It takes days before the pain goes away.
Red Daughter opens her eyes and panics. She is in a tube, of sorts, and she kicks out and thrashes and everything hurts.
“Wait, wait,” a voice calls out. Hands press down, firm but gentle and when Red Daughter shifts her focus again the face that stares back at her is her own.
“You’re okay,” she says. “This is healing you.” She points to the contraption that is holding Red Daughter in, tries to pull a neutral and reassuring face, but Red Daughter can see the worry in her eyes.
“How long have I been out?” she croaks. “Is… Ale—Lex?”
“He’s um, dead. As far as we know.”
Red Daughter rolls her head away from Kara, shutting her eyes tightly. She doesn’t want to cry. He used her, he betrayed her, he never truly cared about her, but—
A hand brushes up against her shoulder in comfort and Red Daughter shrugs it away violently. “I don’t want your pity,” she snarls.
“I’m… that’s not…” she looks lost. Unsure, in a way that Red Daughter has only seen her once or twice before. Not in person. In Ale—Lex’s recordings and Kara’s personal things. Diary entries, messages, things that Red Daughter shouldn’t have been privy to without her permission. Things that Lex stole and used to turn her into a weapon against Kara. Against them all.
“Leave,” Red Daughter begs. “Please.”
“Okay,” there’s pain in Kara’s voice, then, “I’ll be back,” she adds. Firm. Determined. When Red Daughter turns around and watches, her shoulders are squared and she walks out of the room with purpose. She is going to become a thorn in Red Daughter’s side again, only in a different way.
She flies out of the place that they had been holding her the very moment she is strong enough to do so. A flurry of agents panic and try to surround her but she knocks them all back and escapes into the night. It’s warm. This close to the west coast, the air is warmer than Red Daughter is used to. She doesn’t like it much. Or rather, she feels as though she shouldn’t.
She goes to the apartment that belongs to a woman named Linda Lee. A false person. A girl who lived once, and died, and then was brought back to life with a new face and a new voice and a purpose that belonged to Lex Luthor.
It’s hers. He made sure of it. Lex had enough wealth that it was easier to simply buy a solid cover that couldn’t be found out than it was to pull together something shoddy and cheap even if it didn’t need to hold up for longer than a few months.
She stares at her reflection in the mirror. Stands in a room full of things that are equal parts Lex’s and Kara’s and none of it hers, really. She doesn’t even know who she is, now.
Linda Lee. She says the name aloud, rolls the letters over her tongue in an American accent and then in a Kaznian one. Neither one fits. Linda is an old name. A relic of a time when American ideals grew big and flashy and materialistic and thought they could do no wrong. It belonged to a woman who was born in the 1950s. She wonders, sometimes, if Lex had chosen it for its alliteration. Linda Lee. Lex Luthor. Lena Luthor. Lillian Luthor. Lionel Luthor. They all had ‘L’s. It bound them together for good or ill. Family. Red Daughter wonders what her life might have been like only briefly before dismissing the thought. Whatever Lex told her had been tinged with his own suspicions and plans and it doesn’t matter now, because they are both dead and gone.
Red Daughter is what Lex called her. Linda Lee came from him too. She stares at herself, an open question mark.
She doesn’t want either moniker, anymore.
She paces her apartment, slowly, her hands brushing against the things she has collected. Photographs of Kara’s life. Kara’s friends. Lex’s books. Wigs and things to conceal herself, to play pretend, to slip in unnoticed. She lingers on a photograph. Lex hadn’t given her this one. He never knew that she had taken it. His old childhood home had been shut away, sheets covering the furniture, an air of death lingering over the place. She’d walked through and found the photo, covered in dust and snatched it. Out of anger or out of love, she hadn’t known at the time.
She still doesn’t.
He looks about seventeen or eighteen in it. Lena, a gangly twelve or so. His arm is slung around her shoulder and they’re both leaning against a bright red convertible—something of an era that Linda Lee belonged to, perhaps. Lex never actually cared about spreading wealth to the common people. She should have known that it was all lies. His hands drape possessively across his little sister and the expensive car in the same manner. She hadn’t noticed that, at first. She’d been captured by the matching grins etching out onto both of their faces. They looked happy. Like a family.
Perhaps one that doesn’t exist, anymore. But from the look of this picture, it did, once. Lex and Lena Luthor. A family of ‘L’s.
She stares at herself in the mirror, an open question mark, starting to fill itself in. She’s not a Luthor. She’s not a human. Not Kaznian. Not American. She split apart from Kara Zor-El and became something else. Someone else. But bits of her are both—Kara, and Luthor.
She smiles at herself in the mirror. It feels right, for now. It feels like a solid beginning.
True to her word, Kara comes back.
El has cleared out many of the things that belong to her and put them in a few boxes. Kara blanches when she opens the door and says, “These are yours,” without any other greeting or fuss.
“Oh, um,” she takes the two boxes into her arms. “Thank you. I—”
“I’m sorry that I took them,” El says. “That we took them. That I didn’t respect your privacy.”
“I — thank you,” Kara says, surprised.
“Goodbye,” El says, moving to shut the door.
“Wait—” Kara jams her foot in the way and El sighs in frustration. “I wanted to, um, could I maybe come in?”
“No. I would not like that. Sorry.”
“Oh, um…” Kara looks lost again. El wonders how she ever thought that this girl was a strong and worthy opponent.
Perhaps that’s not a fair thought to have. “I don’t think we should become friends,” she says, as gentle as she can manage. “I don’t think I want any friends.”
Now Kara looks distraught.
El steps back away from her. It’s… unnerving, to have her own face looking back at her. Open, earnest, vulnerable and spilling over with affection and kindness. El doesn’t know how to respond to it. She doesn’t like how it makes her feel. The two of them stare at each other for a moment, quiet in that heavy way that is louder than talking.
“I — everyone needs friends,” Kara whispers; her voice sounds small enough to fit in the palm of her hand.
Kara has never once seemed small to El before. She’s never thought of Kara as someone who could be fragile. She was always larger than human life. A strong, terrifying thing of the Kaznian nightmares, coming to destroy them all. The fiercest person that El has ever known, apart from Lex. Nothing ever scares Kara. Or it shouldn’t. Nothing, except—
“Everyone needs friends,” she repeats, her eyes burning into El’s. “It doesn’t have to be me, if you don’t want it to be,” she looks terribly sad, but genuine. “But please, if you change your mind—”
El gives a sharp nod, not trusting herself to open her mouth and speak right now. Kara moves her foot away somewhat reluctantly and El shuts the door and rests her forehead against it. Tears pool in her eyes, though she doesn’t know why.
She goes to the market. Only it’s not called a market it’s called a grocery store and it’s enormous. Gluttonous. It infuriates her and she leaves without purchasing a single thing. Instead, she walks, ravenous, until she finds a corner store with fruit and vegetables and a man with a harsh face but kind eyes behind the small counter. She gives him the correct amount of American money—left over from the sum that Lex had granted her—and takes her spoils home.
The problem, she encounters, is that she was only ever fed by the Kaznian men holding her hostage. (Pretending to house her as one of their own). She doesn’t know how to cook for herself.
Her first attempt leaves her with a stove fire and a quick practice of the reflexes of her cold breath.
Her second takes ages. The internet is full of contradicting information. One recipe says to leave something for ten minutes, another for twenty. El compromises and is left with a dry, tasteless dinner. It’s cooked, though, and it would be wasteful to do anything other than eat it.
So she does.
When the knock on her door comes next, she expects it to be Kara again. The, please leave me alone, is on the tip of her tongue but it stills the moment that she wrenches the door open.
“Oh,” Lena Luthor says in surprise. Her hand is still poised to rap against the door again. “Hello.”
“What are you doing here?” El asks, her whole body stiff in panic and surprise. It sounds like an accusation and Lena blinks and takes a single step back. El softens herself immediately. “I’m sorry, I’m… surprised.”
Lena laughs, a dark bitter thing that reverberates inside El’s chest and stings. “You and me, both,” she says. El doesn’t know what that means. “Could I…” she motions inside and El finds herself stepping aside and watching as Lena slowly enters her apartment.
“Lex bought you this?” she asks, looking around with an expression that El cannot read.
“Yes,” El croaks. “To spy on Ka—Supergirl and her people.” She corrects herself quickly but catches the way Lena’s shoulders freeze all the same.
“I know,” she says. The words wrench themselves from her throat and it’s like a dam breaks. Lena’s face cracks wide open and she starts making this horrible keening noise, her shoulders go up and down and she’s desperately trying to suck the air back into her lungs. “Lex told me about Kara.” Her name is a sharp exhale, but Lena continues on. “About Supergirl. I know.”
“Oh,” El says. She holds herself taut, unsure if she is about to have to fight Lena or hug her. Instead of either of those horrible options, Lena saves them both by stepping back and sinking down onto El’s couch. “Um… do you want some water?” she asks, a beat later. Lena stares up at her incredulously. “I… read in books that you are supposed to offer that to guests when they come to your home,” she shrugs.
“God,” Lena laughs again, but there is less of that terrible bitter, pained thing from before and a hint of genuine amusement creeping in. “You’re so different from her, but, also you’re just like her.”
“I’m not,” El sneers, out of habit. She catches herself halfway and Lena looks up at her in surprise.
“So,” she says, straightening her spine and assessing El. “Red Daughter? That’s what my brother called you?”
“No, I’m — that’s not me.”
“It’s what he called you?”
“Should I call you Linda Lee, then?” she asks. When El looks up at her in surprise she laughs and it sounds like Lex. Haughty. “A five-minute Google search can find that information. I’ve found plenty more, to be sure. Luthors like to know what we’re dealing with. That much, at least, Lex and I had in common.”
“No,” she says. Lena’s eyebrows raise and El shrugs. “No, I don’t want you to call me Linda, either.”
“What do you want me to call you?” Lena asks, hint of barely concealed frustration to her tone.
“El,” she whispers.
“El.” She shrugs. “For now, I guess.”
Lena looks poised to say something and then stops herself. Instead, she sinks back into the couch and sighs. “Well, okay. El, could I please have a drink of water after all?”
