"I need your help."
Alex wants to groan when she hears the words. She hasn't had so much as a single sip yet to help her deal with this. Any time Astra needs help it means something has gone wrong, and Alex still hasn't gotten J'onn to forgive her for the hole in the DEO training room from when Astra forgot to engage the kryptonite or red sun emitters. It hadn't been her fault, but since she'd tried to cover for the alien it somehow became her fault in the end.
"Astra, whatever it is can wait, can't it?" Alex whines, wishing M'gann would hurry up with her beer. She's currently waiting on a pair of high tipping aliens who can't settle on their next brew of choice, but that doesn't matter so much to Alex right now. Not when Astra is standing there looking worried.
It wouldn't be obvious to anyone else that the former general is upset, but Alex has learned to read the woman over the last year or so. What used to be a blank wall is now an entire museum of featured exhibits, all useful for determining what exactly is going through Astra's head at any moment. And the current tension, mixed with minute tensing of her hands? Those are never a good sign.
"No, Alexandra, it cannot." Astra sounds certain and resolute, and Alex gives up on her hopes for a relaxing evening completely. Honestly, with all the other powers Kryptonians gained under the yellow sun you'd think the power to pout would be overkill.
"Fine, let's grab a booth and you can explain what the hell you did this time," Alex says, sliding from her barstool with the groan she'd pushed down earlier. Knowing Astra, it's deserved.
At least the move gets M'gann to notice them, and soon after they settle in Alex's beer and a glass of something blue for Astra are finally arriving in front of them. Just in time too, because Astra is almost visibly losing her patience.
"Out with it," Alex says just before that patience snaps. It's a cheap move, but it lets her start the conversation off on her terms. That's an advantage she might need, depending on what exactly Astra is asking for.
"You know that Alura has decided to stay on Earth rather than return to Argo, correct?" Astra asks first, sipping at her drink as Alex takes a healthy swig of her own.
"Yeah, Kara was over the moon for an entire week when that decision came down," Alex says with a roll of her eyes. She's happy for her sister, really she is. But that doesn't mean an entire week of excited Kara was anything less than exhausting.
"And Eliza has invited both myself and Alura to your Thanksgiving dinner this year," Astra continues, waiting for Alex's nod. "Did you know that my sister has indicated she will be accompanied by a guest?"
Well. That's certainly news to Alex.
"A guest, or a guest ?" she asks, needing clarification. "Maybe it's a friend from the law school classes she's been taking."
"Alura indicated to your mother that only one room would be necessary," Astra says, jaw clenching slightly. "And while I am happy for my sister, I need your help."
"Uh, okay?" Alex doesn't really know where this is going, but she had known before sliding into the booth that she was almost certainly going to end up roped into whatever was going on anyway.
"If Alura, despite being on this planet for only 5 months, has settled in and found a prospective partner then I cannot appear to have done less."
Alex is starting to see where this is going, and she doesn't like it. She doesn't like it one bit.
"I therefore told your mother that I would also not need a separate room and would be sharing yours."
Yep. Does not like this at all.
"And you didn't think to ask me first?" Alex asks, surprisingly level considering how much she wants to yell and scream. Of all the things Astra could have asked for she could not have expected this. True, she hasn't been in the closet for a long time now, and true Eliza has been pushing for her to bring someone home to meet the family since Alex started dating again.
But for that person to be Kara's aunt? A former eco terrorist general that had nearly killed Alex more than once? That can't be what she'd meant.
"I didn't think it wise to invite another person into the house without warning, and there are not many people on this world to whom I would extend such an invitation regardless. That left me no other option."
Astra at least has the decency to sound ashamed, but Alex isn't swayed just yet. So what if her arguments make sense, she can't believe Astra told her mother they were dating without checking with her first. Especially since they aren't actually dating.
"You know what, you so owe me for this." It's unfortunately too late to back out now. Even if Alex insists Astra was lying, hell even if Astra insists she was lying, there's no way Eliza will back down and accept that. Even if she pretends every interaction will have a knowing undertone, an added layer of scrutiny as the woman tries to catch them in a lie.
Alex doesn't miss the irony in the relationship being the lie rather than the lack, but she's not drunk enough to find it amusing.
