Hopeless by K. Aten
Cold, impersonal, clinical. Emotionless. Many would use the words to describe Lena Luthor, but walking into her condo near midnight after spending the previous three nights in her lab made Lena realize her home was the same way. She wondered briefly if it was a product of her upbringing. Was the sparse décor with no personal items the result of the cut ties between her and her family, or was it a defense mechanism to remind her of why she didn’t form ties to begin with?
Months had gone by since she and James had broken up. As she expected, it happened just after Thanksgiving because there were some things you just couldn’t come back from. Some words that cut deeper and swifter than the sharpest blade. And perhaps it was for the best. Partly due to the fact that she didn’t need any more complications in her life, especially from a man whose ego was more important than their relationship. But the other, bigger, reason was because her heart just wasn’t in it. Someone else would always come first.
She tried, oh how she tried. But life had grown exponentially more complicated with the Sons of Liberty, the Guardian thing, her current abrasive relationship with Supergirl, and now the Harun-El trials. Trials that had failed yet again after days locked up in her lab trying to find a solution. Lena sent Eve home shortly before she herself stepped out into the miserable storm that had been drenching National City for hours.
The youngest Luthor stopped testing on humans after Adam, but his death left a mark on her that Lena was sure would never wash off. Out of leads, she didn’t know where to go or who to talk to. Her only true friend, her closest friend, had a direct line to Supergirl and Lena was afraid of the disappointment she would see in Kara’s eyes if Lena admitted that she kept some of the rock. If she admitted that she had lied yet again to Supergirl. Not that Kara or Supergirl had been around much with the increased SOL activity, and since her split with James. It hurt and she hated admitting how much and for what reason.
After making sure the biometric locks were secured Lena deposited her purse on the table next to the door and her soaking wet umbrella in the bin, then dropped her laptop bag on the couch before making her way into the kitchen. She needed to eat something other than takeout, but that wasn’t going to happen tonight. She also needed a drink and some sleep. Her heart and mind warred over which should occur first. Her weariness ran bone-deep.
A sound from her balcony delayed a decision for either. Lena was neither surprised nor dismayed to see the familiar caped hero on the other side of the bulletproof glass. The best emotion her exhausted mind could come up with was simple resignation.
Instead of speculating on the cause of Supergirl’s visit, and too tired to tell the godlett to come back another time, Lena moved to unlock the door and slide it open. She made sure she was out of the way of the wind and driving rain. It truly was a miserable night, mirrored apparently by how she felt and coincidentally how the blonde hero looked. With a mixture of pity and curiosity, she waved the caped woman inside. “Supergirl. To what do I owe the pleasure?” As if Lena’s voice were the catalyst, Supergirl shook herself bodily like she was coming up out of a dream. Lena grew concerned at how broken the powerful woman appeared. It was the small details, Supergirl’s stance, or maybe the expression on her face. Then again, perhaps it was only the dark and raining night and the filter of failure coloring Lena’s perception.
“Lena.” The Luthor’s name was drawn out and said with such a mix of sadness and powerful affection that it gave Lena pause for a moment. There was a familiarity there that she simply couldn’t put a finger on in her exhausted state. Pained blue eyes looked up suddenly and caught Lena in their gaze. “I…I need...” Supergirl stuttered, sagged, and then gave a great sigh as she ran a hand over her face that still dripped with rain.
Lena peered closer. It wasn’t rain, the rivulets were tears. She steeled herself and tried to pretend like the super’s emotional state was no business of hers. “I’m sorry, Supergirl, but it’s been a really long day and frankly not a good one. So if you need something, please get to the point because I’m tired.”
Supergirl suddenly bent at the waist and laughed into her hands. But it was a broken sound that spread goose bumps up and down Lena’s arms. “Rao! Two people failed who mean the most.” She straightened and took a step forward even as Lena took a step back. “It’s funny because all this time, people have thought I was this bastion of hope. This beacon of light. But they don’t know.” She began pacing and Lena’s sense of concern grew exponentially. Supergirl stopped right and front of Lena. “They don’t know that I’m nothing more than a mirror, reflecting the light of those I love most. The ones that love me.” She gave a great cry and sobbed into her hands as she sank to her knees. “Oh Rao! I’ve failed you all. My lights are gone and I’ve failed you all…”
Lena gasped to see the alien brought so low, to watch her shatter at Luthor feet. She didn’t understand what Supergirl was saying but she knew she couldn’t keep up the cold façade any longer. Something truly terribly must have happened to break the woman sobbing on her floor. But for the life of her, Lena couldn’t figure out why Supergirl would come to her with such pain. Then she had a thought and gasped as a thrill of terror ran through her veins. “Supergirl, what’s wrong? Is it Kara? Is Kara okay?”
If anything, the sobbing increased and Lena struggled to hear the words. “Kara…Kara…Kara. She is just as lost as the rest.”
