“Lex is dead. I shot him. Jess is taking care of it.”
Lena sweeps into the room with those words, already shrugging her bag off of her shoulder. She has eyes only for the figure in Supergirl’s arms, but Supergirl has eyes only for her, her declaration playing on a loop in her head.
“Lena, I- I killed Lex.”
“Luthors are like cockroaches: you think you’ve got them handled until they come crawling out of the walls again. Don’t worry; I made sure of it this time.” She’s tapping to life the machines next to the medbay bed when she spares a sharp glance for Supergirl. “He told me everything before he died. About you. Put her on the bed, please.”
Supergirl doesn’t move. “About me?”
“There’s a life on the line here, Kara. A little bit of urgency would be appropriate.”
So that’s that then. Kara tries to ignore the sudden wave of nausea but it’s overwhelming. She stumbles the last few steps to the bed. Linda is breathing, but just barely. Alex mouths something in Kara’s direction, but Kara shakes her head. No she’s not okay. No she doesn’t know what to say. No it doesn’t matter right now.
“What’s her name?” Lena asks. Alex starts to answer, but Lena looks pointedly at Kara.
“Linda Lee,” Kara says. “Lex named her.”
Lena cocks an eyebrow. “What a terrible fucking name,” she murmurs. “Alex, prep an IV for me please.”
“Lena,” Kara begins.
Lena holds up a hand. “Don’t.”
Linda wakes on a Thursday morning feeling like hell. The inside of her mouth tastes like the smell of blood and her bones feel like splinters and she’s so weak she shakes just from the effort of sitting up. But she wakes, which is honestly more than she was expecting.
And Kara is there, which feels so impossible that for a moment Linda wonders if she’s woken after all.
Linda doesn’t have to say anything; the change in her breathing alone was enough to alert Kara, and so Kara is already pouring a glass of water by the time Linda is upright to drink it. They sit there quietly, watching one another, while Linda takes sip after slow sip. Linda looks at her and tries to see the enemy. She wonders if Kara is looking at her and trying to see the same.
“Lex is dead,” Linda says. It’s not a question. If Kara is sitting next to her and they are both still free then Lex’s death is the inevitable conclusion.
“He is,” Kara agrees. And then, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m not sorry,” Linda says. She looks away. There are tears in Kara’s eyes, and that’s making tears threaten her eyes, and she’s not about to be weak in front of Kara fucking Danvers even after everything. “He was not a good man.”
“He was your family,” Kara replies.
Linda takes another sip of water to be sure that her voice will be steady when she answers, “He wanted me to think he was.”
Kara reaches out, hesitant, her eyes on Linda’s as she slowly, slowly takes her hand. When Linda doesn’t pull away, she squeezes. “You have a new family now.”
Linda doesn’t believe her.
It takes three more days, but Linda is finally able to sit up for long stretches and even walk the short distance to the bathroom without help. Her powers are coming back incrementally and she waits warily for Alex or Kara to tell her what it is they want from her. What if they ask her to retaliate against Kaznia? None of what Lex did was Kaznia’s fault. But they don’t ask her to do anything, and they don’t ask her to leave, and the longer they simply allow her to recover the more anxious she becomes.
Alex and Kara arrive together one evening and Linda is sure this is it. She can walk all the way down the hall and back now, and her super hearing is returning, and it’s about time to tell her to what purpose the United States will be putting her so that she can focus her efforts as she retrains. Alex and Kara are looking at one another conspiratorially and Kara is hiding something behind her back. Linda sits up and resigns herself to her fate.
“You can say no,” Alex begins.
Oh Rao, here it is.
“Oh but why would you want to,” Kara says. She dumps a pile of bright plastics onto Linda’s bed, like books but slender and light, no pages, a puzzle. “Since you can’t leave the DEO yet we thought we’d bring our weekly Danvers Movie Night to you. So go ahead, pick one!”
Linda doesn’t know what a movie is, but Kara looks over the moon and Alex looks… indulgent. Linda plucks a plastic book out of the pile at random and offers it to Kara, who does a fist pump.
“Yes! I love Brave! Scoot over; we gotta order pizza.”
