come. Not unless someone stabs her with a wooden knife, anyways.
She’s always thought it was a strange weakness to have, but she’s not the one who started this whole vampiric curse business, is she?
“I know you do,” Sam says, already pulling a bag out of the minifridge concealed in a safe behind Lena’s couch and puncturing it. She lets it leak into a coffee mug with coffee makes me feel less murder-ey written on the side, one that a long time ago Sam put a piece of duct tape and sharpie over to replace coffee with blood. It always makes Sam laugh, and the reminder of her best friend’s easy acceptance of her nature makes Lena feel a little bit less like a monster.
Sam brings the full mug over, plonking a swirly straw down into the deep red liquid and holding it out for Lena to take.
“Now, drink your Caprisun.”
That gets a laugh out of Lena, and Sam hands her the mug with a victorious grin. Lena pointedly ignores the swirly straw.
After her first sip, Lena winces, opening her laptop and preparing for the rest of her hellish day. “Ugh. I hate cold blood.”
“Well then, you should have taken your best friend’s very generous offer, shouldn’t you?”
“Oh, shut up.”
It’s a dangerous line Lena walks, working with her mother. She’s the odd Luthor out already, not being born a full-blooded natural vampire in a society that detests humans, and Lena's complicated parentage means that some old world fae don’t even accept her as one of them at all. Most of the other races – werewolves, shapeshifters, the usually-pacifistic witches – don’t see it as a problem, but blood purity is ridiculously important amongst vampires. While some will grudgingly tolerate her presence based on the fact that the human side of her was obliterated by her brother all those years ago, others would kill her at a moment’s notice if it weren’t for the shield of her last name.
It’s all an uphill battle, Lena’s life. It’s one she’s used to, but it’s still walking a tightrope - and it’s one made harder by the fact that she’s also trying to take her mother’s empire down.
Lillian is, and always has been, the most staunch supporter of vampire supremacy Lena has ever encountered. Even with vampires being the unequivocal highest on the food chain of fae, it’s not enough for her – she wants control not only of other fae but humans, too. While most outside Lillian’s shadowy inner circle are content to live and let live, Lillian wants to rule. And, with the Luthors owning half of the west coast legitimately while simultaneously running a criminal empire that spans the entire city, she’s well on her way.
Nothing can stop a Luthor on a mission, Lex always used to say.
Superman landing on earth upset a delicate balance that’s existed for millennia. Vampires on top, other fae in the middle, humans firmly on the bottom. Now aliens have arrived, not just Kryptonians but others as well - and it had made Lex come completely unhinged, obsessed with the idea that he was no longer the most powerful man in the world.
Vampires are supernaturally fast, strong, hardy, ageless. They’ve always been in charge. And the older they are, the more potent their abilities. They’re undeniably powerful, objectively the strongest species of fae, especially those born of vampire parents rather than humans who have been turned.
Half-bloods like Lena shouldn’t exist, which Lena’s family has always made sure she knows. But she’s an outlier in every way possible.
And either way, Superman is stronger. Aliens are stronger. He isn’t made weak by the sun – he’s powered by it. And when his cousin landed 12 years later, giving herself the same stupid cape and calling herself Supergirl, consistently upsetting the Luthor’s very carefully planned operations in National City, things got even more personal.
So personal, in fact, that her brother built himself a suit full of kryptonite and tried to destroy the Man of Steel.
He failed, of course. Superman has the goodwill of the people, and a seemingly endless list of allies – and, for all his money, Lex had nothing but his suit and his lesser vampiric abilities. He was tried not only by human courts for mass murder but also by the fae for attempted exposure, and charged for both - and thanks to their monopoly on the prison system, he was put in a jail made especially for supernatural beings for almost revealing their presence to the human world.
Even Lillian had to let him take the fall for that. She respects the laws of their world, if not the humans – but she still resents the Supers for it, and ever since her son was put behind bars, it seems like she’s spent every waking moment gathering enough power to get him out again.
Lena can’t let that happen.
“So, what’s on the docket?” Sam says, flipping open her laptop on Lena’s coffee table. “What nefarious underground Lillian Luthor plan are we interfering with today, my little vigilante?”
Lena finishes off her unsatisfactory meal, setting down the empty cup and wiping demurely at her lips as she swings her chair around.
“I need to get in touch with Manchester Black.”
The meeting place agreed to by both parties is an abandoned parking garage in the far west corner of town, a place Lena has never once had reason to visit in all of her very long lifespan. It’s half-collapsed, covered in graffiti and lit against the evening darkness by a single line of flickering fluorescent bulbs.
It is, in a word, sketchy – but Manchester Black insisted on meeting on neutral ground, assumedly so that he can pepper the perimeter with other wolves as a security blanket, and Lena won’t begrudge him a little caution. The setting of the sun and her recent meal means that she’s at more or less full strength and can hear each of their positions by their heavy breathing anyways.
“I know you’re here,” Lena calls out, her voice echoing across the space. “I’d rather get this over with quickly, if it’s all the same to you.”
She hears the rustling of clothes to her right, and she turns to see a dark form hoist himself easily through a crumbling crack in the wall. The man that steps out into the light is tall and broad in the way that wolves usually are, and handsome even through the scowl he’s levelling at her. He has a powerful presence, and he’s well-dressed in a leather jacket and jeans. She can see why people follow him.
“Manchester Black?” she asks, remaining still while he starts to pace.
“Call me Ches.”
British. She should have expected that from the name and the union jack on his shirt, but somehow his accent surprises her. She’d thought that it was some sort of strange affectation – but apparently, he’s actually not from National City. Like her.
“I’d rather not, actually,” she says drily. His jaw clenches, and he stops moving suddenly. Lena tenses for an incoming attack – but it never comes.
“What do you want, Luthor?” he asks, distrust in his every syllable. “Throwing in the towel? Are the vampires finally going to descend from their thrones and share some resources with the dirty commoners?”
“Something like that.”
His brow furrows, and Lena sighs, glancing at the grimy concrete walls in distaste. She knew he was going to be hard to convince, but he’s even more distrustful than she expected.
