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I've been down the darkest alleys (to get to you)

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The city lies in ashes.

That’s a lie, but those parts of it—collapsed buildings, smoke curling through broken windows, graffiti on the walls of houses that used to be homes—they’re the only parts of the city Alex sees.

It’s been less than ten days, and people are already starting to get bored of the lockdown, the sirens, the black op groups shadowing the walls.

Young people especially are the ones Alex has had to chase away, spray cans clutched in their hands as they round the corners. Alex could feel herself starting to form the words—get away, you don’t know how much danger you’re putting yourself in—but she would just be echoing the news reporters with their painted-on smiles.

They’re teens. They know the danger they’re rushing into, and they don’t care. Supergirl was an adult—a symbol, and not just for the younger kids.

She always struggled to make things better, represented the hope for a good future. Alex doesn’t know many teens, but she reads the news, and so do they. There’s not a lot to look forward to, not a lot of good. Kara was an exception to the rule. Someone who seemed truly kind, someone who cared.

There weren’t a lot of people like that on TV.

There’s no one, now.

Alex misses her. Selfishly, she doesn’t miss Supergirl, the hero, the symbol. Just her sister.

She makes her way through the rubble slowly. The anti-Red-K gun is clutched in her left hand, by her side, always. Her right hand is confined to a sling, shaking again.

Beta, get the fuck out of there.” Alex curses as she pushes her left shoulder against a piece of concrete. “The heat signature on block three isn’t Supergirl. It’s one of Non’s Kryptonians. Retreat. We don’t need any confrontations now.”

Copy that,” Beta team’s leader says, and then Alex’s comms are silent again.

The obstacle finally moves. There are two other blocks in front of her, then black scorch marks where Supergirl tried to incinerate two agents. Namely, Alex and another one from the DEO’s desert facility. There aren’t many left that Alex can think of; her colleagues were the ones Supergirl got to first, and now they’re scattered across various hospitals in cities not terrorized by an evil superhero.

After the scorch marks—when she shifts, Alex can feel the burns across her torso, red and painful— the houses are intact but empty. All in all, Supergirl’s rampage only really hit two parts of the city, each not even very big. Still, the destruction is impressive.

The house to Alex’s right doesn’t even have walls left. Broken glass, furniture, once-beloved items buried underneath charred wood. Alex’s broken arm starts to shake again, and she presses it to her side.

She can’t be affected. She has goals.

One, stop Supergirl. No killing. Yes, she’s still holding on to that. Even with Washington’s more than clear orders, she’s holding on to her sister’s life. She’s been hiding this highest principle of hers, well enough that she’s still in command. Emergency director once again.

Two, no death count. Kara will never recover if there’s blood on her hands, she knows that. And Supergirl isn’t intent on death, she wants power and control. The collateral damage is what Alex needs to prevent.

She has goals. But still, with those clear in her head, the sight of her apartment to her right, burned to the ground, is enough to make her hands shake.

 


 

Alex, are you alone?”

She jumps. It’s still hard to get used to J’onn’s voice in her head.

He’s in that cell in the DEO, eating prisoner food and whatever snacks Alex manages to sneak in whenever she goes there to recharge. He’s their prisoner, but the army lost interest in him the moment Alex’s shot missed its target nine days ago.

He can’t exactly use comms. But it’s lucky they have so few records of Martians in their database, because they put him in a shapeshifter cell, in a strength cell, in a don’t-break-the-walls cell. They didn’t prepare for his telepathic powers.

It’s lucky because, without his guidance, Alex would be dead. She’s been through twelve murder attempts in nine days, only about two-thirds of them half-hearted, and without the voice in her head telling her to keep going, she’d have given up.

Or she wouldn’t have, because it’s Kara.

She appreciates it much the same.

I’m alone, J’onn. What’s up?”

Dammit!” Alex flinches as the tone echoes around her already aching head. “I’m sorry.” She can feel him trying to compose himself, but even without the connection, she’d know he’s out of his mind with worry. Frustration, helplessness. Fear. “But Alex, I thought I told you, you have to stop being out there on your own. Your si—Supergirl, she’s tried to kill you eleven times. You’re injured. Exhausted.”

Twelve times,” Alex says. “You’re not losing your mind in that cell, are you? Because I really, really need you right now.” Quietly, “I thought we agreed if she wanted me dead, I’d be dead. I’m no match for her. Never was.”

You are,” J’onn insists, and he just sounds sad now. Alex is standing in the middle of the street, trying to catch her breath. “But you haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in days, you have a broken arm, burns, and you’re limping. At this rate, the wind will do you in before she does.”

That’s helpful,” Alex mumbles as she walks up to the first intact house. The door is locked, and she can’t open it with her left hand and injured ankle.

I can’t lose both of you,” J’onn says. Alex’s breath stops at the earnestness in his voice, the grief he feels just considering the possibility. It’s overwhelming.

She can’t be affected.

She can’t stop and rest.

Alex trudges on, passing through vacant streets. She’s alpha team, and she’s the coordinator of all of this, all action against Supergirl. No one else has the overview she does. They don’t know she’s alone. They’re not desert facility, and they don’t know that Alex would set all of them up to fail if it meant bringing her sister home.

And I can’t lose her, J’onn,” she says—or whatever it’s called when it’s in your head. “I won’t. I’m the only one standing between Kara and death, or worse, when they find her. I won’t risk that, even for you.”

I know.” J’onn’s voice starts to fade out, and Alex prepares herself for the silence. “Be safe.”

I’ll try,” Alex says, but she’s alone in her head again. She walks on. Soon, she’s reached the second destroyed part of the city. Once all chrome and glory, now the CatCo building is a glaring, charred skeleton.

 


 

How’d you know I’d be here?” The woman says. She’s framed from behind by the evening sun, her hair glowing golden and red, her black suit blending right in with her environment. It’s a dramatic shot. She was very dramatic at first, this version of her, but now, underneath the gloating and the anger, she just seems bored.

Isn’t that joke growing old?” Alex says tiredly. “You followed my heartbeat, Kara, like you always do.”

Kara,” the woman in front of her muses. She steps to the side so her face is more visible. “I never liked that name. Weak people called me that. My mother was weak, and she’s dead. Your mother is weak, and look at what she’s doing, hiding while her daughter is out here, risking her life!”

She laughs, high-pitched and artificial. It’s been clear from day one this isn’t Kara. It’s been getting clearer since.

You called me Kara,” she goes on. “You call me Kara. You didn’t hide, like your mom, so you’ll die. Like mine. At least there’s some honor left in you, I suppose.” She laughs again. “Though none of the dignity. So delicate, are you? Limping here, clutching your pathetic, shattered bones. Your face is ugly, sister. Maybe it’s the blood.”