It takes a long, awkward, and confusing afternoon to gather that Lex told Lena the truth about Kara before she got the chance to do it herself, and that has shattered Lena to her core. She takes it out on El—because she carries the same face as her best friend, and they both loved Lex. Lena stills, halfway through a ragged screaming rant and covers her face in her hands.
“I’m sorry,” she croaks. “I’m… you’re not Kara, and I’m not being fair. I’m — I’m sorry.”
“I don’t like her either,” she says, quiet.
Lena’s head whips up, sharp. “That’s not what I said.”
El falters. “But… also, I do. It’s very annoying and very confusing.”
Lena laughs, the bitter thing from when she first walked into El’s apartment. “It is, that,” she says, and flops back down inelegantly onto the couch. She doesn’t look like the great, brilliant, CEO of a company right now, she just looks like a young woman, who is sad and tired and lonely. She looks unsure.
Like El feels.
(She doesn’t look anything like Lex, in this moment, except for when she does. It’s a thought that both hardens and softens El’s heart to her).
“I shot him,” Lena admits in a low voice.
El’s gaze flicks over to her. “Al—Lex?”
Lena nods. “I was going to anyway. He… he’s never going to stop,” she shrugs. “I knew that I could, in the end. But then he said the one thing that—” she presses the bottoms of her palms into her eyes. “I’m so angry with her I can’t think straight. But—”
“But?” El prods, moving closer towards the couch. Towards Lena.
“I understand. I — logically, I can understand why she wouldn’t tell me. That knowledge doesn’t make me any less furious.”
“Lex told me that I was his family,” El says and Lena’s head whips up so quickly El is afraid that she has hurt herself. She almost stops talking, but if she doesn’t say something else, Lena might explode. “He brought me books and taught me how to play chess and told me I was worthy of saving everyone. But it was all a lie. He wanted to use me to kill Supergirl and Superman and then he just wanted me to die. But I didn’t. He did.”
Lena’s mouth twists slightly, it’s nothing like a smile. “He is dead. But we’re not.”
Neither of them quite knows what to say, after that.
El decides that the American grocery stores are heinous places but that learning to cook would not be.
She walks to the public library and fills out a form and is given a little plastic card that allows her to take books home for weeks at a time whenever she wants, so long as she brings them back for others to use as well. It’s a concept that delights her and is the first American system that makes any sort of sense. It’s not based on greed or ownership. El clears out every cookbook she can that sounds promising and heads home. For an afternoon, she pours through them to find some recipes that she wants to try, makes herself a grocery list, and opens her apartment door to find Alexandra Danvers staring back at her.
“Alex!” she jumps into her arms on instinct before she remembers that that would be a very stupid and inappropriate thing for her to do. Alex’s arms have already woven their way around her out of habit as well, and both of them sort of jump back and look at each other in embarrassment and confusion.
There is a lot of that going around in her life right now.
“I’m sorry,” she says, quick. “I didn’t mean to presume—”
“It’s fine,” Alex waves her off and smiles. “No big deal.” She shifts uncomfortably though, like maybe it is one.
“I’m going grocery shopping,” El announces bluntly.
“Oh… um, okay. I don’t want to keep you, I just… wanted to—” she shrugs and laughs, like she has no idea what she’s saying, or even doing here. “I dunno. Um, do you need any help? Or company?”
“Oh, um, okay, then I’ll just—”
“But you can come if you want to,” El says, quick. “I need everything that's on this list,” she says, holding it up. “I’m learning to cook.”
“Oh,” Alex says, surprised. A smirk creeps its way onto the corner of her mouth. “Okay. Let’s get the stuff on that list, then.”
The walk to the grocery store is awkward. El doesn’t know what Alex wants from her and she isn’t sure what, if anything, she wants from Alex. With Kara it’s difficult, but obvious—they share a face, powers, traits, physiology. They were… literally part of one another, at a time. El listened to Lex and paid attention to things when people assumed that she was too stupid to matter. She knows that some alien thing pulled parts of her into existence from Kara.
She’s not quite her own person.
Except that she feels like one, maybe. The point is, she understands her connection to Kara. She understands that there might be one. It makes sense with Lena, too. Lex was… (the word brother pops into her head before she can stop it, but she knows that she has no right to claim it as belonging to her) a person who she cared about. A person they both did, once upon a time. He used them both, bound them in tragedy and put them both against the Supers, in a way.
El doesn’t know, except that her first instinct was to hug her.
“How ‘bout this?” Alex asks, holding up pasta made of little bow ties. El scrunches up her nose. Alex places the box back on the shelf and pulls out another one instead. “I like linguine?” she says with a shrug.
Alex drops the box into the cart with a flourish.
“Can I ask you something?” she says, once they’ve made their way out of the pasta aisle. El nods. Alex had made a similar face to the one Lena had given her when she introduced herself as wanting to go by El, but also said nothing but 'okay' in response. “Do you… think you’ll be staying here?”
“In National City,” Alex clarifies.
“I don’t know,” El shrugs. “I have the apartment for a year-long lease.”
“Because Lex Luthor rented it for you?”
El nods. She watches the way that Alex’s face pinches, the way that her hands ball into tight fists, the way she sucks in air and says nothing. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, passing the Oreos. Alex turns up and looks at her in confusion. “For threatening you and your mother,” El clarifies. “It was a terrible thing for me to do. I do think that Americans are greedy and dishonest and materialistic as a country, but… what I did was cruel. And I’m sorry for it.”
“Are you sorry for impersonating my sister and murdering a bunch of politicians, too?” Alex asks, tips her head to one side, expression slightly less acerbic, but barely.
“If I say anything other than yes, will you hate me?”
“A little bit, yeah,” Alex answers honestly.
“I’m a little bit sorry, yes,” El says. Alex looks both angry and amused at her words being repeated back to her in such a way, but she looks up and points towards the brownies. El puts seven boxes into her cart and feels gluttonous, but Alex’s smile goes wide and fond, so she adds another one.
The meatloaf that she tries to make on Monday is both undercooked and somehow burnt in other places and El hates it.
It takes very quick reflexes and cold breath to put out the fire from her attempt at making a blue cheese steak, two days later.
She doesn’t think that she likes red meat at all, come to think of it.
Fish tacos with a homemade sriracha lime juice sauce, on the other hand, are delicious and she eats nothing but them for a solid week.
The world knows that someone impersonated Supergirl. They don’t know who El is, other than the super-powered alien who was working for Lex Luthor. For that alone, she’s a wanted criminal. El finds this information out while on a walk in the park. She is wearing the costume that Lex made for her. She put it on that morning, after seeing the way that people spoke about Red Daughter on the news. She wanted to see what would happen. A man stares at her and then she hears him make a phone call and El’s hearing picks up the end of the conversation. Two men in black follow her home and El redirects at the last moment, ducking into an alley and shooting up into the sky. She loses them, but she doesn’t know what to do about it.
She flies to Lena’s office.
In retrospect, perhaps she shouldn’t have, because Lena’s face hardens and she looks furious to see her. “Sorry,” El whispers. “I’ll go.”
“No, wait!” Lena calls out. “I… thought that you were Kara.”
“Two men are following me and I am on the news,” El says, bluntly getting to her point. Whatever is going on between Lena and Kara feels bigger than El and far too complicated to insert herself into the mess.
“I murdered people when I was framing Kara,” she says. “They want to put me in prison for it.” El floats down onto Lena’s balcony and presses her palms together. “Should I let them?” she asks.
Lena’s head snaps up. “No,” she says, firm.
“But — I killed them. On purpose.”
“Because Lex told you to.”
“Lex manipulated you. Told you that you were saving people. That Kara was dangerous. This was his fault, people know that now.”
“But… I’m the one who did it.”
“Yes,” Lena says. “You are.”
“So… should I go to jail?”
“Perhaps,” Lena says. “Some might think so.”
“Do you think so?”
“Why does my opinion matter?”
“Because… you’re the good Luthor. You’re the one I should have listened to,” El says, with a shrug. She doesn’t think much of the words, on the whole, but Lena reacts to them violently. Her whole body goes sort of hard and then she jerks backward, staring up at El as though maybe she has just attempted to punch her, or something. “I’m sorry,” El says, panicking.
“Why would you… fuck,” Lena breathes. “El, I’m not — I killed my brother. I’ve experimented on people, same as him. I’ve — I’m not some paragon of goodness. I’m not someone who you should look at to be your moral compass. Not by a long fucking shot.”
El wavers, standing alone out on the balcony. Lena, inside, using her desk to keep herself upright. El probably shouldn’t have come here. She shouldn’t have called herself El. She should just let the men take her away.
“I don’t think that’s true,” she says, aloud. “I think you’re a good person to listen to.” El rises up and flies away as fast as she can.
Brownies aren’t too hard to make if you follow the instructions on the box. El eats two boxes worth and feels guilty for it. So she makes three more and takes them to a soup kitchen, pressing three of the best ones into the palms of an old woman with a thick Russian accent and harsh eyes.
“ебать тебя,” the woman hollers at her retreating form.
In the air, El smiles.
She doesn’t turn herself in, in the end. She already spent time in a compound that she later realized was in fact a prison, and she doesn’t want to go back to that. Instead, she follows the men and leaves them a note on their work desk that takes her three hours to perfect writing. It looks blocky and a little bit childish, but it’s legible.
I’m sorry about framing Supergirl. You have nothing to fear from her, you never did. You have nothing to fear from me, anymore, either. My loyalty to Lex Luthor was misguided, and I regret it deeply.
I will try very hard to earn your respect.
Sincerely, Red Daughter
She grates at the moniker, but it’s what the public is calling her. If she wants them to know who she is, then she doesn’t know what else to write that would suffice.
“Did you leave a note on an FBI agent’s desk?” Kara demands, two days later, when she shows up at El’s apartment unannounced.
“Yes, I did. Hello Kara.”
“This isn’t funny!”
“I’m not laughing,” El shrugs. “I just said hello.”
“Why did you do that?”
“Because you came inside.”
“No,” Kara sighs. “Why did you leave the FBI a serial killer style note?”
