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Love In a Hopeless Place

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The world had ended. Earth became a wasteland, littered with death and decay, with no greenery and very few signs of life. People had become ruthless, only looking out for themselves, because they had to. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t survive. Some banded together and started their own groups, traveling together across long expanses of land, looking for their next meal. Some retained their power and used it to control others, keep them under their heavy thumbs.

When the Day of Reckoning came, as those who were more prone to religious ideologies called it, it was like a switch flipped across all of humanity. People turned into the worst versions of themselves, becoming monstrous and selfish – or, perhaps, that was what the root of humanity was all along. Still, there were those who retained their last shred of hope and goodness, who tried to care for and protect others. Churches were filled with those who still believed, begging God, or anyone who might be listening, to save them. Their prayers went unanswered for years, but still, they continued to sit in the pews day after day and waited for their salvation.

Salvation, however, came in the form of Lex Luthor, the self-proclaimed unifier of the worlds. With his wealth and power that he held before the reckoning, he put a monopoly on basically everything that could be monopolized, from water to food to currency. Everything went through LuthorCorp first and he doled it out where he saw fit, mostly giving it to friends and family first, naturally. Once a week, he would release the water from the dams and the people gathered beneath his stronghold held up their buckets to catch as many drops as they could.

That tickle at the back of a person’s throat, when they haven’t had enough to drink, that was Lex. He was the reminder that he held the life force of the planet in the palm of his hand, giving it out bit by bit when he decided to be benevolent. But it wasn’t benevolence, not really. It was power. The lives of the people depended on him and if he wanted someone to perish, he could make that happen.

His mother, Lillian, stood by his side, too afraid to stand up to him, afraid that he would have her thrown out into the wilderness where all of the people controlled by their desperation and fear would get ahold of her, thinking she could give them whatever Lex had. His sister, on the other hand, constantly spoke up, asking him if there was any way for them to give more, help more. They had the resources. Lex simply told her that their water and food rations would need to last for many years to come and if he gave out too much, they would all starve to death. It was about survival of the fittest. They were the fittest – wealthiest – and he aimed to keep it that way.

Lena was in charge of finding new ways to pull resources from the Earth, whether it be crude oil, minerals, or new sustainable food sources. She’d been a scientist before the world had gone to shit, so Lex was using her knowledge to his advantage, which is why he tolerated her insolence.

Until the day he stopped.

Lena snuck out of Lex’s building with a cache of food and supplies, handing them out at the town square. People thanked her and hugged her tight as they took loaves of bread and blankets, along with a few seedlings, so they could start growing their own vegetables. LuthorCorp had a surplus and she knew things wouldn’t be missed, but when she saw Lex’s head of security walking toward her, she knew she had been caught. Otis Graves grabbed her by the back of the neck with his large, calloused hand, while the rest of his men shoved all of the people back and took the rest of the supplies with them, taking back what they could from the fleeing citizens.

“Lex is going to have you hung for this,” Otis snarled. 

“If I could help at least one person, it’ll be worth it.”

“You’re a damn fool,” the man replied as he dragged Lena back to his vehicle. She was thrown into the back, her hands and feet bound, so she couldn’t escape. It was then that Lena knew she probably wouldn’t see the next day. Lex looked down at his sister after they had returned. Her lip was bloodied and face caked with dirt after Otis had dragged her out of the car, through the throngs of people standing outside of LuthorCorp - a warning to the rest of them.

“I really am disappointed in you, Lena. We could have done so much good work together,” sighed Lex.

“Work that only benefited the rich,” replied Lena.

Lex smirked at her and turned around, facing the large window of his office. He peered down at all of the people waiting and begging for water below. “The thing is, dear sister, if you don’t have power in times like these, you really have nothing. If we gave all of this up, let people take everything and fend for themselves, do you honestly think we’d all survive? Of course not. Humans are greedy and selfish. They’d take all we have and use it all up in a week. Then what? I’m helping them ration these resources, so humanity will continue to exist.”