"Name your price," Astra concedes immediately. At least the trust they'd built working together at the DEO was good for something.
"Extra shifts, for at least a month." It's a start, but it doesn't seem like enough somehow and Alex tries to get her brain refocused on this issue rather than the less pressing concern of how to fake a relationship in front of her family. "And you get to tell Kara, both about this and the truth if it ever comes out. And you tell her we broke up if it never does."
There, that should do it. Astra still gets off lightly, but at least Alex won't have to face the worst fallout from this harebrained plan. Astra already told her mother, now she'll have to tell Kara, that just leaves J'onn and Alex can handle that one. The man led an entire organization of alien hunters without revealing his Martian status, she's pretty sure he can handle one Thanksgiving dinner without spilling the beans. If she's lucky he'll even be a useful ally when distractions are needed.
At least Kara won't be bringing a date this year, not that Eliza hadn't tried that one. Something about complicated scheduling and unavoidable conflicts with her current partner had been all the detail they'd gotten. Alex has her suspicions, but she isn't about to invade Kara's privacy just to get answers.
"Two months," Astra offers, and Alex can't help the suspicious look that crosses her face. Astra hates scheduled DEO shifts, chafes at once again being a cog in a machine rather than the brains behind it. She greatly prefers independent patrols or emergency support. Her free time is more often spent addressing the issues behind the initial decision to implement Myriad than working with government agencies, though she does the latter to satisfy the conditions of her pardon.
"I realize I have put you in an untenable situation with your family," Astra explains without prompting. "I am grateful you haven't insisted I reveal the truth, and am in your debt."
"No, it's- well it's not okay," Alex says with a sigh, "but it isn't the end of the world. And if we try to back out now my mom will just get suspicious and make it a whole big deal. If we tell everyone it's still new and casual maybe it won't be so bad."
Astra is shaking her head before Alex can finish. "Kryptonians do not have casual relationships. While that aspect of our culture has relaxed given the deaths of the more rigid members of the High Council, as well as their distance from this planet, relationships are considered much more serious than most humans view them."
"So what, you basically told your sister we're engaged?" This hadn't been part of the plan, and Alex is seriously starting to reconsider her offer of help.
"No, betrothal agreements take months to negotiate and finalize." If Astra is trying to be reassuring, she's failing. "An announcement of a relationship to a family is not a formal statement of intent. Merely a recognition that the relationship exists and should be treated with respect. No Kryptonian on Earth would announce a romantic partner until a certain level of intimacy had been achieved."
"Oh, god," Alex moans, downing the rest of her beer and reaching instinctively for the one M'gann had just delivered. To an empath she must be radiating discomfort by now, and Alex would feel guilty if not for the fact it got another drink delivered without her needing to ask. She'll just have to leave a great tip before she leaves.
"Again, my apologies, Alexandra."
Astra sounds sincere, but it's going to take some time to wrap her head around this one. From not dating to pretending she's all but engaged, it's a big leap. And hearing Astra talk about levels of intimacy, that's a whole different mental stumbling block. The general has always been so contained, even if Alex has learned to read her. This is..this is a whole new thing.
"Look, quit apologizing. I agreed to help, you agreed to repay me, let's just move on."
"As you wish. Should we discuss a plan for handling the weekend?"
Nope. Nope. Definitely not. "Why don't you let me wrap my head around this first?" Alex stalls. She hadn't thought about that part of the problem. How the fuck do you plan a romantic relationship that doesn't exist?
God, they'll need a cover story. Dating history, agreement on who asked who and who kissed who. And what will they do about kissing?
Alex doesn't want to think too much about why potential kissing doesn't bother her as much as plotting out lies to tell her family. Yes she's gay, and yes Astra is attractive, but that doesn't mean Alex is into her. And it should be weird, kissing someone she basically works with, right? Especially a former enemy, not to mention her sister's aunt. So many levels of strangeness here, the kissing is definitely not the important thing.
"Tomorrow, then?" Astra asks, impatient as always. "I will report to the DEO for the first of my extra shifts, and we can discuss in the down time."
Tomorrow. Alex doesn't work until after noon tomorrow, pulling the late shift when activity tends to spike. It's not much, but at least it's not first thing in the morning while dealing with the probably hangover. Just because she's only on her second beer of the night doesn't mean there isn't more waiting at home while she works on processing this.