“I don’t know what that means.”
Kara flops down onto the couch. Very reminiscent of Lena, a few weeks ago. She drops her head into her hands. “Why did you leave the FBI a note?”
“Because they were following me in the park and they say that they want to lock me up on the news. I don’t want to be locked up. I already was.”
Kara’s eyes shoot up and meet El’s gaze. She doesn’t know what Kara is looking for, but she must find it, because she rises from the couch and walks over to El and before El can do anything to stop her, Kara wraps herself around El and holds on tightly. El’s arms are pinned down at her sides from the way Kara is holding her. Their bodies fit together perfectly. Kara is warm. Warmer than anyone El has ever touched. She doesn’t think her body is as warm as Kara’s, it can’t be, it was born into Russian winters.
Kara pulls back almost as quickly as El had from her sister a few weeks ago, once she realizes what she has done. The two of them stare at each at each other. Mirror images, apart from Kara’s false glasses and ponytail.
“You shouldn’t leave them any more notes,” Kara says, shifting her glasses. “I would… lay low.”
El frowns, not understanding her meaning.
“Stay out of sight. The… Red Daughter outfit, I wouldn’t… they can’t find you if you don’t wear it.”
“Okay,” El says, but she wants to say, fuck that. She doesn’t know why wearing the costume now makes her skull itch, makes her think of Lex, makes her think of the terrified faces of the people in that room as she melted them into nothing.
She doesn’t want to be Red Daughter, anyway. So why does Kara telling her not to be make her feel so defensive?
When she goes back to the soup kitchen a month later, the old woman is there again. El sits down beside her and says, I like your necklace, in Russian. The woman scowls at her and holds it close to her chest. I’m not going to take it from you, El insists. I was only telling you that it looks nice.
Fuck off, she says back.
El hands her a mug of coffee and a brownie, then leaves.
She needs clothes that aren’t ones meant to be Kara in disguise.
If this apartment is truly in her name for a whole year, then El is going to make it hers. A woman at the library tells her about places called Goodwill and Salvation Army and El bundles up all of her wigs and clothes into plastic garbage bags once she cleans them all and donates them.
She just wore a gray suit in Kaznia. Then, she pretended to be Kara and wore a combination of stolen clothes and ones Lex had someone—probably Eve—purchase to look like something Kara would wear. El doesn’t want to look like Kara anymore. She wants to look like herself, whoever that is going to be.
She walks through the Goodwill after donating the garments and finds a few t-shirts, a pair of jeans that fit her mostly right, and some leggings and then goes home. It’s plenty for now.
National City is too hot. Southern California in the beginning of July is unforgiving and El sits on the floor in the middle of her apartment sweltering. She’s taken all of her clothes off; her body is sticking to the hardwood floors as she sips ice water and watches the fan circle above her.
She’s learning to make quinoa salad with a sauce to put on pita bread. It was recommended for hot nights in one of her recipe books, but she’s too hot to start trying.
So instead, she is starving and naked and lying down on the floor, dreaming of Kaznia and the bitter chill of the wind.
She has been cooped up in America on her own for two months now, and she hasn’t ventured to the ocean, yet. Today is hot enough to make that decision for her. El rises and ruefully tugs on a tank top and shorts and walks outside. The heat assaults her from all fronts and she quickly steps into an alley and flies up into the air, as high up as she can manage to find some cover until she reaches the water. She searches for a secluded beach for twenty minutes before landing down on the hot sand. It doesn’t burn her feet the way it would a human’s, but she finds the sensation of it uncomfortable. It’s… grainy.
El walks down to the water and scrunches her toes together in the wetter sand and finds that she likes that much better. The feel of the water crashing against her heels is an even more wonderful sensation and El walks in further until it’s crashing against her hips and then she holds her breath and drops underneath.
The water is far cooler than the air above, which is the best part. The feeling of her hair floating up around her head is calming but when she opens her eyes, the saltwater stings a bit and she comes up sputtering and rubbing at them.
Her second attempt goes much better than her first. She keeps her eyes closed and floats until she needs to come back up for air. She stays in the water until far beyond the time where her skin would be full of wrinkles, if she were a human woman. There is something about being underneath the water that is calming. She hadn’t even known that she wasn’t calm until she feels something inside of her click into place, a restlessness that dissipates after an hour. A thought pops into her head, something from a book she read, after Lex, on her own.
If the ocean can calm itself, then so can you; we are both saltwater mixed with air.
El doesn’t know if that’s true, of Kryptonian physiology. She doesn’t know much about what she is made of at all. Maybe she’ll ask Kara the next time that she sees her.
If she sees her.
Red Daughter slowly starts slipping out of the news. With no new sightings and no scrap of information to her whereabouts or identity, there isn’t much new information to talk about. So, they talk about her less and less with each new week that passes.
Supergirl saves a snake from a tree. Apparently, it’s one that she has saved before. El watches her wry grin as she passes the pet back to its owner, a little girl who’s laughing and fist bumps Kara before she flies away. El spends her morning attempting to make crème brulee.
She burns it.
It doesn’t taste so bad, anyway, but it’s disappointing.
She tracks the news reports of Supergirl and reads all of the articles that Kara writes. She doesn’t… really know why she starts doing it. Research, maybe. She used to track Kara while she was in Kaznia, sort of. Lex did, and passed the information along to her. Now, it’s not with the intention of spying, but the search for understanding is still there.
She reads everything that she can find to do with L-Corp and Lena, too.
She’s only seen Lena twice in the last few months, only once after flying to her office and calling her the good Luthor. Lena had stopped at the same market El often goes to for fresh fruit and veggies and nearly picked up the same carton of raspberries as El.
“Oh,” she gasped. “Hello.”
“Hello,” El had said, in her stilted way. She’s watched the way that other people interact and she knows that she is too formal, somehow. She comes across as out of practice, alien.
She doesn’t know how to stop being something that doesn’t belong.
“How are you?” Lena asked.
“I’m…” fine wasn’t the right word. Neither was happy. Nor sad. But all of them fit, a little. Whatever that mixture of emotions was called, El was it. She told Lena so.
“Oh,” she’d frowned, her fingers hovering above the raspberries. “What are you making with these?”
“A pie?” El shrugged.
“Do you know how to make pies?”
“No,” Lena laughed. “I can’t bake. I don’t cook much, to be honest.”
“Oh… I’m learning.”
“Is it going well?” Lena asked. El was pretty sure there was another meaning to her question, but she wasn’t sure.
“I suppose,” she shrugged. “I burn things a lot less now. And they taste better.”
“Do you want to eat something?” El asked. “I usually make too much.”
“Oh…” Lena looked… surprised and sad and happy. Humans seemed to have a lot of different emotions all at once. “That would be nice,” she settled on.
El shrugged. “Whenever you want, come over,” and then she walked over and got some peaches, too, because she read in one of her books that they were in season.
Lena doesn’t show up for a few weeks. July has shifted into August and it’s still too hot to breathe but there’s a sign of cooler air somewhere off in the distance. El is trying to frost a cake to look like a flower when there’s a knock on her door. “Come in,” she calls, once she uses her X-Ray vision and sees that it’s Lena on the other side. It’s surprising to see her here at all, but it’s all the more surprising considering it’s three o’clock in the afternoon on a Tuesday. El knows from months of surveillance that Lena hardly ever leaves work before seven p.m. unless Kara prods her to.
Lena walks inside tentatively. “You don’t lock your door?” she asks; it sounds like an accusation.
El shrugs and tries to follow the pattern that’s open in her library book. “What for? I’m stronger than everyone on this planet besides Kara. Bullets don’t hurt me, and no one knows where I live. I don’t have anything worth stealing.”
“That’s not—” Lena doesn’t like her answer, but she presses her lips into a thin line and walks over to stand and observe El’s work. “What are you making a cake for?”
“Because it tastes good.”
Lena laughs. “A good a reason as any, I suppose.”
“Want to help?”
“Oh… I might mess it up.”
El shrugs. “That’s fine. It’s just for us. It's practice.”
“Alright…” Lena walks over, hesitantly, and takes the tube of frosting from El’s hands. She listens patiently as El explains what the book says to do and then with a great amount of concentration, makes the most perfect flower El has ever seen. She cheers and Lena blushes, looking equal parts proud of herself and embarrassed at the attention. “What flavor cake is it?”
“My favorite,” Lena declares.
“Really?” El moves to start cleaning up. “I thought most Americans preferred chocolate.”
“Why do you think that?”
El shrugs. “TV, I guess.”
“Chocolate is Kara’s favorite,” Lena says, quiet.
“Are you two still fighting?”
Lena’s shoulders go stiff, giving El her answer. “Do you want to help me cook dinner?” she asks her instead.
“Um…” Lena looks sad, maybe a little lonely. El thinks for a moment that she’s going to say no. That she’s far too busy. That she is only here to make sure that her brother’s mess isn’t out there hurting people, but instead, she nods. “Okay, thank you. I would like that.”
“Really?” El asks, and now that she has the prospect of company, she finds herself excited, bouncy, even. Lena grins at the sight and El squeals happily. “What do you want to make? I have loads of recipe books.” She shoves some of them in front of Lena and has her flip through until she finds one that she likes.
They don’t talk much. They stick to topics related to cooking. To the weather. To literature. No one mentions Kara and no one mentions Lex and the stir-fry they make comes out delicious. El sits at her table with another person for the first time in her life and can’t stop smiling.
In the middle of August, El takes herself to a play.
She sees an advertisement up on the bulletin board in the library and it says that it is free admission for everyone. Donations accepted if you can afford them. El gets lost twice on the way there—flying with a lawn chair and a blanket isn’t as easy as she thought it might be—but she arrives on time and walks in with the rest of the patrons, vibrating with excitement.
It’s called Shake on the Lake. The gardens are open to the public and the home once belonged to rich Americans; a hundred years ago it was nothing more than a summer home for people like Lena’s ancestors. Now, people get to come to the gardens in the spring and come to free plays in the summer. Now, it still belongs to a rich American family, but it belongs to the community, too.
