Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee or the Supergirl Universe. No copyright infringement intended.
AN: This idea came about when I read up on Georgia Tann. As a result, I suspect quite a bit of suspension of disbelief will be required. Important things to note are that Lena is not a Luthor, and Quinn never had nose reconstruction surgery. Ages and timelines have also been a little altered, but there's nothing major. Cool. Please enjoy.
i. wondering if i dodged a bullet (or just lost the love of my life)
As far as bad days go, this one is right up there with the worst of them.
In hindsight, Lena should recognise the signs for what they are from the moment she opens her eyes. A splitting headache and cotton mouth indicate a hangover, and the ache in her chest is just further proof that everyone she's ever let into her life was always going to betray her.
Even Kara Danvers isn't an exception to that rule.
They're just coming off their latest fight. Lena will admit she's been prickly and needling, but she can't just -
She's done pretending that everything is okay, because it's not. Nothing is okay about the fact Kara has been lying to her for years. Nothing is okay that Kara coaxed her into this false sense of security with her easy smiles and gentle hands, and then just pulled the rug out from under her without a second thought.
Nothing is okay about anything, frankly.
And, what Lena has decided she needs is time. And space. Just some distance to work through the ache and wrap her head and heart around the idea that the one person she exposed her entire self to was never the whole of a person she expected from Kara.
It's so jarring just thinking about it. Kara Danvers is Supergirl, sure, but Lena gets the feeling that the biggest lie any of them can ever tell themselves is that Supergirl is Kara Danvers.
So, they yelled, Lena picking at every little thing Kara has said and done as she desperately tries to make up for the betrayal, until Kara eventually grew irritated with Lena's needless barbs. She sighed, exasperated and tense, and pointedly asked, 'what do you want from me, then? Because, from where I'm sitting, I'm the only one trying here,' with all the weariness of someone who has been trying.
And then Lena asked for time and space and distance, and she had to make sure not to look at Kara's face when she demanded those things. She asked for their relationship to remain strictly professional, and there was just the smallest part of her that felt some satisfaction in hurting Kara in a way she's been hurt, herself.
Surely, they all deserve to suffer.
And, Kara - sweet, adorable, lying Kara - stumbled through an agreement, even though it was clear to them both it was the absolute last thing she wanted to do. Because Kara is a doer. It's in her very being; built into her body just as much as her physical features. She's not idle. She doesn't handle stillness very well. She needs action; needs to be doing something, and Lena has told her she wants the exact opposite.
It has been only one week since that disastrous conversation, and Lena has never experienced a silence so loud. Kara doesn't text or call or email or even check in with Jess if she's eaten. Lena hasn't even seen the caped hero in that time; had no sensors going off on L-Corp's roof and heard no news of the flying woman beyond the various sound bites about her small heroics around the city.
Sure, it's been only one week, and Kara is giving Lena what she asked for, but -
Lena misses her.
Which kind of all just adds to Lena's really very bad day. She's pulled from slumber long before her morning alarm, and she can't get back to sleep. It's not an unusual thing, but it merely aggravates her terrible mood and weekday hangover.
She takes her time getting ready, seeing as she's so irritatingly early. Covers up the dark circles under her eyes with too much make-up and drinks enough Advil to battle the pounding in her head. She's too nauseous to eat, but she downs a shot of espresso that actually makes her feel worse.
Can this day end already?
She asks the question of herself several times as she makes her own way to work, her driver still nearly an hour away. She imagines Frank is still at home, probably having breakfast with his wife and youngest child, and Lena won't drag him away from that just because her life feels as if it's falling apart.
Too many people are already suffering.
The weather doesn't help with Lena's mood, either. It's dark and gloomy as she steps outside, and she has the urge to turn right back around and ask Jess to cancel all her commitments for the day.
She won't let Kara ruin both her personal and professional lives. She has a very important job to do; no matter what anyone thinks.
The thing is, you see, Lena doesn't think about it.
She doesn't think about the fact she's early to work, or the fact Kara made a point of syncing their schedules three months into their friendship. She barely even thinks about the panicked look Jess sends her when she steps out of the elevator on her floor, and she definitely thinks nothing of the high pitch of Jess' voice as she tries to stop Lena from entering her office.
She doesn't think, at all, that she's not supposed to be here yet.
And she definitely doesn't think about how it's actually possible to startle a super-powered alien. Because Kara Danvers is in Lena's office when she steps through the door, and Lena thinks of nothing except that her no good, terrible morning is all Kara's fault.
"What are you doing here?" Lena asks, and her tone of voice is so cold that she surprises even herself.
Kara actually jumps where she's standing near Lena's desk, turning around and looking so guilty that Lena hates her in this moment. The feeling is so potent and all-consuming, and why is Kara here? Why couldn't she just listen? Why does she insist on making it worse in her misguided desire to make it better?
