Chapter 1: The Company Way
Kara straightened the collar of her shirt, settling it neatly over the lapel of her carnation pink cardigan and pushed through the massive glass doors of the imposing LuthorCorp building. The lobby was vast and expansive, open space going up at least twenty floors and nothing but glass and concrete knit together in modern elegance as far as the eye could see. A modest fountain supporting the LuthorCorp logo was ahead and to the right, but Kara turned instead toward the front desk where a portly security officer greeted her with a surprisingly friendly smile.
“Good morning.” The officer gave a curt nod, “How can I help you?”
Kara rocked back on her heels a bit, overcome with nervous enthusiasm, “Itsmyfirstday!” came out in an unintelligible stream and, at his bemused expression, she took a deep breath and repeated her sentence, picking carefully over each consonant and vowel. “It’s my first day. I’m Kara Danvers, brand new LuthorCorp employee.” She smiled broadly and thrust her hand toward the officer. Her enthusiasm often had a habit of being contagious and he shook her hand vigorously as a grin broke out across his face.
“Welcome aboard Miss Danvers. I’m Saul, you’ll check in with me here each day once you’ve got your badge. For now, I’ll check you into our visitor’s log.” He took her ID and had her sign in on a digitized log book. “Which department will you be joining?”
Kara demurred slightly, but the smile still playing about her lips, “Oh, I’m just in the mailroom.”
“’Just in the mailroom’ is still farther than hundreds of other folks have made it!” The officer replied, encouraging. “Miss Luthor’s hiring policies are strict, she’s very particular about who works for her. If you made it in the front door, you must be something special!” The officer motioned for another security guard to come take his place behind the desk. “Lemme show you to the mailroom. They’ll get you all set up with personnel once you get down there.”
They started to traverse the lobby and Kara couldn’t stop herself from asking, “What’s she like, Miss Luthor? She just got here and already I’ve heard she’s really shaking things up!”
“Yeah, for most, the jury’s still out. Some of the guys are waiting to see if she lasts, but I’ll say one thing for her, she’s no slouch. After all that business with her brother, most of us were convinced the company would tank, but it’s been hanging on.” They turned down a wide hallway and Saul crossed to push a door open, ushering her into another room, bright and cool, with high ceilings. “The stock’s even started ticking back up again. Miss Lena Luthor? She sure came out of the gate swinging. Well, here we are.”
Kara crossed to the stark white desk in front of two large double doors, at least 10 feet tall and greeted the assistant, a round-faced woman with a clear, cocoa complexion and a head of brassy blonde curls. The polished chrome placard on her desk read, “Henrietta Jones.”
“Jonesy’ll take care of you from here.” Saul gave a cartoonish salute, which was, to Kara’s amusement, returned by Miss Jones. “Have an amazing first day, Miss Danvers and welcome to LuthorCorp.”
Saul exited and Kara pursed her lips, apprehensively for a moment, waiting for the assistant to acknowledge her. “Juuuuuust oooooooone mooooooore.” Miss Jones’ voice was husky but high, like wind blown over a split reed. The woman hit the last stroke on her clean white keyboard and looked up at Kara with intent hazel eyes. “Alright now, welcome to the mailroom, Miss Danvers! I’m going to walk you through your paperwork, and then we’ll head over to human resources to finish it up. After that, Miss Twimble - you met her during your interview - she’ll give you the tour and get you started!”
Kara nodded, excitedly and took a seat in one of the white, Eames-inspired chairs after pulling a pen from her bag. She was so ready!
“I heard she fired the whole R & D department because they said something inappropriate, you know, misogynistic or something.” A young woman with a severe up-do wearing a black crepe blouse and grey herring-bone slacks punctuated the last few words with a stab of her salad fork.
“Well, I heard she fired them because she’s a better engineer than their whole department combined.” A twenty-something man with a short shock of brown hair and a bowtie countered between bites of what looked like a BLT.
“I don’t care why she fired them, I’m just glad to see them go,” a third girl tossed off, shaking a head of bright red hair and sipping on her Diet Coke.
Kara approached the group tentatively, lunch in hand, and asked if she might join them.
“You’re the new mailroom girl, right? Have a seat!” The red-haired girl pulled out a seat and motioned for her to sit.
“Alana, Winn, Eileen,” The redhead indicated the severe woman, the bowtie-clad man and herself in turn.
“We were just trading office gossip.” Eileen tilted her head, dismissively. “Have you met Miss Luthor, yet?”
Kara shook her head. She was nearing the end of her first week of work and she still had yet to encounter the seemingly illusive CEO, which meant she was hungry for any chatter about her. While Kara did have career designs and aspirations, LuthorCorp would not have been her first choice for employment. She would have been happier over at Catco or some other media oriented company, but LuthorCorp had something vitally important that ultimately determined her current career path: Lena Luthor.
Recent National City transplant and heir to the Luthor family fortune, Lena had relocated after her brother lost control of the company - and himself - flaming out in a blaze of zealous, xenophobic glory, and now serving over 30 consecutive life sentences on cell block X. Though LuthorCorp had always had a National City presence, it took on a new, prominent role when Lena established it as the new main headquarters for her family’s company. A Luthor operating this far outside of Metropolis meant that Superman couldn’t monitor her actions as closely as he’d like and so that task fell to National City’s newly minted hero: Supergirl.
Kara adjusted her glasses and started unpacking her lunch. “Well, I hear you’re Twimble’s new star,” Alana was attacking a particularly unruly cherry tomato as she commented, “so it won’t be long until she has you making the rounds on the upper floors.” Kara had so far only circulated the mail as high as the 15th floor, having shown an aptitude for speed and organization. If super speed and x-ray vision made her an exemplary employee, who was she to neglect her natural talents?
“Well, whatever the reason R & D got overhauled, you should see the new stuff we’ve got coming out since she’s brought in the new team. It’s some next level stuff!” the young man, Winn, offered excitedly.
Kara, mouth full of leftover pizza, chewed thoughtfully, and then, “Are you in Research & Development?”
Eileen sputtered between sips, “He wishes.”
Winn went pink about the ears and absentmindedly tugged at the lapels of his navy cardigan. “Nope. Just a humble IT drone. Making sure the LuthorCorp secrets stay secret and the emails get emailed. You know, fighting the good fight.”
“Our hero,” Eileen reached over and ruffled Winn’s hair playfully and he took the friendly ribbing in stride. Kara treated him to a warm smile and practically shoved an entire slice of pizza into her mouth.
“That’s some appetite you have there.” Alana’s tone was thinly veiled criticism – very thinly veiled - and Kara knew it. She shrugged.
“Crazy fast metabolism.” She swallowed with an indelicate gulp and smiled broadly at Alana whose lips now pulled into a forced smile. “And I need to fuel up. Neither rain, nor sleet or, whatever comes after that, you know? The mail must go on.”
Winn laughed and the other two girls looked vaguely annoyed as they began to pack up the remains of their meal. “Dark of night,” he offered.
“Right. Not that either.” Kara twisted the top off a small green bottle of Pellegrino.
“Well, you kids enjoy what’s left of your lunch hour.” Eileen pulled away from the table and Alana followed suit.
Kara met Winn’s eyes and they both broke out in a case of the giggles.
“I am sorry for them.” Winn caught his breath after a moment and adjusted his bowtie, loosening it slightly.
“They’re not particularly...” Kara hesitated, searching for the most diplomatic word.
“Nice?” her lunch companion offered.
“Okay, you said it, I didn’t. But yes.” Kara laughed, still infected with residual glee.
Winn shrugged, “They’ve both been on diets for the last month. I just chalk it up to hunger.”
“Ah.” Kara nodded.
“You don’t seem to have that problem.”
Kara snorted, narrowly avoiding a spit-take with her fizzy water. “Oh, no, I’m always hungry.”
“That’s my secret,” Winn adopted a comically serious voice, making an obvious quote, “I’m always hungry.”
Kara narrowed her eyes at him, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry,” and there was a split second of silence before they broke out in another fit of laugher.
“The Avengers?” Kara sputtered, “what killjoys!” And from that point on, they couldn’t help but spend the rest of their lunch, and each subsequent lunch break after that, in stitches.
The package in her hands was a lot lighter than she thought it would be. Kara stood, shifting from right to left and back again, turning the small, brown paper covered package in her hand over and over until she knew she’d be able to feel its weight even after it had been delivered. This was it, her moment to finally meet Lena Luthor was happening and all she could do was pour her nerves and apprehension into this tiny brown box. The elevator dinged cheerfully and she stepped into the crisp white lobby.
The stark whiteness that seemed to wash over the entire building initially took some getting used to: the clean brightness, the way it seemed to refract the light, giving the building’s interior a sort of ethereal quality from the mailroom to accounting to the waiting room of the CEO’s office. Kara tugged the sleeve of her button-down, white with maroon pinstripes, and smoothed her wine colored chinos before crossing to the empty receptionists’ desk. She waited for a moment, unsure of how to proceed, seeing as no one was currently occupying the desk immediately outside the imposing double doors. She waited for a minute, another minute, before inching her way toward the doors and knocking softly.
“Come on in, it’s open.” A voice called, muffled by the closed doors. Thankfully, Kara had excellent hearing, more than excellent actually - yet another skill put to good use on the job.
Kara entered and immediately genuflected. “I’m so sorry Miss Luthor, I don’t mean to interrupt, but there wasn’t anyone outside.”
“It’s more than alright,” the CEO stood from behind her desk and crossed toward Kara, waving her hand as if to brush away the idea of inconvenience. “I just lost my assistant – or rather, she was poached by Cat Grant - and it seems her temp has wandered off again. No matter, who might you be?”
Kara had been at LuthorCorp for almost a month and, aside from a few catty girls with low blood sugar, she was constantly surprised at the general attitude of warmth embodied by most, if not all of her fellow employees. Now she saw why: that kindness started from the top down, its origin point: Lena Luthor’s warm, open face.
The woman before her was ever-so-slightly shorter than she, with dark hair tucked into a series of intricate knots and curls, the color of which made Kara think of high fantasy novels and words like “mahogany” and “rosewood.” The CEO was in a delicate, sleeveless blouse of white organza - with a limp bow tied just below the hollow of her throat - that disappeared into a pair of high-waisted, wide legged, black slacks. As the Luthor heir crossed closer, Kara was most taken aback by the startling, icy green of the woman’s eyes, lined, as they were, with thick dark lashes and framed by perfectly arched eyebrows, just as dark. Her skin, so pale, and features, so dusky, it was a startling contrast. Kara, admittedly, got a bit lost in the moment until she realized the CEO would most likely want an answer to her question.
“Oh, um, I’m Kara Danvers. Of the mailroom.”
“Well, you’re a long way from home,” Lena Luthor drew closer and Kara had the distinct impression she was being appraised, “Kara Danvers, of the mailroom. What might I do for you?” The woman smirked and crossed her arms across her chest.
“Oh, right. I was tasked, by Miss Jones, to hand-deliver this to you and none but you.” Kara thrust the package into the woman’s arms unceremoniously, grateful to have something to do with her hands, if only for a fleeting moment.
“My prototype.” The woman exclaimed, smiling earnestly now, and began to tear away the brown paper and open the package. Kara had to admit, she was a bit curious as to what might be inside. As it turned out, the package contained a small device, which closely resembled a computer mouse and had some sort of modified LuthorCorp logo stamped on its top-face.
Kara fidgeted, unsure of how to proceed, “I can go, Miss Luthor, if you don’t need anything else from me.”
“Oh, but I do, come here Kara-of-the-mailroom, and let me show you something amazing.”
Kara couldn’t seem to help herself as her feet brought her closer to the head of the company. Miss Luthor leaned against her desk, casually, and something about the way she stood, the way she looked up under those dark lashes, so intent, made Kara’s face feel a bit warm.
“What is it?”
“It’s an alien detection device.” The CEO was obviously proud of the device, she beamed as she held it up, “This is one of our first functional prototypes. See?” She laid her thumb against a receptor pad for a moment and a small light flashed green, “It uses a simple skin test to determine who among us is not actually one of us.”
Almost immediately, Kara experienced a genuine rush of heat and hoped her boss couldn’t detect the sudden change.
“Here, now you try,” and Miss Luthor turned the device toward her.
Kara threw up her hands in protest and knit her brow delicately. She understood that the political climate was tenuous, what with more aliens coming out of the woodwork and the president’s new bill offering amnesty and citizenship on the very near horizon, but now, right now, in this office, she was threatened in a very real way. Not only was she worried that, despite evidence to the contrary, Lena Luthor was just like her brother in her anti-alien sentiment, but she was faced with the very real and very immediate threat of exposing herself to her potentially xenophobic boss.
“Doesn’t the development of this device go against everything the president has been proposing in recent legislation? Wouldn’t something like this force aliens back into the very shadows where the president is attempting to shine a light?”
Kara’s expression was pained, and she was trying desperately to shift her face into a more neutral position, with little success.
“If aliens want to become citizens, that will soon be their right, but if humans want to know who among them isn’t truly one of them, that’s their right too.”
Kara was failing beautifully at arranging her face into a mask of neutrality and her efforts were not going unnoticed.
“You have further thoughts, Miss Danvers?”
“I...” Kara weighted the value of holding her tongue against the heaviness in her heart and ruled in favor of the latter, “I do.” She moved to one side of the round white desk tucked toward the corner of the room and couldn’t help fidgeting as she tried to compile a tactful argument. “I haven’t been working for your company for very long, but it’s become very clear that when you came in and took over LuthorCorp, you made some serious changes. Why?”
Lena Luthor cocked her head to one side. She still wore a smirk and seemed now to be weighing whether or not to reward the boldness of this somewhat green employee. “I wanted to make this company a force for good. The Luthor name has become somewhat tainted with my brother’s misdeeds,” Lena turned her gaze to the city below and Kara stole her chance to fry the circuits in the prototype with a quick zap of heat vision. Better safe than sorry. “I want to take all of its potential and remove the bile. I’m even considering re-naming the company. To strip it of its Luthor name completely and allow it, and me, the opportunity for a fresh start here in National City.”
“Then why would you introduce something like this device?” Kara crossed closer to the youngest Luthor, “Something that potentially profiles aliens and could be seen as supporting and continuing your brother’s agenda. Would it make your company boatloads of money? No doubt. Would it also compromise your chance for a clean slate by essentially pouring gasoline on the already roaring flame of the human/alien conflict? Again, I have no doubt.”
“That’s bold, Miss Danvers.”
“But you know it’s the truth. You’re in the business of making money, Miss Luthor, but you also seem to be in the business of rebuilding this very broken company.” Kara was stepping into her own mouth with expert speed and efficiency, well aware that she was rapidly over-stepping her bounds. “You’re smart enough to know the difference between a balm and a bomb. You know which this would be without my telling you.”
“I do. Thank you Miss Danvers, that will be all.” The CEO’s face registered an unsettling combination of professional warmth and startling, impersonal coldness. “Wait, just a moment.”
She crossed to Kara, coming closer than she had been thus far, and held out the device, the thumb pad angled toward the girl. The bespectacled blonde gulped and placed a tentative thumb on the receptor, challenging Miss Luthor by unflinchingly holding her gaze. After a long moment that, for Kara, seemed to stretch into eternity, the device beeped and flashed green.
“See? Works perfectly.”
Kara turned and fled toward the elevator, not quite knowing how to interpret her first meeting with the Luthor heir, or her own actions, to be fair. She turned it over in her mind, examining it from all sides and was still just as confused upon exiting the elevator and crossing the hallway back toward the mailroom as she had been a few moments before. She had been far more honest that she had intended, but how could she not be? Why did she so desperately want Lena Luthor to be unique among her family? Why was it so important for her to be different, to be good?
Clark had been so cynical when he had tasked Kara with “keeping an eye on her” stating that, in his experience, you can never trust a Luthor. Why was it so important for Kara to be able to prove him wrong and trust Lena? She’d been chasing every scrap of information about the dark haired woman over the last few weeks, work habits, hiring practices, even scanning the gossip pages in Catco for any indication as to how the CEO spent her time. She realized that she wanted Lena to have the fresh start she desired. She wanted the woman to be a force for good. It seemed like the most important truth in Kara’s life right now, though she didn’t know why. She was still in a slight daze when Miss Jones called her name at the threshold of her department.
“Miss Danvers, you’re to gather your things and report to human resources.”
Kara shook off the bewilderment and tried to process what she just heard. “Wait, what?”
“Gather your things and head up to HR, immediately.”
“Am – am I being fired?” Kara blinked, a deer in the headlights.
“Quite the opposite. Whatever you said to Miss Luthor just now must’ve made quite an impact; you’re being promoted.” Miss Jones let that land for a moment before continuing, “You’re not fired; You’re Miss Luthor’s new assistant. Though with the hours she keeps, you may wish you had been.”
Chapter 2: Heart to Heart
“Lena Luthor is evil!” Kara slammed the fridge door harder than she should have and it rocked back, slightly scuffing the wall behind it.
“Wait, ‘super villain’ evil, or ‘Kara is mildly inconvenienced’ evil?” Alex held her hand out, expectantly, and Kara slid a beer across the tabletop.
“Oh, I’m more than mildly inconvenienced. Do you have any idea how much time I had to wait on hold today, trying to talk to people at the patent office? And the paperwork!” Kara pulled the takeout boxes, stacked and sealed in a crinkling plastic bag, toward her and started to pull at the knot keeping them secure. “Dear Rao, the paperwork!”
“Wait, isn’t that your job?” Alex raised an eyebrow, seeming, much to Kara’s dismay, utterly unsympathetic.
“Yes,” a barely audible huff.
“And what are the patents for?”
“I don’t know,” Kara plopped angrily down onto the stool opposite her sister. “I guess Lena’s been working with some of the doctors in R & D to engineer this synthetic skin, using nanotechnology. If they manage to work the kinks out, it could help treat deep tissue burn victims.”
Alex pushed her short auburn hair out of her face before taking a sip of her beer, “Definitely sounds nefarious.”
“Okay, so she’s not evil.” Kara cracked the top of one of the containers and popped a pot sticker into her mouth, “actually, she’s pretty much the opposite. Everyone sort of loves her. She works so hard, she serves on a dozen charitable committee, and donates a huge chunk of her salary, she knows the name of every employee who comes into her office...”
“Drinking the Kool-Aid already? Haven’t you only been her assistant for three days?”
“It doesn’t take that long to see she’s one of the good guys, Alex.”
“Hank still doesn’t trust her and I think he would feel better if he had something more than your word to go on.” Alex took another swig from the bottle before standing and snatched the takeout box away from her sister. “Maybe Supergirl should pay her a visit.”
“Maybe she should.” Kara mused, opening another box and following Alex to the couch. “You know she scrapped that detection device?”
“What do you mean scrapped?”
“She shut down research and production on the alien detection device. She said even though she may not share my ‘bleeding heart pro-alien views’ she understood my point and didn’t want to become the catalyst for more unrest on either human or alien side of the conflict. I think it’s sort of noble, don’t you?”
Alex gave an ambivalent shrug, her mouth full of food, and she sank down onto the couch.
It was a rare night when neither of them was tied up with business, DEO or otherwise, and they were making the most of it. Kara had been sent home at a reasonable hour – though she knew her new boss would still be in the office – and Alex said that things were relatively calm at the DEO, so here they were, decimating some takeout and watching some much-needed comedy. That is, until Kara suddenly straightened and cocked her head to one side. Sirens. She could hear them in the distance, and they were moving fast. She looked back at Alex.
“I know that look. Go. I’ll keep your seat warm.” Alex shooed her from the couch, “Call if you need me.”
Kara slid her fingers into the gaps of her soft lilac button-down, pulling apart the lapels to reveal her super suit beneath.
“You better not eat all the pot stickers, or I will roast you like our Thanksgiving turkey.”
“Love you too, now go.”
Kara crossed to her large floor-to ceiling windows, climbing out to takeoff from the fire escape and into the dusky night.
The fire had been tougher than usual to put out and Kara had ploughed through a support wall to get to a family trapped on an upper floor. She was slightly singed and covered in soot, but not ready to call it a night. She brushed the debris from her shoulders and shot up into the air, looking to visit a very specific balcony. She glided along the LuthorCorp high-rise as it jutted up from the sidewalk along West Cordova Street, skimming her fingers along the glass windows as she soared up to the top-most floors. She lighted down on the balcony extending from Lena Luthor’s office and rapped lightly on the glass, shifting her weight nervously as she watched the Luthor heir startle slightly then cross toward the glass door.
Lena was still wearing the fitted, forest green dress Kara had admired earlier that day, but as the hour had become much later, she noted her employer had taken on a slight patina of fatigue. Her hair was still swept back, but a few curls were now out of place, hanging in lazy loops, pleasantly framing her pale face.
“Supergirl.” The dark haired woman pushed the door open and motioned for Kara, or rather, Supergirl, to come into the familiar office.“To what do I owe this surprise visit?” The woman’s eyebrow shot up, quizzically.
“I just,” Kara stumbled over her words, she suddenly forgot herself, and attempted a graceful recovery, “I suppose I wanted to properly introduce myself?”
“You mean, you wanted to check up on me. To make sure this Luthor is on the up and up.”
“No!” she practically shouted, defensively stepping toward the woman before catching herself, “Well, yes, actually. But not the way you mean it.”
“And what way is that?” Was Lena Luthor... smiling?
“I know you’re on the up and up.” Kara’s hands found her hips and she struck a hero’s pose in hopes of boosting her confidence. “I’ve done my homework, Miss Luthor, and I know your position, your potential. I suppose I just wanted to come here to... let you know that,” she finished, slightly awkward.
Lena looked wary and crossed her arms over her chest, but the telltale smile still played on her lips.
“You’re not like your cousin.” Lena settled against her desk.
“No. He warned me, in no uncertain terms, not to step a toe out of line here in National City. Said if I did, I’d have you to deal with.”
Kara’s dropped her hands from her waist, slightly taken aback. “He said that?”
“He did, and I must tell you, you’re not doing a very good job enforcing his threat,” she smirked outright.
“I don’t threaten people who don’t deserve it.” Kara countered.
“And you’re so sure I don’t deserve it?” Kara ‘s blue eyes met mischievous green and they held one another’s gaze for a moment. “How can you be so certain?”
