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Supergirl In Training

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Kara watches silently as the DEO agents mill about, cataloguing the rest of the items from the vault; their standard issue boots shuffle against the thin layer of sand in the desert cavern as they walk to and from the huge steel doorway on the far side. The hushed reports and orders sound like a cacophony in her ears and she should probably join them, but she just… stands there, watching her daughter cradle a small infant in her arms.

Lori’s got the baby wrapped up in her jacket, indifferent to the cold, even when bare-armed. She sitting on the open back of one of the vans, adjusting the child every now and then but mostly whispering softly with the smallest of smiles—Kara doesn’t have the heart to listen in. She hasn’t had the heart to do or say much of anything in the time since Lori took off straight towards the vault.

It wound up being a trap, in the end—Lillian Luthor had been counting on them to show up, something about how this particular vault is programmed to open to Lex Luthor and Kryptonian DNA only, how they’ll have no need of them once she’s got her hands on Experiment 13—

She was about to cut off the dramatic villainous monologue when the cavern lit up with red sunlight and the Kryptonians were forced to fight for their lives against a contingent of armed CADMUS lackeys. A couple of close calls later the DEO finally arrived and it all seemed like it was over when most of CADMUS went down and the rest surrendered (Lillian Luthor being nowhere to be found, naturally).

That is, until Kara saw Lori head for the vault panel, knocking down the agent that tried to stop her.

“Lori!”

Kara doesn’t like the way the DEO agents follow her as she runs toward her daughter, but she can’t think—Lori stops at the panel turning to look at them with a panicked, wild look in her eyes.

Kara halts the agents several feet away from Lori—“stand down!” Alex yells, waving at their raised guns—before she shuffles forward slowly with her hand outstretched.

“Lori, what are you doing?”

Lori glances at all of them frantically before her eyes settle on Kara, a grim sort of determination setting on her face.

“Hey,” Alex says, softly, in that strained and tense but still tender worry, as she steps up beside Kara. “Step away from the panel, okay? Let’s talk.”

Lori frowns at them—Kara swears she sees a flash of an apologetic grimace before the girl’s eyes light up with heat vision and a line of flame bursts just in front of them. The agents flinch back, and Kara throws her cape up to shield Alex as she hears the grinding of the giant steel doors sliding open. When she turns back she sees a figure run into the vault, the sight distorted by the heat-woven air—she only hesitates for a beat before bracing herself and jumping through the flames after the girl.

She's not prepared to see what she does. Lori's torn her jacket off and she's pressing buttons on some sort of - stasis pod? lain on the floor, reaching her hands in as the glass opens. Kara lurches to stop her, cries out, there could be something dangerous in there but—she falters as Lori carefully, tenderly pulls out an infant covered in viscous, transparent fluid.

The baby squirms, makes soft noises of discomfort as Lori bundles it into her tattered jacket and cradles it close to her chest.

"Shh, hey, it's okay," she coos, wiping goo off of that tiny face. "It's just me, Conner. I got you."

And in that moment, Kara sees the scene that should have happened but never did, the plan - the dream that stuck to the back of her eyelids for twenty-four empty years. Protect him, protect him, protect him; her mother’s words echoed in her sleep until she could think of nothing else but pulling her infant cousin from his pod into her arms—of turning to face the world and finding a way to live on.

“You’re gonna be okay,” Lori murmurs, balancing the baby in her arms. “I’m here now. I’ve got you.”

Kara feels her heart twist and turn painfully.

Alex walks over and puts a firm but sympathetic hand on her shoulder.

“Hey.”

Kara glances at the worried lines on her sister’s face.

“Hey.” She tries for a small, reassuring smile—Alex doesn’t buy it, not from the way her frown deepens for a short moment but then she’s smiling back, only a little tensely.

“We kind of have to arrest her,” Alex says, nodding to Lori.

Kara groans and runs a hand through her hair. “Do we really have to?”

Alex nods, brows knitting together apologetically. “She assaulted and open fired at government agents.”