“I’d like to make an alliance, of sorts.”
Manchester scoffs, and it echoes more loudly than Lena would like. “You really expect me to ally with the Luthors? The family that’s been on the front line of oppressing other fae for centuries?”
“With a Luthor,” Lena corrects, a single brow neatly raised. “Me. My brother is rotting in prison, and mother will know nothing of this, nor will her minions.”
A slow smile grows on his face. It’s not entirely a happy one – Lena would categorize it more as smug, and it raises her hackles a little. But it’s better than the scowl she was getting before, and she’ll take what she can get.
“Corben is in my mother’s pocket, and always will be. You know that. And you’ve managed to make significant dents in his operation, enough for my mother to take notice. I know that. What I’m suggesting that we work together towards a common goal.”
He scoffs, clearly doubtful. “And what goal is that?”
“Dismantling my mother’s whole system. From the bottom up.”
The parking garage is quiet while he considers her offer, and even as her palms sweat Lena meets his gaze with her own icy one. She’s had over a hundred years of experience at hiding her real feelings, and in comparison to the amount she’s lied to Lillian, hiding her nerves from a werewolf is a cakewalk.
“So you’re, what,” he finally says, with a quiet laugh. “A rebel? A mole?”
“Someone who wants to see humans and other fae given more autonomy. Something that will never happen with my mother running the show,” Lena says firmly. Manchester crosses his arms, taking on a defensive stance that Lena’s sure is meant to intimidate her.
“You’ve profited off the backs of both for years. Why would I ever believe you?”
His words are still hostile, but Lena can see that his arms are finally uncrossed and he looks, for the first time, genuinely interested. Lena gives herself a small, cautious pat on the back for achieving what she wanted.
And then, the wall explodes.
Lena knows who it is before she even sees that damnable red cape. There’s only one person in this city with the power to reduce a three-foot-thick concrete wall to rubble, and who might be thick-headed enough to burst through it with no forethought. The Supers are powerful, but they’re all flash, no brains.
Thankfully, Lena has no such problem. Before the dust even clears she’s already thrown a piece of rebar at the lights, snuffing them in a shower of sparks and melting into the shadows, dragging Manchester with her. She can feel the familiar darkness cloaking her, her pupils dilating to compensate - it’s one of the more useful abilities granted to her by her vampire blood. Allowing her to hide and collect information without being seen, even amongst other fae, as long as the sun is down.
She knows from Lex’s detailed research that her abilities can throw off Kryptonian x-ray vision, but only for short periods. The clock is ticking before Supergirl knows she’s here.
“What is this?” Manchester hisses, as she practically throws him behind a concrete barrier. “Some kind of setup?”
“Do you really think I’d call the fucking Girl Scouts here?” Lena whisper-yells back, irritated that he’d even consider she was working with the idiot currently blowing away the dust with her frost breath. Zero finesse, zero stealth.
He looks distrustful, but accepts her answer.
“I know you’re there,” Supergirl calls into the darkness, her voice echoing towards them. “I have superhearing.”
Shit. Lena hadn’t thought of that.
“I can hear two voices, but I can only see one person,” Supergirl says, sounding somewhat unsettled. “I don’t know how that’s possible, but I’m only here for Manchester Black.”
“Vigilante come to arrest the vigilante? That’s a trip, even for you,” Manchester answers, and Supergirl’s cape swishes across the concrete as she turns towards his voice.
“I’m here because you killed someone. I know why you’re doing what you’re doing, but your methods are only making things worse.”
“You what?” Lena hisses, but Manchester ignores her.
“And your methods are broken,” Manchester calls back to Supergirl, his voice deepening into a growl. “Pacifism is useless. To free this city of rot, you have to uproot the whole thing. Pulling a few weeds does nothing.”
“Stooping to their level does nothing, either,” Supergirl answers, with all the upright preachiness Lena expects. “It’s just an endless cycle.”
She can see Manchester’s face starting to shift, wolfish features becoming prominent, and Lena almost screams in annoyance.
Typical fucking werewolf – shift first, ask questions later.
Instead she takes a firm, vice-like hold of his ear, and his transformation halts as he yelps. He can’t see her in the darkness, she knows, but he can sure as hell hear her.
“You want her to see you?” Lena hisses, releasing his ear with a pinch. “To get tried for treason and exposure?”
He growls at her, but he shifts back to human form anyways, and Lena lets out a sigh of relief.
“Who’s with you?” Supergirl asks, moving closer to their hiding spot with caution. “Why can’t I see them?”
Lena is running out of time.
Leaning close to Manchester, she whispers in his ear. Whatever she says, Supergirl is going to hear too, and she needs to be careful.
“If I help you, I expect you to trust me. I’ll be in touch.”
She doesn’t let him reply before she’s running towards the crack Manchester had entered through, on the opposite end of the garage. She can see Supergirl jerk her head in her direction, hearing the ghost of Lena’s footsteps as her abilities wear off, and it’s just enough of a distraction for Manchester to dart to the huge hole the Super blew in the wall and disappear into the night.
It’s a long shot, trying to confuse a superpowered alien with unthinkable speed. Supergirl could probably round both of them up in a few seconds, if she really tried. But Lena’s gamble pays off. Supergirl is confused, unwilling to act when she doesn’t know who she’s apprehending, and Lena uses it to her advantage.
“What the heck –?” She hears Supergirl mutter, as Lena throws herself through the crack and lands in a crouched position two storeys down. It knocks the wind from her lungs, and she can feel her knees twinge with a pain she’ll regret until she feeds again, but she shakes it off as best she can and sprints back to her car.
For whatever reason, Supergirl doesn’t follow.
Lena has the entire drive back to her condo to stew, and by the time she gets there Sam is waiting on her couch with Netflix on and Lena is in a frothing rage.
“Fucking Supergirl!” she growls, slamming the front door behind her. “I’m trying to make this stupid city a better place, and she has to come crashing in with her stupid superiority complex –“
“Okay, slow down,” Sam says, muting the TV and making soothing gestures. “What happened?”
“I was this close to making a deal with Manchester, and Supergirl interrupted,” Lena explains, kicking her shoes off in opposite directions. “She wants to take him in.”
