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i know you don’t believe (it’s you i’ve waited for)

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It’s 1pm on a sunny Tuesday, and Lena wishes she was dead.

Dead is relative, of course. Human ideas of vampire biology are shaky at best – how they think any creature can survive without a basic pulse, she has no idea – but technically speaking, she did die over a century ago, however briefly. And yet here she is, listening to her mother talk about LuthorCorp’s objectively evil business dealings and craving death like she never has before. She hasn’t fed in two days, she’s getting a sun-headache because Lillian refuses to close the blinds as some kind of show of resilience, and she’s not even halfway through this meeting.

A colourful screensaver bounces around the conference room screen and Lena’s eyes follow it, desperate for any stimulus besides her mother’s voice.

Go into the corner, go into the corner -

“Lena, are you listening to me?”

Lena sighs, setting her pen down with perhaps just a bit too much force. Had the sun been down, she might have cracked the table – as it is, she just breaks the pen, and the jagged plastic digs into her skin hard enough to draw blood. She knows better than to wince, to show weakness in front of her mother, even when the sunlight streaming through the windows slows her usual healing time.

“You were talking about our contract with the prisons,” Lena says, wiping ink from the tips of her fingers wearily and watching her cut slowly close until not even a scar remains. Every moment of her bi-weekly meeting with Lillian is a test to her willpower; and after listening to Lillian talk about financials, special projects, and stakeholder issues that Lena was already fully aware of because she is a competent COO and not an infant, it’s seriously starting to wane.

“Yes,” Lillian says, looking pleasantly surprised that Lena wasn’t entirely mentally absent. “Graves Industries has successfully bought out Stryker’s Island, as well as Van Kull Maximum Security. In a few months, we’ll have the entire prison system under our purview.”

“Privatized prisons. So, now our human rights violations extend to Metropolis,” Lena mutters, and Lillian’s eyes flash dangerously.

“Excuse me?”

Lillian has exemplary hearing, like all vampires. Lena knows that her insubordination was heard, and Lillian is priming to strike at the next oppourtunity. So she reacts to the scold, straightening her back and shaking off her stubborn pride.

Showing Lillian her hand has never ended well. If she’s going to keep up appearances, she has to commit.

“Apologies, mother,” Lena amends, giving her best fake smile. “What I meant was, Mercy always did get things done.”

“There’s a reason Lex trusted her,” Lillian says sharply, stacking her papers together more neatly. “Now. On to our other business.” She picks up another folder, this one black rather than the classic manilla, and opens it with a flourish.

Lillian did always have a flair for the dramatic.

“Now,” Lillian says, spreading a few papers out on the table, “The werewolves are making a vie for more power.”

“All of them?” Lena says, only barely curbing the sarcasm that wants to escape. Lillian purses her lips.

“Just that ridiculous freedom group. The one led by that…London Fog, or whatever silly name he’s given himself.”

“Manchester Black?” Lena supplies, grabbing a new pen and starting to take notes. While the rest of this meeting has been mostly a repeat of things she already knew, this information could actually be useful to her. She scribbles M.B., werewolf coup into the margin of her meeting agenda, and then something benign underneath it so as not to catch her mother’s attention.

Lillian waves her hand carelessly. “That one. Trying to clean up the streets, like he thinks he’s some kind of folk hero. Causing all sorts of trouble for John.”

“Mm,” Lena hums noncommittally, trying to read Lillian’s notes upside down without being too obvious.

She’s heard of this Manchester, both from her contacts in the fae and otherwise. She’d assumed he was just another wolf with dreams of unseating the leader, someone who thinks he can do a better job than her mother’s lapdog Corben. But if he’s actually opposing the current criminal climate in National City, he might be useful. She’s been trying for years to find a way to shut down the horrible cycle that her mother and brother have always perpetuated – they control John Corben, a werewolf hand-picked by her mother to head up the various and sundry criminal activities that LuthorCorp funds. Corben controls the the city’s crime, humans get funneled into the prison system, they control the prisons and hire former convicts in their ‘LuthorCorp Second Chances Initiative’, and every vampire in Lillian’s circle gets free feeding on employees.

It makes her ill.

“His group seems to think that vampires are hoarding power and influence, and that we contribute to the oppression of lesser fae or some such nonsense,” Lillian says, not seeming to notice Lena’s discomfort. She never has. It used to seem like a curse, but these days Lena takes it as a blessing.

“Could that perhaps be because we do?” Lena says drily, setting her pen down again. “We own the prisons, organized crime, the mayor’s office, the media, and half the real estate in the state. And the werewolves have a monopoly on nothing, by your design. You can’t blame them for -”

Lillian scoffs, interrupting her easily. “It’s been this way for thousands of years, and I have no intention of letting that change.”

“Why not just promote some werewolves to key positions?” Lena suggests, closing her folder of notes surreptitiously and knowing her mother's anger at her gall will be enough to cover her tracks. “Manchester Black is clearly a charismatic leader, and he could swing opinion -”

Lillian’s tone is as severe as it is immediate. As per usual.

“Werewolves are useful as hired muscle or fall men. Outside those spheres, we have no use for them. We need to contain this.”

There are a hundred things Lena would like to say to that. It’s clear how deeply you fear them, is the first. You sound like a cartoon villain also comes to mind. Or, contain it your goddamn self, perhaps.

Instead, she clenches her jaw and nods.

“Yes, mother.”

Lillian seems placated by Lena’s compliance, and the conversation turns, as always, to the Supers.

“Speaking of, Supergirl has been sniffing around our underworld operations,” Lillian says, pulling a glossy 5x7 of the alien in question out of the folder and tossing it across the table. It lands in front of Lena slightly crooked, and she straightens it with a single finger, raising an eyebrow.

“She fights crime for a living. We run the crime syndicate. We should hardly be surprised,” Lena says, running a finger along the edge of the photograph. It’s one she’s sure was sent to Lillian by Corben. Supergirl is mid-fight, halfway through tossing one of Corben’s goons bodily into another as two bullets bounce off her shoulder. Her blonde hair whirls around her, the red cape flared dramatically. It’s one of the first clear pictures Lena has ever seen of her face.

Lena might find her handsome, if she were attracted to insufferable self-righteousness.

“But we should be prepared,” Lillian says, the fire in her eyes reminding Lena acutely of the mania that possessed Lex as he spat his rhetoric across the boardroom last year. “Aliens, strutting around like they own this planet when they’re nothing more than interlopers – this earth belongs to us, Lena.”

A bone-deep exhaustion seeps into Lena, the same exhaustion she’s been weathering since the day she was turned and has only multiplied since the day Superman revealed himself as the Man of Steel. The exhaustion of pretending, of wearing a mask to survive in a world she didn’t ask for. Trying to survive amongst a family she knows the world would be better off without.

“Yes, mother.”

Lillian is only a few talking points into their agenda, but she closes the folder anyways, and Lena’s stomach sinks with inevitability.

“It’s getting late,” Lillian says matter-of-factly. “Would you like to order lunch?”

There’s almost nothing Lena would like less. She knows what lunch will entail – two clueless humans sent up from the pool of interns, Lillian watching Lena feed like a hawk in some sort of twisted power move, Lena spending the rest of her day feeling horrible. What Lena would really like to do is leave – leave this building, leave her own family, take every one of the Luthor’s enterprises and turn them to good purposes.

But Lillian is in charge, and Lena can only make slow changes from within. Hiring people with her views, funding small projects that Lillian won’t see, secretly thwarting her mother’s more destructive plans. She hates herself for the things she has to do to survive, but she tries not to feed from unwilling hosts, at least. It’s not always possible – she’s not great at making friends, especially ones who will let her drink their blood every few days – but she tries.

Clearly, today is one of the days where it’s unavoidable. Lena has hardly finished answering in the weary affirmative before Lillian presses the intercom button.

“Could you send two lunch portions up to conference room C? Thank you.”

Lena awaits this fresh torture with her jaw clenched so tight that she knows she’s going to have a days-long tension headache.

A few minutes later two people enter the room – a man and a woman, both probably college-aged and already looking hazy and ambiently happy. Lillian likes to have her communal meals pre-thralled, so they don’t panic at the sight of someone else being fed on.

Lillian guides the girl towards Lena with a cold smile.

“Let it never be said that I don’t accommodate your preferences.”

Lena knows exactly which preferences Lillian is referencing, and she’d rather not discuss them with her mother. Instead, she gives in to the temptation to snap back.

“Considering you know that my preferences also include only feeding from people who consent, I’d argue that isn’t true.”

Lillian scoffs, pulling the young man towards her carelessly by his tie. He smiles, tilting his head innocently.

“Humans are cattle, Lena. Over a hundred years as one of us, and still you feel for them? It’s like I haven’t taught you anything.”

Lena almost snaps out a reply – you never let me forget that I’m not one of you, am I – but Lillian, whose fangs are already sunk into the neck of the dopey-looking boy in front of her, has clearly stopped listening.

It’s probably for the best, anyways.

Lena smiles at the woman, who grins back absently.

“Are you all right?” she asks quietly, and the woman nods, looking dreamily into Lena’s eyes. Complete, mindless trust. She’s practically catatonic, and Lena’s stomach churns.

She’s never enjoyed feeding from thralled victims. Sometimes it’s necessary, when she’s absolutely starving and on the verge of losing control or in a social situation like this, but it’s always left her feeling uneasy and sickened with herself, even if the human won’t remember it. It feels like an invasion. Predatory.

Lex used to berate her mercilessly for her empathy. He called it weakness.

Whatever it is, it means she gets less than half of the meal she usually would, and the second portion of the meeting goes even less smoothly than the first. She leaves frustrated, feeling beaten-down and bested, and it’s only when her office door has slammed behind her and she’s kicked her Louboutins halfway across the room that she notices the figure on her couch.

“Oof, the shoes are off already. Bad day?”

The tension in Lena’s shoulders dissipates slightly, and she sinks into her office chair with a long-suffering sigh.

“You have no idea.”

Sam makes a concerned face, putting down the tablet she’d been using. It makes Lena feel a tiny bit better, knowing there’s at least one person in this godforsaken building that’s firmly on her side.

Lena had never met an Old Soul, before Sam. She’d heard of them, obviously – otherwise ordinary humans who can somehow remember every single one of their past lives, every reincarnation, and inevitably end up entangled with the fae – but they’re rare, and Sam keeps her identity close to the chest. She has enough reincarnations under her belt to know exactly how Lillian would react to knowing there was a human around who knew the intricacies of their society after centuries of experience.

Sam is the only person on earth that Lena trusts completely.

“Well, maybe eating will help. It’s lunchtime.” Sam taps at her wrist easily with her stylus, a wordless acknowledgement of another one of Lena’s oddities – she won’t feed from the neck, if she can help it. Too intimate.

Lena shakes her head tersely. Sam often volunteers for this to help out – she calls it a charity blood drive, much to Lena’s chagrin – and Lena appreciates it. But today, it’s the last thing she wants.

“I already ate.”

Sam’s expression turns sympathetic. “Lillian ordered lunch, huh?”

“Unfortunately.”

Sam nods, seemingly even more resolute in her offer. She stands from the couch and approaches Lena’s desk, baring her wrist more insistently.

“Well, that usually means you barely ate anything. Come on, fill up. You didn’t eat yesterday, either.”

Lena shakes her head tersely. She’s not sure she can feed directly from another human right now without being ill, after that disaster of a lunch. Sinking her teeth into someone will just remind her of what Lillian wants her to be.

“Thank you, Sam, but I’m really not in the mood right now.”

Sam huffs, rolling her eyes and doing an about-face. She walks towards the other side of the room instead, and Lena pinches the bridge of her nose between her fingers as Sam continues talking.

“Fine, be a drama queen. At least drink some of the stuff you have stored. You know what happens when you starve yourself.”

Lena knows, all right. One of the many curses of her nature. After a few days of not feeding, pure instinct takes over, blotting out whatever humanity she has left and replacing it with feral animalism. It makes her do stupid things, like going to a human bar and pulling the first person who responds to her thrall into the alley to feed until they almost pass out.

Stupid things, that get people hurt.

“I hate it when you’re right,” Lena grumbles. She lays her forehead on the cool surface of the desk, wishing once more for the sweet embrace of death that will never come. Not unless someone stabs her with a wooden knife, anyways.

She’s always thought it was a strange weakness to have, but she’s not the one who started this whole vampiric curse business, is she?

“I know you do,” Sam says, already pulling a bag out of the minifridge concealed in a safe behind Lena’s couch and puncturing it. She lets it leak into a coffee mug with coffee makes me feel less murder-ey written on the side, one that a long time ago Sam put a piece of duct tape and sharpie over to replace coffee with blood. It always makes Sam laugh, and the reminder of her best friend’s easy acceptance of her nature makes Lena feel a little bit less like a monster.

Sam brings the full mug over, plonking a swirly straw down into the deep red liquid and holding it out for Lena to take.

“Now, drink your Caprisun.”

That gets a laugh out of Lena, and Sam hands her the mug with a victorious grin. Lena pointedly ignores the swirly straw.

After her first sip, Lena winces, opening her laptop and preparing for the rest of her hellish day. “Ugh. I hate cold blood.”

“Well then, you should have taken your best friend’s very generous offer, shouldn’t you?”

“Oh, shut up.”

It’s a dangerous line Lena walks, working with her mother. She’s the odd Luthor out already, not being born a full-blooded natural vampire in a society that detests humans, and Lena's complicated parentage means that some old world fae don’t even accept her as one of them at all. Most of the other races – werewolves, shapeshifters, the usually-pacifistic witches – don’t see it as a problem, but blood purity is ridiculously important amongst vampires. While some will grudgingly tolerate her presence based on the fact that the human side of her was obliterated by her brother all those years ago, others would kill her at a moment’s notice if it weren’t for the shield of her last name.

It’s all an uphill battle, Lena’s life. It’s one she’s used to, but it’s still walking a tightrope - and it’s one made harder by the fact that she’s also trying to take her mother’s empire down.

Lillian is, and always has been, the most staunch supporter of vampire supremacy Lena has ever encountered. Even with vampires being the unequivocal highest on the food chain of fae, it’s not enough for her – she wants control not only of other fae but humans, too. While most outside Lillian’s shadowy inner circle are content to live and let live, Lillian wants to rule. And, with the Luthors owning half of the west coast legitimately while simultaneously running a criminal empire that spans the entire city, she’s well on her way.

Nothing can stop a Luthor on a mission, Lex always used to say.

Except aliens.

Superman landing on earth upset a delicate balance that’s existed for millennia. Vampires on top, other fae in the middle, humans firmly on the bottom. Now aliens have arrived, not just Kryptonians but others as well - and it had made Lex come completely unhinged, obsessed with the idea that he was no longer the most powerful man in the world.

Vampires are supernaturally fast, strong, hardy, ageless. They’ve always been in charge. And the older they are, the more potent their abilities. They’re undeniably powerful, objectively the strongest species of fae, especially those born of vampire parents rather than humans who have been turned.

Half-bloods like Lena shouldn’t exist, which Lena’s family has always made sure she knows. But she’s an outlier in every way possible.

And either way, Superman is stronger. Aliens are stronger. He isn’t made weak by the sun – he’s powered by it. And when his cousin landed 12 years later, giving herself the same stupid cape and calling herself Supergirl, consistently upsetting the Luthor’s very carefully planned operations in National City, things got even more personal.

So personal, in fact, that her brother built himself a suit full of kryptonite and tried to destroy the Man of Steel.

He failed, of course. Superman has the goodwill of the people, and a seemingly endless list of allies – and, for all his money, Lex had nothing but his suit and his lesser vampiric abilities. He was tried not only by human courts for mass murder but also by the fae for attempted exposure, and charged for both -  and thanks to their monopoly on the prison system, he was put in a jail made especially for supernatural beings for almost revealing their presence to the human world.

Even Lillian had to let him take the fall for that. She respects the laws of their world, if not the humans – but she still resents the Supers for it, and ever since her son was put behind bars, it seems like she’s spent every waking moment gathering enough power to get him out again.

Lena can’t let that happen.

“So, what’s on the docket?” Sam says, flipping open her laptop on Lena’s coffee table. “What nefarious underground Lillian Luthor plan are we interfering with today, my little vigilante?”

Lena finishes off her unsatisfactory meal, setting down the empty cup and wiping demurely at her lips as she swings her chair around.

“I need to get in touch with Manchester Black.”

 


 

The meeting place agreed to by both parties is an abandoned parking garage in the far west corner of town, a place Lena has never once had reason to visit in all of her very long lifespan. It’s half-collapsed, covered in graffiti and lit against the evening darkness by a single line of flickering fluorescent bulbs.

It is, in a word, sketchy – but Manchester Black insisted on meeting on neutral ground, assumedly so that he can pepper the perimeter with other wolves as a security blanket, and Lena won’t begrudge him a little caution. The setting of the sun and her recent meal means that she’s at more or less full strength and can hear each of their positions by their heavy breathing anyways.

“I know you’re here,” Lena calls out, her voice echoing across the space. “I’d rather get this over with quickly, if it’s all the same to you.”

She hears the rustling of clothes to her right, and she turns to see a dark form hoist himself easily through a crumbling crack in the wall. The man that steps out into the light is tall and broad in the way that wolves usually are, and handsome even through the scowl he’s levelling at her. He has a powerful presence, and he’s well-dressed in a leather jacket and jeans. She can see why people follow him.

“Manchester Black?” she asks, remaining still while he starts to pace.

“Call me Ches.”

British. She should have expected that from the name and the union jack on his shirt, but somehow his accent surprises her. She’d thought that it was some sort of strange affectation – but apparently, he’s actually not from National City. Like her.

“I’d rather not, actually,” she says drily. His jaw clenches, and he stops moving suddenly. Lena tenses for an incoming attack – but it never comes.

“What do you want, Luthor?” he asks, distrust in his every syllable. “Throwing in the towel? Are the vampires finally going to descend from their thrones and share some resources with the dirty commoners?”

“Something like that.”

His brow furrows, and Lena sighs, glancing at the grimy concrete walls in distaste. She knew he was going to be hard to convince, but he’s even more distrustful than she expected.

“I’d like to make an alliance, of sorts.”

Manchester scoffs, and it echoes more loudly than Lena would like. “You really expect me to ally with the Luthors? The family that’s been on the front line of oppressing other fae for centuries?”

“With a Luthor,” Lena corrects, a single brow neatly raised. “Me. My brother is rotting in prison, and mother will know nothing of this, nor will her minions.”

A slow smile grows on his face. It’s not entirely a happy one – Lena would categorize it more as smug, and it raises her hackles a little. But it’s better than the scowl she was getting before, and she’ll take what she can get.

“Corben is in my mother’s pocket, and always will be. You know that. And you’ve managed to make significant dents in his operation, enough for my mother to take notice. I know that. What I’m suggesting that we work together towards a common goal.”

He scoffs, clearly doubtful. “And what goal is that?”

“Dismantling my mother’s whole system. From the bottom up.”

The parking garage is quiet while he considers her offer, and even as her palms sweat Lena meets his gaze with her own icy one. She’s had over a hundred years of experience at hiding her real feelings, and in comparison to the amount she’s lied to Lillian, hiding her nerves from a werewolf is a cakewalk.

“So you’re, what,” he finally says, with a quiet laugh. “A rebel? A mole?”

“Someone who wants to see humans and other fae given more autonomy. Something that will never happen with my mother running the show,” Lena says firmly. Manchester crosses his arms, taking on a defensive stance that Lena’s sure is meant to intimidate her.

It doesn’t.

“You’ve profited off the backs of both for years. Why would I ever believe you?”

His words are still hostile, but Lena can see that his arms are finally uncrossed and he looks, for the first time, genuinely interested. Lena gives herself a small, cautious pat on the back for achieving what she wanted.

And then, the wall explodes.

Lena knows who it is before she even sees that damnable red cape. There’s only one person in this city with the power to reduce a three-foot-thick concrete wall to rubble, and who might be thick-headed enough to burst through it with no forethought. The Supers are powerful, but they’re all flash, no brains.

Thankfully, Lena has no such problem. Before the dust even clears she’s already thrown a piece of rebar at the lights, snuffing them in a shower of sparks and melting into the shadows, dragging Manchester with her. She can feel the familiar darkness cloaking her, her pupils dilating to compensate - it’s one of the more useful abilities granted to her by her vampire blood. Allowing her to hide and collect information without being seen, even amongst other fae, as long as the sun is down.

She knows from Lex’s detailed research that her abilities can throw off Kryptonian x-ray vision, but only for short periods. The clock is ticking before Supergirl knows she’s here.

“What is this?” Manchester hisses, as she practically throws him behind a concrete barrier. “Some kind of setup?”

“Do you really think I’d call the fucking Girl Scouts here?” Lena whisper-yells back, irritated that he’d even consider she was working with the idiot currently blowing away the dust with her frost breath. Zero finesse, zero stealth.

He looks distrustful, but accepts her answer.

“I know you’re there,” Supergirl calls into the darkness, her voice echoing towards them. “I have superhearing.”

Shit. Lena hadn’t thought of that.

“I can hear two voices, but I can only see one person,” Supergirl says, sounding somewhat unsettled. “I don’t know how that’s possible, but I’m only here for Manchester Black.”

“Vigilante come to arrest the vigilante? That’s a trip, even for you,” Manchester answers, and Supergirl’s cape swishes across the concrete as she turns towards his voice.

“I’m here because you killed someone. I know why you’re doing what you’re doing, but your methods are only making things worse.”

“You what?” Lena hisses, but Manchester ignores her.

“And your methods are broken,” Manchester calls back to Supergirl, his voice deepening into a growl. “Pacifism is useless. To free this city of rot, you have to uproot the whole thing. Pulling a few weeds does nothing.”

“Stooping to their level does nothing, either,” Supergirl answers, with all the upright preachiness Lena expects. “It’s just an endless cycle.”

She can see Manchester’s face starting to shift, wolfish features becoming prominent, and Lena almost screams in annoyance.

Typical fucking werewolf – shift first, ask questions later.

Instead she takes a firm, vice-like hold of his ear, and his transformation halts as he yelps. He can’t see her in the darkness, she knows, but he can sure as hell hear her.

“You want her to see you?” Lena hisses, releasing his ear with a pinch. “To get tried for treason and exposure?”

He growls at her, but he shifts back to human form anyways, and Lena lets out a sigh of relief.

“Who’s with you?” Supergirl asks, moving closer to their hiding spot with caution. “Why can’t I see them?”

Lena is running out of time.

Leaning close to Manchester, she whispers in his ear. Whatever she says, Supergirl is going to hear too, and she needs to be careful.

“If I help you, I expect you to trust me. I’ll be in touch.”

She doesn’t let him reply before she’s running towards the crack Manchester had entered through, on the opposite end of the garage. She can see Supergirl jerk her head in her direction, hearing the ghost of Lena’s footsteps as her abilities wear off, and it’s just enough of a distraction for Manchester to dart to the huge hole the Super blew in the wall and disappear into the night.

It’s a long shot, trying to confuse a superpowered alien with unthinkable speed. Supergirl could probably round both of them up in a few seconds, if she really tried. But Lena’s gamble pays off. Supergirl is confused, unwilling to act when she doesn’t know who she’s apprehending, and Lena uses it to her advantage.

“What the heck –?” She hears Supergirl mutter, as Lena throws herself through the crack and lands in a crouched position two storeys down. It knocks the wind from her lungs, and she can feel her knees twinge with a pain she’ll regret until she feeds again, but she shakes it off as best she can and sprints back to her car.

For whatever reason, Supergirl doesn’t follow.

Lena has the entire drive back to her condo to stew, and by the time she gets there Sam is waiting on her couch with Netflix on and Lena is in a frothing rage.

Fucking Supergirl!” she growls, slamming the front door behind her. “I’m trying to make this stupid city a better place, and she has to come crashing in with her stupid superiority complex –“

“Okay, slow down,” Sam says, muting the TV and making soothing gestures. “What happened?”

“I was this close to making a deal with Manchester, and Supergirl interrupted,” Lena explains, kicking her shoes off in opposite directions. “She wants to take him in.”

Sam frowns thoughtfully, sitting down on the couch again. “I thought he was one of the good guys? Trying to take down Corben?”

“She doesn’t like his methods. Apparently, he killed one of Corben’s top guys. And killing isn’t the answer,” Lena says snidely, imitating Supergirl’s preachy speech. She can feel her canines shifting, sharpening into deadly points in the way they do when she lets her emotions get the best of her. She hates it, hates the way this curse makes her body do things without her consent, and it only makes her more angry.

“Well, she isn’t wrong about that,” Sam says fairly, and Lena whirls on her with her teeth bared.

“I know that!” Lena snarls, her voice raised. Sam meets the snap with her usual reliable calmness, and almost as soon as it leaves her mouth, Lena’s anger deflates. Yelling at the one person who’s stuck by her side through everything has never helped.

Lena sighs, rubbing her temples and willing her fangs to retract. It takes some deep breathing, but after a few moments, she feels much more in control.

“I’m sorry, Sam. I shouldn’t have shouted.”

Sam shrugs. “It’s okay. You clearly had a rough night.” She gestures at the dust and grime covering Lena’s very expensive jacket, and Lena sighs, collapsing onto the couch. The adrenaline is seeping out of her slowly, and she’s starting to feel the ache in her knees where she landed earlier. She has a much stronger constitution than a human and her body heals fast, but she’s no Kryptonian, and until she feeds again she’s probably going to be a little sore. Which she generally tries to stave off as long as possible.

“Definitely,” Lena sighs. “And now I have to find a way to get Manchester on my side, convince him to curb his methods, and avoid Supergirl.”

It’s a tall order, and about three times as much work as she’d have to do if Supergirl hadn’t felt the need to intervene in the way she did. Lena might be trying to unravel her mother’s anti-alien plotting, but for a moment, she really considers taking Lillian’s side on Kryptonians. Specifically persistent blonde ones.

And it only gets worse from there.

After that night, Supergirl seems to hound Lena’s every step. Every one of Lillian’s operations Lena tries to thwart, Supergirl is there too, doing the same thing – in the most opposite way possible. She just charges in and punches first, radiating utter confidence and goodness in contrast to Lena’s carefully crafted plan to destroy whatever her mother has done without causing a fuss. It’s maddening.

Lena locates one of Corben’s drug dens, and when she tries to photograph and catalog each of the criminals involved to send to the NCPD, Supergirl busts through the ceiling and sends the underlings scattering. Lena finds one of his shipping warehouses and tries to steal some of his paperwork as evidence, and Supergirl shatters a series of windows and ends up lighting half the office on fire with her laser vision. Every plan is foiled, every corner she rounds has a red cape behind it, and after a few times it gets frustrating enough that Lena commits the ultimate error.

She lets Supergirl see her.

Stay unseen, stay unnoticed – that’s been Lena’s motto since before the Luthors even came to National City. The only way she can undermine Lillian is by not getting caught, and she’s been doing it so long that it’s almost second nature. But something about Supergirl makes her sloppy. She finds herself sticking around when she should be disappearing, watching Supergirl’s ineffectual work with a sort of horrified fascination. Watching how she throws people around with ease, how she sacrifices taking in smaller players to focus on capturing whatever single target she came here for. A bull in a china shop, to be sure, but one with a task-oriented mind that’s as focused as the laser beams she shoots at Lena’s precious documents.

“Where is Corben?” Supergirl demands of the two men she has tied up on the warehouse floor. She paces in front of them, her cape swishing every time she turns, clearly trying to look intimidating – Lena thinks she looks like a housecat trying to be a tiger, but the handcuffed werewolves seem suitably impressed. They don’t talk, but Lena can sense their fear. They’re struggling against the urge to transform.

Supergirl stops her pacing, squatting in front of them with her elbows on her knees like a cheesy 80s cop movie. It almost makes Lena smile.

“Look. I’m after your boss, not you. If you help me, I can protect you.”

One of the wolves stays silent, his jaw clenched tight, but the other laughs nervously, his wrists straining against the cuffs. He could break them if he tried – the cuffs are steel, not silver – but he seems to know that Supergirl would just round him up again. “You can’t protect us. She has people everywhere. Moles in every position you can imagine.”

The second wolf growls at him in warning, but the damage is done.

“She?” Supergirl says, her easy manner turning suddenly intense. “You mean Lillian Luthor?”

Lena can’t stop the tiny gasp that escapes her at that question. The fact that Supergirl knows that Lillian is behind Corben is a surprise, a shocking moment of competence, and she can’t temper her reaction.

It’s her downfall.

When Supergirl’s laser focus catches on Lena, crouched on a warehouse ceiling beam like a ridiculous cat burglar, Lena's interest turns to near-panic.

“Hey!” Supergirl calls up to her, stepping closer and squinting up at the ceiling. “Who –“

Lena’s instincts kick in before the sentence is even over, propelling her forward and into the shadow of the drop ceiling over the office. She can hear Supergirl calling after her, but much like last time she doesn’t follow, clearly deeming her captured criminals the better target – even so, Lena scrambles to get as far away as possible anyways. She can feel an exposed piece of rebar tearing through her shirt as she wiggles through the ceiling, cutting into her skin, but she’s fed recently enough and is hidden enough from the sun that the wound closes up almost immediately, and she’s slipping out a window and sprinting several blocks to the nearest trafficked area with no real delay.

Only once she’s blended into the crowd, artfully rearranging her shirt to hide the tear, does she breathe properly again.

Stupid. A stupid mistake. She doesn’t think Supergirl got a good look at her face, but it’s impossible to tell, and the not-knowing drives her crazy for days. Supergirl drives her crazy. She’s brash and impulsive and talented and annoyingly, stupidly attractive. Muscular, chiseled, bright eyes and sunny smile. There’s something magnetic about her, despite Lena’s anger – Lena hates the sun, but Supergirl makes it almost appealing.

At least, she would if she wasn’t so fucking infuriating.

Lena needs to regroup. She needs time to plan her next move, and she needs to vent off some of the built-up steam she’s been carrying for the last few weeks. She could go for a workout, go to her building’s fae-reinforced gym and take out her frustrations on a stairmaster – but it’s so much easier to seek out pleasure, rather than exercise.

The cheap neon sign flickering over Roulette’s is as comforting as always. She welcomes the smell of bodies and cheap booze when she shoulders the door open, and the anonymity washes over her like a balm. People know her here, of course, being a regular – but she isn’t a Luthor when she walks through the door. She’s just another fae, surrounded by people like her just trying to get by.

“Lena,” a familiar voice drawls from behind the bar as Lena takes a seat, and her whole body starts to relax. If Veronica is working, this is going to be even simpler than she hoped. “Long time no see.”

Lena shrugs, turning towards Veronica with a smile. A lot of witches are partial to tattoos, using them as indications of the flavour of their power, and Veronica is no different – Lena follows the lines of ink across her shoulders, her arms, up her thigh under her leather skirt. All snakes, and all beautifully rendered. And they fit the woman they decorate – Veronica is a formidable enemy but a loyal friend, and she’s the only person in the city that Lena knows will provide her with blood that hasn’t been forcibly removed. This bar is a haven – fae with secret human partners, vampires like Lena who don’t want to hunt, werewolves who try to repress their transformations, and of course witches who just want to help.

Veronica is as different from the rest of her people as Lena is, and despite a somewhat rocky relationship history, they’ve always had that in common.

“I order from you every week,” Lena counters, folding her legs and watching with satisfaction as Veronica follows the movement with her eyes.

“The phone is so impersonal,” Veronica says with feigned hurt, heading towards the minifridge where Lena knows she keeps her blood stock for vampire customers. “You want the usual?”

Lena shakes her head. Their back-and-forth is always enjoyable, but Lena knows what she needs, and she’s not in the mood for drawing it out. “Not today. I’m looking for something a bit harder.”

Veronica pauses, and Lena can see the slow smile that creeps across her face as she grabs a bottle of Macallen and pours the amber liquid into a glass. When she sets it down she leans close on her elbows, and Lena takes a measured sip, letting it burn its way into her chest.

“Hard enough?” Veronica grins, and Lena drums her fingers on the bartop.

“That depends. When does your shift end?”

Veronica’s shift ends, as it turns out, whenever she damn well feels like it. It’s Lena’s apartment they end up at, and as always, their tryst is physically satisfying; but as always, it’s as empty as a business transaction. It’s a feeling Lena is accustomed to, now – she thought for a long time that it was another part of being a vampire, another part of her curse, but over time she realized the truth.

The emptiness she feels after intimacy is hers alone. Just a brokenness inside herself, an inability to connect. A Lena Luthor special. That kind of connection just isn’t meant to be in her life, and she’s long since accepted it.

Veronica understands, at least. Lena doesn’t even have to dismiss her before Veronica is getting dressed, seeing herself out with a smile and a ‘see you next time’. She knows how Lena operates, Lena is grateful. The front door closes, and Lena drifts into a deep sleep that isn’t as dreamless as she’d like; plagued by blonde hair, a red cape, and blue eyes finding her in the dark.

 


 

Three weeks after her botched meeting with Manchester Black, Lena finally hits the last straw.

She’s so sure that this plan will work out. The meeting she’s infiltrated is top secret, only Corben and his top werewolf lieutenants. She’s recently fed, the bunker near the National City docks that she’s in is far underground so her powers are in full swing, and she’s successfully snuck into a darkened adjacent room with nobody noticing her. She can see part of the room Corben is in through a vent, can hear everything they say. She’s sure that by listening in, she can reveal all of their planned activities for the next month, at least. Build herself a roadmap for disrupting operations for the next little while. It’s foolproof. There’s no way Supergirl could know about this.

The meeting has barely begun before Supergirl kicks the door in, grabs the nearest person to her, and promptly gets blasted in the chest with a beam of familiar green light.

The wave of absolute rage Lena feels at yet another interruption to her carefully crafted strategy is put on hold when Supergirl flies through the wall Lena is leaning against, landing in a heap of wood and plaster on the ground. Corben and his men, half-shifted, use the opportunity to disappear in the opposite direction. Lena has no clue where the beam of kryptonite came from, but it’s devastatingly effective.

They came prepared, and Supergirl is suffering for it.

Shit.

Lena knows how kryptonite works. She watched her brother painstakingly replicate a synthetic version to use against Superman, saw the way it knocked the hero out of the sky, sapped his powers and leeched into his bloodstream. She’s read Lex’s research – knows how it makes the Supers vulnerable, how it causes them unspeakable pain. She knows how badly Supergirl must be hurting right now.

God damn her stupid, bleeding heart. Lex always said it would bring her down.

“Supergirl?” Lena says, taking a few cautious steps towards the collapsed hero. She can see lines of green snaking up her muscular neck, crawling over her face, and her face is contorted in obvious pain. “Can you hear me?”

“Nnggh,” is Supergirl’s verbose reply, and Lena huffs. She has to go, now, but her conscience is protesting leaving Supergirl here like this, underground and vulnerable to whoever finds her first.

She nudges the hero with the toe of her boot, and the blonde shifts away from the prod with a pained noise. Lena can hear the quiet voice coming out of a small black earpiece Supergirl is wearing, one which anyone but a vampire probably wouldn’t notice.

Supergirl? Do you read me?” the voice asks, and Supergirl remains unresponsive. It’s a woman’s voice, and it sounds much more concerned than your average intel agent. “Kara, answer me! Do we need to send an extraction team?

Well. The knowledge of Supergirl’s name – Kara, so curiously human for such an alien – is useful, but the last thing Lena needs is some government black ops organization hearing her helping out. She reaches down and tugs the earpiece out, crushing it in her hand and dropping the pieces before looping her arm under Supergirl’s shoulder.

“Wha – who –“ Supergirl mutters, as Lena heaves the surprisingly heavy Kryptonian to her feet. Most humans probably couldn’t lift the hero with such ease because of her density, but Lena needs this to be over with badly enough to show her hand a little. “How are you –“

“Just shut up and walk,” Lena mutters, and shockingly, Supergirl complies. She leans on Lena’s weight, only slightly at first and then increasingly more as she realizes how strong Lena is, and slowly they make their painstaking way to the stairwell.

“How did they – have kryptonite?” Supergirl grunts, limping up the stairs with Lena’s assistance. Lena scoffs, trying not to wince when the hero’s hip bumps hers so hard that she has to brace herself to keep from slamming into the wall. They’re getting closer to the sun with every step, and as Lena’s abilities weaken in response, Supergirl’s start to return.

“Maybe if you did something besides crashing through the door with a cocked fist, you’d be able to figure it out,” Lena grumbles, Supergirl’s weight feeling more and more leaden the higher they go. They’re only a floor away from the exit, now, close enough to hear the gulls crying in the distance; and at that comment, Supergirl straightens dramatically, wrenching Lena’s shoulder almost out of its socket.

“Ow!” Lena hisses, letting the blonde’s arm slip away and rolling her shoulder back, looking at Supergirl in indignation. “What the hell?”

Supergirl looks a bit weak still, but she’s finally free of the green tint – and she’s looking at Lena with deep distrust.

“How do you know the way I work?” Supergirl asks, her eyes narrow and absolutely zeroed in on Lena. For being essentially an apex predator, Lena feels distinctly like prey, and she understands with sudden clarity exactly why Lex was so threatened by Kryptonians. Up close and personal, Supergirl is powerful in a way she can’t explain. It’s like she has an aura, a draw that Lena can’t resist, and it makes her stay put when she knows she should run.

“Why does that matter?” Lena scoffs, feeling much less assured than she’d like. “I’m helping you, aren’t I?”

Supergirl’s furrowed brow clears, and she looks at Lena with a worrying kind of clarity. For a moment, Lena thinks that she might have finally recognized her for who she is – Lena Luthor, sister of Superman’s most dangerous enemy – but Supergirl quickly puts those fears to rest. And immediately opens up new ones.

“You’re the one I keep seeing every time I try to arrest these guys, aren’t you!” she says, jabbing an accusatory finger at Lena’s chest. Lena steps back, but Supergirl just takes a step forward to compensate, making her feel like a caged animal. “The woman who disappears. Who the heck are you?”

Lena swallows, her eyes darting around and trying to assess the easiest escape route without arousing suspicion. None seem viable, and she’s running out of options.

“That’s not really any of your concern,” Lena says, going for a haughtiness she doesn’t feel. Supergirl steps closer, practically pinning Lena to the wall, and Lena has to resist a full-body shudder. Her heart is pounding, and it’s not entirely out of fear.

“It is if you’re with Corben!” Supergirl says, her voice raising, and Lena finds her own rising to meet it with a growl.

I’m not with Corben!”

Supergirl’s eyes narrow, and Lena sees her doom in them.

“Hold on. I know your voice.”

Of course. This might as well happen. Lena is trapped, and she’s running out of options. Panic is starting to hum in her ears, and it’s getting worse with every reduced inch of space between them.

“You were in that garage with Manchester Black! The one I couldn’t see! I could never forget that voice!”

“Look, you’re mistaken –“

Supergirl steps closer, her large hand encircling Lena’s wrist, and Lena’s vision goes white.

It’s like a painless electric shock. It rockets through Lena’s system almost quicker than she can process, filling every square inch of her body with hot lightning, and with it comes a rush of emotions that aren’t hers – worry, shock, and alarm ease into a tentative sort of fascination, and then finally something that takes her a moment to place. Like…acceptance, perhaps?

She can feel something reaching out to her, the walls Lena constructs around herself crumbling like sand, and the closer this other consciousness gets the more Lena understands what the feeling is.

Recognition. A warm glow that fills her chest like a beacon.

It’s over as soon as it began, and when her vision returns she’s left panting like she’s just run a marathon. Every nerve ending is crackling, and none more so than where Supergirl’s skin is touching hers. Supergirl’s eyes are wide and dark, her grip almost tight enough to hurt, and she doesn’t let go even when Lena tries to pull away.

Something is hovering between them, a connection she’s terrified to touch.

She needs to break it.

“What was that?” Supergirl asks in a cracked voice, and Lena doesn’t want to think about the implications of that strange, awful moment being mutual. Everything in her rebels against the warmth in her chest, against the horrible sense of calm Supergirl’s presence suddenly inspires. “What did you do?”

Lena scoffs, twisting her wrist to no avail. She needs to get out, and she needs to get out now. “Me? I didn’t do anything, you’re the one with superpowers!”

Supergirl seems to take a moment to collect herself, and once she’s finished, her expression has cleared. The accusation is gone, and replaced with something far worse. Interest.

“I keep seeing you every time I try to bring these guys in, and then you just disappear with these weird tricks,” Supergirl says, confusion clear in her (handsome, stupid) face. “I don’t know who you are, or how you managed to escape that garage, or why you got in my way –“

Excuse me?” Lena snaps, the absolute audacity of the statement turning her inexplicable fear into anger. She finally yanks her wrist out of Supergirl’s grasp, pushing back on her chest to no avail – it’s like trying to push a brick wall. “I’m getting in your way?”

“You distract me!” Supergirl says defensively. “I would have caught Manchester Black if you weren’t there!”

Lena almost laughs in her face at that, as shaky as she still feels. “Your incompetence has nothing to do with me.”

Supergirl frowns, and crosses her arms in a way that puts them on prominent display. Lena has to fight not to look at them.

“What are you, some kind of vigilante? Like Manchester?”

Lena hates how close that is to the truth. Supergirl is immovable, but she looks somewhat intrigued rather than simply accusatory. The blonde is standing close now, far too close; the few inches of height she has on Lena seem larger than life, and Lena can feel her fight or flight instincts taking hold.

Well. A few other instincts are flaring up too, with the way Supergirl towers over her. She’s all broad shoulders and flexed neck, her eyes a bright and fiery blue, and she radiates a very attractive sort of command - but Lena very quickly shoves those instincts down to the deep, dark pit they belong in.

She only has a few tricks up her sleeve in the first place, as a vampire. Here there’s no darkness to disappear into under the fluorescent lighting, and once she gets outside and into the sunlight, her strength and speed will all but disappear. She’ll be practically as useless as a human.

So, she uses the only tool left in her arsenal.

She relaxes her muscles, and takes a deep breath. She knows from experience what she looks like, when she does this – dark, sleek, confident. Dangerously attractive. A millennia-old vampire hunting trick, enthralling victims through mild seduction. It makes people bend to her will, makes them pliable and obedient and erases their memories afterwards.

She hates doing it. But this is a special circumstance. She trails a hand up the hero’s arm, surreptitiously squeezing a bicep in a way she convinces herself is only for show. No matter how impressive they are.

“Maybe I just want to see you, Supergirl.” It comes out in a purr, whispered so that the hero has to lean in to hear it - and as she does it Lena moves her hand up to Supergirl’s chest to tug at the front of her suit, careful not to touch her bare skin again just in case. To pull her closer.

So that she can push her away and run when the time comes, of course. Not so that she can try to figure out what perfume the blonde is wearing, or watch the hard, vital pulse that hammers enticingly under her jaw like a siren’s song. Lena fed only hours ago, but somehow, her mouth still waters. She can still feel the adrenaline of their connection, and it almost draws her in.

It helps that she can see it working, the invisible tendrils of enthrallment wrapping themselves around Supergirl as Lena releases pheromones. Those intense blue eyes drift down, drawn along Lena’s pale neck and landing on her chest. A tongue pokes out to wet soft lips, and Lena can see the hard bob of Supergirl’s throat as she swallows.

Lena lets out a sigh of relief. Even without skin contact, it worked. It worked, and Lena hardly had to activate it to pull Supergirl in.

At least, that’s what she thinks for the first 15 seconds. But when she starts to take a step away, smug with victory, Supergirl’s eyes snap back up to her face immediately. Her eyes are completely clear, and Lena’s stomach drops.

 “What are you doing?” Supergirl asks, her voice suddenly low and threaded with something new. It’s not the distrust or accusation Lena would expect, and it throws her off. It sounds more like mild panic.

“…what are you doing?” Lena fires back, still reeling. Clearly the thrall has even less potency than she thought on Kryptonians, and she’s too deeply off-balance to give an intelligent reply.

“Nothing, I’m not the one acting weird!”

“Well, I –“

“I see you everywhere, and then I touch you, and – I mean, why won’t you just tell me who you are?”

There’s no escape now. Their confrontation is coming to a head, her last bastion is useless, and Lena is trapped by the one person in National City she wants to speak to the least. Her frustration bursts out of her like a geyser, and the volume of it actually makes Supergirl move back a step.

“You wouldn’t be seeing me at all if you didn’t keep fucking it up for me!”

Supergirl blinks, looking somewhat chastised despite having no idea who Lena is.

“What?”

Lena grits her teeth, willing her canines not to sharpen along with her burst of emotion. That would be the cherry on top of the world’s shittiest day, and explaining herself to Supergirl is bad enough.

“I spend weeks making strategies to take these guys down the smart way, without getting anyone hurt, and you just bust through the front door with no plan.”

Supergirl gapes at her, as if Lena is the audacious one here. “I usually have a plan, it’s just that once things start going, I get – look, it’s not your job to take anyone down! It’s my job!”

“Technically, it’s the job of the NCPD,” Lena corrects, enjoying the way irritation flashes across the blonde’s face at the reminder. “You’re as much a vigilante as I am, Supergirl.”

“I work with the government!” Supergirl protests. Lena scoffs.

“A government shadow organization.”

“Well, still, it’s more official than – wait, how do you know that?”

It’s a fair question. It’s something Lena shouldn’t know, even by her mother’s standards – but she’s dug deep in the bowels of LuthorCorp’s classified records and research, and the DEO features heavily in both Lex and Lillian’s notes. Lex sang their praises, once upon a time – an organization tasked with hunting down alien fugitives and imprisoning them was perfectly all right in his books, even if he would have preferred it be run by him and not the government. But his favour went sour when they started working with Supergirl, and his interest in them became more rabid. He even, at once point, wrote about a theory that the DEO was in fact run by an alien. Lillian had latched onto it with aggressive fascination – Lena had thought he was insane.

As it turns out, she was right, at least about the latter.

In any case, Supergirl looks suspicious again, and clearly a topic change is in order – so Lena grasps at the last straw she has. A sliver of honesty.

“I’m trying to bring down Lillian Luthor.”

That gets Supergirl’s attention. Her arms uncross, and she moves in close with interest rather than aggression. Lena isn’t sure which she likes better. Both are laser-focused, and the attention makes something shift in Lena’s belly.

“You know about Lillian Luthor?” Supergirl says eagerly, her distrust apparently shelved in the face of a potential lead. Lena idly wonders how many old detective movies she’s watched, before she berates herself for even caring.

“Everyone knows about Lillian Luthor. She runs one of the biggest corporations in the country,” Lena shrugs, thrown off by her own uncharacteristic reaction to the sudden attention. Even with people she’s interested in, she doesn’t have this reaction. This hook, this pull. She’s always detached, and she likes it that way – but apparently, not with Supergirl.

It’s dangerous.

“No, that’s not – don’t be a jerk,” Supergirl says distractedly, waving off the blasé answer. “I mean, you’re after her?”

Lena snorts. Don’t be a jerk. How Supergirl still manages to seem intimidating with phrases like that, Lena has no idea.

“Something like that,” Lena answers vaguely. She knows she’s being cagey, but revealing the whole truth to someone with as much power and binary sense of right and wrong as Supergirl is a universally bad idea.

“I’ve been trying to track her for months,” Supergirl says, finally moving away from Lena so she can pace back and forth in the stairwell, running a hand through her (somehow still perfect) hair. Lena lets out a shaky breath, taking advantage of the sudden space between them. She hadn’t realized exactly how tense she’d been, with Supergirl standing so close. “I know she has something to do with Corben, but every time I think I’m on to something, it slips away.”

Lena leans against the exposed brick, crossing her legs at the ankle. “It’s difficult to pin down someone who has half the city in her pocket.”

Supergirl’s eyes dart over to her, flicking down to her chest and back up again before looking away. The aftereffects of the thrall, perhaps. Either way, Supergirl clears her throat and asks the money question.

“How much do you know about her?”

Lena hesitates.

She can’t show her full hand, here. She has no reason to trust Supergirl, and Supergirl has no reason to trust her, especially if she finds out exactly who Lena is. The sister of the man who tried to kill her cousin. The daughter of the woman they’re both currently hunting down.

But, Supergirl has resources that Lena doesn’t have access to. She has allies, and the ability to openly confront people without blowing her cover. And, quite frankly, she has brute strength where Lena has mostly finesse. Taking down Corben isn’t the end of this little endeavour of hers – Lillian has fae allies in most of the highest positions in the city, and if they don’t take them all down, all their efforts here will be useless. Lillian will just slot another wolf into Corben’s place, and continue business as usual.

 If Lena really wants to dismantle Lillian’s hold on the city and the fae, Supergirl would be indispensable.

She crosses her arms, her fingers drumming on her bicep as she decides.

“I know enough to help you. If we work together.”

Supergirl doesn’t accept right away, understandably. She stops in her pacing, turning her gaze to Lena with an intense once-over – like she’s sizing Lena up, weighing her on some invisible scale. It’s disconcerting to be regarded so carefully, and it makes Lena uncomfortable on a deep, primal level that she doesn’t understand. Like Supergirl is seeing through her, seeing to her core, and she’s somehow pleased at what she sees. Like Lena is worthy.

It’s a feeling Lena has never experienced before, and she has no idea how to process it.

The blonde seems almost as thrown off by the intensity as Lena is. She blinks rapidly, shaking her head as if to clear it, and chews on her lip before she strides back over and gets into Lena’s space again.

“Okay. What’s your name?”

Lena’s response is knee-jerk.

“None of your damn business.”

Supergirl sighs. She runs her fingers through her hair again, and this time it comes out a little worse for wear – it sticks up wildly near her temple, and Lena can see a slight cowlick. It’s strangely humanizing.

“Look, my boss isn’t going to like that I’m working with an unknown as it is. If we’re going to work together, I at least need something to call you.”

She holds out her hand to shake, and Lena considers carefully. Supergirl is right, as much as she hates to admit it. And she can’t go by her real name - she needs an alias of some kind, something that will be easy to remember while they work together but won’t easily be traced.

She slips her hand into Supergirl’s extended one, feeling the warmth of victory when the hero seems shocked at the firmness of her grip. But alarmingly, an even stronger warmth radiates from their joined palms, spreading up her arm, and Lena pulls her hand back before what’s generally considered polite, curling it into a fist.

Kryptonians must have a higher body temperature or something. As good an explanation as any.

“You can call me Kieran.”

 


 

Lena’s decision at the docks marks the beginning of a fruitful, if somewhat wary, partnership.

It’s tentative, at first. Lena takes every precaution to keep Supergirl at arm’s length – the name she gives is fake, the phone number she gives is a burner, and she communicates via text only. It’s a delicate balance, accepting Supergirl’s help while shielding her from the fae world, and a dangerous one should anyone find out. The less Supergirl knows about her, the better.

But as it turns out, they work together surprisingly well. Supergirl is eager to help and trustworthy to a fault, and Lena benefits from her goodwill in the city; and in turn, Supergirl benefits from Lena’s knowledge and innate sense of strategy.

A few weeks ago, Lena might have thought she had infinitely more to offer to their partnership than Supergirl. A working brain, for starters. But sometime during their second stakeout, when they successfully interrupted the attempted kidnapping of an innocent alien family, Lena starts to accept the truth – Supergirl is much smarter than she thought.

She’s impulsive, sure. But it’s fueled by her need to help, her impatient drive to fix. She just has trouble stopping to think before she acts, and whoever is pulling her strings at the DEO seems to let her have more or less free reign. But if Lena makes her take a second to consider her options, she actually has good ideas. And decent conversation.

It’s terribly inconvenient.

“Another day saved,” Supergirl quips, as Lena hangs up on the NCPD operator that’s been trying to wring more information out of her anonymous tip. They know where to pick up the criminals, and that’s enough. “And nobody got hurt!”

Lena tightens the bindings on one of the kidnappers, the only one still left conscious after Supergirl dealt with them. It must take a monumental amount of control for her to apprehend them without killing them, and Lena has found herself more and more impressed by it the more she watches Supergirl work up close. She herself still sometimes has trouble modulating her strength, and she doesn’t even hold a candle to Supergirl’s capabilities.

“That’s what happens when you let me make the plans,” Lena answers, smacking one of the bound men on the back of the head when he struggles too hard.

This one had been pretty low-stakes, anyways. The kidnappers are human, not fae, just a small splinter group with a chip on their shoulders about alien refugees. Ordinarily she would have refused to help at all, since it didn’t further her own agenda, but lately it’s been hard to say no when Supergirl asks.

The blonde laughs good-naturedly at Lena’s jab. “True. We all have our strengths, and mine isn’t strategy. I’m pretty good at trivia, though. And physics. If you want to know about quantum mechanics, I’m your girl.”

Lena pauses. Supergirl seems nervous, almost babbling, squatting to searching the pockets of the men for identification before they leave them to the police, and despite herself Lena latches onto the conversation hook.

“You know quantum mechanics?”

Supergirl rocks back on her heels, standing to full height after an unsuccessful search with a shrug that seems performatively blasé.

“Krypton was pretty far ahead of earth in terms of science. And I was pretty far ahead of most Kryptonian kids. Here, I’ve always had to pretend I was average.” There’s a flash of sadness on Supergirl’s face then, a pained sort of grief that Lena almost feels an echo of. Like a phantom pain, unfamiliar and startling.

And along with it, Lena feels the unfamiliar desire to comfort. She wants to wipe the pain away. Which is what makes her speak her mind, for once.

“I’m starting to realize that I underestimated you.”

The blasé act drops, and Supergirl looks surprised at the admission. Eager, even. Her face brightens, and Lena regrets her moment of truthfulness.

“Really?”

Lena shrugs, turning away from the sudden change in tone. Supergirl’s openness is too intense to look at directly. “Is that so surprising?”

“What’s surprising is that you’re admitting it.”

That squeezes a laugh out of Lena, genuine if short. She rubs her arms, still facing the opposite direction.

“I may be an asshole, but I can admit when I’m wrong.”

“You’re not an asshole,” Supergirl says, and Lena can hear her take a step closer before hesitating and staying put. A wise decision. “You’re just…outspoken. I respect that.”

Lena doesn’t know what to do with that. Respect isn’t something she’s used to, and especially not expressed vocally, to her face. It makes something in her gut twist – not unpleasant, but deeply uncomfortable nonetheless, and it only gets worse when Supergirl continues.

“Listen, we wrapped this up pretty early. Do you want to…I don’t know. Go for coffee, or something?”

The question is dropped with the nervous energy of a college kid asking for a date, and Lena has a brief moment of wondering just how much experience Supergirl has with human socialization. Or romance.

That last thought is one Lena drops like a hot stone, leaving it where it lies.

“I’m sorry?” Lena manages to croak, and Supergirl laughs anxiously.

“I just feel like I hardly know you,” she explains quickly, wringing her hands in a way most unheroic. It’s almost cute. “And I want to. Because we’re working together, you know? We should be…acquaintances, at least.”

Lena bites the inside of her cheek. This, right here, is the root of the problem with Supergirl. The impulsiveness she can deal with; she can tolerate that the government is holding the hero’s leash. But what she can’t handle is that Supergirl seems to want to get to know Lena, to be friends. But Lena doesn’t have friends, with the exception of Sam. She wants to build bridges, to reverse her mother’s misdeeds regarding aliens, but she certainly isn’t here to hold hands and sing Kryptonian kumbaya. No matter how sweetly she’s asked.

Once a week or two into their association, Supergirl texted her with a simple ‘how are you? :)’ and Lena stared at it for days, trying to decipher the meaning. She ended up trashing the phone, and it took the blonde two weeks to find her again and get her new number.

So, Lena’s gut reaction to Supergirl’s invitation is abso-fucking-lutely not. A few weeks ago, she might have even said it out loud. But now she can see in her mind’s eye the badly hidden wounded expression it would cause, and she’d rather avoid it.

Much like she avoids thinking too hard about why.

“I appreciate what you’re trying to do,” Lena says carefully, avoiding Supergirl’s very insistent eye contact, “but I’d rather we kept this strictly professional.”

“Oh,” Supergirl says, clearing her throat and nodding rapidly. “Right. Yeah, of course!”

There’s a twinge in Lena’s chest, one that has nothing to do with her own feelings. Like Supergirl’s disappointment is leeching into the air around her, and somehow Lena has caught it like a horrible soft-hearted disease.

She excuses herself from the situation soon after, leaving Supergirl to deal with the cops as per their usual arrangement and trying to set the unfamiliar sensation firmly out of her mind. Sam, though, seems to have no intention of letting her off so easily.

“She wanted to get coffee, huh?”

Lena exhales slowly, tapping her fingers on the steering wheel. Sam’s voice is diluted through the dashboard speaker but Lena can still hear the interest in her tone, and it’s far from the sympathetic disbelief she had been naively hoping for.

“Yes. And for some unknown reason, she thought I would say yes.”

“Well, why didn’t you?” Sam asks, sounding for all the world like Lena is the one acting strangely. “It seems like you two are working well together.”

Lena frowns, suddenly regretting not having this conversation in person so that she can level Sam with a real glare. Irritation is much harder to get across vocally, especially when Sam is determined to be cheerful.

“We can work together, but that doesn’t mean I have to like her.”

“You know, lately it sounds an awful lot like you actually like her very much,” Sam says sagely, Lena nearly slams on the brakes.

I don’t like –“ she starts, but she forces herself to pause when Sam chuckles on the other line. She sounds defensive, and she knows it. She takes a deep breath, collecting herself carefully.

“Don’t be stupid, Sam. I just think she’s…surprisingly competent, when she has someone to guide her. That’s all.”

Sam snorts. “Right.”

“She’s still annoying,” Lena huffs, her hands tightening on the wheel while Sam chuckles at her. “She’s aggressively cheerful, she’s entirely too talkative. She’s a show-off about her strength.”

“Maybe she’s showing off because she wants you to notice her.”

Lena rolls her eyes, and her next sentence she blames entirely on Sam’s incessant pestering throwing off her balance.

“It’s impossible not to notice her, she’s like a damn beacon. Full of sunshine, and optimism. And…nice hair, I suppose.”

There’s a pause on the line, exactly long enough for Lena to realize exactly how deeply she’s fucked up.

“…a beacon?” Sam says, and the teasing note has faded into something even worse. Interest. Having an Old Soul interested in her connection to Supergirl is the last thing she needs. Sam is far too insightful for Lena’s comfort level.

As if Sam’s attention is forcing her to consider it for herself, Lena’s mind flashes back to the night she first met the hero. That flashbang moment when they first touched, the lingering link that Lena can’t shake. A moment she’s been trying to forget ever since. It hasn’t happened again, not in the white-hot way it did then, but it still clings to her brain, coming back to her at inopportune moments. Like her subconscious wants her to examine it, no matter how much she refuses.

Fortunately, repression has always been her strong suit.

“You know what I mean,” Lena says, trying for a casual brush-off. “Supers are magnetic. It’s why this city loves her so much.”

“I think maybe you’re projecting,” Sam mutters. Lena rolls her eyes, and Sam pushes on. “And, I think she’s more complicated than you think she is.”

Lena frowns, her own interest piquing at the vague assessment. “What do you mean?”

“Just a feeling. She seems like a hidden depths kind of person.”

From experience, Lena knows that Sam’s just a feelings usually end up being right. The benefit of being an Old Soul. And the pull she feels towards Supergirl has to come from somewhere, her rational brain reasons. There has to be more than what meets the eye.

But it’s just so much easier to not think about it.

Chapter Text

“No activity yet on our end, Supergirl.”

Alex has her work-voice on, the steely military tone she uses at the DEO, but Kara can see right through it to the nervousness underneath. Despite the fact that Kara’s skin could resist a nuclear bomb with enough sun exposure, Alex is always worried when Kara is out on patrol.

“Technically you shouldn’t be looking at all, Alex,” Kara says, the cold air whipping her hair around her face as she hovers above the city. “Human gang activity isn’t exactly under the purview of the DEO.”

Alex sighs, and it’s as familiar as Kara’s own breathing. She loses track of how many times her sister sighs at her on the daily, frustrated with the scattershot way she works with the government, but Kara has never felt comfortable being an official government agent like Alex, even to help aliens in trouble. Not when the DEO incarcerates as many aliens as they help, most of the time.

Even so, they’re sometimes her only option.

“It’s under our purview when said gang is run by the Luthors,” Alex says, and it’s Kara’s turn to sigh.

“If only we could prove that, this would be a lot easier.”

“Well, that’s why you’re patrolling. Now stop talking to me, and concentrate.”

“You’re the one who called me –“ Kara protests, but Alex has already gone radio silent.

The Luthors were supposed to be her cousin’s problem. Lex was always vocal about his anti-alien sentiments, but he did so from a safe distance, on the other side of the country. She’d offered to help Clark take care of it, but he’d claimed he could defuse the situation.

And then Lex had built a kryptonite suit and destroyed half of Metropolis, and somehow managed to get sent to a specialized prison on the west coast. His identically xenophobic mother took over the company and moved it to National City, and suddenly, the two of them are Kara’s problem.

A year later, and it’s only gotten worse.

It seems like the Luthors magically have a hand in everything that goes on in this city, even with Lex in prison – everything from business, to white collar crime, to good old fashioned gang wars. How one person can be both a respected member of the National City council and a pretty obvious crime boss Kara doesn’t know, but Lillian Luthor exceeds expectations, and she hates aliens almost more than her son does.

Kara has no idea how she does it, and it’s driving her up the wall.

It’s like she has connections at the highest levels of all the right organizations – the government, the military, the prison system, the city’s underbelly. Lillian somehow publicly pushes for the war on drugs, and then seeds them into the population in the first place without getting caught. Her criminal syndicate puts people in prison, and then she touts LuthorCorp’s prison rehabilitation program. It makes no sense.

It’s like there’s a piece of the puzzle that Kara is missing, and she can’t for the life of her figure out what it is.

Here, at least, Kara can relax a little. She’s never more at ease than she is when she’s in the air, high above the city and far away from her usual fight against overstimulation. The noises that she usually has to work to not find overwhelming are muted enough to be tolerable, and she’s nowhere near anyone she could accidentally hurt with her super strength. Her own little oasis at 10,000 feet.

She’s not so far away, though, that she can’t hear what’s happening below.

“Lock the door and do a sweep. I don’t want any unwanted visitors this time.”

The voice is familiar, with how long she’s tried to sear the growly British lilt into her memory. It’s one she hears rarely – he seems to be able to hide himself from her for most hours of the day, somehow. But Lillian Luthor’s most prominent underling has revealed himself, and Kara is zooming off in the direction Corben’s voice came from before she even activates her comms.

