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“You’re not allowed to love anyone more than me, Alexandra.”

Kara, red fire glowing behind her eyes, leans close and grips Alex's jaw, fingers pressing hard enough to force her mouth open, slamming her head back against the wall, twisting just enough so that the joints in her cheeks squeaked.

“Is that why you decided you want girls? You know you always wanted me. but you never let yourself think about it, not while you could risk losing me. So pathetic, really, so desperate for my love that you’d cut off part of yourself rather than reveal your shame.”

Alex couldn’t struggle, couldn’t fight back. Any stray careless motion could break her jaw. Kara wouldn’t care, not like this, not any more than she’d cared when she broke her arm the last time. She couldn’t snap back either, couldn’t protest Kara’s filthy implications.

How could Kara think these things? Even if it hadn't been seriously contemplated, everything Kara said under RedK was something she’d actually thought. But thinking that Alex had wanted her when she was a teenager? She couldn't be right, could she?

She’d hated Kara so much back then, hated her sad eyes and gentle smile and the way her mom had all but forgotten Alex for her sake.“She’s your sister.” “She’s not my fucking sister.” It didn’t matter if she was right. Alex had grown up. Kara was her sister now. Maggie was her girlfriend.

God, she hoped Maggie was okay. RedK Kara was terrifying. And going after her sister’s girlfriend--why didn’t Kara talk about these feelings? Of course she’d be jealous, of course she’d be confused. Of course--

Kara drew fire-hot fingers down her cheek, over her jaw and up into the short hairs on the back of her neck. Alex shuddered.“You want it.”

Alex tried to speak.“K-Kara--” The word came out as a whimper, and Kara’s hand cupped her mouth, bruisingly hard against her cheeks before she could find any words.

Kara’s knee slid between her legs and shoved her even more firmly against the wall.“Admit you want it.”

Alex’s heart beat at a pace that felt like panic, her breath came rough, and she made a little moan against Kara’s hand. It was just physiological arousal. It meant nothing, could mean nothing.

Alex would never think that way about Kara. Because sisters was better. Sisters was family, unbreakable, a place in her life that she couldn’t trade out, couldn’t let go of. With Kara at her back she could take the risk of trying this, trying to have someone, have a life. Without her . . .

Kara let her teeth run across Alex’s cheek, her hand sliding up her waist to grope at her breast.“Of course you want to fuck me. All you’ve ever wanted was to possess me, keep me under your control.”

The pressure, the tightness of Kara’s grip, the solidity of it throbbed through Alex’s chest. Possess Kara? No. All she’d ever hoped to do was to hold on.

“You should beg me to fuck you. It’s the only part of me you could ever have.” Kara leaned in close, her icy breath whispering against Alex’s ear. You know I’ve never thought of you as my real sister.”

Kara stepped back, hearing the hitch in Alex’s chest.“Oh?” she tipped her head, her voice mock-sweet.“Are you crying? Did I hurt your feelings?”

A cold grin spread across her face and she leaned in and with a flick of her tongue licked salt tears from Alex’s cheek.

#

When J'onn and a swat team of DEO agents burst in, Kara was long gone. Alex was on all fours, her trousers falling down around her knees, wet hair sticking to her face, stinking of alcohol. She held an empty whiskey bottle between her teeth, firmly, her shoulders shaking, staring up at the clock on the wall.

Vasquez moved to take the bottle away, but Alex jerked her head back, protecting it.

"Alex, Alex."

But Alex, tears streaming down her face though no other sign of crying, wouldn't let them move her or take the bottle away.

J'onn knelt in front of her, not touching her, just looking in her eyes. "We have her," he said, softly. "She's contained. She's safe. You can let go now."

He carefully took the bottle from her mouth, and Vasquez wrapped a blanket around her and they carried her out to the vans and brought her back to the DEO.

#

"I hate seeing you happy," Kara says, a cold smile curling across her face. "What you do, what you want is disgusting. You're dirty. She's made you dirty. Of course I had to hurt her."

Her hand, like iron, pressed against Alex's chest. She slid it down, hard against her breast, her thumb catching on her nipple, and then over her belly and under the waistband of her trousers. Alex's breath comes in shaky rattles, and she presses against the wall, as far away as she could get, but she could not get away. Kara's hand cups her, her fingers press into flesh through the thin damp fabric of her underwear.

"Why are you so wet, big sister?" Kara purrs. "Is it for me? Is it because you're afraid of me?"

With a quick twitch, Kara tugs the underwear aside, and then there is nothing between them, Kryptonian hot fingers--hotter than usual, burning off the RedK--burying themselves in folds of flesh. She is inside, and Alex jerks like she has put a knife in her gut, and Kara leans in, laughing in her ear, with her fingers buried inside her.

"Ugh, I can feel you clench on me. I can feel everything. Your heart pounds so loud and so fast in my ears, but your body is like the base, not just in my ears, I hear it in my bones." She twists her fingers, hard and fast, and it hurts, thank god it hurts, Alex sobs, because it had hurt like poison, like sin, but now it hurts like bruises and blood, like the hurt she understands.

Kara draws out and scissors her fingers in front of Alex's face, making a show of the sticky strands of wetness that stretch and break between them, of sniffing them. "Filthy stinking human." She wipes her fingers on Alex's cheek, and Alex chokes on another sob as it smears like slime against her skin. "I'd never let you touch me anyways."

She shoves Alex away, but there is nowhere away for her to go. The wall buckles behind her, an imprint of her back and head sunk into it. The strike knocks the breath out of her, and Alex falls, crumpling onto her hands and knees, curling into child's pose with her arms wrapped around her head.

Kara laughs. "Are you feeling dirty? I know how you like to clean yourself up."

She strides over to the refrigerator and pulls the bottle of whiskey out of the freezer. It's mostly full, hardly touched, now that Alex has been happy for a while.

She brings it back in a flash, carelessly, because her superpowers are nothing to her, they are hers. She uncaps it, grinning."How about a shower, big sister?"

Alex cringes as the stream of whiskey hits her, splashing over the back of her head, soaking her shirt, enveloping her in the stink of it.

Kara laughs to see her hunch up against the liquid. She crouches in front of her, holding the empty bottle."I have better things to do than watch you humiliate yourself." She reaches out, pushing Alex's whiskey-soaked hair out of her face. "You're an ugly crier." She pats her cheek. "I just need you to remember that you're mine, not the opposite. I am the powerful one. I am the hero. I am the one who can choose whether you are happy or sad, no one else."

Alex whimpered. She wasn't wrong. She wasn't wrong at all.

"Prove that you can remember that. Now open wide."

