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Splice World (The Sanvers Jurassic Park AU)

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Alex gets the call just when she’s getting into the swing of things in her lab. She’s looking at a new strand of DNA, trying to identify the discrete gene sequences to figure out what seven or eight fucking things were spliced together to create the hissing monstrosity in the glass cage behind her. It looks like a squat lizard, its belly dragging on the ground, but it can also fly and shoot a toxic blue goo out of its nose.

It is, to state it mildly, a very unpleasant creature.

But the call comes, so, with a sigh, she trots down to the armory and suits up. She gets in her standard uniform – the all-black spandex underlayer, the matte black armor that covers everything but her head, the helmet with the faceshield and neckguard, the extra high-tech padding on her forearms to guard against bites and general mauling. She peppers her various holsters with weapons – knives, stunners, tranquillizer guns, and her favorite assault rifle strapped close against her back.

She triple checks the laces on her lucky boots before jogging up to the lobby and forming up with the team she commands. She fits her comm into her ear under her helmet as her unit, Trap Team, forms up and moves to the tactical vans.

It’s something within National City, then, if they’re taking the vans instead of the helicopters or cargo planes.

Good.

She has a dinner date she doesn’t want to miss.

They get briefed on the way. There’s a saber-tooth tiger loose in the commercial district. Apparently it gored several people in an H&M before the local shops were able to go on lockdown. Last report is that the tiger is shut inside an evacuated TJ Maxx down on Spruce Street. Alex quickly devises a plan – two backup teams will surround the building, one team will remain in the van and scan the area for disturbances in case the tiger has finished shopping and has left the store. Alex’ team will enter the store and, hopefully, tranq the tiger.

She emphasizes to all teams the mantra they all already know by heart. Lethal force is a last resort. None of this is the ExClo’s fault.

They arrive at the TJ Maxx, and they pile out of the vans. Alex’s team forms up around her. She quickly checks everyone’s armor. A saber-tooth isn’t by any means the scariest thing they’ll face this week, but she doesn’t want anyone making a stupid mistake on such a routine call.

The beta team leader gets on the comms to announce that there’s no sign of the tiger having left the store.

“Guess he’s a maxxinista,” Alex deadpans into the comm, and she could swear that she hears two of the agents on her team quietly snort behind her.

After a moment to settle in, on her mark, they all quietly enter the store.

They clear handbags, perfume, and menswear – moving in a swift and deadly silence, sliding through the store like a menacing black fog – before they find the tiger amongst the evening dresses. His tooth, nearly as long as Alex’s hand, is caught on a horrible purple combination of tool and rhinestones, and Alex has nothing but pity for him as she double-taps tranqs into his heart.

She oversees his extraction, carefully stroking his fur and checking his body for injuries as he’s loaded into the transport van waiting at the curb. “Poor fang,” she says softly, pulling a rhinestone off his cheek. “It’s not your fault, little guy. We’ll get you cleared up in no time. Soon you’ll be running around a preserve with a pack, hunting small stupid critters to your heart’s content, okay, stud?” She scratches the belly of the 800-pound cat that naturally went extinct over 10,000 years ago.

With a final pat to his belly, she signals the transport team to head out. They pull away from the curb, and that’s when the monster springs out of nowhere, tackling her to the ground and sinking his fangs into her body before she even hits the concrete.

She shoves him off herself, managing to pull her gun out of her holster and hitting him with three tranqs before anyone else can recover from their surprise.

She’ll be having quite the word about that with her team once they’re safely back at base.

The monster collapses, sinking bonelessly to the ground. Alex quickly checks her body, pleased to see that one of his fangs wasn’t able to penetrate her forearm armor at all.

So just the one puncture wound to her side, then. Not too bad, unless he’s venomous or something.

Vasquez darts up and flips the monster onto his back so they can see his face, and Alex lets out a long and frustrated sigh. “Seriously?” she whines to Vasquez. “A human ExClo? We put one of the most dangerous killers in Earth’s history in the van without a scratch, and I got popped by a fucking splicer?”

Vasquez just claps her on the shoulder. “Bad luck, Cap.”

Alex rolls her eyes as she stalks away. “Call for another containment van,” she calls over her shoulder, hoping her voice sounds casual even though the wound in her side is starting to throb.

 


 

The wound in her side is fine. The DEO’s doctor stitches her up while Alex checks out own her blood in her microscope. No sign of a toxin or venom, and her stitches don’t dissolve or fall apart or catch fire like that one time last year, so she and the doctor are pretty sure it’s a straightforward stabbing.

Finally, one thing going right today.

Alex stalks down to the containment cells for human prisoners. Her attacker is sitting glumly in his cell, and Alex takes a moment to observe him through the one-way glass before entering the room. He’s definitely the one who cloned the saber-tooth, because he also clearly spliced saber-tooth genes into his own DNA structure as well, the idiot. He has a glossy orange and white coat – although the coloring probably came from the genes of a different tabby, Alex notes – and upright tufted ears like a cat. He still has hands, but his palms are rounded and rough like the pad of cat’s foot, and he has some serious nails going on, although they don’t seem retractable. The four-inch fangs protruding from his mouth are a bit of a genetic give-away.

“Ugly fucker, isn’t he,” she mutters to J’onn.

Her boss nods, his arms crossed over his chest. “You owe me ten bucks,” he says, not taking his eye off the splicer. “Less than a month since the last time you got popped by a zombie.”

Even though she’s pissed – both about the bet and about getting popped – Alex lets herself enjoy the ping of satisfaction. She was the one who came up with the nickname zombie for human ExClo’s, back years ago. She was using it as an insult one night, drunk out of her mind at a bar, but it’s become so popular that J’onn doesn’t even bother to correct it in reports anymore.

She rolls her eyes at him. “Double or nothing,” she challenges. “If I get him to confess to both illegal breeding and human splicing in less than ten minutes, you owe me ten bucks, plus the dinner of my choice.”

He barely smiles, but she can see his eyes crinkling in his reflection in the glass. “Deal.”

She gets the confession in just eight minutes. He’s exceptionally cowardly for a zombie. Alex only has to threaten him once with releasing an ExClo predator on him – something she would never actually do – before he’s folding like a wet napkin, babbling out a confession around his ridiculous fangs, pleading with her for mercy that she has absolutely no plans to give him. She has no pity to spare for humans dumb enough to think it’s a good idea to put extinct DNA into their own genetic codes. And especially not when they also illegally cloned extinct animals and didn’t care for them properly.

Letting a saber get lose in National City, honestly. What a fucking idiot.

She fucking hates zombies, and she fucking hates hybrids and the dipshit splicers who make them.

J’onn happily pays up, absently overseeing the zombie’s transfer to long-term containment as he calls in Alex’s usual order from the Chinese place out near her house.

Alex checks her stitches one more time, pops her head into the ExClo rehab center on the ground floor and happily watches the saber run around, snapping his teeth at the birds fluttering around his head, before she leaves the building. She hops on her bike and, with a quick detour to pick up her food, finally heads home.

Just in time for her date.

 


 

Although, of course, Alex is accosted by her neighbor as she’s unloading the bag of food from her bike.

This neighbor, whose name Alex honestly doesn’t even know, is the bane of Alex’s entire existence. She’d come over once last year to borrow an egg, (“although,” she’d chirped, making herself nearly hysterical with glee at the very creative joke, “it’s not like I’m going to give it back!”) and hadn’t left for two hours. And now she seems to think it’s her job to pop up and let Alex know what she thinks of Alex’s diet (“oh, look, more takeout!”) and clothing choices (“I like that sweater. I notice it every week when you wear it”) and solitary nature (“I’ll never understand why someone as young and pretty as you never has people over”) and interior decorating (“why on earth would you make a bungalow this size into a studio? Don’t you like walls?”).

Since Alex hadn’t been paying attention last year when she’d introduced herself, Alex thinks of her as Mrs. Macaw.

Whenever splicers want to make an animal mimic human speech, they use threads of macaw genes; apparently the endless chatting of macaws can breed true down generations. It seems to fit the situation at hand quite nicely.

Alex had made the early mistake of defending her home’s structure by telling Mrs. Macaw that she has an open floor plan for when she has large numbers of people over, and Mrs. Macaw had pleasantly fired back with the statistic that Alex has never had a single person over in the years she’s lived there. And Alex has been playing catch-up ever since.

Tonight it takes her about ten minutes to shake Mrs. Macaw off, her stomach growing and her side throbbing the entire time. And it’s not like she can tell Mrs. Macaw about her date, because that would prompt all types of questions that Alex simply can’t answer. So she just nods and grunts in what seems like the right places and visualizes how she could splice a silent animal’s DNA into Mrs. Macaw’s genetic code to shut her up permanently.

Mrs. Macaw wants to talk about the saber, although of course she has no idea Alex was anywhere near it. “I mean,” she’s gushing, “the idea that someone would clone something so dangerous, here in the city, it’s just preposterous! These ExClo monsters all need to be put down, I always say!”

“I don’t think it’s the saber’s fault that he got made,” Alex says through gritted teeth, for probably the tenth time this month. “Making an extinct clone is stupid, but it’s not the animal’s fault.”

“ExClo’s aren’t animals!” Mrs. Macaw shoots back, and Alex feels a tension headache growing in her temple. “They’re artificial creatures, and I for one don’t want them in our city.”

And Alex has already told her, about five times, that ExClo’s are not allowed in the city, and that dangerous ExClo’s are more highly regulated than nuclear warheads, but she knows it won’t sink in.

She just sighs, and mumbles something neutral, and finally, finally, heads inside.

She feels the tension drain out of herself as she closes the door to her house behind her. She loves her house. She’s lived here for about two years now, and it’s by far the best living arrangement she’s ever had. She’s not quite outside of the city, although she’s on the edge. But the best part is the way her backyard borders on a closed nuclear site, so it’s uninhabited and relatively wild forest as far as the eye can see behind her. It’s a closed site, fencing forty feet high, topped with barbed wire and razor wire, which, plus the threat of nuclear annihilation, tends to keep even the reckless teens out.

So even though Alex is only a ten-minute drive to work, it feels like she lives in the forest.

And her house itself is small, a bungalow really, but it has high ceilings and plenty of windows and light. And it’s a studio, so it’s airy and spacious and bright. And if Mrs. Macaw doesn’t understand why she tore down the walls when she bought it, well.

Fuck Mrs. Macaw, really.

Alex drops her helmet and her work bag off on her kitchen counter before walking over to the red and blue rug between her counter and her couch. She rolls it back and opens up the trap door, nimbly climbing down the ladder rungs, bag of takeout still in her hand. She closes the door above her head, activating the tunnel lights at the same time. The tunnel stretches out in front of her, wide and tall and inviting.

She mentally thanks herself, as she does every time she comes down now, for replacing all the harsh industrial light bulbs with this softer, more yellow light. It’s honestly homey down here now.

Alex hops on the bike waiting for her – a cross between a motorcycle and an ATV that Alex built herself back when she was eighteen – and speeds off down the tunnel.

She clicks the remote for the exit doors at the red strip of paint (one crash into those doors at full speed was enough to cure her ill-placed pride that she’d just know when to click it) and she doesn’t even edge off the throttle as she leaves the tunnel behind and rides out into the forest.

She rides for about two minutes – not on any particular path, just weaving between the trees – before she comes to a stop. She whistles, high and clear, in three short bursts before howling like a wolf.

And before the last echo of her howl fades away, she hears the telltale snap of a stick behind her and to her left.

“I heard that,” she calls out, not bothering to hide her grin.

There’s a loud hissing sound behind her, and Alex turns in her seat, craning her head around behind her.

“What! It’s not my fault your clumsy ass stepped on a branch, Gertrude.”

Gertrude snorts and firmly nudges her nose into Alex’s body, careful to apply enough just force to topple Alex off the bike onto the ground without doing her any real damage.

But, of course, Gert didn’t know about Alex’s wound.

Alex hisses in pain as she hits the ground, and Gert changes immediately, snapping into protective mode. She scans the forest, nostrils flaring, her mouth open, her six-inch teeth gleaming in the fading light. Her head is on swivel as she slowly turns around, standing upright on her muscular hind legs, hair tail swaying angrily, her forelegs and toes moving through the air like she’s ready to rip the head off of whatever hurt Alex.

When she doesn’t detect a threat, she realizes she was the one to cause Alex pain, and she changes again. She pads over to Alex, her tail drooping in contrition, faint worried chirruping noises absently coming from her mouth as she smells Alex carefully, her enormous snout almost brushing along Alex’s body. She stops over Alex’s wound, clearly smelling her blood. She looks into Alex’s eyes and makes a little keening noise, and Alex’s heart clenches.

God, she loves this girl so much.

“Shh, Gert, baby I’m okay,” she murmurs, reaching up to cup Gertrude’s head in her hands, gently stroking up and down along her snout and scratching under her jaw.

The seven-foot tall velociraptor basically melts into a lapdog, her eyes partially closing in bliss. “You didn’t hurt me, baby,” Alex tells her. “I know you’d never hurt me.”

Gert butts her head into Alex’s chest, for all the world like a Labrador that needs comfort after a long day alone.

Alex is more than happy to indulge, but when her stomach rumbles a few minutes later, Gert lets out a little whine that Alex knows extremely well, and Alex knows cuddle time is over.

It’s time to eat.

