Actions

Work Header

got a piece of my mind (to tell you who's mine)

Work Text:

i. kara

 

Kara is twelve when her name comes in. It’s a delicate thing, looped script etched in the skin of her wrist, and she traces the strange letters in wonder and confusion.

 

Soulbonds are sacred on Krypton, and she’s grown up watching her parents’ marks shimmer when they near each other, two pieces of a whole. It’s another thing she’s never had to doubt or question.

 

Except her name isn’t in Kryptonian. It’s not in any language she recognizes, and she doesn’t understand how that could be possible.

 

“Oh, my darling,” her mother says when she sees it at last, jaw tightening as she looks away for a moment. She squeezes Kara’s shoulders, and it’s too tight but Kara doesn’t move away.

 

“What does it mean, Mother?” Kara asks.

 

Alura leans forward to press their foreheads together, like they used to do when she was little, when they could still speak Astra’s name and when infinite days stretched out in front of them, a lifetime of happiness, of home. “When the moment comes, you will know,” she says, smoothing Kara’s hair back from her face.

 

But Kara doesn’t want to wait for the right moment. She wants to know now , because the other kids at school see her mark one day and laugh and point until she flees to the library. She wants to know now , because no matter how many books she rifles through she can’t find the foreign alphabet that cuts across her skin.

 

[ Kara’s an alien lover! Kara couldn’t even find someone on this planet who would be her mate! ]

 

She takes to wearing a small cuff during the day. Her mother carves their family logo into the material. She doesn’t know if it’s enough, but she pretends that it is.

 

-

 

Astra comes to visit. She sneaks into the house, clicks their spy beacon together. Two parts of a whole.

 

She’s smiling, albeit sadly, until she sees the cuff around Kara’s wrist.

 

“Your name has come in, little one?”

 

“Yes,” Kara whispers. “But it’s not right.”

 

“What do you mean?” her aunt asks, and when Kara unlocks the bracelet and reaches her hand out, palm up, she watches Astra’s expression contort in despair. “Then it will all have been for nothing,” she whispers.

 

“What will?” Kara wonders, alarmed. “Aunt Astra, what are you talking about? Whose language is this?”

 

“Come here,” Astra says, enveloping her in a hug. “Come here, little one. Everything will be alright.”

 

“No one will tell me what it means.”

 

“You must discover that for yourself,” her aunt responds, eyes tightening at the edges. “But I’ll tell you a secret,” and she lifts up the sleeve of her robe.

 

It’s the same alphabet. Kara almost cries from the joy of it, the relief of knowing she is not alone.

 

When her mother arrests Astra, she will hold onto that feeling until she can’t anymore.

 

-

 

Krypton is dying. Her parents tell her this quickly, almost too late, a delay that stems from disbelief and utter terror. They hurry her towards a pod.

 

“We’re sending you to Earth,” says her mother, and her eyes rest long enough on Kara’s cuff that she finally, finally understands.

 

[ When the moment comes, you will know. ]

 

She knows, now. Not everything, but enough to make her sob out once before clamping her mouth shut, before summoning the strength she’ll need to make it through this.

 

“We love you,” her father says, and as she shoots away she watches them link their wrists together and close their eyes for a long, long moment.

 

She has a lot of time to think in the Phantom Zone. A lot of time to stare at her wrist blankly, mindlessly, until the characters spin together in a blur. A lot of time to wonder whether the soulbond ever took this into account, whether when (not if, not if) she gets out of here her mate will even be alive. Whether he will even want her.

 

And then she’s spinning toward the ground, decades late and so unbelievably grateful to be free. And her cousin is there, her brave, good cousin with his soft eyes, lifting her up into a new life.

 

She thinks he reads the words on her wrist before she can hide them, because his expression shifts for a second into disbelief before settling.

 

He brings her to a family. They’re not hers, but it feels like they could be, and the warmth of this planet’s sun is nothing next to Eliza’s smile, to mashed potatoes at the oak dining room table, to board games and flying and secrets whispered under the blankets at night.

 

She takes her bracelet off once, to show Alex.

 

“It’s a girl’s name,” Alex says in shock. There’s a hint of something like pain under her tone, which makes no sense.

 

Kara knows it’s a girl’s name. She’s known it since she learned to read this world’s alphabet at last, since she googled the name and found a list of results too large to narrow down. It’s surprising, but also not, somehow.

 

She’s more frustrated by the fact that she doesn’t know exactly who it is. She may have unthinkable powers here, but none of them can help her find her mate, and one day she punches a hole in the bathroom tile just thinking about it.

 

Jeremiah repairs it in the morning without a word.

 

“Maybe keep wearing that bracelet, kid,” he says. “People get kind of antsy around soulbonds like yours on this planet.”

 

Kara supposes children can be cruel everywhere, although she still thinks people here have strange priorities.

 

She wonders if that’s why Alex refuses to show anyone what’s under her cuff.

 

-

 

 ii. alex

 

Her name comes in a couple years before they get Kara. This will become important later, when she thinks about it.

 

But she doesn’t know that yet, all she knows is that her mark is in another language, that she’s gotten it years after everyone her age and she can’t even show them.

 

Her parents tell her it’s in Kryptonian, and they must know because they study this, because Superman told them, because they are always right.

 

Sometimes it feels like the universe is laughing at her. She knows she’s different from the other girls at school, the ones who show off names like John and Tyler and Samuel , pretty pretty girls who sneak off behind the bleachers with the lacrosse players but don’t let them get too far, because they’re waiting for their soulbonds. They’re staying pure for them.

