In the first few confusing moments while she eases awake, Kara can almost convince herself that the events of the night before were just an incredible dream.
They had to be – it’s too good to be true that Lena could have turned up at her apartment, told Kara that they’re soulmates, and then ravished her on the living room floor. It’s laughable. But as her senses come back to life, each of them tells her the impossible.
Along with the usual waking-up sounds of early morning traffic and general city chaos, Kara can hear soft breathing and a slow, calm heartbeat beside her. She can feel the sensation of the hard floor under her back, and the warmth of Lena’s head pillowed on her chest. A deep breath is answered by Lena’s perfume, faint now and diluted with the deeper smell of sleep but unmistakably there.
Finally one eye cracks open, and while her blurry vision starts to clear she takes a few seconds to take stock of the trail of chaos that litters her apartment.
Most noticeably, there’s an indent in the brick of her living room wall. It’s distinctly person-shaped, with little fissures spreading out from the point of impact and tiny fragments and dust littering the floor underneath. Two sets of clothes litter the ground, with Lena’s shirt torn down the middle and dangling from the lopsided shade of Kara’s floor lamp. The coffee table is on its side, and everything that was on it – including Kara’s previously-full mug of apple cider, now dried and sticky on the hardwood – is scattered across the space. And of course the couch is a few feet away from where she’s lying, two legs splintered and a third dangerously askew. One of the cushions is currently under her head, and her fuzzy throw blanket is the only thing covering her naked body.
Hers, and Lena’s.
Even with her other senses telling her that Lena is here, the sight of her spread out naked on the floor still seems completely absurd. She’s mostly draped over Kara’s body, one leg slung up and over Kara’s and her head squarely in the middle of Kara’s chest, and she stares dumbfounded down at Lena’s peaceful face for almost a full minute before it really sinks in.
Last night happened. Lena’s confession, the bite, the literal building-shaking sex, all of it was real. Not just the hazy daydreams that Kara’s mind sometimes conjures when she lets herself get too wistful. Kara doesn’t have words in any of the vocabularies in her repertoire to describe the events of it, but she finally has an explanation for the last few months of weirdness – soulmates, a concept she had never really had much time for before now – and Lena is here, naked and sleepy and beautiful.
In the chaos and overwhelming need of the night before, Kara hadn’t really gotten the chance to soak in the details. It had been all heat and emotion, an exploration and a promise for more. Now that the heat has burned away Kara can see the things she missed in the moment - like the dimples in Lena’s lower back, the strangely stirring bluntness of her long, tapered fingertips where they rest just over the curve of Kara’s breast. The way her pale skin isn’t completely smooth like Kara had expected but is actually dotted with a star-map of moles and isolated freckles, peeking over her back and shoulders to match the one in the middle of her throat that Kara has thought about kissing since the moment they met.
Lena’s hair is messier than Kara has ever seen it, free of its usual tight ponytails and buns and instead spread out over her back. It spills over onto Kara’s chest, slightly tangled, and Kara has the overwhelming urge to brush it for her. To gather it in her hands and gently tug the knots out, feel it turn silky soft as Lena leans back into her with a contented smile.
As clearly as Kara can see the scenario in her head, there’s still a much louder part of her brain that is pretty sure Lena will run for the door the second she wakes up.
That fear is put to the test when Lena’s breathing changes. It gets quieter, but more intentional – and with it Lena’s hand twitches, curling into a fist as her eyes open and flick up to meet Kara’s.
“…morning,” Kara manages to croak, her whole body tense as Lena blinks at the bright light streaming through the windows. Lena looks around them, taking in the same mess that Kara noted earlier with a look of groggy surprise, before facing Kara again and smiling in a way that’s almost self-conscious.
“Maybe we should have done this at my place. At least I own the building.”
All the tension leaves Kara in a whoosh as she laughs, loud and surprised. Lena grins with her, her chin dropping back down to rest on Kara’s sternum. She looks skittish, definitely, and a little reserved – but not the way she was before. She doesn’t look regretful. No more resignation, no anxiety – just acceptance, openness. And a little bit of nerves.
Kara can relate. Suddenly the idea of Lena leaving is unacceptable – if she leaves, what if this all ends? What if Kara never gets to see this side of her again?
“Do you want some tea? I have herbal,” Kara blurts. Surprisingly, Lena nods without hesitation.
“I’d love some.”
Lena moves to let her up and Kara scrambles to her feet, the throw blanket dropping to the floor before she realizes she’s now completely naked. Lena looks up at her with an interest so similar to the look she had pinned Kara with last night as she eased her legs open and licked the wetness from her thighs that Kara wants nothing more than to drop down again, pin Lena to the floor, and return the favour until she never forgets the taste.
Kara can see Lena sensing the sentiment, her eyes darkening and her posture turning loose and liquid, and it’s exhilarating. In a heartbeat Kara has filled the kettle to the top, put it on the stove to heat up, and followed that craving straight to its enthusiastic source.
Lena is coming hard and fast on her tongue before the kettle even starts to whistle. She had been wondering if their connection would persist after the initial bite, and apparently, the answer is yes.
“Okay,” Kara pants, flopping to lie next to Lena on the floor again. It isn’t often that she runs out of breath, but it turns out Lena is a predictably demanding receiver, and she hasn’t taken a breath in about a minute and a half. Her elbow lands in the sticky cider-stain, but she’s far too busy coasting on the communal down-drafts of Lena’s admittedly fantastic orgasm to care. “Um. Peppermint, or hibiscus?”
Lena – through laughter – chooses peppermint. While Kara bustles around, throwing on whatever articles of clothing are most accessible and making two mugs of tea, Lena relocates to one of Kara’s kitchen stools. In the process Lena casually swipes the sweater that’s hanging over the back of Kara’s now-crooked couch, slipping it on and then crouching to fish her underwear out from under the furniture; when it comes out covered in the fluffy dust that Kara always forgets to vacuum, she pins Kara with a look that makes her laugh nervously.
“Hey, not all of us have personal cleaning services!” Kara protests weakly, still somewhat distracted by Lena’s notable pantslessness. She pours hot water into two mismatched mugs, pushing one towards Lena’s side of the kitchen island. “You can borrow some of mine?”
She fully expects Lena to refuse. But after a moment of contemplation the brunette shrugs, plucking a pair of lobster-patterned briefs from the top of Kara’s nearby clean laundry basket and stepping into them.
Kara just about drops her mug.
She catches it at the last moment, sloshing hot water all over her shirt as Lena slips gracefully onto a stool, and Kara is greeted by the brand-new torture of trying not to openly stare at her thighs. While she’s wearing Kara’s clothes. Lena is wearing her clothes and her underwear and sitting at her kitchen island and drinking tea.
“Thanks,” Lena says, and Kara’s eyes dart quickly back up to her face. “For the tea. And everything. I have to admit, I’ve never really…done this before.”
“What? Had sex with your soulmate?” Kara blurts. Luckily Lena laughs, her dimples flashing, and Kara starts to think that maybe – just maybe – Lena is actually here to stay. If Kara hasn’t sent her running yet, she has to want to be here.
“Well, yes,” Lena admits, running a finger over the rim of her mug. “But also, ehm. Slept over.”
The tantalizing hint of the unidentified accent Lena tries to hide slips through in that ehm, and it gives Kara butterflies. She’s tried to decipher it since they met, but has never quite been able to place it, and gave up on the venture a long time ago. Now it’s coming forth more than ever, like Lena is letting down that wall as well.
“You’ve never slept over with someone?” Kara says, frowning as the statement sinks in. Sure, Kara hasn’t really been one for sleepovers either, but that’s because she’s always been worried about revealing her secret or flying in her sleep. And, Lena is significantly older than she is. Kara has no idea how much older, of course, but she’s a vampire. With all that life experience, it just seems unrealistic.
“Nobody I was sleeping with,” Lena clarifies.
“Really? Not once?” Kara keeps her real question – not even Andrea? – to herself, but Lena smiles like she knows anyways.
“I always leave, or ask them to leave. I’ve never felt comfortable enough to stay. Never been…committed. Not like this.”