Alex sniffed hard and then opened her mouth. Kara pressed the mouth of the whiskey bottle into it, then pushed up her chin so she was holding it, and patted her head."Good girl. Hold onto that for me, just like this, until--" She glanced at the clock behind them. "--until the clock strikes one. Be good for me, and I won't kill your girlfriend."

Alex couldn't even react, just held the bottle, and cried silently.

"I don't mind you being happy," Kara says, mussing her wet hair. "As long as you remember that I'm the one who's letting you."

She flies away.

Already, Alex misses her.

#

Vasquez hung around in Agent Danvers's room while the docs checked her over. She wasn't sure if there was much she could do, really, if Danvers flipped out, or if she started to cry. But the chance was pretty high. She wanted to be there, just in case.

Danvers just sat on the cot after they checked her over, sat there, motionless and silent, in that slumped, limp posture, like a puppet whose strings had been cut.

Winn stuck his head in, looking pale and half like he was about to vomit, and muttered something about Kara being in the room with the hologram of her mom, and not coming out. Vasquez waved him away. Alex didn't need to know that right now.

"Hey," she said finally.

Alex didn't look at her.

"You wanna talk, you've got me. You know that, right?"

Alex slowly, very slowly, lifted her head. Her eyes were hollow, face expressionless. It was the same face, though the whiskey had dried, her mouth no longer gripped around the mouth of a whiskey bottle.  Then she gave a slow nod. "Thanks." The word came out as a rasp.

When Detective Sawyer showed up, arm in a sling, looking pretty rough around the edges, Vasquez stepped outside to give them a little privacy. Not too much, though. She stayed by the door.

"What'd she do to you?" Maggie's words were sharp, brusque.

Vasquez grimaced. It was the question who didn't know Supergirl as well as she should have, who'd only known her lately, when she'd been more of a mess than usual. But it was also the question of someone who'd been thrown through her kitchen island and seriously fucked up her arm.

No response from Alex. Maybe she shook her head. Putting words around that? It would take time.

"How can I help you, Alex?" There it was, all peeling away to expose the vulnerability underneath.

And then a choked laugh--Alex's choked laugh. "Help me? You're the one with the fucking broken arm. You're the one she threatened to kill. You're not the one who-- who--"

And the laugh turned into a horrible sound, a keen of loss and horror, and Vasquez wanted to rush in there and fucking cut a monster's head off.

But there wasn't a monster.

#

The Alura hologram flickered weakly in the background. Kara wrapped her arms around her knees and rocked slowly back and forth. Again, she rocked slowly back and forth.

Alex.

Alex, Alex, Alex.

"Intrusive thoughts," said the Alura Hologram, "are often thought by human psychologists to be symptomatic but not contentful. The act of repressing such thoughts often causes them to expand and draw more attention. However, their essential property is that they are chaotic. When thoughts you wish to repress are systematic, the more important aspect may be the repression itself. A repeated urge to destroy one's employment opportunity may reveal an insufficient overlap between one's behavioral matrix and the matrix suitable for effective work implementation."

Kara rocked harder and the dictionary file began to repeat again.

#

"I want to have sex."

Slowly, Maggie turned to the sink and, one-handed, moved the coffee pot into it, filled it with water, flipped the lid up on the reservoir, lifted the coffee pot, poured in the water, settled the pot back into its position, and pressed the brew button. Then she turned back around to face Alex. "Ignoring the fact that this is probably trauma talking. I'm gonna have to say, my clipped wing is gonna make that kind of difficult."

Alex, twitchy and unsettled, still hadn't taken her coat off. Maggie's arm throbbed and she considered taking another Vicodin. She considered taking half the bottle.

"You could wear the-- the thing, and I'd ride you."

Maggie stared at her, a sinking feeling in her gut. "You hate strap-ons."

Alex flinched at the term.

"You want to get fucked."

Alex's mouth tightened. "So? You're always telling me to ask for what I want. I'm asking."

"Why?"

"Why do I want sex?"

Maggie shrugged. "Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I kinda think that you don't want sex because you want to get off right now. So what do you want out of it?"

"Why do you think I don't just want to get off?"

"Because you never just want to get off." Maggie rubbed her forehead. She didn't usually bring this up, not as a weapon in a fight. But this was for Alex's own good. "Alex, I can imagine that this is really fucking with your head. But I don't think this is a great way to deal. Especially because you're just not a very sexual person."

The flinch, the slackness in her mouth. Alex looked like she'd been slapped.

Maggie grimaced. She'd been planning on working her way up to talking about it eventually. All at once wasn't really fun. "That isn't an accusation. It's whatever. But I've played scenes with girls who haven't told me that they're going to fall apart when they finally face whatever shit they've been bottling up. And let me tell you that it is no fun when you're working your ass off topping, making sure you're staying within limits and still pushing hard enough to satisfy, and some totally undiscussed trigger hits and she flips out. And then she says she wanted to hit that, and she knew she'd flip, and she didn't tell me? That's a fucking betrayal. I have my limits too. And I don't like having someone lie to me. If you want something out of sex-play that isn't a fucking orgasm, I can do that. But I don't guess. And I don't have to read the signs to know that you, babe, are not in it for the big O."

"What?" Alex's hands were in her hair, rubbing and clawing at it. "This isn't therapy. You're my girlfriend! Can't I expect to get a fucking from my girlfriend? It shouldn't matter what I want out of it! That's my business. I just want--"

"You just want to use me." Maggie shook her head. "Nah. I'm not interested. Being your fuck-toy doesn't turn me on. And I bet it wouldn't do anything for you either."

Alex's face hardened into her professional mask. But there were cracks in it. "Don't act like you know me better than I do."

"I know one thing. I'm your girlfriend. And I know that if you can't talk to me about what you actually want, you're not ready to get it."

#

"Kara." Winn's voice was soft in her ear. "Kara, we need you."

Kara lifted her head, slowly, achingly. It felt so heavy. She felt so weak. "I-- I'm not going to be much help."

Winn reached out and took her hand. Kara flinched at the touch. She wasn't allowed to touch people. She wasn't-- she hurt everyone, she-- She tried to jerk her hand out of Winn's grip and couldn't.

"Kara, you've been in here too long. You're drained. Come out and get some sun."

Kara shook her head and balled up even more. "This is good. I'm better here. If I'm weak and no one's here I can't hurt anyone, I can't be-- I can't be so horrible."

"You know it wasn't you. You know it was the RedK, Kara."

Kara hunched further. "Was it? Because I can remember it. I remember what it felt like to grab Maggie by the shoulders and hurl her into her counter. I remember what--" Her fingers ached, her stomach twisted. Rough hair, soft flesh, heat and wet. It was wrong. It felt so wrong to remember it. She didn't want that to be part of Alex. Alex was strong and sturdy and always tried to big-spoon Kara even though she was littler and weaker. Alex didn't have parts of her that--

Maybe that was where all of this had sprang from. She'd always liked it when Alex had called her to whine about another terrible date, about how gross these guys were. She didn't want to think about people touching Alex. She didn't want to think about people having sex in general--but it was worse with Alex.

