Lena Luthor is a vampire.
No matter how many times Kara repeats the statement in her head, it still doesn’t seem real. And it has to be about a thousand times, now – Lena disappeared over 10 minutes ago, gone in the blink of an eye, and Kara has no hope of catching up until she spends an hour or two under a sun bed. Instead Kara is left on the side of this lonely road, with two motionless abductors and a trashed armoured truck, to try and figure out what the heck just happened.
When Lena first suggested that she could get them out of this situation, Kara thought it was a joke. But Lena had seemed so serious, and then she was sitting in Kara’s lap with dangerous-looking fangs and dilated, reflective eyes, and suddenly the kryptonite wasn’t the only reason Kara was sweating.
She’d been expecting pain, when Lena tugged her forward by the front of her suit and sunk her teeth in. She’d even tensed up, preparing to experience the unfamiliar sensation – but it didn’t hurt at all. She’d felt a tingle, and then a sort of pressure that felt more pleasurable than anything else. She’s never been able to receive a real hickey with her unbreakable skin, but if this is what they feel like, she can understand why humans seem so obsessed with them. She had gone from tense to boneless in seconds, arching her neck and practically pushing it into Lena’s teeth.
She’d wanted more. More of the sensation, more of this feeling of closeness – she had felt herself reaching out, not with her bound hands but with her mind, and to her shock she had actually gotten an answer.
The truck, suddenly, was gone. The raw chafe of the cuffs on her wrists, the jarring of the truck on the bumpy road, even the pressure of Lena’s weight in her lap – all of it disappeared as soon as she opened herself up, and instead she was somewhere else. Somewhere warm and safe, and closer to Lena than ever. They were pressed together physically, chest to chest and mouth to neck, but somehow here they had been even closer.
Just like that strange, electrifying moment when they met, Lena’s mind was so close that she felt like she could touch it – and this time, she did.
Lena’s mind was just like Kara might have predicted, had she even considered that this might be possible. Jagged and reclusive, a beautiful light wreathed in sharp edges and somehow familiar to Kara despite knowing firmly that she had never done this before. Dark spikes surrounding a fragile, bright centre. Kara could feel the tug of that darkness, an echo in herself reflected in another – the pain, the loneliness, the anger. It’s all familiar, but instead of protecting herself with light and hope like Kara has always tried to do, Lena seems to do the opposite. She cloaks herself in the pain, lets it shape and guide her, and hides the brightness beneath. It’s held up like a shield – but when Kara moved closer, she could see it start to smooth.
It reminded her of calming a feral animal, interacting with Lena this way. All of this is unfamiliar and strange but somehow it felt easy, felt right, and it took little effort to slip between the cracks. With the tiniest amount of attention Lena opened to her, like she was starving for the contact – and suddenly Lena was everywhere, the blindingly bright core of her engulfing Kara like a supernova.
Somewhere on the physical plane she could feel Lena’s tongue dragging almost languorously over her skin, could feel the pressure and suction of her mouth as she drank Kara’s blood, and the idea of it was no longer unnerving. It was lighting her on fire. She’d actually felt herself struggling against her cuffs, overwhelmed with the desire to seize Lena’s hips and pull them down into her own, feel her thighs spread further than they already were.
And then she heard Lena’s voice in her head, and it all went to hell.
The events following the bite were a bit of a blur. Kara was still dazed when Lena snapped her cuffs and threw her body through the side of the truck, dizzied by the world turning upside down, her head throbbing with the sudden break of their entanglement - and then just when Kara had been about to try to bust open the door it had been ripped unceremoniously from its hinges. Lena stood in the doorframe wreathed by sunlight, a door in each hand and looking about as stunned as Kara was.
And then she disappeared, leaving Kara here alone.
The only way to describe this day, really, is a word she’s heard Alex use before but never thought she needed herself - a clusterfuck.
The driver lying in the grass a few feet away starts to stir, groaning quietly, and Kara puts her thoughts aside for the moment. No matter how weird the last half hour has been, she still has a job to do.
Putting a careful knee in the man’s lower back, she rifles through his pockets with a quick hand. There’s no wallet or identification, unsurprisingly – but there is a cellphone, and Kara picks it up eagerly. Her own was taken from her after they threw her in the truck, and she needs to get in touch with Alex.
“What the –“ The man says groggily, waking up to the full weight of a Kryptonian pressing into the base of his spine. “Where are we?”
“Not sure,” Kara says distractedly, turning on the screen to find it locked by facial recognition software. “Somewhere on the way to wherever you were taking us, probably. Could you hold still for a second?”
She holds the phone in front of his face long enough for it to unlock, and he only seems to struggle more when he realizes what she’s doing.
“Get off me –“
“Shush,” Kara says, snapping her fingers in front of his face as she dials Alex’s number. “I have a phone call to make.”
He does stop talking, whether because he’s following her order or because he’s shocked by her brusqueness she doesn’t know. It’s usually Lena that plays bad cop, but after the day she’s had, Kara’s patience is wearing thin.
When Alex answers, Kara can hear some kind of commotion happening in the background, and she frowns. How could they possibly have known that she was kidnapped?
“Who is this?”
Alex doesn’t sound distracted, at least – she’s her regular, distrustful self as she picks up the unknown number, and Kara breathes a sigh of relief.
“Alex, hey. Sorry, I lost my –“ Kara starts, but Alex interrupts her.
“Kara? Whose phone are you using?”
“That’s an interesting question,” Kara says tactfully, “and one I absolutely will answer.”
How exactly she’s going to answer it escapes her, and Alex reacts to her long seconds of silence with wariness.
“…okay, you’re being weird,” Alex says, but thankfully whatever emergency is happening in the background takes precedence. “Well, it’s a good thing you called, because we’re getting reports of kryptonite sightings just outside the city. I’ve been trying to call you, we’re moving on the locations now –“
“Funny story,” Kara says, pressing the driver more firmly into the ground as he tries to wiggle out of her grasp and wincing as the leftover kryptonite exposure makes her bones ache. “I’m already there.”
“You’re already where?”
“At the crime scene.”
“What? Are you okay?” Alex asks, incredulous, and Kara sighs.
“I’ll tell you when you get here.”
Kara had hoped that, in the time it took Alex and her team to get to her location, she’d have thought up a better way to explain herself. But when Alex jumps out of the DEO truck and orders her agents to take care of the perps, she’s still at a complete loss.
“Okay, I’m here and you’re not in immediate danger, so,” Alex says, snapping a set of handcuffs onto the still-struggling driver while three other agents pry open the cab of the truck. “Care to explain yourself?”
“Would you believe me if I said they were unconscious when I got here?” Kara tries her most winning smile, but Alex isn’t having any of it.
“No. And I’m even less inclined to believe you when you look exhausted and there’s a set of kryptonite cuffs in the truck.”
Kara deflates. With Alex here and the perps taken care of the exhaustion of the day catches up with her all at once, and she sinks down to sit on the roadside barrier. She rubs her hands over her face, feeling leftover sweat and dust, and groans into her palms.
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“Maybe you could start with how you ended up in – hold on, is that blood on your neck?”
Under Alex’s scrutiny Kara reaches up and feels at the place Lena’s mouth was, on the left side of her neck just under her jaw. There’s no wound there, no holes that prove the whole thing wasn’t a weird kryptonite-induced fever dream, but there is indeed a streak of dried blood. Even without the marker, though, Kara knows exactly where it was – it still tingles where sharp teeth pierced the skin. A low, pleasurable hum, like a remnant of the way she felt when it was happening.
A shiver climbs up her spine at the memory, and it’s not the bad kind – in fact the experience had been one of the most intimate and acutely arousing moments of her life. If given the chance, she’d let Lena bite her again in a heartbeat. She would even ask for it, honestly. She might even call it a craving.
She has a lot to process.
Wiping away the smear of blood with a deep blush, Kara tugs Alex by the elbow and leads her to a secluded place near the treeline.
“I need to talk to you about something.”
Alex’s reaction is less than optimal.
“So you’re telling me,” Alex says tightly about ten minutes later, her fingers pinching the bridge of her nose, “That after J’onn specifically ordered you not to work with the unknown, you worked with her anyways. And you lied to us about it.”
“Uh huh,” Kara nods, and Alex continues in her damning summary of the situation.
“And, it turns out, that unknown is actually Lena Luthor. Only daughter of the person that’s hell-bent on wiping aliens from the earth.”
“Yep,” Kara says, popping the end of the word.
“And Lena Luthor is a…vampire?” Alex says, squinting up at Kara in her world-weary way. Her tone says well, this might as well happen, and Kara can’t help but agree.
“That’s pretty much it, yeah.”
“My head hurts.”
“How do you think I feel?” Kara says, unthinking. “I’m the one whose blood she drank!”
Alex’s yell of alarm makes Kara’s ears hurt, and the next 5 minutes are spent getting a full field-medic physical from her sister.
J’onn’s reaction, unfortunately, is even worse. When Kara arrives back at the DEO and lays the situation out to him he lacks Alex’s incredulity and anger, but instead he radiates a horrible, fatherly disappointment. It almost makes Kara feel guilty for lying, until she thinks about what things would have been like had she listened to his orders. If she didn’t get to see Lena regularly. In the end, it was worth it.
