Kara knew these dunes, knew the view of the sea--grey to match the sky, wind-tossed and growling. No one was in sight--the beach empty, a dry and shriveled bed of succulents to her left.
There had been a boardwalk here, Kara remembered. There was a boardwalk here. Alex had needed to get out of the house the last time they were in Midvale and they'd walked it, three miles, all along the stretch of beach. Her post-holiday hangover headache had retreated and Alex started to relax a little, reminisce about her teenage surfing exploits. But on this version of the beach there wasn't a boardwalk. Not a human, not a dog-walker. Kara shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. The day would be the same on this world as on hers, December 21st in the early morning. But even so the beach shouldn't have been empty.
"Supergirl?" A voice buzzed in her ear. Winn. "Is this thing on?"
"I told you to call me Eagle One!"
Kara didn't dignify that with a response. Something about this beach, this familiar yet strange Midvale beach, made her uncomfortable. Finally a jogger appeared from behind a dune, trotting determinedly through the sand against the wind. A dog came from the other direction, head down, searching for crabs in the surf. But the wind was cold and the world felt hollow, empty, like a meaningful presence was missing. "I'm here. What do you need to know?"
"Um." There was a small beep. "Okay, I've logged your coordinates. Check your pinger."
Kara looked down at the watch-type thing she wore and poked the button on the side. It turned yellow and made searching sounds.
"Searching," she said. She looked around again. The jogger was an older man. The dog walker was a toned and tanned woman in her forties. "Did you make Alex my anchor like I asked?"
"Yeah." Winn huffed. "It could have been me . I'd like to know what I'm like in these different worlds. Oh!" He suddenly sounded excited. "Did you have a sighting? What's she like? You have to get pics if she has stupid hair. We need to have ammo to tease her when she wakes up."
Kara's gut clenched at the reminder. The ache in her chest that had been there since it happened flared up. The wind chilled her and she hunched deeper into her jacket, unused to the cold. Alex would be so mad to know she was doing this while solar flared. But Alex didn't get a say. Alex didn’t get to choose what Kara could sacrifice to save her.
"No," Kara said. "I don't see her anywhere."
"Huh," Winn said, sounding confused. He tapped on his keyboard. "That's weird."
The yellow on Kara's watch turned red and gave a dispirited beep. She shook herself. "The sensor says nothing's here. Get me to the next one, okay? I don't like this world."
"Sure, sure." Winn said. "One, two--"
On three, the sign that said 'DANGER: RIPTIDES' faded out of Kara's vision, and a new world appeared in its place.
Kara shouldn't have known who it was. She'd barely gotten a glimpse at the person's face through the flare of red that surrounded them.
But she'd still recognized her--the way she moved, the slim shoulders and tapered waist. Kara would know Alex anywhere. She'd known her by the scream of rage and anger as the figure wrapped in red fire plunged towards Kara and hurled a blast of power at her.
Kara, startled by the recognition, took the hit. She tried fight but this red-glowing Alex had been too fierce, too strong, too powerful. Kara had been hamstrung anyway--any Alex, even an evil one, was hers to protect. Kara couldn't fight her.
She'd tried speaking, tried shouting, but there had been no response, only more rage. And then red-Alex had hit her again and again, beat her and bashed her, sent her sailing into a wall. She'd felt her powers flare and then fade. Kara fell, with no way to catch herself.
Her Alex, dressed out in the bulky anti-kryptonian armor Winn had designed for her, left the squad trying to aim a plasma weapon and charged to her to scoop her up and drag her towards cover. Kara looped her weak arms around Alex's neck and in her half-hazed state pondered how pleasant it was to be carried by Alex. She liked carrying Alex too, but even with the jostles of running around, it was nice to be held so close that it hurt.
Alex put her down once they were behind a concrete wall, checked her over quickly. "Powers gone," Kara managed, and Alex's face set into fierceness.
"Stay here. I've got this."
"Wait!" Kara grabbed her hand, but her grip was so weak Alex could have tossed her off like a fly. She still had to protest. Alex couldn't do this, couldn't risk herself.
"Stay here," Alex instructed again. A flicker of softness crossed her mouth. "I've got you." She leaned in and pressed a kiss to Kara's dirt-smeared cheek. "If there's anyone I can protect you from, it's me."
Alex stood up, pulling her helmet down over her face. "Love you, Kar."
And then Alex ran towards herself.
She almost won.
Through her pounding head and swimming vision, Kara couldn't follow the flow of the fight. For some reason, Red-Alex seemed even more eager, excited, as if it was Alex she had wanted to fight all along. Kara’s Alex threw punches, ducked blasts, met her counterpart with cleverness and cool-headed skill that her rage-version couldn't meet. Her Alex was fierce and relentless. She’d never had any compunction about hurting herself.
And then, like twinned tops they spun into a clinch, grasping each other’s arms. Alex won the contest of strength. With a twist of her body, she hurled her counterpart over her shoulder. Red-Alex hit the wall of a building with a crack, sliding down it into a heap of rubble at the base. Alex drew her sword, turning, stalking toward her, ready for the finish, but Kara couldn't watch an Alex, any Alex , die.
" No ."
Though she’d spoken only softly, Alex heard her and glanced back. In that moment of distraction, her counterpart rose up and pressed her thumb to Alex's forehead.
Alex slumped, her counterpart disappeared, and Kara shattered.
Kara found herself on what looked like a quad--a stretch of frosty and winter-dead grass, bundled up students hurrying along the pathways. It was surrounded by stone buildings and the occasional bare-branched tree. She took a circling look. No one seemed to have notice her abrupt appearance.
"Hey," Kara tapped one of the nearest students on the shoulder. "I'm a little lost. Where am I exactly?"
"Uh, E-quad," he said, looking bemused at her light jacket and slacks, the humidity of his breath condensing in the chilly air.
"Right, and-- you wouldn't know where to find Alex Danvers, would you?"
This look he gave her was utterly gobsmacked. "Alex? You call her Alex? Do you know her?"
Kara stared at him and he stared back.
"Uh," he said. "Sure, Professor Danvers is in the Val de Grace building-- third floor, room 2b." He pointed, then looked back at her and stared. "Are you a friend ? Wow." He shook his head. "Just wow. I actually got into a class with her last semester--they fill up so fast and her lab workshops are invite only--and it was as amazing as reported. Prof Danvers is awesome . And like, no one is both an awesome teacher and an awesome practical engineer. She's the absolute best."
Affection washed over Kara. That sounded about right. Even when Alex had been grouchy and resentful, she'd been an amazing teacher. Eliza and Jeremiah had made assumptions about what Kara already knew and what leaps of logic she could follow. Alex had never done that. She'd sounded sarcastic about it sometimes, but she'd broken things down so well that Kara hadn't felt overwhelmed by the amount of things she didn't understand about Earth, not as long as she had Alex to explain them to her.
"Kind of a friend," Kara said to the co-ed who gaped admiringly at her, then headed towards the indicated building.
It was pretty clear that Alex was valued by her university, Kara realized; her building had an elevator and she had a corner office with two windows. The door was open and Kara tapped lightly on it before peeking her head in.
"Have you hit the scanner yet?" Winn asked through her earpiece. Kara winced at the interruption, because Alex was looking up from her desk at the intruder. There was no sign of recognition, which was good. It would be hard to pretend to be her own counterpart. But it was also strange; Alex didn't know her.
Still, it was so good just to see her, awake and smiling and alive . Her slight grin and hair mussed from fussing with it the way she always did while working through difficult mathematics dropped Kara right back into their room in Midvale--Alex at the desk, herself on the floor, struggling through their homework. They swapped sometimes, Alex analyzing the poetry in Kara's bonehead English class, and Kara easily writing out the proofs for Alex's AP Calculus, then they'd swap back and go through it, to make sure the other one understood well enough to not get caught out by the teacher.
"Hi," Alex said.
All of Kara's clever ideas about how to handle talking to Alex's counterparts slipped away from her. "Hi," she said, helplessly, feeling her face get hot.
Alex cocked her head slightly as if she was both amused and curious and didn't want to rush Kara away. When Kara still didn't come up with anything, she asked, "Soooo, do you want me to guess? Um . . . you'd like to be in my seminar?"
Kara started. "Oh! I'm not a student. I'm a--" She fumbled in her pockets and found, to her great relief, her reporter's notebook. "A journalist."
"Oh!" Alex hopped up from behind her desk. "Sorry! I didn't realize you were coming today." She wore sneakers with slacks and moved with a light athleticism that Kara found surprising. It reminded her of the few times Alex had been really happy as a teenager. She hadn't really realized how much the military had affected the way Alex presented herself. Agent Danvers was always hard and straightforward, but this Alex seemed to bounce.
She held out her hand, and Kara took it, feeling a spark shoot up her arm into her chest. Alex . It was like her body knew her, even on another world.
Alex looked at her, as if she'd felt it too, as if something in her also could feel the potential connection between them. But she just smiled, bobbing her head and sticking her hands into her pockets. "So I can show you around. But if you have particular questions about the article--"
"I'd love to see your lab," Kara said. She smiled her enthusiastic journalist smile and felt a sting in her chest. She wanted to wrap Alex up in a hug, but this Alex didn't know her and would think she was a crazy person.
Alex kept up a cheerful conversation all the way down to the lab in the elevator and continued it as she gave Kara protective gear, then led the way through the door. There were students inside, kids who reminded Kara of Alex also, frowny faced and studious, careful and yet managing to get a little dirty even in the immaculate lab. Alex wrapped an arm around one's shoulders, nodded seriously at the other, and introduced them all to Kara like they were her baby chicks. They all looked at Alex like she hung the moon. Of course they did, Kara thought.
"Oops, sorry," Alex said as her phone buzzed. She pulled it out of her pocket and connected the call. "Hi Mom."
There was none of the dread Kara remembered from her Alex's conversations with Eliza. She sounded warm and affectionate. "Yes, of course I'll be flying home for your holiday party. I wouldn't miss it. What?" Alex laughed. "Bragging about me to your colleagues again. You're so embarrassing. I've got to go, a journalist is here. Mom , it's just a journalist. Love you too."
"You get on well with your mom," Kara said. It was a little too personal a question for a journalist to ask, but Alex rubbed her hand through her hair again, smiling and still comfortable.
