CHAPTER TEN: SOMEWHERE A CLOCK IS TICKING
Telling Nia and Brainy is the easy part it turns out - largely because Brainy already knows and Nia pretends to be shocked by the revelation that Lena is a demon only to drop the act not ten seconds later with a ‘yeah we figured it out.’
They’re sitting in a cafe in the airport, far in the corner, waiting for their flight as people walk by and pass around them - living their lives - blissfully unaware that not only is the world full of a lot more of the odd and supernatural but also might just be ending.
And the two humans, one mostly human but also not, and one demon but also something else (she’s still wrapping her head around that part among other things) sitting in the corner of an overpriced airport cafe are the keys to saving it.
And also possibly ending it.
It’s loaded and Lena still hasn’t completely come to terms with all the details and semantics and the soulmates of it all, but…
It seems like she and Kara may be both cause and solution.
Kara is the answer. That’s what Sam had said, what the Keeper had told her - she’s the answer.
But the answer to what? Saving the world? Saving Lena? The answer to a question Lena doesn’t even know to ask? The answer to her heart? All of the above?
Or maybe there is no question, she just simply is the answer, the answer to what Lena has been searching for because they are quite literally, bound, in both fate and circumstance. Bound by the stars, bound by the universe, tied together in all manners of ways.
And Lena doesn’t know what to make of that either, doesn’t know, can’t even begin to fully comprehend the weight of it because it feels much too heavy, much too important and large and world ending (literally).
A demon with a soulmate? It seems like a joke. Like the universe specifically said let’s fuck with Lena Luthor in particular.
And to make it even more fucked up, the universe said let’s throw in a half-human half-angel as said soulmate, except oh wait she doesn’t know about the angel blood part and also the fact that she shouldn’t exist technically, and also that her father is a fallen one who also should have, by all rights, been killed to prevent any offspring from ever existing.
Lena hears Lex saying ‘hypocrites’ and she knows he knew, knows deeper now, that the fall of the House of El was why he laughed in Hell, why he hated them when Kara and her cousin were born on Earth. When they shouldn’t have been.
She remembers the relief in Hell and she wonders if it was because Clark’s parents were gone and they assumed he had been destroyed too.
Because that was the rule, that was the law - angels do not breed with humans, angels do not have half-human half-angel babies that could potentially wreak heavenly magic and wrath upon humanity - the Earth is its own domain.
She remembers Lex laughing and she knows he had to have been haunting Clark then, knows he must have been putting all the pieces together before he knew about Kara, wondering if it was always going to be Clark, except…
Lena knows the history, the stories of Jor-El and Lara, two beings who fought heavenly wars, who ruled, who were symbols of Heavenly Justice - and who both fell to Earth to escape further wars between Heaven and Hell. Knows that both of them were not human.
She supposes the prophecy could have meant Clark except, Fallen and Human blood would not have applied - he would have been human enough but he would have only carried Fallen blood.
Unless Lex thought there was a chance Clark’s potential offspring could have applied to said ritual and Lena supposes it could have, but that wouldn’t have confirmed the soulmate part - the Darkness from Corrupted Light that was said soulmate - which she now knows refers to herself.
She supposes Lex must have suspected enough - must have known where she originated from, who she originated from, even if she did not and still doesn’t entirely know.
Because demons are created, from darkness and ritual and blood, but she wasn’t. Not entirely.
Born from corrupted light.
Someone good. Someone human. Someone Lionel Luthor during his reign as King of Hell had tempted. Someone Lillian despised and someone Lex would have known about as the Prince and heir - a moment he would have stored away and recalled for the purpose of prophecy and plan.
And when Lena never returned to Hell, he knew it meant she’d met the soulmate and maybe he wondered if it still meant Clark or a son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter - and then he realized that not nearly enough time had passed, had confirmed that it wasn’t Clark or an offspring - it was Kara.
It’s still something she can’t quite grasp, the fact of having a soulmate, of having a soul at all to be tied to another. A soul of her own that isn’t exactly as dark as she was always told it was supposed to be. As she let it be, even if she never really wanted to be - even if she didn’t know it even existed.
She thinks back, wonders if she felt it at all, if she’d known it was there, if that’s what had made her feel so other, so much like she never belonged in a place souls went to be tormented and tortured, twisted until they became monsters themselves.
And has her soul been twisted enough to become the monster her mother wanted her to be? Or is it still there, still fighting, clinging on beneath the demon she is.
That’s the other part that she’s struggling with, what this makes her, what she even is anymore. What she could have been had she not been brought below.
Born from a human who was corrupted, a good human who must have been…
What does that make her then? What is she? What is she meant to be?
The questions send her down another path because if she always had something good in her, if she was never truly dark - why had she followed the path set for her? Why had she bartered souls? Why had she followed Lex so blindly when she felt that guilt after and still continued to follow?
How could she have a soul or a soulmate when she’d sent souls to Hell in deals made across time and desperation and hadn’t even asked them if they had thought twice about it? How could she have a soul when she’d spent so long in the cold and buried herself in it, sinking further and further, hoping that it would finally feel like it was supposed to? That she would finally feel like the heir she was supposed to be?
And Kara had told her who she had been didn’t define her, who she was choosing to be did, but that still doesn’t erase the guilt, doesn’t erase the things she’s done, the souls that were still being tortured for all eternity because they had been tempted by her into selling them.
And some of them she knows deserve it, deserved all of it, but others…there were others who she followed Lex to and who were desperate and who they played off of that desperation…when she’d given in to the expectations set for her and pretended she didn’t feel anything about it all, pretended to enjoy it.
Kara’s hand finds hers, the warmth sudden and grounding, drawing her attention back to the conversation. And she can’t know what she’s doing, can’t know that Lena needed this, but it’s almost second nature and absentminded the way Kara just reaches and holds that Lena wonders, if this is how it works, how they can just know what the other needs without really having to say it - if this is how soulmates operate or if this is strictly just a them thing.
Because they aren’t a thing, not really, not yet. Despite the previous night's activities that a part of her really wants to repeat and go further, despite the memory of Kara’s searing kiss still on her tongue, they still haven’t defined exactly what this is.
And even if she wants more, even if she wants all of Kara, so much so it feels like it might break her…
There’s also a much larger meaning to it all now. There’s so much more to it. A weight that just might undo them both.
“But why didn’t the holy water work?” Nia asks and Lena blinks, attention fully in the moment now, because…
“What holy water?”
“The water you drank? It was supposed to be holy water? Did I get screwed by the internet?”
“I drank holy water? Is that why you freaked out?” Lena looks at Kara and Kara winces.
“I may have forgotten to mention that part. Also I tried to stop you,” Kara offers by way of apology.
“Well, it’s a good thing that only works on possessions,” Lena tells Nia, matter of factly.
“I should not have bought a case of it,” she laments, “CatCo is going to have a very weird bill for this show.”
“But alternatively we now have a very good investment against any potential possessions,” Kara offers and both Brainy and Lena shake their heads.
“Okay. So the truth is out but what does this all mean?” Brainy asks, pointing between Lena and Kara, “Why share it with us? What’s the point?”
“I mean we both knew,” Nia tries, “And I was…”
“Going off the rails, yes, but that doesn’t answer my question. What do we have to do with any of it, unless, you aren’t considering putting this on the show, are you?”
“No, absolutely not,” Lena interjects.
“But you are like…I mean the two of you are…” Nia starts but Kara shakes her head and that shuts Nia up.
“There’s more going on, not with us, I mean we haven’t…we’re not…we haven’t talked about, this isn’t about us, well not entirely, I mean I may or may not have had family in a cult but this is like end of the world possible bad,” Kara shares in a rushed breath and Lena squeezes her hand under the table involuntarily, it forces her to take a breath, calms her as much as it calms herself.
“Cult?” “End of the world?” Both Brainy and Nia ask at the same time.
“I’m still not entirely sure the cult thing is real,” Lena tries but Kara is already launching into what she’s researched about the Cadmus Ritual.
And it would be so easy to just rip the band-aid off and maybe offer what the actual ritual might concern, why they might be involved, but she still needs her own actual confirmation before she upends Kara’s entire life.
Before she tells her that the person she thought she was may not be the full picture. That her very blood may contain something more, something she may not even believe in even if she believes in ghosts and demons.
And she knows it’s true, knows in the way she feels about Kara, knows in everything that’s happened between them and how absolutely crushing it feels when they’re apart, but still, she needs all the facts, needs the truth, needs Sam to come back and confirm it or tell her she’s found the real prophecy and it doesn’t involve them at all and also soulmates aren’t real and you’re just in love and it’s all fine, everything is fine, the world is not on fire, it’s not ending, your brother isn’t going to attempt to murder this woman you’re in love with and you aren’t going to die saving her.
But Lena knows that’s just wishful thinking even as the thought of being in love with Kara stops all other thoughts completely, because it’s true, she is, and there’s nothing that can make that feeling stop or go away, no amount of darkness or death that could change it.
She loves her.
She followed her from Swift Street into the world and will gladly sacrifice herself for it if it means Kara will live.
Kara is the answer. To the emptiness in her heart, in her life, to where she belongs, to who she is. Kara is the answer.
“So if Arkham was one of these places and you destroyed it then he would be seeking another, correct?” Brainy asks and Lena nods, pulled back into the reality, the nonsensical reality that is a coming apocalypse and a revelation of being in love.
“Then we just need to figure out where this would be, I imagine they must intersect, or be connected?” He looks to Kara and she flips through her notes.
“If we start with where Arkham was located and operate under a ley line theory…”
“Are ley lines a thing?” Nia asks Lena who shrugs.
“Kind of, there are nexuses of power that run along certain pathways but it’s not like Ghostbusters or anything.”
“I’m glad you’ve seen Ghostbusters. I mean I’m still shocked you hadn’t seen Twilight or Titanic but…Ghostbusters is solid.”
“I’ve seen some movies, Kara just not all of the ones that you have and not…I’ve been to the movies before and dealt with people who liked movies.”
“Dealt with?” Nia asks and Lena shakes her head. She’s not doing this here now, she’s not dredging up the past, not with Lex out there, not with the world ending, not with soulmates and fate and circumstance and love bearing down over her head like the sword of Damocles ready to fall.
She doesn’t even mean to bring it up, hates how it weighs and feels when Kara’s soft smile drops at her sudden tone, as she removes her hand from Kara’s because it’s too warm, it’s too steady, too much, too kind…
And she isn’t good. No matter what the prophecy of coming from corrupted light may say she might potentially be. She’s not good. Because that’s the truth. Corruption and darkness, she isn’t good.
And Kara is. And she’s going to die to save her.
“Just…start with Arkham, trace a line and see what connects and I’m sure we’ll find something. I’ll find something. Let me know what comes up.” Lena walks away from the table, she needs to get away from them, from Kara, from her…
She’s not supposed to have friends. She’s not supposed to have a soulmate. She’s not supposed to fall in love or feel and it all circles and circles and keeps twisting around her mind all the things she’s not supposed to have and how it’s going to end.
It all ends. And Kara can’t know until it’s done, can never know, because it’ll only hurt her more after it’s done.
And Lena could turn around, could tell Kara everything, what’s going to happen, that they need to keep her and only her safe, but she doesn’t, not really, because her mind is far away, in the darkness of Hell, in the darkness of her life, darkness that has always felt off and confusing and not hers, like it doesn’t belong to her but she’s supposed to want it.
That cold that she’s always had, that power that was never right for where she was.
And it wasn’t right, was it? It wasn’t home. It wasn’t meant to be.
Or perhaps it was, for a time, until fate and her own hatred of that home, her own need to get away, intervened.
And Kara walked into her life with a camera and terror and a ghost hunting show and Lena had laughed, had laughed, and felt the sun and it had all spiraled from there.
She doesn’t know where she’s going, not really, just wandering in the airport, trying to get away, surrounded by people and alone, so alone - just as she’s been her entire existence, her entire life.
And none of them know, not really, what lurks in the darkness, what could come to pass, that the end is coming, none of them can sense it or see, or want to see, and how could she of all things in the universe deserve a soulmate when these humans, these people, who were once her prey, were once things she made deals with, whose souls were currency she operated in, did not all have one?