Sam frowns thoughtfully, sitting down on the couch again. “I thought he was one of the good guys? Trying to take down Corben?”
“She doesn’t like his methods. Apparently, he killed one of Corben’s top guys. And killing isn’t the answer,” Lena says snidely, imitating Supergirl’s preachy speech. She can feel her canines shifting, sharpening into deadly points in the way they do when she lets her emotions get the best of her. She hates it, hates the way this curse makes her body do things without her consent, and it only makes her more angry.
“Well, she isn’t wrong about that,” Sam says fairly, and Lena whirls on her with her teeth bared.
“I know that!” Lena snarls, her voice raised. Sam meets the snap with her usual reliable calmness, and almost as soon as it leaves her mouth, Lena’s anger deflates. Yelling at the one person who’s stuck by her side through everything has never helped.
Lena sighs, rubbing her temples and willing her fangs to retract. It takes some deep breathing, but after a few moments, she feels much more in control.
“I’m sorry, Sam. I shouldn’t have shouted.”
Sam shrugs. “It’s okay. You clearly had a rough night.” She gestures at the dust and grime covering Lena’s very expensive jacket, and Lena sighs, collapsing onto the couch. The adrenaline is seeping out of her slowly, and she’s starting to feel the ache in her knees where she landed earlier. She has a much stronger constitution than a human and her body heals fast, but she’s no Kryptonian, and until she feeds again she’s probably going to be a little sore. Which she generally tries to stave off as long as possible.
“Definitely,” Lena sighs. “And now I have to find a way to get Manchester on my side, convince him to curb his methods, and avoid Supergirl.”
It’s a tall order, and about three times as much work as she’d have to do if Supergirl hadn’t felt the need to intervene in the way she did. Lena might be trying to unravel her mother’s anti-alien plotting, but for a moment, she really considers taking Lillian’s side on Kryptonians. Specifically persistent blonde ones.
And it only gets worse from there.
After that night, Supergirl seems to hound Lena’s every step. Every one of Lillian’s operations Lena tries to thwart, Supergirl is there too, doing the same thing – in the most opposite way possible. She just charges in and punches first, radiating utter confidence and goodness in contrast to Lena’s carefully crafted plan to destroy whatever her mother has done without causing a fuss. It’s maddening.
Lena locates one of Corben’s drug dens, and when she tries to photograph and catalog each of the criminals involved to send to the NCPD, Supergirl busts through the ceiling and sends the underlings scattering. Lena finds one of his shipping warehouses and tries to steal some of his paperwork as evidence, and Supergirl shatters a series of windows and ends up lighting half the office on fire with her laser vision. Every plan is foiled, every corner she rounds has a red cape behind it, and after a few times it gets frustrating enough that Lena commits the ultimate error.
She lets Supergirl see her.
Stay unseen, stay unnoticed – that’s been Lena’s motto since before the Luthors even came to National City. The only way she can undermine Lillian is by not getting caught, and she’s been doing it so long that it’s almost second nature. But something about Supergirl makes her sloppy. She finds herself sticking around when she should be disappearing, watching Supergirl’s ineffectual work with a sort of horrified fascination. Watching how she throws people around with ease, how she sacrifices taking in smaller players to focus on capturing whatever single target she came here for. A bull in a china shop, to be sure, but one with a task-oriented mind that’s as focused as the laser beams she shoots at Lena’s precious documents.
“Where is Corben?” Supergirl demands of the two men she has tied up on the warehouse floor. She paces in front of them, her cape swishing every time she turns, clearly trying to look intimidating – Lena thinks she looks like a housecat trying to be a tiger, but the handcuffed werewolves seem suitably impressed. They don’t talk, but Lena can sense their fear. They’re struggling against the urge to transform.
Supergirl stops her pacing, squatting in front of them with her elbows on her knees like a cheesy 80s cop movie. It almost makes Lena smile.
“Look. I’m after your boss, not you. If you help me, I can protect you.”
One of the wolves stays silent, his jaw clenched tight, but the other laughs nervously, his wrists straining against the cuffs. He could break them if he tried – the cuffs are steel, not silver – but he seems to know that Supergirl would just round him up again. “You can’t protect us. She has people everywhere. Moles in every position you can imagine.”
The second wolf growls at him in warning, but the damage is done.
“She?” Supergirl says, her easy manner turning suddenly intense. “You mean Lillian Luthor?”
Lena can’t stop the tiny gasp that escapes her at that question. The fact that Supergirl knows that Lillian is behind Corben is a surprise, a shocking moment of competence, and she can’t temper her reaction.
It’s her downfall.
When Supergirl’s laser focus catches on Lena, crouched on a warehouse ceiling beam like a ridiculous cat burglar, Lena's interest turns to near-panic.
“Hey!” Supergirl calls up to her, stepping closer and squinting up at the ceiling. “Who –“
Lena’s instincts kick in before the sentence is even over, propelling her forward and into the shadow of the drop ceiling over the office. She can hear Supergirl calling after her, but much like last time she doesn’t follow, clearly deeming her captured criminals the better target – even so, Lena scrambles to get as far away as possible anyways. She can feel an exposed piece of rebar tearing through her shirt as she wiggles through the ceiling, cutting into her skin, but she’s fed recently enough and is hidden enough from the sun that the wound closes up almost immediately, and she’s slipping out a window and sprinting several blocks to the nearest trafficked area with no real delay.
Only once she’s blended into the crowd, artfully rearranging her shirt to hide the tear, does she breathe properly again.
Stupid. A stupid mistake. She doesn’t think Supergirl got a good look at her face, but it’s impossible to tell, and the not-knowing drives her crazy for days. Supergirl drives her crazy. She’s brash and impulsive and talented and annoyingly, stupidly attractive. Muscular, chiseled, bright eyes and sunny smile. There’s something magnetic about her, despite Lena’s anger – Lena hates the sun, but Supergirl makes it almost appealing.
At least, she would if she wasn’t so fucking infuriating.