 

After a few tries, Alex is pretty sure boys hold no interest for her. So yes, maybe during the early years she hopes for an Emily or a Nicole or a Grace , loopy letters or block print, an easy way to explain to her parents, to make them see. To fit in with the kids she sits with at lunch, the ones who have no name or the wrong name, the ones who have changed their own names and are told they’ll never find their bond.

 

But all she has is sweatshirts with too-long sleeves and alien writing crawling over her arm.

 

-

 

And then Kara comes to live with them, and everything changes.

 

“Don’t you see?” her mother says, that night when she’s moved in and the whole world feels like it’s moving in slow motion, the night when there is an alien in Alex’s bunk bed who will alter her life forever. “This is your destiny, Alexandra.”

 

Alex looks up at her, confused. Not understanding, but trusting, still.

 

“Kara is your soulmate,” Eliza proclaims.

 

“But...she’s my sister,” Alex says, because she’s just been told this several times, been told to accept the newest member of their unit of four (not three anymore, no) like this changes nothing, like the balance of the one thing she’s been able to count on hasn’t changed irreparably.

 

Her mother flaps a hand, chuckling. “Not like that, silly. Your fate is to always protect her. You are bonded so that you can keep her safe.”

 

“Oh,” Alex says quietly.

 

“You can do that, can’t you? You can look after her?”

 

“Of course,” responds Alex, and she doesn’t think about scattered dreams of a kind smile and cool lips, about someone who would be undeniably hers , she doesn’t think of those things because they’re gone, now. She has to protect her sister.

 

“That’s my brave girl,” Eliza says with a smile, and she pulls her in for a quick embrace.

 

So Alex watches Kara through her first experiences on Earth, stays close to her in the halls and glares at anyone who looks at her askance. Kara’s too trusting, is the thing, and that must be why Alex has been chosen to guard her, because she knows better. She knows exactly how nasty people are, how ugly this world can be.

 

She comes home with bruised knuckles when a girl tries to take off Kara’s bracelet. She takes on bullies twice her size, over and over again, and her mother frowns in disappointment and sends her to her room with an icepack and asks Kara if a snack would make her feel better. She joins the swim team when Kara does so she can remind her to take breaths when humans would, so she can stand in front of her when the boys eye her skintight swimsuit. She knows when to put a hand on Kara’s shoulder, when her anger threatens to overtake her and her eye sockets start smoldering. She smooths Kara’s hair when she wakes from dreams of her parents.

 

That’s probably why it hurts so much when Kara finally takes off the cuff in front of her and Alex realizes that she isn’t Kara’s bond after all. That instead of two pieces of a whole, she is a jagged edge, an anomaly. Special, her mother would remind her, but it doesn’t feel like it, sometimes.

 

[ Catherine , she says. It’s a girl’s name . What she doesn’t say: it’s the wrong girl’s name .]

 

She remembers math class in elementary school, dividing blocks into even piles. Her teacher had given her seven pieces of colored plastic and asked her how much was half, and she’d tried and tried to break that seventh piece into two, to make the piles even so she could just count them. But it wouldn’t break, and her teacher had laughed and explained about odd numbers and fractions and remainders, how some things would never divide equally.

 

So maybe that’s what this is. Maybe the whole world, the whole universe was divided up and she was the one left..

 

She is Alexandra Danvers, and her name is not on anyone’s wrist. She is a remainder. But she will protect her sister, and maybe that is the most important thing of all.

 

-

 

iii. cat

 

Cat Grant gets her name at ten years old. You always were an early bloomer , her mother laughs derisively, although she stops laughing when she sees the letters, sees the alphabet that is most certainly not from this world.

 

Cat doesn’t know what it means, or where it’s from, but she knows it’s a sign. A sign that she is meant for bigger things than this. A sign that all her hard work will pay off in the end.

 

Some nights her mother doesn’t come home and some nights she comes home too soon. Some nights she’s cutting, sneering at Cat’s B in French or eyeing her figure critically. Some nights she’s distant, and Cat quietly prefers those because it gives her time to write, to think.

 

She wears a thick golden bangle during the day and a small black sleeve at night. She surrounds herself with intelligent, popular people who will never see what’s under either of them. Cat Grant knows how to make friends, and like a lot of things she does, she does it very well. But she knows how to keep them at arm’s length, too, how to chitchat and flatter and strut down the hallway, how to never let anyone in because trusting the wrong person could mean the end of all her dreams.

 

People whisper that she must be hiding something awful under that bracelet. But all she’s hiding is proof that someday, the success will come.

 

It’s what keeps her going, through high school and college, through being Perry White’s assistant and a gossip columnist, of all things. Because Cat is more . Cat is special. Cat will rule them all someday, the girls and boys whose backs she marks with long nails and leaves in the middle of the night, the teachers with their grudgingly raised eyebrows after reading another of her papers, the colleagues who snicker behind her back and start rumours about childhood pregnancy, plagiarism, drunken shenanigans, anything to stop her from getting to the top.

 

The thing is, they can’t stop her. They won’t ever stop her.

 

-

 

She thinks she finally understands when Superman starts flying around Metropolis. She’s wrong, of course, but the way her heart leaps in her chest when the reporters start talking about aliens and other languages is impossible to ignore.

