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'Cause Baby You're a Haunted House

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A child. All this time, a child had been causing her to cower in fear. It was both underwhelming and mortifying and if Alex ever caught wind of this, she'd never hear the end of it. Not that she'd be inclined to believe her.

"You." Kara tightened her grip on the aggressively-patched quilt. That was the last of her coherency. All she could do was point an accusing finger at the boy and sputter.

"Yeah, me." He jutted his chin out defiantly. "Can you let go now?"

"Only if you promise to stay put." Kara mustered up the most severe voice she could.

"Fine."

She released her grip.

The fabric slipped out of her hands and the boy sped through the adjacent wall. Only the lingering echoes of his laughter remained — an awful hacking noise one would expect from a cartoon villain and not the living.

Kara mentally added 'outsmarted by a child' to her list of embarrassing moments.

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The boy in the quilt appeared the next morning, waving from the other end of the hallway. Once more hovering just outside her bedroom and across the dining table too. Time and time again, flitting past her field of vision. Sometimes even doing a little jig. When her eyes fluttered shut that night, she was already expecting company. Her body tensed in anticipation, rigid like a snake preparing to strike. Three, two…

On one, she lashed out blindly. Hands scrabbling in the air until one grazed a stretch of heavy fabric. Kara snapped her hand shut, yielding a fistful of patchwork-style cloth and one accompanying spirit.

"Got you!" She yelled. From the other side, Alex stirred, feeding unintelligible murmurings into the soft recesses of her pillow. Their attention snapped to her, eyeing her warily as she scratched at her nape and froze in place for the longest of moments. She swore the ghost was holding his breath too. Alex groaned, shifted in place and wrinkled her nose. Then, with her hand stuffed back under the covers, she pushed her face deeper into the ample cushioning below.

Her breathing evened out. Crisis averted.

"Alright, can you stop haunting me now? You're kinda being a creep." She said, in a hushed whisper this time.

He didn't even have the decency to look sheepish. Just stared unblinkingly into space beside her. An unwanted thought struck her — what if there were more than one?

"Promise me not to freak out like last time?" He asked and Kara nodded mutely.

"Cockroach!"

This time, she launched herself straight up into the air. So high that an irate Alex swore she was a hair’s breadth from causing a cave in. Good thing they had the foresight to build her bed frame out of steel. Kara grumbled as she gathered her covers from the floor.

And of course that little… pipsqueak took the opportunity to escape.

"Stupid quilt monster," she muttered under her breath. Kara resigned herself to her current predicament and shuffled back to bed. A quick glance at her stark white sheets confirmed her suspicions — there was no roach.

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The next morning was uncharacteristically peaceful. From one aggravating ghost, at least.

It began with a return to her usual routine. First, breakfast with Eliza who'd returned the night before. Then there was Lena, whom she suspected would be replacing her long-running Desperate Houserats with Kara's Paranormal Misfortunes, if she hadn't already done so.

"Then he tricked me again and skedaddled. And I had to deal with sleep-deprived Alex!" Her rant was far from over; Kara could go on for hours if she had the time. Her fingers were wrapped around the letter opener as they often were nowadays, their very own way of closing the distance between them. As in, huddling close. Not a… kiss. She really needed to pick her words better.

"Oh, Kara," Lena couldn't quite commit to a sigh or an affectionate chuckle — the end result was somehow even more endearing. Especially with her cheeks dusted with a subtle shade of red. Just like her own, she realised.

"Remind me not to have kids," Kara muttered. The corners of Lena's lips dipped, the serene backdrop to her sea-green eyes turning cloudy. A storm was brewing internally; Kara knew that look, could almost hear the unintelligible jumble of thoughts triggered by her off-handed comment.

"Hey, I’m sorry about that. No more kids talk, got it." Lena looked away, muttering a quick apology. "But remember what you said to me? About not blaming myself?" Kara gave the handle a gentle squeeze.

She turned back to her and nodded. With her attention redirected, the skies cleared slightly.

"I'd think the same principle applies here with whatever's going on in that big brain of yours." Kara supplemented it with a vague tapping motion against her head, and a soft smile to plead her case. "You deserve kindness too. Especially from yourself."

"That's the difficult part, isn't it? I know I shouldn't, but I just…" Lena pursed her lips. "No, I understand. I'll try."

"Good." Kara beamed fully now, wiggling their hands up and down in a modified handshake.

"But, did you want them?" Lena leaned forward and now she could see with great clarity. Beyond her expectant look, that darkness in her eyes had yet to subside. Did Lena want them? Or was her wanting them upsetting? Kara didn’t want to pry. Instead, she refocused her attention on the subject at hand.

The answer was complicated, to say the least. Before, her whole life had been laid out for her according to Kryptonian customs — formal introductions to her mathematically determined match at 15, a union at 20 and child-bearing from 25 at the behest of the matrix. But now that Krypton was gone, so was the well-tread framework she could've so easily followed. Life on Earth was messy and confusing like she was free-falling despite her gift of flight.

"On Krypton, it was expected of me but here, I don't have to anymore. I'm not quite sure what I'm doing now, really. Much less something so far off in the future." She hadn't even thought of what she'd do after college. "Did you?"

It wasn’t her usual laugh. Mirthless and bitter, Kara was witnessing a side of Lena not often seen. "As a rule, I try not to give too much thought to things I can't have."

"Oh c'mon, it'll be fun!" Kara insisted. "What about pets? What do you want? How many?"

Lena grimaced, hesitating before she finally spoke. "I apologise, I think I'd rather not."

"Oh Rao, no I'm sorry! I shouldn't have pushed." Her hands shot up, gaze combing through even the slightest of Lena's micro-expressions for the first sign of rejection. Great, she'd just trampled all over Lena's boundaries. And they'd be getting along so well too. Unconsciously, Kara shrunk back into herself. Was it… over? Should she go?

"What would you have?" Lena crossed the sudden chasm between them — one that now seemed to be fully of Kara's own conjuring. "You seem experienced."

"Oh well I used to have this cat. His name was Streaky…" she began, letting Lena coax her back to her side.

And the rest of the morning was spent hunched over her cracked iPhone screen, cooing at cat videos. Kara watched from the corner of her eye as Lena transitioned from apprehension to wide-eyed wonder, her hand unconsciously stroking at an invisible, fluffy cat.

A decent morning indeed.

The ghost greeted her from the stairway as soon as she walked through her front door. She sighed, resigned to the childish taunting.

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Resolved to deny the ghost the reaction he desired, Kara kept her gaze trained on the paper before her. She should write about ghosts. Channel that inner annoyance into a scathing piece. Or that specific warmth occupying a neighbouring chamber in her heart. The left ventricle, Kara thought, the largest one. One dedicated to another ghost.

No, that wouldn't do. She'd be laughed at, mocked relentlessly for believing in something so juvenile.

"Wooooooooo," the ghost moaned from the door. His performance was particularly lacklustre now, to say the least. Kara pointedly swivelled her chair away.

A rustle followed his every step, closer, closer, closer. Until Kara was thwapped over the head by the swinging blanket.

She didn't mean to do it. Wasn't even planning on it but she felt the ghost prepare to retreat into the walls once more and her arm shot out.

Both pairs of eyes widened in alarm, pointed at where Kara's hand was fisted in his ratty quilt, holding him in place.

