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Supergirl In Training

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“She was on Red Kryptonite for about two days before we realized what was happening,” Conner says. “And then she ran after we purged it from her system, and we… well, we weren’t sure what to do. We lost track of her. It took us a while to realize that she’d been taken.”

“How long?”

“About four days,” he says. “She can be… Hard to find when she doesn’t want to be seen.”

Kara finds her sitting on the hilltop that they talked on after the first time flying together, watching the sunset. She watches from a distance for a moment, noting the way Lori’s hugging her knees and sniffling and all the ways that it’s breaking her heart.

“Hello, Little One,” she says amicably, landing a fair distance away on the sandy gravel. Lori flinches and curls in on herself, turning her head away from Kara. Kara sighs and walks towards her slowly, giving her every opportunity to up and fly away if she’s not ready yet.

She doesn’t, for now. Kara carefully sits down on the sand next to her, slinging one arm over her knee and looking out at the city.

“I love watching the sun set over the city,” she begins softly. “It reminds me of mornings in Argos City. Sometimes I’d stay up all night reading and then fall asleep while watching the sun rise.” She chuckles softly. “Your grandmother would get so cross with me whenever I did that, especially on school nights.”

“Please don’t,” Lori whispers, fingers digging into her knees.

Kara looks to her, sad. “Don’t what, is’kah?”

“Don’t pretend like nothing’s wrong,” Lori says, louder this time, with a crack in her voice. “Conner told you, didn’t he?”

Kara idly runs a hand over the sand. “It wasn’t your fault.”

Lori shakes her head, her cheek knocking against her knee as she still refuses to look at Kara.

“It was.”

“You can’t help what happens with Red Kryptonite, Lori. You can’t hold yourself accountable—”

“But I was, Yeyu, you don’t understand!” Lori scrambles onto her feet and angrily paces away, back still turned to Kara, hands clawing into her hair. “God, I should have known he wouldn’t tell you everything,” she hisses with a harsh laugh. “He didn’t tell you that I made it, did he?” She crosses her arms. “I brought it all on myself. It was all my fault.”

Kara stands as well, feeling helpless as she watches her daughter start to tremble.

“You couldn’t have known what would happen.”

“I should have been more careful!” She shouts hoarsely. “I should have used protective gear, I should have followed protocol, but no , I was so full of myself, so sure that I’d finally come up with a safe form of Kryptonite, I just went for it—” She shakes her head, her frame shuddering with held in sobs. “It was all my fault.”

“Is’kah,” Kara says, taking a step closer. “You never meant for it to happen.”

“But it did, Yeyu, it doesn’t matter because it did happen!”

She turns to face Kara, then, her eyes red with tears, face crumpled in anguish— Kara’s never seen her like this before, not even when she had first seen Lori cry. She was sad, back then, and hurt, but not angry , not in agony . She wasn’t so mired in despair as she is now.

“And then I ran,” Lori continues, “I ran away because I couldn’t face what happened, I was so happy when I found you two in the past, when I hadn’t done all those things, I was so relieved to get away.” Her shoulders slump in defeat. “I couldn’t face up to the fact that I’m a horrible stain on this universe—”

“You are not ,” Kara insists, stepping closer. “Lori, you made mistakes—”

“You don’t understand,” Lori says again, shaking her head. “The things I said to Conner— and I tried to kill Jon. I almost did,” she says in shaky breaths, glasses smearing with tears now. “And I ran because— because it wasn’t just the Red K,” she says in a cracked whisper. “All of it— it came from things that I never wanted to admit that I felt.” Her hands fall to her sides, her head tilting to the side as she looks at her feets, as if she doesn’t have the energy to hold herself up anymore. “I ran because I couldn’t deal with the fact that under all the pretenses, the truth is that I’m just— arrogant and evil .”

She looks as if she might collapse to her knees. The red sunlight casts long shadows across her face, glinting in the auburn highlights of her dark hair.

(For a moment, Kara mourns that they aren’t mother and daughter under the skies of Argos City. There they are, the last daughters of Krypton, and Lori has never seen her homeland.)