Fear froze Lena for precious seconds before she took in the expanding puddle below the crying woman. She approached slowly and reached out a hand to touch the textured shoulder of Supergirl’s suit. “I don’t know what’s happened, but we should get you dry. We can talk after, if you like.”
“No!” Supergirl exploded up from her crouch and Lena stumbled back. “Don’t be nice to me! I don’t deserve it.
Lena pressed her lips together, hardening her resolve. “Tell me what happened, Supergirl.”
Back to pacing, Supergirl rambled. “Alex. I’ve lost her…and I’ve lost you. Everyone that matters, all the people I need to be whole are just—gone. Lights out.” She laughed again, that horrible broken sound. “But I never had you, did I? We aren’t friends, you said. I never had you because you never had me. You only had part of me.”
Broken blue eyes met Lena. “That thing you wanted from me? That thing that I couldn’t give you? It had nothing to do with you being a Luthor. That’s the irony of it. Everyone, literally everyone told me to not tell you when that’s all I wanted to do. And where are they now? Gone! Gone…gone…gone, and so are you. I’ve lost everything.”
Lena knew immediately what Supergirl was talking about. Painfully, and intimately, she knew that the super was referring to her secret identity. “I don’t need to know. I promise you, it’s okay.”
“It’s not okay! I need to tell you and what hurts most is that I know you’ll hate me even more. You’ll hate me…but at least you’ll still know me. I’ll have that.”
Confusion wrinkled the dark brows as the genius tried to make sense of Supergirl’s broken speech. Lena thought briefly of Lex and grew frightened of the super’s rambling, wondering if she were always destined to see her heroes fall apart in front of her eyes, powerless to stop it. “Please…what can I do to help?”
The hero used her super speed to appear in front of Lena and the young CEO stumbled back. “I’m not who you think I am.” She paused, then tried again. “Or maybe, I am who you think I am, but not fully.”
Lena shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
Supergirl’s smile was more of a pained grimace. “Lena Luthor, the smartest woman I’ve ever met on this planet and more…doesn’t understand.”
“Don’t mock me! I’m trying to help you here, dammit!”
The hero laughed again without humor and knuckled tired eyes to wipe the tears away. “I’m sorry, it’s just that you must know already. Even if you don’t know, some part of you has to have figured it out. You just didn’t want to see. But I know you Lena, and I also know that the Luthors left you with a legacy of self-defense, emotional and physical.” She stopped and straightened again, assuming a caricature of her trademark pose. “I don’t really need to tell you who I am, do I?”
Lena was tired of the riddles, and frightened. She wasn’t frightened of Supergirl, but rather for her. Something was horribly wrong and she was too tired to play guessing games. “Just say what you need to say already.” All the crazed fire went out of the hero and she stalked over to Lena’s white couch, throwing her onto it was careful disregard. The action was just light enough that blonde woman knew it wouldn’t break. The move seemed familiar to Lena and she grasped for the reason why even as Supergirl began talking again.
“When I fell to Earth I was thirty-seven years old but I had the body and mind of someone who was thirteen. My cousin didn’t want me. Rao, I watched my planet explode as my pod flew away, watched my entire life die in front of me…just so I could be ‘saved’ and sent away to protect a cousin that had become a grown man in my absence. He didn’t need me so he found a place to put me where I could pretend to be human.” She stopped talking then while her thoughts turned inward.
Lena cautiously posed a question. “How…how did you not age?”
“I was trapped in a place that Kryptonians used to send their criminals. Someplace called the phantom zone.”
The scientist took over. “Do you have memories of that time? Were you in some sort of stasis or hyper-sleep?”
Supergirl tilted her head as her eyes took on a faraway look. “It was a hyper-sleep of sorts. I don’t have an Earth word for the technology. I don’t have memories of the time so much as dreams. Nightmares. Twenty-four years is a long time to watch Krypton explode over and over and over…it was a long time.” She looked up to meet Lena’s gaze. “I still don’t like enclosed spaces. Claustrophobic. Funny, right? Not a very heroic weakness.”
“Kara is also claustrophobic.”
Supergirl gave her a bittersweet smile. “I know. So then, what does everyone’s beloved Superman do? Kal dumped me with a family so I could learn to be human. Learn to always hide who I was. It took years to learn to control my powers on my own! And the family, they already had one daughter and she hated me on principle I think. There she was, an only child and apple of her dad’s eye and then I come along…some special needs alien who is weird and inconvenient. She hated me and in return I hated everyone and everything.” She glanced up and turned an intense gaze on the CEO. “I hated.”
Lena sucked in a breath, as clarity worked its way into her thoughts. “You have a sister?”
The hero continued on as if Lena hadn’t spoken. “She despised me until eventually she didn’t any more. Then her dad was taken because of me and she could have pushed me away then but she didn’t do that either. She didn’t push me away, if anything she pulled me tighter. She was my protector, my best friend, and the most loyal person in my life. She knew who I was and what I’d gone through, and held on despite how dangerous it was to know all of me.” Lena made a strangled noise I the back of her throat as truth worked itself out. “And now she’s sacrificed herself one last time to keep one half of me safe.”