How could she have a soul when she and her brother walked into towns destroyed by wars and offered soldiers a chance to go home, to not die, in exchange for theirs?
And she never understood why they took the deals, why they were desperate enough to trade one Hell for another, why they rushed at the opportunities to see family and home only to be met with tragic accidents five years after a war they might have survived? Why they traded an eternity in darkness and cold and torture for a little extra time with those they loved most?
Maybe she understands now. Maybe she sees the point, that knowing the end is coming, knowing there’s a death waiting, knowing that any day could be the last, getting a certainty and sure amount of time with the people who matter most, knowing the value of it - it’s worth it.
And maybe, in a way, this is a punishment, this is the absolution for the misdeeds, she gets a soulmate and is destined to die for them all in one fell swoop. Maybe that’s the price.
And she’ll pay it.
She’ll pay for Kara’s soul with whatever mangled one she has, one that has been molded and broken by a family that tried to shape her into something like them but failed at every opportunity.
She remembers walking Hell with her mother, after Lionel had been dethroned, had lost himself to trying to gain more power in the darker places on Earth, had become some shadow of a thing once called a King, she remembers Lillian telling her she was the future of Hell and she wonders now, if Lillian had known the plan, if Lillian and Lex had always known the plan, or if it had grown as Lillian saw that Lena was not meant for the world of darkness and cold, that there was something pulling her to the light.
And now that she knows, she can see that it’s been there, that she tried to bury it by following her brother, by being the heir, but it was never really gone. It was always there in the choice to only seek out the darker souls looking to make deals - who deserved their places in Hell. In her lack of taking any as years passed. In her isolation in Hell. In her friendship with Sam.
There was always something good trying to work its way to the surface, in the back of her mind. Something that was meant for Kara to wake up and find. Something that was meant to make her worthy of someone with fallen blood.
And she wonders, if Kara knew, would she think she was.
She finds she has trouble breathing as the crowd gets larger as the airport fills, as people rush towards their destinations or check in for their flights, somewhere there’s a kid crying and a couple fighting and someone arguing with a ticket agent about a canceled flight while someone else’s roller bag falls and clatters loudly to the floor and a group of teenagers laugh as they try on sunglasses and hold up tourist shirts from one of the gift shops.
It’s too much.
The world is too much.
It’s too loud and bright and she’s suddenly too warm.
She misses the cold. The silence. The darkness. The solitude.
She misses when she didn’t care what was going on up here, when she didn’t know who was up here.
She finds herself in the bathroom, mercifully alone, as she stares down at the sink while the water runs.
It doesn’t stop her from thinking, but it does make it a little easier to breathe.
“That water sending you a message or something?” Kara asks and Lena looks up and sees her in the mirror, a worried look in her eyes that has Lena shutting off the water with a squeak of the faucet.
Lena takes a breath as Kara approaches, leaning against the sink next to her. Back to the ceramic, looking at her and waiting patiently for Lena to say something - but she doesn’t know what to say, how to begin, how Kara even knew to find her.
Right, soulmates, might have something to do with that.
“We’re going to figure this out, they won’t win,” Kara tries but Lena takes another heavy breath, staring at the water as it swirls down the drain.
“That’s not…I’m not worried about them winning, I know they won’t.”
“Then what are you worried about?”
Lena doesn’t know how to begin to answer that, because it’s not so much worry, even when it is, because it’s everything, it’s them, it’s her, it’s who she was, who she is, who Kara is, it’s lies and truths and all of it, it’s what this means, what they mean, what could and will happen.
“I could go back,” Lena whispers and she knows she can’t, knows there’s no going back, there hasn’t been since she followed Kara from Swift Street, since that one moment put them on this path towards the inevitable.
“What? No!” Kara straightens and her eyes widen and the room suddenly feels too empty as her voice echoes off the tiles and the walls with its indignation and refusal, “You can’t, I won’t let you do that, you…you can’t…”
Kara slides closer, still not too close, but Lena can feel her warmth enough in the cold of the airport bathroom, “I know that place was your home, but you said it yourself, you didn’t belong there.”
“I don’t know where I belong.”
Kara swallows like she wants to say something else, like she has an answer and Lena can feel it in her bones just as she feels it in Kara’s quiet exhale of breath - exactly what Kara wants to say, what she doesn’t for fear of it being too much too soon.
Right here. With me.
“My family, what they’re going to do…what if I could save everyone just by going back?”
And she knows it can’t, knows it won’t, she’ll only be forced into the ritual anyway, but maybe if she goes back she can play along, she can take her brother out before it all goes down. Maybe she could save everyone without it ever coming to the real end, without Kara ever having to be aware.
“And what if it doesn’t? What if they kill you, if you can even die, can you die?”
“I think so.”
“Then, no. They could hurt you, they could kill you, and then they’ll just do this thing anyway. And if we have any hope of winning, we need you. I need you.” And Kara is determined and Lena knows her plan is flawed and half-assed and she wouldn’t have truly been able to go through with it anyway, but there’s no arguing further.
They sit in silence for a few minutes, Lena’s hands still on the sink as Kara crosses her arms and they’re both lost in thought, both too far apart and both unsure of where they stand or what they’re supposed to be.
“Lena,” Kara starts, voice quiet and strained.
“Do you really want to talk about us and last night in the airport bathroom?” Lena asks with a smirk that has Kara looking at her with narrowed eyes and the telltale fighting of a smirk of her own as a light blush creeps across the bridge of her nose.
“Then when? Where? When the world is actually ending? The next haunted location?” And the blush has disappeared, and it is not an actual argument but there is a frustration in Kara’s words, at the world, at her, Lena can’t tell but there’s a piece of her that understands, that knows, there’s something tragic and angering about the two of them starting to figure this out, to have started something the night before only for the entire world to be ending by the morning.
“Is there an us?” Kara asks and her voice is small and whispered and Lena feels her heart almost break at how uncertain it is.
“Do you believe in fate?” Lena asks and Kara’s brow furrows, “I mean I know you believe in ghosts but, fate?” and Kara’s furrowed brow softens even as Lena’s lack of answer to her original question keeps her unsure.
“Would it be slightly hypocritical if I said no?”
Kara shrugs, “I don’t know. I think…I think there’s paths, but I also think we have choices and it’s our choices that determine our fates, not the other way around.”
“Astra inclinant, sed non obligant,” Lena says, quietly, more to herself but Kara hears her in the echo of the bathroom. She cocks her head to the side and Lena can feel her heart flip, can feel it quite literally somersault like a schoolgirl crush and all she wants to do is kiss Kara but she stops herself because they’re in an airport bathroom and she’s not sure if she should, despite the night before.
“What does that mean?”
“The stars define us, they don’t incline us. It’s Latin.”
“Of course it’s Latin. It’s pretty Latin, but of course it’s Latin.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing just very cliche of a demon to speak Latin.”
And that does make Lena laugh, truly, which in turn has Kara beaming and the tension of the messy definitions of their relationship fade in the glow of the overhead lighting and too bright ceramic tiles.
“It’s a good sentiment, despite the cliche.” Kara shrugs.
“I always thought so.”
“So you don’t believe in fate either?”
“I didn’t. That might have changed.” And she stares at Kara, hard enough for her to get the point, unblinking and as close to the truth as she can get, which in turn has Kara glancing from her eyes to her lips and back and they’re closer than before and not close enough when Lena turns to look back at the sink.
“But I think you’re right too. We do have a choice and those choices can make or break our fates. And it turns out our choices might be responsible for the world’s fate, so no pressure there.”
“Yeah, no pressure.” Kara shifts on her feet, letting out a heavy breath at the sudden distance, “But, you know my dad had a phrase he liked to throw around too in, not exactly this situation, but, still, family motto and all that.”
“It’s not Latin,” Kara mocks with a reverence emphasized on the long dead language that has Lena rolling her eyes, “But it was nice enough.”
And maybe Lena shouldn’t ask, maybe she shouldn’t tip toe or find out about the fallen angel that was Kara’s father but, Kara is lost in a memory and Kara is sharing and Kara is warm and trying to make her feel better, hopeful, that they can win this.
And it’s working, at least enough that Lena doesn’t feel like at any moment the sky will just open up and start raining blood.
So she lets this woman she loves tell her a piece of something good about the family she lost.
“He used to say we were stronger together or El Mayarah as he put it. I think he made it up. Or it could be a cult thing, I hope it’s not a cult thing.”
Lena feels the air around her sizzle with something, feels it like the cold snap before a lightning strike as the words, in a language that Kara does not realize or know the true origins of, but that Lena does and has never heard spoken aloud before, ring throughout the air.
It makes the room feel too warm, it almost burns, but not in the way she thinks it should, not in a way that feels like it’s hurting or smiting her, in a way that only makes her want to hold Kara close, to have her say it again and again like it belongs to her, to them - it makes her feel stronger.
The words synge and burn and carve themselves into Lena’s ribs, into the marred soul that she has only recently discovered exists - and it pulls some of the darkness out, like leeches sucking at a wound.
For a moment she smells grass and green and feels a lush Earth under her hands as she lies on a soft blanket beneath a bright sky, hears someone laughing, hears Kara laughing beside her, and it feels like a life that could have been, a life in the sun she could have had, may have had with Kara.
And then it’s gone like a shallow breath, not enough air, not enough time to savor it.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah…yes…fine…” Lena swallows past the emotion in her throat, past a vision of a future she knows she won’t have, “It’s just…if he made it up it’s quite beautiful. I don’t think it’s a cult thing.”
“You think it’s beautiful? I never really thought about it, I honestly just thought he was pulling something from Lord of the Rings but he was always making up stuff like that, he had this light to him, he worked in a hardware store and odd jobs here and there but…that probably sounds weird, especially after the possible cult thing,” Kara finds herself lost in the reminiscence, her words fading as she realizes Lena is watching her and Lena can see that light, knows that light all too well.
And knowing where it’s from, it only seems like it burns brighter the more aware of it she is.
Lena wants to tell her, needs to explain it with careful words and a gentle touch, but she needs to sort it all out herself first, needs to understand where she comes from outside of her own Hellish origins before she upends everything Kara knows about herself and tells her about her own bonds to Heaven.
Still, she gives her a piece of it, “Well if that light is anything like yours, I think I can understand, because I can see it too.”
Kara looks down and blushes and Lena isn’t sure why she’s so tentative, why the urge to reach out and brush a hand across Kara’s cheek feels suddenly too intimate despite the night before but it does. It feels larger than them, it feels like so much more, like two stars on a collision course destined to change a galaxy.
She feels it all, the universe spiraling around them in this bathroom like the gravity that holds down the Earth.
And if Kara feels it too, she ignores it and reaches for Lena like she knows Lena needs her to, as if she knows that Lena wants to reach but is terrified to.
Because Kara slides closer to Lena with a certainty she lacked before and rests her hand on the sink next to Lena’s own, entwining their pinkies like she’s making a promise.
“We are in this together, okay?” Kara says, “No matter what happens, whether it’s fate or choice, no matter what, we’re in this together. And that means you don’t run off with some half-assed plan to go back to Hell and we figure it out together. Okay?”
She stares into Kara’s eyes, sees the light and the fire and a determination she knows must have made the House of El so feared, so revered. And what must have made their fall so painful for above and so celebrated below.
She knows she’d gladly follow that light anywhere. She’d gladly sacrifice herself for that light.
She can’t help but think of Icarus, wings on fire as he sought the sun, and she can’t help but think of her father tearing himself apart to hold onto a darkness that was larger than him - to hold power not meant for him. She thinks of her brother trying to destroy a world so that he may rule over its ashes and she knows, in the end, it will be his hubris that destroys him too.
Maybe it’s the destiny of the Luthor name, to seek that which they shouldn’t and can’t hold - to tear themselves apart in their pride to hold the sun and die happily doing it.
She wonders what Kara sees in her eyes, wonders if Kara can see the darkness, can see the things she’s done, can see the Hell she comes from and the corrupted light she may also hold, she wonders if Kara knows that Lena understands that she’d sell her own soul to protect Kara, that she’s very well going to in order to stop anything Lex may do to her.