Her mind finally caught up to her body. "Alright, can you stop now?"

His eyes roved the length of her desk.

Sensing his plan, Kara quickly added, "I'm not letting go even if a swarm of cockroaches surrounds me." Though she might just 'borrow' his blanket if he did summon one.

He glanced over her shoulder; Kara was tempted to follow his gaze but he quickly threw his hands up in surrender. "Fine, fine you caught me. And finally too! For someone with such speed, you're kind of slow. An E minus for you."

"Excuse me? I caught you twice!"

"And you let go! It was all a test and you failed miserably." The boy had the audacity to look imperious. "How're you going to help me if you can't even catch me?"

"Help you with what?" Kara felt her stance softening at that. Though he could've just asked from the start.

He guided them towards the newly-repaired window, all the while avoiding Kara's questioning gaze. "When I was a young boy, I… woke up one morning to my mom telling me that Ruffles, my dog, ran away." The boy took a deep breath, his gaze growing distant. "He was sickly, he couldn't have gone far."

"Wait, like the chips?" Kara mentally slapped herself. He was in the middle of an emotional childhood story, for Rao's sake. She needed to stop running her mouth.

"Yeah, my sister wanted to name him Waffles and that's stupid." The boy stared into the square of manicured green and exhaled loudly once more. "Anyway, I just want to find him."

"But…" he's definitely dead, Kara wanted to say. However, she found herself unable to articulate those words and shatter the boy's heart. "It's been so long. I don't know if that's still possible." Her hand landed on his covered shoulder. It was solid, the way she sometimes selfishly wished Lena was even with an extra degree of separation between them.

"Whatever's left of him is fine too. Will you help me, Kara?"

"Fine," Kara huffed. "But you've gotta stop haunting me."

"I'll try," the mischievous twinkle returned to his eyes. "I'm Will, by the way. You can stop calling me the Quilt Monster. It's lame." That was one time

Kara sputtered but recovered quickly, offering him her outstretched hand. "Well, nice to meet —"

Will wrinkled his nose. "What are you? Thirty?" Before Kara could retaliate, he was gone.

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Kara took a stroll around the neighbourhood, her glasses perched on the tip of her nose. Just looking for old dog bones on your property, don't mind me.

She directed her vision down into the remaining front yard. No luck there either. Another round yielded similar results (if getting chased by yapping pomeranian counted as that). By mid-morning, she'd thrown in the towel and circled around to Lena's.

"Sorry, I got held up. I went looking for dog bones." Kara said as soon as she stepped through her front door.

"You have a dog?"

"No, like dead dog bones." Lena visibly deflated at her clarification. The sudden coolness against her fingers shocked her gaze downwards where they were toying absentmindedly with the blunted edge of her blade. Huh, she didn't even remember reaching out for her. Regardless, Kara pushed herself to continue.

"The ghost wanted me to find his sickly runaway dog but here's the kicker — it happened decades ago!" She groaned, huffing out plumes of frustration with every exhale. "I went around looking and I didn't find a single bone!"

"You searched everywhere?" Lena sounded like she was onto something.

"Yeah, twice."

"Even your own property?" No, she hadn't.

Oh Lena and her big genius brain; she was right. Six feet under lay a collection of bones — Kara managed to identify the skull and the ribs, along with a leg or two.

Will stepped beside her.

"I found him." It was a solemn moment, one she thought more appropriate to observe with brevity rather than her usual ramblings.

Will clearly didn't share that sentiment, bouncing animatedly on the balls of his feet. He was positively bursting with something. The threads holding him together were straining, weakening, until finally it burst.

"I know." His cheeks strained from how high they were lifted.

And Kara, Rao bless her soul, was sent reeling. The flurry of cockroaches had indeed been summoned. Just invisible and thirteen hours late.

Sensing her confusion, his grin intensified. "You did much better this time! A-plus!"

"Wh-what do you mean you knew?" She asked, mind still straggling behind.

"He used to be here," he tapped his quilt-lined feet on the concrete below. "The previous family found him when they dug this up and they buried him there."

"Oh." It was all she could manage before the indignance set in, arms folding at the mere thought of it. "What's the point of all these… tests?"

"To see if you could do it." He shrugged. Complete nonchalance — as if he didn't just try to send her on a wild goose chase… Kara had half a mind to toss him right out the front door. Oh right, she couldn’t.

Arms straining against their self-imposed restraints, she bit out. "Do what?"

"Actually help me. Which you'd have no hope of doing if you couldn't even find a pile of bones in your own backyard."

"I'm not doing a third test, Will." She knew where this was going — absolutely nowhere — and if she didn't put a stop to it right now, she'd get a front-row seat to watch it all spiral.

Kara had expected outright defiance, a simple offhand comment about how this was no big deal or even that disappearing act he seemed so fond of. Wrong, wrong and… kinda wrong. Defying all expectations, Will retreated into his blanket. "Look, my family moved away a few years after I… you know." Watery eyes met hers and Kara softened, arms slackening against each other. "And I just want to know how they're doing."

Hands stuffed into her pockets instead, she searched his eyes for any of its previous hints of mischief.

"C'mon Kara. I'll even shake your hand!" He pleaded, features rearranging themselves into a devastating pout. And just like that, she caved. Much like a sinkhole, leaving her lying in the devastation of her resolve. She should’ve known this would happen.

"Fine," she shook his hand in agreement. "Just tell me their names."

It was as if a switch had been flicked — Will bounced in unrestrained exuberance once more. Grabbing onto her arms, he babbled, "My sister's Laura Willis and —"

The words fought their way out against her better judgement as they always seemed to do. "Wait, your name's Will Willis?"

"Yeah, what about it?" Will demanded. It was his turn to display his displeasure — arms crossed with a side of a deep scowl. A perfect mirror of Kara's previous stance. Wow, she must've looked scary.

But despite her best efforts, her snickers bubbled up from within. "Nothing, it's just really cute—"

"Ow!" The quilt connected with her head a second time that week.

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"You know, you didn’t need to put me through all those tests." Swiping absentmindedly through the list of Laura Willises on Facebook, Kara tapped on another profile. Nope, Will shook his head. Her finger returned to the screen. "There's no sleuthing involved. Just lots of scrolling."

"Well, I'm sorry you never explained social media to me." His chagrined voice sounded more like a squeak but this time, Kara had the self-preservation to not call him out on it.

Black hair, brown eyes, pushing fifty and living in San Diego — the first two were aplenty but the rest were a nightmare to match. Will grew more uneasy beside her as time dragged on; every profile they scrolled past a tiny building block in the giant 'FAILURE' monument they were inadvertently constructing.

It felt sooner than expected, but not the least unanticipated when they reached the end of the list. Kara swiped again but it refused to budge.

"Now what?" Will asked, looking to her for guidance. She froze — no one had asked her that before. But now as the designated adult in this situation, Kara couldn’t help but see herself in him. With those lost eyes like that of a sailor, set adrift on a dingy life raft at sea.

"I-uh… don't worry, we'll figure it out!" Kara tried, failing to even convince herself. Will hushed her in response. She probably deserved that. He'd be better off approaching someone else for help like Eliza or —

"She's coming. Alex!"

Oh Rao. Kara scrambled away from the edge of her bed. The door clicked open just as she held up her phone.

"Lena?" Alex asked, flopping onto her bed with that terrible, terrible grin. She'd take a washcloth to it if she could. Just… wipe it off her sister's face.

