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Nothing Gold Can Stay

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We’re not OK, are we? 

It was a miracle that Lena saw the email at all. She only checked it infrequently, often going weeks or in this case, months without ever opening it. The only person who contacted her was Sam and while they exchanged pleasantries now and again, the brunt of their communication consisted of Sam keeping her up to date on the comings and goings at L-Corp. Not that Lena was all that interested these days. She had walked away from the company, leaving Sam to take over in her stead. That hadn’t been the only thing she had left behind. She had walked away from National City, had walked away from the people she thought were her friends, had walked away from Kara…

Sometimes it felt like no time at all had passed between then and now but it had been ten years which made the reason for Sam’s email all the more puzzling. Why now? she wondered.

Dear Lena,

I hope you’ve been well. I wish that this was your regularly scheduled pop-in that I’m sure you just love. Ruby and I are doing just fine. Her a little more than me and that’s exactly why I’m emailing you. Lillian came out of the woodwork a few weeks ago and made a grab for L-Corp. With as many lawyers as we have on retainer, I assumed that they would be able to deal with it without much fuss but it looks like she might have some ground to stand on. The news hasn’t gone public yet but I’m sure it will soon enough.

Lillian’s using your absence to try and sow discord with the shareholders and I’m sorry to say that it’s working. The Luthor name still holds weight and while I’m sure you knew, some on the board weren’t thrilled with the direction you took the company. They can evidently hold a grudge.

The lawyers are gearing up for a slog and if I thought we’d come out the other side fine I would never even think about bothering you. But if stock prices tumble any lower it might be enough to swing some on the fence to their side and force me out. I have a lovely retirement package all lined up  but I doubt you want the company falling into Lillian’s hands. Would it be too much to ask you to come back to National City for a week or two?

No one can handle Lillian as well as you can and reminding everyone that you’re simply retired and not dead would do a lot to swing the pendulum in our favor. You don’t have to,  of course. I know you left for a reason and I feel bad for asking you back to help solve a problem that I should be able to handle on my own.

All the best
Sam

P.S. How’s Fi?

She re-read the email twice before powering down her laptop, staring at the blank screen and her reflection in it. If not for Sam, Lena would have been sorely tempted to simply let Lillian have the company. She had missed a lot of things in her ten years away from National City but dealing with her mother was not among them. Returning there now to get into what promised to be a drag-out fight with Lillian was the last thing that she wanted to do but what choice did she have? Whatever reason that Lillian had for trying to regain control of L-Corp, Lena knew that nothing good could come from it. She needed to go back, no matter how much she didn’t want to. 

She powered on her laptop, opened up Sam’s email again, and typed out a very short message.

Sam,

I’m sorry that I’m only just seeing your email now. I’ll be on a flight to National City as soon as I can, tomorrow at the earliest. Try not to let Lillian get under your skin too much, it’s what she wants. Fi’s doing well, you can see for yourself soon enough.

Lena

Was that why you’re doing this? Lena wondered. To get under my skin? That seemed as good a guess as any but she knew how pointless it was to waste time speculating. She would know soon enough. Right now, she was more concerned about Fi and what to do about her.

If she doesn’t want to go then we won’t go, Lena told herself. I’ll do what I can from here and if I can’t stop Lillian from taking back the company, I’ll do my best to make her work for it.

She stood up, rubbing at her neck, working out the kink that had already started to settle there. Gone were the days that she could spend all day working on her laptop until an ungodly hour, sleep far too little, and somehow find the energy to do it all over again the next day. She thought that she might sleep well tonight if only out of necessity. She might very well be leaping back into the lion’s den after so many years away. And this time with a child in tow… 

It seemed the textbook definition of insanity to bring Fi intentionally into Lillian’s orbit. She wasn’t sure if Lillian knew that she was now living in Ireland or if she had simply never bothered to look for her. She hadn’t left a forwarding address when she left National City but she hadn’t made an effort to cover her tracks either. Her exile had been of the self-imposed variety, at least that’s what she had thought of it at first.

I’m too old for this shit, Lena thought, a very wry smile on her lips. She padded down the hall towards her bedroom and stopped at the room right next to hers. The door was covered so completely in drawings that Lena almost had trouble finding the handle. She turned the knob silently and opened the door just a crack so she could peek in on the young girl dozing in a bed that would take her several years to grow into, her raven-colored hair spread out in a corona on her pillow.

Lena smiled, happy to see her sleeping peacefully. She shut the door, lingered there for a moment to make sure that there was no interruption in Fi’s rhythmic breathing, and padded the rest of the way down to her bedroom not feeling the least bit tired.

When Lena awoke the next morning she wasn’t at all surprised to see that Fi had climbed into bed with her and had a book open on her lap. This was their morning routine and Lena found it infinitely better than waking to the sound of an alarm

Their eyes met and Lena snaked a hand out from under her blankets to ruffle Fi’s hair, pressing her hand gently to Fi’s cheek. “How did you sleep, my treasure?”

