Cover Art by dapatty.
Earth 32 didn’t smell any different. What a Cisco thought to have, Caitlin shook her head, fighting back sorrow. Leaving was for the best. If she kept reminding herself that it was, maybe she’d finally convince her feelings that it was the most logical course of action.
She’d been planning it since she’d clawed her way back to herself, after attacking them, after the woods with Cisco. She’d almost betrayed them permanently. No matter what Cisco’s vibes from the future said or what the ice slowly encasing her heart whispered at her, she wouldn’t be the one inflicting damage that couldn’t be healed. Couldn’t betray your friends if you move to another universe.
Not that she’s going to go full-on proper super villain if she could help it. Not again, anyway. Even if the white-blue has looked back at her in the mirror more than her warm brown this week, she’s only had to dye her hair back brown every other day.
Even if she suspects third time would be the charm and her state of killing cold made permanent, she’s at least somewhere that doesn’t have any of her dear friends as targets when she finally freezes.
Maybe Julian’s cure would work if she had the courage to take it if she couldn’t find the courage to make peace with this new her.
“Small favors,” she whispered to herself.
The sunflowers on the dining table left a soft sweetness in the air. The apartment felt warm with all the yellow and openness. She almost hated to leave. She spared a thought to why she ended up here and not just randomly on a street somewhere. Perhaps Cisco’s other universe-hopping device works in proximity? Had he built-in a homing beacon? No matter, she couldn’t stay.
Running away only works if none of your well-meaning friends could find you, which included alien badasses. Besides, Kara would want to help. Kara would want to talk her into going back. Kara would probably even give her a hug. All those things would be unbearable and she couldn’t stomach it. Best to leave reunions for when she’s lost herself completely.
Caitlyn dropped Cisco’s prototype into the vase holding the flowers, it gave a little fitz noise as the water zapped it’s circuits. She walked right out the door and into a very solid, non-descript white guy. Who’s very much Mon-el. Damnit.
“Oh! I’m so sorry!” He’d grabbed her arms to steady her and his hands felt warm enough to burn even through her coat. “Hey, you’re really cold. Do you need a blanket? It seems customary when someone’s had a fright. Or at least I’ve seen it on tv?”
“It’s fine. I think I mainly ran into you,” Caitlyn said, trying not to look him straight on, not trusting her dark shades to hide her unnatural eyes. “You can even let me go so I can get out of your hair.”
“Oh hey, yeah. I’m still holding you, huh?” he said, sheepishly, hands loosening. “I’m Mon-er-Mike. Yep. Mike. Totally, regular guy, Mike. And you’re a friend of Kara’s? Who I haven’t met? At least I’m pretty sure I’d remember someone with such distinctive highlights. Even though you look and sound very familiar.”
Caitlyn silently cursed at her rotten luck for running into Mon-el, who was might as well be holding a sign telling the world he’s an alien if the rambling was anything to go by. If she had the time, she’d have sat him down and talk about subtlety.
“Yeah, I’m a friend. But she’s not in and I got tired of waiting so I’ll be on my way,” Caitlin said, trying to step past him but he just copied her movement.
“Why does that make me suspicious? I mean, you’re lying while not totally lying.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “You’ve not introduced yourself. I’m told that’s rude by Earth standards.”
“Maybe because a guy I don’t really know is doing this whole intimidation tactic for no good reason? If just for a misplaced protection of Kara? Who, we both know, doesn’t really need either of us to protect her.” Caitlin tried again, shifting her bag more firmly on her shoulder, voice obnoxiously sweet. “But if this is the part where we both pretend the other is stupid so as to continue having veiled conversations in the hallway, I’d rather not.”
“She really didn’t mention me?” He sounded so oddly disappointed, and visibly deflated. Caitlin fought the reflex of rolling her eyes.
He just kept rambling. “Because I know she has this whole established life and I’ve only been on this planet for six months, but I thought I was starting to be important, you know? Like, important enough that she rescued me from my parents kind of important. Hey, are you one of her ‘other universe’ friends? Because I’ve met some of them. You are! Wait, you’re Caitlin Snow!”