"No!” She switched tabs. ‘10 hours of Pussy Cats to Make You Go Awwww’ — the very video she'd watched with Lena a few days ago. “Just pussy — I mean cats." She blurted. Though, it really felt more like getting a faceful of her own boomerang.

"Isn't that a little too soon? I mean, how long have you been dating?"

"Wh-what?" Kara squeaked. Not helping "I-I know what I'm doing, Alex. Don't worry. I mean, we’re not dating!"

"You know, you should at least show us a picture." Alex choked on her own words. "Not that one. Another one. But I'm sure mom would like to meet her —"

"Nope!" In her best mole impression, Kara burrowed under the covers away from Alex's scrutiny.

How could she have forgotten? She wasn't safe there either.

"What’s pussy?"

It took everything within Kara not to scream.

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Breakfast the next morning was a painfully awkward affair. All thanks to a certain tattling sister who thought she had the full picture. Granted, them assuming Lena was living made things easier to explain away.

"Will you tell me about Lena when you're ready?" Eliza asked over the morning paper.

She sucked in a deep breath. Uh oh, too deep. The stray newspaper pages shot across the table, pelting her across the face.

Prying it off, she quickly realised what she'd done. All over the floor — a whirlwind of black and white. "I'm so sorry!" Hastily, Kara dropped to her knees to gather the remaining sheets.

"And um Lena and I aren't a thing. We're just friends. Close friends." She explained, still hunched over. It’s the truth — they were friends and nothing more. Unless they meant great friends, best friends?

Kara shrunk into herself further, paranoid that the remaining puzzle piece would find itself written across her face.

"Psst, you missed one here."

Kara turned, and almost exploded before she realised Eliza couldn't see him. Traversing the kitchen and up the stairs where the last sheet was snagged, she lifted it off the handrail gingerly. Her eyes raked across the page, internal narration engaging — Mrs Osborne is survived by her son, Robert A. Osborne, his wife Mary and their two children.

An idea sprang forth. But first, Eliza was waiting and so was her cereal.

"I'm sorry dear," Eliza said as she received the last sheet. "You never liked the obituary."

"No, I sucked it out of your hands in the first place." Kara chuckled along, hand rubbing that familiar spot on her nape.

In truth, she still wasn’t. Not even with Lena's tacit support by her side while trawling through the online archives of The San Diego Union-Tribune. She hated the ones with pictures the most — it put a face to the death, allowing her to easily conjure up the way they talked, smiled, laughed… In essence, the way they lived. Then she'd remember how it was all taken away, how quickly it could be taken away and she'd be transported back to a place where the sun was burning red and everyone was screaming and she was screaming and everyone was screaming while she was leaving —

"Sometimes I find myself wondering what mine was like."

Kara shook the thoughts out of her head. "Nice, I hope?" She was already sure it wasn't.

"I'd expect so, on the surface. Mother always had a gift with words.” They shared a laugh, a brief moment of levity before things took a dark turn. “But underneath it all, I bet it said 'A no-good deviant, taking far too much interest in her studies and neglecting her womanly duties. That's why her brother shot —'" Lena faltered. Clearly, she hadn't meant to reveal that last tidbit.

Kara waited patiently for her cue — if they were to discuss it or if it were to be ignored. She watched as Lena grimaced, gnawing on her bottom lip once before catching herself.

Then, she licked her lips. The former then.

"How much do you know about what happened in this house?" She asked tentatively.

"Just that gunmen stormed the place and killed everyone inside. They called it a massacre." It was one of the more horrifying tales she was told when she first arrived, compounded by the recent loss of her home planet. So much so that teen 'I have no feelings' Alex spent the night with Kara in her arms, awkwardly patting her on the back. (She didn't think she caught the whispered reassurances too but she did.)

"Yes, but the imbeciles missed me and Lex came to finish the job." Lena laughed ruefully. "And I ran to him like a fool."

Suddenly, she understood the defacement of his image in their family portrait. Imagining Alex turning on her like that was awful. Unthinkable, but still the idea itself was awful. "Why would he do that?"

"Insurance money, public sympathy and because he could? I suppose it's a mixture of all three." Lena pulled closer, apologetic this time. "I'm sorry if I've burdened you with this knowledge."

"No," Kara clasped both her hands over the gilded surface. "Don't be. I-I want to learn everything about you — good or bad."

Lena's eyes went wide, the familiar hue of red returning to her cheeks with a vengeance. "Oh, I… " she tried, her mouth clamping shut over the remainder of that sentence, throat bobbing as she swallowed it down whole.

"You know what? Your family doesn't deserve to write one for you." Kara pulled up her notes app with a flourish. "We'll write one ourselves!"

Fingers dancing across the screen, she gleefully read aloud, "Lena Luthor was — is a faithful friend and appropriately wise for her eighty years of age."

Lena scowled. "I'd take the veiled insults instead, thank you very much."

"No, wait! I'm not done yet." An exaggerated clearing of throat first, then a loud cracking of knuckles second; Kara threw herself into her masterpiece once more. "She's keenly intelligent and unimaginably thoughtful. And gorgeous — I mean, have you seen her?"

The compliments flowed easily off her tongue; her unrealised article seething with jealousy a dozen houses over. She spared Lena a glance, only to be met with nothing where her form once hovered. A sliver of panic slipped through; Kara's gaze darted around to find that Lena was already halfway through the floor with her face in her hands. Something was glowing in the confines of her flowing hair. Something red… oh. Her ear.

"You didn't like it?" Kara shuffled over to where Lena floated, conscious of the last time she'd pushed her too far.

"No, I liked it." She mumbled into her palms. Gingerly, Kara tugged on the letter opener, peeling her makeshift shield away. And Lena let her with little protest, their hands dropping limply down into the space between them.

"Perhaps a little too much." Their eyes met and suddenly, she was made acutely aware of her own shallow breathing and unblinking eyes.

Indeed, Kara was inclined to agree.

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Match day sometimes meant going downstairs to collect Alex from the couch. She never quite understood her insistence on catching them live when half the time she’d doze off before the final whistle blew. Sure enough, she was sprawled out like a skydiver mid-jump. Plunging into good dreams, she hoped. And then there was the little thief, leaning over her unguarded beer bottle.

Kara snatched it off the table, wincing at the loud yelp as Will fell backwards. She held her breath, eyed her slumbering sister until she remembered — she's the only one who could hear him. Turning back, she was assaulted with his stink eye.

"You're like ten. You can't drink!" Alex groaned from behind, ready to be reanimated by the rousing ruckus close by.

"Eleven but I'm technically fifty-five!" He argued. The noise wasn't at all a concern to him and at the back of her mind, she couldn't help but wonder how long it took for him to unlearn the expectations of existence. Being seen, being heard, being spoken to. How it would fade until eventually, you weren't even remembered.

Kara softened. "Fine, just a little."

He scrambled up to his feet, began reaching for his prize…

The bottle tipped away.

"Hey! What're you — Stop it!"

It burned all the way down, bitter and unrelenting. Kara had to take a moment to recover when only a shallow pool remained.

"Just a little!" Kara repeated, admittedly a little too proud of herself.

Will levelled a withering look at the offering between them, one she imagined matched her heat vision face. He took his time weighing his options, eyes never straying from the mouth of the bottle and Kara couldn’t help but give it a little wiggle. Payback for haunting her all this time.

