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The Sound (by the 1975)

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Agent Danvers knew about trouble. She’d gotten herself in and out of it often enough in her four years as a DEO agent to see it coming. And now that she was a squad leader and had been deputy director for a period of time, she was usually a little better at staying out of it. Unless, of course, she had to dive straight in to rescue her squad or her commander or whatever. But all that experience made this trouble a little more embarrassing than usual.

She’d been following a lead her commander had told her to leave alone, and she’d found a strange data collection unit on top of one of the highest towers in the National City hills. It had turned out to be boobytrapped. She’d bailed before getting hit by the explosion, but now she was falling, reaching terminal velocity at an unfortunately rapid acceleration, and her grappler was stuck.

Focused on getting her grappler out of her pants, she wasn’t prepared when a body going probably as fast as she was, but in a horizontal direction, slammed into her shoulder and tried to grab her.

Alex yelped, still trying to get her grappler, a little winded from the sudden stop to her fall. The arms trying to get a good hold on her were like steel bars, and she grabbed for one, a mane of blonde hair hitting her in the face as she tried to twist around, cling to the body that had arrested her fall, and get some dignity back.

“Stop squirming!” demanded Supergirl. “Let me hold you!”

Of course it was Supergirl. Alex did not stop squirming, trying to climb up the alien’s sturdy shoulders. She’d seen the trouble Supergirl could cause, and didn’t trust her as far as she could throw her. “I didn’t ask to be caught!”

“You were falling from six hundred feet, I apologize for interfering with your unplanned death!”

“I was getting my grappler out!”

But her grappler had been pretty stuck and save for Supergirl’s timely intervention, she would indeed have been a smear of organic material on the rocks below. The wind out of her sails, Alex let herself be taken hold of. She gulped, her stomach flipping, as Supergirl got an arm under her thighs and hoisted her up into a bridal carry—a rather more delicate position than Agent Danvers usually liked to find herself. Unexpectedly, it was quite comfortable. The girl of steel wasn’t actually that steely when she wasn’t going 9.5 mps at cross purposes to Alex. She was actually kind of soft and warm through her Kevlar mesh suit. Alex found herself looping an arm around Supergirl’s neck, and received a smirk in response.

“There’s the appreciation I like to see.”

Alex glared. “Arrogant alien.”

Up close it was difficult to think of Supergirl as an alien. She had freckles, and a little scar on her forehead, and her eyes were a dark shade of blue. Her grin was also a little lopsided when she looked at Alex, something unexpectedly tired and sad in her eyes, and Alex let herself relax into her grip. She felt snug there, her hips fitting into Supergirl’s, her back nestled in the crook of her arm.

“Where do you want to be dropped off? Your secret desert base?” The mischief in Supergirl’s expression made her knowledge of it not sound like a threat, and Alex, after throwing her one suspicious look, just glared, then scrunched her nose.

“Nah, I’m off today.”

“And you’re getting blown up anyway?” Supergirl sounded incredibly indignant at that.

“Look, I have personal interests!”

“Why don’t you try to find some that aren’t likely to get you killed? I can’t be looking out for you all the time.”

Supergirl looked so cross about that that Alex found it endearing. Her focus on Alex’s health and well-being was also surprising. Sure, she was a citizen of National City and the alien had claimed them as her territory (this was not unexpected. Alex was the DEO’s Kryptonian expert, and she knew Krypton had had a government that could be characterized as city-state or feudal. Supergirl had simply proclaimed herself lord of National City.) But surely she didn’t know who Alex was. Alex was just another pesky DEO Agent to her, right? Supergirl often showed up at their ops, but she didn’t stay and chat, besides lecturing them about their treatment of aliens. 

Curious, Alex had to ask. “You know, I’m a little bit out of your usual territory. How’d you know I was in trouble?”

“Your heartbeat went all staticky,” Supergirl said grouchily. “Barely made it in time. I’m faster than the speed of sound but not the speed of light. Try to stay out of trouble, please?”

She settled onto her feet a few meters away from Alex’s bike. She glared at it too. “I don’t like that either. You should take better care of yourself.”

“You sound like my foster sister,” Alex said, the words coming out of her mouth unexpectedly. As far as she could recall, her foster sister, Kara, had never said anything about her bike. 

Alex felt reluctant to unfold herself from Supergirl’s arms. Even though they were on the ground, Supergirl didn’t seem that eager to put her down either. And yet, having her knees hiked up and an arm around her back like she was set to be carried over the threshold . . . Well, it was a little—(Alex’s face was very hot, and she liked the way Supergirl smelled—rather like the Chinese restaurant down the street from her foster sister’s apartment) —awkward .

“Just from that, I already know she’s smarter than you.”

Insulted, Alex wriggled out of the alien's grasp and dropped onto her feet. She missed the sidewalk, and Supergirl steadied her with a gentle hand. Alex pushed her hair out of her face, unsure of what to say. Should she say thanks? Supergirl was watching her with a soft expression that made Alex a little flustered. She was an alien . Alex wasn't supposed to get flustered around aliens. It was her job to not get flustered around aliens.

“How did you hear my heartbeat?” Alex asked. “Surely there are other people in trouble. But you came all that way for me—just because of a jump in it? That doesn’t—it doesn’t make sense.”

She’d asked before she thought about it. But right after she’d said it answers occurred to her. Maybe Supergirl had lied and was tracking her. Maybe she always kept an eye on DEO agents to stop them from violating the rights of innocent sapient creatures.

But Supergirl just put a hand on her hip and flashed her a smug smile. With a little swoosh of her cape she turned around. “Maybe I just know the sound of your heart.”

It sounded . . . flirty? Alex felt herself going red, then redder with embarrassment at being embarrassed.

“Now be safe. You wouldn’t want to pull me away from another rescue, would you?” Supergirl gave her a wink and then, with her index finger, tapped her ear and then the center of her chest as if to say I’m listening for you .

Before Alex could say anything in response, she flew off, and Alex quickly looked away to avoid seeing up her skirt. The encounter left Alex a little wobbly. A side effect of the explosion’s shock wave, no doubt. But Supergirl’s smile lingered in her eyes and her scent lingered on her skin.

Now Alex was hungry. Chinese sounded good.

#

Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

#

Kara seemed a little startled when she opened the door to see Alex swinging the two bags of Chinese food, one from either hand. She’d clearly just gotten out of the shower, in sweats, her hair dark with water, and she wasn’t wearing her glasses. “Alex? You— you didn’t text. You haven’t not texted since—”

She cut herself off, and Alex grimaced, suddenly awkward. She usually gave Kara more warning. Her foster sister had her own life, and it didn’t have much to do with Alex’s. “Sorry. Is this a bad time? I was just feeling the Chinese place down the street and I know you love it.”

Kara’s eyes lingered for a moment on the two bags of carry out, and for a moment looked so sad that Alex was sure she’d developed a gluten allergy. Alex looked around the room. Her computer was out, a text file and some blurry photos of Supergirl on the screen. “Oh,” Alex said. “You’re working.”

There was a strange disjunct in her gut. She felt as though this ought to be normal, her just showing up at Kara’s. But she knew it wasn’t. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d done it. Her head started to hurt, and she felt a little nauseous. Another post-concussion syndrome headache coming on.