He takes the vampire revelation in stride, though, even shutting Alex down when she suggests tracking Lena down and bringing her to the DEO. Alex wants to do tests - Kara thinks that Lena would probably rather stake herself than allow it. And his disappointment is overtaken by interest when she tells him about Corben’s kryptonite beam, how he’s taken to calling himself Metallo and he seems to think he’s indestructible.
J’onn sends Kara away to rest, and in lieu of bringing Lena in to study Alex insists that they at least do some tests on Kara instead.
“We have no idea how this vampire thing works,” Alex insists, as she flicks on the red sun lamps and swabs Kara’s forearm to take a blood sample. “For all we know, it could be contagious.”
“I’m Kryptonian. I doubt it would affect me even if it was,” Kara says grumpily. Unlike Lena’s teeth, the needle going into her skin hurts, and she squirms as Alex draws the vials.
“Even if it doesn’t, we might be able to isolate something from your blood to study. And stop moving, you’re making it worse.” Alex eases the needle out and flicks the lamp off, and Kara relaxes as the tiny hole heals itself.
“Why do you need to study her at all?” Kara asks, rubbing at the spot while Alex seals the vials.
Alex pauses, looking at Kara like she’s asked her strangest question yet. “Are you serious? She’s just revealed that she’s a possibly dangerous new species with unknown powers.”
“She isn’t an alien,” Kara argues, and Alex sets the vials down to face her completely. “It’s not the DEO’s responsibility.”
“It’s the DEO’s responsibility to deal with Lillian, and for all we know, she’s a vampire too!” Alex fires back, and Kara hates how much the argument makes sense. “If she is, we need to know how to deal with her.”
Kara frowns, gnawing on her lip. Even if it makes sense, it still makes her stomach feel weird.
“It doesn’t feel right, without asking her permission,” Kara admits, and Alex sighs as she sits down next to Kara on the exam table.
“Look,” She starts, her tone gentler and more understanding than it’s been all day, “I know you’re sort of infatuated with her, but –“
Kara snorts, feeling a hot blush creep over her cheeks at how quickly Alex saw through her. “I am not – infatuated – we’re just –“
“But, she’s still dangerous,” Alex interrupts, waving a hand. “She’s Lex’s sister, Kara. You have no idea what her intentions are. You need to be careful. I worry about you, working with her.”
Kara wants to argue. She does know Lena’s intentions, despite what Alex thinks – she knows Lena on a level she didn’t think was possible. She’d been surrounded by her, earlier, bathed in her light. Kara knows without a doubt now that Lena is nothing like her family, and nothing will change her mind.
She has no idea how to explain that to Alex. Fortunately, she’s saved from having to by a soft knock on the lab door. Brainy pokes his head in, his face as stoic as ever but a visible excitement in his eyes.
“We found something.”
He leads them to the briefing room, where J’onn is staring intensely at something up on the screens. It looks almost like a seismograph, with a map of the city next to it scattered with red dots.
“Thanks to your confrontation with John Corben, we were able to analyze the remaining kryptonite in the air at the site. Given that this weapon is embedded in his body, I hypothesized that it would need to have a unique subatomic makeup – and I was correct.” Brainy starts typing furiously, and two different sets of data spring up on screen. They look like atomic structures, almost identical but for a few minute differences.
“So, you’re saying that it’s a…different kind of kryptonite?” Alex clarifies, and Brainy nods.
“One tailored to exist within the body, yes. Synthetic. But even so, it’s a dangerous amount for any human to be exposed to. He should be dead.”
“And if Lena isn’t human,” Alex starts with dawning realization, and J’onn nods, finishing her sentence.
“Maybe Corben isn’t, either.”
“So, what?” Kara cuts in, close to snapping at the cavalier way they’re bandying Lena’s secret around to openly. She’s already regretting telling them, but there isn’t much she can do about it now. “What does this get us, exactly?”
Brainy smiles, and with a few deft keyboard strokes the map comes back up. Several of the dots are glowing, now, and Brainy indicates them with a laser pointer he pulls out of nowhere.
“The kryptonite in his body has a unique signature, and when he uses it, it gives off radiation. It’s highly unstable, and getting more so the more he uses it. The rate of radioactive decay is really quite remarkable, he must have incredible constitution to survive it, but it will eventually break down completely.“
“Meaning?” J’onn asks tersely, and Brainy brings up a small simulation on the screen. A human figure with a chest full of kryptonite appears, and the glowing gem pulses with more and more frequency until it finally explodes. Tiny molecules disperse into the air around it, and Brainy hits pause.
“You’re telling me it’s going to blow?” Alex asks, her stance turning defensive. Brainy nods, reversing the simulation. “Do you think he knows that?”
“Eventually. And, I doubt it - the decay rate seems stable, but I hypothesize that the more he uses it, the faster it falls. He would not be using it with such frequency if he was aware. I would be curious to know what process they used to –“
“Succinctly, please, Brainy. What does this give us?” Kara interrupts again, antsy and not entirely sure why. This is all useful information and she should be happy about it, but she’s full of a jittery energy that she can’t seem to find the source of.
Brainy takes it in stride. “His synthetic kryptonite is unstable, and if he uses it we can use the signature to track him.”
Alex straightens noticeably, and even J’onn looks suddenly more alert.
“Is he still traceable right now?” Alex asks, and Brainy nods rapidly.
“Yes, but it is fading quickly. We must move fast.”
Alex is in motion immediately. “Okay, gear up. We need to find him before the trace fades, so get a team together –“
Kara’s voice is quiet, but even so the room stills. Even Brainy, whose mind can extrapolate billions of possible outcomes to any situation, looks surprised at her reticence.
Alex stares at her the hardest, looking genuinely concerned for her mental welfare. “Okay. A few weeks ago you wouldn’t wait for backup because there was a tiny chance of catching him. Now we have his location, and you won’t go?”
Kara shakes her head, not even rising from her seat.
“Not without Lena.”
It doesn’t matter how hard J’onn and Alex push - Kara can’t go without her. They’re stronger together, now, and whether Kara likes it or not, Lena’s tactical mind has rubbed off on her lately. Smoothed out some of her impatience. Going up against a man with a kryptonite heart without her would be a mistake, even with a squadron of DEO agents.
“Well then, where is she?” Alex says irritably, and Kara shrugs. She’d tried calling Lena the moment she got back to the DEO, but unsurprisingly the number was disconnected. It isn’t the first time this has happened – Kara knows she’ll find her again, somehow.
Even so, her answer is reluctant. “She destroyed her phone.”
Alex throws her hands up, clearly at the end of her rope. “Okay, well do you think that maybe she did that because she doesn’t want to be found?”
“She wants to be found, she just –“ Kara starts, but she’s cut off by a sudden, intense spike of pain in her hand. It makes her cry out in surprise as much as discomfort – she isn’t used to pain to begin with, and she’s especially not used to it when it isn’t preceded by green light. It feels like something sharp is being driven mercilessly into her thumb, and then removed just as quickly.
Alex is at her side in a heartbeat, all annoyance forgotten with Kara’s distress.
“Kara! Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
Kara swallows, staring at her perfectly intact thumb with a growing understanding.
“What was that?” J’onn asks. Kara shakes her head, still staring at the digit. The pain is still there, a sort of gentle throbbing that doesn’t distress her like it should.
“I don’t know,” Kara murmurs. “I just felt…pain.”
“She needs some time under the lamps,” Alex insists, making to pull Kara to her feet. “She’s been through too much today –“
Kara hardly notices the hands trying to pull her up. She hardly notices, because the pain disappears so suddenly that it makes her dizzy – only to be replaced by a wave of emotion so strong that she has to press a hand to her chest. It’s a potent mixture of two feelings, both almost overwhelming - fear, and adrenaline.
It’s Lena. Kara knows it with a clarity she’s never felt before – Lena is with her, somehow. She’s scared, worried over something that Kara can’t identify, but at the same time something good has happened. Something incredible.
She has no idea where Lena is hiding; but wherever she is, she’s both afraid and excited.
“No, I’m fine,” She lies, her hand still pressed to her chest as if touching the feeling might bring her closer to Lena. Her heart is pounding, and she doesn’t know whether it’s her own heartbeat or if it’s echoing another. Some part of her hopes it’s the latter. “It’s gone now.”
“Are you sure?” Alex asks, and her worry is so palpable that Kara manages a small smile.
She can feel the emotion fading like a wave receding back from shore, and she has no idea how to bring it back. Instead she turns to the three faces still gazing at her with concern, and stands up to her full height.
“I know you don’t trust her,” Kara says, projecting as much strength into her tone as she can, “But Lena is just scared. She revealed a pretty huge secret to me, and she probably assumes that you guys will want to bring her in to study.” She looks at Alex particularly pointedly, and while Alex makes a disgruntled face, Kara knows that the point is understood. “You can’t blame her for running to protect her identity.”
Alex sighs. It’s clear that she’s backing down, and Kara is glad. She’s sick of fighting with her sister.
“Well then, what do you want to do?”
