“No. You’re letting your personal feelings affect your judgment, Agent Danvers.” Lucy watched as Alex drew herself up straighter, her well-defined jaw clenching and holding back whatever stream of expletives Alex was tempted to hurl at her. The agent’s eyes glittered with anger, but Lucy had to admit, Alex Danvers was hot when she was pissed.
They were alone in a hallway at the DEO, away from prying eyes and curious ears. Alex raked a hand through her hair before gripping the back of her neck, giving herself a moment to formulate a halfway professional response.
“Tell me you wouldn’t do the same,” Alex said, her tone now icy cool. “We need the intel, Director, and my father could be in that plant.” Alex stepped closer, using her height to tower over Lucy. “I don’t need a team. I can go in on my own. Supergirl can back me up.”
“Don’t be an idiot, Alex.” Lucy refused to be intimidated by the taller woman, stepping closer and standing her ground. “You’ll get a goddamn team. Hell, I could just send one in without you and we could do it when we have a better assessment of the threat level.”
“Cadmus has a way of slipping through our fingers. If they’re in there, I’m not letting them go this time.”
“If they’re in there, you’re going to need more than a small strike team.”
“It’s reconnaissance, Lucy. Let me confirm or deny their presence, and I’ll back the hell off and wait for your orders.”
They stared at each other, standing so close Lucy could feel the warmth radiating off Alex’s body. Lucy itched to step closer, to slide her hands over that black polo. Alex had a habit of doing that to her, riling her up and leaving her no outlet for the kind of release she craved.
“Do I have your word on that?” Lucy asked tightly.
Some of the tension eased from Alex’s shoulders as she sensed she was about to get her way. “Yes.”
“Fine. No Supergirl on this one, though. We need her dealing with Cyborg Superman. Assemble a small team of your choosing.”
Alex sighed but she nodded. “Thank you,” she ground out, but at least she sounded like she meant it.
“And when you’re done, you owe me a beer for this one.”
Alex blinked in surprise, but her lips curved faintly. “Seriously?”
“Keep pushing, Danvers, and I’ll make it two.”
“Make it two anyway. And you’re on.” Alex smirked at her before pivoting on the heel of her boot and striding off to form her team.
Lucy allowed herself that guilty pleasure of watching Alex walk away.
It was getting harder to breathe.
Thin streaks of sunlight filtered in through rusted cracks in metal, highlighting dust motes that floated thick and heavy in the air. Alex let her head thump lightly back against the crate she was propped up against. Sweat glistened on her arms and face and dripped uncomfortably down her spine. Only a few hours ago, she’d been practically freezing. Now the temperature was climbing outside the shipping container, and she was beginning to feel like she’d been locked in an oven set to broil.
Checking her phone again, Alex frowned when there was still no signal. The small contingent of agents she’d been with when they were attacked had vanished, and Alex didn’t know if they were alive or dead.
Kara would be looking for her. Alex didn’t question that, but she knew her odds of being found, even by a sister with x-ray vision, were less than ideal. She could be anywhere by now, having woken four hours ago to utter darkness. It had taken almost three hours before the first hint of sunlight had begun to filter in, confirming what Alex had suspected by touch and the light of her phone. She’d been locked in the container, and as the sun rose, so did the heat.
Lucy had warned her, but Alex’s stubborn pride and the desperate need to find her father had clouded Alex’s better judgment. They’d squabbled, again, something they seemed to be doing with more frequency these days. Both she and Lucy took some sort of perverse enjoyment in riling each other up, getting under each other’s skin, but this time Alex had caught herself considering shoving Lucy against a wall and kissing that smug smirk off her beautiful face.
The thought had left Alex rattled and off her game, especially knowing she all but made a date with Lucy when the night was over. Alex prayed none of her fellow agents had paid the price for her scattered attention.
Staggering onto her feet, Alex studied the crate she’d been leaning against. She’d tried to get it open with her bare hands already, tearing nearly every fingernail in the process, but with little luck. Kicking the hell out of it had only made her legs hurt. There had to be a way to get it open, to see if there was something she could salvage inside that might get her out of there.
Alex checked her pockets again as she circled the crate on unsteady legs. She’d been stripped of her tactical vest and weapons. Frankly, she’d been surprised to wake up alive in the container at all, having expected to be gunned down where she stood. Instead, someone had cracked the butt of a gun against her skull and the lights had gone out.