Alex did indeed end up having a few more beers when she got home. Not many by her old standards, but definitely more than she'd had in one go for a few months. She didn't even realize what she'd been doing, just kept thinking and drinking and eventually coming up with a plan. Which surprisingly was still a decent plan when she woke up the next morning.
Astra wasn't quite as impressed, but with the holiday fast approaching there wasn't much choice. A few quick adjustments to the general outline Alex developed and they were set. All they had left was actually making it through intact.
The two bright spots of the whole thing were J'onn and Kara. J'onn had been far more understanding than Alex anticipated when he'd heard, and would definitely be an ally if they needed help distracting Eliza or Alura from detailed questioning.
Kara had been happy for them (something Alex is still avoiding processing) but declared quickly she didn't want details. Where in the past the sisters would share almost anything once a relationship turned serious Kara had insisted it was too weird when it was her aunt. Which meant they had another helper, even an unintentional one, if the conversation veered towards personal topics.
Now though, Thanksgiving weekend was here. It wasn't abstract planning and building a timeline for a fake relationship anymore. The time had come to face the music.
"You so owe me," Alex whispered, careful to avoid any details the other superhearing aliens might overhear.
"Yes, dear," Astra answered, earning a sharp glare. They'd already discussed the pet names thing, so Alex knows it's nothing more than a ploy to rile her up.
"Alex, there you are! Come in out of the cold before you catch something," Eliza says as she throws the door open before Alex has a chance. "Kara will help grab your things and show Astra where everything is."
"Mom, I can show her." She's not ready for the interrogation she's sure is coming once Astra is out of sight. It doesn't matter that there wasn't actually anything to tell, Alex is sure she'll hear something about the way her mother found out she was dating from anyone but her.
"Yes, Eliza, I would rather Alex show me around," Astra says, quickly jumping to Alex's defense. "I know it means quite a bit for Kara to share this first Earth holiday with Alura, and would not wish to pull her away from that."
"Of course." Alex lets out a barely concealed sigh that her mother has conceded so quickly, and grabs her suitcase before something can ruin her escape.
"Are we in the second guest room?" she asks as she heads towards the stairs, wondering where everyone has ended up. She'd shared with Kara growing up, first to help her adjust to Earth and then because they'd just become used to it. But there was no way she and Astra both would fit in that old twin bed.
"Yep, the one on the right. Alura and Lucy already put their stuff on the left."
Alex stops cold, looking back at Eliza for a moment. She definitely hadn't heard that correctly. Alura...and Lucy?
"Brave one, while my suitcase isn't a heavy burden I would like to settle in and rest for a moment," Astra says when Alex stops, breaking her out of her shock. Alex can tell Astra is surprised too, but she'd been a general too long to show her reaction. Most likely she wants to reach somewhere private so they can discuss the new development.
"Right, yeah. Of course," Alex says as she turns back to the stairs, long familiarity helping her climb and turn into their room for the weekend. She's thinking too much to do more than act on instinct and habit, placing her bag at the foot of the bed waving Astra towards where she can set the suitcases down.
"I take it you were as surprised by the news as I?" Astra asks once the door is shut, speaking quietly to keep the humans and distracted aliens from overhearing. "Lucy is your friend and commander of the desert base, correct? Did she not inform you of her relationship with my sister?"
"No, she didn't say a word," Alex says, struggling to keep her voice as collected as Astra's. The last thing they need is someone to overhear them. "But I didn't tell her about us either, so I can't exactly be mad at her."
"Well," Astra says sardonically, "at least dinner will be interesting."
All Alex can do is not her agreement with that, and turn to start arranging their clothing for the next few days. She hates living out of a suitcase if she can avoid it.
"I will try to keep your mother occupied until then," Astra offers after a few moments of quiet while Alex works on settling them in. "I know you do not wish to speak with her, and I am the one who pulled you into this situation. I believe I can ask for stories of Kara's time here without appearing suspicious, and Alura will surely be interested as well. Between the two of us I am sure we can keep her occupied until it's time to begin cooking the meal."