“I’m a pretty good judge of character.” Kara mirrored the CEO and crossed her arms across her chest, circling Lena as she made her way further into the room. She knew the office well, but was enjoying the casual way she was able to observe it at the moment; no phones to answer, no rush of people vying for a meeting, no patent paperwork to shuffle. Just the two of them surrounded by the white noise of the city below. “You treat people fairly, you work, tirelessly, to improve the lives of others, and I read an interview you gave where you said your chief goal was to make LuthorCorp ‘a force for good.’ We’re not so different, you and I.”
“I suppose not.” Lena shifted to face her, “I’m just a woman trying to make a name for herself outside her family, surely you of all people can appreciate that.”
“Yeah.” Kara replied wistfully, “Yeah, I can.”
Lena pushed off from her desk and wandered toward her bar, moving to pour herself a glass of water, “I imagine your cousin casts quite a long shadow.”
Kara’s only response was a gently lilting sigh.
“And your brother?” The blonde brought Lex up with some caution, but Lena seemed unmoved by his mention. “He’s left you with quite a legacy.”
“I loved Lex; he was the one member of the family who made me feel even remotely loved after I was adopted by the Luthors. But I don’t share his views. I was devastated when he started to go about his own destructive tear.” Lena crossed back to her desk and circled it to sit.
“How old were you?” Kara ran her fingers along a shelf at the far end of the room.
“I was four when I was adopted by the Luthors. And twenty four when Lex started down a path I refused to follow.”
Kara nodded and then offered quietly, “I was thirteen.” She turned back to Lena, whose icy emerald eyes were boring into her with startling ferocity.
“When I came here. My parents had died, my planet had burned, and my cousin wasn’t prepared to raise a teenager.” She crossed to the thick glass doors leading out to the balcony, “But I had my foster parents. And my adoptive sister. She ties me to this planet, to this life. She’s the strongest person I know and taught me how to put others first, always leading by example.” Kara paused, thoughtfully, “I can’t imagine what I’d do if she became suddenly unrecognizable, someone dangerous. I don’t envy you Miss Luthor.”
Lena leaned back in her chair, processing the new information shared by the Kryptonian. There was an honesty – a vulnerability – she hadn’t expected from the hero and it was forcing Lena to re-evaluate her previous stance on Supergirl. She had assumed an attitude of standoffishness, due in no small part to the warning she had received from Superman upon relocating to National City, but this woman was no threat to her. She merely wanted to see justice done, to do what she felt was right. She was honest, open, and Lena found herself hoping to see more of the Girl of Steel.
“I do, however, respect the path you’ve chosen and I’ll do what I can to make sure you are able to become that force for good.” Kara pushed against the balcony door and Lena shivered as the cool breeze whipped into the room.
“Supergirl,” the dark haired woman stood, faltering for a moment as the blonde lingered at the threshold, “thank you.”
“For being so... unexpected.” Lena smiled, softly, and fidgeted, “I hope this isn’t the last time we talk.”
“I hope not either.”
Kara slipped through the door and Lena watched, wide-eyed, as Supergirl launched from the balcony and into the night.
“So, what?” Kara brought the bowl of popcorn over to her sister, still wrapped in the red sweater throw.
“So what happened?”
“Oh,” Kara dropped, unceremoniously onto the couch and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “I stopped the fire and ended up saving an entire family.”
“And?” Kara attempted nonchalance.
“You are a terrible liar. Something else happened.”
“Oh it was nothing, I just stopped by Lena Luthor’s office. I took your advice.” Kara grabbed a handful of popcorn and shoved it, indelicately, into her open mouth. Alex gave an exaggerated eye roll.
“So you told her you were keeping an eye on her?” Alex nursed her beer, her third.
“I didn’t have to.” Kara shrugged, “Clark had already taken care of that for me, apparently.”
“So what did you tell her?”
“It’s more about what she told me, I guess. We talked about having siblings who make you feel whole and grounded, then she told me how devastating it had been when she lost Lex to his own anti-alien agenda.” Kara reached over for the remote. “Did you know she’s adopted too?”
“I didn’t.” Alex eyed her sister suspiciously. “So let me get this straight: you went over to Lena’s office to remind her to behave and ended up having a heart to heart about your childhood?”
“I guess you could say that, yeah.” Kara flicked through a few channels before settling on something frivolous.
Alex blew out an exasperated breath of air and shook her head, though she didn’t lose her smile. “My sister, the scourge of National City’s underworld, playing nice with Lena Luthor.”
“And why shouldn’t I play nice? She hasn’t done anything to merit the suspicion we’ve all been saddling her with, other than being adopted by the Luthors.” Alex rocked forward and placed a hand on her sister’s shoulder.
“You are entirely too trusting. It’s one of your most endearing qualities, but sometimes I worry it’s going to get you hurt.”
Kara leaned in and caught Alex in a tight hug; she was still reeling slightly from her earlier conversation and needed to express her appreciation in the only way she could think to.
“That’s why I have you.” She whispered into Alex’s shoulder before settling back into the couch to enjoy the rest of their evening off.
Chapter 3: Crash
Kara leaned a hip against the side of Lena Luthor’s white, organically round desk as her employer leisurely shuffled some papers, shifting them from one side of her work surface to the other. It had been a few weeks since her abrupt shift in position and the two women had fallen into a strangely comfortable rhythm. They operated in tandem and had even developed a sort of shorthand with one another, which Kara relished. She liked having something that belonged to just them, though she wasn’t quite sure why she prized this development over other more tangible accomplishments. Still, she had managed to create quite a home for herself at LuthorCorp, owing in no small part to the support of the company’s CEO. She had a tablet in her hands and was currently scrolling through the daily agenda.
Lena looked up at her after draining the dregs of her morning coffee, “What does the rest of the afternoon look like?”
“You have an eleven o’clock with Meyers and Briggs and after that you have a one o’clock with Branson in Marketing.” Kara shifted, set the tablet down, and took the mug up, crossing to the side bar and refilling Lena’s cup from the pour-over carafe still steaming there.
“I thought Branson’s meeting was set for noon.” Lena looked up from her rearranging.
“It was. I contacted his assistant and pushed it back. I also pushed your inspection of the R&D lab back to two thirty.”
“And why,” the CEO leered suspiciously at the blonde, “would you do a thing like that.”
“Because,” Kara crossed back and slid the newly refilled cup across the desk, “you keep scheduling meetings through lunch and then you usually forget to eat dinner. I simply shifted some things around.” Kara picked up her tablet and kept her head conspicuously bowed. “Oh, and I placed an order with that little Thai place you like.”
She shifted, leaning again against the desk, waiting with baited breath for her employer’s reaction. A cautious, cursory glance over the top of her glasses confirmed that she had, indeed made the right decision; Lena’s smile was surprisingly broad and Kara allowed herself a small sigh of relief.
“The one off Market?”
“Mmhmm.” Kara affirmed, “I ordered you the crispy rice salad, it’ll be waiting for you when you’re back here at noon.” She tried to come off as nonchalant, as if she hadn’t spent an inordinate amount of time tracking down Lena’s ordering habits and preferences, even going so far as to call her old assistant over at Catco.
“That was a bit risky, Kara,” Lena rose from her seat, “ But I’m impressed by the initiative and grateful for the consideration.”
Kara shook off the admonition, and focused instead on the appreciation. “In the future I’ll ensure your schedule makes allowance for lunch.” Kara brought her hand up and adjusted her glasses, “And dinner if necessary.”
Lena smiled coyly to herself, careful not to let the blonde see her pleased expression, she refused to reward brash behavior. “That’s fine, thank you.” She went back to the mess of paperwork on her desk. “Now, the research lab tour, I may have to shift that a bit. I’d like to schedule a final follow up with the event coordinator. I can’t afford to leave any of Friday’s renaming ceremony to chance.”
“I’ll call him and see what he had available for late afternoon.” Kara turned on her heel and crossed toward the double doors leading from the office.
“Kara,” the CEO called, with surprisingly soft tone, “you do think I’m doing the right thing with renaming the company, don’t you?”
Kara turned back to the dark haired woman and found her face had fallen into worry, brows knit and emerald green eyes blazed. “I’m not sure I’m really qualified to–”
“I know, it’s just,” Lena paused and rose slightly from behind the desk, “I feel like taking the Luthor name off of this building is the right thing to do. I mean I know it is, but I can’t help feeling conflicted.”
“They were your family.” Kara shrugged sympathetically.
“For better or worse.”
Lena crossed lithe arms over her chest, creasing the fabric of her deep burgundy dress. Kara momentarily traced the line of it, the thin black belt high on the waist, the way it hugged, pencil-skirt-tight through the hip and thigh before clearing her throat and, again, adjusting her glasses.
“Well, for worse,” Lena corrected.
“You have no fond memories of your family?”
“Fond memories are not enough to controvert years of terrorizing innocent people and committing attack after xenophobic attack.” Lena sighed and settled against the desk, where Kara had been leaning not a moment before. “And besides, they are too few and far between to be of any consequence.”
“Well, I, for one, think you’re making the right decision.” She stepped in to the CEO, careful to keep a wide, professional distance. “I know what it’s like to want to do good; to take the chances you’ve been given and make them into something constructive. I think you have a real chance to do that, and it starts by reclaiming anything you can salvage.”
“Thank you.” Lena smiled, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She seemed suddenly tired as she reached for the mug of coffee and took a protracted sip.
Kara had to resist the urge to cross to the dark haired woman and gather her up in a warm embrace. Instead she nodded solemnly and backed toward the door.
“Meyers and Briggs in fifteen minutes.” Kara opened on of the large double doors and added, hastily, “And I know you know, but I’m always here for whatever you need. Anything. Just name it.”
“Thank you, Kara.” Lena treated her to a smile, far warmer than it had been a few seconds prior. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
The blonde slipped across the threshold and slumped, unceremoniously into her desk chair.
Kara sighed and removed the delicate earpiece from her left ear. She slid down into her chair and frowned, childish she knew, but she was unsettled. Something was off and she couldn’t tell what. Lena was in her office with the event planner, having put off her visit to the lab. Kara had re arranged the CEO’s schedule for the next few days to include breaks and breathers, she’d arranged and filed all available paperwork and put in calls to all contacts needed, but she still couldn’t help but feel that there was something she was missing.
She started to reach for the tablet to triple check the schedule when a low rumble started to roll, soft, barely audible, from somewhere below her. Kara could feel the vibration, could hear the low frequency hum. She strained her already finely tune ears to catch the sound, hoping to pinpoint its origin, without much luck. The slight vibration turned into an honest shake and, without warning, the lines of the building began to blur. It was too concentrated, too intense, for an earthquake; something was definitely wrong.
She jumped up and burst into her employer’s office, taking little care to guard her commanding tone, or mask her demeanor, “Miss Luthor, something is very wrong. I don’t know if it’s an earthquake or an attack, but you need to find some cover.” She dashed across the room and took Lena by the forearm, motioning for both she and the event coordinator, who’s name she’d forgotten, to get under the sturdy desk before darting back toward the door.
“Wait! Kara!” she heard her name crest over the low hum, now audible to all regardless of super hearing, “Where are you going? Stay with us!” Kara looked back toward Lena, eyes pleading, hand outstretched and shook her head.
“I – I can’t.”
Kara pushed her way out of the office and pulled off her professional clothing, letting glasses, shirt, sweater, and slacks fall in a heap. Now clad in her super suit, she sped to the nearest open window; she had to get a better look at what was happening.
Once outside, she could clearly see the epicenter of the vibrations, the high rise seemed to ripple out from a singular point on the 16th floor: the research lab. She shot toward the floor, and shattered through the lab window. The low hum was deafening here, she could barely think over the persistent din.
She glanced from station to station and every one of the doctors and scientists had collapsed at their posts, whether passed out or dead, she didn’t know. She pulled at the wrist of a nearby research assistant she’d seen in the cafeteria – he still had a pulse, though it was weakening by the second. She waded deeper into the lab and stopped in front of a strange device, which resembled a backup generator. It was obviously the origin point, shaking and rattling on a metal table in the middle of the lab.
Kara didn’t know a lot about the experiments in the Research & Development lab, but she knew enough based on the paperwork and patents she’d filed. This was not one of theirs. It was humming louder now and her eyes were starting to water with the pressure of the vibrations. Kara weighed her options and made up her mind to wrap her arms around the device and leave the way she came. She lifted it; it was surprisingly heavy, which made her more than a bit wary as to the origin of this tech.
She blasted back toward the window she’d shattered on the way in but it seemed the device had other plans. It gave an earsplitting siren scream and grew suddenly still in her arms as she hovered, half in, half out of the lab window. Then, everything grew silent, still and ominous for a finite moment, before exploding in a flash of light and sound. Kara was blown out by the sudden combustion, as it simultaneously ripped through the interior of the R&D Lab. She catapulted through the air falling in and out of consciousness as the ground sped toward her.
She crashed with a deafening thud, leaving a great cracked crater in the asphalt, and staggered to her feet. She swayed a moment and righted herself before rocketing back up toward the now smoking cavity in the glass-paneled skyscraper. She shot back through the fractured window and attempted to gather the lab employees, some badly injured, others merely groggy and coughing through the effects of smoke inhalation. She took them up in pairs, threes, fours and flew them down to the safe collection of fire trucks and paramedics gathering below before heading back in to check for structural damage and assess the threat level to other employees.
She was surprised that the explosion hadn’t caused more damage to both herself and the other people in the building, but it seemed ultimately more percussive than explosive. The fires were from other experiments in the lab and other than blowing out the windows and shattering every piece of glass equipment in the lab, the damage was, thankfully, relatively subdued. Kara sped through the surrounding floors and was met by paramedics and rescue workers now swarming the building. The building was still structurally sound and there hadn't been any casualties, thank Rao.
She took a moment and flew up to the uppermost floor, pushing open the door from the balcony and entering Lena Luthor's office.
"Miss Luthor!” The office was empty.
She burst through the doors leading to her own desk and found the dark haired CEO standing just outside, running lithe fingers over Kara’s pink and white gingham blouse, having picked it up from the pile on the floor. Her face was sad, perplexed.
“Supergirl!” she said, surprised. Then, after a momentary pause, Kara could see the tell-tale gears grind to life in the woman’s mind, “Wait… Kara, she left these.” Lena crouched low and picked up a pair of horn-rimmed glasses and handed them, pointed and smug, to Kara, “or rather, you left these.”
Kara stammered and staggered back a step or two, the events of the last few moments catching her completely off-guard and unable to derail this new confrontation. “I – I can explain.”
“I look forward to it, Miss Danvers.”
Lena Luthor was no slouch, intellectually speaking. She excelled in boarding school, at MIT, at Harvard Business School, never missed an assignment, never asked for an extension, always pushed harder and cleared every hurdle with inches to spare. She loved a challenge; whether in a lab or at a board meeting, she had a knack for taking things apart and putting them back together.
It was only in her personal life that the pieces never quite fit.
People were the only puzzle she could never seem to solve. No matter the time she devoted, Lena never could fully comprehend her mother’s apathy toward her, her brother’s disillusionment. They were enigmatic in their motives and no amount of toiling could bring her clarity. Despite the hostility in the hands that reared her, though, Lena had managed to grow into a decidedly even-tempered, objective, and affable businesswoman, with a healthy interest in the greater good. She was the foil to her wayward brother, lost in his own spiraling resentment, and sought to mend the damage he had inflicted on the Luthor name and the larger community.
She was well aware that, for most, the prospect of finding oneself suddenly face-to-face with a Luthor was terrifying and though Lena was fighting hard to change that perception, she was still undeniably intimidating. It was a rare person, indeed, who could hold their own in her presence, so when the young woman from the mailroom – a new hire even – spoke with such frank honesty, Lena had been, admittedly, intrigued. She had promoted Kara on the spot and had been rewarded with not only an excellent assistant, but also a fiercely loyal friend.
Kara’s dedication to truth and goodness, her unbridled passion for doing right by the citizens of National City, regardless of planet of origin, even her inability to hold her tongue when she had a particularly strong opinion, made her a perfect asset in Lena’s quest to reshape her company and her family’s image. She relished their conversations, often held late at night – long after Kara had been given leave to go home. They spoke of everything and nothing, from pop culture and pot stickers, to aliens and Asian Fusion – Kara really seemed to have a fixation on food. They generally glossed over heavier topics like family or future; those were subjects best left for late night discussions with Supergirl.
After her first visit, the Girl of Steel had apparently decided to add regular check-ins to her nightly patrols, often staying with Lena until some crisis or another required her attention. While their conversations were frequently heavier than the discussions with her assistant, they were no less welcome. Lena was stunned at the ease with which she revealed parts of herself that hadn’t ever seen the light of day to this woman as they lingered on her balcony. She laid bare painful memories of her past and in return Supergirl provided a comforting balm and shared memories of her own.
The hero had her own demons, Lena was sure of that, and while she didn’t often go into much detail, the Luthor heiress could tell she didn’t confide in many, which made their time together all the more precious.
It was, perhaps the second or third night Lena had been visited by the hero that the realization of her true identity suddenly dawned on the CEO. True, from the start there had been something familiar about the woman in crimson and blue – something Lena couldn’t quite put her finger on – but it wasn’t until she caught her guest attempting to adjust glasses not currently perched on her nose that the circuit actually completed. The spark of recognition flashed momentarily and she laughed to herself to think that the hero had become so use to wearing glasses in her daily life that she absentmindedly attempted to adjust them even when they weren’t there. Lena knew the gesture well, as it was one she often noticed Kara make when resolving a tricky scheduling conflict or when Lena paid her a particularly flattering compliment, and it immediately shattered the illusion.
She felt all at once both giddy and also rather stupid, having allowed herself to be fooled by so simple a disguise, though it seemed National City hadn’t caught on either, so perhaps it was rather genius in its simplicity. Lena decided to keep mum regarding her realization and her thoughts turned instead to the high volume of time she was spending with Kara, seeing as the woman with whom she spent all day and the woman she passed her evenings with were suddenly one and the same. To be fair, she never minded sharing space with either; she found Kara to be a loyal friend and excellent assistant, enthusiastic and full of light, whereas Supergirl was more stoic, dedicated and resolute, though no less radiant.
If Lena were truly honest with herself, she often felt something restless stirring inside her when spending time with either woman and often had to will her noisy heart into silence. She had been enjoying the time spent with Kara more and more, but was careful there, recognizing the impropriety inherent in developing feelings for one’s assistant. And she was certain the fluttering in her chest was just as improper each time Supergirl landed on her balcony and pushed into the office; she was, after all, a Luthor and had no business blushing and beaming the way she did every time they shared confidences.
Lena had become nothing but wistful sighs as of late; ceaseless sighing punctuated by the hammering of her heart against her ribs. It wasn’t altogether unpleasant, but the blossoming of feeling with nowhere to grow, no roots to sink, seemed a cruel fate for anyone to endure. She was the rose growing up through concrete, but it was no less than she deserved. She had given up the idea of true connection years ago, the concept of love having withered years before that. She couldn’t deny presence of the void within – the hole in her heart – but it was easy enough to fill with stress, with science, with sex and no strings attached. She never dreamed that someone could make that emptiness seem so small; With Kara, she felt warm and inspired, with Supergirl, she felt seen, understood. Lena was becoming whole thanks to a woman fractured in two.
Smoke wafted lightly passed the floor to ceiling windows in the lobby outside her office and Lena could hear the distant sounds of sirens. She stood opposite the Girl of Steel who was dusted in a light coating of rubble and what looked like shards of glass.
“I – I can explain.” Supergirl stammered out a response to Lena’s slightly accusatory observation.
“I look forward to it, Miss Danvers.” She felt Kara lift the glasses from her open palm visibly flustered. “But for now, we both have a lot of work to do,” Lena paused and collected herself, “Why don’t you do what you can for the paramedics and make sure everyone is safe, and I’ll do the same.”
“Meet me in my office later tonight and we’ll talk.” Lena crossed her arms across her chest, making sure to keep her face open, but demure. She didn’t want Kara to get the impression she was in any sort of trouble, “In the meantime, I hope it goes without saying, but your secret is safe with me.”
“I – Thank you.” Kara pushed a short breath forcefully from her lungs and smiled, uncertainly, at Lena before leaving.
Lena swirled the scotch in her glass before setting it on the balcony railing with a soft clink. A light breeze picked up and she shivered slightly in the evening air.
“You should come inside,” a voice sounded from within the office, “you’ll catch your death out there.”
The dark-haired woman turned and took in the sight of her assistant, bespectacled and cardiganed once more. Gone was the brash blue and crimson, instead replaced by neutral tones, pink gingham, and pastel wool. Kara looked sheepish, an expression the CEO had never observed on her so often smiling face. Lena wanted so much to assuage the worry pooling in her friend’s eyes and so crossed to her and did the only thing she could think of: she stepped in close and gathered Kara up in her arms. She could feel the blonde sigh as the tension drained from her lithe but sturdy frame and she settled briefly in the cradle of Lena’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” Kara murmured as they separated.
“You have nothing to apologize for.” Lena caught herself before reaching up to brush a strand of hair back from Kara’s face and instead, cleared her throat and took a step back. “I would assume keeping something like this a secret is paramount to your safety and the safety of your family, though might I recommend something a bit more misleading than a pair of glasses and some bobby pins?” Lena let a silvery laugh escape before folding her hands delicately, “All joking aside, Kara, I need you to know that I meant what I said before: your secret it safe with me.”
“So,” the blonde wrung her fingers nervously, looking worried still, “you’re not going to fire me?”
“And why on earth would I do that?” Lena almost laughed then took a breath, “Though I suppose every moment you’re filing papers for me is a moment Supergirl could be protecting the city.”
“Please Lena,” Kara sobered and straightened at the sound of her own pleading, “Miss Luthor, I mean. This job is so important to me, please understand. The time I spend here, the work I do for you, the friends I’ve made, they’re a grounding influence I desperately need. Working here day after day makes me feel...”
“Human?” Lena offered and Kara bit back her bottom lip, nodding. “You can relax, Kara. If working here is important to you, I am happy to keep you on, though I may bring in a second assistant to help you. I won’t have National City burn to the ground because you’re stuck on hold with the patent office.”