He turned back around and kneeled in front Lena, taking her chin between his finger and thumb. “If you want to help these people so badly, maybe it’s time for you to become one of them.” He stood up and nodded to Otis. “Take her to the Road of Desecration. We’ll see if the people she wants to save will show her mercy. Hope you’re not due for a heat anytime soon.”

The Road of Desecration was where the more vicious citizens resided. Gangs of criminals and those hardened over time gathered there and made camps while they decided where to head next. A single woman without a gang, especially an omega, wouldn’t last more than a day there.

Otis drove Lena out of the city center, hands bound once again, and she thought for a split-second to beg for her life, to try and bribe Otis with something, anything, but she decided his loyalty to Lex would outweigh anything she had to offer. If he wanted her body, he could just take it.

When they arrived just outside the edge of the road, people wandering around started to gather to see who had come. Otis grabbed Lena and threw her out of the car.

“I brought you all a present,” Otis called out. “This is Lex Luthor’s sister.”

Murmurs and whispers started fluttering around, people wondering if they could use her for leverage or as currency to get food or water. Otis left her there and drove off, his car kicking up clouds of dust as he disappeared over the horizon.

Lena rolled onto her knees and stood up as one of the men stalked forward.

“Lex Luthor’s sister, huh? Did you know your brother is responsible for the deaths of thousands? Withholding food and water, starving us all to death. My wife is dead because of him.”

“My daughter got sick from contaminated water!” a woman shouted. “She didn’t make it. She was only four years old.”

Lena started stepping backward. “I’m sorry for your losses. I was trying to help you all. I wanted to give more.” She tripped on a rock and fell backward, knocking the wind out of her. The first man who spoke up held a pipe in one hand and tightened his grip around it.

“Killing you won’t bring my wife back, but maybe we can sell your skin or organs to the cannibals.” Just as he raised his arm, readying it to swing down onto Lena, a cloaked figure came out of nowhere and grabbed him by the wrist. “Hey, what the fuck?”

The figure pulled the pipe out of his hand and pushed him backward. He threw a punch that the other person dodged easily and tripped him, causing him to fall to the floor. Others rushed the cloaked person, trying to swing weapons or tackle them, but they were too quick and dispatched everyone easily.

Someone finally pulled out a pistol and cocked the hammer back, pointing it at the person, and pulled the trigger. The cloaked person jerked back with the bullet’s impact but remained upright and walked up to the shooter, grabbing the gun out of his hand and throwing it several yards away. The other man’s eyes widened in fear and he ran away in the opposite direction and everyone else followed suit.

Lena saw the person coming toward her and tried to crawl away, but her hands were still tied behind her back and she was getting nowhere. The hooded figure took a knife out of their boot and grabbed Lena by the arm.

“Please. Please don’t kill me,” she whimpered, a tear tracking down her face. The person crouched down and turned her slightly, cutting the ropes that bound her hands. They removed their hood and staring back at her was a woman, hair the color of a wheat field and eyes the color of the sky before it turned brown with the blast.

“What’s your name?” the woman asked.

“Lena.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Lena. I’m Kara. Would you like to come with me? My camp’s just a few meters away.”

Lena nodded silently, unsure if she could really trust this person, but the alternative would be to wander around on her own, where she would most definitely run into the people trying to kill her. Kara offered her hand and Lena took it, standing up and brushing the dirt off her clothes. She followed the other woman closely, the other people glaring at her, but not making any sudden movements.

It took them a few minutes before they arrived at a small encampment with a couple of tents, set up far from the other civilians. Another woman was sitting in front of a campfire and stood up immediately when she saw Lena.

“What is this?”

“This is Lena. She ran into a bit of trouble at the end of the road.”

The other woman cleared her throat and clenched her jaw. “Kara, can I speak to you in private?”

Kara sighed and started walking away, but she turned back toward Lena. “Make yourself at home. If you’re hungry, go ahead and warm up a can of beans.” The other woman took Kara by the arm and yanked her away. Lena watched them both carefully. The woman speaking to Kara had short, auburn hair and looked like she could take care of herself just as well as Kara.