On RedK she'd been angry at Alex for wanting it, for having found something she didn't think was 'gross', for not being the person Kara had thought she was. Without the RedK, she couldn't be angry at Alex for it. But that didn't mean it didn't hurt.

But she'd hurt everyone so much while angry that she didn't deserve anyone to try to understand why. It was irrational anyway, irrational and selfish. Just like her.

#

"Whoa, whoa, Danvers. What are you doing here?"

Vasquez hurried after Agent Danvers as she strode out of the locker rooms toward Ops.

"I work here. I'm working."

"Already?"

Alex turned, her eyes flashing. "Why not? I'm fine. There wasn't a single bruise on me. We don't get sick leave for humiliation."

Vasquez waited, knowing her silence would only make Alex angrier. "There are different kinds of violence."

"I can handle it! I'm not--" Alex gulped something down. "I'm not going to blame my baby sister for something she did while she couldn't chose not to."

"Then why haven't you spoken to her yet?"

#

The glasses felt flimsy in her hands. Kara slid them on and stared at herself in the mirror. There was something wrong with her reflection, something that didn't look like 'Kara' anymore. Was the ponytail too low? Was the cardigan too plain? It had been wrong for a long time, since she'd started her new job--since Cat had left--since . . . since she'd come down from outer space.

She'd come down from outer space and ever since, everything had been moving so quickly. Everything was changing. It was like she was standing still, and everything was leaving her behind.

In the busy Tribune newsroom, she checked the whiteboard for updates on her projects. The space for new assignments beside Danvers was empty. Her last article had been moved into the 'spiked' column.

"Snapper? Snapper. Why was my article spiked?"

Snapper glanced up and blinked at her as if he had a hard time recognizing her. "No room," he said. "Albertson ran long."

"And there are no new projects?"

Snapper waved her away. "You missed the development meeting. We didn't have an extra. Go off, rustle something up. You're great at coming up with new excuses for the same editorial about alien rights."

Kara left CatCo and went back to her other job. She was on leave from the DEO for a week, but she could still stop muggings and save kittens. Keeping up the brand, Cat would say.

But Cat was gone. James--she'd hurt him and she didn't blame him for being too busy to be emotional support. Winn was almost his own person now. He had plans and maybe a girlfriend who wasn't a supervillain. And Alex . . .

Alex.

She'd ruined everything.

A heartbeat--pounding at a rate of panic--a figure inside a building, pressed up against a wall--like Alex--another looming over her.

Her grip was too hard. His shoulder buckled under her hand, the collarbone snapping, and she dragged him away, hurling him half across the room. "Don't you touch her! Can't you tell that she's upset? Can't you control yourself?"

They were both staring at her, and Kara realized she was screaming.

That's not keeping up the brand, Kara.

After she'd come down from outer space--after she'd chosen to die, and then Alex had saved her anyways--everything had been shaky and distant and inaccessible.

Maybe she'd been meant to die then. Maybe the world couldn't find a place for a person it had already written off.

Her reflection was wrong. As Supergirl she looked like some kind of doll, like something made of porcelain, not real. As Kara . . . She didn't look like Kara anymore. She didn't know who Kara was anymore, not now that everything that made her Kara, that kept her here and solid and real and human (but she wasn't human, she'd never be human, could she be Kara and not be human?) had left her behind.

If she couldn't remember who she was, if she'd lost Alex, who had always been the one to remember for her, remember anything she forgot, she couldn't disappear, and no one would notice. Emptiness behind Supergirl's mask.

The RedK had taken the last thing she couldn't afford to lose.

Kara stared at her reflection, the same reflection she'd seen in Alex's panicked eyes, in the shine of the whiskey bottle, in the glass of the clock. The RedK was her. She was the one who had done all of this.

She didn't remember moving, but the mirror was gone, shards of glass tumbling into the sink, a hole in the wall behind it. She brought her hand to her face. She hadn't punched the mirror, she'd grabbed it, and shards of glass rained from her open palm.

No blood. No mark.

If nothing could touch her, why was she even here?

#

"You got fucked up today."

Alex shook her head. She looked more relaxed than she had earlier. "I'm fine."

"Yeah." Vasquez shook her head. Crazy people were crazy. But she was glad other people enjoyed going out and getting beaten up. She'd tried it. It wasn't her thing. "Want to go for a drink?"

"Sure."

Everything was fine on the way there. Everything was fine until the bartender poured Alex a whiskey. Vasquez's stomach turned as she smelled it, remembering the stench of it on Danvers, kneeling and whimpering like a dog. She could see the moment the smell registered for Alex too, and how she lunged for the bathroom.

Vasquez grabbed her jacket, snagged a bottle of water from the bartender, and followed more slowly. Alex was kneeling over the toilet, having emptied her stomach, still heaving.

Vasquez passed her the water bottle, and Alex took it, looking up, her face streaked with tears.

"I think I need to talk to someone."

"I don't know anyone who wouldn't."

#

"I think," Alex sat at the other side of the table from Maggie. "I think what I wanted was to be held down." Her eyes flicked to Maggie's arm, and she winced. "Not that I thought that plan through. I think I wanted . . ." She shut her eyes. "I wanted it to happen again. I wanted to prove that this time I wouldn't be so scared."

Maggie nodded, holding her cup of milk in one hand. "Makes sense."

"It does?" Alex laughed, feeling something like relief and hysteria in her chest. "I just get menaced by my drugged out sister, and I'm like, lets do that again."

"The first time I got shot at--back when I was still in Gotham--I freaked out for a couple of days. But the main thing I did was I kept throwing myself into more dangerous situations, trying to make the situations more dangerous. I wanted to get shot at again. Because I wanted to not be afraid all the time. If it was actually happening, I wouldn't have to anticipate it. I could just live it. It's a natural reaction to trauma. And seeking it out from someone you can trust, from someone who knows what you want out of it, and is willing to give that to you, that can be the right choice." Maggie made a face. "I'd say, sure, I'll do this for you, except, you know, broken arm. Also, you always beat me wrestling. I could tie you up though? And sit on you?"

Alex nodded slowly. "I-- maybe."

"If you wanted someone else to do it to you, I wouldn't be hurt."

Alex, her shoulders hunched, tipped her head up, anxiety written across her face. "You wouldn't?"

Maggie shook her head. "Jealousy isn't something I have a lot of patience for. Another reason my ex finally gave up. She had a hard time figuring out if people cared if they didn't have sudden angry outbursts when she flirted around."