Lena curls her pinkie around Kara’s and squeezes as she promises, “Together,” and means it but knows it comes with the caveat, ‘until the end of the world’ which in no uncertain terms equally means, ‘until I am forced to leave you to save you.’
But Kara doesn’t need to know that part, not yet.
“Now boarding Flight 418 non-stop to National City…”
“That’s us,” Kara states, “I don’t know about you but I am definitely going to pass out on the flight.”
“Should I ask them for a pillow or will you be using my shoulder again?” Lena jokes and Kara blushes a deeper red as they walk out of the bathroom, pinkies still entwined until they exit.
Trying to prove your best friend/co-worker you investigate ghosts with/woman you caught feelings for and panicked about is a demon and that demons are real is nothing compared to trying to determine where the apocalypse will begin and how it will begin and how to stop it.
If Kara had been determined to figure out one mystery concerning Lena, it’s nothing compared to the determination she has when the entire world may or may not be on the line.
She takes her entire conspiracy board - the one that had been about Lena - and wipes it and brings it in to set it up in Brainy’s office early Monday morning.
“Oh okay so we’re fully committing to becoming these paranormal investigators,” Brainy states as he fills the mini-fridge with energy drinks and healthier snack options like yogurts and apple slices he knows Kara won’t touch judging by the two boxes of variety chips that each proudly proclaim to have five packages of each.
He looks at one that is entirely Doritos and Cheetos and wonders if he has enough napkins to prevent the inevitable crumbs and fingerprints that will soon be detailing parts of his office - including the conspiracy board.
“Brainy it’s the world! It’s an apocalypse!”
“Have you slept?”
“I got like a solid nap on the plane and then a few hours before I gathered all this up.” And she had spent the larger part of Sunday night trying to ignore a gnawing feeling in her chest as she tossed and turned and wondered if she called Lena would Lena come over, would it be too soon to ask her to just stay the night, was it wrong when the world was on the line?
And then her brain had started firing off question after question as she stared at the ceiling.
Did demons actually sleep? Would Lena even answer the phone? Did Lena even want the same things? What were they even to each other now? What was this thing they had? Is it a relationship? Are they girlfriends? Are they still just friends with something more between them? The something more being of course the almost sex but not quite all of it that had happened - the almost she definitely wanted to no loner be defined as almost.
And also the feelings, Kara notes, also the lots of feelings.
And if she had called Lena would that almost have disappeared, would they have talked about the feelings, would they have talked at all - well, maybe after.
By the time her alarm went off the questions had died down but she hadn’t slept and she had never actually called Lena.
She remembers the plan she and Lena had come up with before parting ways, before Lena had watched her carefully get into her apartment building, scanning all around like she was looking for threats and Kara supposes she probably was.
Maybe there are more ghosts that Lena can see, or maybe she’s just worried about her family doing something to her.
So she’s worried about her? Kara asks herself, Lena is worried about her which means she may have answered had Kara called.
Kara should have called. Maybe then she would have slept.
Maybe they could have done something else besides sleeping and then slept later.
She shakes her head, she’s at work now, she can’t be dwelling on Frat Boy level thoughts because that is not her, at least not all the time, at least it didn’t used to be, but there’s something about Lena that has her a lot more frustrated than any other relationship, any other person, has made her before.
“Lena isn’t coming?” Brainy asks, looking behind Kara as he shuts the door to the editing room where they will for sure never be disturbed, fully breaking Kara away from all thoughts of Lena and frustration and wanting her.
“Right, we have a plan,” Kara states and remembers why they had had to split up, why Lena wasn’t with her. Divide and conquer, slightly apart but still working together. Lena has to figure out the prophecy part, the whole actual ritual and possibly the cult thing, while Kara and Brainy have to figure out where this last seal or whatever is going to be, where it all converges.
“She and Nia are going to try to find her friend and find out what this whole ritual thing is amongst other details.”
“A personal detail. About my family.”
“Is this the cult thing you wouldn’t elaborate on?”
“Yes. And I can’t look into a cult because they freak me out and I especially can’t look into a cult my family may have been in. So Lena and Nia are taking care of that part.”
“Do you honestly think that it could be connected?”
“We can’t ignore any possibilities.”
“And both Nia and Lena were okay with working with each other? After the holy water incident?”
“Pretty sure Lena doesn’t know that Nia is going with her.”
“That’s probably for the best,” Brainy states, “Good luck to them.” And then he points to Kara as she opens the first of many bags of Doritos, “Do not touch my computer with your Dorito hands.”
“I don’t need you to help me, Nia,” Lena argues.
“Oh, deja vu, yeah we don’t need to go through the whole argument I had with Kara like forty eight hours ago when I joined your team at that haunted little bar, because you’re not stopping me.” Nia crosses her arms and Lena is very aware of what looks like a water gun attached via holster on Nia’s hip and wants to ask but thinks better of it - she also has the recollection of Nia questioning her on origins she knew about and also potentially trying to have her drink holy water and hold a cross which didn’t work and wouldn’t but still, she had tried.
“Well I’m not Kara and I can stop you.” Lena threatens but Nia stands strong because Nia knows, they both do, that Lena won’t.
“Then stop me.”
Lena sighs, “Nia this isn’t just like a fun little adventure where we go to the library and look up rituals and prophecies. We aren’t doing that, I’m not doing that.”
“Is that not what Kara tasked you with? Solving the prophecy and the cult.”
“There’s no cult. At least not with Kara.” Lena clenches her hands and tries to bury down the secrets, tries to keep it all bottled in because she needs Sam, not Nia, she needs real answers and real evidence and a way to break it to Kara before it all pours out.
“You already know that? How do you already know that? You know what the prophecy thing is don’t you?” Nia accuses and Lena stares at her.
“I don’t know for sure.”
“But you suspect?”
“I have a rough outline. That I’m not sharing until I have the entire fact checked essay.”
“So we’re getting the facts, then?”
“No. We aren't. I am.”
“You need backup,” Nia argues.
“Not from the person who tried to poison me with holy water.” Lena stares at Nia who clicks her tongue.
“I am sorry about that but, you know what, it was in the interest of protecting Kara which as I’m sure you agree was well worth it. And fair game.”
“I’m leaving now,” Lena starts, “If you want to be useful, you can stay here and scour social media for rivers becoming blood or frogs raining from the sky or demons making the rounds, I don’t know.” Lena shoves a book into a bag and grabs her phone before making for the exit.
She’s not entirely sure why she even made her way into the office today, part of it was to make sure Kara had gotten there safe, part of it was because she had spent the better part of the night watching outside of Kara’s building to make sure she remained safe and needed to keep up appearances that she wasn’t borderline stalking her…what were they…not quite girlfriend, not quite just friend, possible soulmate…they hadn’t exactly had that conversation and in the face of her brother and death it really didn’t seem like it should matter - except it did, it does.
And it’s stressing her out a lot more than the concept of trying to find Sam and potentially having to save her.
Because she hasn’t heard from or seen her friend and she knows, just knows, that it’s all connected, knows Sam knew something, could be in danger as she got her own confirmations and details and she needs her friend to help her now.
But she also has the memory of Kara’s breath against her neck and mouth against her skin and hands…
She shakes her head. She has to focus. She has to find Sam, she has to call in backup so she can keep Kara safe. She can’t keep pulling an Edward Cullen and watching from a respectable distance at an alley across from Kara’s apartment - not even if she’s fairly certain had she just knocked on Kara’s door, Kara would have let her in without a second thought, probably would have kissed her too, probably would have done more than that.
Lena slaps the elevator button so hard it cracks and the lights inside flicker. Nia steps inside and glances from it to her.
“No,” Lena argues as the doors close.
“Clearly you need me,” she states pointing to the jacked up button, “Or you need to just get some release, with Kara.”
“That is…we’re not having this conversation.”
“But you want to have that conversation with Kara?”
“Look I think it’s great, I think it works, I don’t know how, but it does. It makes sense. And I also think the two of you need to just make with it because the world might be ending and time is running out and blah blah blah but also because I made a bet with Brainy and I very much need to win so.”
“You’re betting on when Kara and I…”
“No, I’m betting on when you and Kara figure out that you’re in love with each other and talk?” Nia starts with a sarcastic tone, “Of course I’m betting on when the two of you finally get down to clowning with each other. It’s been like brewing and very obvious since day one. I mean literally the entire internet is like are they secretly fucking, and yes did I make up the hashtag, yes did I pounce on that and say oh they’re acting like a married couple and a bunch of people followed suit, sure, but it’s also again the end of the world so if not now when. And also these elevators are expensive to fix and I will not be taking the stairs so you and Kara should just, you know, make each other happy in all of the ways you can, while you can. Pretty sure she both needs and wants it just as badly as you do.”
Lena has to rebound from all the turns of Nia’s speech from hashtags to her being the one to comment on the wife thing that Lena is fairly certain unhinged Kara in a way that may or may not have set them on the course they’re currently on (not entirely, Lena knows but it could have contributed) and also led to said frustration and breaking of the elevator button - but she also knows that it’s all a ploy and a distraction because the elevator has dinged, they are in the lobby and Nia is still following her and…
Lena turns on her heel, “You are not coming with me. And I will not fall into this game where you distract me with very fast speeches and end up joining me. This is dangerous. And it is not for humans. Demons only.” Lena whispers the last part and Nia glares at her.
“I can keep myself safe,” Nia taps the water gun in its holster.
“That only works on…”
“Possessions yes, but I also did some other research and,” she motions to another attached holster and reveals a canister of what appears to be table salt at the side, “And also,” she pulls a silver necklace from behind her shirt that has a sigil Lena knows does in fact ward off evil, that does give her a little itch at the back of her throat. And she knows if she tried to hurt Nia it would do much more than that.
Lena glances around her and wonders, in the pockets of her jacket, or hidden at her sides if she has anything else up her sleeve, “John Constantine has an entire chapter devoted to protection and I bought myself my own copy of the book since apparently, it’s accurate.” Nia crosses her arms and waits.
“Or I could always just go to the editing room, tell Kara that you may know all about this prophecy, that you might be hiding something more and that you have a different plan.”
“You do that and I will hurt you.” The lights above flicker but Nia doesn’t back down.
“You try it and you’ll learn everything that I read in that book.”
And there’s no arguing, there’s no trying to call Nia on her bluff because she isn’t bluffing and she knows, sooner rather than later, Nia will most likely have it all figured out, will put the pieces of supposed prophecy, of Lena’s secrecy all together and then Kara will know without Lena getting the entire truth, without Lena learning enough to break it to her gently.
And Kara will know that one of them is most likely going to die, and it won’t be Kara.
Lena takes a breath, “We may need to do a summoning and I can’t be distracted, so don’t be a distraction.”
“Fine by me. One distraction-less ally coming up.”
“No. That’s the opposite of not being a distraction.”
“Do you think we should have a team name? I think we should have a team name? Like code names. We could be the Rescue Rangers, no that’s taken.”
“And we’re not rescuing anyone, well that’s not true we might be but no we can’t…”
“Wait who are we not rescuing? Who are we summoning? Oh the Justice League!”
“A League implies more than four people. This is being a distraction!” Lena shouts as they march out of CatCo.
“I would argue this is just fun banter but whatever, you’re the humorless demon,” Nia states and Lena rolls her eyes as the doors shut behind them.
In between snacks and multiple handwashes Kara puts up maps, connects strings, notes from her book she’d already written and new ones she’s putting together. She pins Arkham in a nice red pin and even draws a big red frowny face next to it before she takes a string and traces a line, mapping and connecting other haunted places, places of darkness, places of interest that may or may not connect (the questionable ones receiving their own yellow colored pin), places that have either been abandoned or where a ritualistic murder seems to have occurred.
It’s that particular newsworthy event that has her pausing as she puts the yellow pin into its location. She can only find the generics, the details that were allowed to make the news, but she knows, she can sense, there’s more to it and it might well be red pin territory.
They’ve been working at this since the early morning and It’s well into the afternoon, they’ve both reached a threshold of fading fast, but when Kara finds the potential red pin and shows Brainy a headline from an early run of CatCo magazine that reads, “Sacrificial Murder in New Jersey: Garden State Home to Another Kind of Devil,” it grabs their attention.