"Lena," Kara squeaks, and she looks just as surprised to see Lena as Lena is to see her. "You're early."
"Um." Kara fiddles with the small envelope in her hands. "I - um, I did hear you last week," she says, "but I - "
"Then why are you here?" Lena interrupts, and she barely even cares. Her entire body is tense, cued up, and there's a part of her that's been gearing up for a fight. She wishes Kara would just stop taking everything Lena keeps throwing at her. She needs her to fight back.
She needs her to fight.
"Lena," Kara starts, and her facial expression is so pained, as if she can tell exactly what Lena wants from her and she isn't willing to give it. "Please."
Well, if Kara isn't going to give her what she wants, then -
The next words Lena says are both shocking and inevitable. "We're done."
Kara's eyes are as wide as her mouth.
Lena can't take it anymore. The constant ache in her chest; the forever questioning of what else was just fabrication. What was real? Was any of it? "I think you've established a pattern of betrayal," Lena says, and Kara goes still. "I told you what I wanted. Time and space, and you couldn't even give me that. Couldn't even make it one week. Couldn't even give me the benefit of listening to what I asked for, after what you've done to this friendship." Her spine straightens. "Well. I guess we no longer have to worry about that."
"We're done," Lena says again. "Or are you just conveniently going to ignore what I want again?"
It must be that sentence that gets to Kara, because she's always been malleable and giving and kind and so sensitive to everything Lena has ever needed and not known how to ask for.
Well, now she's asking.
Kara ducks her head and takes in a shaky breath. It looks like she's trying not to cry, and Lena forces herself not to care. Enough tears have been shed over this mess Kara has created for them. Her own, sure, but also Kara's. Maybe it's better they just stop all of this.
"I just don't want you to think I'm not trying," Kara admits quietly.
The words prick at Lena's insides. "Well, I don't want you to keep trying," she asserts, and she's almost sure she means it. This day, this past week, this whole month. Just, all of it, it's been so hard, and she's convinced it would be better if she no longer had to deal with this turmoil. It's too much.
She doesn't want any of it.
"And, that's really what you want?" Kara asks, voice trembling.
"What I wanted was time and space, but you couldn't even give me that," Lena points out, and it's such a petty thing to make it all Kara's fault; to blame her for a decision Lena knows she's been waiting to make.
Now she has a reason.
"But, yes, God, just leave me alone," Lena says. "I don't want to be part of this mess anymore. Just forget about me, and I'll forget about you, and we can both get on with our lives the way you made sure we were always destined to: apart."
Kara just stares at her, eyes pleading, and Lena can't stand it.
"Don't you realise what you've done?" she hisses. "How you've twisted everything. Destroyed it. Destroyed me! You are now the worst thing that's ever happened to me, and I hate you for it."
The silence that follows is long and uncomfortable, and Lena wonders if they're just going to exist here for all of eternity. An unstoppable force and an immovable object.
But then Kara says, "Okay," like it's the punishment they both know it is. It'll hurt them both, in different ways, but Lena isn't about to give either of them what they truly want right now. She's both a masochist and a sadist that way.
"Okay," Kara says again, finally lifting her head and meeting Lena's gaze head-on. Her eyes are so terrifyingly blue, shining with unshed tears, and Lena would reach out to her if it wouldn't make everything that much worse.
Kara looks down at the envelope in her hands, running a finger along its short edge. She seems to make a decision in the moment and says, "This is why I'm here." She licks her lips. "If we weren't going to see each other for a while, I wanted you to have it."
"I don't want anything more from you," Lena says, irritated. "God, haven't you done enough?"
Kara looks at her. Really just looks at her. Long and hard, as if she can see every sinew of Lena's flesh. Maybe she can. "Okay," she says for the third time, and then she starts to move. Towards the door, and towards Lena.
Lena steps back and to the side, giving her a wide berth, and it must be that move that really breaks them. Because Lena has always leaned towards Kara; sought her out and wanted her near.
It's a sucker punch, and Kara's breath catches.
Lena ignores it. Doesn't think about anything. "You're not going to use the balcony, Supergirl?" she asks with as much disdain as she can muster.
Kara flinches, but there's a certain steel in her eyes when she shakes her head and says, "I know I deserve everything you're dishing out, and I will take it, but you are not allowed to erase a part of my identity." Then she's out the door, and Lena stands frozen, hidden from view.
She can't even breathe.
Just listens as Jess says, "I'm sorry, Kara," in a way that shows she means it. "I didn't think she would come in this early."
"It's okay," Kara says, and her voice gives away that it's anything but. "It was a long shot, anyway. I should have just listened."
Jess hums. "You didn't give it to her?"
"She doesn't want it."
"You have to give it to her, Kara," Jess insists.