"Oh." Alex had that look on her face like she was trying to put a sentence together in a language she didn't quite understand. It was her 'relationships are hard' face. "I-- I don't think I'd be jealous if . . . there was something you needed."

"Not jealous, or just too insecure to complain?"

Alex winced.

"Trust is hard, Alex. I get it. Trusting yourself is even harder." Maggie watched her face. She'd always found it easy to let herself fall into someone else's pain. She could follow the rules, solve the problems. It was harder when she needed something. How did you ask when you needed something so much that no felt like a death sentence. She needed something now, and shaky, flint-brittle Alex was in no shape to deal with that. "I'm going to ask you to try."

"What?"

"Babe," Maggie took a breath. "I need someone right now. And you, you need someone too. And I don't think I can be that person for you, and you can't be that person for me."

"Why not? What-- what do you need?"

"I need to be weak with someone. I need someone to hold me, and be there for me. I'm not looking for a fucking, but I am looking for a certain kind of support and affection. You're barely holding yourself together. I don't want to add holding me together to your burden. And I need someone who doesn't remind me of being used as a wrecking ball to destroy my own kitchen. So, I'm going to call an old friend--a sex friend. And I'm asking you to be okay with it."

Alex sagged. But she nodded. Maggie wondered, and bitterly reminded herself of her latest ex as she wondered, whether it was so easy for her to nod because she hated herself too much to demand anything of Maggie, or because she just didn't care all that much.

"You really have someone who you can go to? I don't know if I could ask for this from anyone else but you."

"That's because you never talk to people. The easiest way to get used to trusting someone is to get used to talking. So, you want to get held down. What else do you want? Practice spelling out the fantasy with me, so when you are ready to ask for it, you know how to be precise."

Alex gave an awkward, helpless, grimacing laugh. "You're all full of 'best practices' aren't you?"

"Babe, you don't fuck aliens if you don't observe best practices. Well, at least you don't fuck them twice."

Alex wrinkled her nose, making a grossed out face, and Maggie laughed. She knew she had to be kind of in love with Alex, because really, someone with as many sex-hangups as this had never been her type before. Alex might make the same faces about guys--okay, valid--, aliens, and sex-toys, and she got all tense and upset when she was naked and someone was trying to touch her. But she was so obedient, eager to learn, eager to try things and do what Maggie liked. She'd gotten really good at oral really fast. But Maggie had kind of thought she'd have to slowly backdoor in some of her more unusual interests. She hadn't expected a crisis that would require a crash course in healthy polyamory and best practices for safe, sane and consensual BDSM right away.

Still, Alex was the worst at communication, and communication was step one even before you brought the floggers out. If she didn't fix that right now, this was going to end in a trainwreck.

"I don't--" Alex made an awkward face. "I don't know if I want there to be sex. Like, it was easy to make it about sex, because that's usually when I feel helpless and miserable. And when Kara-- I hated it so much. So much. But I don't-- I don't want it. Maybe that means I need it to go that far. Maybe I--" Alex's gaze dropped to her hands, working against themselves on her knees. "Maybe I need to suffer through it."

"Sex makes things complicated," Maggie said. Especially for you, she didn't say. Especially if you're going to try this with your sister. Everyone had family baggage, but she'd thought finding out that your girlfriend was Supergirl's sister was enough. Finding out that they had developed an intensely codependent relationship in the last year and that it had almost ended in a double suicide, and you were smack in the middle of the fallout, that was way more than she'd planned on dealing with. "And if sex isn't the point of this, I don't think it would hurt to leave it out."

Alex lifted her head and grinned weakly. "Anyone else saying that, I'd be like, you're jealous, but you really just don't think I need it, do you?"

"I want you to feel safe, and I don't want to recommend something and have it make everything worse for you. You don't feel safe when things get sexual. So I'd say, tell your partner that you don't want it to get sexual, and that even if you get aroused, that isn't an invitation. You don't want to be touched in certain places, and that's a hard limit."

Alex started to shake. Her breathing was short, shallow. Fuck. That was a trigger.

"Alex, Alex. Breathe. Breathe. Come on." Maggie slipped off the other couch and dropped onto her knees in front of Alex. "I'm going to take your hand, okay?" Alex nodded, giving off a choked sound. Maggie took her hand and brought it near to her chest. "I want you to breathe on my count. One, breathe, two." She pressed her hand with each count, making a slow steady rhythm, and Alex stopped fighting the panic, and focused, and her breathing started to slow down.

"Good girl," Maggie murmured. "You're so good. You're doing so well."

The panic passed, and Alex, slowly, with a heaving sob, started to cry.

#

"Why are you calling? I heard you had a vanilla girlfriend now and swapped the -ish for an -ous on your monogam."

"How the fuck did you hear that, Lee?"

Lee snorted. "Because this community is small and incestuous? So, is it true?"

Maggie made a face, though Lee couldn't see it obviously. "It's complicated. She's-- probably ace-spectrum? But also very subby. But I . . ." Maggie sighed and let her voice crack. "I need to switch. I need to be Meg now."

"Fuck. Are you okay? What do you need?"

The instance solicitousness was enough for Maggie to breathe properly again. "When are you free?"

"For you, baby girl? Any time."

#

"Kara! Kara!" Agent Danvers bolted through the halls of the DEO. Coming skidding to a stop outside the medbay particularly set up for Supergirl's medical requirements, she half-kicked half-bodyslammed through the door. As this was her usual mode of entry, the door swung open easily. Inside, one of the doctors was carefully removing a kryptonite shard from Kara's palm.

Alex stumbled through the doorway, and froze as Kara lifted her head, a tumble of blonde waves falling over her shoulder, and her face, surprise, hope, and then a sudden hollowing, abjection, like all the things that made Kara Kara had been ripped away. "Supergirl."

The doctor flinched at the sight of Alex. Looking after Supergirl was Agent Danvers's job, no one else's. She made quick work of the last two shards of Kryptonite and dropped them into the lead-lined bin. Supergirl flexed her hand a few times. "Thanks Doc."

The doctor forced a smile and scurried out, past Agent Danvers.

Alex had been doing well at avoiding seeing Kara. A glimpse of Supergirl on her TV screen was enough to make her heartrate flare in panic. But there had been Kryptonite. She'd gotten hurt.

She couldn't stay away if Kara was hurt.

But she hadn't seen Kara since she'd left her in her dark apartment, on her hands and knees, dirty and crying and humiliated. She'd thought the familiarity of it could make it okay--her Supergirl in the medbay, always too careless, needing a scolding. She'd managed it before. She'd been able to separate the Kara that was here from the memory in her nightmares, the one with eyes not cold but black with anger and hate.