“I have to find her.”
Sam’s reaction to the events of Lena’s kidnapping is more or less exactly what Lena expected.
“I leave for three days, and you get kidnapped and end up with fucking superpowers?”
Sam has been lounging on Lena’s office couch for hours now, listening to Lena recount the events of the last few days with rapt attention. Her feet are up on the coffee table, she’s on her third cup of coffee, and she looks absolutely delighted.
“Temporarily,” Lena corrects, and Sam waves a dismissive hand.
“Semantics. You drank Supergirl’s blood and it made you invincible.”
“Temporarily,” Lena says again, rolling her eyes. “And, wood still hurts me. It just heals quickly. Besides, the effects are wearing off already.”
Lena demonstrates by slowly, carefully grasping her desk by the edge and lifting it off the ground with a single arm, putting it down when her laptop is in danger of sliding off the surface. While yesterday she felt like she would have been able to lift it over her head and throw it into space, now her arm starts to shake when she lifts it a few inches. Yesterday she also started to notice that the sun was making her fatigued again, and after a quick meal from Sam when she arrived, she’s almost completely back to her natural strength. “It took me hours to figure out the right grip pressure. I don’t know how Supergirl does it 24/7.”
“How long exactly have you spent thinking about her grip pressure?” Sam says, her voice heavy with intention, and Lena points a pen at her as menacingly as she can.
“I can make it look like an accident, you know. I’m perfectly capable of murder.”
Sam just laughs, putting a throw pillow behind her head and reclining on the couch. She kicks her shoes off before putting her feet up on the white fabric, another indication that she knows Lena far too well.
“Well then, since the most pressing issue is resolving itself, how about we talk about the fact that this shouldn’t be possible?”
Lena drums her fingers on the table. This is the part of the conversation that she was dreading – Sam is too insightful for her own good, and it’s impossibly difficult to keep a secret from her for very long. But the actual experience of her connection with Kara is one that she’d rather keep to herself until she can process it, and she knows that Sam is going to pry.
“I know it shouldn’t be possible,” Lena says, rolling her neck back and forth and feeling it pop with tension. “Trust me, I’ve spent the last two days trying to figure it out.”
Sam keeps talking, her stream of thoughts directed at the ceiling. “I mean, Lex tried this, right? He tried a blood sample from Superman, and he didn’t get powers.”
“Maybe it has to do with volume,” Lena says, but even she knows it’s a half-assed hypothesis. Sam looks even more doubtful.
“I don’t know. If it was, Lex would have gotten a small amount of powers, even with a small sample. I feel like I’ve seen something like this before -”
“Or it could be because he’s inborn,” Lena says quickly, before Sam has too much time to ruin Lena’s day with her centuries of experience in previous lives. “Maybe Kryptonian powers can’t take hold in older bloodlines. Too much existing power?”
“You’re half inborn, Lena.”
That observation stings, as much as it’s the truth. Sam says it gently, as always; but after years of Lena being told by everyone else around her that she’s an aberration, any attention pointed at her abnormal blood status always makes her bristle.
“Yes, okay, I’m a freak of nature,” Lena snaps, turning her chair to look out the window lest her stupid watering eyes betray her. “Thank you for the reminder.”
“You know I don’t care about that,” Sam says, her voice soft and matter-of-fact. “I’m just saying the theory doesn’t really make sense.”
Lena nods, still tense. Sam looks thoughtful, all of a sudden.
”Have you considered that maybe it’s that Lex wasn’t powerful enough?” She asks, and Lena frowns. “I mean technically, you’re like...double vampire, right? Maybe it’s the combination of your inborn blood and your given powers that gives you the strength to handle Kryptonian abilities. Maybe Lex couldn’t handle it.”
“That certainly isn’t the way my mother sees it,” Lena grumbles. The idea of Lena, a stain on the family name and a half-breed, being more powerful than her precious Lex? Lillian would have a fit.
Sam makes a face. “Since when do I give a shit how your mother sees it?”
Lena huffs out a laugh at that. It’s true that her blood sets her apart from any other vampire - it’s a good a theory as any, and one that is considerably less worrying than the other theory that’s been bouncing around in her head. The one that tells her it’s something more like destiny.
Slowly Lena calms herself down, gets herself under control, and Sam knows enough to let her do it in peace. Only when Lena’s shoulders have completely relaxed does Sam ask her next question.
“What did it feel like, when it happened?”
Even while Sam’s soft tone makes Lena’s hackles go down, she still has no idea how to respond. This is the part of the whole experience that she’s been avoiding at all costs. Her mind had connected with Kara’s, she can’t deny it now – and even with all her years of being a vampire, it’s something she’s never experienced before. Lena doesn’t know how to even begin to describe how it felt, and she certainly isn’t comfortable trying.
“It was – normal,” she says tightly, shrugging. “Fine. But whatever it is that made this happen, I doubt it’ll happen twice.”
Lena is relieved when Sam follows the latter part of that sentence rather than the former, even if her next line of inquiry is almost as stressful.
“So, why not co-ordinate with Supergirl?” Sam asks unhelpfully. “You could be a pretty unstoppable team, if you used this to your advantage.”
“She works for the government,” Lena is quick to answer. It’s the excuse she’s used to justify keeping her distance from Supergirl up until this point, and she can only hope that it holds up. “Besides, she doesn’t know how to contact me anymore.”
“Lena!” Sam says, sitting up and levelling her with a disappointed frown. “Did you destroy your phone again?”
Lena shrugs it off, putting a little steel in her tone. “If she runs her mouth to her little shadow cell and my mother finds out, I’ll be tried for exposure and thrown into jail with Lex.”
She should know by now that Sam won’t be dissuaded by a little berating. She’s stubborn to a fault, and it seems like the newest crusade she’s taken on is pushing Lena towards Supergirl.
“You know what might stop that from happening?” Sam says, in a tone that makes Lena’s jaw clench. “Talking to her about it like an adult.”
Sam is right, as always. And Lena knows, deep in her bones, that Kara wouldn’t let anything bad happen to her. She saw it, felt that deep-seated protective instinct when their minds touched. But the absolute, warm sureness of that knowledge, and the manner in which Lena got it, is even more frightening than the possibility of Supergirl telling the world that she’s a vampire. For now, Lena needs space. Kara will find her again eventually, she’s sure – and she’d prefer to have her head on straight when she does. In the meantime, Lena has other things to take care of.
As the last vestiges of her new powers disappear, Lena ignores Sam’s advice to talk to Supergirl. Instead she builds a kryptonite sampling device, and she tracks down Manchester Black.
It isn’t an arranged meeting this time. Manchester hasn’t reached out to her, likely too wary after their first interaction, and Lena instead does things the old-fashioned way – she covers up her face, and she tracks him down herself. The amount of work and subterfuge that it takes makes her briefly miss the ease of working with Supergirl – the benefit of having someone on your side with the authority to just walk up to anyone and ask them questions is one she didn’t realize she had gotten used to. But in the end she tracks him to a human nightclub downtown, following from the shadows as he paces restlessly up and down a side alley.
He seems nervous, and Lena frowns as a side door opens nearby. The pulsing bass of the club spills out, and Manchester slips past whoever held the door open to enter silently. Lena is at the door in an instant, throwing a hand out to keep it from closing and ducking into the building to follow.
The cacophony inside is almost too much for her. Kara’s powers are still working their way out of her system, and paired with her already hyper-tuned senses, the club music feels like it’s drilling into her skull. The lights are both dim and flashing, and her pupils can’t seem to decide which to adapt to – but she can still spot Manchester, weaving his way through the crowd and towards the back office.
Lena gets a sinking suspicion what he’s here for when he greets the two men standing guard with a sleeper hold.
Corben isn’t here, Lena knows. He rarely makes appearances, especially not at dingy human nightclubs. But this seems like just the kind of place he would own, a perfect locale to exercise his control over the drug trade in National City. It might be that an important player in his outfit is here, and Manchester is targeting him.
Manchester takes the guards out easily, and doesn’t even bother to hide their unconscious bodies before he’s stepping into the office.
“Fucking typical,” Lena mutters, pulling her scarf up over her face and hauling one of the guards up onto her shoulder. He’s deadweight, but Lena heaves him up easily and grabs the second motionless body by the back of his leather jacket. “Men. Charge in, and don’t even clean up the mess. Worse than Supergirl.”
After binding and depositing them in a maintenance closet, Lena grabs the handle to the office door only to find it locked. With an irritated huff she backs up a few inches, and mustering whatever is left of Supergirl’s powers, throws her shoulder into the wood.
It flies open in a shower of splinters, revealing a bloody Manchester laid out on the tile floor and a hulking blonde man standing over him holding a gun.
Lena springs into action immediately. Perhaps Kara’s punch-first-ask-questions-later style has rubbed off on her, because she finds that she doesn’t have much desire to play this the smart way – she could have gone into the rafters, could have listened at the door, could have done any number of things besides break the door down and put the target in a chokehold. But she went with her instincts, and she’s starting to see the draw of Supergirl’s method. In a crisis, at least.
