Actions

Work Header

Close Quarters

Chapter Text

She coughs heavily, clutches with her hands at her chest. Her lungs won't fill with air. There's a desperate urge to breathe, but she feels like she cannot cope, cannot function properly. She closes her eyes, her forehead pressed tightly against the cold concrete. She exhales raggedly. Feels how her stomach deflates, how senses flood into her system. Steam clouds touch her cheeks. She can feel the dampness on her skin, strains of short hair sticking to it. And she feels a tickling in her neck. Her nails dig into the ground, and she tries to push herself up. Her arms contract, shake and then they give up under her. Her face hits the concrete again, her eyes flutter closed. She's exhausted. Her body goes limp.

---

The next time she gains consciousness, she finds herself in the same position, body flat on the ground, palms spread across the surface, cheeks burning. Then there's a sudden jolt of pain, hot and sharp, starting in her right thigh and radiating up towards her stomach, towards her core.
She cries out in shock, and twitches her leg subconsciously, which turns out to be a very had idea, because the gruesome ache is back, pulsing through her muscles. She reaches down towards her burning limb, and immediately retreats, her hand fully covered in sticky, warm blood. Her breath hitches dramatically and she tries to focus, understanding the situation she's in—lying in a pool of her own blood. Her wound seems potentially dangerous, if she can rely on the troubling ache shooting through her system in crashing waves. Moving seems near to impossible, since her body is rigid and cold. "This is so not good," she thinks and closes her eyes again. She needs to gain control. She needs to move, she needs to get going, she needs to—

---

The third time she jolts awake in a frantic rush, gripping at her heart and releasing a strangled scream from deep within her. She is lying on her back now, tense shoulder blades pressing together. She lifts one arm to her face, vision slightly blurry. It's the bloodstained hand, the red liquid already dried and partly scabbed.
It must have been hours. Maybe even a day. Or two.
She crooks her elbows, readies herself and pushes, contracting her abdomen to support her weight, crunching in the middle. Her breath is erratic. Sharp intake of air, swallowing, processing, exhaling. She needs to keep it simple. She needs to take one step after another. Or, in this case, one breath, one crook of her finger, one movement of her leg. She steadies herself, vision clearing.
She observes. She needs to take in her surroundings before she can make up a plan. The muscles on her neck flex when she turns her head around, slowly realizing with wide eyes that she is in big, big trouble.
It's a small room. Grey, raw concrete. Dust. A door. Made of steel. Great. A window, really just a small crack just inches beyond the ceiling. There's a small amount of fading light seeking through that whole. The rays hit her square in the face. The rest stays hidden in the shadows. Shadows which deprive her of everything. There's nothing here. She slumps down.
Instantly it's breaking through her body again—the pain, the horrible, rupturing pain. Her hands fly instinctively to her leg, and it's just then that she feels a burning sting in her hand as well. There's fresh blood on her index. Her brows furrow. Her fingers ball into fists. She focuses on the pain, lets her eyes wander over her legs. She sighs. Feels suddenly very aware of her situation and at the same time detached from her body. It's just like she is hovering over herself, taking in her condition. She knows it's serious, she knows it's bad. Like really bad.
Her eyes dart up to the ceiling, dark grey walls closing in on her. She blinks. She swallows. She coughs. She shakes.
She looks back at her thigh, tilting her head just a notch, her mouth a thin white line in a pale, pinched face.
And then she grabs the jagged metal bar with her bare hands and tears it out of her flesh.

An agonizing cry drowns the clashing sound of the bar as it is carelessly discarded on the floor.

---

Darkness has embraced her. Her breathing is hollow. She has been in and out of a feverish delirium for months, or maybe just minutes. She can't really tell. She isn't in a right state of mind. There are forces that pull on her, and her combat vest is too tight. She is sure that her shoes have grown exponentially. She is hot. She feels droplets of sweat running down her temples, her neck, her chest. She dry heaves. Maybe there's foam at her mouth, or maybe a rat crawled into it and died in her throat. It feels the same. She shivers uncontrollably. She's cold. So, so cold. Her eyelids are heavy, her brain explodes. She sees colors which don't exist. Or have never existed. Or she will invent them at Kara's easel, with paint smudged around her front and Kara's laughter echoing in her head.
Time doesn't pass, time just flies. The darkness is thick, it swallows. It swallows her whole. She wants to be spit out. Or digested. She just wants it to end.

---

The grey concrete underneath her has turned from bright red to dark brown. Her throat is sore and swollen. She can't remember when she drank last. Her empty stomach is a tight bundle of throbbing pain. A pain that has long joined the lightnings of pain originating from the bloody, weeping mess that formerly has been her thigh.
But she's more herself now. Which is a good thing. There's still a heavy headache that seems to cut her skull in half. But she's coping. She has hope.
Suddenly the steel door to her cubic cell opens and a stream of hot white light floods the room.
She needs to avert her eyes, the brightness burning her irises. She covers her face with her arms, turns her head away, wincing in pain at the subconscious movement. She hears her own heartbeat in her ears, loud, wild and deafening.
There are footsteps coming closer. Footsteps buried in high polished business shoes. She bows her head.
"Agent Danvers," a very familiar voice mocks while she is kicked in the gut with a polished shoe, "you're still alive. How unfortunate."
She gasps at the new ache radiating from her rips. She hugs herself. She cannot believe it.
"Maxwell Lord," she presses through closed lips in a thin, scratchy tone. Her eyes dart up to the malicious man. "You fucking," she hisses, "son of—a bitch."

It's the last thing she utters, before everything goes black.

Chapter Text

She's out of the elevator as soon as the doors open, phone in hand and thumb hovering over the call button. She doesn't even wait for the inevitable ding, a shrill sound haunting every passenger for the next five minutes until it's resonance subsides. She takes a sharp turn to the left, her heels tottering on expensive floor tiles. She would never understand how the NCPD had money for Art Deco interior but could barely dip into public funds for simple equipment and weaponry. She almost puffs audibly at her own fluctuating thoughts. She barely has time to deal with all of her tasks, so why is her mind constantly preoccupied with restless images, ideas, what-ifs and maybes?

Someone barges into her shoulder when she rushes around the next corner, still focused on her phone. “Watch it, dimwit!” she hollers in a mocking tone, never looking up from the name that flashes across her screen.
She stills in her tracks for a moment, cautiously exhaling. A finger touches green. She’s doing this. She’s doing this. She’s doi—

“Hey, Danvers.” Her voice is suddenly soft and calm. There’s a small smile glooming on the edge of her mouth, ready to grow into a wide grin as soon as she hears her voice.
However, there’s an audible click and a generic mailbox informs her that the person she wishes to call is currently not available. She curses under her breath, readying herself for the beep.

“Hey, Danvers. Again. It’s me.” She slumps against the next wall. “Have you been checking the news lately? I kicked some huge guy’s ass earlier and guess what,” she snickers at that, “ultimately it turns out I scooped up a Khund. Rad!”
With her back against the wall she crosses her legs and tucks one thumb in a belt loop of her skinny jeans.
“You see, Danvers, now we have the henchperson of an underground smuggling ring in our custody.” Absentmindedly she picks on a loose thread of her shirt.
“You could help,” she offers as a suggestions, even when her real intentions are quite clear. She shuts her eyes for just a moment and pushed herself off the wall.
“So whenever your free to do so, just gimme a call, right? Wouldn’t want to do the fancy ambushing all by myself, now would I?”
She ends the call abruptly without saying goodbye. It’s not really her style.
It’s also not her style to rant on someone’s mailbox for about a minute and a half, but who is she kidding.

She continues to walk and shoves the phone into her back pocket. She passes several glass doors and office cubes as she is making her way to her own office. She’s barely ten feet away from her door when a chipper voice calls after her.
"Hey Sawyer!”

She nearly knocks over the pathetic yucca palm which is stashed away in the darkest corner. She stops in her tracks, rolls her eyes at no one particular and turns, a fake smile plastered on her face. "Hamilton," she presses through gritted teeth.
"Where have you been all week, Sawyer? The Chief was expecting your report on the Tuesday Incident by, well, Tuesday."
He offers a wide grin. It's supposed to appear confident and casual. But she can sense that he's nervous. Always a bit fussy, this one. She doesn't like him very much. She acknowledges him, but she doesn't like him. She doesn't like a lot of people. Hell, she doesn't like people. Period.
"Yeah, well, while you've been sitting on your white ass sniffing printer's ink, I was saving the city from some flesh-eating alien fungus on Tuesday. Sticky and really gross. You're welcome, by the way.”
He seems to be a bit offended if the look on his face is any indication.
She furrows her brows and rubs her chin. “Yesterday there was that thing with the burning high school. High Hath No Fury.” She snickers, but keeps her composure.
“Whereas today,” she counts on her fingers, “I’ve locked up a jewel thief with horns on his head, beat up an alien twice my size, and now I’m gonna enjoy my lunch.” She emphasizes her plan with a sharp nod.
He on the other hand looks quite pale.
“Now move your puny bun out of my face, Hamilton."
He visibly swallows, stuttering along. "Sorry, Mag—Sawyer. But you might want to rethink the lunch, because—"
She's about to throw another witty punch line at him, but her office door opens and the Chief, touching the doorframe with both shoulders, appears in her peripheral vision.
"Detective Sawyer. A word."

His voice is stern and deep, and she curses internally before she strides into her own office, following her boss. Why isn't there a day when she manages to actually stay out of trouble instead of falling headfirst into it?
Just as she closes the door from the inside, Hamilton gives her a sympathetic shoulder shrug. She rolls her eyes at him. Idiot.
“Detective Sawyer.” A warning shot. She flinches slightly. The Chief is a very impatient man. Brilliant, but edgy. He doesn’t like to be kept waiting. So she turns to face him, ready for what he might confront her with.

She’s not ready to face the sight that develops in front of her. It's not just the Chief who stands by the windows, arms crossed behind his back, body stashed away in an expensive suit that always seems a bit too small for the big man with the broad chest and pumped arms.
She finally realizes that her office must have been used as a campground for stranded officials, because there's also Hank Henshaw, hovering over a map on her desk. And there's Supergirl, a death glare sparkling in her eyes. Great. The day couldn't get any better.
“Detective,” Henshaw’s fingers ball into a fist.
She doesn’t like his tone. It’s demanding, but anxious. She suddenly feels off.
He looks directly into her eyes. They stare at each other for a while. Then he raises his voice bluntly.
“Where is Alex Danvers?”

Chapter Text

She's been conscious for some time now, illuminated by beams of sunlight. They press through the crack that pretends to be a window just below the concrete ceiling.
There's a pool of brightness, and she is hunched up as a small ball right in the middle of it. A stream of warmth surrounds her. Squinting into the light, she doesn't move for a while, absorbing the rays and recharging her body heat.
It's funny how she has been able to dissociate herself from her crushed body for the last hours. She'd blocked out the pain, the ache, the numbness, the cold.
First, she did it unintentionally.
She can't put her mind around how exactly, but as soon as Lord's boot had kicked her in the gut, the unbearable pain shooting through her body must have created an overdrive, causing her to faint and her ache to vanish into a deep dark place in the farthest corner of her sanity.
The second time, she does it intentionally.
When she finds herself a sobbing, wretched mess, she all but steels herself from the inside, locking away any feelings. She successfully suppresses any emotions and it gives her the permission to exist.
To stay like that, disembodied, is her way of dealing, handling the situation.
Reduce. Disconnect. Detach. And then closure.

As the hours go by, she wanders off into distance. A dusty road ahead, impromptu gusts blowing from left to right, she takes a step into darkness.
She enters her mind, taking fragile steps in front of another. When she realizes that there's no harm awaiting her inside her head, she follows more strictly, determined. She speeds up until her bare feet fly over wooden bridges.
She feels weightless. She feels indifferent. It makes her strong and brave.
Apparently she likes straight alignment.
She sees clear forms, glass windows, upright columns which hold the weight of small joists and heavier steel beams.
It's not bright and shiny, but it's her. The structures resemble her inner self, portraying the utmost truth: she's organized, she's straightforward, she's well structured.
She heads around corners, exploring a world that always has been two steps ahead of her. She aimlessly continues, wandering streets no one has ever set a foot on. She doesn't leave prints, but everything she touches makes her feel more alive.
She visits places she'd memorize for years to come.
She visits places she'd forget in an instant.
She's in too deep. She'll never find her way back. She doesn't want to. A decision has been made.
She's gone for good.