Lena says it hesitantly, quietly. It’s not an I love you, which Kara has been ready to give practically since they met. But she still says it. She says it.
Kara knows that last night was intense for both of them. She felt how Lena reacted, how she had opened herself up and given in to their connection, and it was somehow nothing and everything like Kara imagined. But if she’s being honest, half of her expected Lena to have bolted in the night. To have realized what she’d done, and run from it like all those times before. But here she is, sitting at Kara’s kitchen island with sleep-messy hair, pulling the hem of Kara’s NCU sweater down over her bare legs and smiling as she talks about commitment. About committing to Kara.
Lena sips gingerly at her mug of tea, clearly feeling the small explosion that happens in Kara’s brain and giving her time to process, and Kara throws caution to the wind. She moves around the table, leans down, and steals a kiss, still half expecting Lena to flinch or pull away. Maybe even slap her.
But Lena doesn’t. She hesitates for a second, stiff and clearly not expecting the open display of affection – but then she relaxes, and kisses back. A soft hand slides up to cup Kara’s jaw, and as they slowly part, Lena’s thumb rubs back and forth over the skin there.
“I’m sorry. For fighting this.” Lena’s voice quivers slightly, the vulnerability clearly making her uncomfortable, but she pushes on anyways. “I can’t promise I’m going to do everything right. I’ve never done this before, or anything like it. But I’m trying. Okay?”
Kara smiles. She takes hold of Lena’s hand, pulling it from her cheek to lay a firm kiss on her palm.
“That’s all we can ask of each other.”
Somewhere on the other side of the apartment, the quiet peace of the morning is broken by a faint ringtone.
Lena’s eyes widen.
“Shit,” she mutters, and she ducks out of Kara’s embrace to jog over to the source of the sound – her purse, which had been sitting on the coffee table and is now lodged under Kara’s TV stand. “Shit, I was supposed to meet Sam this morning. I completely forgot –“ she rifles through the bag until she finds her phone, seeming to brace herself before answering.
Sam’s voice is loud, especially to Kara’s ears - and Lena’s, she remembers with sudden delight. Lena has her powers right now. The reminder sends a pleasant shiver through her, even as Lena winces and holds the phone away from her ear.
“Where are you? I went to your apartment and the office, and Nia said you’re not at the DEO,” Sam says without preamble. Kara can hear the traffic in the background. “Those are the only three places you go.”
“I go other places!” Lena protests, taking a few wide steps back towards Kara while avoiding the cider stain on the floor. Sam laughs.
“No, you don’t. You’re a workaholic hermit.”
Lena huffs, reaching Kara again and – to Kara’s surprise - leaning into her, putting her weight against Kara’s body in a surprising display of affection. Kara presses a grateful kiss into her temple and Lena grins, looking happier than Kara has ever seen her.
“Remind me why we’re friends, again?” Lena says, and the silence on the other end of the line afterwards is palpable. Lena frowns, checking to see if maybe Sam got cut off, but the call is still active – and a few seconds later, Sam finally speaks.
“…you sound different.”
Lena straightens up a little. “What are you talking about? I sound the same way I always do.”
“You don’t. You sound…light,” Sam says, every word laced with suspicion.
“What does that even mean?” Lena asks, her forced casualness clearly not working on Sam. Not that Kara is surprised – Sam is incredibly intuitive, and Lena seems entirely unable to lie to her for some reason.
“Lena, are you with Kara right now?” Sam asks, point-blank. Lena’s mouth falls open.
“I’m – how did –“ Lena stammers, all traces of the mysterious and cool-as-a-cucumber façade that Kara knows she usually employs scattering to the winds. She’s blushing hard, her hand clenched in Kara’s shirt like a lifeline, and Sam makes a noise that can only be described as absolute victory.
“I was going to call you, I swear –“ Lena starts, but Sam interrupts her.
“You finally accept your soulmate and you don’t tell me?”
“It only happened last –”
Before Sam can interrogate her further, Kara plucks the phone out of Lena’s hands.
“Hey, Sam! Lena can’t come to the phone right now,” Kara says with finality, and she can hear Sam’s long-suffering sigh. “She’ll get back to you as soon as she can.”
“Oh, fine, go bask in your newfound radiance, you assholes,” Sam says, and something in her tone sounds a little less like humour and a little more like grief than Kara was expecting. “It’s not like it’s an emergency. But the second you leave your love-nest, get her to call me.”
Sam hangs up, and Kara hands the phone back to Lena with a frown.
“She actually sounded kind of sad. Is she okay?”
Lena seems to hesitate. She drops the phone back into her purse, setting it on the kitchen island and settling back onto her stool. “She has…soulmate issues.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Kara says, leaning onto the island on her elbows. “Does she hate soulmates or something? Oh, god, does she hate me now?”
Lena puts a stop to Kara’s potential spiral with a wave of the hand. “No, it’s not like that. It’s complicated. It’s…she has one, and they don’t remember her,” Lena says, seeming to struggle with her wording.
“Remember her?” Kara asks, trying and failing to suss out what Lena means. “Do they have amnesia or something?”
Lena drums her fingers on the side of her mug, her short nails making a rhythmic clacking sound on the ceramic. She purses her lips, and seems to make a decision.
“This isn’t exactly my secret to tell, but I know Sam, and I’d be surprised if she wasn’t expecting me to explain some of it to you,” Lena says, and Kara takes a seat across the island to listen. “Sam isn’t fae, exactly. I wasn’t lying to you when I said that. But she’s…not a typical human, either.”
Kara can follow the resulting explanation fairly easily. With vampires and werewolves and soulmates now firmly part of her understanding of the world, the concept of reincarnation and a person who can remember past lives is small potatoes. But Lena still doesn’t explain how Sam being an Old Soul relates to her soulmate problem, and Kara finds herself having to press for a little information.
“So, she…can remember every past life,” Kara clarifies. Lena nods, looking happy to have the information off her chest.
“That explains a lot, actually,” Kara mutters, remembering the devastating accuracy of Sam’s insight about her feelings for Lena. “How old is she, exactly? Or, her soul. You know.”
Lena pauses, looking thoughtful. “You know, I honestly don’t know. She only references it in passing. But older than Lillian, I think.”
“And…how old is Lillian?” Kara asks tentatively. Lena’s answer is blasé, and completely at odds with the information it holds.
“Lillian’s father was a Roman consul.”
“Gosh,” Kara mutters, rubbing her face. It makes sense, of course, Lillian being several thousand years old – but it’s still a lot to process, realizing that someone she’s been trying to outwit has been around since ancient Rome. “Okay. So, Sam remembers that she has a soulmate. But her soulmate…isn’t an Old Soul?”
“That’s not the problem,” Lena says, sighing. “They’re both Old Souls. Her soulmate just doesn’t recognize her.”
“How is that possible? I can’t imagine not recognizing you.”
Lena smiles, her cheeks turning rosy even as she shakes her head. “You say that now. But when we first met, you thought I was working for Corben.”
Kara opens her mouth to retort, but at Lena’s amused look, she deflates a little. “Okay, that’s fair. But I didn’t think that for very long.”
“People like Sam aren’t born knowing what they are,” Lena explains patiently. It’s still new to Kara, this even temperament uninterrupted by Lena’s usual bouts of regret or panic, and it’s a wonderful change. “They usually have a moment of recognition, a trigger that activates their memories. Usually it’s around puberty, but if you never find the right trigger it sometimes happens late, apparently. Sam’s soulmate hasn’t found her trigger.”
Kara nods in understanding, but even as Lena explains she can feel something else coming from her. Something besides patience. Guilt.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Kara asks gently. Lena shifts in discomfort, looking conflicted for a moment, and Kara holds a hand up almost as soon as the words leave her mouth. “Actually, never mind. If it’s Sam’s secret, I don’t need to know.”
“I feel like…I don’t know. A bad soulmate or something,” Lena says quietly, fiddling with the string of her teabag. Needing to reassure her Kara takes her fidgety hands, pressing them together between her own and kissing where they join.
“This thing between us doesn’t have to change who we are, or our relationship to each other,” Kara says, making sure to project her honesty so that Lena doesn’t need to doubt her. “We don’t have to share everything. We just have to trust each other to share the right things. If this is a secret for now, then keep it. I trust you to tell me when you need to.”