She lands outside of a rundown building near the docks, listening carefully to the loud footsteps stomping down the stairs within. Her comm crackles to life when she taps it, and Alex is on the line almost immediately.

“Status update?”

“I found him,” Kara says quietly, and she can hear Alex instantly spring into action – but she won’t be fast enough. The only way to end this is for Kara to pin him down now. “I’m going in.”

“What? How many times have I told you – get a squad together, Supergirl located the target – to wait for backup?” Alex sounds harried, but she’s tried to stop Kara from following her gut before, and she always fails.

“If I wait, he might disappear again,” Kara says insistently, already snapping the lock and slipping into the building. Corben is one of the only people in the city she knows is connected to Lillian, and he seems to be in charge of everything from contract assassinations to the manufacture and movement of drugs. She needs to get him off the streets, and she needs the information he holds. Every moment he remains elusive grates on her nerves. “This guy is like, supernaturally slippery. I can’t let him get away.”

“Give us your location, Kara, or so help me god –“

Alex’s protests follow her into the bunker, but she turns the volume down. For strategy, obviously. She can’t have anyone hearing the voice coming from the tiny speaker. She can deal with Alex’s rage later.

The hall she enters is dark and cramped, the walls stained with damp-smelling mildew, and she wrinkles her nose at the assault on her senses as she follows the voices into a stairwell. It looks to go down several stories, but when she tries to x-ray a visual through the floors, she comes up blank.

The building is reinforced with lead.

It’s a little unnerving, knowing that they’ve put specific effort into guarding against her. For all she knows, they could have more safeguards tailored specifically to Kryptonians – but Corben is right there, after months of being untouchable, and her impatience outweighs her caution.

When her attempted arrest is greeted by a beam of green light that hits her chest with the impact of a jumbo jet, she has about half a second to lament her poor judgement before she’s unconscious.

From the moment that she comes to, Kara’s world narrows to pain. She can feel the kryptonite searing through her veins, burning every nerve ending at a slow, terrible crawl, and she can’t even manage to reach up and turn her comms back up to ask for help – she can’t move at all, can only writhe on the ground and wait for the suffering to end.

She’s fairly sure that Corben and his goons have left the building, at least, and can’t hit her with another beam. If they decided to take her out now, to hit her again and use her vulnerability to do some real damage, she’s not sure she’d survive it. She feels exposed, vulnerable in a way that her powers usually protect her from.

Fear spikes through her when a foot digs into her side, and she can’t even open her eyes to see her potential killer’s identity.

The potential killer, it turns out, is the same person she’s been seeing out of the corner of her eye for weeks as she’s been investigating the Luthors. Every arrest (or, most often, attempted arrest) she’s made since the night Manchester Black slipped from her grasp has been haunted by this shadow, a presence she feels and hears but can’t quite see.

The culprit is possibly both the most breathtaking and the most frustrating woman Kara has ever met.

From her few brief glimpses before this, Kara had known the basics of her appearance – pale skin, short frame, long dark hair in a tight ponytail. But up close, she’s startlingly beautiful in a way Kara didn’t expect. Her hair is softer, her lips more full than Kara was expecting - one of her eyes is deep green and the other an almost undetectable shade more blue, and Kara can't stop looking at them with fascination. It puts Kara on guard, the way she’s instantly drawn to this total stranger. The conversation starts more accusatory than Kara would like, but the longer they talk, the more Kara gets drawn in.

She’s evasive, and vague, and during every second of their interaction her eyes dart around like she’s looking for an escape route. She tries to manipulate Kara into letting her go more than once, in ways that surprisingly almost work thanks to a low-cut shirt and Kara’s weakness for crimson lipstick. No matter how much Kara tries to force herself to look at the situation critically, it never quite works.

She’s blatantly and intentionally untrustworthy, and Kara is mesmerized by her.

There’s something about her that Kara can’t explain. She’s different from every human she’s ever met in a hundred subtle ways – her disappearing acts, the fact that she lifted Kara and carried her up several flights of stairs with no trouble, the almost supernatural brightness of her mismatched eyes. The tug of interest and trust Kara feels towards her, against all her usual instincts. She’s as dark and intense as her chosen lip colour, but there’s a vulnerability thrumming under the surface that calls to Kara inexplicably.

It quadruples in intensity when Kara grabs her wrist, and the world goes white.

For a few seconds, Kara can’t quite place herself in time. There’s a power beyond her own that’s holding her in place, running through her veins all the way to the tips of her fingers, and there’s a tidal wave of sensory input that she eventually manages to recognize as emotion. On the surface it feels negative, all panic and discomfort, but when Kara reaches out what would be her hand were she a physical being at the moment, there’s something beyond it.

It feels like the vulnerability Kara sensed, earlier. Something thrumming and vital, and deeply familiar. The beauty of it, the aching purity of this mysterious fragile thing, makes tears prick at her eyes.

It’s over before she can wrap her hand around it – instead her hand is wrapped around the woman’s wrist, and every drop of distrust leaves her body.

The way Kara’s skin crackles with wild energy the moment they touch like some kind of pleasurable kryptonite should be a cause for alarm. It’s completely unfamiliar – for all Kara knows, it could be an attack. A trick, or a weapon. With all her experience in the alien, she should be on her guard.

But instead, it just fills Kara with a sense of unshakeable rightness. Like this is a moment that was meant to happen, no matter how strange and inexplicable. The feeling doesn’t go away even when she’s halfway back to the DEO, and Kara sees no reason to fight it.

When Kieran shakes her hand, Kara feels confident in their partnership in a way that doesn’t make sense.

Unfortunately, Alex and J’onn don’t share her confidence.

Alex is on her the second she lands in the atrium, throwing a tablet at her head that she catches easily.

“What the hell were you thinking?”

Kara hands the slightly-cracked tablet back to her sister, wincing as it’s snatched away and promptly hits her in the shoulder. “I saw an opportunity, and I took it! You would have done the same thing.”

“I would have waited for backup! It’s not safe when you rush in all by yourself.”

“What can your guys do that I can’t?”

“Arrest a perp, apparently?”

Kara bristles, the second person in as many hours telling her she’s not doing her job right getting under her skin enough for her to let slip a fatal mistake.

“Hey, it’s not my fault they had kryptonite!”

Alex freezes, and Kara is surprised that the tablet hasn’t broken in half just with the sheer force of her grip on it. Her voice gets low and dangerous in the way that Kara knows means she’s scared and is going to process it via anger, and Kara is relieved to see J’onn approaching from behind her, if only to have a witness for her murder trial.

“They had what?” Alex hisses, and thankfully J’onn comes to her rescue before Alex can fully explode. He intercepts the mounting volcano, asking the question Kara has been asking herself since she woke up on the floor of the bunker.

“If Corben had kryptonite, we have bigger problems than foolhardy plans,” J’onn says, in that even, calm way of his. “Did you see how he implemented it? If we can get an idea of his tech, we can get Brainy to look into it.”

Kara shakes her head. “I have no idea. The building was full of lead, so all I saw was plaster dust and then I was on the floor.”

“It was lined with lead and you didn’t call for backup?” Alex says, more resigned than angry now, and all Kara can do is shrug helplessly in response. J’onn shakes his head at the both of them.

“Did you at least gain any intel? Anything we can use?”

Kara hesitates.

This is the point in the conversation where she would usually give a full and detailed report. She’s never had much reason to keep things from Alex and J’onn, especially with something as important as this. But something in her recoils at the idea of telling them about her encounter with Kieran. It feels private, a small and fragile thing that she needs to examine on her own before it’s put to the inquisition.

“I mean. Nothing too interesting, really,” she shrugs, intentionally looking somewhere to the left of Alex’s eyes. Alex is like a human lie detector when it comes to Kara, and she knows she’s lost the battle almost as soon as the lie leaves her mouth.

Alex’s eyes narrow, and she steps close into Kara space as she tries valiantly not to look suspicious. But Alex, as usual, sees through her – she reaches out a single finger and pokes it between Kara’s eyebrows, pressing into her skin.

“Crinkle,” She says firmly, tapping the telltale wrinkle that’s given Kara away since they were kids. “You’re lying. Why are you lying?”

J’onn joins the party to stare her down with his usual inscrutable expression and Kara huffs, crossing her arms petulantly.

“I’m not lying!”

“I don’t need to read your mind to know that’s not true,” J’onn says, the note of fatherly disapproval in his voice pulling at Kara’s conscience. She gnaws at her lip, shifting under the scrutiny.

“You can’t read my mind. I’m immune,” Kara grumbles, sorely tempted to fly out the way she came in just to get out of the conversation. But J’onn and Alex are both looking at her expectantly, and there isn’t much she can do besides cave.

“Fine,” she mutters, staring resolutely at the floor. “I might have…met that woman I saw in the warehouse a few weeks ago.”

Alex’s reaction is just about exactly what Kara expected.

WHAT?”

“But she was nice!” Kara amends quickly, holding her hands up in surrender. “Well. Not nice, exactly, but – cooperative?”

Alex stares at her, mouth agape. “Oh, well, if she was nice - Kara, she's a complete stranger! And you thought this was a piece of information you should withhold, why?”

“She wants to work together! Actually I suggested it, but she agreed, and –“

“Absolutely not,” J’onn says, but Kara resolutely blows past the negativity.

“She seems to know a lot about the Luthors, so I think she’ll be –“

“Kara, no,” Alex interrupts more loudly, looking incredulous at Kara’s determination. “Are you kidding me?”

Kara can understand where they’re coming from. She really can. But the interrogation and then immediate shutdown of something that she already has her mind set on makes her irritable, and she digs her heels in.

“You don’t run my life,” she snaps, and Alex visibly blanches at the sudden strength behind the statement. “I can ally with whoever I want to, with or without your permission.”

Thankfully, J’onn steps between the brewing standoff with a small white flag.

“Okay. Who is she?” He asks, and Kara lets her shoulders relax. He’s trying, and that’s something.

“Her name is Kieran.”

“Isn’t that a boy’s name?” Alex mutters, and Kara nudges her with a shoulder.

“Isn’t that a little reductive?”

“Oh, don’t play that card –“

J’onn claps his hands together loudly, and they both fall into silence again.

“What’s her last name, Supergirl,” He asks, with the air of someone whose patience is being tested. “So we can run a background check.”

Kara purses her lips. This whole conversation is a series of unfortunate events, and this is the cherry on top of the sundae.

“She…didn’t say.”

The way Alex’s head slowly swivels to level the side of Kara’s face with a dumbfounded expression would be comical if Kara weren’t so stressed out.

J’onn sighs, and Kara can tell before he’s even spoken what his answer will be.

“I’m sorry,” He says gravely. “There’s no way you’re working with someone you just met, whose intentions we don’t know. We have procedures for working with independent contractors, and ‘woman you met at a crime scene and won’t give a last name’ isn’t on the criteria list.”

Technically speaking, Kara knows that he’s talking sense. Her interaction with Kieran was sketchy at best, and were it anyone else on earth, Kara wouldn’t even be considering working together. But Kara has always followed her gut, gone the direction her heart pulled her, and right now it’s firmly in Kieran’s camp. And when they touched, and that white-hot fire spread over her skin like a burn and a balm all at once –

Kara trusts her.

“Well,” she says, shrugging and backing towards the open balcony, “I guess it’s a good thing I don’t officially work for you. Isn’t it?”

She’s soaring skyward before they can reply.

 


 

After that disaster of a discussion, J’onn and Alex both seem to know better than to bring it up again – and when she gets a text from an unknown number a week later she’s on her way to the meeting point without a thought, her comms left forgotten on her bedside table.

“Hey,” Kara says somewhat breathlessly, landing softly beside the only figure leaning against a stretch of brick wall. She’s in a black coat and stylish scarf despite the spring weather, has the collar flipped up to hide most of her face, but Kara doesn’t have to see her to know who she is. She can feel it. “I was wondering when you’d be in touch. What’s going –“

Kieran’s answer is immediate, and scathing.

“How did you know it was me? I could have been anyone. This could have been a trap.”

Despite the harsh tone, Kieran’s voice is welcome. It makes little shivers of contentment run down Kara’s spine, settling disconcertingly somewhere below her hipbones. Kara shrugs, making to put her hands in her pockets and fumbling when there are none to be found in her suit. She settles for putting them on her hips instead, and clears her throat.

“I could hear your heartbeat.”

Kieran doesn’t seem to know what to do with that. Her high cheekbones glow a delicate shade of pink, and she blinks a few times before she turns wordlessly and starts walking at a quick clip towards the road.

She’s so quick, in fact, that Kara has to use a bit of superspeed and jog to keep up, and the strangeness of that gets filed away in a ‘later’ corner of her brain.

“So, uh. What can I do to help?” Kara asks, as Kieran comes to an abrupt stop at the mouth of an alley. The street beyond is empty, unsurprising at this late hour, but Kieran doesn’t take her eyes from it as she peers around the corner.

“There’s a prisoner transfer happening at these coordinates tonight. One of Corben’s inner circle. They’re planning to swarm the truck and break him out.”

Kara drums her fingers on her own thigh, looking around the scene from over Kieran’s shoulder. “So, a good old-fashioned round-up.”

Kieran nods, her eyes still scanning the perimeter. She seems relentlessly focused, in stark contrast to Kara who can only seem to focus on the woman in front of her. On how close she is to Kieran’s back, how their height difference means that Kara could just reach out and tug at her hips until they were pressed together. She can smell Kieran’s perfume, something rich and deep, and she can see the tiny wisps of hair at the base of her neck that didn’t get swept into her otherwise perfect ponytail. Tiny chinks in the armour. It would only take a few inches to dip down and press her lips to the shell of her ear, feel her breath hitch –

Kieran shifts in front of her, turning away from the street for the first time to look back at Kara. Kara takes a respectful step back, feeling a hot blush creep up her neck – it feels like Kieran can tell exactly what she was thinking about, and it’s deeply unnerving. For a moment they just regard each other quietly, until Kieran speaks up.

“What are you staring at?”

In an uncharacteristic act of evasion, Kara deflects the question with one of her own.

“Why are you helping me?”

Kieran purses her lips, turning back to monitoring the drop site to Kara’s great relief.

“I have the means to figure out where and when things are happening, but not the means to do anything about it. You do. It’s a logical partnership.”

“So, you need my powers?” Kara clarifies, and Kieran shrugs.

“And your notoriety. I prefer to stay anonymous.”

“Ah, I see. You’re just using me for my body.”

Kara makes the dumb joke for her own benefit, really. She was expecting the same stony silence she’s been met with since she landed, and it’s more to divert attention from her earlier thoughts than anything else. But to her shock, Kieran actually laughs. Genuine, if short – it barks out of her like she’s not entirely familiar with the sensation, and can’t cut it off in time.

Kara stares at the back of her head, watching as a flush creeps up past her popped collar.

“Was that a laugh?” Kara says, stepping closer again. Kieran shifts, but she doesn’t shy away. “Did you just find me funny?”

Kieran doesn’t answer the question. She just pulls the scarf up over the lower part of her face, and keeps watching the road.

“Shut up. They’ll be here soon.”

Kara wants to tell her that she looks like a sexy bandit, but somehow she doesn’t think that would go over very well. Instead she does what she’s told, and for the first time in months an operation goes off without a hitch.

Kieran, it turns out, does have a mind for strategy. Kara’s instinct is to intervene the moment she sees the van roll up to a stop at the curb, but she’s stopped by a firm hand to her chest and a searing look. The hand doesn’t move for several long moments – Kara fidgets restlessly while two guards slide open the back doors and the prisoner emerges, looking smug in a way that can only mean he knows he’s being freed tonight. A second van pulls up, and two more guards emerge, and Kara is starting to consider ignoring Kieran’s order and just getting in there when she hears the sound of shattering glass.

Three men drop from the surrounding buildings, shaking off debris from the windows they just shattered, and chaos breaks out.

“What are we waiting for?” Kara hisses as all four guards are taken down surprisingly easily, and Kieran’s hand on her chest curls into a fist.

“Not yet.”

Normally Kara would ignore an order like that, one with no explanation. If it was Alex, she’d already be tying the men up by now, and weathering her irritation later. But this is different. She can feel Kieran’s tension, not just in the hand pressed to her chest but somehow in her mind – can feel her waiting for something, for a perfect moment. Can feel her apprehension, the sensation that something in the scene is off.

Against her every instinct, Kara waits.

Corben’s men are fast. Worryingly so – they disarm and knock out the guards within 10 seconds, even two-on-one, and the third man seems to be standing watch with what looks like a rocket launcher on his shoulder.

Something inside her sticks, though, on the gun. Fixates on it, makes her stare at the details of it. She has no idea what she’s looking at, which makes her fascination very confusing, but it holds her attention anyways – and she realizes why a few moments later, when the telltale tingle of nearby kryptonite crawls its way up the back of her neck.

The hair there stands on end, and suddenly she understands Kieran’s caution. If she had run in headfirst, she’d probably be chock-full of green poison right now. Kieran might have just saved her life – and with her limited knowledge of firearms, she’s pretty sure that the fascination with the gun wasn’t her own.

It was Kieran’s. And somehow, she felt it.

She isn’t given much time to think about it, though – the men are moving fast, and she can feel the anticipation of Kieran preparing to let her loose on them.

“About time,” the prisoner growls, his eyes flashing dangerously as he holds his cuffs up. “Can you get me out of these?”

“Just break them. They aren’t silver,” the man with the kryptonite gun scoffs back. The prisoner actually growls, this time – a low, animalistic sound that makes the seemingly lower-level grunt cower a little.

“I haven’t hunted in weeks. I’m starving. Just find the fucking keys – if the Super hasn’t shown up by now, she’s not coming.”

The man with the gun sighs, but he dutifully puts the gun down on the pavement and starts to rifle through the front console of the van – and the moment he does, Kieran’s hand moves from Kara’s chest, and she hisses in her ear.

Now.”

Kara is off like a shot, the restless energy she built up waiting only making her faster in the long run. She takes out the gunman first, pulling him out of the van by the back of his leather jacket and cracking his head into the side of the van with exactly the amount of force she knows will knock him unconscious. Next she grabs the gun, hissing at the way it seems to sear the skin of her palms, and throws it through one of the broken windows in a perfect spiral.

The kryptonite exposure, however brief, slows her down enough that the other three men – the two who took down the guards, and the still-cuffed prisoner – spot her after she throws the gun. They all look bewildered, like this turn of events makes no sense, and Kara uses the confusion to her advantage. She has them all expertly hogtied in a few seconds, and Kara understands with new clarity exactly why Kieran suggested they would work better together.

“Wow,” Kara says, tossing the convict back into the van and accepting the stunned handshake from the nearest guard. “We make a good team, huh?”

By the time she turns to look back at the alley for confirmation, Kieran is gone.

 


 

When Kara lands in the middle of the DEO holding a kryptonite gun longer than her torso, Alex and J’onn are understandably alarmed.

“What the hell is that?” Alex says, as Kara touches down and hefts the gun over her shoulder. “And, where have you been? I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for two hours, I was about to send J’onn out to find you!”

“I was busy,” Kara says, putting the gun down on a nearby table. She can see Brainy descending the stairs at a quick clip, clearly on his way to investigate the new tech. “Stopping a botched prisoner transfer. I forgot to grab my comms.”

She can already see Alex picking up on her white lie. Her eyes narrow, and she opens her mouth to presumably ask a series of follow-up questions that Kara isn’t prepared to answer – so Kara interrupts, using Brainy’s arrival as a distraction and directing their attention towards the weapon instead.

“It’s a kryptonite gun,” She explains, indicating the places where the original functions have been altered. “Disguised as a normal one. I almost didn’t realize it before it was too late.”

She wouldn’t have realized it at all without Kieran, but that’s the last thing she wants to bring up right now.

“It looks professional,” Alex mutters, flipping it over and examining the trigger mechanism. “Not homemade. Whoever made this, it’s likely they didn’t make just one. And they had a lot of resources.”

“The Luthors,” J’onn says, his face stern and thoughtful. “Lillian is the only one with the money and research to do this. Question is, how are they getting the materials? We monitor the trade and movement of most of the major substances needed to synthesize kryptonite.”

“My hypothesis would be from the military,” Brainy suggests, easing the gun out of Alex’s hands and examining it. “They have channels that go above DEO protocols. The design of the weapon is reminiscent of military hardware.”

“How on earth would Lillian get materials from the military?” Kara asks, and Alex shrugs. “She must have really high-up contacts to get access to things like that secretly. Illegally.”

“I don’t know,” J’onn says, nodding at Brainy to take the gun to a secure lab room. “All we can do is take this one apart. Once we get the energy signature, we can track spikes in its usage. Maybe track down the culprits. Nice job, Supergirl.”

Kara ducks out before Alex can ask her any more questions, and she goes to bed with a few of her own. Who is Kieran, exactly? How does she get her information, and why does she want to work with Kara in the first place? How did she manage to evade Kara all those times before, and pull a disappearing act tonight without alerting Kara’s supersenses?

And, why is Kara so drawn to a perfect stranger?

The next day at work, Kara can hardly focus. She has not one but two articles to finish and Snapper breathing down her neck, and still she can’t make herself do her job – instead of researching the upcoming Mayoral election race or the recent acquisition of National City’s biggest prison by an unknown corporation, she finds herself opening up a new search bar and typing in Kieran.

She finds nothing, unsurprisingly. A single name, likely fake, is nothing to go on and she knows it. She gives the first few hits a cursory glance, but they tell her nothing except that Kieran is an Irish boy’s name meaning ‘little dark one’; despite it not being helpful, it makes her smile.

Even if it’s false, the name does fit her new friend.

Clearly, this line of research isn’t going to yield many results – so, Kara does it the hard way.

First, she combs through every known record of Corben’s crime syndicate. Arrest warrants, mugshots, known relationships and connections – she knows that Kieran doesn’t work with them, but she’s been interfering with them for some time, and there’s a chance to find some crumbs.

She finds nothing on a Kieran, and no photos resembling her new partner.

“Kara, are you okay? You haven’t left your desk since 10am.”

Kara starts, nearly cracking her keyboard in two as Nia perches on the edge of her desk, two mugs of coffee in hand. She sets one beside Kara’s mouse, taking a sip from her own as Kara tries to calm down her heart rate.

“I’m fine,” Kara says distractedly, minimizing her search windows just as Nia takes a peek at her screen. “Just doing research. I guess I got really into it.”

“On the prison story?” Nia says with interest, and Kara takes a hasty sip of coffee to cover her wince at the reminder of the work she’s putting off. “I can help you, if you want. I finished my piece before lunch.”

“No, I – it’s something else.”

Nia’s grin gets wide, and she leans close and whispers in a conspiratorial tone.

“Kara Danvers, are you committing time theft?”

“No!” Kara protests, pushing her glasses nervously up her face. “I’m not – I’d never –“

Nia’s brows raise skeptically, and Kara sighs.

“Okay yes, I am. But it’s important!”

“Superfriends important?” Nia says quietly, peering at Kara’s screen again. “Something a little dream could help with, perhaps?”

Even with her searches minimized, a spike of panic hits her at the idea of Nia seeing the spiral she’s gone down, and before she can get too close Kara slams her laptop shut. Nia blinks, leaning back with a slightly wounded expression.

“No, not like that,” Kara says quickly, putting a friendly hand on Nia’s arm. “It’s just…sort of private.”

“Seriously, what’s going on with you?” Nia says, her tone going from skeptical to concerned. “I’ve never seen you this jumpy.”

“It’s just –“ Kara hesitates. Nia is a great friend – ordinarily, she’s the person to whom Kara tells all secrets she’s trying to keep from Alex. But this one feels personal, somehow. As badly as she wants someone to talk to about Kieran, she also selfishly wants to keep her new friend to herself.

She can’t explain the connection she has to Kieran, and telling someone about her might break the spell.

Finally Kara sighs, and tells the truth. “I just need a little time. When I figure it all out myself, I’ll tell you. Okay?”

Nia’s stare is piercing. She’s always had a way of seeing the truth in things, despite her youth – it’s what makes her such a good reporter, after all, and what makes Dreamer such an effective superhero. After a moment she nods, seeming to accept what Kara is willing to offer.

“Okay. Just let me know if you need help, alright? I’m here.”

Kara nods, and Nia leaves with a quick squeeze to Kara’s shoulder.

By the time Kara surfaces from her research again it’s nearing 4pm, and she’s still done absolutely zero actual work. Her coworkers are starting to gather their things and head home, and intellectually she knows that she should stay late tonight and actually write the articles she put off today – but instead she gathers her things too, heads home, and dives into a new line of research from the comfort of her couch.

She knows very little about Kieran. But one thing she does know is that she has a vested interest in taking down LuthorCorp, and Kara only has so many threads to follow – so she cracks her knuckles, and starts looking into the Luthors.

She’s done this once before, back when the Luthors came to National City and Kara was preparing for the worst. What she found then was almost nothing – but she’s a better reporter, now, and she works deep into the night combing painstakingly through all publicly available (and some non-public, thanks to some tips given to her by Brainy) records.

What she finds is twofold.

One, Lillian is almost impossibly squeaky clean, her record practically reeking of repeated professional wipes that she’s sure Brainy could untangle, if given enough time.

And two, there’s a third Luthor.

The moment she realizes it, the back of Kara’s neck tingles.

In retrospect, Kara can see how she would have missed it during her initial deep-dive into the Luthor family. She hadn’t been looking for anyone besides Lex and Lillian, and there’s almost no explicit mention of this extra family member in any public record. The only reason she finds this information now is a single picture, something she would have rifled through quickly with no regard if it weren’t for a familiar face.

The picture is from the Tribune 6 years ago, before Kara was even a reporter. Lex and Lillian pose with a man she knows as Maxwell Lord, a man who is now the mayor of National City but at the time was just a member of City Council who was publicly pushing for reform of business taxes. The article details the financial support he got from the Luthors, who were then operating out of Metropolis – but what draws Kara’s attention is the fourth person in the picture.

To Lex’s right, pushed to the far edge of the picture, is a pale dark-haired woman that Kara recognizes instantly. She’s dressed in a perfectly tailored three-piece suit rather than her usual black coat and this is the first time Kara has seen her with her hair down, but she’s still unmistakable. High cheekbones, sharp jaw, strong brows. Devastatingly beautiful. She thought so the moment they were face-to-face, and Kieran practically shoved her boobs in Kara’s face trying to escape.

Kara feels herself blushing at her own thoughts, even through the rush of realization.

Her heart pounding, Kara reads the caption.

City Councilman Maxwell Lord with LuthorCorp CEO Lex Luthor, COO Lillian Luthor, and Lena Luthor.

There’s a ringing in Kara’s ears as she reads it, looking back and forth between the photo and the name.

Lena Luthor. Lena Luthor.

It rattles around in her head, colliding with the familiar face in the picture, but the two thoughts are like oil and water – they won’t mix, won’t let Kara comprehend what she knows is true.

The only thing she can do, in the end, is keep going. She dives back into research, and as if a curtain has parted she now sees Lena’s fingerprints everywhere that LuthorCorp has touched – like a footnote, a ghost in every story. Never directly involved, but at the periphery. Always present, never acknowledged. Soon Kara has several handwritten pages full of notes, and she can’t deny what she sees.

Kieran is Lex’s sister.

Two feelings war inside her, as she stares at the picture so hard that she’s surprised her laser vision doesn’t activate and burn her laptop to a crisp. The first is the surface emotion, and the most dominant – anger.

She’s angry with Kieran. With Lena. She’s been working with her all this time, been putting her trust in her, and all this time she’s been lying – hiding the fact that she’s the daughter of the very person they’re supposedly trying to take down. The sister of the man who almost murdered her cousin. A Luthor.

Kara’s instinct, initially, is to confront. To exit the article, call Kieran’s latest burner phone, and ask why the hell she’s been lying to her all this time. But there’s a voice somewhere in the back of her head, speaking up as her cursor hovers over the exit button.

For once in your life, think before you act.

The voice sounds suspiciously like Kieran. Kieran who is actually Lena - but who has been doing nothing but helping (and occasionally insulting) Kara since they met. She’s aloof, and sometimes a little mean, but Kara can see a kindness underneath. A drive to do good.

Once the surface has burned away, what’s left underneath is what Kara has been feeling ever since the first moment they touched. When she felt like she saw Lena, and Lena saw her. Trust, and understanding. Kara has more than a few secrets herself, after all, and she knows perhaps better than anyone what it is to oppose your family. She can still remember the agony of fighting against Astra, of trying time and time again to show her the light and being met only by darkness.

In the end there’s only one conclusion to come to. Lena has a good soul, and Kara wouldn’t have made half the arrests she’s made in the last few weeks without her. She’s not a threat, but she is a mystery – and Kara finds her fascinating.

 


 

It’s best, Kara decides, not to confront Lena about her identity. Not right away, anyways. She knows without a doubt that Lena will react defensively to any kind of confrontation, and the last thing she wants to do is scare her away. Maybe someday, Lena will tell Supergirl by herself.

Doesn’t mean she can’t do some snooping, though.

Over the next few weeks, she works with Lena on more successful operations than she thought possible. They’re an unstoppable team, Lena’s brilliant mind paired with Kara’s pure force, and she even discovers after a less-than-optimal execution on what was supposed to be a routine stakeout that Lena is pretty good in a fight. Too good, actually.

Suspiciously good.

It’s not just that she has combat skills. She has eerily good combat skills, ones that wouldn’t seem out of place on a fellow alien. She notices the five men that get the drop on them at the same time as Kara does, which should be impossible – and when Kara takes two of them out and whirls around to help Lena with the remaining three, she finds them laid out on the floor and Lena standing over them without a scratch.

It’s just as confusing as it is attractive.

After that, Kara tries (as surreptitiously as possible) to get Lena involved in fighting. Lena prefers to stay unseen, hiding on the periphery - but once or twice when Kara fumbles or gets her energy sapped by kryptonite, Lena will step in. She always covers her face, Kara notices, clearly trying to hide her identity from her own mother’s hired muscle – and she always cleans up without so much as a bruise.

It seems doubtful that the sister of the world’s most notorious alien hater could be an alien. Impossible. Ridiculous. But once she gets the idea, Kara keeps seeing her do things. Casually lift things she shouldn’t be able to, before dropping them when she notices Kara watching. Move too fast to be human, or get shot at or slashed with knives and not seem to have a scratch. Kara can see the impact, can see the weapons make contact, but they never seem to do lasting damage. It’s as if she can’t be hurt, or heals herself somehow – except once, when someone strikes out at her with a 2x4 beam of wood during a skirmish in a warehouse. It forms a huge, angry bruise within seconds, and Kara’s theory gets a little confused.

Either way, she can’t get any hard proof without coming out and asking, and judging by her reaction when Kara so much as asked her out to coffee, she knows exactly how that will end. Lena will disappear and destroy her phone in annoyance at Kara’s prying, and Kara will have to haunt every crime scene in the city in order to find her again.

So, Kara keeps her questions to herself. She studies Lena quietly, with deep fascination, and it all goes off without a hitch.

Until they get kidnapped.

Kara should have seen it coming. It was stupid of her to let her guard down just because they found what they were looking for – this was supposed to be a conflict-free recon trip, finding and marking the locations of possible gang headquarters. Corben is almost never out in the open, so according to Lena the easiest way to find him is to silently gather information until they can pinpoint where he operates out of and, as Lena so aptly puts it, ‘light the nest on fire’.  The brunette is worryingly unspecific when Kara asks whether that idea is metaphorical or literal.

Maybe if Kara hadn’t been so focused on Lena, she might have been prepared. But it’s one of the few times Kara has seen her in the daylight, and she was distracted by Lena’s hair - the undertones of chestnut and auburn that the sunlight brings out of what Kara assumed was just black strands. So distracted that when her vision fills with green, she doesn’t even have time to react. All she knows is agony, and fear, and an unfamiliar fury.

When she can open her eyes again, it’s to the face she’s been hunting for what feels like eons. Corben is standing over her, looking down with a grin so smug that Kara wishes she could wipe it off his face – but she can’t move. Her eyes are drawn down to his chest, where his shirt is ripped open almost down to his bellybutton, and what she sees there makes her already-roiling stomach heave.

In the centre of his chest is what looks like a glowing green gem, and it’s swirling with sickening energy that leeches into the skin around it in snakelike lines.

He doesn’t just have access to kryptonite weapons – he is a kryptonite weapon.

“I was wondering when you’d slip up,” Corben says, rolling her over with minimal effort and snapping a set of glowing green handcuffs around her wrists. They burn her skin, but he doesn’t pay her grunt of pain any mind. “You’ve been outwitting me lately. Such a drastic change from your usual style. I should have known you had an accomplice.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kara manages to hiss between gritted teeth, as two of his men haul her up by her underarms. Corben just laughs.

“You’re an even worse liar than you are a tactician. We’ll find her, don’t you worry. And then we’ll make you both wish we hadn’t.”

“What the hell did you let Lillian do to you?” Kara asks, determined to get some answers even when every second of being close to him causes her more agony. Corben just smirks.

“She upgraded me. Made me a god among men. I’m not John Corben anymore – I’m Metallo. The only one who can take down Supergirl.”

“You gave yourself a villain name?” Kara says incredulously, but Corben is already leaving. She can’t even struggle as she’s dragged towards the armoured truck waiting nearby. The kryptonite from Corben’s beam is still in her system, and the cuffs are so strong that she’s immobilized. She’s trapped, and Lena is thankfully nowhere to be seen.

There’s relief in that, at least. Lena got away unseen. She’s safe for now, and Kara finds herself caring more about that than about her own capture. But Kara can’t shake the feeling that she’s still nearby, watching – like Kara can feel her presence somehow, waiting to strike.

When a dark form drops from the roof of the truck and onto one of Kara’s captors, slamming his head into the door with devastating accuracy, Kara’s theory is proven.

For a moment, as Lena takes down the two men holding Kara and quickly scoops an arm under her shoulder to help her to her feet, Kara almost thinks they might get out of this. But Lena seems slow – slower than Kara has ever seen her before. The kind of movement Kara would expect from a human. She seems tired, and she keeps squinting up at the sky like it’s personally offending her.

“Where – did you learn to do that?” Kara pants, as she hobbles along at Lena’s side.

“Didn’t I tell you not to ask so many questions?” Lena says breathlessly, and her eyes are bright and lively over the black scarf she has pulled up over her lower face. She can’t see her mouth, but Kara can feel it – Lena is smiling.

The baseball bat that cracks sickeningly on the side of her head comes out of nowhere.

It’s one of the men she had thought Lena incapacitated – clearly she hadn’t hit them hard enough, and they came back with a vengeance. Lena crumples like a stack of cards, hitting the pavement with a boneless thud, and Kara falls with her. She can see the place on Lena’s temple where the wooden bat made impact – it’s already an angry purple, far faster than any bruise should form, and it seems to have somehow split the skin. Blood is oozing down the side of Lena’s face and onto the dusty asphalt.

That’s when Kara knows they’re screwed. She can do nothing except watch, struggling futilely against her cuffs, as the two men throw them both in the back of an armoured truck. The last thing she sees before the doors close is Corben getting into a sleek black car, which screeches off in the opposite direction.

Alex is going to kill her.

 


 

The first thing Lena notices when she regains consciousness is the absolute most splitting headache she’s ever had.

It throbs in time with her heartbeat, seeming to reverberate all the way down to the roots of her teeth, and when she opens her eyes, the world is blurry. What little world there is, anyways – it’s dark, but her eyes adjust quickly to see the inside of some kind of van. The walls are steel, there’s a small lightbulb in the ceiling, and Supergirl is sitting slumped against the opposite wall, the veins in her face glowing ominously green all the way up to her sweaty hairline. Her hands are bound behind her back, and Lena looks down at her own wrists to see them tied as well.

It’s basic rope, something she would be able to break easily if she wasn’t at her absolute weakest right now. Instead, all her struggling amounts to is some rope burn that heals excruciatingly slowly. At least they’re tied in front of her, rather than behind. It allows for a little more maneuverability than Supergirl has. 

When Lena struggles into an upright position Supergirl straightens too, sitting up and looking at her with deep concern.

“Hey!” Supergirl says in a hoarse whisper, trying and failing to move closer with a wince. “Are you okay?”

“Fine,” Lena mutters, gingerly touching her head at the source of the pain. It comes away wet and dark on her fingers, and Supergirl frowns.

“You’re bleeding.”

She sounds concerned, but there’s also something else in her voice that Lena doesn’t have the time to place right now. She has other things to worry about – like the fact that, when Corben took Supergirl out with the kryptonite beam, the light had come from his chest.

She’d been assuming all this time that what Corben and his men had were simply guns, like the one Supergirl confiscated during their first night working together. Guns would be easy to deal with – they track down the manufacturing location, shut down their material acquisition, and then round up the weapons. A long game, but a simple one. But Lena had seen with her own eyes how Corben had torn his shirt open, revealing the glowing green mechanism set into his chest cavity. The skin around it had been red and angry, marred with green radiation, and Lena could see why – even for a fae, kryptonite would cause slow, painful damage to the body. She’s read her brother’s studies, read about how he considered irradiating himself in it before realizing it would eventually kill him. Clearly Corben either wasn’t given this information, or he thinks he’s invincible.

This kind of horrifying, experimental technology has her mother’s name written all over it, and she needs to get out of here before her cover is blown so she can fix it.

Unfortunately, her options are limited to almost nothing.

She’s lucky, at least, that neither of the men that took her down seemed to recognize her. Her scarf is still up, and for probably the first time, she’s glad that Lillian almost never publicly talks about the fact that she has a daughter. She might be able to get them out of the truck if she was at full strength, but since her emergency supply of blood ran out and Sam is gone on a business trip, she hasn’t eaten in over two days. She’d called Veronica, of course, but unfortunately the witch’s supply had apparently run dry too – since it’s on a volunteer basis, her stock often goes through dry spells. It’s happened before, but never at so critical a time.

The only other person Lena could think of to ask was her assistant, Jess, but as much as Lena trusts her to run her schedule and remind her to eat when Sam is gone, she doesn’t feel comfortable asking her something so personal. In any other situation besides this one, she’d rather starve.

There is one option left, of course. But it requires revealing her secret, and even in this life or death situation, something in her recoils. Past experience, perhaps.

Even so, it’s their only recourse. Her time in hiding is up.

“I’m so sorry,” Supergirl is saying, her head tipped back against the steel wall while she breathes in deep pants. She’s in obvious pain, and she’s apologizing to Lena. Her self-blame is practically radiating from her.

“For what? That was a pretty mutual fuck-up,” Lena says, feeling oddly responsible for redirecting the responsibility. Supergirl shakes her head, her eyes squeezed shut.

“I should have seen it coming.”

“So should I,” Lena says, wincing as the truck hits a bump. Her head is still throbbing, and they’re running out of time for this little heart-to-heart. “But we didn’t, and now we have to deal with it.”

“I can’t see how,” Supergirl says, laughing quietly. “We’re both cuffed, and I can barely move with all this kryptonite in my system. Even your genius brain can’t get us out of this.”

Lena clenches her jaw. There’s no going back from this – even if it saves them, it’ll change everything. This is a tipping point, and she feels the weight of it in her gut.

“I have an idea,” she says carefully. Supergirl’s eyes snap open, and she looks at Lena with wary interest.

“Really?”

“Yes. It might not work,” Lena prefaces, feeling the return of her tendency to nervously ramble that she thought she quashed when she started trying to defy her mother. “I don’t even know if my teeth can pierce your skin, or if the kryptonite is going to affect me too, but I can’t let them report back to Lillian and we don’t have any other options right now, so –“

“Excuse me, if your what can pierce my what?”

“I’m a vampire.”

What she gets in response is 30 solid seconds of blank staring. Supergirl blinks at her, seeming to slowly absorb the information – and finally, at Lena’s completely neutral expression, she laughs nervously.

“Okay. Right. So…you’re an alien of some kind that…feeds on blood?” Supergirl ventures, clearly trying to rationalize the situation in her head. Lena could explain the whole situation to her, make this easier, but she has no idea how much longer this drive is going to take. They need to get out now.

“No,” Lena sighs, twisting her cuffed hands to check her watch, “I’m a vampire. A superpowered, ageless vampire. Like every human legend you’ve ever heard, except that I’m not dead. And, the bat-transformation thing is fake. I don’t know where they got that.”

Supergirl shakes her head rapidly, like she’s trying to restart her brain. It clearly doesn’t work, and she looks at Lena like she’s grown a second head.

“This is the weirdest day of my life,” Supergirl says quietly. Lena scoffs.

“Seriously? You’re an alien. This is weird to you?”

“Yeah, a little!”

The truck turns a hard corner, slamming them both into the same wall, and Lena grits her teeth. They could be arriving at their destination at any second.

“Look, I don’t feed without permission, but I can’t try to break us free unless you let me,” she says, the vulnerability making her want to curl up into a ball. “Please?”

She can’t deny that Supergirl’s blood is calling to her, the vital pulse at her throat making her mouth water. She’s fucking starving – she probably never should have come out today without feeding. But even so, she’s usually able to control her instincts more than this. She’s gone far longer without blood, and managed. She should be better than this, salivating at the mere sight of a muscular neck.

Supergirl finally seems to sense the urgency of the situation, at least.

“I…okay?” she stammers, struggling to sit up fully as Lena moves closer in preparation. “I mean, whatever it is you think will help –“

Lena rolls her eyes, using the momentum of the truck to swing a leg up and prop herself over Supergirl’s prone lap. The position is terribly intimate, but while both of their hands are bound it’s about the only way to do this without getting dislodged as soon as they go over a bump. The wrists aren’t an option – it has to be the neck.

“God, this is so weird,” Supergirl rambles, staring up at her with wide, dark eyes. “And I don’t know if you’ll be able to break my skin even with these things on, we’ve done a lot of tests and –“

“God, please stop talking –“ Lena hisses, extending her fangs and leaning close. She can see in real-time how Supergirl’s pupils dilate as she watches it happen, and then Lena’s teeth are sinking into her skin and she’s getting her first draw.

It’s absolutely nothing like she expected, and Lena is swept up in the intensity with zero warning.

Usually when she feeds, it’s a pleasant experience – the subject gets a bit of a contact high from it, leaving them a little loopy for a half hour or so while the wound closes, and it’s satisfying to fulfill her hunger. But this is something entirely different.

This time, she feels a little bit high as she takes her first swallow, and distantly she can feel herself pressing harder into the firm body underneath her. She had intentionally left space between them, tried to make this as impersonal as possible, but that space is gone in seconds. She can still feel her body but she’s almost disconnected from it, watching from a distance. Or, watching from deeper inside herself, perhaps? It’s difficult to tell. All she knows is that she’s in another place entirely, a floaty nether-space that feels warm and safe and comfortable, and it almost feels like Supergirl is there too.

Kara is there, Lena knows now with clarity. The name she heard over Supergirl’s comms, the name she’s kept herself from using because it seemed too familiar. Too dangerous. Now it’s all around her, and she can’t ignore it. Kara. And just like their first meeting, the first moment of skin contact, Lena can sense her like a beacon in her head. Only this time it’s stronger, more pronounced. She knows Kara, now, and her presence feels as familiar as Lena’s own mind. Like it belongs here, with her.

There’s a glow radiating from somewhere that isn’t Lena, as well. Kara isn’t just here, with her – Lena is also somewhere with Kara, like they’re sharing a third space outside of themselves. She can sense fear and adrenaline in Kara, but just below it is the warm glow of her; all affection and fondness, and a strong streak of protectiveness. Kara had been scared for her, today. Angry that she couldn’t protect her. Worried for her safety.

Underneath the glow, though, there’s something else. Something dark and seething that Lena doesn’t feel safe touching. It’s familiar, too – getting close to it pulls at that dark core of Lena as well, at memories and feelings long-buried, like some festering part of Kara is drawing out every bad memory Lena has ever boxed up and thrown away. Instead, she pulls back – for the first time in her life pulling away from the darkness, and basking in the light instead. Letting Kara close, she can feel those dark, protective parts of herself fall away, and for a few rapturous moments she tangles with Kara completely.

She should be more alarmed that she can sense Kara at all. Feeding has never been like this, in all her years of doing it. Not even in her most intimate moments has she felt this kind of connection. It’s always been simply a meal, as rote and banal as eating a burger.

This is new, and absolutely terrifying. Lena can’t pull away, and not only because of the way Kara’s mind calls to her – but because on top of the unfamiliar sensations, Kara tastes fucking incredible. Lena actually feels a moan slip from her as she opens her mouth wider, running her tongue almost messily over Kara’s skin as she takes another deep pull – something about this situation strips her of all pretense, any part of her that was resisting this disappearing. The only word she can call to mind in her trance-like state is ambrosia.

Lex always said that the Kryptonians had a god complex, and based on the flavour filling her mouth, perhaps they’re justified in it.

God, she’s hot and she tastes like heaven. How is this fair?

Lena almost bites a chunk out of Kara’s neck when she feels a response. It’s not vocal, but it’s unmistakable. It’s in her mind.

You think I’m hot?

Abruptly, even though it feels unnecessarily difficult, Lena wrenches herself away as if she’s been burned.

Their connection snaps like a rubber band. She can feel the reverberation of the break at the base of her neck, and the headache that had disappeared as soon as she started feeding comes roaring back – and Kara looks just as stunned, staring at Lena’s mouth with dazed eyes. Lena’s lips are wet with blood, her fangs still extended and pressing into her lower lip, and Kara doesn’t look afraid at all.

The wound starts to close the moment Lena’s mouth detaches. She can see it knitting itself up, the compound in her saliva doing its job, but Kara doesn’t seem to care either way. They’re still pressed together, chest to chest and almost at equal eye level with Lena’s position straddling her thighs, and for one brief second, she thinks the blonde might lean up and kiss her. She can feel the desire for it thrumming through her, shock and arousal and fascination swirling in her gut as their faces move closer together, close enough to share breath –

Lena isn’t sure whether she’s relieved or disappointed when the van goes over a bump so pronounced that she’s thrown from Kara’s lap unceremoniously. Even with her hands bound she instinctively tries to pull them up to break her fall – and to her surprise the ropes snap like they’re made of thread, and she manages to get them in front of her face as she lands.

She gets a split second of relief at the knowledge that her plan worked, before her hands tear through the reinforced steel floor of the truck like tissue paper.

Sparks fly up and into her face as the metal that’s now warped around her hands hits the pavement, and she manages to roll out of the way to avoid falling through one of the holes. The strength it must have taken is impossible, but she’s distracted from the shock by the sudden commotion.

She can hear the wind rushing in now, the traffic outside blaring, but it’s so much louder than it should be – like someone has turned the volume up to an ear-shattering decibel, and filtered in a mass of other audio with it. She can hear voices talking as if they’re right beside her – dozens, hundreds, all unfamiliar and achingly loud. She’s used to having hyper-tuned hearing at night, but not during broad daylight, and not like this.

She’s in complete sensory overload, the buzzing whine of panic starting to rise in her mind, until she hears something that cuts through the noise.

“Lena? Are you okay?”

Kara is looking at her with worry, struggling to move towards her but succeeding only in almost falling through the hole in the floor. Lena, her hands clapped desperately over her ears, focuses on Kara’s voice instead – the cadence of it, the way it seems to dull everything else.

It’s enough. She forces the chaos to the back of her head, and once the noise and the speed of the road under the floor seems to indicate they’re on a less-used street, Lena springs into action.

She pulls Kara up into a sitting position first, grabbing her cuffs – they feel hot under her hands, almost unbearably so, but it doesn’t sap her strength – and crushes the locking mechanism. They fall away, and the skin of Kara’s wrists underneath looks seared raw.

“Thank you,” Kara gasps, rubbing at her wrists and looking at Lena in wonder. “I can’t believe that worked! I didn’t want to believe the whole vampire thing, but you really –“

Lena steadfastly ignores her.

“On my signal, push on the right side of the truck,” Lena says, and thankfully Kara falls silent and nods in understanding. The green is fading from her complexion, but she still looks sickly – until she can get some sun exposure, Lena might be taking the lead here. Which, ironically, is when Lena’s own powers will dull.

After a silent countdown, they throw their shoulders in unison at the wall – and the world goes upside down.

Ordinarily, the force Lena put into the nudge would have been enough to rock the truck. With Supergirl’s help, she had been hoping it might tilt it, set it off balance and send the driver off the road to be dealt with later. What actually happens is quite different – instead of hitting the wall Lena finds herself lying on the grass, with the freeway on one side and a forest on the other. The truck is about 20 feet away, flipped onto its side with the cab crumpled against a tree, and as Lena gazes at it stupefied the driver stumbles out. He makes it a few feet on unsteady legs only to collapse in the dirt, unmoving. The person in the passenger seat doesn’t move at all.

What the everloving fuck?

Hauling herself to her feet, Lena flexes her limbs. The sun is beating down on her, and usually that’s enough to make her want to lock herself in a dark room for the next year – but she feels fine. She doesn’t have even a scratch on her, nothing for even her powers to heal.

Impossible.

In a flash she’s at the truck, and experimentally she takes hold of the handles of the back door. With her usual powers, at this time of day, she might be able to break the lock with a lot of hard work and more than a few tries.

She gives them a slight tug, and with a screech they both tear from their hinges. She rends them from the truck with about the same amount of effort she’d usually use to open an unlocked door, and clearly something is deeply wrong here.

On the other side of the doors is Supergirl, looking like she’d just been about to try the same thing from the inside. When the light spills into the truck bed Lena can see the cause of her ending up outside – there’s a huge tear in the side of the truck that’s lying on the ground. Grass is poking up through it, and it’s about the exact size of Lena’s body.

“Holy crap,” Kara whispers, her eyes wide as Lena stands before her holding the doors of an armoured truck aloft like they’re inflatable pool toys.

Lena needs to get out of here.

Dropping the doors into the grass, Lena backs away slowly.

“Where are you going?” Kara asks, stepping out into the light looking like she might try to follow. “We still need to –“

Lena is gone before she can finish, sprinting away towards downtown at a top speed that is now apparently about the average speed of a fighter jet. She has to force herself to slow down, to be careful and not smear passersby into oblivion by accidentally running into them, and even when she’s miles away a few seconds later she can still hear Kara shouting after her.

“Wait! Lena, wait!”

Lena is halfway home before she realizes that Supergirl used her real name.

 


 

The abilities last for about 48 hours – and for most of those hours, Lena is awake and testing.

She knows that she should be worrying about the events of the afternoon. She should be checking to make sure that Supergirl apprehended the two men that abducted them, should be making preparations to ensure that they didn’t know who she was. She should be figuring out how the fuck feeding on Supergirl turned into some kind of telepathic trance state. She should be thinking about the fact that Kara knows her name.

But instead she shoves it all down. She destroys her burner phone, locks herself in a basement lab, and runs tests. She’s laser-focused, in full science mode - and even so, it’s hard to explain away the sharp spikes of worry and anxiety she keeps feeling that don’t feel like her own. That have nothing to do with her work. That keep bringing to mind images of Kara, matching whatever emotion is coursing through her. Like whatever happened in the van hasn’t completely broken off yet.

She can practically see Kara pacing, her cape whirling around her shoulders as she tries to figure out what happened. It makes Lena wonder, briefly, what she wears when she isn’t wearing a cape. But those thoughts are dangerous, and Lena turns instead back to the two things she’s always been good at. Repression, and research.

There’s only one explanation for the events of the day. Somehow, through drinking her blood, she gained some of Kara’s powers.

It shouldn’t be possible. Lex looked into using Kryptonians as chattel, imprisoning them in kryptonite to keep alive and feed from. But Lex had gained no special abilities from Superman’s blood sample, and the plan was deemed irrelevant. What’s happening to Lena isn’t supposed to be a possibility. But here she is, with powers beyond her brother’s wildest dreams and an immunity to the sun.

Over the next two days, she experiments with her new powers. She starts small, trying to press a knife into her skin to test her new healing rate – instead the knife refuses to go through at all, and after trying again with larger and larger weapons, Lena makes a note under the headline powers gained.

Bulletproof skin.

Next, she tests her newfound strength - seeing how high she can jump, how hard she can punch. (Answer – about 20 floors, and hard enough to collapse the concrete walls of an abandoned building. It’s difficult to test beyond that without serious destruction, so she tables it for later).

She makes another note – super strength, vertical leap.

She does have a second category, though, for powers of Supergirl’s that she didn’t retain. She can’t fly, for example. She has no laser vision, no frost breath, no x-ray powers. Instead it seems like all the powers she already had as a vampire are simply heightened to an impossible degree. Her skin doesn’t just heal fast, but it’s almost impenetrable – her strength and hearing are magnified to a level she can’t calculate. She can be in the sun, now, without it sapping her powers, and she’s even more powerful in the cover of night than she was before.

Finally, she tries the final test. She finds a pencil (rare, in this building full of vampires, but Sam keeps a few in her desk), removes the lead and sharpens it to a point, and presses it into the flesh of her thumb.

Normally, wood slices through a vampire’s skin like sharpened steel would a human’s. Their only real weakness, besides sunlight. Human legends like to pretend that a wooden stake directly through the heart is the only way to kill a vampire – but in reality, any wood in any body part will do. She saw a vampire taken down by a particularly angry witch once, years ago before her family came to America, and it hadn’t been an instantaneous kill. The wound to his shoulder had festered like any human wound would do, healing at a human rate, and he died from infection a week later.

Wood somehow offsets a vampire’s instant healing capabilities, and a stab to the thigh will make her bleed out just as easily as one to the heart, if not treated properly.

The pencil goes through, like usual. She presses it in mercilessly, gritting her teeth through the pain, and then removes it – at first, with no unusual effects. She wipes the blood on a tissue, and makes to write that down in her notes – but then the throbbing in her finger starts to ease. Looking down again at the pad of her thumb, Lena sees the impossible.

Her wound is healing.

It’s slow, to be sure. A hundred times slower than her usual healing speed. But it’s healing nonetheless, despite the wood. The blood has clotted where it would ordinarily bleed freely for a few minutes, and the pain has already started to go away. She’d estimate an hour or two, and it’ll be gone entirely.

With a spike of realization, she puts a hand up to her forehead. She’d gotten knocked on her ass earlier by a wooden bat, badly enough that the blood had run almost down to her cheekbone. She should have a bruise the size of a tennis ball where the impact is, a cut that won’t go away for at least a week.

Scrambling for the nearest reflective surface, she examines the area -

Nothing. The dried blood is still there, but there’s no bruise. No cut. It’s completely healed.

She has so much to talk to Sam about.

 

Chapter Text

Lena Luthor is a vampire.

No matter how many times Kara repeats the statement in her head, it still doesn’t seem real. And it has to be about a thousand times, now – Lena disappeared over 10 minutes ago, gone in the blink of an eye, and Kara has no hope of catching up until she spends an hour or two under a sun bed. Instead Kara is left on the side of this lonely road, with two motionless abductors and a trashed armoured truck, to try and figure out what the heck just happened.

When Lena first suggested that she could get them out of this situation, Kara thought it was a joke. But Lena had seemed so serious, and then she was sitting in Kara’s lap with dangerous-looking fangs and dilated, reflective eyes, and suddenly the kryptonite wasn’t the only reason Kara was sweating.

She’d been expecting pain, when Lena tugged her forward by the front of her suit and sunk her teeth in. She’d even tensed up, preparing to experience the unfamiliar sensation – but it didn’t hurt at all. She’d felt a tingle, and then a sort of pressure that felt more pleasurable than anything else. She’s never been able to receive a real hickey with her unbreakable skin, but if this is what they feel like, she can understand why humans seem so obsessed with them. She had gone from tense to boneless in seconds, arching her neck and practically pushing it into Lena’s teeth.

She’d wanted more. More of the sensation, more of this feeling of closeness – she had felt herself reaching out, not with her bound hands but with her mind, and to her shock she had actually gotten an answer.

The truck, suddenly, was gone. The raw chafe of the cuffs on her wrists, the jarring of the truck on the bumpy road, even the pressure of Lena’s weight in her lap – all of it disappeared as soon as she opened herself up, and instead she was somewhere else. Somewhere warm and safe, and closer to Lena than ever. They were pressed together physically, chest to chest and mouth to neck, but somehow here they had been even closer.

Just like that strange, electrifying moment when they met, Lena’s mind was so close that she felt like she could touch it – and this time, she did.

Lena’s mind was just like Kara might have predicted, had she even considered that this might be possible. Jagged and reclusive, a beautiful light wreathed in sharp edges and somehow familiar to Kara despite knowing firmly that she had never done this before. Dark spikes surrounding a fragile, bright centre. Kara could feel the tug of that darkness, an echo in herself reflected in another – the pain, the loneliness, the anger. It’s all familiar, but instead of protecting herself with light and hope like Kara has always tried to do, Lena seems to do the opposite. She cloaks herself in the pain, lets it shape and guide her, and hides the brightness beneath. It’s held up like a shield – but when Kara moved closer, she could see it start to smooth.

It reminded her of calming a feral animal, interacting with Lena this way. All of this is unfamiliar and strange but somehow it felt easy, felt right, and it took little effort to slip between the cracks. With the tiniest amount of attention Lena opened to her, like she was starving for the contact – and suddenly Lena was everywhere, the blindingly bright core of her engulfing Kara like a supernova.

Somewhere on the physical plane she could feel Lena’s tongue dragging almost languorously over her skin, could feel the pressure and suction of her mouth as she drank Kara’s blood, and the idea of it was no longer unnerving. It was lighting her on fire. She’d actually felt herself struggling against her cuffs, overwhelmed with the desire to seize Lena’s hips and pull them down into her own, feel her thighs spread further than they already were. 

And then she heard Lena’s voice in her head, and it all went to hell.

The events following the bite were a bit of a blur. Kara was still dazed when Lena snapped her cuffs and threw her body through the side of the truck, dizzied by the world turning upside down, her head throbbing with the sudden break of their entanglement - and then just when Kara had been about to try to bust open the door it had been ripped unceremoniously from its hinges. Lena stood in the doorframe wreathed by sunlight, a door in each hand and looking about as stunned as Kara was.

And then she disappeared, leaving Kara here alone.

The only way to describe this day, really, is a word she’s heard Alex use before but never thought she needed herself - a clusterfuck.

The driver lying in the grass a few feet away starts to stir, groaning quietly, and Kara puts her thoughts aside for the moment. No matter how weird the last half hour has been, she still has a job to do.

Putting a careful knee in the man’s lower back, she rifles through his pockets with a quick hand. There’s no wallet or identification, unsurprisingly – but there is a cellphone, and Kara picks it up eagerly. Her own was taken from her after they threw her in the truck, and she needs to get in touch with Alex.

“What the –“ The man says groggily, waking up to the full weight of a Kryptonian pressing into the base of his spine. “Where are we?”

“Not sure,” Kara says distractedly, turning on the screen to find it locked by facial recognition software. “Somewhere on the way to wherever you were taking us, probably. Could you hold still for a second?”

She holds the phone in front of his face long enough for it to unlock, and he only seems to struggle more when he realizes what she’s doing.

“Get off me –“

“Shush,” Kara says, snapping her fingers in front of his face as she dials Alex’s number. “I have a phone call to make.”

He does stop talking, whether because he’s following her order or because he’s shocked by her brusqueness she doesn’t know. It’s usually Lena that plays bad cop, but after the day she’s had, Kara’s patience is wearing thin.

When Alex answers, Kara can hear some kind of commotion happening in the background, and she frowns. How could they possibly have known that she was kidnapped?

“Who is this?”

Alex doesn’t sound distracted, at least – she’s her regular, distrustful self as she picks up the unknown number, and Kara breathes a sigh of relief.

“Alex, hey. Sorry, I lost my –“ Kara starts, but Alex interrupts her.

“Kara? Whose phone are you using?”

“That’s an interesting question,” Kara says tactfully, “and one I absolutely will answer.”

How exactly she’s going to answer it escapes her, and Alex reacts to her long seconds of silence with wariness.

“…okay, you’re being weird,” Alex says, but thankfully whatever emergency is happening in the background takes precedence. “Well, it’s a good thing you called, because we’re getting reports of kryptonite sightings just outside the city. I’ve been trying to call you, we’re moving on the locations now –“

“Funny story,” Kara says, pressing the driver more firmly into the ground as he tries to wiggle out of her grasp and wincing as the leftover kryptonite exposure makes her bones ache. “I’m already there.”

“You’re already where?”

“At the crime scene.”

“What? Are you okay?” Alex asks, incredulous, and Kara sighs.

“I’ll tell you when you get here.”

Kara had hoped that, in the time it took Alex and her team to get to her location, she’d have thought up a better way to explain herself. But when Alex jumps out of the DEO truck and orders her agents to take care of the perps, she’s still at a complete loss.

“Okay, I’m here and you’re not in immediate danger, so,” Alex says, snapping a set of handcuffs onto the still-struggling driver while three other agents pry open the cab of the truck. “Care to explain yourself?”

“Would you believe me if I said they were unconscious when I got here?” Kara tries her most winning smile, but Alex isn’t having any of it.

“No. And I’m even less inclined to believe you when you look exhausted and there’s a set of kryptonite cuffs in the truck.”

Kara deflates. With Alex here and the perps taken care of the exhaustion of the day catches up with her all at once, and she sinks down to sit on the roadside barrier. She rubs her hands over her face, feeling leftover sweat and dust, and groans into her palms.

“I don’t even know where to start.”

“Maybe you could start with how you ended up in – hold on, is that blood on your neck?”

Under Alex’s scrutiny Kara reaches up and feels at the place Lena’s mouth was, on the left side of her neck just under her jaw. There’s no wound there, no holes that prove the whole thing wasn’t a weird kryptonite-induced fever dream, but there is indeed a streak of dried blood. Even without the marker, though, Kara knows exactly where it was – it still tingles where sharp teeth pierced the skin. A low, pleasurable hum, like a remnant of the way she felt when it was happening.

A shiver climbs up her spine at the memory, and it’s not the bad kind – in fact the experience had been one of the most intimate and acutely arousing moments of her life. If given the chance, she’d let Lena bite her again in a heartbeat. She would even ask for it, honestly. She might even call it a craving.

She has a lot to process.

Wiping away the smear of blood with a deep blush, Kara tugs Alex by the elbow and leads her to a secluded place near the treeline.

“I need to talk to you about something.”

Alex’s reaction is less than optimal.

“So you’re telling me,” Alex says tightly about ten minutes later, her fingers pinching the bridge of her nose, “That after J’onn specifically ordered you not to work with the unknown, you worked with her anyways. And you lied to us about it.”

“Uh huh,” Kara nods, and Alex continues in her damning summary of the situation.