Lena took a moment to be furious as she realized that her best friend and keeper of her heart was none other than the woman who hurt her with suspicion and accusations. A person who had lied to her for years. The woman who Lena’s relationship with had become fraught with danger and complication since the CEO kept the sample of Harun-el. Then riding on the coattails of fury came pure unadulterated fear for Kara. Lena knew what Alex meant to Kara, and the reporter’s uncharacteristic behavior led Lena to believe that something terrible had befallen the stoic agent. “Supergirl—”
“Don’t call me that!” Supergirl, no, Kara stood from the couch with eyes glowing red but unlike earlier, Lena didn’t flinch back from the show of power.
“Tell me what happened to Alex. Is she at the DEO?”
Rather than quell the glow it intensified and Kara angrily crossed her arms, perhaps hoping to restrain some of her fury. Her muscles flexed and the needy part of Lena yearned, unexpectedly and inappropriately given the circumstance. “The DEO, the president…they are…ahhh! They all want a piece of me, they all want to know me but they don’t have that right! Alex had that right and she’s given it up to protect me. Always protecting me…”
Lena blew a sigh of relief. Alex wasn’t dead at least. She took tentative steps forward to close the five foot gap between them. “Sup—” Blazing eyes looked her way again, a Lena tried another tact. “Kara…you haven’t lost me. I’m right here, I’m not going anywhere.” She approached Kara with arms outstretched, like the hero was a deer to easily startle. As soon as her hand made contact with Kara’s arm the tension uncoiled and the lingering heat vision dissipated, winked out. Slowly, Lena drew her in until she had Kara folded within her arms. It was funny in that Kara was the one that really taught Lena how to hug and here the CEO was returning it in a time of need.
Kara abruptly broke down in great wracking sobs and Lena led her back to the couch. She held her best friend as the tears fell, hating that Kara had been hurt while at the same time hating that Kara had hurt her. She wanted to fix it. Lena was a scientist, used to looking at facts and data. She sought patterns and used her knowledge to solve problems. But Kara was a problem she didn’t know how to solve. It took nearly an hour before the crying slowed and Lena tentatively pressed for more data.
Kara’s head was down and burrowed into Lena’s shoulder. Lena had wrapped her in a protective embrace as soon as she broke down. And Lena, understanding both weakness and heartbreak a little too well, didn’t try to get Kara to look at her. “It was Haley.”
“Haley? Who is she?”
Supergirl…Kara, tensed then forced herself to relax again. “Colonel Haley is the one the president put in charge of the DEO. It’s under his authority that she’s essentially fired me—”
“From any more missions with the DEO unless I tell them my secret identity.”
Lena pulled back with a look of pure anger on her face. “They can’t do that!”
The anger on her behalf is what finally drew red-rimmed blue eyes up. “They can and they did. But it’s worse than that. When I wouldn’t stop trying to save people, she began interrogating the Agents and Al—” Kara choked on her sister’s name but pushed forward. “Something happened and I saved both Alex and Hayley but I gave myself away. J’onn erased Colonel Hayley’s memory but she wouldn’t stop looking. Alex knew it was only a matter of time before they started on her. Sh—she asked J’onn to erase her memories of me as Supergirl. To erase the memories of all agents that knew my identity.”
Lena’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “But if you’ve spent your entire lives entwined since you were thirteen…how does that work? Does she still know you as her sister at least?”
A fresh wave of tears pooled in Kara’s eyes as she answered brokenly. “I don’t know.”
“Oh Kara…I’m so sorry, macushla.” Lena knew what it was like to lose a sibling you looked up to. It didn’t matter who took that person away from you, though ironically both Alexander Luthor, and Alexandra Danvers were the ones to remove themselves from their sister’s lives through actions and deeds. One certainly more honorable than the other. Lena’s mind raced with ideas on how to rectify the situation. She mentally catalogued who she could call to help. The President though, that was a tall order.
“I’m so tired, Lena. If I hadn’t wanted to be a hero like my cousin, none of this would have happened. I’d still have my sister…you wouldn’t hate me. So many things would be better.”
Lena gently cupped Kara’s cheek with her free left hand. “Kara, look at me…” The super raised wounded eyes. “You didn’t choose to be a hero. You’ve always been a hero. And while things may have been different if you’d never put on that cape, that doesn’t mean they’d be better. Think about all the people you’ve saved, myself and your sister included. We wouldn’t have been better off without Supergirl.”
Kara nodded but didn’t look as though she believed the words. Then she gave a shuddering sigh. “I’m just so tired.”
Making a decision, Lena abruptly stood and tugged Kara’s arm to follow. “Come on then. You’re going to get in the shower while I find something for you to wear that’s dry and less flight-capable.”