“No!” Kara said, too quickly. “No. Just an article. But it’s not due for days. You are not taking those potstickers away. Come in. Pick something to watch.”

Hesitant, Alex stepped across the threshold, the well lit space she’d given up to Kara when her foster sister had needed a place and Alex was doing a semester abroad, still feeling a little like home. Suddenly, abruptly, arms were around her shoulders. “I'm glad you came.”

Kara ,” Alex said, a little squelched, but unexpectedly comfortable with the firm clinch, “I can’t hug you back when I’m still holding the food.”

The headache faded as they settled in to spending the evening together, and Kara got plates out of the cupboard. They crunched up on opposite ends of the couch, shoes off, feet tangled together. This was nice. It felt easy with Kara in a way it hadn’t always. For a while, in high school, Alex had been pretty sure that after Kara turned eighteen and was no longer a minor, they’d never see her again. But she’d shown up in National City after college, and sent Alex a polite text, and then they’d started talking again. Mom was surprised whenever Alex mentioned Kara. Apparently Kara sent her cards on holidays, but never called.

“So what are you working on?” Alex asked after inhaling one plate of orange chicken, lo mein, and three potstickers to Kara’s twelve. “I spy Supergirl on your computer.”

“Oh,” Kara seemed surprised at the question too. “No,” she said. “I mean yes. I mean— I had an interview at L-Corp. Cat-Co wants me to write a puff piece about Lena Luthor’s new deal with the government, but it’s . . . it’s using alien detectors for census taking. I just feel that it’s an invasion of privacy. If an alien wants to pass as human, well, there’s no reason they’re inherently doing it for nefarious purposes. What if they’re just trying to live their life? Outing them is not only rude, it exposes them to violence.”

Alex felt a little startled. Kara didn’t know what she did at the DEO, and they hadn’t really talked about any of the issues of aliens living among us. She hadn’t realized this was something Kara felt strongly about. Would Kara approve of her career? They really only hunted criminal aliens—though the way Supergirl kept scolding them, it seemed someone didn’t believe it. “So— Supergirl’s your example, of an alien who passes as human but doesn’t have nefarious purposes? I’m not sure if flying around in a cape is really passing as human.”

“But she can’t do that all the time,” Kara protested. “And really, she’s entirely phenotypically human. If she’s not dressed in the suit, she can just walk down the street. Who would recognize her?”

Alex made a face. “I’d recognize her. I mean, maybe not if I just saw her across the way, but if I got a good look at her, I’d know it was Supergirl. She’s prettier than 99% of the world. You don’t just walk past that. And I’d know her by those freckles and those eyes and that little scar on her forehead.” Alex found herself smiling to herself. “And that smirk.”

“Wha—?” Kara had done a full double take and was staring at her, wide eyed.

Alex scratched the back of her head, embarrassed again. “I might have . . . had a run in with her today. And whatever. She’s cute. I can appreciate a cute alien who’s just saved my life.”

“Of course you can,” Kara said. But she looked a little stricken. “I just didn’t know you were into cute . . . aliens.”

What? Alex looked up into Kara’s blindsided face. “Oh!” Alex ruffled her own hair and then smiled awkwardly, drawing her feet away from the other side of the couch, separating them from Kara’s. “I mean, I’m not into aliens. That’s probably a dealbreaker for me. Or . . . I am, for them. But, um, did I never tell you? I guess I thought you knew. I mean, I went to prom with Vicki.”

Kara’s face went suddenly, surprisingly grim. Alex remembered guiltily that she and Vicki had not gotten along. “Of course,” Kara said, uncomfortably flatly. “I did know. I just forgot. I mean, it’s not like your dating life is so vibrant that I’m always reminded.”

“Oh, shut up.” Alex flicked a piece of broccoli at her, and Kara started, then picked it off her shirt and ate it.

“Chicken this time,” she said, and opened her mouth like a carnival game.

Alex laughed, half surprised at her quick shift back into good humor. It felt both new and utterly familiar. They put on A Fish Called Wanda , and Alex watched Kara watch the movie. It was strange being here with her, as if it was nothing, as if they were close. Kara had always been guarded around her. And it sort of felt like she’d stopped. Maybe Alex hadn’t realized she was being guarded in return. Maybe she could stop too.

It was funny, she’d never really noticed, but Kara— Kara looked a lot like Supergirl.

#

I can't believe I forgot your name

Oh baby won't you come again?

She said "I've got a problem with your shoes

And your tunes, but I might move in

And I thought that you were straight, now I'm wondering"

#

A rogue Atalaatal made Alex’s day at work unpleasant, but she'd seen him coming and figured out a way to take him down while keeping her team safe. She’d knocked her elbow good though, and was at home, icing the bruise, in her ratty MIT microbiology summer camp t-shirt and baggy sweats when the colors red and blue and gold blurred outside her hazy window.

There was a knock.

Alex looked down at herself, swore silently, and went to the window, shoving it up and sticking her head out over the fire escape.

“What are you doing here?” Alex hissed at Supergirl, only afterwards wondering why she hissed it as if her parents were home and her high-school girlfriend had just climbed the tree outside her window.

Supergirl landed on the fire escape, looking as perfectly put together as always. It was funny, but knowing she had freckles and that scar made Alex feel a little warm inside when she looked at her. From a distance she could look like a doll, but up close she was a person. That fact felt like a secret they shared.

“Good evening to you.”

Alex scowled at her. Supergirl had far too good a time teasing her.

Supergirl cocked her head. “Maybe I was just checking up on my favorite DEO agent to make sure she hadn’t gotten herself into any more trouble.”

Favorite? When had Alex become her favorite? Alex was pretty sure she should be offended by that. The DEO was very publicly Not Friendly with Supergirl. If this got back to her commander, she would not be pleased.

“Well, aren’t you going to invite me in? Or do you want the paparazzi to snap us together and start the rumor that we’re having a secret assignation?”

Stiffly, Alex cleared her path through the window and let her in. “Who even uses that word anymore?”

Supergirl tossed her head, her mane of hair splashing around like she was a My Little Pony. “I do.”

She immediately strode across Alex’s kitchen, made disapproving noises about the contents of her fridge, then poured herself a glass of orange juice and found a packet of Chocos that Alex wasn’t entirely sure where it had come from. “Oh, just move yourself in, why don’t you?”

Supergirl gave the room a speculative glance. “Your decorating style is a little too military chic for me.”

“What, not enough florals?”

“Your ceilings are too low and the paint color is dingy,” Supergirl said flatly. “You should move in with me instead.”

“Sure, K—” Alex froze. There had been a name on the tip of her tongue, a knowledge. Her head speared her as if to shut up inappropriate thoughts, but the thought was a doubled panic and confusion in her gut. I knew her name. I forgot it. I can’t believe I forgot her name. But how could she know her name? No, this was just deja-vu or something. A flare of embarrassed anger heated up her face. “What are you doing here? And why are you just drinking my orange juice?”

“I’ve got a lead,” Supergirl said. An anxious look had flashed across her face and she was suddenly all business. “Your secret-information-collection-unit person. They’re using L-Corp technology, but it isn’t L-Corp; I have an in with them, I know. But that means it’s someone they’re working with.”

Now this was interesting. Alex leaned on the other side of the counter, only a little distracted by Supergirl’s flashing eyes and serious mouth. “You have any ideas on how to narrow it down? Any one of the people of any one of their trading partners could be responsible.”