Finally, with a smattering of grumbles, he accepted, leaning over to take a long whiff. Big mistake — he doubled over, hacking away.

"Oh, that's bad! Really bad." He coughed once more while Kara patted his back sympathetically.

"You've never stolen some before?" She couldn’t quite mask the disbelief in her voice. There wouldn't be any food left if Kara were undetectable. Except the greens — Alex could have those.

"No, Alex has this energy. It's scary." Together, they peered over to the person in question. Alex was none-the-wiser.

"Yeah, even when she's asleep right?" Alex shifted in her sleep and they went silent.

"Yes! Sometimes she starts scowling out of the blue and it's just…" He stopped, never to find the words to complete that thought. Shivers radiated through the house and the epicentre? Two individuals much too familiar with that expression; its effects so far-reaching that both the living and the dead trembled under its hold.

Only after it subsided did Kara move to speak. Leaning over and whispering, "Why'd you try today then?"

"Oh, because I have my trusty sidekick now. I mean she shoots lasers out of her eyes!"

"Hey, watch who you're calling your sidekick —" Will was gone. The leather couch behind her groaned.

"Who're you talking to?" Alex mumbled, arm shielding her eyes from the glare of the television. The words were directed at Kara, the deer in the fluorescent lights. Alone.

It dawned upon Kara that she wasn't even a sidekick. They weren't this disposable. No, she was just a…

"Minion."

Lena startled.

"Lena, do you think I'm a minion?" Kara huffed. Not that there's anything wrong with Minions. They're cute. Though it quickly morphed into confusion as Lena drifted away.

"I thought we had an agreement? You promised we wouldn't speak of those infernal yellow creatures again." She was halfway to the ceiling now. Like a helium balloon desperate to see the world, or in this case, get away from it.

"Wait, no! I wasn't talking about them. But I still think they're really cute." Kara coaxed her back down. "Will just called me his sidekick." She said, as if that explained everything.

"And what's wrong with that?" Lena lowered herself until they were eye to eye. It… just did. She’d never thought to put it into words. All she knew was that it irked her to no end. The insinuation that she was somehow less, helpless even; that she was… unworthy? Kara didn’t know.

She didn't know and yet, she found herself speaking and oh no —

"He's a child and I'm like twenty. Plus, sidekicks are lame. They don't do anything, just sit there twiddling their thumbs, getting captured while the hero saves the day. And then, everyone cheers and adores them —" Kara was distantly aware that she was rambling. Vaguely cognizant of Lena's concerned look deepening with every stumbling word. She should probably stop talking; she's sounding more egotistical by the minute.

"—ra. Kara, look at me." They'd migrated across the room — Kara collided with the back of an armchair, bouncing off it and almost phasing through Lena's face.

Unfazed, Lena continued. "You want to be a hero — is that what you're saying?" Bullseye. Hit the nail right on the (Kara's) head. Dazed, she watched her world bob up and down like driftwood out in the open sea.

"I-I know it's selfish. I'm lucky enough as it is and I shouldn't be thinking of such things but I…" Kara trailed off, unsure of how she could possibly sugarcoat it. She was what most Kryptonians weren't — alive. With powers beyond their wildest imaginations. And the fact that she blended in perfectly with humans too. If she had tentacles or cat ears, she'd be stuffed into a cage upon arrival. But here she was, whining that she couldn't put on a cape and zip around in her underwear to the rescue. Kal was already doing a fantastic job at it anyway.

"It's fine to want things, Kara. I definitely had my fair share of desires, but for what it's worth, you're already a hero." Lena spoke in such a warm, luxurious tone that Kara couldn’t help but hang off her every word, to just sink into its velvety embrace.

"How?" Her last words before she was fully engulfed.

"Well, I suppose you're… mine — Kara! Are you okay?"

Not very. Not with her legs giving out underneath her. A nasty crater formed where her thick skull careened into the backrest and boy, did she not know how to fix that.

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Another day, another 2 years worth of the dead flashing by. Their black and white portraits were burned into her retinas at this point. It made closing her eyes a nightmare — a dozen faces, solemnly staring down at her, judging her for her waffle taco pajamas or something equally inconsequential. Kara squirmed under the scrutiny all the same. Oh, it wasn't all in her head.

Peering into the darkness, she locked eyes with her very persistent shadow.

"I thought we agreed? No haunting." She hissed.

"That's before I saw you lugging ice cream through the front door."

Kara shot up, fully awake at that. "What do you want with my ice cream?" Her eyes narrowed.

"Just one scoop?" Hands clasped together, Will pleaded. The way he glowed like a nightlight definitely helped his case. And the fact that she could have midnight ice cream. Yep, definitely the midnight ice cream. That's what drove her to agree.

"Fine," she grumbled, schooling her expression. It'd be a disaster if Will realised he had some sort of hold over her. "Just one. And I'm scooping."

Their feet — or rather, her feet — tip-tapped against the floor. It's funny really, how quickly she went from hiding from the ghost to sneaking down the hallway with him. Down the steps next. Will in front and Kara following closely behind. Three, two…

Her foot slipped. She'd really like a word with the Elder who thought perfectly smooth feet were fashionable.

Screaming into the confines of her sealed lips, her descent halted abruptly before continuing once more.

"Ow, why are you so heavy?" Will's muffled groan came from underneath — a shapeless pile swallowed whole by his own heavy quilt.

A retort readied itself, like the fully filled squirt gun she'd point at Alex when she was least suspecting it. But the noise died in her throat when she remembered that between them, she's the only one who needed to be quiet. Unfair.

"My bones are just denser." She muttered instead. They dusted themselves off, casting furtive glances up the stairs for any sign of movement. Nothing. Wordlessly, their journey to the fridge resumed. Round the kitchen island and flinching at the muffled squeak of the rubber seal as the door was pulled open, Kara and Will arrived upon their prize.

"Why do you get two scoops?" He complained.

"Because it's my ice cream." Kara's hand paused on the lid. A third scoop plopped into her bowl — Will tracked its motion with a hawk-like intensity. The metal scoop hung in the air. Neither party moved from their position, initiating a silent stalemate.

Her eyes darted from the tub to the boy. Her ice cream. But technically she'll be the one eating it. On the other hand, flavourless ice cream… was just sad cream. Making a child sad though…

A frown appeared on his face and as if on command, Kara caved. Two more scoops were deposited into his bowl and a mental note to restock her ice cream stash was made.

Will wiggled in excitement, almost pouncing on his unexpected windfall. Kara wouldn't be surprised if he'd picked it up from Ruffles. That's how it was, she supposed — taking a piece of those you love, carrying it within your heart. Until your flesh weaved around it, wrapped it close and sealed both fragment and host into a single unified whole.

The still-full bowl slid over to her, skidding with little resistance against the granite countertop. Kara picked it up and spooned a generous portion into her waiting mouth. Just as bad as she expected.

"My dad used to sneak me out for ice cream. Just the two of us, one vanilla cone each." He flattened himself against the counter, eyeing the closed tub.

Against every lesson on Earth etiquette, Kara didn't wait till she swallowed to shoot him down. "Nice try. No more for you."

If Alex realised Kara's sudden taste for vanilla ice cream, she never brought it up.