Lena needs to regroup. She needs time to plan her next move, and she needs to vent off some of the built-up steam she’s been carrying for the last few weeks. She could go for a workout, go to her building’s fae-reinforced gym and take out her frustrations on a stairmaster – but it’s so much easier to seek out pleasure, rather than exercise.
The cheap neon sign flickering over Roulette’s is as comforting as always. She welcomes the smell of bodies and cheap booze when she shoulders the door open, and the anonymity washes over her like a balm. People know her here, of course, being a regular – but she isn’t a Luthor when she walks through the door. She’s just another fae, surrounded by people like her just trying to get by.
“Lena,” a familiar voice drawls from behind the bar as Lena takes a seat, and her whole body starts to relax. If Veronica is working, this is going to be even simpler than she hoped. “Long time no see.”
Lena shrugs, turning towards Veronica with a smile. A lot of witches are partial to tattoos, using them as indications of the flavour of their power, and Veronica is no different – Lena follows the lines of ink across her shoulders, her arms, up her thigh under her leather skirt. All snakes, and all beautifully rendered. And they fit the woman they decorate – Veronica is a formidable enemy but a loyal friend, and she’s the only person in the city that Lena knows will provide her with blood that hasn’t been forcibly removed. This bar is a haven – fae with secret human partners, vampires like Lena who don’t want to hunt, werewolves who try to repress their transformations, and of course witches who just want to help.
Veronica is as different from the rest of her people as Lena is, and despite a somewhat rocky relationship history, they’ve always had that in common.
“I order from you every week,” Lena counters, folding her legs and watching with satisfaction as Veronica follows the movement with her eyes.
“The phone is so impersonal,” Veronica says with feigned hurt, heading towards the minifridge where Lena knows she keeps her blood stock for vampire customers. “You want the usual?”
Lena shakes her head. Their back-and-forth is always enjoyable, but Lena knows what she needs, and she’s not in the mood for drawing it out. “Not today. I’m looking for something a bit harder.”
Veronica pauses, and Lena can see the slow smile that creeps across her face as she grabs a bottle of Macallen and pours the amber liquid into a glass. When she sets it down she leans close on her elbows, and Lena takes a measured sip, letting it burn its way into her chest.
“Hard enough?” Veronica grins, and Lena drums her fingers on the bartop.
“That depends. When does your shift end?”
Veronica’s shift ends, as it turns out, whenever she damn well feels like it. It’s Lena’s apartment they end up at, and as always, their tryst is physically satisfying; but as always, it’s as empty as a business transaction. It’s a feeling Lena is accustomed to, now – she thought for a long time that it was another part of being a vampire, another part of her curse, but over time she realized the truth.
The emptiness she feels after intimacy is hers alone. Just a brokenness inside herself, an inability to connect. A Lena Luthor special. That kind of connection just isn’t meant to be in her life, and she’s long since accepted it.
Veronica understands, at least. Lena doesn’t even have to dismiss her before Veronica is getting dressed, seeing herself out with a smile and a ‘see you next time’. She knows how Lena operates, Lena is grateful. The front door closes, and Lena drifts into a deep sleep that isn’t as dreamless as she’d like; plagued by blonde hair, a red cape, and blue eyes finding her in the dark.
Three weeks after her botched meeting with Manchester Black, Lena finally hits the last straw.
She’s so sure that this plan will work out. The meeting she’s infiltrated is top secret, only Corben and his top werewolf lieutenants. She’s recently fed, the bunker near the National City docks that she’s in is far underground so her powers are in full swing, and she’s successfully snuck into a darkened adjacent room with nobody noticing her. She can see part of the room Corben is in through a vent, can hear everything they say. She’s sure that by listening in, she can reveal all of their planned activities for the next month, at least. Build herself a roadmap for disrupting operations for the next little while. It’s foolproof. There’s no way Supergirl could know about this.
The meeting has barely begun before Supergirl kicks the door in, grabs the nearest person to her, and promptly gets blasted in the chest with a beam of familiar green light.
The wave of absolute rage Lena feels at yet another interruption to her carefully crafted strategy is put on hold when Supergirl flies through the wall Lena is leaning against, landing in a heap of wood and plaster on the ground. Corben and his men, half-shifted, use the opportunity to disappear in the opposite direction. Lena has no clue where the beam of kryptonite came from, but it’s devastatingly effective.
They came prepared, and Supergirl is suffering for it.
Lena knows how kryptonite works. She watched her brother painstakingly replicate a synthetic version to use against Superman, saw the way it knocked the hero out of the sky, sapped his powers and leeched into his bloodstream. She’s read Lex’s research – knows how it makes the Supers vulnerable, how it causes them unspeakable pain. She knows how badly Supergirl must be hurting right now.
God damn her stupid, bleeding heart. Lex always said it would bring her down.
“Supergirl?” Lena says, taking a few cautious steps towards the collapsed hero. She can see lines of green snaking up her muscular neck, crawling over her face, and her face is contorted in obvious pain. “Can you hear me?”
“Nnggh,” is Supergirl’s verbose reply, and Lena huffs. She has to go, now, but her conscience is protesting leaving Supergirl here like this, underground and vulnerable to whoever finds her first.
She nudges the hero with the toe of her boot, and the blonde shifts away from the prod with a pained noise. Lena can hear the quiet voice coming out of a small black earpiece Supergirl is wearing, one which anyone but a vampire probably wouldn’t notice.
“Supergirl? Do you read me?” the voice asks, and Supergirl remains unresponsive. It’s a woman’s voice, and it sounds much more concerned than your average intel agent. “Kara, answer me! Do we need to send an extraction team?”
Well. The knowledge of Supergirl’s name – Kara, so curiously human for such an alien – is useful, but the last thing Lena needs is some government black ops organization hearing her helping out. She reaches down and tugs the earpiece out, crushing it in her hand and dropping the pieces before looping her arm under Supergirl’s shoulder.
“Wha – who –“ Supergirl mutters, as Lena heaves the surprisingly heavy Kryptonian to her feet. Most humans probably couldn’t lift the hero with such ease because of her density, but Lena needs this to be over with badly enough to show her hand a little. “How are you –“
“Just shut up and walk,” Lena mutters, and shockingly, Supergirl complies. She leans on Lena’s weight, only slightly at first and then increasingly more as she realizes how strong Lena is, and slowly they make their painstaking way to the stairwell.