---

Alex doesn't feel the hard metal ring hitting her cheek. She doesn't even wince when her neck snaps and her head is thrown from one side to the other.
Greasy hair once patched to her skull whips around with the movement.
She doesn't hear his angry voice, she doesn't react to his tirade.
His spit in her face drips down to her chin. Her eyes are wide open, but clouded. Unfocused, pupils dilated.
Not a single sound, not a cough, not even a breath leaves her chapped lips. Crust on the corner of her mouth. Hollow cheeks, dry skin.
He goes on and on, but nothing comes through.
It may be like a hailstorm outside, but inside there's an all-embracing silence where she still saunters on common yet inconceivable ground.
She has trapped herself in a secure zone, defended by a high, unbreakable wall of willpower. It shields her from being harmed any further. Everything ends where her skin begins. A barrier so thin and yet so immensely powerful that every attempt of breaking through bounces off of her with ease.
And when the storm finally subsides, all that is left of her is a never-ending emptiness.

---

Ninety-two percent.
A ninety-two percent chance of never coming back from this floating state of mind is crushed within seconds because her body—the same one she’s been neglecting all day in a frantic attempt to survive—apparently has it’s own needs. It’s own determination.
While Alex has harbored illusions, her stomach is the one responsible for her salvation.
Ironic or not, at the end it’s the smell of freshly baked bread, still warm to the touch, that makes her internal organs groan in anticipation and inevitable need.
Like someone who has fallen trough ice, sunk deep into black, gelid water, and has been trapped under thick ice floes, she finally breaks through her own defensive wall and breathes deep breaths.
Deep breaths.
Deep breaths.
And then she darts for the food, stuffs her face with the fluffy pastry. Crumbs land everywhere, even in her hair.
When her shaking hands hit the simple plate, she’s confused for a second.
Then she spots the glass of water, and she gulps its content down without a second thought.
She doesn’t even think, doesn’t even care that this could be another trap, another way of tormenting her.
All she cares about is the fulfilling feeling of the cold liquid as it runs down her throat, and soothes the soreness ever so slightly.

---

The fog that has clouded her mind so far is slowly lifting off. With her hunger and thirst satisfied for now, her mind gets more and more sober.
She might have lost herself for some time, but she gains something in the process, too. It's realization mixed with a strong will to survive. It dawns to her that she needs to act soon.
An idea starts to form in her head. A small, fragile idea that needs to be shaped and adjusted. But it's an idea nevertheless, and she needs to rely on her instincts now, if she wants to survive. Oh, and she does.
She's never been more determined.
But first, Alex has to feel again, and she's afraid to let the pain back in. But again, sacrifices need to be made. And she’s more than ready.
Unbelievably enough, her pulse stays quite calm. For the first time, she can feel a cool breeze touching her sweat drenched body. It actually feels good.

Chapter Text

"What do you mean you don't know where she is?" Maggie paces up and down in front of her office desk. "How can anyone 'loose' an agent?"
She throws her hands up in despair. "That woman is as subtle as an elephant in a punk rock concert. She can't just vanish without anyone noticing."
"She had a pretty mean punk rock phase in her teens," Supergirl adds.
Maggie glares wordlessly at her.
"Okay, not helping, I get it," the blond woman mumbles under her breath and picks at her costume.
"Her absence has been noted, Detective." Hank rises from his stance, crossing his arms in front of his chest. His expression is stoic and unreadable. "That's why we're here."
"Yeah, I see that. You're camping in my office." Maggie is furious. And confused.
She figured Alex would have been too swamped with work to return her calls and texts.
She never would have guessed that she might just have disappeared. Or that maybe she was actually missing.
"There's always the chance that she just decided to take a leave of absence." It's the Chief's deep voice that barges through Maggie's thoughts.
"She could have gone on—"
"Don't be stupid, Victor," Hank interrupts, "we know that's not true."
He moves around the desk, facing the Chief. “I know my agent like I know myself. She’s like a daughter to me. She would never abandon her duties without a formal notice.”
He turns to Supergirl. “She’s too loyal, too brave, and too dedicated to vanish without telling us.”
“So she’s missing.”
“Yes,” Hank confirms, “she’s missing.”

Maggie has been silent for some time now.
She’s distracted, because there’s only one question that occupies her thoughts. But she’s afraid to ask, afraid of possible consequences. But she won’t know for sure, won’t ever be true to herself if she doesn’t ask.
This is about Danvers, this is about this amazing, strong and confident woman. She needs to be brave.
However, there’s no way she would let anyone know that there’s a storm rampaging inside her.
So Maggie simply asks “How long?”
“She didn’t show up at work on Tuesday morning,” Hank offers.
“Probably Monday. It’s our best guess,” Supergirl adds.

Maggie gasps audibly. She stares at the DEO agents in horror. “PROBABLY?” she yells. “That’s your best guess? On MONDAY??” A well-known rage starts to boil inside of her. She knows it too well, knows this too well.
“Today’s Thursday.”
Her eyes are burning. She can even feel her hammering pulse in her ears.
“Danvers is gone for three days and you’re only acting now? You have to be kidding me!”
This whole situation heads too close to home. She’s shaken, fingers trembling, heart rate accelerating. She needs to breathe, needs oxygen. This shouldn’t be happening.

Maggie stomps to a glass window, pulls on the handle vigorously and inhales deeply as fresh air hits her face. She stays that way for a few seconds and then turns to face Hank, her long black hair waiving around her.
“What happened on Monday?” she snaps.
Hank tries to allay her wrath with cautious hand gestures and a calming voice.
“I sent Supergirl and Alex on a mission on Monday afternoon. It went smoothly.”
Maggie sneers. “What mission?”
“None of your concern, Detective.”
She huffs. “It’s my concern when Danvers is missing. So spill.”
“I’m afraid you don’t have the clearance for that,” he stays adamant.

This is exactly why the NCPD always had trouble with other agencies. As long as the Science Police could assist on high class cases, spending resources and manpower, everything was fine. But as soon as valid information was necessary to be shared, NCPD officers were way below the secrecy level.

“We parted ways after the task was done.” Supergirl shifts in her posture. “We haven’t spoken since. So, this is everything we have right now.”
Maggie nods. Grits her teeth. Swallows.
“Does Kara know?” she says slowly.

The room falls silent and all tension deflates while Supergirl gives her a wistful look.
Maggie is confused. “Kara Danvers? Her sister?” she adds impatiently with an incredulous sound in her voice.
Supergirl jumps out of her rigidity. “Yeah, right!” she places her hands on her hips. “She knows. We’ve told her. She knows.”

Maggie nods again. It’s a subconscious movement, because she’s not really in it.
Her gaze locks onto something outside the building. It’s blurry at first, hovering in a great distance in the air, and maybe four, five stories above the ground. It drops a few inches, proceeds to the left, and turns. One side is reflecting the light of the midday sun. It’s glistening surface conceals steel, plastics and probably a labyrinth of electrical wires.
“Chief,” she calls while she keeps her eyes glued to the flying object, “a drone hangs midair, probably on the corner of Washington and Main.”
For his size he approaches fast. Next to this bear of a man she always feels a little small. Not intimidated―nothing with a body and remotely intelligent can ever scare her―but restricted.
“Sawyer, get me Hamilton. We need to act fast.”
“On it, Chief.” Just as she turns around she runs into Supergirl. The look in her eyes is frightening. She seems so dedicated and alarmed.
And when she speaks, Maggie swears she feels her freeze breath at the back of her neck.
“I have seen one of those drones before.”

Chapter Text

Getting out of her pants is one of the hardest things she ever has to do. And she is a DEO agent. And her mother is Eliza Danvers. So that means something.
Stripping down the tight black denim—dusted, dirty, and raddled—over sore muscles takes up all her strength.
Her clam fingers have lost all their feeling. They’re trembling uncontrollably while she tries to add pressure to her movements.
It’s a button. She actually struggles with a fricking button. It’s embarrassing, to say the least.
She takes her time though, digging her dirt framed nails into the stiff fabric. She tears, first with hesitation, then with more force until the little button pops through it’s hole and she sighs relieved.

More sweat coats her body now. She figures that this is a good sign. It means that her body is still functioning more or less properly, that the use of muscles and tendons induce a reaction in her system. Just this once she’s glad that she’s sweating. At first.
But then a flickering thought crosses her mind. If she sweats, she’ll dehydrate. Very soon. After all, it was just a glass of water she drank earlier. And she doesn’t know many days she has already spent in here.

Fear pools low in her stomach, and it makes her feel sick for a second. Her eyes dart up, staring. Everything is grey. The same construction lines run across the ceiling. She could paint them by memory. She wells up. Its exhaustion mixed with despair.
She huffs. She closes her eyes, composes herself. She reaches for the floor, her raw skin stroking the dusty pavement. The feeling under her fingertips grounds her, and settles her mind in the right state again.
She needs to go on, she needs to focus.

It’s more easy to unzip her pants.
To peel the fabric over her hips isn’t.
The progress is slow. Just inch by inch she frees herself of cloths which are soaked with filth.
Her muscles ache vastly. She’s surprised she’s able to move at all. Everything hurts. Everywhere. Even in places she didn’t know existed. It’s devastating.

She was always able to count on her body strength. She worked out, blew off steam in the DEO’s very own boxing gym, she went for a run twice a week. She kicked villain asses on a regular basis, with an eighty percent chance of punching.
She loved how her body responded, how her breathing sped up, how the adrenalin rushed through her veins. She loved the sweat, she loved the burning in her limbs. She lived for the exhaustion after a strength-sapping workout.
For her, it was like a safe addiction, an enticing drug, pushing her further and embracing her in one of the best feelings she had known.
Apart from sprinkled donuts. Oh boy, what she would give for a donut right now.

She snorts. To indulge in food fantasies won’t bring her very far. She knows that. But it’s still hard. Especially, when her mind pictures the most perfect baked donut with dark chocolate frosting and rainbow colored sprinkles. Maybe even with a bourbon-vanilla cream center…
Crap. She needs to stop.

And so she continues, stripping her pants down her thighs.
But when she reaches the spot where the fabric is torn and drenched in crusted blood, she halts again.
She is reluctant to go forward. She hesitates, and everything in her is pleading not to tear at the wounded flesh. But she also knows that she somehow needs to tape the traumatized muscle to avoid a severe infection.
Actually, she would need a proper medical treatment. She would need to disinfect and bathe the wound, irrigate and dry it with a clean, sterilized patch.
As a matter of fact, she would need to staple the sore margins.
But who is she kidding. Without any medical equipment she will have to deal with this in her own way.
Anxiously, she suddenly remembers that someone would also need to check if she’d perforated or even ruptured any arteries. She hopes not, but the amount of dried blood on her clothes and on the ground seems to be a dead giveaway.
It’s a silver lining, but maybe the thrombocytes in her blood have temporarily closed all torn vessels. All she can do now is to move her injured leg as little as possible to avoid any new irritations.
But first, she needs to free her leg from the rotten material that once was her favorite pair of denim jeans. So she steels herself and drags.

She expects a sharp sting of pain.
It’s not sharp though, it’s mangling.
And she voices her distress in a long, bloodcurdling cry.

---

Her teeth dig into the left cotton sleeve of her shirt. The fabric is strong and too resistant to the multiple attempts of ripping it into pieces. She surrenders and the shirt plops back down on her shoulder, now soaked with salvia.
This isn’t working.

She decides on plan B, and winces in pain when she places both hands on the ground, lifts her pelvis with the remaining strength in her shoulders and crawls rather ungracefully a few feet to the right, dragging her useless injured leg with her.

