Chapter 1: 58 Hours
Think back to that time in your life when everything was perfect, even if just for a moment. Maybe that was years ago, maybe yesterday, maybe it never happened but you could imagine it so clearly like it was a picture or a movie or a dream. Spring warmth came sooner than expected, every new flower said your name, enough sleep and good food to sate most of your appetite, enough lingering touches, soft words, enough time to explore, time to learn, time to sink into the comfort of someone else to sate the rest of you. All the while, the days got longer, the nights too and that made it even better because it meant more of everything that made it feel perfect. You laughed more, you smiled, you relaxed. You forgot everything that weighed you down, you let go of your worries, gave up your burdens. Imagine that. Now, keep that memory close, tuck it somewhere safe, and guard it with your life.
“Sammy, are you ever going to smile my way?”
Kara leaned against the counter and watched as the barista at Noonan’s used the tamper to press down dark espresso before they glanced up at the young woman who came in nearly every day. The truth was, Kara Danvers made it easier for them to get up in the early hours of the morning to come to a job that was necessary to pay the bills, but came with the side effect of having to deal with people. Sammy liked few, talked only as needed, and smiled even less. It wasn’t because they were unhappy, it wasn’t entirely because they were misanthropic, it was because it was hard to exist in a world where people like Kara Danvers could be Supergirl, literally an actual comic book superhero but like real, totally real, and no one seemed to notice but them. It was unfair to have to hold that kind of secret alone and they were afraid to make any sudden movements for fear of getting caught or of being crazy, whichever came to pass.
“Um, three lattes and seven crullers, your usual.”
Kara put her charge card away and reached for the bag and the coffee carrier before something made her pause. Sammy looked at her and then back down at the counter before they started arranging the coffee cards and menus and tiny brown bottles holding small spring flowers. Kara dipped her head until she caught Sammy’s eyes and pushed her glasses down her nose. They wanted to look away, but couldn’t.
Sammy just stood there, unsure of what to do or say before Kara adjusted her glasses and smiled brighter than the spring day outside. They didn’t know why, but the smile on their face came almost against their will. And it felt like the most unexpectedly best thing. Kara let out a little laugh and kept smiling before she gathered her morning routine and turned to leave.
“..that you’re the best barista in town, Sammy.”
Kara got a few feet before she saw something that made her stop and smile even more. There, leaning against the other end of the bar, was Lena Luthor, smiling back at her. Remember how it felt when everything was perfect? It was spring now and the woman Kara had been spending most weekends with, several weeknights, and as much in between time as their schedules allowed was standing there smiling at her. Kara let her eyes take Lena in, ready for work in a light grey dress and a royal blue coat, her black hair loose on this Monday morning, green eyes still soft from the weekend. Lena’s eyebrow raised at her, a smirk on her face as she reached out a hand and casually let it drift along Kara’s waist. Lena pulled her close briefly, privately, before they turned to walk out.
“You are physically incapable of being anything but adorably charming, Kara Danvers.”
Kara bumped her hip gently against Lena and handed her a latte as they moved through the doorway.
“Do you have any idea how long it’s taken me with Sammy? I feel like these past two years of having this endearing smile on my face has finally paid off. Small victories, Lena, small victories.”
As the two women left, Sammy shook their head and took a deep breath. Why were they the only one in National City who witnessed this kind of epic shit? A Luthor and a Super, together, who would believe that?
“So I’ve got DEO duty the next three nights and Snapper is asking for an exposé on how President Marsdin’s alien rights policies are affecting National City hiring and enforcement. There’s some grumbling that certain businesses are not following federal policy and that maybe NCPD might not be entirely on board in some areas. Alex wants me to come over Thursday for dinner - Maggie is teaching Alex to cook and I’m scared plus intrigued. So, what’s your week looking like?”
This was part of Kara’s new routine, every Monday she and Lena met for coffee and weather permitting, walked to work together and checked in on the other’s week as if this was how they were now. Three months had passed from the cold of winter, from the time when that whirlwind week in January changed their lives and they had settled into..this. Every day felt new, different, better. Kara had her job at CatCo, finally getting good stories, ones with integrity and nuance so she was honing her skills and her prose. Supergirl had some quiet down time for once, mostly minor crimes and misdemeanors and very few aliens. Cadmus and Lillian had gone deep underground, lurking but not forgotten. But mostly, it was as if someone had slipped law-abiding serum into the water supply, Kara wasn’t complaining. Her focus and energy was spent elsewhere, namely on the woman walking beside her.
“Jess has me scheduled like a madwoman. I have an L-Corp board meeting on Wednesday to prepare for, audit results which are always fun. I have three late night/early morning conference calls with investors in Shanghai and Zurich and..Buenos Aires? They want to talk about our new desalination processers and re-purposing our atmospheric variant controllers to eliminate air pollution. That I’m excited about. I have a Luthor Children’s Hospital board meeting tomorrow night, we’re talking about expansion plans for an oncology peds wing. Oh, and Jess just got an invite to a press conference for a product unveiling on Friday, but no details yet. I could go on, but I need this coffee in me now, Kara.”
Kara smiled as she looked over at Lena taking a sip of the latte as they walked, watching the woman she had breakfast in bed with yesterday morning transform into the chief executive officer of one of the largest corporations in National City. She could feel her fingers tingling at the memory, her hand adjusting her glasses in response.
Sunday breakfast in bed with Lena Luthor was something Kara looked forward to starting every Monday morning. They had been taking turns staying at the other's apartment depending on their plans the night before and both places held favorite memories. Yesterday they had stayed at Lena's after attending an art opening at National Gallery the night before, a new mixed media artist Lena knew from her philanthropic endeavors. They had arrived separately - Kara had spent the day at the DEO working with Winn and Alex on deciphering a distant coded search signal coming in from space. It was too faint to read, but Winn was sure it was a deploy sent to find entry coordinates to some unknown signal device.
Kara was running late and she slipped in among the mingling crowds, her eyes scanning while she helped herself to shrimp toast and bacon-wrapped dates. She loved this part the most, trying to find Lena in a crowd before her eyes gave her away. It always gave her an unexpected jolt to watch Lena work a crowd, to see what she wore, the way she laughed or used her hands to talk. Since they had been spending time together, she realized that Lena had softened, was less guarded at these kinds of events, seemed freer. She smiled to herself, knowing she probably had a part in that shift. At that same exact moment, she saw Lena touch her neck gently before she looked across the room and smiled back at her.
"You look lovely, Kara."
They had met in the middle, Lena excusing herself and Kara moving further into the room. It was as if the rest of the people and noise faded away and Kara ducked her head and adjusted her glasses, her pale blue dress matching her eyes. Lena was in black, but softened with shades of pinkish red patterns. Her dark hair was up in a tight bun and Kara looked down at herself before she tucked a stray hair behind her ear.
“I’m sorry I’m late, I came as quickly as I could and this was the first thing my hands could find on a hanger.”
Lena brought the glass of champagne to her lips before she leaned in close, speaking quietly with a slight raise of an eyebrow.
“Blue is definitely your color, my dear. Your hands have good taste.”
Kara laughed quietly as she looked back at Lena, knowing her own blush was showing. She was still getting used to this whole dating Lena Luthor thing, the little terms of endearment that began to pepper their conversations, the flirting that came so naturally now that she recognized it, and the fact that they were careful in public. They had both agreed that for as long as they could or wanted, they preferred to keep their relationship private. Lena was a public figure, Kara was a reporter - the press would be unbearable and they were still figuring out how to balance access to L-Corp news and conflicts of interest. And of course, there was Supergirl, still very much a part of their lives and it just seemed..easier, safer. They introduced each other as friends and kept their hands to themselves, more or less. Only a few people knew, Alex and Maggie of course, J’onn, and Lena’s assistant, Jess. When the time was right, Kara wanted Winn and James to know, she wasn’t keeping it from them but she also wasn’t specifically acknowledging it. Everything was too new, too good, too perfect, too much...theirs...to share with the world and so they simply didn’t.
The art opening involved more hor d’oeuvres for Kara, more champagne for Lena, more chit-chat for them both together with others and separately, and a very intense conversation with the artist that left Kara feeling like she needed to read up on the post-modern period to determine if art could transcend back in time to Ur-modern. She pinballed away and looked for a moment of quiet time and that’s where Lena found her, taking a breather in the ladies room, her hands on the countertop while she checked her makeup. Lena was a little tipsy from the champagne when they caught each other’s eyes in the mirror, smiling widely before Lena leaned over and indiscreetly left lipstick on Kara’s neck, smirking at their reflection. Kara just shook her head and laughed, knowing she’d have to remove that delicate red mark if they were going to get out of this showing without getting caught. She kept her eyes on Lena as the other woman briefly sent a text on her phone while she slid her hand up along Kara’s bare arm. Kara glanced at the door to make sure no art patron came in, before her eyes found Lena’s again.
“Lena, you’re not making this any easier. So handsy.”
“Maybe it’d be easier on my hands if you weren’t wearing that dress, Kara.”
Kara raised her eyebrows at Lena and blinked. Lena just quirked an exquisite eyebrow back at her and let out a little laugh, shrugging her shoulders as she spoke again.
“Just a thought.”
Lena kept smiling as she leaned towards her a little and Kara couldn’t help where her eyes fell, knowing she was leaving a faint heat trail that Lena could feel in the bare skin that dipped low in front of her dress. Kara felt the blush creep up her neck as she shook her head and smiled back up at the other woman.
“You are not playing fair. Those are not fair and you know it.”
Kara stilled herself while Lena’s fingertips traced along the collar of her dress, skimming over her neck and the lipstick she had left behind.
“All’s fair in love and war, Kara…”
Lena took Kara’s hand in hers and pulled them out into the anteroom just as a few women made their way in, barely giving the two a glance as they discussed the artist’s installation. Right before Lena opened the door to go back into the gallery space, she felt Lena bring Kara’s hand up to her lips, placing a kiss against fingertips that were now starting to spark. Kara took a deep breath as Lena held her eyes and spoke quietly.
“My driver will be out back in five, unless you want to stay and keep talking about art.”
Kara used her x-ray vision to find the quickest exit out with the least amount of people, sleuthing her way through dim corridors and closed doors until they both spilled out into the alley laughing. Lena, again indiscreetly, pulled her in for a kiss against her car before Kara’s hand found the door handle and got them inside unseen. Kara had laughed as they sped through the streets, Saturday night still happening all around the city until they ended up at Lena’s.
The elevator ride up was torturous in every way, mostly because Lena just leaned against the mirrored wall, hands behind her back, and looked at her in a way that left no question as to what was on her mind. This part, the way Lena could seduce her with only a look in her eyes and a bite of her lip, kept Kara catching her breath more than she would have imagined. Lena didn’t even have to say anything and that’s what made it maddening because Kara knew that when Lena did talk, did say something, usually in her ear, it would undo her further. Lena was becoming Kara’s favorite drug and she didn’t care if she mainlined this woman. When they finally made it into Lena’s apartment, she found herself pressed against the edge of the breakfast table with Lena’s hands removing her glasses and threading into her hair before their lips fell together. Kara felt one of Lena’s hands skimming along her waist and down, finding the fabric of her dress before pushing it up her thigh. Kara took a deep breath and her hands felt on fire against the table, trying not to break it, when Lena’s mouth pressed into her ear.
“Do you think you could be a good girl and make yourself at home on that table for me, Kara?”
It was that kind of a weekend, that unexpected feeling of being exactly what Kara wanted in a weekend without even knowing that was what she needed. It felt too good to be true and it kept going, back and forth, finding comfort and the edge, trading places and discovering that they had only scratched the surface together and it still wasn’t enough for them both. If Kara thought too hard about it, she might have been scared that something this good couldn’t last, but she didn’t want to think, she wanted to feel and Lena made it impossible not to feel everything all at once. This kind of a weekend was a blessing and a curse, perfect and unlikely to be recreated. As Kara felt the hard wood of the table against her back, she sighed into the feeling of Lena’s hands on the hem of her pale blue dress and Lena’s breath against her thigh. Sunday morning was hours and hours away.
“I had a really nice time with you this weekend, Lena...did I mention that? An amazing Saturday night that was..um..like really amazing? And that whole breakfast in bed thing yesterday? You know how I feel about bacon. And then Netflix and then more bed...and then you cooked for me again which I don’t even need to tell you how much I appreciated that. And I let you win at chess and then, um..your balcony before I went home..was..memorable..”
They paused at the crosswalk while they waited for a signal and Lena quirked her eyebrow again and smiled at Kara. She knew that Lena could feel where her eyes had been, also a blessing and a curse.
“I see someone’s not quite ready for the weekend to be over. The feeling is quite mutual, Kara.”
And for a moment, a perfect moment, Kara just let herself feel happy because it was spring and life was moving in the right direction, Lena Luthor was in that life, and she finally felt like every part of her was coming together, like she was on the brink of having everything she wanted. It was so easy to forget, so easy to tell herself that it was okay to be selfish for once, that the world would keep itself at bay long enough for her to enjoy her life. Kara turned her face towards the morning sun and she smiled into that bright light, feeling it sink into her in waves of pure gold. Her whole body wanted to fly as high as she could and take Lena with her so nothing could touch them, nothing could break this spell. Kara blinked when she felt Lena’s hand nudging her along at the elbow and she laughed as she got pulled ahead, the signal turning green.
It was time to go.
Chapter 2: 45:33
SE216 - 'Star Crossed' to SE222 - 'Nevertheless, She Persisted': Canonish, with liberties and justice for all.
Sometimes, the numbers did not add up, no matter how many times the equation was set to divide or subtract or multiply. Pivot tables and if/then statements, queries and calculations. The math needed to be perfect, the proofs solid, the amounts clear, the supporting evidence irrefutable. Measure twice, cut once. There were some things in life that were constants, some things that varied in predictable ways, there was true randomness and then there were complete unknowns. Estimates and best guesses had to do when facts and truths were unavailable. The questions always came down to: Can you live with ambiguity? Can you accept the unknown? Can you take a leap of faith when the numbers don’t add up? Those are not empirical questions. There will be a test. Every question is rhetorical.
“Jess, can you come in please?”
Lena had her head in her hand, peering over spreadsheets and financials, checking numbers on the screen against the auditing documents for the board meeting. It had been a long haul, this quarter’s work focused on reviewing every possible department, unit, revenue, and expenditure in L-Corp to ensure that there were no further opportunities for Lillian Luthor to exploit. Lena should have felt something about that idea, that her own mother would exploit anyone and anything but especially Lena, to further her cause, except she had become numb to it long ago. Her own experience and memories helped in that regard, if the word ‘helped’ could be used to describe how she compartmentalized her feelings for her adoptive mother and the damage done. And yet. Lena looked up as Jess came in with a smile on her face, eager to help her and learn. How would things have been different if her most formative relationship early on hadn’t been with a Luthor?
“Ms. Luthor, here are the cross-referenced numbers you requested. I found an accounting error in expenditures for our green-energy division. The auditors didn’t adjust for the energy-offset allowances in our north-end facility or the cost-savings from our new generative power sources we’ve been retro-installing across all L-Corp buildings for the last year. There’s that $1.5M you were looking for.”
Lena looked at the young woman she had come to trust, especially after the incident with Alana and her mother’s hired muscle. Jess had been wrangling the internal audits for months and providing a second pair of eyes for Lena on some of the details. With the L-Corp board meeting coming fast, they were in the final homestretch and it was nerve-wracking. Lena plugged in the number and finally, the math was perfect. She smiled up at Jess.
“You are a life-saver, Jess, I was about to go mad. Thank you. We need to start talking about what’s next for you here, don’t we? But not until after this damn audit.”
Jess laughed as she sat down, her tablet at the ready.
“Deal. So I’ll finalize these documents and get them back to the auditors for sign-off this afternoon. I’ve put your notes and talking points for that meeting and your conference calls this week in our shared drive folder and a hard copy in this folder. Minutes from the last LCH board meeting are there too as are the agenda and a preliminary funding proposal for the oncology wing. You should be set this week.”
Lena took off her glasses and sat back in her chair, taking a moment to glance out the window at the sunny day and let her brain catch up from a long weekend. Monday mornings were tough now, especially after she had gotten used to her Saturdays and Sundays being filled with a certain someone. It had been an adjustment from the all-work, no-play CEO life to the all-work and liberal amounts of Kara Danvers she had been enjoying. It felt almost surreal the way everything felt balanced, good, in a way she hadn’t felt since Jack and before that...Julia. Both still stung, for different reasons, painful reasons in one case, nostalgic reasons in the other. Lena was no stranger to what it meant to love, she had carved that part out for herself and made it so. And so now, Lena Luthor found herself in a relationship that she hadn’t expected but now needed in a way she admitted to few. This spring had been life-saving, soul-saving, and perfect. Lena was not about to let that go.
“Any word on that press conference Friday?”
Jess looked down at her tablet and shook her head.
“No, Ms. Luthor, just the save-the-date calendar invite. I even checked to see if I could find out who sent it and who else received it but it was masked. The only thing it had on it was a picture of a black bird and a passcode to activate the details and location on Friday morning.”
Lena smiled at her and put her glasses back on as she crossed her legs.
“So someone literally put a bird on it? Well, you know I love a good mystery, Jess.”
“You hate mysteries, Ms. Luthor.”
Lena laughed as she moved a few folders from in front of her and looked back at her Stanford grad assistant.
“Not true. I like mysteries that are unpredictable. And press conferences about product launches are predictable. Some company thinks they’ve solved a big mystery in a new way and their spokesperson gives a TedTalk style intro before they demonstrate the next new thing. The only mystery that remains is whether that new thing lives up to the promises made.”
“Does anything ever live up to a promise? Have you ever been surprised by something?”
Lena smiled before she leaned forward. Being a mentor meant sharing lessons learned and answering curiosity in others. Lena wondered if Jess might be ready to move to her green-energy division in a project management role and use her Stanford degree and smarts to find the next big thing. Helping teach instincts and nuance, though, meant that not every question was technical and not every answer was related to the topic at hand.
“In the world of technology and science, rarely and occasionally. In the world of life, sometimes and when I am, it’s usually something or someone unpredictably amazing. How’s that for an answer?”
Jess looked out the window and Lena watched her ponder. They sat quietly for a moment before Jess nodded.
“Speaking of, would you like me to extend an invitation to Ms. Danvers for Friday’s press conference? There’s a plus-one on the invite.”
Lena laughed as she looked back at her assistant, few things got past her, literally and figuratively, especially after Lena had discreetly shared what happened with her backup temp, Alana, that night she fell through the sky. Jess was horrified that she had been duped and terrified at the thought of Lena almost dying because of it. Lena had re-assured her that Kara Danvers had alerted Supergirl in the nick of time and everything worked out in the end. From that point forth, both Kara and National City’s resident superhero could do no wrong in Jess’ eyes. It also didn’t take too long after for Jess to gently broach the topic of Kara Danvers as more than a friend with Lena.
Friday afternoons were mostly a time to catch up on last minute emails and set schedules for the next week. It was a sunny warm day in early April and Lena was outside leaning against her balcony railing with a glass of wine in her hand, her eyes closed to the sun on her face, thinking about the weekend ahead. Kara was coming over that night and she was planning what they would have for dinner and what came after. That week had been exceptionally busy for both of them, Catco and L-Corp and being a hero taking most of their days and some of their nights. They had missed coffees, lunches and only had texts and a few late-night goodnight phone calls to keep them throughout the week. Lena wasn’t used to missing in a way that ached, physically almost. The way Kara Danvers affected her was a blessing and a curse in the best possible way. Lena had blue eyes, golden sparks, and that smile on her mind when she felt a touch against her arm.
She turned, knowing that her face still held thoughts of Kara Danvers on it.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but you have a delivery. And a card.”
Lena looked at the flower arrangement in Jess’ hands, a tidy crisp bundle of pale pink tulips with long green stems all in a clear vase. She opened the card handed to her: ‘Hi...I miss you. Can’t wait to see you tonight. - K’. A smile formed on her lips because she couldn’t help it and there wasn’t anything she could do to hide it from Jess either so she didn’t. She looked up to find her assistant staring at her quietly, a curious look on her face.
“Is there something wrong, Jess?”
“No, no..it’s just..you look really happy right now, Ms. Luthor. It suits you.”
Lena laughed as she nodded, the spring breeze starting to lift her dark hair from her collar as the weekend promised more sun and a warm glow.
“I suppose it does.”
Jess carefully touched the delicate spring flowers before looking back at her boss.
“Would that have anything to do with a certain reporter who keeps sending these your way? I don’t mean to pry, they’re quite lovely. I’ve just noticed that you seem..lighter?”
Lena smiled and let her gaze wander to the sky before she started to move into her office.
“It does and I am. And I have a date tonight with that certain reporter so how about we go through next week’s schedule so you and I can both leave early? Sound good?”
Jess smiled to herself and nodded. She had seen Lena through tough times, through long hours, through workaholic shifts that made her worry, that strained the face of her boss, took its toll in ways large and small. But now, on this April day, Jess realized that Kara Danvers made her boss smile like the world was brand new and if anyone deserved that kind of feeling, that kind of lightness, to be that happy, it was Lena Luthor. It gave her hope that she could have a career and a life that was unpredictably amazing too. From that point on, she held Lena’s private life even more private than she already did and deflected any attention towards the new couple. They should have this, their own time and their own moments of delicate spring newness.
“I’ll bring it up to Kara this week once we know more. While she might like a good press conference, I want to know what I’m getting us into before I commit. Remember the Galaxy Note 7?”
Jess laughed as she gathered her things to leave, get the audit prepared, and move on to arranging board meeting details. Ms. Luthor liked having everything in perfect order ahead of time so that she could manage the agenda and flow of the discussion as needed without any unexpected surprises. Right before she left, Jess remembered one final thing on her weekly prep schedule for her boss.
“Oh, Ms. Luthor, I wanted to remind you that I will be out on Friday. Anton and I are scheduled for that trip to check out Silver Spring Networks in Redwood City. I’m really excited about the ways they’re optimizing smart infrastructure and energy grids.”
Lena opened her browser and peered over her glasses at Jess, smiling as she looked up her assistant’s idea of a vacation.
“Jess, you know I hate when you’re gone, but while you’re there, check into whether L-Corp could benefit from connecting our facilities and applications using their platform technology. If you can develop a solid proposal that saves us money and delivers what we need while you and Anton are enjoying a lovely and well-deserved vacation, you’ll have my job one day.”
Jess laughed as she shook her head before Lena’s next appointment was about to begin, a meeting with Human Resources to review their diversity indicators and address any policy revisions necessary to fully comply with federal policy on alien hiring and advancement. Lena began looking over reports as her department heads came in. There were still old-school remnants of Lex and her mother’s hand in transforming Luthor Corporation into L-Corp and this was an area she wanted to make sure was drum-tight and staffed with the right leadership as they moved forward. This too would be a topic for their board meeting and she wanted the latest numbers and information to share as well as a solid proposal to address any deficiencies so she could get preliminary approval of any corrective plans sooner rather than later. Lena had learned the hard way that you couldn’t let these things go unchecked in an organization as large as L-Corp - it could mean the difference between life or death in some cases. This was going to be a long week and it was only Monday.
Winn Schott was someone who liked a mystery, any and all of them. It’s what made him search for answers and patterns in codes until he found an answer and tested it against his hunches. Others gave up way before he would ever call it quits. Solving a mystery was part luck and part determination and Winn was feeling lucky on this Monday. The DEO life suited him, he got to explore the world through technologies he had only ever dreamed of and he got to work with people who were as smart or smarter than he was. Plus, he regularly got to work with Kara and Supergirl and occasionally, her cousin Superman. Winn was living his best life to be honest. And so his head was down, scrolling through codes and numbers, cross referencing a faint signal for its signature and intention. Where was it from and what was it looking for?
“Planning out your next D&D adventure?”
Winn jumped as Alex Danvers walked up behind him and peered over his shoulder.
“Gah! Alex! Why do you always do that to me? Always with the lurking and the surprising.”
Alex just smiled as she stood next to him, adjusting her gear for the training day ahead. She was taking a small group of rookie agents out into the far field to show them how some of the alien technology they had collected over the years worked. She couldn’t wait for them to see the biomass inhibitor in action, it was one of her favorites. And honestly, Alex Danvers was in a good mood this Monday morning and pretty much every bit of that feeling was due to an NCPD cop who kept her up way too late on Saturday night so they were ‘forced’ to sleep in most of the day yesterday. She’d take a million weekends like that with Maggie Sawyer if given the opportunity. They had settled into a nice routine, a nice balance of comfort and adventure, the best kind of connection, truly ride or die as Maggie had said. It gave Alex stability at home to let her focus on work when she was at the DEO with more laser like clarity. She couldn’t complain.
“What’cha got, Winn?”
Winn shook his head and turned back to dual screens he was peering at as he spoke.
“What if I don’t tell you?”
“What if I use this to make you?”
Winn looked over his shoulder and saw Alex holding a wriggling pair of scissor-like tentacles: The dreaded Grebian earworm extractors. Why did Alex always pull those out on him when she knew how he felt about it. He shivered a bit and put his hands up.
“Alex, do not even with that Ceti eel contraption. That’s not playing fair and you know it.”
“All’s fair in aliens and war, Winn.”
At that moment, they both turned their head when they heard someone clearing their throat. Standing there with his arms crossed was Director Henshaw, eyeing them both with the stare of a martian who had seen it all and still had to come to work every Monday to see the rest.
“Alex, I’ve asked Mr. Schott for a report by the end of the day on that alien signal we received on Saturday and it seems as if you are eager to show those rookies some very dangerous and classified weapons that could become very restricted real quick. I suggest you both get on with your work week.”
Winn looked at Alex and scrunched his face at her and she raised an eyebrow at him as she carefully placed the extractors into their titanium case on her belt. She started to move in a direction as she spoke.
“Of course, sir. I was just on my way out.”
“I’m sure you were, Alex.”
At that, Agent Danvers kept moving along and smiled to herself as she left Winn to the director. Alex really couldn’t help herself, she was happy for a lot of reasons and giving Winn a hard time was hard to resist. This was going to be a good week, she could feel it.
“Anything you can share yet, Winn?”
Director Henshaw moved towards the screens and peered down at them. Winn pointed at a few recursive code patterns and pulled up a reference guide on the screen’s corner.
“I think I’ve narrowed it down, sir. I extracted some of the atmospheric interference in the signal quality and think that it’s a search code for a recon beacon. The funny thing is that the coordinates seem to match ones we’ve already logged into our database, which suggest something we have here is sending out receiving signals. I’m trying to narrow the signal origin against known alien cryptology and I have a hunch.”
J’onn looked at him and knew that most of Winn’s hunches turned into solid theories that often became fact. His whiz-kid agent stolen from CatCo had earned his wings long ago and the director had come to view his ideas with new respect. Winn could find a needle in a haystack, could figure out how to make or take apart any technology thrown his way. It made his job easier to have Winn’s skillset on his team.
“What’s your hunch, Mr. Schott?”
Winn looked around a bit to take attendance before he spoke. If he was right, it meant that he had to be very careful because it could mean that there was something larger at play here.
“I think the deploy is honing in on the Beta Pod’s black box, I think the signal is getting stronger, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the code signature is set to mimic Kryptonian but doesn’t quite get it right.”
Director Henshaw looked at him, his eyes narrowing as he spoke quietly.
Chapter 3: 20%
SE216 - 'Star-Crossed' to SE222 - 'Nevertheless, She Persisted': Canonish, with liberties and justice for all.
Wrong turns down one way streets, a left when a right is needed, a detour for no reason, a red light, a stop sign. Sometimes the map gets it wrong, the directions weren’t clear, the satellite signal got thrown off course. Finding the true story was a lot like traveling without a map on purpose and taking the road where it led, finding the other side, especially when it was hard, because there were always many sides to every story and they all came together to form the truth. And the truth could set you free if you let it. So Kara Danvers, the reporter, kept digging, even when all the evidence pointed one way. It had taken a bit to hone this approach since her natural inclination, especially as Supergirl, was to trust her instincts more quickly - there was often not enough time in the heat of the moment to be so deliberative, so methodical in exploring where the path. Forcing the issue may suit her well in one context while another might call for a more circumspection, more nuance, more talking. Kara was learning to put all these disparate ways of being together into one whole person and it mostly worked, except when it didn’t.
“Ok, so according to these records, alien incarceration rates are up 20% in the last 6 months with a big spike right after National City began its registry efforts. Is it normal to see such an increase?”
Kara adjusted her glasses after she looked up from her papers and watched the detective shift in the booth. She had interviewed multiple NCPD staff, the public relations representative, and poured over FOIA requests and public records throughout the day and had pulled a string or two to secure a later afternoon coffee date with this particular detective.
“Kara, you know how these things work. Some months are worse than others. We had to break up that alien art smuggling ring and those connections ran deep in the community. But it’s hard to predict when we see surges.”
Maggie Sawyer sipped her latte and looked back at her. Alex Danver’s girlfriend insisted that she would not go on record or speak for the department, but would be happy to meet for coffee. Kara had come around on Maggie, remembering the back and forth emotional journey Alex had taken as their friendship and then relationship grew. Now that those two had settled in and deepened their relationship, Kara saw Maggie as one of Alex’s rocks, especially helping to pick up some of the pieces that Jeremiah’s continued absence after the last Cadmus incident had knocked loose. While Jeremiah had helped Alex when she had confronted Lillian and her plans for forcibly removing aliens from Earth, he had also just..disappeared again. Kara knew that did not sit well with Alex and she was reluctant to talk to Kara too much about it, especially given the tangled web between Jeremiah, the Luthors, and the Danvers sisters. The spring had been healing for them all, but some scars ran deeper than others.
“So when you look at the rates over time, you’re not concerned that six straight months of more aliens being arrested by NCPD is a trend? You’re not concerned that the rates have never been higher in the past five years? That the numbers went up the day after NCPD started the city-wide alien registration process?”
Maggie sighed back at her and set her coffee down. Noonan’s wasn’t busy and they were in a private area. Kara kept her eyes steady as she sat with her legs crossed, her hair back in a pony tail. The morning had gone quickly and she was still gathering information for a preliminary story outline for Snapper by the end of the day. Maggie leaned forward and looked her in the eye.
“Kara, of course I’m concerned. Neither one of us wants an increase in crime, neither one of us wants more arrests. But if you look at the numbers, you’ll also see the rates rose for everyone at the same time. And it’s proportional to both populations, aliens and non-aliens. It’s been a tough couple of months for National City.”
Kara paused and looked back down at her notes and flipped a few pages of her book before pulling out something else.
“Ok, but police brutality complaints are disproportionately sky high for aliens, again coinciding with the registry. If there wasn’t an anti-alien bias, those numbers should also be proportional and they’re not. What is going on, Maggie?”
Maggie glanced at the public record logs from the NCPD Citizens’ Review Board and sighed. She knew well what the data showed as it had been brought up at every standup meeting and she had heard the grumblings among the rank and file, she had seen some of the dashcams and body camera video. There were fissures within the department and the whole alien amnesty thing had driven a wedge among some in leadership and on the ground. Maggie was trying to find the best way to address this from within the system since its roots ran deeper than something a simple diversity training could solve. And it made her angry that after all the progress that had been made, it was being lost in ways large and small and that sense of loss tinged her voice.
“If there was an anti-alien bias, don’t you think I’d be doing everything I could to make it right, Kara?”
Kara paused as she glaced at Maggie, seeing the struggle in her brown eyes. Maggie was as fair as they came and most willing to entertain all sides before making any rash decisions. But it was a hard place to be, stuck between a hunch and a fact when all you wanted was for neither to be true. Kara knew this feeling well and had learned it the hard way. Her inclination was to trust and to trust with all her superhero heart, but her experience here on earth had been equivocal. Sometimes, she had to punch first, ask questions later because waiting might mean putting more people in danger. And sometimes, she had to take the punch herself when her trust was misplaced and that punch tended to land the hardest. Maggie was a lot like her in some ways, willing to see the good in people while taking it hard when that didn’t always turn out to be the right choice. Kara set her notes down and softened her eyes, letting the palm of her hand rest on the table between them, establishing a connection.
“Maggie, I know you and I know you would do what is right, but you’re in a tough spot. I get it.”
The detective looked back at her and took a deep breath. Being in law enforcement meant she sometimes viewed the world differently than others, was suspicious more often than not, questioned motives more quickly. That’s what the job taught her, but that’s not who she was when she wasn't a detective. Maggie Sawyer had history, had experiences that could have caused her to shut down and mistrust everyone all of the time. But she was not her job and while there were things that still triggered fight or flight in her, she was working on that. It was easier to help others than to help herself, but Maggie was solid and Alex was helping, Kara, even Lena Luthor was helping her view the world differently and want to be a part of it in a different way. Maggie reached into the pocket of her leather jacket and slid a thumb drive across the table.
“This could cost me my job.”
Kara’s brows came together as she picked up the memory device and looked back at Maggie.
“Are you sure?”
Maggie let out a quiet laugh.
“No. But I trust you.”
“Maggie, I will do everything I can to protect you. If there is something bigger to this, it’s going to take more than one person to make things right, it’s going to take all of us. You’re not alone. We are stronger together.”
Maggie smiled at her and shook her head.
“And this is why you’re a superhero, Kara. You always make it look so easy to do the right thing that you wouldn’t even guess that it’s that hard. I admire that.”
Kara laughed quietly as she looked down at her hands before she smiled back at Maggie.
“I was just thinking the same about you. What you are doing is brave, Maggie. You have my word, I will keep this confidential.”
Maggie shrugged her shoulders and smiled before she took another long sip of her coffee. Ride or die for the Danvers sisters, all the way. And honestly, it had been a nice quiet spring, too quiet to trust. She had filled her nights with a certain DEO agent, forced a vacation for the both of them to the beach before the weight of summer came upon them, and she was attempting a first with Alex Danvers: Teaching her how to cook (with an emphasis on cooking well). Their adventures together had settled them both into a nice routine, Alex’s passion and enthusiasm balanced Maggie’s own quiet strength and affability and their shared convictions made them a formidable match. They were comfortable and stable and good and Maggie wasn’t about to let that go so she’d have to trust Kara with all of that and who better to trust than a superhero with a reason to be happy too.
“So, how are things with your lady friend? Is she coming to dinner with us on Thursday?”
“Well, I’m not sure how she’d feel about being called my lady friend.”
“Okay then, is your girlfriend having dinner with us or not?”
Maggie watched as Kara smiled to herself a bit as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. There was no way Kara could hide anything she was feeling, especially when it came to Lena Luthor.
It had been a normal Wednesday night in late March and there was a cool enough breeze coming through the windows that Kara had pulled out an extra soft summer blanket for the couch. She and Lena had been quietly lounging together after dinner and after a long day of work, arms and legs tangled, soft music, a glass of wine. The din and noise of the city and the day had died down and they were winding down too. Kara felt like these quiet moments, the space between dusk and night, awake and sleep, balanced out the frenetic energy she felt in her body most times. The sun did things to her, made her tingle and vibrate with power searching for release and it was hard sometimes to shake that off. She found herself flying a little extra after work, after a DEO mission, just so she could have moments like this with Lena. She knew that Lena could feel her skin sparking, heat from her eyes, could feel the power surging through her body and sometimes, that was..what Lena liked. But sometimes, after a long day and work ahead for them both the next, Kara wanted the calm instead of the storm, the whisper, not the roar.
Lena stretched and pulled Kara’s arms around her more, settling in and leaning the back of her head against Kara’s chest. Kara smiled and let her face brush into a crown of dark hair, inhaling jasmine and closing her eyes as she murmured.
“You feel good.”
She felt Lena hum a bit and nod her head, the warmth of Lena’s body covering the front of her contrasting against the coolness coming through the open window of her apartment. Candles flickered and the glow of the city caused shadows to dance across the ceiling. This felt like..home, safe and secure.
“You do too, darling.”
Kara’s eyes opened and she peered down at the side of Lena’s face, dark waves of hair falling over her shoulders, eyes closed, a smile on her lips. Kara found Lena’s ear.
“Did you just call me ‘darling’?”
Kara took a moment and resettled her arms around Lena, finding hands under the blanket and threading their fingers together. She smiled when she felt Lena slip one of her hands under Lena’s shirt to rest against the warm skin of her stomach. Despite the flight, she could feel her fingertips tingling.
“No one’s ever really called me anything like that before.”
Kara shook her head against Lena’s. The only one who called her anything but Kara was Astra and it was painful to think about how she had lost her connection to being ‘Little One’ and had lost that time on Krypton. She felt Lena breathing, the way air filled lungs and expanded before falling. She could hear Lena’s heartbeat, could always hear it but it filled her head for a moment. Her own body calibrated itself to match Lena’s in a gentle way and she sighed.
“Is it okay if I do that? Can I assume we are..in a place where I can use those kind of words with you, Kara?”
Kara smiled and pulled Lena closer.
“Only if I can assume you are my girlfriend since that’s what Alex calls you.”
Lena turned her head slightly and let out a little laugh.
“She does? I didn’t realize I had graduated to girlfriend status. With your sister no less.”
Kara thought about that a bit, how they had gradually just started spending more and more time together after January, how they hadn’t really talked about their relationship specifically, other than they would keep it private, how they had assumed the other was not interested in dating anyone else. She was still adjusting to someone like Lena Luthor in her life, in her private Kara Zor-El life, the one few knew about or saw. It wasn’t hard, but it was different. And..nice. It was nice having someone care if you ate dinner or weren’t feeling well, someone who was glad to see you, someone who listened to your day’s events no matter how boring they were. They were still figuring each other out, learning new things, feeling the effects they each had on the other. They just had not named it out loud. Kara caught Lena’s eyes and spoke softly, hesitantly.
“I mean..if that’s what you want to be..if that’s what we are..”
Lena gave Kara a look and turned over, shifting on the couch until she was face to face with her now, body pressed into hers from above, leaning against Kara’s chest. Green eyes found hers and Kara took a breath at the closeness and how Lena could make her feel like she was falling and flying at the same time. She held still when Lena’s finger came to her lips and traced the bottom one gently.
“Well, Kara, we are definitely more than friends.”
Kara swallowed when she felt Lena shift in her arms and lean down, placing soft lips against hers before pulling back again. Kara let her hands drift down the back of a silky shirt and just under the hem while Lena continued, quiet words filling the space between them.
“I want to be someone you can count on, someone you want to be with when you’re so happy I can feel it pouring out of you. I want to be the first person you think about seeing when you’ve had a hard day and need to let go.”
Lena paused while her lips found Kara’s neck and she could tell that Lena felt her skin tingling in response. They shifted together and Lena’s hips settled in between her own legs and she breathed in when she felt Lena smile against her skin before looking at her again.
“And I like that you call me almost every night, even when you mumble yourself to sleep in my ear. I like that you’ll eat anything I cook for you. Your smile is contagious. You make me happy when I thought I couldn’t..have that. And I love the way you look at me...yes, like that.”
Kara laughed quietly and pulled Lena closer, her hands finding hips and curves that made her fingers buzz. She inhaled when Lena’s mouth found her ear and the sweet spot underneath it, breathing in and softly pressing lips and tongue until Kara shivered. Her whole body came alive and she knew Lena could feel it so she closed her eyes at more soft words.
“And darling, I most definitely want..to be yours.”
Kara felt herself shifting, Lena’s body on her moving slowly against her and her hands began to flex against the power that was now starting to surge in her body. She was still getting used to this response to Lena, the way her body reacted to how her own heart raced and the fact that those beats were now connected to the woman in her arms. While there had been others, men, some women, and while Kara was no novice when it came to these things, she had not been prepared for the side effects of Lena Luthor. Amazing, awesome side effects, but also unexpected nonetheless. Her cousin never mentioned and she certainly wasn’t going to bring it up with him now but the earth’s sun made her spin when she was with Lena and it was breathtaking.
And then her attention was redirected by Lena’s hands in her hair and lips and teeth along her jawline and she remembered what Lena had just said in her ear and felt the way hips pressed and moved slowly against her from above. It was enough to send sparks to the surface of her skin and she reached up for delicate wrists to hold while she deftly switched positions until she looked down at Lena. She knew her eyes gave her away and Lena took a deep breath, knowing what was to come. Afterall, spring often whipped up a sudden storm when the weather had been calm moments before.
“I’ll ask her tonight, Maggie. She’s got a busy week, but I might be able to convince her to join as long as you promise that Alex won’t kill us. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before that the Danvers sisters are not known for our cooking skills. We’re almost dangerous, we should come with a warning. Burny. Bland. Blech.”
Maggie laughed and shook her head, starting to rise from the table.
“I make no promises. I’ll have the pizza guy on backup retainer though. See you then if not before.”
Kara laughed and nodded before she reached out and gently put her hand against Maggie’s arm, stopping her as she walked by. She held the detective’s eyes as she spoke, making sure Maggie knew she understood what had transpired earlier. She wasn’t exactly sure what Maggie had given her, but she knew it could change things and the road ahead might be rougher than she had planned. There were always many sides to every story and Kara had a feeling that what Maggie shared would make things harder before it got better.
“Thank you, Maggie. For everything. We’ll talk again soon.”