Supergirl shrugged, offering a wry grin. “I'd look at the top first. I mean, you have to be megalomaniacal to become the head of a corporation in the first place. It’s only a small step to shift into supervillain.”

Alex blinked. “That’s very . . . insightful of you.”

Supergirl shook her head. “Hard won experience.” She sighed dramatically.

Alex laughed, and the room, which did have low ceilings and a dingy paint color, felt warm and even a little pink.

The smile Supergirl flashed her was like an eighteen wheeler. Alex had to dodge to avoid being flattened by it.

“I thought a good place to suss out the suspects would be the charity gala Lena’s having on Saturday. I’m invited. Be my date?”

Alex’s face went hot. “I— I mean, it would probably be better for me to come as one of the catering staff. I can get us earpieces, so we can communicate while being in separate parts of the party.”

“Good idea,” Supergirl said, dropping the idea of the date so casually that Alex felt a little hurt. “I’ll meet you out back, by the little pond, at 6:30. We can make our game plan then. Here’s the guest list.” She made a flicking gesture with her hand. “Go off and do your research or whatever.”

Alex scowled and took it. “Great, so I’m the brains and you’re the brawn.”

Supergirl gave her another grin. “I wouldn't say that. I have both brains and brawn. Age before beauty, perhaps?” She started for the window.

“I’m not old either!”

Supergirl glanced back. “I know ,” she said, almost as if speaking to a rather dumb toddler. “I’m older. You’re the beautiful one.”

Then she was gone, and Alex slumped back against the counter, holding the guest list and feeling her heart go pitter-pat in a way that was even more embarrassing because she knew Supergirl could hear it. Absently she ate one of the two remaining Chocos from the pack. At least the alien knew not to finish everything. Someone must have taught her that. Alex wondered who.

Her commander was not going to be thrilled if she found out that Alex was planning an undercover operation with Supergirl.

#

Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

#

“You seem anxious.”

Alex didn’t know why she’d invited Kara over to help her dress for the gala. She was going as a caterer. She was wearing a uniform. She didn’t need fashion advice. But she’d been pacing up and down and worrying her hair for a good hour, and Kara’s face, a little concerned, peering in her doorway, made Alex suddenly grow calm.

Kara’s eyes brightened when their gazes met. It was funny how Kara's warm regard made Alex feel like maybe she hadn't fucked everything up, even when she knew she had.

“I shouldn’t be doing this. I know my boss wouldn’t want me to be working one on one with Supergirl. I need to back out—”

“Why are you working with Supergirl?” Kara asked. Her voice was gentle, not confrontational at all, and Alex wished she knew how to say how grateful she was to have Kara in her life, to have her as her friend, even now that they weren’t living in the same house anymore.

Alex went still. Her cheeks felt hot, and she rubbed the back of her neck. “I don’t know,” she said. “She’s not what I thought she was.”

Kara laughed easily, moving around her apartment like she’d been there a hundred times rather than fewer than Alex could count on one hand. “Do you like her? Does little Alex have a new friend?”

The realtime whiplash of that left Alex reeling. ‘Do you like her?’ She hadn’t heard that as a friendly thing. Did she likelike Supergirl? Did she? Had acted like she did? Enough to make Kara think so? Then ‘a new friend.’ There hadn’t been an implication. Alex had just misunderstood. She couldn’t find words to respond. It was a jibe, so she needed to retort, but retorts seemed beyond her. She felt like she'd been smacked from two directions by a soggy towel.

Kara turned from where she, just like Supergirl, had poured herself a glass of orange juice. She looked at Alex, suddenly, oddly, not cute about it at all. She seemed focused and serious behind those thick framed glasses. “You do like her,” Kara said, a little bit of wonder and a little bit of pain in her voice that Alex didn’t understand.

Or maybe Alex did. She didn’t want to understand it. But the memories came without demand. Kara had hated Vicki. Kara had slept in the bed across from Alex’s for years. Kara had been stiff and standoffish, but she’d watched Alex live her life with a hurt in her eyes that Alex, perhaps consciously, had disregarded.

Alex forced herself to give Kara a tense smile. “Maybe,” she said. “She reminds me a lot of you.”

Kara gaped, taking a step back like she’d been hit. Alex didn’t understand. Her expression was pain, all pain. But Alex didn’t know why. Why? Her head pounded. Goddammit, she hated these headaches. Why was she always getting headaches?

Alex. ” Kara’s voice was sharp, worried. “Let me get you some Advil. Maybe you shouldn’t go.”

“I”m fine. I’m fine,” Alex said. “They pass quickly.”

Already it was fading, faced with Kara’s worried blue eyes. I want a hug , Alex thought. The last hug that Kara had given her had been such a surprise, but Kara’s arms had been so tight and sure that she had felt supported. But that wasn’t their relationship. Alex pushed the urge back down.

Kara saw when the headache receded and she tipped her head, eyes narrowed, regarding Alex carefully. “So, what were you planning on doing with your hair?”

“Um, spray it back, really. I’m working, so just . . . out of my face.”

Kara looked at her, pushed her glasses up her nose with her middle finger, and said one word. “No.”

#

You're so conceited, I said "I love you"

What does it matter if I lie to you?

I don't regret it but I'm glad that we're through

So don't you tell me that you "Just don't get it"

'Cause I know you do

#

Alex, with her hair slicked over one side, shifting across her cheekbone in a way she only did when she was on a date, pacing up and down in the back garden, waited for Supergirl. She kept looking up into the sky. That was why she was utterly unprepared when Supergirl walked up to her, both feet on the ground.

She wore her signature colors, the blue a bit darker, the red a bit richer in the dim evening, but she was not in her uniform. The dark blue dress clung to her body, falling down her long legs in a ripple of silk. Her hair, just as sleek and shiny fell over her shoulder. She still wore her red cape, but it was fastened with a single brooch in the shape of her crest. Alex’s heart stuttered.

Supergirl grinned at her, and Alex knew she’d heard the skipped heartbeat. She flicked a stray hair out of Alex’s face. “You do clean up nice, handsome,” she said, a chuckle behind her words.

“Shut up,” Alex grumbled. She didn’t need to repay the compliment. Her heart beat had already done that. “Here, take this.”

She tried to hand over an earpiece, but Supergirl waved it away. “I don’t need one to hear you. And this is better than whispering.”

She gave Alex a small ear stud that was also embossed with the crest. “Telepathic,” she said. “Don’t worry. You have to actively try to think your thoughts at me. I won’t just eavesdrop on you casually contemplating the fact that the CEO of Lord Enterprises forgot to zip his zipper.”

Alex snorted unexpectedly and gave her shoulder a shove. Supergirl was a jokester. She turned over the stud in her hand. “I’m not sure my commander would like me putting untested alien tech inside my head.”

“What she doesn’t know can’t hurt her, right?” Supergirl’s attempt at seductive subterfuge was unsuccessful. It was almost funny how seeing her up close, seeing her munching Chocos and in her house made her, even now, when she was unutterably gorgeous, seem real in a way she’d only been an icon before.

“You’re such a bad girl,” Alex said dryly, but fixed the stud in her ear.

“Takes one to know one.”

Shut up.

Got it working, I see.

They headed into the gala.