A better person would protest the offer and face down the difficult situation. But Alex has never been the better person and decides immediately Astra probably deserves anything sent her way. "Just don't ask about the popcorn machine or everyone will get awkwardly guilty," she does warn, not willing to let Astra tackle that one alone. Better to stick with Kara smashing the garden gnomes because she thought they were parasitic species, or the sheer wonder on her sister's face the first time she'd seen the ocean.
"I'm sure we can keep things lighthearted," Astra says, sitting on the edge of the bed with a testing bounce that makes Alex flush before she turns away. "And perhaps you and Kara can spend some time with Lucy while we talk, yes? I am interested in the woman my sister is seeing, especially after so short a time."
That doesn't sound like much fun either, but at least it doesn't come with the patented Eliza Danvers look of mild disapproval. Plus Kara will be there to drive most of the conversation so all Alex needs to do is interject a few questions when the conversation makes it possible.
Her hunch plays out once they’re back downstairs, with Kara quickly taking lead as she catches up with Lucy. The desert base isn't all that far from the city when you have superspeed, but they still haven't had much time to talk. Kara's reporting work paired with her hero duties and any DEO missions means she has little free time, and Alex has seen her signature on radar heading back east on her few nights off.
Not that she can blame her sister, when it comes to finding time for romance sometimes you've got to make the time wherever you can. And if it means someone else knowing her sister's secret, well. Alex doesn't think that's actually been a secret in this case for a long time. Even if Kara hasn't actually said anything about it.
Tuning back to the conversation after a few minutes of zoning out, Alex hopes they've moved past the basic catching up gossip and into something she can work with. It's not that she doesn't care about their lives, but she's heard all of Kara's stories already, and free time for a DEO base commander is even more limited than it is for a superhero.
"I guess it makes sense, really," Kara is saying. "She did spend an awful lot of time out there with you. I think it was better for her that way. The city is definitely overwhelming if you aren't prepared for it. She did okay helping against Reign, but without an obvious threat it's a lot harder to focus."
"Yeah, and you're both lawyers, right? You've got that shared background to build on." There, a perfect opening. Now Lucy can elaborate a little and Alex will have something to tell Astra later.
"Actually, an adjudicator is a little different than a lawyer," Kara jumps in before Lucy can answer, making Alex want to smack her. If it wouldn’t give something away she might. But Kara isn’t in on the secret, and doing anything out of the ordinary will set Lucy’s instincts off. "Less of a lawyer and more of, I don't know how to explain it, actually. It's a Kryptonian thing."
"Alura said it was more of an impartial reading of Krypton's laws and the will of the High Council," Lucy adds. "Less arguing and trying to find obscure precedent to prove your case."
"Well, it was supposed to be impartial. Wasn't always the case, depending on which adjudicator you faced. Zyri Tan-Ra was notorious for playing favorites for anyone allied to her House. Mom used to get so angry with her and her judgements." There's a wistful look on Kara's face that Alex recognizes, one that means she's remembering Krypton and her childhood.
There's less pain in the expression now, and Alex is grateful for that much. Now that she has her mother back, now that she knows there are still Kryptonians in the galaxy to carry on the teachings of Rao, the past weighs less on her. She isn't alone.
"Well that sounds like Lucy," Alex teases after a minute, turning the conversation back to safer and less emotional topics. "You wouldn't quit yelling about judicial impropriety in that case last year, remember? I bet if Alura had been around back then you two would've really gotten along."
"I'll admit we've had a few talks about the differences in American and Kryptonian courts, but she was a lot more interested in culture and adjusting to America than the finer points of the law."
"So it was dinner and movie time, huh?" Alex asks, laughing a little when Lucy and Kara both flush.
"I think that's enough about how Alura and I happened, what about you and Astra?" Lucy changes the subject, fixing Alex with a challenging look. "I didn't know anything about it until Alura told me, and Kara didn't either, so what gives?"
"It just sort of happened," Alex gives their agreed upon answer, shrugging a little as if it isn't a big deal. At least her training keeps her heart rate steady, with Kara's superhearing it's like facing a polygraph all over again. "We didn't want to make a big deal out of it while it was new, and then Alura was settling in and it felt like the wrong time. But when Alura told Mom she'd be bringing a plus one there wasn't a point in secrecy anymore."