But it had been easy then. Because Kara hating her only matched the way she felt about herself. But this--

Aching teeth, aching arms, the bunching of fabric around her knees, wet and rifled underwear, the stink of whiskey, the sting of it in her eyes.

She didn't know how to deal with this.

I don't know who you are anymore.

No. This was Kara. If she knew anyone, she knew Kara. And whatever was going on in her head, that hadn't been her Kara. Alex took a breath. "Are you all right?"

"Sure." Supergirl, head turned away, gave a half shrug. "Nothing I couldn't handle."

"It was Kryptonite, and you smashed it up with your fists." It hadn't looked like her Kara on the screens either. Kara was reckless, but she wasn't careless. It had been something that weakened her, should have destroyed her, and she had gone right for it, as if she'd wanted to be as weak as a human, wanted to strike and fight and be destroyed. If Alex was fucked up over this, how must Kara feel?

Supergirl looked down at her hands. The knuckles, bruised and raw, were already healing under the sunlamps. "Not enough Kryptonite."

"Kara." Soft, unhappy, she could see Kara droop at her tone. But Alex still stayed at the door, didn't move closer, didn't try to touch her. She couldn't.

It hurt to stay so far away when Kara looked like that. But the hollowness, the brokenness--her face, falling into hard lines and coldness, looked too much like it had with the cruel dismissals and threats she'd seen with the RedK. And Alex could feel the bones inside her arms trying to shake their way out. Offering comfort and then having another panic attack wouldn't make either of them feel better.

But worse was the tangle of echoes in her ears.

Beg me to fuck you . . . everything good I did . . . the only part of me you could ever have  . . . I want you to find love and be happy . . . never thought of you as my real sister. . . I have to go now.

I have to go now.

It was funny almost. Kara on RedK had tried to hurt her, had said every single thing she thought might hurt Alex. But it had been real Kara who had said the words that hurt the most.

RedK Kara had been wrong. Alex didn't want to possess her, control her. I just want to hold on. I just want to know you'll hold on to me. And if she wanted more Kryptonite, wanted enough so maybe next time she wouldn't come back--

"Kara." She hadn't meant it to come out with that weight of seriousness in her voice. Kara flinched at it. "I-- Maggie and Vasquez and, well, everyone, have been telling me that I need to talk about my feelings. But I'm not . . . maybe you should talk to someone too?"

"Who?" Kara snapped the word.

Alex recoiled. It was too much like the RedK. She hissed in a breath, grabbed the edge of the doorway until her knuckles squeaked.

"Winn? The hologram of my dead mother? Talk to them about how I'm selfish? How I can hear you panic and the only thing I can think about is how you were all I had left, and when I was stupidly freaking out that you were slipping away from me, I did this.  Like a child, I was so scared I'd break us, that I threw us on the floor, because at least then I wouldn't be afraid anymore."

"Kara. I need some time. But you haven't lost me. You won't."

"Why not? I've lost everyone else." Kara's head dropped, her hands cupping and covering her face. "If there's no one . . . I have no one, I wish you would have left me in outer space."

"Kara! You can't--" A flood of chill panic rushed over her. She couldn't be thinking about-- "Don't say things like that. You're so strong, Kara."

"Am I?" Kara lifted her head. "Then why am I never strong enough to hold onto people who keep slipping away? Why can't I stop them from leaving me?" She shook her head, her mane of golden hair falling about her shoulders. "Maybe I'm too strong. Whenever I try to hold onto people, I break them instead."

Alex swallowed down her fear. This was worse. She'd been wasting so much time being traumatized that she had let the most important thing slide. Kara couldn't think it would be better if she'd been left in space. That would never be better.

Alex took a breath. This wasn't how she'd pictured it. Kara, her Kara, was not supposed to be part of the catharsis. She had just wanted to chase RedK Kara out of her head. But Alex wanted to fight to get away and fail, and Kara wanted to hold on and succeed. This could all go wrong, but she needed to get past this. They needed to get past this. "Come over Friday."

Kara flinched, looking up, confusion written across her face. "You've just decided that you'll be okay by then? That seeing me won't give you a panic attack?"

Alex shook her head. "I . . . there's something I want to do." She huffed out a laugh. "Maybe it will give you a panic attack."

Kara's expression had gone soft, a little hopeful. And it was such a Kara expression that it looked strange without the glasses. "Whatever you want."

"No." Alex found herself smiling. "Don't say that. That isn't how this works. We need to talk about it. We need to make sure it's gonna be okay for both of us."

Kara nodded, and Alex moved to go.

"Alex," Kara called her back. "I just . . . when people say that the RedK isn't me, it doesn't make me feel better. They're not right."

"I know," Alex said. "That's why we need to talk."

#

When Kara showed up at Alex's apartment for the first time since the RedK incident, she could hardly breathe, stepping inside. No one had fixed the hole in the wall. A bottle of whiskey sat on the countertop. Alex wore the same tight t-shirt and fatigue trousers she'd been wearing when the RedK had hit.

"What is this?"

Alex ran a hand through her hair, making a face. "Maggie calls it 'play'. And that kind of stresses me out. But . . . whatever. If that's the term, that's the term."

This was making no sense. "You invited me here to play." Kara wrapped her arms around herself, holding herself tight the way she could hold no one else. "To play that night over again?"

Alex nodded, and cast a longing, but also revolted look toward the whiskey bottle. Kara stumbled backward, hitting the door so hard the plaster shook. "No. No way. I can't touch you like that again. I--"

"No!" Alex held up a hand. "I'm not asking for that. I-- Shit. We need to work this out."

"I did everything I could to humiliate and hurt you and you want to do it again?"

She'd been right about this giving Kara a panic attack. Kara's head was shrieking at her. She had to get out, she had to get out of here. She didn't remember how door handles worked. Don't just smash it open.

"I want to not be afraid anymore!"

The words cut through the panic. Kara gulped, her heart still racing. "What?"

Alex was rubbing her hands over her face, her shoulders bent in the way that was both self-protective and like spiked armor. "I haven't been able to not be afraid ever since that night. I mean, I'm a trained operative, and, abstractly, I know there was nothing I could have done. But it was you. Being scared for you and scared of you got all tangled up in my head. I need to know that I couldn't have done anything. I need you to hold me down, hold on, and no matter how I fight you, I need you to not let me go."

I need you to not let me go.

I need you.

"Okay."

"What?"

Kara tried to breathe in a reasonable way. She felt a little bit like she was going to have a heart attack. She hadn't thought this out, she hadn't listened to the whole thing. Alex wanted to fight, to struggle against her. She wanted her to play her RedK self. Kara wasn't supposed to want this. But Alex had asked her to not let her go. It felt selfish, her jealousy, her insecurity all wanted to do this. But Alex wanted it. If Alex really wanted it, was it so bad that she wanted it too?