"She doesn't want it," Kara repeats, and her voice is harder now. "I just - she doesn't want it, so I'm going to give her what she does want."
"Are you sure?"
Kara remains silent, and Lena can only imagine what her expression must look like. Kara wears heartbreak so acutely, for everyone to see, and Lena hates that this is what they've become.
"I really am sorry," Jess says, and there's something else in her voice. As if she's apologising for more than a shattered friendship. As if she knows there's so much more to it, though Lena can't figure out how that could be.
"I would have told her sooner, you know," Kara says, and Lena sucks in a breath that Kara must be able to hear, even without super hearing. Kara clears her throat. "Anyway, I better get to work," she says. "Stories to chase and all that. Can I drop this in here? Thanks. See you around, Jess."
"Kara, wait," Jess tries.
"No, I have to - " Kara starts. "I have to go. It's what she wants."
"We both know it's not."
And, Kara laughs. It's this dark, humourless sound that Lena thought her incapable of until this moment. "She doesn't want me."
"That's because she doesn't know that - "
"She's just hurting."
"Because of me."
Jess sighs. "That's it? That's just it? You're giving up?"
Lena would ask the same question too. Why isn't Kara still fighting? Why isn't she fighting at all?
"Haven't I already done enough?" Kara asks, and it's a bitter echo of Lena's own words. Final in a way that disappoints Lena. She knows it would be a confusing thing, but she wants Kara to stay, regardless of what she says. She doesn't want Kara to leave her, even if the only thing she's doing is berating her for not listening in the first place.
It isn't fair, Lena knows, but it might be the only way both of them stay intact. Because, if Kara stays, they'll just end up hurting each other more.
Which is why it makes sense when Kara says, "I still have to protect what's left of me," and Lena will wonder about the true meaning of those words for days on end.
But not today.
When it's obvious Kara has finally departed, Lena moves to sit at her desk, feeling even more exhausted than she did when she first arrived - who knew that was even possible?
"Jess," Lena eventually calls out once she's settled, and Jess takes only a moment to appear in her open doorway. She steps through at a wave of Lena's hand, and Lena wastes not a moment before she's saying, "I want Kara Danvers' access to the building revoked with immediate effect," and it feels like the nail in the coffin.
Jess looks a little startled at the request, but she nods in acquiesce, before the two of them go over Lena's schedule for the day.
A terrible, horrible day that doesn't actually get any better. She has back-to-back meetings until Jess brings her a kale salad at what is supposed to be a lunch hour she shares with Kara, and Lena just picks at it.
Jess says nothing about it, or about Kara, or about the fact she was witness to the ending of a friendship Lena still isn't certain was ever real. She says nothing about the afternoon drink Lena has, or the fact she stays in her office until well after nine o'clock.
It's why Lena pays her so grossly, and she actually considers giving her a raise. Well, she does right until the moment she's leaving for the evening, walks past Jess' desk and sees a familiar yet foreign envelope sitting on the edge of said desk. Waiting. Taunting.
Jess doesn't even look up.
"What is that?" Lena asks, voice steady.
"What's what?" Jess echoes.
"That." Lena points at the letter, and Jess finally lifts her gaze. "Why is that there?"
"It's yours," Jess tells her. "Found it in the trash, though, so I dug it out for whenever you're ready to read it."
"Jess," Lena says, and there's a hint of warning in her tone of voice.
"Whenever you're ready," Jess says, easy and simple, and Lena huffs once, twice, and then picks up the letter to toss it into the trash herself. She thinks nothing of it as she bids Jess Goodnight and resumes her walk to the elevators.
Doesn't think of anything at all until she gets to work the next morning - with less of a hangover, thank you very much - and the letter is back sitting on the edge of Jess' desk. Not so innocently. Still taunting her.
Lena stares at it for a moment, and then walks right past it without giving it much more thought. She has a job to do, and it helps being so busy. That way she doesn't wonder about Kara or what Kara's doing or how she is or -
Thinking is just too exhausting, sometimes.
The letter is still sitting there when Lena leaves for the night, and it ends up in the trash for a third time, twice by her own hand. There's an odd sense of satisfaction in the action, and she almost starts to look forward to it at the end of her work days.
Because those work days are hell on Earth.
Lena hadn't quite considered what it would mean to have Kara completely out of her life. Cold turkey. Nothing. Not a peep. Zero contact at all.
Even before their sensitive truce, Kara still contacted her daily, trying to re-establish contact and communication between the two of them. But things are very different now.
There are no endless texts coming through and no pictures of cute puppies. There are no reminders to eat and stay hydrated. No requests to meet for lunch. No 'just checking in' messages.
It is so wild that, now that Kara doesn't text her, her personal phone is so, so eerily quiet.
