Jack told Lena he loved her, Lex Luthor tried to kill Superman. In his failed attempt, he blew up a sizable portion of Metropolis. He killed people. So many people.
Lena got on a plane once the air was clear enough to fly, Jack in her dust, sat through a weird detour, eyes fixed to her screen where Metropolis news played without cease. She stopped watching the news when Lex was locked up without trial. She knew he didn’t deserve one, but it hurt to see him in chains, snarling like a monster. It hurt to see what he’d become.
She moved into the National City Luthor Corp building. She put herself in an office with a big window and put her back to it. She had her new secretary - Jess, smiley Jess - defer all of Lillian’s calls. She worked on rebuilding. She worked on her device.
The sun beat down on Lena’s back through her window, but it was better this way. Her own shadow stopped the glare from hitting the delicate wiring she was putting together. On this, she could not risk an error. This project was too precious to make any mistake.
This project might finally win Lillian Luthor’s heart.
With Lex insane and rampaging, someone had to carry out the Luthor legacy in its new form. Someone had to make the world safe. Someone had to forewarn humanity of the dangers that lie out amongst the stars.
Lena soldered the last wire into place and turned off the iron, blowing a strand of hair out of her eyes as she set it down. She turned the thing over in her hands - just a circuit, some wires, and a lightbulb at this point - and smiled. She needed to finish the code mapping out any and all permutations of purely human DNA - allowing, of course, for standard mutations and genetic conditions - and comparing it to the provided biological samples, model an ergonomic chassis, and put everything together, but that wouldn’t be difficult.
Soon, she’d have a hand-held DNA scanner that could identify aliens in less than ten seconds. With a little workshopping, it could even be used to study alien genes, to create vaccines and cures for diseases that hadn’t even entered the solar system yet, to help every species that set foot on the planet.
After all, Lena reasoned, they’re still living beings. Healthcare is a universal right. Just because they’re… different, it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve help.
She couldn’t tell Lillian that. She couldn’t tell Lillian lots of things. She would, however, tell Lillian when it was done and she knew it worked and she knew it was perfect.
She sat behind her desk for the first time, and had only been there for about a day when in came a familiar face, side-by-side with someone new.
And my god, was Someone New cute.
Someone New was Kara Danvers, Not-Reporter, but she quickly became one. She, in her cardigans and her khakis and her practical leather belts and her thick-framed glasses always being fiddled with, she was coaxing answers to well-thought questions out of people. Out of Lena.
And she understood.
Lena wanted to tell her everything.
She’d finally finished it. She’d finally finished the bio sampler. It was sleek, compact, and absolutely perfect.
Something I could bring home to Mother, she joked, more than a little morbidly, to herself.
Of course, she still needed to test it. Who better to test it on than herself, an immediately available subject with an existing known answer?
Lena placed her thumb on the collector pad, heart pounding in her chest. This was it. This was the moment that would change everything, that would determine the worth of every decision she’d ever made and the viability of every plan she had to redeem her name.
The light flashed red.
Lena tried again. Centering her thumb precisely on the pad, she pressed down and let out a heavy breath.
I can’t believe I was so thoughtless as to mis-wire the fiber optics. Or maybe it was a coding issue? My god, I fucked up something as elementary as binary color coding!
She raked her fingers over her scalp, through her hair, and slumped onto her elbows. This was a tiny, foolish mistake, with no real effect on functionality, but it wasn’t to spec. It wasn’t good enough.
When Kara came in, though, it seemed like it could be. Like, if this sunshiny woman approved her little mistake, it really would be a little mistake, not a big one that could ruin everything.
“Lena, please.” God, why am I smiling so much? Am I smiling too much? “It’s good to see you again, Ms. Danvers.”
“Well, if I’m calling you Lena…”
“Kara it is. Um, if you have a parking ticket, I can have it validated for you.”
“Oh, no, that’s okay, I flew here.” Kara blinked. “On - on a bus.”
“Well, I’m glad to see you gave reporting a shot. Although if you’re here on the same day the President’s in town to sign her Alien Amnesty Act, then…”
Kara winced, almost sympathetically. “Then I must be here to ask the sister of Earth’s most notorious alien hater her take on the President’s executive order.”
Lena’s heart was pounding again. She felt like she was unwrapping the best possible Christmas present while simultaneously watching someone else unwrap the same. She stood and fetched the device from her shelves and brought it back, trying not to feel like an overeager fetching dog.
“What is it?” Kara asked, rising to follow her.
“It’s an alien detection device that allows humans to find out who among them is not truly one of them.” Lena was boiling over. It’s good, isn’t it? It’s a good thing!
Something funny crossed Kara’s face.
“It’s not market-ready yet,” Lena rushed to say. “I mean, we’re still developing the prototype, but we aim to have this device in every store in every town across America.”
“How does it work?”