“To save that baby, presumably,” Kara says in her defense, crossing her arms. “She’s my daughter.”

“The rest of the DEO doesn’t know that,” Alex says, trying to placate her. “And if they did, well, it’d look even worse, like nepotism or something.“ She sighs. “We’re not going to do anything. It’ll just look really bad if we don’t at least detain her until Lena comes to pick her up.”

Kara groans, clapping a hand over her eyes. “Rao. We have to tell Lena about this.”

You have to tell Lena about this.”

“What?” Kara whines. “Why?”

“You’re her other parent. Closest relatives and protocol and all that. There’s probably paperwork about it,” Alex says, patting her back. “Good luck with that, by the way.”

Kara squints at her sister. “Thanks,” she grumbles, bumping her shoulder grumpily as Alex chuckles at her.

“Well,” Alex sighs, trailing off the end of her laugh and sobering somewhat. “Wish me luck on arresting my niece and confiscating a baby.”

Kara lets out a bark of laughter, in a listless sort of way, unable to help herself before putting a hand on Alex’s shoulder.

“I’ll do it.”

Alex quirks a brow. “You sure?”

“Yeah.” She nods grimly. “I want to.”

Alex studies her for a moment, searching her face for uncertainty because before anything else she is Kara’s older sister—but she relents and smiles with gratitude.

“Good luck,” she says, reaching up to squeeze her shoulder before walking off to join the other agents.

Kara inhales deeply, squares her shoulders, and breathes out heavily before heading over to her daughter.

“Hey.”

The girl looks up from her soft cooing, face falling into an apprehensive pout.

“Hi.”

Kara lets herself smile, just a little bit, just to reassure her as she sits down beside her.

“How is he?” She asks, peering at the quiet but wide-eyed infant.

“He’s doing okay,” Lori murmurs. “I checked, and everything’s normal.”

Despite her words she gnaws on her lip worriedly, adjusting him in her arms. Something about the determinedly firm but gentle way she handles him pangs in Kara’s chest.

“Yeyu,” Lori begins, tilting the baby up a little more and turning towards Kara. “This is Conner.”

The baby tucks his face a bit more into Lori at the sudden shift in angle, and Kara can’t help but smile a little.

“Clark’s Conner?” She asks quietly. Lori nods. Kara shifts a little closer and holds her arms up hesitantly. “Can I?”

Lori leans over and carefully places Conner in her arms, trying to jostle him as little as possible—Kara readjusts her hold once he’s fully in her arms, fitting his head over the crook of her elbow. The last time she’s held an infant was the last time she tucked Kal into bed for Uncle Jor-El, on a night that both he and Aunt Lara were busy. It’s such a mundane memory from before the world ended. Now, with her adult arms, the baby feels so much smaller than she remembers Kal being; but then he finally turns his shy eyes up to her and familiarity spreads through her chest. That same instinctual tugging, of something just fitting like puzzle pieces— she smiles and holds him a little closer.

“He has the family eyes,” she says.

Lori smiles softly. “Yeah. We all do. Seems like it’s a really dominant allele.”

Conner blinks his big, inquisitive blue eyes and Kara can’t help how her smile widens.

“Conner Kent,” she says, as if to test out how the name feels.

“Kon-El.” Lori wrings her hands, glancing up at Kara like she’s gauging her reaction. Kara takes a second to register what she means.

Then she lets out a quiet breath and looks back down at the boy.

“Kon-El. Kon-El and Jon-El ,” she says, mostly to herself—it’s just an old naming convention, for brothers to have rhyming names—it’s such a small detail, but somehow such a mundane part of Krypton living on weighs all the more wonderfully heavily in her chest.

“Lori, why…” she starts, trying to find the words. “Why was he in the vault?”

Lori clenches her hands tightly, drawing her knees together and looking away. There’s a long pause before she finally speaks up.

“He’s not Lois’s son,” she says quietly. “Out of the three of us, Jon’s the only natural birth. Conner was made by…” She pauses for a moment, mouth clenched shut. “By Lex Luthor. Using his own genes and Clark’s.”

