Kara feels sore. She feels tired, and sore, and so damn done with all of this. The entire fight has knocked her for six, but Alex has got Esme back, and Lex and Nyxly seem to be on opposing ends which has to be a good thing, and despite not being entirely sure how or when Lillian Luthor decided to join in the fray, she feels like they are about to turn this thing around, and maybe she can sit down with Lena and -
“It’s a trap!” Nia suddenly screams, “It’s a tr-”
Her eyes go to Alex first, then to Lena who’s already being dragged back by Nia and that’s good because she was the first to notice something was askew, and maybe she can super speed toward Esme to keep her safe before -
The blast sends her flying.
She’s not entirely sure how long it takes for her to get up from the ground but when she does it feels like a flashbang grenade went off right next to her. Slightly disoriented she pushes herself up on her knees, then gets up to survey the surrounding area. There’s mist -or is it smoke- and some debris seems to be on fire, and it’s quiet. Kara feels the panic surge deep within her and scrambles, almost immediately finding Brainy and freeing him from a rock his leg was lodged under.
She ignores the high-pitched buzz in her ear and stumbles around until she sees Kelly crying with relief as Alex checks over Esme and wraps her up in a hug once she realizes she is okay. J’onn seems to have managed to stay out of the worst of the blast zone and by the time she lays eyes on Nia, Brainy’s already helping her get up. The only person unaccounted for is Lena. Kara swallows, stumbles around for a few more seconds before a familiar feeling of frantic panic coils in her stomach.
“Lena?” She yells out, “Lena!”
She waits for a second or two before trying to single out her heartbeat. She immediately finds it, hears it just as loudly as another softer heartbeat nearby and immediately uses her X-ray vision to cut through the hazy smoke of the explosion. After a moment or two she spots Lena near the riverbank, huddled over and - oh no, no no no.
“Lena!” She shouts as she runs over, “Lena, are you alright, did -”
The rest of her sentence dies in the back of her mouth once she notices Lena’s huddling someone in her lap. The white pantsuit looks all too familiar and as she approaches them closer, Kara swallows back the lump in her throat when she realizes Lena’s holding onto a very limp-looking Lillian Luthor. There’s a thin stream of blood running from the corner of the older woman’s mouth and despite not looking like she’s in mortal danger, a quick X-ray tells her that Lillian Luthor is definitely not doing great.
“She saved me,” Lena looks up at her as Kara stands next to her and puts a hand on her shoulder, “Nia pulled me backwards and she,” she pauses, “she jumped in front and,” she looks down at Lillian who suddenly seems more lucid, “don’t move. Please don’t move.”
“Lena, we need to -”
“She needs medical treatment,” Lena mutters, “need to get her to hospital, they might be able to -”
“Okay,” Kara squeezes her shoulder gently, looking down at Lillian’s face getting paler and paler, “I got you - J’onn!”
The Martian runs over almost immediately, takes one look at the two Luthor women before looking back at Kara.
“We can’t.” He says, his voice low enough for Lena not to hear, “It’s a risk.”
“She saved Lena’s life,” Kara whispers back, grabbing his forearm, “we can hardly take her to hospital, we need to do something.” She pauses, “She’s bleeding, her organs…”
“Does Lena know?”
Kara glances at the dark-haired woman kneeling next to Lillian, hunched over her as Lillian is trying to mumble her words, blood steadily dripping down her face and mixing with the dust in her hair.
“I’m not sure,” Kara hesitates, “I don’t think she’s thinking very clear right now. We have to get out of here and we have to be fast, J’onn. Can you take Lillian to the med bay, I’ll fly Lena over.”
J’onn luckily doesn’t waste more time on arguing the point of this entire exercise. He simply walks over to the two other women and kneels down, wrapping an arm around Lillian’s shoulder as soon as Lena pulls back. The matriarch must be in a bad way, Kara reasons, because she doesn’t even flinch when the alien transports them to the Tower, and she suddenly vanishes into thin air.
“Lena,” Kara tries softly as she helps her stand up, “are you hurt?”