She steps forward to gather Lori into her arms. Lori makes no effort to resist, simply falling into Kara’s arms like a ragdoll, her face slumping into the crook of her neck as Kara smooths a hand over her back.

“The Red Kryptonite might have… dug up parts of you that you didn’t want to admit to, is’kah, but that doesn’t encompass the truth of who you are.”

“You don’t understand what it was like,” Lori keens, muffled by Kara’s cape. “I tried to kill Jon. I wanted to kill him. I remember what happened and I—”

She’s cut off by her own broken breath, and Kara presses a kiss to her hair, pulling back to cup her cheeks and coax her into finally looking her in the eyes.

“I do understand what it’s like,” Kara says sadly. “Did I never tell you that I had a run in with Red K?”

Lori looks up at her with wide eyes. “You…?”

Kara nods. “Last year. Maxwell Lord tried to make synthetic Kryptonite and ended up infecting me instead.”

Lori looks down, and Kara watches her process the information.

“It must not have been—” she shakes her head. “You wouldn’t have done anything like I did.”

Kara lets her hands drop to Lori’s shoulders, looking her over sadly.

“I broke Alex’s arm,” she says with a wry twist of her mouth, “and I nearly killed Cat Grant.”

Lori’s eyes snap up again, and Kara can’t help a sudden self-deprecating laugh.

“Yeah,” she says, sighing as she squeezes Lori’s shoulders. “It was bad. I struggled for a really long time after that, too. I was afraid of who I really was.”

Lori sniffles. “How… How did you…?”

Kara runs her fingers through Lori’s hair with a small smile. “It took me a while, but, eventually, I forgave myself for being angry. Because I had every right to be, but more than that, because, that anger isn’t everything that I am.” She grins ruefully as she lets her hand fall to Lori’s shoulder again. “Red K doesn’t show us our true selves, Lori. It shows the angry, resentful parts of us. But we— all people have many parts to them. Who we truly are is who we choose to be, after coming to terms with it all.”

Lori looks to her with fragile blue eyes and Kara wonders if she looked like this to Alex, to Astra, to her mother, in the days when she was unsure of herself.

“There’s something that Astra told me, when I was young,” Kara says. “Our lives change beyond our control, but we always decide who we are. The true measure of fate lies in the caliber of our hearts and the choices that we make.” She smiles. “Pain is hard. Anger is hard, and sometimes it feels like it can change you beyond hope. But you have to forgive yourself for that. Because it’s never too late to choose to be better, Lori. Whether that means being kinder, or braver, in the end, it’s up to you to decide who you are proud to be, and to strive to be.”

Lori’s tears have started up again now, dropping thick against her glasses and falling down her freckled cheeks. Kara pulls her into her arms again, holding her firmly when Lori bunches her fists into her cape.

“And know, is’kah, that whatever you choose,” she murmurs into dark hair, “I will always love you.”

-

Lena learns that Conner, like Lori, is frighteningly easy to get along with. She watches, fascinated as he sets up the portal frame in the middle of the sitting room, muttering to himself and hardly fumbling even one bit with technology more advanced than Lena’s imagined so far— he answers all her questions easily, charmingly.

(Lena sees a little bit of Lex in his charm. It’s strange, she thinks, to come across that again and to have it be a good thing.)

“Do you know why she was making a diluted form of kryptonite in the first place?”

Conner looks up from his work of setting up the time portal, laughing when he registers her question.

“So, a few months ago, she was out for lunch with a few classmates,” he begins with a smile. “And apparently, someone put a hit on her for being the next in line for L-Corp. The way she tells it, she just hears this— clink— and suddenly a bullet bounces off her chest and right into her pasta.”

“Oh no,” Lena laughs despite her concern. “What happened?”

“She panicked,” he snorts. “Instead of pocketing the bullet and excusing herself, she got so worried her classmates were going to notice, she just—” he stops to stifle his laugh. “She ate the bullet.”

“You’re kidding .”