“And, it turns out, that unknown is actually Lena Luthor. Only daughter of the person that’s hell-bent on wiping aliens from the earth.”

“Yep,” Kara says, popping the end of the word.

“And Lena Luthor is a…vampire?” Alex says, squinting up at Kara in her world-weary way. Her tone says well, this might as well happen, and Kara can’t help but agree.

“That’s pretty much it, yeah.”

“My head hurts.”

“How do you think I feel?” Kara says, unthinking. “I’m the one whose blood she drank!”

Alex’s yell of alarm makes Kara’s ears hurt, and the next 5 minutes are spent getting a full field-medic physical from her sister.

J’onn’s reaction, unfortunately, is even worse. When Kara arrives back at the DEO and lays the situation out to him he lacks Alex’s incredulity and anger, but instead he radiates a horrible, fatherly disappointment. It almost makes Kara feel guilty for lying, until she thinks about what things would have been like had she listened to his orders. If she didn’t get to see Lena regularly. In the end, it was worth it.

He takes the vampire revelation in stride, though, even shutting Alex down when she suggests tracking Lena down and bringing her to the DEO. Alex wants to do tests - Kara thinks that Lena would probably rather stake herself than allow it. And his disappointment is overtaken by interest when she tells him about Corben’s kryptonite beam, how he’s taken to calling himself Metallo and he seems to think he’s indestructible.

J’onn sends Kara away to rest, and in lieu of bringing Lena in to study Alex insists that they at least do some tests on Kara instead.

“We have no idea how this vampire thing works,” Alex insists, as she flicks on the red sun lamps and swabs Kara’s forearm to take a blood sample. “For all we know, it could be contagious.”

“I’m Kryptonian. I doubt it would affect me even if it was,” Kara says grumpily. Unlike Lena’s teeth, the needle going into her skin hurts, and she squirms as Alex draws the vials.

“Even if it doesn’t, we might be able to isolate something from your blood to study. And stop moving, you’re making it worse.” Alex eases the needle out and flicks the lamp off, and Kara relaxes as the tiny hole heals itself.

“Why do you need to study her at all?” Kara asks, rubbing at the spot while Alex seals the vials.

Alex pauses, looking at Kara like she’s asked her strangest question yet. “Are you serious? She’s just revealed that she’s a possibly dangerous new species with unknown powers.”

“She isn’t an alien,” Kara argues, and Alex sets the vials down to face her completely. “It’s not the DEO’s responsibility.”

“It’s the DEO’s responsibility to deal with Lillian, and for all we know, she’s a vampire too!” Alex fires back, and Kara hates how much the argument makes sense. “If she is, we need to know how to deal with her.”

Kara frowns, gnawing on her lip. Even if it makes sense, it still makes her stomach feel weird.

“It doesn’t feel right, without asking her permission,” Kara admits, and Alex sighs as she sits down next to Kara on the exam table.

“Look,” She starts, her tone gentler and more understanding than it’s been all day, “I know you’re sort of infatuated with her, but –“

Kara snorts, feeling a hot blush creep over her cheeks at how quickly Alex saw through her. “I am not – infatuated – we’re just –“

But, she’s still dangerous,” Alex interrupts, waving a hand. “She’s Lex’s sister, Kara. You have no idea what her intentions are. You need to be careful. I worry about you, working with her.”

Kara wants to argue. She does know Lena’s intentions, despite what Alex thinks – she knows Lena on a level she didn’t think was possible. She’d been surrounded by her, earlier, bathed in her light. Kara knows without a doubt now that Lena is nothing like her family, and nothing will change her mind.

She has no idea how to explain that to Alex. Fortunately, she’s saved from having to by a soft knock on the lab door. Brainy pokes his head in, his face as stoic as ever but a visible excitement in his eyes.

“We found something.”

He leads them to the briefing room, where J’onn is staring intensely at something up on the screens. It looks almost like a seismograph, with a map of the city next to it scattered with red dots.

“Thanks to your confrontation with John Corben, we were able to analyze the remaining kryptonite in the air at the site. Given that this weapon is embedded in his body, I hypothesized that it would need to have a unique subatomic makeup – and I was correct.” Brainy starts typing furiously, and two different sets of data spring up on screen. They look like atomic structures, almost identical but for a few minute differences.

“So, you’re saying that it’s a…different kind of kryptonite?” Alex clarifies, and Brainy nods.

“One tailored to exist within the body, yes. Synthetic. But even so, it’s a dangerous amount for any human to be exposed to. He should be dead.”

“And if Lena isn’t human,” Alex starts with dawning realization, and J’onn nods, finishing her sentence.

“Maybe Corben isn’t, either.”

“So, what?” Kara cuts in, close to snapping at the cavalier way they’re bandying Lena’s secret around to openly. She’s already regretting telling them, but there isn’t much she can do about it now. “What does this get us, exactly?”

Brainy smiles, and with a few deft keyboard strokes the map comes back up. Several of the dots are glowing, now, and Brainy indicates them with a laser pointer he pulls out of nowhere.

“The kryptonite in his body has a unique signature, and when he uses it, it gives off radiation. It’s highly unstable, and getting more so the more he uses it. The rate of radioactive decay is really quite remarkable, he must have incredible constitution to survive it, but it will eventually break down completely.“

“Meaning?” J’onn asks tersely, and Brainy brings up a small simulation on the screen. A human figure with a chest full of kryptonite appears, and the glowing gem pulses with more and more frequency until it finally explodes. Tiny molecules disperse into the air around it, and Brainy hits pause.

“You’re telling me it’s going to blow?” Alex asks, her stance turning defensive. Brainy nods, reversing the simulation. “Do you think he knows that?”

“Eventually. And, I doubt it - the decay rate seems stable, but I hypothesize that the more he uses it, the faster it falls. He would not be using it with such frequency if he was aware. I would be curious to know what process they used to –“

Succinctly, please, Brainy. What does this give us?” Kara interrupts again, antsy and not entirely sure why. This is all useful information and she should be happy about it, but she’s full of a jittery energy that she can’t seem to find the source of.

Brainy takes it in stride. “His synthetic kryptonite is unstable, and if he uses it we can use the signature to track him.”

Alex straightens noticeably, and even J’onn looks suddenly more alert.

“Is he still traceable right now?” Alex asks, and Brainy nods rapidly.

“Yes, but it is fading quickly. We must move fast.”

Alex is in motion immediately. “Okay, gear up. We need to find him before the trace fades, so get a team together –“

“No.”

Kara’s voice is quiet, but even so the room stills. Even Brainy, whose mind can extrapolate billions of possible outcomes to any situation, looks surprised at her reticence.

Alex stares at her the hardest, looking genuinely concerned for her mental welfare. “Okay. A few weeks ago you wouldn’t wait for backup because there was a tiny chance of catching him. Now we have his location, and you won’t go?”

Kara shakes her head, not even rising from her seat.

“Not without Lena.”

It doesn’t matter how hard J’onn and Alex push - Kara can’t go without her. They’re stronger together, now, and whether Kara likes it or not, Lena’s tactical mind has rubbed off on her lately. Smoothed out some of her impatience. Going up against a man with a kryptonite heart without her would be a mistake, even with a squadron of DEO agents.

“Well then, where is she?” Alex says irritably, and Kara shrugs. She’d tried calling Lena the moment she got back to the DEO, but unsurprisingly the number was disconnected. It isn’t the first time this has happened – Kara knows she’ll find her again, somehow.

Even so, her answer is reluctant. “She destroyed her phone.”

Alex throws her hands up, clearly at the end of her rope. “Okay, well do you think that maybe she did that because she doesn’t want to be found?”

“She wants to be found, she just –“ Kara starts, but she’s cut off by a sudden, intense spike of pain in her hand. It makes her cry out in surprise as much as discomfort – she isn’t used to pain to begin with, and she’s especially not used to it when it isn’t preceded by green light. It feels like something sharp is being driven mercilessly into her thumb, and then removed just as quickly.

Alex is at her side in a heartbeat, all annoyance forgotten with Kara’s distress.

“Kara! Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

Kara swallows, staring at her perfectly intact thumb with a growing understanding.

“What was that?” J’onn asks. Kara shakes her head, still staring at the digit. The pain is still there, a sort of gentle throbbing that doesn’t distress her like it should.

“I don’t know,” Kara murmurs. “I just felt…pain.”

“She needs some time under the lamps,” Alex insists, making to pull Kara to her feet. “She’s been through too much today –“

Kara hardly notices the hands trying to pull her up. She hardly notices, because the pain disappears so suddenly that it makes her dizzy – only to be replaced by a wave of emotion so strong that she has to press a hand to her chest. It’s a potent mixture of two feelings, both almost overwhelming - fear, and adrenaline.

It’s Lena. Kara knows it with a clarity she’s never felt before – Lena is with her, somehow. She’s scared, worried over something that Kara can’t identify, but at the same time something good has happened. Something incredible.

She has no idea where Lena is hiding; but wherever she is, she’s both afraid and excited.

“No, I’m fine,” She lies, her hand still pressed to her chest as if touching the feeling might bring her closer to Lena. Her heart is pounding, and she doesn’t know whether it’s her own heartbeat or if it’s echoing another. Some part of her hopes it’s the latter. “It’s gone now.”

“Are you sure?” Alex asks, and her worry is so palpable that Kara manages a small smile.

“Positive.”

She can feel the emotion fading like a wave receding back from shore, and she has no idea how to bring it back. Instead she turns to the three faces still gazing at her with concern, and stands up to her full height.

“I know you don’t trust her,” Kara says, projecting as much strength into her tone as she can, “But Lena is just scared. She revealed a pretty huge secret to me, and she probably assumes that you guys will want to bring her in to study.” She looks at Alex particularly pointedly, and while Alex makes a disgruntled face, Kara knows that the point is understood. “You can’t blame her for running to protect her identity.”

Alex sighs. It’s clear that she’s backing down, and Kara is glad. She’s sick of fighting with her sister.

“Well then, what do you want to do?”

“I have to find her.”

 


 

Sam’s reaction to the events of Lena’s kidnapping is more or less exactly what Lena expected.

“I leave for three days, and you get kidnapped and end up with fucking superpowers?”

Sam has been lounging on Lena’s office couch for hours now, listening to Lena recount the events of the last few days with rapt attention. Her feet are up on the coffee table, she’s on her third cup of coffee, and she looks absolutely delighted.

“Temporarily,” Lena corrects, and Sam waves a dismissive hand.

“Semantics. You drank Supergirl’s blood and it made you invincible.”

Temporarily,” Lena says again, rolling her eyes. “And, wood still hurts me. It just heals quickly. Besides, the effects are wearing off already.”

Lena demonstrates by slowly, carefully grasping her desk by the edge and lifting it off the ground with a single arm, putting it down when her laptop is in danger of sliding off the surface. While yesterday she felt like she would have been able to lift it over her head and throw it into space, now her arm starts to shake when she lifts it a few inches. Yesterday she also started to notice that the sun was making her fatigued again, and after a quick meal from Sam when she arrived, she’s almost completely back to her natural strength. “It took me hours to figure out the right grip pressure. I don’t know how Supergirl does it 24/7.”

“How long exactly have you spent thinking about her grip pressure?” Sam says, her voice heavy with intention, and Lena points a pen at her as menacingly as she can.

“I can make it look like an accident, you know. I’m perfectly capable of murder.”

Sam just laughs, putting a throw pillow behind her head and reclining on the couch. She kicks her shoes off before putting her feet up on the white fabric, another indication that she knows Lena far too well.

“Well then, since the most pressing issue is resolving itself, how about we talk about the fact that this shouldn’t be possible?”

Lena drums her fingers on the table. This is the part of the conversation that she was dreading – Sam is too insightful for her own good, and it’s impossibly difficult to keep a secret from her for very long. But the actual experience of her connection with Kara is one that she’d rather keep to herself until she can process it, and she knows that Sam is going to pry.

“I know it shouldn’t be possible,” Lena says, rolling her neck back and forth and feeling it pop with tension. “Trust me, I’ve spent the last two days trying to figure it out.”

Sam keeps talking, her stream of thoughts directed at the ceiling. “I mean, Lex tried this, right? He tried a blood sample from Superman, and he didn’t get powers.”

“Maybe it has to do with volume,” Lena says, but even she knows it’s a half-assed hypothesis. Sam looks even more doubtful.

“I don’t know. If it was, Lex would have gotten a small amount of powers, even with a small sample. I feel like I’ve seen something like this before -”

“Or it could be because he’s inborn,” Lena says quickly, before Sam has too much time to ruin Lena’s day with her centuries of experience in previous lives. “Maybe Kryptonian powers can’t take hold in older bloodlines. Too much existing power?”

“You’re half inborn, Lena.”

That observation stings, as much as it’s the truth. Sam says it gently, as always; but after years of Lena being told by everyone else around her that she’s an aberration, any attention pointed at her abnormal blood status always makes her bristle.

“Yes, okay, I’m a freak of nature,” Lena snaps, turning her chair to look out the window lest her stupid watering eyes betray her. “Thank you for the reminder.”

“You know I don’t care about that,” Sam says, her voice soft and matter-of-fact. “I’m just saying the theory doesn’t really make sense.”

Lena nods, still tense. Sam looks thoughtful, all of a sudden.

”Have you considered that maybe it’s that Lex wasn’t powerful enough?” She asks, and Lena frowns. “I mean technically, you’re like...double vampire, right? Maybe it’s the combination of your inborn blood and your given powers that gives you the strength to handle Kryptonian abilities. Maybe Lex couldn’t handle it.”

“That certainly isn’t the way my mother sees it,” Lena grumbles. The idea of Lena, a stain on the family name and a half-breed, being more powerful than her precious Lex? Lillian would have a fit.

Sam makes a face. “Since when do I give a shit how your mother sees it?”

Lena huffs out a laugh at that. It’s true that her blood sets her apart from any other vampire - it’s a good a theory as any, and one that is considerably less worrying than the other theory that’s been bouncing around in her head. The one that tells her it’s something more like destiny. 

Slowly Lena calms herself down, gets herself under control, and Sam knows enough to let her do it in peace. Only when Lena’s shoulders have completely relaxed does Sam ask her next question.

“What did it feel like, when it happened?”                                     

Even while Sam’s soft tone makes Lena’s hackles go down, she still has no idea how to respond. This is the part of the whole experience that she’s been avoiding at all costs. Her mind had connected with Kara’s, she can’t deny it now – and even with all her years of being a vampire, it’s something she’s never experienced before. Lena doesn’t know how to even begin to describe how it felt, and she certainly isn’t comfortable trying.

“It was – normal,” she says tightly, shrugging. “Fine. But whatever it is that made this happen, I doubt it’ll happen twice.”

Lena is relieved when Sam follows the latter part of that sentence rather than the former, even if her next line of inquiry is almost as stressful.

“So, why not co-ordinate with Supergirl?” Sam asks unhelpfully. “You could be a pretty unstoppable team, if you used this to your advantage.”

“She works for the government,” Lena is quick to answer. It’s the excuse she’s used to justify keeping her distance from Supergirl up until this point, and she can only hope that it holds up. “Besides, she doesn’t know how to contact me anymore.”

“Lena!” Sam says, sitting up and levelling her with a disappointed frown. “Did you destroy your phone again?”

Lena shrugs it off, putting a little steel in her tone. “If she runs her mouth to her little shadow cell and my mother finds out, I’ll be tried for exposure and thrown into jail with Lex.”

She should know by now that Sam won’t be dissuaded by a little berating. She’s stubborn to a fault, and it seems like the newest crusade she’s taken on is pushing Lena towards Supergirl.

“You know what might stop that from happening?” Sam says, in a tone that makes Lena’s jaw clench. “Talking to her about it like an adult.”

Sam is right, as always. And Lena knows, deep in her bones, that Kara wouldn’t let anything bad happen to her. She saw it, felt that deep-seated protective instinct when their minds touched. But the absolute, warm sureness of that knowledge, and the manner in which Lena got it, is even more frightening than the possibility of Supergirl telling the world that she’s a vampire. For now, Lena needs space. Kara will find her again eventually, she’s sure – and she’d prefer to have her head on straight when she does. In the meantime, Lena has other things to take care of.

As the last vestiges of her new powers disappear, Lena ignores Sam’s advice to talk to Supergirl. Instead she builds a kryptonite sampling device, and she tracks down Manchester Black.

It isn’t an arranged meeting this time. Manchester hasn’t reached out to her, likely too wary after their first interaction, and Lena instead does things the old-fashioned way – she covers up her face, and she tracks him down herself. The amount of work and subterfuge that it takes makes her briefly miss the ease of working with Supergirl – the benefit of having someone on your side with the authority to just walk up to anyone and ask them questions is one she didn’t realize she had gotten used to. But in the end she tracks him to a human nightclub downtown, following from the shadows as he paces restlessly up and down a side alley.

He seems nervous, and Lena frowns as a side door opens nearby. The pulsing bass of the club spills out, and Manchester slips past whoever held the door open to enter silently. Lena is at the door in an instant, throwing a hand out to keep it from closing and ducking into the building to follow.

The cacophony inside is almost too much for her. Kara’s powers are still working their way out of her system, and paired with her already hyper-tuned senses, the club music feels like it’s drilling into her skull. The lights are both dim and flashing, and her pupils can’t seem to decide which to adapt to – but she can still spot Manchester, weaving his way through the crowd and towards the back office.

Lena gets a sinking suspicion what he’s here for when he greets the two men standing guard with a sleeper hold.

Corben isn’t here, Lena knows. He rarely makes appearances, especially not at dingy human nightclubs. But this seems like just the kind of place he would own, a perfect locale to exercise his control over the drug trade in National City. It might be that an important player in his outfit is here, and Manchester is targeting him.

Manchester takes the guards out easily, and doesn’t even bother to hide their unconscious bodies before he’s stepping into the office.

“Fucking typical,” Lena mutters, pulling her scarf up over her face and hauling one of the guards up onto her shoulder. He’s deadweight, but Lena heaves him up easily and grabs the second motionless body by the back of his leather jacket. “Men. Charge in, and don’t even clean up the mess. Worse than Supergirl.”

After binding and depositing them in a maintenance closet, Lena grabs the handle to the office door only to find it locked. With an irritated huff she backs up a few inches, and mustering whatever is left of Supergirl’s powers, throws her shoulder into the wood.

It flies open in a shower of splinters, revealing a bloody Manchester laid out on the tile floor and a hulking blonde man standing over him holding a gun.

Lena springs into action immediately. Perhaps Kara’s punch-first-ask-questions-later style has rubbed off on her, because she finds that she doesn’t have much desire to play this the smart way – she could have gone into the rafters, could have listened at the door, could have done any number of things besides break the door down and put the target in a chokehold. But she went with her instincts, and she’s starting to see the draw of Supergirl’s method. In a crisis, at least.

“You’re going to get yourself in trouble, sneaking into back rooms unarmed,” Lena pants, as the man in her grip relaxes into unconsciousness. He hits the floor like a sack of bricks, and she offers a hand to help Manchester to his feet. “Have you ever thought of a less suicidal approach?”

“He’s on Corben’s payroll,” Manchester grumbles, wiping the blood from his face. It looks like he got the butt of the gun to his nose, and he doesn’t have the ability to heal himself like Lena does. “I was gonna get a location out of him. It didn’t need to get violent unless he gave it a reason to.”

“Which he did.”

Manchester grunts in response.

While he dusts off his bruised pride, Lena closes the door and wedges a chair against the broken handle. With that done she ties the club manager’s hands and feet, and nudges him until he’s hidden under the desk.

“Corben is only the start of the problem, you know. Even if you get rid of everyone in his operation, more will replace them eventually. There’s always going to be fae who are willing to sell themselves for Luthor money.”

“So, I take down the Luthors,” Manchester answers easily. Lena shakes her head.

“Lillian is over a thousand years old, and surrounded by allies. You have a scrappy group of insurgent wolves.”

Manchester steps into her space, then. He practically towers over her, looking straight down in a clear attempt to intimidate, and his voice lowers to a growl.

“What’s to say you’re not the one I should be getting rid of?”

Lena quirks a brow at him, unimpressed by the display and not shy about showing it.

“You’d only be doing Lillian a favour. Trust me.”

It’s among the most truthful things she’s ever said to him. To anyone, really. She has no doubt that Lillian would feel nothing but relief if she was gone, especially at the hands of someone she could so easily scapegoat – relief, and perhaps a sliver of disappointment at losing her scientific mind. Perhaps the truth in her voice is bigger than she thought, because Manchester goes from angry to wary as Lena holds his gaze coldly.

“Why do you want Corben gone?” Manchester asks. “Why him specifically? What do you get out of this?”

Lena purses her lips. “He’s the only link I have to my mother’s inner circle. I know the parts of the city she controls, but not who her puppets are – except for him. If I can get more details out of him, I can start to disassemble the rest of her influence.”

“So you want an interrogation. Not an arrest.”

Lena shrugs. “Ideally, I’d like him out of the picture. His outfit gives my mother more power, and harms pretty much everyone else. But I have no right or authority to arrest anyone. Not him, and not you.”

Manchester considers this silently, and it’s Lena that breaks the stand-off with a sigh.

“Look, you and I have aligning objectives. You have the drive, I have the means. And I know you’re a good person, with a good goal, despite what Supergirl wants to take you in for.”

Manchester looks down at her, jaw tight, for a few seconds – and then he breaks away, swearing under his breath. He paces a few times, and Lena waits quietly for him to settle himself.

“I didn’t kill that guy, you know,” he finally says, taking a seat at the edge of the desk. The manager Lena knocked out is still lying prone underneath it, but he pays him no mind. “The one everyone says I did. Don’t get me wrong – I probably would have, after all the humans and wolves he killed or tricked into prison. He deserved it. But Corben killed him. Right in front of me. His own guy. Trying to make people distrust me.”

The revelation is a bit of a surprise, but honestly Lena isn’t overly shocked. In fact, it makes more sense than anything else – while she doesn’t doubt that he’s capable of murder if given a big enough injustice, she’s always gotten the feeling that he’s more similar to her than appearances might show. Trapped in the chains of thousands of years of societal tradition, and trying to break the mould however he can.

“Well,” Lena says, willing her voice to be neutral. “Unfortunately, it worked. Supergirl doesn’t trust you.”

“Do you?”

The question isn’t accusatory. It seems genuine, and after a moment’s pause Lena answers honestly.

“I don’t trust very many people. But I think I could.”

Manchester seems to take that into consideration, looking at Lena with piercing eyes.

Lena chuckles drily. “I’ve learned recently that my method doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need a blunt approach. Just…in balance with strategy, wherever possible. Neither is better than the other, but they work better together. We would work better together.”

At the second mention of the Girl of Steel, Manchester’s posture turns defensive again. “It sounds an awful lot like you’re working with Supergirl. She wants me arrested. How do I know you aren’t just trying to turn me in?”

“Supergirl is a means to an end,” Lena says, her voice much more firm than her actual conviction on the subject. “And you can’t argue that this city loves her. We need someone like that to turn public opinion on Lillian.”

“And…” Lena adds begrudgingly at Manchester’s silence, “I think that if she really knew the injustice you’re fighting, and the structure of the fae? She’d be on your side. She’s self-righteous sometimes, but she isn’t quite as black and white as you think.”

Manchester is quiet, but she can practically see the gears turning. His fingers are tapping restlessly against the surface of the desk, and Lena pushes her advantage while she has him thoughtful.

“Everything my mother does is secretive. Hidden, and carefully covered up. She’s evaded every other attempt at taking her down, and trust me, there have been several. We have to be different. At the end of the day, some aspects of Lillian’s hold on this city have to be dismantled like a bomb, and you and Supergirl are going at it with a sledgehammer. We need both.”

Manchester shakes his head. “So, what’s your suggestion? I just sit back and let it happen?”

“No,” Lena says carefully, “my suggestion is that you let me help you. But to do that, you have to work with me. We have to trust each other.”

Manchester scoffs, pushing off from the desk to stand at full height. “A wolf, working for a Luthor. Seems like a familiar mistake.”

Lena grits her teeth. It’s only by the grace of the fact that he’s now smiling that she doesn’t snap – he’s amenable, now, and with him on her side she might not even need to enlist Supergirl’s help. She has to keep her temper in check.

“Working with a Luthor. Not for. I’m here to help you succeed in what you want,” She says instead. “And, someone will need to fill the power vacuum that Corben leaves. Someone needs to take a leadership role with the other fae in this city. I think you can do that.”

Lena holds her hand out in a clear offer, and hopes for the best.

Quite honestly, Lena isn’t completely sure of her ability to get rid of Lillian. Especially while she’s still avoiding Supergirl. But Manchester can help, and the only way to get him to trust her is confidence, and he’s finally looking at her with an appraising eye rather than a distrustful one.

When he finally accepts her gesture with a firm shake, Lena has to fight not to let out a relieved breath.

“How do you suggest we go about it, then?” he asks briskly. He’s right down to business, and Lena appreciates it even given the non-ideal location. The clock is ticking on how long these men will stay unconscious.

“Corben has a weakness,” Lena says, and Manchester looks more interested than before. “A chest full of kryptonite that’s slowly poisoning him.”

What?” Manchester says, the interest morphing into horror. Lena shrugs.

“My mother’s technology, no doubt. If I can get a sample, I can use it to weaken him. I need your help for that.”

Manchester, likely due to his revulsion at Corben’s self-mutilation, seems even more eager to help after that information is revealed. They make a loose plan to meet again in two days, and they manage to slip out of the office just before two more large-set men round the corner. She can hear them talking as she elbows her way across the dance floor, wondering where the two men on duty are, and before they can think to try the broken door handle she practically throws Manchester out the side door they both entered from.

They part ways with a silent nod. Lena turns in the direction of the garage where her car is parked with a spring in her step, buoyed by the feeling of a job well done – and before she’s taken two steps it’s completely obliterated by a random stab of deep, primal fear.

It’s the kind of fear that she thought she’d forgotten. It steals her breath with no apparent source, leaves her clutching the nearby brick wall for support as she struggles not to hyperventilate, like an invisible fist is crushing her chest. The spiralling beginnings of a panic attack.

She hasn’t felt this kind of terror since the day she was turned.

As quickly as it came, the fear is gone in a wave of knee-buckling relief. It courses through her, lets her catch her breath again and stand back to her full height as she rubs at her chest like she can somehow reach in and find the source. The relief is just as powerful as the panic, and both ease off the more deep breaths Lena takes.

“What the hell?”

By the time she gets home, she’s physically exhausted in a way she rarely feels. While vampires need markedly less sleep than most other species, she does usually get a few hours between dawn and heading off to work, and right now she feels like she could collapse for a full 8. She’s tired physically and emotionally, worn out by a burst of fear she can’t identify, and she flicks on the TV as she steps out of her shoes and leaves them where they lie. It flickers to life, and she moves on to making herself a cup of tea. The caffeine will have no effect, but the act of drinking it is one of the few comforting holdovers from her childhood that she still clings to.

Once the kettle is full and heating on the stove, she turns back to the TV only to see the exact blonde hair and red cape she’s been trying to avoid.

It’s news footage from earlier tonight – about a half hour ago, according to the anchor. The volume is low so Lena can’t catch what the anchor is saying, but she can see Supergirl fighting with a man in some kind of mech-suit that Lena has never seen before. The suit looks haphazard, the workmanship shoddy, and Lena is sure that Kara had no trouble. She looks just as heroic as always, but she’s less showy than Lena is used to seeing on the news. She’s hardly even in frame half the time, keeping out of sight and then darting in when the man is searching for her.

She’s using Lena’s techniques.

The thought makes her feel confusingly warm, and she turns the volume up as more of a distraction than anything else.

“ –untold levels of destruction,” the anchor is saying, looking gravely into the camera as the footage plays behind her. “Supergirl managed to subdue the man, but not before he toppled almost an entire industrial complex.”

The screen flicks to the mech-suit man having a punch-up with Supergirl. She doesn’t look bothered by his hits, but she’s clearly trying to subdue him without causing him serious injury – at least, until a beam of plasma shoots from his suit and takes a chunk out of the building they’re fighting in the wreckage of. The concrete falls not on Supergirl, but on one of the black-suited special agents backing her up. The woman’s auburn hair disappears in the rubble, and like a switch has been flipped Supergirl becomes a blur, rounding up the sad attempt at taking her on and then rushing to the fallen concrete. She lifts it as easily as a human would a piece of Styrofoam, digging through furiously until she pulls the battered but alive woman out of the debris with a look of relief so palpable that Lena can feel it through the grainy newsreel.

This person must be important to her. In those moments of film Lena can feel the echo of the fear from earlier, and the relief that chased it away.

“Looks like another day of heavy property damage here in National City,” The anchor says, and Lena turns the TV off as the footage disappears and they move on to the next news story.

Kara had been scared, half an hour ago. Lena saw it with her own eyes, and she’s becoming more and more sure that she felt it, as well. She can almost feel it again just by remembering the look on Supergirl’s face.

It’s getting much harder to put things in boxes.

Over the next day, it’s all she can think about. The coverage is playing again on the TV in the small waiting room outside her office, and Lena clenches her jaw as the feeling echoes again. She can’t escape it anywhere. Not in her home, and not at work. Supergirl is haunting her every waking hour.

“Can you turn that thing off, Jess?” She snaps, her voice much harsher than she intended. Jess blanches, reaching into her desk and doing as she’s asked with a wounded expression.

“Someone’s cranky,” Jess mutters, and Lena feels guilty the moment it leaves her mouth. Jess is the best assistant she’s ever had, a hardworking shapeshifter who has done nothing but plan her day perfectly and volunteer to help with any project Lena feels right trusting her with since she was hired a few years ago. Lately Lena would even go so far as to call her a friend, her only friend in the world next to Sam, and she doesn’t deserve to be yelled at for Lena’s life issues.

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be cross,” Lena says more gently, rubbing her temples. “The noise was just getting to me.”

Jess’ expression turns sympathetic, and it makes the guilt in Lena’s gut ease a little. “I get it. You do seem tired, Miss Luthor. Do you need me to clear any of your appointments?”

“No, I’ll be fine. Thank you.”

With that she steps into her office and shuts the door firmly before her too-perceptive assistant can ask her any more questions, pressing her forehead to the wood with a weary sigh.

The day passes slower than any Lena can remember. It seems like as soon as she manages to focus on something, it slips away and gets replaced by the same thoughts that kept her up all night. Her fingers hitting the keyboard aren’t just ambient clacking – they whisper Kara, Kara, Kara, until Lena brings up a new incognito window and types in a search before she can talk herself out of it.

‘Soulmates’.

It’s a word she’s been so afraid to use that she hasn’t even let it enter her mind, until now. The concept of soulmates is one she’s familiar with, one that’s hung around the fae since long before she became a part. The idea of two people tied together by a magical bond, unbreakable and unavoidable. Two destinies that can’t be separated. But it’s one that’s fallen by the wayside, talked about rarely and almost never positively, and to her knowledge most people don’t actually believe it exists anymore. A vestigial concept, shed long ago.

And, yet.

The first things that appear in her search engine are encyclopedic descriptions. Soulmate, the dictionary site tells her: a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner.

Lena rolls her eyes. No shit. She keeps scrolling past clickbait articles and terrible poetry, her eyes scanning over the page quickly as if she’s worried about someone reading over her shoulder. Having Sam catch her reading about soulmates like a fawning teenager would be mortifying.

The first thing that makes her stop is an article titled The History of Soulmates. It’s the first not written by Buzzfeed or an equivalent, and she clicks only after looking over her shoulder around her empty office.

Soulmates, the article posits, are a concept as old as human culture. Among its sources is Plato, who suggested that humans were actually originally beings with four arms and four legs, two heads and two hearts – bound together, and almost as powerful as the Greek gods. Zeus, afraid of their potential, split them apart – and ever since, humans have spent their lives searching for the part of themselves that they lost.

“Each one longed for its other half, and so they would throw their arms about each other, weaving themselves together,” Lena mutters, reading along with the quote with interest. There’s something in that, despite the source being an ancient philosopher that Lena has never put much stock in. Weaving themselves together. It certainly felt like that, when her mind met Kara’s.

Of course neither of them are human, but it’s an interesting thought nonetheless.

Lillian had told her, once, that most human mythology is simply based on fae exercising their powers in public. Even if there’s some truth to that, rooted in ancient fae, Lena is loath to believe that there’s truth to this too. It’s too romantic a concept for her to put much stock into, no matter how strange her connection with Supergirl is.

It helps that Lillian has also always told her that the soulmate principle is an old wives tale, one that higher vampire society has always ignored in favour of aristocratic interbreeding. Completely ridiculous, her mother said when Lena was still young and naive enough to ask stupid questions; concocted to justify branching out from old bloodlines, marrying for love. She said it with poison in her tone, as if love is a concept she’s too good for. 

She certainly never showed any to Lena.

Exiting the article, she clicks on the next instead. Soulmates and Science. Maybe a nice debunk article to make her feel better, if she’s lucky.

She is not lucky.

Instead, the article is deep and well-researched in a way she didn’t expect. It approaches soulmates not from the perspective of history or even romance, but something that Lena understands much better - quantum entanglement. Two particles existing in a tied state, being inexorably connected, unable to be described without each other. Any action made by or upon one is reflected in the other. Translate particles to the intangible medium of souls, the article claims, and you get the principle of soulmates.

In the back of her mind she can hear Kara, kicking at the ground and talking about quantum mechanics just weeks ago. She runs through each of the strange bursts of emotion or sensation she’s felt since they met, cataloging them like a lab report, and somehow the scientific lens helps. When operating in the realm of magic, rooting herself in science takes away some of the helplessness of a force she can’t control.

Either way, she exits the browser.

She doesn’t want to think about the connotations of hearing Kara’s voice in her head. About the stories she used to hear whispered on the periphery, about the magic of soulmates meeting. About how your match’s blood will taste like wine, and nobody else will ever compare. How soulmates are often so deeply intertwined that they can hear each other’s thoughts.

Research was a bad idea. It does not help her concentration, and she’s still turning it over and over in her mind like a worry stone when she meets with Manchester that night.

The plan, once they take an hour or two to work it out, is simple. Irritatingly, Lena actually finds that she’s taking inspiration from Supergirl – they need to get Corben’s attention, draw him out and goad him into using his power. The easiest way to do so is to use the weeks of intel she’s gathered to target each of his most important operations, set some traps, and do some damage.

As they set off each part of the plan, Lena is alarmed to find herself missing Supergirl’s presence. Manchester Black is a good ally, but he’s impetuous and headstrong, and not nearly as effective as Kara. He bucks her authority, he doesn’t always follow her instructions, and it gets people hurt. Namely, Lena.

The plan works, technically speaking. It only takes lighting his biggest isolated meth lab on fire (after having Manchester clear the condemned building) before he turns up, scrambling out of his sleek car and swearing up a storm over the roaring flames and occasional explosions. Manchester is to egg him on, keep him subdued until he uses his secret weapon. Lena will take a sample of the residue from whatever surface is closest, and they’ll both bolt in different directions. Easy and elegant.

What was not in the plan was Manchester shifting into wolf form, prompting Corben to do the same.

Corben’s wolfish body still has the glowing kryptonite beam buried in his fur, which is a relief. But in this form he doesn’t seem keen on using it, and the confrontation amounts to two dogs snapping at each other’s throats while Lena watches with mounting frustration.

At least Supergirl followed directions.

Even with the plan going to hell, Lena came here for one purpose, and she’s going to fulfill it. She pulls her scarf up over her face, and the moment she sees Manchester getting the upper hand and pinning Corben to the ground, she sprints forward and digs a knee into his furry neck.

“Hold still –“ she grunts, half to Manchester and half to her target. Corben is resisting with all his strength, and Lena needs to use both hands to dig her testing device into his chest. Even if it means taking a face full of kryptonite, she needs to trigger it somehow. He yowls as she digs into what she can now see is some kind of crystal, and it glows brighter and brighter until it burns, scorches her eyes and the skin of her hands –

She gets what she wants, and she also gets thrown clear across a parking lot by a nuclear reaction of searing green energy.

For a moment, her whole world is emerald. The kryptonite doesn’t poison her like it would Supergirl, but it was still dangerous levels of radiation being blasted at her point-blank, and it takes her a few seconds to get her bearings. She’s on her back on the pavement, and as she struggles to roll over and get a look at where Corben was, she feels it.

Kara is nearby – and she’s scared.

It’s not the knee-buckling fear of last night. It’s more the anxiety of not knowing what’s happening than the pointed terror she remembers, but it’s intense, and it’s close by. Corben is gone, and Manchester is lying motionless in the grass nearby in human form, and she needs to go before Kara arrives with a million questions.

With what remains of her strength she struggles to her feet, throws Manchester over her shoulder in a firemen’s carry, and throws him into the backseat of Corben’s still-idling car. He left the keys in the ignition, and Lena takes full advantage as she steps on the gas and speeds back towards the city.

She’s going well past the posted limit on the highway when Manchester groans somewhere in the back. Lena can see him moving in the rearview mirror, and the moment he opens his eyes she lets him know exactly what she thinks of his little diversion.

“What the fuck were you thinking?”

“I’m more powerful as a wolf,” he grumbles, squinting at the lights passing them in the opposite lane. “I thought it’d help. Where are we?”

“We’re in the getaway car. You’re welcome, by the way.” Now that they’re clear of the scene and Manchester is awake, Lena digs into her coat pocket to find her device. She can tell without looking at it that it’s worked – it feels hot in her palm, and it helps to settle her nerves. They got what they came for, at least.

Manchester sits up slowly, rubbing his head. “You asked for my help, and I helped.”

“You didn’t follow the plan.”

“You don’t know everything, Luthor. I followed my instincts.”

Lena sighs, and she’s turning in her seat to retort when the ambient anxiety she’s been feeling since they left the burning building explodes into a very pointed, very familiar excitement. Like a piece of a puzzle has been figured out.

With sudden clarity Lena reaches up to her neck, only to find bare skin.

Her scarf is gone. She had it up when she pinned Corben. It must have come off in the blast, and been left behind somewhere at the scene, where Kara has undoubtedly arrived after she found out about the major building fire and a kryptonite explosion.

Kara knows she was there.

“Just…try to listen to me, next time,” She says distractedly, rubbing hard at her chest. “We got lucky. When we actually take Corben out, we can’t afford any mistakes.”

His acceptance is grudging. She drops him off downtown – he smartly refuses to give her an address, simply directing her to drive and then stop in the middle of traffic so he can get out – and then immediately ditches the car in a parking garage and goes to Sam’s.

Given that it’s almost 3 in the morning by the time she gets there, Sam is passed out on the couch with the TV muted when she arrives. With a relieved sigh Lena turns the volume back on and collapses on the couch next to her, stretching her sore muscles out. She can still feel the jarring radiation in her bones, like a buzz in her teeth, and briefly she wonders how on earth Corben manages with it coursing through his system at all times.

Sam jerks awake quickly at the noise of the late-night infomercials suddenly blasting through the living room. She glances around with bleary eyes, relaxing when she sees Lena sitting next to her and throwing an arm over her face to shield it from the light Lena flicked on.

“I thought you said you were going to start calling first?” Sam mumbles, and Lena shrugs.

“You’ve told me many times not to use my phone while I’m driving.”

Dashboard speakers,” Sam groans.

“I was in a stolen car, I didn’t exactly have time to hook up the Bluetooth –“

Sam’s eyes snap open, and she twists her neck to look up at Lena with an incredulous expression. “You stole a car?”

“It’s Corben’s fault for leaving it running.”

Sam is much more alert for the rest of the conversation, and Lena explains the events of the night while she makes them both tea. By the end of it Sam is shaking her head, which Lena is steadfastly ignoring by focusing on cooling her drink.

“It sounds like it was almost a disaster. This would all go smoother if you just called Supergirl,” Sam says matter-of-factly, and Lena stops blowing on her tea to huff.

“I’m not calling her.”

Sam rolls her eyes. She’s well versed in Lena’s stubbornness, but this is on another level, and they both know it. “Why not? What are you so afraid of?”

“I’m not afraid,” Lena insists, her hands jerking with the desire to gesture wildly. She’s always talked with her hands when she’s nervous, and Sam looks down at them while tea sloshes out and onto her fingers. Lena hisses at the heat of it.

“I’ve known you a long time, Lena,” Sam says, quiet but firm. “You can’t lie to me.”

“I just…” Lena deflates slightly, putting her mug down and drying her hands on her pants. “I can’t be around her right now.”

After a few moments of consideration, Sam nods. With her usual easy manner it’s often easy to forget that Sam has had countless lifetimes and can remember each one, the knowledge of centuries compounded into a wisdom most people can’t imagine – but there are moments when Lena can practically feel the weight of it between them, when Sam very clearly exercises her experience.

Right now is one of those moments, and Lena can feel it crushing her.

“I respect your decision, even if I think it’s a bad one,” Sam says, taking a careful sip of tea. “I just wish you’d tell me why.”

Sam isn’t frustrated. She isn’t angry, or annoyed, or any of the emotions Lena would be feeling were the situation reversed. It’s like she’s just waiting, a rock of calm reassurance that Lena finds herself clinging to in the wake of these weeks of chaos. Gathering her courage, her heart pounding, she asks the question she’s been burning to ask ever since she and Kara met.

“What do you know about soulmate theory?”

Sam traces a finger around the rim of her tea mug, regarding Lena neutrally.

“Why do you ask?”

Sam doesn’t sound surprised, or even curious. She sounds like she’s waiting for Lena to admit something she already knows. Lena swallows thickly, staring down into her tightly-clasped hands. Her knuckles are white, the blood loss spreading slowly to her fingers as she squeezes hard enough to shake.

She doesn’t feel capable of talking without starting to cry, and Sam seems to know it.

“Well, it’s ancient,” Sam finally says, setting her mug next to Lena’s and settling in more comfortably on the couch. “As ancient as the fae, at least. It was honoured for a long time as the most revered magic in existence. The purest form of energy.”

“I’ve always heard it’s bullshit,” Lena says, unable to help but deflect the confirmation of all her fears. “An excuse used to get out of arranged marriages.”

Sam rolls her eyes. “Did Lillian tell you that?”

“Does that matter?”

“It does, actually. People like her don’t like to admit that soulmates exist, because it inconveniences their politics and bloodlines. Fae sometimes end up with human soulmates, and it makes the traditionalists scared.”

Lena finally looks up, meeting Sam’s even gaze. “So, you’re saying…they’re real?”

“Absolutely,” Sam says, and the last fraying thread of hope Lena has held finally snaps. She doesn’t actually know Sam’s exact cumulative age, but she knows that her friend’s soul is likely older than Lex. Even Lillian. She knows more than Lena can comprehend, and she always tells the truth. “It’s incredibly rare, and even more so for two soulmates to actually find each other. But it happens.”

“So you’ve seen it?” Lena asks, her voice thick and quiet. “In a past life?”

“I’ve lived it. More than once.”

There’s a heaviness that descends on Sam’s voice, then, that takes Lena aback. They’ve had serious conversations before but she’s never seen her like this – her eyes get distant, and Lena can almost see her attention getting further away.

“You mean…” Lena asks, her heart in her throat, and Sam nods.

“I have one.”

Lena lets that sink in for a few seconds. Sam seems to be somewhere else entirely, and Lena is left to compare her own mixed-up feelings to Sam’s new information.

“How do you know?” Lena finally asks, and Sam breaks her reverie to look at her. “I mean, how can you tell it isn’t just normal love? Or infatuation?” Lena has never really felt what most people describe as romantic love, after all. There’s no way she should be expected to know.

Sam’s reaction isn’t comforting. She chuckles, but there’s a sadness behind it that Lena rarely sees. “I know. Trust me.”

Sam looks so distant, so devastatingly sad, that Lena’s curiosity gets the better of her.

“Who is she?”

Finally, Sam’s smile reaches her eyes.

“Another Old Soul,” she explains, her voice filling to the brim with deep affection. “We’ve known hundreds of iterations of each other, a hundred lifetimes together and still it never feels like enough. Especially because I don’t meet her every time.”

Lena listens quietly, offering an encouraging nod, and Sam keeps talking. It’s as if opening up this avenue has her reminiscing over something both painful and joyous, and for the first time in her life Lena can understand the feeling.

Lena knows that Sam is single, no soulmate in sight yet during this lifetime, and she can feel the yearning coming off her in waves.

“The ones without her always feel…lacking. You know?” Sam says, pulling a throw blanket into her lap and pulling at the threads of it. “Sort of empty. Especially when I know she’s out there, somewhere. But sometimes, we do meet, and it’s –“

Sam cuts herself off with a shaky breath, and Lena is alarmed to see that she’s crying. Silent tears track slowly down her face, and she wipes at them almost distractedly as Lena reaches out a tentative hand. It covers Sam’s, and her friend smiles warmly at the awkward but well-intentioned gesture.

“What’s her name?” Lena asks, and Sam shrugs.

“It’s different every time. We look different every time, reincarnate as different people – but we always know.”

The warmth in Sam’s voice trails off into melancholy, and Lena gives her a moment to collect herself. When she finally speaks again, Lena wishes that she hadn’t.

“Why are you asking me this?”

It’s abundantly clear that Sam knows exactly why. The question pierces Lena like an arrow, hitting a perfect bullseye, and she knows it’s a matter of time before everything is out in the open.

Doesn’t stop her from resisting, though.

“No reason.”

“You’re a scientist. You never ask anything for no reason.”

Lena purses her lips, stealing the throw blanket from Sam and starting to tear it apart herself just to have something to do with her hands. Sam lets it happen, but not without badgering her first.

“Lena, just admit it.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Lena insists, staring down at the threads now littering her lap. Sam nudges her with a foot.

“Clearly it does, if you swallowed your pride enough to ask.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Lena clarifies, feeling her anxiety spike, dramatically, “because it would never work.”

“How so?”

Because!” Lena finally snaps, the buildup of Sam’s gentle style of interrogation finally exploding out of her. “She’s – she’s insufferable, for one. She’s preachy, and impulsive, and she’s part of a family that mine tried to destroy. She’s so – so perfect, and good, and everything people think I should hate. For fuck’s sake, she’s powered by the one thing that hurts me!”

By the end of it Lena is almost hyperventilating, and Sam puts a quick hand on her back. She rubs small, soothing circles and makes quiet sounds over the white noise of the TV until Lena can breathe again.

Once she has a handle on herself, Sam drops the bomb.

“Your soulmate is Supergirl.”

Lena’s answer is completely reflexive, slipping out through sheer emotional exhaustion.

“Her name is Kara.”

Saying it, finally admitting it out loud, is like the biggest exhale Lena has ever felt. All the tension leaves her body at once, and when she slumps back against the back of the couch with tears of sheer relief in her eyes, Sam puts a firm arm around her. It actually makes her feel better this time, strangely.

“How did you know?” Lena asks tiredly. Sam just smiles.

“You once described her as a beacon.”

Lena laughs, rubbing her hands hard over her face. “That’s all it took?”

“That, and your tone. I know that feeling. That pull.”

“Yes, well,” Lena sighs, pressing her fingers against her eyelids. The pressure helps to centre her. “Beacon is an understatement.”

Sam stays quiet, and Lena reluctantly elaborates.

“When I fed on her, I…I heard her thoughts. Felt her, in my head. Her…soul, I suppose.”

Lena’s eyes are still stubbornly closed, but she can feel the movement of Sam’s nod. “When you met, did it feel like a shock? Like a live wire just got put into your brain stem?”

Lena’s silence speaks volumes, and Sam nods again. Lena lets her hands slide back down into her lap, and focuses on the TV in front of them. Some ridiculous infomercial for a product nobody needs. Sam speaks over it, and even if Lena isn’t looking at her she can picture the look on her face.

“If you think she’s your soulmate, you should look into it. It’s not the kind of thing you just throw aside.”

Lena shakes her head silently, and for the first time during this whole conversation, Lena can hear frustration bleed into Sam’s tone.

“I know you have a hard time letting people in, but if there’s anything that proves you can trust her –”

“I won’t let some stupid magic theory make my life decisions for me again!” Lena says vehemently, her voice betraying her and starting to shake with emotion. Sam looks taken aback.

“What are you talking about?”

Lena takes a few breath, trying and failing to even herself out.

“Do you know how many choices I’ve had taken away from me because of magic?” Lena finally says, her voice raising with every painfully truthful word. “I was born something I didn’t choose, and then I was made something I didn’t choose, and everything that’s happened to me since has been forced on me. None of my choices are choices at all, just attempts to survive with the stupid lot I was given!”

Sam absorbs her outburst quietly; and after managing to keep herself from crying thus far, Lena finally breaks. She swipes the tears away angrily, frustrated at her lack of control, but they just keep coming.

“I’m not having another choice taken from me,” she says brokenly, and Sam’s arm tightens around her shoulders. “I won’t accept it.”

“I understand,” Sam says, squeezing Lena’s arm. “Truly. I’m sorry that I pushed.”

Lena accepts the tissue Sam offers her, blowing her nose into it pathetically and sighing. “It’s fine. Can we just…not talk about it for a while?”

She’s never been more grateful for silence. Before she goes to sleep Sam makes her a bed on the couch and Lena spends the dawn hours there, staring at the ceiling and running circles over what Sam told her.

Kara is her soulmate.

This is the last thing she needs right now, when she’s trying to get something important accomplished that doesn’t involve Kara – so, she doesn’t think about it. She doesn’t think about it every time she feeds and it doesn’t feel satisfying anymore, and she doesn’t think about it every time she sees Supergirl for the next week.

And she sees Supergirl more than once. After that night the hero haunts Lena’s steps, shadows her in a way she can only describe as dogged. She seems to learn more of Lena’s habits every day, shows up all the places Lena would normally go, but Lena has studied the art of not being seen for too long – she slips into shadows, blends into crowds, starts commotions that end with Supergirl being mobbed by fans so that she can escape.

It’s a game of cat and mouse, and one that Lena needs to win. She’s having enough trouble figuring out a way to weaken Corben with the sample she took as it is, with her lack of access to a lab that her mother doesn’t keep obsessive tabs on, and the distraction of having to evade Supergirl at every turn doesn’t help.

For a while, her techniques work. But at the end of the week she gets a harsh reminder of something that she’d been too focused on the soulmate conundrum to give much thought to, before – that when she escaped the truck crash after the kidnapping disaster, Kara had called her Lena.

Kara knows her real name.

It’s like a bucket of cold water to the face when Jess buzzes her intercom on a Friday afternoon, sounding confused.

“Ms. Luthor, a reporter is here to see you. A…Kara Danvers, from CatCo? She’s requesting an interview. She’s very insistent.”

“Kara Danvers?” Lena clarifies, her head spiraling as she realizes what the warm, comfortable feeling that’s been washing inexplicably over her is coming from. She thought it was just the promise of an impending day off, for the first time in weeks.

Lena knows of Kara Danvers, vaguely. She’s been a reporter with Catco for a few years, sticking with the Tribune even after its sharp decline in quality when Cat Grant left. Lena has read her articles on alien rights before – in fact, she recalls that Kara Danvers was the reporter that wrote a review of her mother’s alien detection device so scathing that it had to be scrapped in a maelstrom of negative press. Lena had been both impressed, and grateful that she didn’t have to keep working on the tech.

A Kara is here to see her, after a week of avoidance. A Kara who writes so passionately on alien issues that Lena had wondered, back during the article’s run, whether she was one herself.

Supergirl is Kara Danvers.

Lena’s first instinct is to send her away. She has every right to – Kara might well be expecting it, since she’s showing up without an appointment, and Lena could use a day (or twenty) to fully take in this new information. But Jess sounds harried, and there’s a voice in Lena’s head that sounds alarmingly like Sam that’s telling her to just let it happen.

In a fit of insanity, Lena presses the intercom button.

“Send her up.”

She then has exactly 15 seconds to compose herself before her office door is opening, and in steps someone so diametrically opposed to what she was expecting that it takes her a few seconds to reconcile it.

She’s never seen a picture of Kara Danvers, but she knows Supergirl. Supergirl is all about power – her suit is tight, her shoulders are wide, and she exudes self-assurance in a way that Lena has always been loath to admit she finds incredibly attractive. Everything about her – the way she walks, the way she stands with hands on her hips, the way she fights – is about confidence and strength.

The woman that takes a few nervous steps towards Lena’s desk, gripping a leather notebook tightly, is the exact opposite. She’s blonde, sure, and taller than the average woman - but her hair is hidden, pulled back into a conservative bun, and she walks in a way that makes it clear that she’s trying to shrink herself. Make herself more acceptable. She’s wearing khaki pants, a striped button-up, and a blue cardigan, and she pushes her cutesy glasses up her nose before offering a slightly shaky hand.

Even with all the differences, the warm glow in Lena’s chest is unmistakable.

“Miss Luthor, I apologize for barging in like this. I hope it’s not too much of an inconvenience –“

“So,” Lena interrupts loudly, tiring of the charade almost as soon as it’s begun. “This is your civilian alias. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting the pastels.”

Kara pulls the sweater around herself self-consciously, looking down at it and then back up at Lena with a panicked expression. “I – I’m not – have we met?”

“Don’t play stupid. The glasses and meek expression might work on humans, but I’m not an idiot.”

Kara gapes at her for a moment, but it only takes a few seconds of stony silence for the façade to drop. She stands taller, rubbing the back of her neck and laughing weakly.

“Well…shoot. I’m, uh…going to need you to sign some NDAs.”

Lena stands up from her chair, planting her hands on the table and leaning forward to make sure her next point is fully illustrated.

“I’m not signing shit.” 

Kara blinks, and Lena watches her visibly struggle with the instinct to take a step back. Instead she frowns.

“But –“

“I won’t tell anyone that I know your identity,” Lena says, maintaining her stance, “so long as you tell nobody that I’m a vampire who is actively working against my mother.”

Kara’s shock turns to obvious guilt, and Lena’s stomach drops as she bites down hard on her bottom lip.

“Kara,” Lena says carefully, as the blonde fidgets in clear discomfort, “you didn’t tell anyone. Did you?”

Kara’s shoe twists into the floor, and Lena can actually hear the faint grinding sound of the tile being sanded down by the pressure. She’s reminded, suddenly, of Kara kicking at the ground and asking her to go for coffee. It lands in her chest in a way she tries to ignore.

“Well, I, uh. It was a big thing, and I needed to talk to someone, so. I sort of. Told my sister.”

Okay. That’s less than ideal, but as much as her usual instinct is to get angry, Lena has to try to be reasonable if they’re going to eke out some kind of partnership again. Even if Kara is being an idiot.

“…fine,” Lena grits out, her jaw tight. “Nobody else.”

“And, our tech guy. And, um. My boss?” Kara says hesitantly, her eyes squeezing shut like she’s preparing for impact.

That proves to be too much for Lena’s already tenuous temper.

“Are you kidding me?” Lena hisses, finally rounding the table and advancing on Kara. The blonde actually does take a step back this time, and Lena has to admit that there’s a tiny part of her that enjoys the thrill of having the Girl of Steel absolutely terrified of her.

“A lot happened, and I had to process it!” Kara says quickly, putting her hands up in clear surrender. “Their reactions were not ideal, though, so I get why you kept it from me.  I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have told either of them, but it was...a weird afternoon.”

Kara does seem genuinely remorseful, but that doesn’t erase the fact that Supergirl’s unidentified boss – the leader, presumably, of her government handlers – knows not only Lena’s identity, but about the fae.

“This is why I don’t trust people,” Lena mutters furiously, crossing her arms tightly around herself and drumming her fingers on her biceps. “You realize that I could be arrested for revealing the existence of my people to someone who isn’t fae, right?”

“Fae?” Kara asks distractedly, before shaking her head and returning to the matter at hand. “I didn’t – no, Lena, I didn’t know that. How can I fix it?”

Kara’s response is the first real hint of Supergirl that Lena has gotten during this whole conversation. She’s all action, her relaxed shoulders drawing up to their full breadth as she goes into protective mode.

Despite herself, she’s a little warmed by Kara’s understanding. And more than a little by the way her presence suddenly fills the room.

“You can’t, besides trying to make sure the people you told keep it to themselves,” Lena sighs, sinking back down into her desk chair. “I’m going to tell Sam about you the second you leave, so I suppose I can’t be too upset. It’s not that you told someone, it’s who you told, Kara. It puts me in danger.”

“Who’s Sam?”

Lena detects a hint of jealousy in Kara’s tone, and she glares coldly at the blonde until Kara blushes at her transparent diversion from the more important topic.

“Sorry. I’ll, um, make sure. J’onn and Brainy are aliens, so they know how to keep a secret. Well, Brainy is actually a 12th level intellect, but the distinction is - this Sam person is just a friend, right?” Kara says, with a tiny note of hope in her voice. Lena evades the question, and she’s not ashamed to admit that it’s partially to watch Kara squirm a little. She’s never been above petty revenge.

Not relevant,” Lena says emphatically. “The point is, from now on, your secret is safe with me. God knows I have a few of my own. But I’m not working for your secret organization.” 

“Okay, this is the second time you’ve said that, so I have to know how you –“

“My mother has connections everywhere.”

“Of course she does.” Kara frowns, tossing her notebook onto Lena’s desk and flopping into one of the guest chairs with a heavy sigh. Lena can hear its steel legs creak, and Kara making herself comfortable somehow puts Lena more on edge. “Honestly, they aren’t that bad, and if you ever wanted to work with us –“

“I know what you do to alien detainees,” Lena replies drily, using a pen to push Kara’s notebook off her desk until it falls back into her lap. “I’m not going to end up the government’s caged guinea pig. I’ll help you – I won’t help them.”

Kara looks disappointed, but she takes the refusal graciously.

“Okay. Right. That’s fair.”

Honestly, Lena is surprised that Supergirl isn’t defending her outfit more staunchly. She actually doesn’t seem shocked by Lena’s assessment – in fact, she looks little troubled.

Not nearly as troubled as Lena is, though, when Kara moves on to a different topic.

“Well, since you know who I am, can we talk about the other day? When you, uh. Drank my blood, and I heard your thoughts?”

Fuck.

She’d been expecting Supergirl to be doing a basic recon mission, here. Gathering information about Lena in her work habitat, maybe even investigating LuthorCorp. She was hoping to not be interrogated about the one thing she’s spent a week trying not to think about. It puts her on the defensive, and she stands up abruptly, sending her chair skittering across the rug behind her.

“This meeting is over.”

Kara, taken aback by the unexpected reaction, doesn’t move. She just leans forward, her blue eyes soft and imploring.

“Lena, please. This is all weird for me too, and I just want to talk about what happened between us –“

Lena, about 5 pleading words away from grabbing Kara by the elbow and dragging her out into the waiting room for Jess to deal with, grips the edge of the desk with white knuckles as she answers through gritted teeth.

“I don’t know. Okay? I don’t know what happened between us, so asking isn’t going to get you anywhere.”

“How do you not know?” Kara says incredulously. “Don’t you do that all the time?”

I. Don’t. Know,” Lena says, her jaw clamped so tight that she can feel the tension headache flaring up. “That was…different. Nothing like that has ever happened before.”

“You don’t usually…”

“Hear someone’s voice in my head while I feed? No, I don’t,” Lena snaps back, unable to keep the biting sarcasm out of her voice. Kara looks wounded, and guilt starts to gnaw away at the stress. She’s never felt this guilty for being snappy before. “I’ve never fed from an alien and gotten superpowers before, either.”

Kara’s brows furrow, leaving a little crinkle between them that Lena gets the hysterical urge to smooth her finger over. She grips the desk even harder.

“I thought – don’t you have abilities?” Kara asks, and Lena shrugs.

“Yeah, minor ones. I’m a little faster than most humans, a little stronger. I can blend into shadows. I can put humans under a thrall, for short periods, to make feeding easier. I’ve never ripped the door off an armoured tank.”

The crinkle gets more pronounced. “Thrall?”

“Bend people to my will,” Lena clarifies shortly. “I did it to you, the night we met.”

“…is that what you were doing?” Kara asks, and Lena can see in real time the way a blush creeps up from the collar of her shirt. “I just thought you were just trying to - I mean, I didn’t feel thralled.”

“You didn’t?” Lena asks distractedly, still focused on that blush. She wonders idly how much of Kara’s body it covers. “I…thought it had worked. The way you looked at me...”

“No?” Kara confirms, before glancing down at Lena’s chest and rapidly back up. The blush flares brighter. “I mean…you were wearing a really tight shirt.”

Oh.

“Okay, well that’s – okay. Right,” Lena stammers, thrown completely off-balance by the revelation. She shouldn’t be shocked that Kara is attracted to her, considering the circumstances, but it makes her heartbeat pick up speed nevertheless – and while Kara rubs the back of her neck and studiously avoids eye contact, Lena knows that the blonde can hear it.

Rather than stop to consider it too long, Lena steers around the traitorous bodily reaction with her usual brusqueness.

“Look, clearly we have some sort of…connection,” she says, waving a hand vaguely at the space between them. “And I don’t know how to get rid of it –“

“Get rid of it?” Kara interrupts. She looks stricken and laser-focused, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees and her hands laced together, and she’s so painfully handsome in that moment that Lena has to look away to gather her wits.

“Of course,” Lena says matter-of-factly, once her throat stops feeling quite so thick. “Supergirl can’t be publicly tethered to a Luthor in any way, let alone a vampire. You already said your boss didn’t like it. And I imagine your sister doesn’t either, if she’s halfway sane.”

Kara regards at her silently as she talks, leaning back in her seat and looking Lena over carefully. She feels like she’s being sized up again, like Kara is wedging herself into her brain and examining the real root of her desire to distance herself. Lena shifts uncomfortably, and Kara seems to come to a decision.

“Well. Screw them.”

“…excuse me?” Lena chokes, unable to stop the short, nervous laugh that escapes.

“Screw them,” Kara says, shrugging confidently. “I trust you. I…I like you. A lot.”

He voice gets a little less self-assured towards the end but no less honest, and Lena has to take a few steps towards the window and turn her back to keep Kara from seeing the way her eyes water at that unassuming statement. So simple, and yet it makes her ache.

“You shouldn’t,” Lena says quietly. She can hear Kara stand up behind her, can hear her take a few tentative steps forward, and she pulls her arms around herself protectively.

“Why not?”

“I’m not worth it,” Lena scoffs, and Kara moves closer. “You’re this…this perfect beacon of alien sunshine, you represent the absolute best parts of humanity, and I’m the monster that humans tell each other horror stories about.”

“Lena,” Kara says, the astonishment clear even though Lena can’t see her face. “You’re not a monster. How can you think that?”