Maggie just smiled and nodded her head before she left Noonan’s and Kara went back to her notes, writing down a few thoughts and organizing information in her head. She had a 5pm deadline for Snapper and needed to re-focus on the big picture without giving too much detail yet. There was still a lot of investigating and sourcing left to do and the week ahead was going to be a long one.
At the end of the bar, a young man drank the rest of his water as his eyes followed Maggie Sawyer out the door. With a glance back at the booth where Kara sat, he took an earpiece out of his ear and put it into his pocket before he left, casually trailing behind the detective as she made her way to meet Alex Danvers for dinner. Down every street in National City, there were a million untold stories waiting to unfold.
Chapter 4: Fn = Fn-1 + Fn-2
Spider webs are things of beauty and function, intricate silky connections that are stronger than they look. Spinnerets spool out proteins, and depending on its purpose, each thread has its own calling in the creation of a web. Each thread connects to the other as the spider weaves whatever is useful, whatever is needed. A web looks planned, geometric shapes and lines all spokes like city streets hubbing into the city center. One assumes a spider knows its trade, has honed the craft of building just the right pattern to catch just the right prey. Scientists, those steadfast inquisitors, wondered what would happen if a spider was under duress, if stress messed with the geometry of a perfect spider web, with the strength and strain of separate threads of silk each serving a particular purpose. What would happen? Would everything break down? Would the web unravel? This is where the beauty of nature comes in, where nonlinear systems nudges towards the unknown, towards the chaotic, the unpredictable, the mysteries that are not easily solved. Scientists discovered that when a spider was spooked, silk threads that once served a specific, connective purpose in the web now formed more random bonds that held faster, held stronger, but in patterns that could never be predicted, replicated, imagined. An answer had been found, but infinitely more remain. The silky web of stronger threads connects it all together, a random map it now makes while the spider’s tiny heart beats faster.
“Alex, we’ve been over this already. The alien had a laser-shooting eyepatch, dinosaur head, horns. Jurassic Park-ish. You know, normal creepy rogue alien attacking the good citizens of National City and I came in and punched him out. Basic.”
Alex Danvers narrowed her eyes as the crew gathered around the DEO command table and listened. She had had to delay dinner with Maggie to stay longer at work when Supergirl called in a threat in progress. The DEO night-shift staff were in place, there was hustle around them but no further active threats. At the end of a long Monday, there had been a bit of commotion in the city park, Supergirl intervened, and they were debriefing as a unit. Winn pulled up an image on the screen and looked over at Kara.
“He wasn’t just any rogue alien.”
J’onn Jonzz walked over to the screen and looked up at it, the characteristics of the alien she fought and a picture of his horned face were clear.
“He’s from a race of alien bounty hunters called Amlax.”
Kara leaned on the situation roundtable, having changed into a casual grey turtleneck and plaid skirt from earlier. She was flying off steam after her coffee with Maggie, after a frustrating but productive pitch with Snapper, and after a text from Lena reminding her that she’d be up late on a call to Zurich. The alien threatening others in the park had caught her eye and she had flown in to stop him. The buzz of the fight still flowed through her as she steadied herself against the table and looked at the image before she turned to Alex.
“I assume that when we say bounty hunter that we mean he hunts aliens for someone else? Someone pays him to find aliens and capture them. So then why was he attacking humans?”
“Probably because he was hoping to lure one alien in particular out in the open. You.”
This was not a new conversation between them, this was not a new topic. Supergirl’s status as the resident alien superhero was now widely known, mostly accepted. But for so many years, Kara had struggled with what it meant for her, Kara Zor-El, to be and be labeled an ‘alien’. The word conjured up so many things, many of them unflattering, many darker thoughts unspoken, especially now that there was an undercurrent of backlash from the amnesty and rights proclamation from the President. Alien. An alien. Not from around here. Not like the rest. Not ‘real’ citizens’. Not ‘normal’ by earth standards. Something ‘other’. She and Alex had had fights about this topic, the Danvers had discouraged disclosure of the alien inside of her and told her all she needed to be was Kara Danvers. Being an alien wasn’t safe. Being different stood out. As if Kara could forget who she was. And as if Kara wanted to hide her Kryptonian past. Being the last daughter of Krypton was as much a part of her as was anything else. She was proud of much about her home planet and had come to terms, more or less, with the rest. No place is perfect and no people are truly without flaws. It all still stung, even if the intent now wasn’t to shame or to ask that it be hidden. But this was bigger than Kara and her feelings right now. She chose her words carefully.
“Alex, we are already dealing with more and more anti-alien demonstrations and actions across the city from our own citizens. So now we have aliens hunting aliens and you think I’m the one they are looking for. How do we know for sure?”
Kara paused, realizing with a little more clarity than usual, that the enemy wasn’t one person or group and that made it even harder to fight. The enemy was a feeling, fear, stoked for the purposes of driving wedges between, profiting from, seizing control because feelings took a longer time to change, were tucked deeper inside of the animal part of humans, and were sometimes resistant to logic, to facts. Feelings could be exploited and feelings about aliens and ‘others’ had been around a long, long time. As Kara painfully learned from Non, from Astra, fear, loathing, and cruelty was not unique to those born on the earth - Kryptonians were not immune. Their long feud and history with Daxamites and of course, the Myriad plan, had shown just how deep those kinds of feelings went no matter where someone was born.
Alex turned to Winn who set a device on the table in front of them.
“When we were intaking your new monocular best friend, they found this. It accesses some kind of alien darknet for all your shady space needs.”
Winn clicked the gadget and a holographic image appeared.
“There’s a pretty big bounty on your head, Kara.”
Supergirl’s form appeared in miniature hazy clarity and lit up in the center of the DEO command station table, spinning around like a specimen on display. Kara pointed, her voice grim with acknowledgment.
“Yeah, that’s me.”
Alex looked at her before she moved closer to Kara and held up a finger to J’onn and Winn for a moment of privacy as she pulled her sister aside. Kara crossed her arms over her chest and waited while Alex spoke quietly.
“Yes, it’s you, Kara. And I don’t like it one bit that someone put that kind of a hit out on you. J’onn said it was enough to buy a whole planet. That makes you a target for every lowlife killer in the universe to head this way to take their shot.”
“That’s fine, I’ll just take them out one by one. If they target one of us, all aliens become a target. A bounty on me is a bounty on all and I’m not about to stand by and let that happen.”
Alex held up her hand and shook her head.
“Not that I doubt you, but a series of battles with interstellar bounty hunters doesn’t seem like a good way to ensure public safety. Or yours for that matter, Kara. J’onn thinks it best if you lay low for 24 hours while we get ahead of this.”
“Alex, I’m not afraid and I’m not going to hide. I’m the girl of steel, I don’t bend, I don’t break, I don’t stand down for anyone.”
Kara watched as Alex sighed and shook her head.
“You’re also my sister.”
Kara narrowed her eyes and cocked her head to the side.
“Alex, I can’t do my job here if you’re always going to pull the big sister card. I appreciate that you’re worried and I like it better when we’re on the same page, but we can’t keep doing this. I’m an alien with powers on this earth and there’s no hiding that anymore, there’s no protecting me from that fact. I will always be a target. I am more than capable of taking care of myself.”
“I know you are, that’s not what this is about, Kara. I don’t want you to run or to hide who you are, not anymore. You are the strongest person I know and I’m not talking about what you can do, I’m talking about who you are.”
Alex moved closer and reached a hand out, letting it fall on Kara’s arm. There was so much history between them, so much negotiation over the years and it had taken a lot to rebuild their relationship after Alex went through ‘the dark ages’ as they both referred to it, when alcohol became her best friend and worst enemy. She still struggled with that one, but it was the distance and lost connection to Kara that they had worked to repair. It took time to get past the arguments and ugly words and accusations and resentments. You’re an alien, you’re not my real sister. Those cuts ran deep and came to the surface on occasion, in the heat of the moment or under the altering effects of red kryptonite. But they were solid now, everything they had gone through the past year and a half, after Kara became Supergirl and emerged as her true self. They were good. They were solid. Everything was fine.
“I just want us to be smart about how we handle this instead of you having to punch every bounty hunter that comes after you. My money is always on you, Kara, always. But this might require more than just you to solve. If someone put that much money on your head, there’s something bigger at play here.”
Kara shifted and looked at Alex, taking a deep breath and letting go of the momentary escalation. Alex was right, of course, but family was complicated and sometimes it was hard to shake off some habits and punching was becoming a habit that, if she was being honest with herself, made her feel better when she did it than when she held back. She was unsure about whether she should share what she had learned today, whether there was enough information to connect the story together and whether she was ready to accept where that story was going.
“Alex, I may be the one with the bounty on me, but it’s not only aliens we need to be concerned about.”
Kara walked back over to the CEO command table and looked at J’onn.
“We need to talk.”
The director looked at both of them and nodded, ready to share some intel of his own. There was much to discuss and the bounty just made their work more urgent.
J’onn Jonzz settled into the DEO briefing room, the glass walls open to the rest of the building that was bustling with the day's work. He had received an encoded notice on his private comm channel while he worked with Winn on mapping out coordinates and capacity. President Marsdin's face stared back at him from DC.
“I saw Supergirl had a hostile alien to deal with.”
“Yes, it seems to be another one-off incidence, it’s under control. Is that why you called?”
“No, actually, I called to get an update on the Daxamites.”
J’onn looked at her and raised an eyebrow, surprised that the President already knew about Winn’s hunch when he had shared that with very few internally.
“At the moment, we are monitoring the situation. We don’t have reason to take action yet, but according to Mon-El, the Daxamite we have under our jurisdiction, it could be dangerous.”
“I was afraid of that.”
“How would you like to proceed?”
“I’m concerned that this is not a one-off situation, Director Henshaw. I am sure you know that few things get by me when it comes to visitors, especially after I granted broad alien amnesty and rights. I recently received an encrypted message from an old..friend. I have reason to believe that there is an active alien terrorist plot to invade earth. I also have reason to believe that this plot is being aided and abetted by sympathetic individuals and/or groups on the ground. My question to you, Director Henshaw, is what you plan to do to stop it?”
J’onn nodded, considering President Marsdin’s words carefully. There were many layers to this, like the skin of an onion and the DEO director was trying to unravel each side until he could understand the full extent of the..conspiracy. Using words like that changed the game, having to consider ideas like that, possibilities that such a thing was true meant that that National City, that the United States, that Earth was under real threat from within and without and that the DEO, with all its resources and countermeasures, better be up to the test. And, more importantly, it meant that Supergirl had better be prepared to do whatever was necessary, even if it meant losing everything.
Kara landed with a light thud, carefully gauging her speed and weight as she alighted on the private outdoor patio high above National City. Soft golden lights were strewn here and there, in potted trees and tucked under small seating benches and tables. Mahogany seats and tables for two or four, cushioned lounges, potted plants starting to flower, blooming vines covering wrought iron trellises, a contained fire chiminea for cool nights, a tasteful water feature tucked away burbling, a full bar, all of it made this outdoor space feel like a secret garden no one knew about, few prying eyes could even see. The view of the city from the eastern part of town was magnificent and sparkling in the darkness of night and as she paused, she took a breath at the scene few saw or enjoyed. With late spring beginning to consider whether summer was upon it, this had become a favorite spot of Kara’s, a respite from the world out there and a private spacious balcony patio to share with a certain L-Corp CEO who enjoyed a few perks of owning a successful company.
Kara turned at the voice, the wind blowing her hair and cape out just a bit as she walked over to a cozy alcove where a loveseat sat, white pillows surrounding a dark figure, a glass of wine and candles sat on the table nearby.
“I wasn’t sure you’d still be awake.”
The corners of Kara’s lips upturning when she was greeted by the soft smile of Lena Luthor, feet tucked under her, head resting in her hand against the cushioned arm. Her hair was down and she was dressed in a black oversized men’s sleeping shirt, a little blanket around her legs. Dark glasses rested on the table, a phone and tablet and a folder full of notes accompanied them. But the green eyes were unmistakably happy to see her and Kara discretely shook her hands out to let sparks fly off before she moved closer.
“I am. But fading. Just got off the phone with Zurich. Tell me about you, my super one.’
Lena reached out and pulled at the hem of her skirt to bring her closer, fingers finding the edges of red as she smiled up at Kara. It had felt like another lifetime ago when they had met for coffee, the day and all its events rushing over her as she tried to let go, tried to blank out all of the plans, all of the details. It felt like the weight of forty eight hours had settled in the space where only seventeen had passed. Time, the revelator, the great connector, the endless loop, the web of life. Kara laughed quietly as she moved closer into Lena’s orbit and there was no way she could break free of the gravity of this woman, especially as she felt fingers skim along her thigh. Kara took a breath and looked down at Lena, shrugging a little with a smile on her face.
“Oh you know, a little reporting, a little crime fighting, lots of flying, the usual..”
Lena laughed at her as she patted against the edge of the loveseat in front of her for Kara to sit as she shifted to make room.
“I’m sorry, but nothing you do could be called ‘usual’, Kara. Tell me all about it please.”
Kara settled down on the edge and reached her arm across to the back of the loveseat, the side of her body pressed against Lena’s as she looked down, her eyes warming to the sight of the woman she had missed as if weeks had passed since the last time they had seen each other. Lena was softened by the day and her beauty magnified by the night and it wasn’t fair that someone could make her heart race like that and ribs ache from the strain of keeping everything she felt inside bone and flesh too strong to break.
Waves of golden hair obscured her face and hid her eyes until Lena reached up and tucked strands behind her ear, her hand lingering along Kara’s neck as fingertips traced along her jaw and landed on her bottom lip. Lena smiled at her and whispered.
“Of course. We can just.”
Kara closed her eyes and let Lena’s fingertips gently trail along her face, over brows and closed eyelids and along her nose and cheeks, threading through her hair and down along her neck and back over the same course again and again. This was Lena’s black magic, her tried and true method of comforting Kara, touch that could soothe the sparks under her skin, could calm the thrumming of the sun beneath her ribs, could slow her breathing when the day held too much for the superhero. Kara held her breath when she felt Lena’s fingertips run down her neck, slip under her cape’s edge and then back over blue fabric until she lazily traced over the symbol on Kara’s chest. She only opened her eyes when Lena’s hand traveled down and rested on her bare knee, squeezing lightly. If she was going to get through this, whatever was to come, she needed to hold on to this feeling, hold on to the way Lena brought her back to earth and kept her from floating away.
“Will you stay?”
As if she would leave Lena Luthor, as if her super powers were strong enough right now to pull herself away from the thought of falling into a soft bed of scented sheets, a cozy nest of pillows, and warm skin and black hair covering her until she faded away. At least here, for a night, for a week, for a month, for however long she had it, Kara felt almost normal, like she belonged here, like the suit she wore, the cape were just trappings for dress up. They were things she could take off, slip out of, and exist without anyone thinking she was an alien or not from here. She could walk into the ocean of Lena’s bed and just be Kara Zor-El, naked and swimming in sheets, no longer alone. Kara held on to that thought as she pulled Lena up and let the other woman lead her into the apartment, into the bedroom, into the night. She held on to that thought as she let Lena reverently undress her and pull her into the bed, felt hands on her and lips pressing against her back until it felt like her spine was on fire, glowing from the inside and humming in time to murmurs and soft words of encouragement. Kara held on to that thought because she knew that whatever was coming could take it all away in the blink of an eye.
Chapter 5: 6 ft.
For a moment, it felt like a dream from long ago, one in which she had fallen asleep in soft grass and a cool breeze, connected to the earth at ground level. What she remembered most was hearing the morning birds singing, waking her gently and for a long, long while, she couldn’t remember where she was. When she blinked her eyes open, the sky was pink, still waking up from the night before and so so far from where she lay, the branches of an oak tree in relief against it setting the scale. Immensity made manifold. Lena had fallen asleep in the Luthor gardens again and ten was a good age for that after spending the night watching the Perseids. She lost count even though she had scratched a line in the dirt under the grass next to her for each one. The world stands out on either side. She had escaped from the voices and eyes of her parents’ dinner party, from Lillian’s harsh rebuke and sharp, quick slap when she caught Lena listening in from where she tucked herself under a coffee table. She ran the garden paths until she was free and there she stayed, darkness, quiet, and streaks of pin light across the sky making it all fall away. No wider than the heart is wide.
Now, as Lena Luthor blinked her eyes open in the pale morning light, she was surprised to see she wasn’t looking up into the pink-orange sky. Instead, she felt warmth skimming over her face and the slow trace of a fingertip full of potential along her bare arm, leaving a wake of raised skin and a shiver moving through her.
Lena couldn’t help but smile at Kara’s soft greeting in the early morning as she turned to face the woman next to her, head full of golden hair propped on her hand. The sheets were cool in places where their bodies didn’t touch and she slid her leg until she found warm bare skin to press against. Lena turned on her side so they were face to face and tucked her hand under her head against the pillow. She felt blue eyes track across her bare shoulder and neck to finally find her own.
Kara’s hand skimmed her exposed skin and Lena welcomed soft lips on hers that greeted her, briefly, but enough to leave a tingle on them before Kara pulled back. Lena moved closer and looked up at her as she spoke quietly.
“Did you sleep?”
Kara just smiled back at her and didn’t answer and that was her answer. There were nights, not many, but some, where Lena would wake to find Kara next to her, staring at the ceiling or beyond, she was never sure, or she’d wake to the gentle warmth of Kara’s eyes on her. Kara would tuck her back into place up against her and nudge her to sleep with fingertips along her back, soothing. Some nights Lena would press and ask quietly if anything was wrong and Kara would just shake her head with a small smile and murmur Just thinking against her hair and Lena let it go, drifting off to sleep with another question on her mind. Now, Lena reached up and put her palm against Kara’s cheek, feeling the glow she had come to anticipate.
“You know, Kara, I can tell when something is bothering you.”
She watched as Kara closed her eyes and smiled.
“And you once said I was sneaky.”
Lena let out a quiet laugh as she looked at Kara’s face, finding the invisible lines of concern, the heaviness just under the surface of that smile. She used her finger to trace over a scar near Kara’s eyebrow.
“You were. Once. But you get this crinkle here. And you get this..feeling..here.”
Lena moved her hand down and pressed it against Kara’s bare chest gently, right where a symbol had been the night before. How could she describe what she felt, how weight emanating from Kara manifested itself under her fingertips. She closed her eyes and tried to place the feeling and why she knew it so intimately. It felt a little like loss. It felt like the distance between two notes in a song that gets interrupted. It felt like the friction between two tectonic plates right before the earth itself moves to displace all that energy. Kara’s hand covered hers and pulled it to her lips, breaking the connection.
She watched as Kara swallowed and spoke quietly in the early morning space between them.
“Lena, I need to tell you something.”
The way those words fell on her made Lena start counting invisible stars, keeping her breath and her heart steady. She looked into blue eyes and took a breath at the ocean in front of her, steady, calm, and too deep to touch the bottom. Lena Luthor braced herself with the practiced ease that came with history and experience with bad news. But East and West will pinch the heart. That can not keep them pushed apart.
It was back in early March, she remembered it was right before she and Jess were headed to New York for a strategic business trip with several of her staff from the newly named Pollinator division within L-Corp. The charge for that division was to identify ways to deliver life saving essentials - water, food, energy - to far-flung, remote locations and habitats. Her team had spent months prototyping technologies, grand dreams and far-out ideas. Lena had encouraged creative out of the box thinking from some of her best and brightest and now was the time to workshop a few of them with investors, weed out the bad ideas and find seed money to start working on the great ones. She was optimistic and eager to talk about it as she waited for Kara at a new restaurant they had chosen.
Two glasses of wine later, Lena was still waiting and her texts and calls had gone unanswered. It wasn’t like Kara to be this late, delayed occasionally with work at CatCo or the DEO, but never without word. She paid the bill and stood to leave, retrieving her coat from the check room while her fingers moved over her phone to dial Maggie Sawyer’s number. Just as she was about to hit call, a text came in from an unknown number.
‘Hi Lena - this is Alex. Kara wanted me to let you know she is okay, but is sorry that she won’t be able to make dinner. She’ll call as soon as she is able.’
This did not sit well, this was not reassuring, this in fact caused Lena’s heart rate to skyrocket and her fingers to shake as she texted back, politeness going the way of her panic.
‘Where is she??’
The air felt different outside, still chilly and the wind bit a little but spring was on the horizon and Lena gulped it in as she tried to calm herself. It was just a feeling. It was just a feeling she had that she couldn’t explain and she could taste the urgency of that feeling on her tongue. As her car pulled up front, it felt like forever before Alex texted back.
‘We’re back at her apartment, she’s okay, Lena.’
She made Chao-xing drive well-over the speed limit and cut through back alleys of National City to get across town to Kara’s apartment in record time and she took the stairs in twos, her breath catching up to her racing heart as her hand went to the doorknob. Lena took a moment to fight off the feeling of the walls closing in on her with every breath, took a moment to inhale and find that patch of green grass in the gardens of her mind and let that memory drive out the other thoughts that had begun to swirl like blackness on the edge of her vision. She had worked too hard over the years to let this feeling get the best of her and so Lena took one more breath, blew it out slowly and thought of a London morning and coffee. It was okay. She reached up and swept a stray strand of dark hair back that had escaped the top of her head in her haste. With a nod to herself, she used the key she had been given and turned the knob.
She kept it together when Alex, unsurprised to see her, looked up at her from where she sat next to Supergirl on the couch. Kara’s sister had her arm around the superhero who in turn held her head in her hands hunched over, unable to look up as Lena moved into the apartment. She kept it together as her eyes took in the rips and burns and dirt covering the blue and red suit, the cape crumpled and ragged at her side. Lena kept it together as she looked at Alex before she calmly knelt down, her hand moving to Kara’s hair and gently brushing it aside, whispering.
“Hey you...how you doing?”
Lena swallowed when Kara opened her eyes and struggled to focus on her before a small smile crossed her lips.
Lena nodded, smiling at her and letting her hand gently stroke through blond disheveled hair. She tried to figure out what was going on, this side of the superhero was one she had only seen a glimpse of a few times during fights, during that encounter with her mother. It was jarring and she hated it, discovered quickly that she never wanted to see it again now that they were..closer. They hadn’t defined what they were to each other just yet, but Lena didn’t even want to consider a world without the woman in front of her in it. Looking at the drained superhero, at Kara in front of her made her soften her voice.
“Mm hmm..I’m here. I’m not going anywhere, sweetheart.”
She saw Alex look at her but Lena kept her hand moving through Kara’s hair as blue eyes closed and her head lulled in hands that were dirty and shaking a bit. She could barely see or feel the glow under Kara’s skin and it scared her. Lena found Alex’s eyes and spoke quietly.
“What happened to her?”
Alex looked at Kara as she kept her hand moving over her back and took a breath. Lena had a complicated relationship with Alex Danvers and they were still navigating the waters of this new..relationship and what it meant for each of them. There was history, of course, and her name, always, so they tried to tread lightly around each other for Kara.
“We had an incident at the DEO. Kara’s going to be fine in a few days.”
Lena took a deep breath in and narrowed her eyes, wanting more information but feeling Kara wobble a bit on the couch. Lena moved up to sit next to Kara and put her arm around her side, pulling her close when she felt Kara start to lean her way. She looked at Alex.
“Ok, what does she need?”
“Rest. I’ll run more tests tomorrow. We have it under control, Lena.”
Lena felt Kara’s head fall to her shoulder and Kara’s weight lean on her as she looked over at Alex and spoke quietly.
Kara’s hand fell to her knee, the grip not at all sure, not at all strong as she had come to know. She hated that she couldn’t feel the telltale sparks brushing against her skin from Kara’s fingers, it was as if all the energy had been drained from her body and there was little left. Lena took a breath to calm herself again, to pull it together and kept her arm around Kara. Kara’s mumbled words reached her ears.
“Lena, why don’t we get Kara to bed and you and I can talk later.”
Lena felt Kara nod against her shoulder.
It took them both to help drag-walk Kara into the bedroom and Lena helped as Alex showed her how to get the form-fitting suit off of her. It was much harder than it looked, mainly because Kara wasn’t helping all that much and it was the first time Lena had been party to the removal of said suit. The transformation into and out of Supergirl was still new to her eyes and quite frankly, she would have preferred it had been under very different circumstances, but she kept to the task at hand, managing the cape and boots while Alex got the rest. Kara would occasionally help just a little, moving an arm but said very little, her eyes heavy and body groggy. Lena came back from the bathroom with a washcloth and gently washed away the day and grim from Kara’s face, neck, and hands as Alex slipped a worn MIT t-shirt over her head that was on the bed. Kara took a deep breath and smiled before she fell back into the sheets, asleep in an instant. Lena tucked the sheets around her and ran her hand over her brow, pushing the hair away before she leaned over and let her lips touch lightly. Lena sent a thought out to the universe, a quiet request for hope and for the world to return what it was holding in its immense hands.
When Lena came back into the living room, she was in no mood and it showed. She had never seen Kara that way, had never seen the superhero as anything but strong and present and full of life. This was unsettling and unnerved her. It felt too close to..losing Kara in a way she had never even considered. Lena had her hands on her hips and she wasn’t about to move until she got answers.
“What the fuck happened, Alex?”
Alex blinked at the coldness in Lena’s voice, the Luthor coming out in a bite that was worse than her bark. Alex faced her, her voice firm as she stuck to the facts. There wasn’t any point in sugarcoating this, if Lena was going to be this close to Kara and to Supergirl, it didn’t help to keep things too many things from her since Kara would likely share what she felt was important anyway.
“Kara was accidentally exposed to a small dose of gold Kryptonite during a DEO training. It’s out of her system now, she’s had one reverse treatment session. She’ll be drained until her body recovers and she’s able to process the sun’s radiation again. There was no permanent damage, it was a small dose. Now we know how little it takes.”
Lena nodded, taking in the information and absorbing it and trying not to yell. Lena rarely raised her voice, it reminded her too much of Lillian’s harsh words and Lena wanted to remain in control of herself and not turn into an unhinged Luthor, screaming at Kara’s sister. It was tempting though and she took a deep breath. She may not raise her voice, but anger still had a place inside of her and it took will to keep it contained most times, but it was seeping out of her now.
“I am going to pretend that I didn’t just hear that Kara’s own place of employment poisoned her during a training. I’m going to pretend that Kara’s own sister wasn’t a part of that.”
Alex moved closer until they stood inches apart, the older Danvers sister holding the height advantage. Neither blinked.
“And I’m going to pretend you didn’t imply this was done on purpose or that I would sit back and watch just to see what would happen. This was an accident, Lena, the training device was not properly loaded and double-checked. I won’t let it happen again.”
“Good. You better not.”
“And since we’re going to have this conversation, since we’re already having it, clearly, let me remind you that the reason we even have gold Kryptonite at the DEO in the first place is because we took it from your brother’s vault before your mother had a chance to use it against Kara. So, you know, when it comes to blame, we could go down that road if you want.”
Lena’s jaw clenched and she stood quietly, absorbing the hit. She was good at that, taking words thrown at her and tucking them deep inside so it didn’t show on the outside.
Alex took a step back and a deep breath, before Lena looked at her again, this time with less anger, this time her mind on someone else. Her hands were shaking before she realized it and crossed her arms.
“Someone could have called me..how will I know if something..happens to her?”
Alex shook her head and stepped back a bit, her eyes traveling to Kara’s bedroom before looking back at Lena.
“Look Lena, I don’t want to fight with you. I can see you care about Kara and I do too. And you’re right, I should have called you. Kara didn’t want to worry you, but you need to know these things.”
Lena nodded once and took a deep breath. They hadn’t talked about this either, how they would communicate, who would let her know if something horrible happened and all the ‘what ifs’ that came with it. They were still too new into this to work out things like this but all Lena’s mind went to was what if someone just..forgot..or didn’t think to let her know an emergency had happened and she would miss a critical window or a small moment of time to do something or save Kara or tell her things or say goodbye or... She could still be sitting in a restaurant waiting while Kara faded away from her life without a word. It was almost too much to bear. Lena put her shaking hand to her head to steady herself before she felt Alex reach out, her hand resting on Lena’s arm.
“She’s going to be okay, Lena. She’s okay, she’s here with us.”
Lena nodded again, breathing out before the walls of Kara’s apartment crushed her. She imagined a sky as wide as she could see and let thoughts go. Alex spoke quietly.
“I know this was a bit of a shock for you and I hate seeing her like this too, but I’ve seen much worse. I’ve almost lost her more times than I care to count. But this is part of her being a superhero and Lena, this is the hardest part.”
Lena closed her eyes at that, knowing of course that her mother was responsible for a few of the times and hating everything about it. She had selectively tried to forget that Kara’s other job meant she was in constant danger from things Lena knew about and things she could never imagine. Kara didn’t always share the details of what happened to her while she was Supergirl, the kinds of aliens she had to fight, the danger she put herself in because that’s what she chose to do. This was Kara’s calling and Lena knew it, but they hadn’t really talked about it yet, not in detail, not in ‘what ifs’. She had fallen for Kara Danvers before she had considered what it even meant to be involved with a superhero and now that she was all in, she needed to consider all that came with this relationship. She couldn’t pretend anymore, she couldn’t forget that the woman from a distant star had been drained by a life threatening substance in the other room and that that same amazing person could actually be lost. Lena looked up to the ceiling before she looked back at Alex, her words very quiet.
“Alex, I can’t lose her either. I..love her.”
There, she said it outloud, confirmed it in words that could not be taken back. Yes, she had acknowledged it to Maggie Sawyer before, but saying the words herself meant that it was now a thing out in the world that could be ripped from her, intentionally or accidentally. Alex looked at her closely and she tried not to retreat in defense.
“Have you told Kara this?”
Lena shook her head as she walked to the window and looked out into the sparkling city. She stood quietly, arms crossed, and didn’t move when she felt Alex join her and welcomed the cool air when Alex cracked open the window a little with a sigh.
“I’m going to share something with you, Lena, because you need to know. For as long as I’ve known Kara, her heart is where her power truly comes from. The sun may do things to her body that you and I can only dream about, but the real reason Kara is as strong as she is and why she can do all the amazing things she does is because of the way her heart holds on to love and uses that to overcome the impossible. Her heart fights harder than her hands. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I know it.”
Lena nodded and watched the twinkling lights of National City, the place she and Kara both called home. She knew this, implicitly, because it was Kara’s heart that drew her in and captured her in the first place. Lena could see and feel it, it was that spark and glow under the surface, that’s what it was and that’s what made Kara so special. Alex glanced over at her and continued.
“Lena, if you want to keep Kara safe, you need to tell her how you feel. She needs to know. Because if she knows, she’s going to fight even harder, she’s going to be even stronger. I know she cares deeply about you. Tell her.”
Lena turned to Alex, knowing what was being asked and knowing the importance of what had been shared. It was clear that Kara’s sister had been her source and always would be. But the world was a dangerous place, now more than ever, and the fear of losing Kara was far greater than the fear of what she risked in remaining silent. Yes, declaring her feelings meant that they could and likely would surely be used against her and against Kara by her mother or anyone else for that matter. They became a target together because they would be linked. The truth was that if it ever came down to it, Lena would sacrifice herself to save the superhero, every time.
Chapter 6: 43, 61, 72, 75, 85, 87 and 91
Picture a Swiss watch, peel back the covering and the glass case and imagine the watch movement inside. There are layers under layers of shiny steel, tiny screws holding the calibre together, little gears that look like miniature fingers of gold and silver reaching out for other hands to hold. Small pieces of crafted metal curve this way and that, one click here moves this gear there and that gear shifts tiny metal arms into place and time marches on. The metaphors are limitless, of course, but pick one. They all apply.
The ports of National City had the grimy feel of oil, the smell of fish, and lit so dimly that every pier bollard left short shadows like soldiers waiting for a siege. At four in the morning, the docks were quiet right before the early morning offloads and deliveries. The gulls were still asleep and the air was thick with humidity from the coming rain. In that thickness, a long black car slowly rolled down between the shuttered warehouses and killed its headlights as it came to a stop. A hooded figure stepped out from a doorway as the back window slid down.
“What do you need?”
From within the car, a hand reached out and beckoned the figure closer and after a moment’s hesitation, it moved towards the car until the hand reached out and grabbed hold of the figure’s hand.
“I need you to deliver a message.”
With a twist, the figure’s wrist was bent at an odd angle as the hooded one fell, knees hitting the concrete and a strangled cry came out. It is how you imagine such things to be. And then the car door swung open with enough force to knock the figure back, cracking as steel hit bone. From the back seat, a long leg stepped out, wrapped in gray silky cloth that hugged at curves and belied the menace behind the tall woman who now stood over the figure.
“I’ve come a long way and I expect cooperation when the time comes.”
From the ground, a man’s face became visible as his hood fell back, still grimacing from the pain he was experiencing. He looked up and gritted his teeth, his words labored.
“And when we do?”
The woman paused and cocked her head to the side before she knelt down with a smile on her face that didn't reach her eyes.
“When you do, our alliance will hold as promised. You’ll have a special place in the new world order.”
“And if we don’t? If we aren’t able to infiltrate your targets?”
She pressed her fingers into his jaw and squeezed as his eyes grew wide at the force. Her smile remained even as her eyes darkened.
“If you fail, you’ll fall with the rest of your kind. Failure is not an option from which you’ll survive.”
When she had left the apartment, she regretted not bringing an umbrella with her, the early morning glow turned dark as spring clouds rolled in and it threatened to rain. The day ahead was going to be long, full of paperwork and quarterly case reviews and Maggie Sawyer was not looking forward to it, especially since it had meant leaving a sleeping Alex Danvers. She had peeled herself off of the agent’s long body, trying to gently fight off arms reluctant to let her go.
Maggie smiled at Alex’s slightly petulant and sleepy words. She reached down and ran her fingers through short dark strands at the base of Alex's neck before smoothing over Alex’s bare shoulders.
“The early bird gets the worm, Danvers. You can come with, I’ll buy coffee afterwards..or...”
Maggie left the last bit open, knowing that Alex may not be an early morning person, but she certainly warmed up to how Maggie liked to wake her on occasion. Alex barely cracked an eye, looked at the numbers on the clock, and turned her head away in agony.
“Coffee not enough for this hour. Sex even more questionable.”
“You’re funny. Go back to sleep, babe, and I’ll call you later.”
Maggie smiled when Alex pulled the sheet over her head and made unintelligible words into the pillow. Quietly, Maggie dressed, grabbed her backpack and let herself out of Alex Danver’s apartment with a lock and a smile. Maggie needed to get her morning run in before the day started if she was going to get through it all. Besides, she needed to clear her head and this was the best way to do it. As she ran through the barely awake streets of National City, the detective came back to her conversation with Kara from the day before.
She was taking a very big chance in giving Kara copies of an incomplete Internal Affairs file at the department, one that she herself had only come across as she had been investigating a cold case on a run-away and digging deep. She had linked the missing alien child’s mother to a buried witness intimidation charge against several NCPD officers assigned to port patrol. As she was accessing the department files, she started seeing the same five or six names come up in charges that were either not filed or were still under internal investigation. One of the officers, Patterson, she knew from their monthly poker games. He was an irregular attendee who liked his whiskey, hated losing, and hated losing to her, specifically.
The problem was that she had accessed the Internal Affairs server to track down more information on those cops and she had accessed it using a backdoor de-encryptor she had borrowed from Winn Schott during the Luthor investigation. The problem was that Internal Affairs was Internal Affairs and she had no business digging there. The problem was that once Maggie Sawyer found something that didn’t sit right with her, she couldn’t let it go. The problem was that what Maggie found implied that members of her own department were actively anti-alien and IA wasn’t doing much with that information.
The bigger problem, though, was that she had found a list of names beyond the department and across the city of purported members of the Party for Social Reform, National City's own alt-right group that agitated the most against the President's alien amnesty law. The biggest problem was that she recognized a few of those names and their places of employment and those ties ran through every major public service department, political party, manufacturing, communication industry - including CatCo, and tech - including L-Corp. NCPD had an internal dossier on this group, but there was no record of any active investigations or surveillance authorized. Putting all those problems together meant that Maggie Sawyer had a lot on her mind and running was the only way to sort it out. And now, with Kara Danvers already starting to put two and two together, she had just opened the door to even more problems with few good solutions.
With these thoughts swirling in the dark morning, Maggie stepped off the curb and found herself jerked back onto the sidewalk just before a car swerved to avoid hitting her. It was like a slow-mo movie of herself, the falling rain and the screeching of car tires, the close call. She felt herself stumble back and took a knee and hands to the ground as the car honked, kept going, and the rain began to fall harder. Maggie took a deep breath and pushed the hair from her eyes as she looked back trying to find the good samaritan who had saved her. With stinging blood starting to form on her skinned hands, she only saw a retreating man headed across the street, blond hair visible before he opened an umbrella and kept going.
Maggie swore as she picked herself up off the ground and looked at the sky. This was going to be a long day.
J’onn J’onnz sat quietly at his desk at the DEO, the late night shift beginning to transition to the early morning shift, workers ending and beginning at daybreak. This was his favorite time of day, when people’s thoughts were not so strong to intrude into his when he relaxed and cleared himself. Sometimes it was exhausting because humans wanted their thoughts to be known but didn’t want to speak of them out loud. Those thoughts crept into his mind when he was least expecting, mainly because thoughts of unrequited longing and despair and loneliness were strong and needy, often seeking release like a moth to a flame. He had learned to dampen them and build his own boundaries at the DEO and out in the world when needed because otherwise he’d know too much and the weight of other’s wounds would leave him weary. As the director of the DEO and protector of those special Danvers sisters, he could ill afford to be unguarded, drained.
And so, J’onn used this quiet time to puzzle over what he knew and what he suspected from yesterday's heated conversation about bounties and Daxamites and the file Kara dropped into their hands from Maggie Sawyer. The Daxamites, it seemed, had finally found Mon-El, the prince of that planet and under DEO control, the signal that he had sent from the Krypton pod was like a black box, calling a hostile and xenophobic alien species towards the wreckage and towards their favored, surviving son. Daxam was gone, but some number of survivors remained, some number of survivors had been led to earth through Mon-El - because of who he was. Indeed, they now believed that Mon-El’s parents, Rhea and Lar Gand, had sent the advance search parties to track clues on Maaldoria, had offered the bounty on Supergirl's head, had the technology, the power, and the drive to search for their son.
The main issue was they had not been contacted yet beyond the bounty, there was no communication, and there was no way of telling when or what would happen. Add to that was the fact that the anti-alien group, PSR, was starting to stir up trouble on the ground and the whole thing could become a powder keg. They had all hashed much of this out yesterday, working through all the strategies and motivations that this alien race might have and wondering when they would show themselves, make their intentions known. J’onn and Alex both insisted that Mon-El be absent during these discussion, that he be sequestered away within the DEO’s confines until more was known. He could be compromised as a source and Mon-El could be used against them if he knew too much or anything at all.
Intel from President Marsdin, from Winn and Alex's research, from DEO resources, from Kara, and from the Daxamite himself suggested that they would not leave without him, would likely fight for him. And so Mon-El was both a liability and a strength - they had what the Daxamites wanted enough to put a bounty on Supergirl's head but could counter any aggression by using Mon-El as a bargaining chip. The strategic question on the table yesterday was: Why keep Mon-El from his people, why even invite aggression from the Daxamites in the first place?
"What if Mon-El doesn't want to go?"
Kara spoke up when Winn had asked the question in the first place, why not just return Mon-El to his people? Alex looked at her and cocked her head to the side.
"Why wouldn't he, Kara? It's a chance to be with his people."
J'onn watched the exchange between the sisters carefully, wanting to consider all sides to what was still a hypothetical problem that, based on the President's words, required careful review of other factors, other players, in the mix to avoid a direct confrontation or domestic insurrection. Kara looked over at Alex and sighed, crossing her arms as she stood across the circular situation table.
"Maybe he found his people here instead. There's nothing left of Daxam, he has no home, they have no place to go. Maybe he feels like Earth is his home now like any other alien who came here because they had no other choice. Maybe they want a second chance here too."
"Kara, they put a bounty on your head. You said yourself when Mon-El first came here that Daxamites were hostile enemies of Kryptonians and many others. They had slaves, they invaded other planets, his family ruled with an iron fist. Why would we expect they've changed and are here with good intentions?
Kara looked over at her and shook her head, her voice rising a little at Alex.
"Because everyone has the capacity to change, Alex. Because losing your home can make you do things you wouldn't otherwise. And because Mon-El deserves to make his own choice about who he wants to be with and where he wants to be."
This was where things got complicated, where J'onn's mind was filled with Alex Danver's swirling thoughts and where a look exchanged between Alex and Kara opened up some of these reasons. Alex replayed a conversation, tinged with frustration and longing and confusion, in which Kara admitted that Mon-El had feelings for her that had grown over time, that Kara's own feelings at the time were conflicted about him because he represented something close to home, Krypton, even if their people were enemies, that Kara felt something, enough for Mon-El to hold on to the possibility of Kara. They had been..intimate? Or something close to it. J'onn could feel Alex's concern that Kara still held on to something about the Daxamite, about a fellow alien who was the closest thing she had left to Krypton outside of Clark. It was as if he represented home, in some way, and that was a hard thing to ever let go. J'onn knew this feeling well himself and had for a long, long time. It was why watching M'gann leave earth ripped a piece of his Martian heart out with it. Unrequited longing and despair could be about a place or an idea just as much as it could be about a person and Kara might be a superhero, but she was not immune to such things.