He shakes his head. “I wish. She just, put it in a forkful and munched down on it.” He chortles. “She’s been trying to make a non-harmful form of kryptonite ever since then. Something that will slow our regenerative abilities down just enough to survive normally lethal injuries, while making it still convincing when we’re targeted in a public place.”

Lena laughs into her hands. “I guess that’s one way to solve a problem.”

“That’s Lori,” Conner says softly. “She’ll come up with the worst or best plans for everything.”

They lapse into silence once more, the device humming lightly as Conner tests the circuits— Lena catches him casting sidelong looks at his infant self’s cradle with a pensive look that borders on frustration.

“It must be strange to see your younger self.”

He jumps a little, before coughing and getting back to the portal.

“No, I just—” he sighs. “Lori’s told you about how I was born, right?” he pauses to see Lena nod. “I was never… I’ve never been an infant.” He laughs a little. “Strange is a bit of an understatement, I guess.”

He gives her this lopsided smile that’s warm with just a bit of an edge, and she can’t help but think that he reminds her of herself; shrugging off sadness with a bit of self-deprecation, a bit of sarcasm.

“Lori was really insistent on getting you out,” Lena says softly.

Conner scoffs. “Of course she was. She’s always going on crusades that are more of a mess than they’re worth.” He sighs. “I hope she wasn’t too much trouble.”

“Oh, she caused plenty of trouble,” Lena laughs, “but, we loved having her.” She wrings her hands and smiles at him. “I’m a little sad to see her go.”

He smiles at her warmly. “You’ll see her soon.” He wires in one of the small panels. “Before you know it, five years will pass and she’ll pop into your lives to get into all kinds of trouble.”

They share a wry look, laughing. He shakes his head.

“It’s kind of funny, you know, she’s always been the most protective out of the three of us even though she’s the youngest,” he says pensively. “She’s always diving headfirst into danger to defend someone. It’s kind of stressful.”

Lena sighs. “I can imagine. I’m not looking forward to hearing that she’s gone off to duel someone for her friend.”

“Oh god, that,” Conner snorts. “I shouldn’t be laughing. That wasn’t funny. She stole a ship from the DEO and nearly started a war with the Tamaraneans. But, that’s just the kind of stuff she does, you know?” He trails off a chagrined laugh. “She’s been a hero to the core, ever since she came out of her pod.”

Lena smiles at him, her heart full.

“I’m glad,” she starts softly, “that you have each other.”

He looks up at her, confused.

“She’s said a fair bit about you,” she continues. “You… believe in each other so much. It’s just wonderful to see.”

He frowns for a moment before smiling a bit lopsidedly. “I… guess so. Thank you.”

There’s a soft sound outside, and both of them turn to see Kara gently ushering Lori in through the veranda door. Conner stands to his full height, watching silently as Lori steps towards him slowly with her eyes downcast.

He seems to struggle to find what to say for a few moments, before  laughing and running a hand through his hair.

“You know, the whole point of them sending me back was because I didn’t exist outside yet and didn’t pose the risk of causing a contact paradox, but you just had to go and screw that over, huh?”

“Shut up,” Lori whines petulantly, scowling up at him before hugging him fiercely. Conner stumbles a bit before he puts his arms around Lori’s shoulders, sighing.

“I’m sorry,” Lori says, muffled in his shirt. “I’m so sorry for everything.”

“You should be,” Conner laughs with no bite in his tone. “You gave us all a heart attack by running away.”

Lori sniffles and pulls away, wiping her eyes.

“I’m just gonna say goodbye to him,” she murmurs, padding over to the infant. Lena watches as she picks the boy up and cradles him close to her chest, murmuring softly.

“Hey, buddy, I gotta go now,” she says, rocking him gently. “But you’re gonna see me again soon, okay? And, it’s gonna be really hard for a few years, I know— but Lois is gonna love you, and so is Jon, and my moms, and—Clark’s gonna be a dick but he’ll come around eventually,” she adds with a laugh. “And it’ll feel hopeless, but — but just hang on. It will get better. You will be loved, always. Remember that, okay?”