The tension leaves Lena’s body. She leans forward, pressing her forehead into Kara’s sternum and burrowing closer when Kara kisses the top of her head.
“Thank you,” Lena whispers, and no matter how curious Kara is, Lena’s relief and trust in her is worth more than knowing some secret. It’s worth more than anything.
As much as Kara wishes they could just stay in the bubble of her apartment for the next week, they only get the morning to bask in their newfound calm. Neither of them had planned their day around a morning-after, and both of them are due at the DEO to formulate the next part of the plan now that Mercy is in custody. Things are moving faster now, and as much as Kara wants to just gather Lena into her arms and see if her bedframe can hold up to their combined strength, they have other obligations.
She flies Lena home to get showered and changed (after spending 15 minutes trading idle kisses on the balcony, Lena catching her by the front of her suit every time she tries to fly away), and when she lands at the DEO she’s pretty sure that she’s sporting a dopey smile that Alex will catch onto in a hot second.
True to form, Kara has barely touched down before Alex is squinting at her.
“Someone woke up on the right side of the bed this morning.”
“I mean technically, I woke up on the floor,” Kara quips, and Alex makes a confused face. Kara, steeling herself for the inevitable, elaborates. She wants to tell Alex, needs to talk to her sister about the incredible, life-changing night she had, but if she’s being honest she isn’t entirely sure what Alex’s reaction will be. “Lena came over last night.”
“And that somehow led to you sleeping on the floor?” Alex says, leaning around Kara to frown distractedly in the direction of the security desk. She looks like she’s expecting someone, and they haven’t arrived yet.
“We…didn’t make it to the bed,” Kara says, and that seems to get her sister’s attention. Her eyes snap back to Kara’s, her eyebrows shooting up as she blinks a few times.
“Right,” Alex says, and Kara can practically see her brain scrambling to acclimate to the information. “Uh. Congratulations?”
It’s not a negative reaction, and Kara seizes the opportunity with verve. The events of the night spill out of her with so little prompting that she doubts she could have kept this secret for long, anyways.
“It was amazing, Alex,” Kara gushes, the memory of Lena’s soft kisses this morning still rattling around in her chest. “I mean, I’ve never – it’s never been like that, you know? We were so connected. And she’s so different with me now, like all the walls just fell away as soon as we made – “
“Oh, god,” Alex yelps, putting her hands up and looking firmly into the middle distance with a slightly constipated expression. “Okay, hold on, before you continue - if you’ll just give me a moment, I need to prepare myself to not create mental images for the next few minutes.”
Kara laughs, elbowing Alex as she rubs her face like she’s trying to physically erase the details from her mind. “I’m sorry, you’re right, that’s too much. I know you don’t exactly like Lena, but –“
Alex stops, taking her hands away from her face and frowning. “I never said I didn’t like her.”
“You frown every time she’s in the room.”
Alex rolls her eyes. “We’re not best friends, sure, but she’s…she’s proven herself, several times over. If being with her is what you want, I’m not going to judge you.”
Kara squints, leaning close to detect any hint of a lie on Alex’s face. Alex had been the biggest dissenting voice in bringing Lena in on this whole operation, and she’s never seen Alex exchange more than a few polite words with her, unless they’ve been socializing by themselves which would be so weird.
“Who are you, and what have you done with my sister?”
Alex glances around for witnesses, and then sticks her tongue out in a brief but familiar gesture as she shoves at Kara’s shoulder. “Shush. I can sometimes admit when I’m wrong. And I was wrong about Lena. You’re an adult, and she clearly makes you happy. Just…”
Alex hesitates, and Kara lets out a knowing chuckle.
“Here it comes.”
“I’m just saying, be careful, Kara,” Alex says quietly. “She might be different, but her family is dangerous. And there’s still a lot about her that we don’t know. I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“I’m not going to –”
There’s a chime at the security desk, and Alex’s attention is drawn away from the conversation. Following her eyeline, Kara’s own attention wanders off mid-sentence as well – Sam is coming down the stairs with Lena in tow, and something in Kara’s soul settles into deep contentment as soon as their eyes meet. She can see Lena’s cheeks turn pink, the hints of a smile barely hidden, and in her distraction Kara completely misses how Alex’s eyes follow Sam’s descent just as closely.
Alex is slightly awkward when the four of them sit down to discuss next steps, but neither she nor Sam bring up the newfound elephant in the room, and Kara is mostly grateful. She’s a little disappointed to miss an opportunity to wax poetic about Lena, but Lena herself is still a bit skittish, and Kara would prefer she isn’t made uncomfortable only a day after she finally decided to open up.
“With Mercy and Lord out of the way, we need to focus on Sam Lane,” Alex says her fingers drumming on the table. Lena, seated next to Kara but far enough away that it isn’t obvious how much they want to be close to each other, shakes her head.
“Lord is far from dealt with. They barely have anything on him yet, and Andrea hasn’t even put her name forward to Lillian as his replacement.”
“It’s only a matter of time, right?” Sam says, speaking in immediate support of Alex and making Lena frown. “He’s being investigated as we speak. With my evidence, they’ll find something. We only have one link in the chain left, we should deal with him.”
“And how do you suggest we do that?” Lena says drily. “We can’t exactly march into his military base and demand he give us his kryptonite supply. Declaring any kind of conflict with a General of his rank is a bad idea, even for Supergirl. Especially for Supergirl.”
Alex looks pointedly at Kara, and Kara gnaws at her lip.
“Do you think –” Alex starts, and Kara cuts her off.
“That might be difficult.”
“Difficult, sure, but how else could we possibly –”
“I know,” Kara huffs. Sam looks back and forth between the two of them with amusement, and Lena raises a brow.
“Care to share with the group?” Lena drawls, and Kara sighs, crossing her arms.
“We might not need to take the conflict route. I might be able to talk to his daughter,” she admits, and Lena’s brow raises. “Lois. Lois Lane. She’s married to my cousin.”
“Your cousin is Lois Lane’s husband?” Sam asks, her eyes narrowing. “I thought her husband was that hunky reporter Clark Ke – oh.”
“Yes, Lois Lane is married to Superman, who writes glowing articles about himself under a flimsy pseudonym,” Lena says twirling her finger in a who cares gesture. “Fascinating. Does Clark know that Lois is a witch?”
“I have to assume he does. They’ve been together for almost as long as I’ve been on earth – he has to know, right?”
Lena nods. “Do you think her loyalty to Clark will supersede her father?”
“She and Clark have the most solid relationship I know,” Kara shrugs. “They’ve been through a lot, and I know Lois clashes with her dad a lot more than Lucy did. I think Lucy would be hard to convince. Lois is probably our best shot. It’s just…”
“What?” Lena asks. Kara purses her lips.
“It just depends on how angry Clark is about...us.”
The mood change is palpable. Sam’s eyes widen at the open admittance, while Alex rolls her eyes at the reminder of Clark’s stubbornness. Lena, on the other hand, gets slightly stiff.
Kara wants nothing more than to assure Lena that she doesn’t care what her cousin thinks, that she’d fly to the very top of this city and write her affection in the sky for everyone to see if she could. But it’s clear from the waves of discomfort coming from Lena that doing it in front of Sam and Alex will only make it worse, so Kara stands, gesturing at the door.
“Can I talk to you in private?”
Lena follows into the nearest empty lab, and Kara shuts the door firmly behind them.
“I don’t care what Clark thinks about us,” Kara says, and her suspicions are confirmed when Lena shakes her head, her eyes still cast downwards.
“He’s your cousin. Your only blood relative. And he was almost killed by my brother. Of course you care.”
“I love him, and he loves me,” Kara says, tipping Lena’s chin until the shorter woman meets her eyes. “But whatever he says will have no impact on what’s between us. Clark is always going to be part of my life, and so are you, and he’s just going to have to deal with that.”
Lena seems to relax slightly. She’s still tense, but she lets Kara pull her close and press a kiss to the top of her head
“It’s still strange, hearing you say that.” At Kara’s curious look, Lena elaborates. “Always. I’ve never had anyone want me in their life indefinitely. I’ve never wanted to be in someone’s life indefinitely. Especially against the wishes of their family.”
