the wrong side of a second
or, how 5x8 might have gone if Lena didn't succeed in turning off Mount Norquay's Kryptonite cannons on time
A tribute to Lena at her worst, if a few extra seconds had put her beyond forgiveness. It's an angsty one - cw for major character death, if that's something you'd rather avoid at all costs
(also on ao3, if that's more your speed)
The walls of the cell are white, clean, pristine. Three blank, empty, one of glass. There’s a bench, long enough to lie down on, too hard to be comfortable.
Lena stares at the white walls. They’re bright enough to make her eyes hurt, but she can’t look away from them. Can’t blink. If she blinks, she’ll see the moment again. Her eyes sting from the effort of holding them open for so long.
They separated her and Hope the moment they arrived at the DEO. Lena doesn’t really remember how they got back here. She doesn’t remember anything after the blast hit, after the sky lit up with green like the Northern Lights, after the screaming started. Her screaming. She was the one screaming. She’s not sure why she isn’t still lying crumpled on the floor on the bunker, like she should be.
There were strong arms grabbing her the second they appeared, guns pointed at them from all directions. Cuffs being pressed into her wrists. She’s not sure why they bothered. She wasn’t trying to escape. She’s here of her own volition.
She’s still wearing the clothes she was wearing at the bunker. The ponytail is so tight that her head aches, but she doesn’t bother trying to pull it out.
She wonders if she can just die, right here, right now, if she uses enough willpower.
She’s so cold that it might as well be her lying in the snow at the bottom of a mountain.
Footsteps approach her cell, loud and echoing through the hallway. She doesn’t look away from the wall when the person comes to a halt in front of her cell, but their shadow blocks out some of the brightest light.
“Last I heard, she was heading to Mount Norquay to stop you,” says Alex. “So, I’m going to ask now, calmly. Where is Supergirl?”
Lena sucks in a breath. Maybe this was why she came back. There was this to do.
This one last horrible thing. This living nightmare of a thing.
She opens her mouth, doesn’t remember any words. She closes it again. There’s bile at the back of her throat. Alex allows her a long, hearty pause before she speaks again.
“We’ve got your little… mind-controlled slave locked up. She refuses to tell us anything. So, I’m asking you. Where the fuck is my sister.”
My sister. It’s the first time she’s heard Alex use those words to refer to Supergirl. Lena closes her eyes, desperate to escape Alex’s voice. As soon as she does, the inside of her eyelids fill with green, and she watches the tiny figure in the center of a sea of neon arch, convulse, fall, down down down. She sucks in a sharp breath through her nose, wrenching her eyes open.
“Supergirl is dead,” she says, looking directly at Alex. “I killed her.”
Every muscle in Alex’s body goes perfectly still. “What?”
“The cannons at Mount Norquay. They were Kryptonite. I tried to turn them off. I wasn’t fast enough.”
Alex’s hands are starting to shake. “You’re lying,” she says.
Yes, Lena wants to say. I just wanted to hurt you, for a moment. It’s not real. “No,” she says instead. “I’m not.”
“Luthor. Tell me you’re fucking lying.” The shaking has moved up her arms.
I wish I could. “I’m not lying. What reason would I have to lie?”
“Kara is not fucking dead. You didn’t kill her, you hear me? She’s survived way worse than you. Do you know the kind of things she’s survived? You’re not powerful enough to kill Supergirl. You’re deluding yourself to think that you could be,” she spits out her words, venomous in the same insidious, green way as Kryptonite.
Lena can’t close her eyes. She can’t look away, back at the white walls. She can’t look down at her lap, like a child scolded. She can’t do anything but stare into Alex’s eyes and watch the rapid rise and fall of her shoulders, the twisting of her facial expressions. She doesn’t know what to say. There’s nothing to say. Words stick to the dry roof of her mouth.
Something in Alex’s face shifts more panicked with each moment of silence that ticks by. Lena swallows, digs her nails hard into her palms. Alex’s fist bangs into the glass in front of her, and it shudders. Lena flinches.
“What the fuck did you do?”
“They were Lex’s cannons,” says Lena, her voice unsteady, and each word takes a mountain’s worth of effort. “He didn’t design them to incapacitate. He designed them to kill. I could have disabled them, if I’d just had a few more seconds. It would have only taken a few more seconds.”
“A few more seconds,” Alex repeats blankly.
There have been so many instances in their lives when a few seconds made the difference between life and death. So many instances where they just managed to come out on the right side of those few seconds, just managed to keep everyone safe.
This time, they came out on the wrong side.
“Lena,” says Alex. “Tell me my little sister isn’t dead. Tell me you didn’t kill Kara.”
Lena looks down at her hands. The response that comes to the tip of her tongue is I didn’t mean to, but it’s too juvenile, too blameless. “I can’t.”
“Fucking hell,” says Alex, turning away, digging her hands into her hair. “God, fuck.” She whips back around to face Lena. “I thought you were on our side! I thought you were someone we could trust! Kara thought you were someone we could trust! Do you know how many times she’s stuck her neck out for you? Risked her identity? Risked everything?” She’s yelling, and it vibrates in Lena’s bones. She wants to flinch, wants to close her eyes and wait for it to be over like she has every time it’s been Lex or Lillian, but she can’t. She can’t, because this time it’s her fault. This time she deserves it.