"Kara, I appreciate your feelings about this but if the Daxamites have no place to go and a history of hostility towards others, that puts earth at risk of an attack."
At these words, everyone's attention was drawn towards the director. He crossed his arms and spoke again.
"The President is concerned enough by them to have raised the threat level across our security branches. It's true that we don't know their exact intentions yet but we must prepare for all eventualities, including a hostile response to Mon-El's choice to stay. We're dealing with an alien race with nothing left to lose, on the hunt for their prince, and desperate enough to put a bounty on Supergirl because they think she's standing between him and his people."
They had all looked at J'onn as he spoke and he held Kara's eyes specifically. He understood wanting to believe the best of all, aliens and humans alike, but he had seen enough of the worst to know that behind every good offense was a strong defense. The Daxamites were one thing, but a hostile domestic group with thoughts of using this as an opportunity to sow the seeds of civil discontent against the President and her alien amnesty policies was another. This was larger than how Mon-El felt about his people or his parents and J'onn could tell that one day, Kara was going to have to reconcile the need to save many against the weight of one. Whatever happened, it was likely going to be messy for everyone. They would have to play to their strengths and not let their weaknesses be exploited before it was too late. As he looked at Kara, J'onn realized that he had forgotten a new weakness now in play for Supergirl and given what was in the NCPD files Kara shared, it was going to be an issue. He pulled Kara and Alex aside from the DEO command post and walked with them down the hallway, speaking quietly.
“Kara, until we have this under control, I need you to keep your relationship with Lena Luthor strictly professional."
Kara stopped as her head swung to the side, her eyebrows raised high and her voice unbelieving as she looked first at J'onn and then over to Alex, who held her eyes briefly.
J'onn nodded his head as the air changed between them, Kara's feelings unable to be contained. He could hear Alex's thoughts spilling out, though they were conflicted.
"Kara, L-Corp's name came up many times in Detective Sawyer's file, as did Ms. Luthor's. We are dealing with an external and an internal threat at the same time. Right now, until we know more, we can’t take the risk that she is or could become compromised."
"I can't believe we're having this conversation again! There is no way Lena is involved with that group, no way. And she's certainly not helping the Daxamites. I, of all people, would know."
J’onn crossed his arms and looked over at Alex as she caught Kara’s eye and spoke.
"Kara, I know you two are close and you know her well. But the fact is that L-Corp is only a name change away from some of the most anti-alien technology we’ve faced. We’re getting reports that early schematics of Lena’s alien detection device were recently leaked and knockoffs are selling on the streets at PSR rallies. That means someone or someones are well-positioned in L-Corp to aid and abet.”
Kara huffed out a breath and shook her head.
“Then even more reason to help her clean house. She’s been trying to do that since she’s taken over the company. That last attempt on her life came from an internal threat. I certainly am not going to let that happen again.”
There were times when decisions had to be made for the greater good even when they were hard. J’onn knew that this wasn’t going to go over well, but there was too much at stake.
“This isn’t a request, Kara, this is an order.”
Kara straightened to her full height and turned towards them, her hands unconsciously going to fists as her eyes flashed at both of them. She tried to keep her voice down, but it was hard.
“Since when are my relationships any of the DEO’s business, Director Henshaw?”
At the formality, J’onn stood his ground.
“Since this relationship involves Supergirl. Since you have a bounty on your head. Since we are under a threat of unknown proportions by unknown enemies. If the Daxamites or sympathetic groups here in the city find out…”
“Find out what?! You make it sound like I’d be ashamed to be associated with a Luthor.”
Kara’s voice was raising and it was clear that this conversation had hit a nerve, perhaps not the right one, but one all the same that sent the superhero fuming. Alex shook her head and looked at J’onn.
“Can you give us a minute please?”
J’onn understood that he had made his decision known, but it was going to take Alex to deliver it in a way that her sister would listen. He didn’t like it either and he knew it was unlikely that Kara would actually obey it, but the fact remained that Lena Luthor and what she knew could be used against them and against Supergirl. He nodded once at both of them and turned to leave without another word, Alex’s thoughts bouncing in his head before he let them fade away and gave them both privacy.
Alex watched him leave before she turned her eyes to her sister, her unhappy, angry superhero sister who was not about to listen to her repeat what J’onn had said so she took a different tack and softened, closing the distance between them.
“Kara, this isn’t about being ashamed of your relationship and who you’re with. It’s about keeping Lena safe. You’re the one with the bounty on your head and if someone were to find out your secret, that Kara Danvers is Supergirl, they could get at you by hurting her.”
The look on Kara’s face told her that her words sunk in and Alex watched as Kara ran a hand through her hair and paced a bit. Sometimes, even though she was capable of incredible things and that suit gave her the confidence to do them, it still was her little sister under that cape, her sister who was struggling with all that she felt and the beginnings of a DEO plan that relied on deception and countermeasures to address the threats. Alex knew Kara preferred a more direct approach, took things head on, was driven by the truth, but the DEO was an intelligence agency and those tactics were rarely employed. Supergirl was caught in the middle this time. Kara turned towards her and moved closer, her brows coming together.
“Alex, who else knows I’m Supergirl outside of the DEO and James?”
Alex sighed and crossed her arms. Lena Luthor knew. She hated this part, but the fact remained that if Lena Luthor were to fall into the wrong hands, her sister’s identity and safety along with earth’s could be seriously compromised.
“That’s the question, isn’t it. Are you willing to risk her safety right now on the answer?”
Kara blew out a breath and her hands flexed back into fists, not in anger but frustration.
“Why does this have to be so hard, Alex? The minute I have one thing for myself, you’re asking me to put that aside and pretend I don’t..love her.”
Alex started a bit at the words. As close as she and Kara were and as much as they had talked about this new relationship over the last few months, she had yet to hear her sister say those words out loud. She had suspected Kara’s feelings were deep, had seen as much during the interactions she had witnessed between them, but Kara was also very protective of this and still guarded about Lena with her. She wondered if Kara had shared those words with Lena yet. Alex took a deep breath and let her hand fall on Kara’s arm.
“I’m not asking you to stop loving her, Kara. I’m asking you to keep Lena and yourself safe until we’ve dealt with this. A threat to you is a threat to her and vice versa. The less she knows, the better in case someone comes after her.”
Kara closed her eyes at that thought and looked up to the sky, pausing for a moment and taking in a deep breath. She let all of the what ifs and possibilities and pros and cons fall over her and land on her shoulders. None of this made perfect sense, none of the choices were good. There had to be some other way to handle the Daxamites and the domestic anti-alien sentiment, but the rising sense of..what? Dread? Fear? Whatever it was, it was starting to bubble up under her ribs and it felt foreign and new. She rarely felt fear anymore, having settled into her life now that it contained constant threats that she handled. But this was different, it felt different. As she looked back at Alex, Kara knew why. If she had to choose between Lena Luthor and saving the world, she wasn’t sure the world would win.
Chapter 7: H2O
The air changes color, feel, and taste when it’s about to rain, as if moisture can sense the mood of the world in which it drops. Sometimes, it is whisper light, refreshing blue, cleansing; other times, it is heavy, leaded gray, drowning. One time, when she was new to this planet and new to flying among the clouds, it tasted like the cotton candy her sister had introduced her to at the Midvale fall festival, sweet and sticky and unlike anything she had tasted had before. Because she craved the air, Kara Danvers revered it, honored it, let it hold her aloft in gratitude. Over time, she also came to understand that her presence in it could also change it, sometimes to better it and sometimes to sour, to ruin.
And so, Kara reluctantly made her way out in the early morning rain, letting it cover her and soak her to the bone. The air was too soft for her and so she felt the hard ground better suited her better. The walk and the rain felt like punishment for the guilty and if Kara Danvers was guilty of anything, it was being selfish before being cruel and everything she never wanted to be. She was living too many lives again after she had finally, finally put them all together into one happy balance with Lena. Now it wasn't about how Kara Danvers and Supergirl and Kara Zor-El each loved Lena Luthor, it was about how each could lose her. The air turned dark and bitter as it swirled around her, her mouth as dry as a bone and empty of marrow.
When Kara had let herself out of Lena’s apartment clicking the door shut, she closed her eyes when her hearing picked up the faint sound of quiet heaving under the spray of a shower. She wanted to cave into herself, wanted to burst back into that apartment and take it all back, tell Lena everything, make it right again. As she ran down flights of stairs at lightning speed, Kara pushed herself out the back entrance of Lena’s building nearly swinging the metal door off its hinges and doubled over, gasping at the pain she felt inside as if her ribs were breaking. With a sharp inhale, Kara made a fist and punched a crater into the ground, the aftershock setting off car alarms and sending trash dumpsters crashing into each other as fat black drops of rain curtained down. It still wasn’t enough to drown out what had just happened, the choice she had made.
Kara tried not to wake the woman beside her, careful not to let her eyes linger anywhere too long since the warmth could sometimes stir Lena Luthor from her sleep. It was hard to not stare at the dark softness next to her, the way Lena's face was so relaxed and calm, all tension gone, her hair black and wavy on the rich green sheets of Lena's bed. She was on her back, one arm hugging herself, the other pressed into Kara's side and her hand tucked under Kara's thigh, touching and connected. Kara counted each steady breath as her eyes brushed over bare skin and curves outlined under sheets. She wanted this exact unruined moment to subconsciously sink deep into Lena and hold her until Kara could return, if Lena would let her.
Her mouth and lips had devoured Lena when they first fell into bed last night, Kara wanting to lose herself in the woman who laid back in cool sheets and gave her a look, silently asking her to take all that weighed on Kara out on her, to use her body to paint over the longing and desperation she held tight between her ribs. When Lena offered her a sanctuary and a place to let go, Kara felt the push and pull of it always, wanting and regretting, needy and conflicted. The sun fueled the powers that could she could mostly control, but could rarely contain and the feelings she had for places and things and people long or to be lost made her seek out air that tasted like jasmine.
She had dropped a ragged apology into Lena’s neck when her hand slipped and ripped the black nightshirt buttons away and Lena held her face and shook her head, letting soft terms of endearment fill the air, forgiving and encouraging the way a superhero faltered when the walls came down. She would never, could never share this with anyone but someone like Lena who understood, who knew what it meant because Lena knew the night and welcomed it. Except this time, Kara’s hands were driven by what they would not hold, what needed to be let go, what she wanted to remember and so she burned Lena’s curves and warmth and wetness and cries and release into her memory and hoped it would last. Afterwards, Kara had quietly placed her cheek against the bruises and marks she had made, feeling heat and sadness and guilt in equal measure but all Lena did was run her hands through Kara's hair and murmur quiet words until the night and sleep took Lena away. It was only then that Kara felt the wetness rolling down her own face.
Now, Kara wished she could commit to stone every detail of this early morning vision, could memorize Lena laying in this bed of green, content, rested, at peace. Kara reached out unconsciously, her fingers finding Lena's bare arm and she inhaled at the way tiny sparks fell from her and were absorbed into Lena's skin and for a moment, she could feel the way the sky sounded and how the ground tasted, she could hear the rending of the earth at the cracks between the continents. Suddenly, Kara felt everything changing, slipping away, falling into darkness, something pulling Lena from her.
"Come back to me."
Why she whispered this, Kara wasn't sure and she didn't have enough time to think more about it before Lena's eyes fluttered open and looked over at her with sleepy soft eyes. Kara smiled because it hid things faster and she wasn’t ready for this and would never be ready. With a breath, Kara let a quiet word drop into warm space between them.
Kara’s heart skipped a beat when Lena turned towards her and she felt Lena’s leg find hers under the cool covers. Kara tried not to let her eyes fall against where her mouth had been the night before but Lena’s bare neck invited her glance and her shoulder was like a magnet reflecting the fading imprint of her fingertips, so needy and desperate from the night before. Kara started to feel something leaking from her own ribs, not golden and warm, but muted and choked. Lena’s voice was so light, so perfect.
And then the rain came after the silence and that made the pelting of drops against the window sound louder as it hit the panes of glass. All it took was for her swallowed 'Lena, I need to tell you something' and she could hear a breath being held, as if waiting for the next blow, before she watched Lena steel herself, heard a heartbeat slow as if on cue, could feel Lena's body tensing and the lines around her eyes tighten. Lena’s response was quiet.
"What is it, Kara? Is everything okay with Alex? Is it my mother?"
Kara forced her mouth to form the words, willed herself to say the exact opposite of what she wanted to say and she barely recognized her own voice.
"No, no, it’s not that. It’s just..I was thinking and maybe we need to take a little time..um, a break for a little while..you've got so much going on right now and Snapper has been pushing for this story and stuff at the DEO..."
Lena just looked at her and she couldn't make herself say anything more because it was already like fire in her mouth and she hated everything about this, it went against everything she thought she was about but she saw no other way, not with what she needed to do. She could only hope it wouldn't cause permanent damage, wouldn't harm what she wanted most of all but couldn't have right now. She felt Lena move imperceptibly away before she nodded once and spoke quietly.
"You want us to take a break."
Lena left the sentence not as a question but as a statement that she could tell she wanted Kara to refute.
"I just think it would help us..focus..and take care of some things for a little while..and.."
She felt Lena's hand press against her chest and she tried to keep her face neutral, tried not to let anything else leak out and it took all of the superhuman strength she had not to pull all those words back and tell Lena the truth. Lena looked at her and her jaw clenched as she pulled her hand back and nodded her head.
"Right. You're right, Kara. We both have a lot on our plates. Makes sense.”
Kara could tell Lena was pulling away, closing down and holding back anything she really felt or thought. Lena’s eyes looked at her before they looked away and up. She hated this, it was making her hands shake with want of crushing something, anything to see this through. She had argued so hard, so much against this part of the plan that Alex had to almost hold her back from getting into J'onn's face and when she had reluctantly agreed that this was the only way they could keep the upper hand, she had stormed out into the night, flying as fast as she could to the mountains and back, straight up and diving down so close she nearly crashed into the ground until she wore herself out as the hours grew late. She had finally found herself on Lena's patio last night because she had nowhere else to go that could hold everything she felt.
“I’m sorry, Lena..it’s just..”
Lena sat up, holding out her hand as she shook her head.
“No, let’s just..not, Kara. Okay?”
She could only hope that Lena would be there when it all was over and she watched as the other woman turned and reached for a robe, covering herself and covering up the marks Kara had left on her and Kara winced as Lena rose from the bed. She felt a flash of green eyes over a shoulder as the Luthor came out, deservedly cold and icy.
"It was kind of you to tell me this after last night, Kara. I’m so glad I was able to accommodate you..with so much going on. I've got an early call with Shanghai to prepare for so I’m sure you'll understand if I don't see you out."
And like that, Kara felt a door close and she fell back into the sheets and pressed her palms into her eyes so hard that all she saw were comets streaking across the darkness. Her heart felt like it had cracked into a million tiny pieces, not open but apart.
The stinging and the burning and the roar of hot water let her escape for half a beat, for not enough time before her body caved into itself and she heaved one, twice. Nothing came out. Lena held on to the cold marble wall of her shower and opened her mouth, expecting dark bile to rise out or perhaps even an organ forcing a quick retreat from her body. Nothing came out. She sucked in a breath and was surprised her lungs worked at all. Somehow her spine stayed true and she straightened up, her shoulder leaning against the wall as she focused on breathing in and breathing out, shallow breaths but oxygen in, carbon dioxide out all the same. Usually, she was much more prepared for things like this, could predict when the sucker punch was coming, could defend against a strong offense, but she never saw this coming. And it felt like a tornado of nails on her skin, each one with Kara’s name on it. In the end, Lena Luthor closed her eyes while the shower tried unsuccessfully to soothe and she willed herself to remain standing. After all, she was a Luthor.
The Shanghai call had been canceled and rescheduled, her calendar cleared until noon, and Jess had lunch delivered that remained uneaten on her desk. Lena stood silently with her arms crossed, looking out the tall windows of her L-Corp office as the gray sky swirled in unpredictable ways, spitting rain one minute, pouring the next as wave after wave of storms rolled through National City. It seemed appropriate weather for the moment. She focused on breathing and preparing to let her head fall into the work day ahead, anything to keep her mind off of this morning, anything to distract her from Kara Danvers, her name and everything about her. Lena’s jaw clenched as she bit back any reaction to the soft knock at her door, followed by light footsteps.
“Ms. Luthor, I’m sorry to bother you, but we’re ready to demo the latest tests of our large-scale generator ring. Shall I patch you in via videolink or would you prefer to reschedule?”
Lena took a deep breath and turned, smiling at Jess and hiding her thoughts quickly. She was determined to not let her personal life spill out at work, not now, not when it was still too raw and her mastery over her own internal feelings was tenuous at best. She had taken her time getting dressed this morning, choosing a black silk shirt and gray skirt to match the weather, her hair pulled in a tight ponytail and her makeup on point, red lips the color of blood. Dress to impress and forget the rest. For a moment, when she was looking back at herself in the mirror, it felt like maybe it had been a dream, the whole sensation of Kara Danvers in her bed last night or these last few months was a ghost of a feeling, a phantom limb. Had she dreamed that Kara had smiled at her and touched her arm and then said nevermore? Did she wake up in the shower, scrubbing away at her skin, shocked at the red marks she found on her body and wondering where they came from? Was it still winter and did she just now realize that spring and Kara Danvers, Kara Zor-El, Supergirl were all figments of what her brain and her heart wanted? When she realized that she had not answered Jess and she was standing there, her hand unconsciously slipped in the collar of her shirt, touching at the bruise on her shoulder to confirm it was still there, still real. Lena cleared her throat and nodded, coming back to reality.
“Sorry. Patch me in please, Jess. I’d like to see the progress the Pollinators have made with this first prototype. I want to review the schematics and the energy dispersion calculations carefully when it’s over. I wasn’t convinced with our last go at this, the anion dampeners didn’t absorb at the rate we expected.”
Lena walked over to her desk and picked up a folder, flipping through the pages aimlessly, her eyes unfocused. As Jess turned on the videoscreen and used her tablet to connect to the secure remote lab videolink, Lena noticed her own hands shaking while she held the papers so she set them down and crossed her arms. Jess looked back at her and nodded.
“They’ll be ready to stream live in five. Ms. Luthor?”
Jess set the tablet down on the desk and came closer, her voice gentle.
“Is everything okay?”
That question meant that something in Lena’s composure had slipped, that something had come out enough to be noticed. Lena stood steady as she shook her head, her voice quiet.
“Everything will be fine, Jess. I just have a lot on my plate right now, it seems.”
“Would you like me to reschedule anything? You have the Luthor Children’s Hospital board meeting tonight, I could let them know you’re unable to attend and send along the ped oncology wing proposal for you.”
Lena put her hand on her desk and smiled, this one a little more real. She appreciated the thought, she really did. Jess kept her sane at work and if she was going to get through this without a complete break, she needed a place where she could function properly, could distract herself in the busy, lose herself in reports and numbers and meetings and decision-making and head nodding and purposely moving herself from one thing to the next. L-Corp was where she needed to be until her legs didn’t feel like they would collapse and her lungs didn’t burn. She picked up the tablet and moved closer to the video monitor.
“Thanks Jess, I’ve got it. We’ve got good things to do here and I certainly don’t want to keep sick kids waiting on me. Let’s keep focused on what matters, shall we?”
Jess joined her in front of the screen and Lena could tell she was watching her carefully so she raised an eyebrow in question and Jess smiled.
“I’m with you, Ms. Luthor.”
The two women watched as the video focused on a long-shot of a large oval ring in the high desert outside of National City as data feeds from monitoring tools began to display on the tablet. Lena looked down and took a deep breath, losing herself for a moment in the stream of numbers that kept coming like an endless infinite loop. There were almost enough numbers to blot out everything else in her head, to temporarily erase a name, and take Lena away.
Her office was dark when she returned, the late hour meant that L-Corp central was on skeleton crew and most administrative staff had left long ago. Lena used the retina-scan to let herself in, turning on a low light and shrugging off her rain jacket. The weather had not relented and the drive back from the board meeting was done against the backdrop of rain puddles and windshield wipers. Her driver quietly navigated them her through the streets of National City, through yellow blinking lights and into the underground entrance. Chao-xing had watched carefully as Lena coded herself into the private elevator and alerted security to meet her at the top and confirm delivery. Ever since her unfortunate tumble over the balcony, L-Corp security had revised all protocols concerning the care and monitoring of their chief executive officer. The only place security was not allowed to follow was her office, the one respite and private space she demanded for herself. Now, inside this quiet space, she winced when her phone buzzed and she was reluctant to look at it, just in case. She couldn’t handle seeing a name appear and couldn’t help but want that name to appear all the same.
hey lena - meet me for coffee in the morning? i’d really like to catch up
Maggie Sawyer’s text blinked across her phone screen and she inhaled a deep breath. Did the detective already know what had happened? She was ready to ignore it until the next one came in.
Maybe Maggie knew, maybe she didn’t, at this point it really didn’t matter. She could use a friend right about now before she fully sank into herself and disconnected. It also might be an opportunity to find out why, some explanation, anything to make it make sense. Is that what she wanted, would some rational reason why take away the physical pain she felt, the shock she still held in each atom of her body at the abruptness, at the ending of something that had just started? She wasn’t sure if she was in the right place yet to find out the truth. The fact that she knew she hadn’t been told the truth hurt the most, after..everything, and because of who did it. She shook her head and sent out a hasty text.
Thanks for the offer, Maggie. Can I get back to you in the morning? It’s been a...day.
Lena set her phone down and moved towards her office bar. As she poured herself a drink, she took a deep breath, further testing her lungs to make sure they continued to function. The tightness was still there, the tension in her neck and shoulders from holding it all together today and at the board meeting tonight was evident in the pounding of her head. There was no way she could go back to her own apartment yet, it was too fresh, too raw of a thought to even entertain. She’d use the executive suite next to her office tonight, the mini-apartment she kept for late nights. On her desk, she saw that Jess had left her a note next to a box of fruit and nuts directing her to the small refrigerator under her bar for more sustenance should she want. It was a kind thought and kindness felt like a relief right now. She could barely even let her mind think Kara’s name without her head ringing so she did her best to not. She had mostly managed throughout the day, but now that it was night, now that she was alone with her thoughts, it was harder. Hence, the scotch, neat, waiting on her desk, her mind searching for the right place to be right now where she could breathe and where her hands were steady.
The voice startled her a bit, but she didn’t turn around, continuing to offload her board meeting notes from her hands. If danger was in the mood to fuck with her tonight, she’d be a worthy opponent right now, up for the fight. She’d have to check in with security to see how this guest made it past them, late at night no less.
“I’m not seeing anybody right now.”
“I heard about your Pollinator work from a colleague in London. I had to see you for myself.”
At this, Lena turned as a woman’s figure outlined in the doorway moved forward. For a moment, a London morning flashed across her eyes, blue, and she blinked it away.
“Who are you?”
The woman came further into her office, the low light finally catching her face, dark hair and silver patterned coat.
“My name is Rhea. I have a business proposition for you.”
Chapter 8: 600 gigapascals
Closed doors were not uncommon in the Danvers household, not when two girls struggled to get along at times, when adolescence was its own battleground, and parents didn’t understand that sometimes sisters hated each other as fiercely as they loved each other. Alex Danvers had never expected to be the older sister or have to take on those responsibilities without the joy of a baby. Days that had been filled at the beach, in reading books, trying to fit in and make friends were now filled with a younger sister who had no idea to deal with the ways of this world. When Kara came into their lives, Alex resented. For many reasons. But right now, standing outside of her grown sister’s apartment and a closed door, she felt nothing but love and concern. When Kara was unhappy, so was Alex and if they were going to get through this, Kara was going to need her.
“Kara, it’s me. Can we talk?”
She let her knuckles gently rap against the door, well aware that super hearing likely picked her up long before when she parked the car and got out. Kara had not shown up at Catco (according to James) and Alex had waited for her at the DEO as they continued to monitor the Daxamites’ location and work through contingencies. J’onn had only looked at her and nodded when she said that she was coming here. A one word text of no when Alex asked if she was coming in was enough to set off some internal alarms in Alex. They had asked for something Kara had not wanted to give and they both understood that was a sacrifice that likely took its toll on the superhero.
“I know you can see me. I know how you must feel right now. This is the right thing to do, we only have to get through this and then it will all be over...I know it’s hard...Kara?”
Kara opened the door and stared at her, hair pulled back in a loose ponytail and no makeup, a t-shirt and lounge pants made it clear that she had not left the apartment all day and didn’t intend to. The TV was on in the background with no sound coming from it. Alex sighed and at that, Kara’s face almost broke down as her voice was quiet.
“I can’t, Alex. I can’t do it.”
Alex leaned in and pulled her sister into her arms and let the other woman fall against her. She felt Kara take a deep breath before she let go of a quiet sob and Alex just held her tighter, closing the door behind them and shutting the rest of the world out. It was always hard to see Kara cry because it meant something inside of her was suffering and there was little Alex could do to take it away and could only comfort. Being a superhero didn’t mean being impervious to pain or being hurt, it just meant that the kind of pain that Kara felt was of the heart and not of the body and sometimes that was the deepest cut. Alex barely heard Kara’s whisper against her shoulder.
“I hurt her, Alex.”
She felt Kara shake a little and Alex pulled back, her eyes unconsciously went to Kara’s hands before they found her face. She saw Kara wince and close her eyes, shaking her head as she quietly spoke.
“Not that way.”
Alex nodded, but it had been an unspoken question between them, something that had not been discussed out loud. The first time it crossed her mind, the first time Alex really considered what it meant for her sister to be in a relationship with a human, was the first time Kara invited Alex and Maggie over for dinner with Lena. That late March Friday night was cool and the weekend was ahead of them all. A bouquet of pink tulips sat in the middle of a candlelit table in Kara’s apartment, full of good food and red wine.
“So, we’re trying to figure out ways to spin this part of the business off as a non-profit so it’s less likely to be influenced by profit margins or the international politics of dealing with a Luthor-owned corporation. Their mission is to do the most good with the least amount of harm.”
Alex watched as Lena Luthor spoke, composed and relaxed at the table after they had opened their second bottle of wine between the four of them, Maggie and Kara starting to clear the table before dessert. No longer was Lena in executive business wear, but in more casual black slacks and royal blue blouse, hair loose around her shoulders. She watched the CEO’s eyes follow her sister on occasion, a private smile curving on Lena’s lips when Kara winked at her as she leaned over to refill their glasses. Their conversation all night had been lively and entertaining, the meal delicious, the mood just right.
“So, this new group is figuring out how to move stuff through the air. Is that right?”
Maggie asked from the kitchen as she leaned against the counter and rinsed a dish. Alex watched as Lena looked over and laughed lightly, her head nodding.
“Yes, essentially, Maggie. Technology is at a critical leap point right now in sending matter long distances. And the L-Corp Pollinator unit has been on the cutting edge when it comes to harnessing the power of quantum entanglement for social good. You know, Schrödinger’s cat? But bigger and free.”
“Aww, he had a cat? How cute! Was her name Gertrude?”
Kara tilted her head down at Lena and smiled, raising her eyebrows a bit at the dark-haired woman. Alex watched as Lena laughed and stood, her hand gently reaching for her wine glass and for Kara’s hand at the same time.
“You’re funny, Kara. Have you considered doing standup at a Comic Con or something? The demographic overlap would eat you up with a spoon.”
Lena pulled Kara into the living room as Alex watched them go, her eyebrow raising as she turned to Maggie at the playful banter between them. Before Lena arrived, Kara had lectured them both on what they could and could not say to the woman she had been dating for just a few months. Absolutely no discussion of Cadmus or Lillian Luthor, same went for Lex. Avoid mentioning any of the half dozen near misses on Lena’s life, it made Kara too nervous to hear such things recounted by a too-casual Lena. Too soon. Tread lightly on corporate profits or at least balance that out with foundation references and/or re-missioning corporations focused on social good. #socent. Maybe don’t mention any of the young men Kara had dated or had a crush on during high school and afterwards and she hadn’t told Lena about several young women in her dating mix just yet so keep that on the DL for now please. Kara was fine with stupid stories about being a teenager from outer space, her failed attempts at flying early on, and some trials and tribulations of being a new superhero, but definitely don’t dwell on all the times when Supergirl almost didn’t come out on top of things. It made Lena nervous. Don’t bring up how many times she went to see N’SYNC, hello. And be nice! Kara had emphasized that last one specifically to Alex with a glare, twice. Now, as Alex pushed her chair away from the table and joined Maggie in the kitchen, she shook her head.
“I have no words.”
Maggie smiled up at her and pulled her hips until they were pressed close up against Kara’s kitchen counter.
“Did you see them all through dinner? Lena being all charming and smart, Kara being Kara. They couldn’t keep their eyes off of each other. Kara’s face has to hurt from all that smiling.”
“Were we ever like that? Tell me I didn’t have a sappy grin on my face with you 24/7.”
”I hate to break it to you, Danvers, but yeah, you did. I think it’s pretty adorable that your sister has a girlfriend too.”
Alex let her arms drape on Maggie’s shoulders as they stood in Kara’s kitchen, hearing music starting to come from the living room. She looked down at Maggie wide-eyed.
“And that girlfriend is Lena Luthor, of all people. I just...and what she’s doing in quantum tech is like, next level. I’m impressed.”
Maggie smiled up at her and nodded her head.
“Yep. Nerd and superhero, together at last. They seem to be an equal match.”
Alex glanced over her shoulder into the living room as Kara and Lena stood near the window, looking out and laughing together, before she turned back to Maggie.
“Sure, they laugh at each other’s corny jokes, they’re both way smart, both easy on the eyes, and the chemistry between them is off the charts. I hope your sister doesn’t get too carried away when they’re..you know..”
“Ok, one, no thank you for the visual. Two, I don’t think..they..”
Here Alex paused and glanced back, just in time to catch Lena’s had running up and down along Kara’s arm, pausing to squeeze at a bicep and raise a questionably intentioned eyebrow at her baby sister. Alex felt what she could only describe as her own jaw dropping open when Kara reached down and took Lena’s hand into hers and smoothly moved the CEO’s arm behind her back, holding it there as they both kept each other’s gaze and Kara pressed them both up against the window casing. Lena’s lips found Kara’s neck for a quick smear of lipstick before she pulled back with a devilish smile and even from here, Alex could see the blush and more on Kara’s face. Across the room, Alex could tell that these were two forces of nature ready to collide. She turned her eyes back to Maggie and looked at her solemnly.
“..I am going to pretend I did not just see..that. Wow.”
Maggie looked over her shoulder at the two women who maybe momentarily forget that they were not more than 20 feet away and shrugged. It happens. Maggie smiled up at her and she felt fingertips running along her jawline.
“Don’t act so shocked, Alex. Two powerful women, but in different ways. Night and day, right? It’s not rocket science, it’s kinda why we work. Besides, I have a sense that Lena can handle herself with your sister.”
Alex let her forehead fall against Maggie’s and closed her eyes, letting her head shake a little. Sure, she got it. She and Maggie had found their balance, what drew each other out and made it spark in ways she had never felt with anyone else. Maggie Sawyer let her be strong and vulnerable and in charge and yielding, depending on what each needed in that moment. Intellectually, she got it that when Maggie pulled her hips in, she swayed and wanted to kiss her hard and when Maggie looked down at her in her own bed, straddling and quirking those lips of her into that soft smile, she wanted to give her everything. It was never either/or with them but and/both, the give and take of a relationship built on trust and experience. So she should not be surprised that her sister might have something similar, but very different given their personalities and..other factors. Lena was her own person and she clearly knew what Supergirl could do, physically. Perhaps that’s why she let herself be pressed against the window and perhaps that’s also why Kara’s touch was so gentle as they sat at dinner, fingertips, shoulders brushing here and there and Lena initiating most of it. They had clearly figured out what worked and Alex decided that it really wasn’t too much of her business to ask about the light pink mark she noticed on Lena’s shoulder as she reached across the table for the salt shaker. Kara certainly wasn’t going to bring it up with her and neither was she. They were adults and the heart wants what it wants, wants what it needs.
Alex kept quiet, letting Kara take a breath and open her eyes before she led them over to the couch and as Kara sat, she put her head in her hands, leaning over and shaking her head. Her voice was small and halting as she glanced at Alex.
“I lied to her, Alex, and it hurt her. I told her we needed a break for some stupid reason and...she knew I was lying and..it’s wrong and it’s not who I am. I don’t want to pretend Supergirl is close to a Daxamite just to score some tactical advantage in a DEO plan. This doesn’t feel right. Tell me it’s not right.”
Alex understood that sometimes, it never felt right and that the choices people faced or were forced to consider were not always the ones that compelled the heart. They weren’t at war with the Daxamites yet, but they were on the defensive, preparing for it should it come. She hated that this all hinged on Kara and Supergirl, but the fact remained that they held the upper hand if Mon-El could be used in the negotiation process, if Supergirl controlled access to him from a potentially invading alien race. It could be as peaceful as the Daxamites wanted or as bloody, depending on how this went down. It wasn’t the DEO’s job to navigate real relationships, it was their strategy to use all resources at its disposal to maximum effect. Alex Danvers, the DEO agent, knew this and was a master at it, inside and out, but Alex, Kara’s sister, had a harder time.
“I can't tell you what is right or wrong, Kara. Winn says the Daxamite recon signal is within earth’s atmosphere. We’re getting more reports of bounty hunters searching for Supergirl. Maggie says there was another anti-alien attack near the ports this morning. It’s only a matter of time before they show themselves and when they do, Supergirl has got to be ready to use Mon-El when the time comes.”
Alex watched as Kara looked at her in disbelief, pulling back and standing again, pacing in her living room, her arms wrapping around herself.
“Alex, this is not a chess match. I am not going to use Mon-El as a pawn against his own people.”
Alex took a deep breath and stood, letting her height and body stand in front of her sister, forcing her to stop in front of her. She was used to absorbing Kara’s feelings, absorbing her frustrations and fears and sadness and how it physically manifested in nervous energy and occasionally, released as a punch or a heat melting glare. There had only been a few occasions where Kara had taken all that she felt out on Alex and it always made her sister feel as if her own body had betrayed her and it ravaged Kara, guilted her to the point of making her sick. Alex Danvers would take this punch for Kara if she could. Now, she needed real talk because she could not have Kara faltering if and when things got rough, when the Daxamites lived up to their reputation.
“Kara, this is not a game, this is war. What did you expect? There are no good choices, only lesser degrees of evil.”
She watched as Kara’s face fell before it softened and she shook her head at Alex.
“Alex, don’t you get it? When we talk about us vs them, we reduce everything down to win or lose and that bring out the worst on every side. Always. And we react from a place of fear and threat, human vs Kryptonians vs Daxamites vs Martians, the list goes on and on. Divided we fall. No one wins and everyone loses.”
Alex watched as Kara blew out a breath and looked up, her hand pushing stray strands of hair on her forehead back. Kara’s heart and her belief in what was right sometimes felt like the only thing standing at the end of the day and Alex felt herself sway back and forth. Kara’s voice was quiet.
“Lena reminded me that our name or where we’re from is not our destiny, it doesn’t define what we do or how we feel. You and I know very well that family is complicated and not every alien is out for blood. The DEO is asking me to betray everything I hold dear, my truth, to fight against something we don’t even know will come to pass.”
Alex watched as Kara sat back down on the couch and pulled a pillow over her lap, her eyes unfocused. Alex hated to be the one to say this, hated to be the one that continued to show Kara the dark side of humans and aliens and all in between. But, right now, there could be little time for inaction or doubt.
“Kara, if you knew you could have stopped the destruction of Krypton with a lie, would you?”
Kara turned her head and her mouth opened, no words coming but the pain evident in her eyes. Alex knew enough about Alura and Zor-El to know that she had hit a nerve and it stung. Kara’s parents were equal parts good and bad, righteous and wrong and it cost an entire planet and almost wiped all aliens from Earth with the Medusa virus. Alex’s own family was not innocent either, Jeremiah was a prime example. That was the point, there was not black and white in this life anywhere, it was only a matter of choice and luck on how the cards fell. All Alex wanted was the cards to be in Supergirl’s favor, to be in favor of the Earth and all she held dear now, Kara, Maggie, J’onn, the DEO, everything about this complicated and imperfect world. She didn’t want some alien race to destroy it and she certainly didn’t want those living here to hack away at iit from within. Kara would understand that, except her sister’s choked out words told her otherwise.
“That..is not even.. Alex, I can’t believe you would…”
And just before Kara’s next words came out, the TV screen next to them started to scratch and sound appeared, flared, and the volume increased. Whatever had been on was now replaced by black and white lines, static from the days of old when TV signals got interrupted. The black and white light flickered brightly in Kara’s living room and they both turned towards a female voice on coming from the speakers, disemboweled.
“To his captors, we demand you turn over Mon-El of Daxam. We know where he is harbored. If you do not relinquish him by dawn, we will take him with force.”
Chapter 9: ∞
(Keep the faith, my friends. Omnia vincit amor).
A zero-sum game is less a game than a delicate balance of what could be gained, what could be lost. Assumption: Everything is finite. It only works when the final tally of wins and losses is zero and when the numbers ultimately add up to nothing. W - L = 0. Unless it’s poker, winners can’t take all, losers can’t lose everything. Zero-sum games are often the result of a battle that ends in deadlock, a war at a stalemate, or a competition where it is clear that compromise will benefit and harm each side equally. Think the Cold War. Sometimes, the only way to resolve a conflict of epic proportions is to ensure that both sides have equally compelling and destructive ways of playing the game.Think about the way the earth and humans co-exist. Both sides recognize the only way to win is to do nothing more because doing something meant all would lose everything. Think about how it feels to smile and hurt at the same time because there is no other choice. And sometimes, the best outcome, the best thing to wish for in some circumstances is nothing. Zero.
But consider: If someone’s heart could hold an endless ocean and another’s poured out a never ending desert of sand, what would become of their meeting? What happens when the game is love and not war, when the quantity of what a heart can give is infinite? Two sides could infinitely gain if they played the game together or both could infinitely lose if they walked away. So much is held in a heart in a lifetime. Doing nothing is not an option. Not everything is zero-sum. And when it came to Kara Danvers, she believed in infinity even when faced with the finite in front of her.
The night air was humid after the rain had finally stopped and the lingering misty breeze blew Supergirl’s cape up and out as she stood on a balcony overlooking National City. The lights turned off here and there as skyscrapers shut down for the night and cleaning crews retreated, flicking long halls of switches off in one fell swoop or individual windows like a firefly blinking off when no match is found. She had just left the DEO after the team discussed what was to be done about a Daxamite ultimatum, the dawn call to action, and it was late now, just before midnight. Morning would come, eventually, and Kara would not sleep, not tonight. Supergirl was on guard. Pervigilō.
Kara closed her eyes as her hands gripped the railing tightly and the wind lifted her hair and tossed it about, the din of the city below and the humming of the distant Daxamite ship above crowded her thoughts. When she opened her eyes, she looked not up but to the east, finding a tall glass building, finding a heartbeat and the quiet click of eyeglasses set upon a hard white surface. She fought the urge to intrude and use her vision to cut through steel and glass a mile away but the superhero lost. She wanted her vision to be filled with dark thoughts, green eyes. Kara heard Lena Luthor sigh as she watched her open the glass balcony door in her office and stepped out into the same night. She was safe. She was there. She still existed.
Kara startled at the low voice behind her, so absorbed in the scene across town that she had not heard someone lean against the doorway until it was too late. Her head turned and she breathed out in relief.
The tall interim CatCo CEO smiled and nodded as he joined her at the railing, looking out at the same city she had been studying, memorizing, considering. Kara turned her eyes back at the lights across town and spoke quiety.
“I just needed some perspective and...I seem to find it here for some reason...”
James smiled and kept looking out, leaning over so his forearms rested against the railing. His eyes were warm when he looked her way.
“You miss her.”
Kara took in a deep breath but said nothing. James nudged her arm and smiled until she looked over at him as he spoke.
“Ms. Grant? You miss her, right?”
Kara hesitated before she smiled a bit, nodding her head. She had been meaning to talk to James Olson about her relationship with Lena Luthor but the time never felt right, the chance never came, and she hadn’t been ready to share this with him. Yet. She considered him a friend, they had been close, very close, but there had also been recent distance. Guardian had been a point of contention that they had finally resolved, but the biggest thing had been James’ opinion of Lena Luthor. Their blow up from a few months ago when they had fought over Lena’s guilt and the escape from jail with Metallo, and Cadmus, had left a nagging splinter between them. Not deadly, but it was there just under the surface. Their previous relationship also made it hard for Kara to share something she wanted to protect from the world. She didn’t like that and didn’t like losing her connection to James in the process.
“Yes. But she’d probably complain about what this humidity was doing to her hair and insist I bring her an umbrella if I was going to ‘wax maudlin in the rain’.”
James laughed and nodded, but he knew enough about her to know when she deflected.
“I know I could never truly take Cat Grant’s place, I’ve had to hang up on several confused calls from Harrison Ford, but I’m here if you want to talk. I know we haven’t really connected much lately...I care about you, Kara, and don’t like it when something is bothering you.”