When her knuckles hit the desired object, her digits obsessively clutch around the cool metal. She still can feel the slickness of her own body liquids on the sharp-edged bar. She might cut herself again, but she doesn’t care, because she needs it to be sharp enough to cut the sleeve from her shirt. And so her hand grips the metal firmly, ignoring the slight sting it causes on the sensitive skin of her palm.
It takes a lot of effort to lift up and hold out her left arm, and the supporting muscles in her back shake uncontrollably in a matter of seconds.
She just grits her teeth and mentally pushes through the weakness.

By digging her nails into the hem of her sleeve, she stretches the fabric to create enough tension. Even if she holds the makeshift knife in a weird angle, she might be able cut the material in half with just the right amount of pressure. She just has to ignore the constant throbbing in her right wrist. Easy as pie.

When the metal finally pierces through the cotton, she desperately holds her breath while she runs the ripped blade along the seam of her shirt. If she slips now, she can easily hurt herself in the most dangerous way.
She resist the urge to avert her eyes. Instead, she drags the sharp bar inch by inch through the material, until shredded textures echo loudly in her ears.
Discarding the metal bar, she tears the remaining fabric off from its seam on her shoulder with a frantic jolt.

Exhausted, she collapses and slumps down on the ground. She lifts her left arm, now bare and skinny, over her head and shoves the damp hair that is stuck to her forehead out of the way. A chill runs down her body. Her overheated skin welcomes the fresh air.

---

Thankfully it’s too dark to inspect the wound properly. She wouldn’t have wanted to take a closer look anyway. At best, the sight would be nasty. At worst, horrifying. She really doesn’t want to loose consciousness again just by looking at her demolished leg.
So she does what needs to be done.
She folds the ripped off sleeve lengthways and places it gently over her bare upper thigh. She fears the slightest contact might cause a new wave of pain, but oddly enough, she doesn’t feel anything when the fabric meets skin.
She ties a knot with both ends of the cloth at the underside of her thigh. It takes a few shaky tries, but and the end, she secures the knot with a flick of her wrist. When she drags hard to maximize the pressure on the wound, she winces. Yep, the pain is still there.

Her head dips back and she utters a frustrating groan. Her eyes are tightly closed, a deep frown covering her face. Her arms go limp on both sides of her body. She feels drained and jaded. She needs to rest. So she lays down on the ground again, legs cautiously stretched.
She did it. She survived.
For now.

She still looks a bit pale, but she’s better. She knows this, too, but it doesn’t mean that everything else will be a walk in the park from now on.
She’s still trapped god knows where. And she doesn’t know if there’s help underway. She definitely hopes so, but how can she be sure? How can she be certain, that someone, anyone out there will find her?
She has hope, though.

And her hope relies on Kara. Because the one time, the only time she needs to be taken care of, she trusts that her sister will be there for her.

But it’s not Kara she sees when she closes her eyes.
It’s not Kara’s long wavy hair falling on small shoulders, and framing a beautiful, tanned face.
It’s not Kara who smiles a toothy grin at her, lovely dimples ever-present, deep brown eyes sparkling.
Her imagination is strikingly clear on that.

It’s Maggie.

Chapter Text

The dive bar and the adjacent dark alley are her home.

She knows the form of the pavement, the feeling of the wooden counter, and the cracks in the brick wall like the back of her hand. She could walk this place blind, and she wouldn’t knock over drinks or stumble over barstools. She could probably rebuild the bar out of memory and wouldn’t miss a single screw.

Moreover, she would recognize the smell hovering over the entrance everywhere. It’s a mixture of cold smoke, beer and cinnamon. It sounds disgusting, but it always makes her feel wanted, and acknowledged when it hits her nostrils.

The bar holds everything. Her good moments, her deepest distress—and all the shades in between. It connects her personal life with her job. It’s the place where she can be just herself. Where she doesn’t have to decide between being Detective Maggie Sawyer or Mags, the confident, sassy gay girl from the middle of nowhere.

This is her save haven. This is her cave. This is home.
Utterly and entirely.

No wonder she finds herself in hovering next to the front door, knuckles firmly pressed against the cold metal. She knocked two times already and is about to knock a third time with more enforcement when the small hatch is yanked open and a deep, thundering voice demands a password.

“Jolene,” she utters languidly while her hand already presses impatiently against the door.
She expects the door to open any second, but instead the hatch closes and everything is silent for a few long seconds.

“Oh, come on, Vince!” she yells in frustration and kicks the doorframe with her heavy biker boot to underline her disappointment. “You know it’s me!”

She presses her ear against the wrought metal. “I can hear you breathe, idiot. Open the door!”

There’s movement on the other side of the entrance, and finally a pair of black eyes framed by bushy green eyebrows stare back at her.

“You know the rules, Mags,” he says and she swears she can feel the vibrato of his voice in her funny bone.

“Yeah, but we both know that’s not exactly my style.” She flashes him a smug smile and bounces on her toes. This banter isn’t new. They tease each other every other evening.

“Bullshit, “ he says. “You’re a cop. A good one, as far as I can tell. Following rules is a keystone of yours.”

She nods. “True,” she admits, “but I’m not here as a detective right now.” Her scrapes her right shoe over the grit. “Let me in, Vince.”

“Would like very much, but again: Password.”

“Already said that,” she bristles with recurring anger. “Jolene.”

The throaty voice huffs behind the door. “Try again, Sawyer,” he demands.

She curses under her breath and her head dips down. “Please don’t make me say it out loud.”

A chuckle floats through the loop. “Say it. Loud and clear.”

She hesitates at first. Then she exhales rather dramatically, straightens her shoulders and lifts her chin. “Ah, fuck it,” she says and raises her voice. “Goodness Gracious Great Balls Of Fire.

His sudden burst of laughter is loud and wholehearted and it kind of makes up for the weird ambiguity of the song title.

“Alright, big guy, you had your fun. Let me pass.”

It clicks, a lock is turned, and then there’s the screeching sound of heavy metal scraping over lumpy concrete.

She presses herself through the small gap and as soon as she is head to chest with Vince, she smacks him without the bat of an eyelid.

“Ow,” he whines.

For a huge, but slightly chubby Thanagarian with a lifespan of approximately 270 years he sure as hell acts like a little whiny girl sometimes.

“So unfair,” he mumbles and strokes the spot on his bald head where she hit him. “You didn’t even sing the first verse like all the others had to,” he complains.

“I don’t sing,” she clarifies. “Like, ever.”

She pats him playfully on the back and tucks on the lapel her leather jacket. “Next time, make sure to ask for a different Dolly Parton song.”

He shoots her a questioning look.

Her face lights up and an evil grin spreads across her features. “Touch Your Woman.
And with a fetching wink she heads for the bar.

 

---

 

Just to sit on a table, two empty shot glasses lined up in front of her, and absentmindedly tracing the patterns of wavy grains in the wood with her short nails, is one of her favorite pastimes.

No wonder Darla sets a freshly drawn beer in front of her just seconds after she reaches the counter.

“I don’t need a beer, Darla,” Maggie deadpans. Her voice is hollow. It seems like she spend all what was left of her liveliness on Vince and his teasing at the entrance. Now she feels drained and exhausted. And yet she has so much to do. And so little time.

The waitress raises an eyebrow, startled. She rests one hand on her hip and with the other she flicks a plaid towel over her shoulder. Her posture is more annoyed than curious. She knows Maggie’s in a mood.

“I need Link. Know where he’s at?” The detective taps on the wooden edge in an impatient rhythm.
The dive bar, and Link in particular, have been her source for information since she moved to National City a few years ago.
Her head turns from left to right, scanning the room for familiar faces. For a Thursday evening the bar is moderately frequented. She spots regular patrons in their usual spots. There’s a couple playing rock paper scissors in front of the jukebox. She wins. He inserts the required quarter. She hits a couple of buttons. He offers a faux smile.
A moment passes, and then Maggie recognizes a faint 1974 version of I Will Always Love You.
Normally, she would find it cute, but right now she has other things to focus on.

Darla offers her a sympathetic look, but doesn’t say anything else.

She fidgets under Darla’s stare. “Oh, come on. Help a girl out here, will ya?” It’s a halfhearted attempt to copy her normal cheeky self.

She knows she fails miserably when the waitress regards her with another wordless glance.
“For old time’s sake?” Maggie tries solemnly.

She got into a fight with a Hunger Dog from Apokolips this one time.
He tipped Darla so badly and was being an overall jerk, that Maggie happily fulfilled her then girlfriend duties by ambushing him as he deserved.
She took a few mean punches, but got up every time. They scattered half of the counter and a new beer barrel on their way to the stage, where she finally knocked him out thanks to a well-aimed hit to his enormous skull with the mike stand.
She later hooked up with Darla in the bathroom.
Oh, glory days.

Darla nods while cleaning used glasses under the running faucet. “He’s in the bathroom. He’ll be out in a sec.”

Maggie’s gaze flickers to the bathroom doors in the far left corner of the bar. It’s dark except for the low-key glimmer of light that peaks up from under the doorframe.

“Mags,” the waitress tries with a soft tone. “What’s up. You seem off.”

The tanned woman bows her head. Strands of wavy hair fall into her face. When she sighs, her shoulders rise and slump visibly. She feels defeated.
“Remember Agent Danvers?” she asks.

Darla expression furrows.

“Tall, lean, shorter hair up to here,” she motions a cut next to her own jawline. “Long legs, a cute smile. The girl I brought here once?”

Darla snorts. “Once? You play pool with her three days a week.” The blond bartender dips a filthy looking dish rag into hot water. “You loose every single time. And it doesn’t even bother you.”

Maggie rolls her eyes.
Of course she would remember. But then again, who wouldn’t remember Alex Danvers.
She smiles, mostly to herself, and her gaze locks onto the empty pool table. The cue ball is discarded against the longer rail, right next to the center pocket.

And suddenly, Maggie sees her standing there, organizing the object balls in a triangular rack in order to start the game. She reaches for the cue stick, chalks the tip, and blows off fleeting residues. The tiniest parts of blue dust follow her movements, and when she lines up for the perfect shot, her nose crunches and little wrinkles surround her warm eyes.
If Maggie acts clever and if she is subtle enough for Alex not to notice, she is greeted with just the right amount of cleavage to stimulate her imagination. Even more, when the defined muscles in the taller woman’s shoulders contract, and her shoulder blades are visible through her long Henley shirt.
Then Alex pushes forward with force, and hits the cue ball at precisely the right spot. Her eyes sparkle at her success and an unspoken dare bounces off from her cocky posture. It fuels Maggie’s heart rate uncontrollably.

Her right hand itches. She is about to get up from her seat and wants to saunter over to the taller woman with a sassy line on her lips, when someone passes the pool table in a blur and she wakes from the spell.
Maggie blinks a few times, irritated.

“You can’t fool me, detective.” Darla drags on her job title like an insult. “I can spot heart eyes in a two mile radius.” She sneers. “Remember, I’m allergic to that kind of stuff.”

Maggie tucks an annoying strand of hair behind her ears. “Allergic to what?”

Darla sports a wicked grin. “Feelings.”

“Yeah, right,” she laughs disparagingly.

“No, I mean it,” the waitress says decidedly, while she washes out the dish rag. “And you know what? You’re a sucker for that kind of thing.”

“Oh please,” Maggie shakes her head in disbelief. “Am not.” She covers it up with a pejorative snort and rolls her eyes at the same time.

“Hell yeah, you are.” Darla puts both hands on the counter and leans forward daringly while invading Maggie’s personal space. “You want it. You crave it. It’s all you ever search for.” She lifts her chin slightly, and tilts her head. Her eyes pierce into Maggie’s and it makes the raven haired woman just a tad uncomfortable.
“But when you have it,” Darla clarifies relentlessly, “you don’t know what to do with it. So you pout, and you drive them away. And when you finally acknowledge what you’ve done, it’s too late.”

Maggie averts her eyes. “It’s not like that,” she says in a low voice.
Maybe there’s a truth to what Darla said, but she can’t deal with this right now. It’s not the reason why she’s here.

“No? What’s it like, then?” the other woman mocks. “She dumped you, or what?”

“She’s missing.”

“Who’s missing?” A tall, lanky man with a bushy beard and greasy flicks of long brown hair scoots in next to Maggie. He props his elbow on the table and eyes her up with a mischievous grin.