It's all very reasonable, very convincing. So why does Lucy's stare look just a little too pointed? There shouldn't be any reason to suspect, unless...
Thinking back over every interaction of the weekend, not just hers with Astra but also Lucy's with Alura, Alex begins to notice a pattern. When there's someone around either pair there's an added tension to shoulder, an almost forced air of casualness to every interaction that drops when whoever it is walks away. Not to mention the way their answers all line up when anyone asks about the relationships. Like they've rehearsed them.
Which okay, Alex and Astra did. But what if they aren't the only ones?
It's far too soon to make any accusations, but Alex is definitely going to be keeping an eye on things for the next few days. First at dinner tonight, and then the actual holiday meal tomorrow. There’s still four days left of the weekend, and Alex is definitely going to have her answers by the time they leave.
Sitting at the table next to Astra and across from Lucy, Alex debates whether it would be worth the family drama to shoot Astra for jinxing them earlier. Conversation has been stilted and awkward all night as everyone adjusts to seeing the new couples interact. It hadn’t been this bad with just Kara and Lucy, but at a table with the full family everything stalls.
For all the work they've done together, no one seems to know what to say. Alex and Lucy have been friends and confidants since the official Presidential pardon came down after the Cadmus escape, and Kara's friendship started before that. Plus they've all worked with Alura to help her adapt to Earth and her powers, and Astra is an unofficial DEO agent. And yet there’s near silence at the table. Even J'onn is quiet, complimenting Eliza on the food and occasionally discussing some scientific study or another that he'd read during his downtime now that he's not Director. It's not enough to draw anyone else in, not even Alex who would normally jump at the chance to talk science with her mother and earn the recognition of a job well done.
It's only when the meal is finally finished and everyone is heading for bed that Alex fully realizes what that means. Yes, they'd factored this into the plan, and yes Alex made sure she brought flannel pajamas to make sure there were no accidental touches in the night, but she's still going to crawl into bed next to Astra in a few minutes. And then they're going to sleep next to each other, while everyone else in the house save J'onn thinks they're a couple.
"I can sleep elsewhere if you are uncomfortable, Alex," Astra offers when she sees the hesitation.
Alex takes a moment to think about it, she really does. But in the end she shakes her head and pushes her worries aside in favor of crawling into bed next to Astra. "I'll be fine. It's just new. Besides, if you slept somewhere else we'd have to explain the truth to everyone and that defeats the entire purpose of this arrangement."
Not to mention her mother still wouldn't let it be if they did. Alex hasn't missed the searching glances or attempts to separate them so Eliza can ask a few probing questions. The fact she's managed to avoid each attempt is honestly a bit of a miracle, and she isn't sure how long it will last. Astra’s willingness to distract her before dinner had been the only thing saving her today.
She already knows that when Eliza does manage to corner her there will be some form of interrogation about why the news came from Astra rather than Alex, and plenty of questions about how this happened and whether Alex is happy.
And true, Alex is a trained professional capable of beating a polygraph or Kryptonian superhearing with no hesitation. But Eliza Danvers is another matter entirely. A polygraph is simple compared to a mother's questioning when she gets determined. It would be bad enough if they were actually dating, but when they're pretending?
No, Alex doesn't want anything to do with that conversation. At all.
“Was your conversation with Lucy enlightening?” Astra asks once they’re both comfortably settled in.
Thinking back to the earlier discussion, Alex shrugs a little before turning on her side. It’s a more intimate position, especially when Astra mirrors her movement, but she pushes the thought away. She can’t be too loud without risking Alura or Kara overhearing, so this is the safest way to share her findings. If need be she can even mouth the words so Astra can read her lips. A little imprecise, but better than the alternative.
“There was something in the way she spoke that reminded me of us.” Alex can tell Astra is confused by that, but there’s no interruption. They both know the value of letting someone gather their thoughts before speaking. “She was guarded, a little. Didn’t give many details, and what she did sounded rehearsed. Made me think of our answers this weekend, which we should probably work on, by the way. Lucy’s a trained interrogator, Alura was a high ranking adjudicator, Kara is a reporter, and Eliza is a mom. Any one of them could spot a lie in a heartbeat if we gave them a reason to look.”