“You’re going to get yourself in trouble, sneaking into back rooms unarmed,” Lena pants, as the man in her grip relaxes into unconsciousness. He hits the floor like a sack of bricks, and she offers a hand to help Manchester to his feet. “Have you ever thought of a less suicidal approach?”
“He’s on Corben’s payroll,” Manchester grumbles, wiping the blood from his face. It looks like he got the butt of the gun to his nose, and he doesn’t have the ability to heal himself like Lena does. “I was gonna get a location out of him. It didn’t need to get violent unless he gave it a reason to.”
“Which he did.”
Manchester grunts in response.
While he dusts off his bruised pride, Lena closes the door and wedges a chair against the broken handle. With that done she ties the club manager’s hands and feet, and nudges him until he’s hidden under the desk.
“Corben is only the start of the problem, you know. Even if you get rid of everyone in his operation, more will replace them eventually. There’s always going to be fae who are willing to sell themselves for Luthor money.”
“So, I take down the Luthors,” Manchester answers easily. Lena shakes her head.
“Lillian is over a thousand years old, and surrounded by allies. You have a scrappy group of insurgent wolves.”
Manchester steps into her space, then. He practically towers over her, looking straight down in a clear attempt to intimidate, and his voice lowers to a growl.
“What’s to say you’re not the one I should be getting rid of?”
Lena quirks a brow at him, unimpressed by the display and not shy about showing it.
“You’d only be doing Lillian a favour. Trust me.”
It’s among the most truthful things she’s ever said to him. To anyone, really. She has no doubt that Lillian would feel nothing but relief if she was gone, especially at the hands of someone she could so easily scapegoat – relief, and perhaps a sliver of disappointment at losing her scientific mind. Perhaps the truth in her voice is bigger than she thought, because Manchester goes from angry to wary as Lena holds his gaze coldly.
“Why do you want Corben gone?” Manchester asks. “Why him specifically? What do you get out of this?”
Lena purses her lips. “He’s the only link I have to my mother’s inner circle. I know the parts of the city she controls, but not who her puppets are – except for him. If I can get more details out of him, I can start to disassemble the rest of her influence.”
“So you want an interrogation. Not an arrest.”
Lena shrugs. “Ideally, I’d like him out of the picture. His outfit gives my mother more power, and harms pretty much everyone else. But I have no right or authority to arrest anyone. Not him, and not you.”
Manchester considers this silently, and it’s Lena that breaks the stand-off with a sigh.
“Look, you and I have aligning objectives. You have the drive, I have the means. And I know you’re a good person, with a good goal, despite what Supergirl wants to take you in for.”
Manchester looks down at her, jaw tight, for a few seconds – and then he breaks away, swearing under his breath. He paces a few times, and Lena waits quietly for him to settle himself.
“I didn’t kill that guy, you know,” he finally says, taking a seat at the edge of the desk. The manager Lena knocked out is still lying prone underneath it, but he pays him no mind. “The one everyone says I did. Don’t get me wrong – I probably would have, after all the humans and wolves he killed or tricked into prison. He deserved it. But Corben killed him. Right in front of me. His own guy. Trying to make people distrust me.”
The revelation is a bit of a surprise, but honestly Lena isn’t overly shocked. In fact, it makes more sense than anything else – while she doesn’t doubt that he’s capable of murder if given a big enough injustice, she’s always gotten the feeling that he’s more similar to her than appearances might show. Trapped in the chains of thousands of years of societal tradition, and trying to break the mould however he can.
“Well,” Lena says, willing her voice to be neutral. “Unfortunately, it worked. Supergirl doesn’t trust you.”
The question isn’t accusatory. It seems genuine, and after a moment’s pause Lena answers honestly.
“I don’t trust very many people. But I think I could.”
Manchester seems to take that into consideration, looking at Lena with piercing eyes.
Lena chuckles drily. “I’ve learned recently that my method doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need a blunt approach. Just…in balance with strategy, wherever possible. Neither is better than the other, but they work better together. We would work better together.”
At the second mention of the Girl of Steel, Manchester’s posture turns defensive again. “It sounds an awful lot like you’re working with Supergirl. She wants me arrested. How do I know you aren’t just trying to turn me in?”
“Supergirl is a means to an end,” Lena says, her voice much more firm than her actual conviction on the subject. “And you can’t argue that this city loves her. We need someone like that to turn public opinion on Lillian.”
“And…” Lena adds begrudgingly at Manchester’s silence, “I think that if she really knew the injustice you’re fighting, and the structure of the fae? She’d be on your side. She’s self-righteous sometimes, but she isn’t quite as black and white as you think.”
Manchester is quiet, but she can practically see the gears turning. His fingers are tapping restlessly against the surface of the desk, and Lena pushes her advantage while she has him thoughtful.
“Everything my mother does is secretive. Hidden, and carefully covered up. She’s evaded every other attempt at taking her down, and trust me, there have been several. We have to be different. At the end of the day, some aspects of Lillian’s hold on this city have to be dismantled like a bomb, and you and Supergirl are going at it with a sledgehammer. We need both.”
Manchester shakes his head. “So, what’s your suggestion? I just sit back and let it happen?”
“No,” Lena says carefully, “my suggestion is that you let me help you. But to do that, you have to work with me. We have to trust each other.”
Manchester scoffs, pushing off from the desk to stand at full height. “A wolf, working for a Luthor. Seems like a familiar mistake.”
Lena grits her teeth. It’s only by the grace of the fact that he’s now smiling that she doesn’t snap – he’s amenable, now, and with him on her side she might not even need to enlist Supergirl’s help. She has to keep her temper in check.
“Working with a Luthor. Not for. I’m here to help you succeed in what you want,” She says instead. “And, someone will need to fill the power vacuum that Corben leaves. Someone needs to take a leadership role with the other fae in this city. I think you can do that.”
Lena holds her hand out in a clear offer, and hopes for the best.
Quite honestly, Lena isn’t completely sure of her ability to get rid of Lillian. Especially while she’s still avoiding Supergirl. But Manchester can help, and the only way to get him to trust her is confidence, and he’s finally looking at her with an appraising eye rather than a distrustful one.
When he finally accepts her gesture with a firm shake, Lena has to fight not to let out a relieved breath.
“How do you suggest we go about it, then?” he asks briskly. He’s right down to business, and Lena appreciates it even given the non-ideal location. The clock is ticking on how long these men will stay unconscious.
“Corben has a weakness,” Lena says, and Manchester looks more interested than before. “A chest full of kryptonite that’s slowly poisoning him.”
“What?” Manchester says, the interest morphing into horror. Lena shrugs.
“My mother’s technology, no doubt. If I can get a sample, I can use it to weaken him. I need your help for that.”
Manchester, likely due to his revulsion at Corben’s self-mutilation, seems even more eager to help after that information is revealed. They make a loose plan to meet again in two days, and they manage to slip out of the office just before two more large-set men round the corner. She can hear them talking as she elbows her way across the dance floor, wondering where the two men on duty are, and before they can think to try the broken door handle she practically throws Manchester out the side door they both entered from.
They part ways with a silent nod. Lena turns in the direction of the garage where her car is parked with a spring in her step, buoyed by the feeling of a job well done – and before she’s taken two steps it’s completely obliterated by a random stab of deep, primal fear.
It’s the kind of fear that she thought she’d forgotten. It steals her breath with no apparent source, leaves her clutching the nearby brick wall for support as she struggles not to hyperventilate, like an invisible fist is crushing her chest. The spiralling beginnings of a panic attack.
She hasn’t felt this kind of terror since the day she was turned.
As quickly as it came, the fear is gone in a wave of knee-buckling relief. It courses through her, lets her catch her breath again and stand back to her full height as she rubs at her chest like she can somehow reach in and find the source. The relief is just as powerful as the panic, and both ease off the more deep breaths Lena takes.
“What the hell?”
By the time she gets home, she’s physically exhausted in a way she rarely feels. While vampires need markedly less sleep than most other species, she does usually get a few hours between dawn and heading off to work, and right now she feels like she could collapse for a full 8. She’s tired physically and emotionally, worn out by a burst of fear she can’t identify, and she flicks on the TV as she steps out of her shoes and leaves them where they lie. It flickers to life, and she moves on to making herself a cup of tea. The caffeine will have no effect, but the act of drinking it is one of the few comforting holdovers from her childhood that she still clings to.
Once the kettle is full and heating on the stove, she turns back to the TV only to see the exact blonde hair and red cape she’s been trying to avoid.
It’s news footage from earlier tonight – about a half hour ago, according to the anchor. The volume is low so Lena can’t catch what the anchor is saying, but she can see Supergirl fighting with a man in some kind of mech-suit that Lena has never seen before. The suit looks haphazard, the workmanship shoddy, and Lena is sure that Kara had no trouble. She looks just as heroic as always, but she’s less showy than Lena is used to seeing on the news. She’s hardly even in frame half the time, keeping out of sight and then darting in when the man is searching for her.
She’s using Lena’s techniques.
The thought makes her feel confusingly warm, and she turns the volume up as more of a distraction than anything else.
“ –untold levels of destruction,” the anchor is saying, looking gravely into the camera as the footage plays behind her. “Supergirl managed to subdue the man, but not before he toppled almost an entire industrial complex.”