-----------

Alex [11:43] : hey

Alex [11:43] : guess what

Alex [11:43] : no one cracked their skull today

Alex [11:43] : or lost anything up their ass

Alex [11:44] : so i'm on break early

Alex [11:44] : what does the bottomless stomach recommend for lunch

Kara [11:45] : whatever has the biggest portions

Kara [11:45] : and the least vegetables!

Alex [11:46] : what did i expect

Kara could almost feel the eye roll through her screen.

Alex is typing…

Kara shifted in her seat to accommodate Lena so she could slide into it too. Their discussion of the differences between Kryptonian and Earth's astronomy was unceremoniously disrupted by one bored sister. (Who, in Alex's defence, didn't know she was making social calls to the Luthor House.) Lena had protested against the topic, insisting that she was 'rusty'. In that case, Kara reckoned she was more stainless steel than exposed iron.

Sensing Lena's attention shift to the device in hand, Kara angled it towards her, granting her permission to look as well. They waited for Alex's reply.

Alex is online

"Actually, I've been meaning to ask. What exactly is this thing? You've made calls on it, sent your sister instant mail, showed me pictures of your cousin… Where does it end?"

"Oh, it's a mobile phone," Kara pushed the home button, finger hovering over the screen like a drunken honeybee. "I could call someone or send messages, but you already know that. Um, search up whatever I want on the Internet." She didn't miss Lena's impressed look as she pulled up the Safari app. Back to the home screen. Next page.

"And I could do this!" Kara tilted her phone over. It would've been much more impressive without the spider web of cracks layered over the simulation but Lena seemed amused all the same. The only person to ever be amused by it, actually — Alex had downed her actual beer, maintaining eye contact with Kara the entire time and Eliza had offered her a simple that's nice, dear.

But that was all until her hand slipped.

First stop: her nose. Kara's hands shot out, clawing at thin air; a concentrated warmth glanced off her cheek instead. She could feel it. In gravity's clutches, being pulled closer and closer into its final destination.

Desperation propelled her to the floor, a humanoid shield, landing on her shoulder, (thankfully) with her phone in hand. Oh Rao, is it dead? Inspecting the damage with her hands first, she found a bump on its edge. Way to go, nose of steel. She sucked in a deep breath. Then, she looked.

Alive and well (enough). Her exhale picked up a trail of dust along the way.

"I would ask if you're alright but I think the floor needs my concern more." Lena quipped, but still she knelt beside her. Reaching as if to help her up and freezing in place when she realised she couldn't. Like a still image, a picture, a photograph…

"Do you think you'll appear on camera?"

Lena merely blinked at her, confusion clear as day. Or a ghost in daylight — Kara took note of her translucency once more — that'd be more apt.

Her camera was still functioning; Kara found herself stunned by how resilient the little thing was. And now, for the moment of truth. The view flipped. Two people. It worked!

Lena lifted a hand to her cheek and Kara couldn't help but see the resemblance. An unflattering one, but still. It reminded her of an animal passing the mirror test. The initial apprehension, the subsequent wonderment and exploration all fit to a T. At least, that was before the significance of the moment dawned upon her.

"Can you… see your own reflection?" Kara ventured forth with her own hypothesis.

"No, I… Do I look like that?" Inching closer to take a better look, Lena released a stuttered breath. "I've... mostly forgotten."

There wasn't much Kara wouldn't give to just wrap her arms around her in that very moment. To forget the world around you — that Kara could understand. She harboured that fear every day, fended it off every night when it threatened to overwhelm her. But to forget yourself? That was beyond the realm of terrifying.

Kara tugged on the letter opener. "Do you want to take one?"

"Oh, I… just one moment." Lena combed her fingers through her hair tentatively at first. And all the while, her eyes never left her image. Smoothing out the back and sweeping whatever strands she could find over her forehead; she realised what she was doing.

"Lena," Kara tried. Her hands were focused on creating a fringe now, or at least the illusion of one; a curtain to close upon her past. But no matter how she clawed at it, the crater on the otherwise smooth expanse of her skin remained.

"Lena, you don't have to." Her movements slowing, Lena turned to her.

"You look fine. Great — no, fantastic! You don't need to hide it." Kara took the opportunity to guide her hand away, pressing it onto the floor with the letter opener between them.

"Just look at the camera and smile, okay?" She pushed against the handle and hoped it felt like a reassuring squeeze.

Click.

Their first try was an awkward clash of tone. A goofy grin from Kara beside an expression she recognised from the portrait in the hall. The one perfectly posed, presumably by Lena's overbearing mother, for their perfect little family photo.

Kara stole a glance at Lena — just as tense before. "Hey, just relax okay?"

Nod. But her back still held rigid, and her smile remained slight.

"How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?" She asked suddenly.

“What?” Lena blinked at her, unsuspecting.

"Ten-tickles!" Kara squealed, somehow louder than her own victim. The gilded handle found Lena's ribs.

Click.

"Why didn't the lobster share with his friends?" Kara leaned over further.

"They're selfish! They're selfish! Please stop!" With tears appearing in her eyes, Lena tried in vain to squirm away.

The last one was taken with Lena sprawled out on the floor. It was undoubtedly her favourite. Kara couldn’t quite take her eyes off how her body loosened with her hysterics, her laughter unbridled and still ringing in her ears.

By the time her feet brought her back home, she'd created a new album — 'Lena' with a heart beside her name. Just for the two of them.

Kara swiped through the pictures throughout the day, lingering on each one and replaying the scene in her head. The intimacy of sharing the moment together. Just the two of them.

"I think I need to shut up. A couple of kids came in bleeding and screaming about some ghost at Hackwood Bend. Totalled their car against the road barrier. They’re lucky it wasn’t a tree."

The two of them and now Alex. Her phone clattered away at the intrusion.

"Wasn't that where Old Fred's son died?" Kara flipped her phone onto its screen with her pinky, shuffling it away from the edge. Closer, closer, closer. She should probably shove it under her butt.

"Yeah, a long time ago. Back when I was a kid." Alex narrowed her eyes. "What're you hiding?"

"Nothing!" She jumped. Just in time for Alex to swipe the iPhone away. "Hey! Give it back!"

Oh Rao, Alex was going to see it conclusive evidence that Lena was dead. A ghost. And it wasn't even Halloween yet! How was she going to explain it away—

A hand met her face, keeping Kara at bay while she clawed helplessly at the air.

"Oh it's just you," Alex wrinkled her nose. The first wave of confusion came like a sucker punch; Kara blinked at her sister, waiting for the admonishment to come. "Wait, is that the Luthor House? You actually did the dare?" Better question — why was that her main concern?

"Um, yeah I did." Kara poked her head over Alex's shoulder. There, the same picture of her and Lena, staring right back at her. But not at Alex. Not with how calm she seemed. What was going on?

"Kara, I'm so proud of you!" It was her only warning before Alex pulled her into a bear hug, her befuddled noise only made known to the cotton blend of her T-shirt.

"Come on, let's print this and we'll burn it." With a few quick taps and an exasperated jab, Alex sent the image off to Kara's email address. And all she could do was loosen her stance as her sister sat her down in front of her laptop.

Print. Confirm.

The mouse felt solid in her grasp; it couldn't be a dream. And the trampling too. Like an elephant let loose in the Danvers household. Everything felt too vivid, too real.

Alex returned moments later, a hurricane up the stairs holding the photo and a lighter.