“I – thank you.” The blonde shook her head, visibly taken aback and Lena crossed to the bar to pour a glass of water. After a protracted silence, she turned back to face a still-stunned Kara.
“You’re surprised?” Lena crossed to the couch and, motioning for Kara to join her, lowered herself gracefully.
“I- I am.” Her assistant shuffled over and sank unceremoniously down, as Lena placed the glass of water into the other woman’s hand.
“May I ask which part of this is surprising to you?”
Kara took a gulp, too large, and swallowed audibly. “All of it?” She seemed to be searching for the right words. “You knew. How long?”
“Two weeks ago,” Lena bit back a smile, “you came to visit me after that fire in the warehouse district and adjusted your glasses.”
“I adjusted my glasses?” Kara pulled a face that landed somewhere between confused and frustrated, “That’s all it took?”
“Well, you weren’t actually wearing them at the time, and you went to adjust them out of habit, I suppose.” Kara’s hand stalled; it seemed she was in the midst of performing the very action Lena was describing. She lowered her hand, awkwardly. “It was such an adorably ordinary thing to do. I don’t know, suddenly you were just a regular person with normal quirks and habits and I realized I recognized you. Suddenly you became Kara.”
“And you’re just... okay with that?”
“I’ll admit, I thought about it for a long while after it happened, but it turns out, yes, I am.” Lena reclined slightly and propped her elbow along the back of the couch, “I have had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with Supergirl and Kara Danvers and I find I like them both – quite a bit, in fact. Kara, you are strong and passionate and Supergirl is... surprisingly vulnerable.”
Kara cocked her head to one side and listened intently as the woman across from her remarked on her character. She was surprised and flattered that Lena had given her so much consideration and her ears went pink at the thought of it.
“To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting to like Supergirl, I was anticipating a struggle. Instead, I came away with a friend.” Lena shifted slightly and leaned in, laying her hand close to Kara’s own. “Listen, Kara, the only thing that’s changed, since the proverbial cat’s been let out of bag is, now, neither of us have to lie.”
The blonde heaved an audible sigh and let some of the tension out of her shoulders. She let her eyes drop to her hand, just inches from Lena’s and, on impulse, moved to close the space between them, covering Lena’s fingers with her own, and raised her gaze once more. Kara’s blue eyes met icy green and she took in the kind expression on her employer’s face.
“I won’t say I’m not nervous; the fewer people who know I’m Supergirl, the better it is for me and for them – safer.” Kara paused and shifted slightly, “but I’m grateful, too. I hated lying to you.” She pushed this last phrase out in a great rush of words and air, happy to be free of the subterfuge.
Lena, for her part, had a slight smile playing around the corners of her mouth and was treating Kara to a look the Kryptonian could not quite identify. “You hated lying to me? And why should I be more worthy of your honesty than any other person in National City?”
Kara suddenly recognized the look; it was coy and teasing, she sputtered and tried to backtrack slightly, “You’re not! I mean you are. Of course you are! You’re my boss and – and Supergirl’s friend. I mean, my friend, I guess? But really, in general, I hate lying. I mean specifically too, but also generally? Not that I lie all the time. I don’t. Lie. Well, I mean I do, but only because I have to. But even so, I hate it. The lying.” She tripped over her words and tried desperately to slow her hurried speech, “But, I hated lying. To you. Also.” She folded her hands, awkwardly wringing her fingers.
Kara steadied her breathing and tried to calm the blush that was rapidly spreading to her cheeks. She wasn’t often the subject of such intense focus and she couldn’t help but feel the dark-haired woman’s steady gaze upon her. She brought a hand up and gently adjusted the frame of her glasses before she could stop herself. She caught the smirk as it flashed and faded from Lena’s face and stalled her hand self-consciously.
“Well then, Miss Danvers,” Lena was fighting back the broad smile pulling at her pursed lips, “As I’d hate to be the source of any discomfort for you, let’s embrace honesty. It is, as they say, the best policy.”
If she’d had any less self-control, the Luthor heiress would be blushing as hard as the blonde across from her. Instead, she was maintaining a low simmer, playing coy, keeping her wits about her. For the moment, at least.
“And I hope that this newfound truth won’t discourage future visits from Supergirl. I’ve started to really enjoy our evening conversations. It’s bad enough that my only two friends in National City have turned out to be the same person, I would hate to lose my late night confidante as well.” The CEO smiled genially and Kara returned the grin with effervescent warmth, her blush fading slightly.
Lena’s dark, defined brows fell into a loose knit and she posed a question to her guest, “Is it strange that even though I know you and she are the same person, I still think of you as two different people?”
“Not at all.” Kara pushed air from her lungs in a light puff. “I’ve worked so hard to keep them separate, that sometimes I feel like two separate people.”
“I think we’re all a mix of different people, though, don’t you? Probably not to the same extent, but we all adopt different mannerisms, different personalities, dependent on who we’re with. I’m not the same person in an investor’s meeting as I am sitting here, with you, on this couch.”
“Thank Rao,” Kara teased, feigning exasperation.
Lena’s lips pulled back into a cheeky grin, white teeth flashing brightly, at the exclamation. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing!” Kara laughed and clammed up. Lena inclined her head, cutting her eyes playfully, and the blonde threw up her hands defensively. “I just mean that I like this Lena. The Lena who leads the investor’s meeting is...” She paused and grappled for the right word.
“Bold? Effective? Commanding?” Lena supplied.
“Scary.” Kara countered.
“Hey!” Lena laughed, incredulous.
“You’re a badass, okay? It’s not a bad thing,” Kara teased, “Look, when you’re telling some of the most influential people in the country how to spend their billions of tech dollars, it helps to be a little intimidating.” Lena’s eyebrow shot up and Kara considered her words for a brief moment. “Okay, a lot intimidating.”
“I’m a Luthor.” Lena sighed, the smile falling slightly. “Scary comes with the territory.”
“You’re not though.”
“Not a scary Luthor.” Kara pulled her legs up under her, “I’ve seen what a scary Luthor looks like, and you’re nothing like that. You’re confident, self-assured, and strong, which –yeah – can be more than a little intimidating to some, but you, Lena Luthor, are not scary.” Kara placed her hand over Lena’s once more, hoping to inspire a bit of comfort.
“You mean my brother.” The Luthor heiress dropped her gaze to her lap and Kara watched the sharp rise and fall of her shoulders caught in the throes of a deep sigh.
“Can I tell you something?” Lena nodded almost imperceptibly, and Kara continued, “My cousin told me stories about your brother that used to keep me awake at night. At first, they kept me awake because I didn’t understand how someone I’d never met could hate me so, so deeply just because I was different. Then they kept me up because I was so sad for him, sad that his heart had been so hardened by hate. Then I couldn’t sleep because I was afraid he’d come after me. In a world where I am virtually invulnerable, he scares me.”
“I’m so sorry, Kara.”
“I know you are. And that’s why.”
“Why what?” Lena raised her eyes to meet Kara’s, but only for a moment.
“Why I’m not scared of you. You care, so deeply. It took me less than a day to realize: you are nothing like your brother. You outshine him in almost every way; you are smart, resourceful, generous, and most important of all, you are one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met.”
Lena placed her other hand over Kara’s, holding the blonde’s hand between her own lithe, ringed fingers. Her head was bowed and she couldn’t seem to pick the right words from the fog of ether in her mind. Memories of Lex were tangling with feelings of guilt and hope for the future such that she wasn’t certain which emotions were true and which were conditioned responses. In that moment, Lena said the only thing that surfaced with any sort of clarity, the only thing that felt true.
Kara smiled, earnestly and they passed another few moments in personable silence.
Kara was spinning idly in one of the oversized computer chairs positioned at the terminals in the DEO. She had flown straight there after her meeting with Lena and was having trouble focusing on anything other than her most recent conversation with her employer.
“Hey! What happened at LuthorCorp?” Alex rounded the desk and hip-checked Kara’s chair, breaking her momentary reverie. Kara lurched forward to catch herself before she spilled from the chair and sat awkwardly up before correcting her sister.
“L Corp,” Kara chirped.
“L Corp.” Kara repeated, “She’s renaming the company. The ceremony is Friday.”
“Well, that might have to be postponed, because I’m pretty sure someone purposefully attacked the company – whatever it’s called – today.” Alex stood with her hands on her hips, “The sonic readings from the sight suggest percussive force bombs.”
Kara stared blankly at Alex and raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“They used sound waves to blow stuff up.” Alex rephrased, rolling her eyes.
“Ah, right.” Kara nodded. “Wait, who’s they?”
“We don’t know. We were hoping you might have a better idea of who might want to disrupt things in the lab.” Alex sidestepped to the other side of the desk chair and Kara swiveled around to face her.
“How much time do you have?” Kara tightened her lips and made a vaguely pained expression. “Look, Lena’s doing a lot of good, but she’s still a Luthor, Alex."
“Right, I guess enemies sort of come with the territory.” Alex ran a frustrated hand through her hair.
“We have been filing a lot of patents lately, though, for projects funded with government money.” Kara offered.
“What, like weapons?” Alex raised an eyebrow.
Kara knew Lena had jumpstarted a lot of new projects since wiping out and rebuilding the R&D department, but she couldn’t believe that any of them had any application beyond improvement and intelligence.
“I don’t think so. She’s been more focused on innovation: curing disease, funding research, that sort of thing.” Kara rocked back in her seat, “Though there was a particularly heated meeting with one of the potential investors the other day. He wanted to purchase some of the tech she’d been personally developing – to buy the patents outright – but she refused."
“Why? Did she tell you?”
“No, but I could hear her.” Kara looked vaguely smug and tapped her ear. Super hearing. “She said she didn’t trust his intentions, that his ideas for application could be potentially dangerous.”
“What did he want to buy?” Alex narrowed her eyes.
“A design for wireless electricity Lena had been working on since before she came to National City.” Kara shrugged.
“Okay. Well, it’s probably too late to ask her about it tonight. Get some sleep and see what you can find out from Lena tomorrow. If she won’t tell Kara, maybe she’ll talk to Supergirl.” Alex put a light hand on Kara’s shoulder.
“Actually...” Kara started and pushed to stand up.
Alex’s hands flew back to her hips and her eyebrows shot up, “What? Actually what?”
“Nevermind.” Kara dismissed her sister’s concern with a wave and turned to leave as quickly as she could without arousing suspicion, “I’ll let you know what I find out tomorrow.”
And with that, she tried to, casually, make her way out of the DEO without further incident.
Sorry for the delay! I had to replace my laptop and then re-teach it words like "Kryptonian"
Kara glanced down at her upturned wrist, slightly agitated; her watch confirmed it, she was late. She sighed and attempted to take advantage of the short elevator ride up to L Corp’s upper-most floor, taking a moment to right herself by brushing the slight remnants of soot from the back of her hand and straightening the lapels of her plaid blazer.
The morning had already been more than a bit harrowing. It started with Alex knocking on her door at some ungodly hour and after a groggy, pre-dawn powwow, she stumbled into her super suit and ended up fighting a fire at National City’s main shipping port. It was all she could now to steady herself and keep her head up, ready to face what was likely to be a very long and, in all probability, anxious day.
The elevator dinged merrily as the doors opened onto the pristine lobby outside Lena’s office. Any evidence of smoke staining had been cleared away and from this height it was almost easy to forget the building had been rocked less than 24 hours ago. True, there was a rather large hole where the windows had been blown out below, and rather fewer employees milling about the R & D department today, but the company was, otherwise, back to business as usual.
Kara, however, was not. She had taken her moment in the elevator, but found that despite all efforts, she was nervous – she was a mess actually – carefully shrugging her bag from her shoulder and onto her desk without spilling the latte clutched delicately in her fist. Her hands were clammy, fingers wrapped around the paper cup, and her heart was beating faster than usual. She was worried about seeing Lena now that there had been some time, some space, since their conversation the evening prior. She wasn’t even sure exactly why, but Kara’s heart beat faster than usual and she had to consciously remind herself to breathe. She started to turn it over in her mind when a voice cut through her anxious spiral.
“Um, Miss Danvers?”
“Yes?” Kara’s head shot up and she brought a hand up to her glasses, adjusting them slightly. She wasn’t expecting anyone else in the foyer and was immediately on alert. “Who are you?”
“Oh, right, um, I’m Jess.” The girl offered a hand and shook Kara’s confidently, a good sign, “HR reassigned me temporarily as a second assistant until Miss Luthor posts the position.”
“A second...” Kara paused and suddenly remembered Lena’s offer, from the previous evening, to hire additional support, “Wow, Lena doesn’t waste any time, does she?”
“No, she certainly doesn’t.” The girl affirmed in a slightly exasperated tone. Kara’s eyebrow quirked up and she noticed, for the first time, the second desk newly situated opposite hers, piled high with file folders. Jess interpreted the direction of her gaze, “Oh, she wanted to get an early start. She had me pull all the files from any company denied rights to Lutho– I mean, L Corp technology.”
It seemed that Lena had already caught the same trail that Kara and Alex had the night before. She gave a curt nod and a, “Carry on,” to the new assistant, set down her latte, and, picking up her tablet, pushed into Lena’s office.
The Luthor heiress raised a tentative hand, signaling to Kara that she was on a phone call with some important person or another. This provided the blonde an uninterrupted moment to consider her employer: the black tailored dress with a subtle pattern of interlocking, grey pinstripes, Lena’s subtle, smoky makeup, upswept hair, and blood red lips. She had always appreciated the CEO’s aesthetic, but today, for some reason, Kara’s attention was instead drawn to her uncommon beauty. The way Lena’s ice green eyes were so perfectly framed by long dark lashes, the startling contrast of raven hair and alabaster skin, the slight downturn of her dramatically painted lips as she spoke. It wasn’t as if she had neglected to notice that her employer possessed rare beauty on previous occasions, but it was as if the woman had suddenly taken on new life in Kara’s eyes. It had a strangely comforting effect on her lymphic system, taking in Lena this way. She found herself calming considerably, her heart rate slowing as her eyes slid over the lines and curves of her employer.
It took a moment for her to realize that Lena was no longer on the phone and had been, instead, calling her name for the last few seconds.
Kara shook her head, emerging from her trance, “I’m sorry, what?” she managed to eek out, glossing over the obvious smirk playing across Lena’s perfectly sculpted features.
“I asked if you’d met Jess,” Lena was almost laughing, quite aware of Kara’s obvious appraisal.
“I, uh, yes. Jess, outside.”
“She’ll be my second assistant for the time being. I figured it would be easier to pull an intern for now, then I’ll have HR post the position after the renaming ceremony.” Lena shuffled a few papers and stood from behind the desk, crossing to the sideboard to retrieve more coffee.
“It looks like you’ve already got her working hard.”
“Just had her pull some files until you got in, since it looked like you were going to be a bit delayed,” Kara stepped forward, opening her mouth to explain, but Lena held up a silencing hand, “I saw the news coverage: Supergirl put out a fire at the shipyard, saving dozens of workers and thousands of dollars in cargo.” Lena took a protracted sip of coffee, meeting the blonde’s eyes over the rim of the mug, “That’s why Jess is here, Kara, so neither of us have to worry about the inevitable delays that come with being National City’s resident savior.” Lena paused, thoughtfully, “Though, to be fair, I’m still going to worry. Just not about L Corp.” She punctuated the last thought with a staggeringly bright smile and Kara was momentarily stunned by Lena’s warmth and generosity.
The Kryptonian couldn’t believe her good fortune. Had she actually stumbled across the one person, outside of her family and the DEO, who not only understood, but supported her tumultuously splintered existence? In this moment, it seemed, she had everything she could possibly want as Kara Danvers and as Supergirl; the realization bred a sense of contentment and dis-ease in equal measure, and she shook off both, choosing instead to push forward.
“It seems you and Supergirl both had the same ideas about who could’ve staged the attack.”
“Great minds think alike, I suppose.” Lena’s eyebrow arched up and she took her seat behind the desk once more. “And does Supergirl mind sharing her intel? I know I’m not some top secret government outfit, but I am anxious to put this company’s considerable resources behind protecting it and the rest of National City.”
“She doesn’t mind at all.” Kara quipped and sidled up to the rounded edge of the modern white desk, pressing into it with her hip. She made a few errant taps on the tablet screen and handed it to her employer. “My money’s on this guy, Christophe Shurr. He twigged me last week after you refused to sell him the patents to your geomagnetic conductors.”
“He rubbed me the wrong way, I guess. Gave me bad vibes.” She scrunched her face in distaste and Lena covered a grin with lithe, ringed fingers.
“Well, your instincts are spot on. After he left, I did a bit of digging and, as it turns out, Shurr is an old friend of my brother’s from boarding and then business school. When Lex ran LuthorCorp, they apparently had an ‘arrangement’ which gave Shurr first right of refusal for all tech developed and manufactured in-house.” Lena scrolled and tapped on the tablet before handing it back to Kara, indicating information she should review. “Apparently, Shurr and Lex traded black market, high-end tech like playing cards. There are records – most of them redacted to the point where I can’t even get into them with my admin codes – of classified materials and LuthorCorp products being shipped to an abandoned warehouse owned by a shell company of a shell company of a shell company owned by Shurr. There’s no telling how much he’s stockpiled or what he’s using it for, but if he and Lex were that close, it can’t be good.”
“I know a some people who can probably get into those records and see what we’re dealing with.” Kara scrolled through the pages and pages of redacted records.
“Oh,” Lena leaned against the desk, her demeanor reeking of confidence, “I can get into them, I just have other things to take care of before I take a crack at them.”
“Well, as your assistant, now one of two, part of my job is to make your life easier, so why don’t I have my team take a bit off your plate?” she raised her eyes to Lena, her face a question.
“I’m amenable to this, I suppose.” Lena assented, coyly, “Anything to get Shurr out of the picture. He wasn’t too happy when I terminated his little arrangement.”
“Yeah, I know.” Kara crossed her arms and shifted against the desk, “I almost broke down your doors when he started threatening you that day.”
“How did you know he –?” Lena started to ask, trailing off when Kara tapped her ear with an exaggerated gesture.
“Of course.” Lena drawled, “And what other skills do you have at your disposal, may I ask? Or is that classified.” Her tone was teasing and her eyes betrayed a smile that was instantly infectious.
Kara stood from the desk, momentarily excited to share her talents with someone who didn’t see them as old hat. Despite Eliza's’s constant amusement, Alex had long ago ceased to be impressed by her ability to heat coffee with a single, focused, glance and she was hungry for a new audience.
“Well, you know about the flying.”
“I do, and the freeze breathe.” Kara cocked her head inquisitively, “It was on the news this morning. I do live in this city, Miss Danvers,” Lena laughed.
“Well, then you know about the heat vision too.”
“That was actually the inspiration behind the plasma cutters we started developing last spring!” Lena stood, gesturing excitedly, “One of our engineers saw you cut and weld steel and immediately started drawing up plans for how to focus that sort of energy beam. It was a big get for the company.”
“You’re welcome.” Kara made a show of poorly feigned humility and gave a small, delicate bow. Lena laughed, delighted, and clapped her hands in mock applause. “Then there’s the hearing, the strength, and the X-ray vision.”
“X-ray vision?” the CEO pursed her lips and raised a suddenly worried eyebrow. “You mean you can...”
“Oh, uh, no.” Kara cut Lena off before she could finish that thought, “You didn’t think these were just for show did you?” Kara tapped the side of her glasses with her index finger. “They’re lead lined and essentially prevent me from seeing through absolutely everything around me. My adoptive father made them for me when I came to earth and was just too,” she paused and considered the right word, “overwhelmed with all of my new abilities. They sort of give me a break.”
“So you didn’t have powers before you got to Earth?”
“Nope. I had never been able to do any of these things back on Krypton!” She almost laughed at the thought of being capable of flight or amazing feats of strength on her home planet, “But then I came here and, let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to be thirteen, on a completely new planet, coping with the death of my family and my planet, and suddenly ripping every door I opened off its hinges and setting the rug on fire with my eyes.”
“It does sound a bit overwhelming.”
“I’ve gotten it under control now, though. I’m a pro,” Kara explained, almost bragging. Why was she bragging? “I mean, I still slip up sometimes, but for the most part it’s handled.”
“Slip up how?” the CEO’s lips curled into a playful grin and Kara momentarily lost the thread of their conversation.
“I uh, I lost control once and broke a guy’s nose trying to kiss him.” It came out in a hurried stream and in exchange for the shared confidence, Kara was treated to a giggle – an actual giggle, sweet and clear, like the ringing of a bell – from Lena Luthor. “Actually, it may have happened more than once.” She added sheepishly and Lena laughed outright.
“How many poor young men have had their hearts and noses broken by sweet, unassuming Kara Danvers?” Lena managed through wheezing laughter. Kara clapped one hand over her eyes, a lovely rose blush blooming across her face, held up four fingers on the other and they both erupted in a fit of laughter that brought Jess bursting into the room, frantic and worried, which, of course, only made them laugh harder.
Kara was still a bit giggly as she strolled into the DEO later that afternoon.
“And how was work?” a familiar face greeted her as the oversized office chair in front of her swiveled to reveal Winn, her regular lunch companion from L Corp.
“What are you doing here?” the blonde’s jaw dropped.
Hank Henshaw rounded a corner and placed a heavy hand on Winn’s shoulder before the young man could provide an answer. “Last night, we intercepted a blog post written by Mr. Schott on a conspiracy site he regularly writes for –”
“Um, excuse me, I’m a moderator on that site, thank you very much.”
“Not the time Mr. Schott,” Winn winced as Hank squeezed his shoulder, “It seems that after yesterday’s excitement at LuthorCorp, Mr. Schott wrote a post theorizing that his mild mannered co-worker, Kara Danvers, was, in fact, Supergirl, and he was going to publish it in a public forum.”
“For the record, I was right.” Winn chirped. Kara closed her eyes and shook her head subtly, willing her friend to stop talking, for his own good.