“Just a simple skin test.” Lena shifted the thing in her hands, treasuring the weight of it. “Let me show you what a negative response looks like.” She pressed her thumb to the collection pad - one, two, three - and the light settled on red. “See? Right? Now you try.”
Kara changed her grip on her little notepad - which, how charming! a notepad! what’s next, a tape recorder? a pencil tucked behind her ear? - and asked, “But won’t a device like this… Doesn’t it go against everything America stands for?”
Lena leaned back on her desk, turning the bio sampler over in her lap. “Such as..?”
“Well, freedom,” Kara chuckled, strained, cheeks pink, “against persecution, oppression… America’s always been a country full of immigrants.”
“It’s also always been a country full of humans.” Lena could feel her own cheeks burning - even her ears - and she set it down, clutching her hands in her lap.
Kara’s little laugh sounded somehow both easygoing and anxious. “Don’t you think this device will force aliens back into the very shadows the President is trying to shine a light on?”
“If aliens want to be citizens, that’s now their right,” Lena explained, insistent, clutching the device in her lap. “But if humans want to know which of their fellow citizens aren’t actually one of them, that’s their right, too.” She sank back a little. “I’m a businesswoman, and L Corp is in the business of making money, and this device is going to make us a fortune. But unlike my brother…” Lena stood, walking towards her seat. “I’m going to do it for the good of the world.”
She sat, and looked up at Kara fiddling with her glasses. Kara cleared her throat and said nothing.
“So?” Lena offered, trying to go for playful as she extended the sampler.
“Right! Um.” Kara stepped forward, looking wary, and placed her thumb on the collection pad.
“Here it goes!”
One, two, three.
Lena shrugged it off. “See! It works perfectly.”
Kara frowned, forming an adorable crinkle between her eyebrows. “So green is…”
“For aliens. Green is for aliens.” Lena stood. “At least in this prototype. I made a, um.” She swallowed hard. “I made a little error. Probably in wiring the fiber optics. But it still works! I’ll just have to be a little less sleep deprived when I wire the next one.”
When Lena looked up, Kara was staring at her. Blue eyes wide, pink mouth open, cheeks rosy. “Um, uh, yeah. Yep. I'm an... alien.”
Lena bit her lip, heart pounding. "I'm not - I'm not going to tell people about that. It's just supposed to help with - with medical care. So aliens can have treatment for Earth's diseases before they wipe them out - Smallpox Blanket Syndrome."
"I'm sorry." Kara took a step back, a step towards the door, a step away from a monster. "I have to go."
"Ms. Danvers, wait!"
"Good day, Ms. Luthor."
And it stopped again, that afternoon, when Lena read that article - objective, nonjudgemental. She felt understood, somehow. Like Kara could see every inch of her intent. She felt almost forgiven.
Kara came in, all cute and leggy - and why was her legginess suddenly pertinent? - in that maroon dress, business casual at its finest, apologizing for coming over unannounced.
“I just got the message you wanted to see me,” she said, stopping short. “Those flowers are beautiful.”
“They’re called plumerias,” Lena said, sitting upright and lowering the magazine, which she may or may not have been buried in, rereading that article again and again. She looked over at them, in their hand-thrown white vase, and smiled. “They’re pretty rare.”
She didn’t outright say that they were her favorite, that she’d fallen in love with them when the Luthor family had gone to Hawaii for her Christmas vacation with them. That when she was too excited to sleep, she’d look out at them under the moonlight. That her new father had carried her on his shoulders and they’d walked through the blooming bushes together, or that Lex had brought some into her room and pressed one into her favorite book at the time, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where she found it on the plane, still sweet. That he’d smiled at her when she found it and put a finger to his lips, and it was the first secret they’d ever kept together, and she felt family for the first time since her mother died.
She didn’t need to say it. It was in her voice, in her eyes.
“They remind me of my mother,” Kara said, like she needed to explain. The look on her face was enough to cushion the reminder of Lillian - the sourness in the set of her mouth when Lionel came back to their vacation house with her on his back, laughing, or the need to keep secrets from her, or the perpetual disdain on her face whenever Lena so much as breathed - because the look on her face was pure love.
“Was she a writer, too?” Lena asked, lifting CatCo Magazine with a smile.
“No,” Kara said. “She was, um, I guess sort of a lawyer.”
Ooh. That was a nerve. Lena swerved away from that soft spot and said, “Well, you have a natural gift with words. The article’s amazing.”
Kara let out a soft laugh, smiling, and she was incandescent. She was starlight on flower petals.
“I knew you’d make a great reporter, but after this afternoon, I was afraid you’d do a hatchet job on me.”
“Oh,” Kara said, cheeks red, “I tried. I wrote a scathing article about your device.”
“And my boss tossed it.” Kara shook her head, a sheepish little smile on her face as she sat. “He made me redo it.”
“Oh, well, that explains it.” Lena looked down at her hands, at her little picking fingers.
