When Lena finally comes to the DEO for the first time, it happens so suddenly that Kara hardly has time to adjust.
She’s on patrol when her phone starts to buzz in her boot holster. Usually she tries not to talk and fly, especially after the time she dropped her phone from 3,000 feet and had to race to catch it before it landed on someone’s head, but when she twists her leg up and sees Lena’s name on the caller ID she unholsters it and presses it to her ear without hesitation.
“Hey!” she says brightly, secretly hopeful that Lena is calling for a reason that will cause them to spend more time together. “How’s it going?”
“I have a sample of Corben’s kryptonite, but I need access to a secure lab to synthesize it into a weapon we can use against him.”
“Hi Lena, I’m doing great, thank you for asking!” Kara replies sarcastically, and she can hear Lena sigh on the other end.
“Hello, Kara. Can you get me access to a lab through your government cell?”
“I can, if you give me the magic word.”
She can’t see Lena, but Kara gets a sudden, vivid spike of irritation tinged with fondness, and a brief mental picture of Lena pinching the bridge of her nose. It makes her smile, and she crosses her legs mid-air while she waits for the reply.
She’s learned over all their time working together that no matter how much Lena likes to pretend she’s angry or annoyed, she actually holds a great deal of affection for Kara. It had been rocky at first, when she came to Lena's office and revealed herself - Lena doesn't like being vulnerable, and Kara knowing her identity did just that. Especially considering Kara messed up and blabbed the whole vampire thing. But after a while of Kara working to prove to her that she can be trusted, things have gotten better. Lena calls her for help, now, and although she still ignores Kara's attempts at making text conversation, she's really softened when they talk in person.
Lena enjoys spending time together as much as Kara does, even if she won’t admit it to herself. Kara can feel it every time they interact. It’s a set of emotions different from her own mostly positive ones, and she’s gradually learned to tell the difference between the two.
She has no idea how she can feel it, but she decided a long while ago to just go with it.
“Please,” Lena finally grinds out after almost a full 30 seconds of silence, and Kara grins in the direction of the distant LuthorCorp tower.
“How soon can you meet me?”
She’d been hoping, perhaps naïvely, that she could get Lena into the DEO undetected. She could get her set up in an empty lab, guard the door, and then explain herself to J’onn and Alex later. Better to ask forgiveness than permission and all that. But the second she lands in the lobby with Lena, J’onn is there with his arms crossed and looking like a stony sentinel.
Lena practically leaps out of her arms the moment they hit the ground, straightening the wrinkles in her dress with hands that Kara notices are trembling slightly. She can feel her own heartbeat pounding faster the more she concentrates on it, but before she can try to untangle it, J’onn is stepping forward with a frown.
“Miss Luthor. I have to say, we weren’t expecting you.”
He says it with a pointed look at Kara, and Kara feels the urge to fidget. She clasps her hands firmly behind her back instead.
“I should hope not,” Lena says drily, none of the nerves Kara knows she’s feeling bleeding into her voice. J’onn does not seem impressed by her glibness. He turns to Kara, arms crossed.
“Care to explain yourself, Supergirl?”
Kara shrugs. Considering she brought Lena here, it’s only fair that she defend her decision.
“Lena is here to help.”
“I’m here because I need a lab, and my mother keeps tabs on every lab at LuthorCorp,” Lena says much less kindly, and J’onn scoffs.
“We aren’t here to serve civilian needs.”
“But you are here to protect the world from my mother and her kryptonite lapdog, correct?”
J’onn’s jaw clenches, and Kara can’t help the warm buzz of pride she feels watching Lena stand up for herself. Even here, on someone else’s home turf, she’s unshakeable.
When Alex and Brainy ascend the stairs to stand on either side of J’onn, looking at Lena with expressions of suspicion and curiosity respectively, Lena’s jaw clenches.
“I assume these are the three people you told about me?” she says, turning to Kara. Kara nods, somewhat abashed.
“Yeah. Again, I’m sorry about that.”
Lena accepts the apology with a curt nod.
“A few weeks ago, I got a sample of John Corben’s kryptonite,” she says to the group, her tone detached and scientific. “If I can have a few days in a lab with the right equipment, I can break it down and find a way to disable it. Leave him vulnerable.”
“Has she even signed anything?” Alex asks, ignoring Lena’s statement in her exasperation. “Or did you just march her in here to work with us with no accountability?”
“I’m not working with you,” Lena answers, her tone downright frosty. “I’m working with Kara.”
Alex turns to Kara, looking frazzled.
“She knows your name? Does she know your civilian identity, too?”
Kara shrugs again, subtly stepping closer to Lena. She can hear the brunette’s heartbeat quicken in response, and it makes her feel bold.
“We know hers, it’s only fair.”
Alex deflates. It’s another fight she can tell she isn’t going to win, and instead she massages her temples, trying to find a compromise.
“If you’re going to use our equipment, we need some insurance,” she tells Lena, and again Lena stands her ground.
“As do I.”
It’s a standoff, J’onn and Alex versus Kara and Lena, and Kara feels a familiar rush of gratitude and affection for Brainy when he steps in as the neutral party.
“Since discovering her identity, I have read all of Miss Luthor’s published works in the scientific field,” he says, and Lena startles slightly as she’s addressed in a friendly voice for the first time since her arrival. “I do not say this lightly – she is extremely intelligent. If she has a solution for us, I would like to see it.”
As he says it, Brainy’s body language shifts slightly to align himself with her and Lena. Alex looks worried – Kara feels like she could kiss him.
“Okay,” Kara says consolingly, “How about we all sign NDAs, but no contracts. Okay? Everyone’s privacy is safe. And Lena isn’t a contractor, she’s an ally. I trust her.”
“You trust too many people,” Alex sighs, but J’onn cuts her off with a curt nod.
Lena gets set up in the DEO’s biggest lab, and Kara manages to circumvent J’onn’s insistence on the room being under guard with a compromise. She insists that she be the guard, and makes herself at home at the lab table. She expects Lena to say something snarky about her presence, but she doesn’t – she just takes a quick inventory of the equipment, gives it an approving nod, and gets to work.
For a while, they sit in comfortable silence. Lena has taken out some kind of small silver device and set it on the table, and is currently uploading and consolidating her information onto the computer system – and Kara watches her from a stool across the table, swinging her legs back and forth.
“So, are you the security detail?” Lena finally drawls, not looking up from her computer. She doesn’t even halt in her typing as she talks. Kara laughs quietly, aiming for levity.
“Yeah. Welcome to the DEO, where every visitor is treated like a security threat. I’m cuter than the six armed guards they wanted, at least.”
Lena’s smile is suppressed, but Kara catches it. “What’s cute is that they think armed human guards would stop me.”
Kara nods her assent. “They don’t really know what your capabilities are. When we got to the scene where you got the sample from Corben, it looked like a bomb went off, and somehow you were okay. I think it scares them.”
It had scared Kara, too, but not for the same reason. She had been terrified when she saw the destruction – the building reduced to cinders, black scarred earth in beams across the ground still glowing with green, and Lena’s familiar scarf tangled in the branches of a tree nearby. She knew without a doubt that Lena had been there, doing dangerous work without her, and she could have been hurt – but after a few moments of concentration, she’d been able to know with certainty that the other woman was okay. Worried and full of adrenaline, but unhurt.
It really should alarm her, how deep and unexplainable their connection is. Instead it just fills her with warmth.
“The damage was mostly from the fire we set,” Lena says, moving from her computer over to a nearby 3D printer.
“Manchester Black was helping. Well,” Lena admits, sighing, “he was supposed to be. He went off-book.”
Completely unaware of the way Kara’s heart drops into her stomach at that declaration, Lena sighs in mild frustration, turning to her with hands on hips. “Can you ask your sister if the DEO has access to the parts I need to build my own equipment? Nothing you have here will work with the device I have the sample stored in, and opening it unsafely could irradiate the whole building –“
“Manchester Black?” Kara interrupts, standing from her seat. Lena raises a brow, seeming unmoved by her distress. “You’re working with him?”
The wounded and not with me? that Kara feels is unspoken, but Lena shifts in a way that can only mean she hears it anyways. She looks almost guilty.