Kara’s response was meek and pliable. Broken. “Okay.”
As Lena pulled Kara through her condo she made a mental list of who to contact first. “Here you are. I’ll just go fetch—”
“Wait.” Kara pulled her to a stop. Lena looked at her curiously until the super cleared her throat to continue. “Thank you for letting me in tonight. For not sending me away when you found out how long I’ve lied to you. I—I can never repay you.”
“Friends don’t pay each other. Friends just…are. And I let you in a long time before tonight.” Kara gave a little smile then before nodding once and walking through the door.
As soon as the door was shut Lena strode quickly back into the living room and retrieved her laptop from the case. She set it on the counter to boot up while she grabbed a small thumb drive from her purse. After plugging it into the powerful machine she sent a quick email to Jess about taking a few days absence then went to work. She modified two different programs and started them searching, compiling, and parsing data. Then she repurposed a handful of different bots to scour the internet, looking for connections and dirt. No politician was clean, and the higher up the political ladder you went, the more dirt stained the bottoms of your feet. She also had a few contacts with the Pentagon, and the Department of Defense as a whole, and used both to find out more about Colonel Haley. Anyone that would actively work against Supergirl, up to and including the President, was suspicious. Something in the entire scenario smelled and Lena was going to find out what.
While the computer was working away and bots were doing all the things she wished them to do, she grabbed her phone from where she had left it on the opposite kitchen counter, forgotten with the sudden appearance of Supergirl. It seemed like ages had gone bye but in all actuality it had only been about an hour and a half. Despite the late hour, she knew her messages would set the proper balls rolling. The first one went to her assistant, Jess. The next was sent to Alex Danvers.
And the last one…Lena’s finger hesitated over the send button before finally giving in. The funny thing about taking the blinders off was that once she could see who Supergirl really was, it wasn’t a stretch to figure out the identity of Superman. And with that insight, a lot of things about Lex and Superman’s personal war made sense. Clark Kent would either see her message and immediately go on the offensive, or he’d see her message and try to help. But she wouldn’t know until he arrived. Either way, she put a delay on the text so it wouldn’t go out for another forty-five minutes and Lena hoped that in that amount of time she could get Kara to go to bed and rest.
As if Lena’s thoughts alone conjured from the ether, Kara padded out of the hallway in bare feet, sleep shorts, and an old threadbare tee shirt. It was from the last Nsync concert Lena attended in college and she smiled to see it on Kara. “Feel better, darling?”
“Yeah.” The blonde looked like she’d been up for days.
“Kara, when was the last time you slept?” Kara shrugged. “Ate?” In that exact moment another clue fell into place for the brilliant CEO. Kara’s appetite and the fact that it fueled a Kryptonian machine. She mental berated herself for missing the most obvious clues right in front of her face. They had work to do to repair some of the damage, and Lena knew that more secrets would come to light that would test them. Kara’s answer to her last question was vague and Lena contemplated her next steps.
“I don’t know, today I think.”
“Are you hungry?”
Kara sighed. “I’m just tired.” She gestured with the rolled up suit and boots she carried in her right hand. “I should go and let you get on with your night.”
Lena quickly walked over to the fallen hero and took the boots and damp suit from her loose grip. “Come on. You can stay here with me tonight.”
“But Lena, you only have one bed.”
The CEO smiled at her best friend. “We can share, no big deal.”
Finally, a little bit of the Kara she knew and loved came to life as the blonde sputtered and turned red. “But I…you, uh, we…” Her words were cut off with a single finger pressed to her lips.
“Shh, it’s time to get some rest. No problem is insurmountable after a good night’s sleep.” Kara tried to protest but it came out as a yawn instead. She tried to protest again as Lena led her over to the bed and turned back the covers so Kara could climb in. But she stopped protesting completely once she was under the covers and Lena leaned down to kiss her forehead. “Sleep, darling.”
It was a small broken voice of Kara Danvers, sister and friend to one Alex Danvers that made the request. “Will you stay with me?”
Lena stroked her index finger along Kara’s cheekbone and Kara’s eyes fluttered shut at the touch. “I’ll be back, I promise. I just need to take care of a few more things and take my own shower.”
“Okay. But I’ll come find you if you take too long.” Even as she said the words Kara drifted off.
Superman landed on her balcony nearly an hour later and Lena was grateful that the rain had stopped at last. She quietly made her way outside, hoping Kara’s super hearing wouldn’t pick up on her cousin’s presence. Speaking of the Man of Steel himself, he struck his classic pose but it was wasted on Lena.
“It’s Lena, actually. And thank you for coming, Clark.”
Superman tensed at first, then relaxed slightly when he sensed no hostility from his arch-nemesis’ little sister. His reaction to her speaking his true name was habit, but he reminded himself that she had texted Clark Kent, not Superman. “You said it was important and that Kara was in trouble.”