“Good,” she said and turned a page of her book.

“Me too,” Lena lied. She had fallen asleep sometime just before dawn. She felt more confused than tired but she didn’t let it show on her face. “What page are you on?” Lena asked, sitting up and leaning in close to get a glimpse of Fi’s book.

“This one,” Fi said, smiling shyly and turning the book towards her.

“Eighteen flavors?” Lena nodded her approval. That poem was the one Fi most requested when she read her a story from Where the Sidewalk Ends. “That must have made you hungry,” she joked. “Let's go get you some breakfast and me some coffee. No ice-cream though, at least not for breakfast.”

That got Fi giggling and she carefully closed the book, trapping a small flower-shaped bookmark between the pages.

Lena stood up and felt the cold seep into her through her bare feet. She scooped Fi up in her arms and padded down the hall towards their small kitchen. Cooking had never been what Lena considered one of her strong points but with nothing but time on her hands and especially after finding herself caring for a child, she had picked up a few tricks along the way. Not that she was likely to need any of them in the morning.

“Cereal?” Lena asked, setting Fi down.

Fi nodded and pulled her chair back from the table before clambering into it effortlessly.

“Semi-healthy,” she asked, holding up one box. “Or unhealthy? She held up a far more colorful box in her other hand and pretended to look shocked when Fi chose the far less healthy option. “Good choice.” She set the box down on the table, grabbing a bowl and spoon for Fi, setting them down in front of her.

“We’re almost out of milk,” Lena said, taking the carton from the fridge and giving it a shake. She instinctively went to add it to the grocery list she kept attached to the fridge before she remembered that they might not even be here tomorrow. “Fi?”

Fi had just finished carefully pouring cereal for herself and looked up at Lena, almost looking nervous.

“What do you think about going on a little vacation?” Lena asked, busying herself with the espresso machine.

“A vacation?”

Lena nodded. “I got an email from an old friend of mine. She needs my help with something back in National City…”

“Where you used to live.”

“Before I came here, yes.” Lena smiled. She took her coffee, walked over to the table, and pulled her chair out before sitting down. “If you wanted to come with me I thought we could take a trip there. Just for a week, maybe two. But if you don’t feel up to it, we don’t have to go. I’m sure I can be plenty helpful working from here.” I could put inconveniencing Lillian under the special skills section on my resume, she thought. I’d have a ten-year gap in my work history that would be rather hard to explain, of course. 

Fi swirled her spoon around her bowl, looking first at the calendar on the far wall and then to Lena. “When would we leave?”

“Today if we can manage it,” Lena said, already knowing that she would have no trouble securing tickets if she tried to get them.

“Today…” Fi’s gaze returned to the calendar and so did Lena’s, comprehension dawning on her face after puzzling over Fi’s reluctance for a moment or two.

“Halloween…”

Fi looked embarrassed but nodded.

“We would never miss that,” Lena assured her. She reached out and squeezed Fi’s arm gently. “We’d just have to do our trick-or-treating there.” She glanced out the window. “National City is a big place, you’re almost guaranteed to get more candy there.” The small town they lived in might have been a great deal friendlier than any city Lena had ever been in but she knew that even if they were to visit every single house on their route twice it would take them less than an hour and that was including the obligatory oohing and aahing over whatever costume that Fi picked out. 

“But if you would rather stay here, Fi, that’s perfectly fine.” Lena hated the idea of whisking Fi off to National City if she didn’t want to go when Lena wasn’t all that certain she wanted to return.

“I want to go,” Fi said, shaking a little more cereal into her bowl.

“Are you sure?” Lena asked.

Fi nodded. “I’m sure.” She looked up from her cereal bowl shyly. “How much more candy do you think I could get?”

Lena looked at her over her coffee cup, not sure if she should laugh or not. “I’ll run the numbers and get back to you.”

“I’ve never been on a plane,” Fi said, her bright smile dimming somewhat.

“There’s nothing to it,” Lena said, not thinking now was the time to tell her that she didn’t like flying either. “And you’ll be right next to me.” She scooted her chair closer to Fi’s so that they were right next to one another. “Just like this.” Lena gave her a playful bump with her arm. “So if I snore on the plane you’ll need to wake me up so I don’t bother everybody else on board.” She made an exaggerated snoring noise that sent Fi into hysterics.

“I’ll just let you sleep,” Fi assured her and made a similar snoring noise.

“How very sweet of you,” Lena said and plucked a marshmallow from the top of Fi’s bowl and tossed it into her mouth.  No backing out now, she thought, the gears in her head that had ground to an unwilling halt when she had drifted off before dawn starting up again. They might be able to make an afternoon flight if they were lucky but she would need to be quick. She took two hurried gulps of her coffee, nearly scalding her mouth in the process, and stood up from her chair. “I need to see what flight I can get us on. Can you go to your room and pick out some clothes and toys you want to take with us?”