Supergirl was a charmer as well as a jokester it seemed. She was led around by the hostess, Lena Luthor, who treated her with a suspect sort of reserve, and greeted everyone with a graceful and warm politeness. The whole time the alien kept up a snide commentary in her head about what these people had said when they thought she was out of earshot, and what they were hiding under their clothes—not any embarrassing physical characteristics, Alex was surprised to find herself sure that Supergirl was too empathetic for that—but secrets they carried in their pockets and pocketbooks.

You hate them, Alex thought at her. But you’d still save them. She didn’t know what to make of that. She couldn’t say super-rich douchebags were her favorite people, but aliens who hated humans, even only some humans, were her business to keep under control. She didn’t devote her life to saving them. But Supergirl would save people she hated anyway. She supposed in some ways Supergirl had to save anyone. If she judged her rescuees, the world would judge her, and she would no longer be considered a hero. Alex would probably be sent to take her down.

For a long moment, Supergirl didn’t respond. I’ve spent a long time listening to what people say when they think they’re only being heard by the like-minded or sycophants. I don’t judge people for saying foolish things or for a lack of knowledge, but I do judge people for cruel actions, for selfishness, for closemindedness, for a lack of any effort towards empathy. I see that here more than anywhere else.

Yet you’re chummy with Lena Luthor, Alex retorted. Then she flushed, guilty, because she didn’t know why Lena bothered her so much. What did it matter if Supergirl was polite acquaintances with Lena? Honestly, it said that Lena wasn’t like her mad brother. It was fine.

She tries.

And if that didn’t make Alex feel guilty for being a bitch, nothing would.

What’s it like, to be able to hear what other people are saying when they think they’re alone?

Supergirl is silent again, greeting a man with a green tie and a smarmy combover, and a passcard to the L-Corp labs in his pocket. It meant I had to learn early on that people say things they don’t mean to fit in, that they lie to your face for your own good. It’s hard— I mean, it’s not like it’s easy to ignore your own name.

She’s not really my sister, don’t class me with her. She’s a weirdo. She’s a freak. Just because she’s an orphan she wants pity, it’s pathetic.’ The thump of her own words in her head about Kara made Alex ache. God, she was lucky that Kara wasn’t an alien with super hearing. She’d said so many cruel things. She was lucky Kara still wanted to be her friend.

I’m sorry , Alex could barely breathe to think it back to Supergirl. That must have really sucked.

It’s all right. I forgave you a long time ago.

The words were wrong, they were startling, but they slotted into a familiar part of Alex, a part built of guilt and regret and expiation. What ?

Supergirl startled visibly, glancing over. Alex—

The look on her face was stricken as she sought out Alex, always turning directly toward her, unerring, though the telepathic device had no directional component. But that didn't matter for Supergirl. She knew the sound of Alex’s heart. She knew the sound of Alex’s heart. She knew her name, though Alex never told it to her. She knew where her apartment was, where she kept her juice and her cookies. She flirted with Alex, held her easily as they flew, teased her with a warmth and familiarity that spoke of long acquaintance.

Alex’s head stabbed with pain — intentional pain, she realized, a pain that was trying to distract her, trying to make her forget. But she couldn’t forget, not now.

“I know you.”

She said it both aloud and in Supergirl’s head, and in the answering no, wait, no , she heard the panic, heard the truth of her words.

Alex turned and ran. She jerked the telepathic stud out of her ear and hurled it away. She couldn't be here, in public, while her mind was falling apart. She hit the stairs and ran up, up and up, panting and breathing, but she had to get to the top, get to the roof of L-Corp. And then she did, bursting out onto it, and there, quicker than lightning, was Supergirl, landing barefoot—her pumps lost somewhere on the way—in her evening gown and cape. “Alex—“

“I know you! I knew you. Tell me it’s not true. Tell me it’s not—”

Supergirl said nothing, pain in her blue eyes, her foundation beginning to rub away to reveal the freckles underneath. Even the freckles hurt to see. Alex knew them. Once she’d known every freckle, every spot. Once she’d known the warm embrace of Supergirl’s arms. Once she’d—

“I’m sorry, Alex. You weren’t supposed to remember like this.”

Alex’s eyes stung. “I don’t, though. I don’t remember. I just know that we knew each other. How did I forget? Why—” But she knew. Supergirl was no bosom friend of Colonel Haley and the new president. But knowing that wasn’t enough. There was something far more important. “What were we? Were we so unimportant that this was fine, having me forget you was fine? Was I the only one who felt this way?”

Supergirl, in the midst of moving closer to her, staggered. She was bright eyed, startled. She didn’t seem to understand the question. And then she did. She did, and it was more than she could imagine.

Alex —”

There was too much there, too much regret, too much of an apology. Alex was right. She’d been alone in this. That was why Supergirl had made her forget.

Why was it that feelings were so much more difficult to forget than memories?

“Alex, no , you don’t understand.”

Alex couldn’t look at her though, not knowing that they’d been something , that she had known the warmth of her arms and all her secret smiles, and Supergirl had found it within herself to give it up. Maybe there was a good reason, maybe it had hurt a little, but . . .

It was pretty clear that it had only been a little.

#

Well I know when you're around cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

Well I know when you're around cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

#

Alex huddled on the couch in her apartment with the lights off. It wouldn’t keep Supergirl away if she wanted to talk, but she didn’t think she would. Her head was pounding too hard to face light anyway. The halo of a migraine was coming on. She popped her pills to try to fend it off but it already felt like it was inevitable. Had she had migraines before the mindwipe? She didn't know, but where ever the knowledge came from, she knew she was in for three days of light sensitivity and nausea and spot vision loss. She shouldn’t have tried to remember Supergirl’s name.

A thunderous banging on the door startled her out of her pained huddle, and she went over to the door and checked through the peep hole. Her vision was already starting to spot. Was it Kara ?

Alex opened the door. “Kara?” she asked. “Why are you here?”

Kara startled at the question. She straightened up, pushing back her damp brown hair. “I just—“

The realization came heavily through the pain in her head. “Oh,” Alex said. “You knew too.” She kind of knew that Kara and Supergirl knew each other. Supergirl was one of her sources. Apparently they gossiped about Alex also. Great.

“Alex—“

Alex shook her head and stepped out of the way. “Come in if you want.” She shook her head. “Do you know more than me? I can only guess as to why I let myself be mind-wiped, and the theories make me seem pretty pathetic.” In all of scenarios she could think of there were three simple facts: Alex had cared more than Supergirl did; Supergirl had trusted her once; Supergirl had stopped trusting her.

“You’re not pathetic, Alex. I didn’t— I knew you were close with Supergirl, that’s all.”

But it was clear she knew more than that now.

Alex felt so heavy, so tired. “You don’t have to be here, Kara,” she said. “It’s not like we’re good enough friends that I expect you to comfort me.”

Kara just stood there though, her eyes sparkling. She had pulled on a pajama top and sweats and rushed over, and that hurt even more. How could Kara care this much about her when she’d been such a shit foster sister? The conversation Alex had been having with Supergirl before she put two and two together had highlighted just how terrible she’d been. Especially now, when they were kind of friends, it made her wonder how close they could have been if Alex had let them get close as teenagers. How much had Alex missed out on by being awful?

“You don’t have to be alone,” Kara said softly. “You don’t have to face everything alone.”