"Sure. I mean, she launched me in a lot of ways. I knew I couldn't work in her lab, but her contacts let me work with the best people in my field. I wouldn't have been anywhere near where I am today without her help. And, well," Alex shrugged. "She's a pretty great mom. She supported me in everything. Not the year where I decided I wanted to be a pro-surfer, but . . . she was right about that."
Kara laughed politely, but her chest felt tight. It was Alex, but not her Alex. This Alex seemed so happy. She had a great relationship with her mom, her students, her job.
"Kara, stop stalking your sister's alternates," Winn grumped in her ear. "This isn't what we're here for."
Kara knew that, but it had been so many days where all she saw of Alex was her slumped shape on the medical bed, the machines that told them nothing, the bruises on her cheeks slowly fading as she still didn't wake up. She'd needed to see her face so badly.
"So, did you have any particular questions about the article?" this Alex asked.
The article Kara definitely hadn’t read.
"I want you to tell me what you think the most groundbreaking part of your work is," Kara said quickly, with a smile. "Journalists almost always get that wrong, so I want it in your words."
She took notes automatically as Alex gestured and grinned, tugged at the lapels of her lab coat, and pointed out her students' contributions. Her advances were amazing for Earth science of this era, but Kara had never doubted that. Alex was amazing, in any world. She devoted herself to things, and whatever she devoted herself to she excelled at.
Alex shook her hand again at the end, warm and intent. Her eyes went soft when she said goodbye, as if she'd been pleased by Kara, her attention and interest, as if maybe she was going to ask her something.
But she didn't, and Kara forced herself to release her warm hand and walk away.
The sensor again picked up nothing in Alex-the-Scientist's world, and Kara, quiet and feeling strange, told Winn she was ready for him to take her to the next world in the network.
When the next world resolved around her, Kara hit the sensor immediately, not even looking around. But it took its time, searching for the energy pulse that matched the signals filling up Alex’s brain with nonsense, keeping her in the coma. Whatever the source of the energy was, Winn thought it might be able to fix her--match the pattern and neutralize it. By now, Kara was willing to try anything. They’d tracked the pulse to a network of linked worlds, but there was no way to tell which world it was on from outside. So Kara had volunteered to go to each one and take soundings. As the sensor searched for the energy pulse she let herself take her bearings.
She was in a familiar spot back in National City. It was the seawall where she'd sat on a bench while Alex had paced, concerned and a little desperate, admitting that she was gay, that she'd just figured out that she was gay, that . . . she had been gay all along. She'd seemed so scared, as if she'd expected Kara to be shocked, forced to reinterpret their lives together, to see the shared part of their histories transformed into something strange and monstrous.
But Kara had had to find out that her aunt was a murderer and her own mother had used Kara to trap Aunt Astra and had sent her to the worst prison in the universe. (Offworld though. She hoped that her mother had done it because at the very least it meant Aunt Astra would be offworld when Krypton was destroyed.) This tiny thing about Alex didn't matter.
It didn't matter.
It didn't matter .
But Kara had still felt so strange, hearing those words, seeing that this was important to Alex. A raw red sore opened up inside her chest and burned so hot she couldn’t breathe. How could this be something so important to Alex when it was something that Kara didn't understand? Alex was Alex, in all her infinite human complexity, not some externally defined categorization of gay or straight. It felt like a reminder that there was still a barrier between them, that there were parts of Alex's life, her mind, that she kept concealed from Kara.
Two people were seated on the bench. Alex, of course--Kara knew her by the line of her shoulders, though her hair was different, a little more boyish, the collar popped on her leather jacket. A dark head nestled into the crook of her neck. Without her powers, Kara couldn't hear what they were saying, the affectionate words they were exchanging. But then Alex laughed, turning her head, putting her profile on view. She ducked her eyes, looking shy, and the girl--Maggie, oh god, the weight of it being Maggie-- rose up on her knees and thumbed Alex's nose, and tipped her chin up, kissing her from above.
Kara stared, her chest aching, seeing the differences in this world as if on a movie screen.
In this world Maggie hadn’t told Alex ‘no, I don’t date baby gays.’ In this world Alex wasn’t just getting in touch with her sexuality. In this world she hadn't spent years repressing, forcing herself to wrap her whole life around Kara, protecting her, keeping her safe, defending her from the world. She hadn't had to stunt herself for Kara's sake.
There was warmth in the kisses--affection, expressed in shoulder punches and teasing, a language Kara didn't know and her Alex had never been good at. This Alex was comfortable with herself; this one was physically affectionate in a casual, boyish sort of way.
This Alex was in love.
The sensor beeped, a negative. Thank Rao.
"Winn, Winn. I have to go."
"Are you the doctor?"
Kara froze, unused to being spotted the moment she entered a new world. She was . . . in a hospital? There was Alex, in one of those blue gowns, sitting up on the examining table, her hair falling loose and soft around her face. She was pregnant.
Really, decidedly pregnant.
Kara clenched her jaw shut, trying not to gape, trying not to reveal just how shocked she was. Alex . Pregnant . Everything about Alex seemed softer, rounder. The lines of her hard won rawhide muscles were softened with adipose tissue, the blue gown folded in stiff creases around her belly.
Alex tipped her head, looking a little awkward all of a sudden. "--because if you're not, I'm feeling a little underdressed."
"No-- No," Kara stammered. "You look beautiful."
Obviously, in retrospect, that was the wrong thing to say.
Alex turned bright red. "Um. Thank you? Now can you tell me who the fuck you are?"
"I'm-- I'm so sorry. That was totally inappropriate." Kara's face felt so hot. But she couldn’t think. Alex was pregnant. This was what she’d look like pregnant. There was a world where this was a real possibility for her. Kara’s heart clenched to see it, something so strange and yet also wonderful. Alex would be so good with kids. She’d been so good with Kara. She deserved to have people to love who would love her unconditionally back. Her embarrassment only made her more gorgeous. Fuck , Kara had embarrassed her. "I shouldn't have come in here. The-- the nurse said I could! We will have words!" She spun around, ready to storm out.
"No, wait!" Alex said. "If it wasn't your fault-- I mean, the doctor was supposed to come like twenty minutes ago, and I am so bored. What did you want?"
"Oh--" Kara could hear Winn starting to mutter in her earpiece about Kara's inability to just ignore each new version of Alex and get on with actually saving her own Alex. He was right. He loved Alex too, but he couldn’t see these other Alexes. He didn’t know how it felt to see the same person in a different world, to wonder what had made her who she was. "Um. I actually wanted to interview you."
"Really?" Alex cocked her head. "For what?"
"Um, an informal study on . . . parenting? I'm in the psych department." Kara was an excellent liar. Fuck everyone who told her she wasn't.
"Oh, cool," Alex said. "You want to see how crazy people have to be to decide to have kids?"
Kara laughed weakly, still utterly astonished by this sight. "Yeah. Something like that."
She took the chair beside Alex's bed.
She was very glad she'd happened to wear the jacket that had her interview notebook in it, because it was the best camouflage she could have imagined. "So, um, I have your chart, you're Alex Danvers, right?"
But wait. That might not be the right assumption. Alex was pregnant. She was probably married. Maybe she'd taken the person's name.
"Right," Alex said.
Oh. "When are you having . . . it?"
"The doctor says January 6th. So . . . any time plus or minus ten days of that probably."
"And the father is--"
"No clue," Alex said, grinning and shaking her head. "Anonymous donor."
"Oh, right," Kara said, hearing the squeak in her voice. So she wasn’t married? Was she with a woman? "And your relationship status--"
"Very single." Alex gave her a kind of smirk that Kara didn't recognize at all. Kara blinked at her, confused. Alex winced, looking totally awkward and uncomfortable, and like a piling through her chest, Kara put it together. It had been a flirty smirk. Kara hadn't responded properly, and Alex had suddenly remembered that she was very pregnant and underdressed. Kara had embarrassed her again.
"Hard to believe," Kara stammered, trying to fix it.
Alex's eyes went wide.
"Oh my God," said Winn. "Stop flirting. You're terrible at it and it's weird when it's with someone who sounds this much like Alex. I know you miss Alex. It's why we're trying to save her life. Hit your damn sensor."
There was no way she could respond to that. "Sorry," Kara muttered, and pressed the button on her not-watch. Hopefully they had Apple watches here and it would go unremarked. "So, um. What made you decide you wanted to have a baby?"
Alex rubbed up the back of her neck, clearly still recovering from the comment about her relationship status. Fabulous. Kara had managed to make this a super uncomfortable situation for everyone. "I just-- you know how people say that some day you'll just meet the right one and everything will work out?"
"Yeah," Kara said softly.
"Honestly, everything has worked out for me. I have a great job, good money, both my parents are alive and healthy, and some really good friends. I've always sort of wanted--you know--someone who I could devote myself to taking care of, someone worth giving everything to. But I knew it was never going to be someone I dated. I finally figured out that that meant that I wanted a kid. And, well, my dad is super stoked about having a grandkid while he's still spry enough to enjoy it. It felt like the right time. And if the right person comes along, it won't be a deal breaker. If it is, they aren't the right person. But I'm not really terribly romantic, so I'm fine if it's just me." She put her hand on her stomach. "Us."
The way she smiled when she said her dad was super stoked made Kara's throat close up. Would her Alex have thought about making this choice if her dad had been around to see it?
"You're happy?" Kara asked. Her voice sounded strange and weak.
Alex nodded. "Yeah. I'm happy, and so far I've escaped most of the horrible things about being pregnant, so that's been pretty great too."
Kara didn't feel glad though. She felt sick and tired. Why was it like this, why was her Alex lying in a coma right now and all of these ones successful and happy? Why did seeing Alex happy make her so sad?
Her watch beeped. Negative.
"Oh, sorry, that's all I have time for. But thank you," Kara said. "It was really-- It was really great to meet you."
"Oh. Yeah," Alex said, looking a little lost. "I-- any time."
Kara reached the door, and her hand was reaching for the handle when Alex spoke again.
"Hey," she said. "I know this is . . . weird. But you seem pretty weird too, and I just-- Can I have your number?"
Kara froze. Slowly, she turned back to her. Alex was watching her, mouth quirked awkwardly but something that could only be hope in her eyes. It wasn't an expression Kara had seen often enough on her Alex to be able to easily identify it, and Kara hated that. She closed her hands into fists. "Look," she said. "I'm . . . not available. But you-- you're gorgeous and I know you're someone who can devote yourself wholeheartedly to someone else, and you'll be the greatest mom ever. I'm sorry about being-- so weird. And about lying about being a researcher when I just wanted to have an excuse to ask you personal questions." Alex's eyes went wide and shocked. "And if you ever decide that you really want someone to-- to love you, and your kid, I recommend considering . . . aliens. From Krypton. In particular."