"I-- I can hold on to you. I want to."

Alex was looking at her, not like a big sister, not like a colleague or a friend or a lover, but like someone who had given back her hope. She took a step toward her, and then lurched to the side, as if a puppeteer had decided she was moving in the wrong direction. She hurried to the table and scrabbled for a piece of paper.

"Okay, okay good. I have a checklist, before we do this. Um. So, boundaries, safeword, um. Okay."

"You have a checklist?"

Alex, frantic and off-center, pointed at her. "This isn't some sort of weird sex thing. I mean, it is. That's where the checklist is from. But this isn't." Her finger waggled between them.

Kara couldn't help but glance at the hole in the wall, the place she'd let her hands move over Alex, find the soft fleshy bits she wasn't supposed to have. No one had said the word, she couldn't think the word, but she wasn't supposed to touch Alex like that. She never wanted to touch anyone like that.

She heard Alex's heartbeat accelerate. "I guess that's the first question. You said, um, you said that the RedK isn't not you. And you-- how do you really feel about my, my being gay?"

Disgusting, she'd said. She made you dirty, she'd said.

Kara pressed her face into her hands. "I'm fine with it, I'm--"

"Kara, I-- I'm such a hypocrite saying this, but we need to practice telling the truth. Even if it's not so pretty. This won't work if we don't."

They were supposed to talk, not lie. Kara nodded. "Okay." She took a breath. "I don't like thinking about it. It's not the gay part, I just hate thinking about you and sex in the same thought. It's-- I don't know why. I don't even know what I think about sex, except that it's everywhere and it makes me feel gross and unhappy. And thinking about people touching you makes me think about them touching me, and I don't want that."

"Oh."

Kara peeked. Alex's not-quite smile was gentle, like she got it. "Oh?"

Alex shook her head, half grinning. "You know how I always would complain to you about stupid boys and bad dates? And how you would just be like, 'it's not like it's important'." She did a terrible imitation of teen Kara's voice and Kara glared. Alex laughed. "You were so supportive in your weird alien way. 'On Krypton we don't have sex.' Now, I have done extensive research and that is 100% bullshit."

Kara made a face. "I was twelve when I left. We had a birthing matrix. It was a reasonable assumption to make."

Alex snorted. "Whatever. It's just, you made me feel like I wasn't a complete failure for not being into it. And I love you for that."

Kara shrugged. "If you're a complete failure, I'm even worse."

"It's not a failing. You made that clear. And Maggie--" Kara flinched. Alex swallowed and focused. "Maggie has been very clear about how people are different. She doesn't push me when I'm not into it. And, I like women." Alex wrinkled her nose, and Kara felt sick again. "I like hanging out with girls and talking to girls and watching TV with girls. I like kissing girls. I like making the people I care about happy. But most of the time I don't really want anyone to pay too much attention to me. Maggie won't touch me if I don't want her to."

She was saying nearly exactly what Kara had wanted to hear all along. And it was too late.

"I did."

Alex nodded. "But we hadn't talked about this. I know it's awkward to talk about sex stuff, but if you were having a hard time with it, I wish you would have told me."

"I didn't want you to tell me that you'd finally discovered that sex was great and that I really should try it."

Alex snorted. "Yeah. I've heard that enough too."

It felt like the first brick of the wall between them had fallen away. Kara hadn't realized that the wall had been built on top of her chest until it started to break and she could breathe again. Alex wasn't a completely different person than she'd built her up to be. She wasn't suddenly normal in one of the ways they had always been strange together.

"So, limits, nothing here or here," Alex made vague indicative circles. "No trying to get me to come."

"Can I kiss you?"

Alex froze, and Kara choked. She needed to stop speaking without thinking.

"I mean, not that I want to, but like, if I did, would it be bad? I--"

Alex ducked her head, hair swinging to protect her face. "I don't think it would be a problem. So, if you're so moved, go for it. No tongue."

Kara laughed, a little hysterically. "Yeah, cuz I want to kiss my sister with tongue."

Alex raised an eyebrow. "I'm kind of thinking that since we're doing a BDSM checklist, ixnay on the istersay."

"You don't--" Everything was like whiplash right now. "You don't want me to call you my sister?"

Alex's eyes went wide and she shook her head too fast. "No. That's not what I meant. You are my sister. You're my baby sister and you always will be. But, you're an alien, and I'm really fucked up. So, using 'sister' as a shorthand, or a deflection, rather than actually explaining how you feel, it's cheating. Telling the truth, right?"

Kara nodded slowly. "Okay. Okay." She took a breath and tried to sort out the feelings behind her previous statement. "I think, what I meant to say, is that if you say 'no tongue', then I won't kiss you with tongue, because I don't want to make you uncomfortable, and I don't want to lose you." She felt like crying. It was hard to be honest. "That . . . maybe that's what I mean when I say 'sister'. It means I don't want to lose you."

"And when you said 'I've never thought of you as my real sister'?"

Her eyes stung. She remembered Alex's face after she'd said that. "If you were my real sister I wouldn't be so afraid of losing you. That's what I meant."

Alex nodded. "Yeah." She nodded again. "Yeah. That's what 'sister' means to me too. Family's the strongest, right? Even if everything goes to shit, you're still my family."

Kara tried to stop crying. She shook her head, gulping down the rush of tears. "What's next on the list? No sex. Same limits for me, and I don't-- I can't deal with hurting you anymore. If you fight me and you want me to be full strength, I need you to tell me to stop before I break a bone or do real damage."

Alex nodded. "Right, um, safewords. That's next. How about two? One for stop and one for readjust for less damage. You're okay with bruises? I want bruises."

Kara nodded. Alex seeking out pain always scared her. But she couldn't stop her from wanting that. "I guess. No blood. Nothing cracking or breaking or anything like that. I'll-- I won't be able to deal with that."

"So we could just do Green Yellow Red--"

Kara almost buckled. She shook her head.

"Right. Yeah, that wouldn't be great." With RedK, 'red' sounded like fear.

"Bumblebees and Kittens?"

Alex laughed. "Yeah, that's good. That's good. Bumblebees for break, and Kittens for cut scene." Then she dropped into a chair, still laughing. "Fuck," she said. "Fuck." The laughing was too high-pitched. "That's the list. So, um, we're going to do this, aren't we? I'm going to play a scene with my sister."

"Ixnay on the istersay."

Alex narrowed her eyes at Kara. "You dork."

"I'm not the one who started the pig latin!"

"Bumblebees and Kittens?"

"Whatever! As if any conversation we have while I'm hopped up on RedK would ever mention those things. That means it's me. Not her."

Alex snorted. "And that's why this is so absurd. Nothing to do with you being my sister, it's just I'm gonna do this with Kara."

Kara made a face. "I can be edgy."