“My biology is inherently parasitic,” Lena answers, forcing her voice into neutrality. It’s a fact that she came to terms with long ago, and Kara doesn’t know her well enough to contest what she knows to be true. Kara doesn’t know what she’s capable of. What she’s done. “I’m built to be a predator.”

“That doesn’t mean –“

Kara’s warm hand lands on Lena’s shoulder, and lightning-quick Lena twists away from it. She side-steps her carefully, and Kara slowly recoils her hand and clasps it behind her back.

“I appreciate you trying to convince me otherwise, but I’d still rather we just keep this relationship strictly business,” Lena says, her eyes rooted to the wall somewhere behind Kara’s head.

“Okay,” is Kara’s soft reply. She lets Lena show her out not long after, but only after obtaining her real phone number and an agreement that she won’t disappear again – and Lena spends the rest of her day alone in her office, staring out the window and halfway hoping to see a streak of red fly across her vision.

 

 

Chapter Text

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.

“Agreed.”

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.

“We?”

“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.

“I know.”

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.”

“I’m both.”

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?”

Lena nods.

“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.”

“You do.”

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.

What?”

“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.

Whoops.

“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.

“You do?”

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.

“Danger?”

“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.

It's infuriating.

“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?”

“The Mayor.”

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.”

Chapter Text

It’s almost a full week before Lena finally agrees to visit the DEO again.

It might have been longer, had Lena had her way – after the showdown with J’onn and Alex, she’d rather steer clear of the place lest she be conned into some kind of partnership. But Kara is surprisingly convincing, especially after she has all the information gathered by her Lena-enabled deep-dive into the DEO’s history.

“The longer we wait, the more time Lillian has to adapt to not having Corben around.”

“I know that,” Lena hisses, ducking into her office and slamming the door. It’s lucky that she was just walking past Jess’ desk when Kara called, because otherwise, Lillian herself might have overheard. “You realize she works in this building and has advanced hearing, right? Why are you calling me at work?”

“I just think that you need to put your pride away and –“

“My pride?” Lena says loudly, before lowering her voice again when Kara shushes her. “You think I’m refusing to work with them over pride? You saw their records. I’m refusing out of self-preservation.“

“Okay, I get that,” Kara acknowledges, slightly chastened. “And I’m working on it. But even you know that we need resources for this. We’re talking high-ranking people we need to take down. Now that everyone is in the loop, we can’t do it alone.”

Lena is quiet, drumming her fingers on the desk. Kara is right, as much as she loathes to admit it - and Kara, in that irritatingly perceptive way she has, stays quiet to let her think for exactly the right amount of time before soothing her anxieties.

“I won’t let anything happen to you, Lena. I will always protect you. I promise.”

Kara’s conviction is so strong that Lena can feel it. The truth of it Kara’s deep and alarmingly dedicated protective instinct thrums through her, spreads in her chest like molasses, and that more than anything shifts Lena’s resolve.

“Fine. But I’m never going there without you, understand?”

Kara’s response is measured and even, but Lena can tell that the moment they hang up she’s going to celebrate her victory. It doesn’t bother her as much as she thinks it should.

“When can I pick you up?”

Her arrival is less uncomfortable than last time. She insists on entering through the staff entrance rather than being carried in, but Kara is still at her side as they stride into the atrium together. Everyone seems to be expecting her, including Alex, who offers her an awkward smile. Even J’onn gives her a tight nod.

Kara must have been working hard to convince them of her trustworthiness.

“So,” J’onn says, once they’re all gathered around the conference table. “John Corben is out of the picture, and we know who Lillian’s allies are. How do we propose to move forward?”

“I liked Lena’s idea,” Kara says immediately. To Lena’s surprise, nobody argues – they react with a sort of weary resignation, as if they’ve been hearing this all week.

“Okay. Lay it out,” Alex says. J’onn nods, and all eyes turn to Lena.

“Well,” Lena says, a little startled at the sudden and unquestioned attention, “I think it’s best to start with CatCo. Morgan Edge is still struggling to solidify his control, and having Kara in there as a reporter is an advantage. All we need to do is get Cat Grant back.”

Kara perks up a little at the mention of her former boss. She opens her mouth to speak, but Alex beats her to it.

“How do you suggest we do that?”

“I never quite understood why she left,” Kara says thoughtfully, frowning at Alex for her interjection. “It was so sudden, and then Morgan Edge bought the company and completely changed its direction and nobody knew why. I’ve been trying to investigate, but every record is locked down tight.”

Lena nods. “Cat has always had pro-human sympathies, and hired all types of fae equally. But she was also a powerful vampire, a major threat to the status quo, and my mother –“

Lena is unceremoniously interrupted when Kara apparently chokes on her own saliva. She makes a strangled sort of squeak, and the attention in the room shifts to the woman in the supersuit.

Lena is a little relieved at the momentary breather while Kara struggles to breathe.

“You’re telling me Cat Grant is a vampire?” Kara finally manages to ask, once she’s caught her breath and Alex has rubbed her back a little. Lena rolls her eyes.

“Why do you keep being surprised by these revelations? The head of your secret government alien task force is an alien,” Lena says, gesturing at J’onn. “You shouldn’t be surprised by anything.”

“I just – I –“ Kara huffs. She still looks like the information hasn’t fully sunken in, and Lena bulldozes on before she gets interrupted again.

“As I was saying. My mother caught wind that Cat had a son. A young one, and vulnerable. She found ways to threaten his life until Cat was forced into hiding.”

What?” Kara says, looking stricken. “Why didn’t she tell Supergirl? I could have helped!”

“And reveal herself and the fae? Be tried for treason?” Lena fires back. All it takes is a quirk of her brow for Kara to deflate, her brain finally catching up with her instincts.

“Oh. Right.”

“Now that you know, you can help,” Lena adds, feeling a strange urge to comfort Kara after she shot her down. “We just need to track her down.”

“Okay. Great,” Alex says, seeming slightly more enthusiastic now that she knows Lena actually has a plan. “Who else?”

Lena has to brace herself for her next suggestion. She managed to turn Kara’s opinion on Manchester with a lot of convincing, but everyone else here is another story entirely.

“Now that we’ve eliminated Corben’s influence, the werewolves will need a good leader,” Lena says tentatively. “I told Manchester Black that if he helps us –“

Like clockwork, J’onn speaks up.

“I don’t trust him.”

This time, Lena doesn’t even have to argue back before Kara is doing it for her.

“He helped us, didn’t he? Lena trusts him. So I do, too.”

Kara steps closer to Lena and levels a look around the room, one that’s clearly ready for a fight. A fight on Lena’s behalf. That same protectiveness that Lena felt earlier is coming off her in waves, the fierceness from someone usually so gentle, and Lena can see the way everyone backs down one by one.

J’onn is the one to finally give in, giving Kara a curt nod.

“Fine. We’ll take all the help we can get.”

Alex frowns, but she doesn’t argue. Kara’s hackles lower a little, and Alex’s next suggestion is made in a gentler tone.

“We also need someone to contend with the mayor. Max Lord has a lot of support.”

“I might know someone,” Lena says, after a few seconds of quiet deliberation. Everyone looks at her expectantly, but something in her hesitates. She’s been going back and forth on even suggesting this all week, and now that the time has come, she can’t deny her nerves.

“…and?” Alex presses. Everyone looks expectant, and Lena grits her teeth.

“Her name is Andrea Rojas.”

Every person in the room has a slightly different reaction to that. J’onn’s face doesn’t change at all; Alex looks slightly confused, while Nia’s eyebrows raise. Brainy seems to recognize Andrea’s name, while Kara gets a sort of constipated-looking frown. Lena gets a brief, quickly tamped-down wave of a confusing emotion, and Kara seems to speak before she can help herself.

“Who’s Andrea?”

“The CEO of Obsidian North?” Nia pipes up, her raised brows furrowing. “I wrote an article about their VR tech a while ago. Don’t they work directly with Luthor Corp? Doesn’t seem like a smart partnership for us.”

Lena takes the distraction from Kara’s reaction gratefully.

“Yes, but she’s sympathetic to humans. And the only person I know who’s involved in local politics. She’s a member of city council,” Lena says. Alex nods, but doesn’t seem fully convinced.

“Okay, but who is she to you? Why can we trust her?”

“She’s…an old friend,” Lena edges. Kara’s frown deepens.

“That sounds complicated,” Nia says. Lena shrugs, forcing indifference.

“It isn’t.”

It is, deeply so; but Lena really isn’t in the mood to tell the room that Andrea had been, years ago, the closest Lena had ever gotten to being in love.

Andrea is an inborn vampire, but a young one – younger than Lena, in fact. She was always less ingrained in the traditions that Lex and Lillian so revered, and it made her one of the few vampires that never treated Lena as lesser for not adhering to them. Once upon a time she’d even helped Lena with her earliest attempts at trying to branch out and disentangle herself from her family, as much as she could.

She’d made Lena feel wanted. Safe. Worthy. She hadn’t filled the emptiness Lena has always felt, but she helped it feel less pronounced.

Their relationship flared briefly but brightly; Lena trusted her intrinsically, and Andrea had betrayed her. Sworn fealty to her mother to bail out her father’s failing company. Abandoned her when she needed support the most. Told Lillian what Lena had been doing, creating her own inventions and making her own alliances, and set her back years in her work.

It all happened so long ago. Before Lex’s breakdown, before Lena had even befriended Sam. In fact Andrea had moved her company to National City decades before the Luthors ever stepped foot there, and it’s only been within the last year or so that Lena has actually hesitantly accepted Andrea’s consistent attempts to reconcile. Andrea had sent emails and messages every few months ever since Lena left Metropolis, asking for a chance to apologize. A chance to try again.

It’s still messy, and fraught with pitfalls - for a brief, ill-conceived period at the beginning of their hesitant reconciliation Lena had even been weak enough to fall into bed with her again, and the only reason they stopped was because Andrea very clearly wanted more than Lena could give.

Their relationship is shaky and complicated right now, mostly awkward lunches and the occasional cordial business meetings, but it’s something. And Andrea might be able to help, if Lena appeals to the guilt she clearly feels over betraying her.

“Okay, then why don’t you and I meet with her and see if she’ll –“

No!” Lena shouts, so quickly that Kara looks a little startled by it. She takes a breath before continuing, desperately trying to modulate her voice to something a little less panicked. “No, I’ll go alone. She’ll be more likely to consider if it’s just me.”

It’s partially true – Andrea is less likely to be open to something like this if Lena drags along someone she’s never met before, let alone Supergirl. But bringing sunny Kara along to meet her most disastrous and least friendly ex also seems like a recipe for failure, and she’d rather avoid it.

Kara reluctantly agrees, and a few hours later Lena finds herself standing outside the Obsidian building trying to gather her wits.

Despite the amount of times she’s had meetings with Andrea, she’s never actually been here before. They usually meet in neutral locations, and the unfamiliar terrain is throwing her off more than she’d like to admit. The longer she stands there the more aware she is that Andrea probably knows she’s here, and by the time she finally enters the building the secretary at the front desk is already looking expectant.

“Miss Rojas is waiting for you, Miss Luthor. 51st floor, you can’t miss it.”

When she steps into Andrea’s office, the other woman looks busy – she’s reading from a stack of papers, perched on the edge of her desk, and looks for all the world like she’s pleasantly surprised at having a visitor. But it takes a good actor to know a bad one, and Lena can tell by the stiffness of her posture and the way her eyes move just a little too showily over the page that she’s faking her nonchalance. She holds up a finger while she finishes a sentence, before finally looking up at Lena with a practiced smile.

No matter. Lena can let her have her little power move, if that’s what gets her on board.

“Andrea,” Lena says, trying to summon warmth to her tone. It comes easier than she thought it would, but her nerves still stay firmly in place. “It’s good to see you.”

“Likewise,” Andrea says, and although her smile doesn’t reach her eyes, there’s honesty in her voice. She does seem genuinely happy to see Lena, if a little wary of her intentions.

Lena can work with that.

Andrea stands from her perch, heading towards the couch at the other end of the room and gesturing for Lena to join her. “What can I do for you? I have to say, I wasn’t expecting your call.”

“I wasn’t expecting to have to make it,” Lena admits. She takes a tentative seat on the black leather, folding her legs primly. “I know this is coming out of nowhere, but to be completely transparent…I need your help.”

“My help?” Andrea asks, a brow quirked. It’s an expression that Lena knows Andrea learned from her, and it brings back fond memories despite herself. If she’s going to have to humiliate herself asking for help, at least it’s with someone familiar.

“We both know how much of a chokehold my mother has on this city,” Lena starts, and Andrea’s expression darkens. “And on the people in it. You more than anyone.”

Andrea purses her lips, nodding tightly.

Even from afar, Lena has seen the effects of Andrea’s fateful deal with Lillian. Lillian had bailed them out financially, but at a cost – the cost being most of the company shares, and a stranglehold on the company’s direction. Over time Andrea has lost more and more of her control over operations, and at this point she’s mostly a figurehead. She’s an absent CEO, barely owning shares in her own company because Lillian doesn’t allow it.

It’s clear that Andrea didn’t expect such an intense conversation topic right out of the gate, but Lena really has no time for pleasantries.

“I do,” Andrea says carefully. She’s being decidedly neutral, waiting for Lena to reveal her stance. “What about it?”

Lena pauses, barely resisting the urge to fidget with her hands. This is the moment of truth, when she has to lay down all her cards and hope against hope that she won’t be betrayed again.

As she’s fighting the fear that still clings to the back of her mind, Kara’s voice drifts into her head again. The way she defended Lena to a fault, the determination in her voice when she said, I will always protect you. I promise.

It makes her feel brave. Ordinarily she’d reject the feeling, but right now, she lets herself have a little comfort.

“It’s worse than I thought,” Lena finally says, looking up from her hands and meeting Andrea’s gaze head-on. “Her plans are bigger and more catastrophic than even I could have imagined, and I have to stop her. But doing it alone is impossible.”

She’s asking without asking, she knows. But there’s still a part of her that doubts Andrea’s loyalty, and she wants to test how much information Andrea will probe for before she makes a decision.

After a few moments of silent observation, Andrea’s face softens. She reaches out slowly, tentatively, and puts a warm hand over Lena’s in a gesture of comfort.

“How can I help?”

Relief, deep and palpable, floods Lena’s veins. There’s no perfect way to gauge Andrea’s truthfulness, but there’s something in her eyes that seems genuine. Despite her reservations, despite the fact that she’s been burned before, Lena can’t help but trust.

She’s gone soft in her second century of life, and she blames Kara.

“Max Lord,” Lena says, and the softness of the moment breaks as Andrea rolls her eyes at the mention of the Mayor.

“That scumbag,” Andrea scoffs, and Lena smiles at the still-familiar and scalding derision in her tone. “He shouldn’t even be in office, but everyone is too afraid of retribution to run against him. Lillian runs smear campaigns that keep people from voting elsewhere. And the humans who try get especially targeted.”

“Do you think that if someone did stand up and run, they’d have a chance?”

Andrea frowns, tilting her head as she considers the question. “If Lillian could be held off during the race, and with enough media support, maybe.”

“What if Cat Grant came back to CatCo?” Lena offers. Both of Andrea’s eyebrows raise, this time.

“That’d be a miracle,” she says with a chuckle. The laughter dies at Lena’s expression, and she looks more and more incredulous as Lena looks at her evenly.

“You aren’t serious?” she says quietly, as if Lillian can overhear them somehow. “Cat would never put her son back in danger.”

“A lot is possible with Supergirl on your side.”

If Andrea’s eyebrows could raise right off her face, Lena is sure they would.

“You’re working with Supergirl?” Andrea says, a note of dazed wonder in her voice. “The last person in this universe that Lillian would want knowing about the fae? Are you insane?”

“It’s a long story,” Lena says, brushing off her concern with a wave of her hand. “But she’s in the loop, and with her positive public opinion and CatCo on their side, could a candidate win?”

“Who exactly are you planning on pitting against Lord?” Andrea asks, but her expression tells Lena that she already knows.

“I’m not planning on anyone, yet. Just assessing my options.”

Andrea goes quiet. Her hand doesn’t move from over Lena’s, and Lena keeps it still while she thinks it over, even when Andrea’s thumb starts to rub thoughtlessly over her knuckles. It’s a big ask – Andrea would be putting herself in danger, making herself a target, and Lena won’t ask her to do more than she’s willing to. She has to come to the decision on her own, one way or another.

“I’d have to leave Obsidian,” Andrea finally says, looking out the windows while she thinks out loud. “Lillian would find a way to bring me down from within, otherwise. I’d be putting myself on the line.”

“I’m not asking you to,” Lena says. Andrea smiles, almost sadly.

“I know. But it’s the right thing to do.”

Lena stays quiet. Andrea has always been an independent mind, and letting her come to conclusions without exterior input always gets the best results.

“I’ll need a good platform,” Andrea says briskly, finally taking her hand away as she starts to plan in earnest. “Some good publicity. I’m not very well known, right now. I’m a member of council, but not one that most people would expect to run for Mayor.”

“Kara and I can take care of that,” Lena assures her. “You do enough charitable works to be able to spin it into a good narrative.”

“Kara?”

Lena suppresses a wince at her slip-up. She’d been so hard on Kara after she found out that the blonde had spilled Lena’s secret without asking, and now here she is, doing the same thing. But Andrea’s curiosity is just as dogged as Lena’s, and unless she tells her now, Andrea will likely dig up even more information by herself.

“Supergirl,” Lena clarifies. Andrea looks mildly surprised.

“Wow. Supergirl has a name,” she murmurs, with a bit too much interest.

“She does.”

Lena is being cagey, and Andrea can sense it – but thankfully she leaves well enough alone. Instead, she turns the conversation to a topic much more personal than Lena is comfortable with.

“Honestly, Lena, I’m flattered that you came to me,” Andrea says softly, her smile reminding Lena of a time she’d rather forget. “After everything that happened, I know it must be hard to trust me –“

“You made a mistake,” Lena says quickly, trying and failing to hurry the inevitable conversation along. “A long time ago. Lillian has made you pay for it a hundred times over.”

“Mistake or not, I hurt you. And not a day goes by that I don’t regret that choice.”

“Andrea –“ Lena says, not sure what to say besides please stop talking now, but Andrea’s tone takes on a slight note of desperation that tugs at Lena’s conscience.

“No, I – please, just let me apologize,” she says, the closest to begging that Lena has ever heard. Like she needs to get it out, before it eats her alive. “I’m so sorry, Lena. What I did was selfish, and cruel, and I left you alone when you needed me –“

“It’s fine –“

“And I was hurting myself, too, because I loved you,” Andrea says, her voice cracking with startling emotion. She’s shifted closer sometime during her apology, and now they’re practically thigh-to-thigh on the couch. “And I chose something else above that. Whatever comes of this, I hope that I can show you that I will never betray you again.”

Andrea is so close, now, leaning forward in her sincerity. Lena is shocked at her vulnerability, her usually icy exterior melted in a way she hasn’t seen since they were together – so shocked that she doesn’t notice how close they suddenly are until she can feel warm breath on her lips.

“You don’t need to show me anything,” Lena says. It comes out in a whisper, and Andrea’s face stops mere inches from hers. Neither of them are moving, stuck in a limbo of indecision, and it’s up to Lena to make the final move.

Andrea is so close to kissing her, and Lena can’t help but think about the sweet, dreamless sleep that a few orgasms will give her. She can forget about the way that the tightrope of her life has been getting more dangerous than ever, the fact that she’s in a race to bring down her all-powerful mother with a group of people she doesn’t fully trust. She can forget that the universe is trying to force her into yet another non-choice with a stupid soulmate bond. Maybe, just for a night, Lena can give herself over to forgetting.

Even though the desire is almost blinding, guilt still sits heavy in her stomach in equal measure.

Guilt over nothing, really. She hasn’t made any commitments, no promises to Kara that a night with Andrea would break. They haven’t even talked about their connection frankly, just danced around it with half-truths and almosts. But still it hangs around her shoulders like a weight, the knowledge of how Kara would feel about it.

Kara might even feel the experience across their connection, and have to deal with it as it happens. Try as she might, Lena can’t compartmentalize her own need to detach from the badly-disguised jealousy Kara had shown at the mention of Andrea that the hero is too noble to ever voice.

How confused and hurt Lena knows she herself would feel, were the situation reversed.

She’s still agonizing over the choice when a small bomb goes off in her chest.

At first, she can’t quite place it – all she knows is that it hurts, and for a split second she worries that somehow she’s managed to be the first vampire to ever have a heart attack. But as the first wave of it ebbs, she can follow the thread of it outside herself and place its origin in Kara.

What she thought at first was physical pain, she now realizes, is actually something worse. It’s a heavy, deep sadness that she can hardly bear, and she has to stop and take a few breaths to work through the tightness of her chest.

Somewhere in National City, Kara is in pain.

At Lena’s pained expression, Andrea cups her face in both hands, looking her over with concern.

“Are you okay? You look –“

“I’m fine,” Lena lies quickly, rubbing at the still-persistent agony in her heart. “Just haven’t eaten in a while.”

“Do you want me to call someone up here for you?” Andrea asks easily. Lena recoils slightly at the reminder that Andrea doesn’t quite share her values regarding feeding, and shakes her head.

“No, it’s alright. I can wait until I get home.”

Andrea nods. She doesn’t move closer, but her eyes drift back down to Lena’s lips – and Lena’s decision is made for her when she feels another deep, painful twinge.

Firmly, she reaches up to pull one of Andrea’s hands away.

“Look…I’m sorry,” Lena starts, and Andrea valiantly tries to mask her immediate hurt at the rejection. She retracts both of her hands and clasps them tightly in her lap, and Lena gets the joy of acute double guilt.

“Lena, all the complication is behind us, I swear,” Andrea assures her, misunderstanding where Lena’s reticence is coming from. “I’m not going to beg you to be with me.”

“I know, it’s not – I just can’t,” Lena says, trying to articulate herself without just blurting out sorry, I think I have a soulmate and it’s all I can think about.

Andrea’s second guess is closer to the mark, but still not quite the truth.

“You’re with someone else.”

“It’s not like that,” Lena assures her, struggling around the truth as the pain in her chest starts to recede. “I’m just not in the right place for this.”

Andrea’s gaze is sharp, appraising. She knows something is up, and Lena has never seen her give up before she gets answers.

Lena sighs. She wants very badly to bury her face in her hands, but it denotes a level of vulnerability she isn’t quite ready to show right now. Instead she picks mercilessly at her thumbnail, until Andrea physically pulls her hand away with a concerned look.

“Lena, what is it? Just tell me.”

“It’s Supergirl.”

Much like with Sam, it comes out surprisingly easily, and she feels oddly light after admitting it. Andrea’s reaction, though, is much different than Sam’s. While Sam met the admission with calm acceptance, Andrea looks at her like she’s just confessed to breaking Lex out of prison. She doesn’t seem to know what to say, but Lena can read the disbelief on her face like a book.

“I know,” Lena says, staring resolutely at a dark scuff on Andrea’s otherwise spotless floor. “It’s complicated. We aren’t – I just can’t right now. Until I figure some things out.”

Andrea is quiet for a long time after that. They sit in silence as the sun sets outside the windows, and when she finally speaks she sounds almost amused.

“I should have known it would take someone larger than life to really get your attention.”

The hurt is still there, but Andrea is clearly willing to at least try to move past it, and Lena meets her small smile with one of her own.

“I don’t want you to feel like you need to do this,” Lena says firmly. “I don’t want an obligation, or guilt. If you’re doing this, it needs to be because you want to.”

Andrea laughs humorlessly. She seems thoughtful, but resolute in her answer.

“I should have offered to help on my own a long time ago. I’m in, Lena. Whatever you need.”

Even though she got what she came for, Lena leaves Obsidian feeling more confused than ever. The pain she’s been feeling since the first spike has dulled to a low ache, consistent and heavy, and as she slides into her waiting towncar she pulls up Kara’s contact on her phone without really thinking. Her last conversation with Kara is staring up at her, a simple time and address for a pickup from Lena and a dumb selfie of Kara giving a thumbs-up in response. She types and deletes several messages before finally sending one too quickly to second-guess.

You okay?

The message is marked seen almost immediately, and ever since she sent it the pain in her chest has receded to almost nothing, but it’s almost 8 minutes before Kara’s reply appears.

[Kara]: I’m surprised you care.

Lena’s immediate reaction is pure indignation. She went against her better instincts and tried to check in when Kara is in clear emotional pain, and the response is making her never want to do it again.

If you don’t want to talk, just say so, Lena types back, practically throwing her phone into her bag as she stews in annoyance.

It vibrates quietly a few seconds later, and Lena begrudgingly digs it back out.

[Kara]: No, I’m sorry. I do. It’s just a hard night.

[Kara]: It’s my earth birthday.

The car pulls up to her building, and Lena climbs out and thanks the driver absently as she sends a reply.

Earth birthday?

The bubbles appear for a moment and then disappear again several times, like Kara is writing and then deleting her replies. The full answer doesn’t come until Lena has kicked off her shoes and is heading to her home office to catch up on the work she missed during her little DEO excursion.

[Kara]: The day I arrived here. The day Krypton really died, for me. I try to make it a celebration, but sometimes it’s just…hard.

Lena stares at that reply for some time. It’s painfully honest, an admission of grief, and Lena is probably the world’s worst qualified person to help Kara process her emotions. She herself hasn’t thought about the events of her past in so long that she’s half-convinced she’s blocked it out completely.

I’m sorry, is all she ends up sending, following it up with a short explanation. I’m not very good at this.

[Kara]: It’s okay. It means a lot that you reached out.

[Kara]: …how did your meeting with Andrea go?

Lena turns her phone off.

 


 

Before they can even begin to plan Andrea’s campaign for to run against Max Lord for Mayor, they need to find Cat Grant.

Had Lena been doing this alone, it might have been a difficult task. But it turns out that Kara had been right about needing to work as a team – with Kara’s knowledge as Cat’s former assistant and Brainy’s ability to access not-quite-legal records, it only takes a few days to figure out that she’s living in a remote cabin on the Oregon coast.

Lena makes up a remote business meeting and Kara gets them access to a discreet DEO SUV, and an hour after Brainy tracked down the location they’re packing for a road trip.

“Why can’t we just fly there?” Kara complains, throwing the emergency stash of weapons that Alex insisted they take with them in the hatchback and shutting the door. “We’d be there and back in an hour or two. This doesn’t make sense.”

“We don’t want to draw attention,” Lena replies for the third time. “You’d have to fly slower with me, and Supergirl and Lena Luthor flying across the state and landing in Cat Grant’s backyard isn’t exactly incognito.”

And I think that if I touched you for that long I might implode, Lena thinks, but she doesn’t voice it. This way is safer. Distanced. They have to be in a car together for 12 hours there and back, but at least she can turn up the music and stare out the window rather than needing to be pressed intimately to Kara for hours at a time. Especially right now, when Kara is dressed casually. She can hardly handle Kara in jeans from far away, let alone close up.

Fine,” Kara sighs, taking the driver’s seat without asking. Lena rolls her eyes at the petulance, even if part of her thinks it’s sort of cute.

“Where to first?”

“Downtown,” Lena says, staring out the window as Kara looks over at her curiously. “I have to pick something up before we go.”

Kara frowns, but thankfully she doesn’t ask questions when Lena gives her the address of Veronica’s bar. She does, however, turn the ignition off and start to follow Lena inside once they get there.

“You should really stay in the car,” Lena says, hearing the door slam closed and stopping dead a few feet from the building. Kara frowns.

“Why?”

“It’s a fae bar, Kara.”

Kara’s head tilts a little, like she’s contemplating pros and cons. “Oh. Will you get in trouble if I come in with you?”

The answer to that, truthfully, is no. Veronica’s place is a refuge for fae and non-fae alike, and anyone is welcome. But it’s getting increasingly difficult to compartmentalize her life – Andrea is involved now, no doubt Sam will at some point insist on helping, and now the biggest source of internal conflict in her life is about to follow into one of her only safe havens.

But she isn’t sure how to explain that.

“Fine, just…stay quiet, okay?” Lena finally says, and Kara grins happily at not being left behind. Maybe she’ll even get lucky, and Veronica won’t be working. “Don’t draw any attention to yourself.”

Kara nods, and Lena steps into the dimly lit building with a sinking feeling that only gets worse when she sees the tattooed woman behind the bar.

“Lena. Always happy to see you come in,” Veronica says with her usual coyness, once she recognizes Lena as the customer. Her eyes slide to Lena’s left and land on Kara, who’s staring around the dingy bar with the air of a curious child. “Who’s the arm candy?”

Kara’s eyes snap away from the occupied pool table in the back, looking at Veronica in pure shock at her forwardness.

“Kara. Kara, this is Veronica,” Lena says quickly, stepping in front of Kara’s curious gaze and laying her money out on the bar. “I need the usual, to go.”

“To go? You heading somewhere?” Veronica drawls, reaching into a cooler for a portion of blood and emptying it into a to-go coffee cup in a way much too leisurely for Lena’s liking. “Romantic getaway?”

“No,” Lena grinds out between clenched teeth. This, unfortunately, is the downside to her casual relationship with the witch. Veronica is discreet and loyal, a steadfast friend and ally - but she is also an asshole, who enjoys watching people squirm. Even Lena. Often especially Lena.

“Hm. In that case, is she free tonight?”

Veronica’s grin is intentionally lecherous, and Lena knows it. The witch is incredibly insightful, which is part of what makes her such a good casual sexual partner – she knows what Lena needs out of the relationship, and doesn’t ask for more. So it’s obvious that she’s caught on to the tension between her and Kara even in this brief interaction, and she’s pushing at Lena’s buttons with precision.

Lena’s hand clenches around the coffee cup Veronica hands her, and it’s only Kara’s warm hand pressing briefly into her lower back that keeps her from crushing it in her fist. It calms her, and just as the calm starts to ebb away into self-consciousness over the gesture, the hand disappears.

No,” Lena growls, pushing the bills towards Veronica. She takes them with a wink, and Lena turns on her heel and heads to the door.

“Call me if you need a third! You have my number,” Veronica calls after her over the rattle of the cash register, and Lena all but throws the door from its hinges in her desperation to get out of the building.

“She was friendly,” Kara remarks mildly once they’re both seated in the car and pulling out onto the freeway.

“She’s just like that,” Lena says tightly. She takes a sip from the cup she almost crushed, and immediately her temper starts to cool as her hunger ebbs away. The blood is cold, but it’s better than nothing. If she hadn’t eaten, she probably would have made a terrible decision like feeding from Kara again.

Almost as she has that thought, Kara glances at her from the driver’s seat for the 6th time. Her eyes linger on Lena’s mouth, and Lena wipes at it self-consciously - there doesn’t seem to be any red on her fingers besides a little lipstick, and yet Kara glances over again only a few seconds later.

“What are you staring at?” Lena finally bristles, taking another pointed sip. “If it’s so gross, look away.”

“What? No, that’s not –“ Kara huffs, drumming her hands on the steering wheel. “It’s not gross. I’m just thinking.”

“About?”

Kara doesn’t answer. She stares firmly at the road, even when Lena raises the cup to her lips again. The silence stretches out for long minutes with Kara intermittently drumming nonsensical beats on the steering wheel, and now it’s Lena glancing over at the other side of the car every few seconds because Kara looks nervous. She feels nervous.

“For god’s sake, what is it?” Lena finally snaps, after she hears the wheel creak under yet another drum solo. “I can’t handle your anxiety anymore.”

“I just…” Kara trails off, gnawing at her lower lip. There’s a deep crease between her eyebrows, and she still won’t take her eyes away from the car ahead of them. “You could have asked me.”

“Asked you for what?”

“For blood.”

Kara says it almost before Lena has finished her question, as if she’s been holding it in this whole time and it’s bursting out of her like a broken dam. A crimson blush is climbing up her neck, and Lena has to take a minute to swallow down the first few things that come to mind.

“I’m not going to do that,” is the neutral answer she finally decides on, and Kara finally looks away from the road to level her with a wounded expression.

“Why not? You did before.”

“That was a mistake.”

Kara doesn’t argue, but the silence that follows is heavier than before. Lena can almost taste the deep, pressing disappointment Kara is feeling, and it makes her want to tuck and roll out of the car. It fills the air like a vapor, even as Kara tries to hide it.

“I wanted to tell you that I talked to Alex and J’onn,” Kara says instead, and Lena latches on to the new conversation topic like a lifeline.

“Oh?”

“About what you said. Due process. The alien prisoners.”

Well. That’s a surprise. Lena must be showing it on her face, too, because Kara smiles a little before continuing.

“Once this is over, they’re going to start going over the databases and giving people counsel. And trials. Start a system.”

“It should be now, but I suppose that’s something,” Lena mutters. Kara nods solemnly.

“Yeah. Yeah, I…I don’t think I can work with them anymore until they get it right, once this is done. And after J’onn showed us the records, I think it gave Alex some second thoughts too.”

“Really?” Lena asks, genuinely shocked. “Your sister seems like a cop through and through.”

“She’s actually a doctor,” Kara says pointedly, meeting Lena’s eyes for a moment. “A good one, with a drive to help people. They recruited her at the DEO because of me. Because she was close to me, and they needed her. I think maybe it’s time we both broke away.”

Lena wouldn’t admit it even under pain of death, but she can’t deny to herself that she’s a little bit proud of Kara for listening to her, let alone actually using her position to make a stand.

Even though Lena doesn’t say it, Kara smiles like she knows anyways as the safety of the city shrinks behind them.

 


 

The closer they get to the address Brainy gave them, the more obvious it becomes that Cat is trying not to be found. They seem to be getting further and further from civilization with every hour, and by the time they finally find the half-hidden driveway that Kara seems to think is Cat’s, it’s approaching dark.

“It’s probably best that we park here and fly to the house,” Kara says, turning the car off and undoing her seatbelt before Lena has time to protest. “We don’t want to give Cat a reason to worry, with a strange car coming up her drive.”

“And two people landing in front of her door is better?” Lena asks, but she’s asking it to empty air – Kara is already outside, gesturing for Lena to follow.

Lena has to admit, the last few hours have been taxing. She can’t blame Kara for wanting to get out of the car and stretch her legs, considering Lena only let them stop for gas and for Kara to buy her weight in fast food.

Invulnerable or not, she had briefly feared for both of their lives when Kara spent half an hour of the drive eating burgers and gas station pastries with her right hand and driving with her left, but since it was her own insistence on getting here as fast as possible that caused it, all she could do was silently grip the edge of her seat until both hands were safely on the wheel again.

Now Kara is doing lunges on the side of the road, stretching out and taking big breaths of fresh air, and while Lena prepares herself for the upcoming flight she takes a moment to watch her. Her eyes trace down Kara’s back, over her arms as she reaches up in a stretch – she’s not in the Supergirl suit but instead in a simple sweater and jeans, her hair in a neat bun, and the muscle definition Lena can usually see in the tight blue spandex is hidden under layers. Her hips, though, aren’t hidden – the jeans are tight, and Lena hadn’t noticed exactly how tight until Kara got out of the car.

Kara does another lunge, and Lena’s eyes follow almost instinctively. The denim clings to her, shows off every movement, stretching across the muscle of her thighs –

“Kara!” Lena calls, forcibly tearing her eyes away and blinking rapidly to erase the image of Kara’s ass that definitely isn’t seared into her brain, “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

The house is well hidden. If Kara were anyone but herself, they might not have found it at all, immersed as it is in the landscape of the woods. But Kara’s x-ray vision never fails, and it’s only a minute or two before they’re landing softly in front of a large but unassuming cottage.

Kara knocks as soon as Lena has extricated herself from her arms, but she freezes almost comically after the third, her eyes wide.

“Wait - should I be in the suit?” she hisses, looking down at her civilian clothes. “She knows me as her assistant, but it’s Supergirl offering to help. She doesn’t know - oh god, should I –“

But there are already footsteps thundering towards them, and before even Kara’s lightning reflexes can make a decision the door has opened a crack. A single blue eye stares at them from around the height of Kara’s shoulder for a few seconds, and then slams again.

Kara looks at Lena in clear confusion, but soon Lena can hear several locks click and the door is thrown open to reveal a boy. He’s clean cut, about 12 or 13, and looking at Kara like she just personally made his dreams come true.

Mom!” he yells, his eyes wide and disbelieving. “Supergirl is here!”

He stampedes back into the house, leaving the door open behind him, and Kara blinks mutely.

“Well,” Lena says, trying to hide her laugh as she steps in after him. “Looks like your secret is blown, Supergirl.”

Lena has never formally met Cat Grant before, which Kara had been shocked to learn on the drive up here. The blonde had looked a few seconds away from asking but don’t you all know each other? and only resisted at the last second, which Lena appreciates. She and Cat had never run in the same circles, Lillian and Cat being at almost comically opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their views on humans, but they knew of each other. Lena had even considered asking for an alliance of sorts, before Lillian drove Cat out of fae society and into hiding.

The woman sitting expectantly in the middle of a velvet settee in the living room is every bit as dignified as Lena expected.

Lena sits down immediately on the leather sofa that the boy leads them to, but Kara seems to hover hesitantly instead. She keeps looking between Lena and Cat like she isn’t sure what to do, until finally Cat rolls her eyes and points at the couch, snapping her fingers.

“Stop gawking, Kiera. Your agape face is just as grating as it was when you were my assistant.”

Kara’s mouth shuts with a snap, and she plops obediently onto the sofa. Cat turns her attention away, then, and towards the boy that Lena can only assume is her son.

“Why don’t you go play on your computer, Carter?” she says in a much softer voice, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. “I have some grown-up things to discuss.”

Carter frowns. “But I want to talk to Supergirl.”

“Later.”

He seems put out, but Carter leaves with one last starstruck look in Kara’s direction, and the room lapses into a silent stare-off.

As usual, it’s Kara who breaks it.

“I’m just, um,” she says, twisting her sleeve between her fingers nervously. “Miss Grant, your son – he called me –“

“Supergirl,” Cat says flatly. “Yes. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I’ve known for a long time who you are. You’re not very subtle. Just as I assume your presence here with Miss Luthor means that you also know who and what I am.”

Kara is as speechless as Lena has ever seen her. She blinks silently a few times, opening and closing her mouth as she searches for words, and Cat is just as silent as she watches it happen.

“You – just – why didn’t you ever say anything?” Kara manages, and Cat scoffs. “You went all that time knowing, and -”

“I did, once. You expended no small amount of effort trying to convince me otherwise. I kept your secret, just as I expect you to keep mine.”

Cat is calm and collected and the exact opposite of Kara at the moment, and for some reason the absolute brick wall of her former boss’ demeanor seems to comfort her. She deflates a little, nodding in understanding.

“Right. Of course, I won’t tell – I’m just surprised.”

“Is there a reason you sought me out with the daughter of the woman who did this to me, or is this a social call?” Cat drawls, a little of the biting sarcasm she’s so known for slipping into her tone. Kara bristles slightly, but Lena speaks up before she can get herself too worked up.

”We need your help.”

Cat laughs lightly, crossing one leg over the other and reclining slightly. A position of power. Cat is unsure of their intentions and is covering it by posturing, and Lena is going to have to swallow some pride if she wants this to work.

“A Luthor needs my help?” Cat says, steepling her fingers in her lap. “That’s rich.”

Kara straightens indignantly, clearly ready to come to Lena’s defense, but Lena calms her with a hand on her thigh. Cat’s eyes follow the movement, and she raises an almost imperceptible eyebrow.

Lena retracts the hand quickly, clenching it in her lap.

“I’m not asking as a Luthor,” Lena says evenly, maintaining the eye contact that Cat initiates. She can’t back down, now. “I’m asking as someone who wants to make the world a little better.”

It’s an earnest thing to say, she knows. It raises her internal hackles a little even as she says it, putting it out there for Cat to use in any way she pleases. But the success of this plan hinges on miraculously getting Cat to trust her, and bringing Kara along can only do so much.

Cat, for her part, looks contemplative. She’s quiet for a few moments, her eyes flickering towards the stairs where Carter disappeared. Her posture softens slightly, and her attention shifts from Lena to Kara.

“Considering you’re here with Supergirl, I can only guess that you oppose your mother,” Cat says, and there’s less frost in it now. Kara nods, slinging an arm over the back of the couch behind Lena in a way that makes amusement quirk at the corner of Cat’s eyes.

Lena sits up straighter.

“That’s an understatement,” Lena says tightly. Cat nods, but she still doesn’t look entirely convinced.

“I don’t know what you expect me to do for you, when I can’t step foot into public life again without threatening the life of my son.”

Lena can’t begrudge her that. She herself has nobody in her life to protect besides herself and, perhaps, Sam (as much as the name Kara rattles around in her head in protest as she thinks it), but she can understand Cat’s stance. Her son comes first, no matter what.

Carter, she thinks with a distant pang of sadness, is a very lucky child.

“I can protect him,” Kara says, leaning forward and bracing her elbows on her knees as she pleads her case. “Protect both of you.”

Cat scoffs. “Doubtful. Lillian has allies you can’t even imagine.”

“We already took in Corben,” Kara says, and Cat’s even expression breaks for a split second. She’s surprised, and Kara to her credit notices it and presses forward while she can. “He confessed everything – all of Lillian’s partners. We’re targeting all of them, including Morgan Edge, and to do that we need you to take CatCo back.”

Cat’s eyes narrow, flitting back and forth between Lena and Kara like she’s trying to suss out a lie.

“You got John Corben to betray Lillian?” she says, doubt dripping from every syllable. Kara nods.

“Lena did.”

Lena, trying not to look flustered under the sudden and intense attention Cat pins on her, folds her hands primly. “We can do the unexpected. Trust me – Kara will defend Carter with her life.”

Cat is silent. Her lips are pursed, and again she looks thoughtfully towards the stairs to Carter’s room. It’s a heavy sort of quiet, one filled with expectation, and Lena has to remind herself to unclench her hands before she leaves irreparable nail-gouges in her palm.

“I gave up everything to protect my son,” Cat finally says, slow and deliberate. “Everything I’ve worked for, everything I’ve earned. If you want me to put him in harm’s way, you’d better be damn sure that this is going to work.”

It’s not a yes, exactly. But it also isn’t a no – it’s a window, a brief moment of opportunity for them to plead their case. Lena knows from Kara that that Cat is better at sensing bullshit than anyone else in the world, and now is the time for radical honesty.

“I can’t guarantee anything,” Lena admits, and Cat’s expression remains stony. “None of us can. But if there’s one thing we can do, it’s come up with a way to protect Carter.”

“He can even stay at the Fortress, if you want,” Kara pipes up helpfully. Cat raises a brow.

“And where is that, exactly?”

“Superman’s frozen hideaway,” Lena interjects, somewhat surprised that Kara is offering it so readily. “Location unknown, and supposedly accessible only to Kryptonians.”

“How did you –“ Kara starts, but Lena silences her with a look, and Kara just shakes her head with a smile. “I should just stop asking that.”

“Won’t it be a bit…cold?” Cat drawls, looking back and forth between them with something like amusement. Kara shakes her head.

“There are living quarters there, and they’re heated. They’re really nice, actually. I can have people we trust watch him, and fly you there to see him whenever you want.”

She says it with the earnestness of a superhero, but Lena can tell that Cat is still on the fence. Her slim fingers tap on her knee, the even rhythm of a person torn by indecision.

“You don’t have to answer right away. We drove several states over to get here, we can wait a few days,” Lena assures her, and Cat waves her off.

“I know perfectly well that I don’t have to do anything,” Cat says, standing suddenly. “And I won’t make any decisions without speaking to Carter first. You’ll stay in the guest room tonight, and I’ll give you an answer in the morning.”

It’s abrupt in a way that’s difficult to argue, although that doesn’t stop Lena from trying.

“That isn’t necessary –“ Lena scrambles, while Kara looks bewlidered. “We can just leave, and you can call or Kara can come back by herself –“

It isn’t often that Lena is stared into submission by anyone who isn’t her mother, but the look Cat pins her with is enough to make her stop talking.

“You’ll stay here,” Cat says firmly. “Even Supergirl needs sleep after driving here from National City. And don’t worry – the guest room has two beds. You’ll be able to continue to avoid your obvious sexual tension in peace.”

Cat turns to head towards the stairs and, assumedly, the guest room, leaving Lena in stunned silence and sitting what she now realizes is uncomfortably close to Kara. Her thigh is pressed to Kara’s warmer one, and the fact that she hadn’t noticed that they’re practically glued together is more than a little alarming.

With that thought she stands up, following Cat down the hall as she disappears through one of several doorways.

“Why do you even have a guest room, if you’re living in isolation?” Kara asks, ducking into the room behind Lena and thankfully leaving a few feet of space between them. “Nobody knows where you are. I can’t imagine you get visitors.”

“The house came pre-furnished,” Cat answers, already opening the double doors of the closet to pull out a pile of blankets and pillows and shoving them into Kara’s arms. “You didn’t think I picked this hideous décor myself, did you?”

Kara blinks mutely, her eyes the only thing visible over the stack of bedding. Lena, sensing that this might be her last chance, makes one final play at freedom.

“Cat, we really appreciate you offering a place to stay,” Lena says, unfortunately hearing her own desperation very clearly, “but we didn’t plan for this timetable. I have to be back at LuthorCorp, and Kara has Supergirl duties to attend to.”

It’s a blatant lie – Lena hadn’t given a timeframe for her return, and Kara’s responsibilities are being shouldered by J’onn and Nia at the moment. It was a longshot, and she knows she’s failed before she even finishes.

“Then you shouldn’t have planned to drive for 24 hours straight,” Cat says matter-of-factly, bulldozing through Lena’s flimsy excuse. “You both look exhausted already, and I’d prefer to have this conversation in person in the morning.”

In all the scenarios she’d considered – Cat laughing in their faces, throwing them out, even barricading the door – Cat practically ordering them to sleep over was not on the list. For a brief moment Lena contemplates jumping through the big bay window and running for it – she could probably find the car in the dark, and Kara can make it home on her own. But Cat seems to sense her discomfort, and to Lena’s surprise, she softens slightly.

She didn’t know Cat Grant could be soft.

“It’s nearing midnight, and you’ve been travelling all day. You need some sleep either way - either you sleep here, or you crash in some one-star motel on the interstate. It’s your choice.”

It seems like an obvious choice, but Lena wrestles with it all the same. Cat is right – she’s been awake for nearly 21 hours now after having barely slept last night, and Kara is looking a little worse for wear as well. She’d been hoping to simply power through it to get home and send Kara ahead, but she’s unlikely to want to leave Lena behind.

Staying here makes sense, and Lena has a terrible feeling about it.

“Fine,” Lena says tightly.

“Thank you, Miss Grant,” Kara tacks on, and Cat smiles at the blonde in a way that almost borders on warm. Lena is learning more and more about Cat the longer they stay here.

“Bathrooms are down the hall. I’ll see you two in the morning.”

Cat closes the door behind her, and she’s left with Kara in a silence so deafening that it makes her ears ring.

“Well,” Kara says after a few seconds, slightly muffled by her armful of blankets, “this is weird.”

That breaks the tension, at least. Lena manages a laugh that’s more an abrupt exhale than anything else, sinking onto the nearest bed. It’s comfortable, but set far too close to the other one in the room for her liking – there’s barely 3 feet of space between where she’s going to sleep and Kara’s bed, and it already feels claustrophobic.

Kara, thankfully, reads the room and stays quiet. She starts putting pillows into pillowcases, silently handing two to Lena and taking the useless decorative ones off of her own bed. But once she gets her setup settled, she freezes.

“I, uh,” Kara says, fiddling with the hem of her shirt, “I don’t have pyjamas. Do you…do you think Cat has any?”

“Not that will fit you,” Lena says, digging through her purse for the travel toothbrush she put there this morning. “There’s about a foot’s height difference and 50 pounds of muscle between you.”

“I’m not that muscular,” Kara mutters, tugging again at the hem of her shirt. “What am I supposed to wear to bed?”

“I’m sleeping in my clothes,” Lena answers, and she slips through the door and heads for the bathroom before Kara can ask her permission to sleep naked or something. She spends more time there than she needs to, washing her face and letting her hair out of its tight ponytail, staring at her own pale reflection in the small mirror hanging over the sink until she feels like she can be in a room with Kara again.

All her preparation goes out the window when she enters the room again to the sight of Kara sitting up in bed, wearing what looks like a too-small boys’ size Supergirl tank top and not much else. Her legs are covered by the blanket, but Lena can see her jeans hanging over a chair in the corner, and for the first time since they met Lena is face-to-face with the bare skin of Kara’s arms.

Lena knows that Kara is strong. She’s always known – Superman’s torso is shaped like a self-righteous triangle, and Kara shares his genes. She’s seen Kara crush concrete, seen her rip apart thick steel like it’s cardboard, but all of it was done in a supersuit and at a safe distance. Lena has only seen her out of the suit a handful of times, and during all of them, Kara was wearing a sweater that hid her shape. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Lena had always idly wondered if the suit might even be padded.

It’s made abundantly clear now that, if anything, the suit makes Kara look less strong than she really is – which, in Lena’s somewhat hazy opinion, is a public disservice. She’s overcome, suddenly, by the mortifying impulse to reach out and touch. To feel muscle moving under skin. In a strange way, she reminds Lena of a jungle cat – sleek and powerful, with just enough bulk to let you know that you could be destroyed at any second.

It takes an embarrassing amount of effort to close off that section of her brain like a flood door on the Titanic.

“I ran into Carter in the hall,” Kara rushes to explain, tugging the duvet higher to cover her hips fully, but it only serves to emphasize her shoulders as they move. “He gave me shorts, too, but his hips are really small. They didn’t fit.”

“The shirt doesn’t fit, either,” Lena points out in a slightly strangled voice, throwing her toothbrush back in her purse and kicking off her shoes. Her heart is pounding, and not only does she know that Kara can hear it – she can feel how confused but pleased Kara is at her obvious reaction. Kara can feel Lena’s desire, no matter how much she tries to clamp it down, and Lena in turn can feel Kara’s rising to match.

Looking down at herself, Lena doesn’t really understand why. She’s dressed for comfort more than style, knowing she’d have to be in a car for so long during this trip, but it certainly isn’t the dresses and heels she wears at work, or even the soft shirt and shorts she usually sleeps in at home. There isn’t much about her to desire, at the moment, and yet Kara is doing it anyways.

Not that it matters. It doesn’t, because nothing is happening here. They’re going to go to sleep, and then go home tomorrow, and she can go back to her regularly scheduled suppression. Desperate to forget about this whole stupid experience Lena climbs into bed fully dressed, immediately clicking off her lamp and turning over to face the opposite side of the room.

Kara doesn’t immediately follow. Lena doesn’t hear her move, and the light on her side stays on for long minutes after Lena lapsed into silence. It’s hard to tell exactly how long they stay like that, Lena with her eyes squeezed shut and Kara presumably sitting up and staring at her, if the tingling at the back of her neck is any indication – but soon enough Kara starts to fidget, and in the relative quiet of the house the sound of her nervous fingers drumming on the mattress is just loud enough to be irritating.

“Can you please go to sleep?” Lena sighs into her pillow. Kara’s hands stop, but the light still stays on.

“Can I ask you something first? Just one question.”

“Depends on the question,” is what Lena says. If you ask me about what just happened, I will run and never come back, is what she thinks.

“When we first met, I looked into Lex and Lillian,” Kara starts, and Lena practically melts into the bed in relief. “The records were weird, but they seemed clean. If they’ve been alive for hundreds of years –“

“Thousands,” Lena corrects.

“Okay, that’s – jeez. Wow. I mean, whatever,” Kara stammers, thrown off her rhythm but not deterred. “If that’s the case, and they’re always in the public eye, how do people not notice that they never age? And Cat, too. I’ve been thinking about it since you told me. She runs a huge media company, people know who she is and what she looks like. It doesn’t make sense.”

Lena turns over. She doesn’t look at Kara – she isn’t sure she’s capable, when her shoulders are still bare and strong and soft-looking almost in touching distance. Instead she stares up, counting the specks on the popcorn texture of the ceiling while she answers.

“A combination of things. LuthorCorp is relatively new, and they shift power around to avert suspicion, resurface under a new name once everyone who might recognize them has died. Every hundred years or so, they usually pick up and move somewhere new. Start from the beginning, with the support of their fortune. We operated in the UK and France before this, and dozens of other places before I came into the picture. Anyone who digs too deep is eliminated.”

“So…is Lena your real name?” Kara asks tentatively. Lena nods.

“I haven’t had to change mine yet. This is the first time I’ve been allowed to have any prominence. You don’t need to hide your identity when you’re invisible.”

Lena can see Kara nodding out of the corner of her eye, so she shuts them again to block it out. It only helps marginally – she can still feel Kara’s presence.

“Okay, well, how do they explain to their bank that they never die?” Kara challenges. This time, Lena lets out a bitter laugh.

“Fae are everywhere, Kara. In more places than you can imagine. Lex and Lillian and their rotating catalog of allies have been shaping human history for millennia. Including banks.”

“So they just…cheat?” Kara asks, with a note of indignance. “Work around the system?”

“They made the systems.”

Kara deflates a little. Lena still can’t see it, but she can hear the fight going out of her voice. “Right. I’m sorry, this is just –“

“A lot. I know,” Lena says more softly, caving against her will to the sense of powerlessness she can feel coming from the blonde. It’s horribly familiar. “It was to me too, at first. And you’re right – it isn’t fair.”

For almost a full minute, she can feel Kara staring at her. She almost wants to fidget herself, but she keeps her hands clasped hard on top of her stomach until Kara speaks again.

“How are you so different from them? How are you so good?”

Lena has felt this sentiment from Kara more than once. She can tell how highly Kara thinks of her, how much she believes in her innate goodness. How she sees Lena as her equal.

She also knows that Kara is wrong, but Lena’s face heats up at the compliment anyways.

“I’m not,” she insists, twisting her face away from Kara in a halfhearted attempt to hide it. Kara, as usual, can’t be deterred.

“You are. Truly.”

It’s earnest in a way that almost hurts, and Lena turns over again to face the wall. Someday, she’s sure, Kara will figure out how mistaken she is. Then she’ll stop looking at Lena like she hung the moon, special bond or not.

“Well, you don’t know me very well,” Lena says, in lieu of goodnight. Kara, to her relief, finally settles down into a comfortable position and turns off the light, and her reply is in a whisper that Lena wishes she couldn’t hear.

“I think I do.”

It’s some time after that before Lena really starts to relax. The uneven hum of crickets outside the window and Kara’s breathing are a strange lullaby, but oddly effective - the closer she gets to sleep, the more relaxed she becomes. Her mind drifts untethered, slowly easing free from the anxiety of the conversation and into something more comforting.

It’s not sleep, exactly. It’s more of an in-between space that she drifts in, a doze where the stress of the day evaporates and she can just be. And the less aware she becomes of herself, the more aware she is of Kara. How the warmth of her is just within reach. She’s so close but she’s too far, and with all her walls down Lena can feel a longing for something. Calling to her, wishing she was closer. Something outside herself, but somehow deep in her heart at the same time.

It’s almost like how she felt when they were connected, back in that armoured truck. Like Kara is a beacon, and Lena is a moth.

It feels completely natural to roll out of bed, cross the gap, and slip between Kara’s covers.

Kara is in the middle of the double bed, so there’s plenty of space – but Lena doesn’t want space, now. She almost doesn’t feel like she’s inhabiting her own body. Their arms brush, Kara shifts in the smallest of ways, and Lena feels a deep desire for contact that she’s too tired to think about. She just rolls over in a sleepy haze, and wraps herself around Kara.

Kara responds immediately, as if she was somehow expecting it – without a moment of surprise she wraps Lena up in an embrace that fills her with a deep calm. A feeling that’s as unfamiliar as it is wonderful. Lena presses a hand against Kara’s bare hip, just in the gap between waistband and shirt, and it feels like an anchor that keeps her from floating away.

If there’s one thing Lena has never felt in all her years of living, it’s this – this peace. It’s so unfamiliar that she almost can’t place it.

A gentle kiss is pressed to the top of her head, accompanied by a rush of warm affection for herself, and the realization of what’s happening jars Lena awake so abruptly that she can feel Kara stiffen underneath her in response.

She can’t place the emotion, the feeling of peace, because she isn’t feeling it. Kara is.

With an effort that feels monumental, she wrenches herself away from the pillow of Kara’s shoulder and sits up, throwing the blankets off her suddenly overheated body.

It’s her own desire to be close to Kara, she can tell. The exhaustion made her vulnerable, made her stop fighting it. But it isn’t only her own. Kara wants her close just as much, if not more, and Lena can’t tell which of them it was that drove her out of her own bed. They’re tangled together inexorably, so much so that ripping away from Kara feels like tearing open a part of herself.

It feels like she didn’t fully make the choice to give into that physical contact. It was beyond her, something she couldn’t resist. Like Kara’s half-asleep, confused yearning drove her to it as much as her own, and it makes her feel like the walls are closing in.

“What’s up?” Kara asks groggily, blinking and squinting in the direction of Lena’s shape. She’s clearly looking at an outline, but Lena can see her perfectly in the darkness. “Are you okay?”

The peace is gone, replaced by disappointment, confusion, and worry. Worry about Lena. Lena is worrying about herself by proxy through Kara’s emotions, and it only reinforces that her decisions aren’t always her own when it comes to the blonde. It’s just stupid predestined bullshit, everything she’s been running from, and it’s enough to make her head spin.

“I need to go for a walk.”

As tempting as it was earlier, she doesn’t jump out the window. She leaves through the front door like a civilized person, and the second she crosses the threshold, she sprints into the welcoming darkness of the forest until she starts to feel the strain on her muscles.

She runs for what seems like miles and walks even further, but no matter how far she gets, Kara’s worry and self-doubt still sits heavy in her chest.

 


 

It’s well past 5am when Lena slinks back into the room. The sky is starting to lighten, casting weak shadows across the carpet and over Kara’s form on the bed – she’s hunched into a ball, like she fell asleep curled around her pillow. Lena can see her tense when the floor creaks under her feet, but she doesn’t turn around, and Lena grabs her bag and heads to the bathroom to make herself at least somewhat presentable.

The guilt follows her all the way down the hall.

It’s not fair to Kara, to keep her in this cycle of hot and cold. She knows it isn’t. But the fear of confronting what’s happening between them, of accepting that her life isn’t her own, is stronger than the remorse. So she splashes some water on her face, pulls her hair into a neater bun, and reinforces her walls.

When she’s feeling slightly more like a person, she finds herself torn. She could go back to the room, where she can hear Kara starting to get dressed, or she can go sit alone in Cat Grant’s living room like a weirdo.

At the edges of her hearing, a shirt hits the ground. Lena chooses the living room.

She knows that Cat is awake – she can hear her moving at the other end of the house, much like she knows Cat can hear her. But Kara appears before Cat does, lingering for a few heartbeats in the entryway before she actually comes in, and perches on the far end of the couch from Lena.

 She looks tense, and about as tired as Lena feels. The silence stretches between them to the point of awkwardness, and she can feel just how badly Kara wants to break it.

“How did you sleep?” Lena asks, and Kara actually jumps. She startles so hard that the couch creaks underneath her, and she quickly takes more of her weight off of it before answering carefully.

“Not great. I never sleep well away from home.”

Her voice is a little bit raspy, whether from lack of sleep or something else Lena isn’t sure. Again remorse rises like bile, and an apology dances on the tip of her tongue – she isn’t even sure what she would say, besides I’m sorry climbed into your bed without asking and then panicked about it – but it feels like she should. She even goes so far as to open her mouth and say “Kara, I didn’t –“ before Cat waltzes in, just as regal as ever at 6 in the morning. Carter follows behind, still in his pyjamas (another Supergirl set, Lena notes with amusement) and looking excited to see Kara again.

“As long as your agreement to shelter Carter still stands,” Cat says with no preamble, running a hand through Carter’s hair, “I agree to your terms.”

The apology is forgotten. Kara brightens, nodding enthusiastically while Lena sighs in relief.

“Of course! I can take him to the Fortress whenever you want,” Kara says, and Carter looks if possible even more excited. Cat puts a hand on his shoulder.

“I’ll need a week to get things in order,” she says, pointedly telling rather than asking. “The house, becoming active on the board again. I still have allies at CatCo, and if I move with enough preparation, I believe I can have Morgan Edge removed.”

“That’s amazing,” Lena says, much more subdued than Kara but just as genuine. “Thank you so much, Cat.”

Cat smiles, and it actually reaches her eyes. “We’ll see if anything I do denotes thanking. This is a shot in the dark. But you’re right – I’ve been in hiding long enough. I’ve lost my claws.”

“Will I get to fly with you?” Carter asks, a hair’s breadth from interrupting his mother, and Kara grins big and friendly.

“You bet!”

Yes!”

Kara reaches up to give him a high five, and Lena finds herself sharing a look with Cat. Exasperation and fondness. It’s clear that Cat cares for Kara as much as she pretends otherwise, and Lena is in the uncomfortable position of relating to her.

Once timelines are established, Cat sends them home with a promise to head back to the city as soon as Carter is safe. Kara doesn’t offer to fly Lena back to the car, likely sensing Lena’s discomfort with touching after the disaster of last night, and instead they walk the long, winding driveway back towards the road in relative quiet.

It’s not uncomfortable, at the very least. Not like this morning. Kara seems as thoughtful as Lena is, and it isn’t until they’re safely on the highway and there’s a lull in the music on the radio that Lena reaches out first.

“We did it. I’m starting to think that teaming up with you wasn’t a mistake, after all.”

It’s not an apology, exactly. It’s not an apology at all, really, and not even a fraction of what Kara deserves after last night – but it’s all Lena can think of, and Kara seems to relax for the first time as she grins at Lena’s usual attitude.

Starting to?” she says, putting a hand on her chest in mock hurt. It’s joking, not real hurt like what Lena felt as she ran through the woods, and Kara’s acceptance of the not-apology does wonders to improve Lena’s mood.

“You’ve been on probation until now.”

Kara laughs at that, and Lena feels a little lighter.

“Offering to keep Carter safe at the Fortress was a stroke of genius,” Lena concedes. “It’s probably the only place in the universe that’s safe from Lillian on the warpath.”

Kara shrugs. “He’s a good kid. I want him to be safe as much as Cat does.”

“I’ve never done much interacting with children,” Lena admits, fidgeting with her thumbnail as she watches the forest zoom by outside the window. “Not even when I was one.”

Kara’s brow furrows, like she’s just hit on something she hadn’t thought of before.

