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Wrong Number an AgentCorp Story

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It’s a quiet night in National City.  The bad guys seem to have agreed to a ceasefire, and stillness lays over the land.  It’s not the kind that feels like quiet before the storm, either.  It’s just a cool, Autumn night with not much going on.  Kara has even headed off to a quick trip to Metropolis to see her cousin and because there’s some ‘actual crime’ there.  Alex, on the other hand, is home alone.  Her apartment seems bigger, more open, lonelier this evening.  Cleaning her place earlier tonight, Alex pulls out a piece of paper from behind a drawer in the kitchen.  It turns out to be a menu, a vegan menu, and her mind drifts back to Maggie.

Having lost count of her drinks a while ago, she pours them blindly and knocks them back.  Tears run down her cheeks as she thinks of Maggie’s beautiful face, with beautiful eyes, and beautiful dimples, and the terrible mistake Alex made in letting Maggie go.  It’s such a terrible mistake that she needs to say something, tell someone, tell Maggie.  The sadness is oppressive, so she grabs her phone and goes to her contacts … but Maggie’s name isn’t there.  She’s deleted it so she wouldn’t do some tragic and cliche like drunk text Maggie.

“Fuck you sober me.  You’re not the boss of me,” Alex slurs out as she stares at the keypad of her phone.  It’s only seven numbers, and she definitely knows them all.  She types them in, her tongue peeking out between her lips as she concentrates.  It’s a slow process, a deliberate process, but eventually, victory is hers, and she’s able to send off a text.

Alex: “I f’ed up.”

Alex: “I miss u every day.”

Alex: “Vegan pizza makes me think of u.”

Alex: “Tiramisu makes me think of u.”

Alex: “Everything makes me think of u.”

Alex: “Its like u r everything,”

Alex: “And I’m nothing without u.”

Alex: “I found myself with u.”

Alex: “Now I’m lost without u.”

Alex: “I don’t know me.”

Alex: “I don’t like me.”

Alex: “And no one will ever love me again.”

Alex: “No love could be as good as urs.”

Alex: “U loved so good babe so good.”

Alex: “U deserved better than me.”

Alex: “But I miss u anyway.”

Alex: “Okay I might be a little drunk.”

Alex: “I’m just gonna wait and see if u text me back.”

Alex: “I still love u.”

Alex: “I’m sorry I’m a mess.”

Alex leans back on her couch, clutching her phone to her chest.  She’s asleep quickly.  In the morning, she wakes with the vague wonder of what sort of creature crawled into her mouth and died.  As she sits up and the pain and nausea hits, she realizes she’s that creature.

There’s a thunk on the ground, and Alex searches around in the thankfully relatively dark living room.  Her hand finds her phone, and she pushes the button, winces away from the light, as she looks for the time.  She groans, finding it too early to be conscious or whatever this version of conscious is.  However, her bladder is insistent, so she stumbles to the bathroom.  There are a series of texts on her phone from an unknown number, and she opens it to see what that’s about.

The only kindness Alex gets this morning is that she’s already sitting on the toilet when she sees the series of texts she sent last night because she just about shits herself.  Though she has no memory of them, she also has no doubt she sent them and to whom.  Her heart pounds as she sees the texts back, initially thinking they’re from Maggie.  Clearly, they aren’t.  As she reads, she looks more closely at the number, realizing she reversed the last two digits in Maggie’s phone number and has drunk texted her love for Maggie to some stranger.  She wonders if it’s too early to start drinking again.  After all, it was such a brilliant idea last night.

Unknown caller: “I’m afraid that you have the wrong number.”

Unknown caller: “I’m definitely not the person you’ve been missing.”

Unknown caller: “Which is a pity for me because you seem quite sweet.”

Unknown caller: “I hope whoever they are, you two can speak and straighten this all out.”

Unknown caller: “Take it from me, being honest about your mistakes and willing to apologize are incredibly important skills.”

Unknown caller: “Best of luck.”

Unknown caller: “Oh, and you didn’t sound like a mess, just messy. We’re all messy sometimes.  Trust me on that too.”

Alex gets up from the toilet and considers throwing her phone down it and flushing.  It will keep her from trying to drunk text again, and it will save her from knowing what to do about this semi-conversation she’s just had about her love life.  Her first thought is that she wishes Kara was around.  Immediately thereafter, she’s grateful her sister isn’t here to see her make a fool out of herself.  She supposes the good news is that she didn’t drunk text Maggie, but she feels bad for drunk texting some random stranger.  She plans to delete the string and try and let the thoughts go, but then she notices the time the texts were sent.  It’s after midnight when she sent her texts and after three in the morning when she got her response.  Feeling more guilty than embarrassed — though it’s a near thing — she finally decides to send a text back.

Alex: “Hi.  I just wanted to apologize to u for that text string so late last night.”

Alex: “Ur number is really close to my exes number, and I had deleted it, so I was trying to remember it.”

Alex: “I guess I was too drunk to remember it.”

Alex: “It’s probably a good thing.  It was not my finest hour.”

Alex: “Anyway, I’ll let u go.  Have a nice life.”

She’s surprised when she gets a response a few minutes later.

Unknown caller: “Oh, it was no bother, truly.  If I can be the reason you didn’t text your ex, then I’m glad I can help.”

Unknown caller: “I’ve been staring at my phone through a mostly empty bottle and making poor life decisions messy in my day.  Who amongst us hasn’t?”

Unknown caller: “What I wouldn’t have given for a wrong number at times.”

Unknown caller: “Anyway, glad I could help.  Best of luck to you.”

Alex re-reads one of the texts. ‘I’ve been staring at my phone through a mostly empty bottle and making poor life decisions messy in my day.  Who amongst us hasn’t?’

“Supergirl.”  Alex startles slightly at the sound of her own voice, not having meant to speak out loud.  It’s true though.  Kara carries the weight of two worlds on her shoulders and can’t afford to be a sad, drunken mess.  Between being immune to most alcohol and being damn near perfect, Kara just doesn’t get it.  A random text kicked out to an anonymous stranger seems to find someone who does.

Alex: “Thanks for understanding not just that I texted but why.”

Alex: “It’s nice not to feel like a disappointment.”

Unknown caller: “It sounds like you’re talking about family.”

A smile tugs at the corner of Alex’s lips.

Alex: “Yeah, my sister.”

Unknown caller: “Ah, I have a mother.  Do you want to trade?”

Alex: “No, mine is actually pretty great.  That’s the problem.  She’s too great.”

Unknown caller: “Oh, now it sounds like we’re talking about my brother.  In my family, he can do no wrong even when he does.”

Alex: “I’m not sure my sister ever does do wrong.”

Unknown caller: “Well, that sounds boring.”

Alex: “Her life is definitely not boring.”

Unknown caller: “I’ll take your word for that.”

Not knowing what else to say, Alex sends another text.

Alex: “Again, I’m sorry to have bothered u.”

Unknown caller: “Really, it’s no problem.  I’m just impressed that you managed to spell tiramisu.  That can challenge a person even on their best day.”

Alex: “U can thank autocorrect for that.  I’m surprised I knew anything after the T.”

Unknown caller: “Well, your phone learns from your texting, so if you texted the word often, it would offer it up as an option.”

Alex mind goes to Maggie, and she winces.

Unknown caller: “And it was food your ex loved.  I’m so sorry.  I shouldn’t have said that.”

Alex: “It’s fine.”

It’s not.

Unknown caller: “That means it’s not.  I’m happy to help, but I worry I’m making things worse.”

Alex: “It’s okay.  I’m always a little sad now.”

Unknown Caller: “Ah, I’m familiar with that mood.  I call it life.”

Unknown caller: “Well, you know how to reach me if you think I can help.  Good day.”

Alex: “Bye.”

 

<><> 

 

It’s three days later, on Tuesday evening, when Alex and Kara get together for Sister’s Night.  It’s supposed to be all about movies, ice cream, and forgetting life’s worries, but damn optimistic Kara is busy actually being happy.  Apparently, she and Clark had a great time, and they talked a lot about plans for Clark and Lois’ upcoming wedding.  As Kara bubbles over about the upcoming nuptials, Alex’s mood grows darker with every word thinking about the wedding she’ll never have.  Finally, Alex excuses herself to the bathroom but really just to get some air from the oppression that’s the joy of others.  She slumps down along the door, the cold of the tile floor seeping through her sweatpants.  She opens her phone to check email, or watch a video, or anything that that doesn’t involve something old, new, borrowed, or that makes her want to reach for the whiskey again.  She sees the text from three days ago from the anonymous stranger, opens, it, and types before she can think.  It seems to be her strong point of late anyway.

Alex: “Hey u don’t need to answer but I wanted to vent.”

Alex: “My sister is here and going on and on about the weekend she spent with her cousin.”

Alex: “They had fun and she’s happy but it just makes me sadder.”

Alex: “Maybe I’m a shit person for feeling that way about my sister being happy but there it is.”

Alex: “Judge me if u want.”

Alex: “Sorry.  Ignore me.  I won’t bother u again.”

Eyes closed and head resting on the bathrobe that dangles off the back of the bathroom door, Alex is surprised when her phone buzzes a minute later.

Unknown Caller: “You’re not a bad person.  Your feelings are valid.”