Kara ducked out the door as fast as she could and ran down the hall to the stairwell where she hid.
"Winn, I'm ready to go now."
"Kar . . ." Winn said, uncertainly. "Do we need to talk about this?"
Kara knew he meant the fact that this world's Alex had asked her out. But it wasn't that that was tearing her up inside. It wasn't that at all.
"I'd still love her," Kara snapped, her eyes suddenly tearing up. "If she wanted this, I'd love her as much as she needed me to. I don't have to be the one she devotes herself to, the one she has to protect. I could just be her partner. I just want her to be happy. Why are all these ones happy? Why is she so much happier without me?"
Winn didn't say anything and the world faded around her.
Eliza was snappish, and Kara shifted from foot to foot in the corner, watching Alex stubbornly take it on the chin as always. Sometimes, she missed the days when Alex was mercurial and grouchy at her, resentful of her very existence. She would rather that have persisted than have to have seen Alex's face when she was told her dad was dead. She’d turned then, catching sight of Kara. In her eyes, Kara had seen her thoughts-- if it weren't for you he'd still be here, if it weren't for you, he wouldn't be dead --and then, almost worse than if she'd screamed those words, Alex’s eyes went dark with resignation, with forgiveness.
Forgiveness had tasted sour on her tongue, and Kara had to watch a family she had almost grown comfortable in warp and change into something cold and unwelcoming. Eliza was still kind to her, and Alex . . . quietly, Alex was even kinder. She would open her arm when watching tv, letting Kara snuggle under it. She wouldn't look over, but she would silently invite Kara into her bed when the empty space where Krypton was felt like it was enveloping her and there was no way out.
But Eliza and Alex's relationship had deteriorated.
Alex caught the blame for even things Kara had done, and she took it on the chin, accepting her mom's scolding and disappointment, as if it didn't hurt her. But it did.
This was Kara’s family now, strained and tired and full of secrets.
T hanksgiving, after she’d come out as Supergirl, had been hard enough. But she’d thought they had worked through some of it and it would be better. After lies and recrimination and death and pain and space and forgiveness-- so much forgiveness, couldn’t they just be a family? But the patterns of behavior were still ingrained, and Kara again found herself on the side, watching mother and daughter perform their roles of castigation and defensiveness as if it was a holiday ritual .
The candles on the menorah burned low in the window and Kara found Alex on the fire escape with a bottle of whiskey. She settled in beside her, flying a little as she lowered herself down so as to not make any noise as she landed. "Thank you for the socks," she said softly.
Alex turned toward her, laughing a little, her tousled hair falling in a curtain over her face. "It's tradition--for you and your sensitive feet."
Kara nudged her just roughly enough for Alex to yelp and grab the iron baluster beside her leg. It was strange, the combination of augmented senses and bulletproof skin. Her body seemed to know what level of force could do her damage and only signaled pain when hit that hard. But even though nothing in the normal human range of experience could hurt her, she was sensitive to fabrics. Once her socks had been washed a few times they got stiff and bothered her feet. Alex got her soft socks. Alex paid attention.
"Are you okay?"
Alex glanced down at the whiskey bottle and let her shoulders droop. She rubbed her hand up the back of her neck, her posture revealing how worn down she was.
"Alex?" Kara let her hand slide over Alex's thigh, squeezing it as gently as would still be comforting.
Alex stayed silent for a few more moments and then slipped her fingers into Kara's. She looked up at her, eyes liquid, glistening in the moonlight. "She gets to me," she said, her voice rough. "I'm just . . . always not measuring up."
"There is nothing wrong with you," Kara whispered. "There is no way in which you're not enough."
Alex ducked her head, hair sliding across her cheek, shielding her. "I don't know."
Alex shook her head and nudged Kara with her shoulder. "It's not about anything Mom said really." She stared up at the night sky, insipid and starless with the city lights. "I just-- do you remember when you told me to find love and be happy?"
Kara remembered. She'd always remember the fierce certainty, the hope she'd had that this one time in this one way she could save the world. Perhaps it wasn't the world she wished she could have saved. But would it be enough to expiate the shame and sin of not dying in the light of Rao? Would it be enough to give her back to her family?
She had said goodbye to Alex. Alex who she loved in spite of everything, Alex who did her best. Alex who deserved so much more than the life Kara had forced her into.
But then Alex had asked her to live, so Kara also did her best.
"I don't think I've ever been happy."
Kara went still.
"At least," Alex's throat bobbed as she swallowed. "I can't remember ever feeling that way."
The silence stretched between them for too long.
"Oh god, Kara, don't listen to me. I'm drunk." Alex shoved the whiskey bottle into her hand. "Come on, I bet Mom brought you secret extra sufganiyah in her lead box."
Alex swung up and climbed back in through the window, but Kara sat for a little longer. Alex always did her best. But it would have been easier for her to bear herself up if she hadn't always had to carry Kara too.
"When are we going to find it, Winn?" Kara griped at him. It was better than admitting all of the horrible tangled ways she felt. She wanted Alex to be happy, that was all she wanted. Alive and happy. Why did it feel so bad to see it?
This world was a dry desert, and Kara, who really was starting to hate being solar flared, was parched and tired.
"Do you know how many possible worlds there are? Infinite! Infinite, Kara!"
"You are not sending me to infinite worlds! You said you narrowed it down! If it’s infinite we'll never find it! We'll never save her."
Alex's face, eyes shut, relaxed in unconsciousness, pale and smeared with dirt and blood, hung in Kara's mind's eye. She couldn't bear this. Hunting for a needle in a haystack felt so foolish. What if it didn't even work? What if they were missing a different way to help her?
"I did narrow it down! The network that has signs of the energy pulse is only about three hundred worlds. Cisco and I have been trying to figure out what is binding these worlds together. Our current working hypothesis is that the network is made up of worlds where you’re not Supergirl.”
Kara stilled, looking around at the red heat and blasted rock around her. Three hundred worlds was still too many. "Why do you think that?"
"In a majority of these worlds, Krypton never exploded. The radiation released by the explosion is one of the few things we have a sensor calibrated for. But in the ones where that wasn't the case, we checked the news cycles. No sign of Supergirl. And most of the time--" Winn cut himself off. "--Oh! That makes sense!" he exclaimed.
"I figured out why you didn't see Alex in the first world. I sent you there first because it was the closest to ours. Krypton exploded, and there were some documents that suggested you landed at the same time and had gone to stay with the Danvers. But there was still no Supergirl. But obviously, even if you never decided to become Supergirl, you and Alex would still be joined at the hip, so the algorithm must have recalculated to keep you from encountering your alternate self--you know, to avoid the Blinovitch Effect, and put you outside of Alex’s radius.”
Kara frowned, trying to follow his logic. “Um, Winn. The Blinovitch Limitation Effect is from Doctor Who. I’ve met my alternate self without exploding before. That doesn’t actually make any sense.”
“Oh,” said Winn. “Right.”
Though it was hot out in the desert, Kara still felt chilled. She wrapped her arms around herself. Winn was also worried about why she hadn’t met Alex in the first world. Knowing that just made her own hypothesis more likely.
"Is the one I'm in now one where Krypton did or didn't explode?" she asked.
"Did," Winn said, helpfully.
But she didn’t think it was one where she'd been sent to stay with the Danvers. In all of these worlds, she and Alex weren't together. The last few worlds had shown her what Alex's life would have been like without her. All of them had been better.
She’d been happy. She hadn’t been in a coma.
Suddenly, a force hit Kara from the back. She fell onto the harsh sand, skinning her knee on a rough stone . Someone was on her, a knife to her throat. Fuck.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?"
Oh no. Kara knew that voice. Making Alex her anchor had been the worst idea.
Slowly, carefully, Kara let Alex guide her back and up. As Kara raised her head she found that more dark figures had emerged from the sand, holding guns on her. Alex was the only one who seemed to prefer a knife.
"Are you a Kryptonian?" grunted one of them--a small one. Lucy?
"No," Kara said. It seemed like the right thing to say. And suddenly she was grateful that she was solar flared. "Cut me to prove it."
Lucy and Alex exchanged a look over her shoulder, and then Alex lowered the knife from her throat and sliced it into her arm.
"Weakling," Alex said, but she sounded amused. She held up Kara's arm which bled red, and the other people in her group lowered their guns.
"I got lost," Kara said. "Separated from my people." Suddenly the stakes for lying well were a lot higher than social awkwardness. She had to do this right.
Alex turned her around and gave her a good looking at. Kara almost gasped aloud. This Alex had a scar on her face that warped and crinkled the skin across one cheek and up her forehead, blotting out one eye. It was wide and ugly, a burn scar. Laser vision.
A Kryptonian had done that to Alex. Someone like her had done that to Alex. Just thinking of the pain she must have gone through made Kara sick.
"Right," Alex said, sounding disbelieving. "Fine. Come with us. But if you do anything suspicious, Lane here will shoot you where you stand."
Lucy nodded flatly, and Kara believed it.
She needed to press the watch, check for an energy pulse, and get out of here once it was negative, but using fancy tech very likely fell into the category of suspicious. That meant she needed to get away from them to start the scan, but how was she supposed to do that without getting killed? And part of her was desperately curious as to what was going on and how this world had shaped Alex.
The walk back to camp was long, and Kara tried to stay silent and not admit her ignorance as to the situation. Krypton had exploded in this universe, according to Winn, and Kryptonians were known on Earth, but from the way she’d been interrogated and Alex’s scar, they were the enemy. What did that mean? What had happened?
"There!" someone shouted, and Kara was roughly pushed down on her face. She peeked up in time to see a troop of black-clothed flying humanoid figures dive toward them. Alex and Lucy's group shot at them, a barrage of green bullets. Kryptonite. Kara's stomach roiled.
"Rebels!" One of the fliers cried out in Kryptonian. They plunged through the covering fire. Some were knocked back, but one went so fast that he appeared around behind them. He flickered, but Lucy twisted, shot ahead at where he would appear next, and he crumpled. Another appeared behind Lucy, and Alex lunged at him, a Kryptonite sword her weapon. She beheaded him, moving swift and sure, and then the rest of the Kryponian scout squad arrived and there was pitched battle. A human collapsed beside Kara, eyes wide and staring, his gun falling to the earth.