 

Lois is there, though, Lois Lane with her smug smile and her pet superhero, Lois who claims him as hers before Cat can even get the chance. Lois who steals away her hope.

 

Cat throws herself into work and forgets about alphabets and destiny and special . She rises through the ranks faster than anyone has before, and she stays at the office until two in the morning and comes in at six. On the weekends she goes to bars and looks for people with empty eyes like hers, takes them home and hisses that if they take off her cuff while she’s sleeping they’ll regret it for the rest of their lives.

 

None of them try, probably because they’re so afraid of someone seeing what’s under their own.

 

When she gets pregnant, she lets herself cry for the first time in three years. Not because she doesn’t want this, but because she wants it so badly it scares her.

 

Her mother says, “it’s your decision,” in that way that means it’s really not, and Cat ignores her.

 

She has the child, and oh god, no one ever told her how beautiful her baby boy would look as she cradled him in her arms for the first time, no one ever told her how his first screams would make her choke up with happiness, how precious this tiny piece of her would feel.

 

No one ever told her how tiring it would be either, and she knows she can’t take more than a month off after Adam’s birth before people will start to slip in through the cracks, sharks smelling blood in the water.

 

So they trade off, her and Adam’s father, they shoulder an equal weight of the burden, and Cat starts coming in at four so she can leave early and get home to her son, and she watches man after man get promoted instead of her, and she rocks Adam to sleep and sings to him where no one can hear. He is her tiny, beautiful boy, and he is the special one.

 

Except then she does get that promotion, but it comes with conditions, and time restraints, and the hesitancy that comes with are you planning on starting a family anytime soon ? And six o’clock dinner becomes seven o’clock, and some nights she can’t come home at all, and the burden isn’t really being equally shouldered anymore.

 

It should probably come as more of a surprise when he sues for custody. But all she can feel is resignation, the awful certainty of having lost a battle before it’s even begun.

 

She hires a lawyer anyway. She goes to court and talks about support systems and financial stability. She doesn’t tell them about the singing, or the way her chest felt when she saw him for the first time, because she knows no one will care.

 

She loses.

 

[ lack of emotional connection ... misplaced priorities …]

 

She’d never known that an ice queen facade could have legal consequences. Or that she’d ever have to choose.

 

[ you can have it all , she will say, many years later, and she will think back to this moment.]

 

-

 

She builds an empire. She is Cat Grant, Queen of All Media, and she has alien letters dug into her skin and fire in her bones. She is ruthless and cold and powerful. She has succeeded at last.

She fires anyone who dares to disagree with her. She takes celebrities out to dinner at fancy restaurants where soulbonds hold hands over muted candles, and worms out their secrets in hour-long interviews. She wears thousand-dollar dresses to galas and gets her hair done every single month.

 

She has Carter. It’s the second chance she thought she’d never have, and it’s not the same as Adam but it’s just as important. He leaves her utterly vulnerable, breathless with the weight of her love for him. She leaves the office before seven every night he spends with her.

 

[ Look me in the face , her mother orders him when he’s six years old, people will think you’re not paying attention if you can’t even make eye contact . Cat slaps her before she can think better of it. It occurs to her that she’d forgotten she had to protect Carter from her mother because she’d been so busy protecting him from herself.]

 

-

 

 iv. astra

 

Alura gets her soulmate markings before she does, and their parents coo over it, the strong-sounding name from the good family that’s just as perfect as Alura herself. They post the name on the message boards so she can discover her future husband and start talking about grandchildren and houses and all sorts of things Astra privately believes it’s a little too soon for, even though she’d never say anything of the kind.

 

They aren’t cooing when Astra’s name comes in. She supposes she shouldn’t be so hurt by this.

 

She’s already an irregularity for being a twin, but now she has foreign letters etched across her wrist and Alura has bested her at this too, won at some contest she didn’t even know existed. Their parents hand her a cuff to wear and say we won’t speak of this again , and they don’t. If she holds her palm against her heart at night and bites her lip to feel the sharp jolt of pain no one will ever know.

 

She and Alura play at fooling their teachers, their classmates, switching seats and trading tests and flashing secret smiles at each other. It’s a game, everything’s a game between them, and Astra would win them all except that eventually the cuff makes the difference easy to see and their teachers return them to the correct seats, clicking their tongues as their eyes linger on Astra’s arm.

 

The gap between them widens every day. Astra finally pays to have a lock of her hair dyed permanently white so that she can pretend that’s how people are telling them apart.

 

It doesn’t help, though, not really. She is the disappointment, the lesser child. She will always be searching for something that Alura has already found.

 

-

 

As she grows, she becomes increasingly convinced that the writing is some sort of message she must decipher. Her home is dying, being siphoned off by the rich and greedy, and she hopes against hope that Rao has a plan for her, that this tiny, foreign signature means she will be able to save her people.

 

It’s how she meets Non, this determination to stop the inevitable. He wears no cuff because he bears no markings.

 

“I am meant for other things,” he says when she asks him about it. She knows he’s thinking of power, of fame and heroism and relentless ambition.

 

“As am I,” says Astra, raising her chin defiantly, and he tilts his head in reluctant approval.

 

They get married. It is not love, but then, neither of them are searching for love. They seek only a way to stop the destruction, and respect and trust and loyalty are enough for that. She will hold onto these thoughts when Non becomes ever more violent, ruthless in his pursuit of the truth. She will hold onto them when he kills a guard, because she has no one else left.