There were two motorcycles parked nearby and a couple of backpacks resting against the log she was sitting on. Part of her wanted to take a bag and jump on one of the motorcycles, try to escape, but logically she knew she wouldn’t get very far - plus, she had no idea how to ride a motorcycle. She did take one of the cans Kara mentioned and placed it near the fire to heat it up, raising both hands in front of the fire, as well, watching the red and orange flames crackle and snap into the air.

Finally, Kara and the other woman started walking back and Kara had a smile on her face as she sat down on the ground across from Lena, grabbing what was left of the can the other woman had started eating.

“Oh, right. This is my sister, Alex. I apologize for her rude behavior. She doesn’t trust people easily.”

“Probably a wise choice,” Lena replied. She removed the can from the fire with a couple of sticks and stared at it. Alex rolled her eyes and grabbed it with a handkerchief, opening it with a can opener and handing it back to Lena.

“Thanks,” Lena mumbled and began eating. She didn’t realize just how hungry she was until the savory sweet taste of the beans hit her tongue. Kara poked a stick at the fire, moving the ash and wood around. Lena discreetly examined both women out of the corner of her eyes and noticed both had scars all over their bodies - likely a result of having to survive in wilderness.

“You can take the tent over there,” Kara said, standing up, pointing to the red tent. “I’ll take first watch.” Alex nodded to her and climbed into the other tent, promptly zipping it back up. Lena finished eating and set the can aside, standing up. She hesitated before going to her tent.

“I don’t know why you saved me, but thank you.”

Kara shrugged. “Just because we have a reason to become monsters doesn’t mean we have to.” Lena accepted that answer and unzipped her tent. There was a sleeping bag laid out on the ground and Lena removed her shoes before climbing under it. She wondered what the plan was for the next day. Would they go out and scavenge? Would they end up being exactly who Lena expected them to be and sell her off to the highest bidder? All she knew was that she was still alive and would do whatever she could to keep it that way.


Something woke Lena up and her tent was unzipped. A head stuck itself inside and whispered to her.

“We have to go. Put your shoes on,” Kara said. Lena did as she was told and climbed out. The other tent was already taken down and packed up. Alex moved her away and started taking down the tent Lena just left. Kara hurriedly rolled up the sleeping bag and tied it to one of the backpacks, tying the tents to the back of one of the motorcycles.

“What’s going on?” Lena finally asked.

Kara didn’t answer her and handed her a helmet. “Let’s move.” She climbed onto one of the motorcycles while Alex got on the other one. Both roared to life and Lena sat behind Kara, holding onto her jacket while the motorcycles rode away. Lena had no idea where they were or where they were going. 

They rode for a good while until the sun began to rise over the horizon in front of them, so Lena knew they were heading east. She huddled closer to Kara, trying to block the wind with her body, but it continued to whip across her exposed skin.

They pulled up in front of a building and Kara turned her motorcycle off. Lena removed her helmet and handed it back to Kara and they both walked up to a rusty metal door. Alex knocked a specific pattern of knocks before a panel slid off to the side.

“Hope, help, and compassion for all,” she muttered.

The door creaked open and a man stood in the doorway, watching Lena’s every move.

“Brainy, this is Lena. Lena, Brainy.”

“Lex Luthor’s sister,” he replied.

“How did you—“

Alex rolled her eyes and interrupted. “He’s named Brainy for a reason. Let’s go, Kara. Brainy, show her around.” Alex escorted Kara down a dark hallway and Lena stood next to this strange man, who gestured in the opposite direction.

“This way, please.”

They walked down another corridor and Brainy pointed out the different rooms from the mess hall to their barracks to a room he called the ‘holding area.’ She asked them who they were and how they came to be.

“Kara and Alex found all of us and we became a sort of family. We seek out to do good in a world that has lost all hope and has forgotten itself. Kara must see something in you for her to bring you to us. We haven’t gotten anyone for quite some time,” his voice contemplative. “I’m not certain if Kara wants you to stay with the rest of us in the barracks or have you in your own room for now, but you can have this room until we figure it out.

They stopped in front of a door that looked into some simple living quarters. There was a small dresser in the corner and a bed with a small nightstand.

“You may rest here. We usually eat at five in the mess hall we passed on the way here. I hear tonight is Spaghetti-O’s night.”