“The funny thing is, I’m glad he did,” Kara admitted with an oddly gleeful shrug. “I mean, not at first, but some things happened that made me rethink my position.”
Leaning in, Lena practically purred, “Do tell.”
Kara gave a nervous, breathless giggle. “I still think Alien Amnesty is a good thing, but there are bad aliens out there.”
Lena ran a hand through her hair, tension leaking away even as her cheeks burned. “Well, I’m glad you can see from my point of view.”
Something soft came over Kara’s face - something secret, something familiar, something fond. Suddenly, the scent of plumerias was more acute, more intense, in the air. She smiled.
“You know, when I was first adopted by the Luthors, I adored Lex,” Lena confided. “When he showed his true colors, I was crushed. I tried everything to reach him, to bring him back to the side of good - ” chessboards and storybooks and memories and flowers “ - but it was no use. I’d lost him.”
Oh, god, the lump in her throat, the burn in her eyes, the empathy in Kara’s.
“Finally, I realized that some people are just bad. And there is nothing you can do to change that, but you can learn to protect yourself.”
Kara looked at her. Just looked, and softly said, “Yeah.”
Giddily, Lena felt understood.
“I'm sorry about him,” she murmured. “I know what its like to… to see someone you love do hateful things. To realize they’re not who you knew them to be.”
And her hand was on Lena’s on the back of the couch.
“The truth isn’t always pretty, but sometimes it does good. It helps to know.”
Lena nodded, lip between her teeth.
“I just wish it didn’t have to hurt, too.” Kara squeezed her hand, so very gently.
“Well, that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?” Lena murmured. “To tell the truth. To help people.”
Kara nodded wordlessly. She opened her mouth, then closed it. “I, um, I gotta go. Office - work - stuff.”
She stood, collecting herself, smoothing out the skirt on that little maroon dress. She let go of Lena’s hand.
"I want to apologize. About the device. It's supposed to be Phase One of..." Lena swallowed. "Healthcare. Identifying species, understanding their physiology, developing treatments for them in the face of local diseases not present on their planets. Stop Smallpox Blanket Syndrome, you know? I wanted to say, earlier, but - I never meant to hurt anyone, and I'm sorry, for making you uncomfortable. For doing what I did. It's a breach of privacy, and it'll make people feel unsafe, and I - I went about it all wrong, and I'm so sorry."
Kara smiled, soft and sure. "It's okay."
“Will I see you again? Soon?” Lena asked, hope lilting in her voice.
Lena’s heart fluttered at the promise.
It went like that. Kara forgave her, came to her, spoke with her, kept almost saying something and never getting the words out.
They spoke of silly things - favorite foods (potstickers and pizza versus kombucha, specifically the honey-lemon-ginger variety, and kale salads, with a very specific champagne vinegar and orange dressing that she always made herself, because she couldn’t bring herself to indulge in actual sugar), movies (Kara’s fondness for movie musicals and romantic comedies rivaled Lena’s for ridiculous grindhouse horror and low-budget sci-fi and fantasy), music (nineties pop was a mutual joy, with a particular adoration for *NSYNC and most any female singer; Britney deserved better), and even colors (Kara loved primary colors while Lena had a secret fondness for pastels hidden behind her more public front of deeper tones). They spoke of serious things, too - the isolation one could feel in a new family that wasn’t truly theirs, the fight to be taken seriously in professional settings, living up to names and expectations.
Even with everything they’d discussed, even with Lena knowing how hard Kara worked to keep people close, even with Kara knowing how hard it was now for Lena to let anyone in, there were some things Kara couldn’t bring herself to say. Like how she never talked about her planet, how she came to earth.
It was only fair. Lena kept her own secrets.
No matter how deeply she trusted Kara, no matter how much she wanted to tell Kara everything, she couldn’t. But she would do everything in her power to earn Kara's trust, and hope that Kara could forgive her again.
Lena heard Jess’ protests, but hadn’t taken notice until her doors swung open and there Kara was.
"I tried to stop her, Ms. Luthor, but she is so fast."
I bet she is.
“Lena, I’m sorry, this is my fault.” Even admitting guilt for something, Kara’s voice was even, despite the passion in it. “I just need to talk to you.”
Lena stood. Jess looked, to be honest, pissed, while Kara just looked urgent.
“Jess, will you make a note downstairs that Kara Danvers is to be shown in right away whenever possible?”
Both of them looked surprised, though Jess hid it better. “Yes, Ms. Luthor.”
“Really?” Kara’s eyes widened. “Thank you.”
Lena sank back into her chair and said, “Now… How can I help?”
The relief Kara felt was palpable, even as she wrung her hands together. “I… I think a friend of mine has gotten involved in something shady.”
Lena scoffed, gentle in her incredulity. “A friend?”