“He wants Corben gone as badly as we do. He’s a good ally.”
“But he – he’s dangerous! I mean, you know what he –“
“If I hadn’t had his help, I might not have gotten what I needed,” Lena says, and her tone brokers no further discussion. She sounds defensive of him, despite what Kara knows about his tactics. “And, you shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Maybe you should actually talk to him before you try to arrest him for supposed crimes that you haven’t actually investigated.”
Kara can’t argue that. As much as she tried to apprehend him the night she heard his meeting with Lena in that parking garage, she had done so out of sheer opportunity, and she hadn’t given chase because even then she knew that deep down, she had been doing it not for justice but in hopes of getting information about Corben.
Lena questioning her motivations is fair. She’s been questioning her own lately, too.
“When I got to the scene after, it looked bad,” Kara admits quietly. “I was really worried.”
Lena’s answer is equally soft.
Kara’s heart picks up. This is the first time Lena has really acknowledged their strange link since Kara had cornered her in her office at LuthorCorp, and it’s somehow affirming to hear that Kara hadn’t been the only one to feel it that night. Lena felt it too. Felt her worry.
If that’s the case, she definitely must feel Kara’s jealousy now – so Kara throws caution to the wind.
“You wouldn’t ask for my help, so you decided to go to a human?” She asks, hating how petulant the question comes out. She isn’t sure whether she expects a scold or a placation, but Lena’s answer is neither.
“He isn’t human.”
“Oh,” Kara says, trying desperately to update her inner compass with this new information. “So he’s…a vampire?”
“Werewolf,” Lena says easily, like with that word she hasn’t once again torpedoed Kara’s entire understanding of the world. “He’s trying to make a better place in our society for his people. They’ve always been forced into subservience to vampires, and he wants to change that once Corben is gone. I can respect it.”
Kara, slightly overwhelmed, puts her face in her hands.
“Werewolf,” Kara mutters, and she feels a pang of sympathy from Lena’s direction. “This is more complicated than I thought.”
“I keep forgetting how little you know,” Lena says, with a short laugh. It doesn’t feel malicious – just sympathetic. “I remember how hard it was to be thrown into this world, and feel like you need to sprint to keep up.”
Lena’s sympathy is touching, and Kara feels the almost irresistible urge to hug her. But Lena has made it clear that she’s uncomfortable with prolonged physical contact, especially after their encounter in the armoured truck, and instead Kara sits on her hands.
“I know you’re not supposed to tell me anything, but this is just…a lot,” Kara admits, and Lena nods.
“I suppose that if we’re going to be working together, you should know what you’re up against,” Lena agrees, and Kara perks up. Lena grins a bit at her sudden upturn in mood. “At least, a little.”
“That would be amazing.”
Lena takes a deep breath, turning her chair more fully towards Kara and folding her hands in her lap.
“What do you want to know?”
“Uh. Okay,” Kara starts, scrambling at her sudden platform to ask all the questions that have been burning at her for weeks. “So there’s…a vampire society?”
“Not just vampires,” Lena corrects. “Vampires have always been in control, since they’re the most powerful, but there are other species of fae, as well. Werewolves, witches, shapeshifters –“
“Fae?” Kara asks, her voice somewhat squeaky. Lena rolls her eyes.
“Umbrella term, for all non-humans. Try to keep up.”
“Try to keep –“ Kara sputters, indignant. “I didn’t even grow up on earth, with all your mythology! All I knew about vampires before this were Dracula and Twilight.”
“Mention Twilight again, and I’ll eviscerate you,” Lena growls, the look on her face speaking to a deep irritation years in the making. Kara holds her hands up in surrender.
“Okay, okay. Educate me, then.”
Lena collects herself, rolling her neck from side to side and starting again.
“Right. Vampires are split into two types – made vampires, who are former humans who were turned by vampire hosts, and inborn vampires. The inborn have all the power. They’re born into it. Long dynasties of ageless power.”
Kara nods, trying to take it all in. “So, which are you?”
Lena hesitates. Her hands turn from a loose clasp into tight fists, and Kara can see her nostrils flare. She looks angry, from the outside, but Kara doesn’t feel anger coming from her – she feels shame. Shame, and pain.
“That’s…complicated,” Lena finally says tightly. Kara frowns. She doesn’t want to push too hard, but she also needs to understand, and she can’t help her curiosity now that Lena is seemingly opening up.
“It seems like a question with only two answers.”
Lena says it quickly, like she’s ripping off a band-aid, and she doesn’t meet Kara’s eyes as she does it. She stares resolutely down at the desk, and Kara blinks a few times while she tries to figure out what on earth that means.
“Come again?” Kara asks, and Lena’s breath is shaky. Tinged with anxiety.
“I’m both,” she repeats, her posture getting less and less relaxed the more she talks. “It’s hard to explain. And it isn’t even supposed to be possible. Something that most other vampires like to remind me at every opportunity. Scientifically, it doesn’t make sense. I don’t make sense.”
Kara has never heard so much bitterness in Lena’s tone before. It’s turned both inward and outward, and Kara wishes she could understand the source.
“Scientifically?” Kara asks, as Lena picks viciously at the skin of her thumbnail. It keeps healing every time, but it seems to soothe her. “Don’t you operate more in the realm of magic?”
Lena shrugs. “Magic is just science that humans don’t understand.”
Well. Fair enough, Kara supposes. Even her own Kryptonian biology is considered magic by some.
“Okay, but how exactly are you both –“ Kara asks again, and Kara can hear the groan of stressed metal as Lena grasps the edge of the table with white knuckles.
“Can we move on?” Lena asks, her voice tight. Kara, suddenly guilty for her attempted grilling, backs down.
“Oh. Um, of course.”
There’s a few moments of awkward silence between them, Lena digging into her palm with a thumbnail and Kara drumming her fingers so hard on the table that it starts to dent under the force. She pulls them back under herself when she notices, laughing nervously.
“Are you dead?”
Lena stares at her. For a few terrible seconds Kara worries that she ruined the whole moment – but then Lena laughs, sincere and loud. Her eyes crinkle at the corners, her cheeks flash two sets of adorable dimples, and later on when she looks back at this conversation Kara can pinpoint it as the exact moment she realized she was totally screwed.
“Wow, you really just…went right for it, didn’t you?” Lena chuckles, wiping at her eyes, and Kara can’t stop her own smile. Lena’s is infectious. It rises in her like sunlight, and she wishes more than anything that there wasn’t a table between them.
“Alex says I have the subtlety of a hand grenade.”
Lena snorts, a hand on her chest. “For once, your sister and I agree. To answer your question, that is probably the single biggest human misconception about our world.”
“So you aren’t?” Kara clarifies, and Lena shakes her head.
“Vampires are living creatures. Our powers stem from – it’s a sort of infection, I suppose. We carry a lot of elements in our blood, but we can’t process oxygen properly. It makes us powerful, but we need to consume the blood of creatures who can to bond their oxygen to our own cells.”
“That’s surprisingly clinical,” Kara remarks. Lena has turned serious again, and she adjusts her tone to match. “It must be contagious, right? If people can be made into vampires?”
“Mmm. It’s a clinical process. Vampires can feed from anyone without transmitting the infection – but if blood is exchanged more than once, the victim will start to turn. Eventually their body dies, for a brief time. The infection resuscitates them as a vampire.”
Lena’s voice gets quieter as she continues in her explanation. She looks stressed, almost introspective, staring down into her lap. Like she’s reliving something in her memory. Kara can feel it tugging at her, waves of pain and aching loneliness sinking into her own chest.
“Did that…happen to you?” Kara asks, itching to reach across the table and take Lena’s hand even though she knows it’ll likely end with being snapped at as Lena retreats into her shell.
Lena’s answer surprises her.
“Ask something else, please?”
The question is soft, small, and more vulnerable than Kara has ever heard her. It’s so fragile that Kara feels like she might break it just by addressing it – so she pivots the subject instead.
“Can you eat regular food?”
Lena’s shoulders relax, and she manages another smile. “We can. We eat it for pleasure, sometimes. But it’s useless to us. We starve without blood, but it’s rare to die of starvation.”
“Are there really that many people who let vampires feed on them?”