“Alright, my extinct friend,” Alex says, placing her hand on Gert’s head to help lever herself up without ripping her stitches. “Dinnertime.”

Gert positively squeals, letting out her happiest and most excited series of trills and hisses. Alex laughs as she gets back on her bike. “Hungry, girl?”

Gert, standing upright on her hind legs, paws at the dirt under her claws, leaving long furrows in the dirt. She’s ready.

Alex revs her throttle and takes off without warning. An indignant squawk comes from behind her, and Alex cackles as Gert draws even with her and gives her a positively withering look with one eye.

They zip through the forest, Gert in charge of their direction. Alex keeps up easily, loving the feeling of the wind in her hair and her best friend running at her side. Gert’s head is swinging back and forth, sniffing the air and using all of her genetic abilities to track down some prey. She has to be an even better predator than her ancestors were, because she doesn’t have a pack. She just has Alex.

Just Alex, who is on a motorcycle loud enough to scare most of her prey.

But raptors are social animals, and Alex is her pack – her alpha – and if her alpha makes a rudely loud noise when they’re hunting, well. Gertrude can handle it.

In fact, it’s less than fifteen minutes before she finds the scent of what Alex is pretty sure is a wild boar.

The caged nature of the nuclear facility means that introducing herds of prey – as long as they can’t slip through the fence or fly – is the easiest thing in the world.

Gert breaks into a small clearing and Alex gets her first view of the boar. It’s a big fucker, grisly and tusked and dripping with a foamy drool as it desperately tries to outrun the velociraptor.

Poor ugly idiot. He doesn’t stand a chance.

Gertrude looks over at Alex, a low hiss escaping her jaws.

Alex nods at her, crisp and firm. “Go hunt,” she says in a commanding voice, giving a clear motion with her hand.

And she could swear Gertrude grins as she leaps forward, pouncing on the boar and tearing its throat out in one smooth motion.

Alex brings the bike to a halt but stays in the saddle. “Gert,” she calls, and Gert looks up from her dinner. There’s blood smeared all over her snout, but she hasn’t taken a single bite since her killing blow.

“Is it safe?” Alex asks her, and Gert immediately begins stalking around the clearing, smelling the air and hissing.

After two complete circuits, she makes her loudest noise, a sort of low trill that carries further than it seems like it would. It’s her all-clear sign, how she indicates to Alex that their immediate area is safe and how she communicates to all the other animals where she is, so they’d best stay away.

Excellent. Alex nods. “Go eat,” she commands, pointing to the boar, and Gert doesn’t waste a second before trilling happily and tearing into the carcass.

As Alex climbs down off her bike she feels a rush of pride fill her body. It had been hard enough to teach Gert to hunt only on her command – she’s an apex predator, for god’s sake – but this was something no one, not even J’onn, had thought Alex would be able to teach her.

But Gert is smart. She knows Alex is her pack, and she knows Alex is fragile in some ways. About a year and a half ago Gert had brought down a boar, much like this one, and while she’d been feeding his mate had charged Alex, goring her in a pretty serious way.

Alex had nearly bled out on her way to the DEO hospital.

Gert had been distraught for weeks, and Alex had tirelessly worked with her until Gert learned to only eat on Alex’s signal, and then again until she learned the command for clearing an area.

But now she knows how to protect Alex, even when her instincts are screaming at her to feast. She always, always, puts Alex’s safety first. She’s the best partner Alex can imagine.

Even if she’s a bit messy as a dinner date.

Alex pulls her Chinese takeout out of her bike and settles on the ground, happily eating her potstickers and kung pao chicken to the wet sounds of Gert ripping flesh off bones.

J’onn forgot to order her chicken without the celery so, after Gert finishes with the boar, Alex entertains both of them by using her chopsticks to flick the celery pieces over to Gert, who snatches them out of the air with a snap of her jaws that looks completely ridiculous for such tiny prey.

Tired and full, Gert wobbles over to Alex and curls up next to her, her tail encircling Alex’s entire body. Alex rubs her absently, scratching the places she knows can get itchy.

Alex tells Gert about her day. About the poor saber-tooth ExClo, held in captivity in the city for probably his whole life. Alex didn’t need to see any files to know the poor boy was illegal; no ExClo’s are allowed in the city limits, not even harmless prey animals. Sabers are some of the most highly regulated ExClo’s in the world. Only a fucking idiot would breed one in an inhabited area. Not to mention one of the biggest cities in the world.

And, speaking of fucking idiots, Alex tells Gert about the fucking asshole who’d bred the fang and then, unsatisfied, had spliced himself with the ExClo genes. “Fucking zombie stabbed me,” Alex tells her, and Gert snorts indignantly. “I know! I thought it was rude too.”

Gert bares her teeth, some blood still shimmering on them, and Alex laughs. “Yeah, I did consider feeding him to you, yes. But I don’t think he’d taste very good.” Alex rubs her side and Gert leans into her hand. “Only the best for my girl, huh?”

Gert snorts in agreement.

After a moment, Gert turns her head to the takeout container, where one last potsticker sits. She snorts in demand, and Alex pushes her head away. The potsticker was distinctly not what she meant just now.

“Uh, no!” Alex tuts firmly. “That last potsticker is mine.”

Gertrude makes a very undignified snort of disagreement, but Alex isn’t swayed. “You had a whole dinner. This is mine! Plus, I’ve given you four!”

But her dinosaur just bares her teeth, shiny and long and deadly in the moonlight, the threat clear.

And Alex knows Gert would never actually hurt her, but she’s always been a sucker where Gertrude is concerned. Alex rolls her eyes but grabs the potsticker with her bare hand, tossing it up into the air on Gertrude’s other side.

Gert snatches it out of the air and swallows it in a dramatically large gulp, her eyes gleaming with wicked satisfaction.

Alex shoves her and the velociraptor trills with happiness.

“I hope you get fat,” Alex tells her dryly.

 

Chapter Text

They’ve been out here for hours, baking in the unforgiving desert heat. Gertrude is flopped down on the ground, panting, her tough skin the dark color that Alex knows means she’s thirsty. Alex radios for someone to fill Gert’s water, and splits her concentration between the latest briefing and keeping an eye on her partner.

“So the raptor will come from the left side,” the agent in charge is saying, pointing down at the map, but Alex interrupts him before he can finish.

“No, she won’t.”

He raises his eyebrows, but Alex isn’t swayed. “She’s tired,” she says, using her most firm commanding voice. “She’s been running for hours, doing her job, herding the birds everywhere you’ve told her to, but your team is so incompetent that they haven’t been able to implement a proper containment protocol.” Alex is barely restraining her fury. If this were her op, it would have ended hours ago. She and Gert would already be home, in their forest, enjoying a warm meal and a nap, and the ExClo’s would be halfway to a nice life on a preserve.

But these incompetent fuckers from the ICRB always think they know better than she does. It’s infuriating when they talk down to her, when they don’t utilize her skills right, but she draws the line when they treat Gert like weapon, or a machine, or an inexhaustible killing machine. She’s an animal – she’s alive, with a personality and limits and the ability to be killed here in the field if she isn’t used thoughtfully.

And Alex would kill everyone here with her bare hands before she’d let that happen.

“Your whole damn plan is ‘let the raptor do it,’ but you’ve forgotten that her job is to herd, hunt, and dominate. It’s your god damned job to contain. I will not allow you to send her, yet again, to exhaust herself, put herself at risk yet again, while you fail at your one fucking job.”

“Captain Danvers,” J’onn interrupts. “That’s enough. Take the raptor to the shed for a meal and a rest while the…mission leader…and I discuss tactics.” J’onn’s lip curls a little bit in distaste, and Alex realizes he’s not actually mad at her. He’s about to go his own version of ballistic, which is terrifyingly calm and logical, on these assholes.

J’onn isn’t an idiot. He knows exactly how fucked this whole day is, and how much more valuable Gertrude is to the team than one bungling ICRB agent.

So Alex nods, and urges Gert up, and leads her partner into the shed. There’s a slaughtered goat waiting there for her, laid out up on a table, dripping blood onto the dirt.

Alex gives Gert the go-ahead, and Gert tiredly drags the goat off the table and hunches over it, devouring the entire carcass – bone and skin included – in four weary bites. She gulps from her water bowl (an inflated kiddie pool) before curling around Alex. She makes the most tired, pathetic, little chirping noises until Alex starts petting her.

Petting Gert usually relaxes her, but Alex is still furious. A goat? The cheapest, smallest, stringiest meal possible? Throat cut, so Gert doesn’t even get all the blood?

“Fuck the ICRB,” she mutters to Gert, scratching around her nostrils.

 


 

The terror birds, technically called Phorusrhacids, are hard for even Gert to handle, even pure clones like these. Alex shudders to think about what a terror bird hybrid would be like – mix them with anything with venom or tougher skin and they’d be nearly impossible to contain.

As it is, the pure clones stand about eight feet tall, so they have some height on Gert, and they can run almost as fast as she can, and their enormous sharp beaks are no joke. And while they’re flightless, their wings are large and strong enough to give her a concussion if she gets too close to them.

And there are twenty of them, on this godforsaken plot of land, and there’s just one Gertrude.

She’s aided by humans with guns and helicopters and motorcycles, of course, but the birds aren’t responding to the tranqs, and none of them want to use lethal force if they don’t have to.

The asshole who cloned them is already rotting in federal prison, awaiting trial by the ICRB. Since terror birds are undoubtedly predators, and this is undoubtedly not a regulated Extinct Clone Preserve, he’ll serve life under international law.

But that doesn’t help them round up the birds.

Finally, after Gert has perked back up, J’onn comes back in with a final mission. They’re going in once more. Gert will herd and hunt, and J’onn’s team will be in charge of containment, leaving surveillance and back-up teams to the ICRB.

Alex, as always, will be at Gert’s side.

“Sir,” Alex says quickly, as he turns to leave the shed. “I know I lost my temper out there. But thank you for sticking up for us.”

J’onn just smiles at her. “It’s your job to protect her, Danvers. And it’s my job to protect you. You were right.”

He turns and leaves the shed, and Gertrude trills happily, nudging Alex with her snout.

Alex knits her eyebrows. “Don’t get cocky,” she says to the raptor, “you know, protecting you isn’t my actual job.”

But Gert just snorts in amused derision, doing the raptor equivalent of tossing her hair over her shoulder, before stalking out of the shed, making sure to hiss in faux-anger at the ICRB agent unlucky enough to be standing too close.

He jumps and squeaks and falls on his ass in the dirt, and Gert slows her pace enough that he can hear her snort of pleasure.

Alex just rolls her eyes and follows her self-absorbed dinosaur out into the sunshine.

 


 

With J’onn’s team on containment, the mission finally goes smoothly. Alex and Gert herd the birds without any injuries, and J’onn’s team contains them all on the first try. No ExClo’s are injured, no DEO agents are injured, and no ICRB idiots get in the way.

Perfect.

But, of course, nothing good can last. The asshole ICRB agent saunters up to Alex just after she’s settled Gert in the belly of the transport plane. “You got lucky today,” he drawls, clearly trying to be threatening. “You talked to me like you were better than me, but we all know if it weren’t for that lizard, you’d be asking me if I wanted fries with that.” He sneers at her. “Without the lizard, you’re nothing.”

Alex is opening her mouth to give him the reaming out of a lifetime, and raising her hand to give him the beat down of a lifetime, but Gert – with her usual impeccable timing – picks that moment to stalk out of the plane. She sees Alex with her hand up, and she can always read Alex’s moods, so she thunders up to them, snarling and snapping her jaws at the ICRB agent.

He pales and trembles, and Alex almost ruins it by laughing. She places a calming hand on Gert’s neck but doesn’t tell Gert to stand down. She just stares at him, letting her lizard show her sharp teeth and claws capable of easily tearing him into two perfect bite-sized pieces.

He turns and walks away, as quickly as he can, and Gert stops hissing immediately. She turns to Alex and positively preens, cooing at herself and nuzzling her snout into Alex’s hair.

“Cinnamon roll,” Alex mumbles to her. “You’re a fucking housecat.” But she presses a kiss to Gert’s snout, just inches away from her razor-sharp teeth. “Love you, sticky bun.”

 


 

It’s when they’re halfway back to National City that Alex finds J’onn alone in the cockpit of the plane. She sits next to him, and, without preamble, asks him the question that’s been eating at her for years.

“I wasn’t…I wasn’t recruited because of my raptor, was I?”

She has dual advanced degrees in bioengineering and genetics. She’s one of the foremost scientific experts on splicing and cloning, and, within that elite company, she’s definitely the best with a gun.

J’onn doesn’t take his eyes off the sky as he answers. “Yeah,” he says. “She’s why you got in.”

Alex’s heart sinks.

“But you are why you get to stay.”

 


 

“The hell is the new zombie downstairs?”

Alex looks up from her microscope to see Vasquez leaning on the doorframe to her lab. She laughs, because the new zombie is absurd. “Idiot spliced himself with insect DNA,” she says, handing over the relevant file. “I think he was hoping to fly, but all he managed to do was permanently dislocate his jaw and grow five more rows of teeth.”

“Ugh,” Vasquez says, wrinkling their nose. “Brutal.”

“It gets worse. Apparently he can also spit a sort of caustic venom – this like, really nasty, pus-colored goop – but he didn’t develop a stronger esophagus, so it burns him up from the inside whenever he does it. He ended up turning himself in cause he thought it was going to kill him.”