“Of course you’d recognize me,” Caitlin grimaced, attempting to step past. “I should really be going.”
“Oh, you’re running away,” he said, dropping his arms and she stumbled. “Because of the whole cold thing?”
“I don’t want any trouble,” Caitlyn said, holding her hands up and trying not to freeze everything in a ten foot radius.
“Good?” Mike said. “I mean great, because trouble earlier this week was really slimy and I’m kinda over trouble for the time being.”
“Yes, I’m trying very hard to run away, but you’re making it very difficult by being in my way!” she said, and winced at how her voice changed. She hated this. Hated her paper thin control.
“It would be even more difficult if Kara gets back, because you are clearly avoiding her now that I think about it,” he nodded decisively. “Okay, come on. You’ll need a place to stay and I have underground contacts. Unless you planned on doing something all super-villain-ess? Please don’t because then I’d have to stop you and I’ve not really gotten that hero stuff down yet.”
“I should probably make my own way, but I promise not to super villain anything?” She hated that she didn’t sound sure.
“No, not okay. Not that I don’t believe that you won’t super villain and that you aren’t capable because you’re a scientist and know things, but Kara doesn’t know you’re here. She’d be sad that I let you go off without knowing that you at least have temporary housing. She’s very adamant about basic necessities and making home. And you can totally vanish into the ether after a couple nights to totally not do evil, just. Let me help?” He was giving her very earnest eyes.
Caitlin sighed. “Just for a few nights.”
Within a week of living there, her next door neighbor nearly pissed himself running from her, the other two dealers found less chilly areas to operate shortly after. Even with that criminal element eliminated, she stalked around the block every other night to scare off anyone who dared start again, gradually making a larger sweep of the neighborhood by the fourth night just to keep herself from going stir crazy. Maybe this is what Oliver Queen feels like, she thought as she watched the latest three idiots, who’d been bullying some of the kids that lived on her floor, scurry off.
Which, of course later that night, led to a close call where she nearly froze a man to death who’d been trying to mug a girl. Because that’s the problem of what she was now, what with how her biology that primarily relied on her absorbing energy to keep her both alive and mostly sane. But she’d been careless, getting by on far less, being more or less too afraid to let herself be around people, even if she needed to be.
That was the double edge sword of this whole thing. The more people she surrounded herself with the more she could feel the tug to drain the the warmth from anyone and everyone she could reach. But she needed to skim just a little, spreading out the energy from more than just one person.
She’d been fully prepared to hide under the covers of her lumpy bed once she made it back to her place, but a visitor stood beside her kitchen table, arms at her side, looking more than a little ready to grab the pistol at her hip.
“I gather from your all black ensemble and firearm you aren’t here for a social call?” Caitlyn asked, deciding to close the door behind her rather than run. She doubted she’d get very far unless she froze the woman before her. Also, if the woman was who she thought, freezing her would make Kara sad and while Snow was basically a frozen caricature of herself, she wasn’t heartless.
“I thought it might be time to pay you a visit, Dr. Caitlyn Snow,” the redhead said, smiling wryly.
“And you’ve already heard about the frostbite on that thug?” Caitlyn concluded. “You’re Alex aren’t you? Danvers? Agent? Mike’s mentioned you.”
“Mike says a lot,” she grimaced. “And yeah, I’m Alex.”
“He’s really bad at blending in. Even worse than I am right now,” Cait said, moving toward the kitchen corner of her apartment. She’d been unnerved by the completely open floor plan at first, but it’d grown on her. “Would you like some coffee, or is this merely a threaten the potential supervillain visit?”
“I don’t want to put you out,” Alex said, giving a shrug. “I’m meeting my girlfriend, anyway. After this. Do you need anything? It’s not that I object about you robbing drug dealers to pay for this apartment, but you might want to find some honest lab work or clinic work? Winn could make you some identification if I authorized it.”