I’m not in the mood for games today,” Alex calls out. J’onn was right; she’s beat. She’s done.

She has no chance against Kara on a good day. And today is a terrible day.

Kill me, if you want,” she says. The gun is in her hand, but she has no plan. Kara’s skin shimmers, like gold, an armor meant to protect her from the anti-Red-K blasters.

Today, Alex realizes, isn’t the day she wins. It’s the day she finds out if Kara really is out to kill her. If she’s just bored, or if she cares. If she’s still there, somewhere underneath the glowing red and the gold.

Kill me,” she repeats. “You know I can’t stop you. But,” she hesitates, but what is there to lose? She’s laid bare before Kara, before this Kara that is intent on ripping her veins open, on laughing with her blood on her hands. “I love you. I still love you. You can’t stop that.”

Her knees give out, and she lets them. She sinks on a heap of concrete and ashes and broken glass. You can’t replace that. I’m okay with dying. I always knew I’d die for you.” She laughs, a rumble in her dry throat.

You’re not dying for me,” Kara growls. She steps forward, the edges of her eyes heating, her hands tight fists. If Alex dies today, she knows it’ll hurt. She knows she’ll die with the air torn out of her throat. She’ll die with her veins open. She’ll die screaming.

You’re dying by my hand. There’s nothing honorable in weakness. You’re on your knees before me.” Kara steps close, close enough to crouch down, to get on a level with Alex’s eyes and snarl into her face. “You’re powerless.”

She cups Alex’s face, almost gently, until her nails bury into Alex’s skin. They’re like razor blades, and they draw blood instantly. One of the crests is right under Alex’s eye. The blood trickles down her cheek. Kara’s grip on her arm is bruising.

But you see,” Alex hisses through her teeth, “I’m not.” She means it—after all this time, she still means it with all she has—“I love you.”

Kara flinches. Her grip on Alex’s arm disappears, and Alex sinks back into the rubble.

She goes out, but even as her eyes blur, even as the pain threatens to overtake her vision, she keeps her gaze glued on her sister. And Kara, if that’s possible, looks more hurt than her. Kara—and at that point, Alex doesn’t trust her memory anymore—Kara stumbles back. Her throat makes a painful sound, and she retches. She clutches her stomach.

And she leaves. Sister unkilled, victory untasted. She leaves.

 


 

It’s her fault.

A woman, an agent from Beta team has her arm slung around her back, holding her up. In any other situation, Alex would protest being dragged along like this, but she needs to preserve her strength, and the agent seems far less injured than she is.

They found her awake and conscious, and for that, she’s glad. She has their respect. She’s the director. She’s in charge. She’s responsible for who lives, who dies, and so far, no one’s died yet.

It’s a miracle. It’s the least Alex could do.

This is her fault.

Technically, it’s Maxwell Lord’s. It’s definitely more his fault than Kara’s, though the world seems to disagree. It was Lord who tried to make kryptonite, it was he who dragged something out of Kara that, at first glance, seemed to be her darkest impulses.

Max Lord is comfortable in Alex’s lab in the DEO, searching for a way to disable Supergirl’s gold skin. Meanwhile, Kara is out there, alone, with a target on her back. She’s branded a terrorist. If Lord succeeds, he’ll be the nation’s hero.

It’s not fair, because this is his fault. But it’s Alex’s fault, too.

Nine days ago, she had a chance. Nine days ago, all Supergirl had done in the eyes of the world was let a criminal get away, scare Cat Grant, scare the city. Now, people have lost their homes. They’re terrified. They’re angry.

Kara will never get to be their hero again.

This is what Max Lord has taken from her.

This is what Alex took from her.

She’d had the gun in her left hand, had a clean shot. J’onn had revealed himself and saved her in the process. It was Kara’s first day on red kryptonite. Alex could have saved her that day, and she knows it; she could have brought her home.

Her hands were shaking. The shot missed. Kara woke up, took off, and the next day, she’d appeared above the city, her skin glowing golden.

It’s been nine days.

Alex lets herself get dragged to the car, driven to the desert facility. Things will never be okay again, but tomorrow is another day. Another shot at saving her sister.

It’s not one she intends to miss.

 


 

“What happened?”

Alex enters the room, locks the door behind her, and disables the camera, and J’onn is on his feet immediately. His calm, composed persona is fraying at the edges, trapped in the same place he commanded for over a decade. He’s still Alex’s touchstone, he’s steady, and guiding, but worry is eating at him. She can see it.

They resent the feeling of helplessness, all three of them.

“Nothing,” Alex answers. Still, she has to steady herself on the glass walls of J’onn’s prison as she slowly sinks on the steps. Her hand shakes as she retrieves two chocolate protein bars from her pocket. She opens the small window to his cell, pushing it through. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get anything tastier.”

He takes it. She can feel his eyes on her as she peels open the snack. She can’t remember the last time she had a warm meal. Any meal.

Finally, J’onn sits, so they’re back to back, separated by a single sheet of glass.

“You got this from the medbay,” he notices softly. He’s not her boss anymore—she’s his captor, technically, his prison guard—but then he hasn’t been only that in some time. He’s family. There’s no reason not to show his more gentle side now. Fatherly, Alex thinks, almost, but that just hurts.

“You should eat it. Not me. If they give you this, they think you haven’t been eating.” He places the bar in front of the small window again. “Alex, you need to take care of yourself.”

She sighs. Every part of her is aching, and she’s heard this lecture a million times.

“Did you notice she’s thinner?” She asks instead. “I mean, I guess on screen it’s not that obvious, but up close, I think she is. I didn’t even know Kara could lose weight. I don’t think she’s been eating, J’onn. Where does she get her food?” She turns around slightly. “I haven’t heard of any attacks on take-out places. Do you think she’s eating?”

She suddenly feels sick. Kara had always taken such joy in food, not in cooking, but in eating, in pizza and pod stickers and chocolate pecan pie and donuts and whatever else she could get her hands on. This version of her doesn’t seem to take joy in anything.

Anything she does, she does angrily, with white-hot rage and clenched fists and contempt on her face. It can’t be healthy. It can’t feel good.

She has to get Kara out of there.

“I don’t know,” J’onn says. “Did you see her up close? Alex, is that where all the blood on your face comes from?”

“It’s fine,” she says. “I’m fine. Once I get Kara, I’ll be fine. They’re just scratches.”

“There’s a bandage on your arm, too,” J’onn growls, and he doesn’t seem tired anymore. “How could you do something so stupid, Agent Danvers?”