Lena nodded. “She is. This is about the President, Colonel Hayley, and the DEO.”
He waved impatiently to cut her off. “I know that they cut ties with Supergirl and we already spoke about it a few weeks ago. I told her that she doesn’t need them to be a hero.”
“What you missed was that the situation goes well beyond her losing a vital part of her team.”
He cocked his head at her. “The DEO?”
“No. Her sister. Per the President’s directive, they not only cut Supergirl out of the loop and grounded her from any DEO action, they provide no backup nor intel. So she’s left to go in blind every time.” He started to speak and she stopped him with a raised hand. “No, she doesn’t need any of that but her sister has always been her support more than the DEO. The real problem here is that the President, and now Colonel Hayley have initiated a witch hunt to ferret out Kara’s true identity. Does that sound like a government that has the people’s best interest at heart? It makes me highly suspicious.”
Superman’s eyes narrowed as he considered all that she was saying and not saying. “There’s more, isn’t there? I saw Kara sleeping in your room when I arrived and you wouldn’t have called me here for a private chat if this were only about losing the DEO’s support or the President’s witch hunt.”
“It’s about Alex.”
“Alex? What about her? I imagine she’s torn between Kara and her job—”
“She had J’onn removed her memories of Kara and Supergirl being the same person. He altered everyone at the DEO that knew her secret identity.”
He reared back in dismay. “But Alex, that’s…her entire time here on Earth. Everything?”
Lena pinched the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger. “From what she’s said, yeah. She doesn’t even know if Alex remembers her as a sister at all. She hasn’t seen her or heard from her since it happened. Alex sacrificed herself when she saw Hayley was systematically going through the DEO interrogating agents about Supergirl’s secret identity. When she knew that the woman would stop at nothing to learn the truth.”
Clark knew what Alex meant to Kara. What they meant to each other. A part of him, part that was locked deep down inside, was a jealous of the bond that Kara and Alex had. He’s wondered over the years if maybe he would have had the same relationship with Kara if only he’d taken her in instead of pawning her off on the nearest family that could help. “I’m assuming you have a plan?” She nodded. “What do you need from me?”
“First I need to know if what’s been done to Alex is reversible. I know that J’onn J’onzz is no longer with the DEO, and from the little I got from Alex the last time we spoke, I know that he’s become a bit of a persona non grata around there since President Marsden was exposed as being an alien.”
“I’ve heard the same and I know where to find him.”
“Good. Second, I’ve got a number of bots and programs digging into every single detail about the current President as well as Colonel Hayley. There is motivation for all of this somewhere and it can’t be good. I have no qualms about exposing them if they keep going down this path. Supergirl can’t lose Kara Danvers.”
He sighed. “No, she can’t. I can personally attest that the weight of the world is a heavy burden to bear, especially if you can never put it down.” He paused as he remembered something Kara once told him. “Kara and I don’t talk a lot and I regret that we have not been as close as I would have liked. But I know she struggled after Mon-el was forced to leave Earth. It was Kara’s heart that got broken that day, not Supergirl…” Lena sucked in a breath, fully aware that the machine that sent the man away was one she herself built. “And Kara concluded that the only way not to hurt like a human was to stop being human. For a short period of time she dropped her Kara Danvers identity all together.”
Lena looked back at him with worry and curiosity. “I didn’t know. That was right around the time that I bought Catco.”
He smiled as if he’d just figured out the last piece of a puzzle. “You bought it for her, didn’t you?”
Lena blushed in the dark but Clark could still see it. Even so, she toed the party line. “Catco was a valuable investment and if Morgan Edge had gotten his hands on it then National City would have said goodbye to a fair and balanced media giant that was local. It made good business sense.”
Clark’s smile grew. “You bought it for her.”
“No, I—” Her shoulder’s slumped, defeated. “I bought it for her.” Every word, every minute facial tic and physical movement taught Clark Kent a little bit more about Lena Luthor. He remembered her vaguely from growing up, but there was such a big age gap between Lex and Lena’s ages. Clark really only remembers a little girl that was always away at boarding school and rarely allowed home.
“Listen. I’m not going to warn you away. As a matter of fact, I’m not going to warn you at all. If Alex were here she’d give you the shovel—” He cut off abruptly as he realized that no one could give the shovel talk as long as Alex’s memories were compromised. Clark shook his head. “Just don’t hurt her. And Lena…”
“She wanted to tell you. While Kara and I didn’t talk a lot, she did tell me that.”
Lena muttered under her breath. “Oh, the secrets we keep.”
“I’ll check in with J’onn before I leave the city, maybe pay a visit to Alex myself. When I get back to Metropolis I’ll call in my own favors. Despite the bitter battle between Lois and her sister, Lucy, I’m sure they’d work together to help Kara. It sounds like this Colonel Hayley is no better than General Lane and the DEO is too important a resource for it to fall under the wrong control.”