“Right,” the waitress says dry-witted. “So I’m just gonna attend the customers who actually pay for their drinks.” With a flick of her hand she strolls past her and to one of the occupied tables in the back.

Maggie turns towards the intruder, crooking her head. “Link,” she draws out. “I was just looking for you.” Her teeth are gritted, her expression is unreadable. She seems cautious, aloof.

His eyebrows rise and his demeanor changes rapidly. “You were?” A hand is stretched forward, right under Maggie’s nose. His thumb runs smoothly over index and middle finger in an obvious gesture. She can see dirt smeared across his fingertips. “With the right amount of conviction I might be able to help.” He looks expectant, maybe even a bit psyched.

In a matter of seconds, she grabs his left wrist and twists it to an unnatural pose. He squeals in pain, and squirms under the pressure, trying to escape her solid grip. “Fuck, Sawyer, you’re hurting me!”

But she keeps at it, closing the distance between them. Her nose nearly touching his, she presses through a tensed jaw.
“Where.”
She digs her nails into his skin until her knuckles turn white.
“Is.”
She pulls the trapped wrist higher with force.
“Agent Danvers?”
She yanks his arm free disdainfully.

He cries out loud and slumps down between two barstools. Stashed away, with his back against the counter and covered in his army green parker, he doesn’t look very dubious anymore.
“Are you going to choke me with a barstool, too, or is this just your girlfriend’s style?” he holds his wrist with his other hand, stroking the raw skin.

“What?”

“Well, first,” he raises from the floor, pulling himself up with a lot of fuss, “you bring this agent here and she nearly rips my wrist off of my arm in an attempt to get information. Which, by the way, not cool!” He reaches for Maggie’s untouched beer and sighs, when he presses his hand against the cold glass.
“Then you go missing when the President’s visiting town and she ambushes me like a lunatic, crazy eyes happening and all that.” He makes a pointless gesture with flying hands and whines, when his sore wrist hits the corner of the bar by accident.
“And now,” he gulps down half of her beer in a single draw, “you are here, asking where she is and you’re hurting me the same way she did.”
He chuckles. “You two seem perfect for each other.” He looks up with flashing eyelids and puckers his lips.
“But I gotta say, in your relationship there’s a lot of ‘missing’ involved. Maybe you should take care of your girl, Mags.”

She’s taken aback and anger is boiling in her stomach. But not for long, because she has to cool down her temper in order to get what she wants.
She steps closer to him and even if she’s about five inches shorter, she’s got a hell lot of authority to make up for that. “Okay, Link. Here’s the deal.” Her fist balls into the sloppy lapel of his jacket and tears at the fabric until his resistance falters and his head is dragged down to hers. “You’re gonna tell me everything you know and I’ll let you live,” she hisses dangerously.

He swallows visibly. “But everything comes with a—“

Her left index finger hovers threateningly close to his eye. “I swear to god, Link, if you just so much as think about payment, I’m gonna put this earlier idea of yours into practice.” She whips around, grabs a wooden chair by its seating and yanks it around. “I’m gonna smash your head with this, shove the chair leg up your tight ass, and then choke you to death with the rest of the furniture.”
So much for a serene temper.

“Alright, alright!” He lifts his hands over his head in surrender. “Just chill, yeah?”

“I’ve lost my chill,” she deadpans.

He coughs. “Clearly.”

She throws him a daring look.

“Okay. Easy, yeah?” He readjusts his parker and wipes off an imaginary stain on his collar. “There were some rumors about UFOs spying on selected people. Advanced technology. Sharp stuff.”

Maggie crosses her arms in front of her chest. “Already seen those. Go on.”

“Well, rumor has it that some of those ‘selected people’ might have missed work this week,” he offers. “Respectively: women.”

She just raises an eyebrow in question.

“Special targets, one might say, who have once prick teased a certain powerful count. Surely he did not get what he bargained for.”

“Wait, what? Who?”

Darla reappears out of nowhere with another beer for Link. “The powerful count? Really?” She snickers. “He talks about Maxwell Lord, silly.” She winks at the tall man and turns to Maggie. “For a detective you’re pretty slow today.”

“You’re kidding me, right?” Maggie spits. “Right?”

“It’s what I’ve heard, Mags. It’s what I’ve heard.”

Chapter Text

“This is disgusting.” His mocking voice cuts through the thick air like a knife though butter.

She should be concerned, but she could barely keep herself awake so the expected rush of fresh adrenaline in her system has more or less succumb to a meager puddle of carelessness in her lower abdomen.
To face him she tilts her head to the door, but the motion causes a fresh wave of nausea.
Salvia pools instantly in her mouth. The taste is sickeningly sweet in the back of her throat. Her stomach clenches, muscles contract without effort.
She throws up.
It’s mostly mucus and gastric acid that spills on the ground.
She steadies herself with an outstretched hand, hunched down and heaving. She doesn’t even care that the ends of her chin length hair bathe in her own vomit.

“Pathetic.”

After a few controlled breaths the dizziness volatilizes. She props herself up into a sitting position, smearing the sweat from her forehead with the back of her left hand. It’s not very efficient. She can still feel the drops bead from her eyebrows.
She does not look at him once.

“Don’t you have manners?”

Apparently not, because she is wiping away the drool with the collar of her shirt from the corner of her mouth. And she doesn’t even care.

“You’ve been housing in here like a rat. And this smell—for god’s sake.”

Her stare flickers shortly to the far left corner, where lumps and waste are hidden in the shadows. The stench is the worst in this corner. She averts her eyes.
“My options were limited,” she croaks out.
This doesn’t sound like her voice at all, but it’s obviously hers, because the crawling ache in her windpipe reminds her of used up air with too less oxygen, dusty walls and no ventilation for days.

“You reek.”

“I do.”

“You could have complied.” It’s not an accusation. “You had the choice, but you chose this.”

“I did.”

There’s shuffling at the door, but her eyes are still set elsewhere.

“You must feel foul and exposed.”

It’s not really a question. It’s more of a statement, so she refrains to talk back.

“Really, Alex, I had expected more from you.”

“You did,” she confirms.

“Yes, I most certainly did.” There is a short pause, then he speaks up again. “You had potential, you know? We could have been great together.”

She doesn’t comment, because her headache is back. Tiny little twinges to her temples. She closes her eyes. Unbearable.

“You would have been the perfect addition.”

“Addition.” She thinks it’s an odd word choice. The throbbing pain makes her numb.

“Yes, addition. A poster child for my empire.”
Now she is confused, but he doesn’t seem to notice.

“What I could have done with your powers. It’s a shame, really.”

It’s the first time she dares to look up. Not because she is afraid of who she might be confronted with. She knows that already. It’s because she doesn’t want to faint—again. And it’s because she can’t afford to loose any more fluidity.
She steadies her gaze. Her head hammers. She pushed through the pain.
He looks the same, really. Neat. Expensive suit. Polished shoes.

“If you could see yourself. This,” he makes a vague gesture in her direction, “is highly unpleasant.”

Yeah well. In her old days she would have slapped his stupid grin right out of his whiskery face. Now, all she can do is imagining it.
“Fuck you, Maxwell,” she thinks or maybe she says it out loud, if his facial reaction is any indication.

“About that…,” he adds unfazed.

They stare at each other for a while. There are no sounds, no words uttered. There’s just the connection between both of them, one broken and sunk down, one upright and towering over the other.

Alex blinks.

The corner of his mouth lifts into the tiniest grin.

And then his body shifts.

Chapter Text

She’s in a hurry. The cab she hailed an hour ago got stuck in traffic only halfway to her destination. She might have used some pretty insulting expletives on the driver whilst crawling over the backseat, shoving a handful of cash in his face, kicking angrily at the door, and leaping out of the car.

She has been on edge since she first reached Alex’s voicemail three days prior, but it’s easy to say that she’s loosing her mind right about now.

“Supergirl, do you copy?” Her voice is stern and unforgiving. The frown on her face is deep, and sleep deprivation is mirrored in the purple shimmering bags under her eyes.
She rushes through the crowded streets in a daze. People around her pass with a blur. She senses them, but she doesn’t notice them.
Her vision’s unfocused, her feet tapping on concrete, bouncing off with every step, catapulting her forward with every stride.

She doesn’t recognize the slender body that presses against her right arm at first, joining with her steps. Her presence is so unpredicted that Maggie is briefly startled.
But a second glance confirms her assumption. The woman’s nervous fidgeting with her glasses, the rumpled clothes—

“I never know how you do that, by the way. Changing in and out of clothes in a matter of seconds.”

Kara smiles next to her. It’s a faint one, but it’s still there.
“Really, that’s the fact you’re focusing on?” she counters and links arms with Maggie.
“I mean, you could have gone with ‘Wow, how do you even manage to locate me in a city with over 10 million people?’” Kara’s voice is a bit deeper while she tries to impersonate Maggie, her free hand flailing through air, “or you could have asked ‘Geez, Kara, your super hearing must be exceptionally extraordinary if you were able to filter my voice from all the others’.”

Maggie rolls her eyes for show, but is not truly exasperated. “Focus, Kara.”

The other woman shoots her a shy glance. “Yeah, sorry,” she offers. “I start rambling when I’m nervous.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” Maggie deadpans.

Kara nods. They walk together for a while, squiggle trough the streets.
“So, how are you holding up?”

Maggie abruptly stops in her tracks, almost yanking Kara off her feet. There are red flares at the edge of her vision. Everything is zooning in. She snaps.
Her look is stern, the brown of her eyes now almost black. Unforgiving, determined.
“We’re not talking about me, understood?” she hisses through gritted teeth.
“Our primary goal is to get Alex out of this fuckboy’s lubricous hands—”

“I know that, but—“

“And I don’t care if I have to tear him into pieces with my bare hands or—“

“I’m with you, too, but—“

“Or if I have to walk trough hell and back to get her—“

“Right, and—“

“Because bringing back Alex is the most important—“

“WOULD YOU SHUT UP!” Kara yells impatiently. Her voice is piercing, a brute force rushing through Maggie’s consciousness, clearing a path through the all-consuming fog in her head.

She stands stock still, both of Kara’s unforgiving hands cramped around her shoulders.

“You’re not alone in this, Maggie. You don’t have to fight alone.” Kara lets out an audible puff. She’s exhausted, and worried sick, and so, so angry.
“She is my sister, for Rao’s sake! I’m fighting for her. I’ll always fight for her. And so I’m fighting with you, too.” Kara lets her hands drop to her sides. Her glasses are a bit lopsided on the bridge of her nose.
“But I need you to focus, okay? We need a plan if we want to catch Max Lord. And I can’t have you act like a critical nuclear reactor about to go boom anymore. Is that clear?”
Kara narrows her eye. “We need a plan, okay? We need a solid plan.”

Maggie’s voice is hollow but straight-lined, when she speaks again. “I got us covered.”

 

---

 

Maggie shoots out of the elevator and passes the front desk in two long strides.

“Excuse me, Miss?” a woman behind the counter asks in a high pitched voice that might break glass if you use it too long.
“Miss?” The secretary shuffles out of her chair, and patters around her desk in small steps.
“Miss, sorry, but you are not allowed up here. Do you have an appointment with Mr. Lord?”

Maggie stops, just in front of the huge and certainly very expensive glass door that is the entrance to Lord’s holy chambers. She snickers.

The secretary gives her an odd look, cautiously rearranging her white blouse. She acts like a deer caught in headlights. Trembling fingers, fidgeting out of pure nervousness.

“Listen,” Maggie says in a low and very dangerous voice, “I don’t need an appointment.” She lifts her leather jacket and flashes her badge that is attached to her belt.

The other woman’s eyebrows shoot up to her hairline. Her eyeballs pop out.
It’s not a very pleasant sight.
The way her chest lifts and lowers faster than before indicates that she might suffer from a small panic attack.

Maggie doesn’t care. She turns, but right when her palm touches the glass door, she is interrupted again.

“Excuse me, Miss,” the secretary’s voice is even thinner than before. She offers a fake smile. “I still have to announce your arrival to Mr. Lord. If you would wait here for just a second—“

“I’m not gonna wait, that’s for sure,” Maggie interrupts and unconsciously places her hand on her gun. “I’m a cop, he’s a suspect. Now get out of my hair, lady.”

