Lena had promised Eve she would not feel any pain.
That, Lena had been sure of. She had been sure when Hope fused with Eve that Eve would not feel a thing. It would be as simple as falling asleep, a dreamless rest in which Eve would not be able to even tell she was gone from the world, let alone be able to tell if she was in pain.
When Eve died, Lena didn’t know for sure if she was in pain or not.
What had happened, Lena couldn’t be entirely sure—But what she did know was that Eve was gone. Hope was no longer inhabiting her body after she told Lena that the vessel would not stay viable for very long. How Eve died, exactly, Lena did not know. Hope should not have caused Eve any harm, Eve should have been perfectly healthy, just asleep—
What kept Lena awake each night was the question of whether or not Eve had felt pain when she died. What Lena thought about every night while she drank too much scotch or too much wine was whether or not Eve had been in pain.
Lena looked up from her desk as soon as she heard the greeting partnered with her office doors opening and mixed feelings crossed through her as soon as she saw Kara. Kara had a wide smile on her face as she let the door shut behind her, her eyes sparkled as she neared Lena’s desk, and Lena wanted to be anywhere else. Lena wanted to be away from the way Kara looked at her more than anything in that moment.
Because Kara looked at Lena with love. Pure, unadulterated love was all Lena could see in Kara’s eyes when they locked gazes. Love was all Lena could feel when she noticed Kara gazing stupidly at her when Lena was looking away and love was all Lena could sense when Kara drew Lena in for a hug or rubbed her thumb across Lena’s knuckles.
Lena hated it. It made no sense, none of it was feasible, especially not after Kara had lied to her for three years. Even if Lena could ever tolerate the idea of Kara ever truly loving her, it didn’t matter anymore. She broke Lena’s heart and Lena could never forgive her. Lena hated Kara and she had a plan to exact, no matter how convincing Kara’s acts of love seemed.
So, Lena took every horrible, guilty feeling and every indescribable feeling Kara gave her and shoved them into an itty bitty box in the back of her mind. She forced on a smile as best as she could and stood, meeting Kara halfway for a hug.
Kara hugged her in that way she always did. Tightly, so much so that Lena could feel every part of them pressed together, and she patted Lena’s back twice. Kara squeezed her as she mumbled a bubbly I missed you and Lena felt sick. But, still, she uttered the same words in turn and pulled away from the hug.
If it had gone any longer Lena feared those feelings would return against her will.
She sat with Kara on the little couch in her office more out of necessity than want. She did not want to be pressed so close to Kara, she did not need that, but she had to act normal if she wanted Kara to trust her.
“Have you been okay?” Kara asked and Lena was somewhat taken aback by the question. Lena looked up from her lap to meet Kara’s eyes and Kara must have sensed something—Confusion, start, fear—because she gave a nervous grin and explained, “The past few days, no one’s seen much of you. You haven’t answered my texts or anything.” And then Kara’s voice turned nervous as she said, “I just...I’m not sure if it has to do with us. I know you said I’m always gonna be your best friend and everything, but you seem off, and if you’re hurt still I understand—“
“Kara,” Lena stopped her with a breathy laugh and a hand on her knee, “Relax. I promise, it’s nothing about that. You were honest with me, you apologized...We’re okay.” The words left a bitter taste in Lena’s mouth, a guilt foreign to her ate at her heart, but she kept that strained smile and gave Kara’s knee a reassuring squeeze.
Her performance must have been convincing enough, because Kara’s anxiety almost visibly deflated. She let out a laugh, a nervous chuckle more than anything, and she rested her hand on top of Lena’s. “Okay, good. I’m glad,” She said and the honest relief Lena could hear in her voice stunned her, “What’s actually going on then?”
And Lena’s smile turned teasing. “You know me,” Lena said, “I just got caught up in my work.”
Kara believed it. Too easily, Kara believed it.
Somehow, when Kara hugged her ten minutes later and left, Lena’s heart felt heavier than even before.