Vasquez snorts, flipping the file closed. “And this, my friends, is why you should not mess with natural selection.”

“No fucking kidding. Only a fucking idiot would inject themselves with fucking extinct DNA.”

“No arguments here,” Vasquez replies, but that moment both of their phones chime with a familiar alert. “Speaking of fucking idiots,” Vas mumbles as they both skim the alert. “Time to suit up.”

 


 

Unfortunately Vasquez meant that literally. Instead of her tactical gear and armor, Alex is in her least favorite outfit. Her professional suit is crisp and impeccably tailored, but it makes her feel impossibly stuffy. And she’s wearing heels, which just always make her feel like she’s supposed to be a damsel in distress. And she’s a fucking raptor alpha, for god’s sake, she doesn’t need an additional two inches of height to make her powerful enough to dominate some local brass who would piss themselves at the first sight of her raptor child.

The President was attacked, and Alex knows her mission. Instead of getting to shoot anything, or ride with Gert, poor Alex’s job is to snatch jurisdiction from the Secret Service, FBI, TSA, local cops, or dipshit ICRB agents who don’t understand the org chart. Anyone who tries to get in her way, really.

The president was attacked by a furry man who can fly and shoot spikes out of his hands, so he’s definitely a zombie, and so the case definitely belongs to the DEO.

Turns out the Secret Service, FBI, and TSA are all more than happy to hand over the case to someone who knows what to do with a perp who is obviously isn’t human, but just as obviously started life that way. A perp who is a mix of human and animal.

“Do you think,” one of them whispers to her, leaning in close, his voice actually trembling, “that he’s an ExClo? I mean, a human ExClo?”

Alex barely manages to restrain her eye roll. “Yes,” she says, hoping she doesn’t sound like too much of an asshole. “Clearly.”

The man shudders and, honestly, Alex doesn’t entirely blame him. The zombie is creepy for sure, even for her. And the general population isn’t even supposed to know that zombies exist, so she understands the fear and the disbelief, but honestly. Alex had thought the Secret Service would know better.

Apparently not.

But so all the feds run away, handing over the case like it’s a hot potato and Alex has the only gloves.

Alex surveys the scene, happy with her triumph, until she sees one lone local cop crouched down over a couple of the zombie’s spikes, embedded in the ground.

Alex stalks over, letting herself fall back into her persona of ICRB bureaucrat – someone at home behind a desk, neck deep in paperwork, snapping at anyone who coughs too loudly – rather than DEO captain who knows thirty different ways to slaughter common extinct predators and who brushes the teeth of a velociraptor for fun.

“Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing at my crime scene?” she asks, her voice as crisp and disinterested as she can make it.

The cop stands and eyes her, and something thuds deep within Alex, socking into place with the realization that the cop is quite beautiful. “Anyone ever tell you all you feds sound the same?” She has long dark hair and tan skin and a dimple peeking out of her cheek, and she’s not as tall as Alex but she’s wearing a badass leather jacket. “It’s like you all watch the same bad movies together at Quantico.” She’s got her hands on her hips, and she’s smiling like her joke was funny, and she’s smirking like Alex doesn’t have the ability to kick her off the case, lock her up for life, or send her down the gullet of a hungry dinosaur with the snap of her fingers.

Alex narrows her eyes. “Who are you?”

“Detective Maggie Sawyer, NCPD Science Division. We investigate ExClo’s, hybrids, and anything that goes bump in the night,” she says, and Alex nearly ruins everything by laughing in her face. Science Division? They’re a joke. Any serious ExClo cases get kicked up to the ICRB. Science Division is nothing more than a faulty detection system for tiny cases, usually ones using non-extinct DNA. Housecats juiced up with tiger DNA, pigeons with bat sonar. Baby stuff.

“Showed you mine,” Sawyer says, gesturing at Alex like it’s even a contest. She’s just played a pair of twos, and Alex is holding a royal flush.

“Alex Danvers, ICRB,” she says, careful to show that particular version of her ID. “Sorry Detective, but as you know, all dangerous ExClo and hybrid cases belong to the ICRB. You’ll have to go.”

“Well, good thing this attacker wasn’t an ExClo or a hybrid then.” Sawyer’s taken a step closer, and her voice holds an edge of threat now, and Alex can’t help but be impressed, although of course she doesn’t show it.

“The attacker is none of your concern, as this isn’t your case.”

But Sawyer doesn’t buy it for a second. “He’s a human ExClo,” she says, tilting her head like she’s daring Alex to disagree with her. “Sometimes called a splicer.”

Alex tries to keep her tone cool and disinterested, even though, by all logic, a local cop like Sawyer should be paralyzed with fear and disbelief at the thought of a human ExClo. And there is no way in hell she should know the word splicer. “Even if that were true, it would still be an ICRB case.”

Sawyer tilts her head even further, and Alex can tell she’s enjoying this. “Well, he isn’t a clone, so I’m not sure the International Cloning Review Board has jurisdiction here.”

Alex takes a step forward of her own. This has gone far enough. She lets herself sneer, oozing an oily self-righteousness that has gotten her smacked by Gert’s tail more than once. “Local cops are nothing more than bomb-sniffing dogs for the ICRB. Sometimes you find the bomb, and sometimes we do, but we’re always the ones to disarm it. So why don’t you run along to your kennel and find some low-level gene distributor to arrest.”

But Sawyer seems completely unphased, both by Alex’s tone and her insults. “The airport is within my jurisdiction.”

Alex takes a final step in, radiating dominance like she does in the field. She imagines Gert is there, basking in the sunshine at her back, baring her teeth and rearing up to her full height. “Your jurisdiction ends where I say it does.”

Out of options, Sawyer just nods at her, but she looks nothing more than amused. “See you around, Danvers,” she says, and that thing thuds inside of Alex again.

 


  

Alex isn’t exactly known for her methodical ground-level police work, so, in retrospect, she isn’t surprised that Detective Maggie Sawyer gets a lead before she does. Alex is the microscope and weapons (and partner of the trained-killer-of-a-dinosaur) side of cases, not the witness statements and paperwork side.

But it still pisses her off that Maggie has more leads than she does.

And then Maggie ends up getting herself abducted by the zombie they’re hunting, and that pisses Alex off even more.

She manages to successfully rescue Maggie without Gert, because it’s not the easiest thing in the world to bring a secret seven-foot-tall velociraptor into the middle of the city. Maggie took a spike to the shoulder, just a graze really, but Alex brings her in to patch her up.

Maggie’d figured out days ago that Alex was DEO, not just ICRB, and J’onn gave Alex permission to read her in, confirming what Maggie had long suspected: there are human ExClo’s, and while the ICRB regulates and enforces existing clone laws, the DEO is responsible for the splicers who make dangerous hybrids, illegal predatory clones, or are dumb enough to inject themselves or other humans with ExClo DNA.

“The DNA Enforcement Office,” Maggie says, sitting on her bed in the medbay, looking around at the glass walls and the shiny equipment, reading the DEO’s official title from the logo on the wall. “This place is sick.”

Alex just shrugs a little. This city base is fine, but she prefers the desert base. There’s a whole room for Gert in there, and another set of tunnels connecting the base to Alex’s forest. “We have our moments,” is all she says.

“You know,” Maggie says, “I’m not very good with partners, but I think we made a pretty good team.”

And while Alex would pick Gert as a partner every single time, she can’t help but enjoy the flush of praise.

And the surprising knowledge thuds inside of her, that if she had to pick a human to work with, she’d pick Maggie again in a heartbeat.

“I guess we did,” she says, trying to push away the question of why that is.

She checks her watch, then, and her eyes fly open. “Um, you should stay for a while and rest,” she says, shrugging on her own leather jacket. “Vasquez can get someone to drive you home later.”

Maggie tilts her head a little bit, giving Alex a once-over that makes her deeply self-conscious. “You’re not staying? What, you got a hot date or something?”

Alex thinks about her raptor, who is probably impatiently huffing and stamping her foot, out in the darkness of the forest.

“Actually, I do,” Alex says, “and I don’t want to leave the lady waiting, so.”

She’s occupied with grabbing her keys, so she doesn’t notice the way Maggie’s eyes widen.

“See you around, Danvers,” Maggie calls after her.

 


 

Something about Maggie is unsettling, even hours later.

Alex is out in the forest with Gertrude, and their hunt was successful, and they’re in Alex’s favorite clearing, and she’s reading one of her favorite novels out loud, and Gert is curled around her back, keeping her warm, and woofing with pleasure at all of Alex’s favorite parts.

Alex is in her happiest place, with her favorite companion, but she’s still unsettled. Something about Maggie is under her skin, making her hypodermis itch.

Alex wonders if it’s because Maggie knows about the DEO now, or knows about zombies now, or had gotten herself abducted. Or if it’s maybe about the fact that Alex can’t stop thinking about her smirk, and her swagger, and her soft eyes as she’d asked why Alex was leaving.

Alex sighs deeply. She hates feeling unsettled, and she’s never felt quite like this before in her life.

She burrows deeper in Gert’s side, pulling a blanket over herself and pillowing her head on Gert’s foreleg. She’ll sleep out here tonight. Whenever she’s feeling particularly discombobulated, a night under the stars with Gert is always the solution.

Gert chirrups to her, making the most comforting and soothing sounds she can as her tiny little alpha falls asleep on her leg. She sniffs the air, and, smelling only the natural scents of the forest, lets herself drift off too.

 

Chapter Text

Alex doesn’t quite know what it is about her that gives off an I-want-to-see-a-dead-body vibe, but she can’t help but be interested when Maggie offers.

She meets Maggie in an alley, and lo and behold, there’s a dead zombie in the back of a sedan. Alex’s first thought is that he’s beautiful. “Clearly avian DNA,” she mutters, as she rubs a gloved hand over the blue and purple feathers sprouting from the splicer’s arms. She lifts an arm a few inches before carefully lowering it down. “Seems purely aesthetic. No way he could fly with this bone density.”

Maggie nods behind her, jotting down notes. “No sign of a beak or bird feet or anything,” she adds, and Alex nods in agreement.

“Light splice,” she agrees. “Still stupid, to take this risk for cosmetic reasons, but he clearly didn’t get too deep into the gene code.”

And then Maggie finds traces of dried blood and internal wounds, and they realize he was beaten to death.

“I wonder if he really is a splicer,” Alex muses aloud, “or if it was done to him against his will.”

Maggie’s head snaps over to her. “What do you mean? This is…people do this to other people by force?”

Alex shrugs a little, careful to play her cards close to the vest. “It’s not unheard of,” she says vaguely. “It’s rare, because splicing is so prohibitively expensive, and dangerous, and hard to learn. But…he wouldn’t be the first I’ve met.”

Even though Alex left it vague, Maggie shudders, as she should. The idea that someone wealthy and evil enough could change her DNA – could inject her with king cobra or Gigantopithecus ape or saber-tooth or giant scorpion – it’s terrifying.

Most human splices result in death. It’s so hard to predict what will happen, especially if you aren’t a geneticist, and there’s really no way to know if growing gills will allow you to actually breathe underwater or if you’ll just immediately suffocate in both air and water.

Alex would rather die than be spliced, she knows that.

 


 

The follow the investigation, and it’s different for Alex to be out in the city this much. She’s usually either in her lab or chasing down leads with Gert hot on her heels, out in the wild.

This city sleuthing thing is new to her, but she finds that, with Maggie at her side, she kind of likes it.

They end up infiltrating an ExClo fight club, where zombies and ExClo’s fight each other to the death in a ring. The woman who runs it, who calls herself Roulette, is a very clever splicer, who clearly has given herself just enough snake DNA to have shimmery scales and a boneless way of walking, but not enough to lose her limbs.

Alex would be impressed, if she weren’t so furious at her for being the worst type of splicer.

They mean to just be doing recon – they don’t even have weapons in these ridiculous cocktail dresses – but it’s clear that this is a fight to the death. And Alex is pretty sure every creature in the ring, including every one of the zombies, is there against their will.

And this leathery man with a beak and small ornamental wings – probably spliced with a bat ancestor and something like an armadillo – is up against this enormous creature who is clearly a hybrid version of a giant gorilla clone. And they’re going to kill each other.

So together, Alex and Maggie disarm a security guard and bring the party to a screeching halt. Alex dives into the cage, trying to save the life of the leathery man after the gorilla ExClo runs away.

The leathery man dies under her hands.

Maggie arrests Roulette and Alex arranges transport for the dead zombie back to the DEO.

 


 

After a quick detour home to hunt with Gert and make sure the raptor isn’t feeling neglected, Alex heads back to the DEO. She runs the DNA samples from the dead fighter, and then she re-runs them five more times because she can’t quite believe what she’s seeing.

He was indeed spliced with an ancient bat and an ancient armadillo, but he was also spliced with something else.

Something she didn’t think anyone was stupid enough to mess with. Pterosaur. Also known as a flying, carnivorous, predatory dinosaur.

 


 

She goes to the police station the next day to tell Maggie about the dinosaur DNA. It’s a risk, because of Gertrude, but the presence of pterosaur genes completely changes the equation. They’re looking for someone with immense skill – Alex has never even heard of a zombie who survived a dinosaur splicing – and with a horrifyingly low regard for laws and life.

Even licensed dinosaur preserves aren’t allowed to clone flying animals or predators or hybrids.

And that pterosaur zombie is all three.