“Wait,” she says slowly, working it over in her mind, “so, Carter must be a vampire too. Right? Like…is he actually 300 years old or something?”

She sounds so sweetly confused that Lena can’t be annoyed at her questioning. She chuckles, shaking her head.

“No, he’s the age he looks. He’s an inborn vampire. Born into his blood, not turned from a human.”

“So…” Kara trails, clearly asking for more explanation.

“So, made vampires are stuck as the age they were the moment they were turned,” Lena says, starting to feel the mild discomfort that usually comes from approaching the topic of her parenthood. “Inborn are different. They can reproduce, and their children grow up at the same rate as a human. They choose when they want to stop aging.”

“So they just…decide not to get older?” Kara says incredulously.

“Mmm. Most choose their early twenties, since it doesn’t work in reverse. Eternal youth.”

“But not all vampires are young, right?” Kara says, clearly thinking out loud. “What about Cat? Or Lillian? She’s attractive, but she isn’t exactly young.”

It’s immediately clear that Kara realizes the depth of her fuck-up. Her eyes go wide, and she turns to Lena with a look that borders on desperation.

Lena hasn’t vomited in a lifetime or two, but that horrifying comment has her remembering the sensation that precedes it with vivid intensity. The look she pins on Kara could probably wither flowers, and Kara panics accordingly.

“No, I mean – I don’t mean, like, personally,” Kara stammers, looking away from the road to gesture with her hands. “I just – objectively – that’s not – “

Kara is digging the hole deeper with every word, and she seems to realize it about halfway through her haphazard explanation. She shuts her mouth with a snap, and turns to the road with a face so red it practically glows.

“The oldest of vampires like to show their age,” Lena finally says, very pointedly not addressing the comment that might never leave her. “It’s a sign of power. It’s why Lex looks older than Lillian. Lex couldn’t stand her appearing more powerful than him.”

Kara latches onto the life preserver gratefully.

“I wondered about that,” she says, her shoulders relaxing visibly. “You seem too young to be his sister.”

“I stopped aging at 25.”

Kara looks over curiously, but Lena refuses to meet her eyes. She stares resolutely out the window, at once wishing she hadn’t said anything and hoping that Kara won’t ask.

She should have known - wishing has never worked for her.

“So you chose that age?” Kara asks blithely, and Lena’s stomach drops.

Memories start to crawl their way up the back of Lena’s neck no matter how hard she tries to stop them. Just flashes, all she ever lets herself remember – stinging at her neck, and blood in her mouth. A haze of bloodlust descending and driving her to madness. Hunger and fear and self-loathing in a powerful cocktail, pushing her forward until it faded to into nothing, taking her humanity with it.

She didn’t choose anything. She never has.

“No,” she answers quietly, and this time Kara obeys her silent wishes. She can tell that Kara wants to ask, but she doesn’t. She just keeps driving, and gives Lena space.

Lena silently buys her $300 worth of snacks during their next bathroom break, and Kara eats them with a soft smile on her face and one hand on the wheel.

 


 

It takes less than an hour for LuthorCorp to go into full panic mode the day Cat Grant reclaims her company.

One minute Lena is sipping her tea and tapping out a reply to Kara’s text that she just dropped Carter off at the Fortress, and the next she gets no less than 13 emails in succession and her work phone starts to ring on 3 different lines.

The emails are varying degrees of rage and panic from various upper level executives, including her mother calling an emergency board meeting in half an hour – the first phone line turns out to be Sam, who is clearly revelling in the chaos.

“Have you seen Lillian?” Sam says, her absolute joy leeching through the phone line. “She just went by my office, and she’s frothing at the mouth. She’s got a trail of frazzled execs behind her a mile long.”

“I haven’t, but I’m sure I’ll get to see it first-hand at the meeting she just demanded I attend,” Lena says, and sure enough in those brief few seconds another 3 emails arrive. The third is from Lillian again, asking why she isn’t answering her phone. “Speaking of, I need to go pretend to put out the fire. Wish me luck?”

“Go put on a show, Meryl Streep.”

The board meeting is exactly as excruciating as Lena thought it would be. Lillian is hell-bent on figuring out exactly how Cat Grant got dragged out of self-imposed exile to take her company back with Supergirl behind her, and she’s absolutely furious. Her fury is pointed at each person in the room in turn, including Lena, who she orders to hunt down the location of Cat’s son.

While Lena makes a show of taking the note down, Lillian’s fury turns to Morgan Edge.

It’s almost pitiful, watching him be systematically destroyed. She can see his sweat leeching through his gray suit jacket, and Lena needs to be grave, needs to pretend this shake-up is a problem she’s very focused on solving – but there’s something inside her rising up instead. A kind of absolute glee that she hasn’t felt since she was a child. It’s like a balloon, filling her chest until she wants to jump up and down, yell her joy to the sky.

It’s absolutely ridiculous. She tries to keep it down, but there’s only so long her control will hold – just as Lillian is asking Edge to explain himself, it bubbles up and out of her in a laugh.

The room falls silent, and Lillian’s attention turns to Lena.

“Is something funny to you?” she says coldly, and Lena sits up straighter, scrambling to cover her unexplainable mistake.

“Morgan’s incompetence has always amused me,” she manages to answer, willing her panic not to show in her voice. “As grave as the situation is, you can’t deny the humour in his inability to keep his own company from falling apart at the slightest provocation by an exiled vampire.”

She can feel Edge’s desperate glare burning the side of her face, but he’s the last thing on her mind. What matters is Lillian, her probing stare in the frightened silence of the boardroom.

When Lillian’s attention turns back to Edge, it’s something like what Lena imagines being passed over by a hungry dragon feels like. Her mother has another target, and she manages to finish out the meeting and shut herself in her office before she interrogates the feeling.

Edge is disgraced, fully and irrevocably, and Lillian did it herself. It couldn’t have gone any better. But Lena almost ruined the whole thing, and the reason why becomes apparent when she checks her personal phone and finds a text from Kara.

It’s a selfie in front of a taco truck, most of the frame taken up by Kara’s face and a stack of about 5 takeout boxes, followed by a caption.

[K.]: NEW KOREAN TACO TRUCK NEAR CATCO!!!!!

Lena drops her forehead down on the desk so hard that Jess rushes in looking for an intruder, but she can’t even bring herself to be properly angry.

After her morning, Korean tacos do sound really good.

 

Chapter Text

Working at CatCo with Cat at the helm again is better than Kara could have hoped.

She hadn’t realized exactly how ground down she’d been getting, working under Morgan Edge – even if he was almost never physically in the building, his influence was everywhere. Her stories were constantly getting vetoed, the publication started taking a very specific slant, and Kara was constantly having to battle to get herself heard.

With Cat back, she still has to fight – but she’s fighting to make herself a better reporter, rather than to keep Edge’s right-wing xenophobic nonsense out of the press.

Even the bullpen has a different energy with Cat back in that glass-walled office. People still scatter to look busy when Cat comes breezing out of her reclaimed personal elevator in the morning, but it’s mostly out of fear and respect rather than the fear and loathing that followed Edge everywhere he went. There’s a palpable relief in the staff and Kara feels it too, even when Cat calls her into the office on her second day back, which used to be a sign of impending disaster. Now she just feels excited, and ready to work.

And it’s a good thing, too – work finally being satisfying again is a good distraction from the confusion of her current relationship with Lena.

On the surface, nothing has changed. They still work together, still see each other to interrupt whatever small plots of Lillian’s that Lena catches wind of and to strategize for their future endeavours with the DEO. She isn’t cold or rude, like she was when they met – she’s perfectly accommodating, even to Alex and J’onn. But ever since their road trip to find Cat, when Lena had climbed into her bed and then sprinted into the night when she realized what was happening, things have felt different. Lena is more reserved, less likely to laugh or even smile at Kara’s dumb jokes. And to be honest, Kara feels off, too. The change is almost welcome.

This connection she has with Lena is a lot of things. Unexplainable, mysterious, fascinating, exhilarating – she’s gone with the flow so far, content just to have the opportunity to be close to her, but the night Lena had slipped into her bed was different. It hardly felt like Kara had control over herself at all. All she’d known was that Lena was close, and Kara wanted her closer. As if Lena heard her call she had slipped between her sheets, and for a few wonderful moments Kara had felt whole and at peace in a way she could barely recognize.

And then Lena had panicked, and the rest of the night was plagued by anxiety and doubt. Over Lena, a bit, but also over herself – control isn’t something Kara can afford to lose. Feeling Lena’s emotions is one thing, but to actually lose track of the movement of her body? If she doesn’t have control of herself, people get hurt. Even Lena, with all her powers, isn’t invincible. Not unless she drinks Kara’s blood, which she has clearly refused to do again.

It’s all very confusing, and Lena’s lack of communication isn’t helping any.

For now, there are other things to worry about. No matter what uncertainty she’s wrapped up in, the most important thing is still their goal. Neutralize Lillian and her friends, and keep Lex in prison where he belongs.

Cat doesn’t miss a beat when Kara walks into the office, notebook held to her chest.

“We have a meeting in half an hour. You’re going to need to change, and I need a coffee.”

Kara blinks, looking down at her navy button-up and chinos. She isn’t sure what Cat is complaining about. She looks fine - better than she did when Cat left, at least. Ever since Lena pointed out that the pastels and cardigans aren’t hiding as much as she thinks they are, Kara has been leaning into the more daring but much more comfortable side of her wardrobe. Darker colours, sleeker looks. A look that Nia once casually called handsome, and it made Kara so inexplicably happy that she went out and bought 6 more button-up shirts.

“Miss Grant, I’m…not really your assistant anymore,” Kara says, folding her arms. “And do you even need coffee? Lena says caffeine doesn’t really effect vam – ”

Cat snaps back without looking up from the layouts she’s scrutinizing. “This has nothing to do with CatCo, and everything to do with the assistance you asked for. You need my help to make Andrea Rojas a viable candidate to run against Max Lord.”

“Oh,” Kara says, her eyes widening. “Oh! Lena’s friend? You mean – that kind of meeting. You want me to be Supergirl?”

Cat rolls her eyes, finally looking up from her work and giving Kara a once-over. “As if I care about your wardrobe otherwise. Suddenly grown-up as it’s become.”

Kara glances down at her outfit again, this time with a grin. “You think I look grown up?”

“Confidence in your appearance will do wonders. Now, go change. The location is on your desk.”

Cat breezes past Kara without a second glance, heading to the elevator as Kara’s coworkers stare very hard at their computer screens in an effort to look hard at work.

“Am I…still bringing you coffee?” Kara asks the empty air, but Cat is already gone.

Kara doesn’t bring the coffee. She does get changed, though, and when she zooms towards the address Cat scrawled and stuck to her computer screen she hardly has to tune her senses in before she can hear Cat’s haughty tone. It’s a building she’s never been to, a nondescript office with a 14th floor balcony – a neutral location, probably. Somewhere Lillian won’t easily sniff them out.

“I have to say, I didn’t expect you to abandon Lillian so easily,” Cat is saying, the click of her heels as she advances slowly on her conversation partner adding a thinly veiled threat to the tone. “She has a great deal of control over your company. It’s a big risk.”

A second voice chuckles, low and rich. “Well, Lena asked. I never could say no to her.”

Kara detects no third heartbeat in the room, no trace of Lena in the building. Part of her had been hoping that a meeting with Lena’s supposed old friend would involve Lena, too – no matter how weird things are between them, she still wants to see her – but no such luck.

“I remember hearing that through the grapevine,” Cat says, her voice laden with heavy meaning. “You two were rather close once upon a time, as I recall.”

Kara can feel the second heartbeat pick up, an irregular speeding rhythm that calms down again almost as quickly before Andrea replies.

“That was all a long time ago. I’m just glad we’re working together again. Although I never thought it would mean also working with the elusive queen of all media.”

Cat chuckles drily. Kara can hear her folding her arms. “Miss Luthor has a way of inspiring allegiance, even if she doesn’t realize it.”

“True,” Andrea says, almost in a sigh, and there’s a sort of longing in her voice that it doesn’t take Kara long to recognize.

It’s far too close to what Kara feels when Lena walks into a room.

This isn’t the first time that jealousy has risen like acid in her throat, but Kara tries to swallow it down. It’s an emotion she hates, one that makes her feel bitter and angry, and it tends to coincide with bad decisions or outbursts. She still remembers how it ate at her to see James and Lucy together, all those years ago before everyone realized they were better as friends. Jealousy makes her irrational, makes her lose control of her powers.

That’s the last thing she needs, right now.

She takes a few breaths to steady herself, and before the conversation can continue to other topics Kara doesn’t want to hear she zooms towards the balcony. She alights on it less gently than usual, making her presence known as soon as her boots hit the floor, and two heads snap towards the open balcony door.

Briefly Kara wonders if it’s intentional that every major building in National City has a balcony on the top floor, or if it’s a new development since Supergirl started being known to land there.

She doesn’t have much time to consider it. Her mind is drawn instead to the people in the room, and the jealousy she thought she’d successfully tamed comes roaring back.

Andrea is beautiful.

Kara can tell within the first few seconds of their eye contact that their working relationship is not going to be smooth sailing. Andrea carries herself like she knows exactly how she looks – her chestnut hair is silky, her outfit is perfectly pressed, her nails shiny and perfectly manicured where they rest on her crossed arms. Confident, composed, controlled. Everything Kara isn’t. Lena still refuses to disclose the exact details of her past with the woman, but Kara can almost feel the complication in the weight of the look Andrea pins her with. It’s laden with tension, but betrays nothing of Andrea’s thoughts.

Lena is composed like that too, but Kara has always been able to see the softness underneath. Andrea has no such vulnerability on her sleeve. She stares at Kara with a completely neutral expression, not sparing her so much as an eyebrow twitch.

“Ah, here she is. Almost late,” Cat remarks. Andrea’s eyes never leave Kara.

“You said half an hour,” Kara says, fighting to keep the annoyance out of her voice. The last thing she needs is for her first impression to be sounding like a petulant child being scolded. “It’s been 12 minutes.”

Cat gestures for her to step inside. “Andrea, this is –“

“Supergirl,” Andrea interrupts, rounding the desk she’s placed herself behind to lean against the front. She doesn’t approach Kara, doesn’t extend her hand to shake, but instead looks her up and down from her boots to her hair with a cool, calculating expression. Her eyes are a steely grey rather than Lena’s vibrant heterochromia, but all of it reminds Kara of Lena in a way that confuses her – Lena when they first met, before she warmed up. When her guard was up constantly. “I haven’t had the pleasure. You’re…shorter than I thought you’d be.”

Kara’s jaw twitches. Andrea’s eyes flick down to it, and the corner of her mouth quirks in the tiniest of smug grins. It makes Kara’s insides feel squirmy – and not in the good way, like when Lena stands too close and Kara can smell her perfume. This is bad, a bad feeling that leeches into her chest like anxiety. Her hands clench into fists, and she straightens her back as if better posture will help the situation.

“Good to finally meet you,” Kara says, planting her hands on her hips. Her cape flares behind her a little, and it makes her feel a little better when Andrea’s eyes follow it. Lena likes to poke fun at her for the cheesiness of the pose, but it’s better than fidgeting, which is what her hands want to do. “Lena has told me a lot about you.”

Lena has barely told Kara anything, actually. But Andrea picks up on the intonation of the statement – Lena trusts me – and unfortunately, she returns Kara’s serve with a single devastating word.

“Likewise.”

Well, that backfired. If this was a tennis match, Kara would be facedown on the court right now.

“All right, ladies, put them back in your pants,” Cat interrupts, rolling her eyes and walking right through their stalemate to take a seat on the black leather couch nearby. In her first display of emotion since Kara landed on the balcony, Andrea looks irritated by her frankness. “We have work to do. If Andrea is to make any real attempt at running for mayor, she’s going to need protection when it all comes to a head.”

“How bad do you think it will get?” Kara asks, and Andrea chuckles derisively.

Bad,” she drawls, and it’s incredible how a single word can make Kara feel so small. “Lillian doesn’t take kindly to betrayal, or failure. The moment I defect, it’ll be open season.”

“Which is why I think we should avoid that route. The most efficient and safe way to do this would be to make Lillian feel like it’s all her idea, until the last possible moment,” Cat says, and Kara answers before Andrea can.

“How do we do that?”

“The old-fashioned way,” Cat says, with an almost gleeful smile. “Dig up dirt on Max, and have Andrea move in to fill the political vacuum left by a well-crafted exposé. Make it look like she’s moving in to help Lillian, to keep a human from winning Max’s lost votes.”

Andrea looks calculating, but impressed. “Clever. Unfortunately, it’s all about as easy as threading a moving needle.” Her fingers drum on her crossed arms, and again Kara is reminded of Lena. The details of her relationship with Andrea are still a mystery, but clearly they were close enough to pick up each others habits. The squirmy feeling comes back, and it makes her want to fidget.

“Well, we have access to government resources,” Kara pipes up, and when Andrea finally looks interested for the first time in the conversation, she hastily corrects herself. “Private government resources. I’ll work with Lena to find what we need, and keep Andrea as far from the action as possible.”

Andrea frowns, looking like she means to argue, but Kara speaks up again before she can. “To keep up appearances, you know? Can’t have you interacting with Supergirl publicly.”

Kara could almost convince herself that she’s telling the truth, if it weren’t for the ugly feeling in her stomach every time Andrea echoes Lena’s body language. She can’t tell whether Andrea subconsciously mimics Lena or the other way around, but either way it’s a reminder that they are – or were, at least – close in a way that Lena won’t allow herself to get with Kara.

At Kara’s shut-down, Andrea’s expression hardens. It’s like a frost has descended on her whole demeanour, the almost playful condescension replaced by actual anger, and this time she won’t be silenced.

Lena should also be working harder to keep her cover,” Andrea snaps, surprising even Cat with her sudden seriousness. “If Lillian finds out she’s working with you –”

“Lena can take care of herself,” Kara fires back, holding her ground. “And if necessary, I can keep her safe. I will keep her safe.”

Andrea laughs, quick and arrogant. “Lillian will burn the world to the ground before she sees her daughter working with a Kryptonian –”

“Enough.”

Cat’s voice is quiet, but the power behind it shuts both of them up. Kara’s hands ball into fists, and Andrea has the grace to at least look abashed for her outburst. Slowly Cat stands from her seat on the couch, somehow managing to tower over two women who are several inches taller than she is. It’s a talent that Kara has always marvelled at.

“I did not put myself and my son in danger again to come here and hear you bicker like two ends of a love triangle in some dime-store paperback,” Cat says evenly, but somehow the calmness is even more unsettling than Andrea’s anger. “Do you understand?”

“Sorry,” Kara mutters. Andrea doesn’t apologize, but she nods tightly, and Cat seems satisfied.

“Wonderful. Andrea’s campaign will need some time to ramp up, even with our help. In the meantime, Supergirl, go back to your people and find something we don’t know about Max Lord. Andrea,” Cat says, handing a small, massively outdated flip phone to the brunette, “if we need to contact you, we’ll do so on this. It’s almost as old as I am, and nobody will think to try to hack it.”

Andrea pockets it with a neutral expression. “Understood.”

There’s a few beats of awkward silence, and Cat’s attention turns to Kara.

“Well?” Cat says impatiently, gesturing out the still-open balcony. “Get to it!”

Having essentially gotten Cat’s permission to take the rest of the day off, Kara heads to the DEO straight from the meeting. She relays Cat’s idea to the team and after Brainy has gone to call Nia and J’onn has left to dig into the DEO’s classified files, she’s left alone in the briefing room with Alex, whose nose is buried in her phone.

No matter what Kara does, she can’t seem to get her sister’s attention. She sighs at steadily increasing volumes; she swishes her cape forlornly. She taps her fingers impatiently on the conference table, but Alex is still focused on her phone, and finally Kara just breaks.

“So, I met Andrea Rojas,” Kara blurts, startling Alex out of whatever she’s staring at on the little screen. She looks up at Kara and blinks a few times, like she’d forgotten she wasn’t alone in the room before looking back down.

“And?” Alex says distractedly. Kara sighs again, flopping not quite gently enough into the nearest chair. It creaks under the force, and she frowns at it.

And…I think she has feelings for Lena.”

Alex, frustratingly, seems unsurprised.

“So?” she shrugs, only looking up for a brief moment. “So do you. It’s an epidemic, apparently.”

“Well, they have a past!” Kara argues, sitting up straight to emphasize her point. “A romantic one, I think. You should have seen the way Andrea talked about her. She even crosses her arms the same way.“

“Didn’t Lena say she and Andrea were just friends?” Alex says, her eyes still on her phone. She taps out what seems like a message, and then frowns and deletes it.

Kara shakes her head. “You didn’t see her. She’s gorgeous. And she and Lena have everything in common, why wouldn’t they –“

“Why is this your business?” Alex interrupts, finally looking at Kara for more than a few seconds. Kara almost wishes she hadn’t, because it’s much harder to justify herself when her sister is on the other side of the argument.

There are a lot of answers Kara could give. Because Lena is acting weird and I don’t know why. Because Andrea is hot and I don’t quite trust her. Because the night Lena asked Andrea for help, I felt her butterflies from across town.

Because I’m in love with her, and I hate imagining her with someone else.

But in the end, there’s only one answer that would be both true and fair to Lena.

“It isn’t,” Kara finally admits grudgingly.

Alex nods, seemingly satisfied. “So, leave it. No matter how you feel about her, Lena’s personal life isn’t yours to dissect.”

Alex’s attention wanes again and Kara spins in her chair, pouting at the otherwise empty room.

Alex is right. Kara is a little mad that her sister has apparently chosen now of all times to defend Lena’s privacy, but she’s right. Kara has no right to be jealous, as much as she wishes she did. Her feelings don’t give her any rights over Lena’s choices. It’s unfair to Lena and to Andrea, as standoffish and slightly mean as the latter is.

And Andrea is helping them out, at great personal risk. She should try to be nicer next time. No matter how much it makes her want to fly into the sun.

Alex swipes on her phone again, her face turning frowny, and Kara’s eyes narrow. It’s suspicious enough activity to pull her from her own problems, and she spins the chair back around to face her sister fully.

“Speaking of not my business. What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” Alex says quickly, slipping the phone into her pocket. Kara squints harder, standing up and moving closer just as Alex takes a step back.

“Not nothing,” Kara says, pointing at the rectangle in Alex’s pocket. “I’ve never seen you look at your phone for that long. Phones are utilitarian, isn’t that what you always say?”

“I was…playing a game,” Alex says, as if Kara doesn’t know that she’s never played a mobile game in her entire life. Her eyes are wide and guilty, but not in an overly serious way – just in a I don’t want my sister knowing what I’m doing way, which only feeds Kara’s curiosity.

“What game?” Kara asks, swiping at Alex’s pocket. She could grab it if she really wanted to, with her superspeed, but she doesn’t actually want to invade Alex’s privacy. She just wants Alex to tell her, and sometimes the only way to do that is to push a little.

“It’s – flappy bird!” Alex claims, removing the phone and holding it behind her and out of Kara’s reach.

“Flappy bird is tapping. You were swiping,” Kara points out, and Alex’s eyes dart around guiltily.

“…fruit ninja?”

“Your phone was portrait and not landscape.”

Alex is holding her phone up and away but Kara can still see the screen, and while Alex panics, a banner lights it up. One Kara recognizes from the days when she was still trying to date like a normal person.

“Alex, are you on Tinder?”

“No!” Alex practically shouts, but even as she denies it another message banner appears. Kara raises her eyebrows pointedly, crossing her arms in a patented sister interrogation pose, and finally Alex cracks.

“Okay, yes,” she hisses, glancing towards the door like someone could be lurking behind it. “Just – stop talking so loud?”

Kara quiets her voice, but there’s no way she’s letting her off the hook completely.

“Fine, but why didn’t you tell me you were dating again?” she asks, and Alex shrugs.

“I’m not!”

Kara stares at her, unblinking, until Alex sighs and relaxes her rigid posture.

“I mean – I’m trying, but I’m not really connecting with anyone,” she admits. She looks tired, sinking down onto one of the benches that line the walls and rubbing her face.

“Is it Maggie?” Kara asks, sitting gingerly beside her. “I thought you were feeling okay about the breakup?”

“I was – I am,” Alex insists, gesturing firmly with her hand. “I thought I was ready to date again, and I feel ready, I just…nobody feels right. I‘m realizing now that even though I loved her, even Maggie didn’t feel right. Not all the way.”

Kara knows this is Alex’s small crisis. She shouldn’t be thinking selfish thoughts. But even so, she can’t help but think about Lena, and how right she feels. Even now, when their strange relationship is on shaky ground.

Kara has known how she feels about Lena with such certainty from the moment they met that she didn’t even have to have some big realization of love. She just knows it, like it’s a law of the universe. She loves Lena. She feels like she’s always loved Lena, even before they met. Her wapow moment was when they first touched, and Kara’s world was reshaped. It was the first time Lena said Kara’s real name in that soft voice, the first time Lena smiled at her genuinely and without reservation. When Kara touched Lena’s soul, and knew her in a way she didn’t think was possible.

Lena is complicated, and their connection is messy. But every time Kara gets a sliver of the real Lena she knows is hiding underneath the layers upon layers of aloof façade, it’s worth all the trouble.

She knows she loves Lena. She knows they’re right. She just has to wait for Lena to accept it, too, however long it takes.

“I’m sorry, Alex,” Kara says genuinely, slinging an arm around her sister’s shoulders. “You’ll find your person. Whether it’s on Tinder or out in the world, she’s waiting for you.”

Alex puts her head on Kara’s shoulder, relaxing fully for the first time since this conversation began.

“And until then, I’m going to tease you mercilessly for getting Tinder when you once made fun of me for online dating,” Kara finishes, and Alex groans.

“Can we just let it go?”

“Nope. It’s my duty as a sister.”

 


 

One good thing that’s come of her confusing, complicated road trip with Lena – besides having Cat back, at least – is that Lena is much more welcome at the DEO afterwards. J’onn’s attitude has moved from distrust to begrudging respect, and Lena no longer needs Kara to accompany her to all corners of the headquarters. It extends so far that when Kara and Alex finally leave the conference room and head to the labs to help J’onn with his research, she runs almost headlong into Lena in the corridor, completely chaperone-less.

Lena, her head bowed as she scribbles in a notebook, bounces off Kara’s chest almost comically when they collide. Her fast reflexes mean she shoots a hand out to catch herself quickly, only to find that the only thing to catch herself on is Kara’s outstretched arm.

“Lena!” Kara breathes, eyes darting back and forth between Lena’s startled face and where her hand grasps Kara’s wrist. It’s easy enough to pull her arm up until Lena is upright again, and Lena lets go immediately. “What are you doing here?”

Lena, realizing how close they’re suddenly standing, takes a firm step back as she straightens her blazer. Her cheeks are dusted pink, Kara notes with a hint of joy. “Looking for you, actually.”

“No, I mean how did you – wait, really? Me?”

“I got in because J’onn gave me access,” Lena says, holding up one of the swipe cards Kara sometimes sees the DEO staff wearing on a lanyard. It has no name or picture, but clearly it works either way. “And yes, you. I’ve found something we can use.”

J’onn gave you an access card?” Alex asks, but she sounds less accusatory than she usually does. Instead she just seems shocked at J’onn’s sudden and uncharacteristic compliance.

“Apparently getting Cat back was what he needed to trust me. At least, enough to let me into the building without an escort,” Lena says drily. “I came because Sam gave me an idea. Can we talk?”

When J’onn and Brainy have joined them again – and Nia, on speakerphone after being annoyed at being left out of the first meeting – Lena finally explains herself.

“So who is Sam, and what idea did she give you?” Alex asks, a strange curiosity in her voice that sets off something in Kara’s brain. Something she can’t identify, but files away for later.

“Sam is a financial analyst at LuthorCorp, and my closest friend. I trust her implicitly,” Lena says firmly. “And she reminded me that even fae have to get their backing money from somewhere. We can’t cut off the money supply to Max’s campaign, but we can call it into question in a way that destroys his public trust. People don’t want their Mayor taking dirty money.”

“Okay, who funds Max’s campaigns?” Kara asks, already excited for the new lead. “Besides LuthorCorp?”

Lena is quick to answer, tapping away at a keyboard and bringing something up on the screen with ease as if she’s always worked here. It’s a company logo, one Kara doesn’t recognize.

“His biggest backer is Graves Industries,” Lena says. Nia pipes up, her voice tinny over the phone line.

“As in, Mercy Graves? Who runs the prisons for Lillian?”

Lena meets Kara’s eyes, an amusement dancing in them at Nia’s interjection that gives Kara hope. It’s lighter than she’s seen Lena in a while. “One in the same.”

“So, we investigate Max by investigating another person? This is getting complicated,” Alex grumbles.

“Not all situations can be solved by pointing a gun at them, Alex,” Nia says, and Alex stiffens indignantly as her gaze snaps to the phone still held aloft in Brainy’s hand.

“Hey! Don’t make me hang up on you.”

“Brainy wouldn’t let you –“

Brainy shields the phone from Alex’s attempt to grab it, and before the situation can devolve Lena interrupts.

“Graves Industries might seem airtight on the surface, but the veneer is covering a lot of sins,” she says loudly, commanding the attention of the room again. “If we play our cards right and find proof that Mercy’s money is dirty, CatCo can run the story. There will be an inquest into Max’s donors. And then the floodgates will open.”

“Right,” Kara says, nodding. “Right. Two birds with one stone – Mercy, and Max. Do you have any suggestions on where to start?”

“Seeing as it was Sam’s idea, I think she’d be an asset.”

For the first time since this meeting started, J’onn speaks up.

“I’m not sure I want to add another person to our expanding visitors list,” he grumbles, rubbing his chin – and to Kara’s surprise, it’s Alex who defends Lena’s plan.

“I think it’s a good idea, actually.”

The room goes silent.

All eyes are on Alex, who turns crimson under the attention and rubs nervously at the base of her neck. She seems uncomfortable, but sure in her decision for reasons Kara can’t fathom.

“Since when are you open to outside help?” Kara asks, still flabbergasted at the sudden turn her sister’s attitude has taken lately. Alex just shrugs, moving her hands to her hips to rest on her weapon like a comfort object.

“I don’t know. I just have a good feeling about it, I guess. Lena trusts this Sam person, right?”

A week ago, Alex would probably have rather been waterboarded than work with one more person outside the DEO. The sudden pivot in opinion is surprising, even to Alex herself – she doesn’t seem to understand her own position, if the confusion written on her face is any indication.

Kara is going to have to investigate that, later.

Even with Alex’s support, J’onn insists that Sam not be invited to the DEO right away for security reasons. In another shocking turn of events Lena agrees gracefully, and instead she arranges to have Kara meet Sam for the first time a few days later.

The neutral place Lena suggested was Sam’s apartment, which turns out to be a condo not far from Lena’s (although considerably more modest). And Kara spends most of the preceding hours somewhat dreading it. She wants to go in with no preconceptions, but she can’t help it – her hackles are up from the moment she lands in front of Sam’s building and marches inside to knock on door 3B.

The last time she was introduced to one of Lena’s friends was Andrea, who had made her feel both horribly inferior and nauseatingly jealous. And Sam, at first glance, seems just as flawless despite her differences to the latter – instead of being curvy Sam is tall and willowy, with soft brown hair and a killer smile. The biggest difference Kara can see between Sam and Andrea, though, is in the eyes – even in the few seconds she has to contemplate it as she enters the room, she can see that Sam’s brown eyes are warm where Andrea’s grey ones were frosty and piercing.

That’s about all the time she has to make notes. When she strides in as Supergirl, hands on hips and ready to defend herself against more insults about her height, the stoic wind is taken out of her sails the second Sam lays eyes on her.

“Huh,” Sam says, grinning wide and putting her hands on her hips in a somehow flattering mirroring of Kara’s stance. “CatCo Magazine was right. You’re much cuter in person.”

Sam!” Lena hisses, stepping in front of the other brunette as if her small frame will somehow block the eyeline of someone who is pushing six feet in heels. “I told you to be on your best behaviour –“

Kara is grateful for the distraction of it, though, because the comment has her almost walking into (and directly through) the nearest wall, and she needs time to catch herself and get herself under control before she makes an idiot of herself.

“When did – CatCo never said –“ Kara tries to argue, but Sam just laughs at her sputtering.

“Maybe it was the comments section. Either way, I get it.” Sam ends the comment with a wink, and Lena huffs audibly.

“I didn’t bring her here so you could hit on her,” Lena mutters, crossing her arms almost petulantly. “Why does everyone always –“

She trails off before she finishes that sentence, but Kara gets the gist.

It’s sort of cute, honestly. Lena doesn’t feel genuinely upset, like Kara has experienced before. Lena’s anger always feels like black ice – shoved down deep until it gets so cold that it burns, searing anything it touches. This is barely a tickle, tinged with exasperated affection. She’s just being teased by a friend, and is adorably irritated about it.

And maybe even a tiny bit jealous.

“It’s just an added bonus,” Sam says, grinning conspiratorially at Kara. Kara smiles back, with much less confidence but at least relieved that this meeting looks to be going much better than this morning. Miles better. Sam is so different, so diametrically opposed to Andrea, that Kara almost forgets what she’s here for.

Sam is friendly, funny, kind. She teases Lena constantly, and Lena just rolls her eyes good-naturedly and looks to Kara for backup. Sam seems like a true friend rather than just an ally, bringing out a lighter side of Lena that Kara knew was there, but Lena had hasn’t often felt safe enough to show. Now that she’s seen it, she never wants to let it go.

All in all, the meeting goes better than Kara could have imagined. Sam is just as smart as Lena promised, and eager to help – if it were up to Kara, she’d be invited to the DEO immediately. Since it isn’t, they make a plan to meet again to start the investigation into Mercy, this time out of her Supergirl regalia to avoid suspicion. She’s pretty sure that Sam already knows her alter ego anyways, considering Lena seems to tell her everything.

Kara comes away from it with a smile on her face, and Sam pointedly pushes Lena out the door with her with a suggestion that she walk the brunette to her car.

“I’m sorry about her,” Lena says, the moment they round the corner towards the elevator. “She’s one of the smartest people I know, but often it only makes her more unbearable.”

Kara laughs, shrugging as Lena hits the call button. “No need to apologize. I really liked her.”

“Of course you did,” Lena sighs. The numbers above the elevator crawl down towards the third floor, and Lena’s fingers drum on her own crossed arm. “I was worried you two would get along. Like a house on fire.”

“I thought you were the arsonist, here?” Kara says, nudging Lena gently with an elbow and hoping against hope that her lightened mood is still in effect. To her intense relief, instead of shutting down like she has been lately, Lena very clearly suppresses a smile.

“I burnt down one meth lab. You’re never going to let me live it down, are you?”

“Probably not.”

The elevator finally dings, and Lena steps through as soon as the door opens. Kara follows, her cape swishing as she turns around to hit the button for the parking garage, and Lena notably makes no protest. She really doesn’t need to be walked to her car – Lena can take care of herself, as she’s proven time and time again – but Kara will take any opportunity to spend a few more moments with her, and if Lena doesn’t seem to mind, Kara will take what she can get.

“You two seem close,” Kara says, shifting her weight back and forth. She can feel the elevator creaking slightly with each movement, and she stops abruptly before she breaks something. “Have you known each other a long time?”

“We haven’t, actually,” Lena answers, to Kara’s surprise. The elevator slows, the doors sliding open, and Lena doesn’t look ready to bolt. She actually seems like she might want to talk. “About 6 years. I try to pepper LuthorCorp with sympathetic employees as much as I can, to loosen Lillian’s monopoly. Hiring Sam when we moved to National City was a no-brainer.”

“Are there a lot of other sympathetic vampires working for you?” Kara asks, and Lena frowns as she steps out and into the florescent lighting.

“Sam isn’t fae.”

Kara blinks. She hadn’t been expecting that, and for Lena to throw it off the cuff as she walks away throws her off. But her eyes adjust quickly to the light, and she steps out to follow as the click of Lena’s heels echoes against the concrete walls.

“She isn’t?”

Lena shakes her head, her back still to Kara. “Is everyone you know an alien? No, Sam is human.”

There’s something about the way Lena says it, how she brushes it off with such practiced indifference, that tells Kara there’s more to it than that. She doesn’t feel like Lena is lying about Sam being human, but she isn’t telling the whole truth, either. Holding something back.

Whatever it is, she’s sure that pushing the issue won’t help. Lena will tell her if it’s necessary.

“Oh. I just assumed, since Andrea –“ Kara starts, but clears her throat when Lena stiffens at the woman’s name. Her pace quickens, and Kara almost has to jog to keep up. “And, she knows about you? About Lillian?”

“Sam knows just about everything,” Lena says, smiling tightly. “Even things I wish she didn’t, sometimes.”

“I get it,” Kara says, as Lena stops next to a nondescript black Beamer and unlocks it with a flash of the headlights. “Alex is like that. She just knows things, sometimes. She has a crazy intuition, when she’s not in ‘protective sister’ mode.”

“I’m sure they’ll be an absolutely insufferable team when they meet,” Lena says drily. Kara expects her to open the car door and get in, try to duck out of the conversation as quickly as possible, but to her surprise Lena leans against it instead, crossing her arms. “I’m glad you took to her so quickly. Any idea I offer to your friends is put under the microscope, and having Sam on board is going to be a huge asset. Your support…really helps. Especially given how I’ve been acting lately.”

Kara’s heart jumps. It’s not quite a thank you, just like the not-quite-apology Lena offered on the drive home from Cat’s cabin. But the intent is there, even if Lena is catastrophically bad at voicing it. Maybe it’s something they can work on, someday. Either way, it’s way more than Kara is expecting, and she swallows past a sudden lump in her throat before replying.

“Well, you know. I’m here for you,” Kara shrugs, kicking at a rock and watching it skitter across the pavement rather than meeting Lena’s eyes for what feels like a confession. “No matter what. I know how much pressure you’re under.”

Lena is quiet, but Kara can feel something working in her mind. Some complicated emotion that neither of them can parse. The closest Kara can come to identifying it is guilt, but that doesn’t make sense. Lena has nothing to be guilty for. Not in Kara’s eyes.

When Kara gets brave enough to glance up, she catches a look she wasn’t expecting – Lena is looking at her with something like tenderness. There’s a softness in her eyes that Kara has never caught before, something unguarded and raw in the way she stares that disappears almost the moment Kara looks up. But it was there.

Kara has felt it before, and now she’s seen it. At least for a heartbeat, Lena had thought about letting her in.

“I should go,” Lena says, more softly than usual. “So should you. Quickly, so nobody sees you here. Sam is mostly off my mother’s radar, but we don’t want to give her any reason to change that.”

“Right,” Kara says, clearing her throat. “Yeah. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

She can’t quite keep the hopefulness out of her voice, and Lena smiles almost imperceptibly.

“Tomorrow.”

Finally Lena opens the car door and slips inside, and Kara jumps out of the way as she pulls out and towards the exit. The Beamer stops before pulling out on the street, and Kara could swear that Lena is looking at her in the rearview mirror – but then she’s gone, the engine revving unnecessarily as she peals out and towards her own penthouse.

Kara knows that Lena can’t see her, but she smiles anyways as she waves goodbye to an empty garage.

 


 

It ends up being a godsend that Sam is so enjoyable to be around, because their investigation into Max Lord and Mercy ends up taking far longer than Kara expected.

She’s sure that if the three of them could just sit down for the better part of a day and hammer it out together, they’d have it figured out by now. But between Kara having essentially two jobs, Sam’s apparently jam-packed work schedule, and Lena needing to avoid being seen anywhere near Supergirl, the most they’re usually able to steal is an hour at a time scattered throughout the week.

It’s frustrating, but the annoyance is balanced out by the fact that Lena is finally acting normal again.

Well, normal for Lena is still fairly aloof by anyone else’s standards, but Kara feels less anxiety coming from her. Maybe it’s Sam’s influence, or maybe it’s some sort of internal struggle Lena is having - all Kara knows is that Lena smiles at her now the same way she did before their trip to find Cat, and she’s thrilled about it.

Even so, the campaigning season for the Mayoral election is looming and their time to pin Max with something damning is running out. As much as she prefers to have Lena around at all times, for the sake of the task at hand Kara ends up alone with Sam, her laptop, and a jumbo container of cheese puffs with Lena conspicuously absent.

For the first time they have a chance to really dig in without needing to interrupt the process, settling in for hours of research. And for the first time, Kara is alone with Lena’s best friend.

Even with the sizable chunk of dedicated time, Kara finds that she’s not getting much work done – but they’re seated facing each other at the kitchen island, so the fact that Kara’s screen is blank is at least not obvious. Sam is typing away, staring intensely at her screen and intermittently stuffing her mouth with Kara’s offered cheese puffs and coffee, and Kara torn between wanting to make a good impression on her and the desire to soak up every scrap of information she can about Lena while she has the chance.

She’s still undecided on which route to take when Sam sits up straight, stretches out her long limbs, and looks up at Kara with a knowing grin.

“You’re thinking so loudly that I can practically hear it. If you have a question about Lena, you can just ask.”

Kara drops her handful of cheese puffs.

“That’s not what I was thinking about!” Kara tries to bluster, scooping the puffs up from the floor and almost putting them in her mouth before remembering she has company. Regretfully dropping them in the trash instead, she tries for nonchalance. “I was thinking about…Mercy.”

“Right,” Sam drawls. “And I’m a magical unicorn.”

“Hey, you very well could be for all I know,” Kara points out, and Sam laughs. “I know this is hypocritical coming from an alien, but this whole vampire thing is way too complicated. I only just found out you’re not fae.”

“Did Lena tell you anything else?” Sam asks, further solidifying Kara’s theory that Sam is somehow unique. She still doesn’t know how, but Sam seems like the type to reveal it when the time is right.

“No, just that you were human,” Kara answers instead. “And annoyingly knowledgeable, in her words.”

“Well, that’s a matter of perspective,” Sam says, throwing a cheese puff in the air and catching it perfectly in her mouth. “I prefer wise. Which is why I can smell your bullshit from a mile away.”

She points at Kara with a cheese-dusted finger, and Kara groans.

“Of course you can,” Kara mutters, letting her head fall forward to hit the table. “I’ve never been a good liar, Alex has always said so.”

“You can’t be that bad, considering you’ve kept up a secret identity. Kara Danvers, CatCo reporter, and all that.”

“Clearly I haven’t kept it up very well, if you knew without me telling you,” Kara points out, still facedown. Sam laughs, poking her in the shoulder until she raises her head. Oddly, it reminds her of Alex.

“I have Lena, so it doesn’t count. She talks about you more than she realizes.”

“She does?” Kara asks, immediately straightening up. It’s painfully obvious, but somehow with Sam she doesn’t care. There’s something understanding in her eyes. Something comforting.

“She’d be mortified if I told her, but yes,” Sam says, planting an elbow on the table and putting her chin in her hand. “It’s been like that since you met.”

Kara wasn’t expecting it, but knowing that Lena talks about her as much as she talks about Lena is the biggest relief she’s felt in a long time. It comes out of her in a big exhale, and she slumps down on her stool, mirroring Sam’s position.

“I didn’t realize. She’s not exactly the easiest person to read,” Kara says, still reeling. Imagining Lena thinking about her, bringing her up unprompted. Kara knows that Lena is fond of her, can feel it often, but fondness is different from the depth of feeling that Kara holds for her. She’s always felt like Lena is holding back, but to know that there are times when she doesn’t? It’s game-changing.

Sam nods, taking a sip of room-temperature coffee and wincing. “That’s intentional. It’s a mask she puts on every time someone else is around, besides me. She wants people to think she’s so tough, but underneath it all…”

“Yeah,” Kara says, grinning absently at her empty computer screen. “She’s not what people think she is.”

“Total softie,” Sam says. There’s affection in her voice too, but of another kind. More like the way Alex talks about Kara when she thinks Kara can’t hear.

“Why is she like that?” Kara asks, thinking over all the times Lena has clammed up and shut her out. The way she insisted on being brusque and borderline rude to everyone at the DEO at first. How she wouldn’t even tell Kara her name, when they met. “It’s like she wants people to dislike her. She’s built a brick wall between herself and the world.”

“It’s comfortable for her, being hated. She thinks it’s easier than disappointing people.”

“Why would she think people would be disappointed?”

Sam shrugs. “The world has hurt her. A lot. It’s not really my place to say, but she’s been through more than most people realize.”

Kara nods thoughtfully. “I mean, I can sense that, a little. That there’s stuff she keeps inside. Dark things. Sometimes when I concentrate hard enough, I can sort of…feel it?”

She lilts her voice into a question at the end, testing the waters for Sam’s reaction. And Sam responds in exactly the way Kara expected – she’s thoughtful, but not surprised.

“And that doesn’t bother you?” Sam asks, seeming genuinely curious. “That connection?”

The use of that word – connection – tells Kara everything she needs to know. Sam is aware of the situation in detail, whether because Lena told her or because she has some kind of strange and mysterious omniscience. She probably knows even more than Kara herself. It seems strange, but that comforts Kara more than it bothers her. At least someone knows what’s going on.

Kara shrugs. “There’s a lot in this world that can’t be explained. It confused me at first, but I decided I just need to go with it. If I’m going to be inexplicably connected to anyone, I’m just glad it’s her.”

Sam seems pleasantly surprised by the admission. She smiles, slow and warm, and Kara feels like maybe she just passed some kind of test.

“It’d be nice to have an explanation someday, though,” Kara says, turning back to her laptop. “If one exists.”

Sam just smiles enigmatically.

“Again, not my place. Give her time. She’ll explain it all to you eventually.”

Kara wasn’t expecting any closure on the subject out of this conversation, but Sam’s words are comforting anyways. There is something to her connection with Lena, something beyond normal, and eventually she’ll get an explanation. That’s more than good enough for her.

“Okay. Back to work, then.”

Sam nods, seeming surprised but impressed by Kara’s acceptance.

“Back to work.”

They work in companionable silence again for a while, the only sounds being the tapping of keys and the crunching of the last remaining cheese puffs. Kara actually makes some headway this time, much less distracted by thoughts of Lena, but even with her renewed focus, finding anything of real substance is still almost impossible.

“I don’t understand how someone so clearly corrupt can run a company so successfully,” Kara mutters, scrolling through yet another thinkpiece featuring a glowing interview with Mercy Graves. “How does she do it?”

“It happens more than you think.”

“But there has to be something, right?” Kara says, throwing her hands up. “She can’t be completely clean, especially if she’s laundering money and basically sending indentured servants to LuthorCorp.”

“Laundering money,” Sam says, looking suddenly thoughtful. “Shit. Laundering money. God, I’ve been so stupid –“

“What do you mean?” Kara asks, scooting out of her chair and moving to stand behind Sam. Her computer screen is full of open tabs, and she pulls one up to start typing.

“We’ve been trying to get to Mercy Graves’ financials, but they’re locked down tight,” Sam says, entering a password so quickly that even Kara can’t follow it. “We should be looking into possible sources. A trail goes both ways. And what’s the most likely source of dirty money in Lillian’s network?”

“…Corben?” Kara suggests, but Sam is already typing lightning-fast. Feeling like maybe they just made exactly the breakthrough they need, Kara pulls out her phone.

“Let me make a call. We have him in custody, I’ll get Brainy to –“

“No need, I’m in.”

In seconds Sam has bank statements pulled up, and Kara slowly puts the phone back down on the table. “Wow. I can see why Lena likes you.”

“This, and my handsome face,” Sam grins, her eyes darting across the screen. The further down she scrolls, the more gleeful she seems at what she finds. “Corben is much less careful than he needs to be with his money. If I had to guess, Lillian and Max fund Corben’s criminal activities through untraceable offshore accounts, and the money Corben makes in turn gets passed as private donations through Mercy’s prisons and handed back to them.”

“That sounds…complicated,” Kara says, firing off a text to Alex and Lena to tell them their progress. “They really go that far just to make money?”

“It’s a genius little system. But now that I know, I just need to find the names of their shell corporations so we can dig in and trace the transfers,” Sam says. Kara has no doubt that she’ll succeed.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to pin anything on Lillian, she’s too smart,” Sam admits. “Even with your fancy government technology. But Corben is rotting in a cell and Max is an idiot, and Mercy doesn’t handle her finances directly. She uses intermediaries. There has to be a mistake somewhere.”

Sam clearly doesn’t need any help, absorbed as she is in her work, so Kara leans back against the counter to answer the simultaneous texts from Lena and Alex asking for updates.

“Alex will be happy we’ve found something useful,” Kara says, as she taps out an answer to her sister. “She’s not usually comfortable working with people she doesn’t know, but this time she seemed to trust Lena’s judgement. It sets a good precedent for her.”

“Who’s Alex?” Sam asks distractedly, still typing. But her fingers slow as Kara answers, and she actually looks up from her screen for the first time in minutes.

“My sister.”

“I didn’t know Supergirl had a sister,” Sam says, and the attention she’s suddenly pinning on Kara seems odd given what they just found. But Kara shrugs, answering offhandedly while she answers Lena’s text.

“Human sister. Adopted. Her family brought me up after I landed on earth. She’s one of the most important people in the world to me.”

The only other person of comparable importance is Lena, which Kara doesn’t mention – but she gets the idea that Sam knows anyways. Sam’s eyes get a little unfocused, and she reaches up to rub absently at her chest.

“She must be a great person, to have you talk so highly of her.”

“She is,” Kara says, finally putting her phone down to focus on the conversation. “You’ll like her. She can be a little high strung, but you’re used to Lena, so next to her –“ Kara chuckles, and Sam smiles in a distracted sort of way. She’s still rubbing her chest, long fingers leaving red marks on her collarbone like there’s something under the skin that she’s trying to get to.

“Right,” Sam whispers. There’s a little crease between her brows, but she doesn’t seem upset. She just seems like she’s somewhere else completely.

“You okay?” Kara asks tentatively, and Sam shakes herself out of it with a small smile.

“Yeah. Just…have a good feeling.”

The statement seems familiar, but before Kara can remember where from Sam has typed a few final words and is gasping in delight.

“Oh, Mercy, you clever little minx. Too bad I’m cleverer. Call your boss, Kara. I’ve found what we need.”

 


 

When Lena gets the text that Kara and Sam have found a thread to follow, it feels like a month’s worth of tension leaves her all at once.

A few weeks ago, she never would have brought Sam into a potentially dangerous relationship with the DEO. She didn’t trust anyone there, with the exception of Kara – and since her trust in Kara is something she can’t exactly control, it doesn’t count. J’onn, Alex, Brainy, Nia – she didn’t trust a single one of them the first time Kara brought her to their headquarters. She’s still half-paranoid that they’d have her in a cage just like Corben’s so they could dissect her vampire biology if Kara weren’t around. But they’ve proven themselves good allies so far, and the moment Mercy and Max and their dodgy financials became their focus, she knew there’d be nobody better suited to help them than her best friend.

And now, she and Kara are apparently getting along swimmingly. They chat like old friends. Which is a good thing. Completely beneficial, and not at all giving Lena heart palpitations.

She knows that Sam would never tell Kara anything that Lena didn’t give her permission to. But that doesn’t mean she won’t subtly nudge Kara in the right direction, and that possibility makes Lena nervous.

It’s safer, she thinks, to bring Sam to the DEO and have her interact with everyone rather than just Kara. More distractions. And it seems like her work with Kara has earned Sam some sort of pass, much like Lena (although much faster, Lena thinks somewhat peevishly. It took her ages to be allowed in and out of the DEO whenever she pleases), because an invitation to come to the site in person gets extended almost as soon as Sam provides the information they need.

Sam’s eyes dart around in that fast, intelligent way she has as they descend the stairs into the atrium, taking in the agents in combat gear staring at screens and moving around with purpose. Lena can see Kara and Alex talking across the bay of computers, and Kara is already looking her way, raising a hand to wave with a grin.

Suppressing the smile that wants to appear at Kara’s presence, Lena waves back.

“I thought you were trying to keep your distance?” Sam murmurs under her breath, following Lena’s eyeline to Kara. “The less attached you get, the less painful it will be?”

“I have the situation perfectly under control,” Lena whispers back. Sam laughs, and it echoes slightly across the cavernous atrium - and then Alex’s head turns to look in the direction of the sound, and as they take the last few steps down the stairs Sam’s hand clamps onto Lena’s arm so hard that she actually hisses in pain.

“Lena,” Sam gasps, and all of her weight is suddenly on Lena’s arm as her knees seem to give out on the last step. “Lena, that’s – oh my god –“

Sam’s voice isn’t loud, but it is urgent. Almost panicked, in a way that’s completely foreign to Lena. She’s breathing in short gasps, and the suddenness of her episode seems to alarm everyone else as much as it does Lena. Kara is at her side in an instant, her hair rustling with the wind of her superspeed, and she helps a shaky Sam to her feet with clear concern. Alex takes a few seconds longer, and she’s a little bit breathless when she slows down her sprint and reaches them.

Sam is silent, now. Her mouth is trembling slightly, as are her hands, and she and Alex seem to be staring at each other with something unreadable and confused – it’s completely wordless, but Lena has learned to read Sam over the years. And right now, Sam’s book is reading absolute shock.

After a few seconds of silence that are almost uncomfortable, Alex gives an awkward smile and rubs the back of her neck.

“Watch those stairs,” she says, the tips of her ears turning pink. She seems baffled, and thrown off her usual guard. “Kara trips down them all the time. At least you, uh. Don’t make an indent in the concrete like she does, right?”

Sam, glassy-eyed and mute, nods silently. At the quiet response Alex clears her throat and hurries away, a blush creeping up her neck to her buzzed hairline, and Lena feels like her entire world has just been hauled up by the feet and dangled upside-down.

“Sam, what on earth –“ Lena starts, but Sam is already gone, almost running towards the open-air balcony nearby and mumbling something about needing air.

“Is Sam okay?” Kara asks quietly, looking between her fleeing sister and Sam’s retreating back with a furrowed brow. “She looks like she saw a ghost. Or got hit by lightning.”

Lena has not a goddamn clue if Sam is okay. All clues point to the negative, but she has no idea what happened to set her off besides meeting Kara and Alex -

Alex.

It all comes together in Lena’s mind in an instant, and she could hit herself with how long it took to puzzle out. It’s so obvious, looking at Sam’s hunched-over form on the balcony. The way Sam had seemed to shut down for a second when she spotted Alex. The weirdness of Alex’s reaction. The way, even before meeting her, Alex had agreed so readily to bringing Sam on board without seeming to know why.

Lena can still remember the white-hot lightning that Kara’s first touch to her bare wrist had brought. How it weakened her knees. Made her shake. It’s the only thing that makes sense. But what she can’t seem to figure out is why Alex hardly reacted at all. 

“I’m going to go check on her,” Lena says, leaving Kara behind. The blonde doesn’t follow, for which she’s deeply grateful. This seems like a moment Sam won’t want to share.

She’s proven right when the closer she gets to the balcony, the more she can see that Sam’s shoulders are shaking. There’s a set of glass doors separating the balcony from the rest of the DEO, and Lena practically slams them closed as she’s met with quiet, soul-wrenching sobs.

“Sam,” Lena whispers, putting a hand on her friend’s back, “that was her. Wasn’t it? Your soulmate. It’s Alex.”

Sam doesn’t reply, but the lack of response is answer enough. She just clings to the balcony, her knuckles white with the pressure. It looks like she’s going into shock, and Lena takes a firm hold of her arm until Sam turns and gives in to a tight, crushing hug.

“She doesn’t know me,” Sam gasps into Lena’s neck, sounding like her chest is too tight to speak. “She doesn’t know me, Lena, I don’t know what to – two lifetimes in a row I haven’t found her, and now she’s here and she doesn’t – “

Lena has no idea what to do, besides hug her. She’s never seen Sam lose it, in all their years of friendship. She’s always calm, so put together in contrast to Lena’s fits of temper – but now she’s shaking, practically speechless, still crying into her shoulder.

“Is that possible?” Lena asks quietly, and the question seems to give Sam something to focus on. Her breathing evens a little, even if she keeps clinging to Lena. “Isn’t she an Old Soul, like you?”

“Sometimes,” Sam starts, pausing to take a few painful breaths. “Sometimes for Old Souls, it takes something to make us remember what we are. Like…like a trigger. I’ve just…never met her before that. She’s always known, when we find each other. We both have.”

“Why don’t you just tell her?” Lena asks, offering advice even though Sam asked for none. “What she is, who she is to you. Instead of being in pain.”

“You’re one to talk.”

Lena is taken aback at Sam’s unexpected jab, but can’t deny that she’s right. Lena doesn’t like admitting it, but it’s true. Telling Kara what they are to each other would probably end both of their unnecessary suffering – but at the cost of her autonomy.

Sam sighs, her shoulders sagging as she pulls back from the hug and wipes her eyes on the cuffs of her very expensive shirt. Lena is sure there’s a huge wet spot on her shoulder as well, but that’s not important right now.

“I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair. I just - I can’t,” Sam says raggedly. “If she hasn’t been triggered yet and it isn’t the right time, she’ll think I’m insane. Plus, being reminded before her time could hurt her. Too many memories at once trying to fit in her head. I can’t do that to her. I can’t be selfish.”

Lena nods, rubbing Sam’s back in little circles as she calms herself down. “I’ve never seen you like this.”

“This has never happened before,” Sam sniffles, her breathing still uneven. “Imagine…imagine your bond with Kara. But when your soul reaches out to hers, there’s just…a wall. And you hit it going 100 miles an hour. No matter how much you try, how much you scream and throw yourself at it, she doesn’t let you in. There’s just nothing. Emptiness.”

It sounds fucking horrible, in Lena’s opinion. She tries to repress her bond with Kara, but to reach out and find nothing? Or worse, to find a barricade that she can’t cross? It would be even worse. The soulmate bond is a curse, Lena thinks, in more ways than one. A bane that she wishes had never infected her life, or Sam’s. It causes too much pain.

But even as those thoughts cross her mind, another one forms too, even stronger than the rest. After watching Sam cry in her arms over a soulmate who won’t answer her soul’s call, Lena starts to let herself realize - for what she’s ashamed to admit is the first time - that she’s been monstrously selfish.

Kara is as much a part of this soulmate business as Lena is, and all Lena has been thinking about is herself. Seeing Sam like this, shaken to her core in a way she’s never seen before, is eye-opening. Sam is in almost physical pain because her soulmate doesn’t know her, can’t love her the way she’s capable of.

This is what she’s doing to Kara.

Ever since they met, Lena has had a wall up. A line she won’t allow herself to cross. She and Kara have connected on such a deep level, shared a consciousness, tangled together at the atomic level - and in response Lena had brought down a guillotine and cut her off completely.

Kara has been feeling all the same deep, confusing feelings that Lena has – only Kara has no idea what’s going on. Kara doesn’t know why her soul is calling out to Lena, or even that that’s what’s happening. She just gets the pain, and none of the context. None of the choice. The one thing Lena has pursued so rabidly for herself.

She holds Sam until the tears subside, and through the glass doors she can see the object of her thoughts sitting on the stairs, watching over them like a guardian. She looks worried, for both of them. It makes Lena’s heart ache, makes it want to reach out to Kara to soothe. To connect.

For the first time, Lena lets it. And even from across the building, Lena can feel Kara’s smile.

 


 

Work proves to be the best distraction Lena could hope for in the days following. She’s been slacking lately at LuthorCorp, preoccupied as she is with trying to slowly dismantle the political control of its CEO, and if she puts it off for much longer Lillian will start to take notice. So she stays late at the office for almost a week, exchanging occasional texts with Kara but never fully reaching out to see her in person. It seems too risky, right now. 

Ever since seeing Sam break down over Alex, after seeing the depth of her pain, it seems like her willpower is softening whether she likes it or not. She’s always missed Kara’s presence when they aren’t together, even if she doesn’t like admitting it to herself, but it’s gotten to the point where she can’t put it out of her mind. She’s always prided herself on her compartmentalization, but now all of the little boxes she shuts her thoughts into are spilling open and disgorging all of their contents into the larger part of her mind. Her thoughts are a confusing jumble, where they used to be sorted with military precision. 

In short, Lena has no idea what she wants anymore, and it scares the hell out of her. 

“You know, I almost wasn’t expecting you to actually pull it off.”

Andrea’s voice is quiet in the doorway of Lena’s office, but it’s enough to pull Lena out of her thoughts – of Kara, always of Kara, now - and back to reality. The clock reads 9pm, and she definitely wasn’t expecting visitors, least of all Andrea Rojas.

“Visiting me here is a bit of a risk right now, don’t you think?” Lena says, shutting her laptop on the same project status update she’s been ignoring all day. “I thought we were trying to keep you on Lillian’s good side.”

 Andrea shrugs, leaning against the doorjamb. 

“Lillian left two hours ago for visitation hours with Lex, and everyone else has gone home. We’re as safe as we can be.”

“How do you know she doesn’t have the place bugged?” Lena challenges, and Andrea rolls her eyes, stepping inside and heading to the white leather couch. 

“As if you wouldn’t have found all her hiding spots by now.”

“Fair point,” Lena concedes. “Did you at least avoid the cameras?”

“You ask like I’m an amateur. I snuck into your building every day for months, once upon a time.”

“That ended badly, if you remember,” Lena says, already regretting it before it’s left her mouth. As if reminding Andrea of her betrayal is in any way helpful. 

Andrea looks penitent, her joking tone gone, and Lena pushes past the spike of remorse. Andrea brought it up, after all, and the point is still valid even if Lena has mostly forgiven her. 

“So, what brings you here so late?” Lena says, quickly changing the subject, and Andrea latches on gratefully. 

“I knew you’d still be working, and I wanted to talk. Cat told me you’d found what we need.”

Lena nods. She pushes her desk chair out and moves to take a seat on the couch instead, pausing to pour two glasses of scotch. She sets one on the coffee table in front of Andrea and sits down on the opposite end, making sure to keep a professional distance between them. She still has a vivid memory of last time they sat on a couch together and she’d rather spare them both the mortification of the reminder. 

“We have. Hard evidence of Mercy’s money laundering, and a paper trail linking Max’s accounts to Corben in several ways. Sam is a wizard with that sort of thing. She thinks we can pin him with embezzlement.”

She can’t keep the pride out of her voice and Andrea gives a grateful smile, taking a sip of her drink. 

“Then, remind me to send her a fruit basket. How are you planning on making sure it isn’t just buried?”

“Going straight to the police is too risky,” Lena agrees, crossing her legs and smoothing the wrinkles in her lap. “I don’t doubt that Lillian has moles there. We’re breaking the story to the media first, making it into a circus that can’t be ignored, and then bringing the hard evidence to a detective friend of Supergirl’s.”