Fi stood up and nodded. She made a mad dash towards her room nearly tripping over her own feet when she came to a very sudden stop in the middle of the living room. “We didn’t buy my costume yet,” she said, looking worried again.

Lena hadn’t forgotten. They had gone costume shopping a handful of times but each time they had, Fi hadn’t been able to definitively choose. She had come close the last time but indecision had won out. Now, with only a few days before Halloween, she would need to come to a decision soon. “Do you know what you want to be for Halloween?”

Fi shook her head, looking far too distressed for one as young as seven.
“You have the whole plane ride to decide,” Lena said, wanting to put her mind at ease. “And then we can go shopping once we land.”

“Right after we land?”

“If you’re not too tired? Right after we land.” That was likely a given. Fi was at that age where there were simply not enough hours in the day to completely tire her out no matter how valiantly Lena tried. Just last week they had spent nearly all day at the park and while Lena couldn’t remember ever feeling more tired, Fi had continued to run circles around her right up until her bedtime.

“I won’t be,” Fi said, already running off again.

“I might be,” Lena called after her, knowing she was too far away to hear her properly, smiling despite how nervous she felt. She was going back to National City. The thought didn’t fill her with dread as it might have years ago but she felt uneasy at the prospect of returning. What was the saying? You can’t go home again? Just like Wendy couldn’t return to Neverland, Lena felt like she had left that part of her life too firmly in the past to revisit it now. Even after all this time, Lena couldn’t be certain if it ever really was home to her but it was maybe the closest thing to one before she had moved here and found Fi.

How have you been? Lena wondered, putting her mug and Fi’s bowl in the sink, a hazy image of Kara and her standing in her old penthouse floating to her mind, the image becoming sharper and the memory beginning to play out in her head.


Ten years ago

“We’re not OK, are we?”

Kara had rehearsed this conversation in her head so many times and hated that she had already gone so far off-script. They had just met up the day before for lunch. Not exactly like old times but the closest that they’ve come to it in months. It’s how things had been since the two of them had begun the arduous process of easing back into a friendship that Kara had feared had been beyond repair. 

They were talking again and Lena had even started coming to game nights again but Kara couldn’t shake the feeling that Lena was simply going through the motions. Her smile seemed so different and while Lena was more than happy to let Kara pull her into a hug, Lena never tried to hug her.

It could have all been in her head. After months of barely speaking to one another, it would have been all too easy for her to manufacture a problem that wasn’t even there. She hoped that the look of polite confusion on Lena’s face at Kara’s strange question would morph into one of bewilderment. That whatever strangeness she felt was either all in her head or simply another bump in the road that they would need to get over.

“No, Kara… We’re not OK.” There was no anger in her voice, in fact, to Kara’s ear it sounded completely devoid of emotion. Their eyes met for an instant and Lena stood up, crossing the room towards the balcony, and looked out over the city where the sun had just begun to sink below the horizon.

“I understand if you’re still angry.I’ve been rushing things, I know…” Alex had warned her of doing just that a number of times. She had been the lone holdout in the group that hadn’t quite yet forgiven Lena although she had for Kara’s sake at the very least been friendly when their paths had crossed. “If you need more time, Lena, I can give you as much as you need.” She smiled wanly. “It’s really no trouble.” You’re worth the wait.

“I don’t think it’s just time I need Kara…” She took a deep breath and Kara could hear Lena’s heartbeat that she normally found so soothing, hammering at a frantic pace that was at odds with the almost serene expression on her face. “I’ve been trying, I really have been-”

“I know you have,” Kara said quickly. “I have too.”

Lena smiled. “I’ve noticed. And I’m grateful, Kara, I am. It’s just… It’s not that simple. I know that I can trust you again someday, Kara…” Her smile brightened and then dimmed like the shuddering flame of a candle. “But that’s not what I’m worried about. I  don’t know if I can ever trust myself again. I loved you so much and I still hurt you… I lied to you for months, I used you.”

Loved? Not love?

I could have killed you at the Fortress.”

“Lena, you were hurt and angry…”

I was,” Lena said. “And a part of me still is. It wasn’t an excuse then and it isn’t one now.” She looked down at the floor, and Kara watched a tear slide down Lena’s cheek before dropping to the floor. “Who’s to say I won’t lash out again? Not ever try and hurt you again?”

“You wouldn’t do that,” Kara said. She stood up, meaning to hug Lena, something she seemed to sense because Lena stuck an arm out as if to ward her off.

“You don’t know that Kara and neither do I and that’s what scares me.” She looked at her reflection in the balcony door and turned away from it as if she could barely stand to look at herself. “I thought that I was different from Lex… That I was better… But maybe deep down I’m really not.”

“No!-”

“If it was just time Kara…” She shook her head again. “I wish it was just time that I needed.”


It turned out that getting ready for and onto the flight to National City turned out to be far more of a white-knuckle experience than Lena had expected. The only tickets she could get that day were for a flight leaving in the early afternoon which gave her very little time to get both of them ready and to the airport. 