Lena grimaced. “I believe the control of it sits a little higher than mere Generals. But thank you, for everything.”
“You don’t have to thank me for helping Kara.” He began to rise into the air. “I’ll let you know what I find out from J’onn and Alex and we can go from there. Good day, Ms. Luthor.”
“Good evening, Superman.” She smirked as he leveled off about twenty feet out from her balcony, then with a fist firmly out in front of him, he flew away.
Exhaustion rolled through Lena then and she made her way back inside. Seeing the programs all running diligently, she drank some water and made her own way to shower and go to bed. Hopefully morning would bring some answers to their problems. Or at least clues to the solution.
Lena woke the next morning feeling particularly warm and comfortable. As senses slowly came online, she grew aware of the solid body at her back and the arm wrapped around her stomach. Kara’s hand was hot where it rested on the bare skin of Lena’s stomach. At first the youngest Luthor thrilled with the touch, then she immediately tensed as the rest of her brain fired. She tried to slowly slip out of the embrace only to have the arm tighten just enough to thoroughly trap her in place. The real torture began when Kara’s fingers scrunched and rhythmically clenched against Lena’s bare skin. She froze and a small whine escaped from the back of her throat. Lena’s voice was a whisper.
She tried to move again and Kara whimpered. “No. Please, don’t leave me.”
She knew Kara wasn’t awake just yet but Lena needed to be free from her best friend’s arms before she did something stupid, or revealing. “Darling, I have to get up. I’m not leaving you but you have to let me go.”
Shifting behind her told Lena that her words had their intended effect. Unlike normal people, Kara’s voice wasn’t rough from lack of use upon first waking. It was low and melodic. “Lena?”
The CEO smiled. “Well, as it’s my bed and all I hope it wouldn’t be anyone else.”
Kara tensed and immediately released the woman she’d been clinging too. “Oh Rao, I’m so sorry! I’m just a cuddler. Alex always says—” She stopped abruptly and shuddered as all the memories came back in on a wave of despair. “Alex…”
Lena spun in place and grabbed Kara’s hands. “Hey, it’s going to be okay. We’re going to get Alex back and figure out a way to end this witch hunt. But you need to hold it together just a little bit longer.”
Kara clenched her eyes shut. “How?”
The CEO wasn’t sure if Kara was asking about how to hold it together or how Lena was going to solve her problems. But it didn’t matter, the answer was the same. “Hope. Just do what you do best and hope.” She remembered the hero’s words from the night before. “There is still light out there, Kara. The source may be different than what you’re used to but you can still shine. But to do so, you cannot lose your hope.”
“I don’t know how to hold on.”
“Kara, look at me.” Pained blue eyes looked up until Lena was sure she was paying attention. “Do you believe in me?”
“I will find a way to fix us.”
Kara’s pale brows rose in confusion. “But—”
Lena stopped her words with a pale fingertip to the lips. “Trust me.”
Time slowed and felt heavy between them while Kara weighed her best friend’s words. Then with a sigh, the minutes ticked by at their normal pace and the blonde nodded. “Okay.”
“Good.” Lena drew herself begrudgingly from the bed and pulled her shirt down where it had ridden up. She caught Kara staring at the pale flesh of her stomach but didn’t say anything. It was merely an added topic to the list of conversations that would occur later, when the more important things were resolved. Exposing secrets took a lot of time and energy, neither of which they had at the moment. For her part, Kara blushed and quickly looked away. When Lena re-emerged from the bathroom she saw Kara staring at nothing in particular, deep in thought. “Are you hungry?”
Kara broke from her thoughts and made a face. “No, I don’t want to trouble you—” She cut off as her stomach gave a loud rumble, clearly heard in the quiet room.
Lena gave her a gentle smile. “I’ll start breakfast. I left some toiletries out for you in the bathroom.” Kara nodded and gave her a small grateful smile in return. When Lena got to the kitchen she checked her programs but the two big ones were still running. Two bots had returned with data but she figured it could wait until Kara had been fed. Thirty minutes later an entire tray of pancakes were sitting in the oven waiting for the hero to emerge. Lena even had syrup, whipped cream, and everything else she knew the blonde liked. She didn’t make the stuff for herself, and routinely had to replace the ingredients when some went bad, but Lena had always been prepared for Kara.
Breakfast was uncharacteristically quiet for the normally loquacious reporter and Lena didn’t blame here. Once the pancakes were demolished, with nearly a gallon of milk, Kara sat back and sighed. “Rao, I didn’t realize how hungry I was.” She wore a curious expression as she looked down at Lena’s empty plate, which had previously only held a single pancake. “I thought you said you didn’t care for pancakes.”
“I never said that.”
Kara huffed. “Yes you did. We met at Noonan’s that time for breakfast, remember?”
Lena smirked and took a sip of her coffee. “What I said was that I don’t eat pancakes. Subtle difference there, darling.”