Lena shakes her head. “No. After a few days we sort of…go feral. Animalistic. Instinct takes over. And it’s very difficult to stop us after that point.”
Kara, having seen what Lena is capable of, doesn’t doubt that for a second.
“What if there’s no humans around?”
“We can use animal blood,” Lena says, wincing. “It’s not as effective, and tastes terrible, but –“
Kara can’t help the sentence that bursts out of her mouth.
“What does my blood taste like?”
Lena freezes, choking on her words and blinking rapidly while a blush crawls its way across her cheekbones. It’s as cute as it is shocking.
Kara has never once seen her speechless.
She isn’t sure whether Lena is going to answer, or bolt – but in the end, she does what Kara suspects she’s best at.
“We have superhuman abilities,” Lena says, pointedly ignoring the question. Her cheeks are still crimson. “Not to your extent, but we are powerful, especially older ones like my mother. Better hearing, sense of smell, strength, eyesight. Rapid healing.”
“How strong are you?” Kara asks, glancing down at Lena’s arms. They’re covered by a jacket as usual – Kara isn’t sure she’s actually ever seen any of Lena’s skin besides her face and neckline, honestly – but there’s no indication of any muscle mass. They look smaller than her own.
“Not as strong as you,” Lena concedes. “I could overpower any human easily, ten humans even, but I couldn’t easily lift a car. Even if I’ve just fed.”
“How do you feed, exactly?” Kara asks, planting her elbow on the table and sitting her chin in her hand. “Like, do you go up to people and just…ask to bite them?”
“Most vampires go out hunting. To human bars, or just out in the world. Seduce humans, put them under thrall, feed, and leave them.”
“Right,” Kara nods, her own blush firing up at the memory of Lena trying to deploy that particular ability. “What you, uh. Tried to do to me, the night we met.”
Lena nods in confirmation. “It’s essentially a drug, released via pheromones. It causes periods of memory loss, and there’s a compound in our saliva that closes the wound in a few minutes.”
“Jeez,” Kara mutters thoughtlessly. “You guys are like, perfect predators.”
Lena stiffens, and Kara knows immediately that she’s messed up.
“Oh! No, not like that –“ she stammers, as Lena’s retreat back behind her walls manifests physically. Her shoulders tense, her arms cross, and the lightness leaves her face. “I mean, it’s just interesting, you know, because I know so much about alien physiology but not about – I’m sorry, Lena. That was insensitive.”
She hopes that Lena can feel the sincerity of the apology. She thinks she can – she can feel it, like her desire to communicate her remorse is actually broadcasting it into Lena’s chest.
“No, you’re right,” Lena says tightly. “We are. We’re built that way, and most vampires aren’t in the habit of asking for consent.”
The blush that had been slowly receding flares back to life, and Kara watches Lena’s throat bob as she swallows hard. Kara’s own mouth feels dry at the memory of exactly how intimately she knows Lena’s consent-asking process. There isn’t a night that goes by that she isn’t haunted by the weight of Lena straddling her thighs, the pressure of her mouth, the way her tongue -
“I don’t count,” Lena says, and Kara shoots her an unguarded comment as she’s pulled out of her thoughts.
“From my perspective, that’s a good thing.”
The silence between them is less awkward than before, but it’s still heavy with intent. Lena uncrosses and crosses her legs, clearing her throat as she yet again changes the subject.
“I have an agreement with a friend,” Lena explains, while Kara watches her struggle to stay composed with affection. “And when she isn’t around, I know someone who sells donated blood. From humans who know about us and want to help, or from other fae. Not werewolves, though.”
“Not werewolves?” Kara asks, her brow furrowed.
“Werewolf blood tastes like pennies.”
Kara lets out a guffaw, and even Lena cracks a smile. Her body language starts to uncurl again, and Kara pursues the lighthearted topic.
“They have a diet high in red meat, so their iron count is high,” Lena explains, and Kara laughs again in understanding. “Makes it taste like metal. It’s gross.”
“I had no idea you were so picky,” Kara teases. Lena adopts a faux-haughty expression that Kara can see right through, and the playful nature of it makes her giddy.
“I may have fed on you out of necessity, but usually I have standards.”
“Ouch!” Kara laughs, clutching her chest in mock offense. “Can’t let my ego get too big, huh?”
“It’s big enough as it is.”
Lena seems happy that the subject has changed. Kara can feel it thrumming between them, the warm glow of her contentment like a little golden thread. It makes her want to make Lena laugh again.
“Okay, so…do you sleep? Or do you like, hang upside down like a bat?”
She succeeds, and with the sound of Lena’s laughter in her ears Kara feels like she could take a truck full of kryptonite and still fly.
Lena insists on getting back to work after their impromptu question and answer period, and Kara honestly needs a little time to decompress after the massive intake of new information. She may have promised J’onn that she would keep a vigilant eye on their guest, but she trusts both Lena herself and her own ability to sense when something is off, so she wanders back into the lobby for a break while Lena curses at the lack of equipment.
Kara means to go for a walk. Maybe fly for a bit to get some fresh air, or go to the cafeteria and grab a snack. But she’s hardly had time to decide on which she wants to do when a familiar blue supersuit catches her eye, and the owner is staring at her with hands on her hips. Just behind her she can see Brainy’s back, retreating quickly to the safety of his own lab.
“Hey, friend,” Nia says, her tone amused but a little exasperated. “Now do you want to tell me what you were doing at work the other day?”
“Nia! Hi!” Kara squeaks, reluctantly obeying Nia’s crooked finger. “Um. What’s the sitch?”
The halfhearted Kim Possible reference does nothing to dull Nia’s expectant focus, and Kara sighs, deflating.
“I’m sorry. I wanted to loop you in, but I already broke Lena’s privacy, and I wanted to ask her permission first but there wasn’t a good time –“ Kara starts to ramble, genuine anxiety manifesting in her chest. Thankfully Nia’s serious exterior breaks, and she waves the apology away.
“Its fine,” Nia laughs, poking Kara in the shoulder. “I already know.”
Kara doesn’t budge with the poke, and Nia frowns at her finger as she flexes it. Clearly she hadn’t been expecting the lack of give.
Nia shrugs. “Brainy told me.”
“Oh, come on – can nobody keep a secret around here?” Kara mutters, glaring around at the other agents milling about like each of them is going to tell random passersby all Lena’s secrets.
“Don’t be mad at him, it isn’t his fault,” Nia says reasonably. “I see the future. He can’t keep anything from me.”
“Well yeah, but still –“
“Her secret is safe with me.” Nia is firm, and Kara believes her – but she’s still annoyed, and she doesn’t want to be the one to break the news to Lena.
“I thought it was safe with Brainy, too,” Kara grumbles. “Fine, you get to tell her that someone else knows she’s a freaking vampire. I don’t want to get my head bitten off.”
Kara starts to head back to the lab as she says it, hoping to avoid Nia’s all too perceptive gaze, but Nia doesn’t let her go so easily.
“Something tells me she’d take it better from you than from me,” Nia calls, and Kara can feel the back of her neck heating up at the wording of that statement. She resists the urge to turn around, and instead speed-walks back to the lab before Nia can notice and tease her for it.
It takes Lena even less time to finish her work than Kara thought, even with the distraction of their conversation. While Kara wanders in and out and naps intermittently in the corner of the lab Lena works through the night, and by early the next morning she’s shaking Kara awake and handing her two oddly-shaped pieces of metal.
“Whasis?” Kara mumbles, squinting her bleary eyes at the larger of the two. “s’big.”
“Put it on, and find out.”
That wakes Kara up. She rubs her eyes, sitting up in her seat and getting a better look at the device in her hand. It’s smooth, and once her eyes focus she realizes that it’s about the same size as the crest on her suit. It’s a metallic blue instead of red, but the edges of it are about the same, and she looks down at her own crest with a frown.
“Um…how do I put it on?”
With a good-natured sigh Lena takes it from her, placing it carefully in the centre of her chest and letting go.
Where Kara expects it to drop, the device seems to adhere to the fabric of her suit. Slowly it expands, unfolding tiny little layers of material to cover her chest and then moving out across her arms, down her torso, and finally to her legs.
A whole new suit has materialized out of nothing, and it took mere seconds.