Even as she tore through the house, first looking for both their passports and then pulling her luggage out of a hall closet that she hadn’t opened in years and running down the mental checklist of things she needed to do before they left, she was careful not to let the worry show on her face. The last thing she wanted to do was for Fi to worry before they even boarded the plane. Children seemed at both times oblivious and hyper-aware about such things and Lena was relieved to see that her panic about their trip hadn’t spilled over onto her. Fi appeared to be too preoccupied with choosing her costume to notice Lena’s unease about the trip. 

It was only after they had boarded the plane and were getting settled into their seats that Fi seemed to realize that the thing they were sitting in was going to go up into the air before too long. Lena fastened Fi’s seatbelt, pulling it tight and making an exaggerated clicking noise with her mouth when the seatbelt latched that couldn’t quite entice a laugh out of Fi but it did get her to flash Lena a very weak smile.

The logical part of Lena wanted to put Fi’s mind by assuring her that statistically flying was the safest way to travel but knew better than to frame it that way. It did little to put her mind at ease and doubted that it would do much for Fi. As it so often did, distraction seemed the far better option. “You know, I still need to pick a costume too,” Lena whispered, settling back in her seat. “Any suggestions?”

Fi who had been looking straight ahead, kicking her feet nervously against the seat, stopped suddenly and turned to look at Lena appraisingly. “Maybe something scary,” Fi said. “But not too scary.”

“Never,” Lena said, putting a hand on her chest as if such a thought were simply unfathomable. “We don’t want to scare everyone.” Not an easy thing to do when your last name is Luthor.

“Or me,” Fi said and shook her head.

“Or you,” Lena agreed. “ Hmm... “ She felt the plane give a little jerk as the pilot prepared for takeoff. “What about a witch?”

Maybe… What kind of witch?”

“Definitely a good witch, I don’t think that’s so scary.” No matter how much I might look the part of a bad one.

“Like Glinda?”

“Maybe a little less pink but somewhere in that general area, love.” She felt the plane begin to pick up speed and clasped one of Fi’s hands tightly in her own, squeezing it. “Wand or no wand?”

Fi looked momentarily distracted, glancing out the window before returning her attention to Lena. “No wand,” she said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“You’re right,” Lena said, nodding in agreement. “But what about you, my treasure? Any clue what you want to go as?”

Fi shook her head. “I think I need to see the costumes first.”

Lena nodded wisely. “Never a good idea to rush.”

“Mom?”

“Hmm?”

“We’re flying.” Fi pressed one hand to the window, peering down at the ground that Lena knew must have looked so far away already.

Lena took one of Fi’s hands and held it tightly.  “Are you nervous?”

Fi shook her head, still staring out the window. “It feels like magic.”

It really can… Lena stroked Fi’s hair, settling back into her seat, feeling more at ease, not thinking of the science of flight but of how it felt to fly with Kara and how safe she felt in her arms…


True to form, Fi hopped off the plane fresh as a daisy while Lena zombie-shuffled through the airport the way she always did after a long flight. After a brief stop at a coffee shop in the terminal for a pick-me-up and to the service desk to rent a car they were on the road again.

As they drove into the city, Lena felt pangs of familiarity as she spotted places and buildings that looked to have changed so very little in the time she had been away. It felt however briefly that she had never truly left. Not that she felt that way for long. The longer she drove the more it felt to her like she was playing a game of ‘Spot the Difference’. This was unquestionably National City but it was no longer her National City. Places, people, and businesses had come and gone during her time away and if asked a question about the city she would only be able to speak in the past tense. 

She pulled into the parking lot of the first store that they happened across and walked inside, hand-in-hand with Fi, letting go of her hand only when she promised not to run and watched as she immediately broke that promise when she spotted the aisles devoted to Halloween supplies.

She’s going to run facefirst into a cart if she isn’t careful. Lena jogged after her, ready to scold her and finding it impossible to do so when she saw the look of wonder on her face she had from staring down the aisle at the sheer number of costumes she had to choose from. 

Lena watched Fi reach instinctively for one of the costumes closest to her. She held it out to Lena and smiled.

“This one is pretty.”

“It is pretty, but are you sure you want that one, Fi?”

Lena knelt so that she and the young girl were at eye-level. She gestured down the aisle with one swoop of her arm. “Because there are so many costumes that you haven’t looked at yet. Why don’t we hang onto this one and wait and decide later?”

She clutched the princess costume tighter, tapping one finger against her chin, thinking a long while before she held it out to Lena, smiling. “Can you hold onto it for me?”

“It would be an honor,” Lena said and took it from her, draping it over her arm and shaking her head slightly when the girl immediately tore down the aisle, coming to a sudden stop only a few feet away.

“I like this one too,” she said, pointing to a cowboy costume complete with miniature ten-gallon hat. 