“You’re not against Clark’s wishes, it’s just – it’ll just take a bit for him to trust your intentions, that’s all,” Kara reasons. “He has some trust issues, and he doesn’t really get why I don’t work alone. Why I prefer to trust in a team.”
“Something tells me it’s going to be harder than you think to convince him that his cousin dating the vampire sister of his arch-nemesis is a good idea,” Lena mutters, pulling away from their loose hug with a quick kiss to Kara’s shoulder. Kara shrugs, pulling out her phone.
“Well, he doesn’t have to approve in order to agree to help, does he?”
Clark’s reaction is less than ideal, but nothing Kara didn’t expect. Her cousin is maddeningly stubborn sometimes, and his assumption that Lena is as loyal to her family as he is to his own is driving Kara up the wall. But he hears Kara out, as much as he tries to give her warnings she has no need for. She’s had just about enough of people warning her about the love of her life, and she has even less tolerance for it coming from someone who has never even met her.
“I didn’t call you for your blessing, Clark,” Kara sighs, rubbing the bridge of her nose. “You’re going to have to trust me about Lena. I called you to ask for your help.”
“My help to what, exactly?”
“Sam Lane is giving Lillian Luthor smuggled kryptonite.”
The line goes silent, and Kara hears Clark sigh heavily.
“I can’t exactly say I’m surprised,” he mutters, and Kara starts to pace as she brings up the topic she’s really been burning to say.
“Lena says that…that witches are usually not so aggressive,” Kara says carefully. “Him helping a powerful vampire is out of character. I think his fear of aliens is pushing him to do something drastic.”
The silence on Clark’s end stretches even longer than before. For a moment, Kara worries that she might have been wrong – that maybe Clark doesn’t know about Lois’ fae nature – but the fear is assuaged when he finally speaks.
“How much did she tell you? About all of that?”
“Lena told me everything about the fae,” Kara says pointedly. “About their whole world. She could get tried for treason for it, but we trust each other.”
Clark sighs again. “Are you sure working with Lillian’s daughter to take down her mother is the best idea?” This is the third time in this conversation alone that Clark has said it, but this time, he seems more resigned than upset.
“I told you already, Lena is different.”
“She’s still a Luthor, and a vampire,” Clark says, and Lena rolls her eyes. “If she’s told you anything about their kind, you know they’re dangerous.”
“Well, your wife is a witch!” Kara huffs.
“That is not even close to being on the same level. My wife is a supernatural being, your girlfriend is the sister of the man who tried to kill me.”
“She’s not just my girlfriend, Clark, she’s my soulmate!”
The third long silence of the phone call seems to ring in Kara’s ears. She hadn’t meant to tell Clark the details of her relationship with Lena, not knowing if he would even understand its real meaning, but the cat is out of the bag now and Kara might as well fill the quiet.
“And I don’t mean in that colloquial human way,” she says quietly. “I mean –“
“I know what you mean.”
Kara blinks. “Has Lois explained it to you?”
“Lois is mine.”
That’s about the last thing Kara expected from this conversation.
“Oh,” she says blankly, before straightening with indignation. “Why the heck don’t fae talk about this more? It’s apparently more common than I thought – “
“It isn’t,” Clark says, his voice suddenly serious. “It’s extraordinarily uncommon, actually. So much so that Lois thought none existed until we met.”
Clark sighs again, and Kara can almost see him running his hand through his well-coiffed hair. “Are you sure?”
“Trust me. I’ve seen her soul, Clark. The absolute heart of her. It was…the purest thing I’ve ever seen,” Kara admits, her voice shaking with the emotion that comes with remembering the experience. “She is not her family. She’s good. Do you know what that feels like? To know someone down to every molecule?”
“Yes,” he says gravely. “I do.”
“So, you trust me?”
“Of course I trust you, Kara. It’s her I was worried about.”
“Was?” Kara asks, with a spark of hope. Clark lets out an exasperated chuckle.
“If you say she’s your soulmate, I need to take you at your word.”
That was much easier than Kara thought it would be. Having Clark so suddenly on board throws her for a loop, along with the new information that apparently both of the kryptonians on earth have fae soulmates, and for a second she forgets exactly what this conversation was supposed to be about.
“Oh. Good,” she says, her brain finally catching up. “Well, if you want someone to distrust, you should be looking at your father-in-law.”
The latter half of the phone call goes much better than the former. Clark signs off with a surprising suggestion to try having a double date dinner, which Kara is sure will be spectacularly awkward, and a promise to talk to Lois about her father. She hangs up with a spring in her step, and the cheerfulness follows her all the way back to the room where Sam, Alex, and Lena should be waiting. But when she gets there Lena is waiting outside, leaning against the wall with the door still closed.
“Is there a reason you’re in the hallway and not inside?” Kara asks, and Lena blanches.
“Not…really,” she says entirely unconvincingly.
Kara chuckles. “You’re very bad at lying to me now, you know.”
Breezing past her Kara opens the door, and to her surprise Sam and Alex are sitting closer than they had been before. Their hands are on the table, inches apart but not touching, and when Kara enters they both jump and separate as if they’ve been caught doing something wrong.
“Kara!” Alex says loudly, standing up so abruptly that her chair skids across the floor. “Hi! How did it go?”
Sam’s face is crimson, and she’s staring resolutely down at the table in a fit of seeming despondence that Kara has never seen before. In her experience, Sam takes everything in stride. But Kara had seen the look on Sam’s face in the split second before Alex seemed to panic, and seen something deeply familiar reflected there in how Sam was looking at her sister. Longing.
The conversation with Lena this morning is swirling in her head, mixing with the scene in front of her, and it takes a few seconds before she manages to speak.
“Fine,” Kara says, her mouth finally catching up with the complicated revelation in her brain. “It went, uh. Fine. Clark is going to talk to Lois tonight and get back to us.”
“Well, that’s great!” Alex says, her manic tone not quieting at all as she speed-walks away from the table and slips past Kara in the doorway. “I should go update J’onn and Brainy.”
Sam stands as soon as Alex leaves, not quite meeting Kara’s eyes. “I should go, too. Someone has to cover Lena’s ass at L-Corp.”
Sam is gone just as quickly, squeezing Lena’s hand on the way, and Kara is left staring at an empty room, blinking silently as the full picture tries to take shape in her mind.
“Lena,” she says, hearing the brunette shifting from foot to foot behind her, “I’m hungry.”
After a half hour to think and six Korean tacos from her new favourite food truck outside CatCo, Kara feels settled enough to ask the question that’s been sitting in the back of her mind like a rock. Lena has been quiet the whole outing, letting Kara process while they bought food and brought it back to Kara’s apartment to eat, and now she’s sitting on the couch with her legs folded carefully underneath her on the lopsided couch, looking like she’s expecting the worst.
“Sam’s soulmate,” Kara says slowly, and Lena pauses mid-sip of the tropical smoothie that Kara insisted she try. “The other Old Soul who doesn’t know who she is. It’s Alex, isn’t it? Her soulmate is my sister.”
It seems so strange to say it out loud. Her sister, the person she’s known since she came to this planet, being some kind of infinitely reincarnated soul seems so improbable, but she knows what she saw at the DEO; and besides that, Lena is nodding with a look of consternation.
“Yes,” Lena says quietly, fiddling with her straw. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I imagine you’re angry.”
“Angry?” Kara says, frowning. It’s strange, and she’s still processing it, but she isn’t angry. “I already told you, you don’t have to tell me everything, especially if it’s Sam’s secret. Is that why you’ve been so quiet? You thought I’d be mad?”
“It has to do with your sister,” Lena argues, but Kara shrugs, putting a hand over Lena’s on the couch cushion.
“Sure, but it’s not like she’s in danger or anything. It’s something she doesn’t even know about herself, right? I understand you keeping Sam’s secret,” Kara reasons. Lena, after staring at Kara for a few silent seconds, shakes her head.
“How are you so understanding about this? About everything?”