So Alex goes to tell Maggie that their suspect pool just dramatically shifted, but as she walks up, she sees Maggie releasing Roulette.

Maggie is clearly furious, and Roulette is smug as hell, oozing into her limo with a boneless grace Alex can’t help but admire. “It’s all about timing,” she says, and Alex wants to retort that it’ll be about more than timing when she feeds Roulette to her dinosaur, but she just scowls instead.

Maggie looks so despondent that Alex’s itch comes back, deeper and more urgent than ever. She offers to buy Maggie a drink, hoping to soothe the anxious feeling under her skin and the creases in Maggie’s forehead.

But then a blonde woman comes up and kisses Maggie, right on the lips, right in front of Alex, and Maggie takes a rain check, and Alex has never once in her life been disappointed to spend time with Gert instead of a human, but now she is.

She heads back to her forest, and she runs Gert through four different drills before they both collapse on the forest floor, panting with exertion.

And Alex’s skin is still scratching at her, and she hates it.

 


 

A few weeks later Maggie invites her to play pool in her favorite bar, and Alex leaves work early so she can have time with Gert before heading back into the city.

Alex learns quickly that Maggie has great taste in bars and beer, and is absolutely terrible at pool.

She also looks great in a t-shirt.

Alex is worried it’ll be awkward – they’ve never spent time together when they haven’t been working on a case – but the conversation flows like it’s the easiest thing in the world. They talk shop about the Roulette case for a little while, bemoaning how stuck they are, how they had to let her go, but then the conversation branches out.

They talk about National City, about motorcycles, about shitty bosses, about the best places for late-night pizza.

They’re on their third game, and fourth round of beer, when they circle back to talking about ExClo’s.

“But no, fight club or no fight club, nothing will ever be as bad as 2014 was,” Maggie says as she misses her shot, narrowly avoiding hitting the 8-ball into the side pocket.

Alex scrunches up her forehead, trying to remember, before her eyes widen in recognition. “Oh my god,” she says, barely holding back her laugh. “The dire wolf year?”

Maggie nods, tucking her hair back behind one of her ears. “Horrible.”

“Horrible,” Alex echoes, grin still on her face. “I wanted to march down to HBO headquarters and throttle all of them and George R. R. Martin himself.”

Alex leans over to take her shot, and Maggie shakes her head in agreement. “Those fucking Game of Thrones obsessed assholes,” she says. “I arrested over twenty gene distributors that year, all selling ‘dire wolf’ genes.” She uses air quotes and rolls her eyes, and Alex can’t help but laugh as she sinks her shot.

“Most of which were just diluted common wolf,” Alex adds, having lived the nightmare herself.

Maggie swallows her beer. “At best. We had one that was like, mostly grizzly bear? It was nothing like a wolf. It was awful. And I’m still finding dogs that are secretly hybrids. It’s such a fucking mess.”

Alex snorts at the look on her face.

“No, seriously! I swear, it’s been years since I’ve been able to just look at a dog without obsessively checking for signs of a dire splice. It’s ruined me!”

Alex nods and laughs, but can’t help but one-up her. “We had five different idiots splice themselves with dire wolf, and those are just the ones who lived.”

Maggie actually squeaks. “No fucking way!”

Alex nods, taking a sip of beer, trying not to let herself glow too much under Maggie’s gaze. “They all got this awful patchy fur and grew like two feet, and got tails, and they smelled horrible. It was so fucked up.”

Maggie laughs, shaking her head. Fuck, she’s beautiful. “Fuck dire wolves,” she says, holding out her beer.

Alex clinks hers against it. “Fuck dire wolves,” she repeats, trying to forget how one of the dire wolf zombies had screeched as he’d gone down Gertrude’s gullet.

 


 

Maggie tells her, at the end of the night, that her girlfriend dumped her.

Alex wonders why she finds it more impossible that a woman would break up with Maggie Sawyer than that human beings inject their genetic code with extinct megalodon DNA, doing their best to turn themselves into gigantic, extinct, water-breathing, carnivorous sea monsters.

 


 

A few days later, Alex is in the belly of a cargo plane, tucked up next to Gert. One of the tech guys is briefing her on how they tracked this zombie out to this godforsaken part of Nevada, but Alex isn’t paying much attention.

She barely grunts at him as he asks her a question, and Gert shoves at Alex to get her to snap into the conversation.

“Hey! Oh…sorry, yeah, I’m paying attention.”

The tech guy rolls his eyes and walks away, and Gert snorts in disbelief.

“Shut up,” Alex mutters.

Gert makes a curious trill, and Alex sighs, reaching out to absently rub her snout.

“I was just thinking about Maggie,” she tells Gert. “She’s so terrible at pool. You know, I tried to let her win, and she still couldn’t keep up.”

Alex laughs a little, and Gert just blinks at her, clearly waiting for the rest of the story.

“I’m worried about her, girl. Her girlfriend broke up with her, and she just doesn’t seem…like Maggie. You know, she’s usually so tough, but right now she’s so…vulnerable? I don’t know. I just wish I could help her.”

Gert snorts at that, shaking her head.

“What, you think that’s a bad idea?”

Gert chirrups disapprovingly, and Alex raises her eyebrows, incredulous. “What! I’m allowed to want to help out a friend!”

The raptor hurrs in disagreement. She’s got a judgmental look on her face, and Alex pushes Gert’s head away a little bit so she doesn’t have to see it.

“I help you when you need things!” And Alex doesn’t love how defensive her tone has gotten, because she is, ultimately talking to a dinosaur who can’t understand her, but Gert just snorts derisively again, and Alex rolls her eyes.

“Don’t get jealous. She’s not…she’s just my friend. You’ll always be first in my heart.”

But something about those words ping and throb inside of her, and Alex can’t quite figure it out.

 


 

On the way back from the mission, Alex and Gert are curled up in a nest of blankets and pillows.

“Do you think I should call her? Maggie, I mean? Do you think she’s had enough time to lose her cool? I don’t want to intrude, but I want to help her feel better, you know?”

But, instead of answering, Gert just flicks her tail and sends a pillow flying, straight and true, to nail Alex right in the face.

 


 

It’s about a week later that Alex and Maggie meet at the bar again. They meet at seven, on a Friday, and they both mean to just have a round or two of beer and pool before heading off to find dinner, but one round of beer becomes five or six rounds, and somehow it’s ten at night and they haven’t eaten anything more than an order of chips and salsa back in round two.

And Alex is certainly a little drunk, and she’s feeling a little boneless, and she so rarely gets drunk around anyone but Gertrude anymore. She finds herself leaning – against the pool table, against her cue, against Maggie.

And Maggie’s on her way to drunk too; she’s laughing more, and staring a lot, and she’s even worse than usual at pool, which is truly impressive.

And every time Alex leans into her, Maggie leans back.

At some point, Alex needs to make a shot, and Maggie is standing right where she needs to be.

“Move,” Alex huffs, gesturing to the side, but Maggie just smiles at her, her dimples in full force, her head tilted a little bit.

“Make me,” she says, and it should be absurd and childish but it just works.

Something within Alex’s body thuds, harder and louder than it ever has.

Alex reaches out and hooks her index finger in one of Maggie’s belt loops and tugs, gently, but Maggie doesn’t give in and let it move her. She sways a little, but both her feet stay firmly on the ground.

She tilts her head a little more, her smile deep and soft and affectionate and something else that Alex can’t name but is sort of lighting her on fire. “That the best you got, Captain?”

And, of course, Alex could move her, if she wanted to. She could shove her, she could nudge her, she could pick her up and throw her over her shoulder and carry her around the bar. But, she does something else instead.

She shrugs a little, picks up her cue, and simply presses her entire body up against Maggie’s, wrapping her arms around Maggie’s back.

Maggie’s breath catches, loudly.

Alex snakes the cue around Maggie’s back, pressing forward with hips and shoulders to tuck her head over Maggie’s shoulder so she can line the stick up with the ball she’s aiming for.

Maggie’s hands come up to Alex’s waist, doing something that might be holding them steady or possibly just rubbing her fingers up and down Alex’s body.

Alex takes her lip between her teeth, and her body is thudding, and neither of them have taken a breath this whole time. Alex takes her shot – the cue ball flies, straight and true, knocking two of the stripes into the pockets.

She lets go of the cue with one hand, pulling back enough to be able to see Maggie’s face. She smirks, inordinately pleased with herself.

“You didn’t call it,” Maggie murmurs, her hands still moving on Alex’s waist. “Doesn’t count.”

And, later, Alex won’t be sure if it’s the challenge or the beer or Maggie’s defiant little smile, or maybe a combination of all three, that makes her lean in harder, pressing her hips even tighter against Maggie’s.

Her empty hand leaves the side of the table and somehow ends up low on Maggie’s hip, right where it meets her thigh.

And it doesn’t make sense, but nothing they’ve been saying makes sense. Alex’s body is thudding and humming and she feels this undeniable pull that she’s never felt before. Like Maggie’s body is magnetic, or a fly trap, or a black hole, and she’s completely unable – and unwilling – to offer even a show of resistance.

So it doesn’t make sense, but Alex just mumbles, “Make me,” and then Maggie is kissing her.

Maggie is kissing her, and Alex has always thought kissing was fine, but this is a whole different animal. It’s like what Alex had done before was foraging with a sloth and this is hunting with a raptor.

Maggie is hot and wet against her mouth, and one of Maggie’s hands is digging into her waist, and the other is wrapped around the back of her neck, like she would hold Alex to her if Alex were dumb enough to try to pull away. And Maggie’s body is soft but is arching up off the pool table to push, even harder, into Alex’s, and Maggie is doing something with her lips and her tongue that’s entirely new to Alex, and Alex just wants to drown in it.

Alex wraps her arm low and tight around Maggie’s back, leaning forward with her hips, keeping Maggie caught close right up against her. And Alex drops the pool cue out of her other hand and hooks her index finger back through Maggie’s belt loop, tugging Maggie’s hips insistently against hers.

Alex hears herself make a little sound, and Maggie bites down on her lip.

Something raptor-like rises up in Alex, in that instant, and she finds herself growling into Maggie’s mouth, thrusting just a little with her hips and widening her stance to have better leverage.

This kiss should never end, Alex is pretty sure about that, so she’s beyond frustrated when Maggie pulls her mouth away.

Alex growls again, immediately covering the distance between them and kissing Maggie again.

And then it’s Maggie who makes a sound, and it’s low and a little heavy and it’s full of want and attraction and Alex nearly loses her mind.

She lets go of Maggie’s belt loop to reach up and grab hold of the hair at the nape of Maggie’s neck, which, of course, reminds her that Maggie has a neck, and that realization is instantaneously followed by the undeniable fact that Alex needs to have her mouth on that neck immediately.

Alex uses her gentle grip in Maggie’s hair to tug their mouths apart, attaching hers to Maggie’s neck like she’s been spliced with lamprey DNA.

“Fuck,” Maggie gasps, now that her mouth is free, and that just makes Alex lean even harder, grip even tighter, suck even faster.

But then Maggie is pushing Alex’s hips away, turning her head to dislodge Alex’s mouth, and Alex hears these desperate keening sounds and she never quite realizes they’re coming from herself.

“Alex, wait,” Maggie is gasping, and Alex wonders how long she’s been talking, because the roaring in her ears is fucking deafening. “Alex, stop, stop.”

And Alex is drunk and she’s desperate but she stops, pulling herself off Maggie immediately.

“I’m sorry—“ she starts, but Maggie cuts her off immediately.

“No,” she says, “I don’t mean stop, stop. I just mean…I’m just not that interested in fucking against this pool table when I have a perfectly good bed three blocks away.”

And Maggie grabs her hand, and pulls her towards the bar to close their tab, and Alex just follows, her chest heaving, her eyes never leaving Maggie’s body, her lips thrumming, and her whole body just thudding.

 

Chapter Text

Alex wakes up and completely panics. She’s in a room she doesn’t recognize, in a bed that isn’t hers, and she’s – what the fuck – naked?

She quickly checks her watch, worried that Gert will be terrified if it’s too late and Alex hasn’t checked in yet. But, luckily, it’s still early. Alex has a little time to figure out what the fuck is happening and to get to her raptor.

An arm throws itself over Alex’s waist, and Alex nearly screams. Her body jerks in surprise, but apparently that’s not quite enough to wake up her bedmate, who grumbles and mumbles but keeps sleeping behind her.

Alex rolls over, and, holy shit.

It’s Maggie behind her – just as naked, and far more relaxed.

The night comes flooding back to her. The bar, the pool, the challenge. Making out against the pool table. Maggie dragging her home. Both of them so impatient that Alex had literally fallen over trying to take her pants off and get to the bed at the same time.

The rounds and rounds of sex.

Alex tries not to hyperventilate. Last night, dulled by the beer and the late hour and the thudding inside of her, Alex had barely noticed that Maggie’s not a man.

Well, of course she’d noticed, what with having gotten an up close and personal tour of Maggie and all, but she hadn’t quite realized what it meant. At no point in the night had she thought to herself, I’m ready and prepared to have gay sex for the very first time. She just…hadn’t been able to keep her body off of Maggie’s, that’s all.

