The thing about Alex is, all the love she thinks she doesn’t deserve? She gives it wholeheartedly to everyone around her. She and Maggie have fully dived into making Lena feel more comfortable with them. Ever since Thanksgiving, it’s been dinner dates at hole-in-the-wall restaurants and movie nights with Disney as the entire setlist.
Half of it is for Alex, she knows, but Lena doesn’t miss the way Maggie drapes an extra blanket over her, squeezing her shoulder as she passes. Doesn’t miss the extra spoon of honey in her tea when Alex slides it her way. Tries not to notice that she’s woken up in Kara’s arms every single day this week.
She doesn’t know what to do with all this love.
She doesn’t know how to store it, how to let it in, how to give it to herself. Lena Luthor has prided herself on being stone cold from the moment she realized that it was the only way she could survive under Lillian’s gaze. She knows how to stand tall and never break. How to bite her tongue and her fists when it becomes too much. How to swallow her own blood and call it nourishment.
She knows the importance of independence.
She doesn’t know how to hold someone’s hand and have it feel like it belongs there. She’s been second-guessing her place in everyone’s life since the moment Lillian walked her through the front doors when she was four years old, the only memories she had of her mother left sinking to the bottom of the lake. She still feels like she can’t breathe, sometimes.
It’s almost midnight and she’s still at L-Corp trying to get these equations just right. Being a workaholic is something that runs in the family it seems. She can’t quite get her mind to turn off at the best of times and now, where she knows the answer is just at the back of her brain, has sleep off the table.
She sent home Jess hours ago so it’s just her at the office. She’d slipped off her heels since her last meeting at 5 pm and changed into her spare sweat pants she keeps hidden in the bathroom. Her old MIT sweatshirt brings her comfort on hard days and she sinks down to the floor where she curls up on the plush carpet with papers strewn about.
She’s deep into rereading everything for the fifth time where she hears a knock on the door. Her first thought is that her brother has sent someone to kill her. Again. Then her logic shines through as she figures that hired guns don’t knock. They brash and kick and punch and she had the bruises to prove it.
A voice calling her name breaks through her anxious musing as she recognizes it as none other than Alex Danvers.
She tiptoes over the papers and unlocks the door, confusion etching her features. Why would Alex be here unless something is wrong?
“Is someone hurt? Is Kara alright?” is the first thing that pops out of Lena’s mouth. Her concern for Kara being at the top of the list is no surprise to Alex.
“Calm down, Kara’s okay, no one’s hurt,” Alex squashes her fears before they have a chance to fully develop.
Lena lets herself be reassured but remains confused, “Oh, well, ah, what are you doing here?”
“Someone has to be hurt for me to visit my favourite CEO?”
“Pretty sure I’m the only CEO you know, Agent Danvers.”
“Hey, I knew Cat Grant!”
“Only from glaring at her from across the Catco bullpen for working Kara too hard,” Lena smirks as she and Alex walk back into her office.
“Oh, Kara told you about that,” Alex rolls her eyes and warily looks at the papers on the floor, “seems like you and her both have a track record of overworking.”
“Which,” she continues, “is the reason I’m here.”
Lena just stares blankly at her.
“I’m taking you to dinner and hopefully you’re gonna get some sleep after. You work too hard. You need a break.” She levels Lena with an overprotective glare and a her signature crossed arms.
Lena just lets her mouth drop open a tad and scoffs in disbelief, “It’s not overworking if it’s literally my job.”
“That ceases to become valid when you’re the only one left in the building except for the night guards. Tell me, have you eaten anything since lunch?” Alex fixes her with a knowing look.
The silence speaks for itself.
“That’s what I thought. Get your shoes, let's go.”
Lena grumbles her entire way out the door but texts her driver to let him know he’s off for the night and slips into Alex’s car.
“Listen, I’m not gonna neglect Kara if that’s what you’re worried about. I had lunch with her today and I’m coming to movie night with her tomorrow, remember?” Lena’s voice comes out with slight hesitancy and a tinge of exhaustion. After being on the defensive her whole life, it’s hard to let that go.
