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Similar, But Not the Same

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Lena gathered her things in the L-Corp sub-basement as quickly as she could. She knew the Kryptonite barrier at the Fortress of Solitude wouldn’t hold Kara forever, and it was impairative that she rendevous with Hope at Mount Norquay as soon as possible. All she needed were a few things to help boost Myriad’s signal, to see that Non Nocere was successful–

“Lena!”

Lena spun around, her jaw clenching at the site of Kara standing just inside the sub-basement door. “How did you get in here,” Lena growled and she could see the emotion on Kara’s face, her eyes red with tears. When Kara hesitated, Lena went back to work, pushing items clumbsily and quickly into a black bag.

“Please, Lena,” Kara said, finally taking a few steps closer. “Please, just. Talk to me.”

“I have nothing more to say to you.”

Kara nodded, stung. “Then please, listen to me.”

“The arrogance,” Lena said through a tight smile. She put the last of the needed items into the bag and looked at Kara. “Your words are meaningless to me, so save your lies, your–”

“Please,” Kara interrupted. “I know that I’ve hurt you–” Lena scoffed but Kara persisted. “I know, I know that I made a mistake, that I hurt you and I want to try and make things better between us–”

“Us?” Lena spit. “There is no us, there never has been.”

“Lena, please.”

“No,” Lena snapped.

“If you use Myriad you’ll regret it, always.” Lena stared, her eyes filled with unshed tears. “Please, don’t do this.”

“You don’t even know that ‘this’ is!” Lena yelled, throwing her hands out in front of her.

Kara was about to speak, to plead, to beg, when the space just behind Lena sparked blue, and a swirling circle of energy started to expand. Kara’s eyes went wide, recognizing the danger as she identified the signature of energy as a portal manifesting. She used her superspeed to race to Lena’s side, and she wrapped her arms around the other woman just before the portal collapsed in a flash of light and swallowed them whole.

The effect was instantaneous. One second they were in a subfloor at L-Corp and then then next…

“Get off me,” Lena said, but Kara made no motion to move. Lena’s voice turned emotional, desperate, as Kara continued to hold her and she pushed against Kara more violently. “Let me go!” Lena shoved and it was like pushing off of a wall; Kara dropped her arms and Lena was propelled away, her arms dropping to her side as she stumbled to a stop on the polished concrete floor. Kara’s hand flew up, almost to grab at Lena again to steady her, to keep her close, but Kara dropped her hand when Lena gave her a wild look.

“Lena,” Kara whispered, worried, her eyes wide as she looked to Lena and then around at the large, half-lit room they were in.

Lena put her hand to her forehead and took a deep breath; she collected herself and stood tall, looking around the room quickly before meeting Kara’s eye.

“Lena, did you do this?” Kara asked urgently, her voice still quiet, and Lena’s smile looked like a snarl.

“Of course you’d think I did this.”

“No–” Kara started, her voice apologetic.

“I’m the villian in your mind, responsible for–”

“No,” Kara said more strongly, her voice still quiet, her eyes wide. “The last time I saw you, in the Fortress you, you walked through a portal, I was just asking.” She stopped and snapped her head to look at a door in the corner. Lena went alert as she saw Kara’s tense profile. Lena looked around again, her brow knitting as she realized she didn’t recognize where they were.

“Where are we?” Lena asked.

“L-Corp,” Kara said quietly and Lena laughed.

“This isn’t…” Her voice trailed off as she saw the logo on the wall. She started to walk toward it, her brow still furrowed as she realized this logo was slightly different than the one on the walls she was more familiar with, and she only stilled her movements when Kara held out her hand and stopped her.

“Someone’s coming,” Kara said, voice strained with caution. Lena looked from Kara to the door. Before they could speak again, they were surrounded by the same translucent, unbreakable material that Kal-El used to quarentine intruders in the Fortress. Kara reached out with her hand and pulled Lena to her, tucking Lena behind her defensively. Lena let it happen, her eyes wide as her body went flush with Kara’s, and she wondered briefly if Kara could feel her heart beating wildly in anticipation of whatever was about to walk through the only door in the room.

The door opened and both Kara and Lena’s jaws dropped in shock. Kara’s doppelganger strode into the room, a version of Kara sans bangs wearing a supersuit neither woman recognized.

“Who are you?” Kara-2 ordered, and Lena felt Kara stiffen in front of her.

“Who are you?” Kara retorted defiantly and Lena rolled her eyes, catching as she finished that both Karas had the same stubborn, confused set to their face.

“I’m Kara Zor-El,” Kara’s double replied. “Champion of Earth.”

Kara’s brow furrowed. “I’m Kara Zor-El, Champion of Earth.” There was a tense standoff as the two superheroes processed the information, before Kara worked her jaw and spoke. “Which Earth is this?” Kara-2 looked momentarily surprised, as if Kara’s words confirmed something she’d long suspected to be true.

“What was that?” Lena asked, stepping around Kara, Kara murmuring her disapproval but letting her go. Lena nodded at Kara’s double. “What was that look?”

“Uh,” Kara-2 hemmed, her brow quirking. The door behind her opened and Kara and Lena’s jaws dropped again as a version of Lena walked into the room. Lena-2 tapped her watch, and the impenetrable barrier disappeared. Kara-2 made a disapproving noise at the action. She took in an exasperated breath and moved to stand protectively near Lena-2.

“We suspected the multiverse was real after an event a few years ago,” Lena-2 said, looking between Kara and Lena. “But, we didn’t have any concrete proof. You being here and asking that question seems to confirm that the multiverse exists.”

“What event?” Kara asked.

“A man in a red suit appeared in our world and then disappeared through a blue portal before I could catch up to him,” Kara-2 said.

“A man in a red suit,” Lena said, her voice heavy with skepticsm.

“We called him The Dart because he was so fast,” Lena-2 said with a tilt of her head.

Kara pressed her lips together and the knowing look on her face triggered a memory for Lena. “The Blur,” Lena said. Their doubles looked to Lena so she kept talking. “A super fast man in a red suit came to National City years ago; Cat Grant called him The Blur.” She looked pointedly at Kara.

“Cat Grant!” Kara-2 said excitedly, her enthusiasm catching the other three off guard. “Is she president in your world, too?”

“No,” Lena answered, her face showing how absurd she thought the situation was.

“The Flash,” Kara said. She looked to Lena before looking back to their doubles. “His name is Barry Allen, but he goes by The Flash; he’s a friend, a meta-human from Earth-1. A few years ago he was stuck, bouncing between Earths in the multiverse. I helped him get home.”

“Earth-1…” Lena-2 said.

“How many Earths are there?” Kara-2 asked.

“We’re from Earth-38,” Kara said. She could feel Lena staring at her in shock. “But, there are more than that.”

Lena-2’s brow furrowed as her gaze zeroed in on Lena. “You didn’t know,” she said. Lena looked away and tilted her chin up, not answering. Lena-2 looked between Lena and Kara. “What’s your relationship to each other?”

“That’s complicated,” Kara said quietly and Lena sneered.

“It’s really not,” Lena said. “She’s Earth’s hero and I’m apparently its next villian.”

“Lena,” Kara drew out, briefly closing her eyes, and Kara-2 and Lena-2 shared a look, each noticing the tension between the visitors.

“Lovers quarrel?” Kara-2 asked tentatively, and Lena's returning stare cut harshly. Lena-2 briefly looked to Kara-2 before stepping forward.

“How did you get here?” Lena-2 asked.

“A portal,” Kara said. “But, I don’t know what caused it. We were…” She looked to Lena and then back to their doubles. “We were at L-Corp and the portal opened and just, swallowed us. Usually when there’s a portal between Earths someone from Barry’s team on Earth-1 has initiated it.”

“Maybe they did and it brought you here by mistake,” Kara-2 offered and Kara frowned.

“Maybe…” Kara replied uneasily.

“How does the multiverse work?” Lena-2 asked.

“And more importantly, how do we get back?” Lena demanded, her face tight and eyes wide.

Everyone looked to Kara. “I…” She paused. “Well, the multiverse works like…” She sighed, frustrated. “How did Barry explain it the first time,” she muttered to herself. “OK.” She took a quick breath. “All Earths occupy the same space, but vibrate on a different frequency. You can move between worlds by attuning to the different Earth’s frequency and creating a breach to pass through the barrier.”

“A portal,” Kara-2 said and Kara nodded.

“As for getting back?” Kara said, wincing. “On Earth-1, Barry’s friend, Cisco, gave me a device that I could use to move between worlds called an interdimension extrapolator,” Kara said. “I don’t have it here, obviously, but I think with help I can remake a version that could get us home.” Kara took a deep breath. “On our Earth, Lena created a transmatter portal that I think we could adapt.”