 

Kara signals her one day, her darling niece. Perfect like Alura was, but with pure light shining through her soul, blinding those around her. Astra had thought she’d resent Alura for this, too, but when she looks into Kara’s face she can’t feel anything but joy.

 

Joy tinged with despair, of course, because the end of their planet would mean the end of Kara, of their small, impossible family. But joy all the same.

 

The similarity of the letters tracing through their skin jolts her. She’s discovered the key at last, and she feels nothing but a certainty that Kara will be saved, that there was a reason for everything after all.

 

Except that Alura is there, Alura is betraying her, and as Astra struggles uselessly against the hold of her guards she screams horrible things at her, because Alura just doesn’t understand , has never understood, and now she’s ruined everything.

 

Astra watches her perfect sister and her perfect soulmate sentence her to lifelong imprisonment, and she scratches desperately at her wrist as the white light flashes before her eyes.

 

[ Why can’t you be more like your sister look how pretty she is look how good look how kind look look look Astra, see your imperfections and your shortcomings in startling clarity, feel them as pangs in your chest and trembling in your muscles. ]

 

Eventually, she will understand that Fort Rozz is the beginning. But it will take a long, long time.

 

-

 

v. kara

 

She wants to feel normal, so she becomes an assistant at Catco. It’s a way to make a difference without revealing herself, a way to blend in and find the life she’s always wanted.

 

She’d planned on long hours and endless phone calls and workplace drama. She hadn’t planned on Cat Grant.

 

Cat is prickly and territorial. She insults Kara’s clothes every chance she gets. She downs whiskey and m&m’s in alternate measure and threatens to fire an entire department every other day.

 

Kara’s in awe of her, and terrified. Mostly terrified. But she is fair, despite everything the rumors say, and her company really is making a difference. For the first time, Kara feels like something more , like this is where she’s meant to be.

 

And then Alex’s plane is hurtling toward the ground, and she makes a decision. And she’s embracing her true self, suddenly, holding up thousands of pounds and flying , free. And there’s the DEO to find out about, and Alex, and a bundle of new responsibilities to shoulder. There’s telling Winn and not having to tell James, training and fighting and soaring away from the single word carved under her bracelet, still embossed with the crest of a family she’ll never see again.

 

She starts heating up Cat’s coffee with laser vision in the mornings. It’s a small thing, a very small thing. She doesn’t quite know why she does it.

 

She really, really likes James. James does not have her name on his wrist, and she doesn’t have his name on hers, but god, it would be so easy to let themselves fall together. He’s smart and funny and kind and Catherine probably lives halfway across the country, so why couldn’t it happen? Except then she finds out about Lucy and that’s why it can’t ever happen, so she has to forget.

 

Kara knows he has Lucy’s name in his skin, even if he won’t tell her.

 

Cat’s mother comes to visit. She orders the employees around and complains about the temperature and asks Cat prying questions loud enough that everyone on the floor can hear. She’s kind of a bitch, not that Kara would ever say that.

 

[Cat doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, though.]

 

“What name should I give when I call you a car?” Kara asks, polite through her forced smile.

 

“Katherine Grant, of course,” says Cat’s mother, and Kara chokes. “Really, Kitty, of all your assistants, I think this one is the least competent.”

 

Cat’s studying her with a thoughtful frown, and Kara clears her throat, shakes herself out of it. “And how do you spell-”

 

“K not C, E instead of A,” Katherine responds (and it’s Katherine, Katherine with a K, and Kara has never been so grateful). “My daughter spells it with a C just to annoy me.”

 

Kara walks out to call the car on shaky legs.

 

That night, in the bar, she can’t seem to stop fiddling with her bracelet. Cat notices, because she’s Cat Grant and can apparently still notice tiny details even after four strong martinis. It’s probably a trick she picked up in the days when she did interviews.

 

“Why so nervous?” she asks, speech slurred as she gestures vaguely towards Kara’s hand. “Afraid I’ll be able to see our intrepid photographer’s name with my x-ray vision?”

 

“It’s not James,” Kara says tightly. She calls Cat a taxi.

 

[She would have said something, if Kara was her bond. Cat Grant is not the type to let a soulmate slip away. And the fact that she still calls her Kiera is probably a bad sign.]

 

-

 

It’s different, when she’s Supergirl.

 

Cat looks at her like she holds all the secrets to the universe, like she’s the final piece of some puzzle she’s been working her whole life to build. The Queen of All Media smiles at her, questions piercing as her body language edges toward blatantly flirtatious. It’s disconcerting as much as it is frustrating, and it makes Kara want things she can never have.

 

Kara saves Cat from Livewire and tells her details she probably shouldn’t. She rescues her son and flies past her window on clear days, cape fluttering in the breeze while her fist punches the air.

 

So maybe she’s a little bit in love with Cat Grant. But Cat Grant is definitely a little bit in love with Supergirl.

 

[ my girl , she says in front of everyone, and Kara flushes and digs a nail into the skin above her wrist and aches.]

 

Although Supergirl is, undeniably, Cat’s creation. Kara beats up the bad guys and protects the children and puts out the fires, but Cat is the one who keeps the angle positive, who talks about hope and role models and the importance of believing in inherent goodness. Cat has branded her in a way that she can never escape.

 

She tears up when she reads the article Cat writes, and after that she scowls at everyone who suggests National City’s newest hero should be called Superwoman instead until they quiet, subdued.

