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Birth Date (Second in Birthdays Series)

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Birth Date

It was during your college years that you were able to look back with perfect clarity and realize what a shitty sister you were to Kara during her first year on Earth. Yes, you played the game at home - it was easier there, and you liked having someone to teach - but at school you tried to minimize her affect on your life. That meant mostly ignoring her unless she was doing something so weird that you had to just grab her and shake her before she gave herself away and landed you all in some lab somewhere being dissected like rats. Because that was the impression you got from your parents when they told you over and over again that you needed to protect Kara, take care of Kara, be a sister to Kara.

But you had never wanted a sibling, and that first year, it showed. Of course Kara never called you on it, not then, not ever. She really was too good for Earth.

That first year it was as if you had armor on all the time. No emotion in, no emotion out. You viewed her dispassionately as if your life was suddenly a living experiment, and convincing yourself that this would be good practice for when you went for your PhD. Because of course you would get a PhD.

The first crack in that armor happened on June 10, 2005. You really had no idea that your parents were planning on the whole cake and candles and presents routine as if Kara was four instead of fourteen. You could have told them it was a huge mistake. You'd spent a year listening to her muffled crying in the middle of the night. When she ran from the table, it felt perfectly natural to follow her, and when you saw her sobbing on her bed, it was no longer an experiment for you.

I took six months and the death of your father before all of your walls fell, but when they did it was with a sense of relief. Apparently she had been worming her way into your heart since the very first day. You no longer lay in bed and listened to her crying in the night; you crawled into bed beside her and listened to her talk about her world and everything she'd lost and didn't want to ever forget.

You wish you had been the perfect sister after that, but it would be a lie. You were a better sister, a good sister, but perfection? No. You still had too many of your own hang-ups to overcome. Insecurity, shame, fear, jealousy, grief: they all pressed forward at various times over the years, and the surge ended in a cell in a National City precinct. The new purpose that took over your life still had echoes of Kara at its center, but it was still wholly yours. Remade into a better person, or at least one more capable of controlling your base emotions, you felt that you were making a difference in the world.

But you still weren't the perfect sister, and you proved it the night she saved your life and un-did your years of anxious protectiveness. Because a perfect sister would have hugged Kara tightly and whispered thanks into her ears, but you stood back and berated her. You are sure that the sight of her with tears threatening will stay with you forever as a reminder of your failings.

Perhaps you will never reach perfection, but you know you become the best sister you can be when you admit some of your hard truths to Kara through a closed wooden door. That she lets you in is all the proof you need that she has always been better at this than you. But you are getting better, and your beaming pride is one sign of that. You know that J'onn - then only Hank - often rolled his eyes at you but now you think it was with a sort of fatherly love rather than true exasperation.

Your birthday is February seventh, and when it next comes around, Kara is her usually bubbly and irrepressible self. She can't exactly send flowers and balloons to the DEO, but she covers your apartment door in cheesy wrapping paper as if you're back in college again, and when you arrive at her place for game-night, there is an entirely unsurprising surprise party awaiting you. Your laughter, your smiles, hell, most of your emotions, are usually tempered with quiet stoicism, but that night you celebrate freely, and it feels so good to really laugh unguardedly in front of someone other than Kara.

The next day is when you start thinking about Kara's birthday. Birth date, really. Because she cannot celebrate one without the other, and June tenth has never been the right date.

Kara has never mentioned it. Never wondered aloud or expressed disappointment at the cake and presents she's missed out on for over twelve years.

You have spent some time with "Alura", Kara's A.I., since the incident with the Black Mercy. You had spoken to her that day as if she was some holographic shrink or maybe a priest you were confessing your sins to. And she had been impersonal in her response, because she was, at the core, just computer code and lights. But you returned because you wanted to know more about Kara and Krypton. The things Kara had never told you in the night, maybe because they were just too painful to discuss.

That is how you know that birthdays on Krypton were more ceremonial, with religious undertones. There was thanks given for the year and family, and quiet reflection on the past and future. And maybe that is why Kara has never pressed to have the kind of birthday she's witnessed since her arrival so long ago. But you wonder if maybe it has just been so long since that disastrous first Earth birthday that she doesn't know how to ask for her real birth date.

You start working on the calculations a month later. You don't have all of the required information though; not the time differential in the Phantom Zone or her exact Earth age when she left Krypton. So you visit Alura again, and lock yourself in your lab for hours and no one questions you because in the DEO your word carries almost as much weight as J'onn's.

It takes almost a month to discover the correct date and you are relieved that you haven't missed it yet. At the same time, you wish it wasn't so far in the future, because now you have this secret, and it is small, but special, and you just don't have secrets from Kara anymore.

When June tenth rolls around you find yourself searching your sister's face for clues that she is distressed, but you see none.

"You're staring at me," she tells you as she rubs at her nose. "Do I have something on my face? Because that last alien was spitting slime, y'know, so if I do, it's not my fault."

You just laugh and throw your arm around her shoulders and tell her that it's nothing. She believes you because she always believes you. And always believes IN you. Which is probably the best gift you have ever been given, especially since your father died.

As the date draws closer, you start to stress out about what you should do about it. A party seems over the top. Maybe she doesn't even want it known amongst your friends. Would she want Clark to visit? Take her to the Fortress of Solitude? You don't think so. She told you about her one visit there and how it just made her feel lonely, even with James standing beside her.

When she admits to you that she has feelings for Cat Grant, the Queen of All Media, birth celebrations recede to the back of your mind. You accept her confession with a jovial nudge and a throwaway line. It makes her happy, and you always want her to be happy. The next morning you set an agent on deep discovery of one Catherine J. Grant. You'll be damned if that woman even thinks of hurting your sister, and you intend to be armed with every bit of information to make her life hell if she does.

The agent shows you everything two days later, including hacked surveillance tapes. Those tapes show Cat Grant looking at your sister with a soft glance when the younger woman isn't looking. They show a guiding hand on Kara's back sometimes, and heads bent over layouts and then thrown back in laughter together. You aren't exactly happy about it, but you don't think Cat Grant is a danger any longer.

October tenth is the next day and nothing has been planned, but it feels right somehow. You have bought her a pen that she has drooled over and compared to one of Cat's a hundred times. You buy a cupcake and a rose on the way to her office, surprised to find anything at six a.m., but your badge pressed against the bakery door probably helped with that cupcake.

You place them on her desk along with a note you wrote months ago. A date. Her real birth date. It won't be able to replace the one that appears on all her official documents, but somehow you don't think that will matter.

A few hours later you pick up your phone on the first ring when you see that it is her on the line.

"Hi there," you say casually, as if you haven't been waiting and hoping for some sign that you didn't screw everything up.

"Thank you, Alex," she says and you think she might be crying, or close to it.

"Hey, you aren't upset, are you?" because your protectiveness even applies to your own actions.

"I'm fine - great - wonderful even," she says with just a tiny sniffle at the end. "This - this was the perfect present," she tells you.

And you will never be the perfect sister, but you are getting closer.