Lex Luthor and Clark. She tries to wrap her head around it.

“But—why?” She frowns. “What reason would he have to do that?”

Lori shrugs. “I don’t know. I never cared.” She twists her mouth unhappily. “He’s a person. It doesn’t matter why.”

Her shoulders set defensively and Kara lets out a shaky breath.

“So that’s why you went ahead of us.”

Lori nods. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t—as soon as I heard Lillian was after him, I couldn’t let it happen.”

Conner yawns quietly and Kara bundles him a little closer as she frowns at Lori, mouth pressed into a sad line.

“Is’kah, why didn’t you tell us?”

“Because I knew the DEO would never let me bring him out without studying his pod for weeks,” Lori hisses, almost angrily. “I love J’onn but I knew he wouldn’t put the safety of this world above anything.” She runs a hand over her face. “He’s going to be so mad at me but I couldn’t—I couldn’t just—“

Lori almost stutters, hand clasped over her eyes and halting syllables reaching for words.

“Why were you so desperate to get Conner out?” Kara asks gently, wanting to calm the girl. Lori sighs again, and it’s another pause before she speaks up again in a low murmur.

“In the proper timeline,” she starts heavily. “Clark doesn’t find him until he’s already five years old.” She shakes her head, running her hand through her hair and staring blankly at her shoes. “He tells people he doesn’t remember anything, but he said—once he said to me and Jon that he has nightmares.” Her voice shakes a little, and she fiddles with her watch. “He has this recurring nightmare about being in the dark, not even knowing who he is, wondering if anyone’s ever going to find him or if he’s been abandoned and I couldn’t leave him to that,” she hisses out through gritted teeth, her grimace growing fiercer with every word. “I couldn’t do nothing while I knew he was out there, he’s—“

She stumbles for words again before Kara steps in.

“He’s family.”

She snaps up to look at Kara with something like surprise or awe, mouth falling slightly open, before the tension drains from her frame in relief. Kara smiles at her before looking back down at Conner—some part of her rational brain says that she should be seeing something different now, that she should be looking at him differently knowing that he’s partly cloned from Lex Luthor. But he ventures out a little hand to try and touch her cheek and all she can think of are the late afternoons she spent with Kal, waiting for their parents to come home while she read him stories.

(She always read them aloud, instead of letting the holos narrate themselves. He liked it better that way.)

Kara smiles at the boy. “He’s family,” she says again, shifting him in her arms. He makes a small, discontented noise, glaring up at her with a frown that’s far too cute. She just laughs softly as he closes his eyes and starts to doze off.

“He’s so quiet ,” she whispers in disbelief. Lori scoffs.

“I wish he’d stayed quiet,” she grumbles, and Kara bites back a laugh.

“What happened to your ride or die attitude?” she asks, grinning in amusement as Lori groans.

“Sure, he’s family and I love him. Doesn’t mean he’s not stupendously annoying sometimes.”

Something about the way she says it reminds Kara of Alex when she’s complaining about Kara stealing her food and it makes her smile.

“Yeah,” she chuckles. “That’s family.”

Alex herself shuffles in the distance, getting Kara’s attention and giving her a worried look, and Kara sighs.

“Is’kah, we have to…”

“Arrest me, I know.” Lori sighs. “I didn’t really think this through,” she laughs, grimacing at Kara as she hops to her feet. “Take care of him for me?”

Kara nods. “Of course.”


 

In all honesty, Lena wishes she’d been invited to the DEO under different circumstances— it’s a sight to see, with the big main console and no expense spared on all the displays. Every piece of tech she gets a glimpse of she wants to ask a thousand questions about— or, she would want to ask questions about, if she wasn’t preoccupied with the fact that she was here to pick up her detained daughter at two in the morning.

She stops for a moment when an agent ushers her into the room, heart jumping to her throat as she takes in the scene of Lori, sitting in a cell behind glass walls. She digs her nails into the strap of her bag for a moment as she stares down the long concrete room— Lori looks up, giving her a guilty smile and Lena chokes back her anger.