“No, an actual friend. And now he’s missing.” Kara paced up to her desk, that urgency, that passion, all the more evident up close. “Do you know a woman named Veronica Sinclair?”
Boarding school, Lena had hoped, would be like Hogwarts. She’d hoped to make friends and learn things and feel liked she belonged. She hadn’t.
Lena could still feel the woman’s barbs. She could still feel her ten-year-old self, after skipping three grades, staring up at a towering, intimidating fourteen-year-old with laser-precise makeup and even more exact insults.
She’d grown skin so thick, it could rival Supergirl’s. She’d buried herself in her studies and managed to weasel herself into skipping another grade, which, unfortunately, put her in Veronica’s classes. She’d graduated at fourteen, gladder to get out of school than she’d been to get into it. She went to Yale, she went to MIT, she got PhDs in biology, engineering, economics. She escaped that bully, and everyone else.
And here Roulette was once again, hurting people.
Perhaps she was coming to see Kara’s side, too.
“She caters to people in your, um.” Kara hesitated. “Circles.”
“Tight dresses, tattoos like Lisbeth Salander?” Lena nodded, a bitter taste in her mouth beneath the light teasing tone of her voice. “Yeah, I know Roulette. We went to boarding school together. I never liked her.”
“I need to find her.”
“Well, that’s the trick, isn’t it? Her little fight clubs stay mobile.”
“But do you know where she’s holding the next fight?” Kara looked away, looked at her hands where they were braced on the edge of Lena’s desk. “I wouldn't ask if I had any other option.”
Lena sighed, slumped, scrawled. “I’m a Luthor. Of course I’m invited to her little pop up.” Looking up, she said, “Not that I’m interested in her type of entertainment!”
When she handed the address to Kara, the journalist let out a sigh, like a massive weight had been lifted. “Thank you,” she breathed. “I owe you, big time.”
“Not at all.” Lena looked at Kara, found her eyes roving up and down the length of her. “I know you're doing the right thing.”
Kara bit her lip and nodded, walking away without looking away.
Lena couldn’t tell if that was fear or something else.
She looked over at the plumerias.
Partially, it was that uncertainty, that curiosity, that drove her to CatCo after what felt an eternity of niggling in the back of her mind.
Was that glee in her voice? Delight? Affection?
How soft I’m becoming.
Cheeks flushed, eyes sparkling, Kara asked, “Surprise visit to CatCo?”
“No,” and Lena’s cheeks were burning, “I’m here to see you, actually.”
“Yeah.” Oh, god. “L Corp is hosting a party this weekend. It’s a gala fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital after that horrific attack on their new building.” Deep breath. Deep breath. “Actually I was hoping you’d come.”
And suddenly, the besweatered man lazing behind Kara swings gracefully to his feet and slides over. “Gala - is that like a party?” he asked, Red Vine gesticulating for him.
“No. No, it’s not.”
There was an urgency in Kara’s voice, almost placatory, but something shifted, and Lena felt… something. Like something had moved. She remembered reading The Giver in lower school, and the description Jonas had given of seeing color for the first time flashed dimly into mind - it was just different for a moment, then the same.
“You are literally my only friend in National City,” Lena said, urgency rising in her, too. “Most people wouldn’t touch a Luthor with a ten foot pole.”
Lena bit her lip, and Kara again had that almost-telling look on her face.
“It would mean a lot to me if you were there.”
“Of course I’ll come.” Kara’s voice was soft - not in tone, but in texture, somehow. Like her very words were cozy. “I’m honored.”
And then that man - boy - whatever - spoke. “I love parties. Can I come, too?”
Kara shot a look his way and said, “No.”
Kara saying no would have meant Lena saying no ordinarily, but there, again, was that flash of different-but-not, and Lena found herself saying, “Oh, well, of course your friend can come.” She looked up at this weird, somehow familiar face and asked, “What’s your name?”
“Oh, uh, Mike. Of the interns.”
“Well, Mike of the interns, find yourself a nice suit and I’ll see you there.”
Kara let out an uncomfortable sort of sigh as she said goodbye.
Somehow, even though Lena was at the elevator doors, she could hear Mike of the interns say, “We are going to a party!” as if she were standing right next to him.
She noticed it on the ride down, too. Like the pulleys were creaking extra-loud, like the door mechanisms were falling to pieces. Even her own footsteps were too loud, like every clack of her stilettos - which may have been selected specifically so she could be on eye level with Kara - was an ice pick through her eye.
And then the lobby, full of people, and oh, god, all the bustling and the footsteps and the paper shuffling and the coffee slurping and the talking, the fucking talking!
Lena hadn’t had a migraine like this since she was a toddler. Since before she’d been adopted. Her mother said they were probably stress-induced, and looked so guilty, lying there with her own splitting headaches like being sick was something she’d done wrong. The sicker her mother got, the worse her headaches were, but her mom always tried to make it better, always held her and hummed softly so she had one sound to focus on so she could block the others out. She was in pre-k, proving she could count past one hundred, when her mother died, and she could have sworn she felt it. There was a burning spike of pain, everyone counting like screaming and sandpaper on her bones, the lights blinding-searing-stabbing, the smells all cloying and putrid, and then it stopped.
