Kara blew into the apartment on a wave of energy that left Maggie more wrung out than before. She closed her eyes, jaw clenched, as Kara brushed a kiss over her lips and tickled her ribs. “I didn’t expect you home so soon. I thought you’d be tied up with paperwork. Wasn’t this your catch-up day?”
“I hate paperwork,” Maggie mumbled. She’d sat at her desk for over an hour, staring at the pile of official forms waiting for her. Unable to concentrate. That’s when it had started. “I brought everything home. Thought I’d work on it while we watched a movie.”
“Cool! I’ve got an article due to Snapper first thing in the morning. We’ll curl up together!” The exclamation points in Kara’s speech were louder than usual. The legendary Sunny Danvers’ smile like a Maglite beam straight to the eyes.
Maggie’s hands clenched around the pillow in her lap. Her skin flushed. “What do you want for dinner?” She sensed more than saw Kara hesitate at the edge to her voice.
“We have left over lasagna.” Kara moved toward the kitchen. The bounce in her step and the sunlight in her voice softened. “Of if you don’t mind the wait, I could make some chiles en nogada.”
“I don’t want the fire department here again,” Maggie snapped. “I took shit for a week after the last time.”
Kara’s hand rose toward Maggie – and then dropped. “What can I do to help, baby?”
The words rasped against Maggie’s already exposed nerves. She exploded off the couch. “Help? You always think you can help! And yet, here we are again!” Maggie snarled. Closing the distance between them, she shoved Kara back a step. Then another. “I’m leaving. I... I can’t do this anymore.”
She needed space. Air. Sweat soaked her clothes in cold, slimy patches.
“Why don’t you take a shower? Or just get comfy in bed?” Kara had to have used Superspeed to block Maggie’s access to the door. “I’ll make some tea and bring it in to you.”
No. No, they weren’t going through this again. Maggie wasn’t putting Kara through this. It was Maggie’s problem to deal with. Except, she couldn’t get the words out. They lodged in her chest, making it harder and harder to breath. “Get out of the way!” She tried to shoulder past Kara and failed.
“Tell me how to help you, Mags. Please.” They’d been together long enough that Maggie felt the uncertainty and concern Kara tried to hide.
God, how could she keep doing this to Kara? Every time was worse than the last. It wasn’t fair that Kara had to deal with Maggie’s problems.
Riddled with guilt and shame and anger, Maggie squared off with Kara only a few feet from freedom. Kara didn’t defend herself. She never has. Maggie’s palm would have crashed into Kara’s cheek with enough force to break Maggie’s hand – had Kara not ducked just in time.
The near miss fed Maggie’s anger. It filled her mind, and fogged her vision. It grew and grew until it suffocated her. She was trapped. There was no way out. No way to breathe.
She could hear Kara calling her name. Asking her…asking her…
Maggie’s eyes snapped open. She couldn’t make sense of the images. The bright lights. The sounds. Every light in the room was on. The closet doors wide open. A box fan blew cool air on her at high speed.
Her chest ached, and gray snowflakes fell at the corner of her vision. The fan’s motor whirred. A gentle hum that grew to a sickening clickclickcliCKCLICK! Maggie squeezed her eyes shut and slapped her hands over her ears.
“Maggie?” Kara’s voice was soft yet determined. “Where are you right now?”
Maggie shook her head. She couldn’t speak. She wasn’t ready to answer.
“OK. It’s OK.” Kara’s voice didn’t hurt. Didn’t add to the…the thing that filled her lungs and trapped the air in her chest.
“Talk,” Maggie ordered.
“I love you.” It was always Kara’s first statement when she had to deal with Crazy Maggie. And it never failed to loosen some of the weight on Maggie’s chest. She sucked in a quick, fast breath. “Easy, baby. Don’t rush. We’re going to sit, and I’ll talk. While I do, breathe with me, Mags. In.”
Maggie listened. Tried to pull in a slower breath. It didn’t work. Her fists closed into fists and her effort ended in a choking cough.
“Shhh! It’s alright. I’m sorry. It’s too early for that, huh?” Kara never pushed. Never sounded angry or impatient. “Snapper is an evil bastard.” It was the same tone Kara had used to encourage Maggie to breathe. Calm. A little disconnected. Like nothing was very important.
The sky is blue with the same emotion as: Alex blew up her DEO lab again.
A tiny grin crept out. Maggie knew Kara had a very contentious relationship with her boss. Kara who never argued with anyone.
As quickly as Maggie had relaxed, it all went to hell again. Kara.
Kara. Falling. Falling from the roof of the CatCo building.
And Maggie had only been able to watch. Frozen in place. Helpless.
“Maggie!” Kara’s voice was closer. Louder. “Tell me what you see, baby. Open your eyes for me. Tell me one thing that you see.”