“But it wasn’t stupid,” Alex insists. “It was tactical!” One of the slices on her cheeks reopens, and she can feel hot blood making its way down her skin. “The only way Kara used to be able to sleep is by listening to my heartbeat. It’s a part of her. If she wants to kill me, she can—wherever I am, whatever I do, it doesn’t matter. Meeting her isn’t more of a risk. And now I know she’s not completely gone.”

Alex wipes a hand over her face, and another one of the crests—she can still feel Kara’s nails pressed into her skin, slicing clean through—opens. Her hand comes away bloody. She doesn’t care. “Whatever the Red K did to her, it’s not forever.”

“You’re injured, Alex,” J’onn repeats. “You have to breathe. You have to rest. Or it doesn’t matter if Kara is alive, because you won’t be.”

“I don’t care!” She doesn’t have to think twice. “She’s the only one that matters. She always has been.”

J’onn looks at her, and he’s going to protest. She can see it. But then it clicks, the recognition. Failure, guilt in Alex’s eyes. It’s not the same at all—she hasn’t lost a world—but it’s similar enough for him to understand.

She didn’t protect her little sister. Every injury, every skipped meal and sleepless night, every replay of Kara’s voice in her head—we don’t share blood. Without me, you have no life—is just a logical consequence of that. Why should Alex get to be okay, when Kara, who’s a hero, who’s good, and kind, and who she was supposed to protect… isn’t?

 


 

Eventually, Alex sleeps.

She looks so small, pressed up against the glass of his cell. Her broken arm is curled tight to her body, her injured ankle stretched out across the steps. The glass is bloody where her head is leaned against it.

J’onn wishes he could carry her to a bed, or at least wrap a blanket around her shoulders. There’s no heat on the outside of the cell, and yet, when she’s not in her lab or the city, she spends all of her time here.

Alex is young. She’s in her twenties, and already one of the most dedicated, hardworking agents—director, now—the DEO has ever seen. Out to fight her Kryptonian sister with just her gun and her broken arm and her recklessness.

Sometimes, he regrets recruiting her.

She wouldn’t know him. They would never have the relationship they do now; but seeing her so injured, punishing herself, working to her very limit, he thinks she might have been better off.

He leans against the glass wall, sits on the floor of his cell, so close to Alex he could count her breaths.

J’onn’s people are patient. They live—they lived—long lives, and they know how to wait. This quality got him through the decades he’d spent on Earth as a fugitive until Jeremiah Danvers came along. He’s used to waiting, to sitting still, but he hasn’t been used to this care, this fondness in a very long time.

Jeremiah had given him so much—his trust, a spark of belief in humanity, and eventually, his life—but J’onn can’t help but think that his greatest gift came in form of his daughters’ names.

Their love for each other, their loyalty, their acceptance, they’d changed everything.

He can’t lose them. He can’t.

 


 

When J’onn wakes up, Alex is gone. His dinner has been roughly pushed through the little window, and it’s still a little warm. It can’t have been much more than two hours since Alex had arrived. The fresh smears of blood across the glass tell him she must’ve just left.

 


 

“Agent—oh, pardon me, Director—Danvers. Such a pleasure.”

“Cut the crap, Max, and tell me about your research.”

Alex limps into her lab. It reeks of expensive cologne and arrogance, and she hates to see Max Lord take up her space, but it’s only fitting Kara’s cure be found in here.

He turns, already opening his mouth. But maybe it’s the dark glint in Alex’s eyes, maybe it’s her bloodied face she still hasn’t cleaned up—just scratches, she told the doctors, didn’t want to think of Kara’s nails buried into her cheek, of the dull ache in her chest that’s worse than the pain—he turns, and his face quickly becomes serious.

“Are you alright?” he asks, staring pointedly at her injuries.

“I will be once you’ve made some progress.”

Lord frowns. “I’m a little lost,” he admits. “I’ve worked out the exact chemical substance we need to reverse the Red Kryptonite’s effects on our favorite alien, but… I can’t find a way to fit it into a firearm.”

“What’s the problem?” Alex asks, her voice hard. She feels hope sparking up at his words, and she can’t have that. There are no victories until they’ve got Kara back.

“I can’t focus the energy.” He turns, gesturing to the microscope, the scribbled formulas. “So far, the tests have only worked with liquids, directly massaged into the skin.”

Alex shifts her weight and raises a brow. “Like… like a gel? A face cream?”

“Exactly!” Lord claps his hands. “But we can hardly sell your sister a moisturizer and hope for the best.”

The shadow of a plan worms its way through Alex’s brain.

It’s probably just the desperation. The burning under her fingernails. J’onn thinks it’s a death wish, but she knows better. All her life has been leading up to this. Kara is in danger. If Alex doesn’t risk her life for her, no one will.

“But it’s ready?” she asks. “If someone got close enough, if they applied it, would she—it would reverse the Red K?”

“Supergirl,” Lord says, and she hates the way Kara’s name rolls off his tongue. He doesn’t deserve to even think it, “would get her sunny personality back. No physical side effects. Just the emotional baggage of terrorizing her home—no, should I say, adopted country?” He gestures dramatically. Alex wills herself to be still.

She could punch him through a wall without lifting her little finger.

“But trying it out would be madness,” Lord continues. “All due respect, Alex, but you can hardly walk.”

She’s so sick of it. She’s so sick of bargaining for her little sister’s life, over and over again. With the military, Lucy Lane, Maxwell Lord, even the fucking President.

Alex steps forward. Leans way into his comfort zone. “Shut up and move over,” she snarls. “I’m going to verify this, and then I’m gonna get my sister back.”

 


 

She sets up a plan for the next six hours, sweeps of the city—Supergirl is hard to locate for anyone who isn’t her—and mostly, recharging the troops. Then she lies down in her cot. They’re right in one thing, J’onn and the doctors and even Max Lord, she’s tired. Her body can’t be fixed in six hours, but for once, it’s not about physical strength; she’ll need her mind clear, her emotions in check to face Kara.

Her hands tremble as she pulls the thin blanket over herself. Whatever position she’s in, it hurts; her whole body aches, and not the good kind of ache, either. Not the kind that means you’ve won.

In a way, she welcomes the pain. It doesn’t make her feel alive—she knows she is—but it does remind her that this may as well be her last day here.

Not in the DEO, no. It’s unlikely they’ll keep her, anyway. She cheated the polygraph, but she doesn’t have Lane’s trust, she doesn’t have the military’s. Her competence and vigor are what got her here in the lone Director’s cot, not her ability to make friends.