The gratefulness Andrea showed towards the mention of Sam is nowhere to be found when Kara enters the conversation. Her back straightens a little, and she sets the glass down to pick at her skirt for lint that Lena knows isn’t there. 

“Friends in high places, this Kryptonian of yours.”

“It’s her sister’s ex-fiancée,” Lena explains shortly. Something about the way Andrea says Kryptonian rubs her the wrong way, however benign it is. It’s nowhere near the vitriol with which Lillian or Lex say it, but it’s definitely flavoured with resentment, and she feels protective of Kara in a way she usually tries to repress. “And it’s a messy connection. It’s friends in medium places, really.”

Andrea nods, her lips pursing. “When should I expect to be putting my name forward?”

“We have Cat and a few other connections at CatCo as a news outlet, so -“

Lena feels Kara nearby before she sees her.

She can feel that warm glow, the excitement and nervousness that Kara always seems to feel at the idea of seeing Lena. Lena has steadfastly ignored it for almost the entire time they’ve known each other, but it feels different now. Terrifyingly different. And of course Lena also detects the instant drop of her mood when she presumably hears a second presence in the office. Kara is hesitating, probably nearby, unsure of whether to interrupt. Lena can practically visualize her half-in and half-out of the elevator, frozen with indecision until the doors close on her.

Ordinarily, the last thing Lena would want is for Kara to interrupt a meeting with her ex. But despite the confusion of the last few days she finds herself craving the blonde’s presence, now that she knows she’s close by. That alone should be a sign that she needs to be careful, but Lena coasts past it with barely a thought now. 

The real issue on her mind is how to let Kara know that she wants her here.

She could send Kara a text, but it would be both rude and terribly obvious if she pulled her phone out in front of Andrea. Instead, she hesitantly tests out their connection in a way she hasn’t dared to before – she concentrates her feelings of relief and welcoming, and tries to send them Kara’s way.

She’s not even sure if it works, until a few moments later when there’s a light knock on the door. Lena’s heart seems to beat with the rhythm of it, for a moment, and she calls out in as measured a tone as she can manage. 

“Come in.”

Lena stands up as the door opens, while Andrea politely tries to hide her clear disappointment.

Kara’s hair is half-up when she pokes her head around the door, falling in waves over her shoulders but not obscuring her face, which lights up when she sees Lena standing by the couch. She looks a little skittish as she glances back and forth between Lena and Andrea, but she holds up a paper bag in what seems like an offering.

“Sorry, I just – um, I picked up that pie I told you about? I know you don’t really need to eat, but you mentioned that you wanted to try it, and I thought – I saw your office lights on.“

Kara takes a deep breath after her speech, looking mortified at her own lack of confidence, but a genuine smile finds Lena’s face at the earnestness of it. 

“It’s all right. Andrea and I were just wrapping up.”

Relief floods Lena’s system from Kara’s direction, and she steps into the office fully with the diner takeout bag in her hand. It’s just as grease-spotted as Lena thought it would be when Kara had told her about her absolute favourite chocolate pecan pie in the universe from a dingy place uptown, and it’s sweet that Kara remembered Lena mentioning that chocolate was one human food she actually enjoys.

And now that Kara is fully in the room, Lena has to look away from the way her crisp maroon dress shirt accentuates the strong line of her shoulders before she completely throws what remains of her principles out the 60-storey window.

Andrea stands as well as Kara approaches them, looking between them with a confused, thoughtful look on her face, and Lena hurries to draw attention away from what she’s sure is a very uncharacteristic blush on her face.

“Miss Danvers, this is Andrea Rojas,” Lena says, fully prepared to play the fake identity game since Kara isn’t here in her Supergirl regalia. Andrea already knows that Supergirl’s name is Kara, and she feels like she should at least make the effort. “An old friend –“

“We’ve met,” Kara says easily, switching the bag to her left hand and extending her right with a smile that manages to be mostly friendly. It’s a bit forced, but Kara is trying, at least. And Lena is staggered, both by Kara’s sudden friendliness and by the sudden, casual reveal of her identity. 

Andrea frowns suspiciously as she takes Kara’s hand, shaking it slowly. “Have we?”

“You can call me Kara. Cat Grant introduced us.”

At the confirmation, Andrea’s grip tightens a little. Lena can see her knuckles go white around Kara’s hand, but Kara doesn’t flinch. 

And this is exactly why Lena wishes they had never met.

“Ah. Kara. Of course,” Andrea says, her eyes tracking over Kara from head to toe. It’s something Lena has seen a thousand times, Andrea sizing up someone she views as an opponent to find their weaknesses, and her expression is completely unreadable. Even Lena can’t discern it. Andrea is a viper coiled to strike, and Kara either doesn’t notice or isn’t bothered.

She’s not sure which scenario is better. 

“I’m surprised you’re here,” Andrea says, as their hands continue their stalemate shake. “This building is a bit dangerous for you, isn’t it? And for Lena, having you here.”

The comment is barbed, targeting Kara’s capability to keep Lena safe, but Kara takes it gracefully. She shrugs, with no indication that it bothers her at all.

“Not like this. I’m just a reporter, here to talk to Lena about an article on women in STEM.” Kara winks at Lena, and she finds herself smiling warmly back. “Totally harmless.”

It’s Kara who lets go first, letting her hand drop to her side and slide into her pocket. It’s a bit strange, how normal Kara seems. She’s perhaps being a little more openly flirtatious than usual, but she’s being cordial to Andrea, which is surprising considering the turmoil Lena usually feels coming from Kara when she’s even mentioned. There’s no resentment, no anger. It’s like Kara did some sort of magical meditation before she came. 

Or maybe, a much smaller and more logical part of Lena’s brain suggests, Kara has simply processed her negative emotions in a healthy way and moved on instead of ignoring them until they fester. The exact opposite of what Lena usually does. 

The voice sounds irritatingly like Sam. Lena tries to bat the realization away, but like an insect it still seems to hover nearby anyways. 

 “She’s been here before,” Lena admits, ignoring Kara’s slightly-victorious grin. “As long as her identity stays a secret, it’s perfectly safe.”

“I try to limit the amount of people who know my real identity, but I’d like to think I can trust you,” Kara says, the sudden and bare honesty shining through her friendly demeanour. “We both want to keep Lena safe, and the best way to do that is to work together.”

That shocks Andrea enough for her mask to fall a little. She softens, and her body language eases into something slightly less defensive. Something thoughtful. More like the Andrea that Lena knew all those years ago, who looked at her with such kind understanding. All Lena can do is watch it unfold, her nails dug into the flesh of her palms.

“I guess I can agree with that,” Andrea finally says with a tight nod. She looks between them again, seeming to come to an internal decision, and then she does something Lena has never seen in all the years they’ve known each other. She backs down.

 “Well. The three of us being seen together in the same building your mother works in will probably open a rift through which Cat Grant will somehow appear to scold us, so…I should go,” Andrea says, clearing her throat and picking her purse up from the coffee table.

“You don’t have to - “ Lena starts half-heartedly, but Andrea is already shaking her head.

“It’s all right. Give me a call when you’re planning on breaking the story.”

Andrea hesitates for a split second, but then leans in and gives Lena a brief kiss on the cheek before heading to the door at a quick clip. Lena feels a blip, a tiny moment of negative emotion from Kara – but it’s cut off quickly, replaced by contentment.

Kara is just happy to be alone with her.

When she hears the ding of the elevator and the click of Andrea’s heels disappearing, Lena sits again, kicking her shoes off and tucking her legs underneath her this time. Kara watches the movement intently, before clearing her throat and sitting on the cushion next to her.

She’s so close that their legs are almost touching, and Lena can’t find within her the willpower to move away.

“So. You really needed to bring me pie at 9pm?” She settles for saying, and Kara shrugs as she opens the bag and lays out two paper plates on the coffee table.

“I thought you might be lonely.”

It’s said with an air of nonchalance, but Lena can feel otherwise. Kara clearly feels like she’s on thin ice right now, and were Lena in any other mood maybe she would be - the comment hits a little closer to home than she’d like. But the late nights at work and the days of distance and the endless cycle of her thoughts has her throwing caution to the wind.

Maybe this is what opening up feels like. 

“Did you bring forks, or are we eating with our hands?” Lena asks, avoiding the question but allowing for a subject change. Kara relaxes, grabbing two plastic forks from her back pocket and holding them up with a grin.

“I always come prepared!”

Lena laughs, snatching a fork and poking Kara with it. “Last week you had to stop a robbery barefoot because you forgot your boots.”

“That’s different,” Kara says with a grumpy sigh. “I always come prepared for pie.”

Kara busies herself with setting two pieces of pie on the paper plates without the crust falling to pieces, and Lena watches her, chewing her lip.

“I’m surprised you decided to trust Andrea,” Lena says, fiddling with the prongs of the fork. One of them snaps off, and she quickly flips it before she’s left with a useless plastic stick. “You seemed nervous to involve her, before.”

Kara pauses, dusting the crumbled pastry from her hands.

“I was unfair to her. I let other things get in the way.”

“And now you’re completely objective?” Lena asks, knowing even as she says it that the answer could take her down a slippery slope. She feels reckless, almost self-destructive in her curiosity, but she can’t stop digging into Kara’s reasoning.

“Do you trust her?” Kara asks, point-blank. The directness of it is almost shocking, but Lena nods.

“Yes, I do.”

“Then, so do I,” Kara shrugs, and turns back to the pie. As if it’s that easy. As if she isn’t the first person to ever completely take Lena at her word.

“Just like that?” Lena says, shaking her head. “I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s always just like that, with you. I’ve never really had that. Someone who just trusts my judgement with no qualms.”

“Well, now you have someone who does that, and brings you delicious pie.” Kara punctuates the statement with a gigantic bite of the crust side, and the serious part of the conversation is clearly over as she hums with delight over the taste.

“We’ll see about that,” Lena chuckles, spearing her own smaller piece. She holds it up and makes a show of inspecting it under the light, and Kara clutches her chest.

“Do you not trust my judgement?” 

“When it comes to food? Absolutely not,” Lena deadpans. “I’ve seen the trash you eat first-hand.”

“I do not eat trash!”

“I sat in the passenger seat while you devoured 3 full Big Belly meals in succession.,” Lena says, shuddering at the memory. “I bought you gas station pastries, and you enjoyed them.”

“I burn a lot of calories!” Kara says indignantly, gesturing with her fork. “You try feeding my metabolism on a reporter’s salary. I have to take what I can get. If you want me to eat better, maybe you should take me to dinner.”

Kara freezes, her fork in mid-air, clearly immediately regretting the word choice. Lena can feel the panic coursing through her, and she curses Sam for making her stupid heart so soft because now she feels guilty all the time. She felt it after their botched sleepover at Cat’s, she felt it in Sam’s parking garage when Kara had seemed grateful just to stand next to her after being frozen out for a week, and she feels it now, when a single flirtatious comment has Kara in a tailspin. And instead of boxing it up like usual, it just sits in her gut like a rock. 

Kara walks on eggshells around her, half-expecting her to clam up at all times, and it’s Lena’s fault. Kara deserves better. She always has, and all Lena has given her is self-absorbed bullshit.

“Maybe I will. But only if I can write the bill off as a charitable donation,” Lena says lightly, finally bringing the bite to her mouth. Kara laughs, loud and relieved, but the moment the chocolate hits Lena’s tongue the situation becomes completely secondary to what’s happening in her mouth.

“Oh, god,” Lena moans, hearing Kara’s laugh choke off with a squeak and knowing, somewhere in her mind, that she sounds completely inappropriate. But that doesn’t matter, because this pie is fucking divine. “I take back everything I said.”

“I told you!” Kara says, pushing her glasses up on her crimson face and taking another huge bite. “My judgement is sound.”

Lena doesn’t doubt it. In fact, it’s probably more sound than Lena’s own, at the moment. But for now, Lena puts it out of her mind. Lillian, Andrea, fate, soulmates, the very building they’re in - for just a sliver of time, practically the span of a heartbeat in the grand scale of her life, she lets herself be fully in the moment. Just here, with Kara. Eating chocolate pecan pie. 

She can go back to overthinking this tomorrow. 

Lena takes another dainty bite of the admittedly delicious pastry, and Kara abandons the fork entirely to pick hers up like a slice of pizza and cram it into her mouth. Lena snorts, the pie goes up her nose, and the stress of Lena’s week melts away with Kara’s delighted laughter.

Chapter Text

When the news breaks about Mercy Graves, Lena knows enough about Lillian’s temper from the last time this happened to be out of the building when the meteor hits.

Thankfully the success of Mercy’s upcoming incarceration skyrockets Sam into the good books of the DEO – so as soon as Kara lets her know that Cat is releasing the hounds, she practically drags Sam out of the LuthorCorp and into the car to watch the proceedings from the safety of an impenetrable government fortress.

For the sake of their plans to disrupt Lillian’s allies further and for Lena not feeling like she’s the odd one out, it’s a good thing that Sam can now come with her regularly – but for the sake of Sam’s mental health, it seems to be a detriment.

“I don’t think I can do this,” Sam says suddenly, stopping dead in front of Lena on the ramp leading up to the perfectly normal-looking outdated office building façade of the DEO entrance. Lena, busy texting Kara about their arrival, walks right into her back and almost sends them both sprawling into the pavement.

Jesus, Sam – ”

“I can’t go in there. Not if she’s going to be there.” Sam’s voice is quivering, and Lena frowns in sympathy.

Sam’s situation is undoubtedly worse, but Lena can relate.

Sam had assured Lena the moment her presence was requested there that she was fine with being around Alex. Lena had her doubts, but Sam insisted - and the closer they got to the building, the more antsy Sam had become. By the time they got out of the car she was practically shaking it with her restless leg, and now it seems like she’s finally broken through the façade.

The switch in dynamic between them – Lena as the steady hand, now, and Sam as the terrified soulmate-avoider – is unnerving, and Lena has no idea if she’s doing a passable job.

“Oh, honey,” Lena says softly, putting a reassuring hand on Sam’s back. “I told you that you didn’t need to do this. You can get back in the car and go home, and I’ll tell them you’re busy.”

Sam contemplates it, for a moment. She looks between the building and the car, seeming to weigh her options.

“I want to see her,” Sam admits quietly, her shoulders sagging. “I want to see her so badly, Lena. But I know it’s just going to hurt.”

“I know,” Lena says, rubbing her back in small circles like Sam always does for her when things get too overwhelming. It always seems to work on her, and she doesn’t know what else to do. “It’s up to you.”

 “Yeah,” Sam says, her eyes fixed on the door to the building. “Yeah. Right. Okay. Yes, I’m coming. I’ll be fine.”

She sounds about as convincing as Lena does when she’s in the same position, but Lena lets it slide. Sam is older than she can possibly guess, and she can be free to make her own decisions. Even when they’re ill-advised. It’s not like Lena can judge, given her track record.

Sam takes every step down into the atrium like it’s a funeral march. Alex is focused on a computer screen when they enter, nodding as a tech points at something flashing on an architectural plan of what Lena recognizes as the holding cells, but as soon as Sam takes her first step down the stairs Lena sees Alex’s posture change. She perks up in a way all too familiar to Lena, and turns around to lock eyes with Sam across the cavernous space.

“She feels you, Sam,” Lena says quietly, watching Alex’s expression as Sam comes closer. It’s the same blend of confused and delighted that Kara usually has on her face when she notices Lena nearby. “Even if she doesn’t know you yet. That’s something, right?”

“Yeah,” Sam says, her voice a little hoarse. She clears her throat, steeling herself as Alex crosses the floor. “Yeah, that’s something.”

“I’m glad you two made it,” Alex says, once they’re in earshot. There’s a pink tinge to her ears, even though Sam hasn’t spoken yet – and Lena sees why when Alex suddenly sticks her hand out for a handshake.

“I don’t think we were actually introduced,” Alex explains, her hand hovering awkwardly in the middle ground as Sam stares at it like she’s just been offered a live grenade. “I’m Alex. Lena has told us a lot about you.”

“Right. Nice to meet you,” Sam says, polite but clearly strained. Alex’s hand falters, but it stays where it is for a few moments longer.

“It’s really good to have you on board,” Alex says, softening into a sudden earnestness that Lena has never seen directed at anyone but Kara. Like she thinks that Sam is hesitating because she feels like she isn’t wanted here, and is trying to fix it.

At Alex’s softer tone, Sam melts. Her shoulders sag and her eyes get almost imperceptibly watery, and with a look of tired resignation she reaches out to accept Alex’s hand. Even Lena tenses as they reach for each other, something in the air crackling in anticipation –

A fraction of a second before their hands touch, a blaring alarm echoes through the space. Alex flinches, jumping back a few inches and retracting her empty hand as every screen in view lights up with the same image – a series of blinking red dots on the same architectural plan Alex had been looking at before.

Sam’s arm drops to her side. Lena honestly can’t tell if she’s relieved, or devastated.

“What is it, Vasquez?” Alex yells over the noise, moving away from Sam and towards the wall of flashing screens. It’s then that Kara appears in a gust of wind, her hair ruffled and her cape fluttering as she stares at the screens.

“Containment breach,” the woman at the nearest computer – Vasquez, Lena can only assume – says curtly, bringing up a rundown of the security systems. Her fingers fly over the keys, highlighting two problem areas.

“Corben’s level?” Kara asks, looking briefly away from the screen to point a lopsided (and entirely inappropriate for the situation) grin Lena’s way. “Hey, Lena. Exciting day, huh?”

Alex elbows her, and Kara clears her throat as she switches back to business mode.

“No, lower,” Vasquez says, highlighting Corben’s cell four floors down. “There was a power surge and two cells opened. We think only one prisoner got out.”

“Oh! So just a regular run-of-the-mill alien emergency?” Kara says brightly, already walking backwards in the direction of the secure stairway down to the cells. She snags the reinforced alien handcuffs from Alex’s belt as she goes, and they hum to life with a blue glow when she twirls them around her finger. “I almost forgot about those. Who’d have thought I’d ever be relieved about rounding up normal criminals?”

“Don’t get cocky, Kara!” Alex warns, as Kara disappears around the corner. “He isn’t restrained, he could be dangero- and, she’s already gone.”

With Kara gone and the alarms now reduced to a lower volume, the silence between the three of them goes from brief to awkward. Lena has never been a stellar conversationalist, especially when she has to bridge two people with such thick tension between them - Sam is quiet in a way Lena has never really seen and Alex seems to be alternating shifting from foot to foot, and looking over at her for brief periods before looking away.

When Nia jogs up to join them, Lena has never been more relieved to see someone who is practically a stranger.

“Hi, person I’ve never met,” Nia says bluntly, hands on her hips as she ignores Alex and Lena to look directly at Sam. “What are you doing hanging out with the socially awkward crew?”

Hey!” Alex says, throwing her hands up in a what the hell? gesture. She looks to Lena for support, but Lena just shrugs.

“She’s not wrong,” Lena concedes, and Alex looks at her like she’s just committed the ultimate betrayal. Sam, at least, lets out a half-hearted chuckle at Nia’s curiosity.

“I’m with Lena.”

“Oh! Like…with with, or…?” Nia asks, raising her eyebrows suggestively.

Lena doesn’t miss how Alex’s incessant movement stops at that question. She can almost see the woman’s ears perking up.

God no,” Sam replies, letting out her first real laugh in what feels like days. “She wishes.”

Alex visibly relaxes. Sam doesn’t see it, occupied as she is with shaking Nia’s hand, but Lena gets a sudden impression of exactly what everyone around them has probably been dealing with whenever herself and Kara are in a room together. It’s infuriating, watching them dance around each other when it’s so clear they could just be happy.

Even Lena can see the hypocrisy in that.

“Oh, that’s good. Because if you were, I’m pretty sure you’d have to fistfight Kar-“

Nia is interrupted, and any further thoughts on the subject of Alex and Sam disappear from the larger part of Lena’s brain, when Alex’s comms erupt in chaotic sound.

“Alex, are you there? I need -” The rest is cut off with a horrible static sound, and Lena’s heart drops.

“Kara?” Alex says, her hand pressed to the device in her ear like it’ll somehow manifest a video of the situation in the basement. “What’s going on? Are you okay?”

There’s no verbal answer from Kara. The noise is unspecific, crashes and grunts that Lena somehow recognizes as Kara even when they’re wordless, and under their feet the floor vibrates for a few seconds as Alex’s comm explodes in a noise louder than the rest. Lena can hear a yell, and then the device falls silent.

Alex’s eyes meet Lena’s. Lena can see her own fear reflected there, and for the first time, they have a moment of pure and complete understanding.

Kara is in danger.

“Shit,” Alex mutters, ripping the dead comm from her ear and instead frantically typing into one of the nearby computer consoles. The tech who was using it starts to protest as his work is lost, but Lena rips his chair out of the way and sends it zooming on its wheels halfway across the room with the tech clinging on for dear life.

“I think I can access the security camera from here,” Alex mutters, but already Lena can see the code she’s using isn’t going to work. Lena is sure that she could get access, if Alex would allow it.

“Alex, I can – if you let me –“ Lena says, not sure how to ask but knowing they’re on a clock.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Alex says, her tone more terrified than angry as she moves out of the way. “Just do it. And don’t tell J’onn I let you in.”

It takes about 13 seconds for Lena to access the video feed on Kara’s floor. Although it’s a surprise that the camera is still working, considering the state of the rest of the architecture – there are several body-sized imprints in the concrete, and the remnants of the walls of the cell are bent and scattered across the floor. There’s no movement, but before Lena can try to switch to another camera, a black-and-white blur flies across the screen and hits the wall so hard that a crack runs up the foundation.

Even in grainy quality, Lena can tell that it’s Kara. And she hasn’t gotten up yet.

“We need to help her,” Lena says, heart in her throat. She pulls up the override for the security doors, and starts trying to get around them. “I need to get down there.”

“You can’t! The floor is on lockdown,” Alex says, sounding just as angry at herself as Lena is at her for trying to stop her. “The only way to open it is an emergency protocol that opens all the cells.”

“There has to be a way. We can’t just leave her down there –“

The radio crackles back to life, and on screen Kara stumbles to her feet.

“I don’t know if you can hear me,” Kara says, intermittent with static, “but don’t let Lena or Alex come down here. Okay? I have a plan. It’s going to be fine.”

Lena is quicker to snatch the comm off the table than Alex is.

“Don’t be stupid, Kara,” Lena says into it, trying to keep the shake out of her voice. “You aren’t completely indestructible. We’re coming down there.”

Kara gives no indication that she’s heard. She takes a few steps forward, tensed in an attack pose, until a hulking figure sprints into the camera’s field of view and bodychecks her into the wall so hard that Lena can feel the rumble under her feet again.

It’s so hard that the camera gets dislodged from its precarious spot, and the last thing Lena sees before the screen goes black is Kara being pinned by a hand to the throat, her hand stretching out and inches away from the glowing cuffs lying on the floor.

“Kara!” she shouts into the comm, but she gets nothing back but silence. “Kara!”

Alex is pale beside her, staring unblinking at the dark screen. Nia is chewing at a fingernail, and Sam puts a reassuring hand on Lena’s shoulder that does absolutely nothing to help the anxiety in her gut. The air is thick, so thick that it’s hard to breathe – it feels like the entire DEO is holding its breath, waiting.

Everything went south so quickly, a domino effect that passed in an instant, and Lena didn’t even get to tell her –

There’s a sudden screeching of metal and a tired groan down the hallway Kara disappeared into, and with a shared look of pure relief she and Alex sprint there with Sam and Nia following behind.

Lena, with her obvious speed advantage, arrives there first to find Kara leaning against the wall next to an elevator whose doors are missing. In fact the elevator is stuck between floors, likely glitched after the power surge, and it looks like Kara just ripped the doors open and climbed out. She’s covered in concrete dust and looks worse for wear, but she’s alive, and she’s grinning tiredly.

“I forgot how tough Valeronians are,” Kara says, coughing slightly as she brushes dust from her shoulders. “Even without weapons. He got me good a few times –“

Before Kara has even gotten the concrete bits out of her hair Lena is running, and to both of their surprise the blonde suddenly has an armful of Luthor knocking the wind out of her lungs as Lena hugs her with all her strength.

“Hey,” Kara murmurs as she wraps her arms firm around Lena, a little shocked and too quiet for anyone else to hear. “I’m okay. I’m here.”

Coming from anyone else, Lena would bristle at the tone. At the assumption that she was worried. But it’s Kara, and she was worried, so for a few short moments she just lets herself be comforted.

It’s not until Kara tilts her head enough to nuzzle into Lena's hair that she realizes this is the first time they’ve ever hugged. Really it’s the first time she’s ever touched Kara anywhere besides the safe zones of wrist and shoulder, and she’s unsurprised to find that they fit together perfectly.

Another weight is added to the wrong side of the invisible set of scales in Lena’s head, and Lena can feel the moment that the distribution tilts irrevocably downwards.

She lets go abruptly when the footsteps behind them catch up, stepping back a foot and terribly aware of their audience. Kara is staring down at her with wide eyes, and as if it’ll cover up the fact that she just threw herself at Supergirl in broad daylight, Lena reaches up and shakes the rest of the debris out of her hair and cape.

“If you ever do that again,” Lena says unevenly, quieting her voice as Alex and Sam come nearer, “a Valeronian will be the least of your problems.”

There’s no heat behind the threat, and Kara knows it. She just smiles, warm and fond. “Keep threatening me with death, and I’ll start to think you care.”

Lena’s answer comes out without forethought.

“I do care.”

It’s so earnest, so humiliatingly truthful, that Lena immediately wishes she had kept her mouth shut. Kara’s face softens, her surprise obvious as she realizes her joke was taken seriously, but before she can reply in an equally intense way Lena has bolted, taking advantage of the distraction provided by Alex’s arrival.

Even with her back to Kara, she can feel the blonde’s eyes on her as she walks away to the tune of Alex giving her a medical once-over.

“We should give them a minute,” Lena says, tugging on Sam’s wrist. Sam nods, but she’s staring at the back of Alex’s head with a look of such intense longing – a look that reminds Lena so much of Kara that she has to look away.

Whatever control over the situation Lena might have thought she had, it’s apparently vanished.

Momentarily, Lena considers making a run for it. Kara is distracted by Alex, the rest of the DEO is busy getting started on dealing with the mess in the cell block, and Sam seems so lost that Lena could probably convince her to leave pretty easily. But before she can make her decision, Brainy’s head pokes around the corner at the end of the hallway, and he shouts down to them in that point-blank way he has.

“Mercy Graves has been arrested. Shall we watch?”

It’s even more of a public circus than Lena was expecting. Cat delivered on her promises and then some – the story is plastered all over CatCo’s front page and their news channel, and soon in retaliation for being scooped every syndication in the city is reporting it. Kara gleefully sets up each station on a different screen at DEO headquarters, and they get about 16 different camera angles on Mercy Graves being dragged out of her office in handcuffs.

There’s a deep satisfaction to seeing it actually happen, even though Lena knows there’s even more work ahead of them.

“Give it a few days to steep, and then we’ll follow up on the connection with Max’s campaign money. Then Andrea can make her move,” Kara says, grinning with satisfaction as Mercy glares at her arresting officer. Maggie, Lena remembers – Alex’s ex-fiancée, the one police officer Kara swears they can trust. She’s tiny, shorter than Mercy by several inches, but Lena can see a no-nonsense attitude in the way Maggie firmly guides Mercy into the backseat despite her protests.

“This won’t last long,” Lena warns, as Mercy disappears behind the tinted window. “Human systems never hold fae for long, and she didn’t break any of our laws. She’ll be out before her trial is even over. The media craze gives us some time to scramble Lillian’s other connections before Mercy can try to slink back into power, but we have to hurry. She’s too smart to be fooled by this for long.”

“Can’t we just have a minute to bask in a job well done?” Kara jokes as she leans closer, gently nudging Lena with her elbow in a too-familiar move that would have sent Lena sprinting for the door a few weeks ago. Now, she just elbows back harder.

“We’ve had it. It’s happening right now. Besides, you and Sam did most of the work,” Lena replies, folding her arms. “I have nothing to bask in.”

“Sure, but you were my muse.”

Kara says it casually, still looking up at the screen. But Lena can feel the spike of nerves when it comes out, and the thrill Kara feels when Lena doesn’t protest but instead warms at the compliment.

It should terrify her, how all her walls regarding this whole soulmate business seem to have crumbled after her talk with Sam. But Lena’s slowly-growing lack of willpower is getting less and less frightening by the day.

Before Kara can lay any more confusing praise on her, they’re interrupted by the loud vibration of Lena’s phone. The name she sees on the caller ID makes her heart sink, as much as she was expecting it.

“Lillian?” Kara asks. Lena nods, holding up a finger to quiet her as she adopts her best neutral tone and answers.

“Hello, mother.”

“Where are you?” Lillian says by way of greeting. Her tone is curt, just a hair away from snapping, and that alone tells Lena that the situation has hit critical mass. Lillian is on the warpath.

“I’m on my way to a meeting –“ Lena starts, but Lillian barely lets her get the words out.

“It doesn’t matter, get back to the office. Now.”

“Did Edge screw us over again?” Lena says, putting on the same persona she’s been faking since this whole venture began. Since she joined the Luthor family, really. It’s always felt like a second skin, but the more time she spends with Kara, the more it feels like a mask.

“Turn on the news. Do you not see what’s happening?” Lillian answers, and Lena can practically hear the sneer. Lena refuses to rise to her bait, keeping her calm neutrality.

“I’m in the car. What’s going on?”

While Lena is treated to the situation from her mother’s perspective, Kara rolls her eyes at Lillian’s tone, scrunching her face up into a mocking expression while she mimes Lillian’s scolding. It’s surprisingly funny, and Lena has to mute herself on the call to keep her mother from hearing her snort.

Kara seems buoyed by Lena’s laughter. She ducks out of the way as Lena swats at her, and draws herself up to her full height in a comically inaccurate imitation of Lillian. She only lets up when Lena mouths stop, her hand clamped over the microphone while she tries desperately to keep her composure.

When she finally hangs up the phone with a promise to return to LuthorCorp immediately, she whirls on Kara with a glare that has absolutely no bite to it.

“You’re lucky I’m a good actress.”

“I knew you could give Lillian the run-around in your sleep,” Kara grins, dancing playfully out of the way when Lena moves past her.

“Compliments will get you nowhere,” she says, knowing that Kara can tell it isn’t true. Compliments from Kara, apparently, now make Lena melt like a popsicle. It’s incredibly inconvenient. “I need to go do some damage control, before Lillian detonates and takes half of LuthorCorp with her.”

“Be careful, okay?” Kara says, reaching out to squeeze her arm. Lena nods, pulling away gently rather than yanking her arm out of the blonde’s grip as has been her instinct for the last few months.

“My whole life is careful.”

Lena passes Alex as she heads to the exit, exchanging their now-customary polite nods. It’s not exactly warm or friendly, but she gets the feeling that like her, Alex is comfortable keeping it that way. The regularity of their mutual distant respect is almost comforting. Especially since she found out that Alex is Sam’s soulmate, and all she wants to do is lock the two of them in a room together until Sam stops hurting.

Even through the hum of activity in the atrium, Lena can still hear Alex’s words when she makes it to Kara’s side.

“Since when do you two touch? And joke?”

“Since always,” Kara replies easily. “You don’t monitor us 24/7.”

“Thank god for that,” Alex grumbles. “Just try not to flirt in the middle of the lobby next time.”

“At least I don’t go on Tinder at work!”

She hears the smack of a tablet hitting Kara’s shoulder, and as much as the conversation should stress her out, she can’t do much besides chuckle at the cute, indignant expression on Kara’s face that she can picture in her mind’s eye.

Her good mood lasts until the moment she sets foot in the LuthorCorp lobby. At first glance nothing seems out of the ordinary, but Lena has been training her whole life to sense when something is off. The phones are ringing more than usual, the secretaries sounding stressed and high-pitched, and the floor is sparsely populated. The people she can see littered in various corners are either huddled into groups, talking in low voices, or looking downright angry.

By the time she steps into the elevator, she can almost feel the anger radiating from the top floor.

The doors slide open on the conference level to pandemonium. If Lena had thought the day Edge was ousted from CatCo was bad, this is a hundred times worse – the panic in the building is much more obvious. She can hear Lillian from down the hall, and it isn’t because she’s shouting.

Lillian’s anger has never been explosive like Lex’s was. While Lex would erupt in fits with almost no provocation, Lillian’s rage is more subtle. It coils like a snake priming to strike, seeming innocuous until the last moment - if one isn’t used to it, it’s almost easy to miss until it’s too late and she’s already darted through your defences and gone for the throat.

Lena has been attuned to the smallest indications of Lillian’s fury ever since the first time she provoked it by beating Lex at chess when she was 7, and Lillian had coolly thrown Lena’s teddy bear and only remaining possession to the dogs. She’d had to watch while they tore it apart, sobbing like the child she was at the time, and it taught her the harsh lesson that she’s been using every day since.

Don’t ever let Lillian Luthor see your weak points.

With her mental mask firmly affixed, Lena braces herself and enters the fray.

“And where have you been?” are the first words out of Lillian’s mouth, and they’re cold and even enough to run a shiver down Lena’s spine. But she keeps her back straight, throwing her purse onto the conference table and crossing her arms.

“Doing my job. Just tell me what you need me to do.”

“I need you to get Mercy out of her own damn prison, and bring me the head of whichever half-witted reporter broke this story,” Lillian says with a practiced sickly-sweetness, each syllable laced with poison. “Preferably alive. I’d like to do the flaying myself.”

“I think National City would have a field day if you flayed Cat Grant in the middle of Luthor plaza.”

Lillian pauses, her anger seeming to shift and solidify now that it’s been given a target. And just as Lena knew she would, Lillian starts to pace like a caged wildcat.

This is one of the most instrumental parts of this whole plan – making Cat out to be the instigator, so that the attention is taken away from Lena and Andrea. And with Supergirl protecting Cat and Carter hidden away somewhere in the Arctic, Lillian’s options for revenge are limited without making the feud public. That helplessness will make her reckless, Lena knows. Will drive her to attack when she isn’t ready. She saw it when Lex was tried by the fae. Lillian couldn’t swoop in and take control, and it drove her insane.

“Catherine Grant,” Lillian murmurs, a muscle in her jaw twitching as she drags her long, manicured nails across the surface of the conference table. “I should have known the washed-up human-grubber who gave us Supergirl would be behind this. The question is, why.”

“Mercy was involved with the kidnapping of her son,” Lena suggests, trying to make what is definitely Cat’s own suggestion for a probable motive sound like it’s her own idea. “She was the one who hacked Cat’s home security. Perhaps it’s a grudge, now that she seems to have some sort of reckless death wish.”

“Well. If she wanted my attention, she has it,” Lillian says quietly, almost to herself. Her nails clack in a rhythm on the table, the same impatient crescendo that haunted Lena’s childhood when she was doing something wrong but was expected to figure it out herself. Lillian is deep in thought, scrambling to re-arrange the chessboard in her head, and Lena is simply part of the background noise. Exactly as she hoped. All Lena has to do is keep blending for a little while longer.

The only reason she feels confident that the plan will work, really, is Kara. Kara makes her better at all of this. Kara makes her better, and Kara deserves better. And today, Lena had thought for a single heart-stopping moment that she had lost her without ever telling her the truth.

 


 

Lena spends the entire drive to Kara’s building in a mild panic.

She’s never been here before, but Kara gave her the address once in case she wanted to drop by – and even though at the time she had crumpled the sticky note and thrown it in the trash, she apparently memorized it without realizing. When she pushes open the (unlocked and unguarded, Lena notes with alarm) lobby doors, she bypasses the sketchy looking elevator for the stairs, hoping the climb will give her some time to even her breathing.

It doesn’t work. Her heart is in her throat when she finds Kara’s door, and it’s only the knowledge that a slab of wood won’t keep Kara from knowing she’s awkwardly hovering there that propels her to raise her fist and knock.

Kara’s expression, along with the wave of shock Lena gets right to the chest when she opens the door of her apartment to see Lena standing there in broad daylight, would almost be funny if Lena wasn’t here to do exactly what she’s been actively running from since the moment they met.

It doesn’t help that Kara looks soft in a way that Lena has never seen her before. Lena has experienced Kara in her Supergirl suit, in pastel cardigans, in jeans and in the distractingly tight-fitted business wear she’s taken to wearing lately. She even, once, caught a glance of her in a tight black DEO sweatsuit that stuck in her thoughts for far longer than is appropriate. All of those, Lena has learned to handle – but now Kara is in grey sweats and a worn Henley, her hair draped over her shoulder in a low ponytail, and her sleeves almost cover her hands where they rest on the door. Like Lena has just caught her making brunch, and she’s about to be invited in for French toast.

She looks, in short, fucking adorable, and Lena almost loses her nerve entirely.

“Lena?” Kara says, pulling down the huge noise-cancelling headphones she has over her ears, and Lena’s fight or flight response calms down at the sound of her voice.

“Hi,” Lena says shortly. Kara blinks a few times, rubbing at her eyes like she’s not entirely sure this is really happening. Not that Lena can blame her.

“What are you – I mean, not that I’m not – I’m really – just, how –“ Kara stammers. The blonde is still standing in the small gap of her doorway, and Lena shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot, gesturing inside.

“Will you let me in, please?”

“Oh!” Kara says, stepping aside immediately. “Right, yeah. Of course. Come in.”

Lena steps over the threshold and Kara closes the door behind them, taking the headphones from around her neck and setting them on the table beside the door.

“Do those actually work?” Lena says, nodding towards the headphones. She feels an unnatural need to fill the silence, even if it means making small talk. Anything to stave off the real reason she’s here. “If they do, I might need to get some for myself.”

Kara shrugs. “Sometimes. I can still hear everything, but it’s not so overwhelming. They definitely kept me from noticing your –“

Your heartbeat, Lena’s brain unhelpfully fills in. Kara listens for her heartbeat. A fact that Lena unwillingly learned ages ago, during their first-ever stakeout, and has stuck with her ever since. As if she needs the reminder right now.

“So, that thing about vampires needing to be invited in –“ Kara says a little more loudly, changing the subject with an awkward pivot.

“Is bullshit,” Lena says drily, crossing her arms despite her nerves. “We can go where we please. It was just cold in the hallway, and I like to ask permission first. Because I was raised in a time of manners.”

Kara, of course, takes the jab as a chance to learn.

“Really? When were you raised?”

Lena raises a single brow, and Kara shakes her head. “Right, too personal. Sorry. Um, what brings you here? To my apartment?”

Lena takes her time thinking of her answer. She doesn’t want to vomit the real reason onto Kara with no warning – you’re my soulmate and I can’t seem to figure out what that means for me is a lot to throw out all at once. So instead she turns in a slow circle, taking in Kara’s apartment for the first time.

It’s smaller than she thought it would be. It’s a studio, with big bright windows and exposed brick walls, and she can see the corner of Kara’s bed as she moves towards what seems to be the living room. There are fairy lights in the corners, the furniture seems to be mostly reclaimed wood, and there’s a muted One Tree Hill rerun on the tv in front of a still-steaming mug of something on the coffee table. It’s absolutely, endearingly Kara, and Lena feels more comfortable here in 30 seconds than she’s ever felt at her own bare, catalog-decorated penthouse.

“I needed to talk to you,” Lena says, hesitantly unzipping her coat when Kara offers to hang it up.

“About what?” Kara asks, draping the coat over the back of a kitchen chair. Lena feels naked without it, but she perches delicately on the edge of the couch cushion anyways, and rips off the band-aid.

“On Krypton, did they have a soulmate theory?”

That seems to be about the last thing Kara was expecting. She frowns, settling in more comfortably than Lena and tucking her feet underneath her. “No, not really. Matches were sort of formalized on Krypton.”

“But you understand the concept?” Lena presses. Kara shrugs, not seeming to understand what Lena is getting at.

“I mean, I’ve read it in books? Two people who are meant for each other, right? Humans really love the idea of destiny.”

Lena sighs, sitting back more heavily on the well-worn couch. She doesn’t have the cuffs of her jacket to fidget with, so she settles for pressing her thumb deep into the flesh of her palm. It gives her something to look at, so she doesn’t have to maintain eye contact.

“Well, apparently, it’s real.”

Kara is quiet for a few beats. She shifts on the cushion, sliding her feet back down to the floor.

“Explain?” Kara asks gently. Lena had hoped, foolishly, that Kara might have enough context to be able to catch on at this point, but clearly she’s going to have to explain.

“Part of being fae is accepting that there are things beyond our understanding,” Lena starts, still staring determinedly at her hands. “But I’ve been doing research, and unfortunately this seems to be one of the things that also has some scientific backing.”

“Lena, what are you talking about?”

“I think we’re soulmates.”

Lena had thought it would be like a bomb going off, finally letting go of this truth. That Kara would gasp, or smile, or even get upset at Lena for keeping this from her. But from what she can tell, Kara is just silent and thoughtful. She’s fiddling with the sleeve of her shirt much like Lena wishes she could, and under her distracted hands the fabric tears. Kara sighs, rolling up her sleeves. Her forearms brace on her knees, and Lena can’t look away.

“I don’t understand how that’s possible,” Kara says, looking up at Lena, who immediately looks away before she gets distracted by those eyes. “We were born on different planets, in different time periods, how could we –“

“You said you understand quantum mechanics, right?” Lena says, dangerously close to babbling. “Think about it as quantum entanglement. Two particles that can’t be described without each other, that share the same quantum state. No matter the distance between them. Just…with souls.”

“So you think that we’re –“

“I don’t know,” Lena says, standing up just to create some space between them. “I always thought the soulmate theory was bullshit, but now…I know that I can’t keep myself away from you. It’s infuriating.”

Kara’s voice quiet, full of building wonder.

“Really?”

Yes,” Lena admits, rolling her tense shoulders. “Besides, I talked to Sam. She knows about this sort of thing, and she made some…salient points.”

“Like what?”

Vaguely, Lena realizes that she’s started pacing as she explains. Kara’s eyes follow her back and forth, and she starts to fear that if she stops, she might have to face the reality of what she’s doing.

“Like, what happened between us in the transport van is…not normal. Being inside someone’s thoughts, feeling their soul like a part of you, that isn’t a normal fae ability. Nor is getting superpowers from Kryptonian blood.”

“Has any vampire even drank Kryptonian blood before?” Kara asks, her eyes not leaving Lena’s moving form.  “I feel like my cousin would have told me.”

Lena nods. “My brother tried. He got a sample of Superman’s blood. It didn’t work.”

Kara is quiet for so long, after that, that Lena actually stops pacing to make sure she hasn’t left the room. She hasn’t – she’s sitting in place on the couch, arms on her knees, hands clasped together, and staring down into them like they hold the answers. She actually startles Lena when she stands up suddenly after a minute of contemplation, taking a few swift steps across the living room rug until she’s firmly standing in Lena’s space.

“So…soulmates. That’s what this is?” Kara finally says, the crinkle between her eyebrows deeper than Lena has ever seen it. For a few confusing moments, Lena wonders if it might be Kara who decides this whole thing is too complicated to be worth it.

But when Lena meets her eyes, so close now since Lena hasn’t taken a step back, they’re clear and open. Accepting.

“Okay.”

“…you accept it?” Lena says incredulously, her folded arms falling to her sides. “Just like that?”

Kara shrugs. She takes Lena’s loose hands in hers, holding them between their bodies. Apparently she’s somehow done in less than a minute the same processing that’s taken Lena months, and come to an entirely different conclusion. “It explains how I feel about you. How I felt that way so fast. I’ve sort of just been going with it.”

Lena’s heart, usually steadfast in its rhythm, feels erratic and fast. She knows that Kara can hear it, especially when she’s standing a few inches away, and she can feel the thrill that goes through Kara when she realizes Lena hasn’t pulled her hands away yet.

“It doesn’t bother you that we don’t have a choice?” Lena says softly, watching in wonder as Kara shakes her head.

“There’s always a choice. Just because we’re…entangled, doesn’t mean we don’t have one,” Kara says, with the kind of confidence Lena wishes she had. “And whatever yours is, I accept it. But I know mine.”

Kara punctuates it by squeezing her hands, and Lena doesn’t need to ask – Kara is practically screaming it with her mind.

It’s you.

“Why are you so calm about this?” Lena chokes, fighting the overwhelmed tears that want to spill out. “I’ve been so cruel to you. I’ve kept this from you for months. I’ve let you suffer, to make myself feel like I had some control. You should hate me.”

Kara’s reply is said with such gentle kindness, with such understanding, that Lena loses her fight with the tears. A few track down her cheek, and Kara wipes them away with a finger.

“How could I hate you, when I can feel your pain?” Kara says, her voice breaking on the last word as she drags the finger down Lena’s cheek to catch under her chin. “Maybe I’m here to show you the compassion you don’t show yourself.”

Although Lena hears Kara’s words, they don’t seem to make any sense.

All her life, since the only person who ever loved her was ripped away, she has known one universal constant. That she isn’t good enough. It was embedded in her as a truth, like gravity, like relativity - she’s half-blooded, a freak of nature. She’ll never be enough of a vampire for her family, and never human enough to be who she might have been otherwise. Who she wishes she could have been. She’s cursed to straddle two worlds, never fitting in either and bearing the burden of it alone.

All she can think to say is the mantra that Lillian practically drilled into her head from the moment she stepped foot on the Luthor estate.

“I’m not worth it.”

Her tone is final, but Kara doesn’t let her off easy. 

“Of course you are. If you weren’t a good person, at the core of you, don’t you think I’d have seen it when you bit me?”

Lena has no retort for that. She just chews on the inside of her cheek, willing herself to get it together. Wanting to believe Kara’s words, but too far gone to internalize them. Torn between longing and fear, and unwilling to take the leap.

“Why are you fighting this so hard?” Kara whispers, bringing her hand up to gently cup Lena’s face. It takes all of Lena’s willpower not to press her cheek into it. “Even now? When you know that it’s right?”

“Because it terrifies me,” Lena breathes, her eyes drifting closed as Kara moves closer. “The thought that if I give in to you, I’ll lose myself.”

She doesn’t see Kara moving, but she feels when Kara presses their foreheads together. Her eyes stay closed, somehow trusting Kara to respect her boundaries even as those boundaries are shaken to their foundations.

“Lena, we don’t have to lose anything,” Kara says. As if it’s the easiest thing in the world to understand. “We just gain each other. I’ll wait however long it takes for you to know that.”

Ever since it made itself known, all Lena has felt regarding this bond between them has been fear and doubt. She feels none of that coming from Kara. Kara is a rock, a tiny island of calm in dramatic contrast to how Lena is feeling.

“How are you so sure?” Lena whispers, needing to hear Kara say it. Maybe if Kara explains, Lena might be able to feel that sure, too.

“I follow what feels right. And that’s you,” Kara says, their foreheads drifting apart again. Lena misses the contact immediately. “But I need this decision to be yours. Wanting me. Choosing me.”

This time, it’s Lena who leans forward to touch her forehead to Kara’s.

“You know I want you,” Lena says, letting it fall from her mouth like a confession, and Kara exhales raggedly. Joy rises in her and spills over into Lena, like that admission is in itself a small wonder. “But choosing is a luxury I was never afforded. In any facet of my life. Giving in to this, allowing something else to control my life again, it feels like…it feels like building my own prison cell.”

“I’ll never make you do something you don’t want,” Kara murmurs, her breath washing over Lena’s face. It smells like apple cider, sweet and warm. Like she’s just been drinking it. “Not ever. But I understand.”

It’s Kara’s understanding that breaks her. The sweet, genuine acceptance, the way she doesn’t hide her sadness but tries not to let it colour Lena’s decision. 

How she gives Lena a decision.

“Say,” Lena says finally, wavering so close to Kara that their lips come within a whisper of touching. “Say that I want to – to do this, somehow. I just don’t know how. I don’t know how to stop feeling like my hand is being forced.”

Seemingly without thinking, Kara throws out a suggestion that rocks Lena to her core. 

“You could bite me again.”

Lena jerks back, not far enough to break their strange little bubble, but enough to meet Kara’s eyes again.

What?”

“Maybe it’s a bad suggestion,” Kara says quickly, the rest of her body still. Like she knows this could send Lena running. “But...I don’t know. I remember what it was like last time. Maybe we try again, knowing what we’re in for this time, and then we’ll know.”

“You’re not full of kryptonite anymore,” Lena protests half-heartedly. “I can’t break your skin.”

It’s a weak excuse, and Lena knows it. She’s suspected for a long time that Sam’s initial theory was right - her unique lineage probably allows her to pierce Kara’s skin either way. Double vampire, as Sam put it. Double power. And on top of that, if Kara really is her soulmate, she doubts that even the laws of physics or magic could keep them apart. But the thought is terrifying. Kara, as always, gently moves the defence aside. 

“Maybe not,” Kara shrugs, her eyes wide and earnest. “But we can try. If we’re ever going to figure this out, I want you to see me. Not who everyone else sees, but…everything. I just want us to see each other. For real. Once.”

No matter where they are or how recently Lena has fed, she always feels the pull of temptation when Kara is around. When she can hear the steady beat of her pulse and see where it flutters under her jaw, or at the hollow of her throat. But never has that craving been more powerful than it is right now, with Kara standing in front of her and offering herself freely. Not simply allowing it, but wanting it, and broadcasting that want to Lena to boot.

Lena’s canines are already extending, her mouth watering, and she drives the sharp points into her own bottom lip. It heals immediately, but the pain is enough to ground her for a moment. She’s sure her hands are squeezing Kara’s like a vice, but the blonde doesn’t seem to mind. She just tips her head forward, putting to rest Lena’s ever-present terror in a single statement.

“You can’t hurt me, Lena. I’m not human. You don’t have to control yourself. But this is up to you.”

Lena lets out a bitter exhale. She can feel her sharpened, sensitive teeth hitting the cool air as she opens her mouth, and Kara’s eyes fall to them immediately.

“I can’t think of a single moment in my life that either of those things have been true.”

“They are now.”

Kara’s pupils are wide and dark, and Lena can hear the hard, fast pumping of her heart. The cards are in Lena’s hands, and now that she’s holding them, she finds that she has no idea what to do about it. 

She knows what she wants. Even with Kara’s head at a less tempting angle the craving to bite her is there, so strong that it almost physically pulls her closer. It’s easy to put it off as the instinct she tries so hard to fight, but it feels deeper, somehow. Not just bloodlust, not hunger - a craving for something more than blood.

Lena could keep fighting it. In fact she can see what would happen if she walked away now, almost like a premonition - Kara would be devastated, but accept her decision. Lena would go home and weep, break down over the loss of what feels like a piece of herself, but somehow manage to justify it. Sam would berate her, but would be too caught up in her own pain to press the issue. And both of them would live the rest of their endless days alone, free but never complete. Always reaching for each other like a phantom limb and finding nothing. 

Is that really so much better than being tied to someone? Being tied to Kara, who inexplicably offers Lena agency even when it means causing herself pain? Maybe some cosmic universal magic tied them together, but why does that have to define them?

Like Kara said, there’s always a choice. And maybe for once, Lena can choose happiness. Fuck the universe.

The clouds that have hung over Lena’s life for months - god, decades it feels like – begin to part, and everything that’s plagued her for months starts to melt away.

Kara is the sun. 

For the first time in her memory Lena moves in to bite with no hesitation, and she hears Kara’s sob of relief just as her teeth sink into skin that should be unbreakable. But it isn’t. It’s soft and yielding, like every atom of Kara’s body wants this. Is giving up its invulnerability to let her in. All of Lena’s doubts, any reasoning she’d clung to as to why she should resist this, evaporate with the first warm swallow of Kara’s blood. 

Lena’s teeth move through Kara’s skin so easily - and in a way beyond the physical, her teeth break through a dam. Kara’s emotions come at her in a flood, a geyser of jumbled thoughts and feelings that Lena gets lost in for a moment before she finds which way is up and swims to the surface. But the main ones, the most prominent threads that wrap around Lena like the strong arms she can vaguely feel on her body, are the same as her own. Relief and desire, bone-deep and potent. And most prominently, insistent and bright in its intensity, love. Kara is trying to drown her in it, and Lena welcomes the cleanse. 

She loves, and she is loved. Why she ever thought this could be a bad thing is beyond her comprehension, now.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she can feel that base part of her that she fears so much looming, drawn to the obvious submission of a willing victim. Wanting her to drain, to take, to kill. Trying to remind her of the thrill of the hunt. It’s always terrified her, this animal instinct that constantly threatens to take her humanity away – it’s why she avoids feeding from humans, avoids feeding from the neck. But now, it’s as if something is keeping it out. Like Kara is wrapped around her, a barrier that it can’t break through no matter how hard it snaps its teeth.

She’s still just Lena. She’s entirely herself, and Kara can’t be hurt. So, free of that instinct, Lena drinks slowly. Languorously. And just as slowly, Kara opens to her.

The first time they did this, the experience was rushed. It was a life-or-death scenario, and a shock to both of them – Lena hadn’t had the time nor the inclination to explore their connection. Now, when the bright, pulsing core of Kara’s soul reaches out to her, she reaches back.

Kara is just as Lena remembers her – a beacon, pure and welcoming Lena in with open arms. But like before, Lena can sense something below it. Past the outer layers, past the sunshine and warmth and kindness that Lena loves, something is pulsing. Something hot and vivid, something that leaves a bitter taste in Lena’s mouth.

She can feel a thread of fear, a shiver of nervousness coming from Kara about showing it to her; the same fear Lena harbours over Kara seeing her own shameful, hidden places. So Lena does the only thing she can think of, the one thing that she’s become somewhat proficient at. She reaches out, and tries to soothe. This time she can almost feel it like a physical sensation, like she’s softly running her hands through Kara’s hair even though she knows her body is still.

In a deep exhale Kara lets her in, and the abrupt, overwhelming spike of emotion weakens Lena’s knees.

Pain. Indescribable, endless pain washes over her, and abruptly she isn’t in Kara’s apartment with warm arms holding her close. She’s in what looks like a hangar bay, stark white but with a sky red as fire outside. Her mother is embracing her, telling her what her life’s great responsibility is – look after Kal. Protect your baby cousin. The weight of an entire planet, an entire civilization, is thrust on her 12 year old shoulders and all she can do is accept the decision that shapes her life as she witnesses its final moments.

And then she’s climbing into a pod, and her parents are crying as it zooms into space – no, not her parents, Lena reminds herself as the scene plays out in real-time. Kara’s parents. These are Kara’s hands pressing against the glass as she watches her world shrink into the distance, as she sees it start to crumble. She’s somehow in Kara’s memories, but god, it’s hard to remember who she is when it feels like her chest is going to explode. She can’t disentangle herself from Kara’s consciousness, and honestly, she doesn’t want to. Something in her craves this, wants to witness every corner of Kara’s soul no matter how dark.

As the planet behind her erupts into fire, taking with it everything Kara has ever cared about, it feels like the explosion takes her heart with it. The pain isn’t just emotional, it’s physical – she can feel her throat getting hoarse from the screaming, even though she knows that her real mouth is still attached to Kara’s neck and she’s not making any noise at all.

After the vacuum of space has swallowed her home, has swallowed her, Kara is left alone. So alone, for so long, drifting in limbo with no escape. Nothing between her thoughts and the darkness outside. She’s aware of what’s happening – her pod is clearly off course, stuck somewhere instead of headed to earth like it was meant to – but time passes so differently that it’s hard to track the passing of it. Like drifting in and out of a dream. Or a nightmare.

She’s trapped in her own mind, in her own body, until her pod opens to a bright new world.

It’s a spark of hope, to Kara’s young mind. A brand new sky whose sun is young and yellow and fills her with energy. But the cousin who greets her isn’t a baby, doesn’t need her to take care of him – he’s a man, full-grown and kind, but distant. So distant that he doesn’t even take her in, doesn’t teach her about earth, doesn’t let her cling to the last piece of familiarity left to her in the universe. He leaves her with a new family, one with a human daughter who hates her. She’s just a leaf caught in the wind of other people’s decisions for her, left to adapt to wherever she lands.

And Kara does adapt, as Lena experiences her life in fast-forward. She never stops feeling like an outsider, but she finds a place for herself, however fragile. Alex and Eliza become so important, become everything, but they’re still human – they still age, still get sick. As Kara gets older she watches them change in the way she never will, and she can only protect them so much. She can save Alex from a crashing plane, but she can’t save them from their own human lifespan. Someday, Kara knows, she’ll lose them too. She’ll lose everyone she loves.

Almost before Lena can process the deep, buried grief Kara already feels for all the people she knows will leave her, things are accelerating to something Lena actually remembers. The perspective is different, but the event is the same – she’s watching Superman fight Lex, listening to his anti-alien rhetoric.

Instead of the horror of watching her brother succumb to his obsession, she feels what Kara does. The constant vigilance of hiding her powers, fear of being discovered that was drilled into her for most of her life, the feeling of worthlessness next to Clark as he once again saves the world. It builds and it builds until she finally manages to get out from under his shadow, comes out as Supergirl and makes a single choice that feels like it’s for her

When the scene shifts this time, it’s not smooth. It’s like a record scratch, like this is a particularly painful memory, and Lena finds that it’s another incident that she remembers.

It had been part of the impetus for her mother’s recent mania in getting rid of aliens. Supergirl had gone wild, destroyed parts of the city and insisted that they bow to her in subservience. Dressed in black and wielding a power that could shake the earth she had watched the city burn with glee – and at the time, watching Supergirl tear the world apart without a second thought, Lena had wondered if Lex hadn’t had a point in making Kryptonite for situations like this.

Now, she’s on the other side of it. She’s not seeing the powerful god with nobody to stop her, not feeling the fear. Instead she’s trapped in her own body, in Kara’s body, watching herself gleefully hurt people and knowing that, somewhere deep down, this was always a part of her. Throwing her mentor from a balcony, breaking her own sister’s arm, delighting in people’s terror and drunk on power and control – Kara had experienced every moment as if someone else was piloting her body, like two people were living inside her and she felt the consciousness of both. She can still feel that poison, that darkness, just as much as she can feel her own humiliation and remorse. Like pulling poison from a wound, the Red Kryptonite just brought it to the surface, and Kara carries it with her every day.

She wakes up to Alex with her arm in a sling, and the devastation of remembering every single thing she’s done and being unable to change it. It feels, Lena realizes, exactly like she herself had felt waking up after she was turned. Blood on her hands and a faint memory of carnage, uncontrolled but irreversible. Carrying the guilt of every loss of control for decades. 

The memories get less clear after that, like Kara is trying to show them all to her at once. Like she’s latched onto Lena’s moment of understanding and is trying to drive it home. Lena is swept into it – into Kara’s first kiss where she broke the boy’s nose, feeling Alex’s arm snap like a twig under her hands, everyday things she holds in her hands breaking whenever she doesn’t pay attention. Every time she lets her anger bubble up. Living every second knowing that if she loses even the tiniest bit of control, she could kill. Just like Lena. 

The scene shifts again and Kara is kneeling on the concrete, holding a dying woman in her arms. Astra, with the face of her mother; telling her cold, harsh truths about her family and then leaving her, just like everyone else. She could have helped her, could have turned her back to the light, but that was taken away from her too.

A slideshow starts in Lena’s head - face after face flashing through with perfect clarity, every single person Kara has tried to save and failed. Kara remembers every one, honours them and grieves them in her heart. All dead. Just like everyone Kara loves will be someday, with her long lifespan and their short, fragile human lives. Kara knows that everyone she loves will leave her, and she’ll be alone again – sadness and anger and hurt and fear swirl together in a potent mixture, simmering under the surface of her skin, until Lena can feel fire burning behind eyes that aren’t her own as she pours all of those feelings into destroying a strangely human-looking red robot. Anger so strong that it destroyed an indestructible object, and pushed her body past its breaking point. 

Kara is full of anger, of resentment and pain - she was sent to earth from a planet whose destruction could have been prevented, by a family whose secrets she’s still unravelling. Sent here to live among humans but never be one of them. Even her cousin, her last connection to Krypton, is more human than alien. 

Kara is alone, and it makes her so angry. The kind of anger that has consequences. She knows that people fear Supergirl as much as they love her, and that fact weighs on her every waking moment.

And then, Lena sees herself.

She sees herself in a way she’s never considered before. It’s that night at the docks, when they first met face to face – and it’s strange to experience it from Kara’s end, when her own memory of the interaction is so vivid. Because Kara, in true Kara fashion, had trusted her almost right away.

In a strange, funhouse mirror kind of way she feels the tug of attraction, the pull of a connection Kara didn’t understand. One she still doesn’t, but she’s trusting Lena anyways. And she sees how Kara sees her, so fundamentally different than she sees herself – beautiful, fascinating, brilliant. The firm, unshakeable nature of Kara’s knowledge that Lena is good. The sheer, overwhelming love Kara feels, not repressed and feared like it is in Lena but loose, wild and full. Kara loves her with no reservations, even after finding out that their connection is some predestined thing beyond their control – and when Kara senses that Lena is seeing that part of herself, the feeling seems to get stronger. Like Kara is showcasing it, cupping it gently in her hands like a butterfly and presenting it to Lena with an open heart.

Their separation this time is beautiful, in a way. Less the rubber-band snap of last time, and more like a soft, intentional disentanglement. She comes to in Kara’s arms, kneeling on the floor and having no idea how it happened, and as she becomes aware of her body again as a separate entity she realizes that she’s crying.

“People like us don’t always get to choose,” Kara says, her voice raspy with her own tears. “But I’m never going to take that choice away from you. This decision is yours.”

“Kara…” Lena whispers, tasting salt as Kara traces her lips with a thumb. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. I didn’t try to know. I was selfish, I - I’m sorry.”

She doesn’t know what else to say, beyond that. She’s sorry for so many things - for denying this for so long, for keeping Kara in the dark, for hurting them both in the process. For not giving Kara a chance to show her that they aren’t so different.

Kara doesn’t respond, but Lena can feel her forgiveness like a balm. To Kara, there’s nothing to forgive. 

“I’m not perfect,” Kara murmurs, her shoulders tense. “I’m not all light. And you’re not the monster you think you are.”

Somehow, the darkness that swirls inside Kara – and the fact that Lena can see now that she also fights, constantly, tirelessly, to be good just like Lena does – makes Kara more compelling to Lena than she’s ever been before. Kara has had choices ripped away from her, had to shoulder responsibility she never asked for. She’s felt, now, the darkest depths of Kara’s soul, and yet Kara hasn’t succumbed to it. Instead she shows compassion, and hope. She helps

And, inexplicably, she sees something in Lena too. 