“It’s sort of part of the soulmate deal, right?” Kara says, bringing Lena’s hand up to press a kiss to her palm. “I trust you. But is there a reason we can’t just tell Alex? She’d probably tell me I’m insane, but –“
“Sam says it doesn’t work that way. She has to find her trigger naturally. Forcing it could hurt her.”
Kara sighs. “So there’s nothing we can do?”
“Not that I can tell,” Lena says, and Kara can feel how genuinely sad that fact makes the brunette. “I’ve been trying to encourage them being in the same room, but it hurts Sam so much to be so close and have Alex know nothing about their past. She said it’s like…it’s like reaching out with your soul and hitting a brick wall.”
“Gosh,” Kara mutters, shifting closer to Lena until their thighs are pressed together and lacing their fingers. “That sounds awful.”
Lena nods, staring down at their joined hands. Kara rubs her thumb over the back of Lena’s hand, and Lena’s mouth shifts into an anxious twist.
“It’s part of what convinced me to finally talk to you about everything,” she says quietly. Kara tilts her head.
“Really? How so?”
“I realized I’d been doing that to you. Shutting you out. And you didn’t know why,” Lena says with surprising clarity. “And then you fought that Valeronian at the DEO, and it looked like you were losing, and the fear I felt…I realized how it would feel to lose you having never told you the truth.”
It had been a turning point for Kara, too, being pinned by something with no guarantee of winning the fight and knowing that she never got to sort things out with Lena. And when she managed to fly up the elevator shaft and Lena had thrown herself into her arms, all hesitation briefly gone, the rush Kara felt at the briefest contact had been even more euphoric.
“I would have waited as long as you needed,” Kara says. Lena nods, twisting her hands together in a nervous sort of fidget that warms Kara’s chest.
“I know. That made me feel even worse. I was the one holding you back. Holding myself back.”
Lena smiles, and the warmth in Kara’s chest expands to a supernova.
“Now, I’d like to kiss you.”
Kara almost breaks what’s left of her couch in her hurry to comply.
She’s not sure if eventually she’ll stop feeling a thrill through every molecule of her being every time she kisses Lena, but she certainly hopes not. She can’t imagine feeling Lena climb into her lap without being overcome with a desire so deep and pure that she can hardly breathe; how could she not lose herself completely in this, with her soulmate warm and limber in her reach? She’s never felt so grounded, so centred in herself, than she does when Lena is close.
“This still feels surreal,” Lena murmurs against her lips, pulling Kara’s shirt up and over her head without Kara even needing to voice the desire to do so. “I should hate how perfect this feels.”
“But?” Kara pants, pushing Lena’s dress up past her hips until the whole thing is bunched around her middle. Lena shudders, pressing herself into Kara’s hands where they grasp at her hips.
“But I just want you.”
Kara’s poor couch doesn’t survive this time, but it wasn’t long for this world anyways. It’s a worthy sacrifice, Kara thinks as she carries Lena from the wreckage to the bed, the brunette’s tongue tracing heated patterns in the crook of Kara’s neck that make her ache to be bitten.
Kara has never been particularly forward about sex. Usually it requires a level of concentration to avoid injury that means she isn’t really in the moment, and it just serves to remind her how different she is from everyone else on this planet. It’s an aspect of relationships that needed to be done with extreme caution rather than enjoyed fully. But with Lena, none of that is a concern.
With Lena, she’s suddenly insatiable.
The bed holds up to the pressure of their bodies better than the couch did, albeit barely. It helps that this time is gentler – last night was frantic and borderline destructive, a need to come together that was so primal that it superseded Kara’s control. This time in the light of day, the passion is still there, but the urgency is lessened now that they know the steps. Kara can slow down, can strip Lena down to nothing and slowly map her body, committing her reactions to memory. She can delight in every whimper and breathy chuckle as she finds all the spots that tickle and explore the ones that make Lena moan.
Last night had been deep and transcendent; this is something else. It’s focused and dirty and fun.
When Lena takes her fingers this time it’s slow and deliberate, and so stupidly hot that Kara is at a loss for words. All she can do is press forward, wordless but persistent, and fuck Lena deep until the shifting of the bedframe borders on dangerous.
And Lena does the same in turn, turning the tables long before Kara has had her fill and slowly, painstakingly discovering weak spots that Kara didn’t even know she had. She’s never had this, never known someone so single-minded in their pursuit of mutual pleasure, someone who when discovering something Kara doesn’t like will simply move on and find something she does. Lena is the first person she’s been able to relax and just enjoy herself with, without the need to worry about broken bones or self-consciousness.
Lena doesn’t mind that Kara’s body is complicated, specific in its needs and prone to quick oversensitivity. Just like Kara she seeks out what makes them both feel good and enjoys the ride; and since Kara feels Lena’s pleasure roll through her in a pleasant echo, pinning Lena to the bed and testing out how many fingers she prefers (three, sometimes four if she’s feeling particularly feisty) is almost better than being touched herself.
It’s definitely better, Kara amends in the gentle aftermath of Lena’s third orgasm with the brunette straddled over her thighs and clinging to her shoulders. Lena is soft and vulnerable like this, bare and breathing deep into Kara’s shoulder and seeming to welcome Kara’s free hand tracing patterns over her skin, the other still buried three fingers deep inside her. Lena seems unwilling to relinquish those fingers, clenching down when Kara starts to remove them, and so for long moments she stays where she is. Connected and whole.
It’s not until Lena shifts her hips up and away that Kara lies back with Lena still in her arms, her fingers finally slipping free, until the smaller woman is spread out on top of her with her knees on either side of Kara’s hips.
The only thing that tracks the movement of time is the colour of the light that filters through Kara’s open curtains. It goes from the yellow of late afternoon to the orange of early evening in relative quiet, with neither of them feeling the need to do anything besides lie in the quiet and soak up each other’s presence. It’s a comfortable sort of co-existence, a natural rest, and Kara has every intention of having moments like this every day for as long as Lena will have her.
It’s Lena who breaks the atmosphere first.
“You smell good,” Lena mumbles, dragging her face languidly over Kara’s upper chest. It reminds Kara of a contented cat, and she laughs quietly.
“I probably smell like you. And sweat.”
“Do kryptonians even sweat?” Lena asks, propping her chin on Kara’s collarbone and looking up at her curiously. Kara shrugs.
“Sometimes, with real exertion. Like enthusiastic sex with another superpowered being. Do vampires sweat?”
Lena laughs this time. “Yes. It takes a lot to make it happen, but yes. You should see Lex when he gets angry. His whole head gets shiny.”
“I’d rather not talk about Lex right now,” Kara grumbles, and that garners a belly laugh out of Lena. It reaches her eyes, making them crinkle and scrunch up, and if possible Kara falls even more in love with her at the sight of it in the early evening light.
“Would you rather talk about what makes me sweat?” Lena says, stretching her legs out to tangle with Kara’s and settling back down to lay her head on a willing shoulder.
“Very much. I guess I’ll have to try harder to push your vampire stamina.”
She can feel Lena’s smile against her skin, but it isn’t quite as enthusiastic as last time. The current between them goes from joyful to slightly heavy, and Lena swallows hard as she traces an idle heart over the curve of Kara’s breast.
“I wasn’t always a vampire.”
Lena says it so suddenly, so out of the blue, that Kara almost misses it. Kara isn’t surprised that it’s now that Lena has chosen to open up – loose and post-coital, still coasting the aftereffects of their intense connection. But this is sooner than Kara thought it would be and more than Lena has ever given her, and just as she’s sensing a bit on anxiety from Lena over sharing, she manages to follow up.
“Right. You mentioned you were turned, but your family is inborn?” Kara asks, pulling Lena closer and kissing the top of her head.
Lena shrugs, tapping a little rhythm on Kara’s clavicle. “They are. I’m not.”
“Right. You’re…both,” Kara says hesitantly. “But you don’t have to explain if you don’t want to. I remember last time you seemed…upset.”
Lena takes a deep breath before speaking.
“I was born a half-vampire, but I always appeared human,” Lena explains, her voice quiet. “No powers, no bloodlust. Completely normal, except for a few eccentricities. And I had no idea.”
“You didn’t know you were a vampire? How is that possible?”