Alex can’t see in the dark nearly as well as Astra can, but it doesn’t take much to see the quick shake of her head. “While I agree we should be more careful with our answers and behavior, I do not think the relationship between Alura and Lucy is feigned. My sister spoke of her with a great deal of respect and emotion, something I remember well from her time with Zor-El. Alura most definitely feels something for Lucy.”
If she had to bet after what she’d seen today, Alex would put money on Lucy also feeling something for Alura. But that didn’t mean she was wrong, did it? Then again maybe she was just being paranoid and seeing parallels where none existed. After all, if they felt something for each other then their situation was nothing like Alex and Astra’s. Even if they were faking, it still wouldn’t be the same if emotions were involved. Not when there weren’t any emotions beyond respect in this arrangement.
She’d still keep an eye out just in case, but with Astra’s information it was all much more likely Alex was just overreacting to the strain of lying to her family. Strange how that got harder once most of the secrets were told, wasn’t it?
Either way it’s a problem for tomorrow. After a day of travel and conversational minefields Alex is ready to close her eyes and get some sleep. Not even the fact she’s literally in bed with Astra can change that.
It’s not clear whether her plan to keep an eye on Lucy has been derailed or helped along when they both end up conscripted to help cook the meal the next day, Eliza citing their relative experience with human kitchen appliances compared to the aliens’ when she asks.
Alex debates arguing, debates pointing out that she has a hate/hate relationship with smoke detectors, but she knows it won’t do any good. And really, it’s probably better that she let Eliza corner her for that talk when there’s someone else around. Less chance of overly personal questions that way. At least the turkey is already in the oven, so it’s just the smaller side dishes she has to worry about.
And it seems to be going well for a while, Eliza making the smart choice of leaving Alex in charge of chopping rather than actual cooking. Knives she knows, stoves and burners and cook times are a bit beyond her.
Once they settle in, however…
“Alex, why didn’t you tell me you were dating Astra?”
Well then. Jumping right into the deep end with that one. Alex should have expected this, really. Here’s hoping her explanation goes better with Eliza than she thinks it did with Lucy. And here’s hoping a second day of hearing the story won’t expose any more to the trained agent than she already did.
“We weren’t really there yet, and then there were other considerations,” Alex tries to deflect, focusing on the vegetables in front of her. “Getting everything settled after the mess with Reign, getting Astra properly integrated with the DEO, my taking over as director, there was a lot going on.”
It’s every bit as reasonable an explanation as it had been yesterday, but Alex can’t shake the feeling that both Lucy and Eliza know there’s something else to the story. There’s something in their looks that she can’t quite pin down.
“Still, to not even mention her… I just want you to know you can trust me. You can tell me these things. I don’t want you to be afraid I’ll judge. I know we don’t have the best track record, but I am trying.” Eliza sounds so earnest that Alex can’t help the flash of guilt. After years hiding the existence of the DEO she should be used to lying by now, but this feels different. Is different.
“No, I know, Mom,” she says, pausing her knife to look up and finally meet her mother’s eyes. “It wasn’t about that, we didn’t even tell Kara. We just wanted to keep it for ourselves for a bit, you know? Let things develop without pressure.”
Lucy is nodding along like she understands, and Alex is grateful for the support even as she makes note of it, studying her friend for any telltale physical gestures that might shed more light on whatever is going on there.
“Well, we know now. So tell me about her. I only know Astra as Kara’s aunt, not as my daughter’s girlfriend.”
“She’s, uh, she’s not a whole lot different,” Alex says, drawing the words out while she thinks furiously. Somehow, for all her planning, she hadn’t thought up answers to this one. “We just, we understand each other. We’re both soldiers and scientists, she knows as much as I do about genetics and most scientific theory just from reading while she’s been on Earth. She knows when I’m having a bad day, and she never makes me feel like I should just push past it and ignore my problems. I always know she has my back, you know? We can sit in silence for hours without getting bored of each other, and on the days things are really bad, or I’m just that exhausted, she always knows just how to fix things. Or at least get us past it. She’s, I don’t know, she’s safe .”