Brainy took his leave and Lena sat down on the bed. After a night of sleeping on the hard ground where a sleeping bag did little to cushion her back, having an actual mattress would feel heavenly. She laid her head down on the pillow and fell asleep almost instantly. The sound of a bell ringing woke her up and she nearly fell onto the ground. She checked her watch and stumbled out of her room, making her way to the mess hall. Brainy and two other people were mulling around. Alex was sitting at one of the tables, but Kara was nowhere to be found.

“Lena!” Brainy greeted her. “As the newest member of our clan, you get first pick of beverage.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Brainy.”

Brainy cleared his throat. “Very well. As our guest, you may pick. We have water, this can of Pepsi cola of unknown age and origin, or I can make tea from some herbs I gathered.”

“Tea sounds wonderful,” replied Lena and Brainy left to go get it started. She sat down at a table away from the rest of the group, watching everyone. There was a tall, Black man laughing with a shorter woman with brown hair. Alex was still glowering off in the corner. Soon, Brainy came back with a hot mug in his hands and set in front of her. She warmed her hands around it and took a sip, trying not to pay attention to Brainy, who hadn’t taken his eyes off of her.

“Lex is your brother,” he said, confirming what he said when she first arrived.

“Unfortunately,” replied Lena. “He has one of his men take me out to the Road of Desecration and probably would have died if it hadn’t been for Kara. Is she okay? She hasn’t been around.”

Brainy took a sip of his own tea. “I believe she has retired to her quarters for the night. She should be out come sunrise.”

Lena nodded and continued sipping on her tea. The herbal notes in it calmed her down and the others sat down in front of her, putting a plate of canned food in front of her.

“Sorry, if I knew we were having company, I would have cooked the mac and cheese,” the man said. “I’m James and this is Lucy.”

The woman waved at her and they all started eating. Alex left the room with two plates of her own and Lena’s eyes tracked her movements.

“Probably taking food to Kara,” Lucy assumed aloud.

Lena ate quietly and after everyone cleaned up, they retreated to the showers and barracks, but Lena didn’t go to her room, not right away. She walked down the dark hallway where she saw Alex take Kara and pressed her ear to each door. When nothing but silence came through, she almost gave up and turned around until she smelled something odd in the air.

When she pressed her ear to the door again, she could hear low whispers and then something shattering. The door swung open and Alex was in her face, eyes wide and expression undistinguishable.

“Lena, get out of here.”

“What’s going on? Is Kara okay?” She could hear a growl coming from inside of the room.

“She’ll be fine, but you need to go,” Alex warned again. Lena backed away from the door and started walking down the hallway again, glancing behind her shoulder. The door slammed shut and she made her way to her room. She realized she must stink after being out in the dirt and dust for a day and a half, but she was bone tired and just wanted to sleep for a week.

She sat at the edge of her bed and removed her shoes, climbing underneath the sheets. Her thoughts drifted back to Kara again, which confused her. She barely knew this woman, but something didn’t feel right. For her to disappear like that all night was odd. Her investigation would have to wait until morning when Alex wasn’t standing guard.


After a night of broken sleep, Lena woke up in her cold, concrete-lined room. She got out of bed and put her shoes on, looking out her room and trying to listen to see if anyone else was awake. She heard some noise coming from the mess hall, so she made her way there. Through a large window, Lena could see that Alex was standing at one of the counters in the kitchen, mixing some ingredients inside a glass cup. Alex turned her head when she heard footsteps and her brow furrowed when she saw it was her.

“Hot water on the stove,” Alex said curtly, pointing haphazardly in the general direction of the stove.

Lena walked inside the kitchen and grabbed her mug from the night before and poured some water into it.

“How is it that you all seemingly have an abundance of water?” she asked.

“This place has a pump out back. Guess it wasn’t on your brother’s radar.”

Lena leaned back on a counter while she sipped from her mug. She knew that couldn’t be true, because Lex sent his people to scour the entire East Coast looking for water and there was no way he would have missed a place like this. “What are you making?”