El finds a free space a bit up on the hill where she can see the stage and opens up her chair. It’s a cooler night, and everyone around her has on sweatshirts and blankets and bug-spray. The actors are singing, entertainment for people as they mill about, waiting for the whole audience to show up. It’s a decent crowd and it’s a beautiful night. El accepts a cup of tea from a woman who works there and holds the warm beverage in her hands, listening to the music and watching the clouds over the valley. They’re beautiful tonight. They’ve been beautiful all day, huge and expansive and full of depth in a way that El didn’t even know clouds could be. She wonders if Kara has ever painted clouds like this. El pulls out the cellphone that belongs to her and takes a few photographs, mostly for herself, but maybe in case she ever decides to show Kara, too.
The music stops and people clap and two men come up as the actors disappear behind the makeshift stage into a tent.
“Hello!” The man booms, “and welcome to Shake on the Lake’s fifth summer!”
El listens patiently as he thanks the people at the grounds, patrons, parents, the actors, and everyone who came tonight. She read up on the play beforehand, one of the women who work at the library, Louise, helped her find the right book. She explained tp El who Shakespeare was, how some of his plays were comedies and some of them were tragedies. El hadn’t been able to understand the script. She got too frustrated with the Old English and confused by the plot, so instead, Louise had given her what she had called the Spark Notes Version, so she would be able to understand the play a bit better once she saw it.
It’s about love.
A girl called Rosalind, her cousin Celia, and a man named Orlando. There are other people too, but El forgot a lot of it. Now, she laughs along with the audience as a man comes out in wrestling gear and calls to the audience to yell out “chu chu” whenever he prompts them. That wasn’t in the play, El knows. A man sitting beside her leans over and whispers, “They’re ad-libbing a little here and there. Modern jokes. Like with that little girl. Just for fun.”
“Oh,” El whispers back. “Thank you.”
“No worries,” he shrugs. “They’re funny so far, yeah?”
El nods. “It’s the best play I’ve ever seen.”
“Wow,” he laughs. “Really?”
“Well, it’s the first one.”
He looks a little surprised, but he smiles and holds up his beer towards her. El knows this means he wants her to hold up her tea, and then they’ll clink their glasses together. It means something like, good on ya, other person. We’re both humans together and acknowledging our presence, and health and life. She’s not human, but the rest applies, so she clicks her mug against his glass.
“First of many, I hope.”
“Oh, definitely,” El grins.
Lena shows up for dinner on Friday.
El is deciding whether or not to make tacos or an omelet when she hears the knock on the door. She grins once Lena shyly slips her way inside.
“Do you like tacos or omelets better?”
“Um… what’s in the omelet?”
“Whatever you want.”
“Do you have spinach?”
“I’d love one then.”
El starts whipping the eggs and she instructs Lena to chop up a pepper and some of an onion. They add mushrooms, and a kind of cheese called gruyere and once they’re all made, Lena adds lots and lots of hot sauce on top of hers.
El tells her all about As You Like It, and the man who sat next to her and helped explain some of the jokes that she didn’t understand.
“I don’t know how to read Shakespeare, and I still don’t think that I understood all of the plots, but I liked it! I don’t see how Rosalind and Orlando knew they were in love, though. They only met once for like, five minutes.”
“Things tend to happen fast in fiction.”
“Is that ever what it’s like in real life?”
“What?” Lena asks, taking a bite of her omelet.
“Being in love.”
Lena chokes. She blames it on the hot sauce and guzzles the water El gives her before swallowing thickly and answering. “Um… I don’t know.”
“Haven’t you ever been in love?” El asks. “I read about your old boyfriend, Jack.”
Lena looks like El shot her with her laser vision. “Um… I don’t… yes, I think I loved him,” she finally says. “But, it was a long time ago and I was young and it… it didn’t happen that fast,” she says. “No. In my experience, it doesn’t happen quickly at all. You just… know a person, and you feel some sort of connection to them and over time, it grows until one day you sort of realize the depth of your feelings.”
“Like you did with Jack?”
Lena nods. “We were friends for years, first.”
El takes a very big risk. “Was it like that with Kara, too?”
If Lena had laser vision, El would be dead right now. “Why would you ask me that?”
“Um…” El fidgets with her fork. “I thought… I don’t know,” she admits. “I guess because of the way that I’ve seen you two look at each other. And the way Kara talked about you in her diaries that Lex told me to read, and the way you…” she looks up and sees the look on Lena’s face and clamps her mouth shut.
“It’s not like that,” Lena chokes out after a horrible minute of silence. El doesn’t believe her at all—her heart is racing in the way that humans’ hearts usually do when they’re lying. El nods anyway and says nothing. She doesn’t ask the questions that are fighting to crawl their way out of her throat. Questions about Kara and Lena. Questions about Lena and Lex. Questions about Alex. Questions about what Lena is to her, how it’s different from Kara, why she keeps coming here for dinner when she has enough money to pay someone else to cook for her. Questions about what El wants from her, or why she cares about what happens between her and Kara. El sucks in a breath then snaps her mouth shut; it’s not her right to control someone just because they matter to her.
“Okay,” El says and takes a bite of her omelet after trying some of Lena’s hot sauce. She chokes, surprised at the sensation, but she likes it, too. Lena smiles at her and some of the tension that had built up in her shoulders relaxes. “Have you ever been to a Shakespeare play?”
Lena nods. “Lex and I went to the Globe Theatre in London, once.”
“What’s that?” El asks. She doesn’t acknowledge the mention of Lex and neither does Lena.
“It’s one of the theatres where Shakespeare’s plays were performed after he first wrote them.”
“They do a season every year,” Lena says. There’s a moment where she says nothing and El just watches her bite at her lower lip. “I have to go to London for business near the end of November. I could extend my trip to the weekend, and we could go to a play. If you wanted.”
El can’t contain her excitement. She lunges at Lena and hugs her too tightly and laughs and starts to cry and tries to say yes, thank you and nearly knocks them both over. Lena looks like she can’t breathe, but she almost looks happy about it, and when she tugs her arms up to hug El back, it’s the warmest and happiest that El can ever remember feeling with another person.
Lena makes some comment about El’s t-shirt a few days later and she looks down at herself and frowns. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing,” Lena says. “I’ve just… seen it a lot.”
“Is that bad?”
“No, I—” Lena sighs, not quite in frustration but something close to it. El can read her moods well enough now to know that it’s not frustration with her, but at herself. Lena’s too hard on herself. El doesn’t care how long it takes her to figure out how she wants to say something, she’s got plenty of time and Lena is always patient with how long El takes. “I meant, if you want me to take you shopping, I’d be happy to.”
“Oh… but, I already have clothes.”
“Right well, owning one pair of pants and four t-shirts isn’t exactly a wardrobe.”
“You can wear whatever you want, El,” Lena says, her voice going softer. “I just meant, sometimes it’s something that people like to do together. Sometimes it’s very much not. But, if you want the company and the input. I’d be happy to take you.”
El shrugs. She’s not saying no to trying out new experiences these days. “Sure.”
They go to a store that is overwhelming and bright and loud and El has what Lena later calls a panic attack. Lena gets a good hold of her and shuffles them into a smaller room and wraps herself around El from behind and sits them both down onto the floor and they just breathe together while Lena rubs at her arms. Which feel like they’re on fire.
“My blood won’t stop moving,” El whines.
“It’s anxiety,” Lena explains. “It’s okay, I’ve got you. It’s normal and it’s going to pass.”
“Okay,” El groans, and knocks her head back into Lena’s chest, because she feels like she can’t hold it up on her own right now. She’s too shaky and her blood won't stop flashing, but now that she knows what it is, it's not as scary.
They stay like that for El doesn’t know how long, a few people pass by and ask if they’re alright and El says nothing and Lena gets them to go and get her a glass of water and then leave them alone. She makes El sip at it a few minutes later. Then a few minutes after that, El tries lifting her head up even though she’d sort of just like to stay in Lena’s arms, but this floor is hard and uncomfortable and Lena has been holding her for way too long. Her back has to hurt.
“We can stay here as long as you need,” Lena insists when El says that. El knows that Lena would sit on this dirty floor and hold her for way longer if El really needed her to, but she doesn’t anymore.
“I think I’m okay,” she says and finds it to be true.
“Why don’t we try again another day?” Lena offers. “Let’s go get tea instead.”
“I—” El feels like she’s failed at something and bites at her lower lip in frustration. The truth is, she doesn’t really want to stay here. But she’s more used to the light and the noise now though and it’s not as overwhelming as it was when they first walked in. “Can we try it one more time first?” she asks. Lena looks like she wants to say no, but she nods and lifts herself up off the floor with a groan. It takes her a moment to shake out her legs and El apologies and Lena fiercely tells her not to.
“What kind of clothes do you think you want?” she asks.
“Something that doesn’t look like Kara,” El decides.
“I can work with that,” Lena says.
They stay there for an hour. Lena knows what she’s doing; she’s efficient. She waltzes through the place, smiles, and charms everyone who works there and has a pile of garments for El to try on in less than ten minutes. She figures out after the first pass that El likes patterns and bright colors because they look nothing like the gray suit that Lex put her in. She tries on dresses and skirts and overalls and suits and blouses and there are so many buttons and zippers and El sits down on the floor and bangs her head against the wall when she’s gotten herself stuck in a shirt.
“Lena!” she calls out, “help.”
Lena laughs at her when she slips inside and tugs her gently free a moment later. “Do you like any from this pile?” she asks. El shrugs. “What?” Lena prods gently.
“It’s so much. I only go to the grocery store, the library, the park, and the soup kitchen. I don’t have any place to wear all of this fancy stuff.”
“We’ll find you more places to go,” Lena says.
El looks up at her dubiously.
“Have you thought about… maybe getting a job?”
“What would I do?”
“Whatever you wanted. You could also go to school,” Lena looks thoughtful. El leaves her to it and starts tugging her pants off to try on a different pair without thinking much about it. Lena quickly looks up to give her privacy and El realizes that she might not have been supposed to do that.
“Sorry,” she says.
“It’s fine,” Lena assures her. “Those look good on you.”