“I’m fine,” Lena wipes her cheek swiftly and Kara can’t help but notice the smear the woman’s bloodied hands leave behind as she does, “please, Kara, can we go?”
Lena wraps an arm around her shoulder and Kara scoops her up in one swift motion, holding tightly onto the small of her back and the back of her thighs. She hears Nia and Alex on the comms, telling her she’s good to go. She ignores the uneasy feeling in her stomach as she jets off, Lena’s fingertips digging into the material of her suit as they go.
Alex takes off her latex gloves and crumples them up before tossing them into the trashcan outside the door before looking at Kara.
“You should go in,” Alex says matter-of-factly, “be with her. She might not realize it at the moment, but she does need someone to support her right now. And she really needs stitches in that gash on her arm, but she refused to let me treat her, so.”
Kara chews her bottom lip softly, looking through the small window of the med bay doors. Lillian is still just as lifeless as when Alex started running tests and started working on her almost five hours ago. Lena, true to her unwavering form, still hasn’t left her side for a second - much to Alex’s chagrin.
She sighs. “I don’t think Lillian wants me anywhere near her.”
“What are you gonna do,” her sister looks at her in disbelief, “kill her? Her son beat you to that.” Alex waits a beat, looking through the small window as well, “It’s weird seeing her like this, so…”
“Mortal.” Kara finishes her older sister’s sentence.
“Go support Lena,” Alex repeats, this time more adamantly, “she shouldn’t do this alone.”
In stark contrast with the park mere hours ago, the medical bay is absolutely quiet apart from the gentle whirring from the control panels that monitor Lillian’s vitals. Kara glances at them briefly, they are bad, and she wonders if Lena knows. Part of her wants to assume she does, she is a Mensa-approved genius after all, but then she looks at the younger woman as she approaches them and Lena looks so small, so fragile, so wrapped up in Lillian that Kara has a sad suspicion Lena maybe doesn’t want to know, not just yet.
“Hey,” she quietly greets Lena, careful not to wake a seemingly asleep Lillian up, “how are you holding up?”
Lena looks terrible. There’s still smears of soot on her face from when the debris hit, there’s a thin trail of caked blood sticking to her jaw and Kara resists the urge to try and reach out for her, to clean her up somewhat. Instead, she settles for standing next to Lena in silence as the other woman glances at Lillian and then the screen that displays her heart rate.
“She seems stable for now,” Lena says softly, “Alex said her systolic blood pressure was under 90 mmHg, but her heart rate has gone down from 140 to 125 so I’m hoping,” she pauses, “the hemorrhaging may be less severe than we initially thought.”
Kara wonders if Lena is doing it on purpose, burying her head in the sand, or whether she thinks Lillian might overhear. She looks down at the grey-haired woman right when she stirs and opens her eyes. For a second, she feels like Lillian might simply get up from the bed and walk out but then the older woman coughs and the gargle that escapes her throat both takes her and Lena by surprise.
“Great,” Lillian sputters, “as if this day couldn’t get any worse.”
“Mother,” Lena chastises gently, reaching for her hand, and Kara wonders, really wonders why Lena still bothers after twenty-odd years, “Kara’s here to help.”
Kara. She immediately thinks back of the conversation she had with Lillian, years ago, where Lillian admitted she knew Kara Danvers and Supergirl were one and the same, and she told her she wouldn’t tell Lena because letting her find out for her own would make her hate Kara more. She wonders if Lena knows she knew.
“Water.” Lillian mutters, coughing, “Please.”
“I’ll get it.”
“Not you, Kryptonian.” Lillian looks up at her before turning to Lena, “Lena.”
“Of course,” Lena doesn’t hesitate, “will you be alright?”
Kara’s not sure whether it’s addressed to her or Lillian, but they both simultaneously hum in approval. If Lena is worried about leaving the two of them together for a while, she hides it well. She waits until she can no longer hear Lena’s footsteps on the tiled floor before looking at Lillian who is -of course- already looking at her.
