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The Gift

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The week before Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, perhaps a little stressful, but definitely not miserable. Not for most people, anyway. No, for most people, it’s the most thrilling time of year. It’s a time for family, for love, for giving. A celebration for even the least religious families. Kids send lists out for Santa, and parents rush around to spend extra money to receive none of the credit.

Stuffy offices have parties, half-hearted at best, but still enjoyed by their overworked employees. Store fronts are decorated, almost gaudy in appearance, and lights hang along even the quietest of streets. People pray for snow, even when they know it will fuck up their commutes to work at an already busy time of year, and sniff the air in anticipation, yelling to their counterparts that it’s definitely about to happen.

Unfortunately, Lena Luthor isn’t most people. Sometimes that works for her, but mostly it does not. Christmas is her least favorite time of year. It’s not the time of year that reminds her of everything she has, but merely a brightly lit reminder of everything she has lost. It’s been that way for as long as Lena can remember.

Sure, there’s been times when Lena has plastered on a grin, yelled out the appropriate proclamations, and faked her way through the holiday for the benefit of others. It always ends the same, though. With Lena, miserable and with only a bottle of scotch for company, longing for the things she does not have.

Lena had accepted years ago that she and Kara were only ever going to be friends, best friends. She’d long since lost the notion that Kara would ever return her true feelings were Lena to announce them, but now Lena doesn’t even have the friendship. Lena knows, deep down, that the offer is still there, but she’s not sure if she wants it.

Kara had lied. No matter how good her reasons were, she had lied . She’d used Lena’s own insecurities against her to elevate her facade, only to appear moments later as Kara - a friend and confidant. Lena doesn’t know much about friendships, but she’s pretty sure that’s not how they’re supposed to go.

As much as she craves having Kara back in her life, Lena can’t subject herself to the possibility of that much pain again. Not now that she’s finally accepted her true feelings for Kara. Lena no longer has the strength to only be her friend again. She won’t do it.

Lena will work, then drink, then sleep. She won’t even acknowledge that it’s Christmas, merely follow her simple plan until it’s safe to peek out of her stupor again. Even if it means subjecting herself to some questionable establishments.

The floor is sticky beneath her feet, the tables filthy, and the bartender creepy. Even the twinkling Christmas lights are half assed, every other bulb flickering and threatening to die. It’s the last place anyone would ever expect to see the CEO of a fortune 500 company, and that’s exactly why Lena chose it. She’s in no mood for young women fawning over her, telling her she inspired them to go to college and battle it out in a male dominated field. 

Lena can’t bear to hear that tonight, not when she’s never felt less like the hero they claim her to be. She sits in a corner booth, drinking until the glass feels heavy in her hand and her movements grow sluggish. A man with greasy hair approaches her, but Lena sends him on his way with what she hopes is a relatively clear tone.

He gets the message, leaving Lena alone with her scotch and misery. A man at the next table, however, doesn’t seem to take the hint. Lena curses when he joins her, sliding into the booth and watching her from across the table. Unfocused eyes glare at him, no longer carrying the sting that they usually would.

“You’re a hard woman to find, Lena Luthor. Even for me.” Lena pauses, knuckles popping white as she tightens her grip on her glass, ready to use it as a weapon if she’s forced to. “Kara is a hard person to forget. Trust me, I know all about that,” the man sighs. Lena frowns, deep creases etched across her forehead.

“Let me guess, you’re the new member of the super friends,” Lena sneers, her drunken slur stealing all of the bite from her retort. “If you’re here to beg for forgiveness on her behalf, you’re wasting your time.” The man frowns, animatedly gesturing as she shakes his head.

“No, no, no. I’m here for your benefit only,” he states. “I’m paying my dues to mankind,” he adds, wiggling his fingers before steepling them together.” He pouts sympathetically, “why so sad? Surely a woman such as yourself should be thrilled at this time of year. A whole week left until Christmas, still plenty of time for your overly expensive products to fly off the shelves and land underneath some schmuck’s tree.” 