Someone has been to therapy.

Unknown Caller: “Just to clarify, isn’t your sister’s cousin also your cousin?”

Alex is grateful to have an outlet and a distraction.

Alex: “No, my sister is adopted.”

Alex: “Her cousin is her only blood family.  He wasn’t in a place to take her in when she lost her parents.”

Alex: “I hated her at first and it was mutual but she’s the best.”

Unknown Caller: “Ah, understandable.  Are you just upset about people being happy or is this a sister thing?”

Alex: “It’s a wedding thing.  Her cousin is getting married and I had to hear all about it.”

Alex: “The last thing I need to hear is about someone elses happily ever after when I had to call off my wedding.”

Unknown Caller: “Oh, you were engaged.”

Alex pauses, trying to remember what she’d read about her drunk texts to this stranger.  What has she said about Maggie?

Alex: “Yeah.”

Alex: “We’d be married by now if I hadn’t called it off.”

Unknown Caller: “Was that the mistake you regret, calling off the wedding?”

Unknown Caller: “I assumed it was a different sort of relationship issue.”

Alex: “U mean cheating? Nah. I wanted kids.”

Alex: “Here’s my wisdom.  Find out if they do before u propose.”

Unknown Caller: “I’ll make note of that in the very unlikely circumstances that I should ever find someone like that.”

Alex frowns.  What are the chances of finding someone else as great as Maggie?  Fuck.  There’s a reason they call it once in a lifetime.

Alex: “Well I hope u do.  U seem nice.”

Unknown Caller: “I’m sure that you will.  Someone that loves as intensely as you will find happiness again.”

Unknown Caller: “How long has it been since the split?”

Alex: “Three months.  I guess I should be over it by now.”

Unknown caller: “It’s not yogurt.  There’s no expiration date on grieving.”

Alex is staring at the odd comfort in those words when Kara knocks on the door.  “Hey, did you fall in?”

Alex gets to her feet as quietly as she can and crosses the room.  She flushes, then turns on the water.  “Wait your turn!”

The response is, “Want to watch Parks and Recs?”

“Sounds great.”  Nothing does anymore, but maybe Leslie Knope will help for a little bit.

 

<><> 

 

Unknown Caller: “Tell me what you know about disposing of dead bodies.”

Alex is standing in the DEO main room half-watching screens as agents go over activity reports. When that text comes in, she blinks several times before pulling her phone a bit closer and looking around the room.  No one seems to be paying her any mind.  She scurries to a wall, further away from the other bodies.

Alex: “Did u mean to send this to me?”

Unknown Caller: “No.  I meant to send it to my hitman.”

Unknown Caller: “Please disregard.”

Alex is halfway into a full panic when another text comes through.

Unknown Caller: “Yes, I meant to send it to you.  Sorry, but I’m bored.”

Unknown Caller: “I’m sitting in a meeting, and I’m bored out of my skull.  I was trying to figure out how to escape, and it occurred to me I’d have to kill all of them to do it.”

Unknown Caller: “The biggest problem I can see is disposing of the bodies, so I decided to ‘phone a friend’ for the answer.”

Unknown Caller: “Ignore me.  Maybe I’ll get lucky, and we’ll have an assassination attempt.”

Alex chuckles now that ‘anonymous murdering person’ has turned into ‘anonymous bored at work person’.  She knows that mood well.  Life in the DEO is like flying a plane: long moments of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.

Alex: “That sounds awful.  Is this a particularly bad meeting?”

Unknown Caller: “It feels it, but it’s probably just my mood.”

Unknown Caller: “I believe that the man on my left has a water issue at home because he smells like he showered in cologne.”

Unknown Caller: “The man across from me needs to buy a damn thesaurus based on all of the times he’s used the word ‘very’ in his talking points.”

Unknown Caller: “And I think the man sitting to my right is literally a white noise machine.  If I could get rid of everyone else, his droning would give me the most restful night’s sleep.”

Alex laughs, looking up to find two agents glancing at her before looking away.

Alex: “So maybe u let the white noise generator live?  It sounds like u could use the sleep.”

Unknown Caller: “Very well.  You’ve just negotiated for his life.  I accept the terms of your parley.”

It’s a geeky thing to say, and Alex smiles as the knot in the pit of her stomach relaxes just the tiniest bit.

Alex: “Hey I’m on ur side not their side.  I’m just trying to keep u out of jail.”

Unknown Caller: “That’s why I asked you about body disposal in the first place.  I knew you’d have my back.”

Alex stands smiling at her phone.  This conversation has nothing to do with work, and more importantly, nothing to do with the sad mess she is right now.  It’s ridiculous, unnecessary, and exactly what she needs.  Standing in what is literally central control should there be another alien invasion, she relaxes slightly more.

After a minute of grinning at her phone, Alex sends back a text.

Alex: “Pigs.”

There is no response at first, and Alex thinks her unknown ally might have gone back to their meeting, but then she gets a text.

Unknown Caller: “Excuse me?”

Alex: “Pigs will eat every part of the human body, even the bones.”

Alex: “I’m not suggesting anything illegal like homicide and disposing of bodies.  I’m just saying.”

There’s no response for several minutes, and then Alex gets a text back.

Unknown Caller: “After some quick googling, I found a 320-acre pig farm for sale in California.  Excuse me while I add this to my cart and checkout.  I hope you like bacon.”

Alex laughs again.  It’s quick, and it sneaks out against her every effort, but there it is.  The feeling is unfamiliar, and it almost feels like a betrayal.  There is this underlying question that if she can feel happy again, does that mean she never really loved Maggie?

“Hey, giggles, what’s so funny?” her sister asks as Kara comes alongside her in the Supergirl uniform, a doughnut in her hand.

“Oh, I just …” Alex sort of holds her phone up to Kara but then lowers it again, not sure how to explain what she’s doing.  Instead, she points to the doughnut.  “We should put a picture of a doughnut on your uniform instead of your Supergirl insignia.  That’s who you really are.”

“No, Alex, you know this is my family crest and …”  Something odd comes across Kara’s face, and she takes a big bite of the doughnut.  Her cheeks fill up like a chipmunk’s, and she chews with purpose.  “Do you think people would give me doughnuts if I did that?”

Again, that unfamiliar laugh noise sneaks out of Alex’s mouth, and she walks past Kara, clapping her sister on the shoulder and saying, “Only you, Kara, only you.”

Seconds later, Kara is trailing behind Alex.  “Yeah, but do you think they would?”

 

<><> 

 

Alex: “So my sister asked me about us.”

Even as she hits send, Alex flinches a bit at the word ‘us’.  There is an implication there or at least easy access to an inference.  The possible reactions concern her, so she hurriedly adds a second text.

Alex: “U know she just wanted to know who I’ve been texting.  That’s all.”

When the answer comes, it’s benign or at least leaving plenty of room for a conversation.

Unknown Caller: “What did you tell her?”

Alex: “That I’m just texting with someone.  She pried a bit, and I had to admit u were a wrong number.”

Unknown Caller: “Ah, the infamous perfect sister knows I exist.  Did she give you a hard time about talking to strangers?  Did she warn you against taking candy from me?”

A grin curls up the side of Alex’s face.

Alex: “Trust me she’d be first in line for the candy van.”

Alex: “That girl has a sweet tooth and never puts on a pound.”

Unknown Caller: “I hate her.  I’m saying that affectionately for your sake.”

Alex: “I understand.  I love and hate her too but mainly love.  She’s lovable.”

Unknown Caller: “I’m glad you have her in your life. You two sound good for each other.”

Alex can only nod and smile before another text comes in.

Unknown Caller: “How did she react to the news that you’re chatting with a stranger?  Did she give you a hard time?”

Alex: “Nah she said it was nice I had someone to talk to.  She says everyone is a stranger until they become ur friend.”

Unknown Caller: “Right she’s bloody Mary Poppins.  I’d almost forgotten she was perfect.”

Alex: “She asked some questions about how long we’ve been texting.  I finally admitted to her that I tried to text Maggie that night.”

Unknown Caller: “I’m sure she was understanding.”

Alex: “Not understanding but concerned.  My sister loves me but she doesn’t get this.”

Unknown Caller: “We should be glad for her that she doesn’t.  Some people get happiness.  Other people get life.”

Alex: “R u in a mood?  R u okay?”

Unknown Caller: “I’m fine.”

Alex: “Liar.  What’s going on?”

There’s a pause in their conversation then as if Alex just stepped over a line.  Their conversations have been surprisingly intimate given their own lack of intimacy, but calling someone on their bullshit is a new level.

Unknown Caller: “How do you know me better via text than people who know me in real life do?”

Alex: “U have a pretty good text tone.  U must be a good communicator.”

Alex: “If people don’t notice then either they’re idiots or they don’t want to.”

Instead of responding to that, the next text goes back to Alex’s earlier concern.

Unknown Caller: “I had a visit from my mother today.”

Alex: “R u okay?  I know u two don’t exactly get along.”

Unknown Caller: “We get along like an oxidizing acid and combustible material.”

“Ouch.”  Still, Alex smiles a bit at the scientific reference.  It isn’t your normal ‘oil and water’ comment.  There have been a few of these between them, casual things thrown out in conversation.  They never talk science, but Alex wonders if they could.