And maybe it shouldn’t, maybe it reads like one of those ‘woman gives birth to alien baby’ kinds of stories, but it’s written by Snapper Carr who was once well respected on the crime beat, before he claimed to have seen the work of an actual monster and Cat Grant had quietly offered him an early retirement - his work had been impeccable up until then.
Kara wonders if this is the story that did it, if this is when Cat Grant narrowed down the focus of what she wanted CatCo to become and when she added mental health care to the company health plan.
“If this is about the Jersey Devil,” Brainy murmurs.
“No, look,” Kara points to a picture of the murder site that was featured in the report, a blurry image of police tape blocking an equally blurred crowd and the distant image of a body in a field. But it’s not the body or the field that is the focus, it’s what they can see on a tree near the crime tape - it’s not entirely visible, not all of it, but they both know it’s there.
“The same symbol. Can you pull up more about what happened?”
“Nothing they released to the press. There’s a follow up, Ra’s Al-Ghul, father to Nyssa Al-Ghul, was arrested for her murder. He claims he was being influenced by a voice, that it was whispering for him for nearly a year to serve it and become the head of the demon and that by killing his daughter it would allow for her to be resurrected in the light of Lazarus and for him to gain power. What the fuck kind of…”
“I know, it’s definitely a part of it, it’s just…he influenced this man to kill his own daughter and not just kill her but to sacrifice her, that’s…and that’s Lena’s brother.”
“Lena isn’t like that.”
“I’m not saying she is, I’m saying,” he runs a hand through his hair, pulling at it, as the weight of both his exhaustion and what they’re facing hits him, settles over the room like a blanket that lacks any sort of comfort. He sighs, “I’m saying, are any of us, Lena included, truly prepared for what he’s capable of? For what might happen if we engage in this fight?”
“It’s the world, Brainy, the world. We can’t just run away because we’re scared of one monster.”
“It’s not just one monster. It’s a monster that can create other monsters, who enjoys being a monster. A monster we don’t fully understand, who operates in a different plane of existence that we don’t. This is bigger than us, Kara, so much bigger than us.”
“So what do we do? Give up? Forget about it and pretend any day the world might not end?”
“No, we can’t. We’re the only ones who know what’s happening, who can do anything about it, but I think we all need to understand what that means exactly. What taking the ring to Mordor truly means.”
“What does it mean?”
“We might not survive it. We might have to make sacrifices. Are you prepared to make that choice, to choose the world over any one of us, including Lena?” And the thought crosses Kara’s mind, the image of a shadow of a monster named Lex Luthor standing over Lena’s body as the world burns around him.
And the truth is, Kara doesn’t know if she could choose the world over Lena, doesn’t know if she would be noble or strong enough to make that choice. And she hasn’t known Lena long, she hasn’t had her in her life long, but it feels like she has.
It feels like the moment they met she had known her entire life and finally found someone she’d been missing forever.
There’s something between them that pulls them together like a magnet, that feels right, safe and secure, that makes her certain in it, like nothing else ever has and Kara can’t, won’t, sacrifice it or Lena.
She’d take her place before she made that choice.
And maybe it’s selfish, she knows it sounds selfish, the entire world for one life, but her fingers burn with how they felt touching Lena’s skin and the memory of Lena’s mouth on hers is too fresh to ignore how it makes her entire being sing with the perfection of it, with how much she wants, how much she loves…
“We don’t know if it’s going to come to that.”
“We don’t know that it won’t.” And Brainy fixes her with a somber look that has the reality sinking in all that much further.
This is bigger than them, this is so much more than either one of them signed up for when they began this stupid paranormal show and yet, here they are, staring down an apocalypse and the end of it all from behind a computer screen inside a stuffy editing room, cans of Red Bull littering the floor from where Kara missed the trash can every single time she insisted on throwing the empty ones in - only making one shot out of the eight others.
“One out of eight isn’t so bad,” Kara had said.
“Statistically it is.”
“Statistically one shot is all that matters.”
“Depends on the shot.”
And that had been an hour ago, of the two of them joking, of the two of them pinning strings and scrolling through endless internet boards and social media and True Crime podcasts and finding nothing and hoping that maybe there wasn’t really anything worse, that maybe they had time, that maybe somehow this would all be a dream and someone would come along and say, ‘we’ll take it from here,’ and they could just go to sleep or Kara could actually ask Lena on a date.
But it didn’t happen, it won’t happen, and they’re the ones who are going to have to ‘take it from here.’ Only them. And Nia and Lena. A reporter, a demon, a producer/social media coordinator and a cameraman/editor.
What a team.
Kara picks up a pin, “Where was this exactly?” She asks as she approaches the map, they have no choice, they have to continue, they have to solve this, they have to stop this.
She puts the pin in when Brainy tells her exactly where and it doesn’t connect to Arkham, not directly, it doesn’t even fall on the same line, but it does begin to create a radius, a circle, where the points start to converge.
“What about those true crime websites, the citizen detectives or whatever, do they have something on Nyssa Al-Ghul’s murder? Other signs we can look for? Or someone who might be helping Lex?”
“You think he needs someone helping him?”
“If you were stuck in Hell or trying to do this entire thing, you would need help, right? You would need a team of your own? Maybe this…Ra’s was supposed to be one of them but wasn’t good enough?”
“Or he was just a victim.”
“But someone else might not be.”
Brainy puts a question mark next to the heading ‘Allies’ and puts Ra’s Al-Ghul’s name next to it too.
The search for Sam starts with seeking out a witch.
Lena knows it’s not the most practical option, she could use Nia to try to summon Sam but that opens up a whole other realm of problems - number one being that Nia might owe her soul to the demon.
She knows Sam would never collect, not truly, but there does pose the problems of contracts and rituals that might force her hand - that might cause Reign to gain a servant whether she wants one or not.
Nia said she wanted to help, she never said she’d sell her soul to help and Lena can’t ask that of her, of anyone.
Besides, there’s no guarantee Sam would even show up, if she’s in trouble, she might not be able to - so a witch is the best option. A witch of the occult and darker things is even better.
They spend at least two hours visiting every ‘magic’ and ‘witchy’ shop throughout National City that Nia Googles and it's only when they’re standing on a street near the waterfront in the Fashion District that they finally find it.
The storefront has candles in the windows and a poster claiming psychic readings for five dollars but Lena can feel it, can sense the darker power in the oil that’s been painted into the wood frame, in the wind chimes that have well hidden runes carved into the metal, in the scent of blood that is hidden underneath a haze of incense burning from somewhere inside.
Lena points and Nia shudders and something in her very human brain doesn’t want her to get any closer and they both know they’ve found the place.
“Eve-il Dead Things: A Magical Emporium. Very wordy, not a great pun even if her name is Eve.” Nia recoils before they cross the threshold.
“Stay out here,” Lena warns and Nia stares her down.
“I told you, I’m in.”
“This isn’t a good witch. And I can’t be accompanied.”
“If you’re not out in five minutes, I’m coming in and I don’t care who gets in the way of the holy water, even if it doesn’t affect you, I have things that will,” Nia warns and Lena agrees before stepping inside the dimly lit shop.
“Greetings wander…oh,” the shop owner freezes behind the counter, her fake accent dropping almost instantly at the sight of Lena.
Lena stares her down, stares at the many necklaces and dark veil she has over her head that she removes to reveal bright blonde hair as her fidgeting hands remove her many necklaces, most of which Lena can see are just for show.
“How can I help…you?” The owner says with a nervous voice.
“You know who I am. What I am,” Lena warns, the air around her growing colder as she draws in a darker power, sourcing it from the very walls around her.
“What, not who,” she lies and Lena can feel it behind her words, behind the whisper. As she sees a door open to an office, as she sees a map on the wall and what looks like a bowl of blood and a crystal and…she was looking for something.
“Who are you?” Lena asks, sharp as the woman stands up straighter, as she steps in front of the office door and closes it, “Who do you serve?”
“Eve. Tessmacher. This is my store.” She clicks her nails against the counter as she shirks Lena’s other question and asks one of her own, “What can I do for a high demon like yourself? I’ll be honest, I don’t get very many of your kind, this is an honor, but I do have to warn you I don’t do altar sacrifices anymore, so…”
“I’m looking for someone, Eve. Reign.”
“Big name.” Eve glances out the window, but Nia remains unseen, which Lena is grateful for even as she hears the tell tale sound of the lock clicking, “No disturbances.”
Eve rounds the corner and Lena feels like she’s being herded, circled, like something is off in the shop around her as she spots a few occult items - namey one specific box she knows her brother made, a puzzle designed to capture and trap the one who solved it, to create a torture so painful until that pain turned to pleasure and a new demon servant was forged.
“I need you to summon her, a true summoning,” Lena states as Eve circles and Lena steps aside, to let her pass. Eve puts a book away, with others on the walls, and Lena reads it’s title, in old German, the word Leviathan on it - Leviathan, one of Lex’s pets, one of his darker creations, a guard, a vicious monster of a demon who will rip and tear and guard her brother with his life, created from the deepest torture and Eve was looking into him?
Had she been trying to summon him?
“Can’t you summon her or call her? I’m not clear how it works but I would think you’d have a more direct line.” Eve circles once again and opens a drawer and Lena knows this is bad, can feel something stirring in the darkness and magic of the walls. And she can feel it, that Eve is not just any shop owner, even one who dabbles in the darker side of magic.
She’s more than any witch.
“She’s missing. I can’t find her.” Lena looks around, tries to find an exit point before Eve can do anything, but the room is getting hazier, the world dizzier, and Eve keeps walking.
“Missing? How does a demon go missing?” Eve asks but there’s the tell tale smile, the tell tale knowing hint in her words, and carelessness in them as she asks and feigns concern.
“Who do you serve?” Lena asks but she knows the answer, can feel it in the walls, in the haze, in Eve’s power - a boon no doubt courtesy of her brother in return for services rendered and a loyal servant.
She should have known she couldn’t trust the only one she’d found in National City.
Maybe a light witch would have been a better option all things considered - considering her potential origins.
“I think you know the answer, Lena,” Eve tells her as Lena turns. She goes to move, raises her hand in the hopes to do anything to Eve, but she finds herself frozen and unable to move, stuck in place, powerless as Eve flashes a knife marked with all kinds of sigils that Lena knows will make her bleed - could kill her if she wants to, if she tries hard enough.
Lena looks up and sees the trap on the ceiling, crudely drawn in chalk, a sign that Eve may have been pressed for time, probably sensed her coming or was worried she might make an appearance, but it doesn’t matter how quick it was done, it was effective all the same - designed to keep demons in their place, all kinds, even ones like her.
“Shit,” Lena curses under her breath as the haze around her settles, as Eve’s magic fades now that Lena has been effectively trapped and she should have sensed it, she should have seen it, should have known that Lex would have a dark witch at his side.
“I’ll be honest I didn’t think you would show up here, Lena, but your brother did warn me that things might get a little dicey before the ritual. So I was prepared. And, I mean it’s a good thing too because, well…I thought getting your blood was going to be a hassle,” Eve tells her in a sing-song voice.
“We have to make sure it works, silly.” Eve steps closer with the knife and Lena feels the ancient magic singing through the blade, almost burning in her blood.
“I had a whole plan, well, the outline of one, I mean you know your brother, he doesn’t tolerate failure. But you made it all so much easier just because you cared about your little friend, Reign. I should have just kidnapped her first.”
“What?” Lena asks, pushing against the barrier she’s trapped in, wondering if Nia is even alive outside or if Eve knew she was there anyway, if she did something to her. If her magic is a lot stronger than Lena anticipated. If Nia even knows what’s going on inside or if there’s some kind of block.
“You didn’t take her?” Lena asks, and yes, she’s trapped, yes she doesn’t exactly have the upper hand, but she’s fairly certain Eve isn’t going to kill her, fairly certain Lex needs her alive for this ritual and, if she’s trapped, and if Eve likes to talk, she might as well learn what she can.
“No, that would have been much too obvious that I was involved and then that could have ruined the plan. She showed up here, same as you, looking for answers about fallen angels, demons who aren’t quite all darkness, protection spells, Cadmus, all of that. I sent her to Acrata, if she hasn’t come back well, that's on her.”