Alex texts, a handful of times, but Lena deletes them without reading them. Kelly always asks how she's doing, but Lena doesn't know how to talk to her. Nia tries to visit, but all CatCo personnel have also been barred from the building.
Lena isn't even going to think about Brainy. Or James.
So, Lena will find a little joy wherever she can find it, and it comes in the form of throwing away a letter every evening and just knowing it's going to reappear in the morning. Almost like magic. A boomerang, maybe.
Which is comforting in a way, because Lena is a scientist by nature, and there's a part of her that's deeply curious about the letter's contents, of course. It's just that she's more stubborn than curious at the moment, and giving in would be admitting defeat in a battle only she is aware of.
It is just a small comfort to continue with her new daily ritual, eased by the normalcy of whatever she and Jess have going on.
Which is why it throws her for a complete loop when that changes. It's unexpected, arriving at work and finding Jess' desk empty of any sign of the letter. It's become such a daily thing that Lena actually stops walking and frowns.
"Good morning, Miss Luthor."
Lena stays perfectly still as she says, "The letter's gone."
And Jess says, "Well, you did throw it out last night."
Lena turns her head, unsure what to make of the unsettled feeling in her chest. "You told me whenever I'm ready," she points out, a little hurt at the sudden change.
"It's been a month," Jess replies, and Lena actually does a double-take at the sound of that.
It's been a whole month? Without Kara?
How has Lena managed to get through it? Has she, actually, because she doesn't feel as if she's been living in these four weeks? Merely going through the motions, day by day, just waiting for something to happen; something to give.
Jess nods slowly. "I thought, perhaps, it was time I stopped trying," she says. "Take a page out of Kara's book and give you exactly what you want, right? Who am I to think I know better than what you say and do, right?"
Lena raises her eyebrows, because Jess' psychological play is so obvious that Lena would laugh.
If it weren't working.
"Where is the letter?" Lena asks.
Jess' gaze doesn't waver. "In my drawer."
"Put it back."
Jess puts it back.
"Good." Lena walks into her office, closes the door, and tries not to fall apart at the fact this is the first time she's even heard Kara's name in an entire month.
An entire month.
Where has the time gone?
So much could have happened in a month. So much probably has happened.
Which is why Lena does what she does next. She's been very careful to filter her incoming news, blocking anything Supergirl or Kara Danvers related, but she spends the next hour catching herself up on the highlights of the last month.
Supergirl has been busy.
That's really the impression Lena gets from the many, many articles she finds when she temporarily lifts her block. It's all people can comment on, really, just how present Supergirl has been in the last month. Does she even sleep? Surely she has a day job? All these things they say and speculate, and Lena -
She knows what Kara is doing, because Lena is doing the same thing. It's just that her coping mechanisms produce prototypes and make her company millions, whereas Kara's directly save lives.
It does make Lena think about the last thing Lena said to her, though. About erasing part of her identity. And now it seems Kara is doing that, because being Supergirl this often can't leave a lot of time for being Kara Danvers, surely.
Perhaps that's the point. Sometimes, Lena would like nothing more than to escape having to be Lena Luthor. It is the stuff of dreams to be able to shed the name and just exist.
News of Kara Danvers, though, does come in the form of articles she's written, some getting more traction than others, but Lena can't bring herself to read any of them. She's incapable of doing so without hearing them in Kara's voice.
With a sigh, she closes all her tabs, resumes the content block, and then spends a few minutes looking out the windows of her office. For some inexplicable reason, she's convinced she'll see Supergirl just by looking, but she hasn't seen the woman in person in one month, apparently.
It is as jarring as she always thought it would be, but this is what her life is now, and the least she can do is get through it. She's got through a lot worse.
That evening, when Lena is leaving for home, she walks straight past the letter on Jess' desk without throwing it away, and she's sure they both consider that a win. A step in the right direction, as it were. Lena can only imagine the smug look on Jess' face, but neither of them comments on this little change.
Because, still the letter sits.
Days pass, Lena just going through the motions of running her company and staying alive. There is no pleasure in her days, and the glaring hole that was Kara's constantly pulling her in directions out of her comfort zone to try anything and everything has never felt so oppressive.
But Kara doesn't call or text or email. She doesn't DM or tag her in the comments section of some humorous meme. The only satisfaction Lena has - and it is sad sad sad - is that she's certain this cavern between them must be hurting Kara just as much.
She can only hope.
Because the awful part of her brain would force her to consider that Kara might be happier without her. All of them would be. Without the Luthor in their lives, adding complications and forcing them to question themselves.
If not happier, they must be safer.
Because two months pass since that fateful day in Lena's office, and nobody has tried to kill her - that she knows of, at least. It must be something of a record, truly, and she won't let herself wonder if Supergirl's distance from her is the reason for it. That Kara might have been valid in keeping her identities so separate, in a vain attempt to keep Lena safe.