Alex: “Did u burst into flames, paper?”

Alex: “I’m assuming ur the combustible material.”

Unknown Caller: “My mother is definitely the acid.  The fire wasn’t literal, but I was burning by the time she left.”

Alex: “Want to talk about it?”

Unknown Caller: “No.  Sorry.  She rarely shows up, but when she does, she absolutely ruins my day.  I don’t need to share that.”

Alex: “My first texts to u were drunken confessions about my love for my ex.”

Alex: “U r welcome to vent back anytime.”

Alex: “I’ll listen.”

There’s a pause then.  It’s long enough that it’s clear the other person either got sidetracked or is working on what to say next.

Unknown Caller: “Thank you for that offer.  I won’t take you up on it right now, but it feels good to know I have an option should I want one.”

Unknown Caller: “Right now I’d rather just be distracted from my family not reminded of them.”

Alex furrows her brow as she tries to think of a distraction.

Alex: “My sister asked me some things about u.”

Alex: “She asked me a question that I couldn’t answer, one about us.”

Again she uses the word us, and Alex flinches a bit after sending it.

Unknown Caller: “Go on.”

Alex: “It’s not a big deal.  She was just surprised when I told her we didn’t know each other’s names.”

Alex: “How do u have me listed in ur phone?”

Unknown caller: “Well, I was going to put you down as Drunk Texter, but I found that to be tacky even if it were appropriate.”

Alex chuckles.

Alex: “Gee, thanks.

Unknown caller: “Don’t thank me.  I just didn’t want anyone to see I had a contact for Drunk Texter.”

Unknown caller: “It sounds like the worst stripper name ever.”

This time Alex’s laugh is full and unbridled.

Alex: “I can promise u I’m not a stripper.”

Unknown caller: “I don’t know if I’m glad or disappointed.  I have always wanted to know how they go around the pole like that.”

Alex: “Actually, the pole spins and they just hold on.”

There’s a pause in the conversation.

Unknown caller: “I had to look that up.  You’re right.”

Unknown caller: “You know, that’s the adult equivalent of finding out that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.”

For the third time, Alex is laughing.

Alex: “Okay, comedian, how do u have me listed in ur phone?”

Unknown caller: “No teasing.”

Alex: “Cross my heart.”

Unknown caller: “I have you listed as Hopeless Romantic.”

Alex smiles pulling the phone in a little bit closer.  She, Badass Special Agent Alex Danvers, is a hopeless romantic.  It’s true, and she knows it, but people who have known her for years don’t see it.  They see her as someone who knows six ways to kill you with just one finger, and somehow that’s off-putting.

Unknown caller: “How about me?  How am I listed in your phone?”

Alex pauses then because she hasn’t ever put in a contact name.  She doesn’t want to say that.  It’s true, but she doesn’t want to say that.  Instead, she takes a moment, considers who this person is to her, updates her contact list, and then replies.

Alex: “It’s nothing as cool as urs.  I just have u listed as Friend.”

There is no immediate response, and from the kitchen, Kara says, “Okay, food is ready.  Come get a bowl of pasta.”

Alex joins her in the kitchen, filling a bowl.  “Looks good, Kar.”

“The meatballs are store bought, but I had some samples, and they’re good.  Oh.”  She turns off the oven, pulling out the garlic bread and cutting one of the halves up.  “Okay, you can have two slices of bread, but the rest of it is mine.”

“You’re so generous,” Alex says with a grin.

As they settle down in front of the TV to watch Netflix, Kara gently nudges her sister with her foot.  “Hey, it’s nice to see you smiling again.”

“Thanks,” Alex says as her smile grows, “it feels good.”

Later, during the movie, Alex checks and sees that she’s gotten another text.

Friend: “I’m very honored to be your friend, but you can call me Lena.”

She smiles again and texts back.

Alex: “I’m Alex.”

 

<><> 

 

Lena: “If you’re not a stripper, what do you do for a living?”

Alex: “U thought I might be a stripper?”

Lena: “Actually, I hadn’t given it much thought before, but then you brought it up.”

Alex: “I brought up being a stripper?”

Lena: “Drunken Texter, remember?”

Alex: “I think technically u brought up strippers.”

Lena: “Yes, but you’re the one who clarified that you aren’t one. So, what do you do?”

Alex takes a moment to consider her answer.  The truth is right out, and the usual lie seems, well, dishonest.  There’s something about this anonymous friendship she and Lena have created that makes her not want to sully it with a lie.  She decides to go for vague.”

Alex: “I’m in security.”

Alex: “How about u?”

Lena: “Business.  It’s rather boring, I’m afraid.”

Alex: “It sounds like a bunch of old guys in suits that make u want to commit homicide.”

Lena: “You have just described my day.  The men are largely white and largely misogynists.”

Alex: “U sound underpaid.”

Lena: “Well, I don’t know about that, but I definitely work hard and put up with a lot of BS for my money.”

Lena: “I think I earn it.”

Alex: “I bet ur really good at ur job.”

Lena: “You know what?  I am.”

Lena: “It wasn’t what I’d planned to do with my life, but when life gives you lemons, start a hostile takeover of Minute Maid, I always say.”

Grinning at her phone, Alex responds.

Alex: “That’s what everyone says, right?”

Alex: “Though I think u might be paraphrasing.”

Lena: “Never imitate when you can innovate, Alex.”

That makes Alex pause.  It’s the first time Lena has used her name, and it strikes a surprising chord.

Alex: “Is that ur company slogan?  It should be.”

Lena: “No, but we are going through a rebranding.  Perhaps I’ll throw that into the ring.”

Alex: “See if ur boss likes it?”

Lena: “See if a table of boring, old white men like it.  I’m not worried about the boss.”

Alex: “Is ur boss good?”

It takes a minute before Alex gets a response.

Lena: “I hope so.  She tries to do the right thing, but the world doesn’t make it easy.”

Lena: “I guess the question is if she’s really good or just trying to look good.  How do you know?”

Alex: “U know.  When people genuinely care u know.”

Alex: “If u think ur boss is good then they’re good.”

Alex: “Ur a good judge of character.”

Lena: “How do you know that?”

Alex: “U picked me up when I tossed myself into the gutter.”

Alex: “U didn’t just see some sad loser drunk texting their ex.”

Alex: “U see me.”

Alex: “I bet u see ur boss too.”

Lena: “God, I hope so.  The world needs more good in it.”

Alex: “I have faith in u.”

Again there’s a pause.

Lena: “Alex, do you think one person can really change the world?”

The sister of Supergirl doesn’t have to give that a second thought.

Alex: “Through inspiration and innovation, sure.”

Alex: “I think if u care enough and try enough u can do it.”

Alex: “It has to start with someone.”

Lena: “You’re a wise person, Alex.”

Lena: “Thank you for having faith in me.”

 

<><> 

 

Kara stands in Alex’s kitchen, leaning across the counter toward the living room, and munching on the contents of a box of granola bars she has open in front of her.  “What do you mean you don’t know what she looks like?”

“That’s not a difficult concept, Kara.”  It’s a Saturday, and Alex has to go into work, so she’s getting dressed.  “I don’t know what Lena looks like.”

“Don’t you snapchat each other pictures?”

“No, we text.”

“You can text someone a photo, Alex.”

“I know, but we don’t do that.”

Kara takes another bit, considering.  “What about her Instagram?  I bet she has pictures up there.”

“Maybe, but I don’t know it.”

Dropping an empty wrapper on the counter, Kara pulls a new bar out of the box and peels open the wrapper.  “Well,” she takes a bite and chews thoughtfully, “google her.  You can find out.”

“I can’t.  I don’t … I don’t know her last name.”

With that Kara stands upright, mock horror on her face.

“My sister, Alex ‘background check’ Danvers, doesn’t know the name of the woman she’s been pretty much internet dating for like a month?  How is that even possible?”

“Har-har.”  Alex pulls on a suit jacket.  “She seems to like her privacy.  I’m respecting that.  Anyway, we’re just friends.”

“The way you smile at your phone looks more than friendly to me.”  When Alex shoots her a dirty look, Kara says, “Hey, I just call them like I see them.  You like her.”

Alex wants to disagree.  Alex opens her mouth to disagree.  Instead, she deflates a bit, her posturing gone as she walks over to the other side of the counter and leans.  “Maybe.  She’s really smart and funny, Kara, and she’s been there for me for no reason.  Who does that?”

Reaching across the counter, Kara squeezes Alex’s forearm.  “She sounds kind though it’s easy to be nice to you.  You’re amazing.”

Walking away to grab her shoes, Alex says, “As my sister, you’re contractually obligated to say that.”

“True, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the truth.”  Finishing her granola bar, Kara throws away the wrappers and joins her sister in the living room.  “Alex, if you like her, do something about it.”

“Yeah, but what if she doesn’t like me?”

“I refuse to believe in that possibility.  Does she flirt with you?”

“In text?”  Alex takes a deep breath, puffing up her cheeks as she blows it out.  “I have no idea.  I don’t even know when someone is flirting with me in person.”

“Yeah, you do kind of suck at it, and that’s coming from me, an actual alien.”

“Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence.”  Alex examines herself in the mirror, combing her hair with her fingers.