Alex’s eyes stung. Yes, she did. She drove people away: Vicki, Kara, Maggie, all of the other girls who never called after the second date, and clearly Supergirl also. She was stunted. Worthless. “It’s fine. I’m fine. It’s just—“ A sob threatened to rise up in Alex’s throat. “It’s just the dashed hope, you know. I’d . . . I’d thought maybe . She was flirty, familiar. It wasn’t anything, but it was a possibility. To know I’d already fucked it up—”

Kara looked like there were a thousand things she wanted to say. As if she was desperate to explain, just enough, so Alex wouldn’t feel this way. But then she squeezed her eyes shut and breathed out hard. "You didn't, you know you didn't right? Even if-- even if it happened just like you think, it wasn't all your fault."

Alex tried to scoff, but her voice broke and it came out like a sob. "You don't know that. I mean, I guess I don't either, but that's pretty telling, right? She didn't even trust me to remember knowing her."

"Of course she did!"

Alex looked at her, startled.

Kara's eyes went wide and she backpedaled. "I mean, she didn't tell me that. Or . . . anything. But why are you so sure you screwed it up? Maybe-- maybe there's a different reason for all of this. Maybe giving up your memories was . . . heroic."

The earnestness behind the word was the most surprising part. Alex smiled, feeling gentle towards this too sweet, too forgiving girl. She shook her head. "You know I'm so glad you gave me a second chance after I'd been such a shit to you, but that doesn't make me a different person that I used to be. I'm not heroic. I'm selfish. I do my job. I don't care about other people more than myself."

Kara's lips parted, seeming stunned. "How can you say that?" she asked. "Of course you're heroic."

Alex worried her lower lip, curious and a bit puzzled. How much did Kara know about what she did? And what misconceptions did she have about it? "When have I ever been heroic?" she asked. She sighed. Supergirl knew better than that, always scolding her and her team for locking up aliens who might need help instead of punishment. But fixing that was above Alex's paygrade, so she didn't even try to change things. "I do what I'm told. Even when I don't like it, I do what I'm told. Supergirl's a hero. I'm just not that kind of person. I'm not strong enough to give myself for someone else. I'm not strong enough to take a stand."

Kara seemed shocked, hurt, like that truth had upended something important about her world. "You are . You can be."

Alex didn't understand why she was so upset. "I'm not . Maybe you think that because I was into Supergirl that I was in some way like her, but that isn't me. I mean, asking out Supergirl is clearly more heroic than I could have managed. No idea how I did that. The real shocker is how I fooled her into thinking I was worth a chance, worth trusting with her name and her time--"

"Of course you're worth it!"

"I can't believe I'm the dumbass who thought twice that I might have a chance with Supergirl. What an idiot--"

"You're not an idiot!" Kara yelled. "How can you keep saying this stuff about yourself? If Supergirl had you she-- she would be the idiot to let you go!"

Alex blinked at her. Kara was flushed, furious. Her eyes were bright, her cheeks were pink. She was beautiful. Alex rubbed her chest. It hurt to know that this girl believed in her when she wasn't worthy of it. She'd never done anything that was worth anything. She'd never even reached out when someone needed to be cared for. "Not everyone is a good person like you, Kara. You don't have to try to make me feel better."

"I'm not trying to make you feel better! You're just wrong. You're being obtuse . Can't you even think that even if it . . . went wrong, Supergirl loved you? Isn't it disrespectful to not think that you were worthy of that? Are you calling her an idiot for caring about you? Are you calling everyone who ever cared about you an idiot?" 

Behind her glasses, Kara's eyes sparkled like shattered glass, and Alex felt like she'd fallen right through. 

"Just accept it, okay?" Kara said, her hands balled into fists. "Accept that you're worthy of love."

It felt like a claw had reached right inside her and ripped her from stern to stem. Alex rubbed her sleeve across her eyes, trying to hide the tears that came with that certain, fierce accusation. "I don't-- I don't feel like I am."

Her voice shook, and she was ashamed.

"Oh, Alex." Kara moved in, and Alex felt walls rise. No, no she couldn’t be hugged, be held. Then she just might break. But it was too late to dodge, and Kara’s arms were around her, close and warm and stable. Alex felt her breath catch in her chest, a silent sob, and she let herself crack. She struggled for a moment, and then her arms were around Kara too, and she pressed her face into Kara's shoulder, and held on to this warm sturdy form, so warm and sturdy, she couldn't doubt it could hold her up.

Pressed so close to Kara, she could feel the steady double-thump of her heartbeat. The sound of it, unexpectedly, seemed as familiar as her own.

#

It's not about reciprocation it's just all about me

A sycophantic, prophetic, Socratic junkie wannabe

There's so much skin to see

A simple Epicurean Philosophy

And you say I'm such a cliche,

I can't see the difference in it either way.

And we left things to protect my mental health

But you call me when you're bored and you're playing with yourself

#

Everything seemed to slow, with the rhythm of Kara’s heartbeat in her ear. Alex’s head was foggy. The migraine was still there, but it had shifted into one of the weighted ones, like a vise was pressing steadily on her skull. Dancing neural sparks lit up all the pathways around her temples and cheeks, but it was bearable. Her thoughts had slowed too, the halo of the headache making each one seem to have to shudder through the prismatic surface of water, shifting and changing as it passed, unrecognizable, and a little strange.

Kara was watching her, Alex noticed, eventually, when she raised her head from her shoulder. Kara was watching her lips, with a small wrinkle in her forehead, her face so sad, looking so young—scrubbed clean of make-up, worried mouth. Kara’s eyes flicked up, and she winced, seeing that her watching had been seen.

“It’s all right,” Alex murmured, and pressed her forehead against Kara’s cheek. She tried to remember if Kara had ever mentioned her sexuality to her, mentioned anything, but their relationship felt as empty and full of holes as a cheese-cloth. It doesn’t matter, I’m an orphan, orphans don’t have romantic relationships like— that didn’t make any sense. Her head was all thick and heavy and nothing really made much sense. But Kara was pretty, if she wanted to kiss her, she should just kiss her.

“Is it?” Kara’s words were quiet, a little quavery, unsure.

Alex lifted her head and met her eyes. She nodded, offering her a small smile. Then she kept still. She wouldn’t press the issue, it was Kara’s choice. If Kara wanted it, Alex would give it. If she didn’t want it, that was fine too.

Kara looked skittish, uncertain, and Alex felt all her remaining meandering thoughts slipping away. Kara was here for her, in spite of so much, and just looking at her, her pretty eyes, her soft mouth, the worry, the child-like features of her face, a feeling opened up in Alex. It felt like love. It didn’t feel new either. It felt like it had always been there, deep down, something warm and soft and protective. Kara was stubborn and independent, but Alex wanted to be a reliable thing for her, wanted to give back the sort of affection and care that she was offering Alex now.

Slowly, awkwardly, Kara ducked her head a little, then tipped it, and leaned in. She sought Alex’s mouth with a teenager sort of delicate fumbliness, a brush of lips, a little off center, and then another, in the right place this time, sweet and swift and almost ticklish, like feathers. It felt like a beam of sunlight had for a moment broken through the heavy thunderclouds clogging up Alex's head. The pain faded. Her head no longer felt like a kettlebell on her neck. Alex could open her eyes without flinching from the light. Just as softly, mirroring her light, tentative kiss, Alex kissed her back.