“You might be the first cowboy from Ireland, love,  but you would look cute in that.”

“Can you hold onto this one too?” she asked sweetly.

She already knows how to play me like a fiddle, Lena thought. “You think it’ll disappear if you turn around?”

She shrugged and Lena took the costume off the rack, watching Fi return to browsing. Maybe should have snagged a cart, she thought. Lena watched Fi take off down the aisle, running far too fast for her liking, passing by several costumes that didn’t seem to catch Fi’s eye. A ghost, a witch, a zombie, a grim reaper, and a vampire. Lena was just about to tell her to slow down when Fi came skidding to a stop.

“Did you find another one you like?”

Fi whipped around and nodded, beckoning Lena to join her. “I want this one,” she said confidently and pointed.

Which one?” Lena tried to follow where Fi was pointing and knelt down again to try and follow where she was pointing.

“This one,” Fi said and pointed again, this time tapping her finger against the costume.

“That one…”

Fi nodded, the bright smile on her face faltering somewhat when she saw the look on Lena’s face. “You don’t like it?”

Lena blinked, shook her head, and smiled brightly, ruffling Fi’s hair. “Just want to make sure that’s the one you really want.” She held up her arms to show Fi the other costumes she had already picked out. 

Fi looked at the costume in her hand, held it out, looked up solemnly at Lena, and nodded. “I’m sure.” Instead of handing it to Lena to hold she clutched the miniature Supergirl costume tight to her, mimicking how Lena had draped the princess costume over her arm. “Is it too expensive?” she asked, looking suddenly worried.

Lena chuckled. “No, love, it isn’t too expensive.” She ruffled her hair and jerked her head back in the direction they had started. “Let’s put these back and see if we can find something that I  can wear.”

There was no shortage of witch costumes for Lena to choose from although most of them would have shown a bit too much leg considering how cold Halloween was supposed to be. She settled on an emerald green cloak that was not only more sensible but would offer her at least a modicum of protection against the wind if Halloween night turned out to be a cold one.

“We’ll just tell people I’m a good witch if they ask,” Lena said when they had climbed back into the car. It will be up to them if they choose to believe me or not she thought.

“They’ll know,” Fi said confidently. She was still clutching the Supergirl costume, turning it over to get a better look at the cape.

“I like your confidence.” Lena grinned and pulled out of the parking lot and back out onto the busy street. “I know you still have plenty of gas in the tank but I’m ready to drop,” Lena said, punching at the car’s GPS to get directions to the hotel she had made reservations with before they had left. 


“I’m a little tired too,” Fi said.

“That’s a first,” Lena said. “I was starting to think that I adopted a very adorable robot who had no need for sleep.”

“Beep.” Fi giggled and went back to fiddling with the radio.


Fi had been more than a little tired. She was sound asleep when Lena arrived at the hotel and remained so up until Lena tucked her into bed. She woke up just long enough to smile sleepily at Lena who pressed a kiss to her forehead.

Lena lingered in the doorway before shutting the door behind her. She knew that Fi wouldn’t be down for long and if she were smart she would get a nap in before then but first, she needed to make a call.

Not even sure if the number that she had programmed into her phone was correct, she held the phone away from her ear and listened to it ring a handful of times before she heard someone pick up.

Hello?”

“Sam?”

There was silence on the other end of the phone and Lena shifted the phone to her other ear.

“Lena?”

“Hi.”

“Hi yourself…”

Lena heard the sound of a door closing and guessed that Sam had just closed her office door. 

“I’m back,” she said, barely able to believe it herself.

“Welcome back.”

“It would be a lot better if I wasn’t coming back to send my mother crawling back into whatever hole she crawled out of.”

“Preaching to the choir,” Sam said and let out a beleaguered sigh. “ I went back and forth on even reaching out to you about it… Have you ever seen a lawyer cry?” She groaned. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy to actually hear your voice but I just wish you were coming back because you wanted to and not because I had to go running for the teacher.”

“Don’t make it sound like you put a gun to my head, Sam. I always meant to come back and visit…” She was sure that it sounded to Sam just as sincere as someone telling a coworker on their last day to ‘keep in touch’ but Lena truly meant it. “Maybe I needed the kick in the ass.”

“Maybe.”

“How’s Ruby?”

“Living it up in Metropolis,” she said and Lena could hear the careful politeness fade from Sam’s voice sounding much more like the Sam she used to know. “ There’s still a Ruby-shaped hole in our apartment wall from when she got the acceptance letter into university there. Getting her to visit me on weekends is like pulling teeth but she calls almost every night. Sometimes I think she just wants to brag about how much fun she’s having,” Sam joked.

Is that what I have to look forward to with Fi? Lena wondered.   “And how are things at L-Corp?”

Sam sighed and Lena could have sworn she could hear the clink of a bottle, wondering if Sam hadn’t just poured herself a drink. “About the same. We haven’t gone to trial yet but we will. Lillian has all the support she needs to escalate things but she hasn’t yet. I think she’s just having too much fun playing with her food.” 