Alex was smiling at her then, smiling in the way that made Kara want to put her arms around her, need to put her arms around her. She took a step, and the tension that shuddered through Alex's body froze her where she stood. They couldn't just go back.

Not yet.

#

Kara stepped through the door, her hair in a braid, Alex's biggest leather jacket straining over her arms. Tight jeans. It wasn't RedK Kara, but it wasn't CatCo Kara either. It was a costume, a performance.

Alex stood up, as if the door had been locked, her hand going for her gun. Kara turned and shot the deadbolt home. When she turned back, Alex had the gun raised, pulsing lightly with her elevated heart-rate. "What are you doing here? What do you want?"

A flash so quick she was invisible, Kara grasped Alex's arms, crushing them into her side, the gun dropping from her jarred hands and tumbling to the floor. It clicked as it hit, unloaded, and nothing happened. Alex tried to jerk her arms out of the vise of Kara's grip. Kara let her go, and she stumbled back, bumping into a chair and crashing into the wall. Kara, slow as a human, paced toward her. "I'm here for you."

Panic filled Alex's face, she groped at the wall as if for a door handle. Was this the moment she was going to safeword out? But Alex's expression hardened, like her agent cloak had dropped over it. "You can't take me without a fight."

"Maybe that's what I'm looking for." Kara reached out, and Alex dodged the human-speed attack, slipping out of range, tumbling into a roll, going for her gun. Kara whirled and snagged her ankle, arresting her motion, jerking her to a stop. Alex slammed into the floor. Kara dropped her.

Alex gasped, tried to right herself, tried to get up. But Kara was floating, a foot above her, and reached out, snagging the arm that she was supporting herself with, knocking it out from under her. Alex landed flat on her back on the floor.

"Come on," Kara floated closer. "Try to get away. I won't let you. I won't let you."

Alex arched, kicking up with both feet, and it hit Kara like it hit a steel wall, but the pressure sent Alex skidding backwards, out from under her, and she was up, running for the door.

In a flash, Kara was in front of her, and Alex ran smack into her chest. Kara caught her wrists, and bodily thrust her into the wall.

It was the same wall, a familiar dent already for her head. Kara's fingers flexed against her wrists, tightening and releasing, leaving marks that would bruise, that would ache, like Alex wanted. She couldn't get away. Kara wouldn't let her get away.

Flashes of Maggie--of her new friends--of her going off on her own again, and Kara's grip tightened until she heard bones grind against each other. Alex let out a tiny cry. She struggled, twisted, kicked. But Kara leaned in, letting her two inches of height and superstrength give her leverage. "I hate seeing you happy without me."

Alex was panting now, sweaty and wet. Kara could smell her arousal. It was a familiar scent, and knowing that it meant nothing, that Alex wanted nothing from it, made her able to breathe it in, lean in, and scent her skin without fear.

A crunch, and Alex shoved one hand halfway through the wall and wrenched it out of her grasp. She swiveled, reaching behind her back and came out with a knife. The blade glowed a phosphorescent green. She swung, and Kara blocked the strike. The knife skittered across the floor. Kara whirled and slapped Alex across the face.

"Stop trying to get away from me!"

Alex's head snapped to the side, and she was gasping, the heat of her body nearly doubling. Her heartbeat was going crazy. Then she lunged toward the door. Kara grabbed her around the waist and swung her up onto her shoulder.

"Hey!" Alex started kicking at her, striking her back. But the blows were weak. "Don't-- don't do this."

No safeword. They were fine.

Kara carted Alex into the bedroom and dropped her onto her bed. Tears were streaking Alex's cheeks, and she scuttled back on her hands, trying to find a good direction to escape. But Kara stood between her and the door, lifting up off the ground so she could loom more effectively. Alex, teary and breathing heavily below her, was still aware, still fighting, not like she'd been before, when she'd been helpless and weak and broken.

Slowly, Kara peeled off the leather jacket. The black tanktop underneath exposed her arms, and she saw Alex's eyes flicker to them as she flexed just a little, and then flinch away. Kara took a hard breath. "Look at me."

Alex's eyes went wide. Kara slowly unfastened her braid, let her hair fall over her shoulders. Then she reached into her back pocket and took out her glasses. She slid them on, and all she could see was Alex.

"Say my name."

Alex, through rough breaths, not looking away, murmured a word. "Kara."

There had always been something about the way Alex said her name, the way it framed her, exhausting little sister, mostly, but also the other way she said it, coming for her in the Black Mercy, begging her for forgiveness for killing the one blood family member she had left, needing her. And there was need in this one. So much.

That was the person she'd always wanted to be, the one that Alex needed.

Kara dropped onto her, pushing her wrists against the mattress, her weight pinning her down. Alex gasped, then fought again, struggling, trying to get a knee up, a foot in her gut. Kara stayed neutral, letting her fight, letting her try to push her away, but not moving. She was a blanket of rock.

Alex fought and fought, uselessly, and she cried as she fought, sobbing, snuffling out something that might be wordless cries, or might be words. Kara held on, pressing her nose against the wet skin of Alex's neck, breathing in her scent. "Don't," she heard Alex say. "Don't let go."

"I won't. I promise."

"Don't leave me." The words were choked between tears, and still she rocked, as if maybe she thought she could still get out.

Kara shook her head.

"You did. You did. You went to space. You told me you had to go."

"You brought me back. You brought me home."

"Don't do that. Don't do that again. And don't tell me to be happy. I'm never going to be happy. Never."

"You would be fine--"

"Never!" And Alex suddenly had the leverage to knee her in the gut. It was a surprise, and the blow was hard enough that Kara felt it, it knocked the wind out of her.

And she got it.

She got it.

Kara slammed Alex's wrists back down into the bed. She dropped her weight onto her hips, like a cannonball, and then released her wrists, and slapped her again. "You don't get to be happy without me. Okay? I don't want to see it, and I don't want to hear about it. If you are, it's because I'm letting you be. Because you are mine and I'm not letting you go!"

Alex had let out sharp cry at the strike, gulped down air and spit and tears. And now she started to cry again. But not ugly sobs. Soft relief seemed to well behind her eyes.

"I'm going to kiss you now. Is that okay?"

Wordless, Alex just pushed her head forward, up toward her, seeking her, her fingers fluttering down toward where Kara held her wrists immobilized.

Kara shifted up and placed a kiss on her lower lip, on her upper one, not letting her kiss back, taking each one as she pleased, and keeping her captive. Alex was pressing up into the kisses, trying to meet her, trying to give back, like she always did. And Kara felt herself starting to cry also.

"I love you." Kara rained kisses across her face, pressed her mouth against Alex's ear. "I love you so much."

"Kara."