Her heels clack loudly and authoritatively in the room (she maybe gives her steps some extra force) as she walks over to the cell glass, stopping a couple of feet away and taking in sharp breaths.

“Hi, Mom,” Lori says, almost bashfully as she stands up. “Sorry.”

Lena’s hands flutter tensely before she settles on holding her temples for a moment.

“You’re— you’re sorry?” she asks, incredulous, hand jerking out in an angry flourish.

Lori winces. “Wow. You’re really mad. I guess they told you what happened?”

“Director J’onzz briefed me on what happened, yes,” she replies tersely, and Lori puffs out a sigh.

“Yeah, J’onn’s really disappointed in me,” she laughs, trying for levity. “He even made a point to tell me telepathically.”

The girl grins up at her hopefully and Lena just— stares. Because really, is this the time to be trying to make jokes?

Lori’s grin falls and she swings her hands together in kind of a ‘yikes’ motion before sighing.

“I’m— I’m really sorry.”

Lena tries to gather up all her rationality and calm and fails.

“You assaulted a DEO agent and open fired at the entire team,” she starts, slow and measured in a brittle kind of way, “and you tampered with unidentified equipment.”

Lori groans. “To save Conner. You know, my cousin?”

“And you didn’t think to tell me that he was Lex’s clone at any point?” she hisses.

Lori changes then, from apologetic and guilty to planting her feet into the ground and squaring her shoulders.

“No, I didn’t because it doesn’t matter,” she says, brows furrowed fiercely.

“It doesn’t matter ?” Lena asks. “In what world does it not matter , Lori, he’s Lex’s clone—”

“Which is not his fault!” Lori grits her teeth. “It doesn’t matter because he is good and he is kind and he is nothing like what people expect him to be.”

(Lena doesn’t dwell on how much Lori looks like Kara did, when she squared her shoulders and defended her against all odds.)

“What—” Lena squeezes her eyes shut angrily and takes a deep breath. “What were you planning to do with him, then? Did you have a plan on how to take care of an infant, much less an alien one?”

“I—” Lori falters, looking lost. “I thought I’d figure it out as I go—”

“So you weren’t even thinking at all?”

“Yes— No, I—” Lori screws up her face as she struggles for words. “I didn’t have time to plan, I just had to get him out of there!” she pleads, gesturing angrily. “I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing while I knew he was out there somewhere.”

“Is that your only reason?” Lena shoots back just as angrily. “You won’t have actually saved him from anything, you realize that? Once you go back everything will return to the way it was— what you did won’t matter , Lori.”

The girl visibly bristles at that, clenching her jaw.

“It will always matter, even if it’s written over.” She shakes her head. “It’ll matter that in some continuity, he was rescued and he was loved , even if just for a few days, even if it’s not the real timeline, even if he doesn’t remember, because that’s important. ” Her eyes gloss with tears but her voice doesn’t shake, not even once. “It’ll matter because I had the power to make a positive change in his life and it was the right thing to do— and you don’t do the right thing only if it’ll make a difference. You don’t do it because you want to, you do it because it’s the right thing to do .” She presses a hand against the glass, her bluefire stare unwavering. “You’re the one who taught me that.”

Lena's nails dig into her palms for a moment— there it is again, this idea that somehow she's passed on something good, that she's capable of being more than alone and in pain. She takes in a deep breath, steadying herself, before exhaling quietly.

“Please,” Lori says, pleading now. “I’m sorry for springing another thing on you again, I’ll do everything to help, everything you tell me to do, for real this time— just please, help me figure this out.”

Her voice finally breaks a little at the end, brittle with fear, and Lena almost wants to laugh in a dark sort of way, because what does Lori have to be afraid of? It’s not a decision. It’s not up for debate.

The right thing to do.

She turns to the agent standing a few feet away, readjusting the strap of her bag on her shoulder.

“When can I take them home, agent?”

She sees Lori light up out the corner of her eyes, the girl’s entire frame straightening up and her face splitting into a grin.