The screen flicks to the mech-suit man having a punch-up with Supergirl. She doesn’t look bothered by his hits, but she’s clearly trying to subdue him without causing him serious injury – at least, until a beam of plasma shoots from his suit and takes a chunk out of the building they’re fighting in the wreckage of. The concrete falls not on Supergirl, but on one of the black-suited special agents backing her up. The woman’s auburn hair disappears in the rubble, and like a switch has been flipped Supergirl becomes a blur, rounding up the sad attempt at taking her on and then rushing to the fallen concrete. She lifts it as easily as a human would a piece of Styrofoam, digging through furiously until she pulls the battered but alive woman out of the debris with a look of relief so palpable that Lena can feel it through the grainy newsreel.
This person must be important to her. In those moments of film Lena can feel the echo of the fear from earlier, and the relief that chased it away.
“Looks like another day of heavy property damage here in National City,” The anchor says, and Lena turns the TV off as the footage disappears and they move on to the next news story.
Kara had been scared, half an hour ago. Lena saw it with her own eyes, and she’s becoming more and more sure that she felt it, as well. She can almost feel it again just by remembering the look on Supergirl’s face.
It’s getting much harder to put things in boxes.
Over the next day, it’s all she can think about. The coverage is playing again on the TV in the small waiting room outside her office, and Lena clenches her jaw as the feeling echoes again. She can’t escape it anywhere. Not in her home, and not at work. Supergirl is haunting her every waking hour.
“Can you turn that thing off, Jess?” She snaps, her voice much harsher than she intended. Jess blanches, reaching into her desk and doing as she’s asked with a wounded expression.
“Someone’s cranky,” Jess mutters, and Lena feels guilty the moment it leaves her mouth. Jess is the best assistant she’s ever had, a hardworking shapeshifter who has done nothing but plan her day perfectly and volunteer to help with any project Lena feels right trusting her with since she was hired a few years ago. Lately Lena would even go so far as to call her a friend, her only friend in the world next to Sam, and she doesn’t deserve to be yelled at for Lena’s life issues.
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be cross,” Lena says more gently, rubbing her temples. “The noise was just getting to me.”
Jess’ expression turns sympathetic, and it makes the guilt in Lena’s gut ease a little. “I get it. You do seem tired, Miss Luthor. Do you need me to clear any of your appointments?”
“No, I’ll be fine. Thank you.”
With that she steps into her office and shuts the door firmly before her too-perceptive assistant can ask her any more questions, pressing her forehead to the wood with a weary sigh.
The day passes slower than any Lena can remember. It seems like as soon as she manages to focus on something, it slips away and gets replaced by the same thoughts that kept her up all night. Her fingers hitting the keyboard aren’t just ambient clacking – they whisper Kara, Kara, Kara, until Lena brings up a new incognito window and types in a search before she can talk herself out of it.
It’s a word she’s been so afraid to use that she hasn’t even let it enter her mind, until now. The concept of soulmates is one she’s familiar with, one that’s hung around the fae since long before she became a part. The idea of two people tied together by a magical bond, unbreakable and unavoidable. Two destinies that can’t be separated. But it’s one that’s fallen by the wayside, talked about rarely and almost never positively, and to her knowledge most people don’t actually believe it exists anymore. A vestigial concept, shed long ago.
The first things that appear in her search engine are encyclopedic descriptions. Soulmate, the dictionary site tells her: a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner.
Lena rolls her eyes. No shit. She keeps scrolling past clickbait articles and terrible poetry, her eyes scanning over the page quickly as if she’s worried about someone reading over her shoulder. Having Sam catch her reading about soulmates like a fawning teenager would be mortifying.
The first thing that makes her stop is an article titled The History of Soulmates. It’s the first not written by Buzzfeed or an equivalent, and she clicks only after looking over her shoulder around her empty office.
Soulmates, the article posits, are a concept as old as human culture. Among its sources is Plato, who suggested that humans were actually originally beings with four arms and four legs, two heads and two hearts – bound together, and almost as powerful as the Greek gods. Zeus, afraid of their potential, split them apart – and ever since, humans have spent their lives searching for the part of themselves that they lost.
“Each one longed for its other half, and so they would throw their arms about each other, weaving themselves together,” Lena mutters, reading along with the quote with interest. There’s something in that, despite the source being an ancient philosopher that Lena has never put much stock in. Weaving themselves together. It certainly felt like that, when her mind met Kara’s.
Of course neither of them are human, but it’s an interesting thought nonetheless.
Lillian had told her, once, that most human mythology is simply based on fae exercising their powers in public. Even if there’s some truth to that, rooted in ancient fae, Lena is loath to believe that there’s truth to this too. It’s too romantic a concept for her to put much stock into, no matter how strange her connection with Supergirl is.
It helps that Lillian has also always told her that the soulmate principle is an old wives tale, one that higher vampire society has always ignored in favour of aristocratic interbreeding. Completely ridiculous, her mother said when Lena was still young and naive enough to ask stupid questions; concocted to justify branching out from old bloodlines, marrying for love. She said it with poison in her tone, as if love is a concept she’s too good for.
She certainly never showed any to Lena.
Exiting the article, she clicks on the next instead. Soulmates and Science. Maybe a nice debunk article to make her feel better, if she’s lucky.
She is not lucky.
Instead, the article is deep and well-researched in a way she didn’t expect. It approaches soulmates not from the perspective of history or even romance, but something that Lena understands much better - quantum entanglement. Two particles existing in a tied state, being inexorably connected, unable to be described without each other. Any action made by or upon one is reflected in the other. Translate particles to the intangible medium of souls, the article claims, and you get the principle of soulmates.
In the back of her mind she can hear Kara, kicking at the ground and talking about quantum mechanics just weeks ago. She runs through each of the strange bursts of emotion or sensation she’s felt since they met, cataloging them like a lab report, and somehow the scientific lens helps. When operating in the realm of magic, rooting herself in science takes away some of the helplessness of a force she can’t control.
Either way, she exits the browser.
She doesn’t want to think about the connotations of hearing Kara’s voice in her head. About the stories she used to hear whispered on the periphery, about the magic of soulmates meeting. About how your match’s blood will taste like wine, and nobody else will ever compare. How soulmates are often so deeply intertwined that they can hear each other’s thoughts.
Research was a bad idea. It does not help her concentration, and she’s still turning it over and over in her mind like a worry stone when she meets with Manchester that night.
The plan, once they take an hour or two to work it out, is simple. Irritatingly, Lena actually finds that she’s taking inspiration from Supergirl – they need to get Corben’s attention, draw him out and goad him into using his power. The easiest way to do so is to use the weeks of intel she’s gathered to target each of his most important operations, set some traps, and do some damage.
As they set off each part of the plan, Lena is alarmed to find herself missing Supergirl’s presence. Manchester Black is a good ally, but he’s impetuous and headstrong, and not nearly as effective as Kara. He bucks her authority, he doesn’t always follow her instructions, and it gets people hurt. Namely, Lena.
The plan works, technically speaking. It only takes lighting his biggest isolated meth lab on fire (after having Manchester clear the condemned building) before he turns up, scrambling out of his sleek car and swearing up a storm over the roaring flames and occasional explosions. Manchester is to egg him on, keep him subdued until he uses his secret weapon. Lena will take a sample of the residue from whatever surface is closest, and they’ll both bolt in different directions. Easy and elegant.
What was not in the plan was Manchester shifting into wolf form, prompting Corben to do the same.
Corben’s wolfish body still has the glowing kryptonite beam buried in his fur, which is a relief. But in this form he doesn’t seem keen on using it, and the confrontation amounts to two dogs snapping at each other’s throats while Lena watches with mounting frustration.
At least Supergirl followed directions.
Even with the plan going to hell, Lena came here for one purpose, and she’s going to fulfill it. She pulls her scarf up over her face, and the moment she sees Manchester getting the upper hand and pinning Corben to the ground, she sprints forward and digs a knee into his furry neck.
“Hold still –“ she grunts, half to Manchester and half to her target. Corben is resisting with all his strength, and Lena needs to use both hands to dig her testing device into his chest. Even if it means taking a face full of kryptonite, she needs to trigger it somehow. He yowls as she digs into what she can now see is some kind of crystal, and it glows brighter and brighter until it burns, scorches her eyes and the skin of her hands –
She gets what she wants, and she also gets thrown clear across a parking lot by a nuclear reaction of searing green energy.
For a moment, her whole world is emerald. The kryptonite doesn’t poison her like it would Supergirl, but it was still dangerous levels of radiation being blasted at her point-blank, and it takes her a few seconds to get her bearings. She’s on her back on the pavement, and as she struggles to roll over and get a look at where Corben was, she feels it.
Kara is nearby – and she’s scared.
It’s not the knee-buckling fear of last night. It’s more the anxiety of not knowing what’s happening than the pointed terror she remembers, but it’s intense, and it’s close by. Corben is gone, and Manchester is lying motionless in the grass nearby in human form, and she needs to go before Kara arrives with a million questions.