A Kryptonian moved in, grasped Alex by the head and arm, ready to twist and break her neck. Kara already had the gun in her hands. There was no time for thought. She shot him, twice, head and chest, and he collapsed.
Lucy and another of the group--Vasquez?--finished the last of them, and Alex spun around to stare at her. Her one eye was intense, and then she nodded coolly. "All right," she said. "You're in."
Kara looked down at the gun in her hands and the Kryptonian she’d killed. She swallowed, took a stiff breath, and nodded. She slung the gun over her shoulder and fell into line.
"I'm here," Winn said through her comms. "I'm not leaving the controls, not even to get coffee. If you need me to pull you out, I will pull you out. But if you want to wait this out, your Alex is still stable. Do what you need to do."
It was a few more hours in the desert before they reached the set of caves that was the rebel camp. Kara was starving. Alex had walked the whole way beside her and handed over her canteen a few times, but by the end of it Kara's already worn-out body was stumbling and drenched in sweat.
Inside the caves it was cold , and to her surprise, the camp was full of kids who rushed to meet the desert travelers. Some of them were human but some were clearly alien. Kara felt Alex’s gaze on her when they charged, her reaction evaluated. Was a mixed camp like this uncommon? From what Kara knew of humans, it was far more likely that if one alien species was the enemy, all alien species would be tarred with the same brush. But Alex’s camp didn’t seem to think so. Lucy passed off a sack of supplies to someone with a pointy-eared green kid on her shoulders. A Martian? Kara blinked, and identified the person carrying the kid as Maggie. Four small beings attacked Alex who crouched down and wiped their faces and laughed at the things they had to show her.
Kara stood back, watching, feeling the weight of what she now knew was true. These people in this camp were Kara's friends, back on her Earth. But on this Earth, Kara was the enemy. Krypton had chosen to flee their dying planet and take over Earth instead. Her counterpart was likely on their side. Maybe one day this Alex would kill her, or she would kill this Alex. Or maybe they would simply never meet.
Kara was grateful to have a chance to wash up, even if it was in a stream of icy water with what felt like all of the refugee children splashing along with her. She kept an eye on Alex and noticed Alex quietly keeping an eye on her. She could see the kids' guardedness around her, identifying her immediately as a stranger, and was pretty sure they'd have no compunctions about reporting her if it looked like she was dangerous. She scanned the space, spotting quieter caves off in the back of the main cavern where she might be able to press her watch without anyone noticing.
Finally, finally there was food. It was probably rat, but Kara was not feeling picky at the moment. It was hot and she found a not too crowded place in the shadows and devoured her portion, glad of the grease running down her chin and slicking her fingers. She was licking them clean when Alex settled down beside her.
Silently, but with a short sharp glance, Alex offered another canteen. Kara took a sip and hissed at the burn of liquor on her not-currently impervious tongue.
Alex laughed silently and nudged her shoulder. "Thanks for saving my life," she said, a little wry.
"Bet you're glad you didn't kill me first then."
Alex glanced at her and smiled.
Even scarred like that, even in this world which was hard and ugly and rough, and one that Kara couldn't fix --there was no way she could fix it--Alex had a gentleness to her, an ease that Kara had only seen fleetingly before, usually when her Alex was half asleep on Kara's shoulder on the couch, when she didn't remember all of the hardship in her life.
Kara didn't quite realize she was staring until Alex frowned a little and said, "I killed the dai who did it."
The ugly tone on the Kryptonian word for soldier shocked Kara out of her staring and she realized Alex thought she was looking at her scar. "No--" Kara said. "I just--"
Alex was here, she realized. Alex had come to her. Around the cavern, other small groups were clustering, people pairing off. It was like the last world all over again, that stupid question about her number from Pregnant-Alex, the soft way Scientist-Alex had looked at her. Alex was interested.
In world after world, Alex was attracted to her.
The only one where Kara knew that Alex wasn’t was her own. Alex was attracted to her, as long as she didn't actually know her. Kara's Alex knew her too well to feel that way.
She’d thought she’d gotten used to it, to knowing Alex liked girls but didn’t like her. But seeing how close she’d come, in how many worlds where Alex looked at her like this, made the rejection burn once more. It was so much easier to know what you wanted when you could see what you didn’t have.
Kara reached up and caught Alex's face, curling her hand around the raised, scarred skin, and leaned in. She kissed her, rough and unashamed. She'd take this, here and now, in this hard world where Alex was still happier than with her.
Alex made a startled noise into her mouth and then kissed her back, taking control quickly, making it seem easy and smooth. It was Alex's mouth, the shape of her lips, the knife-edge of her jaw under Kara's fingers. Kissing her made Kara's chest ache; it made her want to cry. But she fought through it, because when else would she have this chance?
Alex was small but wiry and strong and pulled her up, drawing her off into a small alcove off the cavern, where there was at least a semblance of privacy. She pushed Kara against the rock wall, pushed herself against her, and kissed her again. Kara cupped the small of her back and the back of her head, keeping her close, letting the kisses turn raw and sharp and aching, letting herself claw at Alex's shoulders and hear her hiss and then kiss her again, eagerness redoubled. Kara fended off her hands when she tried to remove Kara's shirt or slacks, and instead picked Alex up and turned her around. She braced her against the rock wall and hiked up her legs so they rested over Kara’s hips, wrapping around her waist, and Kara stepped in to pin her there with her body. She stroked her hand along the underside of Alex's thigh, finding the crease at the join of her ass and drawing her fingertips down to the underside of her knee, then sliding back up and pressing her fingers against the warm worn fabric at the apex of her thighs.
Alex swore quietly, breaking the kiss to press their foreheads together, holding her around her shoulders, murmuring what could only be a soft request.
Exploring, too tired to be unsure, Kara circled her fingers against Alex's core, listening for Alex's soft curses, refocusing when Alex smothered her cries by pressing her open mouth to Kara's neck. Alex's legs gripped tight around Kara's waist, trying to drag her, in, but Kara stayed steady, circles and shallow thrusts through her cargo pants, finding the seam and manipulating it into the right places, until Alex was whimpering and half limp with helplessness.
Kara could smell her, even with her weak human-level senses. The effort of holding her against the wall had her breathing hard, her arms aching. Her teeth found purchase on Alex's shoulder, tearing at it, rough and raw, because it made Alex cry out and claw at her and rut her hips into Kara's hand. Then, like a flood of sap through a tree in the spring, Alex arched in her arms, clung, gasped, and came. Kara's fingers, still slowly circling, felt the change, the new squelch of the fabric, the softening of Alex's muscles. Slowly, she removed her hand and wrapped her arms around Alex, lowering her down, holding her.
Alex made a move to try to touch her, to open her pants, but Kara wrapped her up more firmly, rubbing up and down her back in the way her Alex had always liked before dropping off to sleep. Alex made a small mumble of protest, but she wasn't going anywhere, and slowly Alex let her head rest on Kara's shoulder, and her breathing turned even and calm.
Kara pressed the button on her watch and contemplated the yellow searching signal while holding Alex, limply sated, and tracing her fingernails through her unwashed hair.
When the watch beeped 'no,' Alex stirred a little, and Kara leaned down, tipping up her chin to kiss her lightly. "Bye Alex," she said softly. "Love you."
And Winn took her away.
"Are you sure we don't need to talk, Kara?" Winn asked, his voice rather quavery.
"I'm fine," Kara said, glad that the link was only audio and he could not see her face. "It was the best way to get privacy. Anyways, we already knew that an Alex who doesn't know me would find me attractive. I was taking advantage of an opportunity."
"Was this-- was this an opportunity you wanted, Kara?"
"I want Alex to wake up," Kara snapped. "Nothing else matters, okay? Let's find this thing and w ake her up. The world isn't worth anything without Alex in it. That's all, Winn. You get that, right? That's all ."
In Kara's world, after Alex had come out, Maggie had said no. She had been kind and comforting and supportive of Alex's sudden and horrifying revelation that she was gay, and then when Alex had kissed her, had asked for a chance at more than friendship, Maggie had told Alex that she was basically a child, and she didn't date children, and said no.
Kara had hated her for that. Hated her, for being another person making Alex feel like she wasn't good enough. She held Alex as Alex cried, her strength belied by the narrowness of her frame, so small and delicate in Kara's arms, so easy to hurt.
Alex and Maggie had become friends again, eventually, Alex crashing on Kara's couch after a late night out, shaking her head when asked if she was actually dating Maggie this time. "Nah, we're better as friends. I mean-- she listened, and cared so much, that of course I fell for her. I guess--I guess I haven't had someone willing to get know me like that before. But really, if you're not a broken baby deer that she thinks she has to treat with kid gloves, she's an asshole, and I can be an asshole, and we would have hated each other after three weeks of dating."
Kara burned. She listened. She just didn’t hear things in the same way a human did.
Alex had started dating other people, texting numbers Kara didn't know, laughing at jokes that hadn't sounded funny at all when Kara listened in to the calls. She kissed girls on street-corners, like she didn't care that Kara could see her.
It didn't matter, Kara told herself, over and over again. She hadn't cared when Alex had dated boys--Alex had hated dating boys, and Kara had loved hearing about just how bad her dates were. But Alex actually liked dating girls--well, not the dating part so much, but the other part. She liked being attractive to girls. And the girls of National City were not stupid. They could see a catch when one walked in the door.
Alex had started dressing differently, styling her hair, putting a little more thought into shopping than 'everything goes with basic black.'
None of it should have bothered Kara. But it did.
It was selfish. She had already taken so much from Alex. Alex had nearly died to save her. But these changes still made her feel strange and lost; her chest ached like steel bands were tightening around it.
She kept those feelings to herself. Alex was already so vulnerable about this. Any sign that Kara wasn't supportive would have hurt her, and Kara couldn't bear that.
Then she'd walked in on her. Alex, on her couch, straddling a girl, a blonde girl--tall with muscled shoulders. She had a fistful of Alex’s hair, using it like a guide rope, forcing her down, kissing her hard.
Kara froze. She’d come in through the window without checking. She hadn't realized she needed to check. Alex was always available to her. Alex went out but she didn't bring girls home.