The words are jumbled half reasons and truths, all that Alex can come up with on the spot. But as she says them, Alex realizes she means them. And she can see each and every one of the things she’d listed translated to an actual relationship. A thought that should scare the shit out of her, and yet there’s nothing. Just peace.
Fuck. She has feelings for Astra. That’s a new one.
Or maybe not so new, she realizes. Alex hasn’t ever been very good at knowing what she’s feeling (hello years of dating frat boys and ruining friendships with girls), but even she has to pay attention when something smacks her in the face.
“It sounds like she makes you happy.” There’s a smile on Eliza’s face and a warmth in her voice, and Alex can’t help smiling back.
“She does,” Alex agrees without thinking. Without needing to think.
Because yes, Astra makes her happy. Not in the same way as those half dreams that rushed through Alex’s head a moment ago, but still. Happy. And that’s enough, right? Surely that’s enough.
Before she can unpack too much of that thought Eliza has turned her questions towards Lucy. She’d already half adopted her before this holiday just based on Lucy’s friendship with her daughters, but after finding out Lucy has unofficially joined the slightly lopsided extended family tree the adoption seems a lot more complete.
Not that it matters, but it does mean Lucy gets the same Eliza Danvers interrogation experience Alex just did. And that gives Alex all the time she needs to study Lucy and her answers, still looking for the clue that will explain everything.
She doesn’t find it by the time they’re finished cooking the meal, but that’s okay. She also hasn’t had to answer too many more questions about her relationship with Astra. So all in all it’s a win. And now she gets food and wine, so it’s even better.
As they carry the various dishes to the table Alex briefly wonders if everything will fit. Feeding three Kryptonians and a Martian is never an easy task, and today doubly so. It seems like every square inch of table is covered with food and that’s after they left the desserts in the kitchen until afterwards.
There’s no need to call anyone to the table either, J’onn and the Kryptonians appearing as soon as the first dishes hit the table. With their help (extra useful for the hotter dishes) it doesn’t take long before everyone is settling into their seats, ready to dig in.
“This year, I think I’d like to go first with what I’m thankful for,” Eliza says before anyone else can chime in, lifting her glass in a toast. “Because there is quite a bit that I could say. But if I list everything the food will get cold, so I’ll stick to the important things. And those are my daughters, all three of you, if Lucy doesn’t mind the impromptu adoption.”
“Not if it means I’m invited back next year,” Lucy interrupts, getting a laugh from the rest of the table.
“Anytime you want, same as Alex and Kara,” Eliza promises before continuing. “You’re all such wonderful girls, and I’m thankful for the chance to see you happy, and happy with the women you love. Maybe next year Kara will clear up those scheduling issues and her date will be able to join us as well.”
“We’ll have to see, but I’d love to have her here,” Kara says, smiling softly at the thought.
“Alex, why don’t you go next?” Eliza says as she reaches out to rest a comforting hand over Kara’s.
Wishing she could get out of this, Alex makes herself nod instead, reaching for her win and lifting it in a toast. But as she tries to speak, the words won’t come. Not after the toast from her mother, not after the earlier thoughts of an actual relationship with Astra. She can’t pretend, can’t give some trite little toast about a relationship that isn’t real. Not so soon after realizing she wishes it actually was.
Instead she pushes away from the table and runs for the door. It’s too much, too much and she can’t keep sitting there smiling with everyone else. She needs space, and she needs air.
She makes it to the cliff behind the house without anyone catching her, and she slows to a stop as she looks out over the ocean. It was always the one thing guaranteed to bring her peace, and today is no different. In the face of something so massive, so endless, her problems seem inconsequential. She can’t be bothered by them while she focuses on the ocean, they’ll stay in the background of her mind until she rejoins reality.
“Will you be out here for the remainder of the meal?” Astra asks quietly from behind her a few minutes later. “Kara filled a plate for you, we will keep it warm for you if you need a moment.”
“I’m sorry,” Alex says, ignoring the question. Not sure exactly what she’s apologizing for.
“No, I am sorry, Alexandra. I should not have asked you to lie to your family. It was unfair of me.”
“It’s not your fault. It’s mine, my stupid brain that won’t shut off for an hour so we can have a nice meal. No, even then I have to go and overthink, wanting what I can’t have.” Alex knows she sounds bitter, knows Astra will pick up on it. But she can’t help herself now any more than she could when she’d stood up from the table to run.