Despite her logic and Hope telling her it wasn’t a part of the plan and she should be working, Lena found herself spending a lot of time with Kara. Lena was planning lunches and dinners and movie nights at Kara’s cozy apartment, Lena was initiating hugs and handholding and despite telling herself it was all in the plan, it really was just something she was craving.
Lena felt like a piece of her was gone when Kara wasn’t around. Kara made her feel whole and complete and loved—Or she did, before she broke Lena’s heart, Lena told herself repeatedly. Kara Danvers broke your heart became a mantra in Lena’s mind.
When Kara smiled at her, Lena reminded herself that Kara lied to her.
When Kara hugged her tightly and told her how wonderful she is, Lena reminded herself that Kara stabbed her in the back.
When Kara laughed and joked with her, Lena reminded herself that Kara had to have spent three years laughing like that with her friends about how stupid Lena was.
When Kara casually told Lena she loves her, Lena forgot about her heartbreak for a moment.
And for a moment, in the dark of Kara’s apartment, Lena told Kara she loves her without any malice or hidden intentions. For that moment any thoughts of the plan or hurting Kara were completely gone and all Lena could think about was the way Kara’s eyes shone when Lena said it.
It was only a moment, but Lena wasn’t sure she preferred reality over that one moment in Kara Danvers’s apartment.
“Miss Luthor, what are you planning on doing with Eve Tessmacher?” Hope asked Lena the next week and Lena froze up.
Eve was still in the lab. Eve was still in the lab, in almost freezing temperatures, behind a sealed door only Lena had the code to. It was wrong, Lena knew it was wrong, but Lena didn’t know what was right anymore, either.
“I don’t know,” She admitted to Hope and a part of her wished Hope’s disembodied voice was in her head rather than something real. Somehow, Lena thought maybe it would be easier if she really was just crazy like Lex and Hope wasn’t really her only companion. Maybe if that was the case Eve wouldn’t be in the L-Corp basement. “I’ll take care of it,” Lena said next, trying to convince herself more than the AI.
“I can recommend several different ways to dispose of Eve Tessmacher, Miss Luthor—“
“I have to go to bed,” Lena said, her fists gripping the countertop in her kitchen.
“Eve Tessmacher’s death was a glitch in our plan,” Hope continued despite Lena’s claim, “Yet we have not furthered our research nor our plan at all since. You have spent more time with Kara Danvers today than in your lab, Miss Luthor, and I have noticed that you have been making excuses.”
“I’m still doing the plan.”
“The plan does not require this much time with Kara Danvers, and when I offered you three different ways to hurt Kara Danvers this morning, you refused. You did not attempt anything, and I have noticed that you are at least 89.7% genuine when you are with her, possibly higher.”
“I am still going along with the plan, Hope.”
“Are the death of Eve Tessmacher and your love for Kara Danvers impairing your ability to—“
“Stop.” Lena said, her voice too loud as she squeezed her eyes shut. A moment later, Lena fixed the sound of her voice and said more calmly even as it hurt her, “Eve’s death was nothing more than a glitch, like you said, and I don’t love Kara. I hate Kara. The plan will continue, Hope.”
Eve wasn’t just a bump in the road.
Lena loved Kara.
Lena took a shaky breath as she steeled herself and corrected her own thoughts.
Eve didn’t matter to her and Eve’s death mattered to no one.
Lena could never love Kara Danvers.
“In that case, who will be my next vessel, Miss Luthor?” Hope asked next, and Lena’s breathing felt shallow.
“I said I have to go to bed. This conversation is over, Hope,” Lena snapped, firmer this time, as she stood straight and left to lock herself in her bedroom. The fact it was only 7 PM and Lena typically worked until the early morning hours was unimportant.
Lena woke up in the dark and Hope promised she would not feel any pain.