Maggie turns again, and the poor woman tries to interfere, but with her three inch heels and her pencil skirt, she is definitely to overdressed to draw back a task force on mission that is Maggie Sawyer.

So she just holds the secretary at arms reach while she pushes through the door, deliberately dashing the leaf with such a force, that the glass frame perilously shakes in its hinges.

She is already halfway in the center of the room before she even dares to slow down her pace. Her gaze is trained to an idle figure that is almost completely enveloped in shadows, while the illuminated windows behind him set up a stark contrast.
He doesn’t even flinch when the doorknob drops comically on the tiles.

The urge to shout, to yell, to snap is all-consuming.
Maggie swallows the feeling, buries it deep down in her stomach, where she hides everything else and continues—with an unyielding persistence.
“Lord.”

Maxwell Lord nods. It’s only a twitch of his jawbone, barely visible, especially in the low light. He turns behind his clinical office desk.
His shoulders are broad and clad in a sand grey suit that seems both tailored and very expensive.
His posture is an apodictic act of power and domination.
His eyes are daring. Uncompromising needles, examining every movement and calculating every step she takes.
What persuades her to lash out though is his smile, the lascivious display of lips, stubble and front teeth.

So she perks up, flips back her leather jacket deliberately and in a very slow motion places a hand on her hip.
Her badge is very well visible and she sees the exact moment when realization hits him.

“Detective…,” he makes a vague gesture next to his head to indicate that he’s missing her last name. He pauses, stares at her and then continues with a nonchalant grin. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”

“Cut the crap, Lord.” Oh yeah, Maggie’s in a mood.

He doesn’t seem to be impressed, tough. He tilts his head, a palm flat on the polished surface of his desk. They stare at each other wordlessly for a while.
And then he has the nerve to actually chuckle. “To what do I owe such a well mannered entrance?”

Maggie would slap his stupid grin right out of his whiskery face. But she’s a detective, after all, so she balls her fist, vaults herself over his desk, and slams it right into his face.

Chapter Text

She could have handled a lot, Alex thinks bitterly. She could have.
She could have.
She could have.

But she can’t. Not anymore.

She’s weak. Tired to her bones. Run-down, drained.

The look on his face says too much. It’s there: the determination, reprobation, hate.
It’s all mirrored in one set of grey eyes, an odious image of maliciousness, staring her down.

This will be it, she thinks. This will be all.
She is sure.
So sure.

Sure, that she will take her last breath right here, in a matter of minutes. Sure, that his steel grey eyes will be the last she sees.
How she wishes they were warm, and soft, and oh so brown instead.

He blinks. His right wrist twitches. He shakes it absentmindedly. With that, a watch emerges from the sleeve of his suit coat. Without even sporting a glance, he squats down, tilting his head to the right. “Alex. It’s about time.”

His face is now inches away from hers. She can feel his breath on her face—a warm cloud that muffles her thoughts and taints her judgment. But she has been a fighter for all her life. And even if she can’t physically fight anymore, somehow on a deep subconscious level her trademark will to survive and prevail keeps her going.

When he turns his head so that they are cheek to cheek, his lips barely touch her earlobe. She can’t see his stubble in the dark, but she can sense the scratchy texture of his cheeks.
Alex thinks it’s supposed to be threatening. But somehow, it doesn’t feel that way. Instead, she feels a hint of transcendence and an inexplicable urge to look for the details.

That’s why she shifts imperceptibly further. And that’s why she feels rather than sees the contradictions.
She can smell him, too. It’s a faint smell of a cheap aftershave lotion and something just isn’t right. It’s not a fragrance Maxwell Lord would wear. Ever.

She doesn’t flinch when she feels his finger under her chin. A deliberate pressure, forcing her to lift her head.

Their eyes meet.
His eyes were never grey.

Apparently the realization is written all over her face, because now there’s a smile on his lips, so close, that their noses almost touch. “You’re impressive, Alex, I’ll give you that.”
His thumb wanders from her chin down her throat.
“Too bad that your discovery won’t help you at all.”
He adds pressure to his thumb.

“Who are you?”

A big coarse hand tightens its grip around her neck.

Alex swallows. In a natural reaction she lowers her head to minimalize damage. She tenses her muscles against the force. Her hands take additional hold on the ground, her elbows strained, her palms convulsed, her fingers numb and senseless. Her whole body seems useless in it’s hunched up position.
Her look is stern, though, and her mind is fixated on him.

The intruder interprets her body language as a challenge, so the corners of his eyes wrinkle, as he smiles again. Brighter this time, more dogged.
“Don’t be stupid,” his voice is cold and precise. “It’s easier if you just let it happen.”

Tears begin to flood her eyes when the pressure on her neck is almost unbearable.
She will suffocate.
This is it.

“Surrender, Alex, and I promise I’ll make it quick.”

She coughs, or at least tries to. Her legs quiver uncontrollably. The edge of her vision gets blurrier with every second.

Another of his breaths brush her face and somewhere deep in her head a red flare lights up and douses at the same time. She needs air.

With gritted teeth and tensed cheek muscles he presses again. There’s a cracking sound under his fingers.
“Stop fighting,” he whispers in the space between their faces.
From now on, it’s a silent battle.

Respiration slows down.
Everything turns dark.
A gasp.
A sudden spark of light.
Then, blackness. Again.

Overwhelming background noise. White sounds dash through her mind.
Screams, horrible screams.
But not hers. Others.
Pasts. Long forgotten.
Rushing, tumbling, pressing, forging, burning.

Pain. All-consuming pain.

And loneliness.

“Are you ready, Agent Danvers?”

And she thinks, yes, she is.

It’s her last proper thought, before her convulsing fingers close tightly around the rotten metal bar.
Before her body pumps all the remaining energy in one swift motion.
Before her arm draws a neat circle from the bottom and up.
Before the metal stabs his temple.
Before silence is dissected by cries.
Before his deathly grip on her throat is released.
Before she spasms, and sinks to the ground—boneless, on the edge of no return.

Chapter Text

 

“You have a mean right hook, I’ll give you that.” His voice is slightly shaky. There’s a nasty bruise already blooming on his cheek where she hit him just moments ago. A few drops of blood are smeared in the corner of his nose. His upper lip is chapped.  

The room is dead silent for a second. Then Lord’s paralyzed secretary wakes from her shock and lets out a bloodcurdling cry.

Lord jumps slightly.

Maggie stays motionless.

He clears his throat, a short fingernail scratching on his stubbly chin. “Jenny, would you be a doll and get something to clean up this mess?” He vaguely points at his own face and manages to give the hysterical woman a stern look.

Her facial expression is priceless as it shifts from fear to horror to disgust. Then she turns on her heels and exits the office probably faster than she ever has.

Maggie’s gaze fixates on Lord’s blue eyes. They stay silent for a while, just looking at each other, tuning out everything around them. It’s a gladiator’s game without javelins, nets or daggers. Their weapons are different. Sharp mind, wit, information, force of will.

They don’t move a muscle, just staring, daring, provoking the other to make the next move.

Oh, how Maggie loves this game. How she loves to be in the ascendancy over her suspects.

She raises a challenging eyebrow.

He averts his gaze when Jenny reappears with an armada of cotton balls, sanitizer and Band-Aids.

While his secretary gyrates around him, Maggie stays impossibly calm. It’s always been one of her stronger character traits. Sure, she’s an absolute hothead sometimes, but she’s not stupid. She can calculate the outcome of her actions in a blink of an eye. And she knows exactly what to do in certain situations. And this is such a situation. Use the moment of surprise and weaken your enemy with something they would never expect. Put them off balance. And then change the pace and present the stronger hand. 

It’s what makes Maggie so successful. It’s why she’s been appointed as detective at her young age. It’s why she’s so good at her job. It’s why she’s here.

It’s why she smiles when Maxwell Lord, a rolled tissue stuffed into one of his nostrils, walks around his desk and plants himself in front of her. “Listen, Sucker Punch, I’m not going to report this…little incident here,” he twists his mouth in an attempt to appear unforgiving, but Maggie sees right through it.

This isn’t even a real challenge for her, so she gallantly places a finger on his lips to shut him up and tilts her head slightly. “We’re not doing this, Lord.” Her hand drops to his lapel and soothes the crumbled fabric absentmindedly. “We’re not doing it your way.” She tucks at the collar, moving him closer to her. Her eyes are fierce. “We’re doing it my way.” She flicks her wrist, sending the fabric gently slapping at his chin. “Understood?”

He doesn’t give anything away. No muscle in his face moves.

She takes a deliberate step back and crosses her arms. With a rich, deep, ferocious voice she asks: “Now that we’re clear on that, where the fuck is Alex Danvers?”

 

---

 

She can count the times when everything happened in slow motion on the fingers of one hand.

It never happened to her in situations of extreme danger. When everything is pure chaos, screaming, dust, thunder, explosions. When a bullet is hurtling towards you and there is this one moment where everything slows down—sound, movement, anxiety—and you have the sense to move the required inch in the very last second.

It never happened to her in romantic settings either. When you turn a corner and spot the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen and her look is unfocused until she sees you and there’s this magical moment when everything slows down and it’s just you and her and the smile she flashes at you.

For Maggie Sawyer, it’s always been moments of realization. When she could peel the truth from a person like layers of an onion. Where she could flay her prey until the remains are solved cases, signed final reports and convicts behind solid bars.

The moment Lord’s face changes from aggressive and annoyed to all the appropriate forms of astonishment, bewilderment, disbelief, and apprehension, Maggie experiences another time freezing moment.

It’s the moment she recognizes all of his expressions, undeniably true in the split second they rush over his face before he is able to conceal his feelings behind a mask of polite concern.

Maggie is instantly devastated, because she knows.

Suddenly it’s very hard to breathe. Her chest feels incredibly tight.

She knows. Oh god, she knows.

There’s pressure in her abdomen, a ball of lead sinking deeper and deeper, poisoning every internal organ.

Maggie knows that he doesn’t know.

Her knees go weak, her eyes sting with angry tears. It’s so unfair. So fucking unfair.

He doesn’t have a clue.

Her blood pressure is through the roof, she can feel the effects in her racing heartbeat, the beating pulse in her temples, and the disproportionate strain behind her eyeballs.

It’s not him. It’s never been him.

 

---

 

Of course this is Kara’s clue to enter the 22nd floor office by controllably crashing through the bulletproof windows with a force that makes a long-range missile look like a toothpick.

While the suddenly bursting glass and the overall tumult of a blurring red inferno that is Kara’s cape do wonders on Maggie’s physical state of shock, the noise level is topped by a frantic scream, as Jenny faints in the far rear corner of the office.

Maggie closes her eyes, tuning in on her surroundings only by sound: the clash of glass fragments, the squeak of blocked chair legs. The wind is buffeting on the shattered ends of the windows. A wicked thunder is roaring—but if it is inside or outside, Maggie can’t tell.

Then she hears a surprised intake of breath, followed by a desperate gasp for air. Her eyes shoot open and she instantly turns around, churning an impressive trail of dust with her. 

Kara Danvers in all her heroic glory has a tight grip on Lord’s throat and has lifted him three feet into plain air. His cheeks are puffed up and his eyes squeeze out of their sockets. It’s not a very pretty sight.

Kara swirls around with him like he has the size of a Ken doll. Much in the same way as a main drape in a theater, her red cape dances around them, revealing and concealing his kicking legs, which struggle to find a surface to hold on to.

“Supergirl!” Maggie shouts. “ENOUGH!”

For an alarming moment Maggie thinks that Kara didn’t hear her. But then Supergirl floats back to the ground, and releases Lord from her death grip.

Maggie has never seen her so angry, so aggressive, so out of herself. A full spectrum of hatred and condemnation is visible on her face and if Maggie didn’t know any better, she would think Kara was poisoned with Red Kryptonite.

“It’s not Lord.”

Kara’s posture crumbles.

“Supergirl, it’s not him.”

Kara deflates visibly. “What?”

Maggie closes the distance with two long strides, and places a hand on Kara’s arm.