Alex slides out of the bed as delicately and carefully as she can, making a completely silent exit until the sheet reaches out, grabs her, and tosses her, ass-first, onto the floor. Maggie mumbles at the thump but doesn’t wake up, and Alex slips around the bed, snatching up her clothes from the floor as quickly and quietly as she can. She gets dressed in the living room in a matter of seconds, and is slipping out the door, boots in hand, before Maggie can mumble again.

 


 

Alex stops on her way home and grabs hangover breakfast – a big ass greasy breakfast burrito and enough coffee for a small army – but manages not to dig in until she’s in the forest, Gert munching on her kill in one of the further clearings.

After she finishes eating, Gert sniffs Alex a couple of times, making confused little snorts at the smell of someone new on Alex’s body.

“Nosy,” Alex admonishes, pushing Gert’s face away, but the raptor just cocks her head and makes a little noise like they both know Alex is about to confess.

And she does.

“Okay, yes, I slept with someone last night.”

Gert jerks her head back and snorts in surprise, as if to say, you didn’t! like a prude aunt wearing a large hat.

“I did! I did. Like, twice, I think. Or, no! Three times! Oh my god, what did I do? Gert! What did I do?”

Gert snorts again, her forelegs held up in surrender, her face disbelieving, shaking her head a bit, as if to say, well I certainly don’t know.

“I had a one night stand. Gert!” Alex drops her head onto Gert’s rough shoulder. “It’s horrible! It’s such a…guy thing to do! I’m a horrible, terrible, guy!”

Gert rolls her head on her neck a little and grunts disapprovingly at that, either in agreement or in protest because women are allowed to be just as sexual as men are.

“You’re lucky you’re the only one of your species so you don’t have to deal with this bullshit,” Alex mumbles into her skin.

Gert makes a little whining noise, and the end of her tail flicks around, and Alex shrugs. “Okay, yes, fine, there’s something to be said for sex, I guess.”

Gert woofs.

“Do you…” Alex’s voice trails off, and even though Gert certainly doesn’t speak English, and probably doesn’t have a single opinion on same-sex relationships, Alex is nervous to use a pronoun. “Do you think she’d do it again? If I wanted her to?”

Gert woofs into Alex’s hair and winds her body around Alex’s, for all the world like a supportive hug.

The raptor drops her head onto Alex’s shoulder and Alex just breathes for a second, her arms wrapped tightly around her dinosaur. Relief like she’s never imagined floods through her at Gert’s loving support – even if Gert doesn’t quite understand what it is that she’s supporting.

But, the she’s-a-girl thing isn’t the only factor.

“I mean, she just got out of a relationship,” Alex reasons softly, “I don’t want to be a rebound. But, I mean, hey, sometimes rebounds can work, I guess.”

Gert hisses in disagreement, nudging Alex with her shoulder.

“No, they can! Um…oh! Kim and Kanye!” Alex declares, pointing her finger triumphantly in her dinosaur’s face. “They were a rebound, and they worked!”

But Gert just squeaks in second-hand embarrassment and nudges Alex again with a lot more force, knocking her over onto the forest floor, like Gert can’t bear to be seen with someone who knows that fact.

Alex laughs, grabbing hold of Gertrude’s neck and pulling her down onto the ground. The extinct apex predator grumbles but obliges, wrapping herself around Alex again.

And Alex just nuzzles in, letting the warm breaths of her raptor child – her supportive, kind, sweet, affirming killing machine of a raptor child – lull her back to sleep.

 


 

Of course, it’s just an hour later that Alex gets called to a crime scene. She’s still monstrously hungover, so she shows up to the scene, after one of her fastest showers ever, with her sunglasses firmly in place.

And there’s clearly a dead zombie here, apparently some sort of nasty lizard splice gone wrong, though the ICRB agents who got to the scene first are making the DEO agents wait behind the tape until the scene is formally released to them, and it’s taking forever.

Alex is beyond grumpy, slouching against her car, reaching maximum frustration at being woken up from her nap, on her day off – her one entire day to be with Gertrude – to just stand in the blinding sunshine and wait.

“Nice shades,” Vasquez drawls in her ear, her comms finally sparking to life. Vas is in the van parked down the block, and Alex lifts her hand in what could possibly the world’s weakest wave.

“Why is it so bright?” Alex whines into the comm. “Don’t they have clouds in this part of town?”

Vasquez makes a little humming sound. “You sounded a little out of it on the phone,” they note, their voice mild. “What were you up to this morning?”

“Uh, jogging!” Alex says quickly. Then, worried she wasn’t convincing enough, her beer-soaked brain adds another useful detail. “Fully clothed!”

And Vasquez is halfway through a snort when Alex hears a sound she’s both desperate and also totally unprepared for.

“Hey, Danvers,” Maggie says as she walks up, looking for all the world like she had the best sleep of her life and hasn’t touched alcohol in years.

Alex tries to play it cool too, but fails miserably. “Hey. Hey. Um, hi, how, how are you doing? Lovely day for a dead zombie, isn’t it? How are you doing?”

She wishes Gertrude were here to swallow her whole.

Vasquez is literally choking in Alex’s ear, but Maggie just gives her a bland smile. “I’m good.” But then she tilts her head, and her dimples pop out. “How are you? How’s your butt?”

Alex wonders faintly if Vasquez is going to need the Heimlich maneuver. She hopes there’s someone else in the van.

She manages to sputter out some sounds, but nothing approaching words.

“I heard you fall out of bed this morning,” Maggie says, like it’s not a big thing. “Sounded like it hurt.”

“Um, yeah, a little,” Alex manages, her cheeks a brighter red than they’ve ever been.

She can’t believe she did that. She can’t believe they’re talking about it.

She can’t believe she wants to do it again.

“I’m gonna check out the scene,” Maggie says, sending a slightly more wicked smile over to Alex. “I’ll see you in there.”

“Right,” Alex mutters, but Maggie’s already ducked under the tape.

 


 

When the lizard zombie is finally on his way to the DEO, his seven limbs and two extremely clunky tails tucked into the DEO transport van, Alex turns her comms off and finds Maggie again, asking for a private word.

Maggie follows Alex around a corner, so no one has a clear line of sight to them.

“Um,” Alex says, hating how easily she blushes. She twists her fingers together in front of her, totally unsure of what to say. “Uh, good morning, I guess.”

And Maggie just smiles like this isn’t weird at all, to wake up naked next to someone and then see them at a crime scene an hour later.

To have fucked for what feels like hours.

“Good morning,” she says, and her voice is a little low and a lot sexy and Alex didn’t know what she wanted to say when she invited Maggie into this alley, but now she at least knows what she wants to do.

She reaches out and takes hold of Maggie’s wrist, tugging her gently forward with just enough pressure to make clear what she wants while making it easy for Maggie to say no. But Maggie just grins at her, her smile knowing and just a little cocky, and she steps forward.

She steps forward, but she just smiles and waits and watches Alex, clearly making Alex be the one to lean in. And Alex hates to back down from a challenge, and she likes to think of herself as someone who would never beg for anything, but she’s caving without a thought.

She’s leaning in, and just a little bit down, and pulling Maggie just that much closer, and she’s kissing her.

And it’s daylight and she’s sober and she’s kissing Maggie in an alley, just yards from their colleagues and the body of a dead six-foot-long four-armed lizard zombie.

And Alex doesn’t give a fucking shit about any of that, because Maggie is kissing her back, and her hand is on Alex’s waist, and last night was amazing but all a little fuzzy, and this is in perfect focus.

This is fucking perfect.

“I can’t believe I’ve never done this before,” Alex hears herself mumble against Maggie’s lips.

She goes back in to keep kissing – because she was right, last night, these kisses should never end – but Maggie has stilled and stiffened and pulled away just a little.

“Never done what before?” she asks instead of kissing Alex again.

“This,” Alex murmurs, restarting the kiss, completely unwilling to focus at all on what words are being exchanged when, really, the only smart thing is for them to kiss until they both die.

But Maggie is pulling further away, and this time her hands are coming up to Alex’s shoulders and pushing her away, just enough to look her in the eyes. “No, Alex, wait,” she’s saying, and Alex’s hands are still on her hips. “Never done what before?”

And Alex’s brain is going a little slowly, which she can’t blame herself for, because this is her first time having a gorgeous woman in her arms when she’s in full possession of her faculties, and she may have several advanced degrees but she can barely remember her own name right now.

“Had a one night stand?” Maggie offers. “Slept with a co-worker? Made out at a crime scene?”

Alex huffs out a little laugh, but Maggie is distinctly not laughing. She’s knitting her eyebrows and her dimples are conspicuously absent.

“Um, well, all of those, I guess,” Alex manages to say, “but I meant, I’ve never done anything with a girl before.”

And things have been spinning pretty quickly since last night, so Alex hasn’t thought much about what that means. What it means that last night, and right now, are certainly the most fulfilling encounters with another human body she’s ever had.

And Alex would much rather be kissing right now than dealing with any of that.

But Maggie clearly disagrees. She’s stepping backwards, extricating herself from Alex’s hands completely. “What?” she’s asking, and there’s something terribly sharp in her voice. “You…what?”

Alex just shrugs, not exactly sure what to say. “Is that…is that bad? I mean…” her voice drops about half an octave. “Could you tell?”

But Maggie’s mouth is working up and down, and she looks frustrated and confused and maybe a little scared and Alex can’t figure out what’s going on.

“No, I – you, you told me! You said you dated women!”

It’s Alex’s turn to sputter. “I – what? No! When?”

“At, at the DEO, that first time,” Maggie’s eyes are wide and there’s something frantic in her tone. “I asked if you had a date, and you said ‘yeah and I don’t want to leave the lady waiting!’” Maggie’s eyebrows are up and her entire body is tense with the challenge of it, and Alex’s gut just sinks.

“Oh,” she says weakly, the pieces quickly and horribly falling into place. “I meant…I—I had to go feed my dog,” she says lamely, sending a quick mental apology to Gertrude for the insult, and trying to ignore the shame she feels rising up in her that hanging with Gert is the closest thing to a date she’s had in years. “It wasn’t…it wasn’t a real date. I didn’t…mean it, like that.”

“Jesus, Alex,” Maggie is rubbing at her eyes with her fingertips, like she’s exhausted and at the end of her rope, and Alex can’t help but ask.

“I’m sorry, I just…what’s the big deal? Why is…is this a problem?”

Maggie drops her hand and positively gapes at Alex, like she’s an idiot, and for the first time Alex starts to feel angry.

“I don’t sleep with straight girls,” Maggie says, and she’s nearly spitting it, and, yes, Alex is pissed off now.

Excuse me?”

But Maggie just says it again, annunciating it with her new sharp, angry tone. “I don’t sleep with straight girls.”

And Alex hasn’t had a second to think through what any of this means for her, but if getting to kiss Maggie again is on the line, she’s willing to take a bit of a plunge. She steps forward, back into Maggie’s body, with what she hopes is a smirk. “Well, good thing you already broke me in, then,” she says, and she gives Maggie what she thinks is her most confident wink.

But Maggie doesn’t lean back in, like Alex had hoped. She takes a further step backward, holding up her hands again, and her face is tight. “No, Alex, I’m being serious right now. Stop acting like this isn’t a big deal.”

And Alex finally snaps. “This isn’t a big deal.”

Maggie bites back. “It is to me.”

“I’m not a virgin, Maggie, I’m not some lovesick teenager, you don’t have to coddle me. I’m an adult, and we already fucked, so what the hell is your problem with me?”

But Alex realizes, right after she finishes talking, that Maggie had been keeping tight control of herself this whole time. Until now.

Maggie snaps, and before she had seemed frustrated and confused and little mad, but now she’s spitting furious. “What’s my problem? My problem is that you fucking lied to me. I never would have let that happen last night if I’d known. Never. Not like that.”

“Not like what?”

Maggie is almost yelling at this point, and her voice is hard, and it’s a little like she thinks Alex is an idiot, like Alex is missing something so obvious that Maggie wants to bang her head against a wall. “Like that! Drunk, and messy, and…god.” Her voice drops a little, and for the first time Alex hears just the faintest tint of sadness. “Fuck, Alex, your first time should be with someone you care about, you should have worked up to it with her, and talked about it. You should have – she should know, that it’s your first. You should – someone should take care of you during it, not just use you to get themselves off…god.”

Maggie takes a breath there, and her whole body gets harder again as she glares, blank and fuming, right into Alex’s eyes. “I should have known. You should have told me.”

But Alex isn’t at all swayed, not by any of it. Maybe because she’s not sure what it means, and she definitely didn’t want to work up to anything last night. She’d just wanted Maggie. “Why? So you could have said no, because of your stupid rule?”

“So that I could have protected us! Both of us!”

“Protected us from what?”

“From this!” Maggie’s nearly yelling now, her frustration clearly getting the better of her. She angrily sweeps her arm around, encompassing everything happening in this alley. “From the regret you’re going to feel when you finish sobering up. From how fucking shitty I feel for taking advantage of you. From how wonderful it’ll feel for me when you realize that I was a drunken mistake.”

Alex takes a step forward at that, not missing that Maggie said ‘I was a mistake,’ not ‘it was a mistake.’

“Maggie, no.”

But Maggie steps back again. “No. Stop. I’m just…I’m serious, Alex. I’m not doing this. We’re done.”

“Maggie, come on.”

But Maggie is turning and leaving and walking back to the crime scene.

“We’re done.”

 


 

Alex works the rest of the day on the case like a robot. She manages to make her mind go completely blank as she stares into her microscope, cataloguing the different strands of lizard DNA from the dead zombie with a meticulous focus that anyone else in the world would need drugs to achieve.