Lena doesn't let herself think that, at all.
Not until it's been two months and four days, and there's a product launch held in the foyer of L-Corp. It isn't a big event, and Lena has to sign off on allowing a CatCo reporter to attend the launch. She doesn't think it will end up being Kara, and she's caught between relief and disappointment when she sees a name on the list she doesn't recognise.
William Something. He's already unimportant, and she's decided he's going to receive the standard press release Jess already prepared. It's a little petty, but she told herself a long time ago that the only reporter she would work with would be Kara Danvers, and that's not changing.
But. You see. The thing is.
While Kara Danvers might not be in attendance, Supergirl is forced to be. It's really just the normal, run-of-the-mill assassination attempt, chaos breaking out among the gathered crowd. The kicker is that the would-be assassins use alien technology in their weapons, which prompts the DEO's arrival - and Supergirl's.
It's the first time Lena has seen her in the flesh in so long, and it is an overwhelming, heartbreaking thing to realise time and distance haven't lessened any of Lena's feelings for her. Both positive and negative, caught in this cacophony of love and hate and rage and longing.
Kara, wisely, remains as far away from Lena as she possibly can, assisting with the cleanup and identifying the alien parts used in the weapons. The DEO agent that questions Lena isn't one she recognises, and she spends a moment noting that Alex hasn't even shown up at the scene.
In the grand scheme of things, the situation could have been a lot worse. There are no casualties and no serious injuries. Just some scratches and scrapes. Lena has been through this enough to have some top-notch security systems in place. The safety of her employees is very important to her.
The aftermath is surprisingly quick, statements given and the scene cleared once all the suspects have been gathered. There's no reason for Lena to hang around and even less reason for Supergirl to linger.
There is a moment.
It's brief, barely registering in the post-incident hubbub, but Lena looks at Kara at the exact same moment Kara looks at her, and the two of them don't immediately avert their gazes. Lena could almost forget just how blue Kara's eyes are, or just how much emotion they can hold.
She's forgot nothing.
Lena looks away first, her heart thudding in her chest. It hurts, and she doesn't anticipate there being a day that it stops. When her gaze lifts back up, Kara is gone, and Lena knows it's for the best.
Maybe it's what Lena needed, because seeing Kara right in front of her is all the prompting she needs to walk past Jess' desk and take the letter with her. She doesn't know if she's ready to read it - whatever it is - but it's a step in a certain direction and that must count for something.
The letter remains in a drawer in her desk for another three days before she can bring herself to look at it again, let alone read it. It sits on her desk for another twelve minutes before she takes it into her hands.
It takes her another fifteen minutes to open the letter, and then a further four actually to read it. It's written in Kara's familiar scrawl, slightly slanted but oh so perfect.
Lena reads quickly the first time, and then slower the second and third time. It's during the fourth read that Lena calls for Jess, who appears in an instant. As if she's been waiting for this exact moment.
She probably has. "Yes, Miss Luthor."
Lena would even claim Jess sounds just slightly smug in this moment. "Get the jet ready," she starts, and Jess smiles so manically that Lena's immensely relieved she's one of the good ones.
"Already done," Jess says. "You leave in an hour. Your bags are already packed."
Lena shouldn't even be surprised. She's sure Jess has had a flight plan waiting to be filed every morning for the past two months; just hoping that one morning would be the time Lena took the plunge.
"I can have Frank pick you up in five minutes," Jess says.
Which is really how Lena finds herself sitting in the back of her private car not even seven minutes later, with a cross-country destination on her agenda. She's restless, her right leg bouncing in an uncharacteristic display of nerves.
It can't be.
Lena has already wasted no expense in this endeavour. How could it be that she missed this? How? It doesn't make sense. None of it makes sense.
The flight itself is worse than the drive to the private airstrip. She's alone with her thoughts, tempted to do her own research to confirm the validity of the discovery, but she knows it has to be true.
Kara would never tell her something this life-changing without being completely certain of it. She's too much of a journalist for such a thing. (Lena won't let herself think it, but she also knows Kara cares too much to give her false information like this. Not after everything they've already been through).
It's while she's on the plane that she receives an email from Jess, with the subject: Because I know you missed it. The email is mainly a link to an article Kara Danvers published a few weeks ago, which is already getting Pulitzer buzz. The content, though, is just as heavily linked to Lena as Kara's first foray into such intense investigative journalism.
In the article, Kara even writes that she only discovered the operation because she was actively researching one of her close friend's adoption records.
Lena's. Though she remains unnamed.
The article has been groundbreaking in a way that's particularly devastating. The number of lives affected by the truths revealed is astronomical, and Lena knows Kara must have agonised over whether she would be causing more pain by publishing what she learned than not.
In the end, the truth is always best, right? No matter how much it hurts. Right?