“Lucky for him – he has no idea how lucky,” Hank let go an exasperated sigh, “Mr. Schott is not without talents – talents which he can and will use to the benefit of this organization.” There was an unspoken or else hidden in his tone as Hank clapped Winn on the shoulder and left him, wheezing and rubbing his clavicle. “Alex already gave him the nickel tour and he’s been vetted and briefed, just,” he fluttered his hand, more spent than annoyed, “give him something to do, Kara.” He tossed over his shoulder, as he crossed to another agent.
“So, Supergirl,” Winn swiveled back and forth in his chair, waggling his eyebrows “Nice place you’ve got here.”
“I can’t believe you were going to expose me!” Kara hissed through her teeth, arms crossed, doing her best impression of someone who was angry. “You should have at least come to me first!”
“First of all, the only people who are on my site are other conspiracy theorists. It’s not like I was submitting it to CatCo Magazine. Second, if I had come to you, would you have told me the truth?”
“Of course!” Kara answered without hesitation, then, “I mean, maybe,” then, “probably not.”
“See?” He countered.
“Fine. But I still can’t believe they tapped you to work here! It’s,” She crinkled her forehead, “It’s rewarding bad behavior, at the very least.”
“Hey, I’m here now. Bygones and all that, whaddya say?” He pulled an entreating face, complete with puppydog eyes and Kara threw up her hands in concession, “Yes! Super secret lunch buddies!”
He put out a fist and Kara, bumped it lightly, making sure her face still registered mild annoyance.
“So, what’ve you got for me?” Winn was like a puppy let off his leash, he practically wiggled in his seat.
“Okay, lets say – hypothetically, of course,” she started.
“You needed to dig deep into confidential LuthorCorp files. Like really deep.” He raised a suspicious eyebrow, “Like deeper than Lena Luthor’s admin authorization deep. Could you hypothetically do that?”
“Hypothetically, I could. I mean, I do know my way around the LuthorCorp servers pretty well if I do say so myself,” He blew on his fingernails with an exaggerated “hah” and rubbed them on his sleeve, practically oozing bravado, “but it would take me a while to get into even the admin level of the encryption, especially accessing them remotely, even with the considerable firepower this place has got.”
“And what if you – hypothetically – had Lena Luthor’s admin codes?” Kara caught her lower lip between her teeth and worried it there.
“Kara, I know you’re her assistant, but I don’t think even you have that kind of access, and trying to get that stuff could be dangerous.”
“What if Lena Luthor gave you her admin codes?” Kara’s face was now awash in sheepish discomfort.
“And whyyyyyy would Lena Luthor do that?” The ‘why’ was drawn out, containing far too many ys for Kara’s comfort.
The blonde lowered her voice, closed her eyes and bit the bullet, “Because Lena Luthor figured out I’m Supergirl and wants to help, so she gave me access to all her files and old LuthorCorp data.”
“WHAT?” Winn hissed and frantically ducked his head, looking around conspiratorially, “You told Lena Luthor? Lena Luthor, Kara! Sister to Superman’s arch nemesis?”
“I know, I know! Whatever you do, don’t tell my sister, Alex.” Kara was gripping Winn’s arm now, pleading, he was definitely going to need to invest in some painkillers if today’s amount of aggressive physical contact was any indication of what he could expect on a daily basis. Neither of them noticed the redhead in stealth gear edge up behind them.
“Don’t tell your sister, Alex, what?”
Thank you so much for your patience! I don't know why I was having so much trouble getting this chapter down! On the upside, I plotted out the rest of the piece and will keep moving forward! As always, thank you so much for your comments and feedback, and for sticking with me this far!
And, if you dig soulmate AUs and Supercorp, feel free to check out my other work in progress, Timer.
You're the best!
Chapter 6: Protective
Alex is protective of Kara and Kara is protective of Lena. Eighty-five percent chance of face-punching ahead.
Sorry if you got a double notification on this chapter, I had to repost it, due to a weird glitch. Thanks so much for sticking with me though! I'm having so much fun with this!
The headquarters of the Department of Extra-normal Operations was never what one might call quiet, but it was not often so full of reverberating sound as it had been since Agent Danvers had unwittingly interrupted her sister’s confession. Since then, the high ceilings, glass and concrete practically rattled as the sisters went back and forth, hurling accusation and rebuttal. Most of the agents would be worried, but they all knew better. Agent Danvers and her sister might go at it from time to time, but everyone knew all the yelling and bluster boiled down to the deep, abiding care they had for one another. So, the DEO agents simply went about their business, trying their best to ignore the din of raised voices.
“I can’t believe you told Lena Luthor!” Alex threw her hands up, exasperated. “Kara, I know she’s your boss and, for some reason, you’re convinced that she’s solidly ‘white hat,’ but still,” the redhead’s tone grew flat, serious, “I thought you were smarter than that.”
“That’s not fair, Alex.” Kara arms were settled across her chest in an attempt to come off as stern, rather than shamed. It was, so far, not having the desired effect. “Plus, I didn’t tell her, she figured it out on her own.”
“Well, then you must’ve done something to tip her off.”
“You know I didn’t,” the blonde shifted her weight and glared at her sister over the rim of her glasses. “Besides, Winn figured it out and Lena’s way smarter than he is.”
Both women turned slowly and fixed their newest team member with a look that could’ve stripped paint. Winn fidgeted under their gaze and groped, unsuccessfully, for a way to extricate himself from the conversation he had now unwittingly derailed.
“I just, I mean, you know. I’m not, well... It’s not like I’m without intelligence.” Winn chuckled uncomfortably, the laugh settling too far back in his throat, and he pulled at his collar with a nervous finger, “though, Kara, she’s – she’s not wronlg. Lena Luthor is, like,” here he stopped talking, raised his hand above his head to indicate a height above his own, and gave an impressed whistle, “genius level smarts. I mean, of course she is! She runs a billion dollar corporation!”
He continued to babble for a few more seconds while the Danvers sisters exchanged plaintive looks. Thankfully, in act of sheer, unadulterated mercy, Director Henshaw chose that moment to intervene.
“You’re excused, Mr. Schott.”
“Oh thank god.” Winn scrambled to gather his things and hightailed it out of the main room.
The director shook his head, careful to mask a bemused grin with something like put-upon disapproval. He crossed to the bickering sisters and put a fatherly hand on each of their shoulders.
“Supergirl, Agent Danvers, you are both professionals, employed by this agency. I suggest you leave the arguing at the door and see how you might work together to make the best of this situation.” Alex opened her mouth to make a counter argument and the Director held up a hand, effectively silencing his subordinate. “Rise above, Agent Danvers.”
Alex’s mouth pulled tightly to one side and she huffed slightly before turning back to her younger sister. It wasn’t often that she and Kara didn’t see eye to eye, but one thing was for certain, when their point of contention was anchored in Kara’s safety, Alex tended to get a bit over-zealous. She couldn’t help her need to protect the younger Kryptonian. It didn’t matter that she had bullet-proof skin or that she could roast someone like a turkey in under five seconds, she’d always be Alex’s sister first.
The fact that Kara’s secret identity was less-than-secret and that the newest person to share in their confidences came from a family with a serious cross to bear where Supers were concerned ruffled her feathers, so to speak. Alex wanted to trust Kara. She wanted to support her unconditionally and encourage her sister to follow that big heart of hers. But she also knew that same heart could lead her sister astray, which usually resulted in Alex training her sights on some unspeakable evil – or some lovelorn boy. Alex wasn’t sure which one Lena Luthor would end up being, but her gut told her probably a bit of both.
True, Kara hadn’t explicitly confided her feelings for the Luthor heiress, but Alex knew how a crush looked on Kara. Whether her yen was platonic or not, Alex was prepared for this to go sideways at any moment. She was also prepared to be supportive in case it didn’t. No matter what, she would always be Kara’s safety net, whether she needed it or not.
Alex stubbornly extended a hand, stifling a smile at the forced accord, “Truce?”
“Truce.” Kara squeezed her sister’s hand slightly harder than necessary and they both laughed.
“Okay, since the cat’s out of the bag, how can we make it work for us?” Alex stood, facing the wall of computer screens, hands on hips. Kara subconsciously adopted the same pose, mimicking her sister’s confident stance.
“I’m glad you asked!”
Flying was easy. Kara couldn’t believe she had gone so many years without feeling the electric ease of her body in flight. Up here, hundreds of feet from the cold hard ground, darting between skyscrapers – cresting and falling, only to rise again – she felt weightless in more ways than she could ever hope to explain. Everything was easier, simpler, when the wind was whipping through her hair, cape snapping, fists leading the way. She didn’t have to worry over Winn’s new position in the DEO, or fret over the guest list for the upcoming renaming ceremony, which they’d been finalizing all afternoon. Most importantly, when she was up here, she didn't have to think about the way Lena looked when she had left work that night, little more than an hour ago. Except that’s exactly what she was thinking about, and she couldn’t seem to focus on anything else despite her attempts to the contrary.
Kara begrudgingly let her mind linger over the way Lena had rested her chin on her hand, seemingly too tired to hold her head up on her own. The woman’s hair was loose, hanging in a silk curtain, draped over her shoulders, as Lena had a habit of unpinning it throughout the day. Her makeup was, miraculously, still flawless, which seemed implausible; her lips still blood red and perfect. Kohl dark lashes fluttered as the Luthor heiress fought off slumber in an attempt to continue her work. Kara had called her a car instead and insisted she wrap it up for the night. Wednesday was fading into darkness and so was Kara’s employer. Determined as she was to milk every ounce of productivity she could from each day, even Lena Luthor needed sleep.
“That’s going to be L Corp’s next project,” Lena had murmured drowsily, her weight ever so slightly resting against Kara as they took the elevator down to the lobby and walked to the waiting car.
“Conquering humanity’s biological dependence on sleep.” Lena roused a bit as Kara laughed, deep and throaty.
“Okay tiger, but until then,” the blonde swallowed the end of the sentence as the CEO sighed deeply and leaned into her – arms finding their way around Kara’s lithe torso to pull her close, ruby red lips lingering at the hollow of Kara’s throat for what seemed like an eternity – before pushing off and sinking into the waiting sedan at the curb, with an uncharacteristically ungainly rearrangement of limbs after the fact.
“I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow morning, Miss Danvers.”
“Right. Tomorrow.” Kara responded, absently as she gave the door a gentle push. It shut with a quick catch and the sleek black town car pulled away from the curb.
It took a moment for her to realize the strange pulsing sensation in her head was the hammering of her own heart as it vibrated up and down her body, the beat ignited by the press of bodies, intimate and unexpected. She felt almost lightheaded – almost – and shook off the sensation. It had only been a second, maybe two, Lena had been so torturously close, but it felt like longer. Kara didn’t know why the woman’s proximity should fluster her so, but she was undeniably ruffled. Her heart was still rattling stupidly in her chest and she calmed it, breathing deep, only to have it beat its wings again at the thought of Lena’s lips so near her bare skin.
What was this feeling that refused to settle and still? It was new, powerful, but somehow familiar. It felt like fear, but also like delight without being either. Kara closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself against the chill night air, still lingering on the curb of Cordova Street, just outside the L Corp building. She allowed her thoughts to stumble over the sensation of warmth against her throat, the crush of their bodies, and something fluttered in her stomach, a sensation which kicked furiously then melted – settling somewhere lower – curling out in electric tendrils. It arced up her spine and she felt flush, surely blushing in the midst of all this blood rush.
Desire. That was the heady rush she was feeling: pure and unadulterated want.
“Holy Rao.” She breathed, stunned at her own realization.
Now, an hour later, soaring above National City, she absolutely wasn’t thinking about Lena Luthor. She wasn’t thinking of Lena Luthor’s startling green eyes, pale, but with untold depths she wanted so desperately to fathom. She wasn’t thinking of how amazing it felt to be held, even for a second, in Lena’s embrace. And she certainly wasn’t thinking of Lena Luthor’s mouth, the way it wrapped around her words, the way it often smiled even when Lena had little cause to, the way it might feel pressed against her own, sweet and soft. She definitely wasn’t thinking about that.
Just then, Kara picked up the sound of glass smashing across town and was strangely grateful for the distraction from all the things she absolutely wasn’t thinking about. Her reprieve was short-lived, however, when she approached the apartment building under assault. Shattered glass was still raining down from the top floor of the structure, which Kara recognized with a start: Lena Luthor’s penthouse. She cut through the air like a scythe and landed in the middle of her employer’s overturned living room.
Glass littered the floor and three black ropes hung limp, snaking down from the roof to coil like snakes on the floor of the devastated penthouse. Kara darted from one corner of the room to the other, ensuring there was no one, whether injured or lying in wait, before picking her way further into the apartment. She noted the absence of scorch marks or smoke, and wondered if whomever had broken in had used the same method previously employed to decimate L Corp.
“Lena!” Kara called, pausing for a response; she was greeted instead with a dull thud against a nearby wall. Normally, she would pause to survey the room before barging in, focusing her gaze through an x-ray squint, but something was pushing her legs forward, propelling her across the threshold: fear, a feeling to which she was unaccustomed.
The blonde burst into the room and stopped dead in her tracks upon taking in the scene: two men, clad in head to toe black, their clothing over-woven with a series of straps and holsters, stood on either side of Lena, holding her up under the arms while a third, larger man, loomed before her, clenching a poised fist. The dark-haired woman was almost doubled over in pain, feebly attempting to clutch at her abdomen, without the dexterity to reach. Her lip was swollen and Kara winced as she beheld a thin trail of blood, which crept from one corner of the woman’s mouth and followed a winding path down Lena’s chin. Her heart broke as the CEO raised her head and, haltingly, cried out, “Supergirl!” her mouth pulling as best it could into the only sort of smile she could manage.
Kara’s blood ran suddenly hot, and she forgot herself. She wound back her right hand and snapped it forward, forcing the heel of her palm, hard and fast – so fast that not one of the men saw her coming – into the largest man’s sternum. It connected with a sickening crunch and he flew back, crashing through the bedroom wall and out into the upended main room, where he immediately passed out from the rush of pain and shock.
The two men holding Lena stood, blinking for a moment, before one shoved Lena into his compatriot’s arms and turned to face the blonde. She made quick work of him, ducking his blows and taking him down with a sweeping hook of her heel which brought his jaw to the floor with unimaginable force, the rest of him following helplessly after. As she turned back toward the remaining assailant, a bullet exploded from the barrel of his gun and someone, it must have been Lena, screamed. The bullet hit Kara squarely in the chest and bounced off, the shell crumpled in defeat. Four successive shots were fired and Kara allowed a smug grin to settle over her face as each one collapsed in on itself; impact after pointless impact.
“If at first you don’t succeed,” She stepped forward and wrapped delicate fingers around the muzzle of the last man’s gun, still red hot from firing, “the second and third times probably won’t work either.” She crushed the gun as if it were spun sugar, letting the pieces clatter to the floor for dramatic emphasis. “Now,” she casually dusted off her hands, but her eyes burned with hatred, “let. Her. Go.”
The man, wide-eyed, his face smeared with what looked like black greasepaint, released Lena and Kara stooped to catch her as he scrambled for the nearest exit, now having a choice between the door and the freshly-made hole in the wall. Even with Lena’s light frame cradled against her chest, Kara still managed to dash across the room and, with a low sweep, brought the final assailant to his knees before he could make his escape. He made a half-hearted attempt to rise and Kara sent him floating out of consciousness with a swift knee to the head. Kara could have killed him; she felt her blood roiling in her veins and had to make a conscious effort to slow her breathing. It was thanks to her better angels, her sense of justice, her good heart that all three men were still breathing.
“Kara, your eyes.” She felt the voice hum against her chest, then a hand reached up to stroke her cheek. Lena was still in her arms; the woman’s heartbeat was that of a rabbit’s, racing in her chest. Kara gazed down, blinking slowly, feeling the fire fade from her vision; had she shown any less restraint, Lena’s apartment would have surely been ablaze.
“I’m sorry, I,” Kara started, unable to pluck the right words from the ether of her mind, “I got carried away.” She shifted and set Lena down, making sure the CEO was steady on her feet before releasing her. Lena, however, merely let her arms slip from Kara’s neck to settle around her waist, whether for desire for safety or equilibrium, the blonde didn’t much care, she simply wrapped a strong arm around Lena and walked her out to the living room now littered with unconscious bodies.
Lena’s face was a portrait of stoicism, though Kara had a feeling that might simply be how this Luthor responded to shock. She brought a hand up to brush away a stray strand of hair from Lena’s temple and felt the woman tighten her grip around Kara’s waist. The Luthor heiress was obviously exhausted, practically hanging limp in the circle of Kara’s strong arms. Unfortunately, they had miles to go before they slept.
Alex crossed black-sleeved arms over her chest and peered down, turning a large chunk of broken glass over with the toe of her boot. She could imagine that, before the intruders so rudely imposed on this penthouse, it was nice, a little sterile for her taste, but nice nonetheless. Agents from the DEO had already bundled off the attackers – they were, no doubt, on their way to interrogation – and the police had just finished questioning the penthouse’s current occupant.
Lena Luthor, Agent Danvers noted, was visibly shaken but had remained calm. She had been helpful to both the police and the DEO agents, posing as the FBI – Ms. Luthor was high profile enough to warrant special attention, so they took their opportunity to step in and provide that attention. Lena showed strength, a commanding presence even in the face of open threat, and that, Alex had to admit, was impressive. She knew that Kara saw something special in this woman and while she caught glimpses of it now and again, Alex simply couldn’t bring herself to trust the youngest Luthor just yet.
“Kara!” Lena’s voice cut through the relative quiet and the redhead snapped to attention as her sister, dressed again in casual pastels and khakis, pushed through the front door of the apartment and crossed, carefully toward the shaken CEO.
“Miss Luthor, I –” Kara started, haltingly formal and Alex interrupted, saving her the trouble of keeping up pretense.
“The police are gone, it’s all our people now.” Kara’s shoulders slackened and she sank down next to the dark-haired woman.
“Hey,” Kara slung a comforting arm around Lena’s shoulders, “sorry I had to leave, I needed to oversee the transport of those creeps, but I’m here now.”
“It’s alright, I-I’m alright. I understand.” Lena ran an anxious hand through her hair, her mannerisms betraying her bravado. “I’m not exactly sure who all of these people are, but they’re being exceedingly kind, considering.”
Kara glanced around at the agents, now cleaning up, having catalogued all relevant articles and information. “Don’t worry, they’re with me.”
“Excuse me?” Alex piped up. She was always happy to let her sister play the comforting hero, but there were times she simply couldn’t take a back seat. The agent sidled up to where the two women sat and extended an aggressive hand toward Lena Luthor, “Agent Danvers, Department of Extra-normal Operations. And she,” she jerked her head to indicate her younger sister, as Lena took her outstretched hand, “is with us."
“Oh! So, you’re just telling everyone about the DEO now?” Kara whined, parroting her sister’s tone from their lunchtime spat.
“Hey, thanks to you and your nervous ticks, half the city probably already knows about Supergirl, why not let her in on the rest of it?”
“I knew I shouldn’t have told you about that!” Kara countered. “This is just like tenth grade English when you told Ms. Wilkins that I was the reason you didn’t finish your final project!”
Lena looked from one woman to the other as they continued bickering, trying to piece together their relationship. The back and forth was laced with playful ribbing, rather than any sort of malice and Lena smiled, grateful for the levity their squabbling afforded the grim situation at hand.
“Agent Danvers,” Lena interrupted. “Alex, right? You’re Kara’s sister.”
“Unfortunately.” Alex stifled a grin as the blonde stuck out her tongue.
“Ah. That makes a lot more sense now.” Kara cocked her head, inquisitively and Lena explained, “When the police asked if I had anyone I could stay with this evening, Agent Danvers informed them that I would be staying with my assistant."
“That’s you, Kara.” Alex pointed out, needlessly. “I thought it would be safest. It was either that or a cell at the DEO."
“Right.” Kara nodded and rose to her feet, extending a hand to help Lena up, “No problem! Why don’t we grab a few things and we’ll get you settled over at my apartment, okay?"
“Of course.” Lena started for the bedroom, then turned, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear, “who better to keep me safe than my very own Supergirl?”
Kara’s cheeks suddenly burned crimson and Alex, watching the exchange, bit her tongue, choosing to give her flustered sister a reprieve from any teasing remarks, just this once.
Chapter 7: Safe Haven
Lena crashes somewhere safe and Kara takes care of her. Meanwhile, the kids back at the DEO find some pertinent info.
Kara was grateful for her own propensity toward keeping things neat and tidy as she unlocked the door to her apartment.
She and Lena had been driven across town by a rather stoic DEO agent, thinking it might be less conspicuous than flying, and Kara had initially been grateful for the time to collect herself. The drive, however, ended up having quite the opposite effect; the blonde became more and more nervous with each passing moment. She hadn’t given any serious thought to having Lena stay with her – it was a logical choice, of course, seeing as Kara could easily protect the CEO from any additional attacks and her apartment wouldn’t likely be on anyone’s radar. But now that they stood on the threshold of her home, her throat tightened at the thought of Lena in her apartment, poking around, eating, sleeping, dressing, undressing in her apartment. It wasn’t that she didn’t want the woman here, sharing her space. It was quite the opposite: she wanted it too much. Kara flushed an attractive shade of red as she pushed open the door and they stepped inside.
Lena, still in heels with her overnight bag tucked delicately under her arm, took in her surroundings in increments. First the vaulted ceiling and exposed brick of the loft, then the warm lighting and floor to ceiling windows draped in gauzy white curtains. She then allowed her eyes to glance over smaller details, the half-finished painting on the easel in the corner, crowded with paints and discarded canvases, the way an impossibly soft looking throw was so casually draped over the back of the couch, the neat rows of hanging clothing, waiting to be worn. Everything in muted shades of cream and blue; it was all so inviting.
“It’s exactly what I expected.” Lena mused, turning to face her somewhat flustered host.
“Is that good or bad?”
“It’s wonderful.” She answered simply, crossing to set her things down on the overstuffed sofa.
“It’s not much, but it’s home.” Kara shrugged, calming somewhat as the dark haired woman ran appraising fingers over the blanket on the couch. “Why don’t you put your stuff in the bedroom, which, I suppose, is part of the living room, which is part of the dining room.” Lena laughed at this and Kara crossed to take her bag. “What this place lacks in rooms it makes up for in fantastic views.”