Lena’s brow deeply knit. “A transmatter portal that moved matter between points within our universe, not between worlds in a multiverse.”

Kara took another deep breath. “After Cisco gave me the device to move between worlds, I gave it to Winn to analyze.”

“Winn Schott?” Kara-2 asked, her face unreadable.

Kara nodded. “And after he was done doing his sciency tech things, he showed me his findings. I think if Lena can recreate a small transmat portal we can set it so it can return us to our world using a combination of Cisco and Winn’s work.”

Lena scoffed as she looked to Kara. “Like hell I’m working with you. Either of you,” she said, gesturing between the two Karas.

Kara’s lips thinned. “Lena–”

“You accuse me of being the one who brought us here and then–”

“I didn’t accuse–”

“And you have the audacity to–”

“Lena, I’m just trying to–”

“You’ll work with me then,” Lena-2 interrupted coolly, her loud, clear voice stopping Kara and Lena mid-argument. Lena looked to her double, and after a long moment, reluctantly nodded. Lena-2 looked to Kara-2. “Why don’t you and other you temporarily take the lab on sub-basement floor 3; I’ll take the one down the hall.”

“OK,” Kara-2 said with a nod. “Ready?” she asked Kara.

Kara looked to Lena, then back to their doubles. “Can we have a few minutes to talk? Alone.”

“Of course,” Kara-2 said immediately.

Kara gave the other Kara a wary look. “I know you’ll be able to listen–”

“I won’t,” Kara-2 interrupted and Kara nodded.

“Are you OK with that?” Lena-2 asked Lena, and Lena nodded, her chin titled high. Lena-2 looked between the two visitors before addressing Kara. “We’ll be outside just down the hall.” Kara-2 and Lena-2 left, Kara watching them warily as they did. Once the door was closed, Kara took a deep breath and turned to Lena.

“Are you OK with this?” Kara asked, her voice a near whisper.

“Which part? Travelling through the multiverse to another Earth or seeing another version of myself?” Lena asked, her voice strained.

Kara’s frown was heavy. “Splitting up.”

Lena slowly exhaled. “Barry?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“He’s a meta-human from Earth-1,” Kara said. “He was struck by lightening at the same time a partical accellirator exploded, and it gave him powers. He ended up on our Earth accidentally and I helped him home. He’s really, really fast–”

“Faster than you?”

Kara snorted. “No.” When Lena frowned, Kara turned serious. “His world has had some problems, and sometimes I go there to help–”

“You’ve travelled to another Earth before?” Lena interrupted, her look severe.

“Yes.”

Lena looked shaken. “How many times?”

“Pretty much every year since I first met Barry,” Kara said weakly and Lena’s lips thinned, her look disapproving. “It’s safe.”

Lena cocked her head. “I wasn’t worried about your safety,” Lena replied, looking at Kara as if she were crazy.

“Oh.”

Lena tightened her jaw. “I’m just trying to figure out in the timeline of my life when these omissions of heroism occurred. Let me guess? One of them was when you were on sabbatical from CatCo last year.”

“I was on Argo during my sabbatical.”

Lena smirked. “Of course, space travel, not multiverse travel…”

Kara sighed. “I don’t like the idea of us splitting up.”

“And I don’t like the idea of spending a single second more with you than necessary,” Lena said with a cutting stare.

Kara absorbed the blow with a gentle nod. “Lena, we don’t know anything about these people, or this Earth–”

“We’re at L-Corp and it’s another me; how bad can it be?” Lena arched an eyebrow. She started to walk toward the door, and Kara stopped her, wrapping a hand around her arm. Lena glared at Kara. “Let go of me,” she growled.

Kara let go but stayed close. “I’ve seen another me on another Earth before; it was bad, Lena.”

Lena considered Kara’s words and then nodded. “I’ll take my chances.” She moved to the door and opened it. Their doubles were standing a little ways down the hallway as promised.

“We’re ready,” Lena said as she exited the room. She strode to Lena-2’s side, and after a brief look to Kara-2, Lena-2 led her guest down an adjoining hallway. The two Karas met each other’s eye, sizing each other up.

“Ready?” Kara-2 asked, and Kara simply nodded in reply. They fell in next to each other and went through a door to a set of stairs. Kara-2 looked at Kara with curiousity as they started to descend. “So bangs and pants, huh?”

Kara’s brow crinkled and she fought the urge to bring her hand up and brush her hair self-consciously from her forehead. She followed Kara-2 as she pushed through the stairwell door and lead them to a research lab.

Kara watched as Kara-2 walked into the lab and booted up a large set of computers and a bank of monitors. Kara looked around, not quite sure what she should do. She watched as Kara-2 settled in next to a standing desk and started typing. Kara-2 was clearly comfortable in the space and the sight of it made Kara unexpectedly uneasy. “So do you work at L-Corp?”

Kara-2 bounced her head side to side as she considered her answer. “Mmm, kind of. I’m here a lot.”

Kara nodded as she looked around. She glanced at Kara-2 and took a deep breath, bracing herself to ask the delicate question. “How long have you been on Earth?”

Kara-2 answered carefully. “I arrived when I was 12.”

“Me too,” Kara said, watching her double’s profile. “Uh, I was sent here, by my parents… Because Krypton died.”

Kara-2 rested her hands on the surface of the standing desk and nodded. “I was hoping that was different in your world. That maybe you were an ambassador of some sort.”

“Me too,” Kara said softly. “It actually looks like things are pretty similar, our Earths.” She paused briefly and they made eye contact. “Did you spend time in the Phantom Zone?”

“Yes,” Kara-2 said. “24 years.”

“Me too,” Kara said. “Kal-El found me when I landed on Earth. He was a man–”

“Superman,” Kara-2 interjected and Kara nodded, her lips pressed tightly together.

“He took me to a family, the Danvers. They raised me.” Kara-2’s brow quirked. Kara noticed the look and her own brow quirked in response. “Do you not know the Danvers?”

“No, I do, they’re my Earth family,” Kara-2 replied. “But.” She paused, obviously collecting her thoughts. “I spent my first year on Earth with Kal-El in Metropolis. It wasn’t until things started to go badly with Lena’s brother, Lex, that Kal-El hid me with the Danvers.” Kara nodded, the news making her solemn. Kara-2 noticed. “Similar, but not the same?”

“Similar but not the same,” Kara answered. “Alex Danvers–”

“Works for L-Corp, as a scientist,” Kara-2 said. “She’s not here now, though, she’s in Metropolis on sabbatical.”

Kara nodded. “Alex works for an organization called the DEO on our Earth.”

Kara-2’s lips thinned. “I know the DEO.”

“Not friends?”

“No,” Kara-2 said. There was a long pause. “How many other Karas have you met?” Kara-2 asked, getting back to typing into the terminal.

“One,” Kara said. “She was, she was not great.”

“Not great?” Kara-2 asked as she continued to type.

“Evil,” Kara clarified.

Kara-2 stopped what she was doing and looked to Kara. “Did you stop her?”

“Yup,” Kara said, and she knew Kara-2 saw her answer for what it was: A warning that if the doubles of this Earth were also evil, Kara would stop them, too.

Kara-2 offered a kind smile. “Good.” She turned back to her computer terminal and typed. “This will take a little bit. Lena has a lot of stuff about portals but I don’t think she has it all organized in one place.”

“Take your time,” Kara said. She took a moment to look around the room. It looked very similar to the L-Corp sub-basements she’d been in on her Earth, with one exception that she zeroed in on quickly as her gaze returned to Kara-2. “Is that Kryptonian?” Kara asked, noticing the glass keyboard in front of Kara-2 was showing familiar symbols from her childhood.

“Yeah,” Kara-2 replied, Kara moving to stand slightly closer. “I find that it’s easier, sometimes, to explain my thoughts in Kryptonian.”

Kara swallowed around the thickness in her throat. “A Kryptonian keyboard at L-Corp…”

Kara-2 momentarily slowed her work and then picked back up. “You don’t work with L-Corp on your Earth?”

“No, not exactly,” Kara said, shaking her head. She looked around to pick up even more details. “Lena runs L-Corp, is its CEO, but I do my Supergirl work with the DEO.”

The news caused Kara-2 to slightly stiffen. “Supergirl?”

“That’s what my superhero identity is,” Kara answered, holding her hands at her side to show off her suit. “Cat Grant named me.”

Kara-2 sniffed. “Figures.”

“Do you have a superhero name?”

“Superwoman.”

Kara pulled a face. “Ugh, that’s the name I wanted.”

“So change it,” Kara-2 said, amused.

“No,” Kara semi-whined. “Too much time has passed.”

Kara-2 chuckled, her smile eventually fading. “Do you only work at the DEO?”

