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And Then, There Was You

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Lena Luthor remembers her mother voice. Despite everything she has ever told anyone, she remembers her mother’s voice, clear as day. But only from one instance: her third birthday. An instance she would sit on the window sill of her room and reminisce, frequently, when she first moved to the Luthor household.

 

Lena’s third birthday had been a small affair, she remembers. Just her mother, a man whose face she could not recall but whom she assumed was her biological dad (Lillian Luthor will one day in the very distant future inadvertently tell Lena that this was Lionel Luthor), and her all standing around small, obviously handmade - if the weird tilt of the cake said anything - chocolate cake (her favourite) with three candles in it.

 

(She loved how personal it looked and felt, even in her memory.)

 

She remembers them singing, the man - her father – placing her feet on top of his and swaying her around the room, her parents voices full of mirth as they laughed and she giggled, all still singing. Remembers as they sat her down and her mother explained the concept of soulmates to her. How somewhere out there, there was someone who she’d meet one day and never want to lie to.

 

(“Lying is bad, isn’t it mommy? Shouldn’t I not lie to anyone?”, she questioned then, not yet exposed to the world and its cruel way – cruel ways that would one day drag an innocent girl grieving over the loss of the brother she once knew and loved, to madness, and accuse and scrutinise her in every imaginable way, waiting for the ‘Luthor Madness’ to snap something within her and break free.

 

“Yes honey, it is. But sometimes we lie to protect the people we love. We’re only humans, we aren’t perfect; make mistakes. And we are allowed to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them.” Her mother had explained to her, bright smile slightly dimming as she cast a sidelong gaze at her father. She hadn’t understood then, but one day Lillian Luthor would inadvertently reveal the identity of this man, and Lena would understand.)

 

Her mother would go on to explain that every time she lied to her soulmate, they’d be wracked with pain more potent than any poison on Earth - the bigger the lie, the worse the pain - and how some people have been known to pass out the first time their soulmate lies to them, and then, she’d launched into the story of how she’d almost been knocked out herself by hitting her back against a payphone because she’d almost passed out and cracked her heel the first time her soulmate had lied to her, eyes slyly looking at the man beside her: Lena's dad.

 

(“I’d walked into her while I was in a bad mood,” he’d stopped to laugh, then continued, “and said ‘I’m so not sorry for tripping you’ just to make her feel as annoyed as I was – which was a lie because I did feel bad – and instead of the retort I was expecting, I heard her yelp instead. So, I immediately turned around, hands ahead of me about to start apologising, when she quite literally fell into my arms. That’s when we both realised.” He’d stopped to briefly kiss her mom then, and then continued, eyes twinkling with happiness and love.

 

“And the rest, as they say, is history.”

 

“It was definitely interesting alright.” Her mother had added, visibly unable to stop herself evident in the way she’d kind of whispered it, probably louder than she’d intended.)

 

Lena remembers flinging her arms around them then, yelling about how they were the ‘bestest parents ever’; how much she loved them. Remembers them both pulling her in close, kissing the crown of her head and telling her how much they loved her – she doesn’t doubt them, or the truth behind their words, to this day.

 

The second favourite part of that day, she remembers, was her father winking conspiratorially and giving her a teddy bear that had been half her tiny size then; telling her not to tell her mother about it because he had strict instructions not to spoil her. Lena had just giggled and whispered an 'Okay, Daddy.'

 

They both knew her mother would find out the very next day, but it was still one of her fondest memories of biological father because it showed he cared.

 

And it showed that they had been truly happy.

 

(On nights when the silence is louder than any of her thoughts and the darkness takes on a human form that looks suspiciously like her, whispering promises of happiness if she 'just became a real Luthor', and not even the stars burning bright in their infinite existence in the vast sky cannot chase away her demons, Lena still sleeps with that teddy bear.

 

To remind her of happy times, when she was loved by others and loved them in return.

 

To remind her that she had happiness once, and she can have it again.