With what remains of her strength she struggles to her feet, throws Manchester over her shoulder in a firemen’s carry, and throws him into the backseat of Corben’s still-idling car. He left the keys in the ignition, and Lena takes full advantage as she steps on the gas and speeds back towards the city.
She’s going well past the posted limit on the highway when Manchester groans somewhere in the back. Lena can see him moving in the rearview mirror, and the moment he opens his eyes she lets him know exactly what she thinks of his little diversion.
“What the fuck were you thinking?”
“I’m more powerful as a wolf,” he grumbles, squinting at the lights passing them in the opposite lane. “I thought it’d help. Where are we?”
“We’re in the getaway car. You’re welcome, by the way.” Now that they’re clear of the scene and Manchester is awake, Lena digs into her coat pocket to find her device. She can tell without looking at it that it’s worked – it feels hot in her palm, and it helps to settle her nerves. They got what they came for, at least.
Manchester sits up slowly, rubbing his head. “You asked for my help, and I helped.”
“You didn’t follow the plan.”
“You don’t know everything, Luthor. I followed my instincts.”
Lena sighs, and she’s turning in her seat to retort when the ambient anxiety she’s been feeling since they left the burning building explodes into a very pointed, very familiar excitement. Like a piece of a puzzle has been figured out.
With sudden clarity Lena reaches up to her neck, only to find bare skin.
Her scarf is gone. She had it up when she pinned Corben. It must have come off in the blast, and been left behind somewhere at the scene, where Kara has undoubtedly arrived after she found out about the major building fire and a kryptonite explosion.
Kara knows she was there.
“Just…try to listen to me, next time,” She says distractedly, rubbing hard at her chest. “We got lucky. When we actually take Corben out, we can’t afford any mistakes.”
His acceptance is grudging. She drops him off downtown – he smartly refuses to give her an address, simply directing her to drive and then stop in the middle of traffic so he can get out – and then immediately ditches the car in a parking garage and goes to Sam’s.
Given that it’s almost 3 in the morning by the time she gets there, Sam is passed out on the couch with the TV muted when she arrives. With a relieved sigh Lena turns the volume back on and collapses on the couch next to her, stretching her sore muscles out. She can still feel the jarring radiation in her bones, like a buzz in her teeth, and briefly she wonders how on earth Corben manages with it coursing through his system at all times.
Sam jerks awake quickly at the noise of the late-night infomercials suddenly blasting through the living room. She glances around with bleary eyes, relaxing when she sees Lena sitting next to her and throwing an arm over her face to shield it from the light Lena flicked on.
“I thought you said you were going to start calling first?” Sam mumbles, and Lena shrugs.
“You’ve told me many times not to use my phone while I’m driving.”
“Dashboard speakers,” Sam groans.
“I was in a stolen car, I didn’t exactly have time to hook up the Bluetooth –“
Sam’s eyes snap open, and she twists her neck to look up at Lena with an incredulous expression. “You stole a car?”
“It’s Corben’s fault for leaving it running.”
Sam is much more alert for the rest of the conversation, and Lena explains the events of the night while she makes them both tea. By the end of it Sam is shaking her head, which Lena is steadfastly ignoring by focusing on cooling her drink.
“It sounds like it was almost a disaster. This would all go smoother if you just called Supergirl,” Sam says matter-of-factly, and Lena stops blowing on her tea to huff.
“I’m not calling her.”
Sam rolls her eyes. She’s well versed in Lena’s stubbornness, but this is on another level, and they both know it. “Why not? What are you so afraid of?”
“I’m not afraid,” Lena insists, her hands jerking with the desire to gesture wildly. She’s always talked with her hands when she’s nervous, and Sam looks down at them while tea sloshes out and onto her fingers. Lena hisses at the heat of it.
“I’ve known you a long time, Lena,” Sam says, quiet but firm. “You can’t lie to me.”
“I just…” Lena deflates slightly, putting her mug down and drying her hands on her pants. “I can’t be around her right now.”
After a few moments of consideration, Sam nods. With her usual easy manner it’s often easy to forget that Sam has had countless lifetimes and can remember each one, the knowledge of centuries compounded into a wisdom most people can’t imagine – but there are moments when Lena can practically feel the weight of it between them, when Sam very clearly exercises her experience.
Right now is one of those moments, and Lena can feel it crushing her.
“I respect your decision, even if I think it’s a bad one,” Sam says, taking a careful sip of tea. “I just wish you’d tell me why.”
Sam isn’t frustrated. She isn’t angry, or annoyed, or any of the emotions Lena would be feeling were the situation reversed. It’s like she’s just waiting, a rock of calm reassurance that Lena finds herself clinging to in the wake of these weeks of chaos. Gathering her courage, her heart pounding, she asks the question she’s been burning to ask ever since she and Kara met.
“What do you know about soulmate theory?”
Sam traces a finger around the rim of her tea mug, regarding Lena neutrally.
“Why do you ask?”
Sam doesn’t sound surprised, or even curious. She sounds like she’s waiting for Lena to admit something she already knows. Lena swallows thickly, staring down into her tightly-clasped hands. Her knuckles are white, the blood loss spreading slowly to her fingers as she squeezes hard enough to shake.
She doesn’t feel capable of talking without starting to cry, and Sam seems to know it.
“Well, it’s ancient,” Sam finally says, setting her mug next to Lena’s and settling in more comfortably on the couch. “As ancient as the fae, at least. It was honoured for a long time as the most revered magic in existence. The purest form of energy.”
“I’ve always heard it’s bullshit,” Lena says, unable to help but deflect the confirmation of all her fears. “An excuse used to get out of arranged marriages.”
Sam rolls her eyes. “Did Lillian tell you that?”
“Does that matter?”
“It does, actually. People like her don’t like to admit that soulmates exist, because it inconveniences their politics and bloodlines. Fae sometimes end up with human soulmates, and it makes the traditionalists scared.”
Lena finally looks up, meeting Sam’s even gaze. “So, you’re saying…they’re real?”
“Absolutely,” Sam says, and the last fraying thread of hope Lena has held finally snaps. She doesn’t actually know Sam’s exact cumulative age, but she knows that her friend’s soul is likely older than Lex. Even Lillian. She knows more than Lena can comprehend, and she always tells the truth. “It’s incredibly rare, and even more so for two soulmates to actually find each other. But it happens.”
“So you’ve seen it?” Lena asks, her voice thick and quiet. “In a past life?”
“I’ve lived it. More than once.”
There’s a heaviness that descends on Sam’s voice, then, that takes Lena aback. They’ve had serious conversations before but she’s never seen her like this – her eyes get distant, and Lena can almost see her attention getting further away.
“You mean…” Lena asks, her heart in her throat, and Sam nods.
“I have one.”
Lena lets that sink in for a few seconds. Sam seems to be somewhere else entirely, and Lena is left to compare her own mixed-up feelings to Sam’s new information.
“How do you know?” Lena finally asks, and Sam breaks her reverie to look at her. “I mean, how can you tell it isn’t just normal love? Or infatuation?” Lena has never really felt what most people describe as romantic love, after all. There’s no way she should be expected to know.
Sam’s reaction isn’t comforting. She chuckles, but there’s a sadness behind it that Lena rarely sees. “I know. Trust me.”
Sam looks so distant, so devastatingly sad, that Lena’s curiosity gets the better of her.
“Who is she?”
Finally, Sam’s smile reaches her eyes.
“Another Old Soul,” she explains, her voice filling to the brim with deep affection. “We’ve known hundreds of iterations of each other, a hundred lifetimes together and still it never feels like enough. Especially because I don’t meet her every time.”
Lena listens quietly, offering an encouraging nod, and Sam keeps talking. It’s as if opening up this avenue has her reminiscing over something both painful and joyous, and for the first time in her life Lena can understand the feeling.
Lena knows that Sam is single, no soulmate in sight yet during this lifetime, and she can feel the yearning coming off her in waves.
“The ones without her always feel…lacking. You know?” Sam says, pulling a throw blanket into her lap and pulling at the threads of it. “Sort of empty. Especially when I know she’s out there, somewhere. But sometimes, we do meet, and it’s –“
Sam cuts herself off with a shaky breath, and Lena is alarmed to see that she’s crying. Silent tears track slowly down her face, and she wipes at them almost distractedly as Lena reaches out a tentative hand. It covers Sam’s, and her friend smiles warmly at the awkward but well-intentioned gesture.
“What’s her name?” Lena asks, and Sam shrugs.
“It’s different every time. We look different every time, reincarnate as different people – but we always know.”
The warmth in Sam’s voice trails off into melancholy, and Lena gives her a moment to collect herself. When she finally speaks again, Lena wishes that she hadn’t.
“Why are you asking me this?”
It’s abundantly clear that Sam knows exactly why. The question pierces Lena like an arrow, hitting a perfect bullseye, and she knows it’s a matter of time before everything is out in the open.
Doesn’t stop her from resisting, though.
“You’re a scientist. You never ask anything for no reason.”
Lena purses her lips, stealing the throw blanket from Sam and starting to tear it apart herself just to have something to do with her hands. Sam lets it happen, but not without badgering her first.