She can be strong in a thousand different ways, but obviously this isn’t one of them.
“I may not know what you’re struggling with, but I know you. Whatever it is you want, you can have it, Alex. You are strong and capable, and more resourceful than you give yourself credit for. Whatever it is, it is not out of reach.” Astra sounds so sure, so confident, that Alex lets herself believe.
She silences the doubts, the certainty deep in her gut that this will ruin everything. Ignores it all and finally turns to face Astra. “Do you know why I said yes, when you asked me to do this?”
“I assumed it was because I created an untenable situation which you were kind enough to assist with resolving,” Astra says slowly. And if Alex wasn’t studying her so closely, desperate for some sign she isn’t making a mistake, she might have missed the flash of hope that crossed her face before the blank mask fell once more.
“I told myself that’s what it was,” Alex admits. “Helping out a friend, and making you pay me back with DEO shifts. But then my mom started her interrogation, and do you know what she asked me? She asked me what you were like when we were alone, why I was happy with you. And as I answered, I realized none of what I was saying was a lie. A wish, maybe, but not a lie. And then when it came time to toast, I couldn’t go back a lie. Not anymore, not when I wanted it to be real.”
One heartbeat passes, then another, and then Astra’s arms are warm around Alex as they stand on the cliff. And oh, this is what Alex wanted, what she needed. What she didn’t know she could have and never would have thought to ask for.
“I asked you for help because I wanted this as well,” Astra whispers into her hair, still holding her close. “I didn’t plan it, but when Alura announced she was bringing a guest and I spoke up, I knew I could choose no one but you.”
“So we should probably thank your sister, huh?” Alex teases, pulling back enough to wink at Astra.
“We should,” Astra agrees, “but first,” and with that she slowly leans down for a tender kiss, one that Alex returns immediately. Better than she’d imagined, she loses herself in the sensation until a lingering sense of responsibility kicks in.
“Our food will be getting cold, and our family will be worrying,” she points out when Astra leans forward as if to continue the kiss. “We can finish this, and probably should have a long talk, later but we should head back inside for now.”
A quick press of her lips to Astra’s is all it takes to win her agreement, and they head back inside to face whatever the others have to say. Astra promises she’d told Kara and Alura not to listen in, and hadn’t said anything about their relationship or lack thereof, so Alex isn’t sure what exactly to expect.
“So, you two finally figured it out,” is the first thing they hear, Eliza looking at them in amusement as the others smile. “About time, there’s only so many hints I can drop before you have to figure it out for yourself.”
“I don’t think I even want to ask how you knew,” Alex sighs, sinking back into her seat and pulling her plate closer for Astra to zap.
“A mother always knows,” Alura says before Eliza can respond, smiling at Kara. “Though I admit I had no idea there was any subterfuge on your part.”
“That’s because you’re too busy trying to pretend you aren’t doing the same thing with Lucy,” Eliza says bluntly, causing the two women in question to blush. “Why on Earth did you two feel the need to lie about your romantic status to me?”
Alura looks sheepish for a moment, looking at Lucy until the younger woman nods permission. “I did not intend to lie, I misunderstood the context of my request for Lucy to join me this weekend until Astra announced she would be attending as Alex’s partner. I wasn’t sure how to correct the assumption, and Lucy was kind enough to agree to play along.”
“And I did not wish to appear less settled on this planet than my sister, given our relative time here,” Astra admits.
“You two are as bad as Kara,” Eliza teases. “How long did it take you to make a move?” she asks, pulling Kara into the conversation.
“She ended up asking me,” Kara says, blushing furiously. “But that was after 3 years of wishing she would.”
“Hopeless, all of you,” J’onn finally pipes up, exchanging winks with Eliza as he does.
“At least we got there eventually. Isn’t that what matters?” Alex knows she’s in for a lot of teasing all the rest of the weekend, but right now she wants to move past this and finally eat. She’d actually put work in on this meal, and she’s hungry. Emotional upheavals will do that to a person.
But now that everything is out in the open, they can finally move forward. And besides, it’s not like she can’t tease the others in return.