Linda doesn’t know what pizza is either, but Kara is worming her way into bed next to her, and Alex is pulling up a chair, and suddenly Linda is in the middle of a war:
“Pineapple does NOT go on pizza I am NOT having it.” Alex makes a grab for Kara’s phone. “It’s an abomination!”
“You have to let Linda decide that for herself, she- give me that back! We can get two pizzas, gosh!”
“What is pineapple?” Linda asks.
Both Danvers stare at her for a moment.
“Okay,” Alex agrees, “We can get two pizzas.”
Lena is still the most beautiful woman Linda has ever seen, which is difficult because Lena, like everything else, is Kara’s. It chafes. Linda doesn’t want to talk to her at first, mumbles in answer to all of her questions, won’t make eye contact, hates the way her heartrate picks up every time Lena touches her, hates the fact that Kara, leaning against the wall on the other side of the room can hear it. Lena never looks at Kara, and Kara never looks away, and Linda feels trapped in the middle of it.
The first time Lena comes to visit without Kara or Alex on her heels, Linda thinks of it as a trap. Lena is, after all, a Luthor. Maybe she’s the one who will want to put Linda’s powers to good use.
Lena doesn’t touch her this time, doesn’t ask medical questions or examine any of Linda’s charts. She pulls up a chair and starts digging around in her bag.
“The unfortunate thing about being a Super,” she says, “Is that there aren’t a lot of people you can talk to about what you’ve been through.” She smiles a tight smile. “Part of keeping so many secrets, right? Not unlike being a Luthor.”
“Okay,” Linda says. She fiddles with her own fingers, hands clasped in her lap.
Lena pulls a book from her bag and holds it gingerly, tracing the spine, not quite looking at Linda. “Lex gave me my first journal when I was a child, and, well. Every Luthor keeps one. I thought- I know you’re not really- Kara said he was family to you, and that makes you family to me, so I thought I would continue the tradition.” She holds the book out. “For you. For when you don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to.”
Linda turns the book over in her hands, admires the soft leather cover, the thick pages. She says nothing; there are tears lodged in her throat and she doesn’t want to let them out. Lena fidgets for a moment, and then she stands up.
“Well, I’m needed in the lab, so. I’ll leave you to your rest.”
She’s almost out the door when Linda says, “Thank you.”
Lena freezes, her hand still on the doorframe, but she doesn’t look back.
When Linda is strong enough to work in the gym, they introduce her to her new sparring partner. Nia is… odd. Goofy. Charming. Until she wants to throw down, and then not so much. She’s more than a match for Linda with her powers still recovering, and it’s nice to fight with someone who can keep up just for the ache and the joy if it. Linda tries not to think about the day she murdered Kara for Lex, but the first time she puts Nia on her back it all comes rushing in and she cries.
Nia sits with her and doesn’t press her to talk about it, and Linda finds that she doesn’t so much mind that Nia saw her in a moment of discomposure. When Alex tries to check up on them, Nia uses her body to block her view and sends her away with stern words.
“Have you tried ice cream yet?” she asks when Linda finally pulls herself back together.
“I don’t know what that is,” Linda admits.
“Oh man, I am about to absolutely blow your mind.”
The first time Linda leaves the DEO it’s with Nia and Kara.
“You can’t wear DEO sweats forever,” Nia says, one arm comfortably around Linda’s waist. “And you’ll feel better when you feel more like yourself.”
Linda doesn’t know what it really means to feel like herself. Kara drags her through the aisles and it’s all overwhelming and bright and impractical. None of the pants have pockets. All of the shirts are too tight in the shoulders. Until at last Nia puts a hand on Kara’s shoulder.
“I think I know what we need,” she says. She leads them to the men’s athletic section, and Linda discovers muscle tanks. This she can work with. She leaves with a bag full of athletic clothing and two pairs of jeans with real pockets and two button down shirts which make Kara smile.
“I have some old things you might like,” she says. “I can bring them by some time?”
“You don’t have to do that,” Linda says. She already owes so much to these people, and to Kara especially. She’s already afraid of what it will take to pay it all back.
Nia smacks Linda playfully on the shoulder. “You have to let people be nice to you sometimes,” she chastises.
Linda doesn’t know what that really means either.