She says it so matter-of-factly that Kara is thrown off for a second. She had never got used to the Luthor bluntness, whether she was speaking to Lena, Lex, or Lillian, but the lucid clarity and resignation Lillian says it with is borderline impressive.
There’s no point pussyfooting around the imminent truth, they both know that. Lillian swallows and nods her head up to the direction of the screens, then turns her head back to Kara, peering at her carefully.
“How long, you think?”
“You hemorrhaged,” Kara says quietly, “Alex has bought you some time but,” she purses her lips together, “not very long. You’ve got substantial blood loss here,” she brings her hand up to Lillian’s side and hovers above her liver, “and here.” Kara adds, moving her hand a few inches.
Lillian turns her gaze back to the ceiling for a few seconds, ignoring the beeping sounds from the machines behind her.
“How do you know?” She asks, “X-ray vision?” She snorts as Kara nods, “Of course. Your sister,” she sputters for a second, “she’s very capable. Thank her for buying me some more time, after.”
Kara can’t help but smile, knowing Alex would revel in the compliment, “She is. I will.” She tries not to dwell on the meaning of after too much.
Lillian coughs and immediately winces. There’s an almost immediate chain reaction of more coughing and wheezing and then there’s blood and Kara is quick to hand her some tissues to cough into. They soak through rapidly and Kara’s equally quick to grab them and chuck them in a trashcan nearby, trying to make sure Lena doesn’t have to see them. Lillian seems to have the same idea, handing her the fifth bloody tissue before finally settling again. It’s weird, how they are both trying to safeguard Lena and Kara wonders whether her friend had a point not giving up on Lillian entirely.
“Supergirl,” Lillian sounds more tired than before and Kara resists the urge to use her X-ray vision again, just to see how bad it’s got after the last coughing fit, “will you promise me something?”
“Depends.” Kara says evenly, “That’s a dangerous question coming from you.”
“That’s fair,” Lillian smiles tiredly, “Lena,” she swallows, pausing for a few seconds, “she’s not as hard as she makes out to be, she’s not… like Lex, or me for that matter. She likes to pretend she’s tough but,” the older woman looks at Kara conspiringly, “we both know she’s not, not really.”
“A softie.” Kara smiles.
“Your words, not mine.” Lillian grunts, “I need you to look after her. After this.” Lillian looks up at her, “You’re the only being in the galaxy I know would do right by her.” The older woman’s hand manages to grab Kara’s and Rao, she feels cold, “Promise me,” she stresses, “please.”
“Of course,” Kara says gently, “Lena’s my best friend, she -”
Lillian snorts and it almost immediately triggers another coughing fit. Kara shuts up abruptly, surely arguing with a woman on her death bed isn’t good etiquette, and etiquette seems to be something all Luthors hold in high regard. Instead, she clenches her jaw and simply stands by while Lillian catches her breath.
“I know you think of me as a villain,” Lillian smirks, “or a horrible mother to Lena, or a bitch. I did not consider you take me for a fool.”
Maybe not wanting to feel like a fool was a Luthor family trait. Lillian shakes her head and stares at her to the point she feels slightly uncomfortable.
“You love her.”
“It’s bad form to lie to someone on their deathbed.” Lillian cuts her off, “You are in love with her.” She states matter-of-factly, “And in any other circumstances, you could rest assured I would go out of my way to try and keep you away from her but now,” she swallows, “I think I am at peace with it.” She pauses, “Does she know?”
Kara shakes her head.
“Tell her after all of this,” Lillian gestures to the empty room, “she won’t mourn for long, it’s not like I have been the world’s best mother.”
“Lillian,” Kara tries not to grip the edge of the bed too tightly, “why are you telling me all this?”
“She wasn’t mine,” the grey-haired woman says gently, “but she was the best of us. And I am sure I made her feel miserable throughout the years, but I do,” she pauses, “I do love her. I didn’t tell her that enough.” she sighs, “Don’t make the same mistake. She deserves to be loved, even if it’s by a Kryptonian.”