El turns around and looks in the mirror. “I like them.”
“Great,” Lena beams. “Put them in the yes pile, I’m going to go grab a few more things for you to try, then let’s get out of here.”
El walks out of the store in a long flowy yellow dress that Lena says is sort of a ‘hippie’ style. El loves it. She got three different similar ones in other colors after Lena encouraged her to purchase a few more things. It still feels a bit wasteful to have this many things, but half of it Lena bought despite El trying to fight her on it.
“It’s not my birthday,” El insists. Then, frowning. “I don’t even have a birthday. I guess.”
“That’s not true,” Lena insists.
“I wasn’t born,” El says, helping Lena pack the bags into her car. “I was… split from Kara. I’ve never been a child. I don’t have any memories that aren’t less than two years old. I’m… not a real person.”
“Yes, you are,” Lena says, fierce and deadly in a way that El has only seen her from a distance. Protective, of Kara, usually. El’s heart swells happily at the realization.
“I mean, I’m sort of not,” she argues as she climbs into Lena’s car. “But alright.”
“Clones are people too,” Lena insists. She pulls away from the curb and is quiet for a minute or two and then she says, “the stuff with the Harun-El and… Reign happened on June 18th. So, technically, that’s when you came into existence,” she laughs to herself. “You’d be a Gemini, which is ironic.”
“Oh, it’s…” Lena waves and laughs harder. “Astrology. It’s, not real, not really. But there’s this sort of ancient theory that where the planets were aligned when you were born influences your personality. It’s an interesting tool to use to think about yourself, and it can be fun, but it’s not something that you should make serious decisions about or anything.”
“What are you?”
“Pisces,” Lena says. “My birthday is on February 23rd.”
“Is Gemini good?”
“None of them are good or bad,” Lena says. “Gemini is just ironic because its symbol is the twins. It’s got a lot about symmetry and twos.”
“Oh,” El bites at her lip and tries not to think about Kara.
“It’s just dumb fun,” Lena assures her. “Irrelevant. The point is, your birthday can be June 18th. If you want.”
“Okay,” El shrugs. “I missed it this year then.”
Lena frowns. “Well, that won’t do.”
In addition to all the clothes Lena buys her, she takes them out for tea and surprises El with a huge birthday cake. Everyone in the small bakery starts to sing and El sits there and blows out 27 candles. There are two that sit apart from the rest on the cake that Lena nods towards first and when everyone in the shop has finished singing and clapping, Lena tugs El forward and hugs her, whispering, “Happy birthday, El,” into her temple before kissing her there.
El eats two pieces of the cake while Lena eats one. When they leave the café, Lena drives them to the park and tugs El out to the water fountain near the east side of the park. She opens her wallet and pulls out a penny, passing it over to El.
“What do I do with this?” she asks.
“Luthor family tradition,” Lena says, her voice only slightly raw. “My father did it with Lex and I every year. You make a birthday wish and then you toss it into the water.”
“You can’t tell me what it is,” Lena adds quickly. “Or anyone. Then it won’t come true.”
El doesn’t say but I’m not a Luthor, she closes her eyes as Lena instructs and thinks about what she wants. The first thing that pops into her head feels dangerous, but she can’t stop it. El grips the penny and makes her wish and tosses the coin into the water and opens her eyes to look over at Lena.
“Was it a good one?” she asks, grinning.
“I hope so,” El says, grinning shyly back at Lena. “Thank you, for today. I had a lot of fun.”
“Next year we’ll do something better. On June 18th.”
El can’t really imagine something better than hanging out with Lena all day.
Kara respects El’s request for space.
The end of August appears and El hasn’t seen or heard from Kara all summer. Lena comes over every Friday for dinner now, usually Tuesdays, too. The old Russian woman from the soup kitchen is named, Olenka, and El sees her every Monday when she comes to volunteer. She still tells El to fuck off in Russian, but she smiles when she says it, and she only says it after they’ve been chatting for fifteen minutes or so, now.
El talks to Louise at the library at least once a week, sometimes more, if she has a question about something from the internet. She gives El new ideas for recipes sometimes and shows her a few websites that she likes for them as well and starts working El through different novels.
She decides to start with Harry Potter, because Louise says it was her favorite when she was younger and everyone knows Harry Potter and you have to tell me what Hogwarts house you belong to, she demands.
El doesn’t know what that means, but Louise tells her that if she had to guess, maybe Ravenclaw with hints of Hufflepuff.
The man who owns the market El goes to twice a week is named Anwar. His wife and sons work there too, and sometimes Kara gets recipes from his wife, Lelah.
Usually, when she goes for walks every morning after she’s made breakfast, she runs into a group of retired ladies and walks with them on the end of their route.
But other than that, El stays in her apartment or does things by herself. It doesn’t bother her until the end of August.
She’s nervous when she knocks on Kara’s door. Kara has so many people in her life, maybe she’s not alone. El doesn’t think she can handle a big crowd. She doesn’t think she can deal with the way Kara’s friends stare at her and compare her to Kara with their gazes. She almost turns around to leave when Kara opens the door, beaming.
“Hi!” She almost jumps forward to hug El, but she stops herself. El sticks out her hand between their two bodies and Kara blinks down at it in surprise for a second before taking it and shaking it, grinning at El the whole time. “I’m so glad you came by,” she says, and she sounds sincere.
“I’m sorry for not calling first,” El says. “I don’t have your phone number. I only have Lena’s and the library’s.”
Kara looks deeply surprised by that sentence and El watches her face fall before she pulls a fake-looking smile onto her face and laughs, nervously. “Oh, well… I’ll give it to you! Come on in,” she offers and goes to get a slip of paper and a pen.
By the time El leaves, two hours later, she has Kara’s number, Alex’s, J’onn J’onzz, Winn’s, James’, and Nia’s. Plus, the numbers to Kara’s favorite pizza places, Indian restaurants, Italian restaurants, the guy who runs her favorite food truck, and the number of a woman named Cat Grant that Kara stresses, is only for emergencies.
El will probably never call any of these numbers, but she accepts them and plugs them into her phone anyway because it makes Kara seem happy.
She’s ecstatic to learn that El has been learning how to cook. She’s only an ‘okay’ baker and cook herself, she says, but she’d love to cook with El sometime, if she wants.
El’s first instinct is to say no, but the voice in her head sounds like Lex, so she ignores it and nods instead.
“Oh, I love Harry Potter,” Kara declares, once El starts talking about the first book. “I’m probably a Gryffindor with a Hufflepuff model.”
“Alex is totally a Slytherin,” Kara says. “Don’t listen to what the books say, they’re not all bad. And also, the books are the tiniest bit problematic with regards to race and sexuality and stuff, but they’re still one of my favorite series.”
“Do you want to go fly and get tacos?” Kara asks, almost bouncing with excitement. El has yet to try making real tacos, they’re still on her To-Try recipe list. She’s only ever had the fish kind she made that one week. She says so and Kara is so aghast that El is worried that she’s actually said something offensive to Americans. Or at least to Kara, personally.
“We have to go,” she begs. “You have to have tacos.”
“Okay,” El shrugs.
Kara doesn’t stop grinning for the rest of the afternoon. El loves tacos. She also loves Rogelio, Kara’s friend who owns the food truck. It’s… a little confusing at first. Kara blanches when they get there and Rogelio exclaims in delight that she never told him that she had a twin sister, and Kara realizes that they look exactly alike. She can’t tell this man, actually, I’m Supergirl, and this is my evil clone who was raised in a Kaznian prison by Lex Luthor, you know, the one who murdered all those politicians a few months back?
“Um… sorry about that,” she laughs nervously. “This is El.” She doesn’t correct him, but she doesn’t deny the twin theory either. El follows suit and smiles at the man and accepts the chicken taco and squeals happily upon the first bite. Rogelio beams.
“Maybe um,” Kara takes a huge bite of her fourth taco as they stroll through the park. “Maybe I can re-read Harry Potter, and we could have like, a book club?”
“What’s a book club?”
“Well, you all read the same book at the same time, and you get together to talk about what you liked about it and what you didn’t and what you maybe didn’t understand and stuff like that. Usually with food!”
“Can two people be a book club?”
“Sure!” Kara exclaims. “We could invite more people too. Winn loves Harry Potter and he’s got lots of opinions about it. Alex likes it too.”
“But it can also just be you and me, if you want,” Kara says quickly.
“When do we meet?” El asks. Without thinking she says, “Lena and I have dinner on Fridays and Tuesdays, so I can’t do it then.”
Kara blanches and drops part of her taco. El stares down at it.
“You… you have dinner with Lena every week?”
El nods and chews her taco slowly. She doesn’t know what her part is in all of this—Kara isn’t her twin sister, but she is her… something. Lex wasn’t El’s brother but he was her… something, and Lena is… her friend, maybe. El can say that definitively. There’s another word that rattles around in her skull sometimes when they’re together, but El ignores it whenever it crops up. But this, this awkward middle between Kara and Lena, El doesn’t know any word for this. Not in English or Kaznian or Russian.
Kara picks up her taco from the dirt and sadly puts it into the nearest trash can. El gives Kara her last taco, which she tries to refuse for a few minutes until El tells her that she needs the energy more than El does, because she uses her powers and exerts herself more. Kara makes El at least take one bite of it, which she does happily, even though it’s awkward. She’s already passed it to Kara, and rather than hand it back over and risk dropping some of the toppings, Kara holds it out and El has to bend over and bite from Kara’s hands. It’s a strangely intimate gesture and El is touched by it and put off by it at the same time.
“Um, how did you start that up?” she asks. “The weekly dinners, I mean.”
“Um, she just started coming over when I told her that she could,” El shrugs.
“Is she… does she seem okay?”
“Have you talked to her?”
“Not recently, no. She… made it pretty clear that she wanted some space and I’m trying to respect that.”
“That’s smart,” El nods. “She’s pretty mad at you.”
Kara looks forlorn and it twists something uncomfortably in El’s gut. “She understands, though. Why you lied to her. She’s just… still sad about it.”
“Does she talk about it with you a lot?”
“No, hardly ever. We talk about food and books, mostly.”