The next time Kara saw Lena, she knew Lena was mad at her. It was the only explanation she could think of, anyway. Lena had to be hurt and sad and furious, even if Lena had initially forgiven her. It was the only thing that could possibly explain her behavior that day.
Kara got to Lena’s apartment and Lena let her inside. The difference was, Lena did not try to hug her. All she offered was a smile, and even then it felt off. It was a practiced smile, not one of the ones Lena gave Kara—toothy and so big it crinkled the corners of her eyes.
Her voice was a different thing entirely. Lena’s voice wasn’t her own, in a way Kara couldn’t quite explain. It was cool, almost scarily calm and calculated, like each word was carefully crafted before being spoken. She sounded emotionless, empty, void of anything—While normally Lena’s accent would slip through as she got excited and Kara could always hear her emotion even if it was faint.
When Kara made a silly joke, Lena didn’t laugh in that free way only Kara caused. Her cheeks didn’t flush red when Kara told her she had seen L-Corp’s latest masterpiece and she thought Lena was brilliant.
Lena wasn’t Lena.
So Kara apologized. She apologized again, and again, and again and everytime Lena told her in an almost robotic tone that she had forgiven her. Eventually Kara got called on a Supergirl mission and she told Lena she had to go.
Lena didn’t hug her goodbye, either, and Kara’s heart felt like it was being torn in two.
But Kara kept trying. Every day, now, she made time to see Lena. Even if the DEO told her work needed to be done, she did the work and told someone else to cover patrolling the city for her. Lena was more important than patrolling for shady guys on the street and Kara was going to make it up to her.
Lena never turned back into the Lena that Kara loved. That chilling, inhuman manner Lena spoke and acted stayed until Kara thought she was stuck in a nightmare and willed herself to wake up. Yet, everytime Kara asked and everytime Kara apologized, Lena said it was okay and Kara’s heart broke everytime.
Kara could count all the times in her life she cried on her fingers and toes. She did not cry often, she did not like crying, and yet she cried over Lena. More than once, far more than she would ever like to admit, she found tears welling up as Lena told her everything was fine in that cold voice and she found herself crying when telling Alex.
One day, when Kara was broken-heartedly apologizing again, something in her snapped.
“You have no need to apologize, Kara,” Lena told her distantly, no care in her tone, as Kara’s eyes burned with tears, “We are perfectly fine.”
“We’re not fine, Lena!” Kara said, her voice an accidental shout in her desperation before she quieted it some, “I hurt you and you won’t let me fix it and this is so horrible—Lena, I love you so much, you have to let me fix this. Please. Please.”
Something broke inside Lena when Kara said it. Something changed. That cool, calm expression faltered and for the first time in weeks Kara saw emotion in Lena’s eyes. She heard emotion in the way Lena croaked out, “Kara...”
And then it stopped as suddenly as it started.
That emotion disappeared, the icy voice returned with the eerily calm smile and Lena said, “Begging seems odd, coming from Supergirl. Surely that does not help in most situations?”
Kara couldn’t control herself any longer. She couldn’t stay, she couldn’t be near this version of Lena, this Lena who kept making every part of Kara hurt. The moment the words registered in her mind, she walked past Lena and out of Lena’s office as the tears started falling.
Lena didn’t seem to care.
Kara realized that the thing she had been spending every waking moment trying to reason with really wasn’t Lena when Lena Luthor killed a dozen L-Corp employees.
A dozen L-Corp employees were dead after Lena Luthor tried to implant something in their brains. When Supergirl got to L-Corp before the police, Lena showed no sign of guilt or remorse. She shrugged it off, told Kara that the next subjects would be successful, that those dozen were nothing more than a small glitch in her plan to fix them all.
That’s when Kara realized that whatever the hell might be wearing Lena’s skin, it was not Lena that had been torturing Kara’s heart. It was something wrong and misguided and cold—And it did something to Kara’s Lena.