“How did they – have kryptonite?” Supergirl grunts, limping up the stairs with Lena’s assistance. Lena scoffs, trying not to wince when the hero’s hip bumps hers so hard that she has to brace herself to keep from slamming into the wall. They’re getting closer to the sun with every step, and as Lena’s abilities weaken in response, Supergirl’s start to return.
“Maybe if you did something besides crashing through the door with a cocked fist, you’d be able to figure it out,” Lena grumbles, Supergirl’s weight feeling more and more leaden the higher they go. They’re only a floor away from the exit, now, close enough to hear the gulls crying in the distance; and at that comment, Supergirl straightens dramatically, wrenching Lena’s shoulder almost out of its socket.
“Ow!” Lena hisses, letting the blonde’s arm slip away and rolling her shoulder back, looking at Supergirl in indignation. “What the hell?”
Supergirl looks a bit weak still, but she’s finally free of the green tint – and she’s looking at Lena with deep distrust.
“How do you know the way I work?” Supergirl asks, her eyes narrow and absolutely zeroed in on Lena. For being essentially an apex predator, Lena feels distinctly like prey, and she understands with sudden clarity exactly why Lex was so threatened by Kryptonians. Up close and personal, Supergirl is powerful in a way she can’t explain. It’s like she has an aura, a draw that Lena can’t resist, and it makes her stay put when she knows she should run.
“Why does that matter?” Lena scoffs, feeling much less assured than she’d like. “I’m helping you, aren’t I?”
Supergirl’s furrowed brow clears, and she looks at Lena with a worrying kind of clarity. For a moment, Lena thinks that she might have finally recognized her for who she is – Lena Luthor, sister of Superman’s most dangerous enemy – but Supergirl quickly puts those fears to rest. And immediately opens up new ones.
“You’re the one I keep seeing every time I try to arrest these guys, aren’t you!” she says, jabbing an accusatory finger at Lena’s chest. Lena steps back, but Supergirl just takes a step forward to compensate, making her feel like a caged animal. “The woman who disappears. Who the heck are you?”
Lena swallows, her eyes darting around and trying to assess the easiest escape route without arousing suspicion. None seem viable, and she’s running out of options.
“That’s not really any of your concern,” Lena says, going for a haughtiness she doesn’t feel. Supergirl steps closer, practically pinning Lena to the wall, and Lena has to resist a full-body shudder. Her heart is pounding, and it’s not entirely out of fear.
“It is if you’re with Corben!” Supergirl says, her voice raising, and Lena finds her own rising to meet it with a growl.
“I’m not with Corben!”
Supergirl’s eyes narrow, and Lena sees her doom in them.
“Hold on. I know your voice.”
Of course. This might as well happen. Lena is trapped, and she’s running out of options. Panic is starting to hum in her ears, and it’s getting worse with every reduced inch of space between them.
“You were in that garage with Manchester Black! The one I couldn’t see! I could never forget that voice!”
“Look, you’re mistaken –“
Supergirl steps closer, her large hand encircling Lena’s wrist, and Lena’s vision goes white.
It’s like a painless electric shock. It rockets through Lena’s system almost quicker than she can process, filling every square inch of her body with hot lightning, and with it comes a rush of emotions that aren’t hers – worry, shock, and alarm ease into a tentative sort of fascination, and then finally something that takes her a moment to place. Like…acceptance, perhaps?
She can feel something reaching out to her, the walls Lena constructs around herself crumbling like sand, and the closer this other consciousness gets the more Lena understands what the feeling is.
Recognition. A warm glow that fills her chest like a beacon.
It’s over as soon as it began, and when her vision returns she’s left panting like she’s just run a marathon. Every nerve ending is crackling, and none more so than where Supergirl’s skin is touching hers. Supergirl’s eyes are wide and dark, her grip almost tight enough to hurt, and she doesn’t let go even when Lena tries to pull away.
Something is hovering between them, a connection she’s terrified to touch.
She needs to break it.
“What was that?” Supergirl asks in a cracked voice, and Lena doesn’t want to think about the implications of that strange, awful moment being mutual. Everything in her rebels against the warmth in her chest, against the horrible sense of calm Supergirl’s presence suddenly inspires. “What did you do?”
Lena scoffs, twisting her wrist to no avail. She needs to get out, and she needs to get out now. “Me? I didn’t do anything, you’re the one with superpowers!”
Supergirl seems to take a moment to collect herself, and once she’s finished, her expression has cleared. The accusation is gone, and replaced with something far worse. Interest.
“I keep seeing you every time I try to bring these guys in, and then you just disappear with these weird tricks,” Supergirl says, confusion clear in her (handsome, stupid) face. “I don’t know who you are, or how you managed to escape that garage, or why you got in my way –“
“Excuse me?” Lena snaps, the absolute audacity of the statement turning her inexplicable fear into anger. She finally yanks her wrist out of Supergirl’s grasp, pushing back on her chest to no avail – it’s like trying to push a brick wall. “I’m getting in your way?”
“You distract me!” Supergirl says defensively. “I would have caught Manchester Black if you weren’t there!”
Lena almost laughs in her face at that, as shaky as she still feels. “Your incompetence has nothing to do with me.”
Supergirl frowns, and crosses her arms in a way that puts them on prominent display. Lena has to fight not to look at them.
“What are you, some kind of vigilante? Like Manchester?”
Lena hates how close that is to the truth. Supergirl is immovable, but she looks somewhat intrigued rather than simply accusatory. The blonde is standing close now, far too close; the few inches of height she has on Lena seem larger than life, and Lena can feel her fight or flight instincts taking hold.
Well. A few other instincts are flaring up too, with the way Supergirl towers over her. She’s all broad shoulders and flexed neck, her eyes a bright and fiery blue, and she radiates a very attractive sort of command - but Lena very quickly shoves those instincts down to the deep, dark pit they belong in.