“Oh, I like both those things.”
“Me too,” El says. “So far.”
Kara looks shy when they approach the end of the park. “So, um, do you want to do the book club?” She is trying very hard to hold herself back from seeming too eager, but El can tell that she’s desperate for her to say yes.
“Okay,” she agrees, and is greeted by another crushing hug.
September brings cooler air and new fruits and vegetables that are in season to try in recipes. Lena declares that El’s squash bowl full of fresh roasted vegetables is her favorite dish. She has a string of squash hanging on the corner of her mouth and a brilliant, wide smile on her face when she says so. There are a lot more smiles and laughs exchanged between them when they’re together now than ever before.
El reads the first and second Harry Potter books and goes to Kara’s apartment every Wednesday afternoon to talk about them. No one is ever there besides Kara. They start each afternoon by going to see Rogelio and getting two bags full of tacos (El still feels guilty about how much food she consumes). By the third week of September, Rogelio greets them as The Wonder Twins.
Kara laughs into her sleeve and whispers that her cousin met real twins who called themselves that, once. Back when he was still getting a handle on using his powers in college.
Once they have their tacos, they go to a cafe around the corner that Kara likes and get big, rich, coffee drinks. Well, Kara does. She likes things the sweeter the better, El likes Earl Grey tea with some milk.
Then they go to Kara’s apartment and eat and eat and talk about Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
Kara loves them all, but she says that Harry is her favorite because when she was thirteen and first arrived here, she felt alone and scared and thrown into a whole new world like Harry was, even though she was with a wonderful and kind family and he was with an abusive one.
El decides that she likes Hermione, because she’s very matter-of-fact about things, and something about her reminds El of Lena, a little. When she says that, Kara goes thoughtful and quiet and then El quickly asks if she wants another taco.
It’s been four months and they haven’t talked to each other. El prods a bit, while Lena is over. It’s obvious that she misses Kara, that she’s lonely, that all of her friends in National City ended up being Kara’s, too, and now she only has El.
Winn refuses to get in the middle of the situation, and he very determinedly hangs out with them both and is the only one apart from El to do so successfully. El hasn’t met him yet, not really, but she can tell from the way Lena and Kara both talk about him that he is a wonderful person who they both love a lot.
He’s a Ravenclaw, according to himself and Kara. Kara stresses that you’re allowed to be in whatever house feels right to you, and also that most people sort of fit into a primary house and a secondary house. One that kind of explains how you view the world, and one that kind of explains how you react to it.
El flips through the Chamber of Secrets. “Oh, no,” Kara says. “That’s not in the book. It’s a thing a lot of fans sort of came up with and agreed upon online. I can show you this one site—” she starts scrolling through her phone until she finds the address and texts it to El’s phone.
“What are you?”
“Double Gryffindor. A lot of people tend to think I’m a Hufflepuff though.”
“I think he’s a Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff.”
“Slytherin/Ravenclaw. I think. She used to pretend to just be Ravenclaw a lot more than she does now.”
“What’s Lena?” El asks and Kara blinks at her and sucks in a breath.
“Um… I don’t know, actually. I think if I were to make a guess, I’d maybe say the opposite of Alex? Ravenclaw/Slytherin? But maybe she’s the same as Alex. But… I could also sort of see an argument for Gryffindor or Hufflepuff in there somewhere. So, I don’t know. Read the site and tell me what you think, later.”
“Okay,” El says and turns back to the book. Kara looks relieved.
Kara starts showing up at her apartment on days that aren’t designated book club afternoons. She says things like, “Oh I was in the neighborhood,” or “I had this delicious fish taco that you just have to try!” or “I have to go uptown to talk to a source, want to tag along?” or any other dumb thing she can think of to share El’s company. At first, El feels ambushed and annoyed, but then she quickly realizes that she wants the company. She prefers it when Lena comes, because even though there is an unnamed thing hanging over the air between them, it’s somehow less confusing because they don’t share the same face.
There is a tangible connection to Kara that El cannot deny, and for the first time since Lex died, she finds that she doesn’t want to.
“Okay,” she says. “But why? Won’t I just be in the way?”
“No!” Kara insists, far too cheerfully for it to be true. “You’ll be my partner.”
“But I’m not a journalist.”
El frowns but grabs the light tan jacket that Lena bought her and pulls it on, following Kara outside. They go to some meeting that Kara whispers is kind of a fluff piece and listen as people talk about a new technology product and drink coffee and mill around staring at each other. El follows behind Kara, silent like a kid waiting for approval while Kara gets all of the quotes that she needs. El doesn’t like coffee and they don’t have any tea, so she sips at a cup of water and abandons Kara to hang back near the entrance
As they’re about to head out, another person walks over and exclaims that he never knew Kara had a twin.
“Oh,” she fumbles with her glasses and shoots a guilty look over at El. “Um, it was… we didn’t know either!” she exclaims. “You know I was adopted, so…” she trails off, leaving the sentence hanging there awkwardly.
“I’m El,” she sticks her hand out and waits for the man to shake it.
“It’s very nice to meet you El! Are you a journalist too?”
“Um, no. I’m not.”
“Oh, what do you do?” he asks, friendly and open. El blanches at the question though. She thinks about Lena asking her what she wants, if she wants to go to school, and comes up with nothing to say in response that fits.
“I cook, mostly,” she says and he looks a little confused but still friendly. Kara quickly sweeps in and says something about being late for their reservation and gently tugs El out of the building.
“Sorry,” she says, though El doesn’t know why she would apologize. She didn’t do anything. “Have you thought about a job you might like to do?” Kara asks after they’ve walked down a few blocks, searching for a Vietnamese restaurant Kara knows is around this area somewhere.
“Lena asked me that too,” El says, instead of answering. True to form, Kara bites at her lower lip and goes quiet at the mention of Lena. It buys El a few minutes to come up with an answer. “I don’t really know how to do anything. Lena said I could come work at L-Corp if I wanted, but I don’t know how I would be helpful.”
Kara finds the restaurant and waves happily at the middle-aged Vietnamese woman behind the front counter. She waves back and then comes around to hug Kara, speaking animatedly. They’re ushered into a table in the corner after another twin conversation that both of them brush through quickly and then Kara plays with a straw wrapper and thinks. “Have you ever thought about culinary school?”
“You learn to cook. Well, to be a chef. A professional cook. Like in a restaurant or something.”
“Oh,” El says quietly. “Maybe.”
Kara’s name shows up on El’s phone and when she answers it, Kara sounds far away and a little panicked.
“Are you okay?” El asks, worried.
“Um… could you… I know you don’t… do you think you could come help me?” Kara asks. There’s a thwack and then Kara cuts out for a second that has El’s stomach dropping with panic. “Sorry,” she says, breathless when she cuts back in a moment later. “I’m up near the coast. Nia can’t get here fast enough and J’onn is away in Brussels working on a lead for—”
“I’m coming,” El says and hangs up. She wavers over putting on the Red Daughter costume for half a second, knowing if she doesn’t wear something then she could put Kara’s identity and Eliza in jeopardy.
She tugs it on as quickly as she can and jumps out her window, uncaring if anyone sees at this moment, only the sound of Kara, breathless and asking for her help ringing out in her ears. When she arrives at the coast, the sun is shining, the waves are lapping against the sand and it looks tranquil. It’s one of El’s favorite places in National City.
Except Kara is half-limp in the wet sand, gasping as two humanoid looking people hover above her and assault her with kryptonite and something else that El doesn’t recognize. El freezes in midair at the sight. She remembers the horrible, horrible feeling of the kryptonite working its way through her veins. Kara is more resistant to it than she is, and if Kara is down, then—
It doesn’t matter. It’s Kara.
El flies down and slams her body into the men, shoving them with brute force into the water and pressing down with everything she has. Her veins are burning up from the inside, her muscles are shaking, she can hear herself screaming both from the effort of holding the men underneath the water and the proximity of the kryptonite in their hands.
El passes out into the water the moment their legs and arms stop fighting back. The last thing that she hears is Kara calling out her name.
El wakes up and her entire body hurts. She’s in a small, cramped space and she panics, pushing against it until a familiar voice quickly assures her that she’s alright. Kara’s hands press down on her shoulders gently and she tells her that she’s under a sun lamp. That she needs to stay put.
The minute El blinks and lies back down, Lena comes running into the room and says “Thank god, I was so worried,” except that it comes out as, “What the hell were you thinking?” as she shoves Kara aside and sits down in the chair next to El.
“Um,” she doesn’t know how to even begin trying to explain the fear that had crept up her throat until she had choked at the sight of Kara, limp in the wet sand. “I was trying to help,” she settles on. When she looks up at finally meets Lena’s eyes the frustration and worry that stares back at her is enough that something tight and suffocating settles in El’s throat. She balls her hands into fists.
“You did help,” Kara says then. “You saved my life. Thank you.”
“Oh, um,” El shrugs and bangs her head on the top of the lamp, grunting at the impact. Kara and Lena both jump forward towards her at the same time and knock into each other. El watches them react the second their skin touches—both of them spring apart and separate, but try to stay near El at the same time. It doesn’t work at all. It’s been almost five months since they’ve had a real conversation. El knows that it’s gone on far longer than Lena ever wanted it to, but she doesn’t know how to reach out to Kara without getting furious, or being afraid that she’ll say something that will make her lose Kara forever, so she’s just been avoiding the topic altogether. Here they are now, trapped in a small recovery room in J’onn J’onzz’s back office, forced to confront their mutual—well, their mutual something. Kara and Lena turn and stare at each other now, and El slumps back in the sun lamp to put a few more inches between them, as silent as she can manage to be.
“Are you alright Kara?” Lena asks; it sounds strange on her tongue. Unpronounceable, somehow. El watches them interact carefully. Kara fiddles with her glasses and looks sheepish and guilty and full to bursting with the urge to fling herself at Lena and hug her and apologize until it sticks. But Kara is smart, and she can see as easily as El can that would be a horrible idea. There is a coiled sort of stillness to Lena right now, ready to leap forth at a breath, at a glance, at a thought. She looks just a little bit like Lex, around her eyes; the violence under her skin is almost tangible in the moment, now that El has learned to look for it.