“No, uh, I’m a reporter at CatCo Magazine.” Kara-2 looked to her. “Cat Grant used to be my boss, but she’s now the president’s press secretary.”

“I’m a reporter,” Kara-2 said. “For the National City Tribune.”

“Really?” Kara asked, her voice interested. “I just won a Pulitzer,” she blurted and Kara-2 laughed.

“I don’t know what that is, but it sounds impressive so congratulations.” Kara blushed at Kara-2’s compliment. “My cousin is a reporter in Metropolis.”

“Same.”

“He’s married to an amazing reporter–”

“Lois Lane.”

Kara-2 smiled brightly. “I became a reporter because of Lois.”

“Really?” Kara asked.

Kara-2 nodded. “I’ve looked up to her since I landed on Earth.” Kara’s face turned guarded and Kara-2’s smile receeded. “Please don’t tell me Lois is evil in your world.”

“No, she’s not,” Kara replied. “She just, she wasn’t that, for me. I didn’t actually know her very well until recently, so…”

“Oh.”

“It’s funny, I sort of became a reporter because Lena suggested it, so…” Kara frowned, as if that was the first time she’d realized that fact. She caught Kara-2 staring at her; Kara-2 quickly looked back to her work.

She cleared her throat. “Is everything OK with you and your Lena?”

Kara opened her mouth to explain, and then smiled, embarrassed. “No. She, she pretty much hates me.”

Kara-2’s posture deflated. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s my fault,” Kara said with a resolute head nod. “She was my best friend, and I, lied to her about who I was and I violated her trust. She has every right to be upset with me.” Kara-2 just stared at her and Kara smiled awkwardly. “You and your Lena get along,” she said to change the subject. “I mean, you work together.”

“Yeah,” Kara-2 said, her brow quirking as she looked back to the keyboard she was working on. Kara nodded and looked around before looking back to Kara-2. Her hair was similar to how Kara had always worn it; long and with curls. Her double’s supersuit had a wide, gold belt and blue skirt that matched her blue top, and she wore a simple gold band around her left wrist.

Kara’s brow quirked and she did a double take between the jewelry and Kara-2’s profile. “I like your bracelet.”

“Thank you,” Kara-2 replied. There was a loaded silence. “I have a mate, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“You do,” Kara replied with surprise. She recovered with a weak smile. “Is he nice?”

Kara-2 thought about her answer. “She is.”

It took Kara several attempts for her open mouth to make a sound. “Oh.”

Kara-2 looked critically at Kara. “Does your universe not have relationships like–”

“No, we do,” Kara said, blushing fiercely as she nodded quickly. “My sister, Alex, is gay.”

Kara-2 smiled. “She is here, as well.”

“She’s in a relationship on our Earth with James Olsen’s sister, Kelly.”

Kara-2’s eyebrows rose. “James– Jimmy, Olsen, from Metropolis?”

“Yeah,” Kara laughed.

“Huh.” Kara-2 caught Kara’s appraising gaze. “My Alex is married to a woman named Samantha.”

“Arias?” Kara asked, her brow furrowing.

“Danvers, now,” Kara-2 said. “But yes. Lena introduced them a few years ago and one thing led to another…”

“Huh,” Kara said. All thought about her double being married to a woman took a back seat to the thought of Alex being married to Sam. Sam—who on her Earth—was a soccer mom until she wasn’t… “Have you ever fought a person named Reign?” Kara asked carefully, her eyes trained on Kara-2 for her reply.

“No,” Kara-2 answered casually. “Bad guy?”

Kara took a deep breath. “Yeah…”

Kara-2’s face quirked in amusement as she looked to Kara. “Why did talking about Alex make you think about a bad guy?”

“No reason,” Kara said with a smile, tucking her unease with the situation away to analyze at a later time.

Kara-2 nodded. She waited for a moment before speaking. “I take it from your surprise about my mate being a woman that you’re not…”

“Uh, no,” Kara said, her cheeks flushing. “I mean, I haven’t…”

“Thought about it or acted on it?”

Kara again just looked like a deer caught in headlights.

Kara-2 nodded. She turned and typed into the computer. A device in her pocket beeped and she pulled it free, glanced at it, a smile pulling to her lips before she pocketed it and returned to her computer work. “What’s that?” Kara asked with curiousity, her cheeks still burning hot from the earlier conversation.

“A communicator,” Kara-2 replied. “It’s a way for people in our world to keep in touch when apart. Lena was just messaging me about a file that she thought might be relevant that she’d stored in a little used server.”

“Ah,” Kara said. “We have those, too—communicators, phones.”

Kara-2 smiled and went back to work. “What about your Lena?” Kara-2 asked, her voice curious yet restrained.

“My Lena?” Kara asked, confused.

“…Is she with anyone?”

“No,” Kara said, her brow quirking. “Not that I know of. She used to date James.”

“Jimmy Olsen?” Kara-2 asked, her brow deeply furrowed. When Kara nodded, Kara-2 did a double-take. “Interesting…”

“Is she with someone here?” Kara asked to make conversation and Kara-2 smiled.

“She is.”

“Is she happy?” Kara asked, and she knew how hopeful her voice sounded.

Kara-2 met her eye. “She is.”

Kara exhaled, relieved.

Kara-2 cleared her voice and thumbed to the computer screen. “This is every thing we have about the multiverse.”

Kara stepped forward, her face turning serious as she took in the information. “It’s a good place to start. Let’s get to work.”

***************************

“This is everything we have about the multiverse,” Lena-2 said, stepping away from the terminal so Lena could step forward and review the information. They’d barely said a word to each other since arriving in the lab, Lena content to sit on a stool and stare at her hands while stealing the odd look at her more casually-attired double while she worked.

Lena made her way to Lena-2’s side and took in the information arranged on the large glass displays before her. “You analyzed the previous portal,” Lena observed.

Lena-2 bobbed her head to the side. “As best I could. It was almost gone before our instruments picked anything up. What you see here is everything I have on it, as well as simulations I’ve run with the data.”

Lena hummed in reply, her head still and eyes darting as she read though the information.

“So you’ve created a transmatter portal,” Lena-2 said. Lena met her eye and Lena-2 smiled. “Impressive. I’ve been working on one for a while, but it’s not quite there yet.”

“Well, I had help,” Lena said, grudgingly, her gaze returning to the display.

“Kara?” Lena-2 asked and Lena threw her a confused, suspicious look.

“No, actually,” Lena said. “A different alien.”

Lena-2 hummed. She watched as Lena returned her focus to the display. After a prolonged stretch of silence, Lena-2 spoke. “What’s the real story with you and Kara?”

“Who says there’s a story?” Lena answered coolly.

Lena-2 smirked. “You described her as a hero and you a villian. There’s a story.”

Lena’s lips thinned. “We were friends. Now we’re not.”

Lena-2’s lips pursed in a small smile, impressed with the berevity of Lena’s explanation. “And now you hate her.”

Lena’s jaw tighened. “You and the Kara of this Earth get along well.” She looked to Lena-2 and cocked an eyebrow.

Lena-2 laughed. “We do.”

“Did she keep her identity from you, or have you always known she was a Kryptonian?”

Lena-2 considered Lena, finally piecing together what must have happened. “It was a secret, at first. She was Kara Danvers, mild-mannered reporter and a friend. It wasn’t until after our Earth was attacked by survivors of a planet that was destroyed when Krypton died, Daxam, that she told me her true identity.” Lena kept quiet, so Lena-2 kept talking. “We worked together to repel the Daxamites and once they were gone, she confided her secret.”

“We were attacked by the Daxamites.”

“They were looking for a lost prince on our world.”

“Mon-El.”

Lena-2 smiled slightly. “So you know him.”

Lena swallowed hard. “Not really.” She paused. “When the Daxamites attacked our Earth I modified a device that irradiated the atmosphere with lead. It killed the Daxamites, save Mon-El, who escaped Earth in Kara’s pod.”

Lena-2’s brow knit. “Escaped, to where?”

“A long story that I don’t know the half of,” Lena replied. She worked her jaw, remembering that time, and how it had felt when Kara had pulled away from her. “His leaving broke Kara’s heart.”

“Why?” Lena-2 asked innocently.

Lena looked to Lena-2, confused. “They were in love.”

“Kara and Mon-El?!” Lena-2 asked and Lena’s eyes widened slightly at the vehement response. Lena-2 shook her head. She cast a look at Lena before turning her attention back to her computer, her brow briefly quirking. “I’m beginning to think I might not want to know too much more about your Earth…”

Lena nodded in agreement. She looked around, her eyes picking up details about the equipment and decor that she hadn’t noticed before. She was unsettled to see the House of El crest on a small screen on a far corner. Lena looked over to find Lena-2 texting on a handheld device. Lena bristled. “What are you doing with that device?”