“Half,” Lena corrects. “Only half. I didn’t know my father when I was a child. I didn’t even know the fae existed. My mother was human, and wanted to keep me away. Keep me safe. Until she died.”
“Oh, Lena,” Kara breathes, holding her a little tighter. “I’m sorry.”
Lena continues without addressing the gesture. Kara can feel reluctance coming from her, like she doesn’t feel she deserves the comfort. “There aren’t any others like me. Humans and vampires…genetically, they can’t mix. I’m an anomaly. Nobody can seem to figure out how I exist.”
“So,” Kara says carefully, “you didn’t have powers when you were younger. Then, how…?”
“That’s where the both comes in. Technically, I’m also a made vampire,” Lena says, her voice almost a whisper. “I was turned I was 25. In 1881.”
Kara blinks. It’s a lot of information, but her mind sticks on one point of the many.
“1881? So, you’re…”
“160, give or take,” Lena says, tracing a finger down to Kara’s bellybutton and back. “You lose track after a while.”
It takes Kara a few seconds to comprehend that. Lena is putting on an air of disinterest, but Kara can tell she’s waiting on a response one way or another – as if Kara could possibly be truly weirded out by anything, at this point.
“Well, you look great,” Kara says finally, and Lena laughs with what feels like relief. She pokes at Kara’s chest, hard enough that it almost hurts.
“So do you. Aren’t you close to 80?”
Kara bristles, pushing Lena’s hand away while she laughs even harder. “Excuse me, I am 54! And most of that time I was stuck in the Phantom Zone, so it doesn’t really count.”
“Right. So, does that make me the cougar, or you?”
“I mean. This can be a cougar-for-cougar relationship,” Kara says wryly. Lena laughs, pulling her down for a kiss, and after moment of levity they settle together again, Lena slowly stroking Kara’s face.
“Do you want to tell me about it?” Kara asks. “About everything?”
She’s not talking about the joke, and she can tell that Lena knows it. Kara is intentionally gentle, giving Lena room to say no even when she can tell Lena wants to tell her. But Lena needs it to be her choice, and Kara is happy to let it be.
“I think I do,” Lena whispers. She sounds terrified, with none of the guarded stoniness that Kara is so familiar with. She’s opening herself to Kara, and Kara can tell that it goes against every one of her instincts. “Would that be too much right now?”
“Of course not,” Kara says, kissing the tip of Lena’s nose. “I want to know everything you’re willing to tell me. Whenever you’re ready.”
Lena doesn’t move, for a bit. She seems like she’s working herself up to something – and after a few silent minutes of Kara just holding her, she seems to gather her nerves.
“I’m scared that you’ll see me differently. When you know everything.”
“Different isn’t always bad.”
Lena doesn’t seem to agree. But she does move into a more comfortable position at Kara’s side, and tilts Kara’s head slightly as if in a request. At Kara’s enthusiastic nod, she sinks her teeth gently into the exposed skin.
Just like last night, the connection is immediate. Rather than simply being tethered together their souls are sharing space, dancing around each other in a strange and joyous union – but Lena is rife with anxiety, and Kara does all she can to surround her with affection and support. To assure her with no qualms that no matter what Lena shows her, she’s not going anywhere.
Like Kara did last night Lena unlocks the gate to her heart, and Kara steps through – and with an intensity she wasn’t expecting Kara is standing on the damp cobblestone streets of an unfamiliar city, holding a woman’s hand.
The woman is beautiful in the way that all mothers are to their children, red-haired but resembling the Lena that Kara knows to an almost startling degree. She has the same sharp jawline, the same unevenly coloured eyes – only, these eyes have bags under them. She looks tired, and Kara can see it through a young Lena’s eyes. The buildings around them are strange to Kara, all stone and dark wood, but to this Lena they’re the whole world.
It feels different, being in Lena’s memories. Different to how it felt letting Lena into hers. She had shown Lena broad strokes, a slideshow of her life, rushed but intense and heavy on emotion in an attempt to make her understand. A rapid succession, clumsy but effective. This is detailed. It’s like a film, the details crisp and clear like Lena has relived it over and over until it crystallized in her memory, and never even attempted to let it go. Just shut it in a dark room, only now finally opening the door. And now that Kara is on the other side of it, feeling both the confused emotions of Lena’s memory and her own, she’s swept away.
“Mummy, where are we going?” Kara hears Lena say, her tiny childhood voice thick with an accent that Kara can now identify with certainty as Irish. Lena is Irish. She’s obviously trained herself out of it after all this time, but in this memory, it’s strong and sweet and it rings in Kara’s heart like a bell.
“To the doctor, poppet,” her mother says. She’s so pale – Lena has been noticing for weeks that her usual rosiness is gone, that she can’t pick Lena up and swing her around like she used to anymore - but her mother always smiles, and says she just needs more sun. That someday they’ll get out of cloudy Dublin and go to America, where it’s sunny every day.
Lena loves the sun.
Just as Kara is getting her bearings and separating herself from the memory, she feels the presence of someone walking behind them before she sees it. The echo of footsteps that follow them through empty streets. Her mother speeds up her pace until Lena almost can’t keep up on her short legs, but the footsteps don’t relent.
Lena is scared, now. Her mother is scared too, and the ragged teddy she clutches to her chest isn’t making the fear go away like it usually does.
They’re alone in the streets, until they’re not. People come out of the shadows somehow, men and women in fancy clothes, and one of them grabs her mother by the front of her dress. Lena yells, tries to hit him wherever she can reach, but someone grabs her around the middle and puts a hand over her mouth. Miss Pizzly falls to the dirty ground while the man easily lifts her mother into the air with a single arm.
“You’re becoming an inconvenience,” the strange man says, tightening his grip. “We would have tolerated your presence had you submitted to the blood – but you remain stubbornly human, and Lionel is sullied by your association.”
Even in the face of this man, her mother is strong. Her feet don’t touch the ground, but she faces the man head-on with an even voice. “I left Lionel a long time ago.”
“And yet he still cares for you, chattel as you are. And the child, this aberration, this half-breed –“
The man is interrupted when a ragged hole is made in his chest by an invisible force. Lena can see it, every second of it – the person holding her has a hand over her mouth, but not her eyes. She sees the way his chest just opens, like a dark hand has punched through it – when she looks hard, Lena can almost see a shadow in the empty space before it disappears, and instead she can see the brick wall behind him through the gap in his ribs.
He falls to the ground, choking on dark blood, and the rest of the people surrounding them scatter leaving just Lena and her mother. Her mother pulls her close immediately, checks her over for injuries, and when Lena’s lip starts to shake she’s drawn into her mother’s arms like a warm shield from the world.
She can’t see anything, obscured as her vision is by her mother’s skirts. But she can feel that they aren’t alone, even though everyone ran away. There’s something else. Someone hovering nearby, invisible.
Her mother still isn’t afraid.
“Leave,” her mother says calmly, seeming to speak to the darkness itself. “Leave, Lionel. Now.”
It takes a moment, but eventually the oppressive feeling disappears, and Lena can breathe again. The only evidence that Lena isn’t dreaming is the blood on the ground.
They’re alone, and Miss Pizzly is soaked in red.
Kara can hardly comprehend what she’s seeing, what she’s experiencing through Lena’s soul. She herself has been through a lot in her life, an incomparable amount compared to anyone else she’s ever known – but if this is only the first memory Lena is showing her, she has no idea what to expect next.
The scene shifts, and now Kara is seeing water through Lena’s eyes. Rolling green hills meeting clear cold water, a beautiful lake somewhere in the Irish countryside. Lena is a little older, maybe, but not much – still young, so young to be enduring such pain.
Young Lena isn’t in pain right now, at least. Not that Kara can feel through Lena’s memory. She’s calm, seemingly at peace. A familiar cottage is behind her, the scenery is beautiful, and her mother has just gone for a swim. She’ll be back soon, and they’re going to have dinner.
Only, she said that so long ago.
Kara can feel fear creeping into Lena’s belly. She walks forward, over the hill and down towards the shore of the lake – and she can see her mother out there, swimming. Swimming hard. Splashing a lot, it seems like. But her mother is a strong swimmer. She’s going to be fine.