The thing is that Lena knows just how profitable human (and alien) trafficking can be. There is especially a sickening market for children. She just didn't think she would ever be part of such a thing - at least, not in this way.
She's supposed to be a Luthor, isn't she?
It's when Lena lands in Gotham City that the reality of what she's about to do really catches up with her. Based on Kara's article and whatever itinerary Jess has prepared for her, she knows she's headed to the FBI Headquarters where the joint task force has been stationed for the past few weeks.
What Lena knows is her adoption was falsified. What she knows is that the adoption agency her parents used to get her was never registered and was actually a front for trafficking stolen children and selling them to the highest payers.
Now, Lena has been through far too much in her twenty-four years of life and she can't even be surprised that there's more to her existence than she thought. Nobody deigned to tell her otherwise, anyway, and her memories have offered her nothing but the feeling of once being loved unconditionally.
There's a car waiting for her when she lands, a hotel room already reserved should she need it, and a meeting with an agent already scheduled for her arrival. It still doesn't quite feel real, and Lena can't bring herself to sit still as she's driven across the city. She's antsy and just a little terrified, hoping she can find some answers to the questions she has about her origins and just how she came to be with the Luthor family.
When she gets to her destination, Lena actually doesn't want to go inside. She'll get answers, sure, but then she's sure she'll have even more questions. It takes six minutes to work up the willpower to enter the building, and a further seven to find herself seated beside the desk of one Agent Marissa Coufal.
She's young, probably just a little older than Lena, and she looks exhausted. Weary to the bone, but she smiles when she sets a file in front of Lena. "We've been working non-stop to figure this all out," she explains. "There are some records, but a lot of them have been falsified. The only sure way we've been able to confirm children is if they actually come in." She runs a distracted hand through her hair. "The adoption certificates on file usually aren't the names that the older children go by now, and we've had thousands to go through."
Agent Coufal nods. "It went on for years," she explains. "Over numerous states. It's truly a logistical nightmare."
Lena can only imagine, though she's sure she has systems and code she could apply at the problem. "Have you been able to reunite any families?" she asks, and she can't quite keep the longing out of her voice.
Agent Coufal must hear it, because her features soften. "A few," she admits. "But the stars seemed to align in those instances. I'm afraid there is a real possibility that there are hundreds, even thousands, of families that will never learn the complete truth."
She taps the file on her desk, gently sliding it towards Lena. "This is what we have on your entire adoption," she says. "It remains unclear how much is actually true."
This is what Lena learns about herself: nothing she didn't already know.
She was four years old at the time of her adoption, the daughter of a deceased mother - whose name is written as Janet Smith, which is obviously fake - and an unlisted father. Lena was among a lot of children during the month of March in 1994 and she was housed at the agency in Gotham City for nearly three weeks before she went to Luthor Manor.
Lena's own memories of her childhood seem to start right there, because there's nearly nothing she remembers from before the day she met Lex. That moment is so stark in her life, singed into her brain, and she can't realistically claim she would get rid of it if given the opportunity.
"It's not much," Lena finally says, reality clouding her disappointment. She's not entirely sure what she was expecting, but she feels worse than she did when she arrived.
"I'm sorry," Agent Coufal says, and she sounds as if she means it. "What I can do is input your DNA into our growing Operation Ellis database and see if anything comes up," she offers.
Lena politely declines such a thing, because the last thing she needs is her DNA in government hands. She's learned many a lesson in the past.
"There's a group that meets every Thursday," Agent Coufal tells her as she scribbles on a pink Post-It note. "Others like you."
Lena blinks. "Like me?"
Agent Coufal hums. "Men and women who have had their lives permanently altered by all of this," she explains. "I think it's helping people to know they're not the only ones going through this."
Lena takes the Post-It when the agent hands it to her.
"That's the address and the time," the woman says. "It couldn't hurt to give it a try. Especially if you're struggling with what this all means for you."
Lena wouldn't admit that much, but Agent Coufal must be able to see something on her face or in her eyes. "Thank you," she says as she gets to her feet. "I - thank you."
"Of course," she says. "I'll contact you as soon as we have more information."
Lena doesn't feel any better about her situation when she leaves, and the one thing she wants to do is call Kara. She needs to hear her voice tell her it's going to be okay.
She calls Jess instead.
"How long have you known?" Lena asks as soon as Jess answers.
Jess doesn't even hesitate. "Three months, give or take," she tells her. "Around the same time you and Kara first had your falling out."
Lena looks to the skies and sighs as she walks down the street. "Jess?"
"Do you know why Kara and I are no longer on speaking terms?"
Lena, admittedly, is surprised by that. "She told you that she would have told me sooner," she says. "To what was she referring?"
"Operation Ellis," Jess tells her. "She wanted to do something for you, to make up for whatever broke the two of you, and she asked me for some help locating any family you had. She found this conspiracy instead."