 

To especially remind her that, somewhere out there, there's someone who will love her with their whole heart and soul, and she'll love them in return.

 

But at the back of her mind, a voice that sounds suspiciously like her continually whispers about how the universe loves to dangle a carrot - in the form of every good thing that has ever happened to a person - just ahead of them. To give them hope, that things have been good before and they can be again. But only long enough for them to forget. Forget, that the carrot is attached to a stick; the stick to a person, and the person to a whip that eventually cracks down on you: the hissing, lingering pain of reality; realization that nothing good is ever permanent and the universe is just cruel.)

 

XXX

 

Like all good things, those happy days came to an end.

 

Lena is four when her mother falls ill one day, a mystery ailment she's never found out what it was to this day. One day they were together and happy, and the next, she suddenly disappeared. She was told her mother passed away by a group of shady men in hospital garments who just randomly arrived at her doorstep, and that she was going to be adopted by a new family – The Luthors.

 

(She was four and grieving, cut her some slack on not being suspicious.)

 

She didn’t understand why her mother had suddenly left her, leaving behind just a pendant, a silver dragon with one sapphire blue eye and one emerald green eye; blowing out ruby red flames. The gems had – and still do – looked out of this world, the light passed through them at odd angles, angles that made them look almost... alive. Hence, why she has always refrained from claiming them to be those jewels; calling them by the jewel colours instead. A voice in the back of her head had had a justification then - one that she personally no longer remembers, no matter how much she struggles to.

 

(She’s never taken it off ever since then either way.)

 

That’s all her mother had left her, no note or anything of the sort, which has always made Lena suspicious because she knows that that wasn’t like her mother - a woman who left her notes even if she was simply going across the street to buy something. But she was only four when the Luthors adopted her, there wasn’t much she could do about her questions, nor did she find this to be an oddity until a few years later.

 

(Cut her some slack, she's only human and most certainly isn't perfect.

 

And she was only four.)

 

The funny thing is, being adopted by the Luthors is probably the time in her life that she remembers the least, which is odd considering those were quite a few of her developing years. She remembers clutching her mom’s necklace her entire first day at the Luthor household. Remembers a blur of disappointed looks and being paraded as a new toy (Lillian), adoring smiles and the ruffling of her hair (Lionel), and adoring smiles and piggy back rides and learning new things together (Lex) - but nothing in between.

 

(She assumes she's repressed those memories into the 'Miscellaneous' box at the back of her mind, even if she doesn't quite remember doing that. Compartmentalisation truly is a gift. She snorts.)

 

Then Lena’s eight years old and she’s going from one blur to the next. Its like one day, Lena blinked and Lillian Luthor had teleported her to boarding school, bags in one hand; her mom’s necklace being clutched like a lifeline in the other.

 

Boarding school is just a whole other can of worms that she’s unwilling to open. She's compartmentalised every memory from then and stored them away in the back of her mind in the box labelled 'Miscellaneous' as well - certain memories, however, she's stored within a box labelled 'What if', most of these having contained the presence of one Veronica Sinclair – Roulette, now she supposes.

 

(Lena misses her sometimes, when the sun is down and her office is quite and all she can hear is the low sounds of the world existing around her - being CEO doesn't exactly get you an office close to the ground, at least not close enough for the sounds to be loud enough to drown out her thoughts. When she can pretend nothing has changed. She misses the bright-eyed girl who'd winked at her conspiratorially on her first day in boarding school, singing a purposely off tune rendition of 'A Whole New World' while promising to be her tour guide.

 

Maybe in a different world and a different life, Roulette didn't exist; Lena and Veronica did.)

 

Then Lena is fourteen and she’s a bit of a wild child and gets a motorcycle that Lex helps her hide and Lionel helps her learn, and that they all work on to upgrade because they are Luthors after all (at least she is to them, Lillian might not agree).

 

(She’s reminded of a brighter time now long gone, when she could proudly proclaim that she was a Luthor and would get eye-crinkling smiles in return – in place of the disgusted, or terrified, or downright horrified looks she gets now.)