"Will you do the honours?" The items were offered up to her. She hesitated — the symbolism of it all weighed heavy on her mind. Could she do it? Lena's scrunched up face stared back.

Giving the lighter a few experimental clicks, a wispy flame emerged, flickering in the air. Towards Lena, away from Lena, towards Lena —

Kara shook her head. "I think I'd like to keep it." She could only hope she hadn't written the truth all over her face.

To her surprise, Alex was quick to agree. "That'll work too. Oh, we could put it up! I'll get you a frame tomorrow on my way home."

Will took this moment to make his presence known. "She's pretty."

Shifting the paper in hand to obscure Lena from view, Kara smiled up in thanks at her sister.

"And you're pretty jealous!" Her smile stiffened. Pupils sliding to the side, Kara shot Will a withering look. She wasn’t jealous. What's there to be jealous about? Lena was pretty. So what? Kara felt nothing but positive emotions around her. He wasn't making any sense.

Taking his chance to escape, the boy disappeared through the wall with that awful cackle left as a souvenir.

-----------

Will shook her awake.

"We've had midnight ice cream every day for the past week." She turned away, refusing to open her eyes. Pulling consecutive all-nighters wasn't sustainable, even for a solar-powered alien. Not to mention inefficient — inspiration had yet to strike. Her stack of copy paper found their forever homes in the bin and her document (helpfully named ‘article’) was still woefully empty. The obituaries were starting to feel like a dead-end too. Staring at dead people all day was unexpectedly draining and she'd really like to go to sleep —

"It's not about ice cream. There's something cool going on outside." He insisted, rocking her arm back and forth.

Grumbling, Kara stumbled out of bed and let Will lead her by the hand.

Hallway. Stairs. Kitchen? They made a turn — not the kitchen. A few more paces, another right turn. And then, Kara received a faceful of glass.

"Sorry," Will looked sheepish as he waited for her to push the sliding door open. Well, at least she's fully awake now. Enough to give her backyard a good once over. Nothing out of the ordinary.

"Look, it's a red star!" He pointed into the distance, up at the infinite expanse of the night sky.

"It's a red moon." Kara corrected, rubbing at her eyes.

"Oh, so not a star?" Will shrunk into his heavy blanket and the guilt seeped in.

"No, but it's pretty too." She smiled down at him. It wasn’t helping — he still resembled a field mouse poking out of its burrow. "Come on, let's watch."

Kara took the lead this time, guiding Will to hover over the concrete. Sprawling herself out, she waited for him to get comfortable before turning her gaze to the moon above.

"I wonder what it looks like up close." The quilt was closed around his body now. An instinct perhaps, a remnant from when he felt the cold.

"It's grey and rocky from what I've seen."

"Is this Earth knowledge or alien knowledge?" It was as if that word alone was a trip mine. Kara almost fell over, a series of redirections heavy on her tongue until she remembered — he’d been here for it all.

Clearing her throat, she finally replied. "Earth knowledge. Humans landed there in 1969." Will made no move to point out the long pause from before.

"I think I would've wanted to be there too if I'd seen it."

“An astronaut?”

“Yes, an… astronaut,” he made a funny face at that.

"You're not missing out. It's just floaty like you are now." She ruffled his hair under his blanket, gleefully making a mess of it. Will sank lower into the ground, unamused.

"Go back to watching," he scowled and Kara acquiesced. But only because he was already chest-deep in concrete; she didn't want him to disappear completely.

From afar, the blood moon did look like the red sun she once knew. Enough for her to feel the familiar pangs of homesickness, floating in a cocktail of mystery ingredients. And worse still, not all of them agreed with her. Kara closed her eyes, inhaling deeply as if breathing them in. Floating in the questionable concoction was the key ingredient of death. It was everywhere — Krypton, Will, Jeremiah probably. And… Lena.

"You know, I've heard a lot of things in this house." Will began, suddenly sounding much older than his age. "Seen a lot of things too and I realised something."

"Yeah?"

"You're one of the best people I know."

Time was a metronome. Kara could almost hear it ticking away in the background. A haunting reminder of how the seconds slipped away. First a bar, then two and soon a whole piece lost to silence. Kara couldn’t help it, only hoping that the full recital would swiftly pass her by.

He pushed further, as if privy to her disbelief. "You weren't the first I asked for help but you were the first to say yes. That's ‘good’ to me."

“Probably 'cause of all your tests,” Kara pointed out.

“No, you're just a lot of fun to mess with.” She knew she’d been spending too much time around him when she didn’t so much as bristle at his admission. “But you helped anyway. That says a lot, doesn’t it?”

With Will turning his attention to the deep watercolour reds above and Kara turning his words over like barbecue sticks over a fire, there was no room for anything other than the soft cricket chirps in the distance.

"Will?"

"Hm?"

"Are you up for ice cream?"

She needn't have asked.

-----------

As the old adage goes, 'lunch is the mother of all success'. At least that’s how she’s sure it went. Anyway, it's fitting that she'd find her first lead with a belly full of pepperoni pizza.

Robert E. Willis

1930 - 1998

There wasn't a picture but the description fit well enough. Joining his baby boy William in heaven, survived by his wife and daughter, her husband and their three children. That last bit snagged her attention.

An unusual last name too. Just three David Feyrers on Facebook and only one based in the West Coast. Jackpot, albeit an anticlimactic one.

She handed her phone over to Will, letting him scroll through his timeline while she watched by his side. The boy was uncharacteristically silent, though Kara supposed she would've been too. It was the family he would've known, or perhaps wouldn't have if it weren't for his passing. Maybe Laura would've stayed in Midvale, met someone else, been more successful, been happier. 'What if's were funny like that — she knew it all too well.

"A teacher huh," Will breathed, his voice uneven. "Who would've thought?"

"A good one too," Kara supplied. The post boasting the stack of cards Laura received told her as much.

They were back at his profile, timeline whizzing past until they arrived back at the present. To look into his friends list, she assumed, or their children. Another glimpse into their lives from afar.

The next thing Kara heard was her dial tone.

"What the heck are you doing?" She swiped it out of his hands. Oh Rao, don't pick up don't pick up don't

"Hello?" The speaker crackled. Her palm pressed over the strip, muffling any further questions from Will's ears.

"Quick! Before he hangs up!" Will lunged for her phone.

Pivoting away, Kara grimaced and raised the phone to her ear. "Hi, sorry about that. I'm Kara Danvers from Midvale. I was hoping I could speak to your wife, Laura?"

"How'd you get this number?" His finger was no doubt poised over the 'end call' button now.

"I um," she fumbled and Will made a strangled noise. "Your Facebook. It's on your profile."

"Oh." Somehow, the call remained connected.

"Um, I was just trying to track down the previous occupants of my house." And now she sounded like a stalker.

"Why?" A brilliant question for a not-so-brilliant liar. Telling them about the ghost hovering beside her would only add 'crazed' to her title.

"I just… had some questions for them. Well, for your wife."

She could hear his heavy exhale from the other side of the line.

"It'll be quick I promise."

"Fine," his footsteps thundered across the room. She heard him whisper a quick Laura, picked up the squeak of an office chair and of the device changing hands.

Kara put the phone on speaker.

"Hello?" A different voice this time — one excruciatingly familiar to her companion.

"Hi!" Will couldn't quite help himself. Not that she could hear him, or see his frantic waving of arms.