Kara let her eyes fall to her hands and she smiled before looking over at James. They had fought over trust and keeping the other safe, as if those were qualities the other didn’t value as much. They had been through many things together and Kara didn’t like to keep secrets, it never sat well with her and would eventually bubble up and burn. Kara sighed before she began.
“I’m supposed to be a superhero at dawn and confront a looming alien spaceship hovering over National City right now. Kryptonian vs Daxamites. There are no plans for peace talks. They want something we have but isn’t ours to give. And they will take Mon-El by force if need be. James, we all talk about alien amnesty and how important it is and here is someone who is asking to stay on Earth. We have an obligation to let him and protect him for that choice. Amnesty means granting sanctuary to those who need it. I support the President and the DEO on this.”
James nodded at her as she turned towards him, crossing her arms as the night wind blew out the cape behind her, the weight of it feeling slightly heavier on her shoulders. James shifted so he was facing her, his tall body leaning against the railing.
“It sounds like you know what you need to do, give people the freedom to choose and fight against those who would take that right away. You’ve been doing this for a long time, Kara, this is who you are. This is what makes you a superhero. So..why do I sense something isn’t sitting well with you?”
Kara took a breath and blew it out, her body feeling full of energy with no good way to release it yet. She was angry and frustrated and sad and determined all at once and inside, she felt those emotions swirling as she tried to channel them towards the coming dawn and the problem at hand. This had always been the challenge with what the sun did to her on earth, how it surged through her body and amplified in times of high emotion. She could use it to her advantage more now than in the past when she was just learning the breadth of her powers, but some emotions, anger and sadness and grief still unsettled the atoms in her body in unpredictable ways and rattled to get out. Kara paced across the CatCo balcony, walking some of it off and gathering her thoughts against the tide inside of her.
“Alex and J’onn asked me to do something I didn’t agree with because they thought the truth would put more people in danger. They asked me to put aside my personal feelings in order to protect a plan that is going to rely on deception. And I did it.”
James looked at her as she stopped for a second and glanced out to the city. His voice was quiet.
“So you all agree on defending the same value, freedom, but you disagree with the methods.”
Kara looked at him and pushed the hair out of her face. Was it really that simple?
“James, what if those methods compromise my own personal values about the truth? What if the DEO’s methods go against what I feel is right?”
James walked over to where she had sat on the arm of the balcony couch, the city continuing to churn around her, though softer, fewer car horns, machines and not as many human voices rising up.
“I have never known you to be someone who does the things you do lightly and without regard to the greater good. I have never known you not to chose what is right even if it hurts you. And I have never known you to not follow your heart.”
She looked up at James and shook her head, her voice quiet.
“Sometimes it’s easier to be Supergirl than it is to be Kara. I thought it would be harder, honestly. Just when I think I’ve got things all figured out, something else happens to pull it all apart. People need Supergirl more than they need Kara.”
James put his hand on her shoulder and she looked up, her hair blowing into her eyes before she shook it out. His voice was clear, deeply soft.
“We need you. All of you. Nothing less, nothing more.”
Kara let out a small laugh, her eyes looking up into the sky before they found her friend’s again.
“No pressure. Be everything to all people.”
James shook his head as he smiled.
“No, you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have sacrifice everything. You just need to be the hero you have always been and that means being true to yourself and true to others. That’s who you are, Kara, that’s you.”
Kara closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Here was the truth.
“James, the world is in danger right now and all I can think about is keeping one person safe.”
Kara stood and walked to the railing, squinting into the distance, through the clouds at mountains and the coast cutting dark and jagged lines in the night. It was different shades of black and grey and Kara let it fade as her ears turned to the east, picking up the sound of a liquid draining from a glass and a long delicate throat swallowing. If she tried hard enough, she even heard the grimace form on a flawless face at the burn of the liquor she knew Lena was drinking. The memory of the same scene, different time, filled her head.
It was mid-April, when spring was starting to settle in and the sky was starting to turn Kara’s favorite shade of crisp bright blue. She had just finished a training session at the DEO and was flying a short patrol over the ports on the rumor of an escaped K’hund shaking down delivery drivers. Wednesdays were usually slow, today no exception as she waited for Lena’s auditing review board to end. She smiled as trouble was nowhere to be found as she zipped through shipping containers on large barges, back alleys full of forklifts and movement, the salty air leaving a mineral taste on her lips before it sparked electric. That’s when she heard it for the first time, when her ears picked up the way Lena Luthor breathed, how her heart sounded when it was beating when it wasn’t happy.
She alighted with a skip on the white balcony of L-Corp’s gleaming windowed structure that was Lena’s office. As she slowed down, her eyes went to the figure sitting at her desk, head in hand, drink in the other. It was still early for the brown liquid she saw jostle in a clear glass, Lena’s hand shaking just a bit as she brought it to her lips. Lena looked up surprised when Supergirl gently tapped on the glass and opened the door, trying to be respectful of privacy. They were still working this out, still new, still getting used to where their lives intersected and where boundaries between the private and the public were together.
“Lena? Is everything okay?”
She watched Lena’s eyebrow raise as she set the scotch down, leaning back in her chair and crossing her legs, looking at Kara as she moved closer. Lena was in a black dress, her dark hair pulled back in a bun, everything in place except the look in her eyes. They were a harder shade of green than they were this morning, when Kara had let her lips brush against Lena’s forehead before she left in the morning. She had not intended to spend the night, given the workday ahead and Lena’s busy schedule today, but Lena had leaned into her as she reached for the door after dinner. The full length of Lena’s body pressing up against her and the way she breathed into Kara’s ear, asking her to stay, made it difficult to leave so she didn’t.
“I didn’t know telepathy was one of your powers, Supergirl.”
Kara stopped as the formality of Lena’s voice caused her to pause, her hands suddenly searching for something to do with no glasses to adjust, no other way to shake off the vibrations Lena Luthor seemed to elicit in her fingertips. Her focus had all been on Lena and not her surroundings. Across the office, Jess cleared her throat from the couch and stood.
“Ms. Luthor, I can come back if you’d like.”
Kara watched as Lena looked over at Jess and smiled, shaking her head. She reached for her glass again and Kara saw the slight shaking in her hand. Something was wrong.
“It’s quite alright, Jess, why don’t you tell Supergirl what has your boss drinking so early in the day.”
Kara straightened, her hands going to her hips and taking a deep breath as she slipped into someone else, another character, National City’s resident superhero. Jess looked at Lena before she looked back at Kara. The CEO’s assistant had come to know of Lena’s relationship with Kara Danvers, but Supergirl’s relationship with her boss was a little murkier. It was true that Supergirl had saved Lena when she had fallen over the balcony, surprised by intruders, but Jess knew little else about how they interacted with each other, what the nature of their relationship was. Kara knew Jess had been protective of Lena and of Kara’s privacy, of their relationship and for that she was grateful, but Supergirl was more of an unknown.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Luthor, but which part?”
Kara’s eyes turned to Lena as the dark-haired woman laughed, a little bitterly, and took a drink, her face grimacing at the burn.
“True. It’s hard to choose exactly which bad news made me pour this drink, isn’t it? How about you set up that appointment with legal and HR for tomorrow. We’ll get started on damage control in the morning with the press. Tomorrow’s another day, Jess, it will be fine. In the meantime, I’ll see what brings Supergirl all the way to L-Corp.”
Jess looked at both of them and just nodded her head as she gathered her files and notes. She let her eyes catch Supergirl’s for a moment before she left, sending a little wave of protective energy through the air and Kara smiled. The more people who cared about Lena Luthor’s well-being the better. As Jess was closing the door to the office, Lena raised an eyebrow as she spoke.
“So what can I help you with, Supergirl?”
Kara let her hands drop from her waist and moved close until she was standing next to Lena’s chair, trying not to reach out. This was Lena’s world, her business was as important as her private life and Kara kept her distance professional even if her concern was personal.
“What’s wrong, Lena? I heard...you.”
Kara paused when Lena’s eyes found hers and her brows came together, confused.
“You heard what?”
Kara had learned long ago the trick to finding someone she cared about out in the world. When she was young and just getting used to earth and the powers of the sun, the world was cacophonous. She heard every noise, saw every internal organ beating, was overwhelmed by it all. There were no easy filters yet and she could have drowned in the sea of sounds and senses if she didn’t learn ways to turn things off, to allow her eyes to not see everything and her ears to ear it all. Jeremiah had fashioned the glasses she still wore today to give her a little relief from all of the visual stimuli but she had learned to master the art of silence, of tuning out everything or tuning into only one thing. She would have never survived if she hadn’t learned to control these things her body did without her consent, the amount of information that came in could be panic inducing. It was a survival mechanism and over time, she had honed it to her advantage. She had practiced every night, turning off the volume of the world and only searching for one sound among billions. Alex’s heartbeat was steady, strong, and she had memorized the rhythm of it. This was how she knew when Alex was happy or sad or excited or in trouble. This was how she found Alex when she was looking for her. And now, she had learned another heartbeat out of the billions in the world and that was Lena’s and it happened naturally, easily, unexpectedly.
“Um..I sort of learned what your heart sounds like and..you were upset.”
Lena looked at her as her hand went subconsciously to her chest, her fingertips touching against the silk of her dress.
“You can hear my heartbeat...from anywhere?”
Kara smiled softly, her hands searching for something to do and settling on one pushing her hair off her face.
“I can...now. I’m sorry, does that bother you?”
It just occurred to her as she said it that maybe Lena didn’t want her heart to be known or her feelings to be so easily heard. She watched as Lena kept looking at her and she tried not to feel intrusive or worse, someone from another planet using her powers to know things others may wish to keep private. She started to back away before she felt Lena reach for her hand and smile up at her.
“It doesn’t bother me, Kara, it’s…it amazes me. I love what you can do. You just keep surprising me in unexpected ways.”
Kara let out a breath and moved closer, until she felt Lena’s leg against her own and the little sparks igniting where they touched. Lena just threaded her fingers into Kara’s and squeezed, the shaking in her hands having stopped, her heart beating not out of upset, but calming, steady again. She smiled as Lena looked at her, eyes softer, more relaxed.
“Is everything okay, really?”
Lena nodded and let her thumb slip under the little strip of fabric in the palm of Kara’s hand, smiling at Supergirl’s suit. Kara swallowed a little, still getting used to the blurring of boundaries between Lena and who she was or had to be in any given moment. With Kara Danvers, Lena was more likely to be the one who initiated touches, who led the way, who smiled coyly at the buttons of Kara’s oxford shirts and ran her fingers just under the hem of Kara’s skirts to find her thigh. With Supergirl, Lena encouraged her strength and power, waited for Kara’s hands to find her, showed her respect in other smaller, more intimate ways. And with Kara Zor-El, Lena was tender and open and vulnerable and her heart beat the strongest. It didn’t make Kara feel like separate people, it made her feel whole and complete given the life she led and who she was. Lena smiled up at her, the white of her office was a contrasting background against the black of her dress and her hair and the red of her lips and the green of her eyes.
“Everything will be fine, Kara, just some audit red flags and a few unsavory personnel actions to deal with that I wasn’t expecting. Meet me for dinner at Stefano’s in an hour or so? I just need to wrap things up with Jess.”
Kara couldn’t help herself as she let her hands find the arms to Lena’s chair, catching her off-guard when Kara leaned over and let her lips press softly into Lena’s. When she felt a smile against her lips and Lena’s mouth open, Kara pressed in further, deepening the kiss and hearing Lena’s breath catch in the back of her throat. Everything spun inside her and Kara let her tongue run over teeth when she felt Lena’s hands come to the sides of her face, pulling her in. Kara drank in the taste of Lena and of the lingering hint of liquor until she heard a desperate skip in Lena’s heartbeat and she pulled back until her forehead rested down against Lena’s. They were still at L-Corp. This was still a business. And if she didn't stop kissing Lena now, she wasn't sure she could stop later. She waited for Lena to catch her breath, until hazy green eyes fluttered open. Kara let a whisper fall between them.
“I like surprising you, Lena Luthor.”
They held each other’s eyes for a long moment, each realizing the power they had over the other, the sparking between them. She smiled when she felt Lena’s fingertips brush over her lips, her thumb wiping away lipstick from this unexpected moment. Lena raised an eyebrow at her as Kara let one hand fall to Lena’s knee, running up along bare skin as Lena breathed out a few words with a smile.
“You’re getting very good at what you do, my dear.”
Kara smiled and laughed quietly as she pulled away and stood, taking in a deep breath. She needed to fly, needed to burn off this energy while the day was still day and the taste of scotch lingered on her lips. She winked as she opened the balcony door, leaving Lena to sink back into her chair a little, cross her legs, and touch a few fingers to her own lips, adjusting makeup and smiling at the light sting of sparks Kara had left her with. With a whoosh of displaced air, Kara soared and Supergirl flew straight up into the blue, blue sky.
The name coming from James’ voice shook her out of her revery and she looked at him as he joined her again at the balcony. His eyes were soft and he smiled gently at her.
“I know, Kara. It’s okay. You can’t keep how happy you’ve been lately a secret, not from someone who knows what that looks like on your face. I assumed, but didn’t want to pry and you didn’t bring it up.”
Kara smiled softly as she looked down, shaking her head before she faced James again, relieved and a little unburdened. His voice no longer held the kind of tone it had when they had argued over Lena months ago, when James had questioned the motives of a Luthor given their track record with Clark. She understood his concern, yes, but at the time, there was too much going on and she was still figuring out what she felt for Lena, what was going on between them. She took it personally because that’s how she took most things and that was the good and bad about who she was to herself and to others. She couldn’t separate her internal feelings, as Kara Zor-El, the last daughter of Krypton and an alien on this planet, from her personal feelings, as Kara Danvers and the life and friends she built for herself here, from her professional feelings as Supergirl and the duties and responsibilities that came with being a superhero. There was no way to compartmentalize her identity, her feelings could not be doled out into boxes depending on the circumstances. And when it came to love, the totality of it all, she knew deep down that it was the only thing that was worth fighting for and the only thing that would keep everyone on this planet safe, including Lena. That was the truth that she would never compromise.
James smiled at her and put an arm around her shoulder as they looked out into the darkest part of the night in a city that was unaware of the peril ahead, of the risks and threats it faced on a daily basis. She knew James understood that there were tough choices ahead, that those closest to her had put her in a hard position. She leaned against his shoulder and closed her eyes, knowing that the coming hours, the coming days would test them all. He squeezed her arm as he spoke into the wind.
“Then let your heart guide your fight. Be true. Be you.”
Kara let her hearing drown out the rest of the city until she found a single heartbeat to the east and knew that as long as it was beating, she would keep fighting for everyone. She didn’t need to be perfect and she didn’t need to be completely selfless. This was not a zero-sum game. She just needed to love in the only way she knew how and that was with her entire superhero heart for one and for all. Omnia vincit amor.
Chapter 10: 400 nanometers
The wind was whirling and sparks were flying inside a hurricane of thunder, spinning light as if she were directly in the eye watching the world fly apart. The desert surrounding was brown dust and the air above was full of jagged lines of cracking electricity as night was falling quickly. It felt foreign, empty, limitless. Whatever was happening felt like being thrown further away or pulled in so tight it was suffocating. And so she looked for a switch to push, a lever to pull, a button to stop this, whatever this was. When these data are considered in conjunction with the exclusively inhibitory synaptic action of serotonin in the forebrain, an explicit hypothesis can be formulated. Soon, thousands of drops of red water began falling, pelting the ground, muddy, and filling the air until it began to feel like a wave of isolation. She heard her name from far away, calling her. A cessation, or decrease, in the discharge rate of serotonin-containing neurons, either spontaneously during REM and non-REM sleep precipitates, through disinhibition, a dramatic increase in activity of their target neurons in brain areas mediating visual sensation and emotional experience. She kept trying to run scripts, enter the exact sequence of numbers, find the right code to make it stop before it was too late and all was lost. Lena Luthor was beginning to panic, her heart was racing as something went wrong, a door opened and there was no turning back from one of two dark paths into the night. Either she would be thrown out into the void, alone and without an anchor or whatever was coming was going to harm a blur of blue just at the periphery of her vision. She knew Kara was out there, somewhere in that spinning vortex, but she was powerless to find her or to keep her safe or be kept safe herself. These latter neural events are a primary physiological substrate for the emergence of strong sensory and emotive processes during dreams and drug-induced hallucinations. Into this whirl of the unknown, Lena screamed into the cold, deafening void, a name on her lips holding everything in place until it all went black.
Lena pulled herself up from the depths and awake, drenched in sweat in the dark with no idea where she was. She pushed the sheets from her body and sat up, blinking as she looked around the room. Catching her breath, she realized she was still in her L-Corp executive suite, having fallen into a tumultuous sleep just a few hours before, aided and abetted by scotch and a long day. She pushed dark hair out of her eyes and sucked in a deep breath of air as she looked at her phone for the time. 3:15am. So early and so late, her hands still shaking from waking in an unfamiliar bed and from the dream or feeling or premonition she just had. An unsettling sense of foreboding clung to her and she missed...Kara.. as she woke alone and shaken. There was nothing, no one holding her down and soothing her cloudy, stormy dreams tonight.
It was February, still coming out of winter’s hold, still thawing but not quite unfrozen. Everything was new, bright, full of potential. Lena Luthor found herself just on the cusp of a deepening relationship with Kara Danvers and found herself caught off guard more than she would have thought possible. She laughed easily, felt herself smiling at the way Kara told a story, leaned into a shoulder when it nudged against her as they did dishes after dinner. Sunday brunch turned into the Sunday New York Times which turned into a Sunday museum trip that then turned into a Sunday grocery shopping adventure before it turned into the Sunday dinner they just ate and the Sunday evening it now was. That meant they were reluctant to let the day end, lingered longer than was necessary in putting dishes away and gathering leftovers that Kara insisted Lena take for lunch the next day. She found herself oddly touched by the way Kara packaged everything up and put it in a brown paper bag, as if this was how she packed lunches for Lena now.
“You know, you don’t have to go to all this fuss, Kara.”
Kara turned around and leaned back against her kitchen counter, crossing her arms and looking at Lena as she was about to gather her purse and keys. There was a small pout on Kara’s face.
“Maybe I like making sure you have something to look forward to at work, even if it’s just a piece of pie you had to rescue-bake for us. Who screws up pie dough..three times?”
Lena laughed and came over, smiling at the thought of watching Kara ruin three batches of dough earlier before she stepped in with a recipe she had learned from her nanny, Ina. Sometimes a frustrated Kara made for an irresistible Kara and Lena had let her lips playfully fall against a forehead full of indignation after the last batch failed, chuckling as Kara’s floured hands had found her hips and pulled her closer. She had leaned into a solid body and smiled against Kara’s shoulder, both of them getting used to feeling free to touch and be touched in ways friendly and intimate. Lena could always feel Kara’s strength just under the surface of her hands and she liked that, liked when Kara moved her body where she wanted. Lena was still discovering all parts of the woman who could do amazing super things but who could also get flustered at recipes and who could grow so quiet in an exhibit of stardust and moon rocks and meteorites, the ingredients of the cosmos under a glass case.
Now, Lena kissed softly against a warmed cheek when she remembered how gently Kara had taken her hand in the museum earlier when all the other visitors had moved on and they were alone. She had watched Kara’s profile as she peered at a piece of space and hummed to herself a little, her eyes studying the object carefully. She took a mental picture of Kara right then to preserve the look of wistful wonder and quiet sadness so full of beauty she knew it was otherworldly. In that moment, Lena realized how it must feel for Kara to be here on earth, perhaps trying to find pieces of her home and life in another galaxy. How fragile the feeling of home was and who should dare define where or what that was for anyone. Her mother certainly had her ideas about aliens and who belonged where. Lena’s feelings and thoughts were more open and nuanced, obviously, influenced a little by family, unfortunately, but ultimately, she thought the world was a big place and each heart belonged where it was wanted and where it was needed most. She may believe in science, but Lena also believed in magic and mystery to balance it out. The fact that Kara Zor-El somehow found her here, in this moment, on earth in the grand scheme of all things was proof enough of the magic of the cosmos for her. She had felt Kara’s fingers squeeze lightly against hers before letting go and leaving a nearly invisible trail of sparks falling in the palm of her hand as a gaggle of school girls and teachers entered the room, breaking the spell. She was still learning Kara and she wanted more time to figure out this woman who fell from the stars into her life. In the here and now, though, she picked up the lunch bag, shook it a little before setting it down, and smiled up at Kara.
“I take it back. I like when you do things for me like this, when you worry about me at work. It’s very sweet of you.”
That was the right thing to say because Kara’s cheeks warmed golden red and she looked down, smiling as loose strands of hair from her ponytail fell along her neck. It was also a hard thing to say because Lena wasn’t used to letting other people care for her, letting others know it mattered to her that she was thought of. Kara had softened her, worn down some of her edges and the hardness she needed for the business she was in. Lena was also learning to let herself say and want things she wasn’t used to saying and wanting and it was only February and they were still so very new, still shifting from friends to something more. Kara’s hand reached out and played at the hem of Lena’s emerald green sweater before she looked back up at her and spoke.
“Maybe I like you.”
Lena raised an eyebrow and smiled, Kara’s fingers pulling gently at her sweater and bringing her close again.
Kara shrugged with a smile as her fingers skimmed along the waist of Lena’s black jeans and she shivered a bit at the tiny sparks she felt on her skin from Kara’s fingertips. She would never get tired of that feeling, how the stars ran through Kara and into her. Kara smiled coyly at her as she let a word drop between them and Kara’s fingers dipped below the back of her waistband.
Lena huffed out imaginary indignation of her own, her lips pouting in pretend disappointment.
“Just a maybe, huh? Then maybe I should go.”
She felt Kara’s fingers hook into her belt loops and pull her hips up against Kara’s body again and Lena smiled at the warmth starting to fall along her neck. She wanted Kara to keep her close, wanted to her body to be moved in space where Kara wanted her, to bring them together as she wished and for Kara’s eyes to cover her and let her know she was wanted and desired. Lena was starting to learn that Kara hesitated not because she didn’t want, but because she was afraid of what her hands would do and what her superpowers were capable of when they came into contact with a human, with Lena. She leaned back and turned her head to the side as the heat from Kara’s eyes followed her jawline, down her neck, and settled in the low V of her sweater, warming. Lena was learning quickly what Kara liked too and that was for Lena to give her permission to look and take and feel, to want what Kara wanted without reservation. She held her breath when she felt Kara lean in close, lips against her ear.
“Maybe you could stay?”
There were a lot of things that Lena liked too and there were very few things that Kara did that weren’t on that list. Lena ran her hands up along Kara until her arms settled around Kara’s shoulders and she closed her eyes, pressing her face into the soft cotton of Kara’s white oxford, the tickle of her golden wool sweater over it. She inhaled when Kara’s hands slowly moved up her back as if she were counting each of Lena’s vertebra, fingers tingling against her bare skin until her spine felt alive with potential. She pulled back and let her lips brush gently against Kara’s before she whispered.
“Maybe you could say please.”
They were still new, still figuring out how they were together, what each one needed and when and the way to ask for such things. Lena watched Kara’s eyes for clues, could feel the way energy arced just under her surface, heard how her skin sung. And Kara surprised her, too, when she least expected. Maybe it was the day they shared, maybe it was dinner, maybe it was the full moon. Whatever it was, Kara held her eyes before she dipped her mouth to Lena’s and sucked in her bottom lip before releasing it.
And the way Kara said it, softly, gently, while her hands pulled Lena closer made it impossible to go, as if she would. Monday would come no matter where she was and if the choice was between her place without Kara and here with Kara and her lips now against her ear whispering ‘pretty please’, there was no contest, no question, no way Lena was leaving. She smiled into Kara’s neck when she felt hands run down along the curves of her jeans.
“Believe me, I’m not going anywhere, Kara.”
She heard Kara chuckle against the top of her head and felt herself lifted effortlessly, carried weightlessly as Kara navigated them through her apartment and they tumbled into her pale pink sheets. She smiled at the weight of Kara on top of her and let her hands slowly pull up Kara’s skirt exposing skin and trailing along strong thighs and Kara did the same with nimble, strong fingers gently pushing at her sweater, at her pants, each craving skin against skin. Because it was Sunday, they lingered over each other as they had the day, soft and languid and tender. They held each other’s eyes longer, kissed slower, breathed deeper. There was a moment, when Lena was looking up at Kara, when their bodies paused their slow press against each other, clothes no longer a barrier, that she felt like she could see the future. The blue in Kara’s eyes sparked golden, swirling into infinity before she blinked at Lena and it was gone. And then Kara’s lips were on her neck, gently marking against her pale skin as had become her way, reluctant but also driven to make herself known on Lena’s skin in ways invisible and visible. Lena closed her eyes and encouraged such things, tangible expressions of Kara on her that lasted and were real. And their bodies continued moving, Kara continued reaching inside her, Lena continued to fall harder, gasping at the closeness and the distance. Lena moved in time with Kara’s gentle voice, repeating ‘please’ against her ear, coaxing her in the softest, gentlest way that was Kara. When she cried out, Kara’s mouth found hers to swallow the sounds Lena could not control, her body held down, and everything fit into the space between them. Heart beating out of her chest, Lena held on to Kara, keeping her close and hoping it wasn’t too obvious the depth and breadth she found herself falling, opening up, letting Kara because how could she not?
After, with Kara covering her and draped over her back, she fell into a deep, deep sleep, interrupted only when the world turned into a storm of violet on the horizon that sweep her further and further away. She knew she was dreaming but it felt too real, too close to the terror of loss, of the feeling she had felt when she had fallen off her balcony and into the night, the air rushing into her ears like a river and the darkness, with its promising of an abrupt ending, waiting for her. In the night, she dreamed of a circle round and in that circle was a maze, a spiral to be lost in, and she was blinded by fear, trying to escape by feel, but each turn was sealed. Sparking and electric, Lena felt herself trapped in an amethyst spinning circle unable to free herself, unable to move, mute, until she felt Kara’s arms pull her back.
“I got you, Lena...I’m here...it’s okay, baby...you’re here with me...”
Through the haze of terror, she heard Kara’s soft voice and hands on her pulling her back to consciousness until she blinked her eyes open, trying to orient and find herself. The pale pink sheets of Kara’s bed were gray in the night but she remembered the color. The smell of linen and Kara’s hair covering her face filled her senses and she reached until she found one of Kara’s hands, sighing at the quiet vibration of energy just under the surface. Kara moved her body until she was practically on top of Lena’s back and Kara’s words felt like part of the dream as Lena exhaled a breath she didn’t even know she was holding. Something was coming for them both and she knew it and she shivered at the feeling until she felt the warmth of Kara’s eyes on her face.
“I’m not going anywhere, Lena. I’m right here..”
Lena closed her eyes and willed her heart to slow down, imagined a sky of blue instead of the walls closing in or violet clouds sweeping her away. Kara pressed her face against Lena’s and tucked her as close as she could until she felt like the world was holding her down instead of letting her go and that was enough for now. With a final exhale and the feel of Kara’s hand brushing into her hair, Lena calmed. She was safe, she had been found, they were here together in a February that was full of potential. It was only a dream.
Now, on unsteady feet, Lena stood and padded across the cold floor of the suite she rarely used, its spartan furnishings were functional and tidy, black and white. As she neared the floor to ceiling glass windows, she let her fingers push aside the gray curtains, swirls of cobalt blue in the fabric the only color in the room. It was deep night outside and she could only see a few lights across the city twinkling in defiance of the hour. She took a deep breath and let it out, her eyes blinking shut once before she focused and saw blue, saw red on the periphery and edge of her sight. There, standing on her office balcony thirty feet away, stood Kara, stood Supergirl, wind blowing a cape and blonde hair out and up, her eyes scanning the sky, vigilant, watching. Lena let out a small gasp in surprise and at that, blue eyes turned her way. She held her breath, knowing that Kara could hear her heart beating the way it was, with missing and longing and the dull ache of what still sat inside her from when Kara had left her the morning before. Lena continued to hold her breath as Kara looked at her carefully and nodded once before she took off straight up into the night, leaving Lena to wonder if she had really even seen her at all. May felt like February as the wind shifted with the flight of her heart and Lena slid the window shut.
As dawn slowly unfolded turning the sky from black to navy to faded violet before it slipped into shades of the sun, Kara watched the horizon carefully, flew laps around the sleeping city, monitored the buzz of the Daxamite ship just outside Earth’s atmosphere, and checked in occasionally with a few quiet words to DEO centcomm. She wasn’t sure what to expect, the threat by the Daxamites to come at daybreak might be empty, it might be be a portend of things to come, it might be the end of the world she knew and loved. Tugging and twisting her insides was that very immediate concern and layered underneath was the vision of Lena Luthor at her L-Corp suite window, catching her eye and heart beating from being unsettled. Kara had come to know that sound, had been hearing it in her head from the minute she had lied to Lena about needing and wanting time away - for the job, for the DEO, for the mission, for the safety of the earth.
The sun inevitably began to rise as Kara exhaled at the excuses and wondered whether that choice had been the right one. She was distracted, agitated, and not herself but determined to be what they all expected her to be: Their superhero alien who would sacrifice all for her adopted planet as if she had no reason to hold back something for herself. Home was a powerful thing, built or destroyed, found or lost, and it could bring out the best and the worst depending where one fell. The DEO plan called for a vigorous defense of their home through force and cunning and deception and contingencies. There was no negotiating the end game - earth was theirs and the Daxamites would not take it. Was there room for the alien race here as refugees from a lost planet as she had been? According to Director Henshaw and President Marsdin, that would depend upon the Daxamites but the threat had not helped their cause. The President was adamant that they would not negotiate with those who made threats. So Kara felt herself between a rock and a hard place as an alien, as Kara Zor-El from Krypton and also as Kara Danvers who now called earth her home.
Alien amnesty vs protecting what was ‘home’ from those who would threaten it, this was the struggle Supergirl held upon her shoulders as she alighted on the DEO balcony, the grey concrete like a castle battlements in front of glass windows that were now starting to shine pink in the sunrise. It was still quiet morning and Supergirl paused, letting herself look out over the city as the sun began to rise before she made her way into the building and down the steps.
J’onn and Alex had been there overnight, taking shifts as they monitored the sky and the crew had been fortified with additional staff, knowing something was coming so all hands were on deck. She nodded as Alex moved towards her in her black DEO uniform, hands on her hips.
Kara shook her head and crossed her arms.
Alex nodded and looked out at the coming dawn, adjusting her weapons and running a hand through her hair. Their eyes met and Alex’s voice softened.
“Are you okay?”
Kara let her eyes hold her sister’s and wasn’t sure how to answer that question. She was resolved, she was strong, she would persevere, regardless because she believed she was right and that, as James said, her heart would guide her in making the right choices. Mon-El made his choice to stay on earth and if the Daxamites sought to take him, she would defend his choice. Amnesty was not just a word, but an action and a protection and Kara believed in that above all else. But she was also in love and separated from that part of herself and that was less steady. Truth wasn’t just a word either, it was an action and a commitment and she felt untethered when it wasn’t guiding her actions. And yet.
She watched as Alex’s brows came together, doubt creasing against her skin but what could she say at this point that hadn’t been said before. Kara felt Alex’s arm around her shoulder as they started walking together.
“Kara, I know you’re upset with the DEO, with us. And that you feel like you have a right to be, okay? Own it.”
Kara exhaled and walked, her hands spreading out in frustration.
“I just, uhhh..I hate this right now.”
“I get it. I hate that this hurts you, but this, this work has its ups and downs, Kara.”
Kara let her hand come to her head, touching against the part of herself that wasn’t right with this and trying to ignore her heart that was definitely not feeling right. Kara stopped and faced Alex, dropping her arms in frustration.
“Yeah, but this is more than a down, Alex. I don’t even know who I am anymore. Do you know why I am having such a hard time about Daxam? Because Mon-El and his parents kept the people of that planet so oppressed by vice and hate that they never recognized what was going on. But guess what? My parents kept our own people in dark about the fate of our planet too, oppressed by lies and kept from the truth, manipulated, until it was too late. We’re no better here, Alex.”
Kara paused, taking a deep breath while she looked at Alex, wondering if she would ever understand. When would it stop? Where would the it end? Kara blew out a breath and continued.
“The DEO is asking me to deceive and manipulate in the name of justice, just like my parents did, but look where it got them, Alex. Where will this get us, truly, in the end? Aren’t we better than this?”
There was no more time to unpack it all right now as a flash to their right halted the conversation as a figure appeared on the DEO balcony, calling out to her in the morning light.
Alex pulled her weapons as did the rest of the DEO staff, J’onn moving forward and issuing an order at the unexpected visitor.
“Stand down! Stand down! Do not engage.”
Kara stood there, her eyes finally falling upon one of the Daxamites who was most responsible for the oppression of their people. Mon-El was complicit by birth and by inaction, but the woman who now stood on the balcony of the DEO, beamed down from the humming, armed Daxamite ship she now saw hovering just within Earth’s atmosphere, was responsible for making the ultimate decisions, for carrying on a tradition of xenophobia and oppression. DEO intel had already traced the political ruling party of Daxam and with reluctance, Mon-El had admitted his relation when pressed by J’onn and Alex during the the intelligence gathering phase, once they knew they which aliens they were dealing with from the beacon signal. And President Marsdin’s own protected dossier, transmitted to Director Henshaw just yesterday, had confirmed as much. There was history, the facts were clear, and the woman now directing her attention to Supergirl was none other than Rhea, Queen of Daxam, wife of Lar Gand, and mother of Mon-El. With a clear voice, the woman leveled her eyes at Kara and spoke with a firm voice.
“I need to speak with you.”
Chapter 11: 2000 light years
On earth, the sunrises or sunsets were the closest things to the particular shades of reds and oranges that defined the Kryptonian sky of her memories. The filtered light through high clouds in the morning or through wildfire smoke to the west in the evening cast a tinted shadow over everything and painted the sky the color of nasturtiums, blood oranges, fire. It was funny how the color of a new day’s birth and an old star’s death looked the same. Her entire life had been full of reds and yellows but now she had added to that with the blues and greens of her new home planet. But Kara had been born under a red dwarf and it still flowed through her veins, the history and chemistry and biology of Krypton was never far from her mind and body. So as Kara stood in the DEO looking out into the morning sunrise and at the woman who had ruled Daxam, she prepared herself for a reckoning as she joined Rhea on the balcony. She absorbed the first shot from the queen of a race of aliens she had grown up distrusting.
“Your new world is quite stunning. Like Daxam used to be.”
They had both lost what was dear to them and it would be impossible to make any of the words they had to share between them less painful. Kara looked out over the city and had to agree though she said nothing. She had to be careful during this conversation, knowing that all eyes were on them from afar, DEO and Daxamite weapons at the ready, and a back up plan if needed. No one was sure what the Daxamites had in store given their threats. Rhea continued as she turned towards Kara, her eyes now on her face.
“My son is here. And from what I understand, he’s with you and has been since he arrived.”
Kara kept her face neutral, but raised her eyebrows as Rhea smiled. What Kara wanted to say was that they all were with her, everyone here on earth, and she wasn’t about to let any of them go without a fight. Instead, she said nothing.
“Don’t act so surprised, Kara Zor-El. I don’t come here unprepared or uninformed. I understand he’s fallen in love with you, hasn’t he? A Daxamite in love with a Kryptonian. And I thought I’d seen it all.”
Kara let her eyes fall back over the city and said nothing. The DEO, Winn specifically, had planted false information on the same interstellar darknet channels that Rhea had placed a bounty upon her head. Photoshopped pictures of her and Mon-El together, video edits of conversations and declarations, audio records, and other private intelligence gathered from Mon-El during his sequestering within the confines of the DEO. J’onn and Alex had both been suspicious upon his first arrival and after conferring with President Marsdin, had taken no chances. The illusion that Mon-El was free to wander the DEO and National City untethered and without surveillance was just that, not real. Over the last few days, the DEO counterintelligence unit had been planting false flags and post-dated misinformation, all in the service of keeping the upper hand and more specifically, making sure Supergirl could play any chess piece on the board as she wished.
One problem with this plan, as Kara saw it, was that some of the information was true and that mattered. Mon-El did love her, said as much, declared it in a private moment months ago, but she didn’t expect that to be recreated as strategy. She had protested angrily when she saw the photos, when she saw what Winn had done to create the falsehood that Kara Zor-El and Mon-El were more than they were in order to use that to the DEO’s advantage. It felt wrong, especially when she had her own mixed feelings about someone who came from as close to home as she could get now. She and Mon-El had resolved what their relationship was and wasn’t and he had been kept in the dark about this plan and kept far away from DEO central after he requested official amnesty. It was not all fair in love and war, it seemed, and the DEO made sure to use his position and his feelings for Kara for whatever strategic gains could be made. And of course, there was Lena Luthor inadvertently dragged in the middle of this potential war, the truth about Kara’s feelings for this woman tamped down and hidden to keep her safe from Rhea and whatever may come. The one thing Kara and the DEO had agreed upon was that Lena was to be kept as far away from this confrontation as Kara could keep her. As the morning sky turned the color of deep summer marigolds, Kara wondered if the plan was worth the cost.
“I guess I should thank you for keeping him safe.”
Kara turned her head towards Rhea and spoke evenly.
“You didn’t come all this way just to thank me.”
A slight smile crossed the other woman’s face as she leveled her eyes on Kara.
“No, I didn’t. I need your help. Daxam is a wasteland. Our people are scattered across the universe. We need to bring them home. Rebuild what your people destroyed. I don’t say it to offend.”
Kara had let an imperceptible flinch cross her face and Rhea had picked it up. But there was also something else there, a nugget that Kara could hold on to for someone else. Mon-El’s parents and some of his people had survived, were alive, out there somewhere in the universe and that was more than she could say for hers. She and Kal-El were all that remained and that fact was something she had to live with and that made this harder. Mon-El’s request for amnesty, to stay here on this planet, was at odds with what her own choice might have been if she were him. But she didn’t have that same choice and there were no more of her people anywhere to bring home or rebuild. She nodded her head and spoke quietly.
“No no, you’re right. Krypton made horrible mistakes, I can admit it.”
“That’s more than I expected.”
Rhea kept her eyes on Kara and she took a breath, trying to keep her emotions in check. She had expected confrontation, something physical, something that required force, but she hadn’t expected a conversation that hit so close to home, both literally and figuratively. There had to be something else coming given the threat - both Alex and J’onn had warned her to be on guard for all possibilities. But maybe this could be a negotiation after all and she could salvage a compromise that worked for all. It was worth a try.
“What do you want from me?”
Rhea nodded as she spoke, her eyes turning to National City.
“Our planet died on my and my husband’s watch. For our people to rise again, they need a future. Mon-El is young. He can be the face of that future.”
“You want to take Mon-El back to Daxam?”
What was left of that planet though? Hadn’t Krypton’s demise brought about Daxam’s? She knew there was no returning back to Daxam so Rhea was playing the same kind of game the DEO was, misinformation, deception, hidden agendas and plans. What was the ultimate goal of the Daxamites? The DEO had an idea, she had one as well, but she kept her eyes on Rhea’s face for her response.
“Would you rather he stay here and learn by degrees that he’s not good enough for you?”
Kara narrowed her eyes a little at the tactic, unsurprised that the personal would become political between Daxamites and Kryptonians. There was too much history for it not to dig to the bone.
“You don’t know me.”
“I know your kind. I know what your integrity means. And I know that you think you’re better than him. Than us”.
Her kind. That’s what it came down to here and Kara knew the loathing Daxamites had for her and her people. They blamed them for the destruction of their planet and honestly, they weren’t necessarily wrong. But how could a people be responsible for the death of a star and its consequences? What could Kryptonians have done to save the fate of a red dwarf star that was going to die? Nothing, likely, but what her kind had not done was warn their own people or warn their interstellar neighbors of the impending doom. They were complicit in denying the inevitable and failing to take action, to save themselves and others in response. It was no wonder that Rhea, having escaped that fate somehow, felt the strong pull of retribution, of vengeance, and of survival at all costs. Kara represented all that her people had done wrong and now, her own son, had renounced his past and his future as the prince of Daxam. It was unlikely that this civil conversation between Kara and Rhea would be the end of it. The other woman’s words were quiet.
“Do what’s best for all. Tell him to come home to his parents. The people that love him.”
“What makes you think he’ll listen to me?”
At this, Rhea smiled but it didn’t reach her eyes. The dark haired queen’s voice was menacingly sweet.
“Because he’s under your spell..but he has no idea how unforgiving your people can be.”
Kara sighed and turned her head away, looking down at the ground before she put her hands on her hips. Rhea might be able to strike at Kara Zor-El, but right now, she channeled someone who could do the impossible here on this planet and had powers greater than Daxamites did. They were strong, yes, as Mon-El had demonstrated, but they would be no match for Supergirl.
“I’ll pass along your request, but ultimately, it’s his choice. And if he chooses to stay, he’ll have my full protection as would anyone who requests amnesty or lives here on Earth.”
Rhea’s smile faded as her eyes, seemingly for the first time, took in Kara from head to toe. She cocked her head to the side and lowered her voice.
“Is that a threat, Kara Zor-El?”