For a moment, Alex paused, leaning her hands on the crate as she gave into her fear, letting it sweep through her and away. She had to try and stay alive for Kara. Alex didn’t want to fail her sister, didn’t want to be the one to devastate Kara again with another loss, but as she shoved off the crate, it was Lucy’s reaction Alex found herself considering. Would Lucy mourn her? Would Lucy care she was gone? Did the other woman feel the same heat Alex did when they were alone together? Did she savor it and want more?
Alex swallowed, raking her sweat-soaked hair away from her features as she blew out a shaky breath at the detour her thoughts had taken. Locked up tight with her death closing in, it seemed pointless to deny what she’d been feeling.
Ever since Lucy had haughtily called her Alexandra, Alex had been infatuated.
Slamming her hands against the wood, Alex knew it was pointless. She slid back down to the floor, stripping off her black polo to leave her in her sports bra. It was marginally cooler, but not enough to keep her from being dead if someone didn’t find her and soon.
“You know this is a distraction, Ma’am,” Vasquez said quietly, keeping her voice low so only Lucy could hear.
“I know. Cadmus wants Supergirl occupied for some reason, but until we discern what that reason is, I’m devoting all our resources to finding Agent Danvers.” Lucy stared at the monitors, trying to focus and not dwell on the dread coiling in her chest. “Bring up the satellite imagery for the plant again. We must be missing something.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Vasquez’s fingers flew over the keyboard, fulfilling the request.
Logically, Lucy knew the likelihood of finding Alex alive was almost non-existent. The other agents had been located unharmed and tied together inside the abandoned plant, but Alex had been singled out to keep Supergirl busy in a fruitless search for her sister. Every time Kara checked in, the fear and despair were heavier in her voice, and Lucy ached to think what would happen to the younger woman when the time came and they found Alex…
Arresting the thought before she could finish it, Lucy started to pace. Alex wouldn’t give up on her, and Lucy would be damned if she would give up on Alex. They were going to find Alex Danvers alive, and Lucy was going to read her the riot act for acting so rashly. She might even suspend Alex for the hell of it. Assuming, of course, she didn’t kiss the hell out of the other woman first in relief.
Falling for Alex was about the dumbest thing Lucy knew she’d ever done, but they clicked somehow. Even when their forceful personalities rubbed up against one another, it was a hot, addictive kind of friction. Lucy suspected they’d be equally as combustible in bed, and she’d been tempted to push Alex just a little to see if she was right. Now she wished she had.
“Just took an updated image, Ma’am,” Vasquez announced, punching up the satellite picture of the plant before the agents had stormed it on one screen, the current image on another.
Lucy moved closer, her gaze roaming over every feature. Everything looked the same. Frowning, Lucy stepped closer to the console, narrowing her eyes at the current image. She pointed at a cluster of old, abandoned shipping containers. They’d been searched, but turned up nothing. “Susan, can you run a program to count these from last night versus now?”
Vasquez glanced again at both pictures. There were too many to tally by eyeballing it. “Yes, Ma’am. You think they took one?”
“Let’s find out.”
Leaving Vasquez to her algorithms, Lucy strode toward her office. She ached for a few hours of sleep, but she’d be damned if she rested before they found Alex. Stepping away from prying eyes, Lucy closed the door and leaned against it, frowning when she realized she’d retreated to Alex’s seldom-used space rather than her own.
Her gaze drifted over the small smattering of items indicating the office was even used. Alex was more than capable of leading the DEO, but she chafed when chained down by bureaucracy and red tape. Lucy was better at the politics, the mental maneuvering required to balance the well-being of the agency against the requirements and demands of the powerful people who kept the lights on while allowing them to operate in the shadows. Alex… Alex excelled at the strategy of what they did. She knew the skills and personalities of every person in the building and wielded them efficiently and effectively. Together with J’onn, they’d proven to be a devastating team, even if they mixed like fire and gunpowder.
But God, Lucy loved to fight with the other woman. She loved the battles of wits and wills. Alex stimulated her in a way few people ever had. The fact that they could argue like cats and dogs and still go out for a drink with the team and laugh about it had been a dynamic Lucy had never experienced with anyone. Lately, however, she was beginning to suspect their fights were less about competing ideologies and more about finding an outlet for frustration of a more… personal nature.