“I— I have to go,” Kara said. Her breath was warm against Alex's face, her heartbeat, from where Alex could feel it pressed against her skin, went thuthump-thuthump, at an unsteady quickness.

She drew back, sharp and sudden, and a chill ran through over Alex's body. Don't go . But it was more important that Kara felt safe, that she didn't feel pressured.

“Okay,” Alex said, letting her hand run firm and reassuring down Kara’s forearm. “Thank you for coming over—for looking after me.”

It felt like Alex blinked and Kara was already off the couch, scooping up her coat and her bag. She paused at the door, giving Alex a glance back. For a moment her face was unreadable, and then she smiled, gentle, a little sad. “Any time.”

Then she was gone.

A sudden lurch of uncertainty in Alex’s gut made her absence feel like the ionized air before a storm. It had just been kissing a girl. She’d kissed a lot of girls. But not Kara. Was there a reason it shouldn’t be Kara? She hadn’t thought about it. She hadn’t been able to think, not properly—

I think I could spend my whole life loving her. Please let me not have fucked this up too .

#

I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

#

Alex called in sick with her migraine the next day and lay on her couch with a towel over her head for the whole of it. But she managed to go back to work on the day after. Work, at least, was a relief from feeling bad about herself, wondering what she’d done to make Supergirl stop trusting her, and knowing, all too well, that if her commander found out about her past with Supergirl—whatever it was—today would be the day her commander stopped trusting her too.

During her usual recon, Alex found another collecting unit. This time, she didn’t spring the trap, and she was able to get a reasonably good look at it—though from a distance. It looked like part of it might be the alien detection device that L-Corp had turned over to the government. Only, it was hooked up to a small satellite dish--perhaps to expand its range? The device had a USB port also. That meant it was possible someone came to check on them and download the information they were collecting, perhaps.

Without running it by her commander, she assigned a few drones to surveil the area. The feeds went to her private server. They'd alert her when anyone came to the site to download the data, and then she'd find out what they were for. If it was official government business, they'd tell her, and she'd leave it along--except for pointing out that boobytrapped items in civilian areas (even if only on the top of water towers) was dangerous, and should be replaced by non-offensive measures.

A day and a half later, someone came.

Alex zipped out of base and climbed that water tower at speed.

“Hey, you! FBI!”

The man with his laptop plugged into the jack jumped up, and tried to flee back towards the stairs that led down the water tower. Fleeing the authorities was never a good sign. It was time to apprehend. He tripped over the computer cord just as she shot her net gun, and she missed. Realizing that he wasn’t going to get back to the exit, he hit something on his chest and turned a hard left. Then he was leaping, a parachute ballooning from his backpack. A tick-tick-tick sounded from the unit itself.

Fuck .

The water tower exploded. Alex was in the air again, plummeting. Goddammit, where was her grappler. There. She got it out, pointed—

A flying body going perpendicular to her fall hit her hard. She was swung up over a shoulder into a fireman’s carry.

“I was fine!” Alex yelled, once she’d gotten her breath back.

“Shut up!” Supergirl yelled back at her.

“Did you get the guy? Come on! Stop wasting time with me!”

A huge huff of annoyed breath followed, but then they were veering around at speed and Alex could see the parachute in front of them. Just as it was vented, Supergirl grabbed it. Alex clung to her neck, stomach doing somersaults, as the alien spun the parachute into a long strand like a dishtowel, then jerked, pulling the man up, and wrapping him in the parachute like she was making a cocoon. She knotted the end and dropped him on some squashy looking grass.

“Is that enough for you?” Supergirl snapped at her. “Rao’s orb, stop nearly getting yourself killed!”

“I was fine!” Alex snapped back. “I actually had my grappler out this time!”

“Yes, this time! You’re always doing this! Always running stupid risks, and I don’t know about them! At least if I knew about them, I could have your back!”

“You’re not supposed to have my back! I’m the DEO Agent; you’re the alien! Why do you care so much anyway?”

“Because I love you, you idiot!”

Alex froze, still clinging onto the alien’s cape. Supergirl had jerked it around so she could be glaring at her, her face flushed, her free hand balled into a fist. She hovered in midair, just high enough that Alex probably shouldn’t let go. But she looked scary enough that Alex considered taking her chances with gravity.

“What?” Alex asked, her voice coming out unexpectedly breathy and confused.

“You never got that, did you? That was why you did this, why you thought getting yourself mind-wiped was the right decision. How dare you think I could manage without you. How dare you—” Supergirl was flushed, blotchy faced, red eyed, furious, ashamed, hurt, and Alex—

Alex didn’t understand. And that was what she’d given up by agreeing to the mindwipe, wasn’t it? She’d given up her ability to understand.

“I’m— I’m sorry.”

Supergirl hadn’t demanded she forget her identity. It was Alex, Alex who had chosen to forget her. She was the one who had hurt Supergirl. How was that even possible?

The apology seemed to take all of the righteous fury out of Supergirl. And she, more beautiful than any human ever could be, floated downwards set Alex down on her feet near the tied up data collector.

“It’s all right,” Supergirl said. “I know— I know why you chose what you did. You love your job. I don’t want to take away the one thing that’s yours.”

Alex did love her job. She knew she did. The reported reasoning made sense, either quit or forget who Supergirl was. The choice was easy, right? But no matter how much sense it made, it felt wrong. That wasn’t it. She hadn’t done this to keep her job. God, she wished she could remember. But she couldn’t remember. Her head stabbed with pain on each attempt. She remembered Supergirl’s face, smiling at her, worried, determined, full of quiet authority, but she didn't remember why she thought forgetting her was a good idea. “It wasn’t for that. It wasn’t— I had to—”

Supergirl gave her a small sad smile and turned, tugging at the ends of her hair nervously, like someone might do with the end of a ponytail, the curve of her face aligning itself along a distant telephone pole. And Alex knew.

“I had to protect you no matter what it cost me.”

Kara turned, eyes going wide. “Alex—”

"I have to protect you."

#

You're so conceited

I said "I love you"

What does it matter if I lie to you?

I don't regret it but I'm glad that we're through

So don't you tell me that you 'just don't get it'

Cause I know you do.

#

Out of the woods came a whirling screaming tornado of a beast--an Atalaatal, no, Alex realized, the same Atalaatal she'd taken captive a few days before.

" Shit!"  

Kara soared up, getting between Alex, the man in the parachute, and the Atalaatal. "Here!" she yelled. "You pick on someone your own size!"

Then there was a flash of green. 

Kryptonite. How the fuck had the Atalattal gotten Kryptonite? How had it gotten out?

The Atalattal roared like the wind and hurled the two huge boulders of kryptonite it held. They shattered as they flew through the air, becoming birdshot.

"Kara!" Alex screamed. 

Supergirl shot up into the air, trying to go above the cloud of Kryptonite shrapnel. And then—

And then she came down again.

No. No.

The Atalaatal fled, shrieking incomprehensibly. 

Alex ran. There she was. Kara, lying in a crater of her own making, breathing shallowly, weak and sweaty, kryptonite birdshot embedded in her shoulder, her chest, her leg, her neck.

“I’ll get it out. I’ll get it out, Stargirl.”