But her mother has been sick, too, she knows. Coughing all the time, needing to catch her breath. Tired.
Somewhere in the back of her small, 5 year old mind, Lena knows that something is wrong. Kara can feel it, as intensely as if she was living it. But she can’t act – something is keeping her rooted there, paralyzed. She can’t move. All she can do is watch as the splashing gets slower, and slower, and finally stops altogether.
This is one of the deepest, darkest things Lena wanted to show her, Kara realizes. One of the sources of her pain, her self-loathing. Her eternal penance. Lena is watching her mother die, and she blames herself.
You were a child, Kara wants to shout. She wishes she could speak out loud, hold Lena’s face between her hands and make her listen. There were no phones, no safety devices. There’s nothing you could have done. But even as she projects the thought at Lena, her Lena somewhere in this memory space with her, she can feel the sentiment rejected.
I could have done something.
The scene ends, more abruptly than the last – not a soft transfer but a tear, like Lena has ripped herself and Kara both out of this traumatic experience and into the next. Instead of standing on soft grass she’s lying down on a hard mattress, in a rickety bed that squeaks loudly every time she shifts. She can’t move too much, she knows – if you’re too loud after bedtime, you have to spend the night in the basement. But it’s morning now, it looks like. A weak gray light is creeping across the floor, and her usual nighttime shivers have stopped.
It’s Lena’s twelfth morning here, after someone found her wandering the single road from the cottage deeper into the hills. Her twelfth night in the same nightgown, surrounded by other scared children. Some are new, like her, still crying quietly over their lost parents deep into the night; some have been here for years, hardened veterans who look at her with eyes dulled by neglect.
She has clothes at home, of course. But her mother was all she had in the world. With her gone, Lena doesn’t even know where their little house is, in relation to where she is right now. After her mother disappeared under the water she had needed to get away, needed to go – and so she had walked, and walked, and walked. When they found her and asked where she was from, all she could tell them was near Dublin, and they had looked to each other with resigned sympathy before handing her a little canvas sack with some threadbare things to wear.
The only thing she has left is Miss Pizzly. She hides the bear under her mattress so the other children don’t take her, once so painstakingly handwashed of blood by her mother until no remnant of that terrible night remained.
Every morning so far has been the same. The same wake-up call, the same shuffling into the kitchens for breakfast, the same daily routine. Except today. Today, a deep voice is ringing through the halls that feels somehow familiar, even though Lena is sure she’s never heard it in her life.
“I’m not leaving here without the girl.”
“Sir, there are procedures,” the administrator is saying, his reedy voice much quieter. But Lena has always had good hearing, her mother always said so. Better than anyone else. “Paperwork to fill out, different levels of approvals –“
“How much money will it take?”
“We do not take bribes, sir –“
“This place is half in ruins. Run by a charity, I’m sure, one whose coffers are running dry. How much money?”
Lena doesn’t have to wonder long who they’re talking about. They do, it turns out, take bribes, and Lena is being called into the Mistress’ office less than an hour later to meet the man that is to become her father.
She’s given new clothes, much nicer but scratchy and stiff, and only has time to collect her teddy bear before she’s taken away.
Even in Lena’s seemingly perfect memory, the man who takes her hand and leads her out of the building and into a hansom cab is shadowy. He’s tall and broad-shouldered, with dark hair and a serious disposition, and he hardly says anything at all – just looks at her intently, like he’s searching for something in her features. She has no idea if he finds what he’s looking for, because before long he’s staring out the window in silence.
The memory jolts forward, and they’re pulling up to the biggest house Lena has ever seen in her short life. It’s palatial, a sprawling garden leading to wide steps up to the double door, and two servants in dark dresses curtsey to her. One takes her coat and the other reaches for Miss Pizzly, but Lena clutches the bear to her chest. Kara can feel the terror fluttering in Lena’s ribcage at the idea of separation, and luckily the servant backs away.
In the parlour Lena meets Lillian, looking exactly as Kara knows her now – regal and imposing, standing tall over Lena’s childhood height and looking down at her like she’s a stain on the expensive rug. Lex, though, who stands behind her, is different than Kara has ever seen him.
He’s young, for one. When he had built his Lexosuit and attacked Superman, he looked like a man in his 50s, balding but spry. This Lex looks no older than 28 or 30, still bald but youthful and energetic. Clearly he hasn’t yet reached the levels of mania that made him age himself to match his mother.
He at least looks at Lena with less outright derision. But even Lena at 6 years old knew there was something not quite right with the way he smiled. Lillian looks at her like a bug to be squashed – Lex looks at her like she’s a science experiment, ripe for dissection.
Things start to move faster, after that. Kara holds on for the ride, watching and experiencing Lena’s constant unease as she grew up in a house where something was always off. It’s more than the way Lillian treats her like a disobedient pet and sends her off to finishing school at the first opportunity, more than the way Lex pricks her with things to test her blood and makes her do obstacle courses in the garden, recording the results. It’s how Lena comes back home for the summer year after year, and every single time, nothing has changed. Not a line on anyone’s face, not even Lex, and not a single ounce of kindness or warmth entering or exiting the residence. The servants change almost monthly, but on a strict rotation, and Lex always seems to be courting new women but none ever stay for long. And all three of the Luthors squint at the sunlight like it’s a personal offense.
Lena spends 19 years in that cold, cruel house, being tolerated but never wanted, building layer upon layer of titanium walls around herself until she hardly remembers what it felt like to be genuine. To be open and real and loved. To be able to share anything about herself without fear of it being exploited or punished. And Kara watches it all in fast-forward, slowly coming to understand how Lena became the person she is.
In this house, how could she have been any other way?
It’s around Lena’s 25th birthday – which passes unmarked – that the rapid-fire memories slow down again. Lena, being still unmarried and not even courting anyone, is an anomaly in her age group. But Lionel doesn’t seem to want her to leave the house, and even as oppressive as it is living with her family, it’s preferable to having to fake affection for some man that Lena has recently come to realize she’ll never truly feel.
The memory that Kara is thrown into is steeped in shame, in resentment. She can feel it coming from both versions of Lena, for different reasons. The Lena in the memory is staring hard at herself in a vanity mirror, looking for imperfections that she knows Lillian will pick out the moment she leaves this room; and her Lena is watching it unfold, like Kara, with a feeling of deep apprehension.
Lena in the memory sighs, her shoulders sinking into a slouch that’s slightly hampered by her tight corset. Her dress is expensive-looking and only slightly ostentatious, and her dark hair is piled up on top of her head in an updo that Kara is sure she couldn’t achieve herself. She looks every bit the fine Victorian lady, and Kara has to take a moment to reconcile that this is the same person that Kara has brought chocolate pecan pie in her modern skyscraper. The same person who, this morning, wore Kara’s boxers and drank herbal tea out of a Mickey Mouse mug.
She looks identical to the Lena that Kara knows, physically. Beyond the dress and the corset and the hair her face is the same – she’s every bit as beautiful and stoic, with the same pale skin and even complexion, but Kara can see the difference in her eyes. The eyes Kara has stared into a hundred times now are deep, heavy with experience and pain. This Lena still has a sense of optimism about her. Traumatized, sure, but still hopeful.
Kara gets the feeling that’s about to change.
Lena seems to steady herself, rising from her vanity and heading out of the room and down the hall. To dinner, Kara knows with sudden certainty. Lex left last night to cavort in the next town over, and she’s now required to have dinner with Lillian and Lionel alone. Not that either of them ever eats much – mostly they drink wine and argue, and as Lena approaches the dining room door she can hear one such argument on the other side. In her hesitation to open it she catches a few words, and the strangeness of them stills her hand on the knob.
“The fact that she’s still here is a stain on this family, and everyone knows it.”
It’s Lillian’s voice, loud and clear and not afraid of being overheard. Lionel’s answer is more hushed, deep and quiet enough that most people would likely be unable to hear it.
“We’ve discussed this. She stays.”