“What do you mean, ‘It’s not him’?” Kara huffs, removing Maggie’s hand. Her signature crinkle flashes between her eyes. “It’s him!”
She points to Lord, who has fallen on his knees in the meantime, and is now rattling for air in a hunched up position.
“It must be!” She stomps unconsciously to underline her point, but steps on her cape instead and stumbles ungraciously with the next step. “It has to be. We saw the drones. He built them, used them… It’s him!”

“No.”

“Maggie…”

“No.”

“But—how—when…,” Kara turns toward Lord again, her shoulders tight and square. “Why?” she asks to no one in particular. She seems unfocused. “Just someone tell me what the hell is going on.”

They just stand there, opposite each other, one confused, one with arms crossed and determined.

Then Maggie goes first. “I would have bet a whole month’s salary on it, but we were wrong.” She uncrosses her arms, runs a hand trough her wavy hair and rams the other in her back pocket.

“How do you know?”

“He has been tricked and mislead, just like us,” she states, and scratches on her neck. Her lips are pressed together in a straight line. “But unlike us, he was pretty aware of that, wasn’t he?” She kicks his shin to get a rise out of him.

Lord coughs in return.

Her face is stern, focused. “They took control of your drones, then what?” she continues. “Your surveillance team must have picked up on that. There’s no way you didn’t know they were hacked.”

His nod is barely visible, but heavy enough with meaning.

“So you counteracted. And did they reach out to you after that?”

“No,” he says and lifts himself up slowly. “It was just a minor incident. We had the situation under control.” He drags himself to his chair, and holds onto the armrest in search for stability. “No need to investigate further.”

“But there’s more to it,” Maggie encourages.

“There always is.”

“Don’t be so enigmatic,” Kara scolds through gritted teeth. However, she becomes silent, when Maggie shoots her a look.

“Okay,” Maggie continues. “But something’s missing. What happened?”

Lord lets himself fall on the heavy seat cushion and utters an almost obscene moan at the contact. “Nothing out of the ordinary. Except…” He drags out the last word as a sigh.

Maggie Sawyer won’t give him the satisfaction and pry more details out of him with more questions. If he’s fishing for attention, she’ll give it to him another way.
Within seconds she has planted herself in front of him, both arms on either side of his head, her face dangerously close. “Spill.”

His eyes narrow down to a slit. His jaw muscles contract. “A few days later,” he takes a breath, “we found out that we’ve been robbed.”

Maggie just stares.

“Nothing important, I can assure you.”

“Bullshit!” Now Maggie is just furious. “Let me guess: A new formula you almost cracked that could change the fate of the world? A new toy you’ve been working on for ages and were finally confident enough to go public with?”

His chapped lip twitches.

“Thought so,” Maggie affirms. “So what was it? And don’t even try to pull some shit here, Lord.” She takes a step back, her hand pointedly placed on her holstered gun.

He blinks, and positions himself upright.

Somewhere in the back, Kara mutters something like “Oh, Rao.”

“As you guessed correctly, I had been working on this particular device for a while now. It was never more than an idea on paper until I recently found the right components to bring it to life… So to speak.” He tugs at the hem of his jacket, readjusting the cufflinks. “It took a lot of time and effort. I had a few setbacks and was forced to outmaneuver a few competitors.”

“I’m sure you did.”

He raises his chin. “My work is honorable. It’s a privilege and duty to expand our expectations on physical appearances.”

“Meaning what exactly?” Maggie inquires.

“Well, if you must know,” Lord sardonically proclaims. “I designed an instrument to enhance our outer shell and to regain control of our own visibility.”

For a moment, Kara and Maggie stare at him in disbelief. But then the atmosphere shifts drastically and they both stand right next to each other, shoulder to shoulder.
“Great,” Kara deadpans. “In summary: You stole the prototype from Lena Luthor and actually built a shape shifting device.”

Maggie laughs wickedly. “Jesus fucking—”
She is not able to finish her sentence though, because her nimble fist has found Lord’s cheekbone once again. 

While Kara’s contribution is a yelp that sounds awfully like a seal pup, Maxwell Lord seizes the moment by loosing consciousness.

Maggie slackens her wrist and rubs her skinned and swollen knuckles.

“Wow, Maggie. Twice in one day? Really?”

She just smiles in return. “Feels pretty good actually,” she says and pulls her leather jacket over her gun. “Besides,” she reaches for the zipper, “better me than you. If you do it, office cliché over there can scrub the remainings of his genius brain off the expensive marble tiles.”

Kara raises a questioning eyebrow. “Who?”

“Nevermind,” she smirks and shoves her hands in her jacket pockets. “How the hell did you even know where to find me?” After a pause she adds, “wait…I don’t think I want to know.”

Kara fidgets with the seam of her cape. “We kind of planted a tracker on you and we’ve seen your vitals skyrocketing, so…”

Maggie could comment on the tracker. She doesn’t. She could also comment on the privacy violation. She doesn’t. Instead, she focuses on: “We?”

“Hm?” Kara makes an tentative sound and takes a first good look around since she entered the office rather unconventionally. Her eyes widen for a moment, her expression stunned and apologetic. “Sorry, didn’t want to create such a mess. Was in kind of a hurry.”

Maggie doesn’t fall for the change of subject. “Who’s ‘we’?”

Kara blushes. “Well, me and…,” she sighs, “me and Winn.”

“Figured.”

“Don’t be mad.”

Maggie just shakes her head, a small smile glooming on her lips, but not enough to show off her dimples. “Am not. No worries.” Then she chuckles, and it’s a lovely sound compared to all the disaster around them. “Though we might need to work on your entrance. It’s pretty drafty, don’t ya think?”

They stay in silent for some time, both taking in their surroundings. The impressive glass front has been smothered to dust while Lord’s desk is looped upside down in a corner. Papers, pencils and some folders are scattered everywhere. An iPad with a cracked display is crammed under one wheel of Lord’s office chair. It’s not a very pleasant sight. 

“I can see you were in a hurry, by the way. You look ridiculous,” Maggie says after a while. Her tone is softer now, still deep and relentless, but softer.

For a moment, Kara is puzzled. She traces a neat circle on the ground with her moccasin, and shoves away her cape in the motion. Maggie’s stare always makes her a bit nervous. She fidgets with one edge of her woolen cardigan. Her glasses slip down her nose.

“Oh, shit,” is all she says, when she finds out what Maggie was hinting on. She flashes bright red while her eyes immediately shoot to Lord.

“Oh no, don’t mind him,” Maggie says while pointing languidly towards Lord, who has sunk into his chair, hair tousled, his shirt spotted with dried blood, and still very unconscious. “Hank’s gonna take care of him.”

She glances around the office, stopping by Jenny’s collapsed figure pressed into a pencil skirt. “And maybe her, too, I guess.”

Kara nods in agreement. “I’m gonna get back outside,” she takes a few steps toward the demolished front. “Should I take you, or…?”

“No, you go ahead. I’ll take the elevator.”

Kara turns, and with a swift move earned by long hours of training, she leaps herself off the edge and into the air until all Maggie can see is a blurry red curvature on the horizon.

She is on her way to the door, when she spots a movement in her peripheral vision: Maxwell Lord attempts to get out of his chair, one hand raised like a schoolboy, the other protectively covering his swollen cheek.
He should save himself the trouble, Maggie thinks. But of course, he doesn’t.

“Detective,” Lord says with a weak voice. “There are going to be consequences. I hope you’re aware of that.” The words are meant to be daring and provocative, but they aren’t. Not to Maggie. She rolls her eyes and continues walking. 

“Maggie…,” he disgorges her name like a hairball. 

She stops at the door one last time, turning her head over her shoulder with a sad grin. “No, Lord. There won’t be any consequences. You have no idea who you’re up against. Hank Henshaw does wonders with his mind.”

She bends down and picks up the broken doorknob. She contemplates the brand for a brief moment, and with a despicable click of her tongue she drops it back on the tiles. “And for you it’s still Detective Sawyer.”

 

---

 

“Okay, let me get this straight.” Winn rips the headphones from his head, gets stuck with the wire, and rummages for a brief moment until he throws everything in a dark corner of his surveillance van.
“You,” he points at Maggie, “deck him straight in the face. Twice! Which was sooo impressive, by the way, oh, this was sooo good! Anyway, you deck him, and he’s out of it. And then you,” he turns around to Kara, “join the party through the glass front—geez, Kara, we discussed this so many times! It’s bad for your costume!”

“Well, technically, she didn’t wear the full costume,” Maggie chips in.

Kara huffs.

“I can see that.” With his raised bushy eyebrows Winn’s the example of puppy eyes. “But back to business…”

Now Maggie is the one to raise a questioning eyebrow.

“I always wanted to say that,” Winn offers with an apologizing shrug.

“Tell me about it,” Maggie deadpans.

“Guys, focus.” Kara places her glasses next to the van’s commando center and takes off her cardigan. “We know someone stole this prototype from Lord. And someone must have gone out of their way to make sure we chase the wrong guy. With the hacked drones, the attacks on women around the city, and Alex as the primary target…” She presses her fists to her hips. It’s her signature pose, and it would be as impressive as always, if she wore her Supergirl boots instead of her moccasins.

Winn types furiously on his keyboard, loading a city map with several red markers on the big screen. “Alrighty, so who are we really up against?”

Both of them stare at Maggie expectantly.

Instead of answering straight, she draws her weapon, her index finger outstretched, and pointing the gun safely to the ground. “I can’t believe we never thought of the possibility…” She pulls the slide back, takes a satisfied look at the cartridge in the chamber, and lets the slide go back with unimpeded force. “The signs have been there the whole time.” She removes the magazine in another trained motion, swivels and inspects it and puts it back in place. “How could we be so stupid?” As if to make a point, she holsters her gun.

Winn, with beaming eyes and an awe-struck expression, squirms in his seat. “I love when women do that.”

He is instantly met with a not-so-friendly smack to the head by Kara. “Shut up, Winn.”

“Was just stating the obvious, geez…”

“Maggie, I’m serious,” Kara interferes. “What are you talking about?”

The addressed flashes an all-dimpled smile. “Let’s go kick some white chick’s ass.”

Chapter Text

 

Red flares. Followed by blackness.

Then again.

And again.

A flickering light worms its way through her eyelashes. It crucially dissects her sanity, rips out one lash at a time. It hammers in her eyes like a rotten bolt, drilled, tightened.

If this unsteady force keeps up any longer, she’s going to be sick again in a matter of seconds. And she’s going to hurl her deranged brain matter out onto the dusty concrete, right next to the rough, skinned patch of cement under her left palm.

Her fingertip twitches. The movement forms a tiny line on the ground and dust rises slowly. Some particles twinkle and hover until they sink and slowly form a riverbank to both sides of her digit. She grates the dust between her finger and the concrete. The line dissolves into a bulged circle. The feeling is nice: Little stitches here and there and a few tiny stones rubbing at her skin. She could leave a smudged fingerprint behind. Something for someone to know that she was indeed here.

For a brief second she realizes that her mind must still work quite effectively if she can observe, process and form somewhat coherent thoughts. Thoughts, she thinks. Thoughts.

A weak spark of endorphins loops inside her. If she can feel tiny, sandy particles on her skin, if she can feel the twisting motions in her stomach, and if she can ponder over all of this, she might still be very much alive.

So she breathes deliberately.

Or at least she tries.

What she manages is a fit of stertorously coughing followed by stabbing pain and watery eyes, though the essence that falls on her cheeks feels more like mucous than teardrops.

The dust particles rise up in an angry plume and dance around her in agony.

But she manages. Short, slow intakes of air fill her battered lungs and with each hard-earned breath she inhales more of the indispensable oxygen.

She would feel relieved or even slightly hopeful, if she was capable of any normal human emotion at this time. But she doesn’t feel relieved or slightly hopeful, because the all-consuming pain is now back with ineffable arbitrariness.

White flickers, then black spots. Another flicker. A tattered breath.

It’s a kind of pain that subjugates every stiff muscle in her body, controls every stretched tendon under her flesh, repulses every essential reflex and destroys her true self with every flush of blood through her left ventricle.