This may well be her last day among the living.

Alex knows that, and she hurts for Kara. She will wake up as though from a fever dream, among the ashes of her workplace, the ashes of her dreams of being a hero. Her dead sister’s apartment will be unrecognizable. Her hard work, her life, burned to the ground.

It won’t be her fault. But it will feel like it is.

Everything will tell her it is.

Alex knows for herself that if she did anything to hurt Kara, she’d never come back from it. She would simply cease to exist. But Kara has always been stronger than her; a lost little girl who’d managed to pave a way for herself in this strange world.

Depending on how tomorrow goes—if Alex saves Kara in time, if she dies trying—that way will feel like it’s coated in Alex’s blood.

So this, it needs to be perfect.

It needs to be everything Alex never managed to be.

She lies in her hard cot, her hand trembling as she pushes a letter in front of another.

Love, Alex, she writes.

She sends a prayer out to the cold, unkind universe. She prays it’ll light her sister’s way home once more.

Then she sleeps.

 


 

Alex drags her feet through the dirt.

Broken asphalt mixed with flaky ash, glass ground to pieces, pieces of furniture, pictures, exposed cables. It’s all been pushed to the side to clear a way for the teams to get through, but this isn’t an authorized mission. Alex can’t risk running into them. She sent the DEO troops off to roam another part of the city, but the army, the cops, FBI, she doesn’t control them.

It’s barely been an hour since her drive from the desert base. She’s already worn down. A part of her is ready to give up, to succumb.

Alex always has a plan. She’s organized, charges in guns blazing only when she needs to. (It’s what she tells herself.) She’s diligent and hard-working, and she always has a plan.

This time, she barely thought to bring water. Dust coats the inside of her mouth, and she feels dizzy. The cuts on her face are leaking again. She’s in pain—it runs through every part of her body, every vein.

“Supergirl?” she whispers. Coughs. A little louder, “Supergirl! Kara, can you hear me?” Her hand goes to the pouch on her hip. “Do you hear me? I just want to talk.”

She reaches the first intact house. Leans heavily against the wall.

“Kara? Kara, please, please…” She curses as her broken arm brushes against the hard surface. “Show up, come on. I don’t care if you come to fucking kill me. Just show up.”

Alex feels tears at the corners of her eyes. “Stop wasting water,” she tells herself. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work. When they drip into the cuts, it stings.

“Well, that’s typical for you,” Alex scoffs. She doesn’t know if she’s talking to the wall, to herself, or if she really thinks she can provoke her sister into showing. “This new you, I mean. I’m always there if you need me, to beat me up or tell me how I’m not good enough or how I’m not your sister or whatever. And the one time I need you, you’re not here. I don’t know why I thought you’d be.”

A car starts up somewhere in the distance. It startles Alex and she inhales more dust. She coughs, a violent tear in her throat. With shaking fingers, she fumbles for the small water bottle hidden in a pocket of her trousers. Her hands are sweating. The bottle slips out of her hand, crashes to the ground.

A trickle of water makes its way through the dirt. Alex stares at it, and she knows she should pick up the bottle, see if there’s still some liquid left in there, but instead, she leans her good arm on the wall, and retches.

It hurts her throat even more, and nothing comes up.

“Fuck you, Kara.”

Even the whisper is painful.

“I mean—” Tears prick at her eyes again. “I don’t mean that. I love you. No—” she coughs. “Nothing else matters, okay? Please, just… just come, okay? I’m not gonna hurt you, I just… I think I’m dying, Kara.”

It’s ridiculous. None of her wounds are lethal. She drank water half an hour ago, and she can go back to the base whenever she likes.

It still feels like the truth. Sharp, and real, and painful.

She doesn’t want to live without her sister.

Alex turns her eyes away from the bottle lying on the ground, and slowly makes her way inside the building. The door is busted today—the house isn’t fully intact anymore after all, but who knows if that was the work of looters or rogue Supergirl—and she steps into the cool hallway.

Alex makes her way to the stairs. The building is a couple of stories high, and she climbs the steps slowly, leaning her weight on her good foot, pushing her left shoulder up against the walls. She’s breathing heavily.

She has to get to a greater height. She’ll be up on the rooftop, and Kara will have to hear her.

One way or another.

“Alex.”

She ignores the voice in her head.

“Alex, where are you?”

She catches her breath, one flight of stairs still ahead of her.

“Alex!”

She tries to concentrate on her heartbeat, but her mouth is so dry, and her lungs ache, and she can’t focus, and—

“Alex, I swear—”

“Shut up!”

At least it’s only in her head. At least she doesn’t have to push the words out of her mouth. Everything hurts and she’s tired and she’s going to do something stupid, she knows, but she can’t help it.

“You can’t do that,” J’onn says, and he sounds frightened. “Alex, Alex, I need you to go back down those stairs and get back to the base, or to your mother’s, but you can’t do that. You can’t.” She hears the I won’t allow it, too, but he doesn’t consciously think it. He’s afraid of more loss, and she understands, but he has no real power, and she has no intention to stop.

His fear still hurts. It’s not unfamiliar, but usually, he’s better at masking it. She doesn’t want to cause any more pain.

She needs to distract him.

“Don’t even try,” J’onn chastises her.

“Do you think this is really her?” She takes a careful step.

“Alex—”

“You know what I mean, right?” Step—she grits her teeth—by step. Step by step. “Max Lord said—when we still thought we could fix this the easy way, he said the Red K brought out Kara’s worst impulses.”

“We don’t know,” J’onn says, his voice somehow quieter, gentler. “This kryptonite’s creation was an accident.”

“Yeah, but does it make sense?” Another step, another. “I know her. I know my sister. But, but do I? I mean, what if her worst instincts are these? Sure, everybody thinks of burning shit down sometimes. All the time.”

“Not everyone,” J’onn says sternly, his no-distraction policy forgotten.

Alex huffs. Why is the railing only on her right side? Her good hand grips the bare wall. “Yeah, don’t tell me we don’t all have it in us. But, J’onn, this isn’t like that, right? I mean, throwing Cat off a building was one thing. She’s Kara’s boss. She’s also kind of an asshole. First I thought it was about—power, you know? That would make more sense. Kara, she resents feeling powerless.”

“Understandably,” J’onn says, and Alex winces. Sometimes she forgets he’s a prisoner now instead of the boss.

“I get that,” she continues. “I get that feeling. But—that’s not what she’s been doing, has she? She doesn’t even show herself much anymore. With Clark still off-planet, she could burn down the world if she wanted to.”

“You don’t think it’s about power anymore.”