“It’s perfect.” Lena answered dreamily, so taken in by her surroundings.
“You must be exhausted, the bathroom’s through there,” the blonde motioned back through the bedroom area and set Lena’s pack on the desk, tucked against the screen separating her living and sleeping spaces, “Why don’t you change and I’ll have the bed turned down and waiting for you when you’re all done.”
“The couch is more than alright, Kara. I really don’t want to put you out.” Lena attempted more protestation, but the blonde silenced her with a glare of mock condescension, hands on hips.
“I’ve slept on that couch before and I’m sure I’ll do it again, I insist.”
By the time Lena had finished her evening rituals, Kara had, with the help of her super speed, made up the bed with fresh sheets, turned it down, changed into a pajama set covered in sleepy sushi, and made some chamomile tea, now steaming softly on the bedside table. She was digging in one of the kitchen cabinets when movement caught the corner of her eye.
Kara had half expected the Luthor heiress to come breezing from the bedroom in some sort of impractical peignoir and floor-length robe trimmed in lace. Instead, the blonde was pleasantly surprised to see the other woman awkwardly folding herself into the corner of the couch, dressed in an oversized college shirt and plaid boxer shorts. Her hair was piled atop her head in a messy bun and, much to Kara’s delight, a pair of over-sized, black-rimmed glasses sat perched on the woman’s nose.
Kara smiled to herself and continued pawing through a few knick-knacks until she found what she was looking for. She pulled the first-aid kit down and returned the boxes she’d displaced before making her way to the freezer. She swung open the door and picked up the cold pack Alex had left from the last time she’d come to Kara’s, still sore after a mission. Once she’d gathered everything she made her way to sit on the opposite end of the couch.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it seems I’m suddenly wide awake.” The dark-haired woman took a long sip of tea and cradled the cup close to her chest.
A brief moment of pregnant silence passed between them before Kara blurted out, “You wear glasses!” Even in their somewhat happenstance companionship, the blonde couldn’t hide her enchantment at seeing Lena so unmade. She was still beautiful, unguarded as she was, but it felt more tangible now, somehow more real, which, of course made Kara’s nerves feel a bit raw.
“I do!” The dark-haired woman laughed. “And you don’t.”
Kara grinned sheepishly and moved to take off her own glasses, folding them carefully before setting them on the broad white coffee table next to the medical supplies she’d gathered.
“My father used to tell me it was ‘all those damned books!’ They spoiled my eyes.” Lena breathed in deeply, and the steam from the tea lightly fogged her lenses. “I’ve always liked my glasses, though.”
“I do too,” Kara agreed, “so, why don’t you ever wear them?”
“Ah, another gem from my father, I’m afraid: a Luthor never shows weakness. Apparently not having perfect vision is a sign of weakness.” Lena took another long dram from her mug.
“Glasses or no, I think you’re probably one of the strongest people I’ve ever met,” the blonde murmured, staring at her hands. She meant what she said, but couldn’t bring herself to meet Lena’s eyes.
It was one thing to think of Lena Luthor, her severe aesthetic, her cherry red lips, in an abstract sort of way while flying over the city, but quite another to be faced with the very real woman sitting before her, unshielded and vulnerable. Those same lips – no longer that forbidden red – were even more distracting, soft and pink as they pulled into a flattered smile. It took her a moment to register the deep cut on Lena’s lower lip, purple now as the blood dried and the body attempted to knit the separated skin back together. It shook Kara to her core and she reminded herself that there was a time and a place for these sorts of spiraling feelings, and this was neither. She was a safe harbor, a haven, and was determined to do her utmost to provide comfort and keep Lena safe, regardless of whatever intrusive thoughts tried to fight their way into her head.
“Thank you, Kara. You can’t live in fear, you know that better than most.” Lena took another sip and winced slightly as the mug bumped her lip.
“Here, let me take a look at that for you.” Kara took up the first aid kit and slid closer to Lena, who set aside her tea. “You really should have let them call in the paramedics.”
“I didn’t want any more people there – I just, I didn’t want anyone else touching me– and I really didn’t want to go to the hospital.” Kara paused, not wanting to be another invasive presence and Lena raised her chin in response, inviting the blonde to examine the cut across her lip. The swelling had gone down considerably; there was definitely a faint purple bloom under the skin of her cheek, but the split in her lip was, thankfully, more superficial than Kara had initially thought. “Besides, after you told them my ribs weren’t broken, I figured everything else could be taken care of later.”
“They aren’t broken, and you don’t have any internal injuries, but you’re still going to bruise pretty badly, and it may hurt like hell for a day or so.” Kara started to clean the cut with some sterile smelling substance on a cotton ball.
“That x-ray vision sure does come in handy. I wonder if we could figure out how to mimic it. And market it, of course.” Kara huffed slightly, working around Lena’s moving lips as best she could. The CEO, for her part, seemed suddenly chatty, “You seem to know what you’re doing. You know your way around a first aid kit, I mean. Which seems a bit strange when you think about it, seeing as you’re invulnerable.”
Kara interrupted any further chatter, speaking slowly and deliberately, “Lena, I know you’re my boss, and I know how this is going to sound, but please stop talking.” Kara was now working with a cotton swab and some sort of balm, “Every time you open your mouth, your lip re-splits and if it keeps doing that, it won’t heal properly.” The blonde drew back and held up the tube of whatever she was applying for Lena, who fixed her with a glare of feigned annoyance. “I lifted this from Alex’s lab at the DEO. Now, it can patch you up quick, but only if you stop talking."
Lena fixed her icy green eyes on Kara and snapped her mouth closed in a childishly exaggerated manner.
“Thank you. It’ll only take a few minutes, then we can chat all night if you want.” Kara went back to the work of applying the balm, “And to answer your question, I have a first aid kit here for my sister, in case she needs to patch up after missions. Growing up the invulnerable alien sister to a wannabe one-woman-army like Alex led to more than a few medical emergencies over the years so I tend to ere on the side of caution. I accidently broke her arm while trying to save a woman from a car wreck a few weeks after I was first placed with the Danvers and that seemed to set a precedent.” Kara took out some soft medical tape and cut it into tiny strips. “It took me a while before I realized that Alex was going to get into tough scrapes whether I was there or not – that’s just who she is – so I might as well learn to help.
“When she started medical school, she’d come home every day and teach me what she learned, until she dropped out and joined up with the DEO. I still remember the first time I gave her stitches.” Kara laughed at this and Lena’s eyes flashed with obvious concern. “To clarify, it was my fault she needed the stitches in the first place, and I got to be the one to stitch her up. I hated it. That’s why I love this stuff so much, no stitches necessary.” She placed the strips of tape over Lena’s cut, already starting to heal under her steady hands.
Lena looked as if she desperately wanted to speak, her eyes pleading. Kara knew that it would only take another minute or so for the work she had done to completely repair the split, and told her houseguest as much. “Why don’t you try and get settled in bed in the meantime. And put this over your cheek, it’ll help the bruising.” Kara took a moment and blew freezing breath over the ice pack, re-chilling it instantly, wrapped it in a light kitchen towel, and handed it to Lena, who pushed up from the couch. “I’ll make some more tea.”
She took her time in the kitchen, doing things without the aid of speed or heat vision in attempts to give Lena a bit of time and space to herself. Kara knew the night had been trying. She herself had been taxed beyond a breaking point, enacting violence under the influence of anger and fear. But the other woman in her apartment, she had been traumatized and Kara wanted more than anything to give her what she needed, whether that was space or protection or simply healing her wounds as best she could. She took up the tea and crossed to the screen dividing the bedroom and living room, knocking lightly.
Lena was settling into the bed on the right side, away from the window. She had unpacked a large book and set it on the bedside table; Kara crossed and placed the tea next to it. The copy was worn and looked as if it had been taped back together more than once. She felt Lena’s hand on her arm and turned back to her, smiling warmly – she knew why Lena was catching her attention.
“You should be okay now, your lip is already looking much better.”
Lena sighed gratefully then met her gaze once more, “Jane Eyre.”
“The book. It’s Jane Eyre,” Lena picked up the worn volume, “it’s my security blanket, I just, I don’t know, I wanted it with me.”
“It’s one of my favorites,” Kara smiled and sank down on the edge of the bed. “I mean, c’mon, an orphaned girl survives on grit and gumption, and finds a way to make a life for herself even when everyone around her is a bit...”
“Exactly!” Kara laughed and Lena joined in.
The blonde rose and, in a sweeping motion, crossed to the other side of the bed, drawing a book from the opposite bedside table, jammed as it was with light reading and various papers. She handed the book to Lena, who smiled upon reading its cover. “I like to keep it close too. I reread it at least once every year.”
Lena set Kara’s dogeared copy of Jane Eyre on top of her own and stretched, lithe and cat-like, before settling lower in the bed.
“I am so tired, but I don’t know how to fall asleep right now. I feel as if my body has forgotten how to wind down.” Lena turned on her side, facing Kara, scrunching a fluffy pillow up under her shoulder. “I keep thinking that if I close my eyes, if I relax, or even try to, it will happen again. They’ll find me here; they’ll destroy your beautiful home and take me away, or worse. I know it doesn’t make any sense.”
“It makes perfect sense.” The blonde’s tone was gentle but matter-of-fact, “Someone came into your home, where you had always been safe, and caused you harm.” Kara stretched out on top of the duvet, mirroring the other woman’s posture, though careful not to invade her space, uninvited. “And you may still worry, and it may not make sense to you, and that’s okay. It will take time for you to feel safe again, and in the meanwhile, I will do everything in my power to protect you. Lena, if you let me, I will make sure no one ever hurts you again.”
Neither of them spoke for a moment, then Kara pulled back and moved to stand, stopping only when she felt a hand catch her wrist.
“Could you –” Lena’s green eyes shone, glossy with unshed tears, “will you stay with me?”
Kara turned and nodded; she took a moment to sweep the apartment, turning down the lights, careful to leave a few on so darkness couldn’t creep in. Then she wordlessly slipped in-between the covers, keeping a respectful distance between herself and the other woman in the bed. Soon, however, that distance was bridged as Lena moved closer and closer, curling into the crescent of her body, drifting off to the lullaby of Kara’s steady heartbeat, her even breathing. Kara stayed still and calm until Lena, teetering on the edge of sleep, let loose a quiet sob.
“They didn’t even ask me anything. They just started hitting.”
The blonde closed the remaining gap between them and wrapped her arms around the dark-haired woman, now shaking slightly in the half-dark. Kara held her in that loose embrace, letting Lena tire herself out, until, spent and exhausted, the youngest Luthor finally drifted to sleep.
“Anytime, Winn!” Alex paced back and forth, ricocheting around the main room of the DEO like a pinball before looming over the tech’s shoulder.
“I know you probably think pacing like that and telling me to hurry up are helpful,” Winn kept his eyes locked on to the screen, fingers flying over the keys, “and I hate to be the one to break it to you, but I –”
“Anything, Mr. Schott?”
“Director Henshaw!” Winn jumped in his chair, suddenly not knowing what to do with his hands. “Uh, yes and not yet sir."
“Start with ‘not yet’ and go from there.” Henshaw drew even with Alex and settled his arms across his chest.
“Well, Agent Danvers brought me basically everything we could get off our guys from Lena Luthor’s and it turns out their comm system had tracers running in the background. I’ve uploaded the data and I’m working on decrypting it, so we can track them back to wherever they came from.” Winn was flustered, it was still, technically, his first day – one of the longest first days he’d ever had – and though he was exhausted, he was still desperate to impress the director. And terrified of Alex. Both in equal measure.
“Excellent.” Director Henshaw gave a curt nod that Winn took as the most he was going to get in terms of any sort of encouragement. “And what about the ‘yes’?”
“Winn took the admin codes Lena provided and was able to go deep into the L Corp servers to find Lex’s black files.” Alex took over the explanations and Winn exhaled the breath he didn’t even know he was holding, grateful for the momentary relief. “He found a legal document Lex had drawn up before he was arrested.”
“And the nature of this legal document?” Henshaw raised a pointed eyebrow.
Winn swiveled his chair, inserting himself back into the conversation, “According to this crazy-but-legally-binding thing Lex had whipped up, in the absence of an eligible Luthor heir, Luthor Corp, its intellectual property, and all of its subsidiaries are turned over to Christophe Shurr.”
“What about Lillian?” Henshaw interjected.
“Lillian is still kicking around, yes.” Winn answered, “But!”
Alex, too impatient for Winn’s theatrics, “But, when Lena stepped in to run the company, Lillian signed away all rights to Luthor Corp. She used to sit on the board when Lex was running the show, but as soon as the company was transferred to Lena, she jumped ship completely.”
“That’s cold. I mean, it’s common knowledge that Lillian Luthor’s relationship with her daughter is lukewarm at best, but to basically abandon her to run a multimillion dollar enterprise, alone, after your other kid cracks up? That’s rough.”
“It’s common knowledge?” Alex quoted Winn back to himself, sporting a teasing grin.
“What? I read! It’s all over CatCo Magazine."
“I don’t know if I’d call gossip from CatCo ‘reading’.” Alex mimed air quotes, “But if Lillian signed away her rights and Lex’s convictions leave him ineligible, that means Lena is the only one standing between Christophe and Luthor Corp.”
“I’d hate to be Lena Luthor right now.” Winn steepled his fingers, turning his chair back to face the agents. “I sure hope she’s got some serious muscle on her side. She’d definitely going to need it.”
“Don’t you have something to do right now?” Alex asked, pointedly, hands on hips.
“Right right! Decrypt the data, track the bad guys, save Lena Luthor. Got it.”
I know some people will be disappointed that kissing didn't happen, but that felt weird, so I did this first. That doesn't mean kissing won't happen (don't worry, kissing is definitely going to happen)... it just means that when it does, it will be healthy, happy kissing! Not desperate confused kissing. Thanks for coming with me on this and thank you so much for reading and for your amazing comments and feedback!
Chapter 8: Spark
Lena talks over lingering fear with the girl of steel (and donuts) and Alex stumbles upon something nefarious
It wasn’t often Lena slept through the night. In fact, she was, more often than not, a terrible insomniac, pacing her apartment at all hours or simply working until she couldn’t keep her eyes open, even if that didn’t happen until well after midnight. She had always had trouble falling asleep, whether from nerves or a brain that simply refused to stop and allow her rest. Even when she was able to fall asleep at a reasonable hour, she always managed to stir well before the rising sun. She had adapted to this though, claiming the early hours for herself, the quiet moments when even National City seemed to doze, that was her time. She used it wisely, maximizing the turnings of her cerebral gears, dreaming up fantastical ideas that no sane, or well-rested person could ever hope to conceive, but it was the implausibility of these ideas that gave her company its innovative edge; when all was said and done, she owed much to her inability to sleep.
This morning, however, she was roused by sunlight pouring in through wide windows that were not her own. She squinted in the unforgiving brightness then squeezed her eyes shut again and nestled back into the covers. Something else, someone else, was there with her and she hummed happily, nuzzling into the warmth without thinking. She stilled for a moment and heard the deep steady beat of a heart against her ear, the rise and fall of breath under her arm. After a moment or two of silence and heartbeat she remembered where she was, with whom, and sighed happily. She would normally have been mortified, waking to find herself unceremoniously wrapped around a prone, sleeping stranger, but this wasn’t a stranger at all, this was Kara, her Supergirl.
Rather than lift her head from the other woman’s chest, unwind her arm from around her torso, draw her legs from their tangle with Kara’s, she instead held tighter, drew closer. Lena gasped when, in response, the blonde turned toward her, still lost in sleep, and pulled her, safe and secure, against her chest. Lena tucked her head into the hollow at Kara’s throat and breathed another contented sigh before pressing a soft kiss into the exposed skin there, and drifted back to sleep, cradled in the blonde’s strong embrace.
The next time she woke, she was alone, the pillow next to hers long cold, and she stretched, arms and legs, pushed out until she was a starfish floating in a sea of soft sheets and blankets. She closed her eyes for a brief moment, memory harkening back to the feel of Kara’s arms around her.
“Safe.” She murmured, to no one in particular.
“Hey, you’re awake!” a voice chimed from the other room and Lena started, sitting up and clutching at her heart in shock. Kara poked her head around the screen between the living and bedrooms, “Oh, sorry.”
The groggy Luthor scrambled for her glasses, squinting toward the voice, until the frames found their way to her face. Kara’s hair was loose, hanging in perfect waves and she was already in her super suit, Lena noted.
“It’s alright, just a minor heart attack,” the dark-haired woman chuckled good-naturedly. “Oh god, what time is it?” She suddenly looked stricken, realizing how much higher the sun was in the sky than when she first woke.
“Don’t worry, it’s only 10:30. I’ve already been by the office and your apartment.” Kara crossed toward the bed and held out a hand for Lena, who took it and rose, somewhat self-consciously. “Jess is calling everyone, doing final checks for the ceremony tomorrow and I grabbed your computer so you can do some work here if you want. The DEO is almost done at your apartment, then we can go there in a bit.”
“Almost done? They’ve been there all night?”
“Yep, fixing it up. They’ve got a cleaning unit for that sort of thing. You can hardly tell anything happened,” Kara crossed to the kitchen table and plucked up a white paper bag, folded delicately at the top. “Actually, you should be able to stay there tonight.”
“Oh,” Lena said, more quietly than she intended. It wasn’t as if she didn’t want to go home, to be among her own things, surrounded by familiarity and comfort, but the thought of being back there, especially at night, was troublesome. Moreover, the thought of being without Kara, specifically, was downright depressing.
“You won’t be alone though. We’ll have agents stationed outside your door and throughout the area, so you won’t have to worry.”
“Right.” Lena’s mood had taken a quite noticeable downturn, “Thank you.”
“What’s the matter?” Kara reached over and Lena couldn’t help falling into the deep blue of her eyes for a moment, catching herself before drowning completely.
“It’s nothing.” Lena shrugged and crossed to sit at one of the stools around the kitchen table. She caught one of the stray bits of hair that had come loose from her messy updo and started winding it absentmindedly around her fingers. “I suppose I’m still a bit shaken up from last night. And anyway, there’s still a lot to do for tomorrow’s ceremony, I should probably get going.” This wasn’t altogether untrue, but the Luthor heiress was far more upset over the prospect of spending the evening alone than she was fearful for her own safety.
“Hey, hey,” Kara caught her arm, gently as she pushed off from her perch, “there’s no rush. Jess has got it handled at the office at least for a bit. I mean, I know she was just an intern, but you should hire that girl, she puts me to shame.” Kara laughed and held out the white paper bag to her houseguest, “Plus, I thought you could use some fried, sugary goodness in your life. You do eat donuts, right?”
The dark-haired woman leaned forward and nicked the bag from Kara, “Well, I am human.” She pulled out a glazed yeast donut and pushed the bag back to the blonde, happily picking the donut apart with her fingers.
“I’m not, but I can confirm that donuts are one of the best things in the universe and the next.” Kara slipped her hand into the bag and drew out a frosted pink cake donut, biting into it without any further ceremony. “Now, let the sugar work its magic and tell me what’s really bothering you.”
“I... might be a bit nervous about going back to my own apartment. I mean, I had a hard enough time sleeping here, and I’ve never felt so safe.” Kara smiled through a blush remembering how she woke, tangled up in the dark-haired woman, holding her close, and listened as Lena continued. “I feel ridiculous even saying it, but I’m scared to be there alone.”
“That’s not ridiculous.”
“Fear is weakness and a Luthor never shows weakness.” Lena pulled her mouth into a stoic, straight line.
“Fear just means you understand the risk and are responding to it appropriately.” Kara countered. She paused a moment, considering what to say, she settled on, “Fear is also an important part of being brave.”
“I don’t know if I’m that brave.” Lena sighed, her donut forgotten.
“Listen, can I be honest?” Kara’s brows gathered around the crinkle in her forehead. She waited for the nod from her breakfast companion before continuing. “You are that brave. And while I never knew your father, I do know you’re too smart to place so much stock in the things he’s told you. ‘A Luthor never shows weakness’? Understanding yourself, your needs and your shortcomings, is not weakness, it’s strength.” She paused a moment, carefully considering her words before continuing, “I am bulletproof, Lena, literally bulletproof, and even I get scared sometimes, does that make me weak?”
“Of course not. But I can’t imagine you being scared of anything.”
Kara crossed to the other side of the table, taking the seat next to the young Luthor.
“I was terrified last night, when those men were hurting you. The things I did, I – I could have killed them, Lena, I was so frightened and so angry. I just... saw red.” Kara placed a tentative hand on the other woman’s forearm, the touch barely registering, “But I pushed through it, then I called my sister, I asked for help, I talked to you. I felt better. Fear is just the first step; it’s how you respond to it that matters.”
Lena leaned in – close enough for Kara to have a moment’s panic at her proximity – and kissed the blonde on the cheek, “Thank you.” She moved back out and popped the last piece of donut into her mouth, “You, Kara Danvers, are amazing. And I think I’m going to take your advice. Yes, I’m scared, but I also know when to ask for help.” The dark-haired woman slid from the stool and stood next to Kara, blinking helplessly, still in shock, “Will you stay with me at my apartment tonight, at least until I fall asleep? It would mean so much to me.”
“Of – of course I will.”
“Excellent!” Lena flounced back toward the bedroom, intent on getting ready for the day ahead, while a stunned Supergirl ran fingers over her cheek where the kiss still burned.
“On my count!”
Alex hovered near the warehouse door, poised and ready.
“One, two,” She tensed, instinctively, “THREE!”
She drew back as three agents with a heavy ram rushed the door, which crumpled upon first impact. She tried the switch by the destroyed door, hoping to shed some light on their surroundings, but a cursory flick registered no change. There was an eerie silence, which seemed to hit them in a wave as she and several others, dressed in stealth black with guns and flashlights brandished, spread out through the cavernous space. They wove through shelves and called across to one another as each section was cleared.
“Director, tell Winn his intel was good, he’s two for two.”