She got in the car, slammed the door to keep the sound out and almost screamed with how bad it hurt. Thanking god and paranoia for the soundproofing, she sank into the upholstery as slowly as possible to minimize the noise. “Can you, um, can you put up the divider?” she asked.
“Of course, Ms. Luthor,” was her driver’s reply, and even that soft voice was murder.
“And please don’t turn on any music or - or let your phone ring. If you can keep it to silent, that would be… fantastic.”
“Of course. Where are we going?”
Only one place came to mind. Not her own apartment, though its barrenness might help with whatever this was, or her office. One place.
She managed to murmur the address, and ask that he loop the block until she said to stop, before lying down.
The engine, chosen for its silence and efficiency, purred beneath her. The sound wasn’t overwhelming - in fact, it sounded like her Mom’s car. Her real Mom’s car. She couldn’t remember much of her, but she remembered the battered Cutlass Oldsmobile with perfect clarity.
It was a matte brick red, rusting up yet reliable, with powder blue upholstery that smelled like antifreeze and lavender and a crotchety-sounding engine that always put her to sleep.
Lena didn't sleep then. She took, perhaps, too many OTC painkillers, closed her eyes to block out the noise, and curled up as best she could, and thought with all the force of a crashing plane, Please stop, please stop, please stop.
It did. Eventually, it did.
She opened her eyes, running a knuckle under each one to check for any smudged mascara, any sign of tears, and sat up. There they were, outside of Kara’s apartment, and who else should be walking up the street?
Lena cautiously left the car, tiptoed slowly into the building, practically crawled up the stairs - just in case. When she reached Kara’s door, she knocked as quietly as she could, breath caught in her lungs. Even that sound was inescapable, abrasive.
Faintly, she heard Kara’s voice - What is she doing here? - and another voice - Wbo? - then footsteps, then the door opening.
And there Kara was, all sunshine and warmth and comfort. “Lena, hi! Come on in!”
Lena could breathe, just a little.
“I’m sorry to keep dropping in on you. It’s…”
There was that second voice. Angular, elegant features, a baggy red sweater that hung loose enough to see a collarbone. Lena had heard her before, seen her before.
“Hey,” she managed, tone light. “I know you. You saved my life.”
“Special Agent Alex Danvers, FBI.” She offered a hand to shake, and Lena took it.
When Lena looked to her, Kara explained, “She’s my sister,” with a proud smile on her face, and Lena calmed a little.
“This city’s smaller than I thought,” she joked. It didn’t seem to fly over well. If not for the audible everything, Lena probably would have been more charming. “Well, actually, maybe you both can help me. You remember I told you about that stupid fight club last week?”
Kara nodded, concern flitting across her face.
“Well, now it’s my turn to ask you for a favor.”
Make it stop/Hold me/Oh god why am I thinking that?
“I need to get in touch with Supergirl.”
Kara nodded, then looked over to her sister. There was a little glimmer, like an inside story, and then Kara touched her shoulder and said, “I’ll see what I can do.” Then, quieter, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah." Does Alex know about Kara? Would Kara hate me if I voiced this stupid suspicion? "Yeah, I’m fine. It's a, um, headache. I’m fine.”
Kara looked at her, looked her over, and gave her arm a little squeeze. “Okay. You should go get some rest. Is your driver downstairs? Do you need me to call you a cab?”
A cab would feel like death right about now, Lena thought, even as the sentiment warmed the cockles of her heart. “I’m fine. Thank you, though, Kara.”
Kara smiled, one of those little dimply ones, and said, “Of course, Lena.”
“Really. Thank you.”
The city seemed to sleep - at least, the business district did. A credit to working late. Lena sat in her sterile office, the door open for the guest she desperately needed to arrive, lights dimmed, laptop screen almost black. The whoosh of the Girl of Steel’s cape was, thankfully, not too abrasive, but Lena heard it loudly enough to take note, and she turned her chair around.
There she was, peering in, almost looking lost.
Lena stood, heart in her throat. “Supergirl - you came.”
Help me, help me, oh god, help me.
Supergirl put her fists on her hips in that classic hero pose and strode in, already different than she’d been when she landed. “You wanted to see me?”
“Yeah, uh, thank you for coming.”
Her footsteps were so quiet, even with the heels on her boots - a casualty of super hearing, Lena supposed. You learn to be quiet.
“I, um, I have two things to ask of you.”
Supergirl’s hands fell from her hips as she turned to face Lena. “Of course, Ms. Luthor.”