“No.” Alex steps on the rooftop. The wind whips into her face immediately. It stings. But it feels cleansing. Her shoulders release their tension. “But she’s also not, like, she’s not empty or anything. She’s not just a vessel for evil. A part of her is still Kara. She didn’t just destroy random parts of the city.”

She waits for J’onn’s input, but she can only feel his presence, waiting for her to go on even though he knows where she’ll lead him.

“She destroyed CatCo. Next—” Alex breathes in deeply. “She destroyed my apartment. Then she came after me.” She closes her eyes. “Laser vision, freeze breath, pieces of concrete, collapsing buildings, a hole in the ground. I don’t even remember what else she tried to kill me with.” She does. Vividly. “It was personal, J’onn, all of it. First the desert agents, then just me. And I thought it was bad when she told me we weren’t sisters.”

She smiles. She barely remembers the use of that motion.

“That we didn’t share blood. In a way, she was right, wasn’t she? About the jealousy. And I killed her aunt.”

And the other thing.

Without me, you have no life.

It’s ironic because it’s true. Alex, about to risk everything for Kara because there’s no going on without her.

What I’m trying to say,” she continues, and suddenly, it’s crystal-clear. “If Kara’s darkest impulses tell her to kill me at any cost, how can we even live with that? If this is what she wants the most, deep down, then I guess she’s right. I’m not her sister after all.”

The silence in her head is unwelcome. She feels J’onn’s presence, lingering, but she’s pulled from the conversation in her head. She walks farther from the stairwell to the edge of the rooftop. The view is beautiful.

The city, in all its glory, to her left.

The city, abandoned and destroyed, to her right.

“Alex,” J’onn says suddenly, and she startles. “Alex, you’re wrong.” He pauses. “I told you you’re Supergirl’s hero, and that still holds true. I’ve seen you two together for quite some time now. You’re the most important person in her life.” He chooses his words carefully, she notices. Present tense. “This red kryptonite, it brings out her darkest impulses, but it also transforms her abundance of good intentions into evil. You and I both know your sister cares. Arguably too much.”

The corner of Alex’s mouth twitches.

“This passion that she has, this care for you, it has been twisted. It’s just as strong, but it manifests as an obsession. An obsession to do what she would never want to do: hurt you.”

“I hate that that makes sense,” Alex mumbles, feeling suddenly empty.

“You don’t.”

“No, I don’t.” Alex steps closer to the ledge, closer, and sends out a wordless apology. “Thank you, J’onn. You… you’ve helped a lot.” She swallows. It hurts. “But no matter what the Red K did to her, I still need to save my sister.”

She cuts the connection in her head just as J’onn begins to shout.

“Kara,” she says weakly into the wind. “Last chance.”

There is no answer.

Alex steps over the edge.

 


 

She falls.

It’s the only thing she can think of. She falls. The ground rushes near her in record speed. The pain is secondary to the fear, the thrill.

She falls.

 


 

Something collides with her body like a wrecking ball. It thrusts the air out of her lungs. She yelps in pain. She’s close enough to the ground that she can see the black scorch marks on the asphalt, and she’s caught.

It’s not particularly gentle. It hurts more than when Kara had caught her as a teenager after they’d been driven off the bridge. But then, it hurts less than the impact would have.

For a moment, they hover in the air. Kara’s hands are around her torso, holding her up, but Alex’s arm is free. Her vision is dotted black. Nonetheless, she reaches into the pouch on her belt, scoops the gel with her hand, and cups Kara’s face. It’s rougher than she’d like, but they’re in the air, and she just almost crashed to her death, so she thinks she can be forgiven.

She applies the gel gently. Around her sister’s eyes, on her forehead, her cheeks.

Before she can register Supergirl’s bewildered expression, or reach into the pouch again, Alex’s vision goes black.

 


 

She’s barely conscious yet when she notices the smell.

Rotten vegetables, spoiled milk, sickly sweet fruit. She curls to her side and dry retches over the edge. Alex is lightheaded, and opening her eyes feels like the feat of the century.

She’s a trained soldier, so this shouldn’t be this hard, Alex thinks as she opens them just a crack.

“You’re fragile,” Kara notes, crouching down before her, and Alex startles back. But it doesn’t sound malicious, or even condescending. Just vaguely curious.

Alex decides not to take the bait.

“How can you bear this?” She gestures around the tiny concrete room, the food rotting in a corner. Alex is finally awake enough to assess the situation.

The room looks like storage. Walls covered in dust, in mold, empty wooden racks pushed into a corner. Alex is lying on a hard cot in the middle of the room. It’s so tiny that, if she were to sit up and stretch out her hands, she’d be able to reach the opposite wall with her fingertips. The door is locked from the inside.

She doesn’t have a fighting chance. The smell makes her feel sick, and her ribs are bruised at best. She can feel every inch of skin where Kara’s hands had hit her with full force, catching her in the air.

Breathing hurts so much she thinks she would’ve been better off dead.

But no, she reminds herself again, Kara isn’t saved yet, and she can’t rest until that’s the case.

“What do you mean?” Kara tilts her head, staring at Alex with unblinking eyes, and it’s almost more unsettling than her rage.

“You have super senses,” Alex says. If she weren’t concentrating so hard on staying conscious, this conversation would seem more than absurd. “I—I can barely stand the smell. How do you do it?”

Kara frowns. “I don’t know.” She tears her eyes away from Alex, looks down at her hands as if they contain the answers to the universe.

Alex imagines they shimmer just a little bit less golden, but then again, she might be hallucinating.

“They’re number now,” Kara says slowly. “My senses. I… I remember they used to be so easy to access. Now I have to concentrate. Anything except you… your heartbeat, your voice. I heard you screaming.” She blinks. “You jumped off a building. Why’d you do that?”

“Because—” Bile rises in Alex’s throat. “Can we get out of here?” she hears herself beg, but the smell is so overpowering she doesn’t care. She squints at the food—it seems so unnecessary to keep it in here—and gasps.

Several plastic containers labeled rice and pod stickers in her own, neat handwriting.

“Is this—” she tries to sit up, tears in her eyes. “Kara, did you get this from my apartment? Before you burned it down?”

“Something to remember you by.”

Just as Alex thinks she’s going to pass out again, in a gust of air, they’re gone.

 


 

She’s like an owl. The head tilt, eyes wide open, unblinking, staring right into Alex’s face. Curious, maybe even startled, this person isn’t Kara, either.