She murmurs a few more soft words that Lena doesn’t catch, and Conner discreetly turns away to sniffle quietly and pretend that he’s fiddling with the portal more. Lena feels her chest warm as she looks at them, and catches Kara’s eye— they smile at each other, and Lena knows that Kara sees the same thing in them as she does. A mirror image of what Kara and Clark could have been, what Lena and Lex should have been— the what ifs and maybes of old mistakes and lost family and distant daydreams.

But they’re not just mirages of ideal futures long past. They’re real, they’re here, they are their own people with their own stories and their own adventures to weather together, and it fills Lena with hope. Universe willing, they won’t fail each other the way Lex has, the way Clark has. Lena won’t fail them the way Lillian has, Lena will be allowed to watch them grow together. The world rolls on, better, brighter, made by their own hands.

Lori plants a small kiss to the top of baby Conner’s head and puts him back down, heading back over to them. Conner looks up at her with a small smirk.

“Done with your soliloquy?”

She punches him on the shoulder. “Shut up,” she says with a half-scowl, half-laugh. She sobers as she turns to Lena and Kara, her bottom lip starting to tremble again.

Lena steps forward, first. “You’ll stay safe, right?”

Lori laughs. “I can try.

Lena chuckles as she pats a hand over Lori’s hair, feeling tears burning in her throat as well, trying to swallow them back.

“You guys’ll be fine, right?”

Kara places a hand on her shoulder, smiling. “You tell us, is’kah. You’re the one going back to the future.”

Lori groans. “Please don’t make old movie references. We’re supposed to be having a moment,” she quips despite the slight waver in her voice. “I’m— this was—”

Lena saves her from her stumbling. “I know that it’ll never have happened once you go through that portal,” she says, somber, “but it means so much to me that I got to spend this time with you, Monkey. It’s been wonderful. You’ve been wonderful.”

She sniffles and tries to smile, gazing at this stranger turned family who’s shown her the kind of strength that she’s capable of, the kind of person she could be.

“You’ve shown us a future we could only ever hope for. You are everything that I could have ever asked for in a daughter and more.”

Lori crumples at that, pulling them both into a tight hug that nearly crushes them, but Lena throws herself into it anyway, trying to burn into her memory the feeling of Lori and Kara’s strong arms around her.

“I love you both so much,” Lori says fiercely. “You’ve been through so much, and I can’t—” she sniffles hard. “I couldn’t be prouder. Just hang in there, okay?” She pulls back and looks at both of them tearfully, her hair mussed and her expression drawn into a tight, barely restrained sob. “You still have so much to get through, but— you’re going to be okay, it’s all going to work out, okay? You’re going to figure it out. You’re going to make things better. I promise .”

Kara gives a bit of a wet laugh as she strokes Lori’s hair.

“We know, is’kah.” She smiles, full of love. “Have a safe journey home.”

Lori nods, hugging them both one last time.

“I’ll see you guys in five years, okay?”

Lena nods.

“I can’t wait.”

Lori pulls away and squeezes their hands, still crying softly as she steps towards Conner. He smiles tightly and puts a hand on her shoulder.

“Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.”

The portal powers on with a flash, swirling with white and blue light. Lori and Conner stand in front of it, linking hands. Lori looks back at them, and Lena waves her on, trying to be brave. This isn’t the end. This is only the beginning.

“Go on now. I’ll see you at home.”

Lori nods, squeezing Conner’s hand as they step through. Lena watches them go, feeling the moment pass in slow motion as she thinks about everything that’s happened— all the healing the discovering, and a bolt of trepidation lances through her despite her assurances. She’ll have to do all of that, over again. This love that she has with Kara—

She looks to their hands, where they’ve linked together without even noticing, and when she looks up she sees Kara staring back at her with the same, almost desperate apprehension.

They’ll have to earn this love, this trust with each other all over again. This is their last chance to tell each other, after all that waiting, growing, longing, before it’s all reset—

“Lena,” Kara starts, “I lo—”