“Lena?” Kara whispers.

“Yes?”

“Can I kiss you?”

Yes.”

Kara is kissing her as soon as the word passes her lips.

Over the course of her long life Lena has kissed and been kissed in almost every imaginable way. The innocent kisses of youth, slow and trembling with realization; ones born purely of passion and a need to forget. She’s been kissed with barely-restrained violence, hard and angry, and she’s been kissed deeply with a love she could never reflect back. She’s had feral kisses tinged with the thrill of feeding, that satisfied her in the moment and wracked her with guilt for weeks afterwards.

None of them have ever felt like this.

Kara doesn’t just kiss – she envelops, physically and mentally. The kiss stays chaste only long enough for Kara to strip herself emotionally, to open every imaginable part of herself to Lena in pure welcome as things shift rapidly from sweet to intense and open-mouthed. Physically they’re pressed impossibly close, breathing the same air, tongues sliding hotly together in a desperate kiss that brings Lena’s desire roaring to life; mentally, they’re somehow even closer.

Lena’s hands clench in handfuls around Kara’s shirt, needing something real to ground herself as she’s buffeted by a storm of feeling. But Kara is running through her veins, too, and with her new and increasingly familiar strength the shirt tears like paper in her hands.

Underneath it, the skin of Kara’s chest is searing hot. Lena presses her shaking hands to it, sliding them under the shredded fabric to feel the pounding of her heart, and it seems to stoke something instinctive in Kara – in what her heightened senses can understand is barely half a second Kara has stood them both up, swept Lena’s feet off the ground and pressed her into the wall so firmly that Lena can feel the brick cracking behind her. Kara leans herself forward in a hard grind, and as the kiss turns almost frantic Lena can hear pieces of stone scattering across the hardwood.

The status of the wall and the structural integrity of the building fades with every hard press of Kara’s thigh.

Historically Lena has always been a structured kisser, skilled and controlled in her borderline disinterest. Kissing was a means to an end, and nothing more. None of that matters now.

There’s no strategy to this, no control – it’s just hot and messy, a desperate attempt to get as close to merging into one as is possible with two separate bodies. Kara’s shredded shirt hits the floor, and since Lena is unwilling to let Kara stop kissing her for long enough to pull her own shirt over her head, it joins Kara’s with a dramatic tear down the middle. The damaged brick scrapes against her bare back, but her impervious skin only registers it as another level of pleasure as Kara moans into her mouth, and god, she tastes incredible, like –

Like blood.

In a moment of horrified realization, Lena recognizes exactly why. She can still taste the blood on her tongue. Kara’s blood, now shared between them, but Kara isn’t a vampire – somewhere in the mess of her tangled thoughts she’s sure that Kara must taste it too, and she starts to pull back to apologize. To see the look of revulsion.

But Kara still has her pressed into the wall, licking into her mouth with abandon, and seems unwilling to let her go. An intoxicating burst of wanting washes over her, and it isn’t just her own. It’s Kara’s, too. She’s shared Lena’s realization, and her desire isn’t dulled by the blood but is somehow stoked by it; Kara isn’t repulsed by Lena’s nature at all.

She’s not tolerating being fed on. It thrills her.

With that desire thrumming in her chest, Lena gives in completely. The last stubborn remnants of her resistance drop like a curtain, and everything is Kara.

They don’t even need to hear each other’s thoughts. The desire is blinding, their link so powerful with both of them open and ready that Lena can barely distinguish herself from Kara. The thought of stopping doesn’t even have time to manifest before both of them are disregarding it. Stopping would be intolerable. Stopping would mean separating, and Lena wants to live here forever.

Why would they wait, intentionally keep themselves from each other, when they’ve both gone so long without half of their soul?

Being held against the wall is so mind-meltingly good that Lena is tempted to stay there, to just press herself wantonly into Kara’s hard stomach until she hits what she’s sure will be the best orgasm of her existence. But it would only be half of what she wants it to be – just as strong is the desire to give while she takes, to feel Kara’s pleasure roaring through her as well as her own. So she pushes off the wall hard, hearing another crack but resolutely ignoring it.

Kara is still holding her up, but Lena hardly has to pull up a mental picture of what she wants before her back hits the couch and Kara has stripped them both of their remaining clothes with a fervor that borders on violence. Buttons fly, fabric splits, and the couch groans under the pressure of their bodies. It makes Lena throb in the best possible way, the depth and truth of Kara’s craving for her.

When she’s finally (and quite literally) ripped her own sweatpants off Kara throws herself onto the couch to press into Lena again, the springs groaning even louder as she completely disregards the weight capability of the furniture in favour of making sure there’s no space between their bodies. Lena has a brief moment of disappointment that she hardly gets a chance to look, but Kara is so warm, so soft and hard at the same time. Lena’s body sings at every point of contact. With a slight adjustment Kara slips between her thighs like she belongs there – because she does, Lena knows now. This is where we’re supposed to be.

All higher thought disappears after that, because Kara is pressing her thigh into Lena’s clit at exactly the right angle. Lena arches up, gasping into her mouth, and hooks a leg around Kara’s hip – and Kara lets slip a surprised squeak, her hips twitching down hard despite Lena not being able to reach to return the favour.

Kara can feel it too, Lena realizes with delight. The sensation is shared. With a renewed determination Lena spreads herself wider, and arches up.

Again Kara thrusts her hips forward, and again she moans in surprised pleasure – and on the third thrust, Kara responds with such vigor that two of the couch legs snap under the pressure, shifting the whole thing downwards.

Normally it might bother her, that she’s destroying Kara’s property with no regard whatsoever. But she’s beyond being capable of remorse right now, and Kara doesn’t seem to care. She just pulls them both off the lopsided cushions, and rolls until Lena’s back hits the hardwood.

Being completely naked on the worn floor of Kara’s apartment should make her feel dirty. But with Kara’s body finally pressed against her own with no barriers and Kara’s perfect soul cradling hers like she deserves to be treasured, she’s never felt more clean.

There’s no need for hesitance, now. Kara is filling her with three fingers as soon as she can spread her legs to accommodate, and Kara leaves just enough room between them for Lena to slip her hand down and spread her own firm against Kara’s clit. Neither of them need to ask, or falter – their thoughts are bleeding together, their desires entangled, every sensation echoed in each other. Lena knows the pressure and movement that Kara needs just as Kara knows the perfect rhythm and thrust to make Lena’s toes curl, and it’s still only one piece of the puzzle that’s slowly assembling itself between them.

While their bodies sweat and move together in perfect harmony, Lena is undergoing metamorphosis.

For as long as she can remember, Lena has survived by wearing masks. She’s worn so many faces, twisted and broken herself to fit into so many ill-fitting boxes, that the loss of whatever true self she might have had once is something she accepted a long time ago. But there are no masks, here. There’s nothing to hide behind, nothing keeping Kara out anymore – Kara is discovering Lena at the same time that Lena is discovering herself, and Kara’s overwhelming delight at what she finds is bleeding into Lena too. Kara dug through layers of fear and self-hatred to grasp at the core of her, and Lena is pulled out into the light to be bathed in a love like she’s never known. The connection she’s always missed during intimacy, the emptiness – it was all because she was waiting for this. For Kara.

Kara, for her part, is broadcasting pure wonder. Every time she presses deep into Lena without holding back, grasps hard at her hip and feels Lena arch in pleasure instead of pain, is a new thrill as she discovers the joy of someone who won’t break under her touch. Someone who won’t age while she gets left behind. The gratitude rolls through both of them in waves, and Kara whispers her name like a prayer. Lena tastes her own name said with reverence for the first time in her life, and each moment together like this is a reminder that they aren’t alone in this world. That all their sacrifice, their pain, is worth something. 

Lena isn’t quite ready to share her whole life the way Kara did, but she knows that someday soon, she will be. And that knowledge is a wonder in itself.

There’s no way Lena could prepare herself for the inevitable.

She feels it on her hand, the twitching of Kara’s clit against her fingers as she hovers on the razor’s edge; she feels it in the way Kara is panting into her mouth, unable to do anything beyond share trembling breath as Lena bites down on her lower lip. And above all she feels the moment that Kara finally allows herself to let go, burying her face in Lena’s neck with a broken cry and rutting desperately down into her hand. The involuntary, relieved noise Kara makes breaks the last of Lena’s resolve, drawing out her own sob as Kara drags her up into a dizzying spiral. She arches into Kara as she comes, full to the brim of everything she always knew she was missing.

It’s more than release. It’s a single moment of completeness, every heartbeat in sync as something far beyond both of them clicks perfectly into place. Lena might have described it as the nail in her coffin, before this – but now, it feels more like her first steps out of the dark and into the dazzling sun, squinting and pale but knowing there’s a whole new world in front of her. The door behind her is firmly shut, and Kara is ahead with a hand outstretched.

And beyond the metaphysical revelation, Lena has never come harder in her entire life than she does with three of Kara’s long fingers curling inside her.

She drifts back to earth slowly, accepting the gentle separation as their hearts even out into their own rhythms. Kara is still inside her, her warm weight anchoring Lena to the floor, and she’s nipping lazily at Lena’s neck in a sweet approximation of the bite that started all of this. Despite the fact that Lena’s sweaty back is sticking to the floor underneath her and there’s a draft coming from the window that she now realizes is cracked open for the whole world to hear their shameless noises, she’s warm and comfortable and perfectly content as she adjusts to this new reality.

There’s no need to talk. Their connection is shallower right now than it was a moment ago, but Kara is still with her, just sharing in a mutual tranquility.

It means that as she idly runs her fingers through Kara’s damp hair, she can detect the exact moment when the smallest droplet ripples the smooth pond of Kara’s mind. A hint of fear that Lena will regret this. That this spilling-over of pent-up desire will send her running, like all the times she’s run before.

That just won’t do.

Kara senses the change in mood as soon as it happens. Her head perks up from its spot on Lena’s shoulder, her eyes bright and hungry, and she grins at the rekindled desire Lena is sending her way.

She very clearly doesn’t expect Lena to flip them over, knocking the coffee table several inches from its spot with the screech of wood on wood. Distantly she hears things hit the ground, but none of it registers – Kara is all there is. Lena finally indulges her earlier desire to look, to take in all the skin that so taunted her when Kara wore that stupid little tank top at Cat’s house. She’s all planes and angles, sleek and solid muscle moving under unmarred skin, and Lena memorizes every inch as she applies her other senses as well. The taste of her sweat as Lena kisses down her sternum, her whimper of startled arousal when Lena bites down on her collarbone with teeth that aren’t yet sharpened into points. Her fangs are at bay, and it’s dulled human teeth that she sinks bluntly into Kara’s smooth skin.

Kara, thrown completely off guard by Lena’s sudden initiative, arches up into the sensation with spread thighs and a surprised moan. Lena presses herself down in anticipation, and their bodies meet halfway – Kara presses into her stomach, wet and messy and open, and Lena is hit with a craving so intense that she changes course immediately.

Kara’s reaction is a mix of overpowering enthusiasm, and disbelief.

The debate that she knew was coming when she flipped them over happens in hyperspeed as she moves down Kara’s body, the words not even forming as speech but passing between them internally. The back-and-forth of you don’t have to – no, I want to – but I should – please, just let me is over by the time Lena reaches Kara’s bellybutton, the muscle trembling with anticipation, and she drags her tongue across the sensitive skin between Kara’s hipbones to celebrate her success. Her toes curl as she feels the ghost of it on her own body and Kara shivers, staring down at her in a sort of astonishment.

Even after what just happened, Kara still can’t believe this is real. And it’s because of Lena’s hot-and-cold act, the last few months. Kara has gotten so used to being whiplashed that she can’t believe Lena is here to stay.

Lena needs to ease her mind.

Just like with their first kiss, she means to apply her usual finesse. It’s a point of pride for her, really – Lena is good at this. Down to a science. But Kara has already unravelled so much of who Lena thought she was, and she isn’t only feeling her own desire. Kara is trembling with barely-contained hunger, one hand clenched in her own hair and the other pressed into the floor like she’s afraid to move it, and under these conditions Lena can’t possibly be expected to be anything but instinctive the moment her mouth makes contact.

And her instincts are telling her to get as much of Kara on her tongue as possible. If it means the entire lower half of her face is a mess, so be it.

Kara, for all her hesitance at the beginning, loses herself in it like someone who isn’t used to having their desires indulged. She’s spent her life focusing on the needs of others for fear of losing her control, in every aspect of her life – but Lena doesn’t need to be protected. Lena is her equal in this, can take whatever Kara gives her and can give back just as much. Kara’s blood makes her more than what she could ever be alone.

Even so Kara is hesitant at first, reserved and stiff; but the more Lena traces eager, sloppy patterns over every slick inch of her, the more of Kara’s control slips away. Her hips start to follow Lena’s tongue, vaguely and then rolling up with more intent, and her hand moves from the floor to hover uncertainly over the back of Lena’s head.

Before Kara can doubt herself Lena grabs it and pushes it into place, focusing every brain cell that isn’t currently lost in Kara’s cunt on telling her how much she wants it.

Kara gets the message. Her fingers tighten in Lena’s hair, and with newfound confidence she rolls her hips up and pulls firm on Lena’s hair in tandem. When Lena moans shamelessly against her clit, she can feel Kara’s delight and relief all the way to the tips of her toes.

This is the first time this has ever happened for Kara, Lena knows with sudden certainty. The first time anyone has ever done this for her without the constant fear of getting their nose broken. Kara can let go, chase what actually feels good. This is new and dirty and wonderful, and Lena is showing her the way.

Lena likes it a little rough. And apparently so does Kara, a fact that’s completely new to both of them. Lena sharing Kara’s powers has unlocked something, and the excitement is mutual.

“Lena,” Kara breathes, pulling Lena’s hair again harder and harder until she whimpers. Her eyes are open, her gaze locked on Lena’s face instead of throwing her head back as Lena winds her up with enthusiasm, and Lena makes sure to put on a bit of a show. She drags her tongue up in a way that makes Kara’s eyes widen, ending with a gentle kiss to her clit, making sure Kara can see the mess she’s made of her face. “God. You’re so – so good at this –“

With how little talking there’s been thus far, the introduction of Kara’s voice – raspy from her cries earlier, and laced with wanting – is almost more than Lena can bear. She groans and doubles her efforts, but she can feel her tenuous control of her baser side starting to slip.

Not having Kara in her mouth is the last thing she wants, but she has to pull away – and the moment she does, she can feel the almost painful relief that always comes with her fangs extending without her permission. Her hunger is twofold, drawn out by the unrestrained pleasure and the proximity of the pulse roaring through Kara’s femoral artery. The vital throb of blood tinged with desire. Some vampires are pathological in their preference to feed this way, to drain their victims in the throes of pleasure to capture the taste of it – but Lena never has. Never wanted to. Not until now.

It doesn’t help that the moment it crosses Lena’s mind Kara is moaning in a way that makes Lena’s mouth water, using her grip on Lena’s hair to direct her to her inner thigh.

“Oh my god, yes, do it, do it, please –“ Kara gasps, her hips rocking against nothing, and Lena leans in to carefully catch the wetness that the idea brings forth. Her fangs stay firmly in place, and Kara tugs on her hair again with a new insistence.

Lena doesn’t have to ask what it is Kara wants. Kara didn’t even need to say anything before Lena knew - she feels it, sees it, the desire potent and addictive. She can feel the throb of Kara’s clit echoed in her own, the tingling of her inner thigh in anticipation, the threads of need and love and acute, almost painful arousal.

Kara is about to come, and Lena wants to taste it.

Before she can let doubt overtake her Lena spreads Kara wide, presses her thumb into Kara’s clit, and drives her teeth into the meat of her thigh. Like it’s desperate to escape her body Kara’s blood bursts forth, and for a brief moment Lena understands why some of her kind feed like this.

When they merge into one, laid bare and raw and intertwined even more closely than before, their shared orgasm feels like the heat death of the universe.

It’s so different and raw and so, so good like this. They’re tangled together not to share trauma or to build trust but simply because they want to be nestled inside each other more closely than is physically possible, and it’s a brand new kind of pleasure. One that wracks Lena’s body even without any physical touch, and makes Kara arch up so hard into Lena’s mouth and hand that the traction of her heels leaves splintery gouges in the floorboards.

If she had thought they were loud last time, Lena feels genuinely sorry for the neighbours now. Lena’s mouth is otherwise occupied but Kara’s is not, and her shouts are as beautifully unrestrained as the movement of her hips. It’s likely the first time Kara has been unrestrained in any way since she landed on earth, and the absolute decadence of it only makes the whole thing feel better as they both come down from the high.

When they disentangle, the wounds left by Lena’s teeth knitting themselves closed almost the moment she moves away, she’s unsurprised to realize that she’s crying. Considering the last time she cried wasn’t even in this century, she’s oddly unbothered by it – Kara has tears tracking down her temples as well, and in this safest of places it feels like a release all its own. All she can do is climb up Kara’s body and into her waiting arms, and accept this for what it is.

Kara is her perfect foil. Her soulmate. Kara’s light and dark, Lena’s light and dark – they don’t make a gloomy shade of grey together but instead shatter into a million colours, every ounce of fate and destiny Lena has been running from settling into a soul-deep sense of contentment.

This is her place in the world. She’s finally found it, and she won’t let it go again.

As Lena lies there on the floor, wrapped up in warm arms and feeling more content than she’s ever been in any of her long years, she realizes something. Kara’s feelings, usually so present in her mind, are curiously quiet.

She’d noticed that since she met Kara, the connection between them had been getting stronger. She’d gone from getting flashes of Kara’s emotions, to getting occasional maelstroms, to not being able to disentangle Kara’s feelings from her own, and it made her feel more and more out of control. Now, it feels manageable. Almost pleasant, actually.

It isn’t that she can’t feel Kara, exactly – more like her thoughts are at a whisper, instead of the roar she’s become accustomed to. Just a warm, comfortable presence in her heart, unmistakeably there but not so deafening that she can’t distinguish it from her own thoughts. It’s almost like, now that she’s given in and stopped needlessly fighting this bond between them, it’s finally easing up. Like the universe had been screaming at her to get her shit together, and now it’s settling into hibernation until the next time she tries to run scared from her own happiness.

When she burrows her face into Kara’s neck, humming contentedly as strong arms close tightly around her, the peace she feels is all her own.

Chapter Text

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.

Commitment.

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.

“Hello?”

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.

Lena Luthor!”

“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.

“Yes.”

“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.

“Ah.”

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.”

“Lena, too.”

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.”

“And now?”

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.

Chapter Text

Lena has to wonder, as she carefully styles her hair into a Lillian-approved updo for the impending gala, if she’ll ever really get used to having a soulmate.

She’s gone whole human lifetimes carrying the weight of her upbringing. Sharing was dangerous; opening up only gave the opportunity to be hurt. But sharing with Kara had felt good. In the moment it was painful, of course, reliving every terrible detail of her past and letting Kara watch what she has always considered her moments of greatest weakness – but like setting a broken bone, the pain had allowed for a surprising sort of healing. When she woke up the morning after, it was to a Kara who loved her just the same as she did before. Perhaps even more, now that the trauma-sharing field between them was levelled. They know each other on a fundamental level, each other’s thoughts and fears and abilities. As a team, they’re downright unstoppable.

And the sex is a definite bonus, Lena notes with a shiver as she glances at the large and badly-patched hole Kara’s fist left in the drywall behind her bed last night. Lena had hardly even noticed when Kara went through the solid mahogany headboard at the time. Now, the memory warms her for the whole car ride to the venue.

Everything seems so much easier now, so comically simple in comparison to before, that Lena could hit herself for how stubborn she’s been.

It didn’t take long for the domino effect of Mercy’s arrest and subsequent investigation to take down Max Lord’s credibility. The inquest into her financials, helped by Sam’s unearthing of her offshore accounts and a little investigative journalism spearheaded by Kara, left a money trail that’s impossible not to follow, and within weeks his campaign for Mayor was brought to an unceremonious end as he fled the city for what Lena knows is a sizeable property in the Maldives.

While she was worried at first, Lena has to applaud Andrea’s acting skills, because Lillian has her announcing her last-minute candidacy within the week. And it wouldn’t be a Luthor production without a grand party to kick it all off.

The gala is, somehow, more worrying than any part of their plan that came before it. Lena has been to what feels like a thousand Luthor galas over the years, always keeping to the edges to observe rather than playing an active part, and she knows the dance of these events like the back of her hand by now; however, this is the first time in all her years of life that she’s had to be at one with Kara also in attendance as a member of the media, and according to Sam, Lena’s poker face has all but disappeared when it comes to the blonde.

Lillian had seriously considered blocking CatCo from the media list for the event, and Lena had seriously considered encouraging it. But in the end Lillian decided that it would likely raise more questions than it would prevent, and now that the day has arrived Lena has to figure out how to be in a room with Kara without making her feelings clear to anyone in a hundred-foot radius.

She fails before Kara even arrives.

“You’d think you’re the one who’s in the spotlight.”

Lena had somehow missed Andrea’s presence in her preoccupation with Kara’s impending entrance, and she smooths her hands over her dress nervously. She chose one that appears conservatively cut, made of a thick material with a lace overlay, but she knows that the collared neckline draws attention to her throat; and as much as she wants to fly under the radar, she can’t help but want to capitalize on Kara’s apparent weakness for it. She wants Lillian to ignore her – she wants Kara to see her.

Andrea hands her a champagne flute, which Lena takes gratefully if only to have something to fidget with besides her outfit.

“I’m always nervous when my mother is around,” Lena mutters, taking a deep swallow. The alcohol won’t affect her, but sometimes it’s nice to pretend.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this jumpy,” Andrea says, low and close to her ear. There’s no telling who might be listening, here, and they have to be careful with specifics. Lena has placed herself near the band for a reason, where the string instruments should drown out most quiet conversation. “Has there been some kind of change I should know about?”

Lena shakes her head imperceptibly. “No, nothing like that. I’m just feeling a bit –“

The rest of the sentence is lost in a soft wheeze when Kara enters the ballroom.

The difference between Kara in her civilian alias and in her Supergirl identity has always been striking. Supergirl radiates power and confidence, where Kara Danvers is intentionally meek and unassuming. She either stands out as one of Earth’s most prominent aliens, or she’s blending into the crowd to appear human. There are parts of the Kara that she knows in each persona, sure, but the only time Lena truly sees Kara fully as herself with no addendums is when they’re alone together, or arguably when Kara is with Alex.

When Kara strolls into what amounts to a viper’s den wearing a tailored suit in deep blue, her hair drawn up into a sleek coif that Lena has never seen before and a CatCo media badge hanging proudly around her neck, Lena might have had to do a double take to make sure it was really her if it weren’t for the way her heart aches the second Kara is in the room.

Lena has noticed, lately, that Kara has been more and more daring in her civilian wardrobe. She’s been less likely to wear the pastels and skirts that Lena associated with her when she first met Kara’s alias, and has instead been favouring fitted pants and thick leather belts, button-ups and jewel tones. It’s undeniably masculine, and Kara’s self-assurance has increased exponentially with every passing day. Perhaps, Lena thinks as Kara meets her eyes and grins with utter confidence, this is the first public appearance of Kara Zor-El. Of Kara blending all parts of herself into a whole, and letting the world see it.

The second they’re sharing space, Lena’s nerves disappear. Just an automatic, unwitting reaction to her proximity.

Everything is going to be okay.

“Ah,” Andrea says, her hand tightening on her champagne flute. It startles Lena out of her thoughts, and she realizes that for the second time, she’s forgotten Andrea’s presence. “Of course. I should have guessed.”

“Guessed what?” Lena asks, drawing her eyes away from Kara.

Her,” Andrea inclines her head towards Kara, thankfully refraining from saying Kara’s name out loud. With Lillian in earshot, Lena would prefer any association between them be as vague as possible. “Finally figured it out, I assume?”

Lena can feel a horribly conspicuous blush climbing up her exposed shoulders, and she fans herself with a napkin idly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Come on, Lena. I know you. I’ve never seen you go from so stressed to so relaxed, especially with Lillian nearby.” Andrea’s voice is strained, and she clears her throat before taking a delicate sip from her glass. “So, you must have worked out whatever issues were holding you back.”

Holding you back from me remains unsaid, but Lena can hear it in the pointed silence Andrea leaves.

Andrea is observant. She’s always been extraordinarily good at telling when Lena is lying, and she knows that if she tried it now, it would only hurt Andrea more than telling the truth. So Lena finds Kara in the crowd again, drawing strength from the reassuring ease of her movement through the ballroom.

“Yes,” she murmurs, watching Kara snag a glass of scotch from a passing tray, sip it, and wince dramatically. She meets Lena’s eyes again, holding the glass up subtly as if to say ‘you like this stuff?, and Lena smiles. “We figured it out.”

We,” Andrea says, her eyes soft and almost mournful. “That’s telling. You’ve always been an I.”

“I can be both,” Lena says, and Andrea snorts quietly.

“I’m happy for you, Lena.”

She very clearly isn’t, but Lena appreciates the effort. She squeezes Andrea’s arm, and as she does she catches Kara’s eyes again over her shoulder. Kara is talking to someone, her little tape recorder on the table as she takes diligent notes, but she’s doing it without looking at the notepad. Her focus, her eyes, are all on Lena.

The attention makes it very difficult for Lena to keep her distance. She and Kara skirt around each other for most of the night, never interacting but always close – Kara charms the guests, conducts short interviews, and eats her weight in hors d’oeuvres (she favours the platters of dumplings, Lena notices), while Lena skulks around the periphery trying her best to remain unnoticed. She almost thinks that they’ve managed to fly under the radar, until Lillian sidles up next to her at the bar as the party is starting to wind down.

“Cavorting with humans again?” Lillian drawls, taking a delicate sip of her new flute of champagne. “I thought I’d taught you better.”

Like a shot of adrenaline a surge of wild panic sparks in Lena, squeezing the breath from her lungs. She’d been so careful, so calculated, and knowing that Lillian had noticed anyways makes her blood run cold. But with some careful breathing she regulates the thunder of her heartbeat, knowing full well that Lillian will notice if she lets her body react for too long.

Lillian noticed her connection with Kara, and is commenting on it to make her feel ashamed. But, Lillian said human. She thinks Kara is human, which means she doesn’t know that Kara is Supergirl. Which means she can’t know anything about their alliance, or their true connection.

All Lena has to do now is exactly what she’s done for the last 100 years – she has to act her ass off.

“What I do or do not do with a human is none of your concern,” Lena says coolly, forcing her voice to be even and gesturing to the bartender for another drink. Something harder than champagne, this time.

Lillian turns, one condescending brow perfectly arched.

“Isn’t it? I am your mother. I’m supposed to shape you into the best you can be.”

You’re supposed to nurture me, Lena thinks furiously. You’re supposed to care. But she swallows the thought, focusing entirely on selling the ruse she’s making up on the spot.

“Aren’t you always telling me I should find more outlets for feeding? Maybe I’m following your advice.”

Lillian scoffs. “I know you, Lena. You’re soft. You’ll grow attached, and then you’ll submit to your nature and break her. How many times must I teach you this lesson?”

It takes everything Lena has not to flinch at the reminder.

Lillian isn’t wrong about her pattern. It was so difficult to control herself in the beginning, when everything was new and unfamiliar, before she knew her limits and triggers. Lex had made her into a monster without teaching her how to live as one, and he seemed to take a perverse sort of delight in watching her fumble at normalcy while fighting her instincts. And when those instincts overpowered her reason and she ended up hurting humans, all the better.

It had only taken a few instances of lashing out and traumatizing people she considered friends for her to withdraw from human society completely.

But Kara is different. Kara isn’t human, and Lena can’t hurt her accidentally. Kara knows who Lena is, what she is, and trusts her. Kara knows every dark, terrible part of Lena’s soul and somehow, still loves her.

Kara believes in her, and Lena can do this.

“Well, if you must know, I’ve finally learned it,” Lena says, taking a measured sip of scotch as she constructs a lie that she can only hope will be convincing. “The human is a reporter for CatCo. Works directly under Cat Grant. She’s enamored with me…and she’s talkative. A few weeks more, and I’ll be able to wring Cat’s every move out of her.”

For the first time in recent memory, the look that Lillian turns on Lena is impressed rather than disappointed. She narrows her eyes, scanning Lena for the slightest hint of dishonesty – but she seems satisfied with what she finds, and with an airy chuckle she taps her glass against Lena’s.

“Well, well. Here’s to finally living up to your potential.”

Lena drinks to the toast, and the only thing keeping her stomach from roiling at Lillian’s twisted approval is knowing that Kara is nearby and listening. She knows that Kara can hear the successful deception, and is truly proud of her for surviving the encounter in a way that Lillian could never be.

When Lillian glides off to schmooze with potential donors, her absence is filled almost immediately by the object of Lena’s thoughts. Kara presses herself close to Lena’s back, ignoring the bartender in favour of kissing the shell of Lena’s ear.

“You’re incredible,” Kara murmurs, her broad hand resting heavy and warm on Lena’s waist. “You know that?”

“It’s why you’re so enamoured with me,” Lena replies, glancing Lillian’s way. Her mother is watching them, but her eyes avert back to her own conversation easily. For now, the scam is holding up.

“One of many reasons.”

Lena scoffs lightly, putting on airs of disinterest that she knows Kara can feel are only for show. “You’re just happy you’re allowed to be close to me now.”

“That is part of it, yeah,” Kara admits, her voice low and stirring. Lena can feel Kara moving forward, pressing her lightly into the bartop, and it brings back deliciously recent memories of Kara pressing her into various surfaces in her apartment. Last night, when Kara had pinned her into the shower wall and so hard that she cracked the tile, is particularly prominent in her mind. “Acting like a lovesick human puppydog following you around isn’t exactly going to be difficult.”

“Shh,” Lena says, knowing full well that as long as she can’t hear Lillian’s conversation, Lillian can’t hear theirs – but that could change at any second. Anything from Kara’s words to Lena’s now-thudding heartbeat could tip her off. “Subtlety.”

“Would it be subtle if I asked you to dance?”

Lena swallows, gripping the wood of the bartop to ground herself. More than anything in this moment she wants to say yes, to have Kara lead her onto the dancefloor and pull her close in full view of everyone. But the lie she sold to Lillian is tenuous, and she knows without a doubt that if she even turned around right now to look Kara in the face, her real feelings would radiate without her consent.

“I’m not sure if that’s a good idea,” Lena says reluctantly, but Kara seems to have expected it. She tugs on Lena’s wrist, inclining her head towards a nearby balcony.

“Follow me.”

“A balcony isn’t exactly subtle,” Lena says as Kara leads them outside, the doors still open to the gala. “It’s nice out here, but –”

Kara doesn’t answer. She just approaches the railing in a spot hidden from most of the ballroom, and holds out a hand with a smile. Lena looks down at it, taking it in her own without hesitation. There’s no hesitation, anymore.

“Where are we going?” Lena asks, as Kara pulls her close and starts to float.

“Not far.”

They land softly in the darkened gardens two storeys below, and Kara sets Lena down on the grass with a cheeky grin. Immediately Lena’s stilettos sink into the soft ground, and she sighs, looking up at Kara from at least an inch lower than she should be.

“I didn’t think about that,” Kara mutters, looking down at her own flat-soled dress shoes.

Ordinarily Lena wouldn’t consider taking her shoes off outdoors when her mother is so close by to ridicule her. But even Lillian can’t see them down here, and Kara looks so put out by the obvious oversight to her romantic idea that Lena steps out of her shoes and sets them on a decorative rock, wiggling her toes freely in the (admittedly, pleasantly cool and soft) grass.

Kara looks delighted, kicking her own shoes and socks off to match, and soon Lillian is the furthest thing from Lena’s mind.

“May I have this dance?” Kara asks, bowing and offering her hand with a carefree smile. She looks so at ease, her tie loosened and her feet bare, barely lit by the dim cast from the ballroom windows up above, and Lena has never wanted anything more in her entire life.

Again she accepts Kara’s hand, and Kara draws her into a dance that has no real rhythm. There’s no steps, no structured limb placement – just Kara’s arm tight around her waist, the other holding Lena’s hand to her chest. With neither of them wearing shoes Lena fits perfectly into the crook of Kara’s shoulder, and the music from the ballroom is just loud enough to drift through the window as a backdrop as they lose themselves in a brief private moment.

It’s almost serene. The air is full of the sounds of crickets and night birds, the traffic of the city mostly cut off in this walled-off slice of nature, and Lena is lulled by Kara’s steady heartbeat into an almost Zen-like calm.

“Did you know that your eyes glow in the dark?”

Lena blinks, raising her head from Kara’s shoulder to frown up at her.

“What?”

“Well, not glow exactly,” Kara corrects, kissing the tip of Lena’s nose. “But – they reflect light. It’s all I could see of you, that night you helped Manchester Black escape from me. It’s beautiful. I’ve always thought it was.”

Lena knows, intellectually, that her ability to see in the dark means her eyes look like a cat, flashing in the dark when any light is shed nearby. But having Kara notice feels strange. As does having it be considered a positive attribute.

“Beautiful? I would think more, alarming,” Lena says, laying her head back on Kara’s shoulder. “Haunting. Startling, maybe.”

“It is alarming how beautiful you are.”

Lena rolls her eyes, smacking Kara’s shoulder lightly with their joined hands. “Stop.”

Using their hands as an anchor Kara spins her around, not seeming to stop after a few rotations as expected and instead whirling her around and around until Lena is dizzy and laughing. When she finally stops, pulling their arms taut, Lena loses her balance – but rather than falling over, Kara catches her in a dip.

“Hauntingly gorgeous,” Kara continues with a loopy grin, as the world swirls around them in Lena’s vision. “Startlingly sexual.”

Lena has to cover her mouth to keep from laughing loudly enough to alert the ballroom upstairs.

“Shh,” she whispers half-heartedly, still smiling. “Goof.”

“Yeah, but you like me.”

Kara’s eyes are bright and sparkling with mirth, still holding Lena aloft with a single hand. She presses their foreheads together, an affectionate bump, and Lena has never felt more safe and happy in her life. Her mother be damned, Kara deserves to know it.

Kara leans forward slightly, clearly chasing a kiss – but instead Lena ducks it and leans closer, right next to Kara’s ear.

“I love you.”

Kara inhales sharply, her shoulder tensing under Lena’s hand.

If she didn’t share a bond with her, Lena might think it was a negative response – but she can feel Kara’s real reaction like a fireworks display in her chest, her stomach swooping in tandem. Crackling explosions like a crescendo, pure joy and disbelief at Lena’s confession.

Lena should be terrified. But when Kara pulls back, straightening both of them and looking at Lena like she’s just given her something precious, she only feels a warm sort of happiness at making Kara so happy.

“You do?” Kara asks, her eyes brimming with tears that Lena knows are pure joy; and Lena cups her face, smiling at the surprise she sees there.

“You know I do. You can feel it.”

“Feeling it is different than saying it.”

“I know,” Lena says, brushing the wet trail from Kara’s cheek. “And I’m saying it.”

Kara catches her wrist, kissing the palm of her hand in what’s becoming a familiar and comforting gesture. “I love you, too.”

“That’s pretty obvious.”

Kara laughs, a relieved exhalation to the sky that feels like a thank you. When they kiss it’s through smiles, with their heads in the clouds and their bare toes in the dirt, and Lena’s troubles are as far away as the stars.

“No matter what happens, remember this. Okay?” Lena says quietly, against Kara’s lips. She presses a hand to Kara’s chest, firmly over her heart. “Remember how I feel about you.”

“What do you mean?” Kara asks, that familiar sweet crinkle forming between her brows as she tries to parse Lena’s meaning. But Lena herself doesn’t know exactly what she means – just that she needs a moment of affirmation, a confirmation that Kara will be with her through anything. That whatever surprises her mother pulls over their eyes, Kara will never give up on her.

“Just promise me,” Lena says, and Kara nods without hesitation.

“Of course, Lena.”

Kara wraps her arms fully around Lena, tucking Lena’s face into the crook of her shoulder again, and Lena’s worries fade away. Lillian might as well be on a different planet - the distant music switches to an upbeat tempo, and for a little while, Lena forgets.

 


 

Since she was a child, the most terrifying thing in the world to Lena has been the cold anger of the Luthors. The mania simmering just below the surface of their façade of calm. Even now, when she likes to think she’s evolved past trying to impress her stepmother, weathering her disapproval still makes Lena’s insides freeze. Nothing, she had thought, could be more anxiety-inducing than Lillian’s piercing stare or Lex’s unpredictable explosions of temper.

That was before Lena agreed to sit at a dinner table with Clark Kent.

It’s been awkward since the moment Clark crossed the threshold of Kara’s apartment. Lois’ handshake and smile had been warm and genuine, but the tall figure behind her had been significantly less so – his handshake just a little too firm, his smile just a little too fixed. The small talk - mostly facilitated by Lois and Kara - peters out almost as soon as Kara puts the food on the table, and the silence as they all eat their chicken piccata is deafening.

“So, Kara,” Lois finally says, breaking the quiet so suddenly that Lena almost drops her fork, “this is delicious. I had no idea you were such a good cook.”

“Lena helped,” Kara supplies immediately, squeezing Lena’s free hand on top of the table. “She’s really great at cooking.”

“I thought vampires only needed to eat the blood of innocent people,” Clark mutters, spearing a piece of broccoli. “Or is that just Luthors?”

Clark!” Kara snaps, putting her fork down forcefully.

Clark has the decency to look slightly abashed at the jab, especially after Lois kicks him under the table, but Lena finds herself not caring for his remorse. She’s been on the defensive since this morning, waiting on pins and needles for Clark’s arrival knowing that he still judges her based on her brother, and like a cobra her anger rises and strikes to mask her hurt.

“It was really Kara who did most of the cooking. She learned from Eliza. You know, the woman you abandoned her with when she was 12.”

Lena regrets it the moment it leaves her mouth. She can feel Kara’s stab of hurt at the reminder when the salt shaker shatters in Clark’s fist; and Lena, suddenly reminded of the toxic and sometimes violent family dinners of her childhood before the veil of fae secrecy dropped, stands abruptly. Her chair screeches across the hardwood, and Kara grabs for her hand but Lena pulls it away.

“Excuse me,” Lena manages to say, before making a beeline for the front door.

It’s hardly closed behind her before Kara has followed, and Lena has to press a hand to her chest to fight through the war of Kara’s anxiety and her own blending there.

“I’m sorry, Kara. I should go,” Lena says, taking a few measured breaths and leaning against the wall. “I should never have come in the first place.”

“What? Why?”

“He’s clearly uncomfortable with me being here,” Lena says, inclining her head back towards the apartment. “And I clearly react to that by being defensive. I could feel your hurt in there. I should leave you to spend time together – my presence is counterproductive.”

Kara frowns, tugging Lena forward by the front of her sweater. “Let him be uncomfortable.

“Kara –“ Lena protests, halfheartedly trying to untangle Kara’s hands from her shirt, but Kara just moves them to sit on her hips.

I want you here,” Kara says firmly, following Lena’s eyes when she tries to avoid contact. “You’re my soulmate, and if he’s not comfortable with you, he’s going to have to get used to it.” She seals the statement with a soft kiss, and Lena can’t help but relax at the contact.

“You’re sweet,” she murmurs, kissing the tip of Kara’s nose. “But we need Lois’ help, and if his distrust of me means he won’t –“

“He said he would trust you,” Kara says, her determined expression turning almost pouty. “He promised.”

“He did promise,” Clark’s voice interrupts from the doorway, and Lena jumps, pulling away from Kara slightly. She knows it’s silly, but it seems somehow like she’s doing something wrong by kissing his cousin right in front of him. “Could I talk to Lena privately?”

Clark looks much less guarded than before, almost contrite, but Kara still frowns at him.

“Are you going to insult her?”

“Kara, it’s fine,” Lena says, squeezing her hand. “I shouldn’t have snapped back.”

“No, I deserved it, Clark says, holding up a hand when Lena tries to politely protest. “I did. I swear, I just want to talk.”

Kara allows him to pass, stepping back into the apartment and closing the door, but Lena has absolutely no doubt that she’s listening intently on the other side.

Clark speaks before Lena can interject.

“I owe you an apology.”

“You…do?” Lena asks, the apology on her own lips evaporating. She expected a wary truce, perhaps, borne of Lena asking forgiveness – she never would have expected Superman himself to apologize to a Luthor for a comment that was, while unnecessarily pointed, not completely inaccurate.

“I promised Kara that I trusted her judgement, that I would give you a chance, and I haven’t,” Clark explains, fiddling with his glasses in a way so reminiscent of Kara that it gives Lena the sudden and alarming impulse to hug him. She shoves it down deep, and clasps her hands firmly in front of her. “I came in with preconceived notions of what you would be like, and seeing you with my cousin…”

He sighs, and Lena can when see the curtain of stony distrust he’s been maintaining since he arrived starts to drop.

“I know you think I left her for selfish reasons, and maybe that was part of it, no matter how much I tried to tell myself otherwise. Maybe I was young, and didn’t feel capable of caring for a child. But I wanted her to have a normal life,” Clark says quietly, likely knowing just as well as Lena does that Kara is hearing the conversation. “I wanted her to grow up and become her own person like I did, without needing to live in my shadow. I wanted to protect her. Which is why I had so much trouble seeing you beyond your family. Kara is so important to me that I can’t…I couldn’t imagine you being much different with Lex.”

“I can understand that. Although your family aren’t mass murdering xenophobes,” Lena says, and Clark offers her a weak chuckle.

“I know what I said was out of line. But I still want to protect her, and the idea of her being with Lex Luthor’s sister was just…”

“I know.”

Clark runs a hand through his hair, somehow maintaining the shiny coif in the same annoyingly perfect way that Kara does. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the House of El can be pretty stubborn.”

Lena laughs quietly. “Kara is one of the most headstrong people I’ve ever met once she gets an idea in her head. Besides myself, anyways.”

“But she listens to you.”

“Debatable,” Lena drawls. Clark laughs, a real laugh that goes right to his eyes, and Lena recognizes for the first time why it is that people find Superman so charming. He has the same quality that Kara does, really, just in a clean-cut all-American way rather than Kara’s sweet goofiness with an undertone of steel.

“She does,” he insists. “And that means something. I’m sorry, Lena. This night has been a disaster, but I’d like to start over. If you’re willing.”

He offers his hand to shake, and Lena takes it with a tentative smile – and the moment she does, Kara bursts through the door, a huge grin on her face.

“See, I knew you two would like each other if you just put the claws away,” Kara says, grabbing both of them and drawing them closer in a double-hug. “Now, can we finally eat?”

Dinner is finished in a much friendlier atmosphere than before, and while Kara gathers up the dishes Clark takes Lois’ hand, looking at Lena more openly.

“I guess we should get down to what we really came here for,” Lois says, and Lena nods as Kara returns to the table and slings an arm around her shoulders. “My father.”

“He’s the final link,” Kara says, and Clark’s brow furrows. “The last ally Lillian has with any power. And he’s supplying her with weapons and kryptonite.”

Clark looks concerned at that. “See, this is why I objected to the manufacture of synthetic kryptonite to begin with. It’s created once, and then the next thing you know the military is using it to enable alien genocide.”

“My father is severe,” Lois interrupts, and Clark makes a face that indicates he thinks that’s a bit of an understatement. “Arrogant. Cruel, often. A stubborn asshole, definitely. But I think I can talk him out of this. I can’t accept that he would do this willingly.”

“You think he’s being forced?” Lena asks.

“Manipulated, maybe,” Lois says, looking a bit lost. “I don’t know. He’s afraid of aliens, yes, and wants them under control – but public mass murder is a few steps beyond what I think even he’s capable of. I think if I can just talk to him – “

“That’s a big risk,” Kara warns. “If we give him warning like that, he could go to Lillian. This whole thing could be blown.”

“He probably doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. He’s not a good person, I know that,” Lois admits, and Lena can see the struggle in her face. “I just don’t know what the alternative is. He’s a respected general. We don’t have any power in his arena, and skeletons in his closet usually have no real impact on the military.”

“If Lois really thinks he could be convinced to defect,” Lena says carefully, meeting Lois’ eyes across the table, “then I say we let her try. We need all the allies we can get. Catch more flies with honey, and all that.”

Kara stares at her. “Since when are you a proponent of using honey, and not the most efficient method?”

“I suppose you’ve rubbed off on me.”

Kara looks surprised, but the smile she points at Lena is absolutely delighted.

“Okay, so it’s decided?” Kara says tentatively. “Lois will talk to him?”

“I think you two should come as well,” Lois says, gesturing at Lena and Kara. Lena is ready to agree, but Kara shakes her head.

“Lena coming is too much of a risk. On the chance he goes to Lillian, it would blow her cover and put her in danger,” Kara argues, and Lois accepts the point. “But I’ll be there. He hates me, but seeing me face-to-face might help convince him that what he’s doing is wrong.”

Lois agrees, and soon she and Clark excuse themselves to fly home to Metropolis. When Clark leaves he gives Lena an honest-to-god hug, and Lena gets to spend the rest of the night celebrating the success of the endeavor with Kara - so enthusiastically in fact that a disgruntled note from the downstairs neighbour gets slipped under Kara’s door at 1am.

“As if I don’t quietly deal with him playing the drums every worknight. Rude,” Kara grumbles, shredding the note and throwing it in the direction of the trashcan as she stomps back across the apartment. She’s fully naked and beautiful, the planes of her body lit by soft lamplight; love and wanting washes over Lena in equal measure. How she ever lived without this is beyond her, now. Being here with Kara, bare and comfortable, feels as natural as breathing.

The paper scatters like confetti, completely missing the target, but Kara doesn’t seem to care. She just climbs back into bed, smiling wide when Lena hooks a leg around her waist.

“We were pretty loud just now,” Lena says, her breath hitching as Kara presses their bodies together and nips at her neck. It’s incredible how the slightest touch has her body roaring to life again, no matter how many times she’s been sated. “And every other night this week. I imagine it’s difficult to sleep with us breaking furniture one floor up.”

“We aren’t that loud.”

“The remnants of your bedframe currently staring at us from the living room would argue otherwise.”

Kara twists slightly to look at the offending furniture. Two nights ago it had finally given up the ghost, buckling underneath them with a resounding crash just as Lena was coming hard around the new silicone strap that now lives in Kara’s bedside drawer. At the time they had just kept going, hardly noticing the interruption with Lena’s teeth in Kara’s neck and Kara’s hips driving her into oblivion; now Kara’s mattress and boxspring sit on the hardwood, and she doesn’t seem to mind.

“Fine, maybe we are,” Kara concedes, not remorseful at all. “But if he saw who it is I’m making ‘all this racket’ with, I think he’d understand. I can’t be expected to have you in my bed and not make a racket.”

Lena could offer her own apartment to solve this problem. It’s several times bigger with no downstairs neighbors, and her stark catalog furniture can more easily be replaced than Kara’s lovingly collected mishmash of well-worn pieces. But Lena likes it here. It’s warm and homey, and everything in it smells like Kara. She sleeps better in this tiny space than she ever has in her cold, sprawling penthouse suite.

“We could slow down and let him sleep,” Lena says even as she grins with intent, pulling Kara down by the hips. “It’d be the polite thing to do.” She spreads her legs, the slippery wetness of the hours previous pressing against Kara’s hipbone, and Kara exhales shakily.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you come for me,” Kara breathes against her mouth, light and full of wonder, “I can’t stop wanting to touch you. I don’t think I ever will.”

Kara punctuates the breathless statement by shifting her hips down in a very specific movement, the ghost of something that Lena suddenly craves just as much as she’s sure Kara does right now. Without a second thought Lena wraps her legs around Kara’s hips, opening herself up to the tease, and fumbles for the bedside drawer.

“I don’t want you to stop,” Lena admits, pulling out her prize and reveling in Kara’s exhilarated expression. Her blown-out eyes, the hunger in her gaze. “I love the way you want me.”

She knows that Kara knows this already. One of the wonderful and terrible things about their bond is that Kara can see everything; when they’re joined, especially during sex, every moment of desire is broadcast. Kara knows how much Lena thrives on being wanted. How she loves Kara’s hunger for her, craving the way it chases away all the insecurities she’s held onto for most of her life. But in turn Lena knows, especially since the gala, how much Kara thrives on vocal confirmation. She likes hearing the proof of Lena’s pleasure in her voice, likes when Lena moans her name or whimpers every dirty thought she has into her ear. Hence the noise complaints.

Lena isn’t naturally one to voice her most secret thoughts. But when it results in a tidal wave of gratitude and desire like this one, Kara shamelessly using her superspeed to get into the harness and bury herself inside Lena until her toes curl, it’s entirely worth the vulnerability.

The noise continues long into the night, but no more notes appear.

 


 

For a few days, Lena genuinely thinks that everything might go off without a hitch. That they might convince General Lane to abandon Lillian, trap her in her own little crumbling empire, and stop her egomaniacal world domination and mass murder plan in its tracks. Lillian will try to rebuild, of course – but it will take money and time, time in which they can converge around her and disable her device before it can be used. Turn her into the authorities with all the evidence they can muster, and watch her try to wriggle out of life in prison without her friends in high places.

This feels like the final stretch. The last leg of the marathon, leading up to a world where she doesn’t have to spend every moment looking over her shoulder for her mother’s shadow. Where Lex’s crimes and her mother’s influence don’t hang over her like a constant weight. Lena feels, for the first time in decades, a glimmer of something she had forgotten before she met Kara – hope.

It means that when she discovers things aren’t as hopeful they seem, it’s all the more terrifying.

Lena might not have even figured it out, had she not managed to pull herself away from Kara’s distracting kisses and requests to play hooky this morning. Kara seemed reluctant to leave their safe little bubble – today is the day she’s meeting with Lois to talk to Sam Lane, and it’s clear that she’s nervous about the confrontation. But against Kara’s pleas Lena had pushed her out the door to do her job, and dragged herself to LuthorCorp to do her quarterly walk-through of the labs as a distraction from Kara’s anxiety rocketing through her own chest.

These inspections are usually done while the place is bustling with techs and researchers but this time it falls on a quiet Saturday morning, and the click of Lena’s heels are the only sound as she runs through her internal checklist. They echo through the empty space, and it’s only that fact that makes her stop suddenly when they don’t.

It’s not even that the clicking stops. It just sounds different, suddenly, and Lena takes a few steps back – click, click, click – and then forward. At the same spot, the sound turns into a duller and almost imperceptible thunk.

There’s something under the floor.

The walk-through is the last thing on her mind, now; and Kara’s anxiety is gone, replaced with her own. There’s no indication of any trapdoor under the tiles, no seam that she can detect, but knowing Lex and Lillian there has to be a studiously hidden but ultimately ostentatious opening mechanism. It takes her 45 minutes of tearing the lab apart to find it, but find it she does – and as she suspected, it’s hidden in plain sight. What used to be a life-size portrait of Lex overlooking his employees was replaced by one of Lillian some time ago, but the plaque underneath it has never changed – it still reads a quote from her brother. ‘I will always have my thumb on the scales’.

She’s always found it beyond distasteful. But now, she prods and pushes at the plaque until finally, the word thumb slides away to reveal a glowing fingerprint scanner.

Lena rolls her eyes at the wordplay. Lex always thought he was cleverer than he actually was.

Swallowing her sudden sense of foreboding, Lena presses her thumb to the pad. It blinks red for a moment, before flashing green as a cool digital voice says Luthor DNA detected.

As the floor opens into a smooth set of stairs, Lena could almost laugh. Lex thought that locking it behind his DNA was safe, that nobody but himself or his mother would think to find it. He always underestimated Lena, and as usual she’s happy to use it to her advantage.

She descends the stairs carefully, swallowing the spike of anxiety when the floor slides back into place over her head. It all seems so silly and so very Lex – a hidden room in his own building locked by DNA, no doubt to house his less publicly favourable weapons technology. Whatever is in here needs to be emptied and destroyed, and Lena has every intention of doing so after hours when she’s less likely to be caught be some unsuspecting intern putting in extra hours on a Saturday. But when she emerges into what turns out to be a small lab, she’s shocked to find that there’s almost nothing in it. There’s equipment that isn’t in the rest of the LuthorCorp labs, sure, experimental technology for the most part – but there’s only one thing in it that would seem out of place elsewhere.

Sitting open on the table is a sleek silver briefcase, and when she gets closer to inspect it her fears are confirmed. Inside, set into secure black foam, are six phials with a toxic-looking green fluid inside. The top part of the case is a screen, and on it there’s a complicated chemical formula as well as a planned dispersal trajectory.

It’s the isotope. The virus that Lillian plans on using to kill all aliens – to kill Kara - has been under Lena’s nose this whole time, and from the looks of the formula, it’s almost finished. Lillian has clearly somehow accelerated the production, and none of Lena’s moles caught it.

All that’s missing is the dispersal mechanism.

Her heart pounding, she backs away with the intent of leaving this room exactly as she found it – but as she does, she catches movement in her peripheral. In the far corner of the room to her right is a small camera, and the little red light underneath it has just started to blink.

Shit.

Forcing herself into a mask of calm she steps out of the camera’s field of view and slowly heads back towards the stairs, and as she climbs them and the floor opens again over her head the options flicker through her head like a rolodex.

Lillian is going to know soon enough that Lena has seen it, if she wasn’t already on the other side of that camera, and there’s only two ways it can possibly go – either Lillian has her eliminated as soon as possible, or she decides that Lena has done enough to be trusted and brings her in on the plot. Which of the two it is depends entirely on Lena’s acting skills.

Skills which become immediately necessary as she climbs out of the trapdoor to find Lillian waiting for her, just as poised and unreadable as always. She’s dressed for travel with a fitted trenchcoat and a duffel bag, and Lena has a sinking feeling that her discovery of the isotope has just kicked the plan into motion ahead of schedule.

In a few seconds, Lena’s only possible path is calculated.

As she hits solid ground and the floor slides closed behind her, Lena goes through the same exercises she’s used for years when she needs to confront her mother – breathing deeply to calm herself down, bringing her heart rate under control so that lies can’t be easily detected. It’s something she’s so familiar with that it feels second nature, but never in her long life have the stakes been so high. And this time, she has the added difficulty of needing to muster up a wall between herself and Kara, as well.

Nobody can know her fear. Not Lillian, and not Kara. The second Kara feels Lena’s stress she’ll want to fix it, and the last thing she needs while selling this ruse is for her girlfriend to come crashing through the wall, sensing her terror and needing to rescue her. Lena got herself caught, and she has to face the consequences.

“Been exploring, have we?” Lillian says, a brow perfectly arched. She gives away nothing – and Lena gives nothing in return.

“Call it Luthor curiosity,” Lena says, letting her voice drop into a confident drawl. Relaxed and unaffected, despite being thrust into a hornet’s nest. Every second is one where Kara could catch on, and she needs to make sure that doesn’t happen. They can’t lose this advantage at the last. If Lillian is going to leave, taking the dispersal device with her, Lena needs to be there to sabotage it. “And I want in.”

Lillian’s gaze is piercing, weighing Lena on whatever twisted scales reside in her mind. But Lena doesn’t budge, her face a mask of calm, and finally Lillian’s face twists into a sinister smile.

“I knew you’d want to finish Lex’s legacy,” Lillian coos, smoothing a cold hand across Lena’s hair and resting impersonally on her cheek in a motherly gesture that’s as unfamiliar as it is ominous. “I’ve noticed the change in you, lately. You’re taking initiative. You’re finally learning your worth to us.”

I’m finally learning my worth without you, Lena thinks. But her face betrays nothing, and Lillian seems deeply pleased.

“Are you ready to change the world?”

With a swift and silent apology to Kara, still off somewhere and completely unaware of what’s about to happen to their months of careful planning, Lena nods coolly.

“Lead the way.”

 


 

It’s only been a few weeks since she and Lena finally gave into their connection, and Kara can hardly believe how perfectly everything is going.

Their replacements for Lillian’s allies are operating perfectly. Manchester Black has been true to his word, leading the werewolves away from Lillian’s influence and keeping out of trouble. Andrea’s campaign is shaping up to be a landslide win, and CatCo is as strong as it’s ever been with Cat back at the helm.

And to top it all off, she and Lena are basking in their newfound love. Lena’s outer shell is completely gone now, at least when they’re alone – Kara gets full access to her softness, her humour and kindness and affection. Lena is touch-starved to the extreme, especially now that she’s shared herself completely with Kara, and she soaks up everything Kara has to give – and Kara doesn’t have to spend a single second wondering if her unbridled physical affection will break Lena’s bones. It’s something she’s never really experienced before, and every reminder is a brand-new thrill.

She wants to give Lena everything. Just give and give and give, until Lena understands how much of a wonder she is.

The morning of her meeting with Lois and her father, the only thing that manages to convince Kara to get out of bed is Lena’s promise that once it’s over, they can spend the rest of the evening holed up at her apartment doing whatever they want. Lena says it with a wry smile and a kiss, and Kara flies out the window soon after, eager to get there all the faster.

She arrives outside the military base in full Supergirl regalia with a few minutes to spare, and finds Lois already waiting outside the gates. She’s in conversation with one of the guards on duty, and when Kara approaches the guard visibly gets tense. His hand moves to his weapon, as if the bullets inside it will do anything to stop her.

Although, she muses, Sam Lane is in charge here. Maybe they would.

Lois waves her over, and it’s with obvious reluctance that the guard opens the gate to let them both into the complex.

“Frosty welcome,” Kara says quietly, giving the next line of guards a nervous smile. Their guns are even larger than the one at the gate, and although Kara doesn’t feel the nails-under-skin sensation of nearby kryptonite they still make her uneasy. “You’d think they’d be a little nicer to you, at least.”

Lois scoffs. “My father knows I have a close relationship with Superman. He doesn’t know who Superman is, but he knows we’re friendly just based on my articles. He doesn’t approve of my career, or my husband. Needless to say, I haven’t spoken to him in years.”

“And you really think he’ll listen to you?” Kara asks, trying not to sound as skeptical as she is. From her interactions with Lois’ father she remembers him being pretty ruthless, militantly patriotic and earth-first, a fact which is only further confirmed by the fact that his office door has a large and prominently placed engraving of the earth below a proudly displayed American flag.

“I have to hope so,” Lois says quietly, seeming to speak to herself just as much as Kara as yet another soldier opens the door. “It’s the only plan we have.”

General Sam Lane looks just as unfriendly as he did the last time Kara saw him, when he was reluctantly giving J’onn back his title of DEO Director. Kara had seen how little Lane wanted to give that power up, and it seems he’s held onto his resentment all this time – when he rises from behind his oversized desk he barely glances at Kara, focusing his attention instead on his daughter.

“Lois. I didn’t realize you’d be bringing the Girl of Steel.” He uses Kara’s title with a sarcastic sort of sneer, one that Kara has to stop herself from visibly reacting to. Lois seems to appreciate Kara’s restraint.

“I think you need to hear this from both of us,” Lois says, her voice steady and calm. Kara can see how she became the renowned journalist that she is – she’s completely cool under pressure, even when the pressure is her own father.

Lane scoffs. “Hear what, exactly?”

“Hear that supplying Lillian Luthor with kryptonite is going to cause the death of every alien on the planet,” Kara says loudly, unable to keep the hint of emotion out of her voice. General Lane looks unimpressed.

“That’s quite the dramatic statement, Supergirl,” he says, sounding bored already with speaking to her. But even Kara can see the cracks in the façade – something in him is struggling with something, with Lois here showing him the consequences of his actions.

They have to keep pushing.

“We know about the virus,” Kara says, with more clarity. Lane looks surprised for a moment, but he collects himself quickly.

“I don’t know how you got access to that information, but your Kryptonian God complex seems to be getting in the way,” he says, shifting and resting a hand on the butt of his handgun in a clear attempt at a power stance. “Lillian Luthor’s goal is to help this planet, and I intend on assisting her in that.”

“I know that you’re scared of them,” Lois says quietly, and Sam’s face softens somewhat in reaction. “And when things scare you, you strike back. But what you’re talking about is genocide. The father I know wouldn’t do that.”

“It is not genocide to strip aliens of the powers they use to terrorize humanity,” Lane says forcefully, his hand leaving the handle of his gun to point at Kara for emphasis. “With their powers removed, so is the threat. They’re free to do what they want after that.”

Strip their – “ Kara says in disbelief. “Is that what she told you? That this virus will just take away our powers?”

“It’ll kill them, Dad,” Lois says in a voice more gentle than Kara can muster right now. “The virus is poison. It’ll kill every alien on earth.”

“Of course that’s what she has you – “

“You raised a journalist. You think I’d come to you with no proof?” Lois says, almost as forceful as her father. “We have an inside source. Several, in fact. And one that Lillian shared everything with.”

He laughs, this last claim clearly the least plausible of them all. “Oh, do you? Who?”

“John Corben.”

General Lane pauses, then. His eyes narrow, and Kara can see the cracks in his armour widen. Lois is getting through to him. “And why should I believe Supergirl? She’s just trying to save her own powers.”

Finally, Lois takes the tablet out of her bag. It’s their trump card; the thing Lois was convinced would change her father’s mind if nothing else worked. Flicking the screen on, she passes it to him, and for the next minute Sam Lane watches the video of Corben’s interrogation at the DEO.

“It’s a virus,” Corben is saying on the video, his voice tinny but audible. Kara can just see, upside down, herself and Lena at the edge of the frame. She still remembers that day; she and Lena had one of their first real talks the day before. Lena had been so guarded, so edgy, and yet Kara had known that there was something behind the façade. Something special. “An alien poison. She plans to disperse it into the air using drones all over the country. 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.”

His grip tightens on the tablet. In the video Corben keeps talking but Lane has already shut it off, staring at his own reflection in the black screen for a second before handing it wordlessly back to his daughter.

The silence in the room afterwards is stifling.

“I’m not the kind of man who can’t admit a mistake,” he says gruffly after what Kara counts as almost a full minute of downright painful stillness. Kara almost snorts in pure shock, but she manages to keep it to a strange sort of hiccup, and General Lane thankfully ignores it. “What are you asking me to do, exactly?”

“Just stop the kryptonite shipments. That’s all we ask.”

He seems to consider that heavily for a moment, his jaw tight. His eyes flick down to his desk, and on it Kara can see a framed photograph – she can’t see exactly what it depicts, but she can guess. When he looks back up at them, Lois meets his eyes with grim determination.

And then he takes his cell phone from his pocket, and hits a few buttons.