“It’s an anti-kryptonite suit,” Lena says, unable to keep the hint of smug pride out of her voice. In Kara’s opinion, it’s warranted, anyways. “It keeps the kryptonite out, and you sealed inside, so your powers aren’t sapped.”
“Wow,” Kara breathes, as it crawls up her neck. “This is –“
And then a helmet materializes, enclosing her whole head in a tight space with no warning, and her chest constricts with panic.
She’s never liked feeling trapped. Cages, cells, even elevators – all of them bring her right back to being in that pod her mother put her in, zooming away from the crumbling remains of her planet and into the vast, dark vacuum of space. No room to maneuver, no room to breathe – just walls closing in, and on the outside only the void. Nothing. Alone, and scared, and –
Kara reaches up to tug at the helmet, struggling to breathe, but it doesn’t budge. No matter how hard she pulls with all her strength it won’t come off, won’t let her free, and she can’t seem to push down the terror like she usually does when she wakes up from similar nightmares. The fear follows her, and the only thing cutting through it is Lena’s voice.
“Kara!” Lena is saying, loudly and clearly, bent over and looking directly into Kara’s face through the semi-opaque visor. “Kara, there’s a button under your left ear. Press the button under your left ear.” She’s repeating the instruction, clear and concise, and after a few fumbling seconds Kara finds the button in question and presses it.
With a hiss the helmet disengages, and Kara rips it off and throws it as far as she can across the room with a strangled yell. Her breath is still coming in short, panicked spurts, and Lena doesn’t even flinch when the helmet lodges itself in the concrete wall. She just kneels in front of Kara, both hands on Kara’s knees, and looks up at her with clarity.
“You’re claustrophobic,” she says quietly, and Kara nods, a hand pressed hard to her chest. She’s trembling all over, and having trouble regulating her hearing as well as sorting her own tangled feelings from the wave of deep, terrified concern she feels coming from Lena.
“Don’t like…small spaces,” Kara manages, doing the breathing exercises that Eliza taught her when she was new to this planet and prone to overstimulated panic attacks. Counting the seconds of her breaths, focusing on the rhythm. Usually she would choose something to touch to ground herself, but with the new suit over her hands she doesn’t have the option. “Sorry.”
“Are you kidding? I’m sorry,” Lena says, vehement and genuine. There’s a tremble to her voice Kara isn’t familiar with, an undertone of self-flagellation at her perception of being at fault. “I didn’t even think – I just sprung this on you, without considering –“
“It’s okay. You had no way of knowing,” Kara says, managing a small smile as she starts to calm down. “Next time I’ll be okay, I just – wasn’t expecting it.”
Even with Kara’s assurance, Lena still looks guilty. Still feels responsible. “You don’t have to wear it. I can find a different way, another prototype –“
Before she can get herself too worked up Kara takes Lena’s hand and plants it on her chest, and tries with all she can muster to project her honesty into the other woman.
“I promise, Lena. You didn’t hurt me. It is okay.”
Despite her insistence that she doesn’t respond well to touch, Lena relaxes at Kara’s.
The other device, it turns out, is Lena’s solution to the Corben problem. It’s not much larger than a car key, a tiny red button on a black handheld device with a metal tab on the other end, but Lena guarantees that using it will weaken him the next time he shows up, and Kara has no doubt about her capabilities. It has to be administered by touch, by jamming the metal part into the kryptonite crystal and pressing the button, but it will shut the weapon down for long enough to get the job done.
Even J’onn seems impressed when she presents it to the group a few hours later, and Brainy doesn’t stop examining it for several minutes after he arrives with Nia in tow in full Dreamer regalia.
The way Nia looks between Lena and Kara with a smug, knowing expression as she’s introduced to the former is only somewhat worrying.
While Lena and Brainy discuss polarizing ions and neutralization of radioactive frequencies, Kara joins J’onn and Alex over near the conference table only to find them mid-argument.
“It’s too dangerous,” Alex is saying,
“It’s the best and most simple course of action.”
“What is?” Kara asks, and Alex frowns deeply while J’onn explains.
“We need to draw Corben out, pin him down so we can neutralize him. The easiest way to do that is to use a target.” He looks pointedly at Kara as he says it, and Kara nods enthusiastically.
“Okay, so we attack one of his operations like Lena did. He’ll come out and try to fight me. Easy.”
“You’re not using yourself as bait!” Alex protests.
“I have the new suit Lena built me! Besides, do you have a better idea?”
“The suit is untested! You can’t just trust that it’ll work –“
“It’ll work,” Lena interrupts, stepping into the conversation with Brainy and Nia in tow. “And if she goes in with enough allies, they can distract him while she implements the device. After it’s used, he’ll be weakened.”
“For how long?” Alex asks, still wary but slightly more on board with Lena’s assurance.
“An hour or so. Long enough for you to get him into holding. The real problem will be trying to get him to talk,” Lena explains, looking to Kara. “He’s as loyal to Lillian as anyone I’ve ever seen.”
“Perhaps he will cooperate if we reveal to him the danger he’s in,” Brainy suggests. Nia frowns, unfamiliar with the situation.
“His synthetic kryptonite is unstable,” Brainy explains, bringing up the same charts he used to explain it a week ago. “It has an incredible rate of decay, and the more he uses it –“
“The faster it breaks down,” Lena finishes, suddenly looking alert and interested. “Of course. It’s not only poisoning him, it’s a ticking time bomb. He could go nuclear.”
Brainy turns to the group, a rare and genuine smile on his face. “I like her.”
“You really think he’ll talk if he knows he’s going to die anyways?” Alex asks, as Lena tries to hide the faint pink blush at Brainy’s compliment. She can’t hide it from Kara, though – the surprise and validation bursts in her own chest, just as it does in Lena’s.
“I could remove it.”
Everyone in the room turns to Lena, who looks slightly alarmed at the focused attention.
“Remove it?” J’onn asks, looking thoughtful. “How? And, why?”
“With it still in his system, he’s a danger to others as well as himself. The detonation could harm Kara, and anyone nearby,” Lena says matter-of-factly, but Kara can feel the worry that accompanies the observation. “With access to your equipment and an assistant with steady hands, I could get it out of him. I just need to study its implementation. Which I’m sure he’ll let me do, if it saves his life.”
“So we bargain his life for his information,” Nia says, with approval. “I’m down.”
“Me too,” Kara says, quick to support Lena. “It’s our best option.”
Nia grins a small, secret smile, and Kara resolves to talk to her about what on earth she’s so smug about.
“How do we even find him? We can’t track him unless his kryptonite is active,” Alex says, indicating the map which shows no red dots. “Unless we burn down every building we know he operates out of and hope he turns up, which seems like mass arson –“
The harsh trill of Lena’s phone cuts her off.
“…how is your phone ringing?” Alex asks, as Lena glances at the caller ID. “Unapproved lines are supposed to be blocked in here for security reasons.”
“You really think I came here unprepared?” Lena scoffs, barely sparing Alex a glance. “It’s Manchester.”
“He has your phone number?” Kara says loudly, unable to stop the wounded tone. “I didn’t even have your phone number at first!”
Lena silences her with a look.
The call is brief, hardly more than 30 seconds, but unlike everyone else who doesn’t have super hearing, Kara hears every word.
Manchester got a message from Corben, to meet outside the city later tonight. He was told to bring as many people as he deems necessary. It’s clearly meant to be a last stand, an attempt to violently quell the rebellion that Corben hasn’t been able to uproot otherwise, and Manchester sees it for what it is. He sees it, and he shares the intel with Lena. He lays out a plan, based on his instincts, and Lena agrees to follow it.
Lena presents the idea like it’s her own, and against her initial instincts, Kara doesn’t say a word.
It's entirely contrary to what Kara would have expected from both of them, and that feeling sits with her as they make their plan with his input – they’ll go to the meeting point with J’onn disguised as Manchester, pose as wolves ready to back him up, and Kara will use the device and fly him back to the DEO before the situation can escalate. Nia, Brainy, and Alex volunteer to help, and while Lena pushes to be involved as well, Kara vetoes the decision. Lena’s top priority is hiding her identity so that she can still operate at LuthorCorp, and it isn’t worth the risk.