“She’s a freak of nature,” Lillian says, and it pierces Lena like an arrow. She’s heard terrible things from Lillian, barbed comments and outright insults, but this is among the worst so far. Freak of nature. It hurts even more because Lena has no idea what she did to deserve it, and Lillian’s next words only serve to confuse her further. “I tolerate your dalliances just as you tolerate mine, but with a human? No vampire should be able to procreate with a human. It isn’t possible. I’ve been telling you for 20 years, that girl shouldn’t exist.”
Lena’s hand retracts from the doorknob like she’s been burnt. The words keep running through her head – no vampire should be able to procreate with a human, that girl shouldn’t exist, no vampire – and she takes a staggering step back, wanting to follow her instinct to run but having no idea where she could go. She can still hear them arguing, but the sounds are fuzzy with an emerging panic. All she can hear is the roar of blood in her ears, the pounding of her heart.
She’s only taken a few steps down the hall back towards her room when there’s a hand over her mouth, a tingling feeling at her neck, and the taste of copper. Everything gets out of focus, and then turns black.
Kara wakes up when Lena does in the memory – laying on the grass in the garden, somehow simultaneously energized and exhausted. The sky outside is lightening into dawn, and Lena blinks up at it blearily.
The last she remembers, it was dusk.
She sits up with some difficulty, and almost jumps out of her skin when she looks to her left and sees Lex sitting next to her on the lawn. He’s leaning against a well-trimmed shrub, and he has a few garish scratches across his face that Lena opens her mouth to ask about – but as she watches, they somehow heal themselves. The skin knits itself back together, and Lena can do nothing but stare at her brother’s grinning face until they’re gone entirely. As if they never existed. The only reminder that something is amiss is the fact that his hands are covered in blood.
And when Lena looks down in utter astonishment, so are her own.
“You really gave me a shock, there,” Lex says jovially, as if they aren’t both covered in the garish evidence of some sort of grisly crime. “I wasn’t expecting you to take to it so easily. Usually it takes three or four exchanges of blood to turn someone. Your half-blood must have accelerated the process! Fascinating.”
He says it with the air of a scientist making some great discovery, and Kara can feel Lena’s increasing horror as she takes in the fullness of the scene. The blood isn’t only on her hands – it’s on her skirts, her dress, her arms. She brings her shaking hands up to her face, and on it she can feel the slick and slowly-drying remnants of more blood there. Her stomach turns.
“What…what did you do to me?” she asks faintly. Lex sweeps his arms open, like a circus conductor revealing his final act.
“I fixed you.”
“…fixed?” Lena repeats, and Lex nods vigorously.
“I took away the human in you!” he says, grinning wide in a way that’s almost macabre. “Took away the weakness. Made you the best you can be. Pure vampire.”
Lena is silent. Her hands drop back down into her lap as once again that strange, wretched word echoes in her mind. Vampire. Vampire. She’s heard it before, in a vague and referential way, but only as folklore. Not real. With a sudden terror she feels at her neck, looking for a pulse, and miraculously she finds one.
“Oh, you aren’t dead,” Lex clarifies, rising to his feet and brushing the dirt from his pants. “No. Vampires have beating hearts. In fact, the reason we feed is because our blood simply doesn’t carry oxygen on its own. We need to…borrow it. I’ve been trying to figure out how you’ve managed to make your own all this time. This seemed like a logical next step.”
There’s an intonation there that chills Lena, an undertone of casual control. A hint of the entitlement and self-importance that he’s always had, magnified, to rob Lena of all autonomy with hardly a thought. The memory of all the little tests Lex used to run are resurfacing, and it only stokes the panic in her heart.
Kara, watching it unfold, sees it for what it is. Lex saw Lena’s difference as a threat, and did what he could to bring her to heel.
Once again, Lena looks down at her sullied clothes.
“Did I hurt people?” she asks, fearing the answer but needing to hear it nonetheless. Lex does nothing to calm her.
“Just humans. Don’t worry, I took care of it.”
As Lex dips his bloody hands into a nearby birdbath, whistling cheerfully as he washes them clean, Lena starts to recall flashes. Glimpses of the gap in her memory that get consecutively worse. She doesn’t recall leaving the Luthor estate, but somehow she remembers being in the narrow alleys of the nearby town, familiar only because Lex has taken her here once or twice to meet his strange and unsettling friends. This time the town is cloaked in darkness, not even the streetlights lighting her way, and yet she could see with perfect clarity. She can remember a hunger like she’s never known, a craving so strong that it hurt, that it seared through her veins – and a scream silenced and then extinguished. More than one. The faces blur together, but she knew the taste of their blood, and it had tasted somehow sweeter when it ended their life.
Lena vomits in the grass, and it all comes up red.
“Now you can truly join the family,” Lex says when Lena has retched the cursed contents of her stomach all over the manicured lawn. He pats her on the back, like a congratulation. “You’re not a proper vampire, certainly, but you’re of Luthor blood – nobody can question you now. You’re ageless, strong, powerful. Perfect. You’re welcome, sister.”
Lena’s terrible new life began that day, and for 100 years, it was a fight between two halves of herself – the vampire, and the human. Between her twisted desire for her family’s approval, for the approval of the fae, and the knowledge that rests in the core of her – that what they do is wrong. That every time she submits to her blood, every time she loses control or gets too tired to fight the baser parts of her nature, she’s staining herself with a darkness that will never go away.
She can’t live in the world she used to inhabit, the one she still longs to be a part of, and she can’t stomach surrendering herself to the one she’s been forced into. A terrible cycle of violence and guilt, death and self-punishment. Until an ageless, endlessly powerful man in a red cape appeared over Metropolis, and she finally learned that her family could be challenged.
When Kara comes back to her own body Lena is trembling in her arms, still naked and curled tightly against her side. She’s breathing in shaky gasps, her eyes squeezed shut, and immediately Kara wraps her into a tight hug.
“You are so brave,” Kara says, rubbing small circles on Lena’s back. Her voice is raspy, and she wonders if maybe she’d been crying out in pain when Lena did in her memories. “You're a good person, Lena.”
“I’m not,” Lena says, her voice cracked and weak. “I have hurt – so many people. My mother -”
“You have also helped so many people,” Kara says firmly, wanting desperately to look Lena in the face while she says it but unsure she’ll be able to pry it out of its safe, dark spot in her shoulder. “How long can you do penance for things that were out of your control?”
“I could have done something,” Lena says, but the firmness with which she said it while Kara watched it through her eyes is lessened. She sounds absolutely exhausted, and Kara rallies for one more attempt. One more try to show Lena how deeply special she is.
“We all have darkness in us,” Kara starts, swallowing hard. “I do, too. You’ve seen it. When I was under the Red Kryptonite, I was – it was all from inside me. All that violence, that cruelty. But it doesn’t define me, because I don’t let it. And the things you’ve done don’t define you. You are a brilliant, kind-hearted, beautiful soul. I’ve seen it, remember?”
Kara finally manages to pull Lena from her hiding spot as she says it, and she tilts Lena’s chin up to make sure she gets the message. Lena’s eyes are close to spilling over with tears, and her mouth twists in a way that makes it clear she’s trying to keep it from trembling.
“I don’t deserve your forgiveness,” Lena whispers. Kara, feeling a surge of deep, desperate affection that she hopes Lena will feel too, shakes her head.
“Yes, you do. You are not what they tried to make you, Lena.”
And then Lena lets out a sob, and Kara’s heart breaks for her all over again.
One sob is followed by more that wrack Lena to her core, shaking her whole body until she’s curled up into the smallest ball possible, and Kara gets the idea that Lena hasn’t let herself feel any of this in a very long time – decades of pain and self-hatred and relief are screaming through her at once, and Kara intends to weather the storm right here with her.
It’s nearing nightfall when Lena finally quiets, her body caving to sheer exhaustion as she drifts into a restless nap in Kara’s arms. Her shoulder is wet with tears, and Lena is snoring lightly in her ear because of the crying-induced congestion, but with how vulnerable Lena just was Kara isn’t going anywhere. If she has to lie awake all night to let Lena have this healing sleep, she’ll do so gladly.
She tightens her grip on Lena’s bare shoulders, and as darkness falls around them she knows one thing with absolute certainty.
Nobody is ever going to hurt Lena again.