Swallowing, Lucy drew in a deep breath, pushing away from the door. She picked up a frame on Alex’s desk, studying a photo of the woman on her mind and Kara. They were laughing, their smiles big and genuine for the camera, the love between them tangible. The sight made Lucy’s heart clench.
“Keep fighting, Alex. We’re coming.”
“Ma’am?” Vasquez’s voice in her ear made Lucy twitch.
She tapped her two-way. “What is it?”
“You were right, Ma’am. One of the containers is missing.”
Head throbbing, Alex kept her eyes closed, trying to breathe slowly and deeply even as her muscles occasionally cramped painfully enough to wring soft cries from her throat. As lightheaded and nauseous as she was, Alex knew she was almost out of time.
It was a little after 10:00 am. In another hour, the sun would be even more brutal, turning the shipping container into a literal oven. Why Cadmus didn’t just kill her, Alex couldn’t understand, but she wasn’t surprised they’d chosen a cruel way for her die.
Alex was too dehydrated to cry, but she mourned nevertheless. She picked up her phone, turning on the recording function with fumbling fingers, and weakly began her goodbyes. Kara was first, and it nearly broke Alex to leave the message for her sister, but Kara deserved to know how much she believed in her, how proud she was of all she had accomplished, not just as Supergirl but as Kara Danvers. Alex would be sure Kara never questioned how much Alex had cherished being her sister.
Her mother and Hank followed. She left a message for her father in case he ever came home.
Struggling to breathe now, her throat painfully dry, Alex pressed record one last time.
“Lucy,” she murmured. “Looks like you win our final argument, Director. You were right. I let my personal feelings... get in the way of my judgment. And honestly, it always drives me crazy... when you tell me no.”
Alex paused to catch her breath. She couldn’t stop panting. “You drove me kinda crazy in a lot of ways,” she admitted softly. “But as much as we fight I… I like you. I respect the hell out of you.” Alex lapsed into silence as the phone continued to record. “I was really looking forward to buying you that beer,” she said finally. “Maybe… maybe I would have found the courage to…”
Her hand was shaking, and Alex could feel darkness closing in on the edges of her vision. “I hope the other agents made it out. If not... the responsibility falls... on my shoulders, not yours.” She took a shuddering breath. “Take care of Kara for me, okay? And no beating yourself up, Luce. I know… I know you did everything you could.”
The phone slipped from Alex’s fingers, clattering onto the dusty floor. She closed her eyes, surrendering to the inevitable.
“Report,” Lucy ordered as she stepped back into the control center, hope and fear blooming in equal measure in her chest.
Vasquez didn’t answer her for a moment, too busy typing, and Lucy resisted the urge to bark another order at the other woman.
“Once we knew what to look for, I started reviewing every traffic camera within the plant radius.”
“Did you find it, Susan?” Lucy demanded, stepping up beside her. “Don’t tell me how. Tell me where.”
“The truck was last spotted turning off on the main access road.”
“What main access road?”
“Ours, Ma’am. It could be anywhere out here in the desert with us.”
Lucy clenched her jaw, fury rushing through her veins. “Bastards dropped her right in our own goddamn backyard. Get me satellite imagery. Find it, Susan. Start close but outside the perimeter of our cameras and sensors. I want a helicopter ready to take off in ten minutes with a medical team onboard.”
“She and Director Henshaw are questioning two Cadmus operatives in custody at Taft Correctional Institution. Should I contact her?”
Lucy almost said yes, but then she shook her head. “We’ll let her know when Agent Danvers has been brought back to the base.”
Vasquez nodded in quiet understanding and went back to work as Lucy pivoted and headed for the heliport. If they found Alex dead, Lucy didn’t want Kara to see that. It might be the one thing that could break Supergirl.
Throat tight, Lucy lifted her chin, ready to face the moment in Kara’s place, knowing Alex would have wanted her to.
“Open it!” Lucy shouted over the whine of the rotors, waiting as an agent hurried up to the container and cut the padlock trapping Alex inside. Protocol would have had them sweeping the container first, but protocol could go to hell. Lucy jerked open the door, swinging it wide and feeling a rush of heat, hotter than the dry desert air, buffet her face. “Please, God…” she whispered as she stepped inside.