As if Alex sensed her presence, she twisted out of her lover's grip, turning to see Kara. She was wide-eyed, her mouth bruised, flushed cheeks.
" Kara ." Her voice was choked. She sounded desperate.
"I'm so sorry." Like a flash of lightning, Kara was gone, racing away through the sky. She spent nine hours in Mumbai before she came back.
She still could hardly think of anything besides Alex’s bruised mouth and blown pupils and the aroused sound she’d made when forced down into a deep kiss.
After that, Alex stopped dating. She went back to basic black: cargos and polos. She shifted from Eliza's nice sweaters to hoodies and jeans when she was off work, but there was no care taken in it, no excitement. She didn't go out, not even with Maggie.
Kara had broken her. And she didn't know how to fix it.
Then one night, Kara had a dream, a hazy grey dream, Alex stretched out at her side, sleepy and relaxed, and Kara leaning in, their lips catching, gentle kisses, warm and comfortable, as if they'd kissed a thousand times previously and planned on countless more afterwards.
Kara had woken up, cold with the realization that this was what she wanted. This wasn't a change in the way she'd felt, it was simply a new aspect to it. She'd always wanted to be the most important person in Alex's life. She just hadn't thought about it before, not in those terms, terms of physical affection, public bonding. She'd only thought about being close to Alex, about how when anything bad happened, the only place she ever wanted to be was in Alex's arms.
But she had to face facts. Alex had come out, confessed to her, dated and flirted and hooked up, all with Kara right there, and never once had she looked at her any differently than she always had before.
Alex didn't want her, and she had to be okay with that.
She had to be.
An alleyway appeared around Kara, smelling of piss and rotting garbage. It didn't look like a pleasant place to stay, so she hit the sensor on her watch immediately and took defensive stock of the area. It didn't look like a place Alex should be staying either.
"Hey, no. You can have it. Take it, just please leave me alone."
The man’s voice was coming from around the corner and Kara's Supergirl instincts kicked in immediately. She tried to fly, realized she still couldn't, and booked it on foot instead.
"Hey!" she yelled, at the three men menacing the scared-looking young black man in a button-down. "Get away from him."
One of them men startled. "You're not--"
Another one laughed. "Of course she isn't. She's just a nosy little bitch."
Kara, desperately aware of her lack of powers, faced him down. She wasn't in her supersuit, had no reputation to fight with, but she squared up anyway.
"Get his wallet, then grab her," the third instructed.
One of them turned, going for the wallet, and Kara took a quick step and kicked out the back of his knee. "Hey!" he yelled as he fell.
"Run!" Kara shouted at the young man. He obeyed immediately and rabbited away.
"Oh you made a mistake, girl." The next man lunged for her, and Kara did exactly as Alex had taught her. Duck the grab, catch his arm, drop her center of gravity, and throw.
"Oh, come on!" The third charged in, swinging at her. She dodged, but the first one was up again, grabbing her arms. "Hold her! I'll make her pay!" A fist collided with her stomach, knocking the wind out of her. Fuck . She couldn’t breathe to yell for Winn. She was going to get the shit kicked out of her.
Sorry Alex. Alex hated it when she got hurt.
There was a cry, an aiaiaiai like Xena, and the man punching her was clobbered in the head by a boot. The boot was attached to a figure all in black with a balaclava over her head, but there was no doubt who it was.
Relief made Kara gasp for breath and break the first man's grip like it was easy. She ducked his next grab, kicked him in the balls, and when he’d was wild with pain and fury, dodged his next attack and elbowed him in the kidneys. He buckled over.
"Nice one," Alex-the-vigilante said. Somehow, she'd managed to cuff the other two already and tossed another pair of cuffs to Kara. "Do the honors?"
"Sure," Kara grinned and snapped the cuffs onto the groaning man. "You call the cops already?"
Alex shook her head, her posture lithe and strong and confident. She looked entirely in her element, the vigilante persona fitting her in a way it had never fit Ollie. She looked like she was happy in this world, but for the first time, it didn’t hurt. Kara wanted her to be happy. And in some way, Alex being a crime-fighter was right, familiar, as if even in worlds where they were light-years apart, they were still drawn together in what they were meant to do and who they were meant to be. "I wanted a few more minutes to chat with the new girl in town. You moving in on my territory?"
Kara stuck her hands on her hips. "You think I'm not good enough to be a vigilante on your turf?"
Alex pushed up her balaclava and her grin was Kara's favorite sight in the world. "You can handle yourself. To be honest, I was thinking you might want to team up. You're pretty good for a newbie."
Partners . Kara felt her chest warm. That was what was important. That was what had always been important, and all of the questions of attraction and self-sacrifice had just gotten in the way. "Thank you," she said. "I'd really like that. But I'm just visiting."
"Too bad," Alex said. "But if you're hanging out tonight, you want to come on my rounds?"
Kara checked her watch, still searching and yellow. "Why not?" she said.
Alex grabbed her, shot a grappling hook, and suddenly they were airborne. Alex's arm wrapped tight around her waist, gravity far more insistent than when Kara flew.
It was wonderful.
Knuckles bruised and spitting blood, Kara hugged Alex goodbye, squeezing her as hard as she could. Alex squeezed her back just as hard.
"Good luck, Stargirl."
Kara flushed a little at the pet name she'd given as her code name. "You too, Artemis."
"I hope you find what you're looking for."
Kara looked down at the blinking red negative light on her watch. "Me too."
"You will," Alex said with a grin, thumping her shoulder right on a bruise. "You're too stubborn to give up."
Kara winced, then nodded and grinned back at her. "You're right. I am." If it was for Alex, she’d never give up. Nothing else mattered if Alex was still at her side, on her team.
Alex watched her as the world shifted, something contemplative in her eyes. Kara longed for her own Alex, the one who knew her, and still looked at her like that, whose faith was everything. Her Alex might not want to kiss her, but she loved her like family. That was enough.
The world that coalesced around her was busy and surprisingly familiar. It was the Danvers house in Midvale, during the winter holiday party. Kara remembered it from back before Jeremiah had died, all of Eliza's colleagues and Jeremiah's friends gathering in the house for wine and conversation. Alex and Kara were always asked to present themselves, but then freed to go up and watch movies in Alex's room with sodas and tasty snacks.
The house was warm and smelled like hot apple cider. Kara glanced around and spotted Eliza in the corner talking to someone she faintly recognized as Professor Hansen from her research group, and there was Jeremiah, laughing with a few of his soccer pals. He looked happy and healthy and not like he'd been held captive by an underground government agency and turned into an alien-hating cyborg. It was another world better than her own.
Kara turned around and was face to face with Alex, in a very nice low-cut black dress with a glass of wine in her hand, who was gaping at her in horror. "Holy crap," she said. "What happened to you?"
Kara's hand went to her face. Oh shit, she shouldn't have gone out crime busting while solar flared, not if she was going to stay incognito in the following world. "I-- um. I walked into a door when the lights were off. I'm sorry, do you have a band-aid or something?"
Alex frowned at her. "Sure. Come on. Are you one of Mom's students?"
"Um, not exactly."
Kara trailed after Alex towards the downstairs bathroom. It, of course was occupied, and Alex sighed and waved her hand. "Come upstairs."
Kara followed her into the familiar bathroom of their childhood, still messy like it always was when they were home, full of scrunchies and shampoo and dental floss. Wait , scrunchies? Kara frowned. Alex's hair was too short for scrunchies.
"Come on, that looks nasty, we've got some peroxide." Alex rummaged in the bathroom cupboard, pulling out cotton-swabs and various first aid equipment. She turned to Kara, gesturing her to sit on the toilet seat and started daubing her cheek and chin.
Kara hissed, and Alex grinned at her. "If you're going to fight a door, you've got to take the punishment."
Kara stuck her tongue out, then winced again as Alex scrubbed at her scraped cheek with a washcloth.
"Well, well. What's this." An unexpected voice echoed in the bathroom.
Alex went stiff.
Kara glanced over. There was another girl in the doorway, younger than her, pretty, with long hair that was dark like Alex's. She had her hands on her hips. "Is this your girlfriend, Alex?"
"No," Alex scowled. "She's a guest."
The other girl grinned. "You're sure? She's cute--though a little bit of a thug, it seems."
"Go away." Alex glared.
"I always knew that you'd date a thug."
"I told you! She's not my girlfriend!" Alex whirled around and brandished the washcloth at the other girl. "Get out! I'm trying to do first aid!" Her yell was high pitched and a lot more shrilly angry than Kara had ever heard it.
"Umm," Kara said. "Hi, I'm Kara."
"Oooh, she's polite too." The girl tipped her head and gave her a sly smile. "Nia Danvers."
Kara stared, then looked at Alex, then looked back. "Your-- your sister ?"
Alex rolled her eyes. "To my endless misery."
"Shut up, you love me."
Alex rolled her eyes and looked at Kara as if for sympathy. "I really don't."
She grabbed the neosporin and started smearing it across Kara's cheek.
"So, you're not Alex's girlfriend."
Kara hesitated, "Sorry, nope."
Nia tipped her head to the side. "Would you like to be Alex's girlfriend."
"Get out!" Alex hollered.
"Umm," Kara couldn't really answer that.
"Oh my God!" Nia squealed. "That's totally a yes! Your medical knowledge has finally made a conquest."
"You are the worst! Oh my God, leave me alone!" Alex yelped.
"I can't help it if you're pathetic with girls!"
"I am not pathetic with girls!"
"I'm better with girls than you and I like boys ."
"I'm going to actually kill you!" Alex roared and lunged at her. Nia shrieked and fled the room.
Alex groaned, shut and locked the door, and turned back to Kara. She stuck her hand in her hair and grimaced. "I'm so sorry about that."
"You have a sister." For all the strange worlds she'd been in, this one was somehow the strangest. Kara was supposed to be Alex's sister. Everyone said they acted like sisters. Eliza was always calling them that, assuming that Alex was the big sister when technically, Kara was a lot older. And taller. But this Alex had grown up with a sister.
Kara had never fought like that with Alex. She hated fighting with Alex. She teased her and pouted at her and threatened her for food acquisition purposes, but screaming at each other in the bathroom was not something they'd ever done. When she'd been the annoying alien in the house and had driven Alex crazy, Alex would shut down in her anger, keep it close and fierce and cold. She never lashed out.