 

-

 

Winn, it turns out, is in love with her. Kara doesn’t exactly know what to do with this information.

 

She knows she’s not his mate. He’s got some other girl’s name on his wrist, and he says it doesn’t matter, that his feelings are more real than anything destiny could possibly ordain, except that it does matter, for reasons she can’t articulate.

 

She catches him frowning at her when she starts talking about Cat again, hands flying as she recounts how Catco’s newest article had completely crushed Maxwell Lord. She stops talking abruptly. It’s somehow more worrying than him seeing her hug James.

 

-

 

She’d come to work for Cat because she’d wanted a normal life. And Kara thinks it might be the biggest irony of all, that when she’d found her bond at last she’d had someone else’s name. A human’s, probably. A nice, normal human, someone who can bleed, someone who doesn’t jump off buildings on a daily basis. Someone who’s never doubted that their life will follow a predetermined path.

 

[ my girl , she thinks when Cat tells her I think we should keep it strictly professional , and it’s not enough. It might not ever be enough.]

 

-

 

vi. alex

 

Of course Kara has to come out as Supergirl, of course she has to put herself in danger and risk her life and her identity and make Alex reveal her second most closely guarded secret. Because she’s Kara, and she’s never strayed from the path of doing the right thing. Because if the Danvers sisters have one thing in common, it’s an instinct for self-sacrifice.

 

Her mother was right after all. Her job is now to watch over Kara, to guard her every moment of every day. She is the big sister. She does the protecting. And it’s hard, it’s terrifying, and she breaks protocol about five times more than she’s supposed to, but this is her path. This is what was always meant to be.

 

She drinks a little too much, some nights, blurring the line between reality and blessed unconsciousness. Sometimes she presses hard on the hidden spot on her wrist until she can feel her pulse, sluggish but still there. Sometimes she thinks she hears her father’s voice.

 

Then the Hellgrammite kidnaps her, and all she feels is searing pain until she looks up to find a woman with hard hard eyes. And the woman’s crouching down and caressing her face in a mockery of affection, and Alex feels a jolt run through her bones, an unexplainable thing. She almost doesn’t feel it through the agony radiating from her leg.

 

When Astra talks, expression alight with the strength of her belief, Alex shifts onto her elbow and notices that her cuff is gone. And she’s rolling over, trying to cover it, but it’s too late, because Astra has already seen the terrified movement, is pulling her arm out into the light.

 

“What-” she starts, stunned, except then Kara arrives (finally, finally) to distract her, and Alex pulls her sleeve back down and kills the Hellgrammite and escapes, cursing herself all the way for revealing her link to Kara, for exposing herself as one of Supergirl’s vulnerabilities.

 

[ She knows I’m special to you , she will tell Kara, voice tinged with unease, and Kara will shrug and say she would have known anyway, eventually .]

 

She has failed in her mission. She will be reminded of this by her mother, multiple times.

 

-

 

Kara drags Astra into the DEO headquarters, and they lock her in a cage. She’s calm, too calm, and she stretches across the bench in a way that’s part utter contempt and part effortless seduction, her black suit clinging in all the right places.

 

Not that Alex notices. She ignores her whenever possible.

 

Until she can’t, because General Lane arrives with his vials of green poison, and Astra’s screams echo through the rooms and rebound in Alex’s skull. And she wants to stop it so badly , but she can’t, she has to follow orders, and so she drags Kara away and squeezes her eyes shut against the sounds of pain.

 

Astra is weak for a while afterward, although she won’t admit it. But her pose on the bench is more tightly protective than leisurely, now, and there is hurt in the way she moves, in the way she swallows.

 

Alex goes to see her one day. Astra smiles, knowledge and calculation and something else Alex can’t recognize unfurling across the expanse of her face.

 

“I have missed you, brave one.”

 

“Since you kidnapped me?” Alex sneers, except she regrets the words the moment they leave her mouth, because she knows they’re both thinking about the other thing, the secret thing.

 

Astra knows it too. “Show me your wrist.”

 

“No,” Alex says. Her hand twitches toward the Kryptonite controller for a second before she composes herself. “It’s not what you think.”

 

“I see,” Astra responds quietly.

 

Alex strides toward the door, stops, moves forward again, halts inches from the exit. “She’s my sister.”

 

“What?”

 

“Kara,” Alex says, “she’s my foster sister. That’s why I have her name on my wrist. So don’t mistake this for anything else.”

 

Astra laughs, then, and it sounds so foreign in the sterile silence of the prison that Alex takes another step back. “Silly girl,” she says, and Alex grinds her teeth together and slams the door on her way out.

 

[ Silly girl , she thinks that night, after a shower and four vodka tonics. She can’t figure out what it means.]

 

-

 

vii. cat

 

Supergirl arrives in National City, and everything starts to make sense, the world clearing around her while words like hope and fate start rushing back into her consciousness.

 

Cat names her Supergirl because being a girl is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s true. But she also names her for the girl she once was, the girl who drew her power from the letters on her skin and had faith in a distant future. Supergirl is hers , she knows this now. She should never have doubted.

 

She gets the exclusive interviews. She gets the credit and the attention, the admiration and the envy. She gets Supergirl lifting up her car, muscles flexing, and she gets Supergirl rescuing her from a plummeting elevator.

 

[ You’re safe now, Ms. Grant . The voice sounds vaguely familiar.]

