Back.. And forth. Back.. And forth.
A stocky dog paced with her; simmering in dynamism just as much as her human-shaped caretaker — moving in tandem under the watchful gaze of an orange cat they'd both known for less than twenty four hours. This was a ludicrous situation, even for Carol Danvers. She'd curled her hair behind her ears maybe three times, smoothing and twisting it around her fingers to a point of her liking before she'd done it again, finally crossing her arms across her chest to quell the urge to do something reckless. Chasing Jess wouldn't solve anything. Apologizing to Tony wouldn't do anything. Talking to Loki would lead her in circles. Chasing Thanos would end with a crushed skull if she didn't have some power behind her. Even punching a hole in the wall couldn't solve the set of problems that'd been served up to her on pristine china, despite the stress relief it'd provide. Not for Cara, but.. It was the thought that’d counted, right?
Back.. And forth. Back.. and forth.
Finally, she leaned herself back against the dining table — bringing one of those notorious fists to her mouth while she balanced herself forward. Maybe that hand'd keep her heart from rising any further into her throat. The eyes of a colonel stared forward out of Cara Davies' sweet face; Atlas and Icarus in one pretty, Southern-speaking body. When the knock came on the door, both sets of fingertips rested themselves down on either side of the table, almost as if she'd reached some sort of judgment. Noodles barked once.
One hour at a time, she reminded herself.
A piece of advice that she frequently peppered her patients and their families with had become a mantra over the past year and a half. There was always something lurking around the corner during these weeks, and this month had hit the city particularly hard. With one body swap under her figurative belt already, she hadn't exactly taken this comic book identity switch lightly, and she needed to stay busy. And so when Carol had reached out, she was ready to run.
But first, she had a quick pit stop to make.
Maybe it was frivolous, but Nora (and Kara) felt that it was necessary. A fifteen minute detour to Salt & Straw saw her leaving the small shop with a paper bag under her arm. Had she gotten a little carried away? Probably. Did she care? Not at all. Did the stares from innocent bystanders witnessing a fully suited-up Supergirl buy ice cream bother her at all? A little bit, but it was worth the trip. Besides, she needed sustenance and wasn't convinced that Carol wasn't in the same boat, either.
A quick aerial scan of Noe Valley gave her her destination...though upon hearing the other woman’s heart, part of her wondered if Carol would still be standing by the time she arrived at her home. As she landed on the front yard with a small thump, she gathered her bearings (...and her ice cream) and marched up to the front door. Her stern knock was met with a stern voice and a bark, and with that, Nora turned the doorknob and stepped inside.
"Do you always leave your front door unlocked?" she asked as she nudged the door shut behind her. She made quick work of kicking off her boots before leaving the entryway to meet Carol at the table, where she set the paper bag down and began to unpack its contents.
"For you and Jess, yeah," Carol replied, raking her hand through her hair one last time before she straightened up, maintaining some decorum while Nora entered the room; "I have a guard dog and cat now anyway," she mumbled, pressing her lips into a thin line when she cast a look over at the curious feline who definitely wasn't her flerken; "What've you got?"
"Roasted strawberry tres leches, chocolate gooey brownie, honey lavender, and Mount Tam Cheese with toasted Acme bread." She crumpled up the paper bag and ventured into the kitchen where she tossed the bag into a recycling bin and pulled out a couple of spoons from a nearby drawer. "Hope you're hungry," she piped up as she set both spoons down on the table and made herself comfortable.
It was approximately five seconds (less so, really — this is giving it a little bit of poetry) before she'd swiped the brownie pint and spoon in one hand, and a conciliatory dog treat in the other; raising it to get Noodles to sit (which she eagerly did) before flicking it in her direction. The degree of expertise that the giant dog had with catching treats mid-air seemed to outdo her skill with sitting, but that was a discussion for another time.
They had body swaps and reality stones to discuss. And ice-cream to eat.
"If your metabolism's anything like mine.. We're in good shape," Carol remarked, lifting her eyebrow, entertained, before she indicated the living room.
"What is a metabolism?" Nora asked, echoing the Dowager Countess. She scanned the remaining pints in front of her and tried to make a decision. Roasted strawberry with tres leches would be her first victim after all, and she pried the lid off of the container with a spoon already in hand.
"Help me out here," she started, pulling the pint's lid open and turning her spoon inside.
".. I've accepted that you're Supergirl. I've even accepted that your name is Kara Danvers, which is a trip unto itself. But Thanos putting us in other bodies? Thanos has made it here?"
Carol Danvers wrinkled her nose at her would-be doppelgänger.
"This is a sick joke."
She helped herself to a healthy spoonful of ice cream as she listened to Carol's questions and licked her lips clean before she answered. "So, Thanos," she started. "Has been around. And so has Mister Mxyzptlk. Probably a few others, too. Who knows if they're working together or what, but they're here. They were in Boston first, but now they're here." She finished off the last of the ice cream that remained on her spoon. "The body swappy thingy is nothing new, either," Nora added casually.
"Mister Whatsitnow?" Carol echoed, spoon still in her mouth and dog under hand when Nora started; the furrow in her brow deepened when her new friend had mentioned the body swapping, acutely aware that this time was unpleasant enough. Guilt was still bouncing in her throat every time she looked over at Chewtwo. Ah, there it was. A name.