"And then she didn't tell me?"
"And then she researched and followed leads to make sure it was all real and true… and then she didn't tell you, yes."
Lena sighs. "I always knew I wasn't a Luthor," she says. "I've known about my adoption since the very beginning, but none of this has helped me understand why they would have paid for me if they never even wanted me."
Jess remains silent.
It's not something she could ask Lillian, definitely, and the Luthor men are both no longer alive to offer any insight. She's on her own all over again, and it feels lonelier this time around.
Jess clears her throat. "Should I get the jet ready?" she asks.
Lena fiddles with the Post-It given to her by Agent Coufal. "No," she says. "Not yet. There's somewhere I have to be tonight." It's Thursday, after all.
"Of course, Miss Luthor."
When Lena hangs up, she's tempted to call Kara again, but goes to get herself a coffee instead. It's been some time since she's been in Gotham City, and she has to spend only a few hours in it to be reminded why it's not a place to which she would normally return.
It's just in such contrast to the sunshine that is National City. She means the weather, of course, and not Kara, but her heart knows the truth.
To kill time and keep herself distracted, Lena slides into a sense of anonymity and finds a quaint and quiet café to get some work done. Emails are easy enough to send, and she goes through project plans for the rest of the afternoon. She's always appreciated a change of scenery, but the recent years have made this spontaneous streak of hers obsolete.
Kara Danvers was more than enough excitement, and a definite reason to remain in one place.
Lena's not thinking about any of that right now. She has more than enough going on. Kara isn't a problem she's willing to solve at the moment. Possibly ever.
When it's time, Lena packs up her things, makes sure the check is settled and leaves a generous tip, and then makes her way over to the meeting's venue. She wouldn't say she's nervous, but there's a part of her that's wary. She doesn't want to be recognised, of course, but she also isn't sure what she's going to be walking into. She's not a fan of unknowns.
Lena definitely doesn't expect there to be as many people in attendance as she finds. The hall is filled with people, chairs in lines, a table of refreshments against a side wall and a small podium at the front. Lena takes it all in with some hesitance, but she's forced to step forward when a pair of women enter behind her.
One of them smiles in understanding, but keeps walking behind the other women. Maybe it won't be so bad. Hopefully.
Lena straightens, smoothing her hands over her blouse. Nothing is expected of her. She can just sit in the back and listen. That's accepted in group therapy, isn't it? Lena wouldn't actually know.
She takes steps forward, eyes searching for a free seat near the back, but it seems she's not the only one with that idea. There is a blonde woman sitting very stiffly right in the back, and Lena imagines that's what she's about to look like once she takes her seat.
Which she does, two seats over from the woman.
Then she waits.
Listens and learns.
It's Frannie who sends Quinn the article, along with the message: Mom couldn't send it herself, but it's time you know. She said to tell you she's sorry, Lucy. So am I. Nothing quite makes sense to Quinn when she sees the contents of the article, because what does some bogus adoption agency have to do with her?
It's two weeks into Quinn's sophomore year of college, and she just knows things are about to change. She spent the summer either travelling Europe with a few of her college friends or in Sacramento with her mother, sister and sister's family.
After Judy's move out of Ohio, there's really been no need for Quinn to return to Lima, and it wouldn't be a choice she would make, anyway.
It's not as if anyone misses her anyway. Freshman year was eye-opening in many ways and, as much as she tried to maintain some of her high school friendships, she had to stop trying eventually. She told herself she wouldn't drag any anchors with her, but some of them were more difficult to leave behind than others.
It's just that Quinn has decided she has more self-respect than chasing after people who don't have time for her. She's Quinn Fabray, and she's not going to let herself forget that.
But now the summer's over and she's in New Haven, getting back into her school routine, and Frannie sends her an article that is about to blow apart her entire existence.
It's horrifying, what Quinn reads. As someone viewing the article with no apparent interest, it makes her feel sick that there are people in this world who would actually steal children from their homes and families - literal babies - and just sell them to unsuspecting couples who want nothing more than to be parents.
Quinn reads the words, and then sends her sister a reply of, why would you send me this?
Frannie doesn't get back to her until the next day, and her latest email includes the words, because you're one of them, with an attachment of an actual adoption certificate.
The sight of it is so shocking that Quinn actually laughs at its absurdity. She's relieved she's alone in her bedroom, hunched over her laptop at her desk and staring at what must be a -
Quinn grabs her phone and immediately dials Frannie's number.
"Luce," Frannie answers mere seconds later.
"Tell me this is a joke," Quinn demands.
Frannie sighs. "Lucille."
Quinn's jaw clenches. "You know I hate it when you call me that," she says. "Tell me you're just messing with me, Frannie. I am - this isn't real, right? Why would - what the hell is going on?"