“You’re being suspiciously nice. Is this out of fear or is this your polite way of trying to get me to turn myself in? Because, and I’m not saying that being locked up isn’t a terrible idea based on the potential of what I could do, but I think that would accelerate any supervillain tendencies I’m developing.”
“Dr. Snow, no.” Alex shook her head, hair brushing the collar of her top. “Kara wouldn’t allow it, even if the DEO wanted it. She’d probably even break you out herself. Hell, the only reason she’s not come to visit you is that she’s trying to give you space.”
“Mon-el told her? Who am I kidding? Of course he did,” Caitlin frowned, sighed. “She doesn’t have to stay away even if I don’t understand why she’d care.”
Alex’s face did this scrunched up thing that Caitlin had trouble identifying. Concern, maybe, mixed with a little pity, even. She used to be better at people.
“Okay,” Alex said, face smoothing into a quiet sincerity. “That’s a lot to unpack, so we’re just gonna go with the short version. Of course she cares. My sister just cares. That’s what she does. You’re Barry’s friend and by extension hers. Giving a shit is basically her real superpower. So, I’ll let her know.”
“Thanks?” Caitlin had a suspicion that the Danvers were the sort of people who would just not give up on you if they decided you mattered, but she couldn’t be sure. She might be a little unnerved to find that they seemed to truly care.
Alex nodded decisively. “Good talk. I’ll show myself out.”
“Okay?” Caitlin tried not to sound surprised. She’d expect this conversation to have more threats and instead it’s been oddly welcoming. “Have a nice date?”
“I will,” Alex beamed. “And hey. If you want a job or help with your whole ice thing, Mom’s pretty great and I’m no slouch. Just putting that out there.”
“That’s kind of you, but I’ve already tried everything,” Caitlin said, feeling touched and so very sad, trying not to think about Julian’s cure.
“Sure, but some fresh eyes might not hurt,” Alex gave an encouraging smile, shutting the door softly behind her.
“Did you even fully read the text message from your sister? Wave at her on her way out?” Caitlin tried to tease, taking a deep breath to calm herself and a step back, bumping into the kitchen counter.
“Maybe? Maybe a little. Look I totally read each word and I just happened to be flying over this side of town,” Kara grinned a touch sheepishly, with a little laugh. Her face turned kind and Cait tried not to blanch.
“Sure,” Cait tried her best to smile, but her face refused and settled more on a grimace.
“Hey, are you okay, like mostly?” Kara asked. “You’re looking bluer than I remember. Which kinda works for you. But I know how hard it can be to not be home anymore and you’ve been doing your own thing here.”
Kara took a step forward and Caitlin clenched her fists shut and dropped them to her sides. She’d nearly thrown and icicle at Supergirl. But that was the point, wasn’t it? Go somewhere that when she’d lost her humanity, someone would stop her.
“Yeah, I’ve felt like that too,” Kara said softly, taking very deliberate and slow steps.
“Not like this,” Cait said, feeling oh so very close to crying, but made herself still.
“Oh,” Kara said. “Oh, you really did run away. Cisco came looking. And then Iris was here for awhile once she was able. Julian keeps picking mom’s brain about her expertise. Barry even stopped by the DEO. They all miss you.”
She was within reaching distance. Caitlin could feel Kara’s body heat. “I’m going to hug you now, because you look like you really need it. Or at least a hug is really nice when you’re running away.”
“You don’t have to,” Caitlyn warned, “It might actually hurt you. I’m cold and--.”
She stopped speaking when Kara pounced, wrapping her arms tight around Caitlyn’s shoulders. Caitlyn tucked herself in, trying not to touch her skin to Kara’s so she won’t steal any heat. The hug was everything she didn’t know she needed. Kara’s arms were tight, but not confining. She felt safe. She felt protected. She felt like if she started crying she might never stop and it would be okay because Kara would hold her as long as she needed to be held. Her shoulders trembled as she tried to get control of her emotions.
“It’s okay,” Kara said, softly, rocking them back and forth. “It’s going to be okay.”
Kara sound so sure, that for the first time in a long time, Caitlin believed it.