Kara stepped closer. When it came to saving what and who she loved, there was no negotiation. She held Rhea’s eyes and didn’t blink, her own voice lowering.
“It’s a promise.”
They stood together, Kryptonian and Daxamite, as the buttery fingers of the sun turned to yellow and Kara felt herself infused with a renewal of her powers, the way it surged in her when rays of the earth’s sun touched her. Her hands now balled into fists at her side, the only way she could keep them from shaking at the sheer energy and radiation that flowed through her. Rhea did not blink, but Kara could tell she noticed the change in her, could see the way her jaw was now set, how her eyes glowed golden right before they turned to red like a warning sign. If the queen of Daxam had done her homework, she knew who Kara Zor-El was here and what she was capable of if push came to shove. A small smile curved at the corner of Rhea’s mouth as she nodded and, with a wave of her hand, she dissolved upwards to the hovering Daxamite ship. This was far from over and Kara blew out a breath, her fists shaking as she realized there was likely little possibility that this would end peacefully, despite what she had hoped. National City began to wake blissfully unaware of any impending threat, just as Kryptonians had been years ago, safe for the moment as a new day dawned.
The Pour Oevre was busy, the line for to-go coffee went to the door and Maggie Sawyer sat in the back, watching people as she drank from her cup. She had woken early, alone, and knew that Alex Danvers had not returned home. She wasn’t surprised given what little Alex had shared with her, but she had hoped that like magic, things had resolved. The problem with believing in magic was that it rarely worked and a short text from Alex told her that today would be another long day of vigilance and planning. As Maggie let her eyes scan the crowd, she wasn’t entirely sure she was going to have company this morning and in fact, would be surprised if she did. But like magic, Lena Luthor was unpredictable and so when the dark haired woman slipped in the door and made her way to the back table, Maggie had to give her credit. She also had to give Lena credit for somehow looking amazing even when there were dark circles under her eyes just under the surface of her makeup. The CEO had on a form fitting wine colored dress, heels and a white trenchcoat, ready for the business day ahead as she approached Maggie’s table.
“Good morning, Maggie.”
Maggie stood and smiled at Lena, greeting her with a hug because that’s what they did now, they were friends by Danvers sister association and the last few months had been spent getting to know each other better after that tumultuous time in January when Kara and Lena first grew close. It had taken a while for Lena to let her guard down with Alex, but she had taken to Maggie relatively quickly, connecting on growing up in a complicated family situation and of course, how to navigate some of the more interesting aspects of dating a Danvers. Lena seemed to appreciate Maggie’s directness and no-nonsense advice and she was one of the few Lena confided in when it came to Kara.
“I wasn’t sure you were going to show up, Luthor.”
Maggie was also the only one allowed to call Lena by her last name and when it first happened, slipping out of her mouth when the four of them were at dinner one night, she was sure her shin would be bruised for days where Alex kicked her under the table and Kara looked like a deer caught in the headlights across from her. Lena had just laughed and relaxed into it all, her hand falling on Kara’s knee to squeeze an it’s okay, not taking offense but rather taking it as a sign of affection from the detective. Maggie was also the only one who could effectively tease Lena about a wide range of subjects that were supposedly off-limits - how many handbags Lena had, whether she ever intimidated her board members with just her eyebrow, was there really a secret lair under L-Corp, whether she was keeping Kara up late, again, or even better (and only done in private away from the sisters), whether Lena was aware that her pale skin bruised easily. That last one had been met with a demure smile that told her Lena was well aware and just fine, thanks. Maggie was sure it made her feel a part of something, included, welcomed. Besides, she genuinely liked Lena Luthor - she was a woman trying to change the world, turn around a reputation that was less than stellar, and was uniquely, singularly qualified to be worthy of Kara Danvers in Maggie’s opinion and that was no small feat. Lena slipped off her coat and sat, crossing her legs and letting a small smile show when Maggie slid a hot latte her way.
“I wasn’t, to be honest. But a woman needs her coffee.”
Maggie studied Lena’s eyes, noticing the pinch between her brows and the strain around her mouth as she tried to smile after she finished a sip. Maggie had fragments of the story, but not enough to understand what happened and where things were. Alex had been unusually non-committal when she had asked yesterday and Kara had been MIA. Something had happened between the two was all Alex would say which was pretty unfair in Maggie’s opinion. She understood professional confidentiality, but this was personal and it involved two people she cared about so she softened her voice.
“Want to talk about it?”
Here, Lena tensed at the question and Maggie realized she was pulling back a bit in her chair and away from her. Maggie held out her hand and shook her head.
“Or not. We can just sit here and enjoy our morning vice in silence. I’m good with that too.”
Lena looked at her, a small smile at the corner of her mouth.
“I appreciate that, Maggie. I really do. I just..don’t know what to say.”
Maggie watched as Lena’s hand shook a little as she brought her coffee cup to her red lips. She knew that Lena was very good at not letting anyone get under her skin and throw her off her game, but it didn’t take a genius to see how close she and Kara had become over the last few months. Maggie had eyes and ears and it was clear that Kara had fallen for Lena, hard, and the same was true for this Luthor. She suspected that Lena didn’t open up to many people. Her business dealings and her family history and her penchant for being in the middle of trouble made Lena guarded. She only let select people close to her and trusted few. Maggie Sawyer got that so she smiled softly at the dark haired woman across from her.
“I find it easier to start by getting all the feeling words out first and then move on to the thinking ones.”
Lena laughed quietly, shaking her head.
“Is this really your interrogation strategy, detective? Use your ‘feeling words’?”
Maggie let out a chuckle and nodded, shrugging her shoulders as she took a drink before answering.
“Believe it or not, it works. Once we get all the feels on the table, we can sort them out and make sense of them. Deduction 101, if you will.”
Lena’s eyebrow raised smoothly as she nodded at her.
“Ok. You go first.”
Maggie laughed and shook her head, her voice light.
“This isn’t about me, this is about you.”
Lena took another sip of coffee and shrugged a shoulder.
“I feel like it wouldn’t be fair to you if it was all about me.”
“I feel like you’re trying to avoid what’s bothering you.”
“I feel like I can’t avoid what’s bothering me.”
“Do you want to avoid what’s bothering you?”
Lena paused at the question and chose her words carefully. Maggie watched as she looked up before Lena turned her attention back, her voice quiet.
“I feel..unsettled by what happened and can’t stop thinking about it.”
“What do you mean by unsettled?”
“I mean confused. I mean frustrated. I’m angry, Maggie.”
Maggie looked at Lena and nodded, leaning in with her forearms on her knees, closing the distance between them and softening her voice.
“You’re angry about what happened with Kara.”
“I feel blindsided by what happened and I’m furious at what Kara did.”
She watched Lena swallow and her hand go to her head, elbow on the chair as the hustle and bustle of the coffee shop continued around them. Lena’s voice was quiet and her eyes were tired so Maggie reached out and let her hand touch against Lena’s arm.
“What did Kara do?”
“She lied to me, Maggie. To my face, after everything we’ve been through. She came over and..in the morning, she made some excuse about needing space and..just left. I..”
Lena just stopped, couldn’t go on so Maggie nodded and filled in the space with soft words.
“That doesn’t sound like something Kara would do without a good reason or a choice.”
Lena put her hand over her eyes and Maggie watched as she shook her head.
“It’s not. I could tell she didn’t want to say what she said and leave like she did. But she did. She can’t undo that, she can’t un-ring that bell.”
Here, Lena opened her eyes and looked at Maggie, her voice quiet.
“I’m just really..hurt, Maggie. I’m hurt. I thought we were good, I thought we...”
Lena said no more as Maggie reached out again and put her hand on Lena’s arm, trying not to notice her flinch at the contact. The fact was that Alex and Kara had both been very tight-lipped about what was happening the last few days and Maggie had to assume it had something to do with the anti-alien information she had shared with Kara and Alex’s vague mention of monitoring a new alien threat. Sometimes it was easier to protect the ones you care about by not telling them everything that could be dangerous. She as well as anyone knew this about Alex Danvers and both of them understood that their jobs, what they chose to do, meant that everything could be lost in the blink of an eye. She and Alex both knew this, Kara knew this, but she tried to think about it from Lena’s perspective. While being a Luthor brought with it its own challenges it seemed, Lena was essentially a civilian, a few steps removed from the kinds of choices that could mean life or death. And frankly, it wasn’t every day that one might fall in love with a superhero from the stars who was essentially indestructible. Maggie caught Lena’s eyes and spoke quietly.
“What if Kara was afraid of losing you?”
Lena’s brows came together and she shook her head, her hands clasping each other.
“I’m not following. She’s the one who broke it off, said we needed a break.That’s a funny way to say I’m afraid to lose you.”
Maggie took in a breath and tried to make sense of her own thoughts about this.
“Lena, sometimes we do the wrong things for the right reasons. If Kara thought you were in danger, she would do whatever she needed to keep you safe. Kara is an alien and can do things we can’t even imagine, she carries planes on her shoulders and stops bullets and can’t be hurt easily. But you..you’re human, Lena, and you can be hurt. You are not invincible.”
Lena was quiet and Maggie wondered just how much the woman across from her had already considered of this, of her relationship between a mere mortal and a superhero. It meant that some things might be taken for granted while others were completely outside the realm of experience that it wasn’t even on the radar.
“I’m already hurt, Maggie, does it really matter whether it has to do with my personal safety or my heart?”
Maggie sighed and spoke quietly.
“I suppose not, but I can imagine that Kara feels incredibly torn between having to sacrifice and possibly lose something or someone she holds dear...you...in order to do the things Supergirl sometimes has to do. But if given the choice between Supergirl keeping you alive or Kara letting you go, we both know what she would do, every time. And it would devastate her. I know that doesn’t necessarily make any of this easier right now.”
Lena was quiet as she considered Maggie’s words. She wondered how she would feel or respond if it were Alex instead of Kara and she were in Lena’s position. Of course, she’d be pissed at first, but then it would feel like her whole world was unexpectedly turned upside down with no clear reason why. It would drive her out of her mind which is why it gave her a whole new appreciation for the woman sitting across from her, trying to maintain appearances and go about the work of running a major corporation while possibly falling apart in private.
“Lena, I hope you can give Kara a chance to explain, I’d hate to see you lose what you have together.”
Lena exhaled and rubbed her hand over her eyes again before she responded in an almost whisper just audible over the din of coffee being made, money being exchanged, small talk happening in the background.
“Why do I feel like we’ve both already lost each other?”
Maggie looked at Lena Luthor, the circles under her eyes, the surface calm while underneath it was clear that she was just holding it together, the way green eyes watered a bit and found hers with an unspoken plea to help her not break down in public. Maggie shook her head and smiled softly.
“Because that’s what it feels like right now. To both of you. And as someone who cares about you both, I hate that you each are hurting. But you love each other and if there are two people who can find a way back from this, it’s you two.”
Maggie watched as Lena held her eyes and said nothing, a curious look on her face.
“Kara loves you, you know that right?”
She had assumed that this was a foregone conclusion, that these words had been spoken aloud to each other and not confided separately. When Lena’s eyes told her otherwise, Maggie realized that perhaps that wasn’t the case just yet. She watched Lena exhale, her face relaxing just a little, a touch of brightness coming back to her green eyes, before she composed herself.
“We haven’t had that conversation yet.”
“You haven’t told her? She hasn’t told you? What the hell? I don’t even know what to say, Lena.”
Lena reached over to Maggie, letting her hand rest against her arm.
“Maybe if you get all your feeling words out first, Maggie, it’ll help.”
Maggie opened her mouth and closed it once she saw Lena Luthor smirk at her and raise an eyebrow.
“You’re funny, Luthor. You should do stand-up at my next group therapy session.”
Lena laughed and it was nice to see and hear, the heaviness of their conversation dissolving away with perhaps a bit more clarity and a bit more hope. Maggie smiled at Lena as they went back to their cooling coffees and the rest of the Pour Oeuvre continued spinning around them. All relationships had their ups and downs and being in love with someone like Kara Danvers and someone like Lena Luthor meant these two would keep things interesting for each other if nothing else. She had no doubt that they would work this out once Kara took care of whatever was causing her to keep Lena safe and away from her. There was no way these two could stay apart, not after how long it took them to find each other across time and literal space. Fun fact: Maggie Sawyer was a hopeless romantic who believed in second chances, in giving the benefit of the doubt, and in rooting for the underdogs.
Chapter 12: 1m 29s
The whiteboard was collecting objects that mapped out the city and the people in it in ways that seemed chaotic. Grey square magnets represented businesses, initialed in black marker with precise handwriting. Hexagons were government offices and public works. Triangles were loose-knit organizations. Circles were people. Connecting each to the other were red lines and green lines and black lines, anger, money, and violence drawn between the shapes, giving them motives and giving the map a hidden agenda. Cross-checked notes, transcripts, addresses, and photos were strewn across a normally well- organized desk, spilling onto the floor stacked in neat piles there if nowhere else. When she stepped back, the map became a complex spider web of color and connections and she took a breath at the darker side of her city. Anti-alien sentiments ran deep and long and Kara Danvers knew that the other battle for National City’s heart would be a long one.
“Danvers, get in here.”
She heard Snapper Carr’s voice from the news pit to her office and Kara, the reporter, shook her head. Her boss had learned early on that yelling was a thing one did in the news business and it still grated on her nerves, mainly because she had attuned her hearing to filter normal sound ranges most of the time. Amplified voices and sounds threw that off and reset her internal auditory filter so all the sounds rushed in until she adjusted again. Such were the joys and pains of being an alien - she could pick out the light closing and opening of a certain heart in the city, but be drowned by the cacophony of life when she least expected. With a last glance at her webbed creation, Kara picked up a notebook and made her way to Snapper’s office near the pit.
The early morning dawn had been fraught with tension, the verbal confrontation with the Daxamite queen still thrummed through her body and the debrief and planning they all had done at the DEO had been exhausting. The ship had pulled back out of the earth’s atmosphere, but still it hovered near, awaiting their prince. The threat of imminent attack felt less immediate and it gave them time to continue their defense planning and monitoring. Director Henshaw would consult with the President and determine their next course of action, if any. Alex had been especially interested in what Rhea and Kara had discussed, quizzing her repeatedly about the specifics, how things had been phrased, the content of their words. The general consensus was that Supergirl had bought some time, but at some point, they would have to respond. Mon-El was secured far underground at their remote DEO station in the hills, for his own protection and theirs. With such a high profile amnesty target, they could not risk having him within the glass walls of their city command post. Winn would continue to leak false photos of Kara and Mon-El to the darknet, audio snippets of manufactured conversations included to keep the Daxamites satisfied that discussions were progressing and that demands were conveyed. Kara tried not to think of all of those things when she stepped through the doors of CatCo that morning, barely on time. She needed to be Kara Danvers for a bit, needed to forget Supergirl’s present and Kara Zor-El’s past.
“Good afternoon, Snapper. What can I do for you?”
Her boss peered at her over his glasses as a newsfeed played across the screen behind him. He jerked his head up at it.
“What you can do for me, Danvers, is pay attention to the news like it’s your job. Where have you been all day?”
Kara glanced up and her breath caught in the back of her throat. On the screen was such a familiar face that she forgot for a moment where she was and moved closer, as if by instinct. Lena Luthor was at a press conference in the lobby of L-Corp and the scroll at the bottom simply said “Major Shakeup at L-Corp!” Kara felt her heart skip a beat as Snapper turned up the volume and she heard a voice she missed like the air in her lungs.
“..and that is why I am pleased to share with you that L-Corp has divested holdings from companies and organizations that do not share our values. In this day and age, morals matter over money and L-Corp can no longer stand by and invest in companies that are not supportive of alien amnesty policies and practices. The board and I approved these divestitures today and with those proceeds, L-Corp will be creating a non-profit organization devoted to green global energy and sustainable technologies that enhance the quality of life for all who call earth home. We will be naming a new executive director for Pollinate Peace in the coming weeks. I have tremendous hope for the future of this endeavor.”
Kara saw Lena glance over at Jess and smile, the warmth clear on her face and Kara couldn’t help but smile too. She knew Lena had been thinking of promoting Jess and if anyone deserved this, it was her right hand assistant. The board meeting Lena and her staff had been preparing for months had clearly just ended and Kara closed her eyes for a moment, knowing how important that meeting had been and the stress and strain it had taken on Lena. The fact that she hadn’t been there, as a support in the day and hours leading up to it, sent a wave of guilt through her body. There were several board members and senior staff standing behind Lena at the podium and in the background, Kara spotted the stone letter L that had been replaced, her mind replaying that scene from months ago when Supergirl had taken the brunt of that weight as it came hurdling towards Lena. She’d take whatever came for Lena Luthor no questions asked before and even more now. So much had happened in the time between, so much gained and so much lost. Lena then turned back to the cameras and her eyes steeled, taking a deep breath as she continued.
“And as I promised when I assumed leadership at L-Corp, this business will reflect the values that I hold dear and that the board itself is bound to as well. Honesty and transparency matter to L-Corp and it is in that spirit that I share this news with you. For the last several months, our internal audits, into both financial and personnel matters, revealed that five senior managers, eighteen engineers, and a number of other staff have been involved in anti-alien activities that have compromised the integrity of the L-Corp brand and our work culture. I will not tolerate the views and actions that previously defined my brother’s leadership of Luthor Corporation or my mother’s involvement in anti-alien movements. L-Corp welcomes alien employees and has halted production of technology that could cause harm to others. All of those staff have been removed from their duties effective today and I will have no further comment to the media on these personnel matters.”
Kara watched as Lena paused and looked down at her notes before her green eyes found the camera again. It was almost imperceptible but because Kara knew what to look for, she saw the slightest shake of Lena’s hand until it steadied. She also saw darker circles from lack of sleep well hidden under makeup, and knew that she was partly the cause. The physical and emotional distance between them felt like a sharp pain between her ribs as Kara took a breath and watched as Lena nodded.
“The last several months have been full of difficult choices that I do not take lightly. I have resigned from three boards of organizations that have become antithetical to my own personal values and I have lost several individuals who I considered trusted colleagues and friends. Actions speak louder than words and the actions I have taken are on the right side of history, even if they come at a personal cost. I understand that I bear a greater responsibility as a Luthor, given our family’s history, and I accept that responsibility.”
She watched as Lena took a deep breath and glanced at her notes again before she set them aside at the podium and seemed to look through the camera and right at Kara.
“On a more personal note, despite these challenges, the last several months have also been some of the happiest in my life in ways I would have never thought possible. I would not change a thing, not one moment, not one second. I’m not going anywhere, I will still be here with you..all..as we continue to fight for what is right for National City and a better tomorrow for all on this planet. As we each confront our own hearts in these trying times, I leave you with these words: For one to love another, that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks and the work for which all other work is but preparation. Thank you.”
And with that, Kara watched as Lena turned and left the podium as reporters tried to call out questions and follow-up comments in her wake to no avail, her board and staff followed towards the elevators and the news conference was over. The newsfeed kept showing an empty podium and Kara barely noticed that the volume had been turned off. What she held on to was that glimmer of hope left in the words spoken by the woman speaking them. Lena was still there, she wasn’t going anywhere and if that was directed to her or to all of National City, it really didn’t matter. Kara heard it and it made her fingertips tingle and her ribs ache in that way again.
And the voice startled her as the world came back into focus and Snapper Carr stared at her, expecting a response. Kara reached up and adjusted her glasses as she turned to face him.
“Um..I’m sorry, sir, what?”
Her boss blew out an exasperated breath as he picked up a markup copy and shook his head at her.
“I swear Danvers, it’s like reporting is a part-time hobby for you. I expect a quote and a writeup on this Luthor thing to go with your anti-alien series.”
His eyes turned to the paper and Kara stood there, quiet, until he looked up at her again.
“Was I unclear? Quote. Story. Report. Job. Now.”
Kara cleared her throat and shifted in her spot, the paper and pen in her hand falling to her side.
“I think I heard that Ms. Luthor would have no further comment so I don’t really think a quote is..”
Snapper’s eyebrows shot up at her and she swallowed.
“..going to happen, but I could be wrong..”
Her boss pointed at her with his markup papers, his voice accusatory.
“If you are unable to get a simple quote on the biggest news coming out of L-Corp in the last three months, I question your commitment to this story, Danvers.”
“Oh, I’m very committed to this story, sir, in fact I’ve mapped it out this morning and really, L-Corp is but one…”
“L-Corp and the Luthor name and Lena herself is what is sexy about your story. It’s what readers are going to focus on, it’s the hook, it’s the eye candy to bring them in and the rest is the red meat. The sooner you learn to exploit the eye candy, the more views your story will earn, Danvers.”
Kara felt her own brows coming together as she put her hand on her hip.
“I’m not sure that I appreciate..the analogy..sir, and I have plenty of material to focus on without a quote. The news conference transcript and board meeting minutes should already be available on the L-Corp website so..”
Snapper put his paper down and came closer to her, invading her space until she felt herself flare a little under the surface. He wasn’t a threat, of course, but his management style certainly needed work.
“Danvers, this isn’t a request to get a quote from Lena Luthor, this is an order.”
That flare under her surface started to burn at the words, tired of being ordered to do this or that by others and every time, it involved her relationship with Lena. She felt her own face growing warm and knew if she didn’t move or fly, she would likely do damage. She was already on edge from this morning, already hurting from yesterday, already at her breaking point and her job as Kara Danvers was about to push her over the edge. It wasn’t supposed to be like that, this was supposed to be her normalcy, her reprieve and here she was about to throw a grown man across the room for being an ass. Her temper had always been difficult to contain when it leaked from the inside out and so she took a deep breath, remembered the sound of Lena’s voice at the end and the way green eyes had looked right at her. It was just enough to calm the way energy that surged through her hands and up through her ribs and helped prevent it from burning out of her eyes. She narrowed her brows and tried to keep her voice steady, tried to remember she was Kara Danvers and not an alien who could break anything she touched. Still it seeped out in her tone.
“And if I don’t obey your order?”
Snapper seemed taken aback by that and stepped back, his eyes searching her face curiously. He was quiet for a moment as he considered his words. Kara’s fingers squeezed against the notepad in her hand, feeling the pencil starting to crack.
“If you don’t, you’ll be missing an opportunity to highlight the fact that your friend, Lena Luthor, just stood up to the entire business community of National City and set an example for how to lead in times of civil unrest. You’ll miss an opportunity to tell the story of how L-Corp and Lena Luthor were a force for good instead of an arm of the Luthor machine. You’ll miss the heart of this story, Danvers. Do you really want to lose that?”
Kara took a breath and exhaled, letting go of what was being held inside and feeling the sparks fall out of her fingertips unseen. She already missed the heart of her story, already ached at the circumstances that led to what was missing inside of her. The truth was that if Kara was ever going to keep all the pieces of her life together and stand for what was right, she was going to have to choose the path her own heart told her to take, regardless of the cost. There was no way she could fight the Daxamites if she wasn’t fighting on the right side of her own heart. And right now, all paths led to the same place: Lena Luthor.
The hallway was quiet, the work day coming to an end as the last of the setting sun left a golden gleaming streak across the marbled floor through the glass windows. The hum of the building, the internal mechanics that kept it cool and kept the electricity flowing through the tall structure lulled her and she re-crossed her legs in the sleek black chair. Her fingers found the strap of her leather bag and she touched the stitching, counting and recounting each indent. Now, a quiet tapping of a pen on a dark granite surface across from her caught her attention as it softly pounded out an unknown rhythm. Each time the elevator stopped on a floor, the ding registered in her ears as did the swooshing of the doors opening and closing in response. An airplane overhead increased velocity, the wings of birds flapped across the sky, and the din of thousands and thousands of people’s voices layered over everything. But what kept her attention, even as she tried to drown it out with every other noise, was the slow beating of a heart on the other side of a door just down the hall. It was steady and strong and filled her ears until it was all she could hear until a throat cleared and she looked up.
“I’m sorry, Kara, I let her know you were here, but she must be on a call. Maybe you could come back tomorrow?”
Kara looked at Jess, Lena’s assistant still in her position as the gatekeeper to her boss even now. The look in her eyes told Kara that she was sympathetic, but that she had clearly been given orders. When Kara had first arrived at L-Corp that late afternoon, it was with a swirl of emotions, apprehension and anticipation warring for attention inside of her. She had hesitated at Jess’ desk instead of taking advantage of the open invitation to Lena’s office she usually enjoyed here. Given everything that had happened, she couldn’t bring herself to just walk in, not after the way she had left things and not after how it had made them both feel. Seeing Lena last night from the balcony, when she had watched over her as Supergirl was one thing and even that felt like she had no right to do when she was the one who had called things off under duress. Now here she was, as Kara Danvers the reporter doing her job, and it really didn’t matter because no matter who she was, she was the one who had hurt the woman on the other side of that door. As the golden glow of the setting sun started to turn the hallway light to a certain shade of orange, Kara nodded her head at Jess.
“No, I get it, Jess. It’s okay. I was just hoping..”
And really, what was she hoping for? That this would be easier? That Jess would have nodded at her when she arrived as she always did and Lena Luthor would have flung open the doors to her office and greeted her with that smile she got when she saw Kara after a long day. Was she expecting that all would be forgiven and Lena would let out a quiet relieved breath as Kara’s arm would slide around a waist and a body that leaned into her. Had she thought she’d enter that white office heady with the perfume of jasmine in the air when Lena let her hair down and shook it out because it had been such a long day with the board meeting and the decisions she had made and the stand she had taken. Was she wishing green eyes would find hers and then close when Kara ran her fingers through dark locks of hair and pulled Lena close to ask how she was and to be told better now that you’re here and she would bring their bodies together until everything else was squeezed out between them until they just took a deep breath at the same time and lips would find a throat or an ear or a willing mouth and all would be forgotten. Kara was full of so much hope for things that were not happening that she stood because she couldn’t sit there anymore and hear that heartbeat behind the door and not go towards it even though she was being turned away from it so she willed her feet, through powers superhuman, to walk in a different direction. The elevator felt a million miles away as her hands shook and her body felt the call of the wind and height and anything that would make the missing go away. The air sparked electric on her lips as she took a breath and heard her name spoken so quietly she thought her hearing was playing tricks on her to spite her heart.
The last sliver of the sun was sliding down to the west, dusky red reflecting off all the glass in National City and Kara Danvers stopped. When she turned, she was afraid that she would see a mirage instead of Lena Luthor leaning against the doorframe of her office, her other hand holding the glass door open and the setting sun behind her. Dark hair and the same wine colored dress from the press conference and those green eyes holding hers told her what she was seeing was real. She heard a soft exhale of breath and a skipped beat of a heart calling out to her. Kara forgot about her orders, from Snapper, from the DEO, from everyone, and followed the only one that mattered, between her own ribs, and she took a step towards the only direction that was true.
Chapter 13: 6°
There were many reasons to flee to the woods, to find a hidden garden path, or a perch high in the branches, but the reason Lena Luthor often sought out solitude in the past was because she felt too many eyes on her and none welcome. Growing up, she and her brother were spotlighted and put on display for social events or donors with not much difference between the two. After she had been held out to perform or to smile or to entertain her mother’s friends, she would flee the weight of that attention on her. When she was young, that attention only meant trouble. As she got older, it meant trouble and power. She learned when to shirk from it and when to wield it and even as Lillian scratched at her surface with callous remarks, Lena knew that she was transforming into someone who attracted eyes and interest. Her name followed her, but in times when she could hide it, gazes found her face anyway, the curves of her body, the sway of her body as she moved to protect herself by standing tall, assuming authority as a way to manage the attention. When Lena wanted the focus on anything but her, the weight of others’ interest found her.
After the press conference, she and the board had retreated upstairs and finished final signatory duties and pleasantries in the late afternoon and she had sighed when a few lingering board members had taken her up on her offer of a drink despite everything about her face telling them she’d rather call the day a day. When Jess finally nudged the last one out of the executive suite bar, Lena looked at her with utter gratitude and thanks as she sought the refuge of her office and away from the attention. She was exhausted, for a lot of reasons, but the proposal sitting in front of her offered a retreat and distraction, too tempting not to review, the schematics on the video screen too enticing not to analyze, the theoretical possibilities too heady for Lena not to entertain. It also helped keep her mind off the other part of her life that felt too far away and too hard. In any other circumstances, she would have wanted only one other person in her space right now, one other person to look at her and know what she needed. Instead, she let her eyes fall on formulas and equations on the screen in front of her.
Lena peered at her computer as the text message slid into her screen from her assistant and her brows came together. The only time Jess texted was either when she was away from her desk or that there were certain visitors she didn’t want to hear their phone conversation, which meant one of two things: her mother stalking towards her door or the media. Her heart skipped a beat as another possibility crossed her mind.
You have a visitor. It’s Kara..
At that, her fingers hesitated over the keyboard. She was surprised, but also not. After what she had shared during the news conference, she wasn’t shocked that someone from CatCo would come calling. The fact that it was Kara was what made her heart race and when that happened, she tried to calm it knowing that it had already given her away. Super ears had picked it up no doubt. She couldn’t think of what to tell Jess but she didn’t have to, the text box slid back into her view.
I’ll keep her here until you tell me otherwise.
How did she know, what gave it away? Jess knew Kara had free access, knew of their relationship and had protected their privacy, had welcomed Kara with a nod and smile. When she showed up, Kara would just knock quietly and walk into her office, smiling softly at her if she were finishing up business on her computer or dropping a quiet kiss on her forehead if she were on the phone or running fingers through her hair if the day had been long and Lena’s eyes were tired and she needed softness, needed Kara instead of business. Now, Jess held the reporter outside and protected Lena from..what? The looming argument? The heated discussion? The threat of tears? She wasn’t even sure how she’d respond to Kara, her feelings having run the gamut from anger to sadness to..something else. Her coffee with Maggie this morning helped, but still..there was distance.
And then there was warmth on her face and on her neck and Lena reached up to touch it, realizing that Kara knew she was there, was looking at her, even if briefly and likely hesitantly, checking on her through the walls. Lena closed her eyes at the reminder that the woman outside of her office could do things no one else could because she fell from the stars and landed here. Kara was so full of energy, some of which she shared with Lena, unconsciously, the tiny sparks, the vibrations, the surging power of her fingertips, her hands and her warm vision and hearing and everything else super about her. Kara gave that to her, let her see and experience those special gifts and Lena closed her eyes. Sometimes, she forgot super abilities and sometimes she couldn’t help but be reminded of Kara and who she was.
It was mid-March, months ago, a perfect Thursday afternoon that started sliding into sunset, just as now. Kara had come to her office after work and plopped on her couch, needing to rant about Snapper and the story she was working on and how no one cared anymore about real news and how was she going to make new trends in healthy eating interesting for someone who didn’t have to count calories in fact needed tens of thousands of them to keep going and Alex kept bugging her about what gift they were going to get for Eliza with her birthday coming up and how she nearly dodged a bullet this morning, not a literal one, but one dropped by a pigeon that she heard rather than saw and how was Lena anyway what did she have for lunch any thoughts on dinner what was she working on? Lena had just peered over her computer screen, watching Kara animatedly talk to her and she smiled as Kara’s ponytail bounced with each word and her foot tapped against her leg and her hands were all over the air until she saw Lena staring at her and stopped all movement.
Lena chuckled at Kara’s question and closed her computer screen and folding her hands together on top of it. Kara glowed and she could see it from where she was, a haze of soft golden light surrounding Kara and knew she was the only one who could see it.
“You’re really beautiful right now, Kara.”
Kara sputtered a bit at that and adjusted her glasses, looking down as a blush spread to her cheeks and she peered back at Lena.
“Um..I wasn’t trying to be...I’m just..”
Lena smiled and stood, walking over to her couch as Kara’s eyes followed her. She settled herself close on the white leather but not touching yet because she knew. She could see it and feel it, the way Kara was thrumming just under the surface, pent up energy and invisible sparks. Lena let her finger run along Kara’s hand and she shivered at the warm current she felt before looking into Kara’s eyes.
“I know...you’re just…”
They didn’t have a word for it yet because there wasn’t one. It was a feeling like happiness and an experience like electricity that came unexpectedly when atoms rearranged themselves in different, exceptional ways. It’s what drove Kara to do the things she did and to want the things she wanted. Lena could have tried to describe it scientifically, could talk about chemistry and radiation and transformation, but because it was Kara, it was more about magic. Kara was amazing and special because Kara was more than just what her body could do now, her heart and her feelings transformed this, whatever this was, into something that defied words. Sometimes, it took Lena’s breath away because Kara shared it with her, let her see it and feel it with her. It was like watching a total eclipse and knowing that technically the moon covers the sun in a predictable orbital path but also feeling that the science of it could never really capture the profound experience of it. There are no words that could capture the way Kara was and Lena loved that about her. And so she carefully let her lips brush against Kara’s, smiling against the stinging softness and pressing in for more when Kara took in a deep breath at the contact and her hand fell to Lena’s bare knee in response. Lena could feel Kara trying to hold back just a little so she let her tongue slip between soft, eager lips to touch hard teeth and encourage such things.
And then a ringing phone ruined it all. Again. So Lena leaned back and smiled, watching Kara’s eyes close in frustration, her cheeks warmed and red, before she reached down into her bag and practically growled as she answered.
“Alex, this better be good.”
Lena watched as Kara’s brows came together and she listened, sitting up straighter and nodding.
Lena saw what was happening, another transformation, another re-arrangement of Kara’s body literally and otherwise. She knew what was coming when Kara’s hand unconsciously went to her glasses and pulled them off, as she started to stand.
“I’ll be right there...yes, of course.”
Kara dropped her phone into her bag and found Lena’s eyes, shaking her head.
“I’m really sorry, I need to go. Can I..?”
Obviously, Lena knew that Kara slipped into Supergirl when needed but had never witnessed it. It felt private, for some reason, and Kara hadn’t shared that full transformation with her yet. Kara’s hands were already at the neck of her pink oxford before Lena even had a chance to nod and she watched as Kara quickly ripped open her shirt to reveal familiar blue and yellow and red. It caught her offguard and took her breath away at the same time so she blinked and turned to lock her office door, lest Jess come in unannounced. By the time she turned back around, Supergirl was already standing near her office balcony door, blond hair out of its ponytail and red cape now draping down her back. Her heart beat faster at the sudden change in how Kara held herself and the fire in her eyes. Lena took a step forward, drawn to the superhero, as Kara spoke with a determined and still eager smile forming on her lips. Kara wanted to fly and it showed.
“I’ll be back.”
Lena crossed the room and let her hand reach out for an arm in blue, her mouth opening as an invisible jolt at the contact sent a wave through her that caused her heart to race. Kara was otherwordly beautiful and powerful all at once and Lena wanted that feeling and experience to last because it was magic, pure and simple. Supergirl stepped out onto the balcony and barely had time to hear her whispered words before launching at the speed of light away, her wake blowing Lena’s hair around her face.
“Be careful, Kara…”
Lena sat in her darkened office, swiveled around to watch the night sky and stars start to blink, a glass of wine on her desk her only companion. There was no way she was leaving the building until Kara returned and she knew she shouldn’t be worried but that didn’t stop her. Kara was a superhero, but that didn’t mean Lena was going to worry any less because she wasn’t always told what dangers Kara dealt with when she was saving the city. Lena already knew enough about the dangers of her own mother and the damage she had inflicted on Kara, knew about kryptonite in its various forms, surely there were other threats, other aliens or weapons that could get past her defenses to harm the woman she desperately...needed? She closed her eyes and sent a silent wish to the skies to bring her super one back in one piece. As if on cue, she felt a familiar warmth and a slight shake to the ground outside her office. Kara skidded to a stop, the descent whipping her cape out like a rope before she shook her hair, gone wild with the wind, out of her eyes. And that smile was still there.
Lena met her at the door with soft words, her hands automatically searching for places to hold on a still vibrating body as Kara laughed softly.
Lena nodded and let herself lean into a solid body still thrumming from the flight and likely the fight, the crispness of the night air and Kara filling her senses. Kara’s arms were wrapped around her, pulling her tight and she buried her face into a cool neck that warmed quickly on her lips. She felt like a war bride, waiting at the window for her heart to come home as if this was what they did now, how they were. That thought brought Lena’s mind back to the purpose of the absence and the fight that likely occurred. She had remembered other fights, watching Kara get pummeled in a cold mountain lair or stop tonnage of concrete with her body from smashing into her. For some reason, it gave her pause, sent her heart racing for another reason.
Even if Kara had superhuman abilities, it didn’t mean she didn’t experience such assaults on her body, the violence of others directed squarely at her and sometimes because of her. Physically, perhaps it was barely noticeable, but Lena wondered of the emotional toll of so many fights and so many fists or feet or steel bars or weapons aimed at Kara’s body. And of course, Kara used her body and her fists in violent ways against others, inflicting real harm and real hurt on bodies that could and could not take it. Lena knew a few things about how such things could linger far longer than the physical manifestation. There were many ways for damage to be done and now that Lena knew Kara better, had seen the other side of the woman who had lost everything, she knew that the violence she participated in might not hurt her body, but could hurt a heart such as Kara’s. These were some of the sacrifices Kara made to do what she did for all here on Earth and for her. She pulled back and let her fingertips reach up to Kara’s face and her eyes began searching the woman standing in front of her. Lena asked, because she wanted to know, because she was involved, was all in.
“What happened, Kara?”
Kara smiled and shook her head, blond hair bobbing as she breathed out.
“Just some bad guys doing bad things. I handled it.”
Lena stepped back and searched blue eyes before she spoke quietly, trying not to let her own heart pound out of her chest. Kara’s brow came together a little at the change.
“Tell me please. I want to know what happens to you when you’re out there.”
She watched Kara shift and hold her eyes before looking down at her hands, the same ones Lena was now holding, feeling what she was feeling coming from them. In the dim of her office barely lit by the city lights, Lena ducked her head until Kara looked at her again.
Kara held her eyes and she could feel the warmth coming from them, covering her face before Kara took a breath. Her voice was quiet as they stood close.
“There were eight of them. Two hostages..girls from Durla. We fought. I won.”
Lena reached up and let her fingertips trace against Kara’s face as soft as she dared.
“You fought. Did they hit you?”
Kara shifted again and nodded, her words quiet and deflecting.
“Yes, but I’m okay. And the hostages were freed.”
“Where did they hit you?”
Kara stepped back a bit before Lena reached out and kept her close. The night was so quiet and the stars kept shining outside and her white office couldn’t hide the way Kara’s eyes were shining.
“Lena..why are you asking? I’m made of some pretty strong stuff.”
Lena nodded her head and kept her voice quiet.
“You are. Did someone punch you here?”
Lena let her finger touch as lightly as she could against Kara’s cheek at a nearly invisible spot where she could barely see a disturbance on the surface of Kara’s skin, the atoms throwing off slightly darker sparks. Kara reached up and touched against her own face as her brows came together.
Lena nodded before she slowly leaned up and let her lips gently press against Kara’s skin, feeling the hint of chaos under her lips at the contact. It settled down as she lingered until it felt right and Lena pulled back, her eyes finding Kara’s before she started looking again, now realizing what she was looking for.
“Were someone’s hands on you here?”
Lena saw an outline of dark sparks along Kara’s neck and it brought to the surface visuals she hadn’t wanted and she stifled a shudder when Kara just nodded her head. She closed her eyes and leaned in, pressing her lips softly and carefully along the column of Kara’s neck, soothing out the damage, spending time where her mouth seemed to do the most good. Her eyes searched Kara before she tenderly let her fingertips brush against ribs held mostly safe under a blue suit.
Kara closed her eyes and Lena watched as her hands went to fists at the memory of whatever had happened. Maybe a kick, maybe a crowbar, maybe something worse. Lena leaned down and held Kara’s body close in her hands as she pressed her face and mouth against fabric, breathing out until everything fell into place under her. She came back up and looked at Kara, finding other places where she could see and feel, placing soft kisses wherever they were until she was satisfied she found them all. And then Lena reached down for Kara’s hands, still in fists, as blue eyes slowly opened.
“Let me just...”
Kara was quiet as she inhaled a shaky breath when Lena brought one hand to her lips, gently coaxing the fist open and kissing away all the darkness that had settled there from the fight. She could feel the energy turn under her lips, from violet black to golden sweetness. When she was satisfied with the softness that she felt replacing the hardness, she brought the other fist to her mouth and pressed her lips against knuckles and bones and skin and tightness until Kara let go, her hand opening. Lena kept her lips in the palm the longest and the softest, knowing Kara’s right hand likely did the most damage, weathered the biggest storms and blows. She kissed and soothed gently, feeling the superhero coming back to earth with all the rough edges starting to smooth out and the glow returning.
Lena felt Kara’s eyes on her, heat starting to cover her face and her neck and everywhere skin was exposed. She knew the tide had turned, that things had shifted from repair to release and that Kara now needed in ways only Lena understood. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed, changed from one form to another. Kara’s fight now shifted to something else completely. They needed no words to define this, Lena only needed to look at Kara in just the right way, giving permission. Lena exhaled when she felt Kara’s hands rip away the buttons on her silk blouse like tearing a thin tissue and she held Kara’s eyes, unafraid of the power surging under Kara’s hands and reassuring Kara that she could have what she needed. Lena kept her eyes on blue as Kara exhaled, cheeks warmed golden red now, the fire returning just under the surface not from the fight but from the need and Lena sank to her knees. Healing took many forms and someone like Lena understood that better than most.