“Lena, when is it going to sink in that we don’t care about you because of Kara, we care about you because it’s you,” Alex tilts her head and looks at her with the softest eyes and Lena immediately knows where Kara perfected her puppy dog pleads from.
“You’re not here by proxy, you’re not collateral damage, or a package deal or whatever it is you’re thinking of. I wanted to talk to you because I wanted to spend some time with you. Just us, okay?” Alex’s speech is earnest and Lena regards her for a moment.
“Agent- Alex,” Lena starts with a cautious tone, “I…appreciate the gesture. I will admit it just took me by surprise. We don’t know each other that well personally, given that our time together is always spent with Kara and Maggie.”
“There’s no time like the present, right?
“I suppose. Is there anything in particular you wanted to talk about?” Lena drawls with a raised eyebrow, seeing through Alex’s intent.
“There’s no beating around the bush with you, is there?” Alex rolls her eyes good-naturedly.
“It’s one of the reasons I keep a board of straight white men under control,” Lena shoots back.
Alex lets out a chuckle but then quickly sobers up, “I wanted to talk to you about thanksgiving. About how…god why did I let Maggie talk me into this? About how I saw something in your eyes that night. This wasn’t new to you. You always act like you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and I just wanted you to know that you didn’t have to anymore.”
The confession lingers like a cloud of smoke in a crowded room and Lena can’t help but choke on it.
Swallowing deeply she remembers the last time she tried to share something with her peers about her abusive mother. Remembered how it felt as the freakshow with everyone staring at her in varying degrees of shock and sympathy, how the only one laughing was her. How she stumbled out of that room and into a depression so deep it took her ages to climb out from.
But then she remembered how soft Maggie’s voice was when she told Alex that she was safe. The steel in Kara’s stance as she blocked her from Eliza’s view. Remembered her own indignance as she directed Eliza out the door. Remembered that she is not that little girl anymore.
“We are…kindred spirits, yes,” Lena responds with a heavy sigh, the kind that shows that you have nothing left to give. The kind that lets your opponent know that they’ve won. But the only person Lena was fighting against was herself.
“I came to the conclusion that Lillian was abusive a long time ago. I’ve been working on it ever since,” her voice was soft now, all the fight having left her.
“Have you talked to anybody about it?” Alex asks and Lena lets out a chuckle.
“I already have a therapist, don’t worry.”
She is left with nothing to say when Alex just brushes that off and asks if she wants a friend.
It takes everything from inside her to not break. The simplicity of it all, the very epitome of what had been lacking from Lena’s entire life. The implications of someone being on the other end of the line, no matter what. No strings attached, no hidden motives. Not even obligation but rather to be chosen.
Underneath it all, just somebody to talk to.
The moment hangs in the space between them as Alex continues.
“I think, ever since Thanksgiving, you knew you weren’t alone in that anymore. But I don’t think you truly understood what that meant.”
Lena picks up her tea and stares down at it, “I think it’s going to take a while for it to fully sink in.”
“I still worry that someday Maggie will leave me, that all of this, all of me will be too much,” Alex is slouched into her chair, a stark contrast from the upright stature of Agent Danvers that barged into her office earlier.
“I don’t know how to make people stay,” Lena says quietly, words she never uttered aloud until now.
She spent so much of her life thinking that she was not enough, not enough to save her mother, not enough to make Lillian not hate her. Not enough to not make her brother want her dead.
She looks up at Alex as she begins to speak.
“My therapist tells me that I need to put more faith in the people around me. That I didn’t just choose them , that they are choosing me back . I’m starting to believe that and I think you can too.”
“Maybe…maybe if we decide we want to stay, then we can have faith that they will want to stay too,” Lena is hesitant in her words, the sign of her still not fully believing it yet, but wanting to.
Alex smiles proudly from across the table and Lena flushes under the attention.
“Ready to go home? Maggie and Kara’s waiting up for us,” Alex sees the exhaustion that has seeped into her bones and Lena is grateful for the reprieve.
She spends the entire drive back to the apartment thinking about the meaning of family.
“Hey, can everybody tell Lena that we want her here, to build our own weird little family!” Alex announced as they both stepped over the threshold to Alex and Maggie’s apartment.