And Eve grabs Lena’s wrist with a strength and magic that is only aided by the trap as she digs the knife in enough to start the bleeding, as she catches it in a flask and smiles while Lena winces against the burn in her skin, against the pain of the blade.
“You should be honored that your brother is going to let you live when he rules this world.”
“What did he promise you? A place at his side? Riches, power? Do you really think he’s going to give any of that to you once he gets what he wants?” Lena asks, maybe she can appeal to some fallen soul, maybe not, but either way she’s pretty sure it’s enough of a distraction as she feels around for the weakness in the sigil, in the magic, as she pushes against it and feels the strain in her mind, in her own power fighting against the blocks.
It’s too strong.
“I’ve been loyal, why wouldn’t he reward me?”
“Because the only person Lex is loyal to is himself, and even if he promised you a throne, Eve, he will be the only one who sits on it.”
The witch laughs as she cuts again and collects more blood. Lena feels the pain and pushes against the sigil again and again, but nothing breaks it, there’s no weakness. Eve is too prepared as she draws more blood.
“Sorry, we need enough,” Eve smiles and Lena pushes against the sigil, pushes against the magic trapping her, pushes and pushes, but it’s to no avail. She’s bleeding, she’s stuck, and Nia is probably dead or won’t be able to save her. Maybe she saw what was happening and turned tail and ran - Lena wouldn’t blame her if she had.
“You sent Sam to…Acrata?” Lena asks, breathing heavier, sweating against her own push of power and the blood being drawn, “She’s here?”
She knows that Lex’s coup goes a lot deeper, stretches a lot further, has allies even she couldn’t have anticipated. Sam had told her Acrata had been asking questions when she went to Earth, maybe that was more for Lex’s benefit than her own irritation, her own desire for power.
“She’s been up here for about a week now, I’m surprised you didn’t know, I mean I guess the underground club she’s running isn’t exactly in the papers but surely, you should have sensed it.” And Lena hadn’t, wonders if maybe that had been the same night she had ended up with The Keeper, if Lex wasn’t just there to see her but to also get her out of town and distract her so she wouldn’t notice Acrata’s arrival.
Pieces moving around a chess board. And she’s a pawn stuck in a trap.
“It might be a little soon, I mean we still have to secure the bridge, but having you here, getting Kara, that’s just going to make it all easier in the end. Hold still, I just need a little more and then you can sleep until it’s time.”
Eve waves her hand and candles light, filling the air with the same haze that Lena had felt earlier only this time it’s stronger, more potent and she feels it choking and burning in her lungs, dropping her to her knees as she coughs, as it makes her dizzy and Eve approaches with the knife again.
Lena should have thought this through, shouldn’t have been so confident, should have expected something like this. How had she not expected this? How had she not seen that Lex would have someone in his pocket? How had she allowed herself to be so distracted to not see everything from all angles, to think that walking in here would be safe enough? To think that finding Sam would be so simple.
Luthors and hubris and downfalls - around and around it goes.
It’s going to be her fault. Kara. The end. All of it. All because she didn’t check corners, she didn’t check her back, she didn’t think it through.
The world fades and blurs and she knows it’s over, it won’t be long now, she’ll wake up in some spot with Lex laughing at her and Kara dying and it won’t matter what she wanted to do, it won’t matter what she was planning or the things she never told Kara, none of it will matter, prophecy, the Keeper’s words, none of it.
Except a rock comes bursting through the window, shattering it and distracting Eve enough that Lena can at least shove the knife from her even if she’s still stuck against the barrier - can wake up enough as the air pushes its way into the shop and snuffs out one of the candles.
“The sigil!” Lena yells, trying not to pass out as Nia points the water gun upwards, as Eve reaches for the knife, but she’s taking a step inside the trap for Lena and entering the spot where Lena is.
And Lena can grab her from inside so she does. She may not have her power, but she’s still got hands to fight. She twists the knife from Eve’s grasp and turns it around, cutting into the other woman and forcing Eve to scurry back.
A piece of the chalk is washed away by Nia’s water gun and Lena feels her power surge through her like a force, cracks the rest of the sigil with the ceiling and shakes the building with her rage.
The candles snuff out. Eve grabs the flask and in a burst of smoke is gone, leaving the shop behind as she runs.
Nia helps Lena to her feet, looks around at the hanging plants and creepy objects and asks,”So she’s working for your brother?”
“And you thought I was going to be the problem.” Nia tsks and Lena rolls her eyes and takes a breath of clean air.
“Oh my God, you’re bleeding,” Nia notices.
“I’ll be fine. It’ll heal in a minute. I just…need a minute.” And Lena waves Nia off of her as she takes a seat on the floor against the counter and takes a breath as the cuts start to heal themselves.
She watches Nia assess the damage, the shop around her, the bloody knife and the entire room that looks like some weird ritual murder scene or haunted house.
“What was she…”
“She took my blood.”
“Your blood? Is that…is that like a problem or bad?”
“Yeah, it’s a problem.” Lena points to the office door, “She was looking for a place, a bridge, there’s a map in the office. It might be their Arkham replacement.”
Nia opens the door and finds the map, finds the little altar and magic and recoils at the sight, “She killed a bird! This is gross!”
“You wanted to come!”
“It’s a good thing I did! Kara’s gonna be so pissed when she finds out I almost let you die and that you had your blood stolen.”
“She’s not going to find out. At least not until we’re done.”
“What?!” Nia returns carrying the map as she argues with Lena, “I think this is a good sign we’re done. We have her books and stuff, we can figure out the prophecy here and...” Nia notices the way Lena won’t meet her eyes, the worry still in them.
“That’s why she took your blood, isn’t it? It involves you.”
And she can see Nia go over it mentally as she recites the prophecy, “Blood from fallen and corrupted light…wait…does that make…Kara’s involved too, isn’t she?”
“Why would you think she’s involved?” Lena asks, defensive as her cuts fade to scars.
“Because you’re defensive and you don’t fit the fallen part and there’s the other thing that says two souls tied together and that’s you…and Kara.”
Lena takes a heavy breath and hates how smart Nia is, but is also grateful for it, grateful that she’s practical and crafty enough to have been able to save her when she needed it.
“She doesn’t know and we can’t tell her, not yet.”
“And rescuing this other demon isn’t just about getting all the facts, is it?”
“I just…we can’t leave her there, she’s my friend and we need her help. I need her help to keep Kara safe. Because I can’t do it alone and you and Brainy can only go so far.”
Nia seems to take this in, to fully understand the importance of getting another ally who can protect Kara.
She nods, “Well, we can’t go in there without a plan. And judging by this map they already have their final place in mind to complete their gate reveal or whatever and get to the final step to the end the world, backup is probably for the best. Where is she?”
“With the demon who owns that final place.”
Nia sighs, “I hope Brainy and Kara are having a less eventful day.”
Kara has the idea to ask her sister about the symbol, to show it to her and see if she can get anything. She’s fairly certain Alex is going to give her the run around of how she can’t just give her information from the FBI but Kara also knows that if Alex has seen it before, she won’t be able to lie about it, not in a way that Kara won’t be able to tell she’s lying about it, so it feels like a win-win scenario.
She’s not exactly lying when she says it’s for a story, it kind of is, it’s for the show, she’s just downplaying the whole end of the world aspect of it.
And if she looks like she hasn’t slept properly since the day before on the plane, well, she hopes it isn’t super noticeable.
Alex calls her out on it immediately when she arrives at the diner down the street from CatCo for an early dinner/late lunch. The sun is setting and Kara is exhausted, but she pushes on and hugs her sister when she meets her and Alex looks her up and down, the worry palpable.
“Oh my God, what happened? Did your last investigation go super badly? Wait, did you and Lena…” The worry turns to teasing and Kara brushes her off.
“Stop, no, I mean…not yet, but also kind of…no, that’s not, I…I’m working on a story!” Kara yells as the lie does not come out nearly as smoothly as it should, as her thoughts of Lena and kind of and almost flare up and her ears get a little red and her neck gets a little too warm and Alex is smirking.
“What do you mean not yet?! Is this like a thing, has it happened?! I have to text Kelly!”
“Alex,” Kara warns and the blush fades and Alex puts her phone down.
Kara temporarily looks inside the diner and watches as someone’s plate of pancakes gets brought to them and vaguely thinks about delaying the conversation until they’re inside but, no, band-aids and all that. The world and all that. Best to just get it over with.
Still, it’s probably not best to do this on the street. And she’s only had Doritos and Cheetos all day.
“We should go inside.”
Alex, mercifully, remains silent yet suspicious as they’re seated at a booth and coffee is poured which Kara is also extremely grateful for as she downs half of it before registering she hasn’t added any sugar or cream and it’s burning her throat and it’s about five thirty in the afternoon which is not a usual time for her to be drinking coffee.
“Fucking Christ,” she coughs as she reaches for the water, “Hot.”
“I bet.” Alex sips hers and stares, before diving in, “Alright so this isn’t about you and Lena, though I would like to circle back to that, but, what story has you looking like a basement goblin trying to solve JFK? Is it JFK? You know I don’t have any secret information on something like that.” And then Alex stares her down harder, “Wait did you seriously call me because you think I can help you with a story? Kara.”
“No, I mean kind of but, no,” Kara murmurs and Alex shakes her head.
“It's a conflict of interest, I can’t.”
“I know and I wouldn’t even call if it wasn’t super important and I promise you it is. Please. Just look at this,” Kara produces the printed image of the symbol. Slaps it down on the table in front of her sister, forcing Alex’s attention to the image Brainy pulled from the book, clear and sharp and there’s no mistaking Alex’s expression as she turns the paper around, as she pulls it closer, as she stares at its lines and curves.
She recognizes it.
“Where did you find this?” She asks as she looks from it to Kara.
“It was in Arkham. And it’s been in other places. Bad places, murders and…and you know what it is, don’t you?” Kara can see she’s getting paler, can see a nervousness, can see in the forced way she stares at her - compartmentalizing, hiding, lying without lying.
“Nothing I can give to the press.”
“How about your sister?”
“Not the sister who is also the press.”
“Alex, please, what is it?” Kara pleads and she knows her voice is strained, desperate and that Alex can tell this has nothing to do with her job at all, that she knows something about it just as Alex does.
“You’re not working on a story, are you?”
Kara stares at Alex and Alex stares back, an entire argument and conversation where the both of them wait, reading each other, where Kara is practically begging and Alex can’t help but trust and give in and hope that she’s not going to get fired or worse for this.
“Please,” Kara begs again and Alex sighs, leaning a little closer, voice falling quieter, forcing Kara to lean too.
“We don’t know what it is, not exactly, but it’s been found at some, unsettling, scenes. A few, actually.”
“Like Nyssa Al-Ghul.”
Alex nods, “Among others. It first showed up five years ago, when I started as an agent. We found it on a small plane crash further North.”
“The Oliver Queen crash?” And Kara remembers marking it down on the map, remembers a maybe next to it, remembers that very story and Alex telling her she had been assigned to a crash, to investigate whether or not there had been any foul play - but Kara, and Alex, she had assumed, had previously chalked it up to nothing more than mechanical failure when no other news came out about it.
Until she had marked it on the map earlier in the day, until she had seen that it fit into what was beginning to look like a circle, and now knows that she’ll have to change the color pin when she gets back to the office.
“Something crashed the plane, but it wasn’t an accident, and the Queens didn’t die in the crash itself. There was too much…they were shredded, like they had been torn apart and we found that carved into the plane, their blood soaking into it. We never released that information. And we thought it was isolated but, it kept showing up, in other places, tragedies, accidents, crimes. A camp massacre last year.”
“Where was that?” Kara asks, making a mental note of a camp massacre.
Alex shakes her head, “I thought it might have been a serial killer, a seemingly random one, but…then I was given a special assignment, last year, after the camp.”
“What assignment? Why didn’t you mention it?”
“I can’t talk about it. I’m not allowed to talk about it, that’s why it’s a special assignment.”
“But you’re talking about it now,” Kara argues.
“Because you asked.”
“Alex, please, whatever it is, I can handle it. And I’m not going to tell anyone. At least, not anyone who can’t do anything about it.”
