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LDR Across the Stars

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Lena had become unaccustomed to being alone. Really lost her touch. She used to be quite the expert. Alone in a lab with obscenely permissive funding and a big hunk of kryptonite; once upon a time, this would’ve been paradise.

Now, the picture on the edge of her desk, her eyes scrunched shut and mouth opened wide in visibly genuine laughter, an arm slung across her shoulder—that was enough to distract her from the most fascinating material she’d ever laid her hands on. How long had she been staring? Hm. She played with the bracelet on her wrist, fingers sliding over familiar textures in mindless, practiced patterns.

Her tablet pinged. The alarm. And the usual daily email: ‘Back from visit to you-know-where, ate a plant-thing that made my sweat smell like anchovy pizza, I swear,’ read the subject line.

Morning now, then. That was alright. She could sleep on the—she snorted—the flight. She didn’t click the email. Better save it for later.

Outside, people were no longer walking around in government-issued gas masks; ever since they’d managed to bring the airborne kryptonite concentration down to 0.05 ppm last year, the panic had died down considerably. Still, at the very height of noon when the sun hit it just right, you could make out a faint greenish tinge to the sky.

And as long as that beautiful green glow graced the Earth’s skyline, Supergirl could not.

A year, ten months, twenty one days. Twenty two, now. It was morning.

.

.

“Lots of techies go through the program,” said Richard Thompson, Esquire. “Lots of rich techies too. Not a lot actually make it to space. Virtually none, I’d say.”

“Oh, I’ve been to space.”

He scratched at his stubble. “I guess I’ve heard about that,” he said. “Eager to get back?”

“Very.”

“And to 45P of all places.” He extended a pen for Lena to sign. She took out the one tucked in her shirt pocket instead. It was a much better pen. “What’s even out there?”

My wife, Lena thought. But that was her business. “Apparently, quite a bit of methane.”

“Have meth-fun,” said Thompson, banging the papers into uniformity on his desk.

Lena pictured the terrible pun in someone else’s mouth, and choked on a giggle. Thompson seemed pleased.

Bring me back a souvenir,’ Alex texted her before she boarded.

‘Don’t burn the place down without me,’ she texted back.

.

.

Space had a disconcerting beauty, a jarring stillness that suited Lena perfectly. Not wearing a dress with alien metalwork around the cleavage area was also a big plus.

‘I miss Earth smells,’ read Kara’s daily email. ‘Earth is very smelly. I didn’t like it at first, but I really miss it now. Miss bakery smell. Miss rainy sidewalk smell. Miss sweaty gym smell. Miss your smell. Okay. Smell ya later, Lena.’

There was a grainy picture of Kara attached, a selfie from a bad angle with Kara smooshing her nose up with a finger.

Lena let out a snort. Smell ya soon, darling.

At first, when the bombs went off, nobody realized what had happened. No injuries, no property damage. Just some garbage containers mysteriously exploding around the country. Initial chemical warfare probes came back negative. There was a strange smell, though, Kara had said. A familiar smell.

It took four days for Kara to start audibly wheezing, her flight flagging, stumbling over her own feet; two days later the test results helpfully confirmed it: kryptonite.

For a while, Australia had been perfectly safe. Kryptonite had the second highest atomic mass of any known element. Surely it couldn’t disperse quickly or very far. Surely it would be cleared out by the first rain.

Surely, surely. Well. Whatever Lex had done with the kryptonite made it spread well and wide until there was no place left where Kara could breathe safely. Not on Earth, at least.

Lena glanced at the image of Earth on her display, a bright blue bead threaded through void, almost as ordinary as a street lamp viewed from a car window.

Not on Earth anymore.

.

.

Week five, her pee was no longer even a little bit green. The kryptonite-binding proteins she’d synthesized had done their job perfectly. She’d barely restrained herself from sending Alex an excited email detailing the precise condition of her pee.

Somebody else might be more appreciative. Somebody else who’d sent an email of her own.

‘You-know-where (the other, other one) has a yellow sun but I can’t fly here. Freeze breath still works. Had to climb a very long ladder to get to some fires. Isn’t it incredible how ladders have the same basic structure everywhere in the galaxy? Ladders and music. All people everywhere want to be tall and make noise.’

Lena let out a snort that choked off halfway through.

Sometimes these things just hit her: seeing Kara’s lazy day jeans in the closet, frayed to holes at the hem from years of being stepped on by indestructible heels; rolling over in bed in the morning, palm blindly searching for a warm divot that was no longer there; reading a random thought articulated in Kara’s particular way.

A tear she hadn’t caught in time floated near Lena’s ear. She closed her fist around it and wiped it on her shirt.

She was so close.

.

.

The uneven outline of comet 45P had already registered on the display when Lena's device beeped with a new transmission. Lena put her bag of rehydrated mac and cheese aside in midair to look.

It was a grainy picture of a swirly rock in a familiar palm and the caption: ‘does this look exactly like Cher to you? We’re gonna be MILLIONAIRES.’

Lena fingered the bracelet on her wrist, woven yellow, red and blue. More garish and precious than anything else she owned.

The rock did look a little bit like Cher. They were gonna be millionaires.

.

.

The landing wasn't easy or elegant, but this, this was the stuff Lena was made for, danger and finesse and technique. She slid onto the comet’s surface with an unnecessary flourish, kicking up a trail of pulverized ice.

No more waiting. This was it.

The asymmetrical shape of the comet and its disconcertingly low gravity combined to create a sense of unreality as Lena skipped along its monotonous surface, its center of mass pulling down but also slightly to the side. She passed by the tiny outpost, a chunky and expensive robot-assembled structure, ugly and indestructible like a Nokia phone. Nothing else interrupted the horizon.