“They’re both cleared to be released into your custody,” the agent says, stepping forward to unlock Lori’s cell. “You’ll just have some paperwork to file upstairs.”

Lena nods. “Thank you.”

The agent barely has time to acknowledge her before Lori pushes through the door and grabs Lena into a hug.

Thank you , Mom,” she says, squeezing hard enough to make Lena wheeze.

“Easy,” she chokes out, taking a deep breath when Lori lets her go. “Don’t thank me, it’s not like I could abandon either of you.” She pauses, narrowing her eyes for good measure, crossing her arms. “And don’t look so happy, either— you were still reckless and you are still grounded.”

Lori pouts. “Can you still ground me if you’re not technically my mom yet?”

“Lori.

“Yes ma’am.”


 

Kara’s waiting for them upstairs, still in her Supergirl regalia, pacing nervously next to Director J’onnz in that adorable way she does with her hands wringing— Lena swallows the sudden flutters in her chest as she makes her way over. Kara looks up at them the moment they start walking and smiles so softly.

So much for not being nervous, Lena guesses. Her own hands start wringing as she heads across the raised walkway towards what seems like a medical bay— through the glass, Lena sees Alex carefully scan a bundle of blankets and her heart jumps to her throat again.

Oh. She’s not sure if she’s ready for this.

Kara tries to smile as reassuringly as she can when she makes her way over, bless her.

“Miss Luthor,” J’onn says genially.

Lena nods, appreciating the quiet amiability. “Director J’onzz.”

He looks past her shoulder at Lori and a kind of… tenseness fills the air, Lena can’t put a finger on the unsettling feeling. Lori bows her head apologetically and the ambience somehow relaxes, J’onn’s frown falling into a look that’s stern, but softly. Lena looks to Kara inquisitively, only getting a reassuring smile.

She takes in a brittle breath. “Is he— is he alright?”

Kara glances behind her. “Yes, he’s fine— Alex is just doing a last scan, just in case.” There’s a warm kind of exasperation in her voice, and Lena stifles a laugh.

“I suppose I could do that paperwork while we’re waiting.”

Kara shakes her head. “That— I’ll take care of that for you.”

Even J’onn raises a brow at her.

“Oh, no, it’s alright—”

“It’s no trouble, really,” Kara insists. “I—I’m kind of tied up here all night to help deal with the rest of the vault, so I can’t really help with— with Conner. It’s the least I could do.”

There’s an implicit apology and a kind of caring in her halting statement that struggles to be polite. (as if it’s a given that she would be expected to help them out— a rather… domestic thought.) Kara leans towards her just the smallest bit, so much earnestness in her eyes that Lena knows she wants to hug her, comfort her somehow.

But they’re in the middle of the DEO, not in her office, so Lena gratefully takes the offer.

“Thank you, Supergirl.”

“Anything,” Kara says, so quietly she almost misses it— J’onn graciously ignores it and opens the door to the med bay for them. Lena nods gratefully and steps inside to find Alex waiting for her with the baby already in her arms.

Lena swallows. She tries not to shake as Alex starts to hand him over.

Here goes nothing. She starts to wrap her arms around him, following Alex’s murmured instructions carefully— careful, support his head here, there you go — and before she knows it, she has a small human bundled in her arms.

There’s a spike of panic— she’s never held an infant before, what if she screws this up, what if she hurts him, god what if she fucks up because that’s the only thing she’s good at—

Conner opens his eyes to look up at her with bright blues, wriggling a little at the new person holding him. Then, he smiles up at her, with his kind of sticky-outy ears and mismatched dimples just like Lex’s and oh, there it is. There he is. He giggles a little when she adjusts him in her arms and she loves him, instantly and unconditionally, just like Lex did when she first stepped into that dark mansion for the first time.

“Hi, Conner,” she whispers, doing nothing to stop the smile from spreading across her face. “It’s nice to meet you.”


 

Later, when she’s changed into sweatpants and taken her hair down, someone knocks on her door. Lena raises her brow when she opens the apartment door to a Lori with way too many baby supplies in her arms.