Now, with her eyes closed, she sat at her desk as the sun set red behind her back and knew that she couldn’t not do something or say something to Kara who she knew would wait for her outside her office until Jess told her to go home. There was much to be said, repair to be done, of course, and she still felt many things, but she had softened. The fact remained that someone like Kara was someone Lena Luthor was not going to let go. She got it, got that Kara was sometimes asked to make sacrifices that she never shared with others, even Lena. Kara already held so much in, held the weight of this world and hers, it was time to see and be seen, not retreat, time to soften and let go, not harden and hold on. In the end, she just wanted honesty and she just wanted Kara and she wanted those two things because the world was hard enough and she wanted to give it the softness it deserved and take care of the superhero that kept it safe. She opened her eyes as she stood, slowly walking to the door as the light turned to vermillion through the windows of her office, casting it in a whole different light. Lena steadied the hand that shook, opened the door and let out a breath as she watched Kara Danvers starting to walk away. In the hallway light, her eyes saw the golden glow surrounding Kara and she called out.
Chapter 14: 188 db
There was space quiet and then there was human quiet and both were loud with the weight of everything making noise in the background or under the surface. In space, even the stars contributed great cracking and whooshing sounds though few, if any, ever heard. Gases expanding and contracting, flares shooting out into a dark atmosphere filled with substances that combusted or resisted with great fanfare. Elements collided, vacuums were filled, cosmic dust crashed against whatever was in its path at any given moment, combining or annihilating into something more or less. Such events caused a symphony of vibrations and pulsating sounds that washed across distances like gentle, violent waves. Space was surprisingly loud. While Kara Zor-El slept in the pocket of space where time stood still, she absorbed the sound of a silence that was anything but. Nothing is without a dull roar.
Now, as she stood in the middle of Lena Luthor’s office of white, all she noticed was how very, very quiet it was between two people. The world fell away, the din of cars and voices and the city all faded out of her ears until there was nothing left, for just a moment. It was dizzying, really, for everything to suddenly go silent, for all sounds to cease. The red glow of sunset was starting to fade into a blue-violet and it was all so perfectly, jarringly quiet. And then Kara remembered to breathe and the rush of sounds like a river filled her head, human sounds found not in space but here on earth. Oxygen in, carbon dioxide out. Blood flowing. Tiny doors opening and closing in a human heart. Eyes blinking. Lips parting. Bones and joints settling. Muscle shifting. Lena existing. The wave of all those very quiet and very overwhelming noises caused her to sway just a little and pull off her glasses to steady herself.
“Are you okay?”
And then there was that voice washing over her and it became too much and Kara blinked, exhaled, and reached out for the cool solid desk in front of her. Her eyes found Lena’s, dark brows drawn together and she could see the push-pull on Lena’s face, deciding whether to move close or keep her distance. Kara let a small smile form as she shook her head and swallowed. She hadn’t travelled 2000 light years through the roaring din of space for nothing, she was the girl of steel now and that meant withstanding the consequences of her choices, no matter how hard it was to take.
“No, I’m not. I’m sorry...”
She just left the words there between them and watched Lena try to make sense of them. It was the only thing she could think of saying right now, words having a hard time breaking through her ribs, up through her lungs, and out of her mouth. Kara saw different emotions flash across Lena’s face and her green eyes were unable to hide things from Kara anymore. She read each feeling and absorbed them like sound waves, like colliding particles and she could feel the way each re-arranged and transformed the atoms in her own body. It felt like colors warming and cooling against her skin, it felt like stirring a pot of stinging nettles, it felt like the sound of friction right before an earthquake or a glacial ebb. It was quiet again as Lena crossed her arms and turned, the click of her heels broke the silence and the arcing current as she walked towards the tall windows of her office and spoke more to the changing colors of the sky than to Kara.
“Did you come here tonight to tell me that or because you needed something from me?”
Kara flinched, for many reasons. Time was also a sound, more like thunder that rolled over her and snapped as the passing of months brought the same words back from the past, stinging like a buzz saw. Except this time, Lena’s voice was not harsh and suspicious, but soft and unguarded. It would be easier if the answer was not yes to both in Lena’s quiet question. It would be easier if she had compelled herself to see Lena without a reason or better yet, had not even put them both in this position. Kara needed to say many things to Lena and she also had a job to do, the latter feeling like the last thing she wanted to discuss. Quiet descended again as she looked at Lena’s silhouette in the window, her dark form and dark hair matching the coming night. How could she break the sound barrier without leaving her feet?
After she had called out into the hush of the hallway, Lena had turned and walked back into her office, leaving the door open and knowing Kara Danvers would step through. She tried to discern where the safest place to be was right now, how to put some space between herself and the woman that took her breath from her lungs and filled them with just a glance. Lena stood between her desk and the balcony door, barrier or escape if the ringing in her ears became too much. When Kara had turned back towards her in the hall outside her office, it felt like every atom in her body rushed from her extremities to her heart and back out again, the sound inside her own head like a river rushing and pounding against the rocks of her bones. It reminded her of falling, one dark night months ago, into the black abyss off of her balcony and wondering which was worse, the bellow of the descent or the ground she was about to meet. And now, the woman who had scooped her up and filled her with something else completely over the last few months stood as still as a statue in the middle of her office, pinstriped skirt and grey sweater over her ever-present white oxford, movement ceasing, the earth settling around them. Lena turned and faced Kara, exhaling a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding and everything went silent.
In that space between a roar and the calm, Lena watched Kara falter, almost imperceptibly, and she would not have noticed it if she hadn’t spent these last few months in very close proximity and could read the tells of a superhero struggling with being a human. Lena blinked and opened her mouth to speak as she saw Kara sway and her hand go to her glasses, pulling them off.
“Are you okay?”
It was instinct, to ask and to want to move forward and reach out to Kara. They hadn’t spent the last few months moving away from each other but instead increasingly towards the other when something was wrong, when everything felt off. It was also now instinct to want to be close to Kara when the day was long and when Lena herself needed comfort, needed arms to wrap around her or a solid body to lean into and soothe against the way the world could be sometimes. They had become each other’s sanctuary and respite in the time they had grown close and she missed that. Of course she did, how could she not? Now, the distance that had come between them sounded like wind through a canyon until Kara steadied herself against her desk, gave her a small smile and a shake of her head before it all went quiet again.
“No, I’m not.”
Lena heard a tiny pause in Kara’s soft words before she felt a wave of color reach her with the gentle sound of water far off in the distance.
Was that all it would take to undo what had been done less than 36 hours before? Lena let herself remember and feel the way she had woken up, soft and warm against Kara, and the way she had fallen asleep, ravaged and bruised and sated, and the way Kara had looked at her right before words, protective and sad and conflicted, and the way she had felt when untruthful words came out of Kara’s mouth, stunned and hurt, and angry, and the way she had wished for everything to be different and to stay the same. Lena did not think about what had happened, she felt it, relived it, experienced the entire swirling mix of emotions that had started with Kara saying ‘I need to tell you something’. She felt too much right now, especially with Kara standing close, but far enough away to make 36 hours feel like miles between them. So she turned and walked towards her window, giving herself some breathing room and some space to think and not feel, to look out of glass at other people living lives that didn’t involve being in love with Kara Danvers. The dark red sunset had already transformed into purples and blues on the way to black and Lena Luthor took a breath and quietly wondered aloud, not sure what to do with any answer that could come.
“Did you come here tonight to tell me that or because you needed something from me?”
Kara set her glasses down on Lena’s desk with a soft clatter and willed her feet and her legs to move herself forward, to overcome earth’s gravity and the inertia of doubt that felt like lead in her belly. She had already lied, begrudgingly, to Lena once and the only thing that could mend this was as much truth as her duty and responsibility would allow and she had to hope that it would be enough. Lena’s shoulders softened when she blew out a breath and Kara knew that there was no way to keep her eyes from warming Lena’s back. Kara’s body was more truthful right now, unable to hold back the sparks and the way light sought dark. Kara closed her eyes as she stood as close as she dared and let her heart guide her words.
“What you did today, what you said, reminded me of one of the first times I saw you standing up for what was right even when it was dangerous. You were renaming your company because you wanted to be a force for good, you wanted to repay a debt for your last name, for being who you are even if you had no choice in that. You stood on that stage and I watched the world explode behind you because of that. I think about all the times I could have lost you because you did what was right and you became a target. Yet you keep making sacrifices time and time again, even when people doubt you, even when it’s the harder choice, when it isn’t safe.”
Kara could hear Lena turn around so she opened her eyes, letting them search Lena’s face and soften. It was true, Lena was going to face danger whether Kara liked it or not because someone like Lena was someone who would choose to open a locked gate if it freed a wild heart or betray her own mother if it saved a whole city. She deserved the truth.
“Snapper sent me to get a quote, to write about how Lena Luthor stood up for what was right when people in this country, in this city, in your company and mine, people close to both of us want people like me, aliens, to leave or to suffer or worse. And there are aliens out there who feel the same kind of darkness that humans do, who intend harm. We’re really not so different after all. But the thing is, Lena, doing nothing is no longer an option. We both know that and I will do what I have to do to stop this darkness from spreading, even if it costs me everything, even if it costs me you.”
Lena was so close and everything was so quiet.
“But aliens and humans also share the capacity to care for others..to feel empathy..to love, to be those better angels we talk about. We’re in a fight for the soul of who we wish to be, Lena...and I believe good will prevail, I really do. I want a world like that for you, for everyone, human or alien. We all deserve a chance to be happy, to shine, to be where our hearts are needed most.”
Kara took another breath as her hands began to shake slightly, the sparks falling from her fingertips resting at her sides and she saw Lena glance down before finding her eyes again. There was no use in trying to hide the subtle glow her body gave off in the darkening office, the way her ribs expanded to let everything inside of her out when she was in Lena’s presence. When Kara spoke again, she barely heard herself over the silence and over all the words that she had already said.
“I came here tonight to tell you that I am sorry I lied to you. And I’m sorry that I can’t tell you why right now. I can only ask you to trust me, for a little while longer. Please.”
She watched Lena close her eyes briefly before she nodded once and it felt like a warm bath of relief as weight lifted just a little and her shoulders felt lighter. She had hated the lying part the most, especially to Lena, especially after all they had been through and it ate at her insides more than she realized. She could have done things differently but the swirl of it all, the looming threats and the DEO orders and plans and Alex and J’onn had clouded everything, including her internal compass and she needed clarity of purpose and conviction if she was going to take on what she knew, in her heart of hearts, was going to be a fight to the death. Rhea would not walk away without her son and without retribution for what had happened to Daxam. But such thoughts were for another day because right now, Kara wanted to only focus on the woman standing in front of her and the way green eyes turned grey when her own found them.
“…I came here to tell you that I can’t do this without you…I need you.”
Kara dipped her head down and looked at her hands, knowing they would not be as sure without Lena’s belief in her and her support. Just like she needed Alex. It was a different need, but one all the same. It had not taken her very long to realize that she was so much stronger when she was fighting for something and for someone. The damage she did, the blows she took could only be eased by the softness that came after, the way Lena could smooth out the sharpness of what a superhero had to do. She looked up to see Lena sway towards her a bit so she moved closer until her head filled with so much sound it became as silent as space.
“..and I came here to tell you that I love you.”
Lena exhaled a breath she didn’t know she had been holding, watching Kara’s quiet words fall between them like the colors the sky made at sunrise and sunset. The look on her face, the way her blue eyes held hers when she said those words made Lena reach out, finding Kara’s hand thrumming and noisy with the energy of hope and fear and every feeling Lena could sense in the current flowing under skin and bones and into her own hand. It was the magic of Kara, stardust embodied in physical form. She could stay mad, she could resist, she could do a lot of things but the only thing she wanted to do was close the distance and find her way back to a superhero who travelled 2000 light years to stand here in front of her and tell her she was loved. Lena smiled because the woman in front of her, Kara Zor-El, took a chance, admitted mistakes like the imperfect element in all, human or alien, and let herself be seen, fully, completely, and it took Lena’s breath away. And Lena smiled because her lips couldn’t resist curving when they met Kara’s, the feel of light, hopeful sparks tickling against them until she pulled back and spoke softly.
“Were you aware that I’m in love with you too, Kara? Hopelessly, it seems.”
Lena watched as Kara smiled and tipping her chin down before she looked back up and pulled Lena closer, one hand on her hip and the other still in Lena’s hand and she felt herself swayed gently back and forth. She was sure there was music somewhere and it was so soft now, so quiet that she took a deep breath and felt it settle inside of her. It was the side effect of being with Kara, everything transformed into something beyond this earth, beyond explanation or science. Lena closed her eyes and pressed herself into Kara’s body, the hum of it feeling like warm vibrations against her. Her hands rested on sturdy shoulders, capable of impossible things and able to hold the weight of it all. She shivered a bit when she felt Kara’s mouth find her ear, whispering quietly.
“I was hoping you might..be..”
Lean turned her head and found Kara’s eyes, her lips drawn again to softness in front of her.
“I am. Impossibly.”
She felt Kara smile into her mouth and she closed her eyes, breathing in deep when lips pressed against hers and it felt like a homecoming in the way Kara’s hand found her hair and fingers threaded through and she sunk into that feeling. The truth was that she didn’t need the truth from Kara about the why, she didn’t need to hear the details of what made Kara want to keep her at a distance for however long she needed because she knew that Kara would come back to her. And she knew that Kara needed her and that was all that mattered. She could guess, she could conjecture about the DEO and Alex and the kinds of choices that Supergirl was facing. She could demand answers, pry them out of a reluctant mouth if she really wanted, but it would only compromise Kara or endanger her or leave her open to something she could only imagine. Lena hadn’t gotten where she was by being naive, she could deduce plausible scenarios, theories. But it didn’t matter, not now, not after what Kara had confessed and the way her skin sung against Lena’s and they swayed, Lena getting lost in finally admitting out loud what she had kept inside. She was just about to press in further and encourage the reconnection between them when her office phone discretely buzzed and Kara stepped back, surprised by the sudden sound. Lena opened her eyes and felt lightheaded from the breaking of the circuit and the way the rest of the outside world seemed to rush back in.
Lena cleared her throat after hearing how ragged it sounded and she moved towards her desk, Kara giving her a smile as she let her pass but Kara didn’t let go of her hand, fingers holding loosely. She picked up the the phone as she turned around, leaning back against her desk and felt Kara’s eyes on her face, down her neck and along her arm. She took in a breath before she spoke.
“Yes? …..oh damn, I forgot...what time?.....no, no, it’s the only time I can meet her...where? Pakas? Ok….yes, I’ll need my car. Thanks Jess...I know..believe me, I know.”
She sighed as she hung up the phone behind her and Kara’s eyes were on her, bright and blue and Lena could feel Kara letting go of her hand but she held on.
“I’m really sorry, Kara. I wasn’t..expecting you to stop by and I have a prior engagement. But I could cancel...we can just..”
Lena watched Kara shake her head, feeling a swirl of chaos on her fingertips and the spark of something different, a subtle disturbance on the surface of Kara’s skin.
“No, no..go, it’s okay. I..just..showed up..”
Lena smiled softly as she held Kara’s hand and felt the way it cooled and warmed against her own, waves washing over her own fingertips.
“And I'm glad you did. We needed to..talk...and.."
Kara nodded before she tried to step back a little.
"I should go..so you can go meet your friend for dinner.."
Lena felt a shift in the arc of atoms coming from Kara's fingertips, swirling and stormy so she held tight and kept Kara close, finding her eyes and holding them.
"It’s just a business meeting. I’m working with a new partner and it’s..a big idea that could change the world. She could be the mentor I need to make Pollinate Peace a reality.”
Kara’s voice was soft and guarded, the cooling swirl she felt from Kara’s fingertips remained.
“When you see what we’re doing, it will blow you away, I promise.”
“Hmm..you have to give me something.”
Lena brought Kara’s hand up and intertwined her fingers again, solidly interlocking them and nodding. The sky outside the windows behind Kara began the slide from late dusk to dark, blinking lights of the city a constant. Kara had bared her heart, had come to her to make amends and find a way to make things right even if there was something still holding her back. Lena could read between the lines enough to know that Kara had told her all she could and that was enough, for now. So Lena gave her something else, a different part of her.
“Here’s a quote for your story. We’re working on something that could revolutionize travel, energy, security..this prototype could move goods and water to famine-stricken areas in an instant. Something that could solve climate change, if it works. We are on the cusp of solving problems that usually divide people and countries, even planets. This could bring humans and aliens together, Kara. It’s exactly what you were talking about.”
She watched Kara smile and nod, her eyes covering her in warmth, her hand gently vibrating. Kara was always so full of things that made her body hum, even as she stood still, and Lena could feel it just under the surface.
“I like seeing you excited. What you are doing here..it’s amazing...it makes me proud..”
Lena felt herself smiling, the warmth along her cheeks coming unbidden. While she never consciously made comparisons between the work of a superhero and her own, she still wanted to feel like she was making a difference that mattered, that meant something to Kara, that maybe proved others wrong. She was only human after all.
“Thank you. I am excited. But can you hold that quote until we do more testing? I don’t want to overpromise just yet and we’re still working out the details.”
“Of course...I’ll make up something equally inspiring about you. It isn’t hard.”
Lena looked down before finding Kara’s face again, softening.
“Your writing always flatters me, Kara..”
“Well, you’re very good at what you do and how you do it.”
Lena laughed quietly as she moved closer, letting her body press up against Kara’s to absorb some of the sparks and invisible atoms, smiling when she felt hands sweep over her hips and settle, the sparks following and skimming over the fabric of her dress. She didn’t want to leave, not after what they had just shared, but the pull of the proposal on her desk and the potential was very strong. But Kara was stronger.
“It’s all about transforming energy..and how to make quantum entanglement work…”
Lena pressed her lips against Kara’s neck and felt a pulse point jump, both of their bodies relieved to be back together, the stress of reconciling and the weight lifting made both of them hyper-aware of just how much they had missed each other and Lena didn’t want to experience that loss again. Not if she could help it. Kara shifted slightly and Lena could feel lips against her ear.
“Do you mean like this?”
Lena smiled when Kara’s hands pulled her closer, vibrations against her skin starting to change frequencies, sound rushing into her head again as Kara's mouth moved down her neck, pushing aside the collar of her dress and then she felt pressure and teeth. It was dizzying, the push and pull of what Kara did to her and the way her body responded without her control. All of that was compounded by the rush of strong emotions that she had experienced in the last twelve hours and really, the last day and a half. It all concentrated in the spot on her neck where Kara was and she felt everything spinning, the words said, the feelings shared.
The love. The love. The love.
Kara kept her lips pressed against Lena’s neck as she inhaled and shut her eyes tight against the swirling of feelings inside of her looking for an outlet and a release. She wasn’t sure what she had expected when she came to Lena’s office, to be turned away or to be reluctantly welcomed, to find anger or recrimination or tears. What she hadn’t expected was for Lena to soften, to forgive her as easily as a gentle rain. And to tell her that she was loved in return. Kara wanted these moments to sink in, the feeling to last until she would be able to fully return. There was still much to be said and to be heard between them.
But right now, she tried to smooth out the lingering sense of disarray in her atoms and press herself closer, quiet sounds in the back of Lena's throat at the feel of Kara’s teeth marking soft skin roared in her ears, drowning out everything else. She wished her mouth wasn’t like her hands, unpredictable yet consistent in their need and where they were drawn. She couldn’t help it really, the way Lena’s skin was too delicate for the way her mouth wanted and for how Lena’s hand tangled in her hair and held her in place, encouraging such things. Kara didn’t want to let go but she knew she couldn’t stay either, not with the unpredictable way her body might respond to all the feelings that she had poured out. Kara pulled herself away, drawing her lips back from gently bruised skin and feeling Lena’s forehead press against hers, her breath catching before she felt Lena nod.
Kara smiled and hoped it would last. The night was approaching, the world kept spinning on its axis, noisy and full of life. There were jobs to do, people to save, dreams to chase but they had this moment. If she didn’t leave now, she’d have a hard time living up to her own earlier words because all she would care about was one person and forget the rest. That’s what love felt like sometimes. That’s what it felt like now. And if she was going to save the world, it meant once again leaving one person and focusing on everything and everyone else. She meant it when she said she couldn’t do this without Lena, she couldn’t save everyone if she didn’t have Lena to fight for under it all. Like Alex, Lena transformed everything inside her into something stronger and she would need that extra boost for what surely lay ahead. Lena’s lips pressed gently against her own and she could tell Lena felt the sting of want still on them. If she didn’t step away from Lena now, she might never be able to again.
Instead, Lena made it easier for her by disentangling herself from Kara’s body, re-arranging herself, imposing distance between them and she felt the loss. It sounded a lot like space. Empty and impossible and cold. Her feet felt the urge to fly because that thought was suddenly too much. She felt Lena’s eyes watching her as her body leaned itself towards the balcony, her hands searching for something else to do now that they weren’t holding Lena. Her head was filled with Lena’s voice.
“Tell me you’ll be safe.”
She nodded and would likely agree to anything Lena said right now, the energy flowing through her body made it difficult to focus on anything but flight. Cold air high above the clouds could shock her lungs and the gusts could tire her muscles and buffet her back and forth until she could breathe again.
“I’ll be safe.”
“Tell me you’ll come back to me when you can.”
The truth was she’d do whatever she needed to come back to Lena, now that she knew that she would be welcomed. Her body pulled her in so many directions, she wanted to stay and she needed to go. Her eyes gathered Lena in, trying to make promises she wanted to keep. Lena's voice was soft and so quiet, she wasn't sure she even heard her words.
“Will you tell me if..?”
There really wasn’t an answer to that unasked question, whatever it was that Lena didn’t say, not yet, not with the way the world was right now, not with Rhea and the Daxamite ship hovering and not with that complicated web of a map on her wall. How could she keep everything in place when everything was changing? The cool air of the open balcony was a relief and Kara tried not to think too much about things that could go wrong, about things or..people that could harm Lena, about how the world could turn on her choices and her actions. Instead, Kara filled her head with the thought of flight that pulled at her so strongly her own legs betrayed her. She looked back just in time to see Lena reach for her but she couldn’t stay, not when she couldn’t trust her hands anymore, not when she could hear the way Lena's heart beat so loud in her ears it drowned everything else out.
Kara jumped into the night, a blur too fast to see, a fleeting vision of a mere mortal without a cape seeking darkness and thin air so full of sound, it broke the barrier between her and the rest of the world.
Chapter 15: 7pm
The hallway was dark and gleaming as the last light of the day faded outside and National City came alive with flickers of halogen and LED and fluorescent each giving off different shades of artificial. Marble and steel and glass made everything feel colder than it was, harder than it needed to be. Sounds echoed against concrete and fiberglass and titanium and the air was filtered and then heated or cooled at a constant temperature, seasons no longer holding meaning inside tall walls. Occasionally, something lived inside these buildings, house plants nurtured carefully on window ledges and watered too often or too little, mice who made unfortunate choices about which fork in the road to take, a sparrow or two forever trapped by the glassed illusion that freedom was right in front of it. Why did living, breathing things choose such inhabitable things to spend their days hunched over smaller glass and metal boxes filled with circuits and processors and wires and plastic that created infinite possible worlds large and small? This is a question future historians from other planets will ponder after the earth takes back what is hers. For now, the L-Corp building stood gleaming among the others in the city and held living breathing people who were starting to make their way home after a long day in front of boxes that were full of potential.
Sitting on a desk at the end of that dark hallway sat long crooked stems of fragrant sweet peas in whites, pinks, reds, and dark purple, a gift from a wayward reporter with a soft smile to an overworked executive assistant at the end of a long day. The colors gave a spark of life to her desk and to the hallway and Jess had thanked Kara Danvers when the reporter had gently insisted they were for her, symbols of how peace could be pollinated by the right people. They had then shared an awkward quiet time together, the hallway now separating them by latitude with each woman wondering if Lena Luthor would open her office door. It had been clear that something had happened between her boss and Kara and Jess hoped that whatever it had been was resolved. It was too hard watching Lena Luthor pretend that she felt nothing or was unbothered. Jess knew. There were only two people who could throw her boss from her game: her mother and her girlfriend. And so, it was with relief when Lena invited Kara Danvers into her office after a long day with the promise of resolution in the air.
Now, after time had passed, everything was quiet as Jess began collecting her items to leave, waiting hesitantly to see Lena out, to assess the damage or the repair, whichever came. She had just returned from downstairs delivering several board signed copies of divestiture forms, trying to get them processed before the Japanese markets opened for the day. The elevator dinged on the executive floor and Jess looked up, watching a woman exit and start walking towards her desk. She sighed, because it was late and because she had gatekept most of the day for Lena, gently nudging people to and from her boss who was stretched thin emotionally and barely hiding the exhaustion of the week. Still, Jess felt a duty and a responsibility, two qualities she knew were appreciated, especially when it came to protecting Lena’s time and who had access to it.
“Excuse me, I was hoping I could catch Lena before she left.”
Jess looked at the dark-haired woman, her hair pulled back in a bun, wearing a navy dress and a light gray patterned coat. Most visitors didn’t use Lena’s first name unless they were close and Jess had never seen this woman before. Her smile was tight, but friendly as she held her bag and stopped at Jess’ desk.
“I believe Ms. Luthor still has company in her office and is about to leave for a dinner appointment. Can I help you?”
The other woman smiled and nodded, her voice calm as she looked at Jess before she moved towards Lena’s office door.
“I am her dinner appointment. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I nudged her along. Our reservations are hard to come by and I’d hate for us to miss them.”
“But she has a guest…”
Just as Jess was about to rush forward and get between this visitor and Lena’s office, the door opened and Lena appeared, a smile on her face even after the long day.
“Rhea, I just got your message, what a surprise. Care to wait while I gather my things?”
Jess put her hand on her desk as she stood watching the exchange. She knew that Lena wasn’t one for surprises at the end of the day, especially if she was entertaining Kara Danvers and especially if there was something they needed to work out in private.
Lena looked at her and nodded, her eyes catching Jess’ and conveying that all was okay. They had developed a very good system for communicating with each other over time and Jess usually knew the mood and temperament of her boss well and knew when to step in and when Lena had things handled.
“It’s okay Jess, my guest left a bit ago. I know you were down with fiscal taking care of those final sign-offs and I appreciate that. Can you cancel my car please? It’s been a long day, you should head home.”
Jess watched as the woman passed her boss and glided into the office without so much as a glance back at her and she narrowed her eyes. ‘Trust no one’ was something that Lena liked to joke when they had been in the middle of the L-Corp audits and the personnel reviews late into the night these past few months, Jess felt like it was sometimes very good advice. She had missed Kara’s exit so there was little information for her to go on when it came to how her boss was feeling, what had happened, where things stood. The image of Kara Danvers sitting quietly just across from her desk earlier was still in her mind, the way she looked at her own hands and sighed. She couldn’t help but ask, discreetly, in a way Lena would understand, because she cared and because it mattered to her.
“You sure you don’t need anything else?”
Lena paused and looked at her, the tone of Jess’ voice made her smile and nod.
“We’re good, Jess. I promise.”
At that, Jess smiled back, relieved. She knew there were very few people close to Lena Luthor, or rather, there were very few that Lena allowed to get close for many good reasons. Yet, Jess knew no one stronger, more sure of her place in the world and the good she could do than her boss. When Lena was happy, L-Corp thrived and Jess wanted to be a part of something that made a difference. She had been involved in the Pollinator work from early on and had helped make that a reality, knew the ins and outs of how to make a dream a reality because Lena had showed her, mentored her along the way. Plus, she had seen the difference Kara Danvers had made for Lena these last few months. It just magnified her, brought out a side of Lena that made everything better. Good begat good. Jess packed her messenger bag and texted Anton as she made her way down the empty hallway. All was well.
Lena came back into her office and saw Rhea surveying the room before she found a place near the window, looking out into the coming night sky. Just ten minutes before, her office had been filled with a different sort of energy, a different light. Kara Danvers had come and filled her with hope, reconnected for a moment, reaffirmed what she knew and what she had hoped for, what she wanted deep down. And then Kara had left, unable to stay for reasons unknown and unspoken and all Lena could do was say her name as she watched the woman she had come to love fly off into the night. They were settled but unsettled like positive and negative ions trying to find the right configuration of how they could be stable together. She was prepared for Kara to be Supergirl, to do what was asked of her and for her to come back. It didn’t mean she didn’t worry or wonder, it didn’t mean that she didn’t want more now that she knew that the love was there, it was real, that Kara said it outloud. It just meant being patient and steady until a superhero returned. She could do that. She could do that. She would do that. Lena took a breath and set that aside, her attention now on the woman who stood in her office, her face reflected in glass back to Lena as Rhea smiled and spoke.
Lena nodded with a smile as she moved to her desk and closed her computer and moving a few papers here and there, the remnants of her long, long workday strewn across her desk. She had been surprised by the text on her phone from Rhea, letting her know she was in the building and on her way up. Plan had been to meet separately and she was frankly looking forward to a quiet drive across town with Chao-Xing, a chance to not be Lena Luthor, CEO of L-Corp for a moment, especially after today and after Kara. Still, there was something intriguing about the woman in her office who had left plans for an amazing, impossible dream of hers to come true. Lena came to stand at the window with Rhea, her own eyes looking for a blur she knew she’d never see. Rhea turned to her and smiled, her hand moving back to the darkened screen on the wall that held a schematic design drawn in green lines like a spider web missing its middle.
“So full of possibilities, isn’t it? I’ve been thinking about our work together.”
Lena crossed her arms and looked over at the other woman.
“Yes, I’ve been going over it in my head all day. The proposal you lay out is sound, but it’s all theoretical.”
Rhea smiled and nodded as her eyes found Lena’s.
“Which is why I need you. You’re a brilliant woman, Lena Luthor. I’ve been doing my homework and I know all about you. You have just the right mind for figuring out how to make this work.”
Lena raised an eyebrow and was non-committal. She had heard similar pitches, similar ideas from others over the years and it always came down to someone asking for something from her, what she could do for them. It was not unlike how she had grown up in the Luthor household, the way business had been taught to her, the way things had been bartered and exchanged in the family that had adopted her. This was why she was particularly cautious and held her cards close, she had been burned too many times from her mother and her brother, from others who had ‘needed’ something from her. But she had grown softer, more open these past few months with Kara in her life and wondered if that took away her edge or her healthy skepticism of those who might take advantage of her or her company. It was a balance, to lead in her own style and not run her company and her life in the Luthor tradition of power plays and upper hands. It made her vulnerable and Lena wasn’t sure whether that would come back to haunt her or not. It certainly had made her unprepared by how Kara had blindsided her and she wondered, in the back of her mind, if that would be a turning point. To trust or not, that was always the question. Looking at Rhea now, Lena cocked her head to the side and kept her arms fully crossed as the other woman’s hands reached out while she spoke.
“My thought was, if we wed L-Corp’s work in zero-size intelligence with my design, I’m confident we can make it a reality. Think of the potential this has for good, for lives saved, burdens eased. Our collaboration could change the world, Lena. That is, if you’re still interested.”
Lena carefully watched Rhea’s eyes, tried to find a hint of mistrust or ill-intent in them. It would be so much easier, after all these months of audits and personnel actions and difficult decisions, to instead just..trust. They had spent the last half a year testing out a ring-generator prototype that was almost there, but lacked..something. And the promise of that missing link, a critical pivot, a different door opening and the possibility of achieving a scientific impossibility was tempting. Mysteries tempted Lena more than she would like to admit and the possibility of someone, this new person who had somehow come at the right time and the right place, having the answers to those mysteries touched something deeper inside her.
“Oh, I’m definitely interested.”
Rhea smiled back at her and nodded.
“Good. I thought you might be. Shall we move this discussion to Pakas? I’d hate for us to miss our reservation and you must be famished.”
Lena nodded and moved towards her desk, picking up her phone on the way to her coatrack and her purse. She chuckled a bit over her shoulder.
“I once lost a table there because I was two minutes late.”
Rhea laughed and nodded her head.
“I pulled a few strings just in case. And they’ll have a bottle of scotch waiting for us. That is, if such things are your taste.”
Lena walked towards her desk as she pulled her light trench coat on and settled her purse on her shoulder. As tired as she was from the entirety of the day she had, the thought of transforming the Pollinator portal into a reality gave her a second wind, ready to pick the brain of someone who clearly understood and loved the science of quantum design as much as she did. Dinner and a drink sounded exactly what she needed and it gave her just a little reprieve from the intensity of what she had been feeling about Kara and the tumult of that. She’d come back to those thoughts in the morning, ponder and wonder at the words Kara had shared earlier when she had a chance to come at it fresh in the morning. She smiled at Rhea and nodded.
“Oh, it’s my taste, especially after today. Shall we?”
She made a hand movement to show them towards the door as Rhea passed by the corner of her desk, her fingertips sliding across the white surface before stopping at an object resting there.
“Won’t you be needing these?”
Lena looked over and saw Rhea pick up a pair of glasses, a delicate pair of tortoiseshell wayfarers that she examined carefully and then held out to Lena.
“Ah..those belong to a friend. I’ll have to return them to her.”
Rhea smiled and nodded, her eyes catching Lena’s as she carefully slipped them into her palm, her fingers lingering.
“I’m sure your..friend would miss them and we can’t have that, can we?”
Lena paused before she smiled and nodded, watching as Rhea moved towards the door, Kara’s glasses weighing heavy, leaded, in her hand before she carefully put them in her purse and followed out into the hallway full of glass and stone and steel. Her eye caught a vase of delicate sweet peas as she walked by, tissue paper thin petals held a soft scent that reminded her that May was still full of possibilities even as night fell.
Thin, dark air high above everything was exactly what she needed, somewhere no one could see her, where she could just be and feel feather light. The wind blew off all the ways her skin sparked and crackled underneath, the lingering effects of Lena Luthor and the sun and a feeling she couldn’t quite name. Kara held herself aloft and let the gusts blow hair across her face as if in a desert sandstorm, golden strands whipping and blinding her as she tried to find the right balance between being in love and being who she needed to be right now. At such heights, she could suspend herself and everything else around her in a web of stars. It was sometimes easier this way, to be away from other living, breathing beings, and she had many years of experience existing in just that same state. Suspended, alone, waiting. Kara let her mind go, closed her eyes, and tried not to listen for a heartbeat that reminded her of how far away and so close she really was to everything she wanted.
Weeks ago, the April evening was cooling from an unexpected warmth that covered National City and brought people outside in too-early for summer clothes, lingering in parks as the day was ending, strolling on sidewalks as streetlights came on, laughing in the air as arms were linked and the weekend was in full swing. Kara took a deep breath of that air into her lungs before she touched her glasses and pressed her hands down over the pale pink dress she wore. She was here on business while her mind was anywhere but, the fundraiser held for the Luthor Children’s Hospital was in full swing on the back lawn of the art gallery hosting it. Lights were strewn in the tents, illuminating everything in pale gold as National City’s elite mingled and drank. She had collected quotes from some notable philanthropists, business leaders, each describing why they gave to LCH now that Lena Luthor was president of the board, each extolling the cause while acknowledging the shift in public perceptions associated with the name responsible for that shift. Kara circled the tents and smiled, eyes searching but not finding. Several people stopped her, making sure their names were well represented in CatCo’s coverage. She was polite, jotting down things when it was appropriate, gently resisting subtle advances from a few partygoers for any information about Lena Luthor from the reporter who seemed to have inside access. She also gently resisted other requests for her own attention for reasons that had nothing to do with her reporting skills and everything to do with the assumed privilege that came with older gentlemen and their wallets. The night continued in such a fashion and Kara found herself growing restless and concerned, the host of the fundraiser nowhere to be found.
Her feet carried her around the grounds for another lap, her eyes looking at clusters of dark figures talking and laughing, the band’s music growing slightly louder as the drinks continued unabated. She finally stopped near the small koi pond, the one where lilies were floating, still too early for blooms. Small lanterns with candles in them also floated all over the surface, twinkling and bobbing on the wind. Kara closed her eyes and tuned everything out, every voice and every note and every breath and every heartbeat but one until she found it, to her left where outdoor statuary and art pieces littered the gallery gardens here and there. She couldn’t help it when a conversation made it to her ears.
“You know, Lena, what you’ve done with this company is really amazing. The way you’ve turned it around is nothing short of a miracle. I’ve been wanting to tell you that for some time now and get to know a bit more about National City’s intriguing new CEO. Perhaps over dinner? Someplace private...more intimate?”
She heard Lena let out a quiet laugh and tried not to feel the way the sound brought warmth to her own cheeks. She held her breath and kept listening because there was no way she couldn’t now.
“Ah, I appreciate that Lauren, your family has been such a kind friend to the hospital.”
“So friends can have dinner together, right? We could do that.”
Another soft laugh and Kara could see in her mind’s eye the way she thought Lena’s head would dip down before looking back up at the other woman with a smile. She could easily imagine another hand reaching out and letting fingertips fall along Lena's arm holding a glass of champagne. A red dress, dark hair gathered up, heels, green eyes. Kara felt heat starting to climb her neck to her face and to her eyes, her hands starting to grow restless. She knew this feeling and she blinked her eyes open, trying to keep her body steady, to keep it in check. This was the feeling that sometimes drove her own mouth to Lena’s neck, to other soft spots that seemed to bruise too easily against a superhero’s touch. This was the feeling that sometimes drove her lips to whisper ‘mine’ against Lena Luthor’s body even when she knew such things came from deep inside her, from a place where she had been suspended alone and without for so long. Her reluctant eyes fell on Lena because there was no place else she could look. She watched the other woman smiling, watched how close they were, and she took a breath waiting for the inevitable.
“I’d love to, Lauren, but most of my intimate dinners are spoken for, I’m afraid. Perhaps we could have lunch instead and discuss how the Turner Foundation could sponsor a therapeutic room in the new wing?”
Kara heard the other woman chuckle and step back, her drink coming to her lips as she smiled at Lena.
“Oh I can take a hint, Lena, no worries. Lunch it is. I’ll reach out to Jess and set up a proper meeting to talk business and try to forget that dress, if you’ll forgive me and this glass of wine for saying. Whoever has your attention these days is quite fortunate.”
Kara watched as Lena smiled, her voice quietly gracious, deflecting.
“That’s kind of you to say, really. I certainly look forward to hearing more about your foundation’s focus and how we can work together for kids here in National City. Please, Lauren, enjoy the rest of the night, I’m so glad you were able to attend.”
The other woman nodded with a smile as she walked off into the gardens and Kara wondered how that must feel, to have to walk away from Lena Luthor, disappointed. The lanterns in the pond continued to float and catch her eye, the gold and white fish meandering underneath in peaceful bliss, unaware that the fire in their sky was not of a million tiny suns but candles with short brief lives. Kara closed her eyes again and took a deep breath, trying to shake off the way her body felt and the way her hands wanted as she heard Lena’s footsteps coming towards her in the soft darkness of the gallery garden. She tried not to flinch when she felt fingertips touch gently against her arm and Lena’s soft voice find her ears.
“Ah, there you are.”
She knew Lena could feel her skin prickle so she opened her eyes and let out that deep breath, letting go as she smiled at the woman in front of her. It was true, the dress she wore was unforgettable without the aid of something strong, the way red fabric hugged curves and fell off her shoulders slightly, long earrings catching in the lights of the party. That didn’t make any of this easier. Lena’s voice lowered as her hand touched against Kara's hip, fingertips skimming along soft pink cotton.
“How’s my favorite one? I’ve been trying to find you all night.”
Kara smiled and kept a professional distance, knowing that this was a professional event and they were still very private in public about their very private lives. Lena seemed less interested in such things at the moment.
“You’ve been occupied.”
She hadn’t meant for it to come out that way, for her voice to sound the way it did but there it was.
“Ah. You heard that, hmm?”
Lena’s voice softened in response, her eyes found Kara’s and she smiled even more softly. The energy shifted back and forth in the night air, the party fading into the background as Kara reached up and adjusted her glasses for something to do with her hand. Her eyes fell on Lena’s neck and drifted down as if they had a mind of their own before she cleared her throat and nodded, reluctantly. Lena came closer, seemingly unconcerned about the distance between them and the appearance of it all as the rest of the world spun around them unaware. Kara drew in a breath as Lena’s gentle words settled between them.
“Kara, everyone else hasn’t a chance.”
And then she exhaled that same breath into the April night when Lena’s mouth pressed against her own neck, tongue tasting and smiling into her skin, energy transferring and transforming between them. The sky opened up again as a web of twinkling lights above her made themselves known, floating in space, reminding her of all the possible worlds out there and how she found this one and how on this one someone like Lena Luthor existed. Kara closed her eyes at how soft the ground beneath her feet was, how it felt to be among living, breathing things, especially the one pressed up against her now, her hands finally freed to circle a waist and pull Lena close as if there was no care in the world. Lena’s whisper drifted to her ear and fell into that empty space between her ribs, filling her again as a glow gently poured out just under her surface. There was no hiding that anymore, it just was.