“I’m communicating with Kara, letting her know our progress as well as where where I think she should look for more information.” Lena’s lips thinned, and Lena-2 noted it. “Has anyone ever told you you’re paranoid?”

“For good reason, I assure you.”

Lena-2 tapped the communicator against her palm and appraised Lena for a moment. “You don’t like secrets.”

“No,” Lena said.

Lena-2 nodded. “Then I won’t lie to you.”

“Perfect.”

“I see you keep looking at my wedding ring,” Lena-2 said, tapping her ring with her thumb on her left hand.

Lena tried not to blush, called out about her earlier observations. “Can you blame me for being curious?”

“No,” Lena-2 said. “I’m married to Kara.”

It was as if the world had collapsed on top of Lena. “What?”

“The Kara in the other room working with the Kara from your Earth is my wife. We’ve been married for just over a year.”

Lena looked aghast.

Lena-2 tucked her chin to her chest and sighed. “I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to accuse me of hiding anything from you, and if you have any chance of getting home, you’ll eventually need Kara’s help—both of them, I suspect.” Lena didn’t say anything. “You and your Kara, you’ve never been romantically involved–”

“She’s not my Kara,” Lena choked out.

Lena-2 nodded. “And you never–”

“No,” Lena said her gaze laser-focused on Lena-2. It took her a long moment to compose herself. “Kara has never been anything more than a friend, and as I’ve discovered over the last few months, she wasn’t even that. My last romantic relationship was with James Olsen.”

“Jimmy–” Lena-2 cut herself off. “I definitely don’t think I want to know more about your Earth…” She typed a few keystrokes and then pointed to the screen. “This is a shared space with the two Karas. If you find anything that you want them to look at, put it there.”

Lena didn’t speak, her eyes flicking to the part of the display Lena-2 had pointed to before looking away.

Lena-2’s face softened as Lena’s silence stretched. “My Kara is brilliant, the only intellectual equal I’ve ever had aside from Lex.”

Lena flexed her jaw and looked to Lena-2 with a guarded, emotional look. “Lex has never been my equal,” Lena said in a low, dangerous voice and Lena-2 smiled slightly, impressed.

“I’m happy to hear that,” Lena-2 said. She waited a beat and then spoke. “I understand that you may not want to speak to the Kara from your Earth, but in order to help you, I’ll need to speak with mine.” She held up the communicator and after a brief look to it, Lena nooded in agreement and understanding.

Lena took in a measured breath and then looked back to the display. She took another deep breath and then got to work.

***************************

About two hours passed and the two Karas were making some progress, their shared memories of scientific advances on Krypton filling in some of the holes from the two Lenas initial observations about creating a portal device.

Kara was absorbed in the work when Kara-2’s communicator buzzed. She looked over to see Kara-2 frowning at the device in her hand, deep in thought.

“Everything OK?” Kara asked, genuinely concerned and Kara-2 looked up with a wince. She pocketed her communicator and gave Kara a long look, Kara-2’s lips pressed together. “What’s wrong?” Kara asked, straightening and giving Kara-2 her full attention.

“Lena…” Kara-2 exhaled heavily. “Lena, may have shared something with the Lena from your Earth that I had hoped to… not… share… about our lives.”

Kara’s brow fell and she started to look alarmed. “What does that mean.”

Kara-2 again pressed her lips together and shook her head before she met Kara’s eye. Kara-2’s face turned apologetic. “My mate?” she said, raising her arm to briefly show off her bracelet. “Is Lena.”

“What?” Kara asked, her face falling in confusion.

“I’m married to the Lena from this Earth. We got married a little over a year ago at the Fortress in a small ceremony with friends.”

“You’re married to Lena?” Kara asked, panic well and truly hitting her. She paced a little and then stopped, giving Kara-2 a baffled look. “You. Why didn’t you tell me when I was first asking about the bracelet?”

Kara-2 blushed and winced at the same time. “Because, you obviously care for your Lena, and her behavior towards you obviously hurts you—“

“And you were protecting me,” Kara finished, pulling a face at Kara-2’s sheepish look. Kara exhaled. “Well, at least I’m consistent across all Earths.”

“I’m sorry for keeping it from you.” Kara met Kara-2’s eye. “To be honest, I was hoping you’d figure out the portal quickly and it would just, never come up.”

Kara nodded, understanding.

Kara-2 was quiet. “You’ve never felt, that way, toward—“

“No,” Kara said quickly, her eyes on the floor and eyebrows arched to her hairline.

Kara-2 licked at her lips and nodded. “Well, now you know the truth. I’m sorry I kept it from you.”

“It’s OK,” Kara said, her mind spinning. Kara-2 offered a kind smile and went back to work, Kara following along after a moment spent calming her racing heart.

***************************

It was well into evening before Lena-2 rubbed the back of her neck, exhausted, and said, “I think it’s time for us to break for the night.” Lena looked up from her work, confused. “The 3D printer is going to need some time to manufacture the pieces you’ve designed and I’ll be useless to you if I don’t get some sleep soon.”

Lena sighed and reluctantly nodded, agreeing.

“We can put you up at The Baldwin–”

“Not The Baldwin,” Lena interrupted.

Lena-2 exhaled, not expecting the reaction. “OK, then… You can stay at our apartment.”

“Absolutely not,” Lena said with a terse laugh.

“Well then where do you propose you sleep?” Lena-2 asked, annoyed.

“Who said anything about sleep?” Lena asked. “I’ll stay here and work until you can return.”

Lena-2’s eyebrows rose and she cocked her head. “All nighters rarely benefit anyone.”

“I’m not just ‘anyone’.”

Lena-2 sighed, patiently. “Look, I appreciate your desire to see this through as quickly as possible, but everyone needs sleep or else errors are made. Even you.”

Lena’s jaw flexed. “Fine,” she said. “Then I’ll sleep at the nearest hotel.”

“That’s not going to be possible,” Lena-2 said and Lena frowned. Lena-2 spoke carefully. “I don’t know what it’s like on your Earth, but on ours we are periodically followed by the paparazzi, people who take our pictures and print them in the media. People who work for me often sell stories about us to the press. Because of that, Kara and I have cultivated relationships with people in National City to help protect our privacy; the manager of The Baldwin is one of those people.”

Lena-2 could see from the look on Lena’s face that she faced the same challenges on Earth-38.

“You look like me, you need to stay someplace where I would stay lest people talk,” Lena-2 said. “And, you need to stay there with your Earth’s Kara.” Lena’s lips thinned and Lena-2 continued before Lena could argue. “Kara and I have only just gotten our lives back after my mother’s second trial. I’m willing to help you while you’re here, but I’d prefer not to upend my life in the process. The last thing I need are tabloids saying my marriage is in trouble because I spent the night alone at the hotel closest to my office.”

Lena sighed. She nodded, her jaw still tight. “The Baldwin will be fine.”

“Thank you.” Lena-2 took out her communicator and started to type. “I don’t know what The Baldwin is like on your Earth, but here it’s the second best hotel I’ve stayed at in the country.”

Lena smiled and made a guess. “But nothing tops the Ritz in Star City.”

Lena-2 arched an eyebrow in delight. “I take it your Ritz has the toffee pudding, as well.”

“Best dessert on the planet.”

“Makes visits to Palmer Technologies all the more enjoyable.”

Lena frowned slightly. “I’m not familiar with a Palmer Technologies.”

Lena-2 tsked. “A shame. Their CEO, Ray Palmer, may be the sweetest man alive. He’s a good friend.” Lena swallowed hard at the mention of friends. “You’ll be staying in the Presidential Suite; I lived there for a couple of years when I was new to the city. Will that be a problem?”

“Not at all.”

“Great,” Lena-2 said. “Now let’s talk clothes.”

***************************

The door closed to the Presidential Suite at The Baldwin and Kara and Lena stood alone together for the first time since they’d split up to work that day. They looked around the space, silent, two suitcases of borrowed clothes from their doubles at their feet. The last time they’d been together in the Presidential Suite of The Baldwin, Supergirl was asking Lena and James if they were OK following an attack from Reign. Kara took a deep breath. “The decorations are a little different, here…”

Lena nodded, tired. “I’ll take the guest room.”

“Uh,” Kara looked mildly panicked. “Would it be OK if I took the guest room?” Her cheeks were flushed pink and Lena didn’t have to look at her too long to see how awkward the situation was. No doubt they were both thinking about sleeping in a bed that Lena had slept in with James.

“That’s fine,” Lena said.

Kara nodded. She looked to Lena and then away, the blush on her cheeks intensifying. “Do you want to talk about... It?”

“What?”

“Them,” Kara said, her face as red as Lena had ever seen it. “Being married.”

“No.”

“No?”