“Lillian,” he says gruffly after only two rings on the other end. Kara can hear Lillian’s reply, sharp even over the fuzzy phone line.

General. Is there some sort of problem with my shipment?” Lillian says, honey-sweet and poisonous, and Kara can practically hear the unsaid words – because you’d better not be calling me otherwise.

“It’s over.”

Excuse me?” Lillian hisses. It’s the least in-control Kara has ever heard her sound – in every interaction that Kara has ever had with her as Supergirl, Lillian was so poised and confident that it was hard to imagine the façade ever breaking. But Lena was right. They’ve been pushing Lillian to the point of mania, slowly snipping away her power structure without ever alerting her to how it’s happening, and now she’s inches from exploding with fury.  

“The shipments are done,” Lane says, and Lois offers him a small smile. “Find your own source of kryptonite.”

If you think I won’t burn your miserable little life to the ground – “

He hangs up before Lillian can get started.

“Thank you,” Kara says genuinely as he turns the phone off to avoid the inevitable retribution, and he nods without a word. Lois turns to leave the office in silence and Kara follows, intending on flying right back to the DEO and calling Lena, but his voice stops them.

“Lois…” he rumbles, and Lois hardly turns back towards him when she answers in a firm voice.

“Nothing’s changed, Dad. You know what needs to happen if you want a relationship with me again.”

His face twitches, but he nods curtly.

“Understood.”

Lois steps into the hall, leaving her father to stare down at his desk with a stony expression and heading back to the exit at a quick clip, and Kara has to jog slightly to catch up again.

“So…what needs to happen for you to have a relationship?” Kara asks, once they’re out of earshot. The building is buzzing with activity, but every time anyone comes close to them they fall silent, watching them warily like they could attack at any second. It’s unnerving, how deeply General Lane seems to have infused his distrust of aliens into the people under his command.

“He needs to accept who I am and who I want to be with, instead of what he wants for me,” Lois replies easily. “That’s step one of…well, about a hundred. Most of them involving first pulling his head out of his ass about aliens and quitting the military.”

Kara’s doubt must show on her face, because Lois gives a sad sort of laugh. “Yeah, it’s about as likely as Lex Luthor suddenly renouncing his feud with my husband. But I appreciate you taking the risk of letting me talk to him.”

“I like to believe in people’s better nature. Compassion, you know?” Kara says, sighing with relief as they finally step outside again. She’s never wanted to leave a building more in her life. “But you should really thank Lena. She was the first on board.”

“You’re right,” Lois says, smiling when they reach the gate. She pulls out her car keys while they wait for it to open, and winks at Kara. “I liked her. You picked a good one.”

“I didn’t exactly pick,” Kara says, but she grins as the thought of Lena brings a warm feeling to her chest. “But if I had, it would still have been her.”

They part with a hug, and when Lois’ rental car has disappeared down the road – headed to meet Clark, she assumes, and fly home – Kara fires off a text to Lena.

It’s done! Meet at the DEO?

Leaning against a tree as she waits for a reply, Kara feels like she’s on top of the world. The last lynch pin is down, Lillian is exposed and vulnerable, and all she needs to do is finish this. Then, no more hiding – Lena won’t be in danger every single day, and they won’t need to look over their shoulders to see who’s watching them. They can just be.

When Lena still hasn’t replied ten minutes later, the feeling starts to fade.

It’s not like Lena to leave her unanswered. Not on an important day like today. Even if she’s in a situation where she can’t touch her phone Lena has gotten into the habit of communicating silently, sending reassurance through their connection so Kara doesn’t worry. But right now, as she centres herself and reaches out, Kara feels nothing. Or, more accurately, it’s like a blockage – like Lena is intentionally keeping her out.

All she feels is emptiness. Gnawing, terrible silence.

It nags at Kara as she lands in the atrium, something uncomfortable lodged in the hollow of her ribs, and she’s still rubbing at her chest when Alex approaches looking apprehensive. Nia and Brainy trail behind him, with J’onn standing in his usual place at the computer banks, arms crossed.

“How did it go?” Alex asks, furrowing her brow at Kara’s clearly unhappy expression. “Did he not – “

“No, it’s done. He severed ties with Lillian,” Kara says, her hand still pressed to her sternum. “She was livid.”

“We need to neutralize the virus now, when she has no resources to rebuild it. It’s likely almost complete,” Brainy says, looking happy at the development but getting right to business. “If we strike too clumsily, Lillian could snap and release it even if her network has collapsed, simply to salt the earth.”

“Is Lena coming?” Nia asks, seeming to be the only one who notices the depth of Kara’s discomfort. She puts a hand on Kara’s arm, and Kara gives her a distracted head-shake.

“I haven’t heard back, actually,” Kara frowns, pulling out her phone again. The message is still there, unread, and the low-level anxiety she’s been fending off turns into a spike of fear. “She should have replied by now. She was just finishing up a few things at LuthorCorp this morning.”

“Have you tried Sam?” Alex asks hopefully, but Kara doesn’t have the bandwidth to manage her sister’s soulmate issues when her own are so pressing. She tucks the phone into her boot, heading back to the open balcony.

“I’m just going to go check on her. I’ll be back soon, okay?”

She’s off before anyone can stop her, and she changes into her civilian clothes in the alley next door before heading into LuthorCorp and hitting the button for Lena’s floor. Her heart is pounding, suddenly, and not in a good way. Her gut is telling her she’s not going to find anything good here, but she has to know. She has to figure out what’s going on.

The first thing she notices when she steps out of the elevator is that Lena’s assistant’s desk is empty. It makes sense, being Saturday, but it makes this more difficult – Kara had been hoping to ask her where Lena might be. Instead she pushes open the door to Lena’s office with trepidation, and her heart sinks when she sees it’s empty. Lena’s purse is on the desk, her laptop unopened, and Lena is nowhere to be seen.

Her apartment, too, is empty when Kara checks. Lena hasn’t been here in days, choosing instead to stay with Kara; but she isn’t at Kara’s apartment either, and still – over an hour later – she hasn’t answered Kara’s message. There’s nothing over their bond, no telltale emotions to give her a clue. Kara is alone, and she’s slowly losing any semblance of calm.

She’s buzzing when she gets back to the DEO, pacing the floor almost as soon as she lands.

“I can’t find her,” Kara says loudly, running an absent hand through her hair. Everyone but Alex seems to be elsewhere, and her sister has to take the brunt of her unease. “She isn’t at the office, or home, or at her place. She isn’t anywhere. And I can’t feel her, I can’t – “

“I’m sure she’s fine, Kara,” Alex says, trying to touch her shoulder as she walks by, but Kara only walks faster.

“No, something is wrong. I know something is wrong,” Kara argues, and Alex looks like she’s trying to form a reply when she’s interrupted by Kara’s ringtone.

“See, that’s probably her,” Alex says, but Kara knows before she even looks at the caller ID that it isn’t. Lena doesn’t call her very often, and her fears are confirmed when she sees Sam’s name on her screen.

“Sam! Thank god,” Kara answers in lieu of greeting. “Have you seen Lena? I can’t find her anywhere – “

“I know,” Sam says quickly, sounding as scared as Kara feels. “Kara, she’s with Lillian.”

Kara’s stomach drops. Her hand starts to shake, and she has to take a moment to regulate herself before she crushes the phone  out of pure anxiety mid-conversation.

What? Where -” she starts, but Sam is way ahead of her.

“I don’t know where they are, or why they’re together, but I have a few contacts in other departments at LuthorCorp,” Sam explains, her breath coming in short puffs like she’s walking somewhere at top speed. “Lillian went into the labs this morning, and they came out together. They got in a car, and nobody has seen either of them since.“

Is she safe?” Kara asks, a million questions coming to her mind at once but needing the most important of them answered first. Sam’s answer does nothing to settle her mind.

“I don’t know. I’m sorry, Kara, I just - I don’t know.”

Sam hangs up with a promise that she’s on her way to lay out all she knows about Lillian’s operations and hideouts, and Kara lets her hand drop down listlessly to her side. The phone slips from her boneless fingers, and Alex jumps as it hits the ground.

“What’s going on?” Alex asks, her brow knitted. Kara swallows hard, her resolve solidifying as she presses her hands so hard into the nearest table that it bends under her touch. The whine of panic that hummed in her mind before is gone – numbness replaces it, and her voice sounds far away even to her own ears.

“Call Manchester Black. We need to find Lena.”

 


 

Lena has been gone for just over two days, and Kara is going out of her mind.

Since the moment Sam told her that Lena had disappeared, Kara hasn’t slept. She’s barely even sat down – just paced and paced, hovering behind every agent in the building as they work even as she knows that it’s completely unhelpful. Brainy has been tirelessly accessing every camera and database in the city, Nia has been fruitlessly trying to force a dream to guide them, and even J’onn has refocused half the DEO to trying to find out where they could have gone.

She knows that her being here isn’t doing anything productive, especially with Alex telling her so every few minutes – she should go home and get some sleep and come at the problem fresh. But she can’t. She can’t leave, and not be here if new information comes to light. She can’t rest, when Lena could be in danger.

She needs to be ready.

Once she realized she was likely hindering the agents in their search more than helping, she had taken to spending most of her time out on the balcony, listening. With her eyes closed and her senses all attuned, her desperate brain tells her, maybe she’ll be able to pick something up – Lena’s voice, or the sound of her heartbeat. So far, she’s heard nothing but the chaos of the city.

Her only comfort in all of this, the only thing keeping her going, is that she can feel Lena more now than she could before. Lena’s presence still isn’t as clear to her as it usually is, but it doesn’t feel like the wall that was between them when Lena first went missing. It feels more like Lena is hiding herself, so that Kara won’t feel her fear. Instead she sends erratic waves of reassurance whenever Kara’s stress gets too high, and it’s these moments that Kara clings to as worry and lack of sleep eat away at her sanity.

Lena has always been good at soothing her, even from miles away.

Kara only turns away from the city skyline, lit up against the darkness of early evening, when a new figure strides through the sliding doors that lead to the guest entrance. Manchester Black looks haggard, his leather jacket covered in dust and grit, and Kara hardly has time to raise her hopes before he dashes them.

“Nothing yet,” he says, shaking his head. “They’re still off the grid.”

“How can there be nothing? They didn’t teleport,” Kara says, knowing that Manchester doesn’t deserve the anger in her voice but unable to stop herself from exploding. “There has to be something! Security footage, tire tracks, a – a smell or something! Right? Aren’t wolves supposed to be trackers?”

Manchester looks sympathetic rather than angry as he leans against the railing nest to her. He seems to understand her panic in a strange way, and she feels oddly comforted by his steady presence. “We’re going to keep looking. We know the Luthors have several bunkers for storing weapons and tech. We just don’t know where they are.”

Kara deflates. Manchester has been nothing but helpful ever since Sam called him in, and his seeming genuine concern for Lena has warmed Kara to him considerably. He’s had his wolves scouring the city for any trace of Lena or Lillian, trying to make use of his contacts to root out where they could be – but so far without success.

“Right. Sorry,” Kara mutters, rubbing her tired eyes. “I’m just…I’m scared.”

“Yeah, I know. We’ll, uh…” Manchester reaches over and, surprisingly, he pats her awkwardly on the shoulder before retracting his hand quickly. It’s strangely touching, considering a few months ago she tried to arrest him. “We’ll find her. Besides, I’ve never met anyone who could take care of herself better than that little Luthor.”

“Lena,” Kara says absently, offering him a tired smile. “She hates being associated with her family.”

“She gonna take your name, then?”

Kara chokes out a laugh, the thought somehow tethering her when she feels like she’s about to float away. The idea of asking Lena to take her name. To marry her, even. Do they even need a human ceremony when they know their connection is forever? When they have centuries together to look forward to? She thinks about the tradition of her home planet – the exchanging of wristbands, vows to intertwine themselves for all eternity, Lena in a flowing traditional Kryptonian gown – and the idea seems nice, all of a sudden.

With that image in her mind’s eye, everything feels a little bit less heavy. If they both get out of this, maybe she’ll ask.

Forcing away the almost overwhelming urge to cry, Kara takes a steadying breath. “Maybe someday.”

Manchester looks like he’s struggling to find something helpful to say, but he’s rescued by Alex coming up the stairs behind them. Alex frowns when she sees them – she expressly told Kara to go home this morning, and Kara has clearly not listened – but she and Manchester exchange wary nods. As if he can sense the confrontation brewing just from her expression, he clears his throat awkwardly.

“Agent Danvers,” he says gruffly, pushing off from the railing. “I’ll leave you to it.”

He abandons Kara with an apologetic look, and Kara is left to weather her sister’s disappointed expression alone.

“I can’t help but notice that this is not your apartment,” Alex starts, and Kara takes a deep breath through her nose.

“No, this is where people are working to find Lena. And it’s where I need to be.”

“Where you need to be is somewhere you can sleep,” Alex says, exasperated. Kara clenches her jaw, gripping the railing. It creaks dangerously.

“I can’t, Alex,” Kara says, her voice quavering as she tries to ground herself. Without Lena she feels unbalanced and raw, one half of a whole left to struggle alone in the cold. “Don’t you understand? I can’t sleep when she’s out there alone, so why bother trying?”

“You’re going to run yourself into the ground,” Alex insists, not stepping down even against Kara’s anger. She does however flinch when, finally, the railing cracks in half under Kara’s tense hands. “Jesus, Kara!"

Kara throws the splintered wood across the concrete, pressing the heels of her hands into her eyes. They feel strained, dry and red from exhaustion and fighting back frustrated tears, and Alex isn’t helping.

“I understand that you care about her,” Alex says carefully, as Kara turns away from the balcony with a whirl of her cape and stalks down the stairs towards one of the computer desks under the second-floor walkway. Alex follows, and her next words give Kara pause. “But have you stopped to consider that maybe she doesn’t want to be found?”

Kara hears the chime of the elevator opening down the hall, and a few moments later Sam emerges into the atrium rubbing her eyes and looking about as tired as Kara feels. She’s been using the DEO systems in an attempt to get around whatever is blocking the security footage from LuthorCorp the day Lena disappeared, but it doesn’t look like she had much success.

Sam has been at the DEO almost as much as Kara has in the last 48 hours, trying to help but mostly just seeming to need to soothe her own anxiety. Maybe being near people who are doing something to try and locate her best friend is helping, Kara muses. She sure seems to stay awfully close to Alex – her coming up here just as Alex arrived can’t be a coincidence.

“She has something planned, I can tell that much,” Kara says with her last vestiges of patience, planting her hands on the desk as Sam approaches them looking concerned. “But she shouldn’t have to do it alone. I need her to be safe.”

“She might have something planned, Kara, but she didn’t give us any forewarning. She went rogue, like you two always do, and she didn’t think to –”

“She didn’t think to what?” Kara snaps, finally at the end of her rope. She loves her sister more than almost anything in the universe, but she’s so tired – tired of defending her feelings for Lena, tired of being pushed to give up when Lena is still out there. And now Alex is clearly hurtling headfirst towards a confrontation, and Kara is too frazzled to do anything but get angry about it.

Lena’s words from the night of the gala still echo in her head. Remember how I feel about you. No matter what happens. Kara remembers, and she’s not going to let anyone else forget, either.

“She didn’t tell us. She just assumed that her way is the only way, like usual, and now our months – months – of careful planning is out the window,” Alex says hotly, reacting to Kara’s tone. “We have no idea where she is or if whatever she’s doing is even going to work, because she didn’t deign to share it with us.”

“She’s afraid!” Kara says, her voice rising. “She didn’t go rogue, Lillian took her against her will because we didn’t move fast enough!” Her hands make indents on the metal surface of the desk, and she removes them with a frustrated grunt. Alex shakes her head, but she crosses her arms in a way Kara knows means she isn’t backing down.

Sam, finally drawing close enough to hear what they’re saying, stops just between them. She looks like a weary referee, and she crosses her arms in a way almost identical to Alex as she looks back and forth between their tight faces.

“What’s going on?” Sam says, and Kara nods towards Alex.

“Alex thinks that Lena went with Lillian on purpose.”

“I said that Lena left with Lillian without warning us,” Alex says in a measured tone. Kara knows that she’s only being cautious, but all she’s doing is wasting time. “I want to believe the best of her, but we have no idea that this wasn’t her plan from the beginning and she just wasn’t telling us.”

The tiredness in Sam’s face seems to cool Alex off in a way that Kara’s anger didn’t. She shifts uncomfortably, her crossed arms dropping, but she wouldn’t be Alex if she didn’t dig her heels in.

“I just think that maybe searching is wasted effort. You shouldn’t be killing yourself looking for her when this might be what she wanted. To do it herself,” Alex says in a quieter voice. But Kara has had enough.

“She’s done nothing but help us try to stop her mother, even when none of you trusted her. Even when you treated her like a villain.”

“I know that,” Alex says, rising to match Kara’s volume. “But what are we supposed to do, Kara? Just sit here and wait for her to let us in on it? Lillian is trying to release a virus that will kill you! That will kill J’onn and Brainy and Nia, and if she fails just because she thought she didn’t need us -”

“She’ll stop it,” Kara says with utter conviction. She has no doubt that Lena can outwit her mother – she only worries for what might happen the moment Lillian realizes she’s been fooled. That’s what Kara needs to be there to stop.

“You have no way of knowing that.”

“I know everything about her!” Kara says, her voice echoing across the suddenly quiet atrium. Everyone seems to have stilled, watching the standoff between sisters with wide eyes. “I know her soul. Her being. She’s my soulmate.”

Alex rolls her eyes. “I know you think that, but I can’t place the lives of every alien on earth on your feelings!”

“It isn’t just feelings, Alex!” Kara says, her voice breaking with the emotion she’s bottled for two days. She can see it hit Alex like a physical blow, seeing Kara crack so visibly. “We’re bound together, we’re connected, and if you would just believe in her like I do – "

“I want to, but I can’t just trust blindly, Kara. One of us has to be objective about this,” Alex says, looking genuinely affected by Kara’s pain. She looks apologetic, but not enough to relent. Kara turns on her heel.

“Then I’m going to go find her alone!”

And then Alex makes a frustrated noise, throwing her tablet across the desk. The device skids across the polished surface, propelled by Alex’s annoyance, until it hits Sam’s resting hand with a crack.

Sam hisses in pain, retracting the hand quickly, and even for Kara time seems to slow for the next few heartbeats. Alex, immediately horrified at her actions, reaches out with a doctor’s instincts – she grabs for the hand to examine it, holding it close to her face and running gentle fingers over the reddened point of impact. Sam’s breath catches, and for a heart-stopping moment they both freeze, their eyes locked.

And then Alex doubles over, crying out and crumpling to the ground as she holds her head like she’s been struck.

“Alex!” Kara shouts, her anger evaporating like it never existed while her heart leaps into her throat. She remembers Lena’s warning from weeks ago - she has to find her trigger naturally, forcing it could hurt her – and fear pounds through every fiber of her body.

She leaps over the table, landing in a crouch at Alex’s side – and on her other side is Sam, who fell to her knees when Alex did.

“It was me,” Sam whispers, her eyes wide as Alex cries out again, slumping over and into Sam’s arms. Sam winds a gentle hand behind her head, guiding it into her lap and cradling Alex in a way far too familiar for the small amount of interaction they’ve had.  “I was the trigger. All this time, I should have just…” she trails off, tears filling her eyes. “Centuries of experience and still I’m so stupid.”

“Is she going to be okay?” Kara asks, frantically putting a hand to Alex’s suddenly clammy forehead. Sam nods, scooping Alex up and pulling her to her shoulder. Alex’s eyes are screwed tight with pain, blind to everything but what’s happening in her head, but Sam is like a rock in the ocean. 

“She needs a minute. Her memories – it’s hard to explain,” Sam says quietly, running a hand through Alex’s hair. Kara nods - she doesn’t fully understand, but Sam’s love and protective instinct is obvious. She takes hold of Alex’s hand - it’s hot, but it clenches around her own like Alex knows she’s there.

“Lena explained a little,” Kara says, and Sam looks relieved that she won’t have to lay the whole thing out for her. “You’re sure she’s – “

Alex’s eyes fly open before she can finish the question, and Kara trails off in shock.

For a moment, just as she lays eyes on Sam, her sister’s eyes are an arresting milky white. Eyes that have seen more than Kara can imagine, that have walked through ages and found their way every time. Found their way back to her soulmate.

Alex blinks, and the cloudiness clears to reveal the natural warm brown that Kara knows. Sam helps her to sit up slightly, but with Sam sitting on her knees Alex is still significantly shorter, and Sam’s arm keeps her upright. Sam looks down at Alex with such emotion, such deep understanding, that Kara feels like she’s intruding on a deeply private moment.

Alex has an expression that Kara has never seen before, except maybe reflected in Lena’s eyes. Alex had been lamenting, months ago, that she couldn’t connect with anyone, and it’s never been clearer that this is why. Nobody else could make Alex look that way. 

“Hey, you,” Sam says, choked by tears that threaten to spill down her cheeks and onto Alex’s face.

Alex doesn’t seem to mind. She reaches up a hand to stroke Sam’s face like she’s re-learning it after years of blindness, her fingers shaky but sure in their path over the slope of Sam’s cheekbones. They trace over her nose, her cheeks, her lips, and Sam kisses them.

Alex says something then in a language that Kara doesn’t understand. She knows a lot of languages; but this one is guttural and ancient-sounding, as unfamiliar coming from Alex’s lips as the look is on her face. Sam lets out a wet, choking laugh.

“Yeah. Me, too, ki-áñ.”

And then they’re kissing, and Kara lets go of Alex’s hand.

The kiss is chaste, relatively speaking – a pure meeting of lips - but the emotion in it practically radiates from their joined bodies. Their intimacy is quiet, enduring, and soon they’re simply sitting on the floor of the DEO with their foreheads pressed together. Tears track down both of their faces, and after a few moments of breathing each other in, Alex wipes both of their faces clean.

“Okay,” Alex says, her voice scratchy but firm. She reaches a hand out to take Kara’s again, and Kara takes it and pulls it to her chest. “Okay. Lena is your soulmate. I trust you.”

“Just like that?” Kara asks, squeezing Alex’s hand and close to tears herself just watching the purity of the moment. Of two people reuniting after lifetimes apart. Kara knows the connection they’re basking in, and theirs is even stronger than the one between herself and Lena. Thousands of years old.

Her sister is thousands of years old.

“Just like that,” Alex says. Her eyes never leave Sam.

As Sam lays a gentle, reverent kiss to Alex’s forehead, Kara realizes something that she hadn’t considered when Lena first revealed who Sam’s Old Soul soulmate was. The two people that Kara cares about most – Lena, and her sister – will be with her forever, in one way or another. One of the things that’s always plagued her thoughts is the fact that eventually her sister will age while Kara survives. Kara has always lived with the knowledge that while the radiation of Earth’s sun keeps Kara healthy and whole, everyone around her will age and wither and die, and Kara will be left alone. But Lena is immortal, and while Alex’s mortal body will die, she’ll always be reborn and remember, eventually. Kara will be able to find her and wake her up, over and over. Alex will never truly leave her.

She can live with that.

Alex and Sam are finally drawn out of their love-drunk moment by footsteps thudding down the stairs, and Brainy skidding to a halt in the middle of the atrium. He’s panting, and when he sees the three of them huddled on the floor he launches into a rant with no preamble.

“I was running a scan of traffic patterns,” he says breathlessly, “looking for Lena. I thought to overlay the patterns with different algorithms, trying to find sense in the noise, but none resulted in any – “

He trails off mid-sentence, his clever eyes darting over Alex on the floor cradled in Sam’s arms and Kara kneeling next to them, all wiping tears from their faces.

“Am I interrupting?” he asks, an eyebrow raised. Alex chuckles, pushing herself up and starting to stand with Sam’s help.

“What is it, Brainy?”

“We have a hit on the synthetic kryptonite, just outside the city,” Brainy says, as if it isn’t what he should have started with. “The same signature implanted in Corben.”

“Is Corben – “ Kara asks, but Brainy is way ahead.

“He is in his cell.”

The tension in the room rises, all of them looking at each other meaningfully as Kara draws herself up to her full height.

“It’s Lena,” she says, already walking towards the balcony. “It has to be. She knows we have an alert on the signature. She’s asking for help, we need to go, now -”

Alex grabs at her cape, tugging it before she can get too far. “Kara, Lillian has kryptonite.”

“She also has Lena!” Kara says, whirling on her in exasperation. “You can’t keep me from going, Alex, no matter how much you -”

“I was just going to say,” Alex says calmly, intertwining her fingers with Sam’s, “you should wear the suit Lena made for you.”

“Oh,” Kara says, all self-righteousness bleeding out of her. Sam grins behind Alex, her smile radiant. “Right. Uh, good idea.”

“I have one every few hundred years,” Alex says drily as she hits a button on her watch calling for backup agents. “Let’s go get your girl.”

 


 

Even with her promise of loyalty, Lillian still blindfolds Lena when she gets in the car.

Just insurance, Lillian had assured her, her voice honey-sweet and laced with poison. Once you prove yourself in this task, it won’t be necessary.

She tried to memorize the route, noting every turn and acceleration, but after close to an hour she can’t help but lose track. The trip seems endless, and to make things worse about it’s only a few minutes into it that she can feel the exact moment Kara realizes she’s gone.

Even though it feels like she’s breaking her own arm to do so, Lena wrenches closed the door in her heart. If Kara knows how terrified she is, she’ll tear the world apart to find her – and now that the die has been cast, Lena needs to see this through. If Kara finds and rescues her, Lillian will find some way to worm out of any blame, and they’ll have to start all over again, this time at a disadvantage. And it’ll be because Lena was stupid enough to not cover her tracks.

Lena knows what she needs to do. She needs to sabotage the virus without getting caught, but catch Lillian in the act of using it. And to do that, she needs Kara to not find her. Not yet.

Lillian doesn’t remove the blindfold until they’ve come to a stop. They’ve been driving downward in tight spirals for a few minutes, the air feeling more and more claustrophobic, and when Lillian finally guides her out of the car and unties the fabric from around her eyes Lena is unsurprised to see they’re in some kind of vault.

“I assumed that they weren’t able to raid all of Lex’s hidey-holes,” Lena says, casting her eyes around to take note of every detail she can see. It’s made difficult by Kara continuously beating her metaphorical hands against the wall Lena has thrown up between them, tugging terribly on Lena’s willpower, but she pushes through. If she softens now, this whole thing is blown. “But this is bigger than I imagined.”

The vault is gigantic. It’s cavernous and clearly underground, condensation dripping down the cement walls, and the air smells stale and metallic. Behind her the only way out is sealed with a number pad embedded into the wall, and in front of her is what looks like every alien weapon Lex could get his hands on.

There are huge and lethal-looking guns on pedestals, and what looks like a futuristic armoured tank on the far side of the room. Desks scattered around the space feature pieces of tech in various stages of deconstruction, and in the centre of the room is what they seem to be heading towards. On a large table, surrounded by tools and laptops, is the small device that could kill the love of her life.

The base of it is square steel, with a bright light shining through the aerated holes in the metal. On top of the square is a glass cylinder with several thin bronze clamps keeping it in place, and inside it is an empty core. One exactly the shape and size of the phials that Lena knows are in the briefcase Lillian is carrying.

“Lex’s greatest work,” Lillian says, laying the briefcase on the table and trailing a finger almost affectionately over the device. “He was never able to finish it, before they arrested him for trying to defend our way of life.” Her tone is bitter, like Lex’s imprisonment is a bad taste in her mouth.

“And what is it, exactly?” Lena asks, hoping her neutrality is enough to feign ignorance. Her stomach sours at Lillian’s vitriol, but she can’t show even a fraction of her distaste on her face.

“A device that will irradiate the earth’s atmosphere with a chemical toxic to all aliens.”

There it is. Out in the open, now – delivered bluntly and without emotion, the confirmation rings hollow in the echoing space.

“And since every idiot previously working for me has either failed or defected,” Lillian continues, her gentle touch turning harsh until her nail scratches against the glass, “I realize now that it always should have been kept in the family.”

The smile she gives Lena has no warmth, but Lena draws some small strength from her words. Defected means that Lois and Kara succeeded. It means that Lillian is working alone, and this is her last desperate attempt to salvage her carefully laid plans before they implode.

“What do you need me to do?” Lena asks, pulling the briefcase towards herself and trying to swallow the revulsion she feels seeing the toxin inside, just waiting.

“The chemical component is finished,” Lillian says, pulling the case away from Lena and closing it. “The dispersal device is still not working. Lex enjoyed making things complicated simply to prove his own genius.” Lillian’s lips purse, and it’s then that Lena realizes why she’s here. Why Lillian made the risky decision to bring her in on the plan instead of eliminating her.

Lillian doesn’t know how to finish the device.

That’s why she’s waited so long, why she needs Lena. It’s why each reduction of her resources has been such a blow. The device is Lex’s design, and while it’s close to completion, nobody Lillian has had access to so far has been able to fix it. And she’s gambling that Lena will figure it out.

And it means Lena is gambling that Lillian won’t notice her sabotage.

Time seems to disappear as Lena settles herself in to take the device apart and learn how it works. Hours pass, and then days, and she hardly realizes that she hasn’t slept – all her energy is bent on puzzling out Lex’s engineering and figuring out how she can fix it without actually fixing it, and the process is hindered by Lillian watching her like a hawk. She needs to make the system appear to work until the last possible moment, but she can’t let Lillian use it until she’s one hundred percent sure the virus will be inert. The risk to Kara is too great to roll the dice.  

If it doesn’t work, if Kara breathes in the virus, it’ll be Lena’s fault. Never before has so much ridden on Lena’s intellect, and she’s absolutely terrified.

Through it all she’s grounded by Kara’s constant, aching worry, and after the first day she caves to her instincts and sends reassurance when it gets to be too much to bear. Just so Kara can know she’s okay. But letting Kara in too much will only make her more frantic. Lena needs to finish this on her own, and hope against hope that Kara will forgive her.

It takes two full days for her to finally close the device up with trembling hands, pushing it towards Lillian.

“It’s done,” she says hoarsely, blinking the dryness out of her eyes. Lillian, who Lena hasn’t seen sleep either but who seems significantly more composed, picks the device up with two hands and a satisfied expression. She opens up the glass cavity and slips in a clear phial with what looks like water, and the device hums to life just like Lena programmed it to – and, most importantly, it hisses as it releases a wave of mist so intense that it could shatter windows. As the fog settles, Lena can see Lillian’s expression. A wild, savage satisfaction.

The device is functional enough to fake it. What Lena is depending on is the filtration system she installed, using what she remembers from the formula she saw in the lab. If Lena did her job, it should render the isotope inert before it gets dispersed through the device.

“You’ve finally given me something to be proud of,” Lillian says with a smile Lena is sure she thinks is affectionate, and it’s a testament to how deeply Kara has changed her that the barb doesn’t sting anymore. “It’s time to finish what your brother started.”

The device and the briefcase get loaded into the van they arrived in, and Lillian digs through Lex’s trophies to find suitable weapons for the journey.

“There’s no reason for the Supers to know what we intend,” Lillian says, as she grabs a gun the size of a small bazooka. “But I’ve learned that one always has to be prepared for those self-sacrificing idiots to show up. Sam Lane might have lost his backbone, but I kept a store here in case of emergency.” She checks the chamber of the gun, and seeming satisfied with what she finds, she pulls a much smaller pistol-sized weapon out of the pocket of her trenchcoat. It looks like a small plasma gun, made of smooth black metal.

“Here,” she says, handing the gun to Lena. “We’ll see if you can pull the trigger.”

Lena takes it, but she doesn’t have to check the chamber to know it’s full of kryptonite. It feels warm in her hand, an uncomfortable warmth that makes her palm sweat, and Lena swallows her revulsion at holding the material that could hurt the person she loves most in this world. She last fed on Kara two days ago, so her residual powers are waning, but she can sense the green poison even so.

Even with Kara’s powers, she’s mostly immune to kryptonite – and Kara’s blood improves Lena’s resistance to the only thing that could still hurt her. Kara protects her, and she can protect Kara.

The drive to the dispersal site is silent. The tension in the car is thick, Lillian’s grip on the steering wheel tight, and her eyes dart around the sky like she’s expecting Kara to descend from the heavens. And as much as Lena misses Kara with every fibre of her being, as much as her body burns to be close again, she hopes against hope that Kara doesn’t find them. Not yet. Not until the last possible moment.

Lillian pulls off the main road and onto a little-used gravel path, blowing past a ‘no trespassing’ sign and sliding the van into what looks like a quarry. There are abandoned cranes and trucks scattered across the wide valley, and Lillian marches straight to the nearest one and wrenches the tailgate open. The dispersal device is planted right in the middle, and with military precision Lillian takes a phial out of the briefcase, drops it in, and closes the canister.

“Do the honours?” Lillian asks, and it takes everything Lena has not to baulk. She fixed the device, she installed a sabotage that she can only pray will actually work, but turning the key? Actually putting her hand to an action that could kill Kara?

“I couldn’t take this victory from you,” Lena manages to say, hoping the disgust doesn’t show in her voice. “You’re the mastermind. Let this moment be yours.”

Lillian has never been quite as egomaniacal as Lex. Asking Lena to turn the key was more a command than a request, and Lena is pushing her luck by denying. But the last few months of careful unravelling have affected her more than Lena thought, it seems – she swallows the bait, and turns back to the device with a smile.

“I suppose you’re right,” she murmurs, her voice low and soft. “Prepare yourself, Lena. A new world is coming.”

With a hum the device activates, and only then does Lena drop the walls she’s shakily held up for the last two days. She lets Kara fill her from afar, embrace her with a rush of relief that almost makes her drop to her knees, and she holds onto that connection for dear life as a rush of wind makes her hair blow back. She almost doesn’t want to open her eyes, afraid of what she’ll see, but she manages to crack them open –

The mist surrounding them is white. Not green. The active isotope was filtered out, and all that’s currently entering the atmosphere is inert chemicals. Water and fillers. One good clean rain, and they’ll be gone.

And Kara is still there in her heart, strong and vital.

Kara isn’t dead. It worked, and Lena knows exactly what to do. With a surge of adrenaline Lena points the gun Lillian gave her to the sky, and fires a long beam of kryptonite into the air.

“What are you doing?” Lillian says, waving a hand through the mist with a look of alarm. “Why isn’t it - you – you.” The final word is said in a breath, as Lillian takes in the scene and starts to understand.

“Me,” Lena says, feeling stronger than she has in days. She brings the hand holding the gun down, pointing it instead at her mother. Kryptonite might not be immediately poisonous to a vampire, but it might slow her down if she tries to run. What Lena needs to do now is buy time until Kara picks up on the kryptonite signature and follows it here. She just needs to prey on Lillian’s curiosity.

Lillian herself seems torn between fury and a strange sort of pride, looking at the empty phial in the device.

“You changed the isotope.”

“I did,” Lena says, smirking. Lillian laughs just a little too loudly, her mask starting to slip.

“This whole time. I should have known,” she says lowly, putting a hand on the device like she thinks somehow her touch can repair it. “Is it you I have to thank for the arrest of most of my allies? My own daughter?”

“I’m not your daughter, Lillian,” Lena says, her voice strong as she voices something she’s known for decades but has never been able to utter. “I never have been. We both know that. So, yes – I’ve been working with Supergirl for months. Under your very nose.”

“Supergirl agreed to work for a Luthor?” Lillian says with a scoff. Lena only smiles.

“She agreed to work with me. As did Manchester Black,” Lena says, and Lillian’s jaw twitches. “And Cat Grant. Andrea Rojas. Even Corben. Your most loyal lapdog.”

“John would never turn against me,” Lillian hisses. “He was killed by Manchester Black.” She’s starting to move, circling Lena like a predator, and Lena follows with the gun still pointed at her chest.

“Oh, he’s very much alive. He’s at the DEO,” Lena says, keeping her voice calm to counter Lillian’s. “He spilled every secret of yours the moment he realized you were poisoning him with kryptonite.”

Lillian blanches, stopping in her circling for a moment as that fact hits her. Knowing she needs to buy a little more time until Kara gets here, Lena keeps talking.

“Supergirl has shown me the value of alliances over minions. Friendships. Loyalty. And now I’ve called her here.”

“Impossible,” Lillian says, and Lena can see she’s getting closer and closer to the van. Her left hand is grasping for the keys in her coat pocket, and Lena tightens her grip on the gun. “You have no communication devices.”

Lena doesn’t have to answer. Right on cue there’s a whoosh behind Lillian, and in blur of heroic blue and red there Kara is. The sight of her is so good, so welcome, that Lena almost runs to her without a second thought. She’s wearing the suit Lena built for her, and she disengages the helmet and props it under her arm, shaking her hair out and looking at Lena with a smile so pure and bright that it brings tears to Lena’s eyes. The last two days have been torture, being so far from Kara, and being near her again is a balm.

“Hey, babe. You called?” Kara says, clearly aiming for jaunty but falling a little short when a tear slides down her cheek. Lena laughs, pure relief and love, and it’s only seeing movement in the corner of her eye that reminds her of the task at hand. She drops the gun, kicking it across the quarry under one of the trucks and turning to Lillian.

“My soulmate will always find me,” Lena says, finally reveling in their success. Now that Kara is here, it’s over. Lillian has no power over her anymore. “And the DEO has a lock on your synthetic kryptonite. From your precious John.”

Soulmate – “ Lillian says, looking so deeply revulsed that it’s almost funny. Distracted by the thought of love between a Luthor and a Super she’s let her guard down, and without even a single word Kara and Lena move forward.

The keys are wrested from Lillian’s grip. Kara throws them into the distance, and with Lena’s help she binds Lillian’s hands with reinforced alien cuffs, looping her arms around the lowered neck of a crane.

The second Lillian is secured they practically throw themselves at each other, Lena clinging to Kara’s shoulders and Kara breathing deep into Lena’s neck. Drinking each other in, and basking in a contact they’ve both craved.

“I missed you so much,” Lena murmurs, her face buried in Kara’s hair. Kara’s arms tighten around her waist, locking around her back.

“I missed you, are you kidding me?” Kara says, muffled by Lena’s collarbone. “I was so worried I could barely think. The only thing keeping me going was feeling you with me. Every time I started to think I’d never find you…you were there. Reassuring me.”

“I’m so sorry, Kara,” Lena tries to explain. “I found the virus in the lab, and she caught me with it.”  She cards her fingers through Kara’s hair, scratching at the base of her neck, and Kara sighs in contentment. “I had to pretend –”

“I know.”

“If she thought I was working against her, she would have gone to ground, re-engineered the virus. I couldn’t reach out –”

“I know, Lena,” Kara says again, laughing and finally pulling back to look Lena in the eyes. She presses their foreheads together, kissing the tip of Lena’s nose in that sweet way she always has. “I was worried about you, not about your motivations.”

“You had to have doubted me a little,” Lena argues, grinning. Kara’s steadfast faith in her is never going to stop feeling like a sunrise in her chest.

“I knew you were trying to get back to me. I was just scared you’d get yourself killed first.”

Kara’s eyes are as red-rimmed as Lena’s, rough with stress and lack of sleep, but the love in them is as clear as ever. Lena lets all the tension leave her body, gripping harder at the back of Kara’s neck. Her anchor.

“Well, you’re an idiot, then,” Lena says fondly. “For all you knew, I could have betrayed you.”

Kara just grins, cupping Lena’s face with both hands and leaning in. “So I’m an idiot. You’re the one stuck with me.”

Lena smiles against Kara’s lips. Her heart, so ragged since Lillian dragged her out of LuthorCorp and away from the only person who matters, feels whole again in a way that makes the world around them fade. Kara is all there is, her bright eyes and her warmth and the way their souls tangle together without any effort.

“All the worse for me.”

Their kiss is long and deep, their bodies flush and their souls open. Kara’s hands slide down to her hips, Lena’s hands tangled in her hair, and even through the armoured suit Lena can feel every part of her waking up and singing at Kara’s touch. A re-stitching of a connection that’s been frayed for too long. And it’s absolutely fucking perfect, until Lena hears Lillian snort.

“Spare me the indignity of being your voyeur,” Lillian says poisonously, clearly trying to struggle out of her cuffs. “I’d rather just be arrested.”

The distant sounds Lena has been half-hearing, too distracted by Kara, come to a head as a fleet of SUVs swarm their location from all sides.

“That can be arranged,” Kara says smugly, her hands still locked around Lena’s back. One car drives right up to them, skidding to a halt on the gravel a few feet from where she and Kara are standing, and out of it pile a few people she never thought she’d be ecstatic to see – as well as one she’s missed almost as much as she missed Kara.

Sam wraps Lena in a hug the moment Kara lets her go, and Lena laughs into her shoulder.

“I wasn’t sure you’d all get my invitation,” Lena admits, and Sam lets her go to reveal Alex, Nia, Brainy, and even J’onn all smiling at her. Looking at her like they’re relieved she’s okay. Like she’s actually a part of the team.

“Brainy was the one who saw it,” Nia says, looking fondly at him as he clears his throat awkwardly, clumsy under the sudden attention. “But we’ve all been looking for you around the clock. Especially Kara.”

Alex is the last to reach the group, and she gestures to a group of agents to apprehend Lillian with several sets of the wooden cuffs that Lena had long ago suggested they have on hand. She looks different, somehow, and never is it more apparent then when she puts a sisterly hand on Lena’s shoulder, looking genuinely concerned.

“Thank god we got here in time. You took a huge risk, doing this. Are you okay?”

Blinking silently, Lena looks to Kara, who just beams as she looks back and forth between them. Alex has warmed up to her over the last few weeks but she’s certainly never been this familial, and it’s alarming.

“It had to be done,” Lena says, a little stiffly. “I’m only sorry I couldn’t tell Kara about it first, but I didn’t have time. Things progressed faster than I anticipated.”

“It’s fine,” Alex says, waving off the apology. “We’re just glad you’re okay.”

Flabbergasted, Lena turns to Kara again.

“Has she been possessed?”

Kara laughs, shaking her head. “No. Just woken up. Finally.”

Understanding dawning, Lena turns back to Alex, who has sidled up to Sam’s side and taken her hand with a deep contentment that Lena recognizes straight away.

“So – you two -?” Lena says, gesturing vaguely between them.

“Yeah.” Alex is radiant, and Sam has a glow about her that Lena has never seen before. It suits both of them like nothing else. “And Lena, I’m sorry.”

“You’re…sorry?” Lena says, still trying to process the vast changes that only two days have brought to her life. Alex nods solemnly.

“I’ve treated you like crap ever since Kara first met you. I didn’t trust you, and I was a dick about it.”

Lena is bewildered. Kara, on the other hand, looks ecstatic.

“I was so concerned over protecting Kara that I didn’t think to give you a chance for a long time,” Alex continues, leaving Sam’s side to talk to Lena so closely and earnestly that it takes a lot of self-control for Lena not to avoid her very intense eye contact. “And you distrusting the DEO made me like you less, when I really should have been investigating why.”

“I – ehm, thank you?” Lena stammers. Kara squeezes her hand, and Alex holds hers out to shake.

“If it’s okay with you, I’d like to fix that. Especially since it’s looking like you’re going to be my sister-in-law forever.”

Lena – crimson, confused, and slightly overwhelmed – accepts Alex’s handshake. It’s brief but vigorous, and Alex’s warm smile puts Lena a bit at ease again, even if it’s coming from someone who she’s pretty sure didn’t fully trust her when they last met.

“So,” Nia says, leaning back against the SUV and crossing her ankles casually. “We did it. What’s next?”

The question is followed by a moment of silence, and Kara is the first to break it.

“To be honest, I think I need to leave the DEO.”

“Me too.”

Every head turns towards Alex, five shocked faces and one serene one staring at her after a revelation nobody but Sam seemed to expect.

“Really?” Nia says, standing up straight in her disbelief. “But it’s your life, Alex.”

Alex shrugs. “I’ve had a lot of lives, apparently. I think I want to spend some time figuring out what that means.”

Sam puts an arm around her, and Alex looks so at peace with her decision that it seems to make everyone else reconsider their own options.

“I’m down to quit,” Nia says, and Lena feels a surge of fondness for their youngest member’s easy disposition. “But I don’t want to stop helping people. It’s sort of hard to do that without resources.”

“Well,” Lena says slowly, considering the options as the car carrying her stepmother disappears into the distance, “I think I did just inherit a company. Perhaps I can help in that department, before I gut it from the inside out.”

Kara draws Lena into her side, kissing her temple, and Lena tucks herself in without a second thought.

“Are we creating our own superhero squad?” Nia asks, looking increasingly excited the more the idea takes shape. Brainy smiles at her enthusiasm.

“I believe we are. J’onn?”

J’onn, in contrast to everyone else, looks stern. He looks around – agents sweeping the area, a few carefully taking the dispersal device and putting it into an airtight container, some filling out paperwork for Lillian’s arrest – and sighs.

“I think I need to stay here for a little longer. Make sure nobody swoops in and makes this department into something destructive,” he says, sounding exhausted already. “Put things as right as I can. But after it’s done, consider me in.”

“You know what this means,” Kara says, her grin growing. “We need a secret hideout.”

 


 

Ten months later

 

 

Lena wakes on her wedding day much like she’s woken up every morning for the better part of a year – warm, content, and with Kara wrapped around her like a barnacle. Dappled light shines on her face through the open curtains and Lena smiles, stretching out in the sunbeam while Kara murmurs sleepily into her hair. The bedside clock reads 10:15, and anticipation washes over her in a gentle burst when she remembers exactly what day it is.

“Time to get up, darling,” Lena rasps, twisting in Kara’s arms and trailing kisses across her bare chest. “Come on.”

Kara’s reply is incoherent. She pulls Lena closer, so close that if Lena hadn’t fed on her last night it might have been painful, and smushes Lena’s face into her chest. Lena chuckles, tangling their legs together.  

“Normally I would say we should sleep in, but today is somewhat important,” Lena says, only slightly muffled. “We have an appointment, if you remember. Just a trifling thing – “

Kara sits straight up in bed, dislodging Lena and leaving her flopping back onto the pillows.

“We’re getting married today.”

Kara’s hair sticks up on one side, a rare consequence of her going to sleep with it wet, and the shape of the pillowcase is still creased across her cheek. But her eyes are alight with excitement, and the smile she turns on Lena is radiant.

“We’re getting married today,” Lena replies warmly.

Kara’s joy is infectious. Lena laughs, pulling Kara down by the back of her neck for a long kiss.

A wedding had seemed almost silly when Kara first suggested it, in this very bed the night of Lillian’s arrest. They had spent the night entwined, reassuring themselves and each other again and again that the ordeal was over. They were together and whole, and safe. They shared pleasure and tears, and when finally they were too worn to keep going Kara had popped the question. Lena, hazy and drunk on their closeness, had almost laughed at the way she suggested it – half-asleep, the question slipping out almost unintelligibly due to Kara’s apparent need to doze with her face buried in the space between Lena’s shoulderblades.

But when Kara specified that she wanted a Kryptonian ceremony, to bind herself to Lena and Lena to her in the eternal way of her people, Lena understood. They had come too close to losing each other; and besides, Kara yearns to keep her culture alive. Lena knows how lonely she is in that way, even with Lena to share her soul.

In the months since Lillian was thrown in jail with Lex, Lena has been living in a kind of peace she didn’t think was possible. She and Kara have been living together at Kara’s apartment since day one, with Kara affectionately calling it their love nest. It’s the place they first kissed, where they came together for the first time and almost every time since, and no matter how many times Lena suggests it Kara has adamantly refused to fix the Lena-shaped indent in the wall.

The DEO split solidified just a few weeks after Lillian’s arrest with J’onn joining them about 3 months later, and Lena had used her new LuthorCorp to build them a base of operations; and once it was built, she liquidated the whole company. Every LuthorCorp asset, every subsidiary – all of them are gone, now, scattered to the winds and their proceeds donated. If Lex and Lillian ever manage to get themselves out of prison and try to reclaim their years of hard work, it won’t be there waiting. She made sure of that.

It takes a few minutes of indulgent kisses to get Kara motivated enough to get up for real, but eventually she rolls herself off the (newly reinforced, but still somewhat battered) bed and heads to the kitchen, still naked and seeming uninterested in getting dressed just yet. Lena lays back on the soft sheets to listen to the clatter of Kara starting her breakfast with a lightness in her heart. After a few minutes the smell of pancakes starts to fill the apartment, and Kara’s head pokes around the curtain that separates the bed from the living room. Her hair is in a messy bun, now, and she’s wearing sweats and a sports bra and little else.

“Hey! If I have to get up, you do too.”

You got up because you need to eat before you can function,” Lena says drily, but when Kara’s head disappears again she swings her legs over and wiggles her toes on the hardwood anyways.

“You should eat, too,” Kara calls. Lena pads to the kitchen, and Kara halts halfway through flipping a pancake to take in the sight of Lena’s bare body in the morning light. Even when she’s seen it hundreds of times, Kara still looks at her with the same focused interest as always.

“I ate plenty last night,” Lena says, popping a strawberry in her mouth. Human food used to remind her of everything she lost – now, it reminds her of Kara and her voracious appetite. Over the months she’s found herself eating it more and more just for the pleasure of flavour, and Kara seems happy to help her rediscover what she likes.

“Well, you burned lots of calories between then and now.” Kara’s eyes haven’t left her, and the pancake on her spatula slowly slides off until it lands in a splattered pile back in the frying pan.

“Swear you aren’t going to use this as an excuse to drag us back into bed?” Lena says, running a hand along the skin above Kara’s waistband before hooking a finger in and tugging her close enough. “As much as I’d love that, we both need to get ready. Separately.”

“Promise,” Kara grins, exposing her neck and tapping at it insistently. Lena, with none of her old hesitation plaguing her, sinks her teeth in and drinks deep. Her body ignites every time she’s pressed naked to Kara, especially when Kara immediately breaks her promise to let her hands wander. They trace over Lena’s hips, up her waist and over the sides of her breasts; the spatula hits the floor, but before Kara can fully break Lena’s willpower she manages to pull herself back to honour Lena’s request.

After drinking her fill Lena swirls her tongue over the closing incisions, punctuating it with a gentle kiss to Kara’s skin. Kara sighs happily, starting to lean down to capture her lips in a real kiss, but Lena ducks it.

“Not yet,” Lena says, dancing playfully out of her reach. “Save it for tonight. Save it all for tonight.”

She revels in the flash of desire in Kara’s eyes, but Kara manages to keep to her word. After Kara eats they part ways for the rest of the morning, Lena off to prepare for the ceremony at Sam’s apartment and Kara to wait for Alex and Nia to arrive here, and even as she’s loath to leave Lena knows it’ll be worth it later.

Sam and Brainy greet her at the door, with Sam pressing a mimosa into her hand – I don’t care that you can’t get drunk, it’s tradition – and soon she’s swept into a whirlwind of activity. She and Kara both decided on simplicity, so her dress and hair are uncomplicated. The latter is brushed until soft and swept over her shoulder, and the former is a simple wrap dress cut from soft white silk that she can’t wait for Kara to unravel.

It’s capped off with a traditional Kryptonian shawl, a piece of heavy fabric that drapes over her like a mantle. It’s white as well, but trimmed and embroidered with the colours of the House of El.

“Wow,” Sam says quietly, standing behind Lena as she looks at herself in the mirror. She tucks Lena’s hair behind her ear, resting her chin on Lena’s shoulder. “Total knockout. Kara’s definitely going to flip.”

“You think so?” Lena asks, even as she knows the answer. Kara always finds her beautiful. And right now, in dazzling white and bearing Kara’s family crest, Lena can see it too.

“You look like a falling star,” Brainy says with unexpected softness. His smile is genuine, and Lena has to bring her hands to her eyes to stop them from leaking.

“You need to stop making me emotional. Don’t make me ruin my makeup before the actual wedding.”

The ceremony is set up at their newly-built tower, out on the spacious balcony under the sky. Lena is bathed in sunlight, and with Kara’s blood singing through her, she lets it warm her face as she watches their friends gather in the smattering of chairs that have been set out. Lucy and Lois Lane, arm in arm with Clark sitting on Lois’ other side; Brainy and Nia, sitting front and centre and talking quietly to Eliza Danvers; Kara’s friends Winn and James, who left for Metropolis long before Kara and Lena ever met, but who Kara talks about with such fondness that Lena feels like she already knows them. Manchester Black showed up to Lena’s mild surprise, sitting next to Jess, as did both Andrea and Veronica – they’re sitting in the back, several empty seats between them and exchanging furtive glances. And in the very back, refusing to sit but also very firmly present, is Cat Grant. Her proud smile is badly concealed, and she gives Lena a wink when the crowd starts to quiet.

A true hush falls when Kara finally touches down on the balcony, her eyes only on Lena.

“Hey,” Kara whispers, her mouth trembling slightly with emotions that Lena can feel as if they’re her own. They are her own. Joy and gratitude and love and nerves, all wrapped up into one. “You look...”

Kara trails off with a shaky exhale, but Lena knows. This moment is beyond words. She can feel how awed Kara is to see her; and Kara, in the deep blue and vibrant red of her house, looks so handsome. She’s in a fitted tunic and pants with her crest proudly on the chest, her own wedding mantle draped over her broad shoulders and her long hair spilling over it, and Lena can hear the consistent tap of Nia taking what sounds like 100 photos on her phone. 

Kara swallows, gently connecting their hands in preparation. 

“Ready?” 

All Lena can do is nod. If she speaks, she might sob.

Kara nods to J’onn, who takes his place at the makeshift altar. He puts one of his large hands over their joined ones, and his voice is calming as he begins the ceremony.

“We’re here today to see our friends join themselves together,” he says, smiling proudly at both of them. Over the last year the initial coldness he treated her with has disappeared entirely, replaced by an almost fatherly trust and affection, and he seems truly delighted to have been offered the honour of presiding. “In the tradition of Krypton. If their givers would bring the bracelets?”

Alex and Sam, stationed on either side, hold matching boxes in their hands. They open them in unison, and in the daylight the metallic glints wink like stars.

Kara, first in all things, is the first to present her vows.

“I’ve always known we’d end up here,” Kara says, the sunlight making her eyes the clearest and most brilliant blue. “I knew you were it for me from the minute we met, even if it took us a while to get there.” Lena chuckles, and Kara reaches out to tuck back a windblown strand of hair.

“You’re my sun, Lena. I already know we’ll never be apart, and we don’t need a ceremony to prove it; but while you wear my band,” here, Kara took the bracelet from Alex and enclosed it around Lena’s wrist, fastening the clasp with slightly trembling hands, “I promise you that you’ll never go a single minute without knowing you have my love, and that you’re more than worthy of it.”

Lena’s eyes fill with tears. The bracelet is beautiful – braided bands of coloured metal, arranged in a way unique to her and Kara. Blue and red for Kara’s life before they met and purple and green for Lena’s, which brought them together; and threads of silver and yellow-gold, for their future together. It fits perfectly, and Kara traces over the veins in Lena’s wrist as it comes to rest against her skin.

“From this day, until the universe comes to rest,” Kara murmurs at last – but this time in Kryptonian, almost as if she’s talking to herself. Had Lena not prepared for this moment, she might not have understood it. Kara certainly doesn’t expect her to. But she’s spent 8 months knowing that this ceremony was coming, and that Kara deserves to have this one remnant of her culture live on. Even if it’s only one day.

So, in Kryptonian, Lena begins her own vows.

You’re my guiding star,” she says, and Kara’s eyes widen. Her mouth parts, but no sound comes out as Lena continues. “I love you with everything that I am. You gave me light, when I only saw dark. You gave me choice where I thought I had none.”

The language feels formal and clumsy on Lena’s tongue, the flowery foreign structure not quite capturing her meaning, but Kara’s wonder is so pure and good that she knows she’s done the right thing. Kara craves words; and Lena will give them to her, today of all days.

“Today I take your name,” Lena says, taking her own bracelet from a tearful Sam and clasping it around Kara’s outstretched arm. “But your heart has always been with me.”  When it’s fastened, she brings it up to her face to kiss Kara’s warm wrist over the metal.

You are mine, and I am yours. For always.”

Kara’s grip tightens, lacing their fingers together, and her eyes spill over with tears as Lena finishes her vows.

“Lena,” she says, her voice broken but full of wonder. “You learned Kryptonian? You didn’t say…”

“This bracelet means partnership,” Lena says, meaning every word. “Which means that keeping Krypton alive is my job, too.”

Kara’s breath catches, and for one heart-stopping moment Lena thinks that she might make her almost-wife break down completely on their wedding day. But Kara’s tears are soft and grateful, and she laughs wetly through them without taking her eyes from Lena’s face.

“I really thought I’d get through today without crying.”

Lena laughs, too. “Your tears are beautiful,” she says in Kryptonian, and Kara stops in her attempt to wipe them away. Lena feels her own rising to match Kara’s boundless joy, and by the time J’onn finishes the ceremony they’re both crying and smiling in equal measure, clutching each other’s hands. Kara’s outline blurs in Lena’s vision, and with the sun behind her it makes her look like an angel.

“In the name of truth and honour, I declare these vows binding,” J’onn announces, in his deep calming voice. “From this day forward, throughout all time and space, even unto eternity.”

The words are translated, but they’re right out of Kara’s memory from her home planet. The ceremony as it is isn’t legally binding on earth – that doesn’t matter, when they’ll likely far outlive the system it would be valid in – but it unites them in the way that counts. There’s a stillness following the words, and in it Lena can hear her heart and Kara’s beating in sync.

“You forgot to tell them to kiss,” Nia calls, her hands cupped around her mouth to carry the sound. Laughter ripples through everyone, including Lena and Kara – and J’onn chuckles, conceding the point with a nod.

“You may now –”

But Kara is already kissing her, smiling into it when she wraps strong arms around Lena’s waist and lifts. Lena’s feet leave the ground, and she laughs with wild delight as Kara spins her in a circle.

They have no reception, in the traditional sense. Instead Veronica clears out the bar for the night, allowing their party to spread out and celebrate together, and it’s everything Lena could have wanted out of this day despite having hardly thought about it until Kara asked. A wedding is something she hadn’t let herself consider for most of her life, convinced that she was both fundamentally unlovable and would never find the kind of connection that might make her want to get married.

Now that she knows both are untrue, a night surrounded by close friends is perfect. Alex and Brainy watch Sam hustle Nia at pool, while J’onn sips a beer deep in conversation with Manchester. Eliza Danvers is in a booth with Jess and Lois Lane playing a spirited game of quarters, and Clark is playing darts with James Olsen. Andrea and Veronica are, hilariously, attached at the lips behind the bar and pointedly ignoring anyone who asks for a drink, leading to Lucy reaching behind them and snatching a bottle of tequila herself. Cat Grant had disappeared soon after the ceremony, adamantly pretending she wasn’t in tears, but the fact that she showed up at all seems to have made Kara happy.

Lena watches it all tucked into Kara’s side, sitting on top of a booth table with Kara’s shawl draped over both their shoulders. She has a scotch in her hand, and when Clark catches her eye from across the room he raises his own drink with a smile. Lena raises hers in return. He turns back to his conversation, but the moment stays with her.

She feels warm and happy and accepted from all corners. Which is why, when the door is unceremoniously slammed open and eight men burst in in balaclavas and leather jackets, waving guns and yelling for everyone to get on the floor, all Lena can do is laugh.

“Oh, you picked the wrong party to crash.”

The intruders seem unsettled by Lena’s demeanor. There isn’t an iota of fear in the whole room – Andrea and Veronica only detach their lips momentarily to see the cause of the commotion, before continuing like they haven’t been interrupted at all. Clark sighs, starting to remove his glasses, but he seems to stop himself. He lets Kara take the lead instead, and Kara raises her eyebrows at the intruders.

“Well, that’s just rude,” Kara says, hopping down from the table and helping Lena down with a gallant hand. “Who interrupts someone’s wedding reception? I mean, come on.”

The man in the lead goes pale, but he seems determined.

“Supergirl,” he mutters, not lowering his gun. “We heard you were here tonight. With your friends. Celebrating marriage to a human. And we have some demands.”

Alex snorts loudly. All eyes turn to her, and she clears her throat. “I, uh. Really think you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“Humans and aliens shouldn’t intermarry,” another man pipes up, his voice full of hilariously self-righteous anger. “It’s a threat to our very -”

“Spare us the principled speech,” Lena interrupts, a brow arched. “You’re interrupting my wedding, as previously mentioned. I’d really rather we get this over with quickly.”

“You should listen to her,” Kara says sagely.

“I suggest that you take this opportunity to consider the error of your ways,” Lena continues, taking a measured sip of scotch, “and leave, before everyone in this bar makes you leave.”

The men look around. Everyone gathered around them looks ordinary, civilians to a tee – but each of them is giving off an unsettling aura, and it makes the air in the room heavy.

“We demand that Supergirl leave National City,” he says, his voice quavering while Kara looks on with amusement. “Annul her marriage to a human, and bring our protest to the President of –”

Finally reaching her limit, Lena rolls her eyes. She snatches the gun from the man’s hands and tosses it across the bar, and Manchester reaches a hand up to snatch it from the air.

“Just plasma,” Manchester says, checking the chamber and finding a battery rather than bullets. “An upgrade from standard ammo, but nothing special.”

“You brought a knife to a gun fight,” Nia quips, twirling her pool cue. “Well, plasma to a Supergirl fight. Interchangeable.”

One man, his gaze flicking around to each person in turn and lingering on Alex’s murderous expression, seems to reach his wit’s end. His finger twitches on the trigger and a blast of blue energy blows past Kara – who steps easily out of the way – and destroys the vintage jukebox beside the bathrooms.

“Hey!” Veronica yells from behind the bar, finally distracted from Andrea. “That was eight grand, you asshole!”

In seconds, half the people in the room have changed. Supersuits manifest out of thin air, weapons and powers glowing under the florescent lighting, and the people without them watch in amusement, sipping their drinks. The intruders seem only to realize the depth of their mistake when the full breadth of the room has surrounded them, with Superman standing in Kara’s shadow.

They scatter. Rounding them up is easy enough work; and Lena, invulnerable with Kara’s blood coursing through her veins, turns to her soulmate.

“Well, Mrs. Zor-El Danvers,” Kara says, and the reminder sends warmth all the way to Lena’s toes. “Looks like we can’t catch a break even on our wedding day.” Kara’s eyes sparkle with mirth, and more than ever Lena loves her. The strength of it leaves her breathless.

“The sooner we clean this up, the sooner we can go home,” Lena says. Kara’s eyes flash darker, her smile turning sly.

Through the chaos, they move forward as one.