“The first is a request,” she said, heart pounding. She could hear it, all of it, the rushing blood and the squeezy, squelchy sounds of muscles, and it hurt. She needed to handle business first, and then…
“I wanted to invite you to my party.”
Something crossed Supergirl’s face, a familiar shadow she couldn’t place. “Kara Danvers told me you were going on with the fundraiser. You can’t.” She shook her head. “It’s definitely going to be a target for this gang.”
“Well, that’s why I need you there - to protect it.” Lena swallowed, tried to laugh. “With Supergirl in attendance, I know my guests and I will be safe.” She couldn’t help the hope in her eyes, the need there.
“You like taking risks,” Supergirl asked, “don’t you? When Corben was after you, and now this? Why?”
“Well, you can’t live in fear,” Lena managed, voice low. “You, more than anyone, must understand that.” She stood, walked to Supergirl’s side. The carpet muffled her heels, and she’d never been more thankful for anything in her life than for that. “Time and again, you risk everything to see justice done. Is it so hard to believe you and I are the same? Or are you one of those people who thinks I’m nothing more than a Luthor?”
“I believe everyone should be judged on their own merits.”
“Then judge me on mine.” Before Supergirl could speak, Lena did. “This party must happen, and I am asking you for your help.”
There was something on Supergirl’s face, something soft and sweet and so familiar and why couldn’t Lena place it?
“I guess I have no choice.”
“Thank you.” Lena took in a shaky breath, looked down at the carpet. “Item the second is…”
“Ms. Luthor?” The concern in Supergirl’s voice was so raw that it hurt. Not like the lights, not like the sounds. It hurt in her heart. “What’s wrong? Kara told me you had a headache. She’s concerned.”
Lena looked up, vision blurred, and pressed the back of her hand to her lips to hide the bottom one quivering. “Something is happening to me,” she whispered. “And I think you’re the only person who can help.”
“Hey, it’s okay.” Supergirl’s hand was on her shoulder, on her waist, guiding her to her desk. “I’m here. I want to help. Just tell me what’s going on.”
A dry, jagged sob came out of Lena, and she said, “I don’t think I’m human.”
Supergirl stilled a moment, so fleeting you almost couldn’t tell, then asked, “Why?”
“I can hear - too much. Everything is too much. I can hear - I can hear my own blood, I can hear someone feeding the meter on the corner, I can hear the electricity in the wires, I can hear…”
“It’s okay. You’re going to be okay.” Supergirl knelt down so she could look at Lena, eye to eye, while she curled up in her chair. “How long has this been going on?”
“I - it started this afternoon, when I came to see Kara at work, but it’s happened before. My Mom told me they were migraines.”
“My real mother. Her name was Marion.” Lena sniffled, buried her face in her hands. “She was dying, and she still tried to make me feel better when they hit.”
“What would she do?”
“She would - ” Lena scoffed. Supergirl had more pressing matters than this!
“She would sing - hum. So I had something to focus on, so I could drown it all out. I would listen to her voice, listen to her heartbeat, and I would think stop as hard as I could until the headache was gone.” A little sob slipped out of her. “It didn’t work today. It’s worse than before.”
“Okay. C’mere.” Supergirl touched her knee, oh, so gently. “I’m going to move you, okay? Just to the couch on the other side of the room.”
Supergirl picked her up like a baby, cradled Lena to her chest, and walked very carefully across the room, not jostling her or making a single sound. Then there was the faintest sigh of upholstery and stuffing, and they were on the couch, Lena laying on top of the most powerful woman in the world.
“Any requests?” she asked, the tiniest hint of humor in her voice.
Lena shook her head, closed her eyes. Beneath her ear, she could hear a steady, strong heartbeat, and then the soft vibrations of a hum. She tried to breathe slowly, evenly, and ignore every sound but those, and after a while, she managed it. Heartbeat and humming, heartbeat and humming.
Aeons passed, and then Lena laughed.
“I didn’t know you were a fan of nineties boy bands,” Lena teased, shifting to look at her face.
Supergirl was blushing - just a little.
“I didn’t know you could do that, either.”
Supergirl’s cheeks were practically on fire. “Someone’s feeling better.”
Now it was Lena’s turn to burn with mortification. “I - thank you. For this, for…”
“I’m here to help,” was her soft reply. “This is only a stopgap, I’m afraid. Eventually, your concentration will slip, or something will startle you… I don’t know what other abilities you might have, but I know some people who can help figure that out.”
Lena swallowed hard. Supergirl, who was close with the only person in this city who cared about her, who had at least one power in common with her, was one thing. “Who are these people?”
“They deal with aliens. They hunt the bad ones and help the good ones.”
“And you trust them?”
Supergirl tilted her chin up and looked at her with those blue, blue eyes. “With my life.”
“Then I trust them with mine.”
Supergirl smiled, a little sheepish, a little lopsided. “We should go right now. They run a lot of tests.”
“Wait, how long will the testing take?” Lena asked.