Winn had managed to decrypt the location data from the comm units they confiscated and cross-referenced the data against Lex’s old files to come up with a series of matching points. As much as Alex hated to admit it, she was actually glad he was on-board. True there were others at the DEO who could maneuver around a computer in much the same way, but none had his speed or intuition. The man had a gift, if only it didn’t come wrapped in such an annoying package. Truth be told, she actually liked having him around to argue with, though, if anyone ever tried to get her to admit that, she’d drown them in acid.
Winn’s data was solid; it had revealed a handful of warehouses owned by Shurr’s shell companies, also frequented by the hitmen currently held in lockup. This was the second warehouse they’d raided this morning, the first having been completely empty, most likely a decoy. This one, however, was proving to be more fruitful, though whether that was a good or a bad thing, Alex didn’t quite know.
She swung her flashlight, scanning rows and rows of shelving piled with nothing but empty cases, some lined with foam cutouts where guns might rest, others disassembled, piecemeal, having held who knows what.
“Agent Danvers, what do you see?” Director Henshaw’s voice echoed over her comm.
“A whole lot of nothing. These guys cleared out fast, and they took their toys with them.” Alex continued to peruse the shelves, “By the looks of it, we can expect a repeat of last night’s performance. There was a lot of artillery here and it wasn’t packed for travel, it’s definitely live.”
Alex whipped her head toward the voice in the warehouse and found her way to a small klatch of agents surrounding a large structure, draped in a sheet, surrounded by levers and control panels. The redhead drew back the cover with a flourish to revealed something resembling a huge twelve-foot tall Tesla coil. She circled it slowly, noting the scorch marks scarring the metallic surface of the surrounding panels. The coil sat atop a large tank filled with what she supposed to be coolant, though the tank had cracks in the glass and many of the screws securing it were missing. She scowled, running a cursory hand over the ruined structure, examining its obviously disastrous design.
“Everyone step back.” Alex holstered her gun and stepped toward a series of levers sprouting up from the concrete. She pulled the clutch atop the closest lever and, straining a bit at the effort, dragged it toward her. Somewhere, a mechanical whirr spiraled to life and died off within seconds, half-hearted and exhausted. Whatever this device had meant to accomplish, it was inoperable now – abandoned – and Alex had the distinct impression that they might come upon similar setups in the other warehouses on Winn’s list.
Another agent caught Alex’s attention and she trotted over as he pulled second sheet off something tall and mechanical, mere feet away. He gasped and staggered back a few feet, looking up to the machine’s full height.
“Wh – what is that?” the young man stammered.
“Yes, Agent Danvers?”
“We need Lena Luthor here. Now.”
All your comments and feedback have been absolutely amazing! I'm so lucky to have such fantastic folks following this story, so thank you times a million! I've been on a bit of a roll with this one and am hoping to keep churning out chapters until I'm satisfied, so thanks for keeping up with me! You are all the best!
Chapter 9: Mechanics
Kara and Lena share a domestic moment, then they join Alex for some good, old fashioned exposition.
"You know you don't have to do this," Kara said, around a hair tie she was holding between her teeth. She had just finished plaiting her hair back into a Dutch braid and was tying it off as Lena busied herself in the other room.
"Your sister said she needed me, I'm happy to oblige." The voice floated in, distracted.
"You don't have to say yes just because she's my sister." Kara, having finished with her hair, was now depressing the plunger on the French press, pouring the coffee into a travel thermos for Lena.
The blonde wasn't thrilled about taking Lena to one of Shurr's warehouses, it seemed like giftwrapping the canary and hand-delivering it to that cat; the whole thing made her anxious. True, some of her anxiety was rooted in the very confusing and surprisingly strong feelings for the woman in the other room – feelings that seemed to have taken hold over night. Regardless, she was on high alert and determined to protect Lena at all costs, a task her sister seemed dead-set on complicating.
"I'm saying yes because she's your sister and because she carries a gun." Lena walked out from the bedroom, running a hand through her sleek dark hair before shaking it out and Kara almost dropped the coffee.
Seeing the CEO in plaid pajamas was one thing, seeing couture causal Lena Luthor was quite another. She was bewitching in skin-tight, black skinny jeans that pooled slightly before disappearing into onyx leather, studded ankle boots with an obvious heel. Through an over-sized, purposefully distressed, black sweater, Kara could see the faint lines of a cropped, nearly-black halter. Though she wasn't wearing any necklaces, Lena's fingers were stacked with rings and numerous earrings trailed their way up and around the curve of each ear. She stepped aside and carefully wove a soft black knit scarf around her neck before shrugging into a gunmetal grey, mid-thigh length, gabardine jacket with a high funnel collar that, though modest in appearance, most likely cost more than Kara's rent.
Her make-up followed the dark, distressed theme, though more subtly than Kara had ever seen it, with soft gray dusted around black lined eyes. Along with long dark lashes, the look made the icy green of Lena's irises all the more startling. The Luthor's lips were a bit darker – a matte, dusky plum, rather than their usual blood red – and Kara couldn't stop her gaze from lingering over them a bit longer than strictly necessary.
"That's what you packed?" Kara sputtered, slack-jawed. The woman looked like something dangerous had escaped the pages of a fashion spread. She could feel something warm and hollow rise in her stomach and pull pleasantly as she looked the Luthor over. She was terrifying like this, and Kara could do little more than gulp and flutter lashes.
"And why shouldn't it be?" Lena answered absent-mindedly, cuffing the jacket above the elbow and pushing up the sweater sleeve to meet it. "The team in my apartment didn't give me a lot of time to pack, so I just grabbed a few comfortable favorites."
"This is comfortable?" Kara's tone was a bit sharper than she intended and she backpedaled momentarily, "I just mean you look amazing, intimidating, for sure, but amazing."
"You have your super suit, I have mine," she said plainly, crossing to Kara and placing lithe fingers at the lapel of her button-down shirt. "Dressing like this, and the way I do at work, the clean lines, the jewelry, the dramatic hair and makeup, they're just another form of armor." She explained lightly, while buttoning the three top buttons of Kara's shirt, effectively hiding the bright crimson and blue symbol of her suit.
Kara, for her part, was temporarily distracted by Lena's fingers working against her chest, and her breath came in halting, awkward gusts. The gesture was so stunningly banal and domestic, yet so perfectly intimate, that for a moment Kara forgot that they were in the throes of a potentially life-threatening plot and allowed herself an instant to consider a future in which such gestures were regular and commonplace. It was a pleasant fantasy; one that faded slightly as the dark haired woman's hands retreated.
"These clothes are just a costume." Lena finished, ensuring Kara's collar was lying flat before stepping back to appraise her work, "Albeit, one I quite like, but a costume none-the-less."
"And the glasses-and-pajamas look?" Kara smiled, catching the thread of the conversation again.
"That is the real Lena, I assure you." She smiled wryly, "Given a choice, I would rather slouch around town in a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt, but then I would lose that threatening edge all the gossip magazines love to write about."
"Well, not that this look isn't, well, sort of stunning, but I definitely like the real Lean Luthor." Kara colored slightly, adjusting her glasses.
"I appreciate that." She lifted the coffee from Kara's hand and slipped on a pair of aviator sunglasses before crossing to the apartment door, "Shall we?"
"Sure." Kara mused, smiling a bit wider than she could help.
The sleek black town car pulled up at the warehouse twenty minutes later, greeted by an impatient Alex. The redhead pulled open the door before the vehicle had even come to a stop and she led the two women deep into the warehouse. The DEO team had wasted no time setting up light fixtures and partitions, creating an atmosphere that more closely resembled an archeological dig than it did a black site infiltration.
"Thank you for coming, I needed to know what we're dealing with," Alex pushed aside a curtain of plastic sheeting they had rigged around the control center housing the tesla coil and mechanical mystery they'd discovered earlier. "We could have called in our people, but given the nature of this tech and Shurr's involvement with LuthorCorp, we thought it might be faster to go straight to the source." Alex stood, hands on hips, pausing before leading them to the mechanical monstrosity they'd uncovered.
"Well, I don't know if you could call me 'the source,' but I can certainly recognize our tech, and I'm happy to do whatever I can to help."
"That's what I was hoping you'd say," Alex started moving again, pushing through another plastic barrier and coming to stop in front of the towering metal structure, "because we may be a bit out of our depth here."
The CEO stopped dead in her tracks and Kara bumped gracelessly into her, only stopping when she felt the other woman lean back, almost swooning.
"Lena?" Kara caught her with ease as her knees buckled slightly, and wrapped an arm around the woman's mid-section to keep her upright.
"No..." the youngest Luthor murmured softly, .
"What is it?" Alex pressed, and Kara motioned for her to stand down for a moment.
Lena staggered forward slightly, extending a hand to graze the jutting interlocking metal. It shone in the faint light, polished silver and green, shining like some grotesque beacon in the hull of the dark warehouse.
"My company wasn't always the powerful corporation it is today," the dark-haired woman spoke softly, her breath fogging the sheen of the cold material under her fingers. "Lex, in the early stages of his megalomaniacal anti-Super crusade started buying up dozens of companies, each highly specialized in their fields. It wasn't until LuthorCorp had become one of the largest manufacturing and fabrication conglomerates that any of us started to question his obsessive purchasing spree. We came to learn that each of the companies he strategically acquired was responsible for crafting different parts of a very specific piece of tech he was developing for personal purposes."
Kara breathed a short, shocked breath, "Lex's warsuit!" She had heard horrible tales recounting the destructive power of Lex Luthor's kryptonite tempered suit, designed for the express purpose of crippling her cousin. She shuddered involuntarily.
"Lex had teamed up with others hellbent on bringing down Superman – aliens, sentient computers, I'm not really sure who or what they were – but during their time together, my brother developed and fine-tuned his suit using every piece of knowledge he could get his hands on. Solar engines, blasters, and advanced neural network, internal power converters, the suit was a death machine forged from kryptonite and hatred; a lethal shell with a monster inside."
Kara stepped forward and placed a gentle hand on Lena's shoulder, she could feel the slight flinch at the unexpected contact, but her hand was immediately warmed by Lena's own and she stayed, silent and supportive.
The mechanical marvel towered over them, a staggering 15 feet of cruel steel and glass. It was structured much like a suit might be, with a generalized anthropomorphic design featuring two legs, clean joints and hydraulic piston rods snaked with cables, and two massive arms, one of which terminated in a rudimentary three-pronged claw, while the other seemed to be an articulated blasting cannon of some sort. At the heart of the monstrosity was a web of metal, framing tempered glass casing where a pilot might sit. Everything was polished to a high sheen – all of it articulated and oiled – grotesquely beautiful in its threatening, gleaming perfection.
The youngest Luthor pushed forward a bit. A ladder had been shunted off to one side and she pulled it open, carefully climbing up to get a better look at the heart of the beast. Kara watched as Lena ran an exploratory hand along the seam of the cockpit, until her fingers found purchase and she twisted a latch, receiving a satisfying click in exchange for her efforts. There came a shorty hiss of air and the glass portal began to lift away.
"This is not my brother's warsuit, but it was definitely built to take advantage of every aspect Lex designed to cause mayhem. This, is a mechasuit, meant for a single pilot." Lena shifted from the ladder and made a move to climb into the mechanical giant.
"Lena, wait," Kara called up to her. She looked back at Alex who merely nodded, and after a moment's hesitation, the blonde rose slowly, hovering in midair a few feet from the Luthor. She was unaccustomed to the sensation of flight while decked out in her khakis and button-down, something about it felt odd and disjointed, but she refused to let Lena go poking around in some literal death trap without supervision. She was treated to a strange look from the Luthor, a mix of something akin to begrudging warmth and Kara's heart beat, stupidly, noisily, in her chest. "Be careful."
"I always am." Lena answered, giving a jovial little salute, before shifting to get a better grip and lowering herself into the cockpit of the machine.
"Liar." Kara countered, hovering near the raised glass shielding.
Lena slipped into the compartment; it was surprisingly stark, with no visible controls save a few switches. Kara hovered closer, gripping the edge of the shielding, her breath shallow, eyes wide and darting. Lena plucked at a hose-like device, tipped with a large, blunt needle, which snaked around the back of the chair.
"My brother developed a neural network that he built it into the armored spine of the warsuit. This mechasuit seems to have a similar mechanism. It wires the suit directly into the brain and allows the pilot to drive using thought and reflex rather than mechanics."
"That's not creepy at all," Kara heard Alex intone, under her breath.
Lena flicked a few cursory switches and the blonde instinctively tensed, waiting for the thing to lurch to life, for the fight to begin, but it remained silent, dormant. The youngest Luthor knit her eyebrows and rose from the compartment, scaling the ladder and circling the mechasuit, scanning its exterior.
"The same converter mechanics built into Lex's warsuit are mounted on the mechasuit, but it seems to have no real power source." Lena stood for a moment, "The suit is sound from an engineering standpoint, but it's dormant without a battery."
"What did Lex use for his?"
"My brother found a solar battery, lifted from another planet, but this doesn't utilize the same method." She knocked on the chest of the mechasuit, "It seems my brother's deal with Shurr didn't extend quite as far as Shurr might have liked."
Alex shifted thoughtfully, hands still firmly on her hips, "Miss Luthor, Kara mentioned you were applying for patents to protect a geomagnetic energy project."
"And Shurr flew off the handle when you wouldn't sell him those patents." Kara supplied.
"Could something like that power the suit? Wirelessly?" Alex posed the question and the three women shared a knowing look.
"It could, but without my research, Shurr couldn't develop a working prototype."
"I'm pretty sure that hasn't stopped him from trying." Alex shifted and led the two women back through the maze of partitions, toward the coil. "It looks like Shurr was pressing forward with his attempts." The redhead lifted the plastic sheeting and paused watching as the Luthor stepped forward and ran her hands across the control panels, traced the electrical burns scarring the coil, circled the coolant tank, growing more concerned with each step.
"This is all LuthorCorp tech and my design. But the execution has obviously been corrupted; he's missing the vital piece of my research that would make this functional." Lena pulled the clutch atop on of the levers and paused to listen to the whir and fizzle of the machine, as Alex had earlier. "If he manages to correct his error, or somehow filches my work, he could, with a centrally located generator, create enough energy to power a whole army of mechasuits."
"I was really hoping you wouldn't say that." The redheaded agent winced.
"Why?" Kara turned to her sister and after a moment of unanswered silence, repeated, more insistently, "Why, Alex?"
"Because we found three more warehouses. This must have been a prototype; the others each housed more than thirty of these suits. Shurr's been busy and you, Miss Luthor, seem to be at the center of every one of his exploits.
This was definitely one of those "move the plot along" chapters, but don't worry, there's more fluff and action coming down the pipeline very soon! Thank you so much for your comments and feedback, they mean so much and really help spur me on to write more! You're all the best!
Chapter 10: Crush
Kara crashes at Lena's in more ways than one.
Apparently, my brain is not in a very write-y mood... so with this chapter, you get a bonus: the drawing I did of Lena while working through my writer's block, hope you like it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Cutting through the city streets, skimming treetops and blinking past the click and flash of cell phone cameras as National City's residents tried to capture a shot of their hero flying past, Kara was ready for a well-deserved rest. She avoided light posts and other signs jutting into the street as she spiraled through the deep indigo of the night sky. They had all had an extremely long day and now, all that was left was the journey back to Lena Luthor's high-rise apartment building where she could, hopefully, let go of some of the tension she'd been carrying with her.
She huffed slightly at the sound of Alex's voice buzzing in her earpiece as she darted between buildings.
"Kara, you can't let her carry on as if there isn't some egomaniacal entrepreneur hell-bent on taking her out. That ceremony tomorrow is going to be ground zero for Shurr and his army." The redhead was back at the DEO combing through the day's findings and creating a plan of action, should Lena decide to go through with her previously set plans.
"We don't even know that he's managed to get those mechasuits operational." Kara countered, clearing a streetlight as it changed from yellow to red. "And besides, if she says she's going to do something, nothing can stop her, not even me, Alex. But believe me, I'll try. I hate the idea of Lena being vulnerable to an attack as much as you do, if not more."
Alex believed her sister on that front.
In the last 24 hours the agent had witnessed a shift in Kara's behavior where the Luthor was concerned. Alex had initially assumed her sister had nothing more than a fleeting, schoolgirl crush on the CEO, but seeing them together this afternoon, it was clear this was something else.
The redhead had watched with quiet appraisal as Kara and Lena moved around one another with unmistakable grace. When one of them shifted, even slightly, the other adjusted as well; they circled each other in a mesmerizing dance neither was aware of performing. It was amazing and terrifying to observe, and Alex did her best to remain steady and still, so as not to spook her sister. She did note, however, the obvious care the Luthor had for Kara, the lingering looks, the gentle, reassuring touches; it settled her somewhat, knowing her sister's affections wouldn't go unrequited should she ever choose to express them.
"I know, Kara." Alex sighed audibly and the blonde paused a moment, hovering fifty feet above an intersection, watching the cars putter below as she stifled a yawn. "See what you can do. If she still wants to move forward, I'll make sure we've got a plain-clothes team briefed, and a tac team standing by." She waivered, then added, "Don't worry, I know how important she is to you. We'll keep her safe, I promise."
Kara didn't speak for a moment, mulling over how best to respond. She could tell Alex expected some sort of confirmation from her – her sister always seemed to know more than she let on – but Kara couldn't seem to find the words. She didn't even know how to put how she felt about Lena into a language she could understand herself, how could she possibly try and explain it to her sister?
"Thanks, Alex," was all she could seem to manage before lighting down on the balcony hanging against Lena's penthouse. She paused a moment, taking a steady stream of air into her lungs and pushing it out again before rapping on the glass. Something in her chest pulled lightly as Lena appeared and padded over to pull open the door. She was still in the severe black on black clothing from earlier, but the look had been somewhat modified now – the slack of the oversized sweater sat tied off at Lena's hip and the boots had been shucked off sometime ago.
"Fancy meeting you here," the dark-haired woman quipped, stepping aside as the Super strode into the main room.
If she hadn't seen the previous evening's devastation with her own eyes, Kara never would have believed what had happened here. The space was open and clean, if a bit stark. As she turned slowly, surveying the space, she was surprised at how small it actually was; there was the living space, a wide, open floor plan with vaguely mid-century modern furniture, in various shades of burnished leather, arranged tastefully with an occasional spike of tall lamp or sculpture punctuating the line. To the left of the living space was a long dining table of raw milled wood surrounded by spindly chairs.
Further beyond that was a beautiful kitchen: stainless steel appliances set into walls accented with clean white subway tile and industrial shelving. One short wall of the kitchen was covered almost entirely with plants, mounted against reclaimed wooden beams; she assumed they were herbs and other practical things for cooking, but it was still startling to see the sudden shock of green, so organic amid the industry. The kitchen and dining spaces were separated by a long island of warm wood and polished concrete with barstools of dark cherry and oil-rubbed bronze. Hanging partially over the kitchen was a loft space Kara could only assume might be a home office and the other rooms, she knew, were down a short hall on the right.
She stepped further into the apartment, unaware of the Luthor's eyes on her, as she took in all the room had to offer.
Lena leaned casually against the glass of the floor to ceiling windows, sipping occasionally from a tall mug of tea she'd just finished brewing before the blonde's arrival. There was something about having Kara in her apartment – the woman's clear blue eyes sliding over the edges of Lena's life in such a carefully meticulous way – it was terribly intimate. It caused something to coil, low and warm in Lena's stomach and she tried to mask the fluttering she felt by taking a deep dram from her mug.
"It's more," she searched for the appropriate word, "industrial than I remember?"
"Well, considering most of this was in shambles last night, I'm not particularly surprised." Lena crossed into the apartment and started fidgeting with a stack of books and knick-knacks arranged on a side table, attempting to mask her nerves. "I moved in when modern, industrial lofts were all the rage and found I never really tired of the feel. I suppose it's the engineer in me, I like being able to see the way everything fits together."
The blonde pushed her hair back from her face and unsuccessfully attempted to stifle a yawn as she turned toward the CEO. Lena couldn't help the smiling tugging at her lips at the sight of the obviously exhausted heroine and she wordlessly took Kara by the hand, leading her toward the hall. Under normal circumstances, Kara would be hyper aware of the fact that she was being led by the wrist toward Lena Luthor's bedroom, but as it stood, she was almost too tired to care. Almost.
Lena pushed the door open and Kara glanced around, familiarity registering as she stood in the middle of the room. The hole in the wall was completely repaired and Kara glanced around, appraising this space as she had the other. The industrial theme carried into the bedroom as well with most of the furniture a variation on a theme in milled wood and steel save a few comfortable looking upholstered chairs gathered in a small nook near the windows. Bookshelves lined one wall, though Kara had a sneaking suspicion this was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to Lena's literary displays. Aside from the newly repaired wall, one was made up of exposed brick, antiqued with a light white wash, another was more of the floor to ceiling windows, and the final wall was hung with tasteful black and white photos. Lena's large, low bed, occupying the center of the room, looked incredibly inviting, a fluffy white duvet beckoning Kara as she practically swayed on her feet.
Lena had disappeared and Kara searched her out, following shuffling noises coming from what turned out to be an impressive walk in closet.
"This is bigger than your office!" Kara exclaimed as she took in the sheer volume of clothing and shoes lining the walls of the moderately sized room.
"Nearly, but not quite," Lena called, pawing through a drawer. Pulling out one or two pieces, she crossed back to the Super and laid a few items of clothing in Kara's arms. "I thought you could use something a bit more comfortable to sleep in, since I doubt you're able to fit an overnight bag under that skirt."
Kara roused a bit at this, grousing, "I'm not sleeping. I'm protecting."
"Mm-hm, of course you are," Lena hummed, gently pushing Kara out of the closet. "The guest bathroom is at the end of the hall. I picked up a few things for you, just in case, just come meet me back here when you're done."
Kara shuffled belligerently toward the end of the hall, having no intention of changing – she was here to guard the Luthor, not nap – until she paused and, on impulse, pressed her face into the soft shirt Lena had given her to wear. It was a perfectly broken in dark heather grey, obviously well loved and, much to her delight, smelled like Lena. She reasoned that changing out of her super suit wasn't necessarily a concession; she was, after all, just as capable of protecting the woman in a t-shirt and sleep shorts as she was in her suit. She slipped out of her suit and into the shirt, relishing the feel of it against her skin before splashing water on her face and working through her own evening rituals with the items Lena had provided.