Alex is crouched on her knees, good hand braced on her leg—though it doesn’t feel like there’s any good part of her anymore, anything that’s not completely broken—trying to exhale the scent memory of rot through her nostrils. The floor under her reflects bright, sun-flooded windows. It’s marble, quite beautiful patterns, but unpolished, dusty.

Her head spins, but the air here is clearer, and Alex lifts her eyes for surveillance of the room.

It’s a hall, really. High and enormous, with marble floors stretching out and long windows at the top of the walls, sunlight filtering into the room.

Everything is covered in dust, and there are beer cans scattered throughout. The walls, once white, are full of graffiti and faded rectangles where, presumably, paintings used to be.

“National city tech museum,” Alex whispers. She tries to shift into a more comfortable position, her broken arm pressed to her body, her good arm delicately putting pressure on her ribs. With all that, her face and her ankle and the headache on top, she’s in no position to stand up. If she was her doctor, she’d probably handcuff herself to a bed and throw away the keys. To be released once she’s well enough to pick the lock. Alex chuckles to herself.

Ten days, and she’s delirious.

“It used to be a museum,” Kara answers, and Alex startles. Kara’s gaze finally unlocks itself from her face, drifting around the room. “Max Lord sponsored a new building in exchange for a room there just for his company’s creations. The mayor happily agreed.”

Alex remembers this. It was a widely discussed decision a few years back, especially since the new building turned out to be quite ugly, and entry fees blocked what used to be free.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Kara says, her voice rising. “Beautiful spot, beautiful city. Then it got outdated. Out-sponsored. All the money used up for the new one, nothing left to tear it down. The old thing didn’t die mercifully, it decayed. Everybody hates it now. It’s full of rotten things.”

Kara makes even less sense now than she did yesterday, but Alex knows where she’s going with this.

“Just like me.”

Instead of spiteful, you failed me, Alex, you threw me away, Alex, it just sounds sad.

“That’s nice, Kara,” Alex says tiredly. “You could come home, though. I’ve got—” She reaches to her belt, suddenly frightened, but the pouch is still there, the gel warm to the touch. “I’ve got something that will make you feel better. It’s… a cure. It’s made especially for you. If this nightmare ever ends, this is what’ll do it, Kara.”

Kara doesn’t answer, and Alex’s hand drops to her ribs again, curling around her stomach. At least, Alex thinks, she’ll die on a marble floor—how many people can claim that for themselves?

Her eyes threaten to drop shut, and she sinks into herself even more, sharp pain shooting through her side. Alex forces her eyelids to stay open.

She follows Kara with her gaze as she steps farther into the hall. Without the dramatic framing, the smoking city around her, she’s less impressive by far; her black costume is amateur-designed, hugging her body in strange places. An evil onesie.

Kara turns around after a few steps.

“Don’t you see?” she asks, and maybe she’s just toying with Alex, maybe her skin is just as golden, her intentions just as dark as before Alex applied the gel. She’d assumed that it wasn’t enough, but maybe it hadn’t worked. Maybe Kara is standing here in an abandoned museum with the ten-day-old contents of Alex’s fridge from an apartment that no longer exists just to mess with her.

Any fool could see that Alex can’t get much lower, that there isn’t much Kara can do to her short of death.

“Everything I’ve worked for,” Kara says, “it’s gone. Whoever did this to me, they’ve won, okay? I’m done. I’m just having fun until Kal-El returns and murders me. Mercifully, of course. Supergirl’s rampage, they’ll write in the history books. They’ll name heroes and villains. Maybe scientists will write fun little papers on why I’m proof that we should only have men superheroes, or why alien immigrants are too much of a risk.”

Kara’s voice is still too high, but she’s earnest, her voice laced with grief. “We lost, Alex. Face it. I’ll be dead in a week at most, and you… you can stay with me. We’ll watch movies. Have sister night every day. I’ll find us a place, and we’ll have seven happy days. They’ll pronounce you a traitor and they’ll kill you, but at least we’ll be together.”

At that point, the stabs all over her body have transformed into an overwhelming kind of just pain, and she’s probably hallucinating, but it sounds like the most beautiful thing Alex has ever heard.

A week of sister nights, cuddled up on a couch somewhere, with takeout on their laps, pretending like everything is okay, like the ground isn’t ash under their feet. Maybe they can break J’onn out. They’ll watch The Wizard of Oz, share ice cream. They’ll be a family.

Alex feels herself slipping. She doesn’t have any lethal injuries, she’s sure of that, but with the sleep deprivation, undernourishment, the bit of dehydration, stress, and her general condition, it’s not looking too good for her either.

She fights to keep her eyes open. Suddenly, Kara isn’t standing there anymore, and the next thing she knows, she’s kneeling in front of Alex, cupping her face. This time, it’s gentle, a careful, feathery touch from the girl who brought the whole city to its knees.

“I hurt you, didn’t I,” Kara whispers.

“It worked,” Alex whispers back, her eyes drooping. “The gel. You’re different. It—just take it, okay? It’ll… it’ll be good… for you. I pr—I promise.”

“Alex?”

They’ll have seven sister nights on a stranger’s couch. They’ll be a family. They are a family. Kara was wrong.

“I don’t care about blood,” Alex says, and to her, it makes a lot of sense.

Alex?

“Use the gel,” Alex insists. She’s slipping, her body is sagging and she’s in Kara’s arms, and there’s so much hurt that she can barely feel it anymore. A voice in her head is asking her location and telling her to hold on, but she can’t concentrate.

“I will!” Kara’s big, owlish eyes are on her, and then on her pouch, and then suddenly the gel is on her hands. She’s spreading it on her skin with frantic messiness, the gold prickling and glittering, fighting against its destruction. “See, I’ll be okay. I’ll get you somewhere, and Alex, you’ll be okay, too—”

This is getting boring, Alex thinks just as she’s slipping away again.

 


 

“She’ll recover,” a voice says just above her head. It’s deep, placating, a bit nervous. “We’ve treated her broken arm for infection, but there’s a good chance that even after surgery, her movement will remain limited in some way.” The speaker clears their throat audibly. “After how long the fracture stayed untreated, your sister is incredibly lucky it’s not worse, ma’am.”

Alex keeps her eyes closed.

“The cuts on her face are superficial. She has bruises on her arm and torso and half-healed burn marks. I’ve already told you that her ribs are bruised. We’ll need to keep her here for another good while, ma’am, to monitor her condition, and to make sure she’s properly nourished and hydrated. I’ll—” They clear their throat again. “I’ll leave you alone now. Call me if you need anything.”

Alex thought they might be her doctor, but on closer inspection of the voice, they sound too young, and unsure as well, almost frightened.