“I - maybe twelve hours? A day?” Supergirl winced. “No more than two.”
“I can’t be gone that long. The gala.”
Supergirl’s eyes widened. “You can’t be serious.”
“I am. I can’t miss this, Kara. I’m… I’m the face of the company. I’m the CEO. I have to be there.”
“What if your concentration breaks?” Supergirl murmured, touching her shoulder. “What if that gang attacks and the noise incapacitates you and - ?”
“I have you. You’ll stop them. You’ll protect me. And…” Another little secret. Something Lena hadn’t told Kara. Telling someone else when she hadn’t told her best friend felt… wrong, somehow, but there was a determined set to Supergirl’s jaw that told Lena there was no way she could make an appearance without convincing her it would be safe. “I have something that can stop their weapons.”
“It only works in close proximity, so if they don’t show, we won’t need it.”
Supergirl’s brow furrowed, and she finally gave in. “Alright. I trust you to put it into place, and after the gala, I’m taking you straight to the DEO.”
“So, Kara and I’ll be seeing you there tomorrow night?”
Supergirl gave a tight smile and nodded. “I will - see you - both.” She stood, toying with her fingers - another gesture Lena knew intimately - and asked, “Can I take you home? Do you feel okay enough to..?”
Lena stood and nodded. “I’m better now. Thank you.”
“Any time.” Supergirl started towards the window.
“Wait! Before you go…”
Supergirl looked back and nodded, waiting.
“Don’t tell Kara about this. I don’t… I know she’s forgiven me, but she might - if I tell her this, if she thinks I'm lying, or making some cruel joke, it would break my heart. But I - I want to tell her. When I know.” Lena swallowed hard. “When I know what I am. When there's proof I'm not lying or crazy or cruel.”
Supergirl nodded, that familiar shadow on her face again. “I won’t tell her a thing, Ms. Luthor, but... Kara Danvers could never think that you.”
“You can call me Lena,” Lena said, but Supergirl was already gone.
She heard it anyway.
Soft, silky jazz filled the air, and Lena focused on just the sax, chatting only as much as she absolutely had to. Still, there was one voice she could never ignore, one voice she’d always pick up on.
Lena turned, and there Kara was, in a periwinkle dress and all her sunshiny splendor. “I’m really glad to see you! I’m really glad you could make it.” There, in the periphery, she heard Kara’s friend’s breathing, the footfalls of someone’s Italian leather-soled dress shoes, and suddenly the sax line was blurring into all the other instruments. Putting on her bravest, most normal face, she asked, “Um, have you seen Supergirl?”
Kara turned, as if scanning the skies, and said, “I’m sure she’s on her way.”
More footsteps - Louboutins in abundance, shuffling, stomping, peacocky strides - so loud she couldn’t even pick out the ones attached to the champagne flute spilling on her.
“I’m sorry. Did I spill this on you? Does anybody have any seltzer?”
So, so loud, and then that telltale whoosh, those silent boots. The crowd’s gasps were less prominent.
“Supergirl.” Lena keyed in on her heartbeat - a little fast - and felt a wave of relief. “So glad you could make it.”
Supergirl loped up to her, casually scanning the room, and said, “I still think this is a bad idea.”
“Well, why don’t we wait and see how the evening pans out,” Lena purred, back in control. She noticed, now that the noise was dimmed and she could focus, that she and Supergirl were the same height. At least, when she wore her highest heels.
Supergirl nodded crisply. “I’ll check the perimeter for any activity, and I’ll be back at the first sign of danger - or if you call me.”
Lena smiled, and Supergirl whooshed away. At normal volume, a pair of heels tottered up behind Lena, and there Kara was again, her own heart a little quick.
“Kara, you just missed Supergirl!”
“Did I? Golly.”
Lena turned, a little giddy bubble in her chest. “I bet you’ll be saying that again when you see the hors d’oeuvres.”
Kara’s eyes widened. “What did you get?”
“I may or may not have had a tiny part of the catering done by your favorite Chinese restaurant.”
Kara’s eyes were so wide they could have been hubcaps. “Lena, you are - without a doubt - the most wonderful human being on the planet - ” She froze for a second.
Lena froze, too.
"I mean," Kara scoffed, "behind me. Am I right, or am I right?”
Lena laughed, conceding. “You are, indeed, the absolute best. And being the absolute best means you deserve a reward, and yours is currently circulating. Go eat.”
Kara looked at her, looked through her. “I'm glad you're feeling better,” she said softly.
“Me, too. Now go!”
Kara skedaddled, and Lena let out a sigh. Secrets, secrets, are no fun…
All went well. She kept control of the sounds, she was the perfect hostess, and her black body field generator was in place. She looked up from a conversation with one of the hospital board members and saw Kara gracefully twirling about with Mike of the interns. There it was, that strange sensation, sitting right next to a jealous pang, and the champagne flute in her hand was half dust.