 

Supergirl saves her son. Supergirl flies around her building like she’s showing off. Supergirl seems to show up at all the right moments, and Cat’s suspicious but also very grateful.

 

It’s one thing to know that you are destined for success. It’s another to know that your soulmate is a superhero from another planet, a terribly idealistic alien who keeps taking on more than she can handle.

 

Cat doesn’t say anything, not yet. Mostly because she’s biding her time, but also because she’d really like to discover Supergirl’s alter ego first. She likes to know what she’s getting herself into, after all. There are things to think about: Carter, the job, compatibility. Flying.

 

Maybe she does believe in destiny, but she also believes in choice. The hand of fate will not stay her own.

 

-

 

There’s also the matter of her assistant.

 

Her assistant , hesitant and nervous and bubbly, obedient until she’s not. Her assistant, who greets her with a piping hot latte every single day, who plays Settlers of Catan with her son and calls her on her bullshit.

 

It’s impossible, is what it is. It’s something Cat Grant would never let happen, except that, as it seems, she has.

 

She calls her Kiera to compensate. It feels strangely satisfying, even if distant stirrings of guilt appear at times. She gives her advice and buys her a sickly sweet coffee and takes pleasure in the way the girl’s eyes track her chest when she inhales, arms spread as she crosses her legs slowly.

 

And yes, Kara’s ass is spectacular. Cat’s not blind. But more importantly, her fluttering little assistant, her assistant who fidgets with her glasses about ten times per day, who answers the phone with the same cheery voice no matter who is calling, her assistant challenges her in a way that no one has dared to do since Catco took off. Kara never fails to surprise her, and that’s probably what makes her so interesting.

 

God, it’s cliche.

 

She should probably be embarrassed. But she won’t act on it, because such a tiny crush will probably fade within a few weeks and she values her position far too highly to let it all go to waste in an explosion of scandal.

 

[She thinks of Adam, then, and hates herself in an intense burst of regret that shoots through the pit of her stomach.]

 

-

 

“Tell me who you are,” she shouts at the next interview, and Supergirl snorts and flies farther away, as if to distance herself.

 

“Not this time,” she says.

 

Cat wasn’t really expecting anything. She just feels a deep desire to know , to hold all the facts in her palm so she can make the best decision possible. So she flashes a flirtatious smile and drives home to Carter, and pushes Supergirl and Kara and destiny far, far out of her mind.

 

Except then small things keep adding up, tiny little details that others might have missed, but not Cat Grant. A sneeze that coincides with Supergirl’s mysterious disappearance. A whisper overheard, an impossibility.

 

It can’t be true. She must be fooling herself, so torn between two sides that she’s trying to flatten them together into one. But she thinks about it a lot, on nights when Carter’s with his dad and it’s just her and House of Cards and a glass of Scotch. She thinks about blue, blue eyes and golden hair and certain other attributes she may have stared at for a beat too long.

 

She thinks about possibilities, and she wants to believe. She wants everything to come together in a perfect fit.

 

She is Cat Grant, and she is stronger than fate, and sometimes she lets herself be weak where no one can see. And this is how the idea worms itself into her head, settles in the back of her brain and refuses to leave.

 

This is how the end begins.

 

-

 

viii. astra

 

She arrives on Earth, and this time she will not lose control. This time she has more power than she’d believed possible, and an army behind her, and the understanding of what is at stake if she fails.

 

The girl is a distraction, this girl with fight in her eyes and strength in her limbs. Her name is Alex, and she is human, but she is also different from the rest. She is a warrior. Something inside Astra recognizes this instantly.

 

The girl has Astra’s name traced along delicate skin. She does not know that it is Astra’s name. These things are true.

 

[ You are brave , she says, and this is also true.]

 

Alex, she will discover, can stand for Alexandra.

 

-

 

Non wars against her every step of the way, and she is a General but she is also very tired of holding her husband back. She cautions against recklessness and ignores the glances that come her way when her soldiers start whispering about emotions and weakness and not having what it takes.

 

She fights Kara. Her body tries to stop her every step of the way, her very bones protesting at the idea. She knows there are things that must be done, but she can’t help thinking of spy beacons and matching markings, of the pureness that remains in her niece even now, after unspeakable tragedy.

 

She does not allow herself to think of Alura. There is no room for doubt anymore.

 

The humans capture her. Another necessary step of the plan, and she can deal with imprisonment. She has dealt with far worse than anything they can throw at her.

 

There is fear and pain, but it is nothing. She must rise above. She gives the soldiers the wrong location and sneers weakly when they leave. She has felt many things in her life, but she has never felt this helpless. She wonders if she is dying.

 

Kara comes to talk to her. She is starting to believe, Astra thinks. It is a slow process, for understandable reasons. She wishes desperately for Kara to see , to understand and join her side, to resolve everything with a single word. She wishes for Kara to look at her the way she used to.

 

The girl- Alex -comes too, prowling around her cage with taut muscles and wary looks. She is angry, but Astra knows she is also confused.

 

[ It’s not what you think , Alex says, and Astra laughs because it is exactly what she thinks.]

 

She asks herself who led this girl, this human, so far astray, who let her believe this lie she’s clearly held onto for her entire life. She wonders if no one did, if Alex chooses to believe what is easiest to accept.

 

Alex does not seem like the type to take the easy way out.

 

The days turn into weeks in her cell. Kara delivers a mattress and refuses to meet her eyes. It is a small kindness that means a great deal.