Truth be told, Kara had never felt so much unbridled rage in her entire lifetime. She grabbed Lena by the collar of the white dress she wore as Lena spoke mindlessly of the dead, and that calm expression never faded even as Kara came face to face with her.
“Who are you?” Kara asked, her voice shaking with her anger, and somehow the lack of fear or anything in the fake’s expression made her feel even more furious. “Where’s Lena?”
“Miss Luthor had a plan,” The lookalike told her and Kara froze for a moment. Thinking it wasn’t Lena and the confirmation it wasn’t—It was two different situations entirely. “A plan to fix humanity with the use of technology and to make you, Kara Danvers, suffer. However, Miss Luthor was too bound by her emotions to go through with it, and so I was forced to resort extreme measures. Miss Luthor will not be returning anytime soon, Kara Danvers.”
The words didn’t feel real to Kara. Tears stung in her eyes, her heart thudded with anger and fear, and all the while whoever this was was smiling. After a beat, Kara reared her fist back, her full intent being punching the daylights out of this thing until it told her where Lena was—
But it looked like Lena and Kara hesitated.
The hesitation, the inability to hurt what looked like Lena, lead to the thing escaping.
L-Corp was thrown into a full scale investigation and all the while Lena’s name was being slandered left and right, no matter how many times Supergirl or Kara said that it wasn’t Lena. It seemed people didn’t even want to believe the Girl of Steel if it got in the way of the evil Luthor narrative. CatCo was not making Kara feel better. Andrea was keen on publishing clickbait article after clickbait article about Lena being evil and going on a murderous rampage, leaving out details to purposely convince readers it was without a doubt Lena. Kara fought and fought and fought until Andrea had enough and forced Kara to leave.
Kara felt nauseous when Alex told her the DEO had finally managed to get into a hidden room in the basement lab and Eve Tessmacher was there, deceased. Kara had to leave the room when Alex told her it appeared Eve had been in that lab for weeks, maybe two months.
Files in L-Corp lead to the discovery that Lena had created an AI named Hope. It didn’t take much digging for Kara to realize Hope was the thing walking around wearing Lena’s face, and Kara found a further hatred of technology.
Hope disappeared for a while, in two meanings. Hope, the AI that Kara despised, was nowhere to be found after the 12 deaths. Hope, the word Kara fought for everyday, was gone. Kara hadn’t felt so hopeless in so long, and it was driving her mad. It felt like every minute that passed without Hope being located, the hope that Lena would be safe grew thinner.
Kara didn’t rest. No matter how many times Alex, J’onn, Brainy, or Nia tried to get her to take a break, Kara was searching for Hope and Lena. Alex threatened to ban Kara from the DEO purely to get Kara to rest, but Kara made it clear that it was not going to happen. Kara wouldn’t be able to rest until Lena was safe even if she tried. Kara couldn’t let herself rest, because if she rested for a second that was a second lost in saving Lena.
She spent a lot of time in Lena’s office and Lena’s apartment, trying to hold onto some faint hope that eventually Hope would show up. Maybe she needed something from the lab, or a file locked away in Lena’s penthouse, or anything that would make her come back for five minutes. All Kara was begging Rao for was five minutes to try and save Lena.
One day, when Kara was sitting on the couch in Lena’s office, she felt suddenly ill. At first it was nausea and some dizziness, but when it turned to pain, she understood too late. Hope did come back to L-Corp, Kara had been right in that will, but it seemed Hope had been expecting Kara more than Kara had been expecting Hope.
Kara wasn’t shocked when Hope came in as Kara stood only to fall weakly to the floor, and she was holding a remote. A remote that, when she pressed a button, made the room glow a faint green from several different spots lining the walls. What made it worse was that Hope was still a part of Lena and all Kara could see as she shakily gripped the coffee table was Lena turning up the intensity of this Kryptonite room like the DEO had with the full intent of hurting her. Lena, or something that looked like Lena, having the cold and careless expression of a villain as she held Kryptonite hurt Kara in a way that even the Kryptonite didn’t.