Alex was down, having shirked all but her underwear and sports bra. Lucy knelt next to her, grabbing her shoulder and gently rolling her over.
“Alex?” Lucy beckoned, laying her fingers against Alex’s neck, her own heart pounding in her ears. She finally felt a weak but rapid pulse, and Lucy had to resist the urge to kiss the agent for staying alive. “Knew you were too stubborn,” she said with a shaky smile.
The medical team scrambled in after her.
“She’s alive,” Lucy informed them as they set a stretcher down and gently settled Alex on it. She watched as the team started activating cold packs and laying them strategically on the agent’s body, pleased they’d come prepared. “We need to transport.”
“Let us get her stable, Ma’am,” the doctor requested.
“Wouldn’t we have a better chance of doing that in an air-conditioned base?” Lucy snapped.
He frowned at her, but dipped his head in agreement.
Minutes later, the chopper was lifting off. Lucy couldn’t take her eyes off Alex, leaning forward as best as she was able in her harness to run her fingers through Alex’s hair as the wind tried to buffet it about.
“You’re going to make it, Danvers,” Lucy told her, even though her voice was lost in the roar of the rotors. “That’s an order.”
She was cold.
Alex fumbled for a blanket, ever muscle in her body protesting her movements, and she groaned faintly.
A chair scraped across the floor, and warm fingers brushed soothingly over her forehead before drifting through her hair. “You chilled?”
A moment later, the scratchy texture of a wool blanket was draped over her, and Alex sighed in relief. The touch through her hair resumed, and Alex turned toward it, savoring the meager comfort. She forced her eyes open, pleased to find Lucy standing beside her. Lucy smiled at her, and Alex forgot some of her discomfort instantly. It was hard to feel too awful when Lucy smiled at her like that. “Hey.”
Lucy snorted a soft laugh. “Hey yourself, Danvers.”
“You found me.”
“Did you really think I’d just give up?” Lucy teased.
“You? Never.” Alex licked her lips. “Got any water around here?” She tried to sit up, but Lucy wouldn’t let her, encouraging her to ease back against the pillows.
“Careful. You’ve got an IV going. You’re dehydrated.”
“So that’s why I feel so lousy.” Alex weakly accepted a cup of ice chips and she spooned some into her mouth, her hands trembling.
“Need help with that?” Lucy asked, and Alex managed a scowl. Rather than look intimidated, Lucy grinned, and Alex smiled faintly in response. Lucy really did have a beautiful smile.
Alex realized she was staring when Lucy cleared her throat gently and looked away, a soft blush on her cheeks.
“The other agents?” Alex asked.
“Safe. Cadmus wanted you. We’re still trying to figure out why they played all these damn games, but we’re sure they needed Supergirl out of the way for something.”
Alex considered that, frowning. “I don’t like being used against her.”
“I’m pretty pissed about it myself,” Lucy confessed. “Another few minutes and you might have…” She swallowed.
Alex set aside her cup, looking up at Lucy apologetically. “Sorry I put you through all this trouble. Should have listened to you, huh?”
Lucy leaned down playfully. “I’m sorry, Agent. Did you just imply that I was right?”
Alex took a breath at her nearness, enjoying the light scent of Lucy’s perfume. “Don’t let it go to your head, Director Lane.”
Lucy smiled, her features temptingly close, and Alex wanted nothing more than to kiss her.
“I got your message,” Lucy said, studying Alex intently. “You still owe me that beer.”
Alex could only vaguely remember what she’d said in those final moment of consciousness, but she remembered speaking honestly. “May have to wait a few days, but you know I’m good for it.”
“How about a little incentive to speed that timeline along?” Lucy cocked one eyebrow.
Lucy’s right hand eased along Alex’s jaw as she leaned down further, kissing Alex softly, letting her mouth linger. “More where that came from if you’re interested, Dan-” The rest was cut off as Alex tilted her chin, kissing Lucy again with more heat.
They parted reluctantly.
“That’s pretty good incentive,” Alex had to admit, relishing the chance to stare into those vivid green eyes up close.
Regretfully, Lucy stood. “Get well soon then. I’m thirsty and I don’t like to be kept waiting.” Lucy winked at her, glancing at Alex’s silent heart monitor and smirking slightly before she left.
Alex grinned and didn’t feel an ounce of guilt as she enjoyed watching Lucy walk away.