“What does that mean?” Alex asks as she stares at Kara, as Kara takes a breath.
“I think I know who's doing this, and I think I can help stop it.”
“What? Kara, no, no this is not some fun little paranormal investigation into a haunted house or creepy prison where you jump at a shadow or creaking door, this is real,” Alex argues and then catches herself and stops talking.
“What’s real?” Kara insists, staring hard at her sister, her voice lowering as the sun sets in the sky and the streetlights click on, the neon sign overhead casting the street in an eerie blue glow.
There’s a long time where Alex doesn’t speak, where Kara can tell she’s debating with herself just what she should do, whether or not she should get up and walk out, whether or not Kara can handle what’s about to be told to her.
One side of the argument wins and Alex states, “That crash is the first time I’ve seen that symbol but it’s not the first weird…thing, I’ve seen. Neither is the camp.”
“I don’t understand.”
“There’s a reason I was recruited and it didn’t have anything to do with the fact that I was the only one asking other questions about this thing,” Alex points to the paper, “Questions that other agents didn’t think to ask because they hadn’t seen anything to tell them that…maybe it wasn’t…human. Or normal.”
And Kara blinks because, “What are you saying? You’re like in the X-Files?” And Kara laughs but Alex doesn’t and Kara knows that she is.
“I mean we don’t call ourselves that because I’m pretty sure it’s copyright infringement but…basically.”
“And you made fun of me for believing in ghosts?!” Kara argues and Alex raises her hands as Kara lowers her voice.
“In my defense, your show is hilarious watching you jump at the wind. And, again, I can’t exactly broadcast what I’m doing.”
“What else have you seen? What else is out there?” And Kara knows this is a little bit off topic and that Alex had denied her whole ‘Lena is a demon theory’ so her head is spinning, but it is also possible Alex has seen something that could be both helpful or just really cool.
Still, she shakes her head because how many other people in her life are going to give her some weird Supernatural confession that involves either demons or being in the X-Files or something else. Is Brainy secretly a wizard? Is Nia psychic? What else in her life is going to be surrounded by this chaos and next level nonsense?
And then the other part of what Alex had told her clicks and she’s pretty sure the other shoe is going to upend her life right then and there, “It wasn’t the first abnormal thing you’d seen?”
“What?” Alex asks and Kara can see that she’s trying to deflect, trying to pretend she doesn’t remember the earlier part of this conversation, because she adds, “I mean I’ve seen some…”
“Alex,” and that shuts her sister up as Kara’s expression turns serious, stone-cold serious, “You just said, they recruited you because it wasn’t your first brush with whatever not-human thing, that you asked the right questions because you knew, so…how? What was the first abnormal thing?”
“This isn’t the place,” Alex tells her sharply.
But Kara is firm and unrelenting, “It’s going to have to be. I need the truth, all of it, right now, and this is not me being dramatic but the world might very well depend on it.”
“That’s not you being dramatic?”
“No, it’s me actually telling the truth, which is what you need to be doing, right now.” And Kara has a memory of Lena telling her the world is a lot darker than she thought, that Lena is not who she thought and she had known it, had sensed it, had been a little prepared for it, but this is different. This is her sister.
Her sister who possibly has been lying to her for a while now, at least a year, if not longer. And there had been no warning for this, no preparation, nothing. Not even the hint of suspicion for Kara to at least peel this particular band-aid off little by little.
Alex looks out at the blue-lit street as the distant rumble of thunder echoes overhead. Kara takes another sip of her coffee and watches her sister clench her hands and sigh deeply.
She turns to her, apologetic before the words even come out, and Kara feels her heart beating in her throat as Alex opens her mouth and…
“Are you ready to order?” The waitress asks with a smile as she stands in front of the booth, oblivious to everything transpiring in the diner. Alex covertly flips the paper image of the Cadmus symbol and puts on her own fake smile while Kara does the same.
Another rumble of thunder echoes overhead as rain begins to fall over National City and the Danvers sisters order while the truth hangs heavy in the air, ready to be unleashed like the storm outside.
Acrata’s club , if it can be called that, is an old biker bar she’s taken over and enlisted lower demons in suits to keep out any interlopers who aren’t there to sell their souls or show the demons a fun time.
It’s a smaller building that has about two floors to it, and plenty of windows, but not a lot of light with larger, more popular clubs in the surrounding areas, it’s a place that only those who are in the know come to.
Or those desperate enough to find it.
Nia and Lena are well hidden in Eve’s car they stole from her shop and watch from an alley far enough away.
“Let’s go over it again,” Nia says as she looks through a bag of things they had taken from Eve’s shop - things Lena had told her to grab, things to protect and harm if used right.
“I go in, find Sam, talk to Acrata and cause a distraction, you set the trap around the club and pour enough holy water into the water pump to burn the lower ones out.”
“And once you get Sam, you both will have enough juice to take down Acrata?”
“If it comes to that.”
“What if she’s not in there?” Nia asks but Lena looks at the upstairs window, sees the faint glow of a light and she knows, can feel her friend’s presence without much effort.
“She is. Acrata wouldn’t just let Sam leave.”
“Because she’s always wanted her power and if she can find a way to take it.”
Lena watches a young kid of about fourteen with shaggy dark hair approach the door, the guards stare at him and laugh to themselves before they let him in, his shaking hands and angry eyes enough reason.
“Let’s go,” Lena says, scared for the kid, scared for Sam, as she leaves the car and Nia runs to catch up.
The door is the easy part. The guards look at each other then at her as she smiles, as Nia hangs back in the shadows.
“I’m here to see Acrata.”
“Your majesty, she told us no visitors,” one of the larger guards says, lowering his eyes and Lena keeps her smile short and curt - so she’s still the Heir to them, she still matters, even if the plan is to sacrifice her. These goons aren’t as loyal to the cause as they claim to be - or they’re not as smart as they think they are and don’t realize she’s there to stop them.
“Well I’m not a visitor,” Lena orders, “Or did you really think I didn’t know, that I wasn’t interested in taking this world too.”
They look at each other and then back to her. So she adds on, “We’ve been kept down below for too long, humanity has no business being above us, don’t you think?”
They nod, “Of course, your highness, princess, please, go in,” and they have the audacity to bow as Lena, proudly walks inside while Nia moves behind the building without either one of them realizing.
Lena makes sure to drop one of the crystals at the entrance - completing Nia’s circle when she places the others.
Getting in is the easy part because once she’s in she sees the boy waiting against a wall, staring at the stairs, a demon occupying someone who is barely eighteen standing next to him.
The boy is the more difficult one to look at, the only human in the place, and she can’t help but spend far too long staring at this kid who has no idea what he’s giving up, what he’s willing to give up, and she can’t help but feel bad for him, that he finds himself here, ready to sell his soul, at fourteen.
What must he have seen.
But it’s not the human that makes it more difficult, it’s the bodies of the bikers, all occupied by lower level demons, all staring at her - some fifteen of them, drinking, partying, laughing as it all stops when they stare at her - and she can hear the human souls beneath screaming.
The music plays loudly, some rock song that makes sense for the bar, the haze of cigarette smoke and smell of beer thick in the air, as the demons around her stand up taller and encroach on her space, hissing, snarling, eyes black as their twisted faces are clear to her but the human skin unchanging to the outside world.
“Where’s Acrata?!” Lena asks loudly, meeting them all in the eyes, she is a ruler of their realm, she is the heir, and she is more powerful than them, she will not be scared of these lower level beings.
A few of them don’t meet her eyes.
“Where’s Sam?!” She yells, forcing a few of them to their knees.
She hears heels clicking and a sharp laugh as Acrata walks down the stairs from an office above, as she looks at her, unyielding, her pantsuit much too nice for the bar she’s occupying, her hair falling perfectly, her lipstick sharp and just as unyielding.
A queen without a crown, Lena has always thought, she was always striving for a power she would never have, always clamoring to be one at the top but always lacking the power and the respect from the actual queen to achieve it.
It only makes sense she should fall in with Lex to take over this world.
“Lena, Lena, Lena, how nice of you to join us.” Acrata checks her painted nails, “You know you don’t need to yell.”
“Where is Sam?”
“Who?” Acrata asks with a smirk, “Oh, Reign, right. She’s upstairs. Came around asking all sorts of interesting questions, and well, we’ve been catching up and I’m afraid she won’t be leaving. Too much of a liability, but you, however, should, while you can.”
“Let her go,” Lena argues.
“I’m giving you an out as a courtesy, to your station and your grand importance to our plans, but you only get one. So take it.”
Lena takes a step towards the stairs, the demons around her standing taller, encroaching on her space. She knows it’s only a matter of time.
She’s just waiting for the signal.
“You know what they’re going to do. We can stop it.”
“Why would I want to stop it?” Acrata asks, “Why would I want to spend one more day in that cold pit like some B-list guard whose only ever been used as some middleman between the higher ups and worker bees below? Why wouldn’t I want to take my place in the sun?”
“Because it’s not ours to take.”
“That’s rich, coming from you. You who leaves, who runs off to spend time with some human, who has her own time in the sun, by the way I do have to thank your girlfriend and you because your show is really upping our selling numbers, especially when so many comments are ‘I would sell my soul to get a girl to look at me like that.’ How is she? Showing any signs of being a little more than human yet or is that only you?”
Lena takes a breath and stands taller, the music playing fizzles out and Acrata laughs.
“Hypocrite,” she says, “And she named you the heir. You’re not even…you don’t deserve it.”
“Lex is a monster.”
“We’re supposed to be.”
“Let Sam go.”
“Come and get her,” Acrata says and the demons growl and get closer. She needs more time. Nia needs more time.
“Jason Todd, you’re next,” Acrata points to the fourteen year old kid and he stands up, “I have someone special for your body.”
And Lena shudders and understands what these humans are selling, what’s happening to them, they’re giving up their lives for a demon to inhabit, to take over, to help build the army Lex needs, and why would they do that? What would drive them to this? Do they even know?
“No,” Lena shouts as she stops the boy from moving towards the stairs, as she steps in front of him and the snarling horde that surrounds the bar, surrounds her.
A woman snarls and jumps onto the bar itself, standing on all fours and laughing with teeth that look half-rotten.
Acrata keeps walking up the stairs, “She’s no heir, get her out of here.”
And they descend.
Lena pushes them back, a force in her mind throwing them into the walls and over the bars as Acrata makes her way upstairs, uncaring about her guards.
The kid screams as a demon grabs him and Lena fights, keeps fighting, choking and crushing with the wave of a hand, forcing the lower demons to their knees but it’s not enough, she’s not enough.
And then her phone rings and she looks up at the sprinkler system that she’s sure has not been checked in years, that must have been shut off for this much smoke to fill this bar and she finds the pull of the water, focuses enough that it sets them off…
The holy water rains down and the demons burn, screaming as they writhe on the floor and make for the door but the crystals are activated and there’s no leaving and Nia marches in spraying a few with the water gun and throwing salt as they double back and screech.
Lena looks at her as she shoves the necklace into the face of a growling large man with a beard who whimpers as the metal burns against his forehead and he falls to the ground, the holy water burning his skin, a new kind of smoke filling the air.
“Upstairs,” and Lena pushes the kid out the door, “Run and do not ever come back.” And Jason Todd does, he runs and runs away from the bar in National City, saved by Lena Luthor.
Nia and Lena go upstairs. Lena shoves another demon aside, flexing her powers and hearing the crack of a bone as he crashes over the stairs and lands on the bar, burning in the holy water rain.
“I can’t believe that worked,” Nia says, her hair dripping, “It’s kind of awesome.”
“Just keep moving,” Lena says as another demon rounds the corner and swings, Lena ducks as Nia shoots him with the holy water before Lena pushes him into the wall, cracking the plaster.
They reach the office where it’s dry, the holy water not raining upstairs, not that it would do much up here, and they can see Sam trapped in an iron box, sigils all around it, looking worse for wear while a man in a suit stands up, his short hair and award winning smile just a puppet for the thing underneath.
And Lena can see it underneath the skin, all teeth and eyes, shredded viscera of darkness seeping through the veins of the meat puppet it’s chosen. It’s much stronger than it appears, much darker as the human puppet’s eyes flash deep red.