Kara’s cheeks flushed with the affectionate moniker but she persisted with her line of inquiry. “Then why do you have literally all the stuff for making homemade pancakes?”
Maybe some truths could start now. “Because you like them.”
Guilt immediately washed over Kara’s face and her mouth dropped open as the past two months of tension and distance pressed on Kara’s heart. “Lena…” The name was given life as it breathed from between Kara’s lips.
Lena place a hand over Kara’s clenched fist. “Don’t go there right now. We’ve both done things that we regret, held secrets that maybe shouldn’t have been held. But we can’t step forward if we’re mired in the past by guilt and regret. So don’t. Okay?”
Kara pressed her lips together tightly and the move was so familiar that it made Lena’s heart clench. “Okay. What do I do now?”
“You keep living your life. Be a hero, but don’t engage with the DEO and try to avoid Alex at all costs as Supergirl. She doesn’t know you as she did, and that woman is more dedicated to her job than anyone I’ve ever met.”
Kara smiled. “Even you?”
Lena just shrugged but continued making her point. “I’m afraid Alex would pick her career over our resident superhero, and putting her in a position where she has to choose when she doesn’t really know you…I think it will only get you hurt.”
The hero slumped in her chair and she sighed. “You’re right. It just sucks, you know?”
“I know.” They sat in silence for nearly a minute before it was broken by the vibration of Lena’s phone. She touched the screen and smiled at the text message that popped up.
“What is it?”
“The good news is that your friend, J’onn, says he can restore Alex’s memories, that it wasn’t a permanent erasure. He only ‘hid’ the knowledge of your identity within Alex’s own mind.”
Kara narrowed her gaze and it reminded Lena of the one Supergirl frequently bestowed upon her over the past six months. “How do you know that?”
Lena was straightforward. No more lies. “I contacted Clark last night and we spoke about the problem.” She ignored the way Kara froze at the news. “He agreed to contact your old DEO boss and he’s also going to work with Lois and Lucy Lane to see if they know anything about Colonel Hayley.”
The memory of abandonment stung and Kara gritted her teeth. She looked down to the bent fork in her hand and hastily straightened it. “I don’t need his help.”
Gentle fingers pulled the fork away and Lena covered Kara’s hand with her own. “No, you don’t. But I do.”
Kara bristled. “Why are you doing this? Rousing the troops like this? I would think you’d be firmly in camp ‘reveal the hero’ instead of helping me to hide my true identity.”
The question inexplicably angered Lena and she dug her nails into Kara’s fist to get her attention. The blonde looked up immediately, even though they both knew it didn’t hurt. “I’m not doing it to protect Supergirl. I’m doing it to protect Kara because she’s my real hero. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it with my last breath, you are my hero.”
Kara thought about her words for a few moments and realized that Lena had been serious about be honest with each other. But she also knew that Kara Zor-El and Lena Luthor had a long way to go. Lena didn’t know Kara Zor-El at all. She sighed. “Do you know why I value Kara Danvers so much?”
Lena tilted her head, curious about the new direction the conversation had taken. “I could hazard a guess or two. Your cousin said it was hard to carry the weight of the world when you can never set it aside. Kara Danvers is your safe place, right? Wait, is Kara even your real name? Your Kryptonian name?”
The bumbling reporter that Lena knew and loved deeply disappeared right before her eyes. But Supergirl didn’t appear in her stead. Rather, it was someone new that Lena had never met. Kara’s jaw clenched and that familiar red glow came back to her eyes as she moved her gaze up to meet with Lena’s. “My name is Kara Zor-El, from the house of El, youngest member of the science guild. I’ve watched my planet die at least thirteen thousand seven hundred and eighty times.” Lena gasped in shock. “Every night since my parents put me in that pod, I watch my entire world die. I don’t value my secret identity because she’s safe. I value her because Kara Danvers isn’t filled with rage from watching everyone she loves die over and over, of being abandoned by the only family she had left and the one person she was sent to Earth to protect.” She paused to suck in a shuddering breath. “I was sent to protect Kal and yet he couldn’t be bothered to protect me in return. Kara Danvers isn’t full of soul-destroying anger, she’s full of hope that despite everything in the past, the future can be better. Alex is my connection to Kara Danvers.” Just like the night before, the red glow of Kara’s eyes winked out leaving nothing but sad blue.
Lena covered her mouth as she realized how deep and complex her friend’s pain ran, and sorrowed at the loss that sat firmly on Supergirl’s shoulders. “I’m sorry. It’s inadequate, I know but…”
Kara sat back in her chair and pulled her hand from the table and from beneath Lena’s fingers. “You told me something years ago after what happened to Jack that stuck with me. You said, ‘I think when I feel things again, I’m going to be very, very afraid… about the person I might be’, and I think that’s the place where I’m sitting now. My crossroads. If I lose Alex, my greatest and deepest connection to Kara Danvers, I’m afraid of who I’m left with. Alex made me who I am today and without her…” The super closed her eyes and steeled herself against the tears and the fears that waited, always waited in the shadows.