Lex would be proud of her, she realizes. Lex would be delighted that his weapon worked so well.
How far she has fallen.
“She’s not dead,” says Alex. “You’re lying, and you’re despicable, and Kara is not dead.”
“She is, Alex,” says Lena, leaning forwards, and she’s shaking too, can’t get it out of her voice or her lungs. “She is, she is, Kara’s dead. I watched the cannons go off. I watched her fall. I saw her hit the ground. I saw it, I saw it all, and I wasn’t fast enough to stop it, I would have stopped it. All I needed was a few more seconds. Just a few.”
She feels the few seconds in her chest, a deep, hollow, aching squeezing. If she’d only been a little bit faster. If only she’d never pressed deploy. If only she’d never gone to Mount Norquay. If only she’d confronted Kara at the beginning. If only she’d known all along.
If only, if only.
“I don’t believe you,” says Alex, shaking her head.
“I wish I was lying. God, I wish I was lying.”
“She’s my sister. She’s my sister and you killed her, you killed her.”
“I know,” says Lena, and she’s starting to cry. “I know, I know.”
“Don’t fucking cry,” says Alex, slamming her fist into the glass beside Lena’s head again. “You’re not allowed to fucking cry, do you hear me? You lost that right! You lost that right when you blasted my little sister out of the goddamn sky! This is your fault, this is all your fault!”
“I know,” Lena sobs.
“Stop fucking saying that!” Alex yells. “Stop it, just stop it, just…” She turns abruptly on her heel and strides away, and Lena thinks that she’s finally going to leave and let her hate herself in peace, but Alex stops before she can round the corner. She’s still for several moments, her breathing loud and harsh, and then she turns again to face Lena.
“You want to know what the worst part is? She was in love with you. And I know she was fucking obtuse about it, but I also know that you weren’t. You knew that she was in love with you. You knew that you were in love with her. You knew, and you still…? How could you still…?”
“I wanted to hurt her,” Lena whispers. “I wanted to hurt her like she hurt me, and then I didn’t want anyone to hurt ever again.”
“You wanted to hurt her? So you killed her? So you left her rotting in the snow at the base of your little mountain fortress? Because I sure as hell don’t remember her doing any of that to you.”
The childish words slip out before she can stop them, barely audible. “I didn’t mean to.”
“You didn’t mean to? Does that fucking matter?She’s dead either way, isn’t she? Your intentions don’t mean shit, this isn’t something you can just apologize for and get fixed! It’s not one of your little basement experiments that we all stayed silent about because Kara insistedyour intentions were good. You can’t just say sorry and cry into her arms to fix this, Lena.”
And there’s nothing she can say, no defense to Alex’s words, so she just stares at her hands and shakes and sobs quietly, tears streaming hot and fast down her face and falling into her lap in a steady drip.
“Stop it,” screams Alex, anguished, composure gone. “Fucking stop it!”
“I can’t,” Lena chokes out. “I can’t, I can’t.”
She can tell by the fury that’s radiating off Alex that she wants to shake Lena, or slap her, or punch her into the ground, but that’s she’s holding herself back because she knows that it won’t be satisfying. Knows that Lena won’t fight back, that she’ll just take it quietly.
There’s nothing Lena could do or say right now to make any of this better. There’s no better to this situation.
“What kind of person does that? What kind of person kills the only other person in the world that they truly love? What kind of person could bear to let that happen?” says Alex, hollow.
“You think I can bear it?” says Lena. She runs her fingernails down her arms, sharp, repeats the motion, repeats again.
“I think you’re going to have to,” says Alex, and her voice takes on a sharp, ugly quality as she steps back towards the cell. “Because I sure as hell am not going to let you die. Oh, don’t give me that look,” she says, when Lena looks up, startled. “Believe me, I want to kill you. I don’t think there would be anything more satisfying in the world right now than taking you out myself and letting you rot. But that would be too merciful for you. You would just… get away without any of the consequences. No, Lena, I hope you live a long, miserable life, and that every second is consumed by thinking about what you’ve done. You’ve annihilated one of the only things that still gave people hope in this world. You were trying to prevent people from being able to feel hurt again? That’s all they’ll feel now, because of you. You didn’t just kill Supergirl, you just killed every single person that she would have saved for the rest of her life. That’s their blood on your hands, too. That’s their families that you destroyed.”
Lena thinks she might throw up. She doesn’t remember how to breathe properly. It sits ragged in her throat, choking her.
Alex isn’t done.
“God, and I hope every second of your life is consumed with the knowledge that you killed the only thing that could ever have made you genuinely happy. Because do you honestly believe that anyone else will ever be capable of loving you the way she was? With your family? With the shit that you’ve done? Kara was willing to look past that. She did every day. She would have forgiven you for this, had she survived. She would have fought for you back. And she can’t do that anymore. Because of you.”