But back then, Kara hadn't been family. She'd been a stranger in her house--a stranger who slowly became a friend and ally. Eliza had called them sisters, and eventually, when Alex had become the one person she was sure she could always count on, the word had seemed to fit. But it fit this Alex and Nia in a different way.
It was so strange to see Alex with a younger sister, someone she treated so casually. She could hate her sister and still know she would remain her family, still trust that no matter what she had her back. Kara, though, Kara could be gone in an instant if she chose to be--though she never would--but that was something she knew her Alex was scared of, and her behavior reflected it.
"Yeah," Alex rolled her eyes. "Bane of my existence. Ruined my life when I was only five." She hesitated. "I'm not trying to make a move on you."
"I know," Kara said. "Though I might be a little bit misled by you locking the door." She smiled, and Alex laughed, her shoulders slowly coming down from where they'd been stuck up by her ears since the entrance of her little sister.
"I'm not terrible with girls," Alex grumbled, placing the band-aid carefully over the worst part of Kara's cut. "Nia really is the worst."
"You love her though, don't you?"
Alex huffed. "Not right now. But . . . usually. I also usually wish she'd die in a fire. Normal sibling stuff."
"Yeah," Kara said softly. That felt kind of right for her mom and her aunt's relationship too. It had never been that way for her and Alex, but sisters had always been a placeholder term for them. There was no word that really explained their bond. 'Sisters' was a way to pretend, camouflage, a way to seem normal. For Kara it was a way to say I love you, please stay forever and believe I will too, without having to say those words.
Alex wasn't a sister to Kara. She was her new home. But seeing this Alex made it seem like she wasn’t a sister to Alex either. But if not, then what was she?
It had taken a while for Kara to realize why people put bright lights up and evergreen twigs everywhere in the season when the grasses died. She had loved the lights and been curious about the twigs. When she asked for lights of their own, Jeremiah had dug out a few strands of blue and white from the garage. They hung them up together, Alex standing with her arms crossed, glowering and watching them.
"The lights don't matter," she said. "Hanukkah’s never going to be a cool holiday. Being Jewish is like making not having any fun into an aesthetic."
Kara didn't understand any of that, but she liked the lights, and she liked even better that they were blue, because it meant that she could pick out their house from high up in the sky. Her house. Her new home.
Clark had been the one to introduce her to Christmas--snow and presents and new tasty food. He'd flown with her to the Kent farm, and the Kents had been kind and welcoming and had bought her gifts and only laughed when she'd broken a handle off the cabinet.
She'd liked snow the best though. The Kents tried to wrap her up in warm clothes, but at midnight, when she couldn't sleep, she'd stepped out of the house in pajamas and bare feet as the flakes whirled past the outdoor motion sensor light. She'd stood there for an hour, just watching the snow fall, letting it gather on her skin and in her hair. Slowly, far more slowly than it would have been for a human, she felt the warmth seeping out of her, felt the chill of space wrapping her up once more.
Sometimes she longed for the quiet dreamspace of her trip to Earth.
"How was your Christmas?" Alex asked grouchily. She was wearing a new pair of socks and a soft flannel that Kara hadn't seen before, but wanted to put her hands on. "Get a ton of expensive things?"
"I saw snow," Kara said. She supposed she had gotten some nice things, but they were all . . . human things, and not all that interesting. Clark gave her a book of The Best American Newspaper Narratives. Martha and John had given her a warm winter coat -- which she didn't need because she was an alien and wouldn't use in California -- and a CD walkman and a few CDs teen girls were supposed to like. She'd listened to them, but they didn't move her, not in the way her favorite songs on Krypton had.
Alex had looked up at the mention of snow, opening in the way she sometimes did when Kara wasn't just an alien or just an annoyance, when she was a person. "School takes a snow trip in January every year. I've been to Tahoe twice. You should snowboard with me." She rolled her eyes a little. "I know you'll cheat, but you might have fun, who knows." She shrugged and dropped back onto her bed, pulling her magazine back over her face.
Kara watched her, feeling warm and unexpectedly peaceful. Snow and Alex together sounded like a better present than any of them.
While the sensor searched, Kara stayed beside this Alex as she headed back down to the party. They hit up the buffet table, Alex helping her pile small tasty morsels on her plate and finding her a bottle of cream soda when Kara made a face at the taste of the wine.
Nia appeared once more, giving Kara a conspiratorial look and a surreptitious thumbs-up when she noticed how she was still glued to Alex's hip. Kara liked her immediately. It was clear that she loved her big sister, even if she also drove her crazy, and anyone who loved Alex was all right in her book.
This Alex was far more interested in being traditionally pretty and put together than Kara's was, checking her dress and hair and reapplying her lip-gloss before they went back to the party. She was a doctor, Kara figured out, from the conversations she was having with other people--a researcher and clinician. When they ended up over by her mother, Kara could tell by the thrill on Eliza’s face that she was hoping Kara was the girlfriend.
As Kara still looked a little rough, even after she'd brushed her hair and taken off her jacket to hide the bloodstains, she guessed that this Alex was just as private about her romantic relationships as her own was. Kara was definitely not up to Eliza's usual standards. But if Alex was making tiny moves towards revealing her private life, Eliza was doing her best to not dissuade her.
Eliza was totally enthusiastic about meeting Kara while still not making explicit assumptions, and though she was very pleasant about it, she interrogated Kara thoroughly. Kara answered as honestly as she could, while Alex turned red and made awkward noises of protest.
Eventually, Kara's watch beeped a negative, and she made her excuses to leave. Alex followed her on to the porch. "Thanks for . . . hanging with me," she said, trying to stick her hands awkwardly in her pockets and then realizing her dress didn't have any. "You didn't need to pretend to be my girlfriend."
"I didn't," Kara said, smiling at her. "I pretended to be your friend. If they thought I was your 'friend' that's just because they know your type is bruised and scruffy."
Alex snorted. "Shut up. I don't need you and my sister double-teaming me." She tipped her head and Kara saw a flash of familiar affection in her eyes. "And you're clearly only incidentally scruffy. My mom still loved you." She grimaced. "Ugh, I can't imagine introducing a real girlfriend to my family."
Kara paused as she was about to step off the porch. "Alex," she said. "Your family's wonderful. Anyone who loves you would find it easy to love them and be accepted by them. You don't have to worry about that."
Alex lifted her head just slightly, hope in her eyes. "Yeah?"
"Definitely." Kara moved back toward her and cupped Alex's cheek. "Thanks for fixing me up, Doc." Alex made a face as if she wasn't sure whether to be annoyed or embarrassed by the nickname, and Kara leaned in close and kissed her lightly.
This Alex's lips were soft and tacky with gloss. She kissed back, a fraction of a second late, so gently it felt like she didn't believe it was happening. It was perfect.
With Alex still standing there, wide-eyed and shell-shocked, Kara waved and trotted down the porch steps.
"All right, Winn," she said, pressing her fingers to her lips, they were still warm from Alex’s. Each kiss felt closer and closer to acceptance. Her Alex might not want her, but she didn’t love her any less. Kara would love her back whatever way she'd accept. "Let's go."
"Not to question your excellent strategeries," Winn said, sounding a little bemused. "But have you considered the thought that kissing these Alexes all the time is going to make it a little harder to not kiss Alex when you get home?"
"We can worry about that after Alex wakes up."
"Sure, sure." Winn said. He paused for a long moment. "Did she ever screech at you like that when you guys were kids?"
"No," Kara said. "She didn't."
"Huh," Winn said.
The next world made Kara's heart twist like a snake inside her chest. Grey skies weighed heavy on the city, a thick atmosphere made it hard to breathe, and bowed people hurried past the arches and scree of broken buildings. The hollowness of the place reminded her of the first world, that empty Midvale beach. She did not want to stay for long. Kara pressed the sensor on her watch and looked around.
Was Alex here? Was she okay?
Suddenly, the sensor beeped, flashing green.
"Winn," Kara hissed. "Winn, it's here."
"Shit," Winn hissed back. "All right, great. The sensor should turn into a tracker now, the beeping getting faster as you get closer to the item. You should fly--" He paused. "This would be a lot easier if you weren't still solar flared."
"Yeah, well, I am. So I guess I get to walk."
Only there was a motorcycle with a crumpled fender nearby, and Kara hot-wired it like Lucy had taught her, and it huffed to life. Good.
"You better be wearing a helmet!" Winn screeched.
"I don't have one!" Kara roared off, looping in figure eights until the sensor identified the direction the energy pulse was coming from. Then she hit the gas and sped down the street toward it, adjusting her course as the sensor's beeping turned into a wail.
She knew this part of National City well enough to recognize it even after a major disaster. And unlike where she'd arrived, this part--the center city--was being rebuilt already. There was even a banner-- We'll Miss You, Supergirl.
Kara's chest went tight. "Winn," she said. "I thought you said these were worlds where I wasn't Supergirl."
"There was definitely a Supergirl in this one."
"Huh? Then I have no clue what's going on. But it means Cisco was wrong."
Kara swallowed hard. We'll Miss You. Maybe he wasn’t wrong. It looked like whatever had happened here, she wasn’t Supergirl now.
The path indicated by the sensor was straight and steady. She knew where this road led. The sensor was directing her straight to CatCo.
CatCo was half a burned out shell and half untouched. Kara found the stairwell in the untouched half and started up. After five flights she was exhausted, but there were 90 more to go.
Slowly, painstakingly, she dragged herself up, step after step. What she wouldn't give to have her powers back now.
She wouldn't give Alex. Even if all the Alexes who had never met her were happier than hers, she still wouldn't wish to live her life without her. Alex was the one thing she would hold onto, even as the world ended around them.
When she finally reached the CatCo roof the sensor had stopped beeping and only blinked its proximity to the item. In the center of the roof, on a concrete riser, sat something green and glowing. The green was not the green of kryptonite. Instead, it looked like a ring. That was what was releasing the energy pulse.
Kara took a deep breath.
Red-Alex landed in front of it. "It took you fucking long enough to get here."
Of course it was a trap.
The fury that rose up in Kara was the worse for having seen all these other Alexes, Alexes that weren’t hers, that weren’t the one she wanted. And this one had tried to take her Alex away from her. How dare she? "Give it to me," Kara said. "Haven't you done enough? I need my Alex back."
"Maybe I don't want you to have her back," Red-Alex said, her tone sharp and ugly. "Maybe I want you to suffer."