“You look good.  Maybe you should take a picture and text it to Lena.”

Alex glares.  “No.  We’re friends.  I don’t want to mess this up.”

“You won’t mess it up.”

“If she doesn’t like me I could.”

“But think what could happen if she likes you too.”

Alex pauses, looks at her sister, but doesn’t respond.  She wishes Kara a good day, hugs her goodbye, and heads into work.  That last sentence from Kara haunts Alex all day.  What would happen if Lena likes her back?  The area code is local so they could date.  Lena is all the things Alex said about her to Kara and more.  Alex has been working hard to protect her heart, but just thinking about this, she realizes that Lena has already begun to work her way in there.  The most surprising realization is that Alex doesn’t mind.

 

<><> 

 

Alex: “Did u read about the science expo this weekend?”

Lena: “I did.”

Alex: “R u going?”

Lena: “I might.  Work is terribly busy right now, but there are a few exhibitions that have my attention.”

Alex: “Ur work is always busy.  U can’t use that excuse.”

Lena: “That’s fair.  I could work all day every weekend and still never get ahead.”

Alex: “What exhibitions do u like?”

Lena: “There’s one on building solar roads that has my interest.”

Lena: “That would literally pave the way for a better world.”

Lena: “The upcoming Tesla release will be there.”

Lena: “There’s a large scale solar-powered 3D printer I wouldn’t mind seeing.”

Lena: “I’d like to know more about vertical farming.”

Alex: “I’m seeing a trend and it’s green.”

Lena: “I wish the whole world would see this trend.”

Lena: “What about you?  Which exhibitions excite you?”

Alex: “There’s a robotics in surgery piece that looks really interesting.”

Alex: “I’m really curious to see the point-of-care sequencing device in use.”

Lena: “Reading tissue results in real time without sending things out to the lab.  That could be life-altering in some third world countries.”

Alex: “True.  It could be life-altering close to home too.”

Lena: “What about the implanted nanosensor?”

Alex: “For ongoing internal diagnosis?  Yes please.”

Alex: “The early detection that one offers could save lives.”

Lena: “Agreed.”

Alex bites her lip, takes a breath, and sends another text.

Alex: “So if ur going maybe I’ll see u there?”

Lena: “Perhaps.”

Alex: “I could wear a red carnation so u could find me.”

Lena: “You could just text me if you end up going.”

Lena: “I may have to work, but it would be nice to speak with someone about the expo if we’re both there.”

Alex: “I hope u don’t have to work.”

Lena: “I hope so too.”

As fate would have it, there’s a major attack on the outskirts of town, and it’s Alex who gets called into work.  It’s nearly midnight before, exhausted, she drags herself home.  The worst part is that Lena did text her, and Alex had to say she’d show up if her work emergency got resolved in time.  On Sunday, Lena is on a plane out of the country, and Alex is sitting at home stewing when her sister shows up.

“You look upset.  I thought the job went well yesterday.  What’s wrong with your mood?”

“What’s wrong with your face?” Alex immediately shoots back before pulling back her misdirected upset.  “Sorry about that.  I couldn’t go to the science expo yesterday.”

“So go today.  I’ll go with you.  Science expos here remind me of science fairs at school back home.  They’re quaint.”

“Nah, I don’t want to go with you,” Alex says, punching the pillow in her lap and returning to staring, mindlessly, at the television.

“Gee, thanks, grumpy.  Where are the rest of the dwarves?”

Alex sighs, turning to look over the back of the couch again.  “I’m sorry, Kara.  It’s just … Lena went to the expo yesterday.  She texted me.  We were going to try and meet up, but I got stuck at work.  She’s on a plane to Tokyo today.”

“Oooooh.  You two had a date?”

“Not a date.  We were just going to see each other and talk science.  I think it would have been fun, but I blew it.”

“You didn’t blow it, Alex.”  Kara sits next to her sister and coaxes the pillow away from Alex.  “You missed one opportunity to meet her, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be more.”

“Yeah, but this one was meeting her with science.  I think I could have made a really good impression.”

Kara reaches over and squeezes Alex’s forearm.  “Alex, just being yourself will make a really good impression.  When does Lena come back?”

“Next week.  I guess she travels fairly often for work.”

Kara nods.  “So, next week, when Lena comes back, you ask her out.”

Alex is shaking her head as she speaks.  “Kara, I can’t—”

“Do you want to go out with her?”

“I … Well, yeah.  I’d like to get to know her better, get to know her in person.  We really connect, you know?”

“I do, and you deserve that connection.  From everything you’ve said, she seems really smart.  You should go for it.”

“She’s brilliant.”  Alex smiles.  “She has two doctorates.”

“Huh.  How old is she?”

“I … I don’t know exactly, but I’m sure she’s older than me.”

A crease forms between Kara’s brows.  “Like thirty-five or sixty-five?”

“Does it matter?”

“Not as far as who she is, but humans are frail.  You live such a short time.  Depending on how old she is …”  Kara shrugs.

“Yeah, you’re right, Kara, you’re right.”  Alex nods, patting her sister on the shoulder.  “Life is short.  I’m gonna ask Lena out.”

“For real?”

“Yup, as soon as she’s back in town, I’ll ask her.  Thanks.”

Kara makes her way to the kitchen, looking in the freezer.  “Hey, no problem.  It’s going to be great.  I bet you two will really hit it off in person.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re right.  Thanks for the support.”

“For the best sister in the universe?  Anything,”

 

<><> 

 

More than a week and several conversations via text later, Alex phone buzzes, letting her know she has a text.  She smiles as she sees who it’s from.

Lena: “I’m home and incredibly jetlagged.  What day is it?”

Alex: “It’s Tuesday.  Long flight?”

Lena: “I’m not sure how to answer that.  It was Wednesday when I left, so no but yes.”

Alex: “Weird.  Ur like a time traveler.”

Lena: “I wish.  I could use more hours in the day.”

“I know what that’s like.”

Alex: “So, did u eat on the plane?”

Lena: “A bit.  I worked and slept, mainly.”

Alex takes a deep breath, running her fingers along the hair on the side of her head and exhaling slowly.  “Okay, Danvers, you can do this.”

Alex: “It sounds like u should eat dinner.”

Lena: “It’s on the list.”

Alex: “Coincidentally I should eat dinner.  Maybe we should eat dinner together.”

Lena: “You want to have dinner together?”

Alex: “I’m hungry. It sounds like ur hungry.”

Alex: “To be honest I was disappointed we didn’t get to meet at the expo. I was hoping to rectify that.”

Alex: “Maybe u could tell me about ur trip in person.”

There’s a long pause before the bubbles signaling Lena’s text appears, and Alex sweats every moment.

Lena: “Why not. We both have to eat, and it would be nice to put a face to a name.”

“Yes,” Alex says quietly, her hand in a fist as she pulls it into her body.

Alex: “Awesome.  It’s a date then.”

This time, the pause is even longer, and when the bubbles do appear, they disappear three times.  Alex is frowning at her phone even before the text from Lena actually arrives.

Lena: “I really like you, but as a friend.  It’s nothing personal, but you’re just not my type.”

“What the fuck does that mean?”  Alex takes a cleansing breath before texting back.

Alex: “Okay no pressure but I’m kind of confused. I thought we were really hitting it off. We have tons in common.”

Lena: “We do, Alex.  I think you’re wonderful, very bright, charming, and funny. I truly enjoy your company.”

Alex: “But u don’t want to date me. I get it. No problem.”

Lena: “Alex, It’s not you. It’s me.”

Lena: “That came out wrong.”

Lena: “It’s my sexual orientation. I’m just not into … you know.”

“Shit,” Alex mutters under her breath.

Alex: “R u sure?”

Alex: “Sorry. I’m not trying to pressure u.”

Lena: “I’m certain.”

Lena: “I took the time to sort myself out in college.”

Lena: “I know who I am.”

Alex: “Wow. Sounds like I missed out on college Lena.”

Alex: “That was supposed to be a joke.”

Lena: “I got it.”

Lena: “I’m just very clear on who I am.”

Alex: “Good for u. I guess I just misread things. It’s cool.”

Lena: “I don’t want this to hurt our friendship.”

Lena: “I really like you, and I would love to get to know you better as a friend.”

“Right.  A friend.”

Alex: “I get it Lena. I’m not upset just a little disappointed.”

Alex: “Thank u for being upfront with me.”

Alex: “I don’t want this to hurt r friendship either.”

Lena: “Thank you. Do you still want to have dinner tonight?”

“I may never eat again.”

Alex: “Maybe I could get a raincheck?”

Alex: “Ur probably tired and tonight might be a little awkward.”

Lena: “Yes, I am tired still. My body was just adjusting to Tokyo time, and now I’m back in California.”

Lena: “I’m holding you to that rain check, though.”

Alex: “Definitely.”

Alex: “Have a good night and get some sleep.”

Lena: “You too.”

 

<><> 

 

Alex is sitting at home on the couch, a pint of ice cream in hand, when Supergirl knocks on her window.  She waves for her sister to enter, and a slightly concerned looking Kryptonian opens the window and climbs in.

“Hey, you’re here.”

Alex glances at her sister before returning her attention to the television.  “I live here.  Where else would I be?”