“Everyone else pales…”
Chapter 16: 196.96655 amu
Time is a funny thing, dependent upon light or the lack thereof, observed and felt in different ways as if numbers on a clock could dictate an experience. The way 3pm and 3am feel is, literally, day and night - the middle of the afternoon and the middle of dark. They are just two numbers with a different suffix yet they are worlds apart. Imagine a blazing sun and a starless night. Imagine people coming and going, the world at work and then imagine the quiet dead of the hour when any movement or sound is suspect. Meetings and business vs. sleeping and dreaming. This time of night felt too dark, too heavy. Kara Danvers was realizing that time was starting to lose meaning and that maybe she only slept because that was what humans did, that was what was expected at 3am. Instead, tonight, she found herself sitting atop the CatCo building at that ungodly hour, alone, hugging her knees as she watched the skyline twinkle out in front and below her. She had no real place to go, no job to do at the moment, nothing to keep her settled in a bed enough for her body to turn off. She had flown herself out and had landed here because she didn’t feel like going home to her dark apartment and she couldn’t go where she really wanted to be, where her body felt the most normal and where her heart was the most wanted. Alone at three in the morning felt like the loneliest place Kara could imagine being right now, that space between the living and the dead to the world.
Maggie Sawyer woke, her eyes blinking open at a soft thud and she reached for her service revolver tucked in her holster by the bed. Alex stirred a little, but her breath evened out when Maggie put her hand on her bare shoulder and rubbed gently. Wordlessly and quietly, Maggie slipped from the bed and didn’t bother putting pants on, the old t-shirt she was wearing and her gun were all she needed. She crept slowly through Alex’s apartment towards the balcony, weapon drawn as the door opened and she let out a breath and a whispered word when the dark of the night delivered a guest.
Maggie’s arm dropped when she saw the look on Kara’s face and hands held up as the superhero came into the apartment looking sheepish, quietly closing the balcony door. She shook her head and set the gun down, coming closer to where Kara stood, quiet and alone. She whispered, because it was the middle of the night and she didn’t want Alex’s own instincts to kick in and another gun to be drawn.
“Fuck. You could have called or knocked on the front door like a normal person, Kara. I could have shot you.”
Kara looked down before she nodded, her eyes finding Maggie’s.
“That’d be a bullet wasted. I’m sorry, Maggie..I just..didn’t know where else to go. And it’s three in the morning. And I’m not a normal person.”
At the sound of Kara’s quiet voice, Maggie sighed and walked over, her arm moving around a shoulder that held up worlds.
“Hey..is everything okay?”
Kara smiled and shrugged. Maggie could feel the cool night air still clinging to Kara’s body, her hair a mess of long tangles and dressed in civilian clothes instead of her supersuit. It didn’t take much to figure out what might have transpired but she led Kara further into the apartment.
“Yes. No. Maybe? I don’t really know anymore, Maggie. Can I just...stay here..for a little while..”
Maggie looked at her and waited for her to finish. When she didn’t and instead kept walking towards the bedroom, Maggie followed and watched Kara quietly climb into Alex’s bed. At the movement, Alex Danvers stirred again, this time waking and sitting up a little on her elbow, her black tanktop standing out in relief against the white sheets.
Maggie came over just as Kara started to curl up against Alex’s side, head resting on a shoulder and they exchanged looks. Sometimes she forgot that Kara was who she was, that she was Alex Danver’s kid sister and not just a superhero whose job it was to save the world and sacrifice everything for it. And Kara was in love and trying to figure out how to have it all while the weight of such things could feel immense. Maggie watched as Alex adjusted and settled her arm around Kara, pulling covers over as Kara sighed and closed her eyes. She suspected that there had been many nights growing up where the same scene had played out, where a young girl from another world sought out comfort in the middle of the night. Alex rubbed against Kara’s shoulder and let her chin tuck against a blond head. Maggie smiled and silently used her thumb to point to the couch, ready to give them space but Alex’s hand reached out and patted against the other side of the bed. Maggie couldn’t help but chuckle as she wedged herself on a few inches of mattress and Alex tucked her free arm around Maggie. She felt Alex sigh and settle into place as the room got very quiet in the dark, save for soft breathing. Ride or die for these Danvers sisters.
Alex woke up as the first rays of sun started streaming over her face and she groaned, her arms stiff from being wrapped around two women she loved more than she could even define. She had been half-asleep and groggy when Kara had come in last night, sometime in the darkest hours, and for a moment, she thought she was back in Midvale in a big house by the ocean. Growing up meant taking care of Kara and she took that job seriously, sometimes to the detriment of her own needs and feelings. That topic had been a bit of a wedge between her and Eliza through the years, especially after Jeremiah disappeared from their lives. It had certainly come to a head in a heated conversation over the holidays as such things do.
It was the middle of a blackout, when Livewire was on the loose nearly a year ago, dark as night and Alex had come back to Kara’s apartment to check on her mother, to make sure she was safe as the rest of the city was blanketed in black. She had let herself in and Eliza was there, candles lighting enough for Alex to see that their earlier conversation wasn’t over. When they sat on Kara’s couch, she braced herself and saw Eliza flinch a little at that, before her mom spoke quietly.
“I’m so sorry for what I said about your dad. It isn’t fair, you always make the hard choice. You look to help others before yourself.”
She had shrugged and tried to keep her emotions in check with only a modicum of success.
“It’s what you taught me to do….”
And as she looked at her mother, her voice cracked while she continued, pushing the words out of her mouth.
“So why hasn’t it...ever..been..enough?”
“You mean why I was tougher on you?”
The acknowledgement from Eliza of the truth, of what had been unspoken between them caused Alex to exhale and shake her head. Yes. Exactly. Why? Hadn’t she been enough? Hadn’t she done enough? What more did her mother want? Those thoughts had been plaguing her for years and had festered, unsaid and unaddressed for too long.
“Kara was a little girl from another planet. She lost everything. I didn’t know how to do anything but accept her.”
So much had built up, so many years and so many feelings came to the surface and it all came back to Kara, it all came back to what she had to sacrifice for the girl who had fallen from the sky. Eliza continued.
“You, you’re my daughter, Alex. I wanted you to be better than me. But that never meant I didn’t love you.”
Alex wanted to believe and deep down, she did, but it was still hard. Memories of being forced to choose Kara over herself had dug deep inside her and changed the way she felt about herself and about her family. Eliza had said she always made the hard choices, but the reality was she never really felt like she had a choice. She was Kara’s big sister and that was that. It still didn’t mean that she had come to terms with everything about her family. Eliza spoke quietly.
“You have always been my super girl.”
She appreciated the words, had leaned into her mother’s arms and held her but there was no comparison between what and who Kara was and who she had become. It wasn’t better, it wasn’t worse, it was just different and it had come at a cost that she was still realizing. It made her do things she might not have wanted to do. She had hidden many things from Eliza for many reasons and that weight was heavy. When a call from DEO interrupted them, she stood.
“I have to go in..”
“Is it about Kara?”
The first words out of her mother’s mouth were not a surprise. Again, not bad, not good, just not a surprise on where her mother’s focus always was. She had sighed as she turned around and shook her head.
“I can’t talk about it, I’m sorry.”
The next words from Eliza were also not a surprise.
“Take care of your sister.”
She watched her mother close her eyes and shake her head before she reframed it.
“Take care of yourself.”
What Alex had come to find out was that her mother fought against the DEO taking Kara and studying her, like an alien lifeform even though she was only a young girl. Her parents had sacrificed Jeremiah for Kara and that had caused its own cascade of events, its own ripple effect in their lives that was still unfolding.
Time had passed from then to now, events and tragedies had occurred, apologies had been offered and accepted between them all. This was why family was complicated, time and experience created layers of sediment, some softer, some harder than others. The fact remained that Kara needed her the most and had always, more than she ever needed Eliza, or Jeremiah, or the DEO or CatCo. None of them offered what Alex did which was a safe place to land and someone who knew Kara better than anyone else, who knew as much of her earth history as Kara did and maybe more. Alex remembered the way the sun affected Kara’s body in strange ways and how it overwhelmed the girl to the point of panic. Alex remembered middle of the night cries from waking up in a strange, dark place. She remembered Kara trembling as she climbed into Alex’s bed, pleading not to be left alone. For Kara, Alex learned to soothe, learned to be patient, learned to be the things that had not come naturally - to be tender, to understand, to care. Alex became stronger, Alex believed when others doubted because Kara needed her to be that person. Kara needed someone like Alex who could handle the heavy job of holding a superhero when no one else could. Alex was who she was, who she became, in part, because of Kara. She felt her sister stir next to her, mumbling against her shoulder.
“I smell bacon.”
Alex chuckled and stretched out her arms, the left side of the bed empty as the two sisters woke.
“I’m sorry, I know how much you hate it, I'll tell Maggie to never fix it for you again.”
Kara lifted her head and frowned down at her, her hair a mess and eyes blinking.
“You are mean. You know exactly how I feel about bacon.”
“I do. Which is why Maggie Sawyer is the best.”
Alex laughed quietly and tugged the covers that had been hogged over but they barely moved in Kara’s deathgrip. Kara smiled at her and rolled on to her back, giving up a little of the soft cotton sheets. The coming sunrise helped clear away some of the dark from the night before and when Kara was quiet, Alex turned her head and looked at her. Sometimes Kara looked older and wiser than her years, the way her eyes held a certain sadness to them from losing everything. Other times, Kara was still a kid to her, freckles and smooth skin trying to figure it all out. Right now, she looked the most like Kara Zor-El, relaxed but cautious, open yet guarded, content though wary. Alex reached out and tapped a fingertip against Kara’s shoulder as she spoke.
“How you doing, kiddo? You had a late night…”
Alex watched as Kara blinked and blew out a breath as she stared up at the ceiling.
“Spent most of it flying around. Some of it sitting. Lots of it thinking.”
In the quiet of the morning, Kara tended to be the most open before the day and earth and everything else intruded. Alex had a pretty good idea what this was about, but she did what she did best in these moments with Kara. She listened. Like Kara, the quiet of the morning also turned Alex into a softer version of herself.
“I went to see her.”
Really, what was Alex going to say to something as unsurprising as this truth. She knew it would only be a matter of time before Kara was going to do what her heart told her to do. She knew that the DEO’s plan had required something from Kara that was painful and she knew they had to be cautious, but she also knew that keeping Kara away from Lena Luthor was an unfair and near impossible request, even for a superhero and even on behalf of the potential fate of the planet.
“I told her I loved her.”
Alex couldn’t help when a smile formed on her own lips because it was the morning and her sister was in love and Kara didn’t fall in love with just anyone. What made her most nervous, though, was Lena’s response, especially after what Kara had been forced to do. She and Lena had had their fair share of rocky interactions and had treaded lightly around each other from the day they had formally met that first time in Kara’s apartment, after Corbin’s attack. And of course, Lena had admitted her feelings, in a moment of vulnerability, to Alex but she still wasn’t sure how the Luthor would react to Kara’s actions, to the DEO orders. Was there also forgiveness behind that cool exterior?
She watched as Kara’s own lips curved upwards and she turned towards Alex, her eyes bright and blue.
“She loves me back.”
Alex smiled and laughed a little as she looked at Kara’s face, so full of hope and happiness and relief it was contagious. How could Kara be surprised that Lena Luthor loved her? It was the most obvious thing in the world and had been since nearly the first time the two had met it seemed. Lena might hold her cards close when she was running her business, but when it came to her sister, she was an open book.
“Of course she does. I’m glad she finally told you. About time.”
Kara scrunched up her face and pushed against Alex, nearly rolling her out of bed before Alex held steady.
“You knew?? And you never told me? What kind of sister are you?”
Alex smiled at Kara and shrugged.
“The only kind you have. The best. Your favorite. In a class all my own. A real super sister.”
Kara laughed and flopped back in the bed, shaking her head.
“I can’t believe it. Wait, does Maggie know?”
At that, the aforementioned woman strolled into the bedroom with a plate of food and cups of coffee, her dark hair disheveled and wearing Alex’s old t-shirt. She raised her brows at them as she came over and settled on the bed, the tray perched precariously between them all.
Kara sat up and crossed her legs, her hand already reaching out for strips of bacon and a muffin. Alex looked over at Maggie and shook her head, trying to warn her as she reached for a coffee.
“That Lena is in love with me.”
“Duh, Danvers. I’ve known it for ages, before your sister even knew. It’s amazing that CatCo hasn’t reported on it yet. “A Super and a Luthor: Together At Last”. You know if Cat Grant were here, she would have figured that shit out way before me and your faces would be front page.”
Kara just shook her head at both of them and chewed a bit before swallowing.
“You both are no longer my favorite agent-detective crime-fighting duo, for the record.”
Alex laughed as she watched her sister look at them both with a smile on her face, carefree for the moment as if the rest of the world did not exist and she didn’t really want to break that spell. Not just yet. Their jobs could wait a few more hours, the day would start eventually, but for now, it was breakfast in bed with the two people that meant everything to her. Why couldn’t Kara have a feeling like this without the weight of the world pressing in? There would be time to deal with what came next, time to reassess plans and figure out next steps, time to be serious and focused and everything that would be needed in the coming days. But right now, Alex Danvers wanted nothing but the look on Kara’s face to remain for as long as it was possible to be that happy. Sometimes the morning sun could burn off the darkest hours of the night and make everything feel clear, bright, and full of light. When she looked over, Kara smiled back at her and that’s when she noticed it, on the edges, barely there. Kara was shining. She glowed.
Chapter 17: 260
Weaving fabric and thread into whole cloth is more of a dance than an act of utility. When the warp is intersected by the weft, something new is formed as threads are crossed over and under, over and under, under and over, under and over. Acts such as shedding, picking, battening, and taking up become steps repeated over time to create something stronger, something whole. Good weavers dance their way with their hands, up and down, over and back, in time to some unheard rhythm. Considered separately, a single thread is weak, breakable. Considered together, the way many threads are woven together, the way the warp and weft become one is stronger, sturdier. The design is dictated by the steps a dancer takes across a stage of silk or cotton or wool until something beautiful emerges. When the threads are motives, when the fabric is an agenda, when the design is intentionally hidden, the story must weave together a narrative that slips between and under and over until a cape of scarlet appears.
National City’s piers were dark and quiet, May bringing with it bugs that circled the few and far between street lamps that failed to cast more than a dim glow. Industrial buildings with large garage doors, forklifts quiet and waiting, heavy equipment to move shipping containers stood tall as cranes and ropes and chains and other objects meant to pull or carry or lift or bind lay at the ready. The dark greasy waters of the bay lapped against buoys and wooden piers and the only other sound in the early morning hours was the purr of a German engine idling in an alley before two lights found it. One car stopped next to the other and cut its own engine before a door opened and a tall, lanky woman stepped out, her boots hitting the ground with a crunch. In one stride, another door opened and soon, the black car now held two occupants in the back seat and the air crackled between them.
“You summoned. What is it you want here, Rhea?”
Lillian Luthor’s voice was direct, tight, and to the point as she settled into the leather and let her gaze drift over to the Daxamite queen who had sent word through her contacts. Rhea’s face was dark, barely lit from the port lighting outside and her voice was equally to the point.
Lillian sat quietly and waited as Rhea glanced over at her.
“He’s here and I want him back. He was always the light of my life. But recently, he met someone...Kara Zor-El. And suddenly everything changed. He no longer honors our family.”
“Yes, you know, Kara Danvers. Supergirl. Whatever it is you people call her, she’s still the horrible Kryptonian who has ruined my son with all this talk of alien amnesty and staying on this planet.”
Lillian raised an eyebrow and tried not to give too much away as she nodded. This became a chess match very quickly.
“Ah, yes. Supergirl. We have a common disdain for Kryptonians it seems. And I’m no fan of alien amnesty either. Your kind isn’t welcome here, Rhea.”
Rhea sighed with a slight nod before her steady voice continued.
“Lillian, think of me what you will, but I crossed an ocean of stars looking for my son only to have Kara keep him from me. We could have come and gone from this vile planet without so much as a peep, but now, I’ll fight for what is mine if I have to.”
Rhea watched a flicker of light cross over Lillian’s eyes and face from a street lamp as she turned her head and looked out the window.
“I understand that sentiment.”
Rhea continued to lay out the bait just a little, wanting to confirm her suspicions from someone who likely would know.
“If it weren’t for Kara Zor-El, things would be much easier for all involved. Apparently, my son won’t leave because they’re in love and have been since he arrived.”
Lillian regarded the other woman in the early morning darkness of the car, the only light were those of the flickering wharf lamps and National City slowly, slowly awakening. In that dimness, it was hard to read a face or the way eyes look when lying. There were few visual cues between them, their quiet, resolute voices filling the space in the car. Lillian cocked her head to the side and slid her hand in her coat pocket, watching the other woman carefully.
“Are you so sure about that?”
“So sure about what?”
“About who Kara Zor-El loves.”
Rhea’s eyelids closed just a fraction and she looked out the window, the stars starting to fade as the morning was considering its return. What Lillian Luthor gave her was just enough to confirm what she had suspected and what she had paid a hefty sum to obtain. The dark, grainy photo had been delivered yesterday in the late afternoon and Rhea had traced her finger over the image. It was almost too dim to make out, but the light of so many tiny candle lanterns floating in a pond was enough to show an embrace between dark and light, two women too close.
“Lillian, you’re a smart woman. We both want the same thing here, I think, and I have no doubt that if we cooperated, we’d be more likely to get it, don’t you?”
“That depends on what it is you think we want and why.”
Rhea laughed and settled back into the black leather car seat, her hands folding in her lap.
“I like you. I can see how your daughter takes after you.”
Lillian narrowed her eyes as she raised her chin, her fingers tapping against the door handle. The motor of the Mercedes ran in the background and the fan blew air quietly out.
“And what do you know of my daughter?”
Rhea held up her hands and smiled, her eyes finding Lillian’s steely gray ones in the quickening of the morning light.
“Only what I’ve been told. It’s not like Lena Luthor is a secret in this city. Brilliant mind. Driven. Quite the genius. You must be proud. She’s everything a mother could wish for.”
Lillian pursed her lips together and held Rhea’s eyes before looking away.
“Almost everything. But my daughter is not why we’re sitting here talking, is it?”
Rhea smiled slightly and dipped her head towards the other woman.
“I suppose not. I know all about you too, Lillian Luthor. You loathe aliens. And I’m no fan of humans. We both want Kara Zor-El gone, so we have that in common. I think we could help each other. Once Supergirl is out of the picture, I’ll leave with my son and you can continue your crusade to rid your precious planet of us.”
“You may be underestimating Supergirl, Rhea.”
Rhea laughed as her head rolled to the side, catching a glimpse of Lillian’s strong profile in the port lights. Rhea’s smile remained as her fingers traced the pattern of stitches in the leather seat between them.
“Unlikely. I know where and how to use her Kryptonite to my advantage. I have a plan.”
Lillian narrowed her eyes as she adjusted her long legs in front of her, turning to face Rhea.
“If you have a plan to kill Supergirl already, why do you need me?”
“I need you to find where they’ve hidden my son and bring him to me while I handle Kara Zor-El. I can’t be expected to do everything in our new partnership, can I? That’s hardly fair. I know you have someone on the inside of that..organization..holding my son. Make it happen.”
“And if I don’t?”
“If you don’t, I’ll summon more of ‘my kind’ to come and lay waste to your entire planet, pure and simple. Lillian, I came here in peace, but if I don’t leave with my son, I’ll leave the wrath of my people upon you. Trust me when I say that Daxamites would love nothing more than to seek vengeance on any place or people Kara Zor-El called home.”
Lillian smiled slowly and Rhea saw that it didn’t reach her eyes. Her voice was cool and hard even with her lips curved.
“I don’t appreciate the threats, Rhea. You’re not the first alien race who has insulted us with idle talk of wrath and vengeance. Humans know a thing or two about waging war to protect what is ours. Save the drama.”
Rhea cocked an eyebrow and smiled and Lillian saw that it didn’t reach her eyes. Her voice was smooth and icy as her lips turned upward.
“Fine. My threat stands, but let’s call it a compromise instead, shall we? You deliver Mon-El and I’ll deliver Supergirl’s demise. We both win.”
Lillian also knew a thing or two about how to compromise when someone wanted something they didn’t have. She nodded ever so slightly.
“You’re a smart woman, Rhea. I like you. I’ll get your precious Mon-El in exchange for both Supergirl and Superman. Since you think so highly of your people, one Daxamite is surely worth more than two dead Kryptonians. After all, a mother’s love is as strong as her wrath.”
Rhea narrowed her eyes before she smiled. It would be with great satisfaction that she would fulfill this ‘compromise’ and annihilate the human race for daring to assume they could speak to the queen of the Daxam people with such bravado. Once she had her son and exacted retribution on the Kryptonians for what they did to her planet, all bets were off for Lillian and the rest of them here on earth.
“So true. You have a deal, Lillian.”
The morning sky started shifting from dark to the gray of dawn and the port of National City was starting to wake. Cargo ships sounded horns far off the bay to signal arrival. As the rest of the city began to crack eyes open and shift in beds, two women smiled at each other in understanding and another thread was spun in a complicated web, the pattern unpredictable and as new as the day’s first light, scarlet tendrils ready to burst into orange-gold.
When Kara returned to her apartment from Alex’s, after breakfast and coffee and a gentle nudge of the clock that the work day was starting soon, she slipped her key into the lock and pushed open the heavy door, smiling as the sunlight of the morning streamed into every window basking her place in a sea of gold. She had missed it and more importantly, she had missed being happy and content in her own space with her own things. It felt normal to come home to something familiar, her favorite glass still on the counter, her coats hanging where she left them, her couch as cozy as they came. She stepped in and shut the door before she noticed something out of place, something new, something blue.
A small box, wrapped in royal blue fabric and an envelope in a lighter shade, sat on the long wooden surface of her breakfast table. Her glasses also sat carefully folded nearby. She could have let her eyes look inside, she could have used her powers to see what was in the box, but Kara loved surprises. That was a little secret that few people knew about her, that she delighted in not knowing what was coming next or hearing words spoken in secret or seeing things that others didn’t. Being a superhero meant that most times, she could predict what was going to happen, what danger felt like, what was around the corner or on the other side of a door. But when she was Kara and wanted to feel like she belonged here, she took pleasure in the little things, including not peeking when she received a gift or not listening when someone wanted privacy. Kara’s fingers traced over the silk covering the box and smiled when she recognized the delicate, yet sure swirls of her name written in a familiar hand. A gift. And a note full of words that danced across the page she carefully unfolded.
I hope it’s okay that I let myself in. I’m sorry I missed you..I was hoping you might be here at this late hour but I took a chance. Where is my super one tonight? I’m also sorry that I couldn’t stay away. I can’t stay away from you it seems, despite your request and my best intentions. I’m usually very careful about following some rules. So pretend I’m not here breaking your rules. Pretend that the scotch I had tonight didn’t steer me to your door and make my mind swirl with what you said to me earlier, what you told me, and how it made me feel. You make me dizzy, Kara, you really do. I am more a scientist than a poet so forgive me if I say that I have been waiting for you, you specifically, you only, for a very long time. How does that happen? How does it happen that you fall from the stars and find me? Me of all people to find. To choose. What are the odds? I could do the math if forced. I could calculate a number or a probability but nothing would come close to what I really think happened. I think I dreamed about you when I was a girl, I think I saw you once shooting across the sky, a comet with your name on it. I was laying on my back in the garden counting each streak of light, not knowing that you were the brightest that night, but I felt you. I knew it was you. How is that even possible? I believe in science and you are magic, so much magic, Kara, I can barely fathom it. You make me forget all about polyatomic anions and elements that don’t exist, as silly as that sounds. I need to tell you that love is something more than a theory. You are my proof. You make sense. Forgive me if my lips loosen with you, if I sound like I’ve been struck by a star, if the alcohol helps me say that I can’t imagine me without you. Come back, Kara, when you can and when you are done carrying the weight of this world. I’ll unburden you. I’ll smooth it all over. I’ll carry you. I want to tell you all of this again and more - in a different way, in a different language, in a different key. Hold on to this and when the time comes, you’ll know what to do.
Kara took in a breath and re-read the letter, her eyes following the blue ink across the page as her cheeks warmed. She was completely sure that she was the only one on this planet who would ever see this side of Lena Luthor. She smiled softly at that feeling, that Lena only let her into what made her tick, how your mind worked, how she felt. Kara felt lighter, even if it meant that she had missed Lena’s visit sometime in the night when she was brooding high above the city worrying about a dinner date for no reason. The night and the doubt had lifted with the morning sun and now here she stood, holding onto a piece of Lena, her words and her heart fully exposed.
Kara reached for the little box and opened it, her eyes falling on an old key, three small circles on the bow and several key wards cut into the bit. It was polished gold and as small as her pinky. She turned it over in her hand and smiled.
In the last cold snap at the end of February, just mere months and a lifetime ago, Kara had knocked on the door of Lena’s apartment, hesitantly. They were still new, still figuring out how to be in each other’s lives, knocking on doors to apartments that weren’t theirs. Neither presumed an intimacy with each other’s space that was out of place with the growing intimacy with each other’s likes and dislikes, moods and feelings, curves and expanses of skin and how to draw out soft sounds and desperation, depending upon the need. Kara had just shown up, unannounced, at the end of a marathon day of copyedits and superhero duties in the darkness of a February night. It was late and she was staring down at her own shoes, not wanting to listen or look inside Lena’s apartment. That felt too invasive and it felt like too long to be standing at someone’s door, given the hour, and she hadn’t called or texted so perhaps it was better to leave. The door slowly opened and she looked up. Lena was leaning against the doorframe, smiling, hair tousled from sleep, bare skin save for an oversized red nightshirt, buttons down the front.
“You know, Kara, we have to stop meeting like this.”
Kara took a breath and looked back down at her hands holding a blooming pale pink winter daphne in a ceramic pot. It did seem a little ridiculous at midnight to offer one of the only things that bloomed in February to a woman who looked like Lena did right now.
“I’m sorry. I should have called. It’s late. I can go?”
She looked up to see Lena still smiling at her before she reached out to grab Kara’s free hand.
“Are you kidding? Get in here, Kara.”
Kara felt herself pulled into the darkened apartment, her skin tingling in that new way it did whenever it came into contact with Lena Luthor. Her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and she barely had time to carefully set down the daphne on a nearby table before she felt Lena’s body press into her, hands on her shoulders. Kara’s arms went around her waist as if on automatic pilot and she barely had time to smile before Lena’s lips were against her neck, warming skin and sending gentle sparks to the surface. When Lena looked up at her, Kara shrugged her shoulders in defeat.
“I just wanted to see you.”
Lena smiled back at her as hands wandered down to Kara’s hips before Lena stepped back a bit.
“What exactly would you like to see?”
As was becoming clear every time she was in her presence, Kara felt herself respond to Lena in a way that sent her body humming, her eyes finding and warming skin, her own cheeks and neck radiating heat that began between her ribs. She took a breath and swallowed, her hands drawn to soft red silk and fragile buttons. Lena looked at her expectantly under hooded green eyes.
In the morning that followed, just before the sun rose on a crisp day, Kara was wide awake and her eyes gazed upwards at nothing in particular. Lena was strewn across her body and she felt each breath rise and fall as her fingers trailed along a strong spine, counting each ridge and feeling the way an exhale and inhale moved bones under her hand. She felt Lena stir a bit so Kara adjusted, pulling her closer and letting her lips press against dark hair as breathing turned steady again. She looked over at the nightstand at the pale numbers illuminated there. 5:30. Early or late, depending on how much sleep one required and she had kept Lena up well past midnight, whispering apologies for that guilt before Lena hushed her with a brush of fingers against her breast. Lena had slid her body on top of hers, holding her down and letting teeth sink into Kara’s neck, even if such things were futile in leaving a mark on Kara’s skin. She closed her eyes, though, at Lena’s desire to do so anyway. They found many reasons to keep themselves awake into the darkest part of the night. Now, she let out a breath, holding a sleeping Lena as her eyes found a shiny object next to the glowing numbers on the nightstand. There was a wooden object the size of a cigar box with a small burnished gold key in the lock, three circles sticking out. Because it was dark, Kara squinted at the box and her eyes told her, inadvertently, that it was lined with lead. She turned away at what felt like an invasion of privacy and counted each of Lena’s breaths at the mystery of it all, the way this woman made her feel and the way she never wanted the surprise of it all to end.
Standing in the morning sun now, Kara unclasped the necklace her mother had given her and slid the key Lena gave her on the chain to join the pendant from Krypton. The added weight of it fell against her chest and she took a breath at everything she held dear to her, her skin warming against metal and stone. Her phone rang as she stood there, ready to start her day and thinking of a place and a woman she wanted to get back to and how to make that happen. Alex’s name came up and she smiled as she put the phone to her ear.
“Alex, I’ve got to get to CatCo before Snapper kills me, what’s up?”
She heard the pause in Alex’s voice before an alarm sounded in her head, her sister’s voice conveying the urgency.
“Kara, you need to come to the DEO.”
“Alex, what is it?”
She knew what came next, could almost predict it with the certainty of the sun rising in the east.
Chapter 18: 10 mile
Here is a hypothesis: The distance between Point A and Point B is completely, totally random. Pretend you are at Point A, minding your own business, when off in the distance you see Point B. It had never existed in your mind prior to that moment. Point B wasn’t even an idea, it wasn’t a thing, it wasn’t a destination, it was nothing until you decided to go there. Measure your steps from this moment to an idea that just appeared. Mark out the distance from here to there in inches, hours, yards, miles, years. Pretend you reach Point B and you look behind you and there is no more Point A. Where you were is gone. It only existed for the second you were in it as a point in time, as an idea in your head, as a thing that materialized and then it disappeared once you left it. Think back to a time in your life when everything was perfect. Imagine that. Where are you now and how did you get here? How far did you travel from Point A to Point B? Take that number and divide by how it feels to watch your life unfold from the past forward until you find yourself wondering where it all went. Subtract that value from loving everything and knowing everything will one day be lost. Multiply that entire sum by each breath you took when you were happy minus the way your face fell every time after hearing really bad news. This is the distance between here and there, A & B, and no one knows how the math will work out. It will be random. There is no test.
The recently designated Pollinator test-facility was on the outskirts of National City, far away from the downtown office and in a heavily secured plat of land, acres of brush and no neighbors for miles. When Lena had reviewed the entire Luthor properties portfolio during the auditing process the last few months, she had pulled out the file of this northwest facility and toured it the next day. It was large and spacious, no doubt a place where Lex had developed and tested some of his more unsavory ideas. It had been sitting empty for months and she had tracked that most of the inventory and equipment had been relocated to other properties. Other, more Luthor-like items, were lost to the wind, moved before or during Lex’s trial by compliant and fearful staff or her own mother’s direction. She was still picking up the pieces of her company’s story, putting narratives together on what had happened before she came on board and started the wholesale sweeping and transition. Now, all that remained was open space and the potential that Lena had seen for their large-scale generator prototyping and zero-size intelligence development. She and Jess had overseen the repopulation of the space with the latest equipment and the right people to make good things happen here. It was perfect.
Late nights and early mornings were some of her most favorite times to work. There were fewer people talking, fewer people needing her attention, fewer decisions, fewer distractions. Lena had slept poorly, tossing and turning with ideas bouncing in her head and the emptiness of her bed so she had given up before the dawn appeared and came out to the test facility earlier than anyone else. Now, she sat hunkered over the steel table, calculating coordinate adjustments for the large scale energy source that would power their newly re-configured transmatter portal. She had already been very close to a solution to transport matter across space, but had lacked that last final piece of the puzzle, the last bit of mystery in converting anions into tiny windows that each opened at the same time to allow matter to move from here to there. Their current energy source was throwing off the synchronicity and the polyatomic anions were each opening and closing at random intervals. Lena was working through several organic chemistry and quantum physics principles to find just the right conditions under which an array of atoms would sequentially fire at the same time, in unison, to open the portal like a door to step through completely. Lena was on the cusp of something big. The deep thoughts, crack of dawn, and her strong coffee cleared her mind from the swirl of the night before, from the whirlwind of Kara Danvers and the feelings she stirred.
Lena had left the restaurant last night on shaky feet, mainly because of the potential of it all, the science of the ideas that Rhea had proposed now made sense in her mind and she could see how all the pieces fit and what needed to be done to transform her Pollinator prototype into a real, working transmatter portal. The more she talked with Rhea, the more the plans unfolded in her head, the concepts and adjustments and added components took shape. It was exciting and heady and Rhea’s compliments and gentle reassurances helped in ways she wished didn’t remind her of what she had missed receiving from Lillian. And they had talked of her mother too, Rhea contrasting what she had heard about the elder Luthor and her brother with what she assumed to be true about Lena given her present company. Only with Rhea, her truth sounded much more in line with the reality of who Lena felt she was. It took a lot of energy to be the person Lena wanted to be when there were few others to share the unique burdens that came with her gifts and her responsibilities. Of course, Kara was in her life and that helped, but when it came to Lena’s career, to her calling, she had few peers and even fewer mentors that could be trusted. Lillian had certainly not helped on that account, introducing doubt and calculated cuts to Lena’s own developing confidence in what she could do and how her mind worked. She hated to admit it, but the time she had spent questioning her worth as she got older because of her own mother was something she was still grappling with and overcoming. So, for much of her life, Lena had to do the heavy lift of finding her own way and being her own guide and confidante. But Rhea seemed to understand and for once, it felt good to lighten the load, intellectually and emotionally, with someone who sparked her innate curiosity and quest to create something big, something meaningful, something that could change the world. Rhea believed in her.
Lena was also shaky from the scotch, which she had sipped with somewhat abandon at the ever-filling glass, welcoming the burn and the warmth that it left. It loosened her, helped her open up, gave her just a little less edge and a little more softness than she would normally carry. It had been a week to say the least so a way to release a bit of that felt welcomed, inevitable. In the back of her car, she sat in the dark as Chao-Xing drove them quietly through the city under streetlights that crossed her body in white streaks at random intervals. It made her feel unsteady, to see light on her body but feel no warmth and that in turn drove her hand to reach into her coat and smile when her fingers touched glass and frame. Kara’s forgotten glasses. She pulled them out and looked at them in the dark, the glass reflecting the streetlights and the heaviness of them contrasting with how weightless Kara sometimes made her feel. She forgot, occasionally, that Kara was a superhero who could hold a plane up with her hands or lift a bridge with her shoulders. Sometimes Kara picked her up without thought when their lips got carried away, when Lena whispered certain words in her ear, when Kara’s cheeks flushed warm and she suspended Lena against a wall or above her bed like she weighed nothing. It was in those moments that she sometimes lost herself, sometimes forgot all that she bore from her name and the expectations and how heavy it was to have to carry herself when no one else would. In those moments, Kara could feel a shift under her hands and would find Lena’s eyes, warming her from the inside out, and whisper other words back to her, breath hot against her ear. Kara could tell whether she needed to feel the gentle airness of a cloud or the relentless pounding of a thunderstorm. Lena never had to ask, Kara just knew. Those thoughts and the scotch in her blood warmed her cheeks and made her do impetuous things.
“Change of plans, Chao-Xing. Can you take me to Kara’s apartment please?”
To say she was...disappointed.. that Kara wasn’t there when she knocked quietly and opened the door with the key Kara gave her was an understatement. Lena knew she should have stayed away, kept her distance while Kara took care of her unspoken responsibilities, but once she was in Kara’s apartment, alone, in the dark, she regretted only that she was alone. She inhaled deeply, filling herself with the light heady scent of this space that was uniquely Kara’s, and clicked on the small light above the kitchen sink. Her eyes took in all the ways Kara filled her space, the bright colors and the art, the softness of her couch and the hardness of the wooden table at which Lena now sat. She saw a half-full glass of water near the sink and smiled, thinking of Kara placing it there after seeking it out in the middle of the night or in the glow of the morning. Even though Kara wasn’t here, Lena could feel her everywhere and that was enough. She set Kara’s glasses carefully down on the table and reached into her purse, her hand having a little trouble finding what she was looking for until she pulled out a box she had been carrying with her, waiting for the right time and the right place. That time was now she decided. Lena reached back in and pulled out a pad of paper and her pen and let herself dream a little, let her heart remember how it felt to be loved and to love back, let herself think of Kara and Kara only. It made her smile, it made Lena happy.
Lena stretched her neck, hearing pops as she stood and pushed herself away from the work table. She had barely registered that L-Corp staff had started to trickle into the facility, that there was activity around her, that other people existed. She had spent the early hours identifying the one thing she felt was missing from their current prototype and it puzzled her enough to stand and try for a different perspective. Lean rolled her shoulders and went in search of another cup of coffee when the possible answer arrived.
“Good morning, Lena. I see you’re up early. I was worried that our dinner date would come back to haunt you.”
Rhea strolled into the lab area as she removed a black coat, her grey sleeveless dress hugged her curves. She smiled at Lena and removed her sunglasses, nodding when Lena smiled back.
“Well, it takes more than what felt like a fifth of scotch to keep a good Luthor down. I couldn’t sleep, not after our discussion and I wanted to come in and get to work.
Rhea joined her as she poured two cups of coffee, carefully handing one to the other woman while Lena added a little cream to sweeten it. She also poured another glass of water for herself and smiled as she drank it.
“So tell me, Lena, what have you discovered?”
She led them over to her workbench, notes all over the metal surface and her dual monitors humming. She raised her eyebrow back at Rhea and at the tall cylindrical engine in the center of the room. The one that kept blowing out her portal configurations in every hypothetical scenario she ran. There was something missing or something off about the way the engine’s combustion output converted all the anions to positive charges for far too long. The design was built to synchronize that conversion on a large scale, with alternating positive and negative bursts until it was seamless. Not too much, not too little, or the delicate equation for opening all those millions and trillions of tiny little windows would be off.
“I was working through your designs and I think there’s a small problem. It requires an element that doesn’t exist on earth. You see, we have 118 and this would be categorized at 260.”
Lena laughed and waved her hand a little in the air.
“And unless you’re from another planet, we’re not going to be able to get element 260, whatever that might be.”
Lena held her eyes steadily and nodded.
Lena stepped back and her brows came together.
Rhea reached into her bag and pulled out a metal cartridge like a long bullet, black with silver flecks and held it out until Lena felt compelled to open her hand and watch it drop in the middle.
“Daxamonium is element 260 and it comes from a world far from here. As do I.”
Lena took a breath and fought the urge to react in the way she had seen from her family over the years. She fought the urge to flinch and to fear and to possibly mistrust because aliens and the Luthor family had a long history and she fought every day to overcome that. Her work. Her support for alien amnesty. The way she wanted to be different from a family that hated on principle. And of course, there was Kara. Especially Kara. She kept her voice even.
“I..didn’t realize you were..”
“An alien? I hadn’t made that clear, Lena, and I am sorry for that. I may have misled you into assuming I was of this world but only because I know how much your mother loathes aliens. And I presumed you’d be the same.”
Lena chuckled to herself and shook her head. Even someone from galaxies away had heard of her mother and her anti-alien crusade. Her name once again preceded her.
“That’s what people do when they hear I’m a Luthor. They presume. What do you want from me?”
Rhea gentled her voice and softened her face and Lena tried not to respond or to doubt. Presuming the ill intent of another was a delicate balance for her as a business woman targeted for just such things so she tried not to let the fact that Rhea was an alien cloud her judgement.
“I want exactly what I proposed. I want us to work together to create a transmatter portal. We have them where I come from. L-Corp has already built the large-scale generator ring. We could easily adapt it for this using the Daxamonium in the energy conversion process. The portal would help your planet immensely and it would help me get home to mine.”
Lena felt the weight of the bullet cartridge of a foreign element in her hand and could not not help but remember the same weight from last night in her hand. It all came down to one thing and she wasn’t very good at it and it didn’t come easy.
“I don’t work with people I can’t trust.”
“I made a mistake. You are nothing like your mother or your brother. I see that now. Please Lena, don’t let my one lapse in judgment keep us from doing great things.”
She sighed. It was easy to hold on to the mistrust, to write someone off who withheld the truth from her because it might be painful. It was too easy to walk away from someone instead of staying. It was harder to forgive and it was harder to trust. Who did Lena want to be right now? She let her mind shift to blue eyes and the way Kara looked at her and the way she had given Lena the benefit of the doubt always and almost from the start. Kara had believed in her despite her name, despite everything and sometimes Lena wanted to be someone more like Kara than like Lena Luthor. She had changed, but her history with that family had not. She held the cartridge in her hand and looked at Rhea.
“I was just thinking that if I could make this work, I would prove to the world, to my mother, that I was someone different, someone better than the golden boy of our family. I think most of all I just wanted to prove it to myself.”
Rhea put her hand over Lena’s and closed her fingers around the element casing while she shook her head.
“You don’t have to prove anything. You’re smarter than Lex. I’m not saying that to make you feel better. I’m saying it as a scientist. As someone who knows.”
There were subjective feelings and objective observations and Lena had her biases. After all, she was more of a scientist than a poet and willing to consider that she was on the right path. So Lena tried to let go of the feelings her family stirred, the deep seated questions about who she was and who they wanted her to be and focused on the problem at hand. She took a breath and pointed at the simulation on her computer monitors and the output of numbers and numbers running down the screen.