"They didn't know," Frannie starts.
"Who?" Quinn presses, and there's panic building in her chest, threatening to seize control. "Who didn't know what? What is all of this?"
"They didn't know where you came from," Frannie explains. "Mom and Dad. They just - you were never supposed to find out, but - "
"Frannie, please," Quinn says, and she's pleading but she doesn't care. "This isn't - "
"I'm sorry," Frannie says. "Mom is sorry. She didn't know that they took you from someone else. She never would have - she just - after what happened with - she just really wanted you."
"Frannie, no, please don't - "
And when Frannie says, "Didn't you ever wonder why your hair was always so much darker than ours?" Quinn immediately hangs up the phone and throws it across the room. It makes a sickening sound as it hits the wall, but not nearly enough to match the sound that rips from Quinn's throat.
It can't be real.
No, there has to be some kind of mistake.
Quinn takes a few deep breaths to keep herself calm, and then spends the next hour researching everything she can on what has been dubbed Operation Ellis. Quinn doesn't understand why they chose that name, but she learns there's a task force working out of Gotham City with the sole intention of identifying and possibly reuniting all the families and children affected, all while trying to find the perpetrators.
There's an open invitation to any and all people who believe they are somehow affected to help the investigation along, and Quinn books a train ticket to Gotham City for the next day before she can stop herself.
Because she needs to know. If she's on some kind of list. If there are some kind of records of her. If this is really all some sick, horrific joke her sister is pulling on her.
She just needs to know.
Which is really the moment another email pops up in her inbox. This time from her mother, offering apologies, confirmations and explanations.
Quinn's laptop promptly joins her phone.
A woman who introduces herself as Gina gets the meeting started, and she's quirky enough to be borderline irritating. She's sweet, though, and opens the floor after a small soundbite about how she now knows why she's the only one in her family who actually likes pickles.
Lena might just hate her on principle. Who even likes pickles?
The entire thing is actually kind of depressing, if Lena's honest. Men and women, both younger and older than her, stand up there and tell their stories. Most of them talk about how much of a shock this entire thing has been. Some mention they weren't even aware they were adopted until their families came clean or they were able to be found and contacted by the task force.
There are some who seem relieved to know they don't actually belong to the families in which they were raised, and there are others who wish they were never made aware they're all stolen children. Some seem remarkably fine with the news, and some actually break down crying.
A lot of them, actually.
Lena actually cringes when the third one in a row starts sobbing mid-sentence and she ducks her head, muttering, "Oh, God, not again," under her breath.
The blonde woman two seats away snorts as if she's heard her, and Lena's eyes snap towards her. "Sorry," she says, eyes a little bloodshot, a slight rasp to her voice. "You just - you're right."
Lena blinks. "About what?"
"It's just really depressing, isn't it?"
Lena nods once. "Were you under the impression coming here would make you feel better?"
She shrugs. "Just didn't expect to feel worse," she says. "But, shit… and here I thought I had it bad."
"Nothing worth crying over?" Lena asks, weirdly enjoying the cynicism in the other woman's tone.
"I mean, I probably exhausted my tear ducts during my high school years," she says, "but I'd rather die than cry over the fact my family isn't my family in front of a bunch of strangers."
"I hear it's therapeutic."
Another snort. "Are you planning on going up there, then?"
The woman glances over at her, eyes just a little lighter. "I considered it," she offers, "but I actually might have dove into how fucking unfair life is and maybe started a riot in the process."
Lena's eyebrows rise. "Reckon you have that much power?"
"I was Head Cheerleader," she says. "How much harder could it be to get a bunch of people suffering identity crises to stick it to the man than it is to get a bunch of girls not to sleep with one another's boyfriends?"
"That actually sounds like a tricky operation," Lena comments, finding herself starting to relax.
"Harder still to get them not to sleep with each other," she adds with a small smile, and there's just something about the tilt of her mouth that -
A door slams, and Lena's head snaps up, just catching the tail-end of what seems like a runout. Gina's back at the podium, looking a little surprised by the turn of events, and she gently suggests they take a break, inviting them to mingle and partake in refreshments.
Lena doesn't move, and neither does her surprising companion.
"I didn't know," the woman says, barely above a whisper. "I didn't know I was adopted, and I probably would have gone my entire life without knowing if it wasn't for that stupid article."
Lena internally winces, because she knows the writer of said stupid article. "And you'd rather not know?"
She shrugs. "Are you glad you know?"
"I've always known I'm adopted," Lena informs her. "I guess I'm hoping my biological family turns out to be better than my adoptive one."
"They could be worse."
It's Lena's turn to let out a snort, and the woman looks over in a mixture of surprise and something that's a little impressed. "I highly doubt that," she says, and there's enough certainty in her voice that the woman doesn't even question it.