The girl grimaces helplessly. “I didn’t know what to get, okay.”

Lena just laughs as she steps aside to let her in, shaking her head. “So you got a little bit of everything?”

“Don’t act like you’d know any better, you haven’t had a baby yet,” is the grumbly response. Lena shakes her head again before conceding, closing the door before heading over to help Lori sort through the supplies.

“Alright,” the girl says, laying her cargo down on the floor in front of the couch where Conner is bundled up, giving her a nonplussed look. “Let’s start off with your pacifier, little guy.”

She rips the packaging away from the little piece of plastic with a frown.

“Wait,” Lena says, “I think you’re supposed to clean it before you can use it.”

“Oh. Right. Where do you keep your sanigel?”

Lena blinks. “My what?”

Lori frowns at her in confusion before pouting in dismay. “Right. You guys don’t have that yet.”

Lena’s burning with curiosity, but Conner makes an impatient noise so she just laughs it off and takes the pacifier from Lori. “I’ll google how to do it.”

“Oh. Google. Right.” Lori runs a hand through her hair as Lena walks over to the kitchen tapping away at her phone. “I could’ve used that to figure out what I needed.”

Lena chuckles again as she pulls up the page. “What, do you not have Google anymore?”

“No,” Lori says almost absently, reading the instructions on a formula box. “Their empire fell when I was thirteen. Corporate overextending and all that.”

Boil the pacifier in water for five minutes before first use. Lena raises her brows as she take a small pot from the rack.

“Wow. That’s… unexpected,” she chuckles, turning towards the sink. “How do you find anything on the internet, then?”

“I just ask Kelex,” Lori calls over the sound of running water. Lena furrows her brows as she shuts the water off, putting the pot on the stove.

“Kelex?”

“Yeah, our helper AI. I think he’s named after an AI that kethgyr— grandfather— used to have?” Lena looks over to see Lori carefully opening one of the bottles and walking over. “I think we need to boil this too.”

Lena nods and double-checks on the internet quickly as she tries to wrap her head around everything Lori’s saying— it makes sense that the world would be so different so far in the future, but it’s another to hear about it. There’s a bit of a childish tingle of glee as she thinks of all the technological innovations she’ll get to see in her life.

“Is it very different, being this far back in the past?” Lena asks as Lori hands her the formula powder while she reaches for a clean mixing glass. The girl laughs a little.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely making me grateful for all the things I take for granted,” she says, measuring the water in the glass. “I keep turning around to do this or that and realize oh, that hasn’t been invented yet. And hanging out with you in your twenties is always new,” she adds with a laugh.

Lena moves over to the stove as the pot starts to boil. “Am I really?” she asks, brows knitting bemusedly.

“You have a shorter temper, for one,” Lori snorts, and Lena’s heart drops, thinking of earlier. The girl freezes, taking in her sudden change and grimaces. “Shit, I didn’t— I didn’t mean it as a jab, I’m sorry—”

Lena shakes her head, giving her the best smile she can manage. “It’s okay,” she says, slowly lowering the plastic pieces into the water. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that.”

“It’s okay, Mom, I know I was being reckless,” Lori says unhappily, hands resting on the countertop. Lena turns to her and squeezes her shoulder.

“Being reckless doesn’t mean you deserve to get yelled at,” she says, “I’m sorry. I get angry when I don’t want to admit that I’m scared. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”

Lori frowns, mouth pressing into a sad line. “What were you scared of?”

Lena takes in a brittle breath, turning to lean back against the counter while she fiddles with her ring.

“When you took off like that, I was just… freaking out until Kara called me to say you were okay. I didn’t know if you were in danger or not, and I guess I’m—” she sighs. “I’m not… very good with feeling like I might lose someone.”

There’s a quiet pause before Lori sets everything down on the counter and turns wrap her arms around Lena, tucking her chin on her shoulder in a slightly ungraceful side-hug. Lena brings her hands up to hold Lori’s arms gratefully.