She only has a few tricks up her sleeve in the first place, as a vampire. Here there’s no darkness to disappear into under the fluorescent lighting, and once she gets outside and into the sunlight, her strength and speed will all but disappear. She’ll be practically as useless as a human.
So, she uses the only tool left in her arsenal.
She relaxes her muscles, and takes a deep breath. She knows from experience what she looks like, when she does this – dark, sleek, confident. Dangerously attractive. A millennia-old vampire hunting trick, enthralling victims through mild seduction. It makes people bend to her will, makes them pliable and obedient and erases their memories afterwards.
She hates doing it. But this is a special circumstance. She trails a hand up the hero’s arm, surreptitiously squeezing a bicep in a way she convinces herself is only for show. No matter how impressive they are.
“Maybe I just want to see you, Supergirl.” It comes out in a purr, whispered so that the hero has to lean in to hear it - and as she does it Lena moves her hand up to Supergirl’s chest to tug at the front of her suit, careful not to touch her bare skin again just in case. To pull her closer.
So that she can push her away and run when the time comes, of course. Not so that she can try to figure out what perfume the blonde is wearing, or watch the hard, vital pulse that hammers enticingly under her jaw like a siren’s song. Lena fed only hours ago, but somehow, her mouth still waters. She can still feel the adrenaline of their connection, and it almost draws her in.
It helps that she can see it working, the invisible tendrils of enthrallment wrapping themselves around Supergirl as Lena releases pheromones. Those intense blue eyes drift down, drawn along Lena’s pale neck and landing on her chest. A tongue pokes out to wet soft lips, and Lena can see the hard bob of Supergirl’s throat as she swallows.
Lena lets out a sigh of relief. Even without skin contact, it worked. It worked, and Lena hardly had to activate it to pull Supergirl in.
At least, that’s what she thinks for the first 15 seconds. But when she starts to take a step away, smug with victory, Supergirl’s eyes snap back up to her face immediately. Her eyes are completely clear, and Lena’s stomach drops.
“What are you doing?” Supergirl asks, her voice suddenly low and threaded with something new. It’s not the distrust or accusation Lena would expect, and it throws her off. It sounds more like mild panic.
“…what are you doing?” Lena fires back, still reeling. Clearly the thrall has even less potency than she thought on Kryptonians, and she’s too deeply off-balance to give an intelligent reply.
“Nothing, I’m not the one acting weird!”
“Well, I –“
“I see you everywhere, and then I touch you, and – I mean, why won’t you just tell me who you are?”
There’s no escape now. Their confrontation is coming to a head, her last bastion is useless, and Lena is trapped by the one person in National City she wants to speak to the least. Her frustration bursts out of her like a geyser, and the volume of it actually makes Supergirl move back a step.
“You wouldn’t be seeing me at all if you didn’t keep fucking it up for me!”
Supergirl blinks, looking somewhat chastised despite having no idea who Lena is.
Lena grits her teeth, willing her canines not to sharpen along with her burst of emotion. That would be the cherry on top of the world’s shittiest day, and explaining herself to Supergirl is bad enough.
“I spend weeks making strategies to take these guys down the smart way, without getting anyone hurt, and you just bust through the front door with no plan.”
Supergirl gapes at her, as if Lena is the audacious one here. “I usually have a plan, it’s just that once things start going, I get – look, it’s not your job to take anyone down! It’s my job!”
“Technically, it’s the job of the NCPD,” Lena corrects, enjoying the way irritation flashes across the blonde’s face at the reminder. “You’re as much a vigilante as I am, Supergirl.”
“I work with the government!” Supergirl protests. Lena scoffs.
“A government shadow organization.”
“Well, still, it’s more official than – wait, how do you know that?”
It’s a fair question. It’s something Lena shouldn’t know, even by her mother’s standards – but she’s dug deep in the bowels of LuthorCorp’s classified records and research, and the DEO features heavily in both Lex and Lillian’s notes. Lex sang their praises, once upon a time – an organization tasked with hunting down alien fugitives and imprisoning them was perfectly all right in his books, even if he would have preferred it be run by him and not the government. But his favour went sour when they started working with Supergirl, and his interest in them became more rabid. He even, at once point, wrote about a theory that the DEO was in fact run by an alien. Lillian had latched onto it with aggressive fascination – Lena had thought he was insane.
As it turns out, she was right, at least about the latter.
In any case, Supergirl looks suspicious again, and clearly a topic change is in order – so Lena grasps at the last straw she has. A sliver of honesty.
“I’m trying to bring down Lillian Luthor.”
That gets Supergirl’s attention. Her arms uncross, and she moves in close with interest rather than aggression. Lena isn’t sure which she likes better. Both are laser-focused, and the attention makes something shift in Lena’s belly.
“You know about Lillian Luthor?” Supergirl says eagerly, her distrust apparently shelved in the face of a potential lead. Lena idly wonders how many old detective movies she’s watched, before she berates herself for even caring.
“Everyone knows about Lillian Luthor. She runs one of the biggest corporations in the country,” Lena shrugs, thrown off by her own uncharacteristic reaction to the sudden attention. Even with people she’s interested in, she doesn’t have this reaction. This hook, this pull. She’s always detached, and she likes it that way – but apparently, not with Supergirl.
“No, that’s not – don’t be a jerk,” Supergirl says distractedly, waving off the blasé answer. “I mean, you’re after her?”
Lena snorts. Don’t be a jerk. How Supergirl still manages to seem intimidating with phrases like that, Lena has no idea.
“Something like that,” Lena answers vaguely. She knows she’s being cagey, but revealing the whole truth to someone with as much power and binary sense of right and wrong as Supergirl is a universally bad idea.
“I’ve been trying to track her for months,” Supergirl says, finally moving away from Lena so she can pace back and forth in the stairwell, running a hand through her (somehow still perfect) hair. Lena lets out a shaky breath, taking advantage of the sudden space between them. She hadn’t realized exactly how tense she’d been, with Supergirl standing so close. “I know she has something to do with Corben, but every time I think I’m on to something, it slips away.”