It had been a long fucking trip up the staircase, and she had seen too much, had to face too much of what she couldn’t have. She was done with this shit.
"Give it to me!" Kara screamed at her. "Rao curse you, I will have her back!"
It was stupid, foolish, but Kara ran at her, as weak and helpless as any human-- as weak and helpless as Alex always was --and tried to punch her.
Red-Alex stepped to the side, caught her arm, and threw her. Kara hit the concrete wall hard and bounced off, her arm caught behind her. It snapped, and she fell in a broken crumple on the roof.
Tears of pain welled in her eyes. "Why are you doing this? I just want my Alex back. I want my Alex ." She struggled up, cupping her arm to her chest, and running at Red-Alex again.
"Because I hate her!" Red-Alex roared, blocking her attack, knocking her down to the side.
Kara fell, eyes so full of tears that she couldn't see, broken and hurt, her ankle throbbing, her arm a screaming mass of pain. " Why ?"
"Because she has you!"
"What?" Kara yelled back. Red-Alex was furious, but she wasn’t attacking. She hadn’t attacked Kara at all, just defended herself and stopped Kara from getting to the green ring. She'd thought this Alex had come to her Earth to hurt her, but what if she was wrong?
"She has a Kara! I had one, and I lost her. I killed the people who did it, but it didn't fix it, and now I am going to hurt all of the Alexes who still have one, because why do they get to have you when I can't? She doesn’t deserve you!"
"You think that's bad?" Kara screamed back at her. "You think that losing me is bad? What about traveling from world to world and finding only Alexes who are happier and better off without me? You'd be better off too, if you'd never met me! Look at you! I ruined your life!"
Red-Alex startled. "What? No."
"It's true. " Kara wiped her eyes with her good arm. She couldn’t yell anymore, not when she only wanted to cry. "You shouldn't go after Alexes. You should go after me . I'm the one who did this to you. I do this to you in every world, don’t I? I take away all of your good things, all of your hope. You give yourself to me and you lose yourself in the process."
"Shut up!" Red-Alex snapped. "You don't understand at all. Those Alexes, in those worlds where they never met you, they’re not happy ; they're nothing. All of them just don't know what they could be, what they could have. Once they knew you, there's no way of going back to being happy without you. There is nothing in the universe worth more than you. And I failed . I didn't protect you. I was too weak."
The red glow around her was dying. Kara couldn't hold back the tears anymore. She started to cry. Alex always found it so easy to blame herself and hurt herself for her perceived failings. "I didn't protect you . I didn't protect you from me. "
"Kara, no ." Red-Alex said, only she wasn't red anymore. The flicker had died down, forming a glowing halo around a red ring she wore. She was just Alex now, kneeling by her side, cupping her cheek, checking her arm as if she couldn’t help herself, her instincts to doctor Kara too strong. "No."
Kara blinked up at her through her tears and found Alex staring at her own hand where it was touching Kara's cheek. Alex drooped then, pulling her hand back, clenching her fist, shutting her eyes.
"I never told you," Alex said. "Her. I never told her how much I loved her. I wish I told you I loved you before I lost you. That's the only thing I wish I had a chance to do."
"I loved you too," Kara choked out. "I don't know, I'm not her. But you're so much like mine, you're-- I know, I know I loved you too."
Alex's face, beatific and broken, her slight smile, her welling eyes, her short nod. "I think we both knew, but that didn't mean we didn't need to say it. I wish we'd said it."
Kara nodded, biting her lip to try to prevent a sob. "I want to say it. I want my Alex back so I can say it. Even if I've hurt her so much she can only ever see me as an obligation, I want to say I'm sorry for all the things in her life that went wrong because of me, I want to tell her that I just want her to be happy. I'll give her anything to help her be happy."
"I'm always happy just being with you."
Kara sobbed and reached out, dragging Alex in with her one good arm, and Alex wrapped her up, burying her head against Kara’s shoulder.
They held each other on that rooftop until finally Kara could breathe again, stroking her fingers through the short-chopped back of Alex's hair. Alex's tears soaked through her shirt and Kara rocked her, gently. Finally, Alex drew back, brushing her fingers over Kara's cheek, smiling sadly.
"I'm going to be so mad when I see you all beat up like this."
"Anything for you," Kara said softly.
Alex rose and went to the concrete riser. She brought the green-glowing object back to Kara and pressed it into her hand. It was a ring, green, not red, but still pulsing with power. "This should give your Alex enough strength to break the compulsion I put her under. I know she's worthy of it, if you love her enough to chase it down like this. I’m not anymore, but it served me well while I had it."
Kara nodded. "Thank you."
Alex's shoulders dipped, an ache of loneliness on her face. Her anger had gone, but the weight of her loss still bore her down. Slowly and with an odd finality, the red ring slipped off of Alex's finger and fell to the ground.
“I’m sorry,” Alex said. Her eyes went wide. She clutched her chest. Her forehead furrowed. She collapsed.
“Alex!” No, not again. Kara couldn’t watch this again. She scrambled over to Alex, lying slumped, head tipped back.
With her one good hand she felt for the heartbeat she couldn’t hear. Nothing. Nothing . She compressed, trying to restrain her strength to not break Alex’s sternum on top of it, and then remembered that she wasn’t strong and pushed harder.
Something in Alex’s suit sparked. Kara’s hand, splayed across her chest, felt the jolt, and then, with a delayed thump, she felt her heart begin to beat again.
“ Alex .”
Kara pressed her head to her chest and let out a rough sob.
“Hey--” Alex’s voice was weak. Her hand grazed Kara’s hair. “Don’t cry.”
“I can’t lose you. I can’t lose any of you.”
Alex’s hand finally connected with her hair. “I’m okay. The red-lantern ring stops your heart when it detaches from you, but I have an auto defib in my suit. You made me put it there when we were designing it. You always liked to hear my heartbeat steady.”
Kara lifted her head and ran her thumb across Alex’s cheek. “I do.”
She gathered Alex into her lap, gingerly, trying not to jostle her broken arm, and held her. Alex brushed her thumb along Kara’s jawline, contemplating her, a sorry sort of distance in her eyes.
Kara wasn’t this Alex’s Kara, and that meant so much. Those conversations about her suit, the moments they could have told each other how they felt and hadn’t, she hadn’t been there, she hadn’t experienced those. That Kara was gone, and this Alex had said that once she’d known a Kara, there wasn’t a way to go back to being happy without her. Kara wondered a little if that meant she was right too, that in some ways, her presence always ruined Alex’s life. It changed it, at least, incontrovertibly. But she’d already changed this Alex’s life. And now the Kara of this world had been taken from her.
"What are you going to do now?" Kara asked.
Alex looked out over the slowly rebuilding city. Kara followed her glance. Whatever had destroyed the city had likely been the thing that killed Supergirl, and this Alex, in her rage, had ended the threat. She was probably their hero too. But being a hero didn't make you feel better. It didn’t make up for anything you’ve lost.
Alex bent her head. "I don't know. I don't know if I can stay here, without her. I wasn’t . . . I’d forgotten about the defib in my suit. I wasn’t really planning to survive."
“ No .” Kara grasped her hand. “You can’t.”
Alex gave her a soft half smile. “Never if you ask me not to.”
Alex nodded, but her shoulders sank a little lower.
Kara understood. Her world didn't mean anything without Alex in it either. It was just an empty container.
Then something clicked. "Winn," she said. "What were the coordinates of the first world you sent me to?"
"The first one?" Winn asked, snuffling, like he'd been crying too. "Um, one sec. It was, uh, 97-45-12-03."
Kara nodded. "Alex," she said. "Do you think-- do you think you might want to go there?"
"What? Why?” Alex asked.
Kara nodded firmly. "Go there. Find me. It's a world without an Alex. I could tell. It felt so empty. I think she died surfing as a teenager. And, well, if it's a world without an Alex, I'll need you. I might seem fine; I might seem happy. But I'll always need you."
Alex looked like a child again, pale and strange and full of hope. "Okay," she said, her voice a little quavery. "Okay."
"I love you, Alex."
Alex gave her one of her patented wry, charming grins. "I love you too, Kara."
Kara squeezed her hand once more, as tightly as she could, wishing both arms were well so she could throw her arms around her, wrap her up in a hug. But if she did, she didn’t think she’d ever be able to let go. It was time to go. It was time to get back to her Alex.
The world around her faded.
Alex felt shaky and uncertain. Her heart stuttered, but the defibrillator was watching, ready to spark if the rhythm got too irregular, and jumpstart her heart back into a normal sinus rhythm. This hadn't been her Kara; she hadn't had the Kryptonian coolness that hers had retained. She'd seemed sad, but also quietly positive, full of hope. The world this Kara had recommended she visit wouldn't have her Kara either. This Kara wanted her to be happy, but there was no way back to that for her.
Still, she’d prefer another world to the inescapable memories of this one, and a world where she didn’t exist would keep her from being jealous of her alternate’s naivety.
Seeing another Kara would hurt. But Alex felt that hurting was what she wanted now. The rage was gone, it was time to sit with her pain.
There was nothing left in this world for her. She tapped in the coordinates to the world without an Alex and felt the shudder inside her as she shifted.
She avoided looking for this world’s Kara for a few months, getting herself settled, finding a place to stay, building a false identity. Her parents were both still alive in this world too, but divorced. Her dad had a new family. Her mom was successful in her field. She wouldn’t go see them. They had figured out a way of getting by without her.
Kara must have too. The last Kara had been kind to say that any Kara needed an Alex, but Alex knew better than that. Plenty of Kara’s could get by fine without her. A Kara who’d never left Krypton didn’t need an Alex. This one might have wanted her around once, but she’d surely gotten used to her absence. Still Alex was curious.
Who had Kara become in this world?
After a bit of research, some stalking, a job interview and a lot of faked paperwork, Alex, dressed in a brand new black button down and grey slacks with a matching grey vest, her hair freshly trimmed, her boots polished, and a clean lab coat over the top, knocked on the door to the office of the Chair of Emergency Medicine at Hope Zion. There was a pastel cut-out of a bunny-rabbit and some eggs on it, but as it matched the ones on every door in the hall, Alex figured it wasn't chosen by the inhabitant.
At the call of 'come in!' Alex opened the door and stepped into the office of Kara Kent MD PhD.