While everyone else gears up, Kara sidles up to Nia. She’s sitting alone, scrolling through something on her phone while Brainy discusses a new anti-projectile vest with Alex, and Kara sits next to her and drums her fingers on her thighs.
“You ready?” Nia asks, sparing her a glance. “You look nervous. We’re not going to let him hurt you, you know.”
“I know,” Kara says distractedly, only stopping with her incessant drumming when Nia flicks at the top of her hand.
“Stop that, you’re going to cause a shockwave. What’s got you so jittery?”
“What do you think about Lena?”
Nia smiles again, that same knowing smile from earlier. One that says she sees more than she’s letting on. It makes Kara burn with curiosity.
“She’s a little cold,” Nia says neutrally, looking down at her phone again. “But you like ‘em that way, right?”
“I actually think that’s sort of a façade, she’s really – wait, what?” Kara chokes, her face flaring with heat. Nia shrugs, not even looking up from her Twitter feed.
“Come on, this is common knowledge. You like your women a little mean.”
“What are you – I don’t –“ Kara sputters, while Nia counts off on her fingers.
“Cat Grant, Siobhan, now Lena –“
“I wasn’t – Cat was my mentor!” Kara hisses, glancing around to see if anyone is eavesdropping. “We didn’t – I would never - and Siobhan and I never dated, we just – we just –“
“Slept together,” Nia says drily. “Don’t look so surprised. Word gets around when you hook up in the supply closet at your workplace.”
Kara has no idea how to respond. Nia seems unaffected by her horrified silence, standing from her seat and slipping her phone into the pocket of her supersuit.
“For what it’s worth, she definitely likes you,” Nia says, patting her on the shoulder. “Lena, that is. She’s not going to admit it for a while, but don’t worry. You two get there eventually.”
As Nia starts to move back towards the group, Kara finally comprehends enough of the statement to jolt out of her state of shock.
“What do you mean, we get there?” She says, calling out to Nia’s retreating back. “Did you see something?”
“We have to get going, Kara.”
“Nia?” Kara shouts, to no avail. “Nia! What did you see?!”
It is, of course, raining when they get to the meeting point.
It’s already an overly dramatic situation, the whole thing. Meeting at the edge of a dark forest, standing in a line with her friends as Corben emerges from the treeline through a curtain of rain. J’onn is in front, transformed to resemble Manchester, with everyone else fanned out behind him – Alex with a hand on her gun, Brainy with his fingers folded calmly in front of him, Nia already putting herself in position to conjure her whip, and Kara in her new suit. She’s been working at getting used to the helmet, and now she can thankfully have it on without panicking.
“Still okay in there?”
At least, she can when Lena is talking in her ear.
“I’m fine,” Kara confirms, flexing her covered hands at her sides. Corben comes to a stop some distance away, and J’onn as Manchester stays where he is. “It helps to know I can take the helmet off as soon as we get back to the DEO.”
“Did you say something?” Nia asks to Kara’s left. Kara shakes her head, indicating the comm built into her helmet.
“Jeez,” Kara mutters, standing her ground as more and more figures emerge from the shadows. “It’s like The Outsiders.”
“The what?” Nia whispers again, and this time Kara looks at her incredulously through the visor.
“The Outsiders! Have you never seen that movie?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Nia says blankly. Kara knows the younger woman can’t see her expression, but she gapes at her anyways.
“Pony-boy?” Kara offers, and Nia shakes her head. “Soda pop? The greasers vs. the socs?”
“Kara, the task at hand?” Lena’s amused voice crackles over her comm, and Kara laughs nervously.
“Right. Sorry. Just hit me, all of a sudden.”
The comms are quiet for a few seconds, and then Lena’s voice comes in quiet.
“I was thinking more like The Lion King.”
Kara laughs, quiet but delighted, and she can feel Lena’s smile across the distance between them.
“Get it done, Supergirl.”
“Promise,” Kara assures her, and the line goes silent.
Lena checked in because she was worried, and she wants Kara to stay safe. As much as she tries to maintain professionalism, Kara knows that Lena cares.
Corben starts to move towards them, his men in tow, and Kara tenses for the real reason they’re here.
“Not exactly an army, is it?” Corben calls out, his men falling into formation behind him. “I expected at least a slight challenge.” His chest is glowing an ominous green, and the fear it usually sparks in Kara is tempered only by her absolute trust in Lena.
Lena’s suit will keep her safe.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Kara says, stepping forward to stand next to J’onn. Once he sees the crest on her new suit, Corben throws his head back and laughs.
“You brought me Supergirl, too? I love getting two birds with one stone,” he says, grinning as the green glow in his chest expands. “This is gonna be easier than I thought.”
As the kryptonite beam bursts forth and hits her in the gut Kara braces out of pure instinct, waiting for the excruciating pain to come –
It never does. The radiation dissipates harmlessly, and as soon as they see that Lena’s new suit has worked in exactly the way she intended, everyone else springs into action. J’onn glows with red energy until his true Martian form towers over the wolves on the ground; Brainy twists his legion ring around his finger and rises into the air. Nia’s electric blue whips manifest in her hand and she cracks them, illuminating Corben’s shocked face, and Alex gets into position to run into the crowd and distract his backup hand-to-hand.
Kara can see the exact moment when Corben realizes he’s been outmaneuvered.
“Kara?” Lena’s voice makes a return over the comm, threaded with worry. “Are you okay? I mean, did it -”
“It worked,” Kara answers, laughing with wild relief. “It worked! I’m fine!”
And then at superspeed she flies directly at Corben, looping her arms around his middle and jamming the device into his chest.
He barely struggles, really. Whether its shock that his biggest weapon is now useless or his reflexes are simply slower than her speed, he doesn’t seem to realize what’s happening until it’s too late, and by then Kara has pressed the red button. The green glow that’s haunted her since the first time it hit her in that warehouse months ago flickers and then dies like a sputtering lightbulb, and Corben drops to his knees with a pained grunt.
Once again, Lena came through. Corben is powerless, and even his most staunch allies start to waver in their fighting efforts as Kara starts to scoop Corben up in a fireman’s carry.
“What did you do?” He growls, and she can hear low threads of animalistic rage in his voice as his face starts to shift.
Shoot. Lena warned her about this, about how wolves tend to shift when backed into a corner and become almost impossible to catch. She sent Kara prepared – she had said that once the transformation begins there’s mere seconds before he’ll take full wolf form, but it can be stopped one way.
Faster than Corben can comprehend she reaches into one of her pockets (Lena gave the suit pockets, Kara could kiss her just for that tiny innovation) and pulls out a pair of pure silver cuffs, snapping them around Corben’s wrists.
The change stops immediately. The fur that had started to move from Corben’s hair down his neck and over his face halts, and then shifts back – and his supporters, who had been starting to look buoyed by the situation, seem to realize the hopelessness of this fight. Almost as one they abandon him, sprinting into the woods as Corben struggles against the cuffs.
As soon as he feels the metal not yielding to his strength, his expression shifts from cocky to worried.
“Are these silver?” He asks, straining against them again. Kara squats down in front of him, elbows on her knees, and presses the button to release her helmet. It feels good to breathe fresh air again – she shakes her hair out, looking Corben in the eye as she answers.
“You aren’t the only one with friends in high places.”
“Do the smart thing,” J’onn says as he approaches, his voice deep and soothing in his Martian form. “Trust me when I say, we will treat you better than Lillian will now that you’ve gotten yourself caught.”
Corben snarls at him, and Kara scoops him into a quick firemen’s carry that he can’t wriggle out of.
“See you at the office,” Kara says with a wink, and less than a minute she’s landing in the DEO lobby and handing him off to the waiting team.
“Take him to the interrogation room,” she says, already looking in the crowd for Lena. It’s doubtful that she’s here, considering Corben could recognize her immediately, but Kara can feel her nearby. She wants to thank her for the suit, but after a quick scan she determines that Lena is nowhere to be found.
As she’s wrapping up her search J’onn lands next to her with his arm under Alex’s shoulders, and moments later Brainy touches down with Nia in a bridal carry.
“Mission accomplished,” Alex says, fixing her windblown hair. “We did it, right?”