And then something exploded.
There he was: the big, bad, blaster-bearing bank robber. “My, my… Look at all the pretty things there are.”
Lena grinned, shaking her head reprovingly as she strode up to him. “Oh, you picked the wrong party to crash.”
Then he reached out and snatched her necklace from her throat. “I don’t think so, princess.” Then he raised it above his head and started barking orders.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t be here?”
I’d know that heroic timbre anywhere, Lena thought, and she couldn’t help but smile up at Supergirl.
“Actually,” he grunted, hefting his gun, “I was counting on it.”
He fired; Supergirl fired back; Lena dove under the table and got to work. She could hear all that screaming, she could hear Supergirl hit the pavement, and her flashlight snapped in her hand.
“Oh, not the time,” she gritted out, and someone rolled in behind her. “Do you mind?”
“Woah. Is - Is that a black body field generator?”
“It will be, if I can get it working, okay? And for that, I need light. Do you have your phone?”
“Uh. Uh, yeah.” The man scrambled for his phone, pulled it out, shone the light over her hands. “Is that good?”
“Perfect.” Lena started back in, then paused. “Didn’t you spill on me earlier?”
“Sorry about that.” Then, he looked at her, eyes wide. “This whole party - you set a trap for these guys!”
“Yes. A trap that will fail unless I can get this thing operational, and - !” He was breathing too loud, she was breathing too loud, the microscopic compressions of tile beneath feet was too loud. “Ugh! It’s so loud, I can’t - !”
“Here.” The guy handed her his phone and peered into the generator. “I’m gonna - just focus on my voice, okay?”
“So if the black body field generator is at equilibrium with the weapons, it can absorb the electromagnetic radiation and shut them down. This is genius.” Even with the excitement in his voice, the guy remained quiet and soothing - deliberately so.
“I know, but the frequency and the wavelength, they’re a match, so…” Lena let out a sigh, and the two of them spoke in perfect synchronicity: “The induction coil!”
He reached in and did the fixing, since her hands were shaking so badly, but they weren’t shaking badly enough to stop her from pressing the button, and wham.
The two of them crawled out amidst the screaming, and he offered her a hand up. “I’m Winn, by the way.”
“Kara’s friend. I know.” Lena took a shaky breath and smiled weakly. “Thank you for that. Back there. You know what you’re doing.”
“I’m pretty good with technology - ”
“I meant with…” Lena gestured vaguely, then caught sight of a familiar red and blue shape.
Winn turned, looked, and blustered, “Oh, no, we weren’t under there, so… We stopped it!”
Supergirl beamed at the two of them, and Lena listened, very carefully, for the sound of her heart.
It sped up, just a little, when she laughed.
“Well, if you two gentlemen will excuse us,” Supergirl said, all mighty and warm, “I’m going to escort Ms. Luthor to safety.”
Winn, and that man - James, who used to hang out with Lex and Superman! - shared a look, which Supergirl then shot down with a look of her own.
Lena stepped over a few chunks of rubble and put her arms around Supergirl’s neck, allowed herself to be cradled and carried away. “So you know Kara’s friends?” Lena asked.
“I - I do.”
The wind’s whistling didn’t interfere at all in them hearing each other speak - perhaps another benefit of super hearing.
“It’s a wonder we never met - socially, then.”
Supergirl’s heart sped up, a few inches away from Lena’s ear, and she swallowed. “I didn’t know if you’d want to see me,” she said.
For a while, Lena just listened to the wind, to Supergirl’s breathing and heartbeat, and then she heard that landing whoosh and let her feet down. They were, from the sound of it, on the balcony of a skyscraper to rival her own.
“This is the DEO?”
“There are other locations,” Supergirl said with a shrug, “but this is the current base of operations.”
The hand on Lena’s back gently nudged her inwards, and as the doors whirred shut behind them, Lena found herself craning to get a better look at everything.
“This is where you work?” she asked, breathless.
“Come on. We need to get you to the med bay.”
They moved through a little sea of black polo shirts, little greetings here and there, and then there they were, in the promised med bay.
“These are solar lamps,” Lena mused, walking towards the bed, touching the smooth white shells. “But… higher output than the generic commercial model.”
“Uh, yeah.” Supergirl came over to her side and tapped the bulb. “These are special. They’re for people like me, who get energy from yellow solar radiation. I’m super because of that stuff.”
“You’re super powered because of that stuff.” Lena twisted and looked up at Supergirl. “You’re super because of you.”
Supergirl blushed. “I’m gonna, uh. I’m gonna get one of the peoples who work here. For the tests. Stay put, okay? I’ll be back in one minute.”
Lena laughed, nodded, and watched her zoom away. She wondered if she’d ever have a power like that. If she’d ever enjoy it like that.
As promised, precisely sixty seconds later, Supergirl was back with a familiar face.