The woman behind the desk was frowning down at a stack of charts through thick framed glasses. Her hair was up in a perfect chignon, and under her lab-coat she wore a blouse that fell in gathers that spoke of Krypton. She lifted her head, cool and composed--the way Alex's Kara had always moved. And then she spotted Alex and froze.
In one gesture, Kara pushed up her glasses and stood. Her eyes were wide and so blue--always so blue.
"Alex?" she said, her voice small and choked, and suddenly she didn't look like a grown Kryptonian on Earth. She looked like a girl, a small drenched girl, on the beach, crouched down over the one person who had almost made her feel at home again, another person to add to the weight of her loss and hopelessness.
"Hi," Alex said. It felt like a lock, like a hand reaching out to grab her heart, to shove her back into her own loss, into seeing Kara fall, seeing her crumpled, gone --gone before Alex could even say one word, before she could tell her how much she meant to her. Suddenly, the other Kara’s words came back to her, I’ll always need you , and for the first time, she believed them. "Yeah. I'm . . . I'm Alex Danvers, from a different world." Kara's lips parted, astonishment writing itself across her face. "I'm the new Cardiology resident. And--” Her throat closed, as if fighting the words, but she couldn’t stop them. She couldn’t. “I'll be yours again, if you'll have me."
Kara didn’t speak, but she moved, in a flash of superspeed, and she was there, in front of Alex, running her fingertips across her face, as if she couldn't believe she was real, couldn't believe she was standing there in front of her.
Alex let her touch her, feeling the brush of her hands, smelling her presence, sensing her warmth. Each touch soothed the raw burn she’d been living with ever since she lost her Kara. It hurt worse when the touch moved on, but it hurt like the ache of stretching an overworked muscle. It hurt like her heart, which had barely remembered how to beat, was struggling once more to be open. Alex was helpless in the face of it--an autonomic response to the woman in front of her. Not her Kara, but a Kara who needed her. She needed a Kara just as much.
"Hi," Kara said, drawing her fingers back, suddenly shy. "This is awkward. I mean-- you don't know me."
"Of course I do," Alex said softly. "In every world, you're always the most important person to me."
Back in the medbay of the DEO Alex was eyeing the green ring on her finger suspiciously, and then eyeing the cast still on Kara's arm. The sunlamps had done Kara good, but the medical officers were worried about the break, and were also worried about what Alex would do to them if they didn't practice due diligence, so they’d wrapped her up and forbidden her from superheroing.
Kara just sat on the sunbed, watching Alex, unable to take her eyes off of her. Her Alex. Finally. She knew every look and frown Alex gave her, her concern, her affection. She basked in Alex’s funny faces.
"You're sure you're okay?"
Kara nodded. "My arm's sore, but I can fly and everything."
Alex climbed off her bed and came over to glower more closely at her. "I don't like seeing you hurt." She put her palm on Kara's forehead, peered close to check her pupil response, and tapped her arm above the cast making Kara wince a bit.
"I don't like seeing you in a coma," Kara replied. She liked Alex fussing over her though. She always wanted to be the most important person in Alex's life.
Alex rolled her eyes as if that was a) obvious, and b) par for the course.
"Let's go home," Kara said.
"You should stay in the sunbed until your arm is better."
" Alex . Your own colleagues released me."
Alex made a face. "Fine. We can go home, but only if you stay on the sofa and eat pizza."
"Only if you stay there with me."
Alex gave her a shy sideways grin. "It's a deal."
A shower that wasn't in the DEO medical center had been the first order of business, and Kara had emerged in sweats and a t-shirt to find Alex perched on one end of the couch in pajama pants, the pizza boxes stacked on the table in front of her. Alex had taken up sitting on that end of the sofa ever since she'd come out, Kara realized, not playing at fighting over the middle so they could sit as close as possible to each other. Alex had been trying to let her have her personal space. Kara was not interested in personal space, and she clambered onto the couch and conveyed herself into Alex's lap, curling up around her and burrowing her head into Alex’s shoulder.
"You're so heavy," Alex grumbled, as she wrapped her up and held her close.
"You like to be squished."
Alex grunted as if she couldn't deny it, and waved her hand, demanding the pizza she could no longer reach.
Kara provided what was requested, and then leaned in and placed a lingering kiss on Alex's cheek. Alex froze.
"Hi," Kara said, softly.
Alex turned, meeting her eyes. "Hi," she said back, her voice holding a slight quaver.
"I love you," Kara said. "You're the most important person to me, in every universe."
"I love you too." Alex's arms squeezed her, warm and comforting. "I guess I scared you, falling into a coma like that. And-- I'm sorry."
"Well," Alex shrugged. "It was me, wasn't it? A version of me hurt you like that."
Kara gave a loud sigh and flicked her nose. "Stop it. You aren't responsible for the actions of your alternates. And, I understand why she did what she did, even if it was stupid."
Alex hesitated as if she had a question that she wasn't certain she wanted the answer to. "Why did she go after you?"
"I think, really, she went after you. She wanted to punish herself for not saving me. And she was jealous that you still had me. That we had each other. She lost me, and was overcome by grief and rage and didn't know where to put it."
Alex stared at her, jaw going tight, lips sealing into her most secretive expression. Then she forced a smile, turning her eyes away, hiding whatever it was she was really feeling. "You understand, do you? You really think you're that important that in every world you dying would send me on a murderous rampage?"
Kara leaned her head into Alex’s and rubbed small circles on Alex's back. Even if Alex didn't want to share what she was feeling, she had never been very good at hiding it. "I meant I understood because I'd probably feel the same, if I lost you."
Alex hid her face in Kara's shoulder, but Kara could tell her eyes were wet. "What else did you see on your adventures?"
Alex drew back and scrunched her nose, looking embarrassed. "Sounds boring."
"Not at all."
Alex's face got redder at that.
"I mean, I learned you think I'm pretty hot when I'm not the alien who ruined your life."
Alex gaped. She tried to speak, then stopped, then tried to speak again. Then she scowled. "You didn't ruin my life."
"But you do think I'm pretty hot?"
Alex squirmed helplessly, trying to get out from under her, but Kara wouldn't let her leave. " Kara ."
" Alex ."
Kara hadn't intended her tone to go as serious as it had, but Alex heard the change and responded, going still and quiet. "Alex," Kara said again, softly. "I never want to ask more of you than you want to give me. I love you, so much, and the only thing I can't bear is seeing you unhappy."
Alex gazed at her, eyes open and clear and honest, vulnerable in the way she only ever was with Kara. "I'm always happy when I'm with you."
"How happy?" Kara let her voice drop low and suggestive, making Alex blush.
"Cut it out."
"What if I don't want to?"
"Then I might have to see what your follow through is like."
Kara narrowed her eyes. "I have excellent follow through."
Kara stroked her thumb across Alex's cheek and felt her pulse hop. She kept eye-contact as she stroked again, and Alex's eyes went wider and wider. "Kara--" she said, her voice unexpectedly breathy and strange. "You don't--"
"I have to confess something," Kara said softly. It felt like a risk, but Red-Alex hadn't taken the risk, and Kara knew that, whatever the outcome, their bond was strong enough to bear it.
"Yeah?" Alex squeaked.
"I kissed a few of you in those other worlds."
Alex's lips parted, just slightly, clearly involuntarily. No words came.
"How would you feel if I kissed you in this world too?"
"I-- I don't know," Alex said, everything about her shaking. She swallowed hard, then set her jaw like she was facing down an enemy. "Maybe you should try it and find out."
Kara grinned, she couldn't help it. "You're such a smooth talker."
"Shut up," Alex grimaced.
"No, you totally are. Please flirt with me all the time. I love it."
"Oh my god, Kara." Alex winced. "Please stop making fun of me."
"I'm really not." Kara leaned in and pressed a brief kiss to the corner of Alex's lower lip. "I'm really not ."
Alex looked at her, her gaze intense, open and needing in a way Kara hadn't seen before. "You mean it?" she asked. She wasn’t asking about the teasing.
Alex's eyes crinkled, her smile beatific. “I mean it too."
Kara kissed her properly then, and Alex kissed her back, and even with her injured arm, Kara still managed to get Alex on her back on the sofa in forty seconds, and Alex clung to her hair and tangled her legs up in Kara's, and they held on to each other, hard enough that Kara could believe they’d never let go.
Kara loved having shy, still mostly disbelieving Alex making her breakfast. She liked curling around her at night, and making Alex climb into her bathtub before she allowed her to assist in washing her hair to protect her cast from the wet. She loved the shaky way Alex told her how it had been a gut punch to realize that she knew why she hadn’t figured out she was gay, that seeing Kara’s eyes after getting caught making out with ( topped by --was how Kara remembered it) that blonde girl on the couch had been the moment of revelation, the oh fuck of certainty that, yes, she liked girls, but there was only one she really wanted. It was the one she’d always wanted, the one she’d known she could never have.
Kara loved having Alex's bare legs locked tight around her shoulders, her hands stricken limpets in Kara’s hair. She loved pinning her to the counter from behind, bending her over, and ignoring Alex’s embarrassed protests as she ran her hand appreciatively down her back and over her backside. She loved how Maggie had rolled her eyes the first time she saw them together and said, “ Finally ,” and thwacked Alex in the back of the head. She loved the intense, sweet way Alex kissed her hello and goodbye: eye-contact, a touch to her face, a press of lips, a shy grin, another press of lips, and then a tangled, firm-as-possible hug.
And she fucking loved the green lantern ring that Alex had managed to come to terms with. She could keep up with Kara now, and Kara was no longer so scared every time Alex threw herself into danger. She could get herself out of it.
That was what they'd always been meant to be.
And when they'd walked into the alien bar and there were streamers, and clearly Winn and Maggie had thrown a party celebrating the fact that they were not dead and it was their one-month anniversary, and Alex let Kara wrap her up from behind and cart her to the table, Kara realized what it all meant. Alex was happy. With her.
To the cheers of their colleagues and friends, Kara kissed her Alex, and then wrapped her up in the warmest hug she could manage. Alex hid her face, laughing in her ear, embarrassed but not displeased by the attention, and whispered, ‘all right, fine, I'll do that bonding ritual you’ve been going on about, but only if we don't tell these two numbskulls. We do not need another party.’ But she was flush-faced and too pleased at having everyone celebrating with them for Kara to believe that she really didn’t want another party.
Kara was not making any promises.
Except for one:
In every world, Kara assured her.
In every world, I love you most of all.