Maggie couldn’t open her eyes. She couldn’t see Kara, broken and unmoving, in the light of day. “You’re falling,” she mumbled.
Only, as she answered, Kara crashed into the ground. Dust and debris rose in a cloud. And still, Maggie couldn’t move. Sharp pain stabbed into her chest.
Tentative fingers brushed her cheeks. “I’m right here, baby. I’m right here.” Kara’s voice wavered. “Open your eyes for me. Please, Mags. Just for a second.”
Reluctantly, Maggie cracked an eye. The fingers disappeared. When she managed to focus enough to see, Kara knelt a few feet away outside the closet. Maggie stared at her. Kara was here? “I…I saw…”
“It wasn’t me.” Kara dragged a hand over her face and Maggie heard her take a ragged breath. “Look around. Where are you?”
Afraid to look away from Kara. Afraid Kara would turn into the broken version Maggie had just watched fall, she only glanced at the room for a second. It was enough. Enough to note a bed with a cheerful yellow and blue comforter. A painting on the wall that Maggie recognized as Argo City.
Her hands unclenched and rubbed over the carpeted floor of the closet. “Home,” Maggie said. It still hurt to talk. To breathe.
“You’re home. So am I, Mags.” Kara didn’t move closer. She gave Maggie space. Her red-rimmed eyes never left Maggie, though. “Can you breathe with me now?”
Maggie’s body fought her for every sip of oxygen. At first. Slowly, as Maggie listened to Kara’s soft, “In. Out,” and the gentle hiss of Kara’s inhales and exhales, it got easier. Time passed. The light in the room shifted, hinting at shadows to come.
Finally, she slumped against the wall at her back, feeling the ache in her muscles. “I’m sorry.”
She knew what Kara would say before the words came. “I love you. You don’t ever have to be sorry.” Kara smiled tentatively. “Can you…Do you…”
Now, seeing Kara afraid to ask. To push. To possibly trigger Maggie again woke Maggie’s guilt and multiplied it by a million. Kara deserved someone stronger. Someone not broken.
Tired all the way through her bones, she tried to explain. “I answered a radio-call while I was at lunch. A jumper off an apartment building.
“The first officer on the scene tried to talk her down.” He’d failed. “I got there right as she jumped.” Slowly rolling onto hands and knees, Maggie crawled from the closet. She stood carefully. Waited for the dizziness and vertigo to pass. “And freaked out.” Each step felt weighted in cement as she trudged toward the living room. “I’ve got to get those reports to the captain.” He’d known what was happening when she’d gotten back to the precinct. She’d seen the knowledge in his eyes when he’d told her to go home to finish up.
He’d let Maggie get in his face and sound off without dropping the week-long rip she’d earned.
“You can work on them tomorrow.” Kara hadn’t stood. She still knelt on the floor. “I called your union rep and scheduled leave for the rest of the week.”
Anger sluggishly swirled in Maggie. It tried to wrap around her again. Maggie slammed a lid on it, leaving it to simmer impotently. “And scheduled an appointment with the DEO shrink?” Shame burned her cheeks. “Kara…”
“No.” The word was firm. Unwavering. “I’m not leaving.”
“Why?” Maggie shouted. The word echoed in the room. Anger. Guilt. Fear. Each emotion packed tightly into the question.
“The list will take a while,” Kara answered. She smiled at Maggie’s snort as the intensity faded. “Want to curl up in bed so you can be comfortable while I go through the whole thing?” Not waiting for an answer, she stood and yanked down the comforter on the guest bed.
Maggie would never understand what she’d done to deserve Kara.
“Come on. Lay down and let me hold you.” Kara held out a hand, and Maggie took it. She shuddered at the contact. At Kara’s warmth. “Clothes on or off?”
Rather than break the spell Kara was weaving around her, Maggie crawled into the bed.
“Clothes it is.” In seconds, Kara spooned around Maggie with the comforter draped over them. “Never ask a journalist to explain things. We have words, Mags. Lots and lots of words. So!” Clearing her throat dramatically, Kara said, “Number one: I love you. Number two: You, Maggie Sawyer, are the strongest, bravest person I know.”
“Did you forget your badass sister who can kick my ass with both hands tied behind her back?” Maggie mumbled. Kara’s arms were strong and secure. Safe. The mattress soft. The comforter warm. Her mind floated, calm for the first time in hours.
“Shh!! Don’t interrupt,” Kara whispered. Her lips brushed the back of Maggie’s head. “Number two, since someone got salty: You, Maggie Sawyer, are the…” Kara’s voice became part of the cocoon around Maggie.
Maggie held onto Kara’s hands where they rested against her stomach and smiled, letting Kara’s voice lull her into the peace and comfort of sleep.