“Something for Kara,” Alex replied, adding what looked like dried herbs to the glass.

“Is she okay? Is she sick? I was a scientist before everything went to shit. Maybe I can help,” Lena offered.

Alex slammed her stirring spoon down on the table. “Look, Lena, I know all of this must be new and confusing for you, but the fewer questions you ask, the better it will be for you. Trust me. Kara is fine, she’s just in her rut.”

Lena raised her eyebrow. She didn’t even think about having ruts and heats, because while she was still living in LuthorCorp, they still had suppressants that they could take. After the blast and after normal everyday things began to become scarce, the rich still had excess to things others didn’t.

“Is that a suppressant?”

“If you can call it that, yeah. Kind of a poor excuse for one, but at least it keeps her dick from catching on fire.”

Lena wrinkled her nose. “How did you come up with it?”

Alex scoffed. “You’re not the only science nerd here. Anyway, I should get this to her. Showers are across the hall from your room. Soap and towels should all be there.”

Lena finished drinking her water and washed her mug before walking to the communal showers. There were stalls lined up on each row, so at least she’d get a modicum of privacy. She looked through the unlabeled lockers and found a plain shirt and some pants, probably from the workers who were there before and turned on the water. She disrobed and threw her dirty clothes in a pile on the floor and stepped underneath the water. The stall began to steam and the hot water felt amazing on her skin. She washed off the dirt and grime, shampooing her hair and when she was done, she toweled herself off and got dressed again.

By the time she was finished showering, everyone else was up and awake, getting breakfast ready in the mess hall and she sat down at one of the tables. Brainy sat down across from her.

“How did you sleep?”

“Honestly? Terribly, but better than when I slept on the hard floor the night before.”

“You become accustomed to it,” he said. “I have been meaning to ask, since Kara has been indisposed and Alex does not enjoy answering my questions, but why did you leave? I would imagine the lifestyle you had at LuthorCorp was one that is much more appealing than one out here.”

“My brother is a tyrant,” Lena sighed. “When you put a monetary value on everything, especially things that are necessary for life, you become someone who wants to control everything. He basically wants to control all of North America by limiting who gets which resource. When I tried to even the playing field and give some things out to the less fortunate, he exiled me.”

Brainy pondered for a moment, holding his steepled fingers up to his mouth. “So, he kicked you out and left you for dead, because you were trying to do the right thing?”

“That’s right.”

“I don’t think I like your brother.”

Lena laughed. “That makes two of us.”

Lucy came by with some military ration bags and handed out a couple to the both of them. Lena got peanut butter and jelly, while Brainy got Salisbury steak, which he wrinkled his nose at.

“It smells like a fungus,” he complained.

“Oh, eat your breakfast,” Lucy admonished, smacking him on the shoulder. After they all ate, they cleaned up. Everyone started gathering up their gear, looking like they were going to go outside.

“We’re going to go scavenge, but you should stay here,” Alex said.

“What about Kara?” replied Lena.

“She’ll be fine for now, but please do not go into her room. We should be back by sundown.”

She watched as they all slung their weapons and backpacks over their shoulders, leaving Lena alone in the cold entryway. It took her all of five minutes before she was pressing her ear up to Kara’s bedroom door. She could hear groaning, like Kara was in pain.

“Kara?” she called out gently. “It’s Lena.” She cracked the door open and a musky stench rushed out the door and caused Lena to cough and choke. Kara’s pheromones mixed with her scent were incredibly strong. Lena covered her nose and mouth with the collar of her shirt and cautiously walked into the room. It was dark with only a small desk lamp lighting her way. She could see Kara huddled in the back of the room, but she looked to be in some sort of cage.

Kara slowly turned her head, her hair unkempt and face caked with dirt. Her clothes had been shredded, like she was trying to tear it away from her skin. “Lena? You-you can’t be in here.”

“What’s happening? Maybe I can help.”

Kara snapped her head to the side and took a deep breath. A low growl rumbled in her chest and her hands gripped the bars in front of her. “You smell good,” she said. “Come closer.”

Lena stayed where she was, gauging Kara’s movements. Her eyes were bloodshot and were staring at her intensely. When she still didn’t move, Kara slammed her hands into the bars.