“Leviathan,” Lena states as the man smiles, a deep growl escaping his throat.
“We’ve been waiting for you,” it hisses as it cracks its knuckles.
“Aw they got Mike!” Nia points to the man and shoots the holy water without so much as a second glance.
“Who?!” Lena asks glancing from Nia to the man who gets hit with the holy water, lets it burn and sting and who laughs it off.
“What?!” Lena asks, looking at the poor possessed bastard that Nia keeps throwing holy water onto and the demon who seems to be enjoying it all too much as it keeps laughing.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” Not Mike/Leviathan says as he wipes the holy water from his cheek and licks his hand, his mouth steaming with the burn.
“Ew,” Nia says.
“A little help here?” Sam asks as she shakes the bars. And Acrata watches the exchange, a note of boredom to it.
“Leviathan, stop playing with your food.”
He laughs as he steps forward, his footsteps heavy and his eyes burning red, but Nia doesn’t back down even as Lena is about to push her out of the way.
Nia throws the salt and some other ash she’s had hidden in one of her pockets and that does do something.
“I’m sorry, I always thought you were okay!” And Mike falls to the ground, his face burning, the demon inside of him losing its grip.
“Go back to Lex!” Lena shouts as she uses her power and throws the Leviathan/Not Mike into the wall. It writhes and growls but doesn’t let go.
Acrata cracks her neck and then she’s got a knife in her hand as she descends on Lena.
“Get Sam.” And Nia is running towards the box as Sam pushes against the bars.
Thunder rumbles and rain falls as Lena and Acrata fight. Acrata throws her through the wall and they end up back on the ground floor, the demons long gone from the puppets they had been possessing, the holy water burning them out - leaving a few confused passed out humans and a few dead ones behind.
Lena stands and raises her hand, using whatever power she has left to hold Acrata in place, but Acrata isn’t going down without a fight.
She throws the knife but it misses as Lena clenches her hand and forces Acrata to her knees, the bones cracking as she does.
“You’re stronger than you used to be,” she comments, “but not strong enough.” She pushes against Lena’s power, tries to stand, but Lena manages to hold her, to keep her down.
Acrata moves her neck and the knife removes itself from the wall, swinging back behind Lena and cutting across her cheek as it returns to its owner.
It distracts Lena enough for Acrata to stand, for Acrata to move and rush her with the knife again. And Acrata was a soldier, a hunter, much more of a fighter than Lena, who always relied on a darker power to fight.
Acrata picks her up and slams her into the bar and Lena feels the breath escape her lungs as she uses both hands to push Acrata back, shattering the stereo with the force.
Acrata wipes her nose as she stands, as the sparks of the stereo explode around them, catching the alcohol even in the soaked room - setting them on fire enough to burn against the bar where only the alcohol has spilled.
“He’s going to win. He’s going to kill her and take this world and there’s nothing you or anyone can do.”
Lena thinks of Kara, thinks of her body, thinks of her lying on the ground as Lex laughs and she can’t get that laugh out of her mind, the laugh from Hell, the laugh that started this all.
And Lena pulls whatever power she can, from her own well of desperation, her own anger, as Acrata moves towards her again, as she goes to throw the knife again but finds herself frozen in place mid-throw.
Acrata breathes heavily, her hand shaking as the knife won’t release, as she can’t move at all while Lena holds out a hand and keeps her there.
She feels the power burn through her fingertips, feels it like a storm, like the lightning that cracks across the sky behind her as Acrata sweats and shudders and that storm spreads, the lightning strikes and cracks through her skull.
The knife drops with a loud clatter.
Smoke escapes her mouth.
Acrata’s body falls, eyes burnt out, the demon dead.
Lena drops to her knees and feels drained, feels exhausted, as her hand shakes and she doesn’t know how she did it, didn’t even know she was capable of it, but it’s done and she’s done it - she killed her.
She smells fire and alcohol and tastes copper in her mouth as she stares at Acrata’s body and she shouldn’t have been able to do that, not without some sort of weapon, a knife like Eve’s or Acrata’s, something that was capable of that, not her, not alone.
Hell magic, Mxy had said to her. Maybe he hadn’t been wrong when he’d called it that.
She doesn’t have much time to dwell on the thought because Nia is yelling and there’s a loud commotion upstairs as another rumble of thunder shakes the sky.
She gets back upstairs and finds Nia trying to free Sam from her cage while avoiding a snarling Mike/Leviathan that Lena doesn’t have the strength to throw again.
Nia is out of salt and powder and Sam is standing at the bars, unable to do anything because of the wards and the monster is getting closer.
Lena starts saying something in Latin that has Mike grabbing his ears and falling to his knees as Nia breaks one of the wards and Sam is able to free herself.
She steps out of the cage, the ground rumbling and shaking as she turns to Mike/Leviathan and focuses, sending him down through the floors to the cement below. The entire building shakes with the force of the earthquake and Lena has a faint reminder of San Francisco but the shaking stops once Leviathan is twenty feet below.
Sam stares at the hole and lets out a breath as Nia hugs the wall and looks around, waiting for the building to fall - but it never does.
Lena pulls Sam into a hug without really thinking about it, “I’m glad you’re okay.”
“I’m glad me not calling was enough of a warning for you.” Sam returns it and neither one of them is exactly sure when their friendship evolved into this, hugging like humans, caring enough to find each other, but they’re both glad it has, glad they aren’t like the others.
“Where’s…” Sam asks, looking behind Lena as she pulls away from the hug.
Lena shakes her head, “I was hoping you might know. The Cadmus Ritual is a little more complicated, isn’t it?”
Sam nods, “And so is your history.”
“So I’m starting to see,” Lena states and they both turn as a deep laugh rumbles from the hole in the ground, as the skittering of nails digging through the dirt gets closer and closer, as Leviathan rises and climbs towards them.
“Maybe you talk about this later?” Nia asks from behind them.
“Why is Lex’s dog here?” Lena asks.
“Temporary host. They were going to use him to get Kara when it was time.”
“And until then?”
Leviathan laughs as Mike cracks his neck and body and twists so he’s standing again, “This world is ours,” he says, his voice a deep growl, “And we will do what we wish.”
“Go back to Hell,” Lena tells him and he laughs again as she tries to force him back but fails.
He tsks as he waves a finger, “Not enough power.”
“We have to exorcize him,” Nia states and Sam looks at her.
“Are you capable of that, human whose name I do not know?”
“Nia Nal, producer and social media coordinator for CatCo Investigates and I’ve done some reading on the subject.” She glances to Lena and Lena wonders how much Kara actually knows about Nia’s research, how much Nia had planned to keep Kara safe.
“Do you have protective charms, Nia Nal?” Sam asks and Nia shrugs and points to the necklace.
Sam snaps her fingers and Nia winces, holding out her wrist as a sigil appears, “Now you do.”
“Is that permanent?” She asks and Sam nods, “Normally I would be like not cool but that’s pretty metal so, let’s exorcize Mike!”
They manage to get Leviathan into Sam’s cage, manage to get him out of Mike Matthews who does not remember how he even got there but the cage breaks in the process and Leviathan is gone before they can send him back to Hell, breaking the traps Nia set on his exit.
They carry a woozy and confused Mike out of the place, the fire fully spreading across the bar and sirens in the distance as they do.
When they reach the car, they take a minute to gather themselves, to let Mike breathe, even if he isn’t exactly sure any of this is real.
“What do you remember?” Lena asks, trying not to be a little bit jealous of this guy who once dated Kara. They broke up and it’s definitely not the time, but still, he had to have been targeted, someone had to know or thought they might have a chance...no, no, she’s not going to be jealous of this guy who just got possessed because they were going to use him to kidnap Kara, she’s not going to do that.
Still, looking at his face, knowing it had once dated Kara, had shared moments with Kara that Lena wants to share, had hurt Kara makes her want to slap it a little bit.
“I was walking home with dinner for Imra, oh my God Imra! I have to call her, she’s going to think I flaked…”
“That can wait, what happened next?” Sam asks, forcing him to remain sitting against the wall.
He shrugs, “A shadow and then it said something about Kara, is Kara okay? Is she hurt?! They kept talking about her like…they’re going to hurt her! They’re…”
“She’s fine. She’s safe. Don’t worry I’ll keep her safe,” Lena states, a little more forceful and possessive than necessary, but the point is made all the same.
Sam glances at her with a raised eyebrow and not quite a laugh despite being locked in a cage not half an hour ago that has Lena returning the look with a shrug and roll of her eyes.
Mike nods, suddenly dizzy again as he leans against the wall.
“We should get him home,” Nia says.
“How did you get here, Nia?” Mike asks and Nia just shrugs.
“This is all a dream.” She waves her hand. Lena and Sam look at each other again, a silent conversation that goes something like, ‘Seriously?’ ‘Yeah.’
And Mike sinks further against the wall, tired enough that he might actually believe it.
“That makes sense,” he mumbles as he passes out.
“I can’t believe he kind of believed that,” Nia states as she looks at Sam and Lena.
“We need to talk,” Lena tells Sam and Sam nods.
“First we get him home.”
“Then, Task Force Hell, let’s roll out,” Nia says as Sam picks Mike up with ease and they walk towards the car.
“Task Force Hell? No we can’t go by that,” Lena argues.
“What’s happening?” Sam asks.
“We need a team name,” Nia tells her and Sam nods as Lena shakes her head.
“I kind of like Task Force Hell.”
Nia claps her hands together, “Yes!”
“No,” Lena sighs as she gets into the car, handing the keys to Nia as she leans against the window, the exhaustion creeping in, what she’s done and the pain of the day settling over her.
Rain pelts the window of the car as they drive Mike home, as night falls over National City and she wonders if Kara is okay.
“When you first came to live with us, you had this necklace, do you remember it?” The streets are wet after the rain, the smell still hanging in the air and the streetlights shining against the puddles left behind.
Alex walks beside Kara as they head back towards CatCo, the conversation falling silent as they had eaten, as Alex had refused to have the conversation where it could both be interrupted or overheard in the diner.
And Kara had waited, impatiently, growing angrier and more tense the longer the silence droned on but too hungry to really focus all that much as she ate her sandwich quickly and quietly, leaving without dessert in effort to get to the truth faster.
“The S?” She asks and she remembers it, still has it somewhere in her apartment, the weird S with the triangle that had been a gift from her parents shortly before they had died.
“It wasn’t an S.”
“Okay?” Kara asks, still not sure where this is going, still not sure why this is where the conversation is starting, “That doesn’t explain…”
“It was a symbol, for a house, like an important house, like royalty.”
“Are you saying I’m royalty? Or that my parents bought a necklace that was from royalty? Am I a princess? No, sorry, not relevant,” Kara shakes her head, that old Princess Diaries fantasy rearing its head in the worst of moments, “Alex, I’m not following.”
“I mean kind of, yes, you are. The House of El.”
Kara blinks, thinks of Clark’s joke, thinks that maybe it wasn’t a joke, maybe there had been something to it, “It is a cult?!” She asks, stopping suddenly as Alex bumps into her with an oof.
“What? No. It’s not a cult. It’s…I don’t know how to say this without it sounding weird or insane, but…it’s like…it’s angels. Literally. It’s angels.”
Kara stares at her, takes in the information, hears the word angels, registers it and all of its larger and deep, holy meaning…
And then she laughs. She laughs so hard she’s crying.
“No, you know what, you almost had me, but…no. That was good. Right up until the angels thing. Nice job.” And Kara starts to walk away, shakes her head, thinks what an amazing and mean joke her sister has just played on her and thinks she’s going to have to find a way to get her back when the world isn’t ending, but Alex isn’t laughing, Alex isn’t saying, ‘got you,’ insead Alex says with all the seriousness of a doctor delivering fatal news --
“Do you remember the fire?”
And Kara stops walking.
Because this, they don’t talk about this, they don’t bring it up, they haven’t since it happened.
And Alex knows that. Alex knows better than to include that in the joke, in any joke.
Yes, she remembers the fire. Yes, she remembers enough of it. She remembers being angry, she remembers being in the woods, she remembers a bright light and something hot and burning beneath her skin but that was just pain, that was just her memories of it, that was just a twelve year old coping with something they had done.