Kara took over from there, feigning uncertainty and pretending that she hadn't gleaned tidbits from her childhood from her dead brother. She was easy-going, sunshiny despite the complete stranger on the other end. It's easy to see her appeal now, why the children loved her.

"I miss him, really. All the time." The tinny quality of her speaker did nothing to strip away the raw emotionality of her words.

"That wasn’t what you said," he laughed, dabbing discreetly at his eyes.

"I guess we all have our regrets," she continued, chuckling in that same rhythm. Kara recognised it for what it was. That was her piece, the part of Will she'd held onto all these years.

"I never blamed you."

Light. There was a burst of light beside her. Glowing, almost ethereal. Staring hard at his palms, then flipping them over — Will repeated the motion with increasing distress.

His form grew fainter; a thousand tiny golden specks shimmering off into the distance, then nonexistence.

Phone forgotten, she rushed over just in time to catch the quilt falling through his shoulders. "What's happening?"

"I-I don't know, I —" he breathed in awe. "I see… Oh, I think it's going to be alright."

"What? What are you seeing? Where are you going?" Grasping at the final lingering specks, Kara's hands came out empty. Will was gone. Faded away just like that. But he left his quilt.

A sudden weakness gripped her entire being. Kara just wanted to sit down for a bit. Maybe stare up at the ceiling too. However, the crackle from her speaker threw a spanner in her plans.

With both hands, she hefted her phone back up to her ear. "I'm… sorry about that. That was my um sister."

Laura reassured her it was fine, chattering on for a little while longer before excusing herself to get back to work.

"Papers to grade."

It stared up at her from the floor, whispering its silent plea.

"Actually, I think I found something that belonged to your brother."

-----------

"Is something the matter? You look despondent." Lena tapped lightly at her chin.

Kara leaned back against the tiles. They were in the garden today. She'd requested it herself, thinking a change in scenery would help. But the soft abrasion against her forearms and the stifled vibrance of her surroundings did nothing to take her mind off it.

"Will… he disappeared. Turned into sparkly dust." She leaned into Lena. Marginally better.

"Oh… what happened?" Past all attempts at modulation, Kara could hear the quiver of fear underneath, could see Lena tracing the infinite possibilities in her mind. Each more terrifying than the next.

"I don't know. We were on the phone with his sister and he just started fading away." Kara snapped to attention at the shriek below, like nails on a chalkboard, or more accurately, nails against the tiles. Four tracks ground into the ceramic; Kara balled her hand up into a fist before she could cause any more damage.

"Oh," Lena's eyes darted upwards in thought. "Do you think he moved on? Out of limbo and into the afterlife or whatever's awaiting us." She lay her palm open beside her, letter opener balanced above. Kara saw it for what it was — an invitation.

"Maybe. Most likely? He saw something. I know that much." Accepting the offer, Kara let her own hand complete the peculiar sandwich. And when Lena wiggled her's, she took the cue to rest her weight against it, pushing them closer together. "But he looked at peace so it's probably a good thing."

"Probably," Lena concurred.

"Is it weird that I sort of miss him? I mean he was a little monster at times but I think we were on the cusp of something." Kara released her breathy laughter skywards as if the breeze would carry her message along.

"No, not at all." She felt a faint tingle where Lena's fingers brushed through, having forgotten their place in the universe. It made her wish she could take on her pain, or that they could just touch. Instead, she flipped their positions, using her corporeal state as leverage for Lena to press against. It was the best she could do. And from the slight smile Lena gave her, she knew she appreciated it too.

Time passed, along with the tenderness of that fine morning. Soon, the winds whistled and the leaves danced to their tune. The world darkened around them, where the sun's glare was a mere suggestion between the cottony wisps above. Kara's gaze could meet them head-on and wonder. "Do you think there's something up there? In a little pocket dimension where everything's bright and sunny and everyone's happy."

"I'm not sure what to believe in anymore and I don't give it a lot of thought either. It's a slippery slope when in a position like mine." Lena quickly busied herself with appraising her thriving garden from afar, finding much interest in the bark of a gangly tree.

"Hey, if there is, I'm sure it’s because of something small and negligible… like flicking your booger on the floor —" her words were swallowed up in a whirlpool of laughter at Lena's scandalised gasp.

"God, you're disgusting." She muttered under her breath.

"What? You've never picked yours?" Reaching over, Kara feigned a nose boop only for Lena to roll her eyes and look away. She rolled the letter opener between their palms, whining for the return of her attention.

Lena crossed her arms the best she could with the other occupied by a very insistent Kryptonian.

"Please?" Lena stole a glance at her just in time to catch her pout. Critical hit. With an exasperated sigh, she repositioned herself, keeping Kara in her sights.

"Hi."

"Hello." Lena grumbled back.

"I missed you." Kara paired the sentiment with a full-faced grin. There's no doubt to its effectiveness — Lena's face ducked away just to obscure her matching one.

"I never left, Kara. And I can never leave."

"You could," Kara began and selfishly, she instantly wished she could stuff it all back in.

"I could?"

"I could find out what happened to your family. And maybe you'd… you know, go 'poof' too."

Lena swallowed — Kara knew from the tell-tale bob of her throat. Her lips parted, words forming between them only to be crushed under the weight of her uncertainty. Lena pressed them closed then tried again and again. And again. Each time, her pupils came closer and closer to matching their sullen backdrop, the gleam disappearing underneath and clouded by emotion.

That's what Kara would like to think, anyway. That given the option of salvation, Lena would find herself torn, unwilling to leave Kara behind. But it's probably the lighting, or lack thereof from skies so overcast and grey.

"You could." She said.

"I could."

And in the next moment, Kara was pelted with a heavy lashing of rain.

-----------

It was easy. Alexander — dead. Lillian — presumably dead. The Luthor estate? Nonexistent. Funnily enough, the old Luthor House was the only thing left bearing their name.

All that information from just over an hour of snooping. She could've had closure for Lena the very next day. With 'could've' being the operative word here.

She couldn’t do it. Putting one foot through the door made her hop away on the other.

"It does look like it's about to rain," Alex appeared out of nowhere, haversack over one shoulder. Kara didn't jump; doesn't jump anymore. Associating with Will tended to have that effect.

"Yeah, it's a sign to stay in today huh?" Kara kicked off her shoes and retreated to bed.

She shouldn't be doing this. Lena had done nothing to deserve this. And yet she was being (for lack of a better word) ghosted by her only friend.

The day quickly segued into night and night to day again. Skies gloomy, her limbs weak and her heart heavy — she felt sick, bedridden by her own unscrupulous behaviour. Their framed selves watched her from her desk, only withholding judgement by virtue of their non-living existence. She just didn't want to lose her, was it that wrong?

On the third day, the skies cleared. And Lena would no doubt be wondering where she was. Loneliness was gnawing — she knew from experience — and yet she'd so easily abandoned Lena to be its chew toy.

That sentiment brought her out the door, putting one foot in front of another and ignoring the curious looks of her next-door neighbours. Shame — so much shame. Kara didn't think she could continue this trek much further.

"Kara, was it? " A voice called out to her. Her pace slowed. No, Kara! No stopping! She waved back at Old Fred, who was seated comfortably in the shade of his porch. "Usually you'd be whizzing right by. Are you feeling alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine!" She hoped the summer glare was enough to curl the edges of her plastic grin from afar.