“Lena, just admit it.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Lena insists, staring down at the threads now littering her lap. Sam nudges her with a foot.
“Clearly it does, if you swallowed your pride enough to ask.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Lena clarifies, feeling her anxiety spike, dramatically, “because it would never work.”
“Because!” Lena finally snaps, the buildup of Sam’s gentle style of interrogation finally exploding out of her. “She’s – she’s insufferable, for one. She’s preachy, and impulsive, and she’s part of a family that mine tried to destroy. She’s so – so perfect, and good, and everything people think I should hate. For fuck’s sake, she’s powered by the one thing that hurts me!”
By the end of it Lena is almost hyperventilating, and Sam puts a quick hand on her back. She rubs small, soothing circles and makes quiet sounds over the white noise of the TV until Lena can breathe again.
Once she has a handle on herself, Sam drops the bomb.
“Your soulmate is Supergirl.”
Lena’s answer is completely reflexive, slipping out through sheer emotional exhaustion.
“Her name is Kara.”
Saying it, finally admitting it out loud, is like the biggest exhale Lena has ever felt. All the tension leaves her body at once, and when she slumps back against the back of the couch with tears of sheer relief in her eyes, Sam puts a firm arm around her. It actually makes her feel better this time, strangely.
“How did you know?” Lena asks tiredly. Sam just smiles.
“You once described her as a beacon.”
Lena laughs, rubbing her hands hard over her face. “That’s all it took?”
“That, and your tone. I know that feeling. That pull.”
“Yes, well,” Lena sighs, pressing her fingers against her eyelids. The pressure helps to centre her. “Beacon is an understatement.”
Sam stays quiet, and Lena reluctantly elaborates.
“When I fed on her, I…I heard her thoughts. Felt her, in my head. Her…soul, I suppose.”
Lena’s eyes are still stubbornly closed, but she can feel the movement of Sam’s nod. “When you met, did it feel like a shock? Like a live wire just got put into your brain stem?”
Lena’s silence speaks volumes, and Sam nods again. Lena lets her hands slide back down into her lap, and focuses on the TV in front of them. Some ridiculous infomercial for a product nobody needs. Sam speaks over it, and even if Lena isn’t looking at her she can picture the look on her face.
“If you think she’s your soulmate, you should look into it. It’s not the kind of thing you just throw aside.”
Lena shakes her head silently, and for the first time during this whole conversation, Lena can hear frustration bleed into Sam’s tone.
“I know you have a hard time letting people in, but if there’s anything that proves you can trust her –”
“I won’t let some stupid magic theory make my life decisions for me again!” Lena says vehemently, her voice betraying her and starting to shake with emotion. Sam looks taken aback.
“What are you talking about?”
Lena takes a few breath, trying and failing to even herself out.
“Do you know how many choices I’ve had taken away from me because of magic?” Lena finally says, her voice raising with every painfully truthful word. “I was born something I didn’t choose, and then I was made something I didn’t choose, and everything that’s happened to me since has been forced on me. None of my choices are choices at all, just attempts to survive with the stupid lot I was given!”
Sam absorbs her outburst quietly; and after managing to keep herself from crying thus far, Lena finally breaks. She swipes the tears away angrily, frustrated at her lack of control, but they just keep coming.
“I’m not having another choice taken from me,” she says brokenly, and Sam’s arm tightens around her shoulders. “I won’t accept it.”
“I understand,” Sam says, squeezing Lena’s arm. “Truly. I’m sorry that I pushed.”
Lena accepts the tissue Sam offers her, blowing her nose into it pathetically and sighing. “It’s fine. Can we just…not talk about it for a while?”
She’s never been more grateful for silence. Before she goes to sleep Sam makes her a bed on the couch and Lena spends the dawn hours there, staring at the ceiling and running circles over what Sam told her.
Kara is her soulmate.
This is the last thing she needs right now, when she’s trying to get something important accomplished that doesn’t involve Kara – so, she doesn’t think about it. She doesn’t think about it every time she feeds and it doesn’t feel satisfying anymore, and she doesn’t think about it every time she sees Supergirl for the next week.
And she sees Supergirl more than once. After that night the hero haunts Lena’s steps, shadows her in a way she can only describe as dogged. She seems to learn more of Lena’s habits every day, shows up all the places Lena would normally go, but Lena has studied the art of not being seen for too long – she slips into shadows, blends into crowds, starts commotions that end with Supergirl being mobbed by fans so that she can escape.
It’s a game of cat and mouse, and one that Lena needs to win. She’s having enough trouble figuring out a way to weaken Corben with the sample she took as it is, with her lack of access to a lab that her mother doesn’t keep obsessive tabs on, and the distraction of having to evade Supergirl at every turn doesn’t help.
For a while, her techniques work. But at the end of the week she gets a harsh reminder of something that she’d been too focused on the soulmate conundrum to give much thought to, before – that when she escaped the truck crash after the kidnapping disaster, Kara had called her Lena.
Kara knows her real name.
It’s like a bucket of cold water to the face when Jess buzzes her intercom on a Friday afternoon, sounding confused.
“Ms. Luthor, a reporter is here to see you. A…Kara Danvers, from CatCo? She’s requesting an interview. She’s very insistent.”
“Kara Danvers?” Lena clarifies, her head spiraling as she realizes what the warm, comfortable feeling that’s been washing inexplicably over her is coming from. She thought it was just the promise of an impending day off, for the first time in weeks.
Lena knows of Kara Danvers, vaguely. She’s been a reporter with Catco for a few years, sticking with the Tribune even after its sharp decline in quality when Cat Grant left. Lena has read her articles on alien rights before – in fact, she recalls that Kara Danvers was the reporter that wrote a review of her mother’s alien detection device so scathing that it had to be scrapped in a maelstrom of negative press. Lena had been both impressed, and grateful that she didn’t have to keep working on the tech.
A Kara is here to see her, after a week of avoidance. A Kara who writes so passionately on alien issues that Lena had wondered, back during the article’s run, whether she was one herself.
Supergirl is Kara Danvers.
Lena’s first instinct is to send her away. She has every right to – Kara might well be expecting it, since she’s showing up without an appointment, and Lena could use a day (or twenty) to fully take in this new information. But Jess sounds harried, and there’s a voice in Lena’s head that sounds alarmingly like Sam that’s telling her to just let it happen.
In a fit of insanity, Lena presses the intercom button.
“Send her up.”
She then has exactly 15 seconds to compose herself before her office door is opening, and in steps someone so diametrically opposed to what she was expecting that it takes her a few seconds to reconcile it.
She’s never seen a picture of Kara Danvers, but she knows Supergirl. Supergirl is all about power – her suit is tight, her shoulders are wide, and she exudes self-assurance in a way that Lena has always been loath to admit she finds incredibly attractive. Everything about her – the way she walks, the way she stands with hands on her hips, the way she fights – is about confidence and strength.
The woman that takes a few nervous steps towards Lena’s desk, gripping a leather notebook tightly, is the exact opposite. She’s blonde, sure, and taller than the average woman - but her hair is hidden, pulled back into a conservative bun, and she walks in a way that makes it clear that she’s trying to shrink herself. Make herself more acceptable. She’s wearing khaki pants, a striped button-up, and a blue cardigan, and she pushes her cutesy glasses up her nose before offering a slightly shaky hand.
Even with all the differences, the warm glow in Lena’s chest is unmistakable.
“Miss Luthor, I apologize for barging in like this. I hope it’s not too much of an inconvenience –“
“So,” Lena interrupts loudly, tiring of the charade almost as soon as it’s begun. “This is your civilian alias. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting the pastels.”
Kara pulls the sweater around herself self-consciously, looking down at it and then back up at Lena with a panicked expression. “I – I’m not – have we met?”
“Don’t play stupid. The glasses and meek expression might work on humans, but I’m not an idiot.”
Kara gapes at her for a moment, but it only takes a few seconds of stony silence for the façade to drop. She stands taller, rubbing the back of her neck and laughing weakly.
“Well…shoot. I’m, uh…going to need you to sign some NDAs.”
Lena stands up from her chair, planting her hands on the table and leaning forward to make sure her next point is fully illustrated.
“I’m not signing shit.”
Kara blinks, and Lena watches her visibly struggle with the instinct to take a step back. Instead she frowns.
“I won’t tell anyone that I know your identity,” Lena says, maintaining her stance, “so long as you tell nobody that I’m a vampire who is actively working against my mother.”
Kara’s shock turns to obvious guilt, and Lena’s stomach drops as she bites down hard on her bottom lip.
“Kara,” Lena says carefully, as the blonde fidgets in clear discomfort, “you didn’t tell anyone. Did you?”
Kara’s shoe twists into the floor, and Lena can actually hear the faint grinding sound of the tile being sanded down by the pressure. She’s reminded, suddenly, of Kara kicking at the ground and asking her to go for coffee. It lands in her chest in a way she tries to ignore.
“Well, I, uh. It was a big thing, and I needed to talk to someone, so. I sort of. Told my sister.”
Okay. That’s less than ideal, but as much as her usual instinct is to get angry, Lena has to try to be reasonable if they’re going to eke out some kind of partnership again. Even if Kara is being an idiot.