Lena’s drowning. Every word that comes out of Alex’s mouth is like another needle in her skin, lining her flesh and her throat and her the inside of her organs and she can’t even tune them out or deny them because every word she says is true. Kara was the only person who believed she was good, unconditionally.
“It was wrong,” says Alex, dangerously quiet, back outside the cell now. “It was wrong of Kara not to tell you she was Supergirl earlier. I’ll be the first to admit that. But she was willing to put in the work to fix it. She would have done everything in her power to fix it, and you weren’t even willing to try. You self-destruct, Lena, and that’s one hundred percent on you.”
God, she’s so stupid. How was she ever this stupid? How did she get here? How did she let this happen? She might still be crying—her eyes are certainly still blurred, but her skin is too numb to feel the tears. She doesn’t even feel like her body belongs to her anymore.
“Don’t just sit there,” Alex says. “Say something. Just… fucking say something!”
“What do you want me to say?” Lena says, and it’s like her voice is coming from someone else. “That you’re right? You are. Of course you are, you’re right about all of it. This is my fault, all of this is my fault, and there’s nothing—nothing I can do.”
“I changed my mind,” says Alex. She slides down the wall beside Lena’s cell, digs her hands into her hair again, curling in on herself. “I don’t want to hear your voice.”
Lena closes her eyes. The moment the cannons went off starts to play again behind her eyelids on repeat. Flash of green, sickly green. Tiny figure, blonde hair, flopping like a ragdoll, dropping like a stone. She glowed, when the cannons hit her. Like every single one of her veins and arteries and capillaries lit up with Kryptonite, all at once. Like a broken glowstick. She glowed, suspended a thousand feet in the air, her arms splayed like she was taking it all in willingly. It plays again and again behind Lena’s eyes, and she doesn’t feel like she has the right to stop watching. It’s her prison to endure.
Alex voice breaks through, soft and awful and crackling. “It’s sick. It’s really sick, but I wish you were happy about it. I wish you were happy with yourself so I could hate you more. But you’re so… pathetic. You’re so fucking pathetic, how can you hate someone who’s so pathetic? Who am I supposed to hate when you’re like this? It’s not fair.”
“I’m sorry,” Lena says, and it’s not even the tiniest dent in the way she feels.
“I know. That’s the problem. I wish you weren’t. It would be easier if you weren’t.”
Lena stays silent. It’s despicable, but she doesn’t want Alex to leave. She doesn’t want to be alone. She wants… god, all she wants is for Kara to be here. She wants Kara’s arms around her, warm and comforting, steady and real. She wants to bury her face in the crook of Kara’s neck, breathe in her shampoo, cry herself to sleep on her shoulder. She wants Kara’s lips on the top of her forehead, brushing soft, whispering reassurances into her skin.
She wants, and she’ll never have, never again.
And it’s her fault.
It hits her suddenly, in a way it somehow hasn’t before, and the pain in her stomach is so intense that she has to wrap her arms tight around her middle to stop herself from falling apart, has to fold forward as she gasps out sobs, loud and harsh. She’s not sure it’ll ever stop. Behind her eyes, Kara falls, she keeps falling, she hasn’t stopped.
“I don’t how to do this if I can’t hate you,” Alex says, over Lena’s sobs, and Lena can hear in her voice that she’s crying too, even if her vision is too obscured to see it. “I can’t do this if I don’t have anger to lean on. I just want to hate you. I just want to hate you.”
Please hate me, Lena wants to say. She’s crying too hard to speak, it’s hurting the inside of her throat, like each sob is ripping something. Hate me all you want. You’ll never be able to hate me as much as I hate myself.
She doesn’t need to say it. Alex knows.
She must cross some line into hysteria, because she wakes up with the heavy feeling that she’s been under sedation for a long time. She’s in the same cell, lying on her back on the hard bed and staring up at the ceiling. Her chest is hollow; someone’s scooped out everything from inside her ribs.
It feels like the end of time.
“Are you awake?” asks Alex’s voice, scratchy. She’s sitting outside Lena’s cell, arms wrapped around her knees. It looks like she slept there.
“Yes,” says Lena. If this is what awake is.
Alex looks away. She drums an uneven pattern on floor with her fingertips. Her hair is sticking up at the back.
“Why are you still here?” croaks Lena. “It’s because of me that your sister is dead.”
“I know,” says Alex. “I wish I could kill you for it.”
“Why don’t you?”
Alex looks over, and she’s aged about forty years overnight. “You’re the only person who loved her as much as I did.”
Lena laughs, humourless, at the ceiling, because if that just isn’t the most fucked up thing she’s ever heard in her life. “Well, fuck me.”
At some point, Alex is going to have to get up and leave. She’ll be able to seek solace in her other friends, in the other people who love Kara. And Lena will be moved somewhere more permanent. She’ll let them take her. She won’t struggle. She hopes there’s no trial, but if there is, she’ll plead guilty.
For now, they both just stare at the ceiling, at exposed dirty grey pipes, as the DEO rumbles around them.
Somewhere far away, Kara lies in the snow, crumpled and green and more peaceful than they’ll ever be again.
27 notes · View notes