It sends her back into a mentally deranged condition where her vision is grey and unfocused, her senses are numb or cut off altogether and her body is a shell for a mind that has left its dwelling long before.

She’s in deep, competing in an ridiculously fast race to the bottom.

There is no lifeline this time.

This time she will lose.

It’s a fact.

Raw and sturdy and beautiful like polished steel.

And so true.

She inhales. Too soft, feckless, futile.

The following exhale is even more pathetic.

And with unfocused eyes and lips barely parted, she stops altogether.

 

 
---

 

 
“I can’t believe you have a tracker on literally everything,” Maggie says churned up and flings the sliding door open. She jumps off the small ledge and steps aside for Kara, who simply floats out of the transporter.

They stopped the van in the shadows of some older oak trees right at the rim to an insanely large industrial complex. Cubes of raw concrete are stacked over another, and it seems they were abandoned for years if the amount of ivory on the building’s walls and the dry leaves on the old service roads are any indication.

“Don’t act like this didn’t just save the whole operation,” Winn counters with a suppressed grunt behind Maggie. “Tracking Lena’s phone would have been too obvious.” He shrugs, stumbles off the treadle and thus misses Kara’s piercing side glance unintentionally. “So I decided to bug her watch instead. I mean,” he tugs on his jeans, “I told you guys never to trust a smart watch. They’re so easy to hack it’s basically an insult on my profession.”

“Shit! Why did you never say anything before??” Maggie’s voice is dangerously deep and furious.

“Because Lena was never a suspect!” Kara snaps back defensively. This time she left her cardigan in the van and sports her full Supergirl outfit. Her legs are now shoulder length apart, muscles tense and feet glued to the ground. Her blue eyes fixate Maggie's brown eyes. They stare at each other for a while without blinking, but then Kara is the one to break the contest. “Neither was Lillian before you pulped up Lord,” she adds a little more collected.

“Okay, okay, okay!” Winn raises both his arms, “everybody calm down a notch, yeah?” He nonchalantly positions himself between the two women in order to create a human buffer. “We just got lucky Lillian called her daughter and the signal pinged on her smart watch long enough for us to determine its origin.” He smiles warily. “No reason to get all queasy.”

“Sorry, you’re right,” Kara says under her breath.

Winn is visibly relieved, but Maggie is the complete opposite. “Fuck! This is my worst fucking nightmare.” She curses loudly and then slams her fist against the car’s roof. “Fuck,” she says again and unclasps her fist. There is a tiny dent in the aluminum.

All of them are silent for a moment.

Then Maggie exhales audibly and mumbles something indistinctive that could pass as an apology. Subsequently she turns around on the spot with her hands on her hips. “We don’t know what we are dealing with yet, so we need to be careful and alert.”

“We just hurled through the woods with a big black car and probably mowed down half a dozen squirrels on the way,” Winn states jittery. “They must have seen us coming!”

Kara turns towards the buildings. There is no obvious entry point since the 30 yard long wall in front of them has no doors or windows at all, so her eyes scan their surroundings carefully. “Of course they did,” she answers Will. Around her ankles the cape blows a little in the wind, “although I can’t see that many potential adversaries with my X-ray vision.”

“No, just a bunch of physically enhanced hired guns and Luthor mercenaries,” Maggie deadpans.

“Great.” Winn swallows while he fidgets with his checked button-down shirt. “So what do we do now?”

Kara turns to them. “Guys, there might be a way.” She pulls Maggie closer and signals to a small spot further down the line.

A faint smile forms on Maggie’s lips. “Perfect,” she nods. “Seems like we’ll go in through the back door,” she rearranges her holster and rolls up the sleeves of her jacket, “so to speak.” And with that she takes off with a fast pace.

Winn shuffles. “Err, Kara, am I missing something?”

“See the ventilation shaft over there? We’ll enter through there.”

Winn laughs. “Yeah, right.”

Kara gives him an unequivocal look.

“Really?” His voice is a bit higher than usual. “You’re serious?”

---

A few minutes later Maggie tries to squeeze herself through the opening of an old and hopefully disused ventilation shaft. Kara is already a few feet ahead down the narrow tunnel, her cape a quick red flicker.

“Tell me again why we’re about to crawl through a tiny whole instead of watching the DEO’s special forces storm the premises from the safety of our van?” Half of Winn’s face appears next to a series of disfigured narrow slats which Kara bent aside as if they were chopsticks. He attempts to enter the shaft as well, ungracefully with his feet first. “My general concern for the safety of my fellow—ouch!”

Maggie turns her head and sees Winn pulling at his tie, the fabric somehow stuck.

“What?” He shrugs, “I am an IT guy. I am not made for field duties!”

“Clearly,” she deadpans.

“At least I gave you the correct location. Without my excellent tracking skills Kara would still pace around in moccasins.” He finally makes it through the entrance and catches up.

From further ahead they hear a rustling. It's Kara's suppressed voice: “You know I can hear you, right?”

Maggie smiles to herself and continues to inch forward on all fours. But the smile almost instantly disappears. The small tunnel is the most confined space she ever had to go through. The air is stale and slightly humid. She probably breathes a ton of fungal spores. She usually is not affected by claustrophobia, but even for her the surroundings are a little too uncomfortable. In addition, the path ahead is buried in darkness, because the light from the entrance only illuminates the first few yards. After that, it basically is pitch black. She can't even see Kara anymore, so she uses the faint display light of her phone to guide the way. The metal under her hands is cold and the old dust covering it is slightly damp. She can feel the head of the bolts connecting the single segments every time she moves her legs forward. It hurts her knees. But she doesn't need to say anything, because Winn does it for her.

“These screws are killing me,” he whispers behind her.

“Shh!”

“How can you not feel this?” He complains again.

“Snap it, Winn!”

“Sorry.”

They continue forward and try to make as little noise as possible. After a few more minutes huddled behind each other, Maggie is suddenly spotlighted from behind. Confused, she makes the big mistake to turn her head and is instantly blinded by the light. “Oh, fuck!”

Winn curses. “Maggie, you're not supposed to look directly into the flashlight!” His voice travels down the tunnel.

“Do you want us to get killed immediately? You'll alert everyone.” Maggie hisses with her eyes tightly shut while she presses the bridge of her nose with both thumb and index finger. “Turn it off!”

After some more rustling, the flashlight is finally turned off and the darkness embraces them once again. Maggie grunts. She still sees a bright light blue spot dancing in front of her eyes.

When she is about to continue, Winn hits his head loudly and grabs one of Maggie's shoes for balance. She can feel him shift behind her.

“Not everyone can see in the dark,” he says sheepishly.

“That doesn't mean you are allowed to use flood lights. Now come on, let's move,” Maggie forces onward.

It probably takes them another ten minutes of crawling through the shaft at snails speed until they hear that Kara has stopped moving and is waiting for them further down the tunnel. When they finally catch up, Maggie's knees are already slightly swollen, and she can tell Winn definitely needs time to catch his breath.

Kara on the other hand is unimpressed and energized. In the dim display light of Maggie's phone her face resembles an unhealthy grey with a tad of green. Her smile borders on wicked. “Guys, I've found a hatch,“ she whispers conspiratorially.

“Can you see where it leads?” Maggie asks tentatively.

“Only one way to find out,” Kara responds, rips off the lid with as little noise as possible and shoves the heavy metal to the side. “Time to get Alex,” she says and drops into the darkness.

Maggie nods, more to herself than to anyone. “Time to call for backup, Winn.”

“Classic,” he huffs beside her. “Now you want me to call for backup—when we’re bunker deep buried under massive concrete. How am I supposed to get a signal?”

Maggie displays a nasty grimace. “Ask Lillian,” she says and disappears as well.

Chapter Text

For the last fifteen minutes, Kara had been unstoppable. Maggie can't even recall how they got down the hatch and where they went on from that. She just followed the red and blue blur that was Kara, who barreled through the creepy labyrinth of slim corridors, blocked doors, and abandoned laboratories without making the slightest sounds as if she was on the most important mission of her life. Actually, maybe they were all on the most important mission of their lives. Nothing, absolutely nothing could ever compare to the significance of excelling in this task, of the importance to get Alex back—alive.

“Why have we stopped?” whispers Winn into her neck and she feels goosebumps creeping up her back.

“Shhh,” she hisses.

Kara is right in front of her, her body pressed tightly against the wall. She secretly eyes around the next corner. Without turning her head she signals with her hand that there are two men positioned down the hall.

But before Maggie can reach for her gun, Kara's red cape has already disappeared around the corner. All she can hear is stifled sounds, some grunts, clothes rustling and then two muffled thuds. A few seconds later Kara reappears in front of them, smoothing her skirt.

“Done?” Maggie deadpans.

Usually Kara would sport a huge grin or at least a confident snicker, but she stays silent, her face a stoic mask in the dim light. She simply nods in confirmation.

They are about to continue further when Maggie feels Winn's clammy hand on her shoulder. “She's here,” he gasps.

Both Kara and Maggie turn around. “What?”

He points at his phone. “She's here, we're close.“ The screen shows a pulsing blue dot right next to a red one. “Lillian is here.”

Maggie's head spins around in confusion. Her pulse is high, she can feel it throbbing behind her ear. But she can't see anything unusual. They are in a narrow hallway that deviates where Kara made quick work of the two guards. She can't see any doors and they didn't pass any other intersections before they came here.

Winn has completely plunged into his phone. His nose is inches away from the screen, his fingers sliding on the glass frantically. “She should be to our left,” he mumbles.

Maggie huffs. “That's bullshit,” she says, “there's nothing—,”

“Hold on,” Kara suddenly demands. Her eyes squint as she focusses first on the wall to their left, then down to the floor at their feet. Her jaw clenches one time. Then she spits: “She's underneath us.” Her boots scrape over the floor until she finds what she is looking for and hunches down. Her gloved hands wrap around a little ring, welded to a nearly invisible lid. Maggie can barely make out the edges in the dingy light.

“Another hatch?” Winn whines.

Kara grunts. “Seems like we have a lucky day.” And with that she rips the shutter wide open and propels herself down the tight opening.

Maggie is right at Kara's heels.

When Winn finally reaches the small room below, Kara is already up the next ladder and through another hatch. He pauses, eyebrows frowning. “Another ladder?” he speaks under his breath. “But we just came from there?” He looks justifiably confused.

Maggie, with a foot on the first step, answers: “A hidden path to the hidden treasure.” She doesn't smile or give away any other feeling.

Then Karas head reappears through the second opening in the ceiling. “This is it,” she says through gritted teeth. “There's a steel door and I hear faint voices behind the walls up here. The concrete must be pretty thick, but I might be able to crash through. Hurry!”

Maggie just turns and climbs up the ladder, her slim figure fading away in the dark.

Winn huffs. “God, I hate field duty.”


---


“Congratulations, Agent Danvers,” the voice is different than before. Even more stern, and slightly more female. “I am actually impressed on your performance these last days.” A cold laugh echoes through the cell.

Footsteps approach her. She can hear the boots tapping away on the concrete. She wants to open her eyes, but she can't. She can't see. Or maybe her eyes are already open, but she still can't see. Everything around her is dark, patches of black and pixels of blue.

“I knew you were hard to break, but I wanted a challenge.” The voice is close.

She tries to move, but for the first time she is not able to. Not one nerve in her body, one muscle or string reacts to the fire her brain sends through her limbs.

“The hit was brilliant, I give you that,” the voice breathes in her ear. “I admit I forgot about the metal bar. But even if I had remembered, I wouldn't have thought you were remotely able to wield it against me.”

She feels a hand on her shoulder, tightly squeezing the flesh. “I owe my son a thousand dollars, can you imagine?” Sharp nails dig into her skin. “Lex said you'd make it way past the abduction and I was determined he gave you way too much credit. Without your obnoxious sister to help you out, how would you have been able to cope with the pressure?” A huff rolls over her skin. “You wouldn't.”

She tries to move, but still her body is as heavy as the concrete she was forced to lay on for god knows how long.

“But here you are,” the voice picks up again. “Days later.” There is a short pause. “Sadly the stab wound in your thigh didn't kill you. Or your preposterous attempt to administer self-aid.” The hand on her shoulder sneaks up to her neck. She can imagine the pressure already.