“Come here!” She began squeezing the bars and her muscles strained as the metal began to bend slightly, but a green light lit up the entire room and there was a buzzing sound before Kara recoiled backwards and bent over in pain. She roared loudly and Lena ran out of the room, running to her own room and slamming the door behind her. She sat in the far corner and brought her knees up to her chest, breathing heavily to the point of near hyperventilation. She’d never seen an alpha that strong before, never seen someone who could bend steel. She’d fucked up and she knew it. If Alex came back to see Kara in her current state, flustered and in pain, she’d know Lena had something to do with it. She started packing up her meager belongings, readying herself to be cast out once everyone returned.

She didn’t leave her room all day, remained huddled in the corner out of fear. Hours later, she heard the door to the building creak open and there were voices. It wasn’t long before there was a knock on her door and she quietly told whoever it was to come in. Alex opened the door slowly and sighed when she saw Lena sitting down in the dark. She walked up to her and knelt beside her.

“You went into her room,” she said. When Lena nodded, lip quivering, Alex surprised her by putting a calming hand on her arm. “Kara’s not like other alphas. I was trying to protect you. She says she’s sorry for scaring you, by the way. We haven’t brought in an unmated omega into the group before, so she doesn’t know how to control herself. James and Lucy are mated and Brainy’s a beta. She didn’t hurt you, did she?”

Lena shook her head. “No. What was that green light? It looked like it burned her. And why is she in a cage?”

“It’s a safety measure,” Alex replied vaguely, “keeps her from tearing the place apart during her ruts. Don’t worry about her, she’ll be fine.”

“I’m sorry for not listening. Will you apologize for Kara for me?”

Alex smiled a little. “Her rut’s almost over, you can apologize yourself. She should be back to normal by tomorrow. Anyway, I’m starving. Come check out our haul.” Alex stood up and offered a hand for Lena to take, pulling her up to her feet. When they got to the mess hall, James and Lucy were throwing around something round while Brainy was admonishing them for being reckless with their sustenance.

“Hello, Lena. Look what we found,” Brainy said excitedly. They had spread everything across the tables. There were a couple new weapons and a couple bottles of medicine, but one thing stood out to Lena. She walked over and picked up a leather-bound book. She flipped through the first few pages and Brainy walked up beside her.

“You can read this language?” he inquired.

Lena nodded. “My mother made me take different foreign languages when I was a child, originally so that it would make me a better pawn in their company schemes, but I thought it had become useless knowledge.”

“What does it say?” Lucy asked.

“It seems to be some kind of journal or instruction manual. It describes how to do basic farming and survival, water conservation.”

“That could come in handy,” James added.

“All right, everyone. Chow time,” Alex announced as she set down a plate of questionable meat.

When Lena stared at it, Brainy leaned over and whispered, “Don’t worry, it’s safe to eat. We found some squirrels on our scavenge.”

Lena gulped and took one of the skewers and took a timid bite. It wasn’t half bad if she didn’t think about it, but she was honestly too ravenous to care after being holed up in her room all day. Alex fixed up a plate for Kara and walked down to her room. Lena watched her go and felt something tug at her, making her want to follow.

Lucy slid up beside her and tapped on the table to get her attention. “You got a thing for Kara? Don’t get me wrong, I totally get it, she’s hot.”

“What? No, it’s nothing like that. I’ve just never seen someone like her before.”

Lucy made a noncommittal noise and raised a questioning eyebrow at her, but before she could reply, they saw Kara come out of her room with Alex and head straight for the showers.

“Christ, was that Kara?” James asked, plugging his nose.

“Yep,” replied Lucy. “That’s one hundred percent alpha funk.”

Lena didn’t take her eyes off of the door that Kara and Alex walked through. “So, Kara’s strong, right?”

“Her strength surpasses that of every alpha I have encountered,” Brainy answered.