“Another thing that’s different,” Lori begins softly, the pot simmering quietly in the background. “Is that I think I’m beginning to understand you better.”

Lena laughs, leaning her head against Lori’s. “How so?”

“I always knew you had a hard time before meeting Yeyu, but I never really… thought about how it would’ve felt for you. You are so …” Lori casts around for a word. “ Beloved , you know? L-Corp is one of the most respected companies out there, nearly everyone who works for you loves you, weekends are so loud because our family’s always coming over last minute,” she adds with a small laugh. “I could never understand why you tried so hard to make me happy, or why you always got so worried about me. You’d think that having a bulletproof kid would be less stressful.”

Lena chuckles along at that, shaking her head and patting Lori’s arm. “I’m not sure my anxiety cares what bulletproof means.”

Lori snorts, holding her a little tighter. “I’m sorry I kept you worrying for hours. I promise I won’t do it again.”

Lena laughs, pulling away to turn the stove off.

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Supergirl Junior,” she teases, poking Lori on the nose.

Lori wrinkles her face and swats at her petulantly, laughing as she’s about to make a quip but they’re interrupted by Conner’s small, but nonetheless insistent and unhappy cry.

“Shit—” Lori scrambles to get back to the formula, but Lena pushes her lightly.

“I’ll take care of this, go give him the pacifier first,” she says, re-checking the measurements. “Remember to cool it off,” she adds as Lori plucks it out of the boiling pot and superspeeds to the couch.

“Here you go, buddy,” she hears her murmur to Conner. “Sorry about that.”

When Lena comes over with a full bottle, temperature-checked and everything, Lori’s cradling the baby in her arms, re-bundling him.

“Here,” Lena says as she hands her the bottle. “Sit him up a little, and tilt it until the milk fills the nozzle completely.”

Lori follows her instructions carefully, murmuring in a soothing tone all the while. “There you go. Easy. Jon’s gonna die laughing when I tell him I bottle fed you… You’re gonna try to kick my ass but I’m gonna tell him anyway...”

Lena laughs, sitting down on the carpet just in front of Lori’s seat on the couch. “You two seem close.”

“Me and Conner?” She glances up at Lena. “Yeah, I guess. I mean, I’ve known him all my life.”

Lena smiles, “You’re awfully protective over someone who’s a fair bit older than you.”

Lori hums thoughtfully. “I mean, it’s kind of hard not to be. I remember he was always so… quiet and sad. Before puberty turned him into a sarcastic pain in the ass,” she snorts. “But I guess… He’s been through a lot, you know? And for most of it I wasn’t really old enough to realize what was going on, much less do anything about it.” She grimaces. “I always wished I could go back in time and… I don’t know, protect him somehow.”

And Lena inevitably thinks of Lex, and how she was so blind to how Lillian pushed him, how she didn’t realize until adulthood that Lex wasn’t the golden boy. Lillian’s affection for him was just as conditional on him meeting her expectations as it was for Lena, except that she actually was affectionate to him— in some ways, Lena thinks, that was much crueler than the constant coldness Lena suffered, that palpable love and affection was dangled in front of him like a carrot. Lena thinks about the double-edged words he had to balance in his life, she thinks about how she was too young to understand, how it was too late when she finally caught on.

She looks at Lori getting the chance she never got to have, no matter how inconsequential, and it’s… cathartic, if a little bittersweet, if a little wistful.

She asks the question she’s been trying to forget for a while now.

“Lori…” She starts picking at the threads of the carpet. “Before, you called… You called him ‘Uncle Lex’.” She grimaces at the sound of his name. “Have you… met him?”

Lori’s quiet for a long time, and Lena doesn’t dare look up. Finally, the girl sighs.

“I didn’t want to upset you by bringing it up,” she prefaces, “I know he’s still… Like that right now.”

Lena scoffs, more bitterly than she intended. “Does he ever stop being a murderous maniac?”

Lori hesitates, as if knowing that Lena might not be ready to hear the answer to that.