A few minutes later she knocked lightly on the bedroom door and found Lena tucked into bed under a reading light, glasses perched across the bridge of her nose as she thumbed through an issue of Modern Science. Kara's heart lurched in her chest as the woman, dressed down and freshly scrubbed, looked up and smiled warmly, pulling back the covers next to her.
Kara slipped into bed and, suddenly shy, curled into herself. She closed her eyes for a moment, sinking into the warmth and softness of the bed and sighed audibly, inspiring a pleased smirk from the other woman.
The room was mostly dark now, the only light coming from Lena's reading lamp and Kara shifted to gaze out the huge windows, plumping the pillow under her cheek; the city was barely visible below and stars peeked through wisping clouds above, but she couldn't seem to settle. She shifted again this time looping her arms under and around the pillow, stilling for a too-short moment. She pushed out a sudden, frustrated gust of air, turning to lie on her stomach, settling for a few beats before thrashing to her other side once more like a petulant child. This carried on for a few more moments before Lena asked her if everything was alright.
"I've always had trouble sleeping away from home." She murmured, turning to sprawl on her back. "I know its silly, but even as an adult, I've always been restless away from my own bed."
"I'm sorry," Lena started, "I wouldn't have asked if –"
"No, no. I want to be here." Kara interrupted, "I'm happy here. With you." She trailed off, blushing slightly, "m-making sure you're safe, I mean." She attempted to cover the embarrassing admission, excusing affection, replacing it with a sense of duty.
"I'm glad you're here, with me, too." Lena put aside her magazine, marking her place before laying it down, and shifted to sit a bit straighter. "Come here," she patted the space of comforter over her lap, indicating Kara should lay her head there. The blonde haltingly obliged, thankful the dim light hid the wild roses blooming in her cheeks at the prospect of such close contact. Her heart rattled suddenly and she hoped the other woman couldn't hear the pounding in her chest as she lay her head down. Tension crept into her muscles, slowly, as she felt Lena place a steadying hand on her shoulder.
"When I was little, before I was adopted, I lived with my mother in this noisy, overcrowded borough in Metropolis." As she spoke, Lena's lithe fingers found their way into Kara's loose blonde hair, brushing through curls lightly, "It was never quiet there, even in the dead of night. I don't remember a lot from my time before living with the Luthors, but I do remember the sound. So much noise, and so much of it angry. People yelling, cars spinning out, glass breaking – it never stopped, and I never slept, too afraid to fall asleep. So every night my mother would come home from her shift at the diner where she worked and she would sit with me in bed, just like this."
Kara sighed as Lena's finger's worked, raking delicately through her hair, lightly brushing against her scalp and found that the tension had all but drained from her body, her heart had settled, and she was nodding off, in spite of herself.
"I have so few memories left of my mother, my actual mother, but I always remember those nights. Even then, I knew she was exhausted, I knew we were barely getting by; but during those quiet moments in the dark, all that mattered was that I was safe and that my mother loved me."
Lena paused, noting the deep, even breathing of the woman draped across her lap. She smiled, brushing the golden curls back from Kara's face and, careful not to wake her, bent to place a chaste kiss on the woman's cheek before picking her magazine back up and finding her place, fingers still lazily dragging through blonde hair.
So far the ceremony had gone without incident, the crowd was restless and Lena was stepping down from the podium when a loud crack ripped through the air. Before Kara knew what was happening, dozens of people were rushing her, fighting to get as far from the main podium as possible while the blonde fought to get back to Lena. She was dressed in her day-to-day drab, glasses and swept back hair, so she couldn't just rise above the panicked crowd, but she also didn't seem to be able to push past them. She pushed forward again and again, only to be beaten back by the crush of bodies unhindered by her force. Her muscles felt fatigued and useless, but she didn't have time to wonder over her lack of strength, she was too focused on getting to Lena.
By the time she reached the dais, the youngest Luthor had collapsed, unable to stand upright, body straining to function despite the loss of blood. Kara pushed up the platform and fell to her knees, pulling the CEO's body into her arms. She clutched at the woman's side, black blood blooming from the gunshot wound under her palms as she tried to stopper the flow.
"Lena, I," she couldn't help the tears running down her cheeks, as the dark-haired woman brought a heavy hand up to brush back a stray strand of hair from Kara's face, "I'm sorry. I couldn't – I wasn't there. I couldn't protect you."
The icy green of the fluttering eyes caught Kara's and Lena strained against her to speak. Kara bent her head low, an attempt to hear, her powers again failing her for some reason.
"You broke your promise." The woman rasped before all tension fell away from her body and she breathed her final breath, cradled in Kara's arms.
"Lena?" The blonde pulled her closer, calling, "Lena?" She angled the woman's face toward her own, "Lena!"
She woke with a start, no longer surrounded by teeming crowds of fleeing people, wringing blood stained hands, she was instead wrapped in the darkness of an unfamiliar bedroom. Gentle hands were at her shoulder and a voice, low and liquid, was calling her name.
"Kara, it's okay, you're okay." Lena wasn't heavy in her arms, lifeless, rather she was perched at the edge of the bed, willing Kara to wake. The blonde pushed up from the bed suddenly and caught the Luthor in a crushing hug, wrapping strong arms around her very real, breathing body. "Oh Kara, it's alright."
Kara couldn't help the tears squeezing from her eyes and as she shook, she felt the other woman simply hold her tighter, rubbing comforting circles into her back.
"I'm sorry." Kara said, pulling back after a few cathartic moments.
"There's nothing to apologize for," the Luthor heiress responded simply, resting a light hand over Kara's.
The blonde turned her hand over and laced her fingers through Lena's bringing her other hand up to brush back the loose hair at Lena's temple. She felt, more than saw, the dark haired woman sigh and lean into the touch. Kara relished the response, as something warm woke inside her, stirring her body to life.
"What was your dream about?" The Luthor heiress almost almost hummed.
"Nothing. It's not important."
Lena didn't seem to believe her, but let it go for the moment, "Does that happen a lot?"
Kara paused, shifting closer to the other woman, "Often enough." Her answer was simple, but true, "Sometimes I dream about my family – my mother, my father, my cousin, my planet – dying. Other times it's Alex or my foster mother. And always – always – I'm helpless to stop it."
They shared a moment of silence, settling into the night and the feel of one another other, warming skin under gentle hands.
"Who was it tonight?" Lena asked, her eyes catching the dim light.
Kara surged forward slowly, "You." She pressed her forehead to the other woman's, letting her hand drop slightly and thread into the fine hair at the nape of Lena's neck. "I couldn't save you and you died in my arms."
"I'm right here." Lena's voice was soft, soothing. She drew her fingers from their tangle with Kara's and pulled the blonde's hand up, pressing it to her chest. "Feel that? I'm right here with you."
Kara paused, allowing the beat of Lena's heart to pulse beneath her hand, letting the sound of it, steady and strong, to flood her ears. She opened her mouth to speak but found herself unable to find the words she so desperately wanted to say.
"Stay here," she pleaded instead, "stay with me. I'm not – I can't lose you." The words fell from her lips before she had a chance to stop them, the warm pooling sensation rising and spiraling out through her body.
Lena gave no response. Instead, she pulled against the blonde, closing the distance between them, and captured her lips in a languid kiss. Over and over she found Kara's willing mouth, conveying through the press of hands, of lips everything she needed to say.
See? I told you kissing would happen!
Also, for a close-up of the image, check out my Tumblr post: http://automaticheartache.tumblr.com/post/159539129406/lenah2s
As always, thanks for sticking with me, and thank you thank you thank you for all of your amazing comments and feedback!
Chapter 11: Usual Unusual
Kara makes it hard for Lena to get up in the morning and Alex is offered some unexpected help.
Just ladies loving' ladies, guys.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For the second time in as many days, Lena was roused by the feel of warm sun on her face. For the briefest of moments, she panicked; her eyes flew open and searched out her bedside clock, calming only when she saw she had woken before the chime of the alarm she set as an afterthought the night before. She'd never really needed an alarm to rise, but innocent hope had spurred her to set one, should she manage to find some sleep in the arms of her ardent protector.
No, Kara was more than that now – forever more.
Lena allowed her eyes to flutter closed, to feel into her body, relishing the weight of the arm slung around her middle, the flush press of a body at her back, possessive, even in repose. She smiled, in spite of herself.
They had truly found one another last night, and Lena had luxuriated in the decadence of Kara's mouth on hers, the way the woman drew kisses from her lips, pulling over and over. In all honesty, though, the night had been surprisingly chaste, limited to the drift of hands, of lips, teeth, and tongue – but only so far – before quelling, giving way to pleasantly subdued, dreamless sleep.
The Luthor heiress took a brief survey of her faculties and, to her great surprise, the only thing she felt at this moment, was a lingering flush of desire and utterly charmed tenderness. Nowhere, in the vast map of her twisting psyche, could she detect any wandering doubts, no sense of regret, which had accompanied virtually every romantic foray she'd undertaken in the past. Her fondness for the woman so lovingly draped around her was, in a word, pure. Its clarity and brilliance cut through her defenses and completely ameliorated any fear she might have had at pursuing this, pursuing Kara. Where before she might have been steeped in doubt, at this moment she felt only hazy lust layered with sheer contentment.
She shifted and pushed up slightly, intent on rising from the bed, only to feel a tug around her hips.
"Nope," came a muffled voice behind her and Lena allowed herself to be pulled back into Kara's waiting arms.
She felt a satisfied hum vibrate along the nape of her neck as light, sleepy kisses peppered the exposed skin there. Kara's arms wound around her and their legs tangled, more purposeful, more intimate than they had the previous morning. It was pleasant, spooning like this, and Lena sighed, lacing her fingers through Kara's, kissing along her knuckles. She settled back against the blonde, coloring faintly at the slight grind of the woman's hips behind her.
She allowed herself a moment of respite, melting into the feel of Kara's body, though still hyper-aware of every point of contact between them; the pressure was like the strike of a flint, sparking fires along her spine. Unfortunately, a cursory glance at the clock forced her to consider rising again.
"You know I'd love to stay here with you all morning," Lena craned her neck back, receiving a soft kiss against her cheek in response, "but we have to go to work."
"Oh. Then I quit." Kara tossed off casually and nipped at the sensitive dip where Lena's neck met her lightly freckled shoulder; she took great pleasure at the gasp it elicited.
Emboldened by the reaction of the woman held against her, the blonde found the hem of Lena's shirt and slipped her hand under, trailing fingers across the soft skin of the woman's stomach.
"Kara," the dark-haired woman rasped her name, her tone caught somewhere between a whispered warning and an ecstatic moan.
Kara smiled against Lena's shoulder and allowed her hand to trail lazily upward. She felt the Luthor's breathing grow more and more shallow as she inched her way up, becoming completely ragged when her fingers lightly grazed the underside of Lena's breasts.
In a motion faster than she thought another could move, the Luthor heiress turned in Kara's arms and they crashed together, a flurry of lips and lingering, searing touches.
Lena ran a desperate hand under the blonde's shirt, raking nails along the curve of Kara's spine, hissing a sharp breath in each time Kara's teeth grazed the tender skin of her neck. Her other hand tangled in sun-soaked, golden curls, tugging lightly against Kara's neck until her lips found Lena's again. They drank each other in – intoxicated by proximity and permission – and Lena couldn't help but revel in the fact that reality had so far outstripped fantasy.
And she said as much.
"This is so," she managed to gasp out between the bruising crush of lips, "so much better than I imagined."
Kara pulled away slightly and the dark-haired woman immediately felt the pang of withdrawal, already hopelessly addicted to the feel of Kara's body against hers. "Wait, you've imagined this?"
"Of course I have." Lena threaded her fingers in the loose hair at Kara's temple, "Granted, I may be bold, but I'm not completely reckless." She ran light fingers along the edge of the strong Kryptonian jawline, "I've thought about kissing you more than I probably should have."
"So this isn't just you acting impulsively because a megalomaniacal creep is trying to kill you?" Kara wheedled her side and Lena winced, socking her playfully.
"Are you kidding?" The Luthor heiress pressed a chaste kiss to Kara's rose-stained lips "I've wanted you since the first day we met."
"Ah, so that's why you promoted me so quickly."
"Exactly, I just wanted to get into your adorable khakis." Lena quipped, running a teasing finger along the waistband of Kara's shorts.
"You know, I'm going to have to report this to HR." Kara teased, rolling onto her back – pulling the dark-haired woman with her – and shifting to slip a strong thigh between Lena's own. She was rewarded with another quick intake of breath for her efforts.
"Nice try," the Luthor gasped again as Kara pressed up and into her, "You just quit, remember?"
"Right," Kara's hands found their way to the Luthor's hips. "So this?" she pulled slightly and Lena rocked against her, "is completely above-board."
"Mm-hmm," Lena hummed, pleasantly distracted by the pressure, the heat coiling at her center, rolling out to warm every part of her, causing her back to arch slightly.
Before anything truly satisfying could build, however, the shrill cry of the alarm clock ripped through the charged morning air.
"Are you kidding me?" Lena cried as she melted away from Kara and swung an arm out to thump the clock, much harder than necessary. She then sprawled out on the bed, dejected, blowing out a frustrated sigh. Kara curled into her side, brushing dark hair back from her face and smiling in a way that might have been condescending if it wasn't so earnest.
"It's okay," Kara kissed the Luthor's cheek, tickled by the woman's obvious frustration.
Lena turned onto her side, closing the parentheses of their bodies. "I've been planning this ceremony for weeks. We've been planning it for weeks!" She huffed, allowing her perfectly arched brows to fall into a loose knit, "And now, all I want to do is cancel the whole thing and stay here with you."
"As much as I wish you were serious about that, I know you, Lena." Kara paused, thoughtfully. "This ceremony, the renaming of your company, means way too much to you for you to chuck it all over threats against your life or the promise of sex."
Lena's brow arched and a smirk tugged at her lips.
"Believe me, if I thought it would work, I would have tried." Kara said, flatly.
Lena pulled at her and Kara slid closer until they were pressed forehead to forehead.
"How is it that I managed to find the one person who understands me? I feel like I've waited my whole life for someone like you."
"I know exactly what you mean." Kara replied and closed the distance between them, falling into a gentle, unhurried kiss. "And don't worry, we'll have time to pick up where we left off later. I'm not going anywhere."
With that, Kara wrapped Lena in a tight hug, not letting her see the obvious worry creasing her brow.
"Perimeter check," Alex requested, glancing around at her fellow agents who were busy milling around their posts in plainclothes.
"Emerald is clear."
"Crimson is clear."
"Magenta's clear," Alex responded. "Okay guys, eyes open."
A warm clear voice chirped from over Alex's shoulder and she jumped, in spite of herself.
"Geez, I though you feds were supposed to be stealthy. Unflappable."
The redhead sputtered slightly as she turned to face a shorter woman with a deep-dimpled olive complexion and coffee colored hair, which caught the light distractingly, sporting a worn-in leather jacket. The woman seemed vaguely familiar, but Alex couldn't seem to place her. She fidgeted accordingly.
"I'm not the target, I wasn't expecting to be accosted." Alex snapped, regretting it almost instantly as the woman's smile dimmed at the harsh words, "I – sorry, do I know you? I'm trying to keep a low profile here."
"Detective Maggie Sawyer, NCPD." Maggie flashed her badge and Alex took a long look, making a show of it, before she was satisfied, "You're Danvers, right? We met the other night at Lena Luthor's. I'm guessing that's why you guys are here?"
Alex found it hard to believe she would have forgotten meeting this woman – she had the distinct impression Detective Sawyer made it purposefully difficult to cast her aside. Her attitude was commanding, cocky, and Alex found herself swallowing hard, attempting to re-focus, to regain her own confidence and swagger.
"I didn't know NCPD had organized a presence for the ceremony." Alex tossed off, finding her footing and adopting a vaguely annoyed air, irked at the clear overstepping of conflicting departments.
"They didn't, I just thought I'd put in some off-hours here," Maggie jerked her head toward the podium. "Don't want a repeat of the other night. Thought, 'the more the merrier' right? Or 'the safer,' I guess."
"Fine," Alex huffed, impressed in spite of herself at the initiative of the detective. "Thanks," she amended as an afterthought, glancing around to get a visual read on her agents, scattered throughout the gathering crowd.
There weren't as many people as she had anticipated, most likely a side-effect of the fear surrounding the Luthor legacy. Alex was starting to understand Lena's fervent attempts to distance herself from her family name. She almost admired the Luthor, the unflinching dedication to righting the wrongs of her family. The redhead drifted for a moment, thinking of her sister; Kara really did have a good heart and was, more often than not, a good judge of character. Maybe Alex could afford a bit of trust for the CEO...
"So what's the deal here, why the heavy artillery?" Maggie's honeyed voice cut through her train of thought, de-railing it slightly, or rather, bringing it back on track, "I count at least four of the agents I met the other night and the crowd's not that big, so something's up."
The detective glanced around, hands on hips, and Alex noted the handgun tucked into a holster against her side – Sawyer was prepared, and had good taste in sidearms – the redhead was mildly impressed; this flatfoot was obviously sharp.
"That's classified." Her tone was clipped, almost teasing – why was she teasing? This was a serious operation – and the brunette arched a skeptical eyebrow. Alex made a show of rolling her eyes in concession, "Luthor's in the crosshairs of a crazy billionaire who wants the company. He had some long-standing pact with Lex and Lena terminated it. Now she's caught up in a potentially violent coup."
"Okay," Maggie said simply, "Where do you want me."
"Um," Alex faltered, snagged for a split second on the detective's phrasing, "You can cover Magenta with me."
"Magenta?" Sawyer's face pulled into a smirk.
"Uh, yeah," Alex shrugged sheepishly, "We color coded all of the zones. Look I didn't write the protocol."
"No, no. The colors are good. Great, actually," Maggie threw up her hands, defensively, though the stupid grin was still firmly in place, and Alex had the distinct impression she was being teased.
"Whatever. Just hang around this area and keep an eye out for the usual unusual."
"Aye aye, Captain." Maggie gave a short salute and turned back to the crowd.
Alex was definitely being teased by this woman, and she was fairly certain she didn't mind in the least.
Your comments and feedback have been truly amazing and inspiring, thank you so much! And thanks for sticking with me, I am so in love with writing this and it means so much that you like it too!
Chapter 12: Waking Life
Lena is no damsel in distress and Alex lays it on the line.
At first there was nothing but black, cold empty darkness that wrapped it's spindly arms around her like a blanket. Then came the pain, the stiff tightness of shoulders wrenched and pinned unnaturally for too long, the sting of restraints cutting into the soft skin at her wrists as she strained slightly. Then the darkness gave way to fuzzy, warm light and suddenly Lena felt overwhelmingly ill. She shifted an elbow experimentally and found herself resting on the tender point of a bruise as she pushed up to sit. Her hold on consciousness seemed tenuous at best and she wove a bit before able to fully right herself, propped up over her folded tangle of legs.
How had she gotten here? Where was here?
Lena craned her neck from one side, moving tenderly through slight creaking pops as she did so, scanning the space. The room was dark, ruddy and cave-like, but surprisingly well lit. The walls were curved and slick and there was a faint smell of something green and metallic, something alive. She knew she had to be underground and she was, for the moment, alone, sitting upright, wrists bound behind her, legs tucked beneath her.
She shifted experimentally, resting over her knees and bracing her feet, still clad in her polished leather Louboutin pumps, against the stone floor. She gritted her teeth and arched her back experimentally, bending in such a way that her bound hands hovered just above the points of her heels. Her fingers brushed the sharp jut of one heel, and she winced through the pain and numbness trailing down her arms.
In spite of the tingling sensation crawling through her extremities, she managed to retain just enough dexterity to loosen the small blade she had concealed against the heel of her left shoe and start working at the zip-ties cutting into her wrists. She was a Luthor after all. How many times had she been terrorized, threatened, even held against her will all because of her family name, her tyrannical brother? Too many times for her not to show up prepared, especially on a big day like today.
Her mind flashed for a moment and Lena blanched, realizing that, in her determination to free herself, she had completely glossed over how she had ended up in this situation in the first place. She closed her eyes, still working the small blade against the plastic restraints, and tried to remember. Her memories were murky, black holes punctuated by frantic yelling. Lena crushed her eyes closed and tried to pull meaning from corners of her recollection.
She remembered walking in with Kara toward the platform. Kara and her soft blue button down with tiny embroidered polka dots, her gently curling honey-gold hair pulled back in a complicated loop before it spilled down her back. Kara and her impossibly soft lips, her improbably sweet smile. Kara, holding a tablet and going over the plan as people milled around them.
Lena remembered the feeling of spiky nerves as she ran her hands along her hips, smoothing any creases along her forest green blouse, her slim black pencil skirt before ascending the steps to the podium.
Then her memory tilted and fell on its side, saturated with black and punctuated by screams. She remembered the rumble of heavy steps, a low, pervasive hum buzzing in her ears. She tried and failed to see where it was coming from, the heavy, mechanical footfalls, the cracking sound of earth, the screams and rush of the crowd. She felt the knuckles of her right hand suddenly sting and bruise. She remembered a streak of crimson and blue, then a hot flash and a sizzling arc of bright green light, then black again.
Kara. The mechasuit. Kryptonite.
She worked faster now, finally cutting through the plastic with one decisive pull of the knife. She gingerly allowed her shoulders to slacken, the muscles pulling free of their previous pinnings. Her arms felt loose and liquid and her wrists bore thin, dark bruises beaded with blood that stood stark against her pale skin. She curled and flexed her fingers, slipping the knife back against the arch of her high heel before pushing up and testing her legs. She was wobbly, no doubt, and she slipped the shoes off, immediately finding a strong center once she was flat on the ground again.
She seemed to be holed up in some sort of dead end and so, with only one real option, she made her way into the only available corridor on careful, bare feet. Pressed against the slick curved walls, she inched along the snaking passageway, simultaneously hoping and dreading running into someone who might know where she was and how she had gotten there. The details of the last few hours – days? – were still fuzzy and the fog gave no indication of clearing anytime soon.