“All we need to do now is convince him to talk.”
It proves to be easier said than done. Now that he’s in captivity, Corben is a brick wall – it doesn’t matter what Kara asks him or how, he’s closed off completely, staring at the wall behind her. His hands are resting folded on the table in their cuffs, and the expression on his face maintains its usually smugness.
“Why are you so loyal to Lillian?” Kara asks, exasperated. “She’ll drop you the second she knows you’ve been captured. Why protect her?”
“Because he loves her, as much as his withered heart is capable. Isn’t that right, John?”
Lena’s voice appearing in the doorway is the exact opposite of what Kara was expecting to happen, and she twists in her seat to stare incredulously at the woman now shutting and locking the door behind her. She has something in her hand, but it goes behind her back as she approaches the table, and Kara isn’t quick enough to see what it is.
“What are you doing here?” Kara hisses, but Lena ignores her and takes a seat in the chair to her right. “I thought –“
Corben interrupts Kara with laughter, starting quiet and then rising until his head is thrown lazily back. He rolls his neck until he’s looking at the two of them half-sideways, grinning big and arrogant.
“Little Lena Luthor,” he says, sounding almost impressed. “I have to say, I wasn’t expecting you to be Supergirl’s mole. Finally got tired of living in your brother’s shadow?”
“I’m not here to discuss my brother,” Lena says, giving no indication of her plan to Kara whatsoever. Kara, still reeling from both Lena’s sudden appearance and the buck-wild statement she opened with, just looks back and forth between them like it’s a tennis game. “I’m here to talk about you.”
“What do you mean, loves her?” Kara asks, and something flickers across Corben’s face. Something real that cracks his arrogant façade.
Lena is getting at something.
“For as long as I’ve been a vampire, John has been hanging around my mother like a puppy begging for scraps,” Lena says disinterestedly, and Kara can see every word hitting Corben like an arrow. “She and my father always had affairs, but they were supposed to be discreet – and after Lionel disgraced the family by bedding a human, Lillian retaliated by giving Corben a little bit of what he wanted. Used him for revenge.”
“That’s not –“ Corben growls, but Lena holds up a hand in a way so reminiscent of Lillian Luthor that the words die in his throat.
“And then when Lionel died, she dropped Corben like a hot potato. Gave him just enough attention to keep him heeled. And he still clings to it, hoping that someday she’ll let him into the house again. Am I getting close?”
Kara, still scrambling to keep up, stays silent. Corben has no such inclination.
“Why are you here?” He snarls, his hands snapping against his silver cuffs as he pulls on them. All his composure is gone. Lena found a raw nerve with pinpoint precision, and now she’s digging into it mercilessly. “You and I both know I’m not going to talk, no matter what bullshit you spin.”
“Do you really want to know what I know, John?” Lena says quietly, and Corben responds by lowering his own voice.
“Do tell,” he says snidely. Lena smiles, the smile of a cat that’s just trapped its prey exactly where she wants it. It makes Kara tingle in unanticipated places.
“I know you,” Lena whispers. “I’ve known you for most of your life. You’ve always been attached to my mother and Lex like a disease, and I know why. It’s not just infatuation.”
Corben’s jaw is tight, his eyes hard as flint, and Lena presses in with no mercy.
“It’s because you’re a coward,” she finishes, and finally Kara sees what Lena has been holding this whole time. It’s a tablet, and she sets it on the table under her folded hands as she talks. “You’re not a good man – there’s no inner light to appeal to inside of you. You’re selfish, and cruel, and you enjoy what you do. You’d do it even if Lillian wasn’t holding your leash. But above all, you’re a pragmatist.”
Lena is calculated and precise, her words like a scalpel cutting through John’s bravado.
“Yeah,” he says, leaning back in his chair. “And I know which side has the better deal for me.”
To Kara, Corben looks pretty unshakeable in his resolve. But Lena seems undeterred.
“Take a look at this for me,” Lena says, pushing the tablet towards him. It slides across the table, and Corben glances at it with a bemused expression.
“Are graphs and numbers supposed to scare me?”
Lena’s answer is an immediate snap back. “When they represent your likelihood of living longer than the next few weeks, yes. Absolutely.”
Corben’s eyes zero in on the tablet again, now with a hint of concern. “What the fuck are you talking about.”
“Do you see that line?” Lena says, indicating a scary-looking red graph with a dramatic spike on the x-axis. “That’s the rate of decay for the kryptonite my mother stuck in your chest.”
“Meaning what?” Corben says, his anger now tinged with doubt.
“Meaning, if it stays inside you much longer, you’re going to die. Soon.”
Kara might have minced words, tried to find a clever and less lethal way to put it – but Lena is direct, and Corben responds immediately with doubt and anger.
“Why should I believe you? This isn’t an official interrogation,” he growls, gesturing around the definitely off-the-books room around them. “You could be lying out your ass.”
With intent Lena stands up and leans forward, putting a finger on the part of his chest where Kara knows the green crystal is. It starts to glow, and instinctively Kara’s hand hovers over the new device on the front of her suit – but the beam doesn’t explode. It just glows angrily, and sweat starts to gather along Corben’s hairline as he clearly tries to mask his pain.
“Because you can feel it,” Lena says, her voice quiet. Deadly. “It’s eating away at your insides as we speak. Lillian gave you almost no information before she put this in you, and you’ve known for a long time it was getting more and more dangerous.”
“She told me what I need –“ Corben starts, but Lena presses harder, and he’s cut off with a strangled cry of pain.
Lena goes in for the kill.
“Lillian used you,” Lena says, an almost indiscernible hint of sympathy slipping into her words. “She pumped you full of experimental technology knowing that you would die, and she didn’t care. She cares about Lex, and she cares about herself – and everyone else is expendable. The question is, are you going to die for a woman who sees you as nothing more than a guinea pig, or are you going to save your own skin?”
She removes her finger from his chest, and with great effort he seems to pull himself together. Sweat drips from his forehead onto the table, and Kara can see his shoulders lose all their tension as he accepts his situation.
They’re his only chance.
“How?” he asks, his exhaustion evident.
“Tell us everything you know…and I’ll get that thing out of your chest.”
All it takes is an assurance from Lena that she can save his life and Corben spills his guts, more determined now to live than to be loyal – and with the knowledge that they have essentially a Martian lie detector test outside, he seems willing to be extremely thorough.
“She has some kind of big plan in the works,” Lena says to start things off, and Kara is perfectly happy to take a backseat on this questioning. Lena knows what she’s doing, and quite honestly, Kara is enjoying watching her prove it. “But I can’t get an idea of what it is. Everything is covered in a veil of secrecy. It's impossible to know who I can trust.”
“It’s a virus,” Corben says, rubbing at his chest nervously now that he knows he’s a detonation waiting to happen. “An alien poison. She plans to disperse it into the air using some kind of atmospheric device. Eventually it’ll blanket the earth, and kill any alien it touches. Then we were going to slip into the power vacuum, and without the Kryptonians to get in the way, force the fae to reveal themselves to humans.”
It's clear that whatever Lena was expecting, it was not that.
“She’s planning to reveal the fae?” She asks incredulously, leaning forward and forgetting her tough interrogation attitude. “How the hell does she think she’ll get away with that?”
“Targeted pressure from her allies,” Corben says, shrugging. “Once the laws for exposure and treason are repealed, Lex will have to be released from prison, and humans can be truly subjugated. She expects a war, but the human military hierarchy in this country is seeded with fae loyal to her. They’d collapse before they even began.”
“So you’re telling me,” Kara says, rubbing her face tiredly while Lena sits silently processing, “That Lillian is planning world domination. A global war. Just to get her son out of prison?”
“There’s no length she won’t go to for Lex,” Lena says quietly. There’s a wound there, an ages-old hurt that’s less healed than it is haphazardly plastered over, but this is possibly the worst time and place to examine it.
“Who are the main players?” Lena asks instead, opening her tablet and preparing to take notes. “I know she has allies everywhere, but she hides them well. Who are the ones integral to the plan?”
Corben’s jaw clenches, but he answers in a low voice.
“She took control of the human media when she had Morgan Edge buy out CatCo.”