“Well, I was kind of hoping you’d be on a date.  Vasquez said you left a bit early, but I was flying by and I saw you in here, so …  Did you talk to Lena?”

Alex studies her spoon before licking some ice cream off of it.  “You mean, did I ask Lena out?”

“Yeah.  You didn’t chicken out, did you?”

“I wish,” Alex replies with a sigh.  “I asked, and she turned me down.”

“What?  Why?”  Kara takes a seat near her sister on the couch.  “It sounded like you two were really hitting it off.”

“Sure, we’re great friends.  That’s all she’s interested in.”

Frowning, Kara considers her sister’s words.  “Is she seeing someone?”

“No clue.”  Alex stabs the spoon into the ice cream and put the container down on the coffee table.  “She’s straight.”

“Oh.”  Kara nods.  “Is she sure?  I mean, you thought you were straight for most of your life.”

“She’s sure.  I guess she was a BUG in college.”

“Like, an insect?”  Kara grabs the ice cream from the table and scoops a spoonful.  “Okay, maybe I missed something important about the human life cycle.  Hold on, is she not human?”

“BUG means bi until graduation.  She experimented and discovered she likes guys ... just guys.”

“Well … I mean …”

“Kara, it’s cool.  I’m disappointed, but I’ll be fine.  I guess I just felt like there was some chemistry.  I haven’t clicked with anyone like this since …”

The name sits between them, unsaid, but heard.

Reaching out, Kara squeezes her sister’s hand.  “I’m sorry, Alex.”

“It’s okay.  Hey, more time for us to eat junk food and watch TV.”

“Right, priorities,” Kara replies with a laugh.  “How about I borrow a pair of your PJs, and you order us pizza.”

“Deal.”

Kara rises but stops before she reaches the bedroom.  “Alex?  I’m sure Lena’s nice, but she’s crazy if she doesn’t want to date you.  You’re amazing.”

“Thanks.” Alex looks at the menu in her hands.  “Hey, do you want bacon on your pizza?”

“Do they make pizza without bacon?”

Laughing, Alex says, “Right, consider that a rhetorical question.  What was I thinking?”

 

<><> 

 

It’s more than a week since her failed attempt at making a date with Lena.  After a few awkward interactions, Lena and Alex have gotten back to texting casually again.  Neither one of them has mentioned trying to get together.  Alex has considered it more than once, but the rejection is still too fresh.

Alex is in the DEO ready room when the call comes in.  They’ve got what appears to be an alien lifeform in the downtown area, and it’s released spores.  There’s not much more detail except that whatever happened seems to be contained to one office building.  Most everyone has been evacuated, but whoever discovered the alien was exposed and is still inside.  For once, containment seems to be on their side, and everyone is grateful that they’re not going to be chasing someone, who is probably spreading parasites, through the city.

Alex and several other agents each don one of the environmental safety suits.  They load into the back of a DEO van and head downtown.  That call that came in is from the NCPD, and though Alex’s mind goes to Maggie, she doesn’t spiral out of control.  There is the possibility she’ll see Maggie today, and that thought makes her cellphone burn a hole in her pocket as she itches to reach out to Lena for support.  The phone is inside the safety suit, so she’s on her own.

When they arrive, the NCPD has already cordoned off the area.  The whole street is closed, and what must be hundreds of people are crammed together across the street inside the barriers.  Alex looks around for a familiar face, someone in the NCPD she knows.  She finds one, but it wasn’t the one she was dreading — hoping — to see.

“Erickson!” Alex raises a hand as she walks toward the detective.  He’s Maggie’s partner, and a decent guy, good cop.  She struggles and manages not to look around for anyone else in particular.  “Who’s in charge?”

“Ummm,” Erickson’s gaze sweeps up and down the street, “that would be me, I guess.  What can I do for you, Agent Danvers?”

“Why are all of those people here?”  Alex gestures to the crowd milling across the street.

“They all evacuated from the building.  We need to know what’s in there, whether it’s dangerous, and if anyone here has been infected before we let them go.”

“Jesus.”  Alex sighs heavily.  “Let’s hope whatever is in there is benign, or that at least these folks got out in time.  We don’t have near enough containment for this many folks.”

Erickson nods, concern etched into his face.

“How many are still inside?”

“As far as we can tell, just the one.  Their boss received a package, and when she opened it, it moved and shot spores into the air.  She hit an alarm to evacuate the building but stayed inside, so she didn’t become patient zero out here.”

“Huh.  That’s both brave and smart.  People aren’t generally either of those things in an emergency.”

Erickson shrugs.  “We’ve spoken to her a few times.  We have a line to her office that the secretary gave us, and she seems fairly controlled.  She refused to let any of us in unless we were wearing fancy suits like yours.  She said she’d just do the research herself in her lab if she had to.  She’s barred us entry until she knows it’s safe.”

“What do you mean, barred you entry?  This is an emergency situation.  No one needs a warrant.”

“No, she’s literally locked us out.  Apparently, she can control security on the whole place from her office.  We could blast our way in, but not knowing what the thing is in there, the lady is probably right.”

“Yeah.”  Alex studies the building for a moment.  “Wait, you said she got a package.  We were told this was an alien lifeform.  Which is it?”

“Both.”  Erickson shrugs.  “It’s some kind of plant.  She said it reacted as soon as she opened the box, it sort of sprouted, and then it released some kind of spores.  So, she hit an alarm and evaced the place.  The last one who spoke to her was the secretary.”

“Where is she?” Alex asks as she looks across the mob across the street.  “The secretary, I mean.”

“Hold on.  We’ve been questioning her.”  Erickson speaks into his radio, and shortly after that, a uniformed officer escorts a young woman their way.  She’s petite, Asian, professional dressed, and looks fairly calm given the situation.

“When did you speak to your boss last Miss …?”

“Chin, Jessica Chin,” she replies.  “Miss Luthor called me right after she hit the alarm to clear the building.  She said I was to check in with the emergency leader of every level and make sure everyone got out.  She told me something in the box that she received was alive, and that it had released an unknown agent into the air.  She sent me this picture.”  Jess opens her cellphone, showing what looks like a crystalline plant.  It’s in an array of colors.  “She ordered me to call the police and give them an update on the situation.  She was going to run security checks of each floor to double check that no one got trapped inside.”

“Any more contact after that?” Alex asks.

“Not with me, but the police have been in touch with Miss Luthor.  She seems fine, a bit agitated about the situation, but fine.”

Alex nods and holds out her hand.  “May I see your phone?”

“Sure.”  Jess hands it over.  “I’m sorry, but who are you?”

“Hmmm?”  Alex sends the photo to a number she knows by heart with a request for any information on the lifeform.  She hands the phone back.  “My apologies.  I’m Special Agent Danvers with the FBI.”

“All right, Agent Danvers, what else do you need from me?”

“In what office is your boss located?”

Jess turns to the L-Corp building, pointing all the way up and to the right.  “She’s in that corner office, the one with the balcony.”

“Right.  Penthouse.  Of course.”  Alex sighs.  “Those damn elevators better be working.”

Jess smiles slightly.  “I’m sure Miss Luthor can make them available once she’s cleared you to enter.”

“Right, the lady with the keys to the castle,” Alex says.  “How about we give her a call, so we can get up there and check out the situation.”

“Hold on.”  Jess goes into her contacts, and moments later, she’s speaking to someone.  “Miss Luthor, the FBI are here, and they’d like to enter the building.”

“Are they wearing hazmat suits?”

Jess glances at Alex.  “Yes.”

“What level are they?”

“What level?”

“The hazmat suit, Jess, what level is it graded?”

“Oh.”  Jess frowns at Alex.  “Hold on.  I’ll check.”  She pulls the phone slightly away from her face.  “Miss Luthor wants to know the level of your suit.”

“Level A,” Alex replies, thrusting her chin slightly forward.

Jess nods.  “The agent says it’s Level A, Miss Luthor.”

“Acceptable.  No one is to enter unless they’re wearing one of those suits.  Make sure they know I’ll be watching.”

“Yes, Ma’am.  I’ll let them know.”

“When I see them at the front doors, I’ll unlock them.  Anything else?”

“Just,” Jess pauses, fretting at her lower lip, “how are you?”

“Fine, actually.  I mean, it’s a bit warm in here with the air turned off, but I don’t feel any effects from the spores.  Whatever it’s doing, if it’s doing anything, I can’t feel it yet.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“Yes, but better would be finding out exactly what this is.  I’m anxious to see if the FBI has any information on this.”  There’s a pause, and Lena adds, “Thank you for getting everyone out and holding down the fort.  Whatever happens, you’ve always been exceptional, Jessica.”

A crinkle between her brows, Jess nods but doesn’t respond verbally.  Maybe this part of the conversation sounds a bit too much like goodbye.  “I’ll let the FBI know they can enter.”

“Thank you, Jess.  Goodbye.”

“You’re welcome, Miss Luthor.  I’ll speak to you soon.”  She doesn’t say goodbye.  Putting her phone away, Jess returns her attention to Alex.  “Miss Luthor says she’ll unlock the doors when you’re people are suited up and ready to enter.  She’s only letting in people in suits.  If anyone else tries to enter, she’ll lock you all out.”