She goes home at four, still hungover, still exhausted, still numb.

She makes it as far as her kitchen before she gives in, pouring herself an enormous tumbler of scotch and sinking to her floor.

She has just enough brainpower to open her trapdoor and hit the button tucked inside it to open the forest doors before she tips the glass back, taking mouthful after mouthful of the amber liquid.

It can’t be more than half an hour (and two more generous glasses of scotch) before Gertrude pokes her nose out of the trapdoor. She makes a little hissing noise – she’s hungry and Alex hasn’t been out to the forest and she’s lonely and a little scared.

Alex gives her the command she’s been waiting for, her voice dull. “Go hunt.”

But Gert doesn’t go hunt. She looks over at her alpha and, with a quiet whine of concern, climbs up through the trapdoor and picks her way through the furniture over to Alex, her deadly claws making loud clicking noises on the hardwood floors.

She hunches down, putting her head as close to the level of Alex’s as she can. She chirrups, somehow both offering comfort and asking a question.

“Go away, Gert,” Alex says flatly, but there’s no heat behind it.

Gert woofs, like she’s offended that Alex would think for a minute that she’d leave her alone in this condition.

She cranes her head, butting her nose into Alex’s shoulder and letting her snout vibrate with a little sound that’s always reminded Alex of a cat purring.

And Alex is devastated, but she lets herself put her hands on her velociraptor, taking comfort from the cool, rough skin of her nose.

“Nothing’s wrong, Gert. You should go hunt.”

But Gert is clearly not going hunting. She makes a little whimpering noise and shuffles closer, curling so that her body is smaller, but Alex just shakes her head. “Forget I ever said anything about her. Forget all of this ever happened.”

But the raptor is clearly refusing that order too, making the low hurrr sound that she only ever makes when Alex is sick, or after her father died.

And Alex hates that she’s messed up enough, vulnerable enough, that even a fucking dinosaur can tell that she needs to be taken care of.

“I made a mistake,” she says, and her voice is hoarse and cracking and she’s clearly so close to tears and she hates it. “I never should have done anything. I should have kept my mouth shut.”

Gert lowers herself all the way down, her eyes never leaving Alex’s, the soft low rumble of her concern vibrating through the floor. Her head is swinging a little back and forth, like she’s trying to see and cuddle Alex at the same time.

It’s only then, under the tenderness of her raptor’s gaze, that Alex lets out her first sob of the night, and she tells her the truth.

“She doesn’t want me,” she says, her breath catching as she sobs again. “Not anymore.”

And Gert wraps herself around Alex, reaching out a deadly foreleg to pull Alex into her body. She curls around her confusingly tiny alpha, and she makes her little hurrring sound, and Alex just lets herself fall apart.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Alex manages to get J’onn to assign her to the desert base for the next three weeks. She and Gertrude go through the more intensive of the new training exercises she’d developed a few months ago, some of which take several days to complete. She goes out on inspections and recon missions of suspicious cloning facilities. Gertrude comes along on two active missions to bring in zombies living out in the wilderness.

One zombie comes in for medical testing quietly, but the other resists. He tries to kill Alex, and Gert takes great exception to that.

From the way she keeps flicking her tongue out of her mouth for the next hour or so, Alex is pretty sure he didn’t taste particularly good as he went down her gullet.

She knows, based on his size, that Gert probably isn’t hungry, but she wrangles a bowl of hot deer blood for her to drink to get the taste of him out of her mouth, and Gert chirrups her appreciation.

So it’s not that Alex is avoiding Maggie, it’s just that she has a lot going on right now, and being in the city was never the best use of her talents anyway. Not seeing Maggie is just a perk of the situation, that’s all.

 


 

The Science Division puts in a request for a joint operation on a new case. Alex assigns Vasquez to work it.

Alex gets four texts and two phone calls from Maggie.

She doesn’t listen to the voicemails and she ignores the texts.

The weather is beautiful, so Alex pitches a tent in the forest and sleeps out there every night, and her dinosaur does this adorable thing where she sleeps with her head stuck inside the tent, her enormous body absurdly poking out the side. It can’t be terribly restful for her, but Alex is immensely comforted by it.

Each night that she falls asleep, her face just inches from her velociraptor’s gleaming six-inch teeth, is a good night.

 


 

Alex is called into the city base for a routine debrief on the last couple raids. She’s expecting to go in, report, head out, stop by her favorite food truck, and be back in the desert by 3pm. There should be about twenty people there, but Alex isn’t expecting to have to do much small talk. They all know her well enough to leave her alone unless they have something interesting to say about work.

She’s not expecting to walk into the conference room and immediately be confronted by the sight of Maggie. Maggie, who is standing inside the room, holding a cup of coffee, chatting with J’onn. Maggie, who is wearing a pair of jeans so tight they can’t possibly be real. Maggie, who is ridiculously tiny but had managed to toss Alex around her bed just as much as she’d pleased.

Maggie, who doesn’t notice her until J’onn raises his hand in greeting. “Ah, Captain Danvers,” he says, and Maggie turns around, and it looks to Alex like her movements are a little measured, a little controlled, a little hesitant. “Good, come in.”

“Sir,” Alex dips her head in greeting, careful to play it professional around Maggie. No need for anyone outside the DEO to know how close she and J’onn are. Especially someone she trusts as little as Maggie right now.

Alex walks into the room, dropping her bag into a chair before turning to the coffee machine. “Detective,” she says, giving herself points for being the first to acknowledge Maggie, like maybe that gives her the higher moral ground, or something.

And she’s expecting Maggie to say Captain in response, with a clipped, maybe slightly distant tone, but she doesn’t. “Hey, Danvers,” she says, and Alex had impressed herself with her own ability to give the cold shoulder, but Maggie is acting perfectly friendly. Alex had been trying to give off a what happened between us doesn’t bother me vibe, but Maggie has gone right for nothing happened between us, hey, how’s it going type of deal, and she’s crushing it, and Alex is furious.

So now Alex looks like the asshole, when Maggie is the one who fucked and dumped her.

Great. Truly, purely, fantastic.

Alex pours her coffee and then engages in a 30-second, silent, furious fight with a series of lids, all of whom seem intent on changing their very chemical structures just to not fit on the cup.
“Need a hand?” The voice from behind her is clearly amused, and it’s clearly Maggie, and Alex is not having it.

Alex turns around to face her and, after a quick check that there’s no one in the immediate vicinity – everyone else is gathered around the donuts on the other side of the room – lets her scowl run free. “And here I’d thought you’d made it perfectly clear that you giving me hand was off the table from now on.”

Maggie huffs a little, and her nostrils flare, but her voice stays low and measured. “We have to be able to work together, Alex,” she says, like that’s any type of response.

Alex raises an eyebrow, indicating the conference room. “And what do you call this?”

“This?” Maggie tilts her head towards the coffee station. “Coffee lid genocide.”

Alex moves to push past her, so beyond done with this. She wishes Gert were here. She’d jump on her dinosaur’s back and ride out into the sunset, and never fucking come back.

“Alex, come on.”

But Alex just walks past her, careful not to touch. “You don’t sleep with girls like me,” she says, her voice as quiet as she can make it, “and I don’t work with girls like you.”

 


 

“I need the two of you to work together.”

It’s a couple of weeks later, and they’re back in the conference room, but this time it’s just Alex, Maggie, and J’onn.

Alex opens her mouth to protest, hoping no one else heard the little squeaking noise that just came out, but J’onn beats her to it, smoothly talking over her without hesitation.

“In the past ten weeks since the fight club, we’ve identified four more hybrids with predatory dinosaurs snuck into their genetic codes.”

Alex can’t help but dart her eyes over to Maggie, whose eyebrows are knitting together. “Four?” Maggie’s asking, clearly being very careful to not sound too accusatory. “After the bat zombie at the fight club, I only ever heard about one more.”

J’onn nods. “The purple Komodo dragon.”

“The purple Komodo dragon,” she agrees. “Why wasn’t I told about the others?”

“You don’t have high enough security clearance,” Alex says, and it’s more of a snap than she’d have liked it to be, and her voice is a little flatter than she’d have preferred. She tries to modulate it, but she’s not sure she succeeds. “You’re only read in on a need-to-know basis.”

“And now,” J’onn says, and Maggie probably misses it, but Alex can hear the chastisement in his tone, and she looks up in time to see his eyes flash red, just for a split second, in warning. “You need to know.”

He walks Maggie through the other three dinosaur splices – another bat, a sort of nasty mongrel dog, and a truly horrifying crocodile thing that had nearly taken his leg off.

“We think we’ve located the lab doing these splices,” he says. “It’s out in Utah. We leave tomorrow morning, first thing.”

And Alex doesn’t know how to ask her question without sounding like even more of a bitch, but luckily Maggie beats her to the punch.

“So why am I being read in now?” And Maggie, of course, manages to perfectly toe the line between respectful curiosity and slight hostility. “What changed in the need-to-know?”

J’onn takes her question at face value, never changing his calm, steady inflection. “This seems like a bigger, more complex situation than just one splicer who got their hands on dinosaur DNA. We’re going to need to work together on this – ICRB, DEO, NCPD, and probably eventually the Justice Department. I’m anticipating indictments, trials, possibly a sweeping federal investigation. I know our methods tend to differ, Detective, but if this ends up in public court, we’ll need your division to have been on board from the beginning. We want to do everything right on this one.”

Maggie nods, clearly taking that just as seriously as J’onn would hope.

Alex swallows, resigning herself to years of working with Maggie within arm’s reach. How fucking wonderful.

“What’s the plan, sir?”

But J’onn doesn’t pull out another set of folders or click to a powerpoint slide with infiltration information.

He does something much worse.

“Captain Danvers,” he says, giving her that very intense look he has sometimes. “It’s time for you to introduce Detective Sawyer to your partner.”

Alex’s jaw drops, clunking onto the ground. This has already been quite the fucking briefing, but this is beyond her wildest and worst expectations. “Excuse me?”

But J’onn clearly didn’t misspeak. “They’re both coming on the mission,” he says, his voice measured, like it’s a totally casual thing to be saying. Time to introduce the person who made you realize you liked girls, fucked you, and dumped you, to the one secret that could ruin all of our lives. Very casual.

Maggie is looking back and forth between them, clearly confused.

“J’onn, that’s not a good idea,” Alex says, trying to keep her voice steady and reasonable.

He raises an eyebrow, probably because she’s calling him J’onn in front of Maggie, or possibly because she’s refusing what seems to be a direct order. “Alex,” he warns, but his voice has that undertone of caring to it that always makes Alex want to cry a little bit. “It’s the right time. The mission requires all three of you to work together. And we can’t go over the plan until Detective Sawyer’s read in.”

And this mission is serious, and this is a direct order. And taking orders about her partner has never been something that she’s comfortable with, but she knows it’s the price of her job and the DEO’s silence.

“Fine,” she says, and the fact that isn’t a snap, that it doesn’t have much heat to it, is the strongest testament to her close relationship with J’onn that she can think of.

She stands, pushing her chair back with the force of her movement. “Come on, then, Sawyer. Let’s go.”

Maggie stands, still shooting confused glances to both of them, and follows her out.

She makes it as far as the parking lot before she asks. “You have a partner?”

Alex just nods tersly, clicking the doors open and getting settled behind the wheel.

“Why haven’t you ever mentioned them?”

Alex shrugs a little. “Never came up,” she grunts as she cranes her neck around to back out of her space without hitting any of the poles (again).

“Seriously? Alex, come on. I’m trying, here. Give me something.”

And Alex lets out of a puff of air, because Maggie is trying – has been trying, what with the calls and the texts and the general friendliness – and Alex has rebuffed her at every turn. And yeah, what happened that night was…well, spectacular and life changing and mind-altering and sort of unbelievable. And what happened the next morning was awful and heartbreaking and terrifying and humiliating and Alex has been struggling (and failing) to not think about it ever since it happened.

But Maggie has been trying, and now they have to go on this mission to Utah together, and Alex is driving Maggie to meet her partner, and so it’s probably time to meet her halfway.

“I’m sorry,” Alex manages, hoping she sounds sincere. “It’s just…it’s a complicated situation to explain. It’ll be easier to talk about it after I’ve introduced you.”

Which is true, because Alex has never quite figured out how to say, ‘hey, want to meet my child? She’s an illegal velociraptor, she could kill you so many different ways, and her favorite food is potstickers!’ without sounding like a splicer off her rocker or a total sociopath.

And Maggie seems to take it as the olive branch it is. “Okay, Captain,” she says, leaning back in her seat a little bit. “I’ll be patient.”

 


 

It’s quiet the rest of the drive. Alex fiddles with the radio, but it’s just ads on every station. She eventually finds a Barenaked Ladies song, which makes Maggie perk up and hum along, but it’s over all too quickly, and a commercial for refinancing student loans blares in its place. Alex turns to the classical station for the last few minutes of the drive, simply to have anything to fill the aching silence between them.

She pulls up in front of her house – crusing into the driveway next to her cute little bungalow with its little green front lawn on this sweet little street – and turns off the car, but doesn’t unfasten her seatbelt or open her door. “Just…” she says, turning to Maggie, “just follow my lead, stay quiet, don’t ask questions, and no matter what happens, don’t scream.”