Lena leans against the exposed brick, crossing her legs at the ankle. “It’s difficult to pin down someone who has half the city in her pocket.”
Supergirl’s eyes dart over to her, flicking down to her chest and back up again before looking away. The aftereffects of the thrall, perhaps. Either way, Supergirl clears her throat and asks the money question.
“How much do you know about her?”
She can’t show her full hand, here. She has no reason to trust Supergirl, and Supergirl has no reason to trust her, especially if she finds out exactly who Lena is. The sister of the man who tried to kill her cousin. The daughter of the woman they’re both currently hunting down.
But, Supergirl has resources that Lena doesn’t have access to. She has allies, and the ability to openly confront people without blowing her cover. And, quite frankly, she has brute strength where Lena has mostly finesse. Taking down Corben isn’t the end of this little endeavour of hers – Lillian has fae allies in most of the highest positions in the city, and if they don’t take them all down, all their efforts here will be useless. Lillian will just slot another wolf into Corben’s place, and continue business as usual.
If Lena really wants to dismantle Lillian’s hold on the city and the fae, Supergirl would be indispensable.
She crosses her arms, her fingers drumming on her bicep as she decides.
“I know enough to help you. If we work together.”
Supergirl doesn’t accept right away, understandably. She stops in her pacing, turning her gaze to Lena with an intense once-over – like she’s sizing Lena up, weighing her on some invisible scale. It’s disconcerting to be regarded so carefully, and it makes Lena uncomfortable on a deep, primal level that she doesn’t understand. Like Supergirl is seeing through her, seeing to her core, and she’s somehow pleased at what she sees. Like Lena is worthy.
It’s a feeling Lena has never experienced before, and she has no idea how to process it.
The blonde seems almost as thrown off by the intensity as Lena is. She blinks rapidly, shaking her head as if to clear it, and chews on her lip before she strides back over and gets into Lena’s space again.
“Okay. What’s your name?”
Lena’s response is knee-jerk.
“None of your damn business.”
Supergirl sighs. She runs her fingers through her hair again, and this time it comes out a little worse for wear – it sticks up wildly near her temple, and Lena can see a slight cowlick. It’s strangely humanizing.
“Look, my boss isn’t going to like that I’m working with an unknown as it is. If we’re going to work together, I at least need something to call you.”
She holds out her hand to shake, and Lena considers carefully. Supergirl is right, as much as she hates to admit it. And she can’t go by her real name - she needs an alias of some kind, something that will be easy to remember while they work together but won’t easily be traced.
She slips her hand into Supergirl’s extended one, feeling the warmth of victory when the hero seems shocked at the firmness of her grip. But alarmingly, an even stronger warmth radiates from their joined palms, spreading up her arm, and Lena pulls her hand back before what’s generally considered polite, curling it into a fist.
Kryptonians must have a higher body temperature or something. As good an explanation as any.
“You can call me Kieran.”
Lena’s decision at the docks marks the beginning of a fruitful, if somewhat wary, partnership.
It’s tentative, at first. Lena takes every precaution to keep Supergirl at arm’s length – the name she gives is fake, the phone number she gives is a burner, and she communicates via text only. It’s a delicate balance, accepting Supergirl’s help while shielding her from the fae world, and a dangerous one should anyone find out. The less Supergirl knows about her, the better.
But as it turns out, they work together surprisingly well. Supergirl is eager to help and trustworthy to a fault, and Lena benefits from her goodwill in the city; and in turn, Supergirl benefits from Lena’s knowledge and innate sense of strategy.
A few weeks ago, Lena might have thought she had infinitely more to offer to their partnership than Supergirl. A working brain, for starters. But sometime during their second stakeout, when they successfully interrupted the attempted kidnapping of an innocent alien family, Lena starts to accept the truth – Supergirl is much smarter than she thought.
She’s impulsive, sure. But it’s fueled by her need to help, her impatient drive to fix. She just has trouble stopping to think before she acts, and whoever is pulling her strings at the DEO seems to let her have more or less free reign. But if Lena makes her take a second to consider her options, she actually has good ideas. And decent conversation.
It’s terribly inconvenient.
“Another day saved,” Supergirl quips, as Lena hangs up on the NCPD operator that’s been trying to wring more information out of her anonymous tip. They know where to pick up the criminals, and that’s enough. “And nobody got hurt!”
Lena tightens the bindings on one of the kidnappers, the only one still left conscious after Supergirl dealt with them. It must take a monumental amount of control for her to apprehend them without killing them, and Lena has found herself more and more impressed by it the more she watches Supergirl work up close. She herself still sometimes has trouble modulating her strength, and she doesn’t even hold a candle to Supergirl’s capabilities.
“That’s what happens when you let me make the plans,” Lena answers, smacking one of the bound men on the back of the head when he struggles too hard.
This one had been pretty low-stakes, anyways. The kidnappers are human, not fae, just a small splinter group with a chip on their shoulders about alien refugees. Ordinarily she would have refused to help at all, since it didn’t further her own agenda, but lately it’s been hard to say no when Supergirl asks.
The blonde laughs good-naturedly at Lena’s jab. “True. We all have our strengths, and mine isn’t strategy. I’m pretty good at trivia, though. And physics. If you want to know about quantum mechanics, I’m your girl.”
Lena pauses. Supergirl seems nervous, almost babbling, squatting to searching the pockets of the men for identification before they leave them to the police, and despite herself Lena latches onto the conversation hook.
“You know quantum mechanics?”
Supergirl rocks back on her heels, standing to full height after an unsuccessful search with a shrug that seems performatively blasé.
“Krypton was pretty far ahead of earth in terms of science. And I was pretty far ahead of most Kryptonian kids. Here, I’ve always had to pretend I was average.” There’s a flash of sadness on Supergirl’s face then, a pained sort of grief that Lena almost feels an echo of. Like a phantom pain, unfamiliar and startling.
And along with it, Lena feels the unfamiliar desire to comfort. She wants to wipe the pain away. Which is what makes her speak her mind, for once.
“I’m starting to realize that I underestimated you.”