The days pass, and Linda gets stronger, and still no one tells her what it is they want from her. It’s a needle under her skin, a constant prickling anxiety that ticks up every time someone comes into the room until the day the world upends itself. She’s sitting in the sun bed writing in her journal when Alex brings a new visitor into the medbay, and Lena is beautiful, but the woman standing in the doorway is a vision, a goddess, a… Linda is running out of descriptors. In fact, she’s not sure she remembers any words in any language whatsoever. The woman ushers a teenager into the room and then stands aside to let Alex pass. She looks at Linda with a curious expression.
Linda knows perfectly well that Kara is on the bridge, that this woman would have to have walked past her to get to the medbay.
Alex straightens up. “Oh! Right. Sam, this is Linda, Kara’s other sister. Linda, this is Sam Arias. She’s… a friend.”
Linda is too busy tasting the name Sam Arias in her mouth to stumble over the word sister.
“And I’m Ruby,” the teenager says, throwing herself down on a vacant bed and sticking out her arm. “Can we get this over with?”
Alex rummages in a drawer for the large bore needles Linda has come to learn the DEO keeps on hand for drawing Krpytonian blood. She sits up a little straighter, her interest suddenly piqued. Sam takes the vacant bed beside Linda’s and rolls up her own sleeve.
“You might as well get a sample from me too,” she says.
Alex pauses, needle still in her hand. “Lena said she already tested you.”
“Yes, well.” Sam glances at Linda, smiles a little, glances away. “I asked her to say that.”
Alex sighs but she doesn’t comment. She busies herself with Ruby, laughing with her, easing her through the process. Linda notes with approval that Ruby doesn’t flinch when the needle goes in. Sam doesn’t fidget while she waits, but she keeps stealing glances at Linda and looking away when Linda catches her.
“Who are you?” Linda asks at last.
Sam shifts uneasily in her bed. Alex moves over to her with a fresh needle, pulling on a fresh pair of gloves.
“It’s a long story,” she says.
“Mom was the vessel of an old Kryptonian god of destruction,” Ruby supplies.
“I’d like to hear more about that some time,” Linda says.
Alex gives her a slightly dirty look.
Sam comes back alone a few days later when Linda is training alone in the gym. She very nearly outmatches Nia now; she stays late after their sessions to work herself harder, seeking exhaustion, waiting to feel strong. Sam watches her for a while and then starts undoing the buttons on her shirt. Linda is pretty sure she’s going to die if she sees any more skin, and so she looks away, willing herself not to flush.
“Wanna fight?” Sam asks, stripped down to a sports bra. She reaches up to pull her hair back.
“I could hurt you,” Linda protests.
“I seriously doubt that.”
Sam wins their first fight. And their second. Maybe Linda lets her win the third because there is something aching and good about Sam pinning her to the ground, knees on either side of her hips, so close that Linda can taste her breath.
“Yield?” Sam asks. Her eyes are on Linda’s mouth.
Linda licks her lips without thinking about it. “Okay,” she says.
The story about Reign comes out in bits and pieces between bouts. About the people she killed, how she nearly killed Kara, how she tried to kill Lena. How she packed it all away as soon as Reign was dead and pretended it never happened.
“You had a responsibility,” Linda admonishes her. “You could have been there to help make things right.”
Sam bows her head. “I know. But I’m here now.”
They sit together on the floor, backs against the wall, sweaty and tired. Linda looks at her out of the corner of her eye, those soft brown eyes, slender hands, hard expression.
“So you and Alex,” Linda comments, suddenly intensely interested in the wall on the other side of the gym.
Sam laughs. “Once, maybe, but that ship has sailed. She’s with Kelly now, and I…” Sam looks at Linda, and then looks away fast. Too fast. “I have my eye on someone else.”
Ruby’s results come back and confirm what everyone already knows: she’s half Kryptonian. The Arias women announce that they’ll be moving to National City so that Ruby can be closer to the DEO for training and guidance. Alex announces that Linda is ready to move out of the medbay.
Lena immediately offers her a home. “I have more room than I need and it’s like I said: we’re family. I’m not going to leave you to figure the world out alone.”
Kara glowers at her. “She’s not alone.”