“I am a woman of my words. I admit, I lost the bet. Unfortunately.”

The pressure is real now, a continuous push to her windpipe. It's not life-threateningly, but it's firm. Her calloused lips part to give room for extra air. It doesn't suffice.

“My only retribution is that you'll die of toxemia, no matter what happens next.” The voice is back on her ear. “Do you understand, Agent Danvers?”

She chokes.

“This is it. This is,” a thumb pierces her throat, “your end.”

Suddenly, a sharp high tone originates from the south right corner of her neck and crawls its way past her skull base and inner ear to her temple, where it settles as an annoying high-pitched buzz and feeds off what’s left of her sanity.

“Oh, for fuck's sake!” The voice shouts.

The pressure on her neck dissipates instantly. For a second, her head goes light, and she can feel her body trembling. The darkness of her vision clears up to blurry schemes. Red and blue and yellow and green.

She croaks and regurgitates a disgusting mixture of saliva, muddy dust, and crumbs of dark red blood.

Then she loses consciousness.


---


It all happens too fast for Maggie. She doesn't even have time to draw her gun, when Kara is already a burning tornado, propelling through the steel door with so much force that she rips out part of the doorframe with her. Everything explodes in a blast of concrete dust.

As soon as she is able to get up again, one knee bend, Maggie is pushed back down by an impact wave. For a second, she can't tell where she is: On the ceiling or on the floor. Gravel percolates around her. She tastes ashes on her lips and spits out, but nothing comes out. She can see flickers of light, and pitch black darkness right after. She tries to steady herself with a hand on the ground, but she loses her balance immediately. Her senses are overrun. Everything is flooded in chaos. Her stomach is a deep pool of desperation. She thinks she has to throw up. She doesn't. Instead she quickly worries where Winn is, and if he is safe enough. But then a loud explosion draws her focus back to the apocalypse that is Supergirl.

She can't comprehend what she sees. It's hard to make out details, when the axis of her sole being is violently spinning. What she can see is patches of red and blue appearing and disappearing around a green, pulsing center, engulfed in thick clouds of thunder. Sparks fly here and there and in the middle of all of it she can finally hear the mayhem.

As if on cue, everything she can focus on are the sounds of destruction. Smashed surfaces, crashed bones, screeched metal, ripped bodies. It's unbearable and she falls down and covers her ears, presses her hands as tightly against her skull as she can.

Eventually Maggie realizes that there is nothing she can do to help. This is a superhuman fight she cannot attend. She cannot rush to help Kara, and most of all, she cannot run to find Alex in all of this. She wouldn't survive it. Not ever.

All she can do now is lay low, press her body to the ground, protect her head and hope, even pray for Kara to finish what they all started. Her body is obedient, her mind races.

All of a sudden the roar is over. She hesitates at first, then her head perks up, and a hand falls off her left ear. She listens intently. She can hear nothing. Deafening ructions, indistinguishable noises and horrendous screams were replaced by numbing silence.

It's over, she thinks.

Alex.


---


Alex.

I have to save Alex, she thinks.

She gets up on her feet, ungracefully, but she gets up. While she turns around her axis, her right hand unlocks the gun from her holster, snapping back the safety. “Alex!” she shouts. It comes out as a broken whisper. She tries again, coughs, and tries a third time.

“I'm here,” Winn responds somewhere behind her.

Under other circumstances she would roll her eyes and smack him on his head, but she is genuinely happy to hear his voice. “Get behind me,” she fizzes.

He shuffles, his back pressed against a wall. His shirt is rumpled and covered with dirt stains, and his hair stands up in any possible direction. He doesn't look too bad. “Where's Kara?”

“Inside,” she guesses and takes a cautious step forward. She is careful not to cut herself on the many sharp edges Kara's blast through the walls left behind. When she reaches the opening where the heavy metal door used to be, she can make out the remains of the hinges. They are completely torched.

Winn follows her lead. “I hope someone is alive in there.”

“We are.”

The words take a while to travel to Maggie, but as soon as she hears them her heartbeat picks up at sprint's speed and she jumps forward into the cell.

The small room is completely demolished and torn apart. Kara must have wreaked havoc in here. Not one wall is left upright. Parts of the ceiling have collapsed and on the other end is a gaping hole to another corridor and, Maggie can barely believe it, a small breach to the outside. She can even spot some oak trees in the background.

Then someone clears their throat and Maggie's head spins around. There, in the middle of chaos, standing in a wide stance on a small pile of concrete rocks, dust slowly settling around her feed, is Supergirl. She has her hands on her hips, and her back is straight. Her hair falls gorgeously onto her shoulders and her cape waves a little. The scenery is a little unreal.

“Oh, thank god,” Winn stumbles into the room right after Maggie, his mouth wide open. “Geez, Kara!” he says and lunges forward. He trips over a partly shiny piece of metal on his way. It clatters to the side.

Maggie follows the rolling bar with her eyes. It's not very long, but it seems like it's severely covered in blood. One side is dark red, almost brown. The coating looks old, dried up and sealed already. The other side is dipped in light red. It's fresh. Maggie hesitates. Something is odd.

“She's here,” Winn shouts from the far end of the room.

Maggie scans the room. There, in the dark shadows, covered behind a tiny wall of stones and metal she can see him bend over an indefinable ball that could also be a body. Alex's body.

She doesn't move.

“Maggie!” Winn shouts again.

She doesn't move. She doesn't drop everything and runs to Alex. They've been charging after her for days, and now that they finally found her, Maggie needs to make sure they're not too late. She needs to make sure Alex is still alive. But she also needs to make sure that they are safe.

So she turns her body and looks back up at Supergirl, her eyes narrowed in suspicion. Her costume is brand new, not a single stain or a cut in sight. Her face is stoic and too even. But what really gives her away is that she is still watching over everything like the narcissistic hero she would never be.

Maggie takes a deep breath. “Winn,” she calls across the room, “whatever happens, don't leave Alex's side!” As she takes a step forward, she doesn't even detect Winn's confused look. She only has eyes for the woman in the red cape. She points her gun at her and sneers: “And now, Mrs. Luthor, you're fucking finally under arrest.”

Supergirl bursts out into a maniac laughter.

Maggie doesn't flinch. Not even a bit. Her hands are steady, her gaze is glued on her target. She's in her zone. All this time it felt like there was someone else dominating this wicked game. Now, for the first time in days, she lastly feels like she has it all back: The control, the power. She is relentless.

“You're a smart one, I'll give you that,” Supergirl says with a small lipped smile. She steps down from her pile of rocks, elegantly, and with every step her appearance transforms. The red boots flicker and morph into slim high heels, the skirt changes into tight black dress pants. Supergirl's prominent “S” spreads out, turns black and covers the woman's body in a neat blazer. The long wavy blond hair shrivels into a tightly secured bun. When the transformation is complete, Maggie is met with a death glare from Lillian Luthor, who hovers over her by seven inches; nine, if she counts the heels.

“We could play the dull game of 'What gave me away',” Lillian purrs, “but since I am bored already, I'm saving us time.” She tucks at her blazer. “Well, I am saving me time, at least.” She smiles maliciously.

Maggie is simply unimpressed. “Great,” she replies. “Then let's cut the crap, shall we? What did you do to Alex?”

“Oh, the usual. You don't want the excruciating details, do you?” She gives a short nod to the side.

“Is she alive?”

“For now...Though I doubt she'll come out of the coma.”

Maggie's heart doesn't even clench. She can't get distracted now. “And Supergirl?”

Lillian clicks her tongue. “She was brave. It was a good fight. A little too hot-headed and impulsive. Green is indeed not her color, to be honest. I suppose this broke her neck, in the end.”

Maggie lets the last sentences sink in for a bit. “So you used green kryptonite on her,” she states. “No one can beat her, so everyone just looks for a sissy backdoor. It's always the same routine.” Maggie crooks her head, as if to get the tension out of her muscles. “Someone has a nasty idea, pitches it, follows up on it. They know they can't win from the very beginning, but it doesn't mean they're clever enough to realize it. So they urge forward and when they're confronted with the law and their actions they chicken out and make mistakes. Every. Fucking. Time.” Maggie grins. “You know what I like about you people? You're always so fucking predictable.”

Lillians attitude falters, just a little bit. “Dear, I don't think you know who you are talking to.”

“Oh, I do.” Maggie counters. “I know you are even more dangerous than Lex, because you don't get as easily distracted as he used to get. You plan strategically, and you pull through. There is not a single detail that you don't oversee. You are precautious, precise and ruthless. That's what makes you imperious.”

“As charming as this analysis is, Detective Sawyer,” Lillian infers, “maybe you should stick to your profession and detect—and leave the profiling to colleagues that were actually trained for it.”

“Like Agent Danvers.”

“Possibly.”

“Okay, deal,” Maggie deadpans. “So why targeting Alex? Because you knew that it would draw Supergirl out? You correctly predicted she would be more careless and impulsive. You thought that you had a real chance of getting her out of the way if you could preset the pawns on the game board from the very beginning.”

“You're being presumptuous. It doesn't suit you well.”

Maggie doesn't lose a second. “And why would you want to steal a shape shifting device? You don't need to shape shift in order to accomplish your plans. You are already powerful, even feared amongst peers. All you need to do is show up to a deal and everyone will hand over whatever you desire.”

Lillians face remains motionless.

“Your name and appearance holds the power. So help me understand why you need to hide under a mask that doesn't even give you any additional advantage?”

“I was simply returning a Luthor invention back to a Luthor corporation.”

“I don't think that's the whole truth.”

“Gladly we don't depend on your opinion, Detective.”

“You stole a device that has been stolen from Lena, and you think this is righteous? Minus times minus doesn’t equal to plus here, Lillian.”

“Honey, be a doll and leave math to those who know how to work with it, will you?”

“Great,” Maggie says with vigor. “So you’ll do the math and add a lifetime to your sentence instead?”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary, dear.” Her posture is unyielding, straight, uptight, motionless and rigid.

They stare at each other. Both their faces give nothing away, apart from undisclosed hate for the other. The air between them is filled with static electricity just before a monumental discharge, crackling here and there, thick and humming with force.

The corner of Lillian's mouth twitches.

Maggie tilts her head to the side.

Eyes blink.

A knuckle cracks.

Then there is just silence.

As always, light travels faster than sound. Maggie's eyes spot the small red dot of the laser, first on her and then on Lillian. The sound of the electrical discharge of the taser on Lillian's body comes just a few milliseconds later. A shocked gasp escapes the older woman's mouth. Then her muscles spasm and her eyes roll back into her head. The limp body drops to the ground immediately.

From now on, it's pretty much all a blur to Maggie, really. There is still a light buzz in the stale air when the whole room is suddenly swarmed by heavily armored DEO special agents who push through the mess and detain what's left of Lillian Luthor. But she doesn't even wait to see it happen. As soon as she saw the laser, she knew they had won. And as soon as the realization sank in, she could let herself feel. Now all her focus is compressed in four simple letters: Alex.

That's why she immediately is up on her feet, stumbling over broken concrete, and pushing away men in black uniforms to finally, finally reach her. She can see her already, and the sight is alarming. She is almost there when she falls, her hands bracing the plunge. She doesn't get up, not really, but mostly crawls further, until she slumps down next to Alex's perished body.

She extends a hand, grabs a hold of Alex's arm and is almost appalled by how ice cold she feels. Maggie is scared to death, as she buries her head in Alex's neck. The moment their skins connect and Maggie can't feel a pulse, is the moment she breaks down in tears.

She took too long. She is too late.

She can't smell, can't hear, can't see. She can only feel. And she feels a deep, bottomless grief forming in her stomach. She is wrapped up in it, succumbed by it. The misery grows inch by inch, and claws at her intestines, spills over her veins. It consumes her, drowns her. She'll die, right here, in Alex's cold arms.

It takes her a while to push through the devastation. It takes her a while to re-emerge back to reality. But when she finally does, she notices Winn putting an unconscious Kara down next to her.

“It's okay, Maggie,” he says gently. “They're both breathing.” He smiles. “It's gonna be okay. It's gonna be okay.”