Lena made a face. “Not that my mother doesn’t love reveling in misery but it doesn’t really sound like her. She’d much rather gloat after she’s won.”

“I’m not complaining, it’s given us time to try and get a defense cobbled together and for me to get off my high horse and call in the cavalry.”

Lena laughed, covering her mouth so as not to wake Fi. “Please tell me you’re not talking about me. I’m a decade out of practice when it comes to sparring with my mother. I don’t know if I’ll be the help you’re hoping for but I’ll do what I can.”

“Either way, I get to see you again. Win-win, in my book.” 

“Spending time with me is not all it's cracked up to be,” Lena said. “You already got me on the plane, no need to keep buttering me up.”

“Take the compliment,” Sam insisted. “Is the munchkin with you?”

“Napping right now, which means I should be too, she’ll have me up half the night I’m sure.”

Like an angel, I’m sure. Don’t let me keep you. I have to fly out to Keystone City tonight to finish closing a deal otherwise I’d want to see you tomorrow. I’ll be there through Halloween. Is it alright with you if we meet up on the first? I can give you a better rundown of what’s happened before you actually have to see Lillian.”

“That’s fine. Gives me a couple of days to get settled and Fi would be heartbroken if we didn’t get to go trick-or-treating.”

“What’s she dressing up as?”

“Supergirl,” Lena said, shaking her head a little, still in disbelief that Fi had chosen that costume out of all the others there.

“She’s going to look so adorable. I’m going to want to see pictures. I would suggest keeping an eye on her though. There are going to be hundreds of Supergirls running around come Halloween night. Don’t want to lose her in the crowd.”

Lena smiled. That sounds about right. “I always do,” Lena said. “But thanks for the tip.”

“Speaking of Supergirl… I know that she’d love to know you were back. She’s still using her same number. If she didn’t drop her phone in a puddle last year she might still be using the same phone too...” Sam made a noise that Lena took to mean she found such behavior more confusing than charming.

“I’m not back, Sam,” Lena said patiently. “Not for too long anyway.”

“All the more reason to call her. I’ll text you later if that’s alright with you…”

“Of course, it is, Sam.” She felt a pang of guilt that Sam thought she even needed to ask for permission first. She was Lena’s one remaining link to her old life in National City and while their emails to one another were sparse and never very detailed, she did still consider her a friend although how good of a friend that Lena had been to Sam was extremely debatable which made her all the more determined to clean up Lillian’s mess for her.

“Go sleep. If Fi is anything like Ruby was at that age, she’ll be up in less than an hour ready to take on the world.”

“I will. Have a safe flight, Sam. It’s good to hear your voice again.”

“I’d say the same thing but there’s a video of you that we show to all the new hires… It’s only been a week or so since I’ve watched it last… But it is good to talk to you again Lena, I missed you.”

“Missed you too.” Lena ended the call, setting her phone down on the table and stared at it before slipping back into the bedroom and laying down beside Fi. She was sure that what Sam had said was true, Fi’s batteries would be at full charge in no time. Lena didn’t expect to be able to sleep very long but she needed to get what she could now. Get her head a little clearer for what was to come. Just a day ago, her life’s biggest worry was what candy to leave out in front of their house for any would-be trick-or-treaters and now she had to deal with this mess that her mother had made on top of everything else… She closed her eyes, felt herself already starting to drift, and instead of fighting it, let herself sink deeper and was asleep within seconds.



The weather on Halloween was just as cold as the forecast had predicted and Lena and Fi had only walked a block before Lena put the hood of her cloak up in an effort to keep her ears from freezing. She tried to coax Fi into putting on a hat but she had steadfastly refused, crossing her arms in front of her and shaking her head.

“Supergirl doesn’t wear a hat,” she said, prancing along beside Lena, her treat bag banging against her knee.

“How do you know?” Lena asked, still clutching the hat tightly in her right hand.

“Pictures,” she said and held her arms out in front of her running ahead of Lena for a while before falling back to Lena’s side.

You might have me there, Lena thought. “Supergirl also doesn’t catch colds,” Lena said, rubbing her hands together and placing them over Fi’s ears in a bid to warm them up. “If it gets any colder you are putting a hat on. You can be a trendsetter…” She looked around at two other young girls dressed up in Supergirl costumes run past them the other way, giggling to themselves.

“What’s that?” Fi asked.

“Never mind,” Lena said and pointed up to the next house. “Do you want to try this one alone?”

Fi looked up at the house and then back to Lena. “I want to go with you.”

Lena smiled, offered Fi her hand, and walked -hand-in-hand up to the house. She pressed the doorbell and heard movement from the other side of the door.

“What do we say?” Lena whispered when the door opened and a kind-faced woman opened the door beaming at Fi.

“Trick or treat!”