For the first time since she’s come to know Lillian Luthor, there’s no poison lacing her voice when she refers to Kara’s alien roots. Instead, a small smile creeps into the corners of her mouth and Kara is close to saying something, anything, in response when all-too-familiar footsteps return. They both glance over at Lena walking over to them, glass of water in hand and a curious look on her face when she spots both Lillian and Kara smiling.
“Alright?” She asks, looking between the two of them.
“Never better.” Lillian answers for the both of them, before pursing her lips and looking up at Kara again, “I would like to speak to my daughter in private.”
“Of course, yeah.” Kara nods, “I’m -” she glances at Lillian, who’s looking more and more fatigued, and decides not to tell her she’ll visit her again soon. Instead, she looks into green eyes that are looking decidedly more bloodshot than they did before and maybe, Kara thinks, there’s a reason why Lena’s quest for water took as long as it did, “I’ll be waiting outside.”
She squeezes Lena’s forearm gently, as gently as she can manage, and starts to walk out of the med bay when she suddenly hears her name called out again.
“Kara?” It doesn’t sound like Lena, but she’s also quite sure that Lillian would never - what on earth. She turns around to see Lillian taking a sip of water, partly held up by Lena, before the older woman peers at her. “Please don’t forget.”
“I won’t, Lillian,” she nods solemnly, “I promise.”
It takes twenty-three more minutes.
She is sitting with Alex and Brainy in the small hallway that connects the med bay to the common room when Lena suddenly exits the former, eyes bloodshot and her lip quivering. Kara jumps up first, waiting for Lena to say something but realizing after a moment that she is not going to say anything. Next, Alex gets up and rushes into the bay, Brainy in tow, and for a second, the flat constant of the heart rate monitor sounds louder than it did before until Alex flicks the machine off and it becomes quiet.
She sees Lena break down instantly.
“Hey, hey.” She jumps forward and catches Lena before she can sink to the floor, wrapping her arms around the younger woman and pulling her close, “Lena.”
Hearing Lena sob and feeling her shudder against her hurts worse than the blast in the park did. When Alex and Brainy slip out of the med bay, Alex shakes her head at her briefly and mouths dead before pointing toward the common room and taking Brainy with her. Kara simply holds her, and waits, and wonders what is left to say at this point.
Please don’t forget.
Alex insists on stitching up the wound on her arm the second they walk through to the common room and this time Lena is too numb to put up much of a fight. Nia tries to convince Lena to eat something but fails miserably, and so do Kelly and J’onn. In the end it’s Brainy who manages to make her eat half a sandwich but only after he half-threatens her to pick up an apple and olive pizza for them to share if she refuses to eat anything they have available at the Tower.
Everybody leaves at their own pace. Brainy and Nia are the first to go, promising to patrol and keep an eye out for the city’s wellbeing, especially with what’s just happened. J’onn decides it’s better to be safe than sorry and starts patrolling straight away. Kelly is adamant Alex and she take Esme home and stay there to protect the small Dyralian just in case anything else happens, and Kara is quick to agree.
In the end, it’s just her and Lena.
“I am sorry for your loss.” Kara says out loud, immediately regretting how it sounds the second she says it, “I know that despite everything, you cared for her a lot.”
“She and Lex were all I had for a very long time.” Lena mumbles, not looking up from her clasped together hands in her lap.
Asking her how she’s doing seems obsolete as this point so instead, Kara settles for sitting down on the couch next to Lena and wrapping an arm around her shoulder. Nothing gets said when Lena sighs and instinctively scoots closer, burying her face in the nape of Kara’s shoulder and pulling the blonde’s arm tighter around her. Kara softly presses her lips against Lena’s hairline and holds her in silence for a while.
“Do you want me to take you home?” She asks softly.
“No,” Lena mumbles against her neck, “I just want to stay here.”
Kara swallows. “Okay. Do you want me to fly to yours and pick up something more comfortable to wear? Or get you anything?” She pauses as she feels Lena shake her head gently, “Do you want to clean up a bit?”
“Do I look that bad?”