“…fine,” Lena grits out, her jaw tight. “Nobody else.”
“And, our tech guy. And, um. My boss?” Kara says hesitantly, her eyes squeezing shut like she’s preparing for impact.
That proves to be too much for Lena’s already tenuous temper.
“Are you kidding me?” Lena hisses, finally rounding the table and advancing on Kara. The blonde actually does take a step back this time, and Lena has to admit that there’s a tiny part of her that enjoys the thrill of having the Girl of Steel absolutely terrified of her.
“A lot happened, and I had to process it!” Kara says quickly, putting her hands up in clear surrender. “Their reactions were not ideal, though, so I get why you kept it from me. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have told either of them, but it was...a weird afternoon.”
Kara does seem genuinely remorseful, but that doesn’t erase the fact that Supergirl’s unidentified boss – the leader, presumably, of her government handlers – knows not only Lena’s identity, but about the fae.
“This is why I don’t trust people,” Lena mutters furiously, crossing her arms tightly around herself and drumming her fingers on her biceps. “You realize that I could be arrested for revealing the existence of my people to someone who isn’t fae, right?”
“Fae?” Kara asks distractedly, before shaking her head and returning to the matter at hand. “I didn’t – no, Lena, I didn’t know that. How can I fix it?”
Kara’s response is the first real hint of Supergirl that Lena has gotten during this whole conversation. She’s all action, her relaxed shoulders drawing up to their full breadth as she goes into protective mode.
Despite herself, she’s a little warmed by Kara’s understanding. And more than a little by the way her presence suddenly fills the room.
“You can’t, besides trying to make sure the people you told keep it to themselves,” Lena sighs, sinking back down into her desk chair. “I’m going to tell Sam about you the second you leave, so I suppose I can’t be too upset. It’s not that you told someone, it’s who you told, Kara. It puts me in danger.”
Lena detects a hint of jealousy in Kara’s tone, and she glares coldly at the blonde until Kara blushes at her transparent diversion from the more important topic.
“Sorry. I’ll, um, make sure. J’onn and Brainy are aliens, so they know how to keep a secret. Well, Brainy is actually a 12th level intellect, but the distinction is - this Sam person is just a friend, right?” Kara says, with a tiny note of hope in her voice. Lena evades the question, and she’s not ashamed to admit that it’s partially to watch Kara squirm a little. She’s never been above petty revenge.
“Not relevant,” Lena says emphatically. “The point is, from now on, your secret is safe with me. God knows I have a few of my own. But I’m not working for your secret organization.”
“Okay, this is the second time you’ve said that, so I have to know how you –“
“My mother has connections everywhere.”
“Of course she does.” Kara frowns, tossing her notebook onto Lena’s desk and flopping into one of the guest chairs with a heavy sigh. Lena can hear its steel legs creak, and Kara making herself comfortable somehow puts Lena more on edge. “Honestly, they aren’t that bad, and if you ever wanted to work with us –“
“I know what you do to alien detainees,” Lena replies drily, using a pen to push Kara’s notebook off her desk until it falls back into her lap. “I’m not going to end up the government’s caged guinea pig. I’ll help you – I won’t help them.”
Kara looks disappointed, but she takes the refusal graciously.
“Okay. Right. That’s fair.”
Honestly, Lena is surprised that Supergirl isn’t defending her outfit more staunchly. She actually doesn’t seem shocked by Lena’s assessment – in fact, she looks little troubled.
Not nearly as troubled as Lena is, though, when Kara moves on to a different topic.
“Well, since you know who I am, can we talk about the other day? When you, uh. Drank my blood, and I heard your thoughts?”
She’d been expecting Supergirl to be doing a basic recon mission, here. Gathering information about Lena in her work habitat, maybe even investigating LuthorCorp. She was hoping to not be interrogated about the one thing she’s spent a week trying not to think about. It puts her on the defensive, and she stands up abruptly, sending her chair skittering across the rug behind her.
“This meeting is over.”
Kara, taken aback by the unexpected reaction, doesn’t move. She just leans forward, her blue eyes soft and imploring.
“Lena, please. This is all weird for me too, and I just want to talk about what happened between us –“
Lena, about 5 pleading words away from grabbing Kara by the elbow and dragging her out into the waiting room for Jess to deal with, grips the edge of the desk with white knuckles as she answers through gritted teeth.
“I don’t know. Okay? I don’t know what happened between us, so asking isn’t going to get you anywhere.”
“How do you not know?” Kara says incredulously. “Don’t you do that all the time?”
“I. Don’t. Know,” Lena says, her jaw clamped so tight that she can feel the tension headache flaring up. “That was…different. Nothing like that has ever happened before.”
“You don’t usually…”
“Hear someone’s voice in my head while I feed? No, I don’t,” Lena snaps back, unable to keep the biting sarcasm out of her voice. Kara looks wounded, and guilt starts to gnaw away at the stress. She’s never felt this guilty for being snappy before. “I’ve never fed from an alien and gotten superpowers before, either.”
Kara’s brows furrow, leaving a little crinkle between them that Lena gets the hysterical urge to smooth her finger over. She grips the desk even harder.
“I thought – don’t you have abilities?” Kara asks, and Lena shrugs.
“Yeah, minor ones. I’m a little faster than most humans, a little stronger. I can blend into shadows. I can put humans under a thrall, for short periods, to make feeding easier. I’ve never ripped the door off an armoured tank.”
The crinkle gets more pronounced. “Thrall?”
“Bend people to my will,” Lena clarifies shortly. “I did it to you, the night we met.”
“…is that what you were doing?” Kara asks, and Lena can see in real time the way a blush creeps up from the collar of her shirt. “I just thought you were just trying to - I mean, I didn’t feel thralled.”
“You didn’t?” Lena asks distractedly, still focused on that blush. She wonders idly how much of Kara’s body it covers. “I…thought it had worked. The way you looked at me...”
“No?” Kara confirms, before glancing down at Lena’s chest and rapidly back up. The blush flares brighter. “I mean…you were wearing a really tight shirt.”
“Okay, well that’s – okay. Right,” Lena stammers, thrown completely off-balance by the revelation. She shouldn’t be shocked that Kara is attracted to her, considering the circumstances, but it makes her heartbeat pick up speed nevertheless – and while Kara rubs the back of her neck and studiously avoids eye contact, Lena knows that the blonde can hear it.
Rather than stop to consider it too long, Lena steers around the traitorous bodily reaction with her usual brusqueness.
“Look, clearly we have some sort of…connection,” she says, waving a hand vaguely at the space between them. “And I don’t know how to get rid of it –“
“Get rid of it?” Kara interrupts. She looks stricken and laser-focused, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees and her hands laced together, and she’s so painfully handsome in that moment that Lena has to look away to gather her wits.
“Of course,” Lena says matter-of-factly, once her throat stops feeling quite so thick. “Supergirl can’t be publicly tethered to a Luthor in any way, let alone a vampire. You already said your boss didn’t like it. And I imagine your sister doesn’t either, if she’s halfway sane.”
Kara regards at her silently as she talks, leaning back in her seat and looking Lena over carefully. She feels like she’s being sized up again, like Kara is wedging herself into her brain and examining the real root of her desire to distance herself. Lena shifts uncomfortably, and Kara seems to come to a decision.
“Well. Screw them.”
“…excuse me?” Lena chokes, unable to stop the short, nervous laugh that escapes.
“Screw them,” Kara says, shrugging confidently. “I trust you. I…I like you. A lot.”
He voice gets a little less self-assured towards the end but no less honest, and Lena has to take a few steps towards the window and turn her back to keep Kara from seeing the way her eyes water at that unassuming statement. So simple, and yet it makes her ache.
“You shouldn’t,” Lena says quietly. She can hear Kara stand up behind her, can hear her take a few tentative steps forward, and she pulls her arms around herself protectively.
“I’m not worth it,” Lena scoffs, and Kara moves closer. “You’re this…this perfect beacon of alien sunshine, you represent the absolute best parts of humanity, and I’m the monster that humans tell each other horror stories about.”
“Lena,” Kara says, the astonishment clear even though Lena can’t see her face. “You’re not a monster. How can you think that?”
“My biology is inherently parasitic,” Lena answers, forcing her voice into neutrality. It’s a fact that she came to terms with long ago, and Kara doesn’t know her well enough to contest what she knows to be true. Kara doesn’t know what she’s capable of. What she’s done. “I’m built to be a predator.”
“That doesn’t mean –“
Kara’s warm hand lands on Lena’s shoulder, and lightning-quick Lena twists away from it. She side-steps her carefully, and Kara slowly recoils her hand and clasps it behind her back.
“I appreciate you trying to convince me otherwise, but I’d still rather we just keep this relationship strictly business,” Lena says, her eyes rooted to the wall somewhere behind Kara’s head.
“Okay,” is Kara’s soft reply. She lets Lena show her out not long after, but only after obtaining her real phone number and an agreement that she won’t disappear again – and Lena spends the rest of her day alone in her office, staring out the window and halfway hoping to see a streak of red fly across her vision.