“Adorable,” the woman said. She dropped two small candy bars into Fi’s outstretched treat bag and rummaged around in the bowl beside the door for another one and held it out to Lena.

“Thank you,” Lena said, smiling, “but-”

“Mom.” Fi tugged on Lena’s cloak and stood up on tiptoe to try and whisper to her discreetly. “You have to take it. It’s polite.”

Lena bit back a laugh and nodded. “You’re right, where are my manners?” She caught the woman’s eye who looked incredibly amused at the exchange and winked. She took the candy from her and slid it into one of her pockets. “Thank you,” she said.

“Thank you,” Fi parroted, smiling brightly up at the woman.

“You’re very welcome, both of you.” She waved to Fi and shut the door again, the paper skeleton hanging on the front door looking to do a kind of dance as it shimmied to a stop. Lena turned around to grab Fi’s hand and saw that she was already back on the sidewalk peering into her treat bag like it was a window into Narnia.

“Ready to call it a night already?” Lena teased unable to stop herself from mussing Fi’s hair a little even after she spent so much time combing it straight earlier.

Fi waved a hand out in front of her. “No way.” She skipped ahead, careful not to stray too far ahead, turning back now and again to make sure that Lena was still there.

“No candy until we sit down somewhere,” Lena warned, watching Fi’s arm snake its way into her bag. “You could choke.”

“And then I couldn’t count it all when we go back to the hotel.”

“That too,” Lena said.

They found themselves in a good rhythm for the next half hour. One of them ringing the bell or knocking on the door while Lena took a step back so that Fi could have the brief moment of the spotlight to herself although Fi often did her best to make sure that they shared it.

“My mom’s a good witch,” Fi said, putting extra emphasis on the ‘good’ at the next house they visited.

“How ominous,” the man at the door joked, rubbing a hand over the stubble on his beard.

“No tricks tonight,” Lena assured him. “Say thank you,” she reminded Fi.

“Thank you!” Fi said, bounding off the stoop making the cape on her costume momentarily billow out behind her making a trumpeting noise with her mouth to give herself a short bit of music to fly to.

“Have a Happy Halloween,” Lena said.

“No problem there, all my kids are grown up.” He pointed at Fi who was running up and down the sidewalk with her one free arm outstretched her treat bag unbalancing her somewhat. “She eats any of that and you’re going to have a long Halloween.” He waved cheerfully and shut the door behind him, leaving Lena to watch Fi make herself dizzy.

Lena scooped her up producing a giggle, careful not to lift her too high, spinning her around. “I think I can fly you to one house,” Lena said. If I don’t trip over this damn cloak and send us both to the ground.

Just as Lena was about to ring the bell her phone rang, feeling it vibrate in her pocket. She instinctively reached into the nearest pocket, realizing that it was in the pocket under her cloak. “Do you want to try and do this one on your own, love” She slipped a hand into her cloak as she tried to dig the phone out of the pocket of her jeans. “I think this might be an important call. Good witch business.”

Fi nodded, switching her treat bag to her other hand and reached up to ring the doorbell.

“Say trick or treat and then say thank you afterward,” Lena reminded her, finally fishing her phone out and slid her thumb over the screen to accept the call.

“Hello? Sam?”

“No, so sorry to disappoint.”

Lena felt her blood run cold and she found herself turning herself away from Fi, stepping off the stoop, yanking her hood off hurriedly. “Mother…”

“You could sound a little happier to hear from me. It’s only been a decade or so.”

“Maybe try calling me again in another ten years and we’ll see where we’re at then.”

“Can you talk?” Lillian asked, completely ignoring Lena’s barb.

“I’m busy,” Lena said, pacing in front of the apartment building.

“With your daughter?”

Lena’s mouth flattened into a thin line and she bit down on the inside of her cheek to stop herself from letting loose whatever poison barb she had ready to toss in her mother’s direction. “You’ve been spying on me? Glad to see that you haven’t changed since I last saw you.”

“I would hardly call keeping tabs on your daughter spying.”

“And when have you ever treated me like a daughter?”

Lillian sighed. “I didn’t call to fight.”

“Whatever you’re trying to do with L-Corp and with Sam, I won’t let you get away with it.”

“That’s why I’m calling…”

“You can-” Lena turned back around to the front door and saw that the stoop was empty, her heart seeming to stop in her chest, the hand clutching her phone clenching into an awkward fist.

“Lena?”

She returned the phone hastily to her pocket, cutting the connection and jogged up the stoop, pounding on the door, not letting up until she saw the shadow of someone on the other side.

“You don’t need to-”

“The girl,” Lena said. “The one who was just here, did you see where she went?”

The scowl on the red-headed woman’s face vanished upon hearing the panic in Lena’s voice and she opened the door wider. “The little girl with the Supergirl costume?”

“Yes,” Lena said.

She pointed down the street. “I think she went that way. She must have walked right past you... If you give me a second to change out of my pajamas I can help you look.”