“My tech is worth every penny,” Lena scowls. She fishes around in her purse and slaps money down on the table, swaying ever so slightly as she stands. “Thanks for ruining my night even more,” she grumbles. Lena makes her way outside, the cold air like a brick wall to her face. Tears sting the corners of her eyes as she texts her driver, but she swipes them away with a trembling hand.

“I’m sorry.” Lena rolls her eyes when the man follows her outside, warily watching him as he perches on a bench usually reserved for smokers. “You’re right, of course. You could easily charge more for your products. Although, it does surprise me that you haven’t gone ahead and released the alien detection device. If I had a friend who turned out to secretly be a superhero, I think that would be the perfect revenge, no?”

“Things change,” Lena shrugs, leaning heavily against the brick wall of the bar. “My brother and Ben Lockwood made sure of that,” she adds, bitterly. “Those devices would get someone killed, and I won’t be responsible for another death. I can’t carry another one.”

The man smiles at her, eyes wide and delighted.

“A truly good Luthor,” he crows, rubbing his hands together. “Oh I do love a surprise twist.” Lena rolls her eyes again, back teeth grinding together as she sets her jaw.

“Who are you, exactly? What do you want?” Lena demands. If this is another assassination attempt, then at least it’s more interesting than the last, she thinks to herself. She pushes away from the wall, wincing as the world spins around her.

“Tell me, Lena. When was the last time you truly enjoyed Christmas?” the man asks, completely ignoring Lena’s questions. “Wait, wait,” he holds up a finger, “I think I know this one.” He taps his chin, evidently lost in thought. “1997, yes?” He gasps, “has it really been that long?” Lena glares at him, wishing she currently had the strength and coordination required to punch him in his stupid face.

“Go to hell,” she hisses. The man’s hand flies to his chest, feigning shock. “I don’t know who you are and, quite frankly, I don’t care,” Lena snaps. “You’re clearly a half assed journalist trying to dig into my past. Poor Lena Luthor, right? You obviously know about my mother. If you want more information, you’ll have to find it yourself!”

Her driver arrives at the perfect moment, rolling the beemer to a stop directly in front of her. Lena wrenches the door open just as the stranger yells for her to wait. She doesn’t know why, but Lena pauses, her back to him as she expectantly waits for more bullshit to fall from his mouth.

“You don’t have one good memory of Christmas since then?” Lena sighs heavily at the question, glancing over her shoulder as she shakes her head. “Not even with the Arias woman?” Lena hesitates, thinking back to the Christmas period ruined by Supergirl’s brush with death and the discovery of Sam’s Kryptonian half. Her own battling emotions had made sure that particular Christmas sucked.

“No,” she murmurs. “Believe me, I wish I did.” Lena slides into the car with surprising grace and slams the door closed. The man watches the car glide off into traffic, a sad smile on his lips and his eyes trained on the car until it disappears into the distance. He frowns thoughtfully, rubbing his chin.

“A wish, huh? I’ll see what I can do.”

---------

Kara’s hair whips behind her as she speeds across the sky, her cape flapping wildly behind her and the cold wind stinging her eyes until they water. The city below her is peaceful and uneventful, not even a kitten trapped in a tree, and Kara is struggling to believe her luck. She might actually make it to game night early for once, rather than rushing in with a blur of apologies.

Her lap around the city brings her to L-Corp, her heart thud-thudding against her ribs at the thought of seeing Lena. She hovers near the balcony, staring into the dark office with a myriad of emotions. Kara’s thrilled, of course, that Lena doesn’t seem to be working herself to exhaustion tonight, but there’s a lingering disappointment within her chest.

Sometimes seeing Lena, healthy and safe, is the only thing that allows her to rest peacefully at night. She’d promised Lena that she’d never have to see her again unless she chose to do so, but that doesn’t mean Kara doesn’t secretly check up on her every evening. It’s not against the rules for her to see Lena, right?

Her heart sinks when her gaze zeros in on the abandoned decanter of scotch tucked against the corner of Lena’s desk. It had been full last night, but it looks decidedly less so this evening. If it was still her place to do so, Kara would plead with Lena to find a healthier coping method, but she knows the advice would be cruelly rebuffed these days.