“You never look bad,” Kara sighs, getting up and making her way over to the kitchen, “but you don’t want those tiny nicks to infect.”
She grabs a bowl of water and a clean cloth and makes her way back to Lena, who suddenly looks more fragile than before. She’s still wearing a stray D.E.O. T-shirt Alex had found earlier and made her change into after she’d stitched her forearm, and Kara wonders if there’s a sweatshirt laying around that she can give her instead, just to keep her warm. She gets on her knees and half leans on Lena’s knees, deps the cloth in the lukewarm water and gently rubs over Lena’s forehead, watching the soot disappear slowly with each wipe.
“Can I ask you something?”
She tries not to look in Lena’s eyes, focuses on a particularly difficult little smear of blood near Lena’s eyebrow as she gently rubs over it.
“What did she say to you?” Lena asks quietly, “When I was not there.”
For a second Kara thinks she should lie. Maybe what Lena needs more than anything is to know that Lillian, despite never seeming to be quite able to tell Lena how she felt apart from the few notable exceptions, loved her. Then again, considering how Lillian came to be in the Tower’s med bay, she thinks maybe Lena already knows that Lillian Luthor, despite her many shortcomings, did actually love her in her own unique way.
“She told me to thank Alex for giving her more time.” Kara mumbles, and technically that’s not a lie.
“I did.” Kara says, running the cloth over Lena’s cheek, “You’ve got a nasty scratch here.”
“Did she say anything else?”
It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to keep a cool head, and Kara wrings the cloth for way longer than necessary before continuing to dab away the dirt from Lena’s face.
“That she knew she hadn’t been the best mother and that you deserved to be loved.” Kara says gently, brushing the cloth against Lena’s jaw gently, “Why are you asking me?”
“She told me something, too.” Lena glances down as the blonde rinses the cloth again and wrings it out, “She said she made you promise something.” She continues, “And then when you left, she told you not to forget and you promised you wouldn’t - what was that?”
“Oh, that.” Kara forces a smile, “That was nothing.”
“Kara.” Lena grips her wrist and holds it still, forcing the blonde to momentarily halt and look up, and Kara immediately knows she’s made a grave mistake looking into Lena’s eyes, “Tell me.”
“She made me promise to look after you.” Kara blurts out, “And I promised I would.”
Lena looks at her intensely for a couple of seconds, keeps a tight grip on her wrist before blinking in confusion and pushing Kara’s hand down, not letting go of it.
“Why would she do that?” Lena asks quietly, not breaking eye contact, “Last time I checked my mother didn’t exactly like you. Why you?”
“Lena.” Kara sighs in exasperation, “Please -”
“Why you, Kara?”
“I’ll tell you one day,” Kara forces a smile, “I promise.”
“Tell me now.” Lena murmurs, “If today’s taught me anything, it’s that you can’t put things off indefinitely because what if something happens and you don’t get to do or say whatever you meant to do or say, then what? What if something happens before you can tell m-”
Kara knows Lillian would have some choice words for her if she knew her careful plea to Kara would result in the Kryptonian resting her hands atop of Lena’s thighs and leaning in just far enough to brush her lips against Lena’s and shut her up, in the middle of the Tower’s common room.
Lillian would potentially also have choice words for her own daughter, throwing caution into the wind and almost immediately pushing back against the Kryptonian’s mouth. When Lena’s hand moves up to cup her face gently as they continue to make out, Kara wonders whether Lillian knew more than she’d let on during their time alone earlier that day.
When she finally breaks away from Lena and gets up from kneeling onto the floor, Lena reaches out for her hand and tugs her closer until she inevitably ends up next to her on the couch again.
“I think when I feel things again, I’m gonna be very, very afraid of the person I am going to be.” Lena says gently, squeezing Kara’s hand gently, “Don’t feel like you have to stick around because Lillian, out of all people, asked you to promise you would.”
Kara squeezes back, “There's no place I’d rather be.”
Lillian had been many things in her lifetime.
Regarding the two of them, she had definitely been right.