 

She spray-paints a silver dragon with heterochromic eyes bellowing out flames on it the first chance she gets.

 

(She custom made the outlines herself. She was proud of how it had come out, still is. Even if the bike just sits in storage now - the memories it carries being too painful for her to bear using it anymore.)

 

Lena's still fourteen when, one night, she has the bright idea to apply to somewhere Lillian would never let her go, somewhere far away from the other female Luthor (away from her clutches) but also somewhere she could do the courses of her choice. So - after weeks of researching - one early Monday morning, she saddles onto her bike, one hand sliding over her dragon decal lightly tracing it, and speeds off. Soon enough, she’s hoping off in front on a University she'd found to be perfect after weeks of searching. She's clutching her mom’s necklace in one hand and the application papers in the other. Her hands trembling and the blood roaring in her ears; adrenaline pumping through her veins, as she applies to a University, both in the middle of nowhere and yet prestigious enough for her to know she’ll love it, at the same time – the prestigious ones always have the best equipment, and she’s a Luthor so it’s not like anyone would mess with her here.

 

(Hence, perfect.)

 

She aces the entrance exam, highest score since the place was conceived in the early 18th century, and gets into Markry University four years early – a 'rare genius', they call her.

 

Then Lena is sixteen and she’s graduating two years early; standing on a podium in front of all her peers, one hand clutching at her cue cards and the other trembling and holding her mom’s necklace. Lionel is there and Lex is there and they’re both smiling wide, eyes crinkling at the corners, even if Lionel looks more tired than he has in years and Lex looks like he’s holding the weight of the world on his shoulders. Lex even brought along his best friend Clark Kent, who Lena’s been dying to meet ever since she heard about him. He was smiling a charmingly awkward smile that helped him fit in just fine with her family, the poster child of perfect farm boy charm. Speaking of her family, neither of their smiles falter as she gives her valedictorian speech.

 

(“I’d like to thank my family, Lionel and Lex, for always pushing me to be the best I could. So, thank you Dad, you’re the best father I could have ever asked for. Thank you for always believing in me and supporting me, especially when I decided to come here.” You’d stopped then, to take a breath, your eyes getting slightly misty when you saw Lionel crying tears of joys, still smiling bright as the sun and an emotion glinting in his eye that was both familiar in ways you didn’t understand then (wouldn’t until Lillian told you the truth years later) and different at the same time.

You continued, voice slightly wavering.

 

(If anyone noticed, they didn’t say.)

 

"And my amazing brother Lex, thank you for always letting your little sister have her way – from piggyback rides around the mansion so I wouldn’t get lost anymore to letting me borrow the lab at Luthor Corp to practise my experiments. I don’t know where I’d be without you, so thank you. Thank you both, I love you. And to my mother Lillian, who couldn’t make it, thank you for letting me get the motorcycle I used to run away so I could apply to here.” She’d added, spitefully, but in a joking tone so that everyone would think it was a joke.

 

(The laughter from the audience, sans the Luthors, told her it worked.))

 

The speech had gone without a hitch. Lionel and Lex joined her later (Clark having left citing an emergency), to inform her both of Lex taking up the mantle of CEO of Luthor Corp and of the place they had waiting for her as the Head of the R&D Department. She’d hugged them both so tight then she was almost sure she’d broken something, and had accepted the position. Above head, she saw a flash of blue and red and knew Superman had just zipped past, no doubt on his was to help someone in need.

 

(Unbeknownst to her then, that had been the first-time Clark Kent would start a horrible tradition of always leaving her behind.)

 

XXX

 

Everything was going amazing, and so obviously, the Universe decided it was time to stop the ruse of Lena being allowed to hold things dear.

 

She wasn’t even surprised when everything went to hell in a handbasket, just shocked she hadn’t seen it coming.

 

(The Universe was never kind, she should have seen it coming.)