“Thank you but it’s fine,” Lena said, already back on the sidewalk. She ran, nearly ripping her cloak at the knees while she passed a number of children with their parents, one of them a ghost carrying a jack-o-lantern pail that stared at her as Lena sprinted past.

Nothing to see here, just the world’s worst fucking mother, Lena thought, scolding herself. It would have been easy (and tempting) to blame Lillian for losing track of Fi but it was Lena’s fault. There was the laundry list of excuses she could pull from if she was looking to shirk blame. ‘I just took my eyes off her for a second’, or ‘I told her not to go anywhere’. Just finding herself in such a situation made her face burn with shame and felt hot even against the bitter wind.

“Fi!”

She passed a girl in a Supergirl costume that was at least two heads taller than Fi but that didn’t stop her from bending down low to verify that it wasn’t her.

“Mom?”

“Fi?” Lena caught sight of her just ahead illuminated by the dull yellow glow of a streetlight, put on a burst of speed that tore her cloak at the knee all the way up to her thigh. Hardly noticing, she skidded to a halt in front of Fi, bending down painfully on one knee. “You can’t just run off like that Fi! I know you’re excited but when I looked up and saw you were gone…” She brushed a hand over her eyes, wiping away tears. “You need to stay where I can see you.”

“I’m sorry…” She wrapped her arms around Lena’s side and held tight. “I didn’t mean to run off… But…” She pointed up.

Lena glanced up hastily and saw a cape fluttering in the wind. “There are a lot of Supergirls out tonight, Fi. If you try and chase after each one, I’m never going to-”

“Lena...”

For the second time that night, Lena felt her heart stop in her chest, feeling it begin to beat faster. She kept one hand on Fi’s arm, too afraid that she might run off again and stood up on legs that suddenly felt very shaky.

“She knows your name,” Fi said in a hushed whisper.

Kara…

Lena opened her mouth to say something, to say anything when she felt strong arms wrapping her up in an impossibly tight hug. You changed your hair, Lena thought, wrapping her one free arm around Kara, only relinquishing her grip when she felt Kara start to pull away.

“Mom.” Fi tugged at Lena’s cloak and produced a faint tearing sound as the cloak ripped higher up on her leg.

“Yes, love,” Lena said, tearing her gaze away from Kara who was gazing back at her with the same look of wonderment that was on Lena’s face.

“How do you know my mom?” Fi asked, suddenly turning her attention to Kara.

“Your mom?” Kara’s gaze focused briefly on Fi then onto Lena, then quickly to Lena’s left hand and finally back to Fi again. “We’re friends,” she said, bending down onto one knee so that she and Fi were eye-level. “Best friends.”

“Wow,” Fi said, sounding awed. She beamed at Lena and took a step back. “I’m dressed like you,” she said.

“I noticed,” Kara said, smiling right back. “I hope yours is a little more comfortable than mine,” she said and pulled at her suit.

Fi made a face and shook her head which made Kara laugh. “But I still love it. I never want to take it off.”

“Oh boy,” Lena said. “She might mean that,” she whispered to Kara, not wanting to risk planting that idea any deeper into Fi’s head than it might already be.

“What are you doing here?” Kara asked.

“Trick or treating,” Fi answered before Lena even had time to open her mouth to speak.

“I can see that,” Kara lifted Fi’s treat bag, pretending to have trouble. “Heavy,” she said, wiping her brow with the back of her hand. “You must be really strong.”

Fi giggled and shook her head.

“What are you doing here?” Lena asked. National City wasn’t that big but still, the chances of them meeting like this were infinitesimally low.

“Halloween patrol,” Kara said and gestured around. “Not really necessary but I wasn’t getting any trick-or-treaters at my place,” she said in a voice just above a whisper.

“If you still live in a walk-up apartment…” Lena said. Her mouth curved into a sly grin that dulled somewhat when she realized that Kara’s life during her time away was a complete mystery to her. Sam gave her the occasional update but it had been a long while since she had mentioned anything about Kara…

“Mom…”

“Yes, love?” Lena smiled and bent down low when Fi waved her in closer. If you need to use the bathroom we’ll have to see if the next house doesn’t mind us coming inside for a bit. She bent her ear close enough so that Fi could whisper into it, wincing a bit when she whispered just a bit too loudly into her ear.

“Can Supergirl come trick or treating with us?”

“I don’t know, Fi…” Lena looked up, sure that Kara had heard Fi, super hearing, or no super hearing. “I’m sure she’s too busy for that…. But there’s no harm in asking.” She cleared her throat, suddenly aware that she might be more nervous to hear Kara’s answer than Fi was.

“Would you like to-”

“Yes. I’d love to.” Kara tapped her ear and smiled at Fi. “Super hearing.”

“Thank you!” Fi crowed, bouncing up and down, looking very much like she wanted to run circles around them and maybe stopped herself from doing so for Lena’s sake.

“Thank you for inviting me,” Kara said. “It’s an honor.”