With a sigh, Kara pushes off into the night, deciding to check on Lena before going home. She’ll relax once she sees Lena safe and sound in her apartment, albeit with a belly full of liquor. Kara flies a little faster than she’s supposed to, Alex hates when she gets close to breaking the sound barrier, but the desire to see Lena overwhelms every other thought in her head.

Lena’s apartment is in darkness save for a lamp in the bedroom, usually a sign that Lena is home, but Kara can’t single out the heartbeat that she’s had memorized for years. She listens carefully, frowning when she catches the pitter-pattering of a small, terrified heart thumping inside a tiny chest. Kara pauses for a moment, hating that she’s about to violate Lena’s privacy, but worried enough to activate her x-ray vision anyway.

Her gaze slowly roams through the apartment, finding nothing out of the ordinary until her eyes sweep across Lena’s large walk-in closet. There’s a girl, one that Kara has never seen before, huddled in the corner and crying. At the risk of making Lena hate her more than she already does, Kara pulls her cell from her boot and speed dials the familiar number.

Her hearing easily picks up the vibrations of Lena’s cell, the iphone left abandoned on the sofa beside Lena’s purse. Alright, now she’s concerned for sure. She has no option but to check on the child because, no matter what some people think of her, Lena would never leave a young girl alone and upset in her apartment. Not unless there is something seriously wrong.

She lands gently on the balcony and frowns when she realizes the french doors are locked. Sadness clings to her, Kara knowing Lena now locks the doors because of her. A sign that Supergirl is no longer welcome.

“Forgive me for this, Lena,” Kara murmurs, easily breaking the glass with her elbow. She knows Lena well enough to be convinced that she’s just tripped some type of silent alarm, and Kara uses her comms to request back-up. The DEO can at least intervene with any local authorities that get involved.

Quietly, Kara makes her way towards Lena’s bedroom, hating herself for violating Lena’s privacy like this. She’s been in Lena’s bedroom a million times, usually to borrow comfortable clothes during a movie night, or to crash with Lena during one of their many sleepovers, but Kara has never been inside Lena’s sacred space without explicit permission.

Kara hears the scared gasp from the closet when she opens the bedroom door, not missing the way the girl’s pulse quickens.

“It’s okay,” Kara calls out. “It’s Supergirl, I’m here to help you.” Kara gently opens the closet door and kneels down on her haunches as she studies the little girl.

The child is clearly terrified, emerald eyes wide behind a curtain of dark, messy hair. She scoots backwards, forcing herself further into the corner in an attempt to put as much space between her and Kara as possible. Tiny hands tremble, wringing together in such a familiar way that it gives Kara pause. Her brows furrow, arms dropping down to her sides as she carefully watches the little girl.

The eyes, the hair, even the tiny scar beside the girl’s eye, all remind her of Lena. But that’s not possible. Lena is a twenty seven year old woman, her former best friend who has hated her since finding out her secret. She’s not a child who is obviously petrified of the superhero in front of her. The girl’s hands fly to her face, covering her eyes as she whimpers.

“Hey, it’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you,” Kara murmurs. “I’m just here to make sure you’re alright. Can you tell me your name, sweetheart?” Kara carefully scoots a little closer, holding her hands up to ensure the girl can see she means no harm. The kid doesn’t respond, merely peeks through her fingers at the stranger in front of her.

“Are you a friend of Lena’s?” Kara questions. “Do you know where she is?” The girl falters, her hands dropping as she scowls at Kara. One little brow arches, green eyes severe.

“I’m Lena,” the girl mumbles. Her eyes dart around the closet, tiny fingers picking at a loose thread on the sweater which drowns her. It’s only then that Kara notices that the child is wearing Lena’s old college sweatshirt, a pair of oversized leggings abandoned by her feet. “Where am I?”

Kara pauses, eyes wide as she slumps down onto her backside. She stares at the girl in front of her, stunned into silence. This can’t be Lena. It just can’t be. It doesn’t make sense and yet it makes all the sense in the world. The girl looks like Lena, even down to her mannerisms. Her name is Lena, she’s dressed, sort of, in Lena’s clothes and is locked away in Lena’s apartment.