Maggie pokes her head over the kitchen counter with a confused grin but complies anyway. Lena, not used to all this attention just beelines straight for the couch and faceplants into it, her embarrassment clearly visible.
“I get it, I’m never getting rid of you all, as much as I want to right now,” Lena sighed, muffled through the couch cushions.
Kara emerged from the bedroom holding a mountain of blankets as she headed for Lena, “but never me right?”
“Never you, darling,” Lena said, leaning up to press a soft kiss to her lips.
Kara jumped into the couch beside Lena, covering her in the blankets then began peppering her with kisses. “How was your day?” she asked after leaning down to snuggle into the blankets herself.
“Long, I’m still trying to work out the equations for the new project I’m working on,” Lena sighed before sending a glance Alex’s way, who was now sprawled over the armchair, “Alex dragged me out to eat and we had a very enlightening conversation.”
“Ah, that explains the shouting about family, hmm?” Maggie finally walks into the living room, handing them various cups, Kara’s piled high with whipped cream and sprinkles.
“Chamomile tea for you, Little Luthor, Alex told us you were having a late night. You definitely need to sleep after this,” Maggie’s voice is laced with concern and caring and Lena tries to remember if Lillian ever cared about her health before.
“She was right, you know,” Maggie continues as Lena sends her a questioning look, “you and Kid Danvers over there have already cemented in my brain as little sisters. I like to think we are a little family here, just us.”
“I’ve never had a family before. Not like this. It’s…nice,” Lena says softly, looking shyly up from her spot on the couch, body still bracketed by Kara’s, blankets spilling over them.
“Oh, Lena!” Kara grabs her face and presses a swift kiss to her cheek, “there is so much more in store for us, okay, for you . We are never going to let you go. Ever.” The fierceness of her voice lights something in Lena, a little spark telling her that she is worth fighting for.
Kara is earnest in her words and her optimism brings a smile to Lena’s face. Alex looks over from her spot on the armchair and says, “she’s not kidding, you’re stuck with us forever.”
Maggie chuckles and throws herself into Alex’s lap,“and so are you, babe.” She wraps an arm around Alex’s shoulders as she feels her curl down shyly, still not used to letting herself be voluntarily vulnerable in front of people.
“I know,” Alex confirms, face blushing red as she pulls Maggie closer.
Lena feels her heart warm at the sight, and sighs contentedly as she relaxes further into the cushions.
“The best thing about this family is,” Lena starts, “we get to build it ourselves. We get to remember all the fucked up things our families did to us and decide that it doesn’t have a place here. I get to do that now . I get to choose only love and warmth and hugs and…cuddle piles.”
She breaks off into soft laughter and they all join her.
Maggie takes a deep breath and starts to speak.
“All the bad shit, we learn to let it go. In time, it will be like a distant memory. You’ll be too full of love to want to hold onto them anymore. You can let it go,” Maggie speaks from experience, her voice heavy under years of therapy and tears, but stronger than it’s ever been.
Lena feels Kara’s arms tighten around her. She knows that it’s probably going to take longer for Kara to learn that lesson, always looking for the black and white of things. But Lena’s lived her whole life in shades of grey. She strokes up and down Kara’s arms and feels her relax at the soothing movement.
“We’re all a bunch of misfits,” Kara laughs wetly, evidence of tears in her voice.
“I guess that’s why we fit so well with each other,” Alex smiles wryly, “there’s nowhere else for us to go.”
“I meant it when I said we get to choose,” Lena sits up, looking at her, “even if I could make the Luthors love me, I would choose this every time.”
Alex swallows, and it seems like the comforting is going two ways tonight.
“No collateral damage, remember?” Lena continues, her resolve growing stronger by the minute, “No accidents, just us, choosing each other, over and over.”
They’re all tearing up at this point, and something clicks inside of Lena.
If she can feel so strongly about this, surely they can also. No more need to second guess her place in their lives if she’s holding the anchor for them as well. She’s both the ship in the dark and the lighthouse, the safe harbour and the rocky seas. She can learn to receive love just and strongly as she gives it.
She can learn to give to herself too.
“Well said, Little Luthor,” Maggie’s voice cuts through her musing as she smiles softly and takes a sip of her tea, extra honey just like she likes it.