“No, I don’t want to talk about it,” Lena said, her voice strained. “I don’t want to talk about anything with you.”

Kara sighed. “Lena, I understand that you’re angry–”

“Angry?” Lena said, turning on Kara. “If you think this is anger than you are more obtuse than I thought.”

“I know you’re hurt–” Kara corrected and Lena scoffed. “But we’re stuck here, together. Can’t we just–”

“Let bygones be bygones?” Lena asked, arching a challenging eyebrow.

“No,” Kara said, shaking her head. “I would never– I was going to say be gentle with each other. At least, until we know for sure that we can get home.” Kara took in a deep breath. “And then, if you want to hate me when we get home…”

Lena sniffed and shook her head. “I don’t hate you,” she said, and she caught the hopeful look on Kara’s face. “I just wish I’d never met you.” She took the handle of her suitcase and started to pull it toward the master suite.

“Wait,” Kara said and Lena turned, her hand tightening on the suitcase’s handle.

“It’s been an incredibly long day, so if you don’t mind–”

“Did you know there’s an Alex in this world?” Kara interrupted. “She works for L-Corp. She’s married to Sam Arias.” Lena’s brow quirked. “The other me said Lena introduced them.”

Lena was silent, the full implications of Sam’s existence on this Earth sinking in. “Do they know about Reign?”

Kara shook her head. “I asked if she’d ever fought a Reign and Kara, the other Kara, said no.” Lena was silent for a moment, obviously working through the news. “Do we tell them?” Kara asked, and for the first time since they were on this Earth, Lena could see how stretched thin Kara was. She looked exhausted, stressed, and she gently clutched the edge of her cape as she shifted her weight. “Do we just, upend their lives if there’s no threat?”

“They deserve to know the truth,” Lena said slowly.

“But.” Kara stopped herself. “We don’t know if this Sam can become Reign.” Lena’s face fell in pity and Kara nodded her head, realizing how naive she sounded. “The thing that cured Sam was Harun-El.” She sighed, obviously feeling emotional as tears started to sting her eyes. “What if Argo City didn’t survive in this universe? What if this Earth doesn’t have the capability to go off-world?” She started to panic. “What if I tell this Kara there is a chance that her mother survived–”

“OK, OK,” Lena said, letting go of her suitcase and stepping toward Kara with her hands up in an attempt to calm her. Kara worked her jaw to try to rein her emotions in and Lena spoke in her calmest voice. “We’ll create a file, OK, with everything we know about Reign, and the witches, and we’ll put it on their servers. This Lena and Kara will be able to find out everything we know if they have an issue in the future.”

Kara nodded her head quickly, unable to speak through the emotion that closed her throat.

Lena pressed her lips together. “Do you know know the approximate location of Argo City in our universe?”

“Yes,” Kara said, clearing her throat.

Lena nodded. “The other Lena has a star database; I used it when I was trying to figure out if this Earth’s position was exact to our own. I can do a search and see if there’s anything out there in this universe.”

“Thank you,” Kara said and Lena nodded. Kara exhaled and rolled her shoulders, trying to let go of some of the emotion of the previous moment. “Alex, our Alex, must be so worried.”

Lena smirked and looked away. “Must be nice, to have people who care if you’ve been sucked through a portal to another Earth.”

Kara looked to Lena. “She’s probably worried about you, too.”

“Oh, I’m sure she is,” Lena said, her voice heavy with sarcasm as she made her way back to her suitcase.

“Alex is your friend.”

“I can say with certainty that she is not.”

“Of course she is,” Kara said, offended. “She cares about you.”

“If she cared about me she would have come to see if I was all right after you told me about your identity,” Lena said, wrapping her fingers around the suitcase handle. “Instead, crickets.”

Kara looked flustered. “She’s, she’s been distracted with Kelly, and–”

“Right,” Lena said with a disbelieving look. “Or, the more likely scenario is that I am her little sister’s ‘friend’ that she wouldn’t give the time of day to if she didn’t care about her sister’s feelings so much.”

“No,” Kara said with a headshake.

Lena smirked. “You can believe whatever you want to believe but I know the truth. If Alex cared she’d have checked to see if I was OK with what you’d told me. She never did, and that speaks volumes. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to bed.”

“Lena–”

“Good night, Kara,” Lena said as she disappeared into the master suite and closed the door behind her.

Kara licked at her lips and sighed, her hands going to her hips before dropping away. She reached for her own suitcase and wheeled it into the suite’s guest room.

***************************

Kara followed Lena like a puppy the next morning as they left the Presidential Suite in their borrowed clothes, Lena well-practiced in following The Baldwin’s protocol for helping famous guests escape prying eyes through a pre-planned exit route. They entered L-Corp in a similar fashion, leaving the privacy of the towncar’s tinted windows for a service elevator in the building’s lower garage that took them to the labs in the subbasement floors.

Kara and Lena were walking silently down the hallway at L-Corp on their way to meet their alternate selves when Kara perked up, her face blushing. She stammered and reached out, stopping Lena with her hand. “Wait, stop.”

“What?” Lena asked, looking pointedly at Kara’s hand on her arm. Kara dropped her hand and twisted her fingers in front of her.

“Uh.” Kara looked like she was struggling, her cheeks turning a deeper shade of red by the second. “They uh, they’re having a moment.”

Lena’s brow furrowed. She gave Kara a double take and then started walking toward the meet up lab, her pace brisk.

“Lena, wait–”

Lena opened the door and walked into the lab, stopping short when her eyes landed on Kara-2 and Lena-2 laughing, holding each other, Kara-2’s face pressing kisses between giggles into Lena-2’s jaw. Lena’s eyes went wide at the sight, at what she realized Kara was trying to protect her from seeing. She felt Kara stop behind her and she shifted awkwardly, clearing her throat.

Lena-2 and Kara-2 looked over, their laughs winding down. Lena-2 squeezed Kara-2’s arms and they pulled apart. “How did you sleep?” Lena-2 asked.

“Fine,” Lena asked, crossing her arms. “How did the 3D printing go?”

“Well. The pieces should be available for the build stage in an hour.”

Kara looked briefly to Lena and then to their other Earth selves. “Thank you, for sending up breakfast this morning.”

Lena-2 smiled. “It’s sent up automatically any time we stay there. The manager of The Baldwin knows Kara has an appetite.” Kara-2 laughed and they shared a look that made Kara and Lena both uncomfortable.

Lena looked to her feet before she looked back up. “When can we get started?”

“You can start with modeling anytime,” Lena-2 said. “And, we’re sorry to do this to you, but you’ll have to work alone today. Some things have come up that Kara and I need to attend to.”

“Trouble?” Kara asked, alert.

“Only of the day job variety,” Kara-2 assured with a smile.

“Lord Technologies released a knock off of some of L-Corp’s proprietary tech overnight, so I’m going to be swamped with meetings upstairs for the better part of the day.”

“And I’m on deadline for a story that has picked up steam unexpectedly,” Kara-2 said.

Lena-2 looked between the visitors. “Can you work together, or–”

“I’d prefer to work alone,” Lena interrupted.

Lena-2 nodded. “We have you in adjoining labs down the hall. Just makes it easier to keep things contained from people who might talk.”

“Understandable,” Lena said.

Lena-2 and Kara-2 shared a look. “We’ll get you to your labs and then check in later. You each have the communicators we gave you yesterday should anything come up, and lunch will be delivered promptly at noon.”

“Thank you,” Kara said. Kara and Lena followed their doubles to their respective labs and got to work.

***************************

The day was long and tedious, and by the time Lena-2 and Kara-2 returned to check up on their guests hours after dinner had been delivered to the lab, Lena and Kara were all the way done with their lack of progress. After a tense review of the days work, all four agreed to table the project until the following day. Lena and Kara both returned to The Baldwin without speaking, the driver of their towncar taking them smoothly through National City’s streets. Their trip up the elevator was similarly quiet, and once inside the Presidential Suite, Kara started to head toward her room, assuming the silence was Lena’s way of punishing her.

“Kara.”

Kara stopped short, surprised to hear her name. She turned to find Lena still in her heels just inside the door, her hands clasped before her. “I’m sorry, I thought…” Kara trailed off.

Lena took a deep breath. “I wanted you to know I found Argo City.”

“You did?” Kara asked, unable to hide the relief she felt at the news.

Lena nodded. “It was almost exactly where you thought it would be.” Kara smiled, tears in her eyes. Lena cleared her throat, her own voice a tinge emotional. “I couldn’t tell if there was any life…” She pressed her lips together. “But it is showing the radiation signature for Harun-El.”

Kara nodded, her lips pressed together, too emotional to speak.

“I ran a number of searches on the larger area to try to create noise in case they notice what I was doing and went looking for why.”

“Thank you,” Kara finally said, her voice breaking.