“I met him for the first time when there was a CADMUS attack a few miles out of San Diego,” she begins. “The entire DEO was on alert, and no one would tell me anything so I stupidly thought I could take them on my own. Dragged Conner into the mess, too,” she says wryly. “I walked right into a trap and nearly died and then he… He just showed up and saved my life. Our lives.”

Lena tries to fight the tears in her eyes, the bruised beating in her heart.

“Does he change?” she asks, her voice trembling.

“I…” Lori gulps. “I think that he has. After everything was done, he just… he just turned himself in, just like that, once we were safe. I visited him in prison afterwards and…”

“You what? ” Lena looks up at that, and Lori looks remorseful.

“I wanted to figure it out. He was just… so different than everything I’d heard about him and I wanted to know why. He wouldn’t… he wouldn’t tell me much. Just kept telling me to go home and that I shouldn’t be there.”

Lena’s mouth opens and closes over a few silent words, not being able to choose a single one, fingers picking at the carpet a little more frantically now.

“Is he—” ( Is he different?) “How—” (How did he change?) “What…” she swallows. “What’s he like?”

Lori lets out a soft breath. “He’s… sad,” she says. “Quiet. Paints a lot. I don’t… He didn’t really let me learn much about him. I wish I understood him,” she whispers.

Lena swallows back another wave of grief, nodding. “Me too.”

She looks up with a tired smile, and Lori smiles back, idly bundling Conner a little tighter as he sleeps. They both start at a tap at the window, falling into soft grins when they see Kara standing outside the veranda door, looking a little meek despite her uniform.

She opens the door when Lena waves her in, walking over soundlessly.

“I’m sorry,” she says, glancing at the haphazard pile of baby supplies. “Is this a bad time?”

Lena shakes her head. “How did the wrap-up go?”

Kara smiles at her as she crouches down next to her. “It went well. All finished. I came over when I saw that your light was still on,” she says, disgruntled. “It’s four am. You two shouldn’t be up.”

Lena makes to brush off her concerns but ends up yawning instead, having the grace to look a little sheepish when Kara gives her a disapproving look.

“Hey, she stayed up too,” she says, tiredly jerking a thumb at Lori.

“I need a lot less sleep than the average human,” she quips right back. “Don’t try to drag me into this.”

“Hey,” Lena swats at her thigh with a sleepy smile.

“You still shouldn’t stay up this late, is’kah,” Kara reprimands, getting a conceding yes ma’am before she turns to Lena. “And you need to go to sleep before you pass out on the floor.”

Lena rolls her eyes. “I’m not that tired,” she grumbles, even as her eyelids get heavier and her head lolls to the side a little. She opens one eye to peek at Kara’s raised brow before groaning in defeat. “Fine, I’m a little tired, happy?”

“I’ll be happy when you’re properly in bed,” she huffs, sliding her arms underneath Lena. “Come on.”

Lena slings her arms around Kara’s neck as she’s hoisted up effortlessly. A thought comes to mind and she doesn’t bother to stifle her giggle. Kara peers down at her curiously.

“What is it?”

A part of her knows she shouldn’t, but in her sleepiness she throws caution to the wind. “Are you taking me to bed, Supergirl?”

Kara laughs at that, jostling her a little on purpose. “I would be so lucky, Miss Luthor.”

It’s said as a joke but with such a soft timbre that Lena feels butterflies in her chest again, snuggling up closer to Kara.

“Eeeeww.” Lori groans from behind them. “ Guys,” she whines, and Lena stifles her giggles into Kara’s shoulder.

“Sorry,” Kara says sheepishly.

“Whatever,” Lori says, in an eyeroll kind of tone, “just tuck her in.”

Lena’s eyes are closed, and her family’s voices are a bit far off to her now, so she huddles closer to the warmth on her cheek as she drifts away.

“What about you?”

“I’m gonna make his bed basket and then bring him up with me, don’t worry.”

“Alright. Ukiemiv'odh w’rrip, eh is’kah.”

“Ukiemiv'odh, eh Yeyu.”