“She didn’t make you, Kara. You made yourself. No one can instill deep morality and self-sacrifice on another. They either have it within them or they don’t.”
Kara frowned. “Weren’t you listening when I told you last night that I’m nothing more than a mirror, reflecting the light of those I love most? That wasn’t the rambling of a broken woman, Lena. That was my fear of the truth. I’ve always reflected Alex’s light, that’s what makes me a hero! Without her to remind me, what’s the use in trying?”
Lena slammed her hand down on table causing their dishes and silverware to rattle and clink. “No! That is not what makes you a hero. What makes you a hero is that thing inside you that lets you know to reflect the light and not the darkness that’s all around you. That is what makes you a hero. I’m telling you right now that I can’t help you if you won’t help yourself. Find a light and keep fighting. It can be anything or anyone, but the light is out there if you need it. But no matter what you can’t lose your hope! Because if you lose hope then I’ll lose you and—” Somewhere during her fiery speech, Lena had stood from her chair. With fists clenched she remained ramrod straight and filled with righteous anger for Kara, or maybe even against her negative thoughts. Lena dipped her head and her gaze penetrated deep into Kara’s soul. “I won’t let you give up.” Then before the blonde could respond, Lena turned and left the room at a fast clip. Even with too many words said and truth dogging her heels, Lena Luthor refused to run.
“Lena…” Kara whispered into the emptiness and the light within in began to grow. The truth grew and expanded within her mind and Kara became aware of all the things between them that had been left unsaid for too long. The most important secrets had nothing to do with identities, families, or weapons. Those things were skin deep, but there were others things that reached all the way into the core of them. Before Kara could come to terms with the new revelation that she wasn’t so alone in her world of pain or love, a muffled sound reached her ears and with a blur she sped into the bedroom, dirty dishes forgotten.
The CEO sat on the edge of the bed, softly crying at her best friend’s pain and of her own inadequacies when it came to admitting all the truths. It wasn’t the one or two secrets that worried her. Lena feared the consequences when all the secrets came spilling forth. She didn’t see or hear Kara come in, the woman was simply there in front of her. Lena looked up and Kara gently cupped Lena’s cheeks in the palms of her hands, wiping the tears away with her thumbs. “I’m sorry. You’re right about everything and…please—please don’t cry, Lena. You’ve made me see that I have other lights in my life and I won’t forsake them. I won’t let them out of my sight again.”
Lena cradled Kara’s hands, holding them tight to her cheeks and relished the soft touch. “Thank you.”
Kara Danvers sank to her knees in front of Lena Luthor, a pose of earnest supplication. “But please…can you do me one last favor?” She leaned forward, nearly breathing in Lena’s exhale with her closeness.
“Anything…I will do anything you need me to.” She paused to stare deep into Kara’s eyes. Supergirl’s eyes. And suddenly found herself missing the glasses and cardigans of her best friend. One last realization for Lena was that she loved both sides of Kara Zor-El, the superhero and the reporter. “What do you need?” Her heart pounded at Kara’s closeness and she grew afraid that her body’s reactions would give away the biggest secret she held.
Kara sighed and her breath caressed Lena’s lips. “Forgive me.”
“Forgive you?” Kara nodded. “What would I possibly have to forgive you for—?” Lena’s words were swallowed as Kara Danvers kissed her with all the passion she felt within. As strong arms came around the youngest Luthor, she trembled and Supergirl dove further down the abyss of truth that had come to bear. It could have been minutes or hours, neither woman knew how long they were locked in an embrace. Exploring, touching, and feeling things that neither though possible until that shared moment of truth.
When Kara finally pulled back, eliciting a whine from both their throats, Lena was caught and held by the vision within her arms. Eyes still closed, the blonde glowed with some ephemeral light and Lena watched at her hero was rebuilt right before her eyes. Lena’s face changed to that of befuddled wonder, then morphed again into one of adoration. When Kara Zor-El opened her eyes to once again look upon the world, all the anger fell away and she was left filled with the deepest well of light. She pulled her arms back between them, suddenly left without words. “Um…”
Lena was quick to thread their fingers together, tangled in the thrum of emotion that sat heavy between them. She spoke into the quiet of the room. “There is nothing to forgive.” Kara opened her mouth to speak but with a single look from Lena, she remained silent. “To forgive means that a wrong was done through your actions. And that’s simply not the case at all.” Lena sighed and a bone-deep joy spread slowly, starting at her eyes and working its way out into the curl of her smile. “On the contrary, you made everything right.” A laptop alarm sounded from the other room and she knew her search for answers had at last found results. An insurmountable weight only needed the right leverage to move. The smile grew as she stood and pulled Kara up along with her. “Come on Supergirl. Let’s go save your sister.”