Maggie laughs, and it takes her a long moment to realize Alex isn’t kidding.

Some of the color fades from her face. “Wait, what? Are…are you serious?”

Alex nods, and Maggie’s eyes are wide and she’s taking off her seatbelt and her fingers are skittering over the door handle. “What the fuck do you mean, don’t scream?” She looks around, clearly taking in the quiet suburban vibe. “Where are we? What’s going on?” She takes hold of the handle, like she’s going to flee. “Who are we meeting?”

Alex has reached out, her hand grasping Maggie’s arm, before she can stop herself. “Maggie, calm down. You’re going to be fine. It’s fine.”

Maggie does take a breath, but she’s only a hair less likely to jump out of the car and run back the way they came on foot.

“I promise, you’re safe with me, okay? Nothing and no one will hurt you when you’re with me.”

Maggie swallows hard, and Alex hopes Maggie didn’t notice how much, in a different context, or a different life, that would have sounded like a confession of a very different sort of protection.

Maggie nods. “Okay.” She takes a couple more breaths, and then nods, firmly. Alex tries not to let the knowledge of how brave Maggie is sink too deeply under her skin. “Okay. Let’s go.”

They get out of the car and head up the walkway. Apparently Maggie forgot that one of the rules was ‘don’t ask questions,’ because she’s said, “Where are we?” before they’ve even made it to the stoop.

But before Alex can answer, one of her least favorite sounds greets her. “Oh, Alexandra!”

Alex groans, giving herself a full second before she turns around. “Hello,” she manages, hoping she sounds as tired and disinterested as possible. But, then again, it’s not like Mrs. Macaw has ever taken the hint before.

“Alexandra, dear, I was just saying to myself ‘I haven’t seen Alexandra in ages, I hope everything’s alright,’ and now, here you are! How lovely.”

Alex would not, under any circumstances, call this lovely.

Mrs. Macaw is unperturbed. She continues nattering on as she crosses her lawn and then Alex’s, covering the distance like she’s expecting to be invited in. “Well since I haven’t seen you, I’ve been looking out for the paper, you know, because you don’t want it to accumulate because then the robbers will know you’re not home! So I’ve been looking, even poked in the bushes a few times, but I didn’t see it. So I wasn’t sure if you were coming home and I just missed you, or if you’re one of those young people who doesn’t believe in the newspaper.” Now she’s frowning accusingly, like Alex is personally responsible for the decline in national newspaper sales and the spike in popularity of avocado toast.

“I don’t get the paper delivered,” Alex says from between clenched teeth, “so no need to worry.”

“Oh, well, then, I must start bringing over my favorite clippings! It’s important to be informed, you know, dear. No man will want a woman who isn’t informed!”

Alex hears a delicate snort from behind her, and she simply wants to throttle the both of them.

She speaks as quickly as she can. “Oh, I’m plenty well informed. I subscribe online. You know, for the environment.” She turns her body halfway away, like she’s going in the door. “Well, we’ve got to be going, nice talking to y—“

But before she can finish, Mrs. Macaw cuts her off. “Oh, hello dear,” she’s saying to Maggie, careful to speak loudly enough that she can be heard over Alex’s determined tone. “And who might you be?”

Alex doesn’t give her the chance to either be polite or to say something Alex doesn’t want Mrs. Macaw to know. Which is, by the way, absolutely everything. “This is Maggie, we work together, and we really do need to be going now.”

But Mrs. Macaw just grins, barging forward to shake Maggie’s hand and introduce herself. “Well, Maggie, you’re the first friend Alexandra has ever brought home! What a treat for me to be here to see it!” And she makes a horrible giggling sound, and Alex wonders if she’d be as happy if she knew that they’d once been so much more than gal pals.

“Really?” Maggie asks, one eyebrow raised. “The first? Well, count me honored.”

“Shut up,” Alex mutters out of the side of her mouth as she unlocks her front door, discretely brushing her fingertips against the hidden sensor next to the doorknob.

Once the door is open, she pitches her voice louder again. “Well, nice to see you but I’m afraid we have a pile of work to do. Goodbye!” She grabs Maggie’s arm and nearly throws her inside the door, slamming it shut behind them and doing up the whole series of locks.

Maggie looks like she’s going to explode with happiness. Alex holds up a finger in her direction. “Not a word,” she warns, but that just makes Maggie burst out laughing.

“Shut up,” Alex grumbles again, but she can’t help but notice how her body responds to Maggie’s laugh. Fucking traitor.

“Sorry!” Maggie holds up a hand like the apology is real, but she’s gasping for breath, so some of the sincerity is lost. “It’s just…you wouldn’t last a day in the Midwest. One minute of neighborly conversation, and you’d be arrested for homicide.” Maggie wipes the start of a tear from her cheek, still laughing. “The look on your face.”

“Oh, no,” Alex deadpans, “My dreams of life as a Midwestern housewife. They’re crushed.”

Maggie snorts again, and something inside of Alex is terribly warm and terribly cold at the same time.

“Hey,” Maggie says, her breath coming more naturally now. “Don’t knock the opportunity to become a famous butter sculptor ‘til you’ve tried it.”

Alex can’t help but laugh. “Hard pass,” she says, walking further into the apartment.

Maggie takes that as an opportunity to look around, taking in the open floor plan, the sturdy furniture, the enormous bed, and the kitchen that looks like it’s still in the original factory wrapping. “So,” she says, after her eyes have covered pretty much the whole space. “This is where you live?”

“Uh, yeah.”

Maggie tilts her head a little bit, and Alex resolutely does not look for dimples. “Can’t help but notice there doesn’t seem to be a partner in here.”

And, for a second, Alex had almost forgotten why they’re here – almost forgotten that she and Maggie don’t have a relationship where they casually go to each other’s houses and make fun of their neighbors. “Right,” Alex says, “Okay. This is the part where I’m serious about what I said in the car.”

Maggie looks around a bit more, like she can’t figure out what could possibly make her scream in this sunny one-room bungalow, but she nods.

“Stay quiet, stay with me, don’t scream. You’ll be fine.”

Maggie swallows, but she nods one more time.

 

Chapter Text

Alex lets out a deep breath before she crosses the living room, hits the switch to close all the shades in the house, then pulls back the rug, and opens the trapdoor in her floor. She hears Maggie take in a sharp breath, but otherwise she stays quiet.

“Wait here ‘til I tell you,” Alex says, dropping down the ladder quickly. Every once in a while, an animal gets caught in the tunnel, and she’s had a nasty surprise or two. But a quick check with the lights on proves that the tunnel is clear, so she calls for Maggie to come down.

She can tell that Maggie is burning with questions, but she holds her end of the deal. Her eyes bug out a little at the ATV, but she gets on behind Alex without complaint.

“Just hold on,” Alex instructs, her voice a little softer than she means. “It’ll get a little bumpy, so grab tight if you need to.”

Maggie’s hands come, firm and strong, on either side of Alex’s waist, and Alex desperately tries to forget everything that happened between them that night.

Alex turns on the bike, revs the engine, and speeds off into the tunnel. She clicks the doors open at the right time, and hears a little gasp from behind her as they emerge into the forest.

It does get bumpy, and Maggie ends up wrapping her arms all the way around Alex, her body pressed tightly to Alex’s back.

It’s completely horrible.

Alex finally pulls into one of the big central clearings. She stops the bike and turns it off, but murmurs, “Don’t move,” to Maggie, so they both just sit astride the bike in the loud silence of the wood.

“Remember,” Alex says softly. “You’re safe with me.”

And she barely hears Maggie’s shaky okay from behind her; it’s more of a breath than a word. But it’s enough for Alex. She tilts her head back, whistles three times, then gives one long howl.

It’s silent for a slow minute. She can hear Maggie’s breath, a little fast, a little tight, right in her ear, but she ignores it to try to hear everything else. And, finally, she hears what she’s been listening for.

She takes hold of Maggie’s hands, which are still wrapped around her waist, keeping her firmly in place. “Don’t scream,” she says again, quickly and urgently.

And just in time, because not two seconds later there’s a deafening, earthshattering, truly horrifying roar. Maggie flinches and huddles behind Alex, letting out a little sound like she’s too scared to even scream.

And then an enormous dinosaur charges out of the woods at them, terribly angry mouth wide open to perfectly display two rows of dripping, gleaming, terrifying teeth, lethal claws outstretched, positively screaming in deadly challenge.

Maggie makes another gasping sound, and grabs at Alex, ducking her head down and rocking hard to the side, like maybe she’s trying to throw both of them off the bike and out of the dinosaur’s way. But Alex braces and leans the other direction, using her weight to hold them still.

Maggie doesn’t really scream, and, honestly, Alex is beyond impressed.

“HEY!” Alex calls sharply, still holding Maggie in place with all of her strength, frowning at the dinosaur. “What kind of greeting is that?”

The dinosaur skids to a stop in front of them, rearing up to her full height. She looks Maggie dead in the eye and roars again, the sound shaking the leaves around them and causing every bird in the area to take flight.

“Gertrude Danvers!” Alex snaps, finally prying Maggie’s arms from around her waist and standing up on the pedals, shaking a finger at her child. “Manners!”

And the dinosaur closes her mouth, and lowers her head a little bit, like she’s cowed, and Alex faintly hears a disbelieving, “What is happening?” from behind her.

“Gert,” Alex says firmly. “Friend.”

She hears Maggie nearly choke behind her, but she ignores it.

Gert seems just as disbelieving as Maggie is, and Alex wonders if she’s recognizing Maggie’s scent from the night she and Maggie had spent together. From the evening Alex had cried in Gert’s arms.

“Friend,” Alex says again, even more firmly, and Gert finally does what she’s told.

She sinks to her knees, ducks her head a little bit, and offers one foreleg over to the bike.

“Okay,” Alex says softly, dropping back into her seat. “We’re going to get off the bike, and you’re going to shake her hand.”

What?” Maggie squeaks, and Alex realizes this probably sounds like a suicidal move.

“This is how she gets to know you.” Alex is careful to make her voice as soothing as she can, for both Maggie and Gertrude’s sakes. “She won’t hurt anyone she’s been introduced to like this. Not when they’re with me.”

“I…” Maggie drops her head onto Alex’s back for a second, and Alex can feel her chest heaving, and she can’t even imagine how freaked Maggie must be. “Your partner is a dinosaur?”

“She is, and we’ll talk about it later. But right now, you need to shake her hand, so that we can hunt. I don’t want her getting too hungry with a stranger around.”

And that seems to be all the motivation Maggie needs. She lets go of Alex, allowing Alex to quickly swing off the bike before offering her a hand and helping her down. She assumes Maggie’s knees are probably a little weak, and she can’t say she blames her.

“Okay,” Alex says, coming to stand behind her. “Just reach out slowly, and take her hand in yours. She’ll move her snout to smell you, but she won’t hurt you.”

And Maggie – impossibly brave Maggie – does just that. “I think it’s a little rich to call this a hand,” Maggie whispers, her voice shaking, as she closes her fingers around a claw that could rip her to shreds without any effort.

Alex chuckles and holds tight to Maggie’s hips as Gert, as promised, slowly swings her snout around to smell Maggie’s hand. Alex presses her body forward so that, when Maggie shrinks back in fear, she doesn’t have too far to go, ensuring that her hand stays on Gert’s claw long enough for Gert to get used to her.

When Gert finally moves her head away from Maggie’s (trembling) hand, Alex instructs Maggie to take her hand back. She guides Maggie over to the bike, helping her climb up onto the back of the seat. “You’re doing great,” she says softly, giving Maggie’s hand a squeeze. “Really.”

And Maggie’s completely pale and definitely shaking like a leaf, but she manages a tight-lipped smile. “Thanks.”

Alex turns back to the dinosaur, placing her hands on her hips. “Well!” she says, taking a couple steps forward before planting her feet and glaring at the extinct monster. “Someone’s excited about seeming scary this afternoon!”

Gert chirrups a little, one of her most insecure sounds, and Alex realizes that Gert is worried she’s in real trouble. Maybe, that Alex is replacing her with Maggie. So, Alex does the only thing she can to reassure her. She launches herself, with no warning, straight at the dinosaur.

She faintly hears Maggie make a panicked sound from behind her, but she’s distracted by making sure, as she and the velociraptor go tumbling to the ground, that she doesn’t accidentally impale herself on a claw.

She lands on top of Gert, who snorts and huffs and wiggles with happiness, while Alex, laying prostrate on top of her dinosaur child, scratches under her neck and uses her most loving tone to berate Gert for her impolite greeting.

After a minute or two, Alex rolls off her and bounds over to the bike again. She swings back up, settling herself in front of Maggie. “How you doing?” she asks, turning over her shoulder to get a good look at Maggie’s face.

Maggie looks like her entire brain is experiencing network connectivity issues. “It…I…you just…”

Alex laughs a little, in a way that she hopes isn’t coming across as unkind. “I’m sure it’s a lot to take in.”

“Yeah,” Maggie squeaks. “Little bit.”

“Well,” Alex says, looking over at her very impatient dinosaur who seems to be giving Maggie a withering glare. “Can you handle a little more? She’s hungry, and if you’re going to be working with her, I think it’s a good idea for you to see how she hunts.”

“Sure,” Maggie says, and her voice is still high and breathy, like maybe she’s sort of disassociating. “Let’s go hunting with a dinosaur. Definitely.”