 

Lena’s sure that the downward spiral of her life began with the passing away of her father, Lionel Luthor. It tore Lena apart, but it did something far worse to her brother. Ever since that day, she saw a steady darkness growing in his eyes. Darkness evident in every charming smile that no longer seemed loving but instead like a slightly mangled snarl, like everything he said was a means to an end. She tried so hard, so very hard, to bring back the light in his eyes, but nothing she ever did was enough. Lex descended into his madness driven pursuit to end Superman as easily as some people slipped socks onto their feet each morning.

 

(His own best friend. He went after his own, now ex-best friend, she guesses. Her brother Lex never would’ve done any of this. But whoever he is now, Lex Luthor, CEO of Luthor Corp, obviously can. That had been the thing that had really driven home the fact that he was no longer her amazing brother Lex who had accepted her into the Luthor household with open arms.)

 

(And of course, she knew Clark was Superman, his disguise was, excuse her French, shit. She’s 100% sure everyone knows and they just aren’t saying anything so he feels better about himself. Plus, she is an actual certified genius, there’s no way she wouldn’t have figured it out.)

 

The first attack is inconspicuous enough. A bomb detonates, taking the lives of 28 people (only because someone had surrounded the place in Kryptonite beforehand, hence greatly weakening and slowing down the Man of Steel). The attack is traced back to Luthor Corp due to some components not lost in the blast, and people assume it’s an employee. Lex uses his charm to further persuade the public that he’ll find the culprit.

 

(Lena already had her doubts then. Only Lex and her should have known about Kryptonite’s effect on Clar-Superman, she has to get used to that name or she may slip up in a place where she cannot afford to. A Luthor knowing the true identity of Superman can only be bad news if ever discovered.)

 

But as the attacks piled on, Lex’s attempts to put the public off his trails seemed to lessen and lessen until one day, in a suit that to this day is the very personification of the madness that drove her brother to ruins, Lex Luthor challenged Superman to duel. After 40 deaths (Lena knew all their names) in total; 100s more injured, Lex Luthor finally bore his madness bare to the world. That day, he became immortalised as the man that almost succeeded in killing the Man of Steel.

 

Superman did win in the end of course, and arrested Lex. Lena had been watching the entire event from the top of Luthor Corp, tears streaming down her face, hands clutching onto her mom’s necklace as a lifeline as it had finally settled in that her brother Lex was gone, replaced by a monster. She was sure that he had looked right at her then, Clark not Superman, and instead of the hurt or anger or disgust she expected, all she saw was apologetic eyes hiding wells of sorrow.

 

(It took her a few years to realise that that had been Clark Kent from Kansas; Lex Luthor’s ex-best friend, not Superman the superhero from Krypton, who had been talking. It had been a silent apology, perhaps for not being able to stop him, perhaps for what was to come, perhaps for taking away her last family(Lillian Luthor was a lot of things, but family was not one of them), she’s still not sure, but she knows he understood her pain. Clark disappeared from her life after that day, so she never did find out what he was apologising for, not exactly.

 

That had been the second-time Clark Kent had abandoned her. That had been when it really started to become tradition.)

 

Lena Luthor was twenty years old when the sun grew dimmer and the world grew darker.

 

Lena Luthor was twenty years old when the mirror that was her life shattered into a million jagged pieces that cut a million tiny wounds into her, many of which still stung with the remnants of those pieces today.

 

Lena Luthor was twenty years old when the universe pointed at her and laughed for the last time.

 

Lena Luthor was twenty years old when she decided the next time the universe came knocking at her door, she was going to tell it to fuck the fuck off and slam the door on its face.

 

Lena Luthor was twenty years old when she disowned her soulmate as a challenge to the universe.

 

XXX

 

Lena Luthor is twenty-four years old when the Universe comes back to her door for a last huzzah (She really should invest in a Universe stopping blockade or something).

 

Lena is twenty-four years old when she meets her soulmate.

 

A soulmate who walks in very much like a tornado: uninvited, unannounced, and permanently changing everything in her wake.

 

XXX