“Sounds reasonable.”  Alex nods once and makes her way back to the van.  She grabs her mobile kit, placing it on the ground by her feet, and then the helmet for her mask as she addresses the DEO team assembled.  “Okay, folks, time to go in.  Everyone make sure their suit is properly sealed.  No one is to break contamination protocol until I give the all clear.  Any questions?”

At the lack of questions, Alex puts on her helmet, sealing up her suit, and leads the group to the door.  The doors unlock, as promised, and they enter.  It’s a quick flight up the elevator which is waiting for them, and then they’re on the top floor.  They make their way to the corner office as indicated, and see the lights on the lock turn green.

“Miss Luthor?” Alex says, her voice muffled by the suit, as she opens the door.  “I’m Special Agent Danvers.  My team and I are coming in.”

Lena glances up from her desk and nods, but she doesn’t otherwise reply.  She’s typing something which seems to have her full attention.  On the corner of her desk is a box, the crystalline top of something the general form of a plant sticking a few inches out of the container.  It has multiple buds making up all of the colors of the rainbow plus white and black and many shades in between.  There are three main ‘flowers’ which are wide open and glimmering in the afternoon light.  As Alex and the team cross closer, it seems to reorient itself slightly, flowers turning in their direction.

“What the fuck is that?” one of the agent’s asks, garnering an ugly look from Alex.

However, Lena just nods, eyes still trained on her computer screen.  “That’s what I’ve been asking myself for,” her eyes glance down to the corner of her screen, “the last forty-three minutes.  I was hoping you could tell me.”  Finally, she looks up from the screen and stands.  “My apologies.  I had an email to finish.  Work waits for no one, not even …”  She gestures at the alien lifeform.

“You’ve been up here working?” Alex asks, clearly surprised.

“Evacuating the building is sure to get the attention of the media and hurt stock prices.  I couldn’t afford to fall further behind.  My board of directors is already up my …”  She pauses, clearing her throat.  “Anyway, worst case scenario, I won’t be working for a while or perhaps again.  I might as well get my hours in while I’m able.”  Though she seems calm, Lena’s hands grip together a bit too tightly where they’re folded in front of her.  “So, what can you tell me about this … thing?”

“Um,” Alex shifts into action, moving closer to the CEO, “we sent along the picture you sent to one of our techs.  He’s looking in the database to see if we have any information on what this is.”

Lena quirks up an eyebrow.  “The FBI has a database on alien plants?”

“Alien lifeforms and culture in general, yes.  Many of the aliens here have given us information, and there was a … an incident with an alien transport that landed nearby.  We were able to recover the information, though we still need to translate much … um …” Alex walks even closer to Lena, leaning forward and blinking.  “I’m sorry, Miss Luthor, but are you wearing glitter?”

In response, Lena sighs, her eyes rolling as she does so.  “It’s not glitter.  It’s,” she gestures at the plant, “spores from whatever this is.  It sprayed me with them.”

“Spores.”

“Yes, spores or pollen or whatever it is.  All I know is when I opened the box, the thing inside looked like a crystal sculpture.  It was lovely, and I reached my hand into the box to take it out.  As soon as I touched it, the thing reacted.  It rose up, and those three blooms on the top opened.  I tried to back away, but it sprayed me with … with …”

“Glitter.”

“It’s not glitter,” Lena grumbled.  “It’s some kind of spore.  If I could get to my lab without shedding it throughout the building, I could tell you what it was.”

Alex nods once then pats the case in her hands.  “I brought a kit with me.  Let’s get some of that under a microscope and see if we can’t figure this out.”

Lena gestures toward the coffee table, and Alex puts the kit down and opens it.  As Alex sets up, Lena takes a seat on the couch.

“Are you a scientist?”

Alex doesn’t look up as she continues to set up her instruments.  “A bioengineer, yes.”

“What university?”

“University of San Diego.”

Lena nods.  “Good school for science.”

“What about you?” Alex asks as she sets the microscope down.  “You mentioned you had a lab.  What did you study?”

“Engineering, but also bio-medicine.”

“Really.”  Alex lifts her head, studying the other woman for a moment.  “Did you go to San Diego U?”

“No.”  Lena smiles, a bit shy.  “I went to school on the east coast.  I got my degrees at—”

As the phone on Lena’s desk rings, they both look up.  Alex nods once, and Lena goes to the phone and answers.

“L-Corp, this is Miss Luthor speaking.”  She frowns slightly, covering the phone with her hand as she looks back at the agents.  “It’s someone named Win.  He’s asking for an Agent Danvers.”  Lena raises her eyebrows, looking at Alex, and holding out the receiver.

“Yeah, that’s me.  Can you put him on speaker phone?”

“Certainly.”  Lena presses a button before putting the receiver back on the cradle.  “Mr. Win, you’re on speaker phone.  The agents here can hear you.”

“Agent Schott,” Alex says, “this is Special Agent Danvers.  Do you have any information for us?”

“Oh, um, sort of, um, Special Agent Danvers.”  Winn clears his throat.  “I have a match on the thing in the database, but I could use some assistance.  The translation program isn’t complete.  We’re still missing a lot of vocabulary, and there are notes here in yet another language so, um, yeah.  I could use some help.”

“Fine, give her a call,” Alex replies, “but Winn, in no case is she to come here.  We can’t afford to endanger her, and we have no idea what this thing does.”

“I’ll tell her you said, so,” Winn says and then adds in a mumble, “not that anyone here listens to me.”

“Just tell her.”  Alex’s voice is a bit stern.  “Let her know I’m holding you personally responsible if she shows up.”

“But you’re not, right?  That’s just a threat to keep her in line, right?”

“Call me back as soon as you have anything for me.”  Alex motions to Lena, signaling that the woman should hang up, and Lena does so.

“You have someone who does alien translation on your payroll?”

“Um … sort of.”  Alex pulls a slide out of her kit.

“My, my, the FBI is just full of surprises.”

Alex doesn’t reply, she just approaches Lena with the slide in hand.  Alex’s gaze shifts from Lena’s eyes, to her lips, and further down her body as she looks at the ‘glitter’ trail on the CEO.  Swallowing hard, Alex manages to make eye contact again.  “Um, I need a sample, but I don’t want to …” Alex gestures toward Lena a bit awkwardly.

“Allow me.”  Lena takes the slide, shaking her blouse over it and shaking off a few pieces of the glimmering residue.  She holds it out to Alex. “Here you are, Agent.”

“Thanks.”  Alex smiles and ducks her head, taking the slide over to the microscope to set it up.

Watching Alex, Lena says, “Would you like me to adjust that?  I’m not wearing a hazmat suit, so my hands are a bit more mobile.”

“Oh, no, it’s fine.  You don’t need to trouble yourself.”  Alex looks up at Lena’s laugh.

“Forgive me, Agent, but working with a microscope is hardly troubling.  Being covered in alien spores is actually the issue here.  Anything I can do to resolve that issue sooner would be my pleasure.”

“Well, okay.”  Alex steps back.  “It’s all yours.”

Lena takes two steps toward Alex and away from her desk before stopping and turning her head sharply toward the plant.

“What is it?” Alex asks.

“You can’t hear that?”

Alex shakes her head, looking around at the other agents who shrug or shake theirs.  “We don’t hear anything out of the ordinary.  What do you hear, Miss Luthor?”

“That … thing is whispering.  It’s been getting a bit louder, and now I’m starting to pick up a few words.  It was just total gibberish when it started.”

“It’s talking?”  Alex raises both eyebrows.  “You hear it talking?”

“Well, if I’m the only one, that’s probably a bad sign.  Just when I thought I had managed to escape the family insanity curse, here comes a space plant to ruin that for me.”  With a heavy sigh, she begins to adjust the microscope. She looks through the eyepiece and then leans back.  “Huh?”

“What?  What did you see?” Alex asks, typing into her laptop.

“Take a look for yourself.  They don’t look like any spores I’ve ever seen.”

Alex brings up a program on her laptop, and the image from the slide appears on the screen.  Unsurprisingly, the images are crystalline.  They move across the screen, each one with fourteen points spreading out on it and each in a different hue.  Each has a flower shape in its center, with rounded petals and a different colored spot in the middle.  Around that and spreading out it look something like two different seven-pointed stars, one turned slightly so that its points stick out where the other one dips back in.

“What the …”  Alex frowns as she peers at the image.  “They look like some kind of psychedelic snowflakes.  I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Lena nods.  “And they’re moving.  They’re alive, organisms.”

“Yeah, those sure aren’t spores.  They’re little lifeforms.”  Alex leans back on the couch with a sigh before looking over at the CEO.  “Miss Luthor, thank you for not leaving your office with these on you.  That was a very brave thing you did.”

Leans waves one hand dismissively.  “Anyone would have done the same thing.”

“No, they wouldn’t have.”  Alex stares at Lena until the other woman meets her gaze.  “Most people would have panicked and gotten as far away from that thing as possible.”

“Well, most people haven’t worked with live viruses and contaminates.  I wasn’t so much brave as well trained.”

“You sell yourself short.”

Lena gives Alex a shy smile.  “How about we concentrate on figuring out just how screwed I am?  If I survive, we can discuss my low self-esteem issues, all right?”