From what she can tell through her eyelids, the room is dark. Her right arm is in a big, bulky cast, and her ribs and left arm are bandaged.

“Thank you,” a tired voice says from her right. “We’ll be okay.”

Alex exhales. Tears prick at the corners of her eyes. They trickle down her cheeks, stinging as they reach the cuts. She feels like sobbing, like cracking open, but it’d only hurt her worse, and she’s already exposed in every other way.

Kara.

She doesn’t need to open her eyes. Her sister’s voice, crumbling around the word okay, quiet and tired, is more herself than she’s been the last ten days. There’s no maliciousness, no boredom, not that high pitch, that childish confusion. Contempt, anger, violence, it’s all made way to quiet defeat.

It’s different from the way Kara was before, that’s for sure. But it’s her.

“Alex,” Kara says, and it’s just now that Alex realizes Red-K Supergirl had never addressed her by name. “I can tell you’re awake.”

Alex finally opens her eyes. She can’t help but run a quick assessment in her mind; the room is dimly lit, not at all a hospital room, but clean enough, nondescript. The colors are neutral whites and grays, it’s average size, and the only pieces of furniture are Alex’s hospital bed and two chairs.

One of which Kara is sitting in.

She’s Kara Danvers, glasses, jeans, and a big sweater. Her hair is down, though, her face scrubbed clean. She’s sitting on the plastic chair rigidly, back straight as if she’s being watched, face exhausted and drawn. Alex can’t make out her expression in the low lighting.

Her chair is pushed to the wall at the other side of the room, right next to the door. Kara looks normal, the tired sister of an injured family member.

Alex wonders what cards she’s had to pull out of her sleeve; how she’s gotten someone with medical training—med student, maybe? At least that’s who Alex has contracted before; definitely no one with a license—to watch over a patient who’s obviously been through the wringer in a random little room somewhere.

She’s glad that, apparently, Kara’s disguise still works wonders, that even with Supergirl’s face on every news outlet in every corner of the country, she can still pass as a regular person.

A regular person.

Kara looks normal.

It’s only now that Alex connects the dots.

Kara looks like a regular person with non-golden, non-armor-like skin. Her veins are blueish under the pale skin, not the glowing red that the kryptonite had painted across parts of her body.

“I’m me,” Kara speaks up. “I promise. I—Alex, Rao—” Her voice is crumbling again, like the ground’s pulling out under her feet. “I’ll go. J’onn is here, too, he’s posed as someone—I don’t know, some high-ranking sponsor from a hospital, he—I got him out. It was necessary for the plan, I—I’ll get him.”

Kara stands up with such force that the chair clambers to the ground. They both flinch, and Kara’s eyes dart from the chair to the door, to the chair again. She’s not looking at Alex, angled like she’s already halfway out the door.

She’s crying, broken little sobs tumbling out of her mouth.

“Kara,” Alex whispers. It’s so quiet, and her mouth is dry, but of course, Kara hears her. “Stay.”

“I tried to kill you!” Kara’s still turned to the door, the words bursting out of her mouth like they’d been trapped there for years. “Alex, I—twelve times, and I remember… I remember every single one of them, I remember the way your skin felt tearing under my nails, and… all the stuff I said, and I burned down people’s homes, your home, and… you tried to kill yourself.”

“I jumped off a building,” Alex corrects her, because those two aren’t the same thing at all.

“You didn’t know I’d catch you.”

“Of course I knew.”

“J’onn tells a different story,” Kara says, bitter. “And—” she shakes her head. “I’m not having this conversation with you. What you need to know is that we’re in a safe house, and there’s a medical team here to treat you. Supergirl… she’s gone. For good.” She puts a hand on the doorknob. “You’re safe here. I crossed a line when I threw Cat off a building, and I’ve crossed a whole country of… of cruelty since then, and—” She’s very quiet; Alex has to strain to understand.

“I need you to know that I lied. You’ve been my sister since the day I landed here. I’m sure you and Eliza regret ever taking me in, but it’s the truth, anyway. I also need you to know that I’ll be fine. I’ll disappear. I’ll live a quiet life, trying to make up for what I’ve done.”

Alex tries to interrupt her, but her whispers are easy to ignore.

“I’m sorry, Alex,” Kara says, pushing the door open. She finally turns to her, and through the dark room, their eyes meet. “Goodbye.”

 


 

“So that’s just it?”

Alex tries to raise her voice, but she remains almost toneless, whispering into the dark room. “Kara, come back,” she demands as loudly as she can. “I went through all of this and you’re just going to leave? You’re just going to fucking disappear?”

Her left arm screams in protest as she pushes herself up. Her cast hangs uselessly by her side, her torso shaking with the effort of changing her position. But she’s made it this far, and if it hadn’t worked, if Kara hadn’t applied the rest of the gel, she would have had to go on, anyway. She would have had to pick herself up from the floor and keep fighting.

So why can she barely hold herself up now? She’s patched up, she’s probably been fed and hydrated. Her sister is safe. Kara is herself again. It’s everything she’s wished for, all she’s been working towards.

And now Kara is just… gone.

She’s leaving her here, alone and useless and defenseless. This isn’t how it’s supposed to have gone. Kara should’ve transformed in front of her, and they’d have hugged, and she’d have commenced her escape plan.

Alex had it all drawn out; the bikes scattered across the city, the disguises, the message to mom, the safe houses, fake IDs, fake deaths if the situation warranted it. Breaking out J’onn, and fleeing the city on their motorbikes. Heading towards a place where they would have warmth, clothes, food, water, where they would have each other.

She was supposed to keep Kara safe, not the other way around. Alex wasn’t supposed to collapse.

They’d have things to work through, but only when they’d be a safe distance from National City. They’d start a new life.

“I had plans for us,” Alex whispers, still in the hope that Kara is tuned in to her, listening. “For all of us.”

Of course, that’s not entirely true; she’d left all of it in that letter, folded into a pocket on her person. Alex is reckless, but she isn’t stupid. The list of possible realities in which she survived to see Kara start her new life is short.

She didn’t account for this.

This is the best-case scenario, but it doesn’t feel that way.

Alex carefully swings a foot on the floor, testing out her ability to stand. She can’t keep up with Kara, never could, but she has to try.

Pain shoots through her ribs as she plants the second foot on the floor and puts weight on them. She grits her teeth, takes a tiny step.

Within a second and a blast of air, there’s a hand on her back, another on her good arm. Kara’s almost pushing her back to the bed, guiding her roughly.

“I know about your plans,” she hisses through her teeth as her hands are on Alex’s shoulder blade, her torso, making sure she doesn’t have to strain a muscle to lie back down. “This is your safe house. It was your escape plan, your doctors, your bikes, your death wish.