“Yes,” Kara croaks. “I’m going to be fine. Thanks to El.”
“Good,” Lena says, voice raw and tight. “Everyone is okay, then.”
“Yep,” Kara looks over at El sort of helplessly and El takes pity on her. She tries to sit up again but both women jump forward and push her back down. “You need at least another hour,” Kara says. “Trust me.”
“I don’t want to just lie here,” El says. It comes out in a very childish whine and to her horror, both women look down at her fondly.
“We can entertain you,” Kara offers quickly. Lena goes stiff at the mention of ‘we’ but she nods a moment later anyway. “Are you still thinking about culinary school?”
“What?” Lena asks, head whipping back and forth between them. “You didn’t tell me that you were thinking about that,” she says, accusatory.
“I was going to,” El mumbles.
“It’s… a very good idea,” Lena says, voice going thoughtful and determined.
“It was Kara’s,” El says, because she can’t quite help herself.
Lena presses her lips into a thin line and says nothing in response.
It’s a very very long hour.
Kara and Lena sort of fight about which of them is going to make sure that El gets home alright. El sits in the corner, trying to tell them that neither woman needs to take her home and that she’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself, especially since they made her stay under the sun lamp for an extra half hour. She feels fine now. But when she opens her mouth to cut in, Lena sort of hollers, “She’s my sis—” and cuts herself off immediately. All three of them stare at each other in silence for a beat, and then Alex appears in the room from who knows where and tells them all that she is going to take El home and that it’s been five damn months and they are going to fucking stay right here and work out their issues.
“Alex—” Lena begins to object.
“No way, Luthor,” Alex says, walking over and tugging El up and gently ushering her out the door. “I miss you. Everyone misses you. Kara misses you the most, but everyone does and this has gone on way too fucking long and you two are gonna talk or I’m gonna punch you both!” she slams the door shut in Kara’s panicked face and quickly pulls El along with her down the sidewalk.
“Do you think that’s going to work?” El asks dubiously.
“No, probably not,” Alex admits. “But it might at least get them to yell at each other, which at this point feels like step one,” she twists and looks El in the eye. “Do you really feel okay?”
Alex stops walking and El slams into her. Before she can apologize, Alex whips her body around and pulls El into a crushing hug. “Thank you,” she whispers.
“Saving Kara when I couldn’t get there fast enough.”
“Oh… well…” El swallows thickly. Maybe Alex is right, it’s been too long of people dancing around their emotions. “I care about her,” she admits.
Alex pulls back slightly and grins at El. “Can I join your book club?” she asks, looping her arm with El’s as they walk down the block. “Unless it’s something that you want to be just for you and Kara? Which is totally fine! We could do other things—I just haven’t re-read Harry Potter in ages and—”
“Yes,” El says, before she goes on a rambly tangent like her sister. “You can join.”
“Oh sweet, thanks!”
Alex, a woman named Nia, a woman named Kelly, and Winn all join the book club.
Winn concurs with Kara’s assessment of his Hogwarts house placement. Nia frowns and scrolls through the website that Kara shows her for over half an hour before lifting her head and declaring, “I think I’m a Hufflepuff primary, Gryffindor secondary.”
When asked, Kelly Olsen lifts her wine glass to her lips and says, “Dude, I don’t know.”
El likes them.
Kara and Lena do end up having an enormous screaming fight. And then a week later, another one. Neither of them talks about it afterward and things are still very awkward whenever the other is brought up in their presence, but El thinks that maybe Alex was right—it feels like a step in the right direction.
Lena shows up for Tuesday dinner with a binder full of information on culinary schools. El makes a kale salad, sesame tofu, and rice, and listens to Lena rattle off the names of schools in Boston and New York and Metropolis and Paris and all of them are very, very, far away from National City.
“So, what do you think?” she asks.
El shrugs and chews her salad.
“Do any of them sound appealing to you?”
“Are you and Kara going to be friends again?” El counters. It shuts Lena right up, which was what she was going for.
A minute later Lena swallows primly and then turns to face El. “Don’t deflect the question.”
“If you want to get rid of me then fine,” El snaps. “I’ll go to school a million miles away and never bother you again.” Lena looks shocked and confused and El can’t stand it so before she can say anything else, El abandons her dinner and her apartment and jumps out the window, flying away and leaving Lena calling out her name.
It takes her a little less than an hour to get to Kaznia. The old prison barracks are abandoned, her cell—what she used to think of as her room—has been burnt up and there’s nothing left in it but ash. El walks through the closest village and speaks Russian and cries in the only café in town. A young woman comes over, looking worried and El waves her off, pays, and leaves. She doesn’t have any connection to this town, nor to this country, truly. The only familiar place here is an old burnt prison and a meadow where she met a dead little boy.
She goes back to her old room, lies down on the cold floor and falls asleep.
Kara finds her in the morning.
El is so surprised to see her there that for a moment she thinks that maybe she is still dreaming, but then Kara slams her body into El’s and pulls her into a crushing hug that wouldn’t hurt so much if she were asleep. “Rao, Lena was right,” Kara says and El pushes her away.
“Lena said you ran away. She thought that you might be here.”
“I—” El presses her lips together. The idea of Lena reaching out to Kara for help finding El, that she knew where El would go, has her head spinning. Probably she’s just hungry, she hasn’t eaten since yesterday afternoon.
“Let me call her quick,” Kara says and makes to reach for her phone. El slaps it out of her hand. “Um,” Kara says, “okay maybe not just yet.”
“Why are you here?”
“Because Lena was worried about you. So then I was worried about you. Are you okay?”
“No!” El yells. “Of course I’m not okay! I’m a clone of you. I don’t know anything about being a Kryptonian or a human. The only person I ever loved like family was Lex Luthor and he wasn’t my family at all! He was using me to hurt people. I hurt people! Lena wants me to leave her alone and you keep on letting people think that we’re twins!”
“Okay,” Kara says slowly, “we’ve got a lot to talk about.”
They leave the prison behind and go back into the village. Kara finds a small shop and El orders them soup and sandwiches. She sits miserably in her seat, one leg propped up as she rests her head down onto her knee and fiddles with her teabag.
Kara is quiet and thoughtful for a few moments. When the server brings them their food, she doesn’t start eating right away, which is the first sign that something is off.
“I can tell you anything you want to know about Krypton,” is the first thing Kara says. “I should have, already, and for that I’m sorry. There’s a place that we can go after this, if you want, that has a lot of information. It belongs to my cousin, but he won’t mind. You’re family.”
“Am I?” El asks, it sounds a bit accusatory, but only around the edges. Mostly, it sounds desperate.
“I think so,” Kara says. “If you want to be. We’re… made of the same stuff. That doesn’t always matter, but sometimes, I think it counts for something.”
El considers this while Kara sips at her soup. “What if you’re not?” she inquires. “Made of the same stuff. What if you’re not made of the same stuff at all?”
“Lena doesn’t want you to go away,” Kara says, soft.
“That’s not what I—”
“You both know what it’s like to love Lex and hate him at the same time. I think that counts as ‘the same stuff.’ Just in a different sort of way.”
They eat their soup in silence after that. Halfway through her sandwich El lifts her head up from her plate and realizes that Kara has been quietly watching her this whole time. “Are you in love with Lena still?” she asks. Kara’s eyes go wide and El feels a twisty sense of satisfaction at the panicked look on her face. Then she feels guilty for feeling it.
“Um…” she fidgets with her glasses. “Why would you… why do you think… I don’t…” Kara sighs. “Yeah, totally.”
El picks a piece of the crust off and puts it into her mouth, letting it dissolve on her tongue. “She loves you still, too. Or else she wouldn’t be so mad at you.”
Kara flops back into her chair like she’s been pushed. Then she starts to cry. El panics at the sight, it’s horrible. Kara is usually so full of light and love and bursting with joy that to see her face crumpled over in pain feels like someone has injected kryptonite directly into El’s veins. She scrambles forward and wraps herself around Kara as quickly as she can. It’s awkward, because she’s leaning down at a strange angle, and she’s in the server’s way, so El twists until she’s in Kara’s lap, holding her as tightly as she can and apologizing over and over until she calms down.
“I screwed everything up so bad,” she whispers.
“No, you didn’t.”
“No, I did. I wanted to tell Lena for so long. I almost told her so many times and then it just — right when I was going to finally do it, Lex—”
“Fuck him,” El says, in Russian. Kara clings to her and El rubs at her back, switching back to English. “He doesn’t get to ruin everything.”
“Lena loves you a lot,” Kara says.
“No!” El counters quickly. “Kara, no, that’s not what—”
“No,” Kara laughs. “I mean… I wasn’t… El, you’re like her family now. She doesn’t want you to leave. She just wanted you to get to go to the best schools there are because she wants you to have every opportunity that you can. She’s not trying to get rid of you at all.”
El doesn’t think she can unpack that right now, so she directs the conversation back to Kara. “She doesn’t want to get rid of you, either.”
Kara shrugs and El moves off of her lap and slides back into her own seat. The server asks if they would like any dessert and El asks for all the chocolate things they have to be brought to Kara. Her face lights up when three brownies are placed in front of her a few moments later and she reaches across the table and kisses El on the forehead. “The one good thing that Lex did do was bring you to us, though,” she grins. “Can I please tell Lena that I found you now? She was going out of her mind when I left.”
“Okay,” El says, and picks at her brownie.
The second that Kara sends a text, her phone starts ringing. “It’s Lena,” she says.
El sighs. “Go ahead.”
“What happened? Is she okay? Where are you? Is she hurt? Put her on the phone, I’m going to kill her! Kara, where are you?”
El swallows as Kara slowly answers each of Lena’s questions calmly and in order. She glosses over the put her on the phone, I’m going to kill her part but raises her eyebrows at El in question and sort of holds the phone out. El takes it reluctantly.
“I’m fine,” she says.
“YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BE,” Lena hollers.
Kara yanks the phone back. “We’ll be home soon, bye!” she says and hangs up. “She’s going to yell at you and I’m sorry, but I think you’re going to have to let her.”