“I knew it!” Kara shouts, rising half out of her seat. Lena and Corben both look at her with mingled judgement and irritation, and she sits back down slowly – but the thrill of self-satisfaction is still there. She’s been tracking every piece of evidence she can that Edge came to own CatCo by nefarious means, and knowing now that she was right is too much to keep to herself.
“Sorry,” Kara says more quietly to Lena. “But I knew Edge was bad news. I stayed at CatCo after he took over hoping to try to find dirt on him, but he’s squeaky clean. Just like Lillian.”
“Her military contact wipes their records,” Corben explains. His voice is defeated, but his information is sound. “General Lane.”
Kara’s stomach drops.
“General Lane?” she asks urgently, and Lena looks over at her with curiosity. “The man in charge of alien defense? Sam Lane is fae?”
Corben nods. “A witch. The least loyal of Lillian’s allies – he also helps her get materials for kryptonite, but he only does it out of hatred of aliens. Not because he wants fae control. She has to put a lot of effort into keeping him in check.”
“Good to know,” Lena says, still taking notes, but Kara’s mind is swimming.
Finding out that familiar figures in her life are part of some underground millennia-old society of ancient magical species is one thing. Morgan Edge, Lex and Lillian Luthor, all of them are in lofty enough positions that it almost makes sense for them to be in a secret society of some kind – but Sam Lane, the most patriotic American military fanatic Kara has ever met? It seems too strange to believe. Not only that, but one of his daughters is someone Kara has considered a close friend in the past, and the other is the fiancée of Kara’s only surviving relative. It doesn’t get much closer.
And Lois’ father, Lucy’s father…is a witch.
“I know him,” Kara says quietly, leaning in to murmur it in Lena’s ear. Lena looks interested. “He’s awful. He tried to take control of the DEO a few years ago. And I know his daughters, too, my cousin is - they’re good people, but I didn’t – I don’t know if they’re also –“
“It’s hereditary,” Lena explains, sensing what Kara is asking. “If he’s a witch, they are too.”
Kara hardly even has the energy to be shocked anymore. The hypocrisy of General Lane claiming aliens are a threat to humanity when he’s a witch isn’t lost on her, but she’s starting to realize that more of her life is intertwined with the fae than she thought. And, that she isn’t the only one of her friends with secrets. Lucy moved to Metropolis after she stepped down as director of the DEO, and Kara hasn’t been in much contact with her since – but even so, maybe she can help.
And if Lucy and Lois are witches -
Kara really needs to call her cousin.
“Okay, General Lane and Morgan Edge,” Lena says, making a note on her tablet. “Who else?”
Kara rolls her eyes, this one not surprising her at all. She’s had the suspicion ever since she saw the picture he was in with Lex and Lillian, and this just confirms it.
“I always knew Max Lord was slimy,” she mutters, but Lena ignores her.
“And I assume Mercy Graves is involved,” Lena finishes, and Corben nods.
“Those are the major players. I don’t know anything else.”
Lena nods, and gestures towards Kara. “Have someone take him to secured lab. I need to examine him before I do the surgery.”
“Just like that?” Kara asks, leaning close again as if whispering will keep Corben from hearing. “There isn’t anything else you want to know?”
“There’s nothing else I need. He fulfilled his end of the bargain.”
Corben looks back and forth between them warily. Lena is absorbed in her tablet, and Kara wants to ask her more questions – but Lena is clearly broadcasting that this isn’t the time, and Kara accepts it cautiously.
“Come on,” Kara mutters, grabbing Corben by the shoulder and pulling him to his feet. “You’re lucky it isn’t Alex doing this interrogation.”
Kara thinks that the surgery can wait, but Lena insists. The kryptonite is getting more unstable by the hour, she explains, and the longer they wait the more damage it does. While Kara thinks that Corben can lie in the toxic bed he made for a while, Lena goes into surgery with Alex as her wary assistant just a few hours later.
Kara wonders if Lena ever sleeps. She forgot to ask, during their last conversation.
The wait for them to come out again is agonizing. Lena was adamant that the staff be sent home and Kara be put in a secure chamber just in case she makes a mistake and kryptonite floods the building, but Kara knows she’s going to be just fine – what makes it hard is that she can feel Lena’s tension, her stress and concentration, and has nothing to direct it to constructively. She just has to sit in her secure cell and twiddle her thumbs, until finally J’onn comes to tell her that it’s over.
She’s disappointed when she enters the briefing room and Lena isn’t there yet. It’s just J’onn, Alex, Brainy, and Nia, and Alex looks exhausted but satisfied even thought she’s still in her scrubs.
“How did it go?” Kara asks immediately. “Where’s Lena?”
“It went fine. She’s more competent than I expected,” Alex admits. She rubs her eyes, the bags under her eyes more pronounced than they were before she went into surgery.
“I told you she was,” Kara starts, but switches tactics halfway through the thought. Alex looks tired enough already. “So Corben is alive? The kryptonite is out?”
Alex nods. “He’s stable right now. We moved him to a secure room to recover.”
Kara doesn’t even have to open her mouth to ask about Lena before J’onn is answering her question.
“Miss Luthor is still cleaning herself up,” he says, gesturing everyone to huddle around the table. “I called you all here to discuss something else.”
“Discuss what?” Kara asks, leaning forward with her hands planted on the surface. Any meeting without the person who got them all of their information seems unfair, and J’onn quickly reveals that it’s intentional.
“This whole situation is starting to get out of control,” he says, and Kara has to resist rolling her eyes. “The more we learn, the less we know how to deal with. The only solution I can think of is exposing these key players to the rest of the world before they can expose themselves, and letting Lillian deal with the reckoning.”
Her mere annoyance at the beginning of his speech turns to horror by the end, and Kara stands up straighter as she glares at him incredulously.
“Are you serious?”
“This is an enemy we don’t know how to fight,” he insists. Kara gawks at him. “We don’t have the upper hand –“
“Lena knows how to fight them! She’s been fighting for longer than most of us have been alive!”
J’onn shakes his head, clearly frustrated. “She’s not willing to work with us. If we expose –“
Kara cuts him off at the pass. “You realize that doing that will open up hundreds of thousands of people to the same danger that aliens face, right? Against their will? You’d be exposing their whole society. People would want to hurt innocent fae for the sins of the 1%. People would want to hurt Lena.”
That last point is the clincher, for her, but it doesn’t seem to affect J’onn the same way.
“I understand that, but –“
“I don’t think you do,” Kara says, her voice turning hard and flinty at his attitude. “Or if you do, I’m really disappointed that your reaction isn’t to protect people. Who are you to make that decision for them? What power do you have that gives you the right?”
“Kara’s right,” Nia chimes in, to Kara’s great relief. “It isn’t right to expose that many people to conflict. You wouldn’t just be hurting Lillian. It would be like outing every alien in the city just to get at a single perp.”
Brainy steps forward as well to stand beside Nia, and Kara makes a mental note to bring them both Noonan’s every day for a few weeks.
“Miss Luthor has not steered us wrong thus far. I believe that trusting her is the best choice,” Brainy says in that matter-of-fact way of his. Kara has never loved him more.
“Miss Luthor is part of the family that’s causing these issues –“
“Miss Luthor’s hearing isn’t as good as Kara’s, but she can hear you from two rooms over.” Lena’s voice isn’t loud, but it’s clear and pointed and every eye at the table turns to her when it rings out across the room. She’s standing in the doorway framed by the light of the corridor, and she looks like she’s on a mission.
“Lena,” Kara breathes, and the tension leaves her body the moment she steps towards the group. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“Revealing Lillian’s co-conspirators as fae might be the easiest solution, but I have another idea,” Lena says, gracing Kara with a small smile as she takes her place next to her at the table. “One less likely to result in collateral damage.”
J’onn’s jaw flexes at the clear provocation, but he remains silent. Alex, getting no confirmation from him, turns to Lena.
“Okay. What is it?”
Lena drums her fingers on the table. She looks carefully at each of them, and then purses her lips. “We take them out quietly. One by one. Remove their power structures, keep them from operating legitimately. Replace them with good people.”
She sounds completely confident, but Kara can feel the nerves humming in her chest. It’s new to Lena, working with a team, especially one she doesn’t completely trust. Kara silently, surreptitiously presses her knee to the side of Lena’s leg in the only act of comfort she can do without being seen.