“You’re welcome.”

“I really appreciate you doing this for me–”

“I didn’t do this for you,” Lena said slowly, her brow falling and Kara’s mouth opened in shock. “Don’t be mistaken about what is happening here. I did what I did for the Lena and Kara of this Earth, to protect them in case this Sam turns into Reign.”

“Oh.”

“Don’t think we’re friends just because I did something that benefits you or because I exhibit behavior that you find acceptable.”

Kara reeled back. “That’s not what–” She watched, baffled, as Lena walked passed her. “Lena.” Lena disappeared into her room, the door closing behind her. Kara took a deep breath and exhaled heavily, distresssed by how she could have angered Lena with a thank you.

***************************

The next morning, Lena-2 and Kara-2 were waiting at L-Corp with their schedules cleared, ready to help. Lena and Lena-2 started to exit for their lab when Kara-2 stopped them. “Hey, uh, why split up?” All three looked to Kara-2 with confusion and she twisted her fingers, nervously. “I was just thinking,” she said, her eyebrows arched with optimism. “Yesterday you guys worked alone and didn’t get very far. Maybe,” she shot a look to Kara and Lena-2. “Maybe, we can work together today and see what we can accomplish. As a group.” She smiled, hopefully, and Lena-2’s face softened.

“No,” Lena said.

“Really?” Kara-2 asked, looking to Kara before looking back. “You had a whole day alone. I mean, surely we could all work together for a little–”

Lena held up her hand. “No offense, Supergirl–”

“Woman,” Kara gently interjected. Lena glared at her and Kara sputtered. “She goes by Superwoman.”

Lena exhaled, patiently, licked her lips and continued. “No offense, Superwoman, but I’d rather eat glass.”

Kara-2’s face fell again and Kara blushed, embarrassed. Lena-2 looked to both of them, their faces pitiful and she cleared her throat. “How about we split up, with the promise that if we find ourselves stuck for a prolonged period of time, we come together to collaborate.” She looked to Lena, who just shrugged her shoulders. Kara-2 nodded, her head hanging low, and Lena-2 and Lena left, Lena-2 flashing an apolgetic look over her shoulder at her wife.

After a long moment, Kara-2 looked to Kara. She frowned. “I don’t understand,” Kara-2 muttered, before abruptly turning for the door. Kara stuttered into action, and followed Kara-2 to their lab.

***************************

Lena looked up as Lena-2 handed her a cup of coffee. Lena took the mug and paused from her work; she blew across the surface, the liquid rippling slightly, steam tickling her face.

“How are things at The Baldwin?” Lena-2 asked, cradling her own cup of coffee in two hands as she sat in a nearby chair.

“Fine,” Lena answered. She took a sip and hummed in approval at the coffee’s taste. “The decor is a little different but otherwise it’s almost like being at home.” She paused. “I lived at The Baldwin in the Presidential Suite for years when I moved to National City.” Lena-2 arched her eyebrows; up until that moment Lena hadn’t volunteered information about her Earth without a question or prompt.

“Where do you live now?” Lena-2 gently fished.

Lena took a deep breath, obviously weighing whether she wanted to share. “The Penthouse apartment in the renovated Hudson building.”

Lena-2 chuckled. “I briefly lived in the same apartment before Kara and I married.”

Lena arched her eyebrows. “I couldn’t imagine leaving that place after what it took to get in for anyone.”

Lena-2 laughed. “Well, Kara isn’t anyone,” she said, parroting Lena’s comment from the other day. Lena-2 placed her cup of coffee on a nearby table. “It wasn’t easy to give up the Hudson’s amenities, but we found an apartment not far from Kara’s old place that was a suitable successor.” Lena’s nose wrinkled and Lena-2 laughed. “Kara thought the Hudson apartment was too sparse, and there were restaurants in her old neighborhood that she couldn’t bear to be too far from.”

Lena rolled her eyes. “As if she couldn’t get anywhere in town in seconds with her powers.”

“Have you seen her use them?”

Lena looked caught off guard. “Of course.”

“Since you’ve known about her identity,” Lena-2 clarified.

“Yes.” Lena drew the word out, her brow knit.

Lena-2 nodded. “The first time I saw her fight after she revealed her identity, I thought I was going to be sick. I still do, to be honest.” She confided the thought like a secret and Lena tightened her jaw in reply. The thought of seeing Supergirl laying unconscious in a pile of rubble after her fight with Reign came stabbing into Lena’s brain, and for the first time since the reveal she made the conscious connection that the person she’d seen bleeding into broken concrete that day had been Kara. Lena blinked back the unexpected emotion she felt burning her eyes from the memory. When Lena didn’t speak, Lena-2 decided to change the subject. “I noticed yesterday that you used one of our programs to scan an area of space near the Phantom Zone. What were you looking for?”

“Who says I was looking for anything?” Lena asked and Lena-2 arched an eyebrow. Lena sighed and feigned a casual air as she lied about her search for Argo City. “Growing up with Lex as a brother meant knowing more than I ever cared to about Superman. I was simply wondering if one of Lex’s theories about the space around Rao’s former system existed in this universe.”

“And?” Lena-2 asked and Lena just shrugged, unwilling to expand. Lena-2 sighed in reply, clearly frustrated with her counterpart’s cagey behavior. She ran her finger on the edge of the table, her eyes averted. “Would it be terribly awkward to ask what your relationship with Lex is like on your Earth?”

“Only if hearing that I shot and killed him a few months ago would make things awkward.” Lena-2’s face flashed a mixture of horror and compassion and Lena looked away, her brow knitting as she realized how callous she’d sounded. How cold. How evil. “He was trying to kill Kara,” she stammered softly. “I thought it was the only way to protect her… To protect everyone she loved.”

“I see,” Lena-2 said quietly, and Lena could feel Lena-2’s concerned gaze on her profile.

Lena hazarded a look at her double out of the corner of her eye. “Do you have a relationship with Lex here?”

“He’s imprisoned in Belle Reve,” Lena-2 said. “He’s been there since just after he turned the sun red. We don’t speak, but he sometimes sends people to try to kill me.” Lena couldn’t help but smile at the blasé way Lena-2 talked about her brother trying to kill her.

“Typical Lex.”

Lena-2 arched an eyebrow and picked up her coffee. “He drives Kara nuts,” she confided. “I think if given the chance she would melt his face off with her heat vision.”

Lena knew it was meant as a joke, but the way Lena-2 said the words, warmly and with love, made her heart squeeze painfully in her chest. She thought of her Kara, standing in her office at L-Corp months ago and telling her that all of her investigations into Lex were for her benefit. Lena swallowed as if tasting something bad.

“Such is the way of Lex and Supers,” Lena said lamely, and after sharing an awkward smile, each retreated to their own tasks, their conversation paused as they drank their coffee and Lena idly reviewed numbers on a tablet.

“Lena…” Lena looked up. “I know it’s none of my business, but,” Lena-2 started and Lena’s defenses raised. “Your relationship with James Olsen… Was it serious?”

Lena paused briefly before replying. “No. Not ultimately. I thought it might be while it was happening, but…” She paused again, obviously weighing her next words. “Did you ever date men?”

Lena-2 nodded, her face open. “My last romantic relationship before Kara was with a man in Metropolis named Jack Spheer.”

“I dated Jack, too,” Lena said softly. The two women met each other’s eye and they could tell from the sadness they saw that Jack shared a similar fate on each Earth.

“The reason I couldn’t help yesterday was because Lord Tech put out a knock off of one of the products we’d been developing in L-Corp’s nano-tech division,” Lena-2 said. Lena recognized the division; it was what Spheerical Industries became after Jack’s death and she absorbed it into her L-Corp. “Maxwell Lord hired a former employee from Spheerical Industries who violated his NDA and…” Lena-2 trailed off.

“May I see the product?” Lena asked and Lena-2 looked surprised.

“Are you sure?” she asked. She looked to the transmat materials surrounding them. “I don’t want to distract you from the portal.”

Lena nodded her head slightly to the side. “To be honest, I could use a break. The last two days have been a bit much and maybe looking at something else will spark an idea.”

Lena-2 nodded and pulled up the tech’s specs on a tablet. She handed it off to Lena and watched with curiousity as Lena’s eyes lit up, her intellect fully engaged. Lena-2 hesitated before speaking again. “Exactly how long did she keep her identity from you?”

Lena froze and then started again, her finger swiping across the tablet. “I found out three months ago.” Her jaw tensed and she could feel Lena-2 stiffen. “We had, years of lunch dates, and game nights with her friends, working together at the DEO and CatCo…” She briefly paused. “She was my best friend; the best friend I’ve ever had.” Lena cleared her throat and wiped at her nose. “Lex is actually the one who finally told me the truth, just before he died.” Lena took a calming breath. She didn’t need to look at Lena-2 to guess what the look on her face would be. Pity. Lena cleared her throat and pointed to the screen. “Can you tell me about this part? We’ve had trouble with a similar process.”