“I know, darling,” Lena says.
Kara flushes at the pet name and stammers. Linda and Alex share an exasperated look from across the room.
“What do you want me to do?” Linda asks. “I have my strength back. I’m ready.”
This time it’s Kara and Lena who exchange a look. “Ready for what?” Kara asks.
“Whatever it is you wanted me for,” Linda says. She holds out her hands, helpless. “You didn’t put me back together for nothing.”
Lena squeezes her shoulder. “We put you back together so that you could live. What you choose to do with that is really up to you. But we have time; you don’t have to figure it all out now.”
Linda stares at them each in turn. Kara looks angry. Alex looks confused. The tears threaten to catch in her throat again. “I am a weapon,” she says, reciting words from what feels like another life. “A weapon is a tool. A tool must have-”
“Lex is gone,” Lena interrupts. Kara is clenching her jaw, tears threatening to spill over, hands trembling. Weeks ago Linda would have thought her weak. Now, she is not so sure. “You have incredible power, but that doesn’t make you a weapon. Like Sam and Kara, you get to decide what to do with your gifts; if you don’t want to fight, you don’t have to.”
Linda thinks of Sam sitting against the gym wall, eyes closed, voice full of regret. I’m here now.
“I want to,” Linda says. Her voice breaks. She clears her throat. “I want to help.”
Linda’s belongings all fit into the backpack slung over her shoulder when Kara and Alex come to pick her up from the DEO.
“Get in, loser,” Alex says.
Linda breathes a laugh; Mean Girls is the last movie they watched together.
It seems ridiculous to get in the car when she can just fly to Lena’s, but Alex and Kara have been adamant and conspiratorial about this, so she complies. It is generally not worth fighting Kara on something once she starts to pout about it, and it’s generally not worth fighting Alex on anything at all. When they agree on something, well, you might as well give up all together.
So she sits in the back seat and she doesn’t comment when they leave National City behind. She watches the countryside flash by and she listens to Alex and Kara sing along loudly - and, in Alex’s case, badly - to the radio. Kara punctuates almost every song with a story, and the two of them fight over who gets to choose the playlist when the radio signal gives out and Kara plugs her phone into the stereo.
They stop for gas and Kara buys Linda a sausage wrapped in bread and smothered in beans and cheese, which she refers to as “the king of all road trip meals” and which looks to Linda like vomit just waiting to happen. It turns out to be delicious; they make Alex buy them all a second round.
And then before Linda knows it the sun is sinking into that long golden hour and they are passing out of thick forests into a valley to the tunes of Death Cab for Cutie and Kara grins at her in the rearview mirror and says they’ve almost arrived. They pass a sign that reads Welcome to Midvale and Linda realizes with a jolt of fear where they’re going.
Alex turns around in the passenger’s seat to pat Linda’s leg. “Hey,” she says. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
But Linda is terrified when they pull up to the little house, the feeling of not belonging creeping her spine, her hands stuffed deep into her pockets, her heart racing. A woman comes out of the house before Kara has even locked the car. Linda can see something of Alex in her features.
“Hi mom,” Alex says as the older woman ushers her in for a hug. Warm light and the sound of tinny classical music drift out of the open kitchen window to where Linda fidgets in the driveway. Kara hugs Elize too, and then Alex is pushing Linda forward, and Linda thinks maybe she’s going to throw up those chili dogs after all.
Eliza smiles at her and holds out her arms. Linda glances at Kara, who nods encouragingly, and then steps gingerly into the embrace. It’s… not terrible. Kind of nice. Eliza lets go and pats her on the shoulder.
“C'mon,” Kara whispers. She tugs Linda by the forearm. “I’ll show you our room. Oh, and Streaky! You’re going to love him.”
“Dinner’s almost ready,” Eliza says, “So you girls just go and wash up now.”
Alex laughs when Linda sets the silverware out backwards, and Kara flicks kernels of corn at her with a grin when Eliza isn’t looking, and Linda feels warmer than she thinks she’s ever felt. When everyone is seated, and drinks are poured, and food is served, Eliza smiles at them across the table.
“It’s so nice to have my girls home for the weekend,” she says. She looks at Linda with a twinkle in her eye. “All three of them.”