“Yeah, definitely stronger than me, but she won’t talk about it,” James added. “All I have to say is that I’m glad she’s on our side.” About a half hour later, Kara and Alex emerged from the showers, Kara looking about a thousand times better, but she wouldn’t make eye contact with Lena. Brainy had brought out a deck of cards and was playing with Lucy and James while Lena had been observing, counting cards while she silently chastised James for asking for a hit, rather than standing. Her eyes kept drifting off to the table where Kara and Alex sat. They were talking to one another and Kara looked upset, but it seemed like Alex was trying to get her to join the others.

Lena stood up and walked over toward them nervously, her hands fidgeting in front of her. “Hey Alex, could I speak with Kara for a minute?” Kara’s eyes looked to Alex for help, but Alex ignored her and smiled at Lena.

“Sure. I’ll just go make sure everyone isn’t betting away all of their rations.”

Lena sat down across from Kara, who still refused to make eye contact with her. “Kara? Can you look at me, please?” Kara looked up at Lena, her face showed remorse even before Lena had said anything. Lena smiled gently. “I just wanted to apologize for earlier. I shouldn’t have gone into your room after Alex warned me. It was my fault you got hurt.”

“No, Lena,” Kara shook her head. “It’s my fault. I can’t control myself sometimes, which is why we had to build that holding cell.” She looked down at her palms and squeezed her hands tight. “I should have been more careful. I’m sorry for scaring you.”

Lena laughed lightly. “I guess we both just agree to forgive each other and hope it doesn’t happen again.”

“Guess so,” Kara replied, finally letting her lip curl up into a smile.

After the air around them started to feel less thick and awkward, Lena began to catch Kara up on everything that she missed. She told her about the book the others found and its contents. Kara asked to see it and Lena went to go fetch it from the table where everything else was still laid out. Handing the book to Kara, she watched as Kara read through it, furrowing her brow as she flipped through the pages.

“You can read it, too?” Lena asked.

Kara’s eyes shot up. “Oh, uh, no. I was looking at the pictures.” She showed Lena one of the pages that had a drawing of some plants on it. “You know, your brother outlawed books years ago. He said they would put too many ideas in our heads.”

Lena nodded. “I know. He also outlawed movies and music, dancing, pretty much anything that would give a person enjoyment. He’d say he wanted to be the sole source of everyone’s happiness, which, if you think about it, is pretty laughable, considering how miserable everyone is. Giving out an ounce of water a day makes him feel like Santa Claus, or God.” 

“How is it that you didn’t get corrupted? I mean, I know you aren’t him and you’re obviously a good person, but I would think that living in LuthorCorp, with all of the things you could have there, you’d want to do everything you could to stay.”

Lena shook her head. “I couldn’t keep watching him let people die just because he could. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”

“We’ll stop him,” replied Kara, as if it would be the easiest thing to do, like Lex didn’t have his own army. Lena wished she had the unwavering optimism that Kara had, seeing the good in everyone – in her.

Growing up, she assumed she would eventually become like her mother – self-preservation outweighing all else, only doing things for herself. It was what she learned, what she was taught. Her mother told her that in order to survive, she’d have to find an alpha that she could control, someone she could bend to her will in order to get things done. Up until now, she’d remained unmated, not presenting until well after the age she should have and when she’d presented as an omega, her mother had to improvise. Originally, she was going to sell Lena off to some rich CEO’s son, whoever it was that they needed a partnership with, but once the world imploded, Lena had no value. The Luthors remained the sole proprietors of the largest company in North America, which meant they had the money and the power to control everything, and they did. At first, they started with the banks, freezing accounts and threatening smaller companies until they agreed to sign over their titles and deeds to Lex with the promise that they’d be taken care of. In most cases, those promises were broken.

Next came the import/export businesses. Lex restricted exports in order to keep all their resources local. If there were things another country had that they needed, then they would strike a deal, but the only things they really need to import were weapons. When Lena noticed that most of their incoming shipments were things needed for war, that’s when she started to ask questions.

You can never be too prepared, Lex had told her. Maybe he was right. She put her hand in her pants pocket, feeling around for the one thing she was able to take with her when she left LuthorCorp for the last time. Her hand gripped around it tightly and she knew she had to wait until the right moment. She knew she had come across the right people; she just needed to be patient.