Lena-2 nodded sadly. “Of course.”

***************************

It was just after lunch, a mountain of empty take out boxes piled high on a table in the corner, when Kara-2 looked at Kara with a curious expression and asked, “Did you go to college with Claire Pearce?”

Kara’s eyes went wide. “Oh my god, I haven’t thought about her in forever.” She turned to look at Kara-2’s amused smile. “She was my sophmore year Spanish group partner. She never did any of her share of the work.”

Kara-2 chuckled. “Same on our Earth.”

Kara laughed. She did a double take at Kara-2. “Why did you bring her up?”

“I was just curious.”

Kara dropped her chin to her chest. “Just curious?” She smiled. “What, is she some big mucky muck here?”

“No,” Kara-2 laughed. “I mean, she might be, but I haven’t seen her since college.”

“Huh,” Kara said. “So…?” She asked and looked to Kara-2.

Kara-2 shrugged her shoulders. “She was the first girl I ever kissed.”

Kara’s eyes went saucer wide. “Claire Pearce?” Kara-2 nodded her head and Kara’s confusion intensified. “Whu- how? How did that happen?”

Kara-2 smiled, slightly proud of herself. “Uh, one night that year, the semester after we had Spanish together, she called me out of the blue. I guess she still had my number programmed in her phone for some reason. She was drunk, and had been ditched at a party by her friends, and, she needed a ride home.”

“Really?” Kara asked, her face still a mask of confusion.

Kara-2 nodded. “I picked her up and drove her home, and, she kissed me.”

“Wha-uh, she did?” Kara asked.

“I was so surprised.”

“Yeah,” Kara said, equal parts appalled and fascinated.

“I stopped her, obviously, because she’d been–”

“Drinking.”

“Yes,” Kara-2 said. “She uh, she never talked to me about it after that but… I don’t know, it sort of, made me see what life could be like if I didn’t limit myself to the identity I’d created when I first got to Earth to fit in.”

Kara felt the statement acutely. How many ways she’d molded herself, limited herself, to be a more acceptable human. They were quiet for a long while. “How did.” Kara smiled, embarrassed, and started again. “How did, things, with Lena…?”

Kara-2’s lips thinned, as if she had been expecting the question. “Are you sure you want to know?”

Kara looked surprised. She stammered, “Do you not want to tell me?”

“No, that’s not–” Kara-2 sighed, and looked to Kara with sympathy. “I saw your face yesterday morning when we were–”

Kara broke eye contact, and she smiled awkwardly. “Yeah, yeah, that was…" Kara shook her head quickly and sighed. “I won’t lie, it is weird…” She looked back up with a bright red blush on her cheeks. “But. I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t curious about your life.”

Kara-2 nodded. She started slowly. “When Lena first came to National City she was very guarded. I basically forced her to be friends with me.” She smiled brightly and Kara smiled sadly at her own memories of the beginning of her friendship with Lena. “I thought she was beautiful from the day we met,” Kara-2 continued. “But, there was such a crazy history with Lex and Kal-El I didn’t even really think it was a possiblity. Then, I met Mon-El,” Kara-2 said, crinkling her nose adorably as she smiled at the memory. She looked to Kara, who was staring at her intently. “When he landed on Earth, his pod was discovered by the DEO. They held him for a while, and first chance he could, he escaped.”

“Sounds like Mon-El,” Kara said quietly.

“I found him in an alley, of all places. I offered to hide him until we could find a way for him to live on Earth without the DEO hassling him. Mon-El came to live in my apartment, and…” She shook her head, obviously remembering what it was like. “He was so, annoying. Boarish, and selfish—almost every bad thing I ever thought about a Daxamite—and I didn’t want to have anything to do with him, so, I started spending more time with Lena. And…” Kara-2 smiled softly. “She was the opposite of him. Funny, smart, gorgeous–”

“Oh,” Kara said, flustered.

“I found myself more and more attracted to her the more time I spent with her.”

“That’s…” Kara’s cheeks were burning.

Kara-2 looked to Kara and then away. “Um. The Daxamites invaded looking for Mon-El, and Lena and I worked together to repel them. After that, I, told her that I was Superwoman, and…”

“…And?”

“And…” Kara-2 said, sucking in a deep breath. “I feel weird talking about this with you.”

Kara blinked several times rapidly. “Oh, uh–”

“Do you want details?” Kara looked back wide eyed. “Your face says no details. You just.” Kara-2 huffed, her mouth opening and closing before she finally spoke. “Before you arrived, I didn’t think there would ever be any scenario where I wouldn’t love Lena, and yet, the way you and your Lena are…” She looked pitiful.

Kara nodded, self-consciously. She looked up with a tight smile. “I do love Lena, you know, just, in a different way.” Kara looked away when Kara-2 looked back at her sadly. Flustered, Kara went back to looking at the tablet in front of her.

“Are you OK?” Kara-2 asked and Kara looked up.

“I’m fine,” she said with a forced smile and Kara-2’s face softened.

“Alex always says she can tell when something is on my mind because I get a little, crinkle between my eyebrows,” Kara-2 said, pointing to her forehead. “I don’t think I really got it until I saw it on you.”

Kara smiled, her thumb reaching up and smoothing out the skin between her brow. “It’s nothing.”

“You sure?” Kara-2 asked gently. When Kara only nodded in reply, Kara-2 cleared her throat. “Lena, my Lena, told me that you and Mon-El used to date.”

“Yeah,” Kara said, her eyebrows arching. “Yeah, we uh, we did.”

“What was that like?” Kara-2 asked, and Kara almost laughed at the scrunched up look on her double’s face.

“It was. It was not the best relationship I’ve ever had. Or, maybe it was; I haven’t had many, and they all ended badly, so…” She went to adjust her glasses and grabbed air.

“Lena said he had to leave your Earth when you defeated the Daxamites.”

“He did,” Kara said. “But, he came back, after a while. From the future, and, he was married, to a gorgeous woman from Saturn, and, he was a superhero…”

Kara-2 looked stunned. “Wow. That’s… Time travel, dimensional travel… You’ve definitely done more than me.”

Kara smiled sadly. “Well, you’re married, so…”

Silence settled between them. “I’m sorry if seeing me with Lena makes what’s going on between you and your Lena harder.”

Kara’s brow quirked. “Same.”

Kara-2 acknowledged her with a nod. “How long did you keep your identity from her?”

Kara opened her mouth and then closed it. “Too long. Way, way too long.” She exhaled with a rueful laugh. “And, because I took so long, because I was afraid that when she found out that I had lied to her I would lose her, I missed my chance, and, she found out from Lex.” Kara-2’s face went flinty. “So I take it from the look on your face that he’s not a good person here.”

“I often dream about melting his face.”

“Yeah,” Kara said, looking down to her hands. She took a deep breath. “I thought telling Lena the truth about my identity was the only thing I’d ever really, truly been scared of in my whole life because the thought of hurting her was…” She shook her head. “But now… The idea of living a life without her in it…”

There was a beat of silence. “I can’t speak for your Lena, obviously,” Kara-2 started. “But I can share that my Lena has never failed to surprise me with her ability to forgive. Lex treated her horribly when she was growing up, and yet I have no doubt that even now, after every assassination attempt and mind game, if he truly needed her, Lena would be there for him.”

Kara nodded her head, emotional. That was exactly who her Lena was.

“Don’t underestimate her,” Kara-2 said simply, and Kara nodded. They took a moment and then got back to work.

***************************

It was well after dinner when Lena and Lena-2 walked into the Karas’ lab to find them laughing. Lena-2 smiled at the sight and cocked her head in amusement. Kara-2 smiled at her wife and then at Kara. “We were just sharing stories of ways we used our powers to make Alex miserable when we were kids.”

Lena rolled her eyes. “Well glad someone’s enjoying their banishment to a universe not their own.”

The other three all sighed, Lena-2 and Kara-2 sharing a quick look. “Are we ready to call it a night?” Lena-2 asked.

“Not quite,” Kara-2 said, smiling apologetically at her wife. “A last minute addition.” Kara-2 used a tablet to bring a set of calculations up on the large glass display to their right.

Lena stepped forward to review the numbers, her brow furrowing angrily as she read. “Who changed my calculation?”

Kara raised her hand as if in school. “I did.”

Lena glared at Kara. “Are you trying to get us killed?” Lena-2 and Kara-2’s eyebrows arched at the aggressive tone.

“No,” Kara replied defensively. “And, what?”

“Your suggested change would make the portal highly unstable.”