Kara stands up and drops some money down on the table, picking up the last brownie as they walk out of the shop. “When I was nineteen, I lied to Alex and went to this party after she told me not to and had a panic attack. When Alex found me she was… so pissed. But she was pissed because she had been worried the whole time. For like, hours. I didn’t answer the phone and I sort of told her to fuck off and let me have a normal college experience and then it was awful and I hated it and she had totally been right. I let her yell at me for a whole half hour straight. Then I let her hug me for like ten minutes and then we watched a movie and everything was fine. Having an older sister is sort of weird and wonderful like that.”
“I don’t see what this story has to do with me at all,” El says, lying through her teeth.
Kara grins, grabs hold of El’s hand, and shoots up into the air.
Lena yells at her for a full hour. Then she hugs El for fifteen solid minutes, her shoulders shaking as she clings and cries, and then she tells El that she never has to go to culinary school if she doesn’t want to.
And then everything is fine.
Kara sits smugly in the corner and watches them the whole time.
Kara and Lena’s fight seems to have dissipated almost entirely after they team up to find El. It’s somehow far more annoying to have them gang up on El than it ever was to tip-toe around mentioning each other in their presence.
Kara starts showing up to Tuesday dinners. Fridays are still only for Lena and El, but Lena comes to book club sometimes.
(She makes no comment on Kara’s guess at her Hogwarts house placement and instead starts talking about all of the ways that Albus Dumbledore is a shit role model).
El eats four tacos and sits half on top of Nia Nal while she teaches her how to French braid. Alex and Kelly sneak away to make out and Kara and Lena snip at each other and then look like they’re going to just start making out right there in front of all of them, and El loudly decides that she is a Hufflepuff/Gryffindor.
“Me too!” Nia cheers, then frowns down at her hair. “Hold on, I know that I know how to do this.”
“It doesn’t look like you do,” Winn chides, looking at El with his head tilted to the side.
“Cool, we’ll see you all next week,” Alex says and drags Kelly out of the apartment. “Fuck Snape!” she hollers and fist bumps a surprised Lena.
Kara turns away from staring longingly at Lena and smiles over at El. “You look beautiful.”
“No, she doesn’t,” Lena snorts.
El sticks out her tongue at Lena while Nia starts yanking her hair out of the messy braid to try again and El has never felt more content in all her life.
Kara and El test it, and it takes El exactly 18 minutes and 32 seconds to fly from her apartment in National City to the Culinary Institute of Metropolis.
“That’s less of a commute than it would be to take the bus to National City’s City College!” Kara declares to Lena delightedly. Lena looks over at El and waits to see what she thinks.
“There’s a professor there who is really nice. Her name is Meg and she said that my test fish tacos were some of the best she’s ever had.”
Lena walks over and hugs her tightly. “I’m proud of you,” she whispers, even though they both know that Kara can hear.
She applies as Linda Lee. Even though Winn swears that he can create another identity for her, El shrugs him off. Kara and Lena are both standing behind him and staring at her intently while he says it and the panicky way both of them keep opening and closing their mouths as if to try and offer something has El’s mouth tasting like pennies and making her skin crawl.
“No,” she says quickly, shaking away the taste and the image of a water fountain out of her brain. “Linda Lee is fine. I don’t care.”
El helps Kara with Supergirl stuff, sometimes. Red Daughter still prickles as a moniker, and people still say things like 'murderer' on the news and the internet, but after she helps Kara save a Navy ship from exploding, they start saying things like, 'Supergirl’s sidekick' occasionally instead.
“I’m sorry,” Kara says.
“A lot of people don’t like being called a sidekick. You’re an invaluable member of my friend group and sort of my family and this team and—”
“Sidekick doesn’t bother me,” El says quickly. “Please shut up.”
Kara rolls her eyes. “I wasn’t going to go on a rambly rant.”
“You already were.”
“Well… you shut up!”
El flicks a branch at Kara’s head and laughs when it sticks itself into her hair.
The fall semester for culinary school already started. They’re almost two full months in, so El can’t start until the spring.
(She suspects that Lena might have had something to do with that, because her first two conversations with the admissions office kept insisting that she couldn’t possibly start until next year at the earliest).
Lena offers her a job as her temporary assistant.
“Well, Eve was evil and working for Lex and I’ve been using temps who don’t care or are idiots and I need to find a solid replacement. But in the meantime, I’m sort of drowning in work and it would be nice to have someone that I trust until I find a good candidate.”
“Um, I don’t know if I know how to do that.”
“It’s easy,” Lena assures her. “I’ll show you the ropes.”
El’s dubious, but she wants to help if she can.
Mostly, being Lena’s assistant consists of holding people at bay until Lena is ready to deal with them, being an ear to talk things over with, making sure Lena eats, and calling people and setting up meetings and telling people where to go. It’s not that hard, but at the same time, El has never been busier or more stressed out in all her life.
Kara stops by to have lunch with Lena one afternoon—they’re tentatively working their way back to friendship—and she smiles at the sight of El quickly typing out an email while on hold. “Oh man, part of me sometimes misses being someone’s assistant.”
Lena sticks her head out of her office. “Seriously?”
“No, Ms. Grant scared me most of the time. But I learned a lot and I’m grateful for the experience.”
“Both of you shut up, I’m trying to listen to this message,” El demands.
“Are you allowed to talk to your boss like that?” Kara teases.
“I am when she’s my sis—” El chokes that sentence off to nothing and the three of them all go quiet. “Have a good lunch,” El demands. “I’m busy, leave me alone.”
Kara and Lena walk out together, both of them shooting looks back at El before they knock their heads together and start whispering at volumes that El tunes out immediately.
There’s an explosion at L-Corp.
El hears it from eight floors down and jump up and runs into Lena’s office in two seconds, grabbing her around the middle and preparing to fly out to safety until Lena starts screaming about protecting her employees. El is going to ignore her, but she doesn’t want any of them to be hurt either. Jerry, the man who works the front desk, is trying to get her to come to play D&D with him and the guys in the engineering department. It sounds really fun. They’re all nice and don’t deserve to explode.
“Fine, stay here,” she orders, but Lena grabs her and latches on. “No fucking way,” she says, “You’re staying with me,” she orders, attempting to sound annoyed and authoritative, but there’s a tremor in her voice that betrays other emotion. El shoves Lena behind her and together they make their way downstairs.
El pushes Lena behind a weird sculpture statue and runs forward and grabs Jerry, pushing him and the rest of the employees in the front out of the building to safety. When she turns around to get the students who work in the coffee shop, Kara drops down beside her in Supergirl regalia.
“Is Lena okay?” she asks in a panic.
El nods and points. “She wouldn’t let me get her out first.”
“Yeah,” Kara frowns. “Sounds about right.”
It takes them five minutes to clear the building together and then they grab Lena and haul her out just in time for a second explosion to go off.
No one was hurt.
Lena makes El go check on everyone just in case, getting a headcount of the whole building. When she walks back over to report that everyone who came in today is alright, Lena and Kara are hungrily making out off to the side behind an ambulance.
“Oh gross,” El panics and turns and runs away. Their combined laughter rings out as she slams down next to Jerry.
“What a fucking day,” he exclaims.
“Good inspiration for the game, though,” El offers.
“Are you gonna come play then!” he says, as excited as a sixty-two-year-old man with dirt on his face sitting on a curb can be.
“Sure,” El says.
Jerry claps her on the back. “Welcome to the party, kiddo.”
Kara and Lena both separately try to talk to El in the week after the explosion and say asinine things like, us being together won’t change our relationship with you, that has El vibrating with the urge to slap them and never speak to either of them ever again.
“I am a fully fucking formed adult,” she snaps at Lena. “Don’t treat me like I’m your weird kid or something.”
Lena scoffs. “Jesus, El, obviously you’re not our kid, why would you say that? I’m just trying to make sure that,” she sighs. “I just wanted to make sure that you knew you were important to me and that nothing is going to change.”
“It is, though.”
“Stop lying, Lena.”
“I’m not,” she snaps. “You’re important to me. You were never… I wasn’t being your friend because I was mad at Kara. I just need to make sure you know that.”
She had thought maybe that’s what it was, once or twice. She has Kara's face, she has literally impersonated and tried to replace her before. But she’s been aware that it wasn’t about that for a while now. It’s still nice to hear Lena say it. To have both of them—as annoying and uncomfortable as it is—sit her down and give her whole speeches about how much they love and care about her and that the two of them finally getting over themselves and dating doesn’t change that fact one bit.
It’s obvious and makes her feel a little bit like they’re treating her like a child, but… it’s also nice.
“Okay,” she says. “Thanks.”
Lena looks sort of defeated as she gets up to leave and El can’t really stand her being sad any more than she can stand it when Kara is, so she jumps up and wraps herself around Lena from behind. “You’re important to me, too,” she whispers.
Lena twists around to hug her properly and then plants a kiss to El’s forehead. “Please go say that to Kara, too, she’s been upset all day.”
“God, you two are dramatic,” El sighs, but she jumps out the window to fly over to hug Kara, too.
The Globe Theatre is beautiful.
Lena is stuck in meetings all day, so Kara flies over to London and she and El wander around and eat their weight in chips and go to Buckingham Palace and give each other piggybacks to see who can run the fastest across the park with a person on their back.
Kara wins, but only by a few seconds.
They’re dressed and stuffed full of food and lounging around their hotel room when Lena comes back in a flurry, shedding her clothes and trying to stuff her face and get dressed and apologize for being late all at the same time. Kara takes pity on her and gets up to help Lena into her dress so that she can lean forward and eat before they go to the show.
Kara’s never been there either, so the two of them are bouncing on their toes like excitable children while Lena watches them both fondly.
The curtain rises and El gasps at the same time as Kara. Kara shoved El into the middle seat earlier and now she grabs El's hand and pokes at her side until El realizes that she wants her to grab hold of Lena’s, too. Lena rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling when she takes El’s hand, linking all three of them.
“If music be the food of love, play on,” the actor calls out. Kara and Lena both squeeze El’s hands at the same time and she smiles into the dark.