“Fine.  Let’s make sure you survive so I can get a raincheck on that self-esteem discussion.”

“Good Lord, now I don’t know whether to hope for life or death.  You and my therapist would get along famously, Agent.”

Alex smiles in reply.  “My therapist is a bottle of whiskey.”

“Ah, I know it well.  I’ve sorted out many an issue with a few glasses of amber.”

“Really, what’s your favorite—”

Vasquez clears her throat and leans down, speaking softly.  “Maybe you two could table this until after we have the subject cleared?  Then you can make dinner plans and get a room.”

Eyes wide, Alex shakes her head, looking nervously over at Lena.  “What … No … We—”

However, Lena chuckles.  “Fair enough.  So, anything in your alien database on these, Agent?”

“Um …” Alex begins typing, sending off the video to someone.  “I’ll send this to Agent Winn.  Let’s see what he can tell us.  In the meantime,” Alex walks over to her kit again, pulling out a needle, “let’s draw some blood and see how this is affecting you.”

One blood draw later, they’re looking at red blood cells mixed in with the occasional crystalline structure.  The little lifeforms have clearly spread through Lena’s system.

“Well, unsurprising yet disappointing.  I’m clearly infected by … whatever this is.  Now we just need to understand what that means.”

As if on cue, Lena’s desk phone rings.

“Maybe your Agent Schott will have the answer,” Lena says as she rises and gets the phone.  “L-Corp, Lena Luthor speaking.”

A woman replies, “Oh, um, hello, Miss Luthor.  Is Agent Danvers available?”

“Just a moment.”  Lena presses a button on the phone.  “You’re on speaker phone.  She can hear you.  Go ahead.”

“Agent Danvers?”

“Supergirl?” Alex asks as she rises.

“Yes, Agent Schott asked me to come in and look through the database, supply him with a translation.”

Lena presses her fingertips against the top of the desk.  “Do you know what it is?”

“I do, and you don’t need to be concerned.”

“It’s not harmful?” Alex asks.  “Whatever this is, it’s in Miss Luthor’s blood.”

“Right, that’s how it works, but it’s not harmful.  It’s actually helpful.”

“Helpful?”  Lena furrows her brows.  “How is it helpful?”

“The plant isn’t from Krypton, but they were used there during negotiations with other planets when dignitaries came to visit.  It’s from a planet called Elevakia.”

“What does it do, Supergirl?” Alex asks.

“Well, the plant learns, absorbs languages used around it.  When it releases, its crystals, each of them has an absorbed language stored in it.  The crystals spread through the host’s bloodstream, temporarily infecting them with those languages.”

“Hold on.  Hold on.”  Alex peers at the plant still sitting in the box. “So, you’re saying this thing is some kind of universal translator?”

“Sort of?  It can only translate languages it’s already learned, and its seeds carry the knowledge of those languages, so different plants actually have different languages depending on their … I guess parentage is the word.”

“But it’s not harmful to humans,” Lena says.  “Whatever it’s doing, it won’t hurt me.”

“No, the crystals only exist in the blood for a few hours.  After that, they die off and are flushed from your system, and you lose the ability to speak and understand all those languages.  The plant will continue to make crystals, though, so if you’re keeping it, you can use it again and again.”

“A translator.”  Lena shakes her head.  “Why would anyone send me that?”

“Hold on.”  Alex reaches into the box, removing the plant, and then a slip of paper that’s underneath it.  The language on it is foreign, alien.  “Maybe this explains why you got it.  I don’t recognize the language.  I’ve never seen any of these characters before.”

“If you send it to me, maybe I can translate it.”

Lena holds out her hand.  “May I?  I’ll take a picture and send it to—”  As she takes looks at the paper, she frowns.

“What is it?”

“It just says, ‘A thank you for all you’ve done for our community.’  Then it has feeding and care instructions for the plant.  Apparently, it likes to be in sunlight, and its water should have a high salt content.”

“You can read that?”

Lena nods.

“What language is it?”

Quirking a brow, Lena looks at Alex, “It looks like English to me.”

“Well, okay then.  I guess we confirmed this thing works.  So, Supergirl, we can take off our hazmat suits?” Alex clarifies.

“Sure.  The worst thing that could happen is you’ll pick up a temporary case of multiple languages.”

“Huh.”  Alex nods and begins to undo her suit.  “Okay, I’m removing the containment protocols.  Johnson, Ront, I want you two to head back down and let the police know the building is safe.  People can come back into work.”

“No, no more work for today,” Lena says as she slumps into her office chair.  “People are welcome to come back and gather any belongings they need for the night, but L-Corp is closed for the rest of the day.  Tell my employees we’ll open the same time tomorrow, but everyone should take the rest of the day off.”  With a mumble, she adds, “That scare must have taken five years off my lifespan.”

Alex nods.  “You heard the lady.  Go speak with the police and make an announcement to the L-Corp employees.” 

“Do you need me for anything else?”

“No, thanks for your help, Supergirl.”

“Yes, thank you so much, Supergirl,” Lena says.

“My pleasure, Miss Luthor.”

Alex drops the body of her suit to the ground and begins to pull off the attached boots.  “We’ll just finish up here, and we’ll be back at the office soon.”

“Great, see you soon.”

Alex nods, and Lena disconnects the line.

“Well, that’s a relief.  This day has certainly been an emotional roller coaster.”

Pulling off her second boot, Alex hands her suit to one of the other agents.  “I’m glad we could be here for the end of the ride.  We’ll just get this plant out of your office and—”

“You can’t take that.”

Reaching out for the plant, Alex pauses.  “Excuse me?”

“That was sent to me as a gift, Agent Danvers, and it’s quite a useful one.  I’ll be keeping it.”

“You want to keep it.”

Lena nods.

Brushing at the hairs on the side of her head with her fingertips, Alex frowns.  “I don’t know what the protocol is for that, Miss Luthor.”

“Well, then, find out.  I’m happy to call my lawyers if you’d like.”

Alex cringes and pulls out her cellphone.  “No need for lawyers.  Let me just find out what paperwork we need for you to keep an alien plant in a business establishment.  Are you sure it being alien doesn’t bother you?”

“Why would it?”  Lena rises and walks around to the plant, smiling.  “At L-Corp, we believe in someone’s accomplishments, not their origins.  I’m a prime example of that.”

“Fine.  I’ve got my headquarters working on the regulations.  I’m sure we can work something out.”

Lena strolls over to the liquor table, pouring herself a drink.  “Now that the emergency has ended, can I offer any of you something to drink?  I’ve got a forty-year-old Bushmills whiskey which is amazing.”

Alex licks her lips but shakes her head.  “Sorry, ma’am, but we’re still on the clock.  Maybe next time.”

Drink in hand, Lena returns to her desk and sits, watching Alex.  “A business that you can’t mix with alcohol.  How dreadful.”  She lifts her glass.  “Well, here’s to you, Agent Danvers, and rainchecks.”

“Rainchecks.”  Alex smiles, but it quickly distracted when her phone ring.  She pulls it out, answering immediately.  “What have you got for me, Winn?”

“Am I on speaker phone again?”

“Nope, just me.”

“Alex, you’re with Lena, freakin’, Luthor.  She’s like a total genius!”

“Did you just call to tell me that?” Alex asks with a frown.

“No, but it’s true, and I’m a freakin’ genius, so I should know.”

“Just tell me why you called, Winn.”

“Yeah, sure.  Since the plant thingy is classified as harmless, it can be privately owned.  To keep it at a business, there are some forms Miss Luthor will need to fill out.”

“Great.  Can you send them to me?”

“Yeah, I just need to finish arguing with this geek at the State Department.  They got a little too excited when they saw why we were requesting the paperwork, and they’re trying to push back.  I think they want the plant for themselves.”

“Let them know Miss Luthor has offered to call her lawyers and get them involved.”  Alex glances over to Lena who is typing away on her phone.  “I’m sure they’re numerous and well compensated.”

“Luthor lawyers, yeesh.  I’ll let them know, Alex.  Hey, do you think you can get me an autograph from Miss Luthor?”

Sitting on the couch again, Alex says, “Just send over the paperwork, and I’m sure she’ll sign that.”

“Yeah, but—”

“Goodbye, Winn.”  Alex hangs up but notices she’s received a text while she was speaking with Winn.

Lena: “We had a bit of excitement at work today, but all ended well.  How is your day going?”

Alex: “Pretty much the same, actually.”

Alex: “It looked like we were going to have a bit of excitement, but now it’s just paperwork.”

Lena: “Paperwork is dreadful.  I’m so sorry.”

Alex chuckles to herself.

Alex: “It’s fine.  The client I’m working with today is actually pretty interesting.  That’s a perk.”

Lena: “Working with like a bodyguard?”

Alex: “Sort of.  I guess I’m here today to make sure she’s safe.”

Lena: “Well, that sounds fairly heroic.”

Alex: “It’s not, plus the woman I have to guard is smoking hot.”

Lena: “Wow, lucky you.  I guess your bodyguard gig isn’t bad work if you can get it.”

Alex: “I’d like to guard her body.”

Lena: “You’re awful.”

Lena: “I know what you mean, though.  There was an incident at my work today, and the authorities showed up.”