“Where’s my mother?” the girl, Lena , asks. “She’ll be mad.” Kara swallows thickly, her breath caught in her throat and her heart pounding erratically in her chest. “She’ll send Lex to find me,” Lena adds, glaring at Kara as though blaming her for not being where she’s supposed to be.

“I- I don’t know,” Kara dumbly responds, unable to tear her gaze from this tiny version of Lena. Lena watches her, eyes wide and distrustful, as though ready to bolt if Kara makes any sudden movements. They sit there in silence for several long moments, each trying to suss the other out, until Kara hears a crash from the living room.

Lena lets out a small cry, burrowing her face in her hands again and pressing herself further against the closet wall. Kara hears Alex’s voice seconds before the bedroom door flies open, and she holds her hand up. Alex pauses in the doorway, eyes wild as they dart around the bedroom, looking for signs of danger.

“Stand down,” Kara states. “You’ll scare her.”

“Scare who? ” Alex marches across the room, gun drawn as she pauses behind Kara. “Oh.” Alex signals to the agents behind her to back off, shooing them into the living room. “What’s going on, Kara?” Alex allows her hand to drop down to her side, but she doesn’t holster her gun.

“This is Lena,” Kara murmurs, almost in a daze. “ Our Lena.” Alex frowns, side-eyeing her sister. She looks around the room, seeing nobody else save the timid child in the corner of the closet.

“That’s Lena?” Alex stares at Kara as though she’s grown an extra head, something she’s definitely seen an alien do before. “Lena Luthor?” she questions slowly, as though the words are too foreign to easily leave her mouth. “The CEO of L-Corp? Lena, who came to game nights and kicked all of our asses at Scrabble?”

“Yes,” Kara nods, throwing her arms up. “I don’t know how else to say it, Alex. That’s Lena .” Dark eyes flit between Kara and Lena, narrowing in disbelief. She scoffs, shaking her head and mumbling to herself that she’s being punked even as she steps a little closer to Lena.

“I knew she was short, but not that short,” Alex mumbles, defense mechanism in the form of humor kicking in at the most inappropriate time. She stares at the tiny version of their former friend, convinced that Kara is mistaken, but not knowing how that’s possible. She kneels down, “hey, kiddo. You wanna come out of the closet?” Alex keeps her tone low, gentle, and she finally puts her gun away.

Lena vehemently shakes her head, glaring at the newcomer who she most definitely does not trust. Alex sighs, glancing around her again. There’s not much she can do with the child out of reach, but she doesn’t want to scar her for life by manhandling her out of the closet.

“It can’t be her,” Alex says, glancing at Kara. “It’s just a relative we don’t know about. There’s a lot of crazies out of there who found Lex attractive.” Alex pauses to grimace, bile rising in her throat. “He probably got one of his groupies pregnant.”

“No,” Kara shakes her head, “Lena would tell us.”

“Not anymore,” Alex argues, gently. “Maybe we should call Andrea. They’re close, right? Maybe she knows where Lena is.” Kara sighs heavily, growing impatient.

“We know where she is,” Kara hisses. “She’s right here.” Kara notices Lena startle out of the corner of her eye, the harsh tone frightening her. “I’m sorry,” Kara says, wincing apologetically. “You’re alright, Lena. No-one here is going to hurt you. This is Alex, my sister. She’s going to help keep you safe.”

“I want Lex,” Lena demands, tiny hands dropping from her face and balling into fists. “Where is he?” The glare aimed at them may be a watered down version, but there’s no mistaking that this is, in fact, Lena Luthor. “I want Lex,” she repeats. Little brows furrow, tiny train track lines forming between them.

“Let’s uh, let’s get you somewhere safe first, huh?” Alex suggests, nervously glancing towards Kara. There’s not many situations that stump the director of the DEO, but it seems there is indeed a first time for everything. “I can run some tests,” she adds, for Kara’s ears only.

Lena sinks further against the wall, emerald eyes pinning Alex with a piercing, distrustful stare. She may not understand a single thing going on, but one thing she does know is she isn’t going anywhere with these women. At least, not without a fight.