Lena doesn’t react, but her nerves subside a little.
“Like who?” Kara prompts. Lena shrugs.
“Sympathetic fae, aliens you feel you can trust with our secret. Humans who know and want to help. I know people, you know people. Together I’m sure we can gut Lillian’s network and transplant it with our own.”
J’onn speaks up, seeming marginally interested if wary. “Something like that would require a partnership. A real one.”
“I’m happy to maintain a partnership,” Lena says, folding her arms. “With Kara.”
The silence between them is stony, broken only by the anxious tapping of Nia’s foot on the floor. It’s obvious that Lena is not budging, and after a few too many frosty seconds J’onn rubs a tired hand over his face.
“It’s late. We should all head home. Come at this tomorrow with clear heads.”
Everyone else seems grateful for the out. They scatter to the winds, and Kara is left alone with Lena for the first time since last night. Lena is leaning forward with her head hung slightly, looking like she might fall asleep at any minute, and Kara reaches a hand out to touch her shoulder before thinking better of it and clenching it at her side.
“Can I fly you home?” Kara asks instead. Lena looks reluctant, but after looking at her watch she finally nods. It’s well past 4 in the morning, and Kara hasn’t seen her take even a moment of rest for almost two full days.
Maybe vampires do need sleep.
There’s another moment of hesitation before Lena allows Kara to step into her space, but she does – carefully placing her hands only on places covered by the supersuit, Kara notes – and directs her to the balcony of a penthouse in a part of town that Kara has never spent much time in. It’s in the financial district but it’s one of the less ostentatious buildings, and Lena once again jumps out of her arms the moment they land safely.
As eager as she seemed to not be touching Kara, she doesn’t send her away immediately. She presses her thumb to a small pad beside the sliding door, and when it flashes green she steps inside. Kara fidgets on the balcony for a moment, but when Lena inclines her head to invite her in, she follows eagerly.
“Well. We did it,” Kara says, as Lena uncorks a crystal bottle full of amber liquid and pours herself a healthy portion. “Corben is behind bars.”
“I need to call Manchester,” Lena sighs, sitting heavily on the white leather couch and wiping a hand across her face. She takes a long sip of whatever is in her expensive-looking glass, and doesn’t so much as wince. “He’s smart. He knows he’s got a short window to take advantage of this, and he might need our help.”
Kara shakes her head. “It’s still crazy to me that you’re okay with working with him.”
“Oh, really. Do tell.” As tired as she sounds Lena still seems willing to discuss it, and Kara can’t keep her opinion inside anymore.
“I know he worked with you, but I’ve tried to reach out to him,” Kara starts, and Lena rolls her eyes. “He wasn’t having it, and then he killed someone. That’s not the kind of justice –“
“He didn’t kill anyone, he was set up,” Lena snaps. “Which you’d know if you put in more effort to speak to him instead of coming in for the arrest right away.”
Her confrontational tone takes Kara aback. It’s not necessarily that she isn’t used to it – Lena can be prickly, and Kara is still learning to delicately peel back the layers – but the fact that she’s so quick to come to the defense of a vigilante that Kara has never found reason to trust is surprising. As is the fact that he was set up, as much as she’s ashamed to admit that Lena is right.
“Even so, his methods are really rough –“ Kara argues, but Lena cuts her off again.
“How many of Corben’s people have you sent flying through walls? How many people does Alex point a gun at weekly? Just because he doesn’t have government permission doesn’t make him a bad person.”
Kara pauses, the argument stilling on her tongue.
It’s a perspective she’s never taken before. She thinks of Manchester as dangerous, indiscriminate in his use of force, but she can’t deny Lena’s claim that she herself uses force often as well. Manchester may have different goals and methods, but it makes her think.
Kara’s silence seems to make Lena relax a little. She takes another mouthful of liquor, and Kara gets slightly distracted from her self-assessment by the way her mouth moves around the lip of the glass.
“He knows everyone in that world, and considering every holier-than-thou authority figure he’s ever known has explicitly stepped on him, I don’t blame him for not trusting you,” Lena says, her voice a little raspy from the alcohol. “I only trust you because of –“
Because of our connection almost passes her lips, but Lena cuts herself off. Kara feels the intent in her mind anyways. She almost finishes the sentence, but Lena bulldozes on before she can try.
“The point is, he’s a good person seeking freedom and justice. Isn’t that what you’re all about? Hope, help, and compassion? For all?”
Lena stares at her pointedly, and Kara sinks down onto an ottoman across from the couch.
“I never thought about it that way.”
Lena swirls the last of the liquid – scotch, Kara now suspects, recognizing the smell from Alex’s liquor cabinet – in her glass, staring down into it with intensity.
“Do you ever wonder what actually happens to the aliens you apprehend?” Lena asks, still staring into her glass like it holds the answer. “Fort Rozz escapees, and otherwise. Aliens who oppose you, or commit crimes. What happens after you bring them in?”
Kara frowns. It’s not the question she was expecting, and it throws her off enough that her answer comes out without much thought.
“I mean, they get locked up. So they stop hurting people.“
Lena smiles, but it holds no joy. It’s a sad smile, one of someone who knows too much. Even Kara can see the naivety of her own answer.
“And did you ever ask why they did what they did?” Lena asks, finally raising her eyes to Kara’s. “Did they get a trial? Any due process or rights that should be afforded them under the Alien Amnesty Act? Or were they just locked away in some black site to rot?”
Kara’s stomach sinks lower with every question. All of these are things she’s asked herself before, but getting an answer always seemed to evade her. It’s why she’s tried to distance herself from the DEO – but with Alex and J’onn there, she always ends up getting pulled back.
There’s another part of Lena’s line of questioning, though, that nags at Kara’s mind.
“How do you know about Fort Rozz?”
Lena’s smile gets a hint of mirth in it, even if it doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “The second they let me in, I hacked their records. I don’t trust anyone, especially not barely-overseen government black ops.”
Lena looks like she’s preparing for a fight. Her hand is clenched hard around her glass, her fingers turning white, and her leg is bouncing slightly despite her stony face. But what she’s saying is lining up with suspicions and fears Kara has had for a long time, and after a moment of consideration Kara nods.
“What did you find?”
Lena looks taken aback. She blinks a few times, a furrow forming between her brows, and finally the fight seems to go out of her.
“You believe me?” she asks in a quiet voice, one that tells Kara that trust is a precious commodity in Lena’s life.
Silently, internally, she vows to show Lena as much of it as possible.
“Always,” Kara says with an easy smile. Lena can’t hide the smile that reflects on her own face, no matter how much she ducks her head.
“Besides, I’ve felt weird about the way things are handled there for a long time,” Kara admits, fiddling with the ends of her cape. “I mean, the first time I knew the DEO existed, it was because they shot me down with kryptonite and cuffed me to a table. I just never knew how to do anything about it.”
Lena’s smile this time is all real. She stands, leaving her half-empty glass on the coffee table, and pulls a tablet out of a drawer nearby. Typing a few things in, she brings it back over and turns the screen towards Kara.
“We’re going to need the DEO’s resources to get this done, but you should at least know who you’re working for,” Lena says, as Kara gingerly takes the tablet. “There’s a reason I won’t sign anything they give me. Throwing people into a black hole with no due process or oversight - I personally don’t love the idea of ending up an experiment.”
“What happens after all this is over?” Kara asks, not quite ready to look at the truths Lena’s found. “I just become a freelance vigilante?”
“Superman operates alone. And you’re twice the hero your cousin is. I’m sure you’d figure it out.”
Lena delivers the compliment with practiced nonchalance, but Kara can tell it’s genuine, and it sparks a glow in her chest.
“You really think so?” Kara asks, unashamed of fishing for more compliments. Lena shrugs.
“Of course. Anyone with half a brain could see it.”
Kara puts the tablet down, folding her legs under her on the armchair and planting her chin in her hand. “Okay, this DEO stuff can wait. Tell me more nice things about myself.”
Lena laughs, picking the tablet back up and shoving it into Kara’s face – but her cheeks are pink, and Kara considers it a win.
“Shut up and read, Supergirl.”