Alex ,” Kara gasped, voiceless. She clutched at her hand. Alex clutched back, God, she was an idiot. How could she have not been able to see that the beautiful girl who’d kissed her and the beautiful girl who’d saved her were the same.

She only had her field medical kit, but it had forceps. She had to move fast. She shoved the forceps into the first wound, clasping the kryptonite between the rubberized tongs, and extracted it. Distilled water next, irrigating it with a harsh stream, getting out any remaining scraps. Then the next. She had to move faster. Kara’s breathing was growing slower and slower. Another enemy could show up any time. Kryptonite broke up when used as a projectile, like birdshot, tiny pieces, so many tiny pieces.

Kara’s eyes fluttered shut.

“No, don’t go to sleep. Kara, don’t go to sleep—“

Alex was working as fast as she could. But there was too much kryptonite in her bloodstream, too much poison.

“I’m sorry, Alex. I love you.” Kara's lips parted, a soft breath expelled between them. Then she lay still.

“Agent Danvers, stand up.” The DEO had arrived, led by her commander. Of course they'd arrived. They'd set this up. They'd set all of this up to get rid of Kara while making it look like not their fault.

“No!” Alex kept working, kept picking out more and more pieces of Kryptonite. Kara’s suit was tattered with it. Her own shoulder throbbed, her vest had been hit too, and her breathing was shallow. Her commander’s voice was harsh, but Alex wasn’t going to stop, not until all the Kryptonite was gone. Not until Kara had a chance to come back, not until she had a chance to heal.

“Agent Danvers, if you do not stand up right now, you will be charged with treason. You will be court-marshaled for refusing your commander’s orders, and for aiding and abetting an enemy of the planet. So stand up.”

No !” Alex had a lump of rock in her forceps, a big one. One more, just a few more.

“Grab her.”

Sturdy soldier’s hands grasped her arms, dragging her upright. Alex fought them, fought with everything, but she had so little left. She was gasping, sobbing. Kara , KaraKaraKara was all she could think. She was lying there, so still, the kryptonite cracking green in her veins as it dispersed into her system.

“Agent Danvers, you are ordered to stand down!”

“Fuck you!” Alex screamed, fighting with every last piece of energy she had. “Let me save her! Let me go!”

Then someone clocked her in the face and everything went black.

#

Well I know when you're around cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

Well I know when you're around cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

#

In the cold dim glassy space of the brig, Alex's head swam, her two sets of memories meeting, aligning and disaligning. Kara, a sullen orphan kid, a super strong alien , in her room and so far away at the same time. Kara silent, and Alex furious at her for keeping herself to herself, because anger was easier than accepting rejection. Kara, leaving for college and not talking to her--but now Alex remembered the hopeful texts and then the worried ones when Alex had been too wrapped up in her own failure to respond. Then those moments that didn't have any parallels--the light in Kara's eyes after she flew for the first time, burning through the wall with her heat vision when Alex startled her, the way she pressed her head against Alex's shoulder and cried silently at the end of the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy got to go home. 

Seeing those memories slot into place, feeling the feelings again, the Alex who had been in the world since the mindwipe found those hollow places inside herself filling up with something real again. She'd shaped herself, somehow, into a hollow tree, a place to keep all of Kara's secrets, her tears and her powers and her dashed hopes, safe and surrounded by love. It was as if she believed that love could be a barrier, something supple and strong, a way to protect. But how could it protect unless the object of love knew it was there, knew it was safe. Alex hadn't told her. She hadn't shown Kara all of those places inside her where she kept Kara safe and precious.

How could she have been so foolish?

Alex wept.

The collection-units had been an alien census taking device, IDing and recording the movements of every alien in National City, just in case someone in power decided it was time to take them all out. They'd expected to be able to tag Supergirl, to find out her identity, but when her superspeed had made the trackers useless, they'd decided to instead use them as a trap. They knew that Alex was important to Supergirl, so they'd used her as bait. Apparently it wasn't a surprise to her commander that when told to stand down and ignore a puzzling thing, Alex would do no such thing. Putting Alex in danger would summon Supergirl. Then, they'd be ready to take Supergirl out.

Alex’s own people had neutralized Agent Danvers’ effectiveness, ordered her to ignore something she would never ignore, kept her from working with her real team, and used her to take down Kara. So much for the clever mind-wipe plan. They’d played right into the commander’s hands.

At least Alex had remembered her before this. Alex couldn’t imagine losing Kara without knowing who she was and what she’d meant to her.

It was strange, having her memories back, as well as having the new ones she’d made as this other person who was a lot like Alex, but also not like her at all. She’d been happier—still obsessed with her work, but a layer of guilt that made Alex Alex had been missing. It was the little things that changed in her life that seemed so odd. She’d known she was gay earlier, as if, without the worry about Kara and her dad and aliens et cetera there would have been no way she could have ignored it for so long. Her relationship with Kara had been strained and odd—Kara hadn’t played along, because she hadn’t remembered their distance the way Alex had, but Alex had felt the strangeness, because never knowing Kara’s pain, Kara’s loss, Kara’s reality, meant that she’d never known Kara , that they’d never claimed each other as sisters. They hadn’t loved each other. They’d barely even liked each other.

But somehow, even with these memories of another life, Alex had needed Kara, had found herself instantly clicking with Supergirl, had shown up at Kara’s apartment, looking for the warm safe space that Kara had always provided. It hadn’t mattered if Alex knew her. She needed her.

She would always need her.

Alex had no space for feelings left, but now that Kara was gone, nothing seemed to matter. Should she feel bad or embarrassed or confused that she thought she’d been in love with Supergirl, that she’d kissed Kara? She didn’t. Of course she’d thought she was in love with Supergirl, of course she’d kissed Kara. She loved her. She didn’t love anyone more than her. It didn’t matter what kind of love it was now. It was love, and it was lost.

At least she knew the taste of her lips now. At least she’d heard the words ‘I love you’ shouted at her as if she was a dumbshit boy in a romantic comedy. At least she had gotten back all the memories of Kara’s arms around her, her comfort, her warmth, her laughter, her tears. At least she knew Kara loved her back.

She wished Kara had known that Alex loved her more than her job, more than having something for herself, more than herself . Because that was why Alex had said yes to the mindwipe, because she loved Kara more than herself, because she’d protect her from anything, no matter the cost.

But she’d failed.

Maybe what she’d really failed at was not accepting how much Kara loved her too. She’d never doubted that Kara would be fine without her, would thrive without her. But Kara’s tears when Alex had chosen to do the mindwipe lingered in her head. Maybe she’d been wrong. Maybe protecting Kara physically wasn’t as important as protecting her heart.

The soft, tentative, curious kiss made Alex’s heart ache to think of. She didn’t know why Kara had wanted to kiss her, but it didn't matter now. Now Alex just knew that she had wanted it. Maybe Alex had wanted it too. Maybe she’d always wanted it, but never thought she deserved it.

She didn’t, of course. But Alex’s lack of worthiness had never really mattered to Kara. She’d loved her even when Alex was cruel, trusted her even when Alex lied, forgiven her even when Alex had harmed her in unforgivable ways. Maybe Kara hadn’t wanted Alex to try to be worthy. Maybe she’d just wanted to be loved.

Alex had fucked up so many times, and now she had fucked up again.