 

The food is bland on this planet, but she forces herself to eat it all. She exercises for hours each day, savoring the burn through the low hum of Kryptonite-induced pain that always remains in the background. She fingers the white streak of her hair and the writing on her wrist.

 

Alex watches her exercise once. Neither of them say anything.

 

-

 

“We’re trying to save your world,” she says when Alex comes back days later and demands to know why her army keeps attacking, even with the threat of a hostage in place. “We will stop for nothing.”

 

“You seem to be hurting a lot of people in the process,” Alex says, lips tight against each other.

 

Astra tilts her head to the side, makes her expression inscrutable. “This is war, Alexandra. There will be unavoidable deaths.”

 

“I never told you my full name,” is all she responds, and Astra falls silent, tensing. Alex seems to dismiss it, though, because after a beat she asks, “and my sister? Will she be an unavoidable death?”

 

“Not if I can help it,” Astra says grimly. She doesn’t mean to reveal so much, but the way Alex considers her then, eyes widening with surprise, makes her think it might have been worth it.

 

They begin to eat lunch together, Astra cross-legged on the floor of her cell and Alex stretched out against the wall of the room. She’s sure the girl’s colleagues must disapprove, but she still appears every day without fail, tray in hand.

 

The first thing they discuss is fighting techniques. Alex, Astra will discover, is wise beyond her years, quick but strategic at the same time.

 

[She dreams of sparring, and when she looks into the mirror beyond her faceless partner Alexandra is spelled out in sharp red curves.]

 

-

 

ix. alex & astra

 

Alex gets permission from Hank to lock the room so she can practice fighting with Astra. He’s hesitant at first, but she reminds him of the Kryptonite embedded in the walls and the guards who are just a shout away, and he gives in eventually.

 

“She won’t hurt me,” Alex says, and Hank raises an eyebrow. She doesn’t know when exactly that became true, only that it is.

 

So they fight. Astra is stronger, more experienced, but Alex has agility on her side, and she isn’t being slowed by the chemicals in the air. It’s wonderful , and they’re both laughing breathlessly by the end of their first round. They match each other perfectly, the agent and the General, bodies wrapped in black twisting together as their hisses of pain and cries of victory resound through the cage.

 

Maybe Alex should have expected what happens next. But it’s hard to even imagine the truth if you’ve grown up under the shadow of a lie, and she doesn’t expect it. She’s not even close to ready.

 

They’re sparring, and she pins Astra at last, straddles her hips. “Given up yet?” she teases, and Astra snarls, and then-and then-Alex’s hand slips over the sleeve of her uniform and Astra’s wrist is suddenly exposed and Alex is reading it, Alex is gulping in air and sliding onto the ground and tearing off her own cuff so hard she leaves red lines scratched against her arm.

 

“No,” she says, and when she looks up Astra’s eyes are soft like she’s never seen them.

 

[ Silly girl. Silly Alex, to have been fooled for this long. Silly Alex, the remainder, the unbroken piece of plastic, the big sister, the protector, destined for a different path. The lie. ]

 

God, it hurts. She realizes distantly that she’s crying.

 

“I didn’t want to tell you until you were ready,” Astra says gently.

 

“Fuck,” Alex says through her tears.

 

She gets up, unsteady, and leaves. She goes home. She does not call her mother. She does not call Kara. She finishes almost half a bottle of tequila before she passes out.

 

-

 

Astra escapes. They’re never sure how, only that when the officer comes on duty in the morning she’s gone. Hank launches an investigation to prove that Alex had nothing to do with her disappearance. Alex absorbs this knowledge, feels nothing but numb. She begins going to the gym after work each day, pushing herself until her muscles scream for her to stop.

 

Astra’s in her apartment one morning when she wakes up. Alex does not pull a gun on her, or run, both of which would be good ideas. She does not call for help. She does not search behind her back for a knife.

 

Instead, she kisses her.

 

It’s a fight, everything is a fight with them, and Alex pins her up against the kitchen counter and bites her earlobe and starts searching for the zipper to her suit until Astra pushes her away, breathing heavily.

 

“Not like this,” Astra says, and Alex can’t meet her eye because she’s right, dammit, she knows she’s right. “Never like this. Do you understand me, brave one?”

 

“I guess,” Alex mutters.

 

The silence is strangely comfortable between them.

 

-

 

Alex comes back from work the next day and Astra’s still there. The bottles in her house are gone, though, every last one, and she rages until the anger’s drained out of her, and Astra’s still there.

 

She has an alien sleeping on her couch, an alien on the wrong side of the war she’s fighting. It’s an impossible situation. She thinks she might be falling in love and she doesn’t know how to stop.

 

She won’t tell Kara the truth. She will never tell Kara, because it wouldn’t change anything, even if she could go back. Kara will always be her little sister, and she’s not her soulmate but she’s still her best friend.

 

They spar again, sometimes, and it feels as good as it used to, better now that Astra’s at full strength. She holds back so she doesn’t hurt Alex, even when Alex goads her, tries to get her to lash out. It feels different than before, more like fitting together than crashing against each other.

 

And then Non and Astra have split, and Astra is on their side, fighting against her own husband and her army and everything she’s ever believed in. And she didn’t do it for Alex, but it still changes things between them, shifts the balance all over again.