"Good to hear! Drop by anytime if you need a pick-me-up. Debbie makes the best lemonade."

Kara hastily waved him goodbye and trudged on before she fully lost her resolve.

The house was visible in the distance now, bright and unassuming. She came to a halt. It was like a mysterious force repelled her, steered her away to take the other turn. Following the sidewalk until there was only asphalt left, Kara forged onwards, eventually finding herself at the infamous Hackwood Bend.

A young man was leaning over the road barrier, his cap obscuring his features. Nonetheless, Kara was sure his gaze was affixed on the scarred bark of an old tree. She had an inkling who he was.

They locked eyes for a brief moment before he looked away.

"Hey," Kara shuffled closer. "You're Nick right?"

The man almost fell backwards in surprise. "Holy shit, you can see me?"

Kara nodded.

Jumping the barrier, he approached her almost meekly. "You're not gonna scream, are you?"

“No?”

"Fuck, you gotta help me, man. I can't leave this place. Look!" One moment he was reaching past her and the next, he was on the ground under the metal barrier. He scrambled to his feet. "I'm not crazy! You saw that right?"

"Yeah, about that…" Breaking the news of death was hard, requiring the utmost care and finesse. Gently drop them onto an air cushion, not concrete — as Alex had put it.

Telling someone they've been dead for the last two decades, on the other hand, more closely resembled dropping a megaton bomb. Kara was woefully unprepared and could only hope she didn't fudge it too badly. Oh nope, never mind his legs gave out.

"I-is that why they've been placing flowers by the tree?"

"Yeah." She retracted her hand before she could drop it on his shoulder.

"And why they can't hear me or see me?" He gestured weakly at said tree. A weak breeze roamed the treetops and a smattering of browned leaves flitted down.

"I'm sorry," Kara whispered, unsure of what more she could say. Kneeling beside him, she hoped that her presence would be enough.

"Nah, it's not your fault." His face was fully in his hands now, burrowing deep and refusing to reemerge. Kara offered him her silence — she had all day, after all. Something deep inside throbbed at that, a reminder of abandonment, betrayal. Could she even look Lena in the eyes now? Tell her everything she needed to hear and send her on her way, parting with the newfound knowledge that Kara was a selfish little monster. It quickly dawned upon her that the silence was very much for herself too.

And so, she broke it. "You okay there?"

"Yeah, just wondering I guess. About what I missed because I was so stupid." The cap slapped against the road, revealing a crop of unruly hair, poking out at the oddest of angles. From the cap, Kara assumed. Or maybe he had a natural ducktail behind. Running a hand through the mess did nothing to tame it, simply bouncing back to its original angle. Seemingly unfazed, he sighed. "Thought I was being held captive or something. A coma dream maybe, but no. It's just 'game over' I guess."

Another deep exhale. Turning to Kara, he drummed his fingers against his jeans before he could gather up the courage to ask. "I haven't seen the 'rents in a while. Are they…"

"No! They're doing good. I mean, your dad had a fall last summer but he's recovering and your mom still makes great lemonade. He swears by it."

"That's good to hear." Laughter seeped into his words. The tension was released in one swift move. It slid off his shoulders, cascaded onto the ground, a waterfall of pent-up emotions emptying itself before her.

Kara knew it was coming. Nick faded slowly and from the stuttered breathing, she could tell he knew too.

"It's… beautiful," he muttered, his head upturned to the sky in reverence.

She couldn’t help herself. "What is?"

"The next level. Oh wow, I —" And then, he was gone. To whatever that 'next level' was. A level that she consciously denied Lena. Shame, so much shame. She trailed it all the way back like a leaky oil tank.

Kara decided to mail Will's quilt to his sister on the fourth day. Coward. It was heavy and much too large for a boy his size. And any reasonably sized box. Kara had to construct her own out of cardboard — a very time-consuming endeavour. Excuses. The post office was in town, in the exact opposite direction from Lena’s. Was it just her or were the postal service workers giving her weird looks? Oh, and a surprise fair too! She found herself held captive in an endless sea of delicacies. Corn Dogs and caramels and multicoloured cotton candy — she just couldn't help herself. Lies.

"Okay, what's up with you?" Alex nudged the door closed. Back against it, no escape. Oh shoot.

"Nothing!" Smile, feign innocence… stop shaking!

Alex advanced. "Fine, then what's got you down?"

"Nothing?" The uptick in her inflection raised an eyebrow.

"So you've been moping around like a sad puppy just because?" Bed dipping beside her, Alex was now in good range to reach over and pull her in. Kara let her, leaning against her shoulder and tickling her neck with short puffs of breath.

"Nice try, but I see right through you." Alex laughed, smoothing out her forehead crinkle with one finger. It returned with a vengeance soon after.

"You know you can tell me anything, right?" Alex retaliated with her own breaths glancing across her cheekbone. By then, Kara was in too deep, finding herself unable to wriggle away. Defeated, she nodded.

The wait was excruciating. It boiled down to a battle of wills and Kara, who'd been burdened for far longer, was sorely disadvantaged.

"I just… need to do something for someone — it'd be good for them, I think. But it'd take them away from me and I don't want to lose them." Her confession lingered in the space between them. It's Alex's turn with the crinkle now, humming whilst deep in thought.

"Are you sure it'd be good for them?"

"Fairly certain. Ninety-percent?"

"Alright, then what do you think you should do?"

"I should just do it, but I —"

"There you go," Alex leaned over to grab Kara's phone, pushing it into her hands. "Just do it. I'll be right here and we can deal with the aftermath together." Her fingers felt noodly clasped around the device.

"You're right." Kara said, to herself at first.

"You're right!" To Alex now. Wrestling her way out of her sister's hold, she burst out of her room, rushed past a bewildered Eliza and out the front door. She only realised she was barefoot at the gates of the Luthor House.

"Lena!" She cried. "Lena, I'm so sorry!" Slumping against the door, she waited to be let in.

"Kara?" Her voice sounded small, distant, as if she couldn't bear her presence.

"Can I come in?" She pleaded.

"Of course, my door's always open to you." Kara stumbled through with little grace, single-mindedly focused on propelling herself towards Lena.

"I'm sorry, I was being selfish. I found out days ago and I hid from you because I didn't want to lose you." Both hands clasped over her letter opener — a promise. "I'll tell you right now, I swear, Lena. Whatever lies out there, it's something good and beautiful and Rao, you deserve that and so much more."

"No."

"Oh." As she feared, the bridge had long been burnt in her absence.

"No, don't tell me." Lena's voice trembled in time with her hands. She made no move to hide it. On the contrary, she stepped closer and let their eyes meet. Bringing her hands to her chest, she continued. "I don't want to know. I don't want to leave you."

Kara's breath hitched.

"And if you think I deserve better than literal heaven, this is it. So please, don't tell me."

"Okay." She nodded furiously. It felt like she was floating over it all, where everything was small and idyllic, picturesque like a painting. Where Kara was just mere strokes in a piece, an inconsequential part of a larger picture. She hadn't quite touched down yet but she was close enough to recognise it. The rapid thumping of her heart in indecipherable morse code, telling her something. Something important… thumpthump thumpthumpthumpthump thumpthumpthunp thumpthumpthumpthump thump… wait for it. She was getting there.

Her gaze grazed Lena's lips and the thought was gone.