"Mister Mxyzptlk," she repeated. "He's...well. He's an imp. All-powerful, up to no good. Napoleon complex. You know the type." She scooped another, this time smaller spoonful of ice cream out of the carton and feeding her face.
"How long has this been happening? Fully aware that we only got here a few months ago, but.." Carol indicated Nora. "Boston?"
She swallowed the mouthful of ice cream before she opened her mouth to speak. "Years. It started in Boston first, and then most of us ended up out here. Not all of us," she added quickly. "I had a few friends who, as far as I know, are still on the East Coast, but they don't seem to have their powers. Those followed us out here. Do you know if Cara's always lived in San Francisco?"
"At least ten years," Carol replied, tracing a small circle with her spoon into her carton. "Hasn't ever been to Boston, from what I can tell. Girl works hard to be here."
Thoughtfully, she pressed crescents into her ice-cream as Nora filled in a few blanks, stopping only to nod into a flash of survivor's guilt. 31 flavors of guilt, the older Danvers mused, all just begging to hop onto their metaphoric sample spoons, if she'd let them. She wouldn't.
"Has Nora.. You," Carol corrected, still sorting whos and whats into their proper folders, ".. Kara.. Nora.." More mental volleyball, "You started in Boston, now you're here. Like some warped Drake song, remixed by Thanos and Mister Mxyzptlk."
"Nora," she said firmly. "You can call me Kara if it makes you more comfortable, but we're one and the same these days. It's been like that for a while." The way she spoke about her state of being was so nonchalant, and why shouldn't it be? This had been her reality for several months now and she would only be doing a disservice to herself to deny it in the company of others who were experiencing something similar. To those who weren't...well, they were on their own.
She set her spoon down for a moment so that she could put the lid back on the roasted strawberry, swapping out that pint for the cheese flavor. Curiosity had bested her with that one. "Exactly like that," she said as she popped the lid off of the new pint. "I moved to Boston to start my residency at Mass Gen in...2012. Stuck around to do my acute care surgery fellowship there, too. And then one morning, suddenly I was here, and I worked at UCSF, and everyone else remembered me that way, too. And I'm not the only one." Her brow furrowed slightly as she explained her predicament. They were several months into this, whatever this was, and they still didn't have anything that resembled an answer until now.
Carol listened to Nora recount the events with dueling senses of horror and relief. She was speaking about a life that clearly.. Belonged to someone else as if it were her own. Her own life, as if she were another person. The line didn't exist between Nora and Kara, and it spiked Carol's heart rate to know that eventually.. The same would happen to her and a certain physicist whose life she could only piece together. The next swallow of ice-cream felt like it'd lodged itself in her throat for a few seconds, but she recovered well enough and without a cough.
Another successful bite of chocolate, gooey brownie and a scratch under Noodles' chin. The dog supplied an enamored smile and plopped a monstrous paw onto her knee; she was oblivious to the switching, the mayhem that happened around her.. And for that, she was absolutely perfect. Carol smiled back down at the dog for a second before looking back at Nora.
"Do you know if Thanos is trying to reassemble the gauntlet?”
The dog caught her attention for a moment. Noodles, from what she remembered from social media. On any other day, Nora would've been on the floor, cooing and talking about Noodles in her own goofy dog voice, the one that was usually reserved for Pork Chop or Sprocket. But today, there were more pressing matters at hand. "The gauntlet...like, from the movie?" she asked as she poked at the flat surface of the freshly opened pint. "I don't know. I don't know if anyone knows. The gems haven't been an issue in a really, really long time, from what I understand - not since I've been around, and I’ve been around for like a year and a half now."
".. Yeah, like the movie," Carol started slowly, reaching up to pinch the bridge of her nose for a beat before scooping her way into the honey lavender ice-cream. It tasted both like home and flowers — both of which elicited a quick blink from the good Captain.
"How they slice and diced that whole debacle into two movies is beyond me," she mumbled — sounding like a disgruntled old woman, telling neighboring kids to stop playing on her lawn. ".. But Thanos is capable of much more," Carol warned, not shy about hiding just how bitter the knowledge made her. Unconsciously, the fingers on her free hand curled into a fist.
"One stone on its own isn't bad. I've found the reality one before, buried in another dimension. You've heard of Shazam. The other Captain Marvel guy? Product of the reality stone, I hear." She nodded. ".. Different Captain Marvels, Supergirls, Iron Men, Supermen in their own realities," Carol continued, glancing downward. "It can build dimensions, separate them, merge them.."
She shook her head.
"It cannot screw this one up. It can't."
Nora stayed quiet as Carol spoke. She fidgeted in her seat, getting up briefly but only so that she could tuck one leg underneath her as she sat down again. An attempt at comfort and coziness in a week that was lacking in both. The moments of warmth it did have were fleeting, and thanks to one of these loose gems, she wasn't sure that she could rely on any of those to be real. She knew that she wasn't actually herself for most of them.
It was upsetting, to say the least, but there wasn't time for that right now.
She sat in silence, the only sounds coming from her spoon digging into the container of ice cream in front of her. "Sounds like maybe it already has. Like, what if...these different realities, the multiverses," she