“Hope,” Kara said, her throat feeling tight as she forced herself to stand. She clenched her fists tightly, willed herself to stand strong even as Hope and the Kryptonite came closer, even as her veins felt like nails were running through them and her entire body felt like it was failing. “This has to stop,” Kara continued, her eyes locked on the Kryptonite, on Hope’s white dress, on anything other than Lena’s eyes, “You killed people, Hope. You’re not going to fix humanity like this, you’re going about it the wrong way. Please, just—Let Lena go, and—“
“I have fused with Miss Luthor’s brain,” Hope told Kara disinterestedly, her head tilting slightly as Kara shut her eyes tightly against the pain, “Eve Tessmacher died two weeks after I did the same process with her. Logically speaking, Miss Luthor may not survive it much longer, and I cannot say for sure whether or not she could be separated at this point in the process. But, Miss Luthor’s plan is underway whether or not she is here to perform it herself. And, Kara Danvers, your defeat was what Miss Luthor wanted before she lost sight of it all.”
Something in Kara’s mind stopped as she heard Hope’s spiel. Hope had fused with Lena’s mind, she said. Hope had done whatever this is with Eve and now Eve was in a morgue.
Kara looked into Lena’s eyes as she realized Hope didn’t look like Lena. It was Lena, not a lookalike or an image inducer or shapeshifted or anything—It was Lena.
So Kara talked to Lena, not Hope.
“Lena, I don’t know if she’s telling the truth,” Kara’s fingernails dug into her palms as she strained to stay standing, to keep looking into Lena’s eyes for any sign Lena could possibly hear her past the AI, “About if you wanted to get revenge on me for lying. I don’t blame you, I know I hurt you.” Hope only hit the button to make the Kryptonite more powerful and Kara felt like she was seconds away from passing out, from dying, but she forced herself to keep going. She took a step forward, towards Lena, as she continued, “I don’t blame you for being mad at me. But I know you, Lena, and I know none of this was what you wanted, and I know you can make it better. Okay? We can fix all of it, we can beat Hope—“
The pain got worse but Kara kept going.
“And we’re gonna be okay, eventually. I promise. I know you’re hurt. You’re mad. But we’re gonna get through it,” Kara told her, hoping to Rao that Lena could hear her at some level, hoping it was getting past Hope, “We’re gonna get through it, I’m not going to stop fighting for you. Not now, not ever. I love you, Lena, so fight her. Okay?”
And, like that brief second some time ago when Kara saw something break and Hope was gone, Hope hesitated when she went to turn the Kryptonite to a level that would certainly kill Kara. Hope hesitated and Kara could see Lena again—Not Hope wearing Lena’s face, but Lena. Her Lena, breaking eye contact with Kara to stare at the remote in her hand and the green glow of the room like she didn’t know what was happening, or maybe she did and she didn’t want it to be real. There was confusion and fear and remorse and Kara knew it was her only shot.
Firmly, Kara reached out and grabbed Lena’s hand with her own trembling with the strain of the kryptonite. Instantly, Lena’s eyes shot away from their surroundings to meet Kara’s gaze again, and almost immediately Lena said in a pained tone, “Kara, I don’t...”
“Lena, listen,” Kara said with an edge of desperation in her voice. She gripped Lena’s hand tighter because it felt like she was going to be sick and she had to stay grounded for Lena’s sake. “Fight her, okay? Please. I miss you. Just—Just help me stop her and we’ll fix everything and we can—we can go to that fermentation place you like again even though I told you never again. Just stop her. Please.”
“Kara—“ Lena started and stopped as soon as the word left her lips, her face contorting like she was struggling and her hand gripped Kara’s almost painfully. “Stop,” Lena said loudly, firmly, through clenched teeth and in Kara’s haze it took a moment to register Lena was talking to the thing in her brain, “Stop. Stop.”