 

Alex finally tells Kara and Hank who’s been living in her house for the past month and a half. They are shocked and worried and confused, and she reluctantly flashes her wrist before hiding it again. Kara bursts out in uncontrollable giggles. Later, they'll talk about it, because it's weird and Alex knows it's weird. You're both my family, Kara says. I don't-- Alex starts and then Kara's hugging her in that way she has, like she's eclipsing every bit of pain and fear and anger. And it's still weird, and they'll talk about it more, because Kara doesn't ever have to feel pushed out again. Alex promised. But they'll adjust, and if Kara is fine with it, then--then--

 

[Alex kind of secretly wanted it to be their thing , to stay just between the two of them so she wouldn't have to think about the consequences, but Kara and Hank need to know, and it's okay. They’re the only ones where it would ever be okay.]

 

They win, and there are a lot of losses on both sides. Astra would probably call them unavoidable, but Alex doesn’t. She wonders if her choices could have affected the outcome, and then she decides not to wonder anymore.

 

They kiss that night, in the heat and excitement of victory, curled up in Alex’s bed. Alex wraps her arms around Astra’s shoulders, feels the iron solidity of her. It occurs to her that this is what she’d imagined, all those years ago. A partner, an equal.

 

“Do you believe in fate?” she asks, voice muffled against Astra’s collarbone.

 

“I do now,” Astra says, and she presses her wrist to Alex’s just hard enough that a tiny spark shudders through both of them.

 

-

 

x. kara & cat

 

“Take off your glasses,” Cat says, and Kara is very, very afraid. But she does, and Cat’s whispered “Supergirl,” makes a spot under her chest ache.

 

She tries to protest, but it’s already too late. Cat is going to spill her secrets where everyone can see, leave her exposed and defenseless.

 

And then Cat’s whispering, “my girl,” and she’s taking off the golden bangle to show Kara the skin underneath, the way the Kryptonian letters intertwine, and Kara is reaching up to trace them. And she’s suddenly not afraid anymore, because where before there was anguish now there is only certainty.

 

Cat says her name, her real name. Kara cradles her face and presses their lips together, a hand gripping at the nape of Cat’s neck like she’ll never let go.

 

[It’s enough. God, it’s enough.]

 

-

 

Kara doesn’t move into Cat’s apartment, because they’re taking it slow. But she starts spending a lot of nights there, and she leaves a pair of underwear or a toothbrush or pajamas sometimes. Marks her place in Cat’s life, because somewhere deep down she’s still scared there’s no place for her in it.

 

She and Carter play video games on the nights Cat has to work late. Cat hasn’t told him yet, and Kara finds that she’s kind of glad, that she gets to be Kara instead of his idol Supergirl. That she gets to be normal.

 

Nothing visibly changes around the office, except that when people start talking about what a good mood Cat’s been in for the past few weeks Kara smiles a blissful secret smile. (She’s the one who put it there, in case anyone is wondering.) And if she accidentally drops her pen a couple times in Cat’s office just so she can bend down to pick it up, well, no one notices except Cat. Which is the point.

 

Cat gets a few more exclusive interviews-not too many more, not too many to be suspicious, but a few. She wins three major awards, and Kara sits with Carter in the audience and claps as hard as she can without exceeding the range of human possibility.

 

The sex is great, she won’t deny that. Cat knows exactly what she needs and how to give it to her, and Kara likes to think she can return the favor. Cat finds out exactly how long she can hold her breath for. Kara discovers how many times Cat can bring her over the edge before she loses consciousness. They buy a new bed together. (It has a reinforced headboard.)

 

Kara takes her flying. They skim over the water, and Cat laughs so hard she snorts, the joyous sound echoing in Kara’s ears. She makes a joke about riding Kara. Kara retorts with a feline pun. Cat promises her she’ll regret that when they get home.

 

It’s not perfect. Sometimes Cat snipes about something that hits a little too close to home, and sometimes Kara gets so angry she has to leave. Sometimes they both need space, because working together is a lot. Sometimes Cat’s mother comes to visit and Kara is exiled to her own apartment, and there are secrets that need to be kept and lines that can’t be crossed. Sometimes Kara comes home with new scars and breath that frosts the windows, exhausted and terrified that she’s not winning .

 

It’s not perfect. But they know, from whispered conversations under the sheets in the fading light of dawn, that it’s the best thing either of them has had.

 

-

 

Cat comes home late one day, driving up at just past ten, and Carter’s not home so Kara really doesn’t understand why she’s so upset, why she keeps apologizing.

 

“It’s okay,” Kara says, and when Cat’s eyes tighten she asks, “why are you so worried about this?”

 

And so Cat tells her about Adam. And she understands a little more, holds her a little tighter that night. And when Cat thinks of writing him a letter after all these years Kara is there, holding her hand as they push it into the mail slot together, wrists side by side under their colorful bracelets.

 

She likes that she gets to see Cat vulnerable. She likes that she’s one of two people on this planet who are lucky enough to be gifted with Cat Grant’s trust. She likes when Cat invites her on outings with Carter, tone soft like she’s expecting Kara to say no.

 

[She calls them family days. They don’t really talk about it.]

 

-

 

Kara wins her war. She kisses Cat fresh from the battlefield, soot-streaked and sweaty and so, so grateful to see her.

 

“Do you believe in fate?” she asks Cat that night, tracing soothing circles over her stomach.

 

She can almost hear Cat smile. “I believe that I chose you, Kara Zor-El,” she says. “Fate had nothing to do with it.”