She doesn’t remember the act itself, she remembers passing out, she remembers a burnt out husk of a building and someone saying there was a fire even when one wasn’t burning. She remembers a tree splintering behind the barn and everyone assuming lightning had struck it even if there had been no storm.
She remembers Alex finding her, remembers a pale expression on her face and being so tired and forgetting all about it.
She remembers them being closer after that.
But, that doesn’t mean anything, nothing about that has anything to do with this. Nothing about her or a necklace or sitting in a diner or brutal murders and haunted locations and the end of the world should…
“I remember enough,” Kara says and she thinks that should end this, that it will,and she’s angry when she says, “And I don’t want to talk about that. It’s in the past. You know that.”
She turns to walk away and stops when Alex says, “I remember all of it.”
Kara swallows and turns as Alex steps closer to her, “You and mom were fighting about something, rules, I don’t know, but you walked out, you were so angry, so upset, and you kept saying you wanted to go home, and Mom was going to go after you, but I went. And I followed you. All the way to the barn.”
“I know, you found me after.”
“Not after. Do you remember how it started? How you started it?”
Kara shrugs, “Matches, I don’t know.”
Alex shakes her head, “I saw it. There were no matches. It just started. You were crying and yelling at them, at your parents, for leaving you and you were in so much pain and I was going to go to you, but then it just exploded and you…your eyes.”
“They were glowing with this white light and the barn was on fire and then it was out and you…it stopped. You were on the ground and it just stopped.”
Kara shakes her head, “Okay, you got me, you can…” But Alex isn’t joking, Kara knows Alex isn’t joking and suddenly the words she read make a little bit more sense, her connection makes a little bit more sense.
But Kara can’t accept it, can’t…no, it’s not…she’s human. She’s always been…
“No. I…no. I’m…my parents aren’t…I can’t be…”
“You have a file. It’s not very detailed and I’ve done my best to keep it not as detailed but, the fire is in there.”
“And my parents? Why wouldn’t they just tell me?!”
“They made Eliza and Jeremiah promise not to. They wanted to keep you safe. They knew someone was after them. Someone who was looking for you and they couldn’t risk it. I couldn’t figure out who, I checked. There’s no files in the FBI about them.”
“They knew?! That someone was…and you never thought maybe you should mention that to me?! The X-File who has a file!”
“You’re not an X-File and I couldn’t tell you. One, you freak out at everything, two, its secret, three, would you have believed me when, outside of one fire, you seemed normal?”
“Seemed normal? So everyone knew, everyone knew what I might be but didn’t…what the fuck, Alex?”
“We didn’t know know, not until the fire, but you just never showed any other signs, outside of the nightmares, so we thought maybe it was a lightning strike, maybe they were just nightmares. Maybe it was easier to let you be normal.”
“Let me?! So you’ve all been lying to me, my entire…what am I?! Am I even human? What does all this have to do with that?” She points to the paper in Alex’s hand, the symbol that she’d forgotten about and almost left in the diner in her haste to get this over with, to get to the truth she now partially regrets. Her hand shakes, her breath short and startled and she feels like the world is flipping, like she’s being pulled apart and nothing makes sense and she regrets asking Alex anything ever.
“I don’t know what it means but…”
And she should push her sister away, she should yell and scream but Alex is pulling her close and hugging her tight and it shouldn’t but it makes her feel better even as she cries.
“What am I?” Kara asks through the tears.
“You’re my sister. And nothing changes that. You’ve been my sister since you showed up at our door in Midvale and you will always be my sister.”
“You lied to me. You’ve been lying to me.” And she sees it clearer now, remembers it clearer now, the barn, the explosion of something, the smell of burnt ozone and slight sizzle of something singed and broken that tasted like a battery.
“I thought it would be safer. Mom said it would be safer because your dad wanted us to keep you safe. He made her promise. She would never tell you and she made me promise too, so we couldn’t. I’m sorry.”
And then Kara is crying more and angry at someone she can’t ask for the truth and nothing makes sense anymore. Because someone was after them, someone hurt them, someone killed them the same someone who probably killed Clark’s parents and all her thoughts spiral and collide and she wishes Lena were next to her, wishes she could understand any of it, doesn’t even know if Lena would be able to, but she doesn’t even know where she can even start and she thinks of Clark and Lex and Lena telling her all about it and it doesn’t make sense but it starts to.
Because maybe her cult theory was wrong, but she’s not wrong when she thinks she might still be connected to it, and she’s not wrong when she thinks about fallen blood. But is that a thread she can pull? Is that thread she knows might be connected to Lena one she can pull?
A human born of Fallen yet Holy blood on Earth…soul tied to Darkness born from Corrupted Light…
And if she’s…does that make Lena…
She feels off-balance, she feels empty and like she doesn’t know who she is anymore but, there’s so much more going on, so much more than she can handle and shoulder and she doesn’t know how to handle it, doesn’t know how to do anything but focus on the one thing she needs to, the one thing that needs fixing first - the one thing she may be the key to beginning and ending.
“The world is ending.”
“No, it’s not, it’s going to be okay.” Alex pulls away from the hug, her voice gentle as Kara shakes her head, “We can figure out what it all means, okay, who you are, we will. But you’re still Kara, you’ll always be Kara.”
“No, Alex, it’s literally ending. I have proof. And I think this thing has something to do with it and that Lena’s brother is responsible and that I might have something to do with it too.”
“Lena’s brother?” And then Alex puts the pieces together, realizes that their dumb little paranormal show is a lot realer than she might have previously given it credit for, and that maybe she shouldn’t have told Kara she was overreacting about Lena, “Lena’s not human, is she? Oh I should have realized it. I mean I’ve never actually seen one but…oh now I feel like an asshole when I told you Swift Street wasn’t real.” And then she’s staring hard at Kara, “Do you trust her? That she’s not involved?”
“Yes. And I mean I was freaking out about other stuff and deserved what Kelly said but yes, you were an asshole about it and I accept your apology, but not about the lying.”
And Alex braces, “Okay. And I will spend a very long time making up for that, but right now, I need you to take me to the office and tell me everything you know on the way.”
“I can’t believe you made fun of me for the ghosts…”
“Look, I wasn’t going to be like hey, so lowkey, I work for a secret branch of the FBI that investigates it and I have seen a few cursed objects here and there, I was more concerned with laughing at you being terrified at a creaky floor.”
“It was the same laugh, Alex! I was right!”
“Well I see that now!”
They all come to the same conclusions at the same time.
After Nia, Lena, and Sam drop off Mike at his apartment and get him inside and are fairly certain he isn’t going to remember any of it, they take Eve’s map and get back to Lena’s apartment to recover.
At the same time, Alex, Brainy, and Kara find all the places the symbol has appeared, pinning them on the map in the office and finding where the connections go - finding the circle it makes and the last point that’s needed to complete it.
Kara knows it well, has seen it on other paranormal shows while Lena is all too happy to go into it and take it for herself, if not for a little petty vengeance, Sam right there with her in that mood.
“Oh I am taking this bridge,” Lena says, “I am going to claim it and they will tell tales of me.”
“Easy,” Sam states and Lena settles.
Meanwhile back at CatCo, Kara stares at the map and freaks out.
“Oh no,” Kara mutters, “No I know this place, no.”
“What is it?” Brainy asks.
“It’s on all those guides to like most haunted places in America except it’s also listed as do not go here it could kill you.”
“Well as it stands now it could kill the world if we don’t.”
Kara groans, “The Bridge of Acrata.”
“It’s called The Bridge of Acrata, it’s supposed to be haunted by a demon. I don’t do demons.”
“Technically…” Alex mutters but Kara points a finger at her.
“No, we’re not going there.”
“But I mean…”
“Yes, I know, Lena is technically one but it’s not the same thing. Also it’s not like I’ve done her or that came out wrong.” Kara’s face burns, “And I’m not joking with you yet,” she tells Alex with a pointed look.
“Did not need that detail,” Brainy states, “but circling back, you don’t really have a choice not to go there between the fact Cat Grant is still expecting a show, resource and all, and of course, the fact that it could stop the world ending. But at least you have a demon on your side.”
“But what if like the other one is really bad. Or like Lena knows them or like they fight or…”
“Had a previous relationship?” Brainy smirks and glances to Alex who snorts as Kara glares at him and knows he’s joking, knows he’s being sarcastic but doesn’t miss the piercing sting of jealousy that encircles her heart as she shakes her head at Alex who stops laughing immediately.
“Still not there, yet.”
“Fair,” Alex states.
Kara rounds on Brainy, “Or, I don’t know, something bad happens and she gets dragged back to Hell and it hurts her? Remember Arkham? That was not good and if Arkham affected her like that, what could this place do?”
“Maybe you should show her and talk to her and let her decide how to handle it, she is the expert,” Alex states, putting a pin in the spot that Kara doesn’t want to go.
Kara murmurs something unintelligible that is more a mocking tone because she knows Alex is right even if she’s mad at her and she picks up her phone and dials.
Maybe Nia will let them have that holy water, maybe it’ll keep the other demons away.
Lena picks up on the first ring, “The Bridge of Acrata,” Lena says in the way of a greeting and Kara blinks.
“That’s what I was going to say, wait…what?”
“We figured it out.”
“I thought I was supposed to be…okay, yeah, the Bridge of Acrata. That’s where Lex is going next,” Kara tells Lena over the phone.
“And where we have to go.”
And Kara’s thoughts are swirling with truths and prophecies and what she may or may not be, what Lena might be, and what Lena and her might be to each other while, across town, Lena’s thoughts are doing the same.
And neither one can say any more about their day over the phone, or what they’re thinking, or what they’ve learned and want to say, the words and conversation too complicated and loaded and, frankly, weird to do over the phone even if they both have so much they want to say, need to say and are almost choking on all of it.
So instead they just agree that their next investigation will be the Bridge and that Cat Grant will be on board.
“It’s a date,” Kara says without thinking and then smacks her forehead, “I mean not like a date-date, not unless you want it to be, because I wouldn't ask you out on a date to a haunted bridge, I mean not that I wouldn’t ask you on a…I’ll see you later, buddy!” She hangs up and throws her phone as Alex hands her head with second-hand embarrassment.
“Buddy?!” Alex yells.
And across town Nia is hanging her own head because Lena had her phone on speaker and is staring at it, bright red as Sam stares at the now hung up phone and then looks at her friend, “So that’s…interesting.”
And Nia is yelling, “Will you two just please get your shit together? Oh my God you’re so down bad for each other it’s embarrassing! I can’t even be here right now, I have to go home and shower and sleep and out of all the things that happened today, that was the worst one. Good luck,” she points to Sam as she opens the door.
“Lena,” Nia states, “Seriously. Just make out with the poor girl.”
“Thanks for your help,” Sam answers as Nia gives her finger guns then walks out and Sam smiles at her friend.
“Soulmate?” She asks and Lena puts her head in her hands as Sam pats her shoulder, “You would get that one.”
“What do you mean I would get that one?”
“It’s just,” Sam smiles, “It’s perfect. It works.”
“I hate you,” Lena says without any meaning behind it, “I should have left you in the cage.”
“Love you too,” Sam smirks, “I’m going to take a nice bath in your fancy bathroom and then maybe we get some wine and I can tell you everything, deal?”
“Or you could call Kara and maybe actually ask her out on a date, since she’d be into that or not, or…” And Sam is laughing as Lena flips her off and blushes and walks away from Lena and the mess of a map and the mess of the world and future.
And she shouldn’t feel her heart flip at the idea of going on a date with Kara, shouldn’t even entertain somewhere like the Bridge of Acrata as one because it’s not, Kara deserves so much better for a first date then there, but still…
She looks at the mark, looks at where the Bridge of Acrata is and thinks, ‘it’s a date,’ even if it’s not exactly the one she would plan for Kara or the one Kara would plan for her, even if it’s not really a date and they’re going to some dark place to try to stop the apocalypse, to try to stop a prophecy they’re both a part of whether the other knows it or not, even if there’s a few secrets and both of their days have been less than ideal without the other knowing about it...
It’s a date.