For a second all that emotion faded away, replaced by that cold expression again, and Kara got scared. But it ended as quick as it came, and Lena was struggling again while Kara could only watch and pray the Kryptonite didn’t finish her off before she could save them both.
Kara’s mind felt hazy, she felt dizzy, and she barely registered the internal fight going on with Lena. She barely registered herself saying words, encouraging Lena, and it didn’t feel like it was her talking. It all felt strange.
Kara hit the floor before it all ended.
Kara woke up under sun lamps in the DEO and the second her eyes opened, panic hit her like a freight train. Her heart thudded almost hurt fully as she sat straight up, asking loudly for Lena, and somewhere in the back of her mind she registered how much better she felt. The sun lamps definitely helped, but she still felt nauseous, weak. That much kryptonite, and for so long as she strained all her power to stay strong—It took a toll.
Alex was standing next to the bed a second later, setting her hand on Kara’s shoulder to calm her down. “Take it easy,” She scolded, voice firm and almost mad, “You almost died.”
“Where’s Lena?” Kara asked immediately. Lena had to be okay. Sure, Kara had seen Lena get rid of that dastardly thing, but what if she hadn’t? What if that thing wasn’t really destroyed and it hurt Lena when Kara couldn’t take the kryptonite anymore?
Kara’s gaze shot to the doorway the second she heard it, because she would recognize that voice absolutely anywhere, and sure enough Lena was standing there. She was wearing jeans and a green shirt and her hands were fiddling with the hem of it as she looked at Kara with so much apology and Kara could have cried right then. Kara could have cried because that was Lena, for the first time in what felt like forever that was Lena standing there without the influence of anything else taking control of her.
Admittedly, Kara completely forgot Alex was talking to her as she stood and walked towards Lena. Lena took a step back as she realized Kara was walking towards her, she almost visibly closed in on herself as if she was expecting Kara to yell.
Instead, Kara hugged her. Kara wrapped her arms around Lena before she was even entirely finished walking and she hugged Lena like it was the last time she was going to get to. Kara could hear Lena’s heartbeat pick up in speed and the sound of it was lovely. The sound of it was a reminder that Lena was back. When it was Hope, her heartbeat never sped up nervously like it used to when Kara would touch her or compliment her. As Kara sighed shakily into Lena’s neck, Lena’s body relaxed, and she sunk into Kara’s arms.
“I’m sorry,” Lena told her, voice quiet and slightly rapsy, muffled as she spoke into Kara’s shoulder.
“No, no,” Kara assured her. Tears were burning her eyes again, her heart felt like it had been put back together by being able to hold Lena again, by hearing Lena’s soft lilted accent and feeling her heartbeat against Kara’s chest as they hugged. “Don’t be sorry,” Kara ignored her sister as Alex carefully passed by the two of them to leave, but was grateful nonetheless to get to be alone with Lena.
When Kara and Lena finally had the nerve to pull away from the hug, neither of them truly left the embrace. Kara kept her hands on Lena’s biceps, Lena’s hands on Kara’s elbows, because Kara truly didn’t think she could part with Lena again so soon. Lena’s eyes were red, her cheeks tear stained, and something gave Kara the courage to reach up with one hand to wipe away Lena’s tears before resting her hand against Lena’s jawline. Kara was sure she wasn’t looking much better off, her eyes still stung and she felt a tear slip.
Kara was frozen there, cupping Lena’s cheek and rubbing with her thumb as she looked into Lena’s eyes. They were having a silent conversation, it felt like, and Kara could hear every word without words being truly spoken.
“I love you, Lena,” Kara said without thinking about it, the words slipping from her mouth before she could contain herself.
For a moment, Lena didn’t answer and that was okay. But she did, then, and in a soft voice she said, “I love you.”
They weren’t okay. Kara knew that much.
But as Lena broke their eye contact and moved forward to bury her face into Kara’s shoulder again, and Kara wrapped her arms around her while pulling her close, Kara knew they would be okay eventually.