And then—there it was, that red and blue back, in her prim and proper uniform, cape and all, on a big icy rock in outer space with absolutely no one there to see it—no one, except Lena.

Lena floated to a stop and stood still, taking a moment to simply… regard. Although in full Supergirl attire, Kara’s hair was gathered into a lazy, distressed bun, revealing a sliver of bare nape. The broad lines of her shoulders curled inward, maybe holding something in her hands, looking exposed and powerful and meditative. Lena could so clearly picture her scrunch of concentration.

The bottoms of Kara’s boots were covered in dust. Space dust. On her space alien, whose sweat may or may not still smell like anchovy pizza.

Lena took a crunchy step, and Kara turned, and looked, and froze, arms arrested comically halfway to a wave—she dropped the things she was holding, a camera and another weird rock; they floated leisurely to the ground—and then she was off, a single push of the tip of her boot sending her careening bodily into Lena.

Kara slammed into the padded mass of Lena’s spacesuit like a battering ram, thankfully hard and painful enough to be felt through the insulation. Lena wrapped her bulky arms around her in a clumsy, encompassing hug, anchoring herself as they both skidded backwards a good 30 feet before losing momentum. Kara draped both arms over Lena’s shoulders, pressed her forehead to Lena’s visor, the tip of her nose a smooshed, fleshy circle right in the middle.

Lena laughed, grabbed her wife in her gloved hands and swung her around the icy, barren surface of comet 45P. She wanted to breathe her in, tuck her face into the crook of Kara’s neck and get a lungful of the warm tang of her wife’s skin; kiss where it tickles, let her squirm away, draw her properly back in.

She’d never resented anything more than those eleven layers of polyester and Kevlar keeping her alive, keeping her apart.

Kara cupped Lena’s helmet, as tenderly as she would her face, and drew back, leaving a precious smudge of skin oil behind. Said something, urgent and inaudible.

Lena handed her the comm she’d brought. Kara slapped it on, a little crooked. “You look smashing,” she said, breathless, darling voice crackling through wires. “Fiberglass suits you.”

“I love you,” was all Lena could choke out in return. “I’ve missed you.”

“Aw, what?” Kara’s face was 50% stupid grin. “I was gonna swing by next week.”

Lena spluttered a wet laugh. “We’ve only cleared out about three quarters of the kryptonite. It’s going to be another six months, at least.”

“So you went through astronaut training in your free time?”

“Just a little hobby.”

Kara’s grin was creeping toward 65% now. “My wife, the super genius. Let’s take this inside.”

.

.

The outpost's interior was as square and sanitized as its exterior, but it had oxygen and pressure regulation and Kara’s underwear discarded all around. It was Lena’s favorite place in the galaxy.

Kara pressed her palms to Lena’s helmet again. Lena could feel nothing, of course, but her heart beat an electric rhythm in her throat just the same. Almost two years of radio transmissions and emails and recorded messages, of holding the shape of her wife in her mind, vivid but tenuous, the constant risk of forgetting. And now, here was Kara, Lena’s helmet in her hands, and she leaned in, lips gently parting, and—blew a gust of freeze breath right in Lena’s face.

Lena let out a cackle as Kara sketched a lopsided smiley in the condensation. Finger-drawn slivers of her wife between blurry frost, looking smug. Lena reached for the helmet seal, unlocking it fumblingly, pressurized air releasing with a hiss. She tossed the helmet and gloves aside for the low gravity to claim at its leisure and leaned her weight forward into the steadfast, virtuous, dauntless bulk of Kara Zor-El Danvers.

Kara met her with a long, noisy exhale, nuzzling nose and mouth over Lena’s cheek, chin, lips, intuitively satisfying Lena’s craving for the simple friction of skin against skin. Miracle fingers bruising into the skin of her jaw, the straining muscles at the back of her neck, and Kara’s lips parting, making way for the hot, animal flavor of a mouth, the riveting drag and scrape of tongue and teeth; an alchemy Lena could never stop thinking about and had almost let herself forget.

Lena braced her hands on Kara’s waist, sleek in her suit, and held on.

“Have you been eating thin mints?” Kara breathed as she drew back.

“I brought you a 12 pack.”

“I love you so much,” Kara said intently.

“I know. Help me get out of this thing.”

Kara fingered the metal edge of the suit’s body. “I could just tear this off you,” she offered.

Tempting. “Let’s save the theatrics for a garment that isn’t essential to my survival.” She could think of a few. Quite vividly.

“Hm.” Kara made a face, but walked around Lena to help her dismount the regular way.

Lena gripped Kara’s hand as she climbed out of the suit. She was sticky with sweat despite the cooling garment, she hadn’t showered in weeks, she had a terrible case of helmet head; Kara drew her into a full body hug without a moment’s hesitation.

“I can’t believe you came all the way here,” Kara breathed, and let go. “I’m the one who can fly, and you’re the one who’s here.”

“I would learn to fly for you,” Lena told her, solemn.

Kara laughed delightedly. “A spaceship? Evidently.”

Lena reached out and brushed her knuckles over the side of Kara’s face, compelled by nothing more remarkable than love.

Kara sighed through her nose. “When do you have to get back?”

Lena twirled a lock of Kara’s hair around her finger. It was stiff and dry. She wrapped it tight. “You know what, I think I have some vacation days built up,” she said.

“Oh! You know what I’ve heard is the hot new getaway destination?”

“Comet 45P?”

“You’re a mind reader, Dr. Luthor,” said Kara, and allowed herself to be pulled back in by the hand in her hair.

And Lena kissed her wife again, on a dusty hunk of space rock, kryptonite-free and allegedly full of methane.