When Alex closed her eyes, she listened for Kara’s heartbeat. Sometimes she thought she heard it, but it always turned out just to be her own.

#

I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

#

“Alex Danvers,” a guard came into the brig. “Come with me.”

Outside, the light was too bright, Alex blinked, unable to see after so long underground in the dim lighting of the brig.

“You have been deemed not a threat, and as such you are being remanded to the custody of your sister while you await court martial.”

The word ‘sister’ felt squirmy and unfitting in Alex’s ears. Who could he mean? She didn’t have a sister. The memoryless Alex really hadn’t. The one she’d been before— being called a sister by Kara had been more than she deserved. I forgave you a long time ago. So much more than she deserved. But that too was gone now.

The woman waiting at the door stood in a tired posture that made her seem heavy on the ground. Her hair was drawn back into a long braid, and she wore glasses, but blinked behind them as if they didn’t actually correct her vision all that well. Her face was unfamiliar, and then, as Alex’s eyes adjusted to the light, the new glasses, the unfamiliar stance, it was the only truly familiar face in the entire world. Alex’s heart stopped for a moment, then stuttered as it started up again. The woman looked up.

Kara . Not dead. Clearly solar-flared, but not dead.

So much welled up inside Alex, shouts and tears and disbelief, but she held it back until the paperwork was done, and they were out of the base. Of course Kara would just walk right into a den of wolves to get her. The defenseless alien had no fear of the alien-hunters, not when they had Alex. Alex couldn’t really believe that she was valued so much.

Finally, three blocks away, Alex let out a gasp of air. “How are you—“

Kara smiled softly, and the smile itself wiped the words from Alex’s mouth.

“J’onn felt your mental blocks shatter. He found me, faked out the guys the DEO had left to wait for me to kick it. Got me to some sunlamps. You’d already done most of the work. I purged the last of the kryptonite not long afterwards. It was pretty gross. Glad you didn’t have to see it.”

Her casual familiarity was jarring, confusing. And yet— Kara wasn’t the one who’d thought Kara was dead. She wasn’t dead. She’d recovered, yet again, stronger and more godlike than ever.

Alex glared at her. “I always want to see it.”

Kara looked startled, then she laughed, suddenly, and then looked surprised as if she hadn’t expected to laugh. “You really didn’t.” She cupped her hand around her mouth as if telling a secret. “I had green coming out both ends.”

How could she be so glib, so easy? Alex shoved her. “I thought you were dead .”

Kara, not expecting the force of the push in her solar flared body, nearly fell over. Alex, regretting her shove, grabbed her arm, looping her other arm around her waist, and jerking her in. They pressed together, hip to hip, nose to nose, breath to breath, and it wasn’t close enough. It was never going to be close enough.

Kara raised her hand, her fingertips brushing lightly across Alex’s forehead, then tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. She smiled, soft and slow. “You should know me better by now. I just keep surviving the unexpected.”

I save you,” Alex protested. “That’s what I know. You get yourself into trouble, and I save you. But this time I got you in trouble. This time I couldn’t save you.” Her eyes were stinging; she was going to cry. That was embarrassing. She tried to let Kara go, to fight her way away from her. But Kara wouldn’t let her.

Kara’s arms looped around her shoulders. She drew her in, holding her, warm and close. “You already had. It’s okay. You already had.”

Alex choked on a sob coming out of her chest, pressed her face into Kara's neck, and clung to her, never for a moment that Kara, here, present, her Kara , would hold her back. 

#

Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

#

It was a few hours later. Alex was on her sofa with a mug of tea. Kara had a portable sunlamp on and was curled up on the other end of the couch, but her foot had crossed the distance between them, the pad of it up and her toes against Alex’s knee, as if she needed to make sure to let Alex know she was there and all right.

J’onn had come and gone. He’d said it would take Alex a while to recenter her mind with the two sets of memories, that it was all right if she was fuzzy and confused for a while longer. He had tried to change as little as possible, and it was healthier if he didn’t mess around anymore. She’d soon be able to tell the difference.

“Just ask yourself,” he said in a low rumble. “Did I know Kara was an alien then?”

He’d called Lucy. She promised that they’d fix this, somehow, but Alex was fine with a dishonorable discharge. She was fine, as long as she could stay here, with Kara in her sights, with Kara in her memory, whole and right and where she belonged.

The DEO had used her to get at Supergirl. They weren’t safe anymore. She needed to find a new way to back up Kara. Maybe that meant going back to the lab. Maybe it meant recruiting her own team.

She daydreamed lazily about ways to blackmail Lena Luthor into funding it.

When Alex looked up, she noticed that Kara was watching her, just like she’d done a spare few days before.

"Hey," Alex said softly.

"Hey," Kara said back, a warmth overtaking her face. 

"Why did you kiss me?”

Kara went completely stiff. “I’m sorry," she stammered. "I shouldn’t—”

"Hey." Alex reached out and caught her ankle. "You're a pretty good kisser. I'm not going to complain to the manager." She squeezed Kara's ankle gently. “I’m just asking why.”

Kara peeked at her from behind a pillow, her cheeks very pink. "I'm a pretty good kisser?"

Alex's cheeks heated up. Thinking about it was one of those complicated mental things. Alex pre-mindwipe had a lot of residual panic at the idea that Kara was . . . nice to kiss. Mindwiped Alex was very on-board. Current Alex was-- confused. "Shut up."

Kara tipped her head to the side, smiling like a cat now that she had the upper hand again. "I missed you looking at me the way you are now."

"How am I looking at you?" Alex asked. 

Kara ducked her eyes and caught her lower lip between her teeth before she spoke. "You look at me like you know me down to my bones, and you . . . and you love every inch of me."

The silence in the room felt like an opening up, a bud stretching into bloom, a warmth expanding.

"I do," Alex said. 

Kara's voice was quiet, serious. "I love you too."

That was what had been missing the whole time, that knowledge that worthy or not Alex carried that love, and needed to be worth it. If she was anything like a hero, it was all because of Kara, all for Kara. Without her . . . Honestly, Alex didn't think very much of that person. All of the things Alex loved about herself were the things she became for Kara.

Alex beckoned, and Kara, grinning, her cheeks pink, crawled across the couch and into Alex's arms.

"Full disclosure," Kara murmured, her head tucked under Alex's chin. "I suppose you're a pretty good kisser too."

Alex snorted. "Glad for your vote of confidence. Can I have give your name as a reference?"

"Ugh," Kara grumbled. "Rude. Always thinking about other girls when I'm around."

Alex paused. Oh

Kara was silent. She seemed to be lounging comfortably, but there was a stiffness in her body against Alex, a waiting.

"You know that if there's anything you want from me, you just have to ask," Alex said, keeping her voice soft. "Anything at all."

Kara shifted, lifting herself until she could see Alex's eyes. She looked, and Alex let her look. She had nothing to hide, not here.

Quietly, Kara gave a small nod and settled onto her haunches, comfortable and relaxed. Alex smiled. There was no better sight in the world.

"So--" Kara looked shifty for a moment. "--kisses?" She pointed to her cheek. 

Alex grinned, sitting up. She could give her cheek-kisses. She leaned in, and Kara, of course, turned her head.

But that was fine. Alex could give her mouth-kisses too.

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Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

Well I know when you're around 'cause I know the sound

I know the sound, of your heart

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