“Alrighty then.” Alex starts up the ATV, and Gert paws at the ground, snorting with impatience. “Okay, girl,” Alex calls over to her. “Dinnertime!”

And dinosaur and ATV take off through the woods.

 


 

Gert finds a small herd of deer tonight, and she’s practically salivating as she looks over at Alex while she runs behind them, herding them towards one of her favorite kill spots. Alex singles out a young buck, one of three with this herd, and points to him. “Go hunt,” she says, and Gert wastes no time doing just that.

She outruns the herd, not even exerting herself to above her comfortable pace of 45 miles per hour, and she grabs the buck in question by the simple expedient of closing her jaws around his neck and tossing him to the ground. Alex slows the ATV as the rest of the herd bounds away, watching to make sure Gert makes a clean kill before the buck can try to hurt her baby with his horns.

Gert cleanly slits his throat. “Holy shit,” Maggie breathes.

Gert snorts, her blood still up, but she looks up at Alex instead of digging in. Alex nods at her. “Perimeter check,” she orders, making sure to enunciate enough for Maggie to hear what she’s saying.

Gert woofs out air before stalking around the area, taking in big breaths, her nostrils flaring. Alex, as always, is amazed that she can smell anything other than the hot, metallic tang of fresh blood.

“What’s she doing?” Maggie’s tiny voice asks from behind her, practically a whisper.

Alex responds at a normal volume, wanting to make sure Gert doesn’t mistake whispers for a threat she can’t see. “She’s checking to make sure the area is clear before she eats. While she’s eating, and just after when she’s torpid, she’s vulnerable. And I’m very vulnerable. We had an incident, a couple years ago…” Alex’s hand floats down to her right thigh. “You maybe saw the scar?”

And they haven’t talked about that night since the horrible morning after, but Maggie does nothing more than suck in a breath. “Yeah. I did.”

Of course she did. It’s enormous, mottled, and ugly. Boar tusks, it turns out, are not a joke.

“It was the mate of a boar that Gert had killed. She charged me while Gert was eating and I…” It feels overly dramatic to say coded twice during the med-evac, so she gently downplays it. “It wasn’t great. So now she checks for other animals or danger before I give her the command to eat.”

Gert finishes her patrol and, after spending a few seconds giving Maggie the stink eye from twenty feet away, lets out her loud, low trill.

“That sound means all-clear,” Alex mutters to Maggie before raising her voice and calling to Gert. “Go eat.”

Gert positively squeals with excitement, bounding over to the deer and ripping off a hind leg without hesitation.

“Holy fuck,” Maggie breathes.

Alex grins. Her child is so impressive.

 


 

“So, um, I don’t know how to phrase this, but…what the fuck, Danvers?”

They’re sitting on the forest floor, eating the sandwiches that Alex had brought in the ATV’s cargo box. Maggie had been hesitant to sit down on the floor, instead of on the bike, but she’d finally gingerly lowered herself to the ground. Alex had been careful to not sit too close – both because of feelings, and because Gert will certainly be coming over to cuddle and she doesn’t think Maggie will be able to handle being in arms reach just yet.

Alex just laughs.

“But, um. So. Your partner is…” Maggie trails off, and she’s still looking pretty pale and nervous and Alex’s heart is trying to carve its way out of her body just to give itself to Maggie.

“A velociraptor,” Alex says softly. “Yeah.”

“How…I just…” Maggie pinches the bridge of her nose, and Alex gets that she has no idea what to ask first. “Isn’t that illegal?”

And Alex can’t help but choke a little on her pastrami. Because of course the fucking NCPD detective, face-to-face with an extinct murder machine living within the bounds of National City, would hone on in the fact that she’s an illegal extinct murder machine.

Gertrude, from over where she’s delicately pulling small bites off the tattered remains of the deer carcass, lifts her head and makes a serious of concerned clicks to Alex.

Alex waves her hand quickly. “I’m okay, girl,” she calls. “Stand down.”

Gert trills a little bit, returning to her meal, satisfied that her alpha did not choke to death and does not need her to stare down this new creature again.

“Yeah, she’s illegal, obviously,” Alex says, rolling her eyes. “That’s one of the reasons she and I work with the DEO. For protection.”

Maggie nods. “Did you clone her yourself?” she asks, her voice a little breathless. “I thought—I mean, I thought the pure predatory dinosaur genetic codes were all destroyed after Jurassic Park.”

Alex nods. “They were. I mean, they were supposed to be. But, apparently…” she looks over at Gert and simply shrugs. “Apparently they weren’t.”

“How’d you get it? Her DNA sequence?”

“I didn’t. I didn’t clone her. I found her.”

There’s a long moment of silence. “What?” Maggie finally asks, her voice more of a squeak than she’d probably have liked it to be. “You found her? What, like, in a cardboard box in an underpass? A poor, scraggly, pathetic stray dinosaur on the side of the highway?”

And she sounds like she might be veering into hysteria, and, honestly, Alex is surprised it’s taken this long. She grabs a water bottle from the ground and tosses it to Maggie, hoping it might help.

“Not quite,” she says, careful to give Maggie a smile that she hopes is supportive. “I grew up in Midvale, which is this beachy town but backed by some pretty wild forest. And, when I was fourteen, I was out in the woods by myself, and I found an egg.” Alex pauses for a second, just remembering that day. It had been mid-morning, and she’d been planning to stay out all day collecting moss samples for a science project. But she’d come across something that looked like an enormous bird’s egg, and, scientist’s curiosity piqued, she’d stopped to check it out.

The forest had smelled like pine and resin, and it had been sunny but the tall branches had broken the light up into shafts and dappled pockets of sun. It was already hot, but not sticky – a perfect day.

“And I lucked out, completely, because I touched the egg and I could feel it rocking, so I knew it was about to hatch. And I waited, and then it…she hatched.”

It had been before smartphones, and Alex’s little flip phone hadn’t had a camera on it, so she’d just watched, transfixed, barely breathing, as the egg had rocked and rocked. And there’d been a scrabbling, scratching sound coming from the inside and then, after she’d been holding her breath for what felt like hours, a crack.

A crack had spidered across the top of the egg, and the scrabbling sounds had only gotten louder. And Alex hadn’t really known anything about animals, but she’d found herself muttering soft encouragements to the creature inside, telling it about the crack, praising it, saying how excited she was to see it.

“She broke through with one claw, and then poked her nose out through the hole, and just breathed for a little while, and I just…I didn’t know what she was, then, obviously, but I just…I was mesmerized.”

She had reached out, with one fearless finger, and stroked the nose she could see. Good girl, she’d cooed, deciding she’d worry about gender identity later. Good girl. Sweet girl. Strong, beautiful girl.

Gertrude, finally done with her meal, takes the buck’s skull in her mouth, antlers still attached, and tosses it as far away as she can. She trots over to Alex and, with a truly hateful, contemptuous look at Maggie, drops herself into Alex’s lap, curling her body and tail so she’s entirely encircling her alpha, like she’s daring Maggie to challenge her position as the only one who can be close to Alex.

Just reminding Maggie, with a flash of deadly teeth and a wave of her claws, that if Maggie wants to get to Alex, she’ll have to go through the seven-foot-tall velociraptor.

Alex rolls her eyes at her dinosaur but reaches out immediately, settling her hands on Gert’s head and rubbing her snout in the most comforting way she can. Gert hurrrs, almost purring, but still manages to stare down Maggie with one eye.

Alex’s fingers are so close to Gert’s teeth, and Maggie has just seen Gert take down a deer and swallow it without any effort, so it’s no surprise that she looks completely freaked by this turn of events.

Alex just keeps going with her story, hopeful that continued exposure will make both of them more comfortable with each other.

“And it wasn’t until hours later, when she’d completely broken out of the shell, that I realized what she was. And by then, it was too late.” Alex smiles down at her baby, blinking back the tears that are welling up. “I was a goner for her.”

“Did she imprint on you?” Maggie asks, clearly still a detective even in her terror. “Like in that movie, with the girl and the geese?”

Alex smiles. In retrospect, she may have had a crush on that girl. “Yeah, she did. I was her mama, plain and simple.”

Maggie blinks a couple of times. “So you, what? Just casually raised a dinosaur after school?”

Alex laughs at that, and Gert snorts, like she’s offended that raising her could have been anything like casual. She runs her claws through the dirt while making unblinking eye contact with Maggie, the long furrows in the ground clearly demonstrating the power behind her threats.

“Well, that was the very start of summer,” Alex says, “so I spent three months straight with her, out in the woods. I stole my dad’s car at night and taught myself to drive so I could drive around to all the big grocery stores. I told each of them that I was buying meat for a whole summer camp whose freezer had broken.”

Maggie snorts and Alex laughs along with her. It had been terrifying, driving by herself at age fourteen, in the middle of the night, without ever having been behind the wheel before. But she’d learned within the first 30 hours that Gert needed a lot more meat than Alex was able to sneak out of the kitchen at home.

And, after 30 hours, she’d already been hopelessly gone for her dinosaur.

“I fed her by hand, bloody up to my elbow, sometimes.” She smiles fondly down at her child, and Maggie looks like she might be sick.

“And by the end of the summer I learned how to set traps for rabbits and stuff, and she learned how to eat them out of the traps. So I’d set the traps before school, and if they caught anything she’d eat that during the day, and then I’d bring her meat after school.”

And Maggie’s just shaking her head, like Alex is ridiculous and impossible and cute, and Alex’s heart is making little scrabbling noises against her ribs.

Gertrude is doing her best to use one eye to look at Alex with love and admiration, and to use her other to dismissively sneer in Maggie’s direction. She can’t decide between hissing and purring, and it honestly would be funny if Alex weren’t feeling exactly the same thing.

Alex pushes her feelings as far down as she can, continuing her story. “When she finally learned to hunt enough to feed herself, I was so happy. And broke.” Alex shakes her own head a little bit, not regretting her financial sacrifice for a second, but sending up a brief prayer of mourning for all the money that had gone down her baby’s insatiable gullet.

“I spent all my bat mitzvah money on meat, and then I learned how to hack just to get into my college fund, and I spent a lot of that, too.” She looks up at Maggie and raises one sardonic eyebrow. “Everyone is always pressuring you to have one, but no one ever tells you how expensive having a dinosaur is!”

And Maggie, as she’d hoped, laughs.

Gertrude hisses loudly, and Alex smacks her lightly on the neck. “Be nice,” she says, but Gert just snuggles closer, opening one eye again to stare at Maggie with an aggressive little gurgle, like she’s daring Maggie to challenge her for the title of Alex’s-best-friend.

“But, uh, so, she and I managed to live off the grid in that forest without anyone finding her for almost two years, which was a fucking miracle. But then…” Alex shrugs a little, hoping Maggie can’t detect how emotional she still is about it. Alex swallows. “The DEO found us.”

Maggie tilts her head a little bit, like she’s running all the facts she knows through her brain at rapid speed. “Well, neither of you are in secret prison and you work for them, so I guess it didn’t go too badly?”

Alex shrugs with one shoulder, not quite sure how much of this she wants to share. Gert, sensing the change in mood, flicks her tongue out and licks Alex’s hand, careful to snuggle even closer to her alpha.

And the only person Alex has trusted since the day she’d found that egg is J’onn, but she finds herself wanting to make an exception. To let Maggie in. To actually tell her the whole truth. And that’s terrifying and horrible to think about, because last time she’d made an exception for Maggie, she’d cried herself to sleep in her dinosaur’s arms and had spent the next three weeks eating ice cream out of the container while her raptor worried so much she sometimes forgot to hunt.

But her heart is scrabbling against her ribs, and Alex doesn’t think it can get worse than it was that morning. So she tells the truth.

“Um, actually. No. It was really bad. They – J’onn wasn’t in charge then, it was this man named Hank Henshaw, and he was…he wanted to use ExClo’s as part of a like, paramilitary force. Send them into war zones, directly into machine gun fire, and stuff. And Gert – she was going to be the crown jewel of his ExClo unit.”

Alex can’t help the way her fingers tighten against her dinosaur’s skin. Over my dead body, she’d screamed at Hank in the forest, just sixteen and skinny but strong and deadly serious. That can be arranged, he’d snarled at her, raising his gun. And Gert had screamed and charged him, shouldering Alex aside, shredding his torso with her claws.

His men had evacuated him, not daring to get close enough to Alex to bring her in, not with Gert standing between them, hissing and screaming and feinting at them.

Alex had been at home, frantically packing a bag, when they’d knocked on the front door.

“My dad – both my parents, I mean, were geneticists. They met working at Jurassic Park, actually, and my dad had been involved in some of the first big ExClo genetic successes. And they – they came for Gert, but he offered himself to them. He said he’d go work with them, if they protected me and Gert, and didn’t send us to war.”

Alex tries to force her emotions down, to forget what it had been like, that night. How full the moon had been. How she can still smell the tuna noodle casserole starting to burn in the oven. How small her father had looked, hugging her goodbye. How he’d said I love you like he knew he was never going to be able to say it to her again.

How, after they’d taken him, she’d run – positively sprinted – into the forest, screaming for Gert. How she’d collapsed on top of her dinosaur, alternating between pummeling her, hating her, for what had happened, and holding her close and swearing she’d never let anything happen to her.

She takes a shuddering breath, and Gert shifts so that she can wrap herself around Alex’s back, like she’s holding her.

“He never came back. We…he’s dead.”