“You found the letter.” Alex is breathing hard now, mouth dry, and Kara produces a cup of water wordlessly, holds it to Alex’s lips with trembling hands.

“I found your letter.” Kara watches her sister take tentative sips, then flop back down onto her mattress. When she sets the half-full cup down on the floor beside her, the anger seems to have drifted out of her.

Her lip starts to tremble, and she can’t—Alex can deal with her anger, or else she would never have survived this—but Kara can’t cry. Not if Alex can’t reach out and loop an arm around her, tell her that they’ll be okay and mean it.

She realizes that she wouldn’t mean it; she has no idea if they’re going to be okay. Their whole lives have been wiped out in the wake of Supergirl’s destruction. It’s lucky, almost too lucky to be real, that no one’s discovered Kara’s identity, that they really can live like this. J’onn will have to adopt another identity, possibly another face, and Alex will either have to face the mess that is her trial, her directorship, her failures—or disappear.

They’ll have to start over from scratch.

Eliza, James, Winn, they’re in hiding. CatCo is gone. Alex’s apartment is gone. Supergirl… gone. Kara’s legacy, her promise to her mother, her purpose, ruined.

It would be ridiculous to expect her not to cry.

“You had a whole plan drawn out in case I killed you,” Kara says. There aren’t any tears yet, just Kara, trembling, standing beside Alex’s bad with her hands twisting around each other. “You said lovely things about me. You promised me I’d be okay one day, that you forgave me. How—I know you love me, Alex, but how could you write these things? You get mad at people for… for really stupid things, and I go and burn your home down and try to murder you and you tell me that it isn’t my fault?” She looks at Alex, pleading, like she genuinely doesn’t get it. “How does that make sense?”

“Since when have our lives ever made sense?” Alex asks, her voice a little stronger now. “I killed your aunt, and you forgave me, didn’t you? You were poisoned, Kara, or else you would never have hurt me, not like this.” She gestures vaguely at her arm, her face. “We’ll… I’m not saying any of this is okay—”

“This is bullshit,” Kara tries to interrupt, “Alex, you’re acting like this is just a bump in the road, but our entire lives—”

“I know, okay!” Alex snaps. “But we’re not at that stage of coping yet! This isn’t about anything that happened, or our future, this is just about you not disappearing on me. Everything else comes later.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“I didn’t have a plan,” Kara says. Hands twisting and twisting. At least her lips have stopped trembling, though she still looks like she’s about to cry. “I just needed to get away. From you. I know that sounds bad, but—” She sighs.

“I didn’t want to face you. I don’t… I don’t want to face anything that’s happened. I’m not ready. I thought if I’d disappear, that’d be easy. My apartment is fine, Alex, okay? CatCo is gone, but otherwise, I could just… I could resume my life, and that’s not fair. I need to… to atone.

Alex frowns. “That doesn’t sound like a very Kryptonian concept to me.”

“I’m the last of my people,” Kara answers quietly. “Who remembers, anyway. But I can’t be. None of what I’ve done aligns with Kryptonian values, or with who my mother wanted me to be.”

“It’s not your fault.”

Silence hangs between them, fraught and tired. Alex can almost feel her eyes slip close again—for sleep, this time, not unconsciousness—when she realizes that Kara isn’t going to say anything more.

“We’re alive,” Alex reminds her softly, the only notion she can fully trust. “And there’s one core thought that I need to convey to you before I fall asleep.”

“Yeah?” Kara asks. She steps closer to Alex’s bed, reaches out to take her good hand in her own. She does a little, gentle thumb rub, and Alex smiles. It feels comforting, just being close, and she knows that Kara would hug her if she wasn’t afraid to cause her pain.

“Never forget,” she says, locking eyes with Kara. “You’re my sister, and I love you, no matter what.”

This is when Kara does cry. She’s smiling the tiniest bit, and tears are slipping out of her eyes, and Alex sleeps.

 


 

“Supergirl allegedly disappeared after an attack on a government base, in which she freed one alien prisoner. There are rumors that Maxwell Lord was involved in Supergirl’s trail of destruction, but so far, he has been refusing to comment to the press. A government employee is confirmed to have helped Supergirl, and is now wanted: The FBI is asking for the public’s assistance in locating Alexandra Danvers—”

J’onn shuts off the radio.

It’s dark out, the sky freckled with stars, the air clean and cool. At almost midnight, the city isn’t asleep yet, but they’re on the outskirts of it, on a slight hill, looking down on the bustling and the lights below.

J’onn can hear Alex and Kara bickering. Kara doesn’t think that Alex is healed enough, but then, they only have two bikes, and she won’t be driving. Besides, they all agreed that it would be pointless to try to keep Alex in her bed any longer. She’s gotten more creative with sneaking past them, and she already was a force to be reckoned with.

They’re leaving National City behind. It’s too dangerous to visit Eliza yet, or James and Winn.

The situation is hard on all of them, of course, but J’onn doesn’t have it in him to be too devastated about it. He really thought he might spend a thousand years in that cell, unable to keep Alex from running herself to the ground, simply sitting by waiting for news that one of the sisters was dead.

In comparison, this, the night air and their half-hearted argument, is a privilege.

Their voices fade out eventually, and J’onn hears Kara sigh. Don’t be difficult, he sends to Alex, amused, and she turns to grin at him.

Nothing is as okay as it seems, not by any means. Kara seldom sleeps through the night, and Alex’s right arm is still causing pain, her fine-motor skills likely permanently damaged. On top of that, they’re the three most wanted people in the country.

But—they remind themselves daily—they’re alive.

J’onn doesn’t think he’d have survived if either of them didn’t. This… this is a gift.

“It’s unfair you get to talk about me in your heads,” Kara complains, but she fades out when she turns to look over the city.

It’s still apparent that this place has lived through the apocalypse; the two burnt parts of it are under construction already, but it will take time for the people to heal.

Supergirl was their hero, until she wasn’t. Maybe, in years or even decades, she can step out of the shadows to clear her name, to explain what will then be the city’s history, but it isn’t that time yet. Kara will have to take her place, Zor-El or Danvers or whatever new name she’ll adopt.

They’ll have to find new ways to be whole.

Kara’s eyes are heavy as she looks down at her home. Alex loops an arm around her in comfort, and she doesn’t have to be in J’onn’s head in order to tell him to join them.

J’onn inhales deeply, and stands beside these sisters he’d do anything for, this little family they’ve somehow created, kept alive.

They end up hugging, as they do these days, the city in their backs, the future ahead.