Kara frowned. “No. That calculation was an important part of Cisco’s device; increasing speed is the only way the portal will stay open long enough for us to pass through it.”

“I don’t care what it was in a different device, if you do what you’re proposing with ours you’ll cause a breach between our Earths that they won’t be able to close.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Kara said.

“It’s basic control theory.”

“I know that,” Kara said patiently. “But it doesn’t apply here.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“It is a part of control theory but it doesn’t apply in this situation.”

“The laws of science are not situational, you can’t just discard them because they are inconvenient to your hypothosis.”

“Actually, in some cases you can.”

“And where did you learn about that? While reading some pop-sci fluff in CatCo?” Lena-2 winced at her double’s dig.

“I learned about it on Krypton, which was more scientifically advanced than Earth,” Kara said, and Kara-2 slowly exhaled uncomfortably. “You just haven’t discovered that branch of science yet.” Lena seethed and Kara took a deep breath. “When I was a girl I was bound for the Science Guild,” Kara said and Lena-2 watched as Kara-2 crossed her arms, her brow knit. “I learned more about things like quantum entagement theory by age 10 than most of Earth’s Physics PhDs ever have.”

Lena nodded, her face bright red. “I can add ‘expert in quantum entanglement theory’ as yet another thing you lied to me about.”

“Lena–”

“Do you even like NSYNC?”

“What?” Lena-2 murmured, confused as she looked between the aruging pair.

“I love NSYNC!” Kara replied passionately and Kara-2 put her hand on her forehead. “And I didn’t lie that day, I played dumb.”

“Played dumb, like you played me for a fool,” Lena said, and Lena-2 shifted to stand closer to her wife.

Kara balled her hands into fists. “I didn’t do it to make you look foolish, I did it to protect my identity–”

“From your so-called best friend–”

“Who was building a transmatter portal with the Queen of the Daxamites!”

“What,” Lena-2 again murmured, this time slightly alarmed, and Kara-2 brought her second hand to her face. She scrubbed vigorously before she dropped her hands to her side and Lena-2 started to rub tiny circles on her wife’s back.

“That is so unfair,” Lena said. “I didn’t know Rhea’s identity because my so-called best friend never confided in me that Earth was in danger of being invaded by a hostile alien race!”

“OK, stop,” Lena-2 said with a sigh, but her voice was lost in the vitriol.

“I didn’t want you involved in dangerous things,” Kara said heatedly.

“I’m a Luthor, my entire life is dangerous,” Lena retorted and Lena-2 stepped forward, her hands extended before her.

“Stop,” Lena-2 said more firmly. She looked from where Kara-2 stood, face unreadable, to the guests from Earth-38. “You’re both wrong.” Lena opened her mouth to argue and Lena-2 held up her hand. “You both think the issue is speed, but it’s really the inverse variable–”

“Galleon’s Theory,” Kara-2 said quietly, her voice weary.

The four were quiet for a moment as Kara-2’s words settled. “That works,” Lena finally said, her gaze reevaluating the calculations on the display. Lena-2 nodded and looked to her wife.

“Ready to go home?” Lena-2 asked, not even looking to the pair from Earth-38. Her voice was filled with so much care that Lena and Kara both looked away. Kara-2 nodded and Lena-2 looked to their doubles. “We’ll see you in the morning.”

Kara and Lena both nodded, sheepishly, as their doubles left. Once they were alone, Kara started to speak. “Lena–”

“I’m not interested,” Lena said. She turned heel and left the lab, Kara following behind her, stomach churning.

***************************

They returned to The Baldwin barely on speaking terms. Hours after each went to bed without so much as a good night, Kara found herself standing in the dark, staring out the living room windows, unable sleep. It was strange to look out at a familiar moonlit city that was not her own. She could hear the sirens, the people asking for help but she was helpless to do anything to make it right. She got lost in thought, about how it seemed like she was unable to do anything right recently, and missed the door to Lena’s room opening.

“Couldn’t sleep either?” Lena asked. Kara snapped her head to watch as Lena walked into the suite’s kitchen. Lena took down a tumbler from a shelf and poured herself a drink.

“Does the drinking help you sleep?” Kara asked.

Lena just arched an eyebrow in reply and took a sip. She leaned her back against the kitchen counter and curled the tumbler to her chest.

Kara sighed, frustrated. Frustrated that she was stuck in a universe that had happier version of them, frustrated that Lena was apparently never going to let her back in. “What were you going to do with Myriad?” Lena looked away with a smile, obviously pissed at the question, and Kara quickly continued, walking a few steps away from the window. “I’m not judging, I’m asking. You told me back on our Earth that I didn’t even know what ‘this’ was, so, what is it?”

Lena swallowed hard as she considered how much to share. “I was going to use Myriad to run a program I created called Non Nocere.”

“What does the program do?”

“It makes it so that people can’t hurt each other anymore.”

Kara’s chest squeezed. “I see.”

“It’s safe,” Lena said. “I tested it.”

“How?” Kara asked, worried that the answer would be that Lena tested the device on herself.

“I used a test subject. Eve Tessmacher.”

The answer was worse than expected. “What?” Kara asked with horror.

“She came back to National City, to try to kill me no doubt, so I made her the first subject in my trial. With my program, and the help of my AI, Hope, Eve became, helpful. Supportive.”

“Not herself,” Kara said, her brow furrowed. “You stole her agency.”

“She used her agency to hurt people.” Lena looked at Kara. “Are you telling me that using my creation on Eve is worse than her disappearing into a DEO cell without a trial?”

Kara shook her head, unwilling to be distracted. “You can’t stop people from hurting, Lena. Hurt is awful, but it’s part of life, part of love, hope.”

“And what if you’re out of hope?” Lena asked. “Then what?”

The question cut into Kara’s heart. “Then you let someone else hope for you.”

“And what if you have no one,” Lena asked, her voice thick with emotion. “If you’re alone?”

“You are not alone,” Kara said, taking a couple of steps toward Lena. “You have me.”

“I dont believe you.”

“Lena–”

“No,” Lena said sharply, cutting Kara off and dropping them into a moment of prolonged silence. “You know it’s ironic?” Lena said. “I made the decision to move to National City when you stopped the Myriad attack. I wanted to do good,” Lena said through clenched teeth. “Prove that a Super and a Luthor could work together to make the world a better place. How could I have been so naive.”

“You weren’t naive, you were hopeful.”

“And look what that got me.”

In the moonlit room, Kara could see how much Lena was struggling with loneliness and betrayal. “I could’ve taken Myriad from you in the Fortress,” Kara said. “Used my speed before you used the Fortress’s defenses against me.”

“But you didn’t because you wanted me to make ‘the right choice’, and I failed your test.” Lena was defiant. “I know what you’re thinking, but Non Nocere is not like the attack on National City years ago, it is not mind control. It’s a correction, it’s, moral, empathetic, logical; people would still make all of their own choices.”

“Not all,” Kara said, shaking her head.

“Yes, all,” Lena said stridently. “The program would just steer them away from making a choice that would hurt another person.”

“And that is impossible for someone with agency,” Kara said, equally strident. “The choice to hurt someone, the possibility to learn from that mistake and become a better person,” Kara stopped and shook her head. “And even if you did remove choice, you can’t, stop hurt, Lena, because so much hurt in the world is accidental.”

Lena’s brow fell and she shook her head. “I created Non Nocere because I care about people; I care about people. And that’s something you’ve never given me credit for, that at my core, I care.”

Kara was taken aback. “Of course I know you care, Lena–”

“No,” Lena said, tears falling from her eyes, her voice uncharacteristically watery and weak. “A part of you has always doubted my capacity to care, with Sam– You just did it while hiding behind a costume.”

“That’s not true,” Kara said, tears stinging her eyes.

“All of you,” Lena said. “James, Alex, you…” She sucked in a raspy breath and the sound broke Kara. “Why couldn’t you see it? How much I cared about you, how much more I would have cared about you than the lie if you had just, told me? I bought CatCo for you, I–” Lena sucked in another raspy breath. “I’ve always cared.” Lena sniffed, Kara’s quiet, muffled sobs filling the space between them. Lena cleared her throat and forced calm to her voice. “I care about people. And I don't want them to hurt. I don't want anyone to ever hurt anyone else ever again.” When Kara didn’t speak, Lena licked her lips and looked away. “It doesn’t matter anymore, anyway. If Alex has gone to L-Corp looking for you, she will have found Myriad by now.” Lena nodded her head and pushed off of the counter, standing straight. “Non Nocere is dead, and I’ve lost. The good guys don’t always win.”

“Lena…”

Lena knocked her drink back and put the empty tumbler in the sink. She paused for a moment and then returned to her room without another word. Kara watched it all before she slumped down to sit on the edge of a coffee table. She put her hands to her face and cried.