“Every simulation I run has the engine undermining the polyatomic anion conversions. According to our design, we need synchronicity and we’re getting random conversion rates all over the place. Will this element increase the energy output and give it more power?”
Rhea smiled as she looked at Lena, handing the notes Lena had scribbled on the pages strewn by her workstation to her.
“Is it really more power that you want, Lena? Are you so sure that is the answer? You need to stop trying to think like your brother or your mother. From what you’ve told me about them, they’re people who are consumed with power. And that’s how you’ve been trying to fix this. Give it more power, you think it will work.”
Lena blew out a breath and tossed the notes down in frustration, pages of scrawl scattering all over her desk as she pointed at the engines and shook her head.
“Yeah, but it just keeps blowing.”
Rhea turned to look at her, held her eyes and spoke with conviction.
“But you are not a person who’s consumed with power, are you?”
Lena cocked her head to the side and smiled. She wasn’t. Entirely. But then again, she also had held power and was attracted to it. Consumed? No. Appreciative of it? Sure. Rhea smiled and nodded back while she continued, her finger pointing at Lena as she spoke.
“So if you weren’t trying to do what they would do, what would you do?”
Lena turned and looked at the engine and thought more about that idea. Light attracts dark. Dark attracts light. It all made sense now. Synchronicity in a dynamic system could only be achieved by harnessing and focusing the power of two opposing sides. Positive and negative. Good and bad. Dark and light. She took a breath as it came to her.
“I’d try to find a way to increase the anion input without overloading the energy output. All while maintaining the element synthesis rate at a constant.”
Rhea looked at her and raised an eyebrow as she spoke, her finger pointing down to the black bullet in Lena’s hand.
“Not power. Balance.”
Lena smiled at Rhea and realized that the element in her hand was the key to balancing the synthesization rate in the whole system and she knew just where she could insert it into the engine conductors to make this work. It was like finding the last of a thousand piece puzzle, that pesky little picture of fragments of blue sky and trees that had been overlooked a million times over until it was ready to be fit into the whole. It made her head swim that she was so close and all of this would not be possible if she had written off Rhea the minute she found out she was an alien, as someone not worthy of trust. This was the feeling of being supported, unconditionally, and Lena liked that idea, so foreign and new. And so she turned to her computer monitors and began plugging in values for the simulation based on element 260 and thought about how to reconfigure the energy core to draw from and convert Daxamonium into something that could change the world. That thought made Lena smile to herself, her life and work starting to find the right balance too.
Kara landed with a quick step on the DEO balcony and strode into glassed facility, her cape trying to keep up with her haste. The morning was just starting and already the DEO buzzed with activity, J’onn and Alex were hunched over the circular situation table while Winn worked behind them. Monitors were buzzing with images and staff moved back and forth while Agent Vasquez relayed messages from DEO central to Winn and others. Kara took in the activity and came over, putting her hands on the table and catching Alex’s eyes first before J’onn’s.
“What is it?”
Alex pressed a button and projected video appeared in the center of the table, Rhea’s face front and center. Alex nodded her head at it and spoke, her voice conveying her displeasure.
“You were summoned.”
The video started and Rhea seemed to look straight at Kara through the air.
“Kara Zor-El, time and my patience is short. I politely requested that you return Mon-El to our family. Now I am demanding. You have eight hours before I begin destroying everything you love. Everything.”
Kara stood watching the air as Rhea’s face remained, her mouth stern and eyes steeled before the image shifted until a circle came into view and focused as the sights of a ship’s cannon were now aimed at a building. She squinted as the picture started to come into focus and she could make out the signage now. Luther Children’s Hospital. She tried not to react, but she also knew what something like this would mean. Provocation and intimidation seemed to be the next step in this game. She blew out a breath and looked over at J’onn and Alex.
“I had hoped she would accept that Mon-El requested amnesty here on earth, that she would find it in her heart to let her own son determine his future. I need to talk to her again and convince her this is not the right path.”
Alex looked at her, her arms crossing.
“Kara, I know you want to believe everyone can change. But I’m afraid that Rhea and the Daxamites are not going to back down. We need to proceed as if the threat is very real and I’m afraid talking will not be enough.”
Kara crossed her arms and looked at them both.
“We have eight hours, I can try to explain that Mon-El loves his family but has chosen to make a life here. That he has connections here. She must have some kindness in her heart if he does. I have to get her to understand that.”
Alex came over and put her hand on Kara’s arm, shaking her head.
“I know you want us to negotiate with the Daxamites, but now that they have raised arms against us and threatened to kill innocent children, we can’t negotiate with terrorists and give in, Kara. We can’t. Right now, we’re dealing with one heavily fortified commander ship floating above National City, but what if others are coming? What if there is a fleet of warships out there somewhere that escaped their planet too? We can’t take that chance.”
“What else is on the table then? You know I can’t let her destroy a hospital...”
Kara blew out a breath and left the threat of her own in the air between them, that if push came to shove, she would do what was necessary - one ship or many, it did not matter. J’onn nodded as he looked at Alex before turning to Kara.
“The President has made it very clear that we are not to engage with this ship, Kara. I believe she has additional intelligence about the Daxamites that she is not sharing with us. She had just sent word that we were to turn Mon-El over.”
Kara’s brows came together and she stood straighter, her hands going to her hips.
“What?! We can’t just turn him over! That’s not how amnesty works and the President of all people should know that. After everything we planned, all the stuff Winn put on the darknet, all the discussion of using Mon-El as a negotiating chip and now there’s a proposal to just disregard amnesty and give him up? No way!”
She could feel the heat of anger rising inside, for many many reasons. They had discussed this, had planned everything out, and she had agreed, reluctantly, to things she would have never agreed to without coaxing and orders from the two people who now stood across the table ready to throw it all away. Kara watched as J’onn looked over at Alex and then back at her before he spoke.
“Kara, someone accessed DEO systems this morning. They found the codes for Mon-El’s secure enclosure at our black site in the north. He’s already gone.”
Kara pulled back, her hand going to her head swimming with the information. Rhea clearly had not taken Mon-El given the threats. She shook her head as her eyes found Alex.
“Gone? We have to find him! Alex, if Rhea didn't take him, who did?”
She paused at this, her name spoken very quietly and in a tone that told her something else was in the mix. Her brows came together as she spoke, afraid of what would come next.
Alex reached down and the image from the Daxam ship dissolved before another appeared, this time the face was familiar and Kara felt her hands reaching out to the circular table to steady herself.
“Supergirl….Kara Zor-El…..Kara Danvers.”
Lillian Luthor’s face smiled menacingly at each incantation of her name and Kara could not help but stare at the grey eyes staring back at her.
“I’ve got your…boyfriend...again and am prepared to finish him off with a lead bullet to the head to get what I want. And I think you know what I want, Kara. Meet me at noon. Lena’s office. Come alone.”
Kara looked over at Alex and J’onn and took a breath. She wasn’t thinking about the Daxamite ship anymore. She wasn’t thinking about Mon-El. She wasn’t thinking about the world. Kara was only thinking of one person right now until Lillian’s voice broke through again, dark and quiet.
“I know, Kara. Everything.”
Chapter 19: 10:37
Balance. A state of equilibrium. The weight of one thing equaling that of another. The perfect feeling of not too much, not too little. Yin and yang. Two complementary but separate forces interconnected and interdependent. Dark is to light as light is to dark. When things are balanced, when there is interdependence, it’s simply feels...right. It fits. It matches. It is hard to describe what that feels like or how that looks. But when there is imbalance, when dark overcomes light, it feels heavy and oppressive, it feels like an ocean full of lead, a desert full of molten mercury, weighing everything down. The possible now seems impossible, hope turns to dread and everything is torn apart and disconnected. There is a saying, that sometimes one can’t see the forest through the trees. What is the saying for when the tides turns so gradually it’s too late to get back to the shore, what is the saying for suffocating before realizing the air is no longer breathable, what is the saying for being underwater while watching the sky fade above?
Kara paced back and forth, alone and solitary on the concrete balcony of the DEO as she tried to untangle the threads of what was happening on several fronts and also in her own head. She thought through worst and best case scenarios, pondered arguments and logic to persuade two different audiences, felt her fists urge her in other, more immediate and deadly directions. The DEO’s strategy had been split in two and fractured from outside and within and Kara kept trying to make sense of where it all fell apart and what the options truly were. President Marsdin had been prepared to give up their single best negotiating piece in capitulation but now that was gone. Rhea wanted something the DEO didn’t have anymore and Lillian Luthor held the wild card in her hands. Supergirl no longer had the upper hand and J’onn and Alex were on the phone with the President weighing options and preparing for all contingencies. So Kara paced as the sun continued to rise, her hands on her hips and her eyes focused on her options even when her mind raced. It all felt like it was slipping and sinking away, something felt off. What was the missing link, where was thread that connected it all?
It happened once, on a cool April Sunday a few weeks ago, when the morning had not yet begun, when it was still dark but almost tipping towards light. She was floating, as if in the ocean, balanced and suspended adrift. It was soft, but not too soft, it was warm, but not too warm, she weighed something and nothing all at once. Kara took a breath and everything was bathed in white gold light, the sky above was blue, so blue, and she let her arms float out on either side, her legs dangling gently in the waves on the horizon. Her mind was blank and she closed her eyes, wanting this feeling to last forever, to go on and on in this state of nothingness. Something touched against her shoulder and she smiled, feeling that familiar tingle start on her skin, electric taste in her mouth. She kept smiling even as waves started washing over her face and her legs felt heavier, weighed down. She felt herself slipping under, her arms starting to lift above her head as the rest of her drifted down. She could have stayed there, it felt just right..not too warm, not too cold. She would have stayed too, if she hadn’t heard words on the periphery, above the surface, somewhere outside of herself. Kara blinked her eyes and realized that when she opened her mouth, she could not breathe, her lungs filled, and no sound came out. She could have panicked, she could have fought it, but instead, she just closed her eyes and sank further, her fingertips reaching up towards the ever-fading, ever-evaporating surface of blue above her.
She blinked her eyes open at the words that now filled her head and would have startled had she not been so relaxed, so at peace. Looking down at her were green eyes and a worried brow and she focused on darkness and the weight of a hand on her shoulder, legs entangled with hers, skin against her that was warm, but not too warm. Lena Luthor filled her vision and blue transformed to all the other colors of the woman in her bed.
She heard Lena let out a held breath and shake her head as fingers gently went to Kara’s face and traced over her eyelids and brows.
“You were having a...dream and I couldn’t wake you, Kara.”
Kara moved her arm and it felt a little like lead as her fingertips touched against Lena’s back, the vibrations returning with little shocks. She was still a foggy, still getting used to being in her body again, weighted and heavy.
“I was? I never dream...well, not anymore at least..”
She swallowed as Lena’s hand threaded through her hair before she blinked again, trying to clear the haze and the deepest sleep she had had in a long, long time. She looked back at green eyes that held hers, worried and cautious, before Kara continued softly.
“How could you..tell..that I was dreaming?”
Lena shifted her weight and lay her head back down on the pillow next to her, eyes never leaving hers as they were face to face and her hand never disconnecting from Kara’s bare skin. Dreaming was lost long ago, she hadn’t fully regained the ability to sleep deeply, not now, not after what a yellow sun did to her. She catnapped. She dozed. She could fall asleep for twenty minutes when it had been an extra long night of superhero duties, of fights and of bearing weight, and then be awake for hours. Sometimes she stayed up all night waiting for sleep to come. It was unpredictable and unnerving it its loss, something so fundamental to every human around her until she simply feigned the need for sleep, pretended to keep the hours of someone who was normal. She got tired, yes, but a deep eight hour sleep was a thing she no longer knew. The morning sun would revive her and it almost felt like she had woken up, refreshed, when instead she had dozed, had stared at the ceiling and beyond, laying in bed by herself or with Lena because that’s what normal people did on earth. She tried to be as normal as she could until she couldn’t. Lena’s soft words brought her back, her hand gently resting against Kara’s chest.
“I could feel something change..and I woke up. I know you don’t sleep well, Kara, I can feel that...here. It feels like something is missing. It’s hard to describe. ”
At that, Lena traced fingertips up until they flitted across Kara’s brow and ran into her temple. Kara closed her eyes at the touch and knew the feeling as Lena’s voice was quiet.
“You were holding me when I woke up and all of a sudden, it felt like you let go. But your arms were still around me and you weren’t...missing anymore.”
Kara shifted and pulled Lena in until her face was pressed against her chest and Kara could breathe in jasmine, mouth against a dark crown. Her arms worked again and she wrapped them around Lena’s body and sighed.
“I used to dream all the time, back on Krypton...I’d dream about the stars, the sky. I think I used to dream about Krypton before I was born, when it was still full of life and everything was green and blue. Oceans and fields of grass, all the colors of earth.”
Kara closed her eyes and felt Lena press into her more, lips against her skin softly as she held on and listened.
“When I was in space, when I was in what was called the Phantom Zone, time no longer had meaning and it didn’t matter if I was awake or asleep, it all felt the same. It felt like nothing, it felt empty. Maybe I was asleep that whole time, maybe I was awake thinking I was asleep or the other way around. I didn’t dream. I didn’t think. I was just suspended in nothingness. For twenty four years.”
She felt Lena take a deep breath and her arm reach around to pull Kara close too.
“I can’t imagine..what that must have been like for someone like you Kara...to be stuck there after..”
Kara smiled and shook her head.
“You once told me that you can’t break what’s already broken.”
Kara shifted as Lena pulled back to look at her face, the distance between them was non-existent as the sun started crawling up the sky, the first glow of morning starting to appear. She shook her head at the look of concern on Lena’s face, pressing her lips against a worried brow.
“I was then, I just didn’t know it. What I lost, the more time went by or stood still, it got tucked deeper inside of me in all that floating, in all that time where I wasn’t asleep or awake. I stopped dreaming when I got to earth. It just..went away and never came back. I want to dream again..of Krypton and of my mother, my family and all that’s gone. I want that back.”
Lena held her eyes as Kara smiled, her hand skimming across Lena’s arm, feeling the sparks forming and falling from her fingertips. She inhaled as the April morning came into focus and her body felt alive for many reasons. She felt hope continue to build and stir inside, churning with the rise of the sun. She watched as Lena’s fingers tangled in the necklace she wore before Lena picked up the pendant and looked at it carefully before looking up at her.
“Tell me about this..please...you always wear it, it’s beautiful.”
“Yeah, it was my mother’s.”
She saw Lena’s eyes soften as she looked at it again.
Kara smiled and watched Lena examining the stone pendant before looking back up at her.
“Yeah. She gave it to me the day I left Krypton. I'd just watched little Kal-El launch into space. Her world was falling apart around her, and even in the middle of that, she looked at me and smiled and said as long as I had this, I'd never be alone. She'd be with me in my dreams.”
She felt Lena’s body move even closer to hers, if that was possible, and could tell they were breathing in sync, inhaling and exhaling at the same time. Her skin was quietly singing, glowing against Lena and she realized that this was what it felt like when loss was not the defining feature of her life, when love could break things open and fill in the space where all the missing had fallen. Kara wanted this life, wanted her own place in it, wanted everything she worked hard to have here on Earth. She finally felt like all the parts of her, Kara Zor-El, Kara Danvers, Supergirl, all made sense and fit together. She felt balanced, connected to her past and her present, smiling at the possibility of a future that included love and the woman in her arms.
“Maybe I’m waking up..maybe I get to dream again..”
“I hope so, my dear one..I hope so.”
She felt Lena press in close and she closed her eyes as soft lips pressed against her own and this time, when her mouth opened, Kara could breathe, she could speak.
Kara stopped pacing, leaned against the balcony and looked over National City at the ship hovering just above the morning commute and out of sight from mere mortals. The hum of its engines churned inside of her head and she once again scanned the artillery and bastions of the Daxamite ship, making sure nothing had changed from this morning. Winn and the DEO had scanned it as well, taking readings and energy signatures to monitor any fluctuations or changes that could signal attack. J’onn and his staff began planning, assessing DEO options, including traditional military responses to contain the Daxamite ship and other, more extreme methods such as the positron cannon on the roof that could wipe it out if needed. These were all the plans to deal with Rhea and an alien race, but something more human weighed her down. Lillian Luthor.
“Do you know what she wants?”
Alex’s voice floated her way as her sister joined her on the balcony, taking in a deep breath of morning air that had been so perfect just hours ago. Now, mid-morning was in full swing and the city hummed, vibrating with life as work continued, people moved from here to there, all unaware of the danger above them. Kara glanced over at Alex and sighed.
“What do you think, Alex?”
She didn’t mean to sound cross but the fact of the matter was that Kara was angry and frustrated and while that was rare, it brought out her not so patient side on occasion. It brought out the side of her that was not unknown to Alex, the price of a sister and adolescence and being close enough to someone so that they saw the good and the bad more often than anyone else. It was family and it was complicated. Alex looked at her, her voice trying to reason.
Kara felt her fists forming and she turned to face Alex and her reassuring voice not doing the trick right now.
“What Alex? What? You know exactly where the conversation with Lillian Luthor is going. So what do you and J’onn want me to do now? What’s the DEO order on this one?”
She felt heat rising in her face already and it felt like a release to let go of what she was really feeling with Alex. There had been many many times where the sisters were each other’s valve, allowing the other to spout off or complain or cry or feel or say whatever they wouldn’t say to anyone else but family, anyone else but a sister. Alex turned towards her and nodded.
“Kara, you’re upset..I can see that.”
Kara let out a short laugh and threw her hands up in the air.
“Is it that obvious? Alex, I have to meet Lillian in one hour and all I’ve been doing this morning is trying to figure out how to win this one. I’m not sure I can.”
“Kara. You don’t bend. You don’t break, you’re the girl of steel, remember? You’ve gone up against Lillian before. You’ve gone up against a whole host of aliens out for you and you’re still standing here, Supergirl always wins.”
Kara blew out a breath and looked up into the blue sky, the May morning coming alive with the color of a robin’s egg, nests of white clouds skittering across the sky.
“What if I don’t this time, Alex? What if I the choice I make is the wrong one?”
She felt Alex move closer and a hand reach out to her arm and she could tell Alex was waiting for her to look at her and so she did.
“I know you’ll do what’s right, Kara. You always do.”
A feeling of dread started sinking in and Kara couldn’t quite place where it was coming from, unaccustomed to realizing that everything she had feared would happen might actually be happening. Lillian was going to force her hand about Lena or kill Mon-El, Rhea was going to take Mon-El, amnesty be damned, or start a war with Earth. Kara tried to work out any other scenario where loss, personal or principle, was not an option and she was coming up short. Kara shook her head as her brows came together.
“If it was Maggie, what would you be doing? If the choice was between the woman you love and saving the world, what would you do?”
She watched Alex shake her head and say nothing because Alex wasn’t the superhero, she wasn’t the one who was expected to do what was right even if it meant she would lose something, again and again and again. Kara turned and looked back out over the city.
“Alex, I feel like I’m on the brink of having everything I’ve ever wanted. Family, friends, a job I love. A life as a hero I never could've imagined. And Lena. If I make the right choice, do I get to keep all of that? I don't know. I don't know if it's possible. I don't know if it's possible to have everything you want.”
Alex joined her in watching National City pick up as lunch hour approached, as cars and buses roamed the streets below and the warm breeze of May blowing across her shoulders. Soon she needed to fly, needed to face Lillian Luthor and then Rhea and all the choices in between. Alex’s voice was soft.
“Kara, no matter what choice you make, I will always be proud of you for being the only one strong enough to make it, to do what no one else can, to do what I couldn’t. We are in this together, you and I, and I will always have your back.”
Kara glanced over at her and let a small smile cross her lips, knowing that whatever was to come, she had Alex behind her. Her sister smiled back and they held each other’s eyes for a bit before Kara nodded, her feet itching in that way they did right before she took flight, ready to be in the air, flying weightlessly through the clouds towards what came next.
“I’ve got to go. It’s time.”
The morning moved quickly towards the lunch hour as Lena adjusted the capacity regulator controlling the amount of Daxamonium used in the large scale energy core. Using her tablet, she watched as numbers bounced on the screen in a wholly predictable way. The design Rhea had proposed actually worked and the simulations each returned the desired outcome: balance. Anion windows opened in harmony at the right time and for the right duration. She smiled to herself as she calculated the amount of energy needed to maintain that window for a millisecond, a second, a minute, an hour. Each time, her formula was flawless, the numbers all added up, and the simulated transmatter portal worked every time. The only thing remaining was to connect the core to the actual portal and test it with something small for a very short period of time. Jess had called from the office and offered to oversee the coordinate setting to test the transfer of a small packet of iron ore from one of the L-Corp R&D facilities in the south where a temporary mirror site had been hastily constructed. Lena exhaled a breath and realized that balance was everything, it felt right and was coming together in such an elegant way that sometimes she considered science to be some kind of white magic, to perfect to be believed.
“How are things going, Lena? I thought you might want something to keep up your stamina.”
Rhea had wandered over to her workstation with a sandwich wrapped in wax paper and a fruit cup, setting them down on the only available space on the metal table. Lena looked at her and smiled, acknowledging with nod a very human need that she sometimes forgot. She set her tablet down and unwrapped the offering as she spoke excitedly.
“I think we’ll be ready to start testing matter transport right after lunch. Jess is setting the other end up with a smaller team of our Pollinator engineers as we speak. Once I put Daxamonium into the equation, the whole thing just came together. It’s amazing, I’m completely in love with this design.”
Rhea smiled and nodded, her arms crossing as she watched Lena eat.
“Love is a funny thing, isn’t it? Fleeting and fickle, in the world of science and otherwise.”
“Yes, but once you find it, you’ve got to hold on to it.”
Rhea held her eyes and spoke quietly, tipping her head up a bit.
“Really? Even if it isn’t what you thought, Lena?”
She set her sandwich down and leaned against her workstation, regarding the older woman as Lena rolled up the sleeves of her white shirt covered in spots of black and pink like a leopard before she crossed her arms and smiled.
“When is love ever what you thought it would be?”
Rhea nodded once and closed her eyes briefly in acknowledgment.
“Good point. But I have found the concept to be more inviting than the reality. Unfortunately, in my experience, I have found that loving the idea of something..or someone simply makes one vulnerable to making poor decisions. You don’t strike me as someone who would be susceptible to the whims of such things.”
Lena laughed and shook her head, reaching out to grab a few grapes.
“Rhea, you’d be surprised at what I would do for love.”
Rhea smiled back at her, an eyebrow raising.
“Well, Lena, I look forward to finding out. Your commitment to our design is impressive and I’m confident that your decision making is soundly unaffected by the whims of your human heart. Shall we see how far your love takes you?”
Lena chuckled, nodding her head and raising her own eyebrow in return.
“And they say Luthors have no heart.”
Rhea let out a laugh and touched against her arm with a wink.
“I’m counting on you to prove them all wrong.”
Lena watched Rhea walk over to the engine core and smile up at it as one of the L-Corp engineers showed her where the Daxamonium conversion coils were being installed. She turned to her workstation and paused before she dove back into the finishing touches of the testing parameters. The conversation had sparked something, had reminded her of a note she had written twelve hours ago about the very topic of her very human heart. She picked up her phone and tapped her favorites contact icon and hesitated, her finger hovering over Kara’s name. It was close to noon and Kara was likely at CatCo, likely thinking about lunch, maybe thinking of her and Lena smiled at that. Wherever Kara was in the world right now, Lena hoped they were thinking of the same thing, that they both were thinking of love.
Chapter 20: Five arms
The park had an eerily quiet feel, like the calm before a storm. Trees were blooming into green canopies overhead, May flowers were starting to fill out beds with pinks and yellows and pale lavender, the breeze was just right, not too hard, not too soft. Slowly, the paths started to fill with with ones and twos and threes of people, out for the lunch hour, strolling through National City’s downtown park. Conversation was light, barely audible in the open space of greenery and concrete paths and fountains by the harbor front. People dressed for the business day enjoying a nice spring breeze, dressed in khaki pants, in black pants, in red shirts and black shirts and white shirts. The trickle of lunch takers became a stream became a river until the park slowly filled like a basin, until the ones and twos and threes became tens and twenties and a hundred and the low conversations became synchronized chants that became coordinated shouts. Soon, the storm had taken over the calm and Maggie Sawyer surveyed the scene from the outskirts, her eyes watching through binoculars.
“Left quadrant, khaki pants and white shirt, black hat. Watch his hands.”
“South side of fountain. Three females, red shirts, white shirt, black pants. Monitor their backpacks”
“Not finding the ringmaster, seems to be a starfish formation.”
“Definitely. Looks like the Party for Social Reform is out to play today.”
“Eyes on man near statue. Black shirt, black pants.”
“He’s on the move.”
“Sawyer, do we need backup?”
“Hold the edges, if we get any more, I’m calling.”
The NCPD comms crackled with activity as the vehemency in the park escalated, pockets of people moving this way and that, as if in harmony, never staying in one place at any given time and weaving through so no two people were next to each other for long. One arm would start a chant before it dissolved and another formed. Earth is Our Home! Hands and fists were raised and lowered in unison. Aliens Will Not Replace Us! Ones and twos would leave the park and twos and ones would filter to the other side of the group and then disappear outward along paths. White shirts and red shirts and black shirts would blend back into National City’s business class, blazers and sports coats over oxfords and polos until it was hard to tell who was who when all was said and done. It was ugly and over in fifteen minutes and the park slowly reverted back to nature.
“Simms - follow the guy in black, pick him up when he jaywalks or trespasses. I have some questions I’d like to ask him.”
Maggie clicked off her comms and turned to Conroy, her hands on her hips.
“What the fuck?”
Her surveillance partner kept his eyes scanning over the scene as actual lunch occurred at benches, kids played, and the park was no longer a hot-bed of anti-alien sentiment. Maggie shouldn’t have been surprised, she knew things were coming based on her investigation, she just hadn’t realized it would be so visible, so full of hate underneath the surface, and so normalized that everyone appeared to go back to their day jobs in banks and schools and tall buildings that towered over the park. It almost normalized it by being so public and so unashamed.
“They’ve been planning. Captain mentioned it at standup this week, you must have missed it.”
Maggie pursed her lips together and narrowed her eyes at the other NCPD cop as they walked back to the squad car. With a quick toss, she threw her jacket into the back seat and got in as Conroy leaned against her window. She looked up at him, her hands on the wheel gripping against it and the sinking feeling that came with what she saw. Maggie blew out a breath and looked over to the side at the second best poker player in the PD.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better, Patrick. Meet me back at Division and we’ll see what our friend in black has to say.”
Her partner nodded and moved away towards his own car and Maggie sat for a bit, the images of mild-mannered National City folk turning into a coordinated rage machine made her feel sick to her stomach. Something had shifted in the winds and all the IA intel she had shared with Kara came back to haunt them. She added that to Alex’s non-stop schedule, Kara’s out of character aloofness, and Lena’s suspicions and it didn’t take much for Maggie to realize that they were on the cusp of something happening in National City and for once, she would appreciate a head’s up. She slid her phone open to favorites and pressed a button.
“Maggie - hey..I can’t really talk right now..can I call you back?”
Her girlfriend’s voice was rushed and it was clear she was in the middle of something. Maggie put her elbow on the car door and held the phone to her head as she leaned against it.
“Danvers, I know something is going on and I need you to tell me what it is. Don’t keep me in the dark when serious shit is going down. I just witnessed an anti-alien rally that was fucking scary, Alex.”
There was a pause on the line that Maggie realized was Alex walking away from the DEO situation table and likely weighing what national security information she could share or not share without J’onn getting pissed. They tried hard to keep professional boundaries solid and not use their personal relationship to encroach on each other’s work, but there were times when the threat affected them all and those they loved.
“We have been threatened by an attack from Daxamites in five hours if we don’t turn over Mon-El. But Lillian Luthor took him from the DEO this morning with help from inside and demanded that Kara meet her now. We’re preparing for a war but don’t want to send people in a panic.”
Maggie closed her eyes at Alex’s clipped words and blew out a breath. In her mind, she replayed the rally and tried to find the connection, if any, between what she just heard and what she just saw. There had to be something, some thread connecting it all and that’s when it clicked and she opened her eyes.
“Alex, this wasn’t a random anti-alien rally, this was a signal. And I think we might have a lead on where Mon-El is. Can you meet me downtown as fast as you can?”
There was no hesitation on the other end of the line.
And the line was dead, no time for pleasantries or salutations. Maggie tossed her phone on the seat and started the car, peeling out as she made her way to the station. What clicked, what fit into place, was the face of the man near the statue. It was the same face she now remembered seeing in coffee shops and on the street the last few months, weeks, days, always close but not too close. It was the same face she had glanced at in the NCPD Internal Affairs files she had turned over to Kara days before. The all-black of his DEO uniform was what caught her eye today and that made speed of the essence.
The air was electric and bitter, the taste of it like absinthe in the bright noon sun, a little too blinding and out of place for the time of day. There was something different about the way the sky felt, heavy and leaden, and Kara felt it roll over her skin like waves of thunder even though there was barely a cloud. Her presence in it felt unbalanced, as if what she added was being subtracted in unequal measure and replaced with the weight of the unknown. She pushed on, her fist forward as she cut a path through the sky and her body took her to a familiar destination, her feet landing with a skip on the L-Corp balcony and her heart beating just a little faster. She wasn’t sure what to expect as she put her hands on her hips and walked through the open door, her eyes scanning quickly for what she most wanted to see but didn’t.
“Kara. So prompt. So punctual. How ever did you fight through all that National City traffic at the noon hour?”
Lillian spun slowly to the side as her long frame draped casually in Lena’s chair, her hair in a swept bun, black slacks, black shirt, black coat, black boots contrasting against the white of the office. She smiled as her fingers tapped against Lena’s white desk and Kara felt her jaw clench, memories rushing back. The woman sitting as if she had no care in the world after everything, after what she had done to Kara and to Lena, was enough to churn red and force the heat between her ribs to move towards her eyes. Kara stepped closer, ignoring the sarcasm and grinding out a question through her teeth.
Lillian laughed and raised her hand to wave towards the otherwise empty office.
“How should I know, I’m not her secretary. Or her girlfriend.”
“If you’ve done anything to her..”
Lillian shook her head and smiled.
“Haven’t we had this conversation before? You’ll do what? Lecture me, Supergirl? Beg me, Kara Danvers? I have no idea what Kara Zor-El would do. Destroy earth like your kind did to Krypton?”
Kara’s eyes went red before she knew it and fire shot out, taking out the lamp that sat on Lena’s desk before she realized what she was doing and stepped back, powering down. Lillian just raised her eyebrows and her chin.
“I sure hope you don’t use that kind of violence on my daughter. That temper of yours must make your..trysts..with Lena quite dangerous. She bruises so easily.”
Kara’s hands went to fists at that comment, knowing what she knew about Lena growing up and how life in the Luthor household was. It made her want to punch the smugness off Lillian’s face and that feeling was a bright hot heat she was having a hard time controlling. She took a breath and shifted, remembering gentle fingertips on her face and green eyes holding hers. She needed a clear head and a colder heart if she was going to effectively fight the way Lillian Luthor did. This was not about physical strength, it was about playing the game and strategy. She had to assume that Lena was taking care of herself, wherever she was, and was safe, otherwise she’d react with her fists when her mind and her words were needed. She spoke carefully.
“This isn’t about Lena. We’re here because of Mon-El. Where is he?”
Lillian crossed her legs and looked up at Kara, her hands coming to rest on the chair arms. She cocked her head to the side with a nod as the smile faded from her lips.
“This actually is about Lena. And Mon-El. But one at a time, shall we?”
Kara stepped closer, her arms crossed as she stood on the other side of the desk, slowing her breaths as she spoke.
“I’m curious, Lillian. Why the sudden interest again in Mon-El? The last time we were all together, you were using him as bait to harvest my powers. I think we’re past that now. Why did you go to all the trouble to take him from the DEO today of all days?”
It was then that it hit her, the connection sparked, and her brows furrowed as Kara leaned forward at the look in Lillian’s gray eyes.
“You’ve been working with Rhea.”
The pinched smile on Lillian’s face said it all and she watched her shrug her shoulders.
“I would never work with someone I don’t trust. And you know I don’t trust aliens, Kara.”
“So why Mon-El then?”
Lillian smiled as her fingers played against an empty glass on the desk.
“It appears as if he might actually be the most valuable piece on the board and not the pawn I believed. He must be if an actual queen is this desperate to have him and the white knight standing in front of me is willing to risk so much in exchange.”
Kara kept herself steady and spoke quietly.
“What makes you think I’m willing to risk anything for him, Lillian?”
“What makes you think I believe that coming from you, Supergirl? National City’s resident superhero. So virtuous. So righteous. Just like your cousin. You Kryptonians are so predictable, it’s pathetic. We have unfinished business, Kara Zor-El. We Luthors will always have unfinished business with you Supers.”
Kara stood with her arms crossed and held Lillian’s eyes, watching her face for clues and reactions, hearing a heart beat just a little faster at the reference to the history between Lex and Kal-El and now her own with Lillian.
“I’m curious about something, Lillian. If you’re not working with Rhea, then why are you meeting me?”
Lillian laughed and stood to her full height as she turned her back to Kara and looked out the windows of Lena’s office above National City, the Daxamite ship just out of sight in the high atmosphere.
“Well, I find our meetings as distasteful as you do, Kara, but I want something from you and you need something from me.”
At this, Lillian turned her head back and smiled at Kara, beckoning her to join at the window. Kara hesitated before she did, still feeling something offputting about being in Lena’s office without her there and under such circumstances. There was also history between Lena and Kara here that colored her perceptions.
“I’d like to propose a deal, Kara. A compromise if you will. If I had left this up to Rhea, she would have attacked National City by now and killed as many humans as possible. She is a ruthless Daxamite and you know it. We can use Mon-El to get what we both want.”
Kara looked out the window before she turned to face Lillian Luthor, someone who brought out the worst in her, now more than ever, because she couldn’t be objective about a Luthor anymore. Not now. So she tried to keep her voice steady, practiced being a little more like Alex and a lot more anchored.
“That depends on what you think we both want, Lillian.”
She watched as lips tilted upwards and grey eyes regarded her more closely, as the full force of the elder Luthor turned her head towards her.
“I turn Mon-El back over to you instead of giving him to Rhea as I promised. You need him to keep the Daxamites from invading earth. In exchange, I get what I want.”
Kara narrowed her eyes and spoke quietly.
Lillian smiled and put her hands in her coat pockets, turning now to fully face Kara. There was no warmth, no genuine feeling, only calculated focus and malevolent amusement.
“I find it interesting that you assume that what I want is Lena. You don’t know me very well, do you, Kara?”
Kara cocked her head to the side and raised an eyebrow, trying not to act surprised by those words.
“I know you well enough to not trust anything you say, Lillian. What do you want?”
Lillian moved closer until she was in Kara’s space, staring down at her inches away with her height advantage. It made Kara stand taller, her spine becoming rigid, her resolve firming, her eyes steeling, and her fingers curling into fists. Gray eyes were cold and Lillian’s voice filled the space between them.
“To take down our common enemy. Everything I warned against will come to pass. The alien invaders have come to destroy our way of life and claim our planet, just as I said they would. So either you can keep doubting me that the Daxamites are a threat...”
Neither budged except Kara moved forward slightly and Lillian nodded imperceptibly.
“Or we can work together..and save our loved ones and this city.”
Kara narrowed her eyes and spoke quietly.
“I will never work with you.”
Lillian cocked her head ever so slightly to the side and smiled, before she moved across Lena’s office, her tall strides making short work of the distance between the window and the couch before she sat down, crossing her legs and raising an eyebrow. Lillian’s voice was quiet and it drew Kara closer, just so she could pick up any subtle cues or signs from the woman who resisted being read.
“Kara, don’t let your pride get in the way of our objective. I know that ship is armed with Kryptonite cannons and the Daxamites have upgraded their shields. There are more ships coming. Trust me, if we don’t act now, it will be too late.”
Kara came over to stand in front of the couch, her arms crossed as she tried to separate fact from fiction, narrative from rhetoric. She tested the waters with a statement.
“There are no more Daxamite ships coming.”
Lillian folded her arms in front of her in her lap and smiled.
“Are you so sure of that?”
“What are you saying?”
Kara watched Lillian sigh and look directly at her, grey eyes clear and firm.
“What I am saying, Kara, is that you underestimate Rhea. You’re so sure of what you want to believe that you miss what’s right in front of you.”
Kara blew out a breath and tried keep her frustration at bay, the verbal back and forth was starting to make her fingers twitch and her arms shake so she held tightly to herself with her arms crossed and shook her head.
“Stop with the games, Lillian. Get to the point.”
The elder Luthor chuckled as she glanced down at the chess set on the table in front of her and reached out, picking up a black king and holding it up before she closed her hands around it and looked up at Kara, speaking quietly.
“I understand why you don’t trust me. But whatever happened in our past, I’m asking you to leave it there. The love you feel for Lena is going to get her killed. Rhea knows about you two and she will use that to destroy you and destroy earth.”
Kara’s heart skipped a beat and she tried not to let the sinking feeling she had show on her face. With Lillian Luthor, she never knew what was a truth or a lie and it caused her to doubt herself and what she knew. She could only imagine how it must have been for Lena growing up in that household where the pressure to be right, to play the game better than anyone else, could warp a child’s sense of self. Doubt was an insidious thing, worming its way inside one’s confidence until everything felt shaky and unsure. How had Lena survived in that kind of environment? How had she come out unscathed? Or were there things about Lena she had yet to uncover, wounds deeper than she had seen? Lillian had used words with surgical precision to cut, to lay open doubt and Kara herself fought against the fear that there was some truth in what Lillian had said. It felt like being pulled under and against a dark tide she could not see. Her voice was quiet.
“What do you really want, Lillian?”
Lillian Luthor let her lips curve upwards, cheekbones sculpted, her face a mask covering the malice Kara knew lurked underneath. A fleeting thought of what must have happened to Lillian to make her into the person she was today crossed her mind and she wondered if this woman’s childhood held the same pattern of trauma or emotional manipulation as Lena’s or if there were things about Kal-El and Lex that she never considered. She didn’t have much time to dwell on that before Lillian reached to her side and pulled out a silver box and set it on the table.
“I want you to use this device to stop an alien invasion and irradiate the atmosphere with lead instead of Kryptonite and protect the planet from Daxamites. Just a trace would be toxic to them and the aliens would be forced to leave or stay and die.”
Kara’s brows came together and she shook her head, trying to understand. She recognized the box instantly. It was the same one that had been used against her by Lillian in January when they were in Lex’s mountain lair. Lena had dismantled and reversed it to counteract the Kryptonite in the atmosphere that was playing havoc on National City meteorology and more importantly, on Supergirl’s power. There must have others, replicas or prototypes, that Lillian had stolen.
“What makes you think I would resort to using that, Lillian? It would mean that Mon-El and everyone on that Daxamite ship would be harmed or forced from earth.”
Lillian nodded at her.
“Mmm hmm. And they could never return.”
Kara finally understood that this was a convenient way to achieve Cadmus’ plan to rid the planet of aliens, all at once or one race at a time. Lillian wasn’t working with Rhea, she was working with whomever got her the farthest on her goal. There had to be some catch, why didn’t Lillian just use the box herself right now? There was some missing connection and Kara crossed her arms as she stared at the box before looking at Lillian.
“What does this have to do with Lena?”
Lillian smiled and she closed her eyes before she nodded at Kara as she opened them again.
“Lena is the key. This box won’t work without her, she and Lex were inseparable when they created it. Only she can open its secrets and make it work.”
Kara felt her fingers tingle and a warmth between her ribs heat up, not out of love but out of fear. There was some other thread that was missing, a piece of the puzzle that had fallen on the floor, some line that had yet to be drawn. She walked closer to the couch and stood as tall as she could, towering over the woman lounging on the white couch seemingly without a care in the world, her legs crossed and grey eyes regarding her carefully.
“Why would Lena ever use this weapon against someone?”
Lillian stared at her.
“Lena wouldn’t, but you would.”
Kara narrowed her eyes and took a breath, knowing something else was coming, she could feel it like a darkness spreading and weighing everything down. She tried to keep her breathing steady, tried not to suffocate against the rising feeling starting to roll over her. She stepped closer because she wanted to makes sure she was ready for whatever came next.
“What makes you so sure?”
Lillian Luthor’s smile faded and her eyes hardened.
“Because you clearly love my daughter and using this against Rhea is the only way to set her free. I have it on good authority that the Daxamites have Lena under their control.”
Kara’s eyes grew wide in spite of herself, in spite of not wanting to show that she might believe this or that she could be affected by such things. Lillian Luthor knew exactly how to manipulate and pull the right strings, the problem was whether or not Kara believed the woman sitting in Lena’s office looking at her without a hint of falsehood on her face.
Lillian simply chuckled and rested her elbow on the arm of the white couch, her hand holding her chin as she watched Kara and crossed her legs. Kara found herself reaching behind her back, pulling out her phone and calling Lena to confirm her well-being, her safety. She let her finger tap on Lena’s contact and put the phone to her ear, her eyes never leaving Luthor greys. It rang twice before she heard a click and a voice that wasn’t the one she wanted to hear answer.