She paused as the narrow passage forked, diverging into two identical corridors. Worrying her bottom lip, she attempted to weigh her options, but having no prior knowledge and nothing to weigh, she could only puff out a small sigh.
What would Supergirl do? She thought. Probably punch her way up through the ceiling, looking adorable and none the worse for wear. She laughed, in spite of her self, a sharp short release of sound that echoed down each arched passage.
Slowly, the sound of chatter crawled up from the tunnel on the right, indiscernible words and the clatter of boots on the ground. Lena was both relieved and terrified; she wasn't alone. Knowing she was most likely jumping straight into the jaws of a trap, she pressed along the right-hand channel and made her way toward the echoing voices.
"Look I get why he did it, but it still makes me nervous having her down here with us." A rough voice floated up and Lena saw an opening shunted off to the right side of the wall.
"Seriously? You're surrounded by all this tech, and you're still scared of one little girl?" a higher voice answered back, his tone obviously antagonistic, "She ain't even conscious!"
"It don't matter," the low, gruff voice answered back, "conscious or not, she ain't just some "little girl. She's a Luthor. It just, I don't know, it just seems like a bad idea."
Normally, Lena might take offense to the blatant distrust and judgment of her last name, but at this moment, the only thing she felt was a strange swelling of pride. She was trapped and, for the most part, defenseless, and yet her captors were still afraid of her based solely on fear of her family name. Confidence straightened her spine a bit and, after stealing a quick glance around the corner, Lena slipped through the side passage, tucking behind a large, metal console.
She could make out only the two voices, the men continued chatting back and forth, topics shifting from nerves to maintenance as they moved from mechasuit to mechasuit checking each over for flaws and oiling each joint. Counting the rows and multiplying in her head, the youngest Luthor estimated over 120 suits standing neatly dormant in the cavernous hall. She shuddered at the thought of them creaking to life and attempted to edge her way along the wall to an opening at the far side of the room, anxious to get away. She couldn't help but comb over the suits as she went, eyes sliding over each socket and piston, mapping them in her mind for some future purpose.
She managed to crane her neck slightly and slip, unseen, into the next chamber before standing shock straight and staggering backward at what she found there.
In the center of the room, under a vaulted dome ceiling, stood a massive metallic coil the size of a large redwood tree. Its circumference and height were staggering and it hummed slightly, obviously active. She could feel static in the air, but noted that the test devices – light bulbs, mechanical notions, and other knick-knacks – scattered about the room lay dim and silent. Whatever its current state, the device was not fulfilling its intended purpose.
The room was devoid of personnel, which seemed odd, but Lena couldn't dwell on that fact for very long, the hum of the device growing louder in her ears and her own foolish curiosity drawing her to one of the monitoring stations.
"Ah, Miss Luthor," a voice floated above the din, a faint eastern European accent pulling strangely at each consonant, "So kind of you to join me without my having to send for you. It's all so much more civil this way, ya?"
Lena turned slowly, carefully, to find herself staring down the barrel of a gun, she followed the line of the muzzle to a tightly gripping hand, a tense wrist and straight arm, locked shoulder giving way to the masculine curve of a neck meeting a square jaw. She took in the face of her rival, the megalomaniacal man himself, Christophe Shurr, and gulped audibly.
"What the hell happened back there, Alex?"
J'onn's voice came out far more harshly than he intended and he immediately regretted it as his agent's eyes filled with tears. He reacted instinctively and pulled her into a tight, swift hug. She melted into his embrace as sobs wracked her shoulders. They stood together for a long, still moment – the quiet eye of a storm – as agents rushed around them shuttling bodies into the med bay and patching them as best they could. They had suffered massive injuries, and where working furiously to find some semblance of normalcy while their chief asset lay unconscious, bathed in yellow light, broken and bleeding.
"We had it covered, at least I thought we did. We weren't expecting…" Alex pressed the words to his shoulder, now soaked in saline, "We didn't know."
"What didn't you know Alex?" J'onn had managed to gather bits and pieces of the afternoon's disastrous maneuver from the wounded agents, having had little contact with his team once comms went down, but he wanted to hear it from Alex, "Tell me everything that happened."
"Give her some space," A small dark haired woman with a blood-stained, bandaged arm chastised him gently. "It got real rough, real fast."
"And you are?" J'onn released Alex and focused his gaze downward.
"Cleared to be here, don't worry. I signed the papers, scout's honor." She held up three fingers, and J'onn might have laughed had their current predicament not drained every drop of levity from the moment, "I'm Detective Sawyer, NCPD, on loan to Danvers for the day."
"She saved my life." Alex practically choked out, "saved a lot of us actually."
"Then you have my thanks, Detective." He placed a strong hand on her shoulder in a gesture of solidarity.
"J'onn, they had Lex's warsuit." Alex said, quietly, "his original warsuit."
"I thought that had been confiscated." The Director's face betrayed a level of worry he rarely showed his agents.
"Then he must've had more than one. This one was huge, it used Lex's original solar battery," here Alex paused, "and it was forged from Kryptonite. It mowed down our agents like they were toy soldiers, and Shurr's team engaged the rest directly."
"Wait. None of Shurr's suits we found were made of Kryptonite." J'onn's brows knit. "And none were operational."
"We're thinking this one might have been a gift between friends." Maggie added, arms crossing to rest over her chest.
"It had this blade," Alex motioned, stepping back to stretch her arms wide, indicating its size, "It took down Kara in one blow, cut right into her like – like."
Maggie stepped forward and touched Alex, tentatively at first, resting light fingers on the agent's shoulder, but when Alex clutched at them, desperate for the comfort, she pressed closer to the redhead.
She spoke for Alex, "It was terrible to watch. Supergirl managed to dodge it a few times, but she just couldn't get close enough to take it down because of the radiation. She got weak; then she got slow. The blade caught her side and, and she just went down."
"It didn't damage any of her internal organs but, J'onn, there was so much blood! She needed surgery to repair the damage." Alex huffed and pushed a shock of red hair back from her forehead, revealing a large cut above her eyebrow, recently treated with butterfly tape, "they had to expose her to a mild dose of Kryptonite in order to perform the surgery, so it got a lot worse before it got better. She's in recovery now, but."
Here Alex stopped completely, the words dying at the back of her throat. Maggie wrapped an arm around Alex's shoulder, steadying her somewhat, taking over for her. She raised dark eyes to the DEO director.
"They say it could go either way."
J'onn took a moment to pull his agent into another tight hug, reaching out a comforting hand to the detective, who was so obviously a considerable comfort to Alex right now.
"She's strong. You know she is."
Alex dragged a black-sleeved arm across her eyes and nodded, sniffling slightly, "I know."
"I'm going to try and pull together some guys from my squad," Maggie said, straightening a bit, and pulling her leather jacket on over her good arm, "and anyone from your team willing to volunteer to run a rescue op since Supergirl's in no shape to do it," then she hastily added, "sir."
"Rescue op?" J'onn's eyebrow raised.
"Shurr's men grabbed Lena Luthor." Maggie shook her head, the hint of a smile pulling at the corner of her mouth, "She put up one helluva fight, managed to land a particularly brutal right hook actually, but they snatched her up." The detective shifted, "I just got a tip from one of my CIs that there's been some activity underground, like literally underground: men moving crates in and out at all hours, voices floating up to the surface, strange shocks of electricity. I'd like to take a team and investigate, see if we can't bring Miss Luthor back and get the jump on Shurr in one fell swoop."
"That's... pretty bold detective." J'onn's hands found his hips and his eyes pulled level with Maggie's.
"I'm thinking bold might be the only thing that guy understands." She answered, mirroring his pose.
"You know it's what Kara would do, if she," Alex swallowed, reaching out to graze J'onn's forearm, "if she could."
Alex's eyes were pleading. The director looked from his agent, desperate to help, to the detective, jonesing for a fight, and back again.
"Fine. You can take anyone who volunteers," he conceded, "have Vasquez help you gear up, and keep me informed every step of the way, Agent Danvers."
"I will." Alex gave a curt salute and made her way back to the Med Bay, picking her way around the maze of gurneys full of agents hurt and hurting. She settled in front of a sick bed, haloed in warm yellow light and brushed her fingers up a seemingly lifeless arm.
Her sister had never looked so small, her hair hung limp and ashen, her lips pale and cracked. Alex realized that in this moment, this exact point in time, she would sacrifice anything and everything just to see the blue flicker of Kara's opening eyes. But they stayed trapped behind heavy lids settled deep above pallid, sallow cheeks. Alex took up her sister's hand, cold and heavy.
"Hey, so I know you can hear me; I know it. Wherever you are right now, know that I am going to find Lena and bring her home to you," Alex felt the sting of tears prick the back of her eyes, and she brought the back of Kara's hand to her lips, kissing it lightly before dropping it again. She continued with a seemingly renewed sense of purpose, "Now, you listen to me, Kara Danvers. There is no way I'm going to throw myself headfirst into the lion's den for your girlfriend – yeah, I said it! – if you're just going to lie there. So you better be awake when I get back."
And with that, Alex turned on her heel and left the Med Bay, catching the hand of the somewhat stunned detective as she went.
Ugh. Between writing a musical (which is done and in the workshop phase now, yay!), writing other fics, and generally just procrastinating, it has taken me forever to update this fic! (Also, I got a bit stuck for a while. If things feel a bit rushed then I apologize, most of it will stretch out and make a bit more sense, hopefully. I just had to clear a few hurdles and this ended up being the way I wanted to do that) So thank you thank you thank you for your patience! I'm hoping to knock a few more chapters out soon! And, as always, thanks for taking the time to read and leave feedback! It's always the freaking best!
Feel free to check out my other stuff and/or yell at me on tumblr: automaticheartache.tumblr.com
Chapter 13: Unbearable Lightness
Maggie gets a cash course and Kara crashes.
"Whoa! Hey, Danvers, you wanna slow down for a second?" the detective trotted behind Agent Danvers who was frantically darting between convoys, loading them up and checking her comms over and over.
"Sawyer, we don't have time to slow down, okay? We've got to move, every second we wait…" Alex paused.
"What? What is it Danvers?" Maggie stood in front of her, hands on hips.
"We just… we don't have time." The redhead shrugged and hefted a crate up into the back of one of the rigs before slamming the tailgate. She went to lift the next box when she felt a steadying hand on her shoulder. "I can't slow down."
"Look," Maggie's voice was suddenly gentle, "I feel like, all-in-all, I've been pretty understanding so far. I've taken a lot in stride in the last 12 hours, wouldn't you agree?"
Given all of the information hurled at the detective, she seemed remarkably calm. When Shurr's men had attacked, swarming the crowd like an angry black sea, Detective Sawyer threw herself into the fray, taking down several of the hired thugs on her own, saving dozens of DEO agents without a moment's hesitation.
Afterward, Maggie sat calm, still, as the EMT's bandaged her arm, ripped open by a passing bullet which glanced off her skin to find a home in a nearby agent. Her mouth was a thin line as she watched Agent Danvers climb into the ambulance beside a bleeding, sallow Supergirl, pressing thin fingers to the gaping wound in the Girl of Steel. She trained her eyes on the agent as tears started to roll down the woman's cheeks; watched as Alex applied pressure to the ragged, green tinged edges of the wound, as if to staunch the rush of blood from the girl's body by sheer force of will.
When they had arrived back at the DEO, no one paid Maggie much mind, too busy with the intake of the wounded to bother counting heads or worrying over her presence too much. In a warzone, it was all hands on deck. She pressed against the window of the Medical Bay and watched as Agent Danvers gave instruction to a team of doctors swarming around the Kryptonian. It was clear the agent was frantic, but her tone was surprisingly calm, commanding, and she never let go of the girl's hand.
"Detective Sawyer? You're gonna need to fill out some paperwork." Maggie had started at the voice beside her, reaching instinctively for her gun, "Whoa, whoa! Hey, no need for that."
The young man next to her had raised his hands in surrender and she stilled her hand, letting it drop.
"Sorry, I guess I'm still a bit wired."
"No problem, who could blame you, right?" the man ran an obviously shaking hand through a short mop of messy brown hair and straightened his tie before turning back to the Med Bay window, "It's a mess in here."
"It was a mess out there." Maggie countered, watching as they transferred Supergirl to a hospital bed, turning away as they started to pull at her suit and dress her wounds. She focused on her new companion, sizing him up: he definitely wasn't an agent, her best guess? Tech support. "What is this place? I mean – government black site, I gathered that much – but where are we?"
"Uh, I don't know how qualified I am to give you the welcome tour, I'm pretty new myself, but let's just start with the basics. First, I'm Winn," He extended a hand, still caught in a slight tremor.
"Maggie. Sawyer. NCPD."
"Excellent. You're standing in the middle of the DEO – Department of Extra-normal Operations – it's like the cool, top secret, alien-oriented branch of the government. And these are for you; read them, sign them, and I'll tell you everything I can." He thrust a small bundle of papers and a pen into her hands.
"You're pretty cavalier about the top secret part of this whole operation," Maggie flipped through a few pages and recognized the language of a fairly severe non-disclosure agreement.
"If you think so, you might want to read that a bit closer." Winn gave a nervous smile, "the words 'treason' and 'death' crop up a fair amount." Maggie shrugged, skimming the last few pages before signing.
"I honestly thought it would be more threatening." She handed the sheaf of paper back to Winn.
"Oh, it is, believe me. This is the Reader's Digest version." He slipped the signed paperwork into an envelope. "Quick and dirty so you can be here without our agents black-bagging you. I mean, you did save a bunch of our guys, so throwing you in a cell would be in poor taste. Plus, Alex seems to trust you."
Maggie paused at this. Alex – Agent Danvers – did seem to trust her. The feeling was new and strange; it wasn't often Maggie met someone, personally or professionally, who immediately gave her the benefit of the doubt. Small and scrappy, Maggie had spent most of her life thus far fighting to prove herself. First to her family, that she, despite being queer, was worthy of their love, a losing battle if ever there were one. Next in school, she fought tooth and nail for scholarship after scholarship just to earn the chance at higher education she otherwise would have never been able to afford. Then came the guys at the academy and on the force, every day she showed unflagging diligence and dogged dedication to prove to them that she was worthy of the badge. She'd never met anyone who didn't require her tireless effort before rewarding her with their trust. It was a rush.
"Yeah," the detective answered, "I don't usually do well with partners, but I think we made a pretty good team out there."
"She said pretty much the same thing." Winn had shoved nervous hands into the pockets of his slate colored slacks.
"She did?" Maggie hid a smile as it dimpled her cheeks, she jutted her chin toward the window, back to where the medical team was trying, unsuccessfully, to close the gaping wound in Supergirl's side, "what's her deal with Supergirl, anyway? I mean, everybody seems pretty wrecked over her injuries, but Danvers is taking it really hard."
"Well, yeah." Winn shrugged, "That's her sister."
"Sister?" Maggie blanched, spinning back to Winn. "Wait, Danvers is a Kryptonian?"
"What? Oh! No." Winn chuckled at Maggie's concern, "Adoptive sister. Alex's family took Kara, er, Supergirl in when she came to earth. They grew up together." He gave her a moment to process; she swayed on her feet a bit, bracing herself with a hand against the thick plate glass. "Hey, you signed the paper? You get the whole deal. Welcome to the DEO."
That had been now more than a handful of hours ago and now Maggie found herself trotting after Alex, begging her for a moment's reprieve as they packed the convoy for their rescue Op.
"Danvers, I know she's your sister and I know you need to feel like you're doing something for her," Maggie caught the agent's wrist and Alex let her arm go slack, "But if this tip turns out to be solid, we've got to go in smart."
Alex huffed, her shoulders rounding out as she released some of the tension pinning them back. She cocked her head a bit, curious as to how the detective had gleaned so much information in in so little time.
"Look, if my girlfriend had been taken by some asshole in a giant mechanical suit, I'd want her to stay as safe as possible until my sister could rescue her," she raised her eyes, soft and deep to meet Alex's, "and if I were Kara, I'd know, without a doubt, that you'd bust down every door in National City if you thought it would help. But you've got to stay smart, keep a level head."
"I-I don't really know if Lena's her girlfriend," Alex smiled sheepishly and tugged at the sleeve of her black pullover, not knowing quite why she was indulging this detour in conversation. "I knew Kara had a crush on her. And this morning she called me – so excited – told me they had kissed. I don't know what they are to each other. I don't even know if Kara knows." She shrugged, her eyes swimming suddenly in unshed tears, "Part of me was just hoping that it would wake her up, you know? That her eyes would pop open and she'd whine that I was embarrassing her. Or pressuring her. Something. Anything."
"Look, Alex, I get it. She's your heart." Maggie squeezed the agent's hand before dropping it, "but if we're going to do this right, do this for Kara, we need your head cool. Okay?"
Alex narrowed her eyes, she pulled a handgun from the cache loaded into the back of the nearest truck and gave it a cursory spin before tucking it neatly into the holster at her hip.
"Okay. Let's do this."
Kara woke with a jerk, pulling panicked breaths into lungs that felt hollow and new. Warm honeyed light filtered in through wide eyes and frantic fingers darted to her side. She waited for the rush of pain to crest over her, but she found nothing but crisp white fabric over unmarred skin. No pain. No blood.
"It's not there," a voice floated up from somewhere over her shoulder. It was familiar, comforting. "You are whole, Little One."
Kara pushed up, feeling strangely weak but devoid of soreness and free of the unrelenting ache of rent skin. She was oddly well rested, and alert. Here eyes slid around the room, recognizing the Med Bay at the DEO, but everything was bathed in calming light, an amber glow, playing host to tiny specks of dust suspended in the wide shafts of light warming the walls and floor. There was no one in the room with her, just the voice and whomever it belonged to, hovering just over her shoulder; for some reason, she couldn't turn to look.
Kara slipped from bed and felt the sheath of cool white fabric pool around her ankles. She brought her hands to rest at her sternum, the pads of her fingers tracing her family's crest embroidered there in white and gold.
Strong arms pushed her from the bed, and she crossed to exit the medical wing. There was still no one to be found, the usual milling of agents replaced by a hollow, eerie silence and the ethereal glow from some unknown source, a warm burst of sunlight with no point of origin. She found her way to the balcony of the DEO headquarters, if that was truly where she was, its cold concrete walls bleached white and bathed in gold. She looked out over the balcony and saw, not the gleaming skyscrapers of National City, but rather, the sprawling, towering spires of Krypton.
"That's not –," she breathed lightly, "it can't – where am I?"
She felt, again, the presence at her shoulder. The voice came again, in answer, "you, Little One, Sun of My Life, are safe in Rao's light, where we all meet again."
Kara turned slowly and trailed her eyes up the column of fabric until it gave way to pale skin which came together to form the delicate planes of a face, lost but not forgotten.
She stuttered back and felt thin fingers catch her wrists, steadying her.
"You can't be here. You – you died." Kara's voice was thin and reedy, barely escaping her throat as it tightened.
"Was it not you who sent me on my journey, you who said we might be together again, Rao's will be done?" Astra said; her fingers still light, loose around Kara's wrists.
Kara gazed down and traced ridge of each knuckle, the bone in each wrist, the tendons and skin that made the circle of Astra's grip feel so real. But it couldn't be. She shook free of the woman's grasp and instead ran a light hand along the sleeve of her Aunts gown, the sheer cool fabric warming under her fingers with the slightest graze, hinting at life beneath the woven threads. She reached up and brushed her fingers along either side of Astra's face, the cut of her cheekbones resisting under soft, pale skin.
"You feel so real." Kara's voice caught in her throat, hitching over the hundreds of times she had rushed to hug the projection of her mother, only to pass through, snagging on how much Astra looked just like her.
"I am. Just as you are."
"You can't be though." Kara's brows knit and she allowed a tear to squeeze from her tightly shuttered eyes, "A-Alex killed you. You're dead."
"And you, Little One, are slated to join me this day." Astra covered Kara's hand with her own, cupping it against her cheek as the rush of blood warmed them both, "I was sent to ease your passing. To help make you make this journey, this choice."
"Choice?" Kara pulled her hand away abruptly.
"Yes," Astra gazed, unflinchingly ahead. Her stillness was strangely off-putting, her glassy eyes devoid of warmth, unblinking. The woman was a carefully crafted facsimile of Astra, that was obvious enough, but something was off, there was no fire, no love in those eyes,
"If - if I have a choice, I don't choose this." Kara took a step back, away from this warm-blooded ghost, "I'm not ready! I have friends, family. I have people who need me. I have Lena! Well, I could have Lena, maybe. I don't know if she needs me, wants me, but I want her. I want to stay with her. With Alex! I don't choose this!"
Astra stared blankly as Kara raved, folding her hands gently, one over the other as she gazed past her niece over the golden skylight.
"What of your family? Your mother and father wait for you, your people wait for you. And we have waited so long to embrace you. You, the last daughter of Krypton. What of our longing? What of our need?"
"I – I can't." Kara's eyes dropped to her hands, so much like her aunt's, like her mother. Her family history carved its way across her palms, settling in the grooves and creases there and she pulled her fingers into fists, keeping her heritage safe in the hollow of her wrapped fingers. "I have work to do. I have a purpose."
"Kal-El has grown. He has done well and no longer requires your protection. Return to us, Little One."
"I know that," Kara was surprised to hear tears in her voice as it eeked out a wet reply, "He never needed me. I had to find my own way, my own purpose." She pushed at her nose with the pristine sleeve of her gown. "But I found it. I found them: my family, my home. The people of Earth – hopeful and flawed, forever hungry and full of love – they're my responsibility now."
She squeezed her fists even tighter, and drew her eyes level with the ghost of her aunt, the flesh and blood specter before her.
"I'm staying for them," her face was drawn and serious, "and for me."
"So be it." Astra's voice was stern, joyless, "May Rao's light guide you until we meet again."
And before Kara could respond, could reach out a shaking hand to feel the warmth of her aunt's skin one last time, she was drowning in light, blinding and white. Her head began to swim and she felt the ground reach up to catch her as she stumbled toward oblivion.
Hey guys! Sorry for the absolutely heinous gap between posting! Hopefully the next chapter won't be so delayed as I'm starting to set up the beginning of the end! Thanks for sticking with me this far. Your comments and kudos are always appreciated. You're the best!