Alex: “U okay?  I have friends in the police if u need me to make some calls.”

Lena: “I’m fine better than fine, actually.  The FBI agent sitting on the couch in my office is gorgeous.”

Lena: “I’d welcome more attempts on my life if I could be guaranteed agents like her.”

Alex stills.  She re-reads Lena’s last two texts, as the idea of something this much of a wild coincidence flies out the window.  Sliding two fingers in her collar as she swallows hard, she manages to look up at Miss Luthor — Miss Lena Luthor — who is sitting at the desk across from her and texting someone.  The world slips firmly off its access before righting itself again.

Alex: “So, there’s an FBI agent on ur office couch and u think she’s gorgeous?”

Lena: “Absolutely.”

Alex's heart skips a beat.

Alex: “Would u say she’s ur type?”

Lena: “She seems to be. She’s determined, intelligent, easy on the eyes, and a take-charge kind of woman.”

Alex’s heart more than makes up for that missed beat when it starts to drum out in double-time.

Alex: “Describe her.”

Lena: “I think I just did.”

Alex: “I mean physically, describe her.”

Alex has to struggle to not make eye contact as she sees Lena glancing at her between typing into the phone.

Lena: “Alright.  She’s around my height, athletic build, great cheekbones, short red hair, and looks fabulous in a suit.”

Lena: “I think her eyes are brown.”

Alex chances a glance up just as Lena does, the CEO smiling slightly and raising a brow before she goes back to her phone.

Lena: “Yes, they’re brown.”

Alex forgets how to breathe and almost drops her phone.

“Excuse me for a moment,” Alex says as she controls her shakes and steps out onto the balcony.  She makes a call, fidgeting anxiously.  Finally, after three rings that take an eternity, the phone is answered.

“Hey, Alex, what’s up?”

“Kara, it’s her!”

“Who’s her?”

“It’s her!  It’s Miss Luthor!”

“I … what?  I don’t understand.  What are you talking about?”

Alex groans slightly.  “Lena Luthor’s name is Lena.”

“Ahhhh … Okay.  Alex, maybe something is wrong with that plant because I’m not understanding you at all.  Do need medical attention?”

“No, I don’t need …” The groan turns into a growl and is louder this time.  “Just listen, okay?”

“Okay.”

“I’m at Miss Luthor’s office, okay?”

“Okay.”

“We’re just standing around and waiting for some forms from Winn, like you do.”

“Like you do.”

“So, I’m texting with my chat buddy, Lena.”

“Highly professional, Agent Danvers.”

“Shut up and listen.  Anyway, she says she had an emergency at her work today, and they called the authorities.”

“Wow, it’s like a pandemic.  Is she okay?”

Alex rolls her eyes.  “She’s fine.  Stop interrupting.  Anyway, I start telling her how gorgeous Lena Luthor is because she is … Oh, my god, Kara.  You know what I mean?”

“Am I allowed to answer?”

“It’s rhetorical.  Anyway, my Lena tells me she has this gorgeous FBI agent sitting on her couch and describes some redheaded woman in a suit.  Do you get it?”

“Yeah,” Kara replies slowly.  “Too bad you aren’t really in the FBI.  You could have met your Lena.”

“Jesus H …” Alex sputters.  “I can’t believe you’re a genius from an advanced civilization.”

“You know, sometimes I’m not so sure myself.”

“Kara, Lena Luthor is my Lena.  They’re the same person.”

“Are you sure?”

“Uh-huh.”

“But, Lena Luthor said you were hot and stuff, and your Lena is straight … isn’t she?”

Alex frowns heavily.  “I’ll call you back.”

Before Kara can argue, Alex has hung up and is back inside.  Her phone has three unanswered texts from Lena, but she ignores them all and heads right for the woman in question.  She stares at Lena until the CEO lifts her head to meet Alex’s gaze.

“May I help you, Agent Danvers?”

Alex’s response comes out before her brain has engaged.  “I thought you were straight.”

When it comes to conversation starters, that one just sucks.  Alex stands there, her brain catching up to her mouth causing an emotion that can best be expressed as ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch.  The only one who looks more horrified with the statement that came out as an accusation is Lena who glances around the room at FBI agent after FBI agent who suddenly has nothing better to do.  It’s as if someone hit pause on the room.

Lena, for her part, plasters a fairly neutral expression on her face again, tilts her chin back, and faces Alex head on.  “Excuse me?”

Someone says, “Huh,” and then it’s clearly Vasquez’s voice.  “Well, someone doesn’t read the gossip column.”

Alex glares over at Vasquez then shares that love with the rest of the busybody agents as she orders.  “We need the room.”

No one questions who ‘we’ is.  The other agents leave, and Alex and Lena are alone.

Lena stands, jerking her suit jacket down as she smooths it into place.  She heads over to the bar and pours herself another drink.  “Care to explain what that was about, Agent Danvers?”

Hands on hips, Alex says, “It’s Alex.”

Lena turns suddenly, her vision narrowed in on Alex as she asks, “What about Alex?”

“Me, I’m Agent Alex Danvers.”

There are several moments of Lena staring, digesting what she’s been told, and then her eyes widen suddenly.

“There it is,” Alex says, chuckling.  “Well, you got it a lot faster than Kara.”

“Who?”

Alex shakes her head.  “Look, I know this is inappropriate since we’re at your work, my work, the crossing paths of our work, but it just took me by surprise.  I was fine with us just being friends.  You didn’t have to tell me you were straight.  You could have just said no when I asked you out.”

Lena’s mouth opens and closes several times before she’s able to say, “I never told you I was straight.”

“Lena, it’s fine … but you did.”

“When?” Lena asks with a glare.

“You said,” Alex pulls up her phone going back conversation through conversation.  It’s impressive how much they’ve been talking, even after their brief hiccup.  “Ah, here.  You said, ‘It’s my sexual orientation.  I’m just not into … you know.’ Right there,” Alex says holding her phone out for Lena to see.  “You said it was because you were straight.”

“No, I said that because I thought you were a man.”

It’s Alex’s turn to falter, and she pauses, taking a moment to speak with authority.  “You knew I was a girl.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“I told you.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“I must have.”  Alex pulls her hand along the short part of her hair above her ear.  “I remember saying … I mentioned my sister.” Alex gives Lena an earnest look.

“Alex,” Lena says patiently.  “My brother, the maniac who still makes a hobby of trying to kill me, also has a sister.  That says nothing about your gender … or morality, apparently.”

“Oh, yeah,” Alex replies as she scratches the back of her neck.  “I really never told you I was female?”

“Really and truly, though I suppose part of that is on me.  Between your work in security, and I hardly think a special agent in the FBI is comparable to security work, and your name, I made an assumption.”

Alex smiles.  “Well, when you said you were in business, I think you left out a few things too.”

“I am trying to run a business here, you know.”

“I’m pretty sure you’re trying to run the world.”

“Well, somebody has to do it.”  Smirking at Alex, Lena says, “So, about that dinner we never had …”

“Yeah, about that,” Alex smiles back, “I’m free tonight if you are.  To be clear, I’m asking you on a date since you’re not straight.”

“And you’re clearly not a man,” Lena replies, her smile growing.

 

<><> 

 

Several years in the future.

Alex: “Babe, r u sure ur supposed to eat this cheese u put on the list?”

Lena: “I swear to God, Alex, I haven’t had caffeine or alcohol for seven months.  You bring me back my goddamn cheese, or you’ll be taking a visit to the pig farm.”

Alex: “What pig farm?”

Alex: “LOL! Wait, I remember now.”

Alex: “Okay that was a blast from the past.”

Lena: “I knew you’d remember.”

Lena: “Am I getting my cheese?”

Alex: “On pain of death apparently.”

Alex: “Yes, ur getting ur cheese.”

Alex: “Anything else since I’m at the store?”

Lena: “Your sister dropped in.  She says we need more ice cream.”

Alex: “Of course she does.”

Alex: “I’ll buy urs and some with Wonder Woman on the package for Kara.”

Lena: “I told her.  She says you’re mean.”

Alex: “Did you defend me?”

Lena: “Of course.  I won’t let my sister-in-law speak poorly about the mother of my unborn child.”

Alex: “So once the baby is born all bets r off?”

Lena: “I’m sure I’ll be speaking poorly about you during labor.”

Alex: “What do you think about Peter for a boy’s name?”

Lena: “It’s fine.  Do you have a Peter in your family?”

Alex: “Nah.  What about Theodore?  We can call him Teddy.”

Lena: “I don’t know Alex.  It’s cute for a baby, but I’m not sure he’d want that as a child.”

Alex: “We can call him Skippy.”

Lena: “What the hell aisle are you in?  Are you looking at peanut butter?”

Alex: “Maybe.”

Lena: “Before you ask, we are not naming our son Jif.”

Alex: “Of course not.”

Alex: “That’s a girl’s name.”

Lena: “That’s it.  I’m on Kara’s side.  You are the worst Alexandra Danvers-Luthor.”

Kara: “I don’t know what you two are texting about, but Lena is smiling and laughing.”

Kara: “Good job mom.”

Kara: “Now don’t forget my ice cream.”

Alex: “I think they have Superman ice cream here.”

Kara: “Mean.”