Hearing her name like that, knowing she was needed, seen--was that all that she'd wanted?

It was enough.

#

Alex lay under Kara's weight, her body aching. She could feel the bruises forming. But it was clean pain. Only the kind of pain she liked. Kara made a slight move to shuffle off of her, but Alex made a noise of resistance, held on harder, and Kara relaxed, squashing her just a little more. It was perfect.

Gently, Kara's fingers made circles over her cheek, so softly, just enough to test the softness. They skated across the corner of her lip and Alex moved into them, to kiss at the fingerpads lightly. She tipped her chin and encouraged Kara's fingers between her lips, drawing them in further with her teeth and sucking on them. Kara's soft surprise sounded in her ear and Alex let her eyes blink open to see Kara watching her. Alex bit a little at her fingers and Kara pressed her head against Alex's, weighing her down just a little more.

Alex moved her head, letting the fingers slip away, and pressed a kiss against Kara's neck. "Was it okay? Are you okay?"

"Yeah." Kara's fingers slid up the back of her neck, tangling in her hair. "I love you."

"I know."

"I didn't-- I didn't think I would like hurting you. And I don't. But it was like training, making sure it was just enough, that I stayed in control." Kara picked up one of Alex's hands and brought it to her mouth, blowing freeze breath across the handprint she'd left on her wrist. "In control, but not pretending to be a human. And still Kara."

"You're always Kara," Alex muttered. "Fancy costumes don't change that."

"Not to you." Kara leaned into her again. "I'm selfish sometimes. I always have to stop it, tell myself that I'm being bad. But you wanted me to be selfish. It-- it felt like I'd been suffocating, and finally I could breathe."

"You're not bad. Being honest about your feelings isn't being bad."

Kara snuffled in her ear, she was going to cry now, and Alex had just stopped, but knew she'd start again if Kara did. "I'm not perfect."

"Oh, please. Who has ever thought you were? You're a little brat, that's what you are."

Alex ran her hand up Kara's side, tickling, and Kara yelped, and struggled a bit, but not away, just buried herself further into Alex. She sat on a bruise. Alex didn't mind that at all.

"I want to stay here forever." Kara's grip tightened on her. "I want to just hold you."

"Any time you want."

Kara gave a sad little snort.

"No, I mean it." Alex gripped her arms and squirmed around until she could look her in the face. "You don't have to give me up for me to have a life. You're always going to be my most important thing. If you decide that you want to sleep in my bed with me every night, you can. Maggie can deal. She will deal. You're my baby sister. Girlfriends may come and go, but if you try to take off into outer space again, you better believe I'm coming after you. Wherever you go, I will follow you."

"I wish I could give you anything that could even partly make up for what you sacrificed for me."

"Kara." Alex reached up to cup Kara's head and slide her fingers into her hair. "I have you. That's more than enough."

She tugged her down and kissed her. And Kara kissed back. They kissed until Alex, on a break and remerge, tasted the salt tears that had run down Kara's face, until her lips ached from it, and then they kissed for longer than that.

#

"Jesus Christ, Alex. Your face is green. How's your top feel about that?"

Alex gave an awkward grin. "She keeps freeze-breathing it. I tell her that it won't help it heal, it needs blood flow, but she doesn't want it to hurt."

"Lucky she didn't break your fucking jaw." Maggie shook her head. "Fucking rush though, subbing for an alien."

Alex nodded. "And its Kara . . . you're okay that we-- do that sometimes?"

"Whatever you need, babe. And the kissing is cute to watch. A little like 'marriage goals' rather than either sexy or sisterly, but fucking cute."

Alex ducked her head. "It feels like it should be weird. But it's just . . . nice."

Maggie snorted, then she waved her hand in dismissal. "Like, I get it. I really do. You haven't met Lee, but yeah, I get it. And yet, it's still hilarious, because I've seen all of the bruises she's left on you, and I've never seen you happy like this."

"The panic's gone. We talked enough. The things she said, the things she did on RedK, I know why she did them now. I know her. That was the scariest part, thinking I didn't."

Maggie wrapped her good arm around her waist and squeezed. "Look at you. Communication is hot on you, Danvers."

Alex shook her head. "It probably would have been better to not 'communicate' the week before a family holiday though. Timing is key."

Maggie grimaced. "Oh my god, your mom is coming to town? And Kara can't lie worth shit."

"Precisely."

Alex figured the more people at the party, the less her mom would interrogate her about her visibly terrible life choices. Her apartment was full. Kara was flitting around in a floral print dress and looking truly at peace for the first time in a long time. Other things in her life had needed sorting also. An email from Cat had fixed a lot of that. Supergirl got a monthly OpEd in CatCo Magazine, and Kara Danvers had transitioned into production. She liked project management better than reporting. Also, she was the boss, which, she realized, was really what Cat had trained her for. Being the boss meant A. having standards, and B. fixing everyone else's problems. She was good at B, and if she was worried about A, she just had to ask herself, what would Cat do? and the answer was easy.

"Alexxx." Kara wound her arms around her sister from behind and took the beer bottle from her hand. She sniffed it, took a sip, and then pressed a kiss to Alex's ear. "That's root beer, in case you didn't notice?"

Alex snorted. "Someone's gotta keep a clear head. If I tell mom where I got these bruises we're gonna die."

Kara's grip tightened enough that Alex couldn't breathe. "Kara."

Kara released her. "Right," she squeaked. "Right."

"'RedK incident, I don't want to talk about it.' That's all you have to say. It's not even a lie. We've practiced this."

"Right," Kara said again.

The doorbell rang and Winn got it, letting in Eliza and her bags of filled cookies. "Lovely to see you again Winn, Maggie, oh Kara-- Alex?"

Kara waved her arms helplessly. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, Eliza. There was a thing, and the wall--" She gestured at the still busted wall, where a painting hung awkwardly over the dent. "And I didn't break her arm this time, but I said such awful things, and I needed to show her how much I lov--"

Alex stepped in behind Kara and covered her mouth. "Hi mom. It's not as bad as it looks. RedK incident."

Kara made a soft agreeing squeak behind the hand. Eliza glanced suspiciously around--at Winn, who had put six and six together and got sixty-nine and wanted to not think about it in public, and at Maggie who was clearly trying not to snort with laughter, and at James who was clearly out of the loop, and then at Vasquez, who was sitting with her boots up on the coffee table and just shaking her head.

"As long as you're all right, Alex."

"Yeah, mom." She tightened her grip on Kara enough for her to know that there was no harm done. "I'm feeling pretty good these days."

She released Kara, who turned in her arms, smiling up at her, happy to hear that. "Me too," she said, and kissed Alex square on the lips.

Everyone froze.

The only sound was the bag of cookies slipping out of Eliza's hands and landing on the floor.

###