The blasé act drops, and Supergirl looks surprised at the admission. Eager, even. Her face brightens, and Lena regrets her moment of truthfulness.
Lena shrugs, turning away from the sudden change in tone. Supergirl’s openness is too intense to look at directly. “Is that so surprising?”
“What’s surprising is that you’re admitting it.”
That squeezes a laugh out of Lena, genuine if short. She rubs her arms, still facing the opposite direction.
“I may be an asshole, but I can admit when I’m wrong.”
“You’re not an asshole,” Supergirl says, and Lena can hear her take a step closer before hesitating and staying put. A wise decision. “You’re just…outspoken. I respect that.”
Lena doesn’t know what to do with that. Respect isn’t something she’s used to, and especially not expressed vocally, to her face. It makes something in her gut twist – not unpleasant, but deeply uncomfortable nonetheless, and it only gets worse when Supergirl continues.
“Listen, we wrapped this up pretty early. Do you want to…I don’t know. Go for coffee, or something?”
The question is dropped with the nervous energy of a college kid asking for a date, and Lena has a brief moment of wondering just how much experience Supergirl has with human socialization. Or romance.
That last thought is one Lena drops like a hot stone, leaving it where it lies.
“I’m sorry?” Lena manages to croak, and Supergirl laughs anxiously.
“I just feel like I hardly know you,” she explains quickly, wringing her hands in a way most unheroic. It’s almost cute. “And I want to. Because we’re working together, you know? We should be…acquaintances, at least.”
Lena bites the inside of her cheek. This, right here, is the root of the problem with Supergirl. The impulsiveness she can deal with; she can tolerate that the government is holding the hero’s leash. But what she can’t handle is that Supergirl seems to want to get to know Lena, to be friends. But Lena doesn’t have friends, with the exception of Sam. She wants to build bridges, to reverse her mother’s misdeeds regarding aliens, but she certainly isn’t here to hold hands and sing Kryptonian kumbaya. No matter how sweetly she’s asked.
Once a week or two into their association, Supergirl texted her with a simple ‘how are you? :)’ and Lena stared at it for days, trying to decipher the meaning. She ended up trashing the phone, and it took the blonde two weeks to find her again and get her new number.
So, Lena’s gut reaction to Supergirl’s invitation is abso-fucking-lutely not. A few weeks ago, she might have even said it out loud. But now she can see in her mind’s eye the badly hidden wounded expression it would cause, and she’d rather avoid it.
Much like she avoids thinking too hard about why.
“I appreciate what you’re trying to do,” Lena says carefully, avoiding Supergirl’s very insistent eye contact, “but I’d rather we kept this strictly professional.”
“Oh,” Supergirl says, clearing her throat and nodding rapidly. “Right. Yeah, of course!”
There’s a twinge in Lena’s chest, one that has nothing to do with her own feelings. Like Supergirl’s disappointment is leeching into the air around her, and somehow Lena has caught it like a horrible soft-hearted disease.
She excuses herself from the situation soon after, leaving Supergirl to deal with the cops as per their usual arrangement and trying to set the unfamiliar sensation firmly out of her mind. Sam, though, seems to have no intention of letting her off so easily.
“She wanted to get coffee, huh?”
Lena exhales slowly, tapping her fingers on the steering wheel. Sam’s voice is diluted through the dashboard speaker but Lena can still hear the interest in her tone, and it’s far from the sympathetic disbelief she had been naively hoping for.
“Yes. And for some unknown reason, she thought I would say yes.”
“Well, why didn’t you?” Sam asks, sounding for all the world like Lena is the one acting strangely. “It seems like you two are working well together.”
Lena frowns, suddenly regretting not having this conversation in person so that she can level Sam with a real glare. Irritation is much harder to get across vocally, especially when Sam is determined to be cheerful.
“We can work together, but that doesn’t mean I have to like her.”
“You know, lately it sounds an awful lot like you actually like her very much,” Sam says sagely, Lena nearly slams on the brakes.
“I don’t like –“ she starts, but she forces herself to pause when Sam chuckles on the other line. She sounds defensive, and she knows it. She takes a deep breath, collecting herself carefully.
“Don’t be stupid, Sam. I just think she’s…surprisingly competent, when she has someone to guide her. That’s all.”
Sam snorts. “Right.”
“She’s still annoying,” Lena huffs, her hands tightening on the wheel while Sam chuckles at her. “She’s aggressively cheerful, she’s entirely too talkative. She’s a show-off about her strength.”
“Maybe she’s showing off because she wants you to notice her.”
Lena rolls her eyes, and her next sentence she blames entirely on Sam’s incessant pestering throwing off her balance.
“It’s impossible not to notice her, she’s like a damn beacon. Full of sunshine, and optimism. And…nice hair, I suppose.”
There’s a pause on the line, exactly long enough for Lena to realize exactly how deeply she’s fucked up.
“…a beacon?” Sam says, and the teasing note has faded into something even worse. Interest. Having an Old Soul interested in her connection to Supergirl is the last thing she needs. Sam is far too insightful for Lena’s comfort level.
As if Sam’s attention is forcing her to consider it for herself, Lena’s mind flashes back to the night she first met the hero. That flashbang moment when they first touched, the lingering link that Lena can’t shake. A moment she’s been trying to forget ever since. It hasn’t happened again, not in the white-hot way it did then, but it still clings to her brain, coming back to her at inopportune moments. Like her subconscious wants her to examine it, no matter how much she refuses.
Fortunately, repression has always been her strong suit.
“You know what I mean,” Lena says, trying for a casual brush-off. “Supers are magnetic. It’s why this city loves her so much.”
“I think maybe you’re projecting,” Sam mutters. Lena rolls her eyes, and Sam pushes on. “And, I think she’s more complicated than you think she is.”
Lena frowns, her own interest piquing at the vague assessment. “What do you mean?”
“Just a feeling. She seems like a hidden depths kind of person.”
From experience, Lena knows that Sam’s just a feelings usually end up being right. The benefit of being an Old Soul. And the pull she feels towards Supergirl has to come from somewhere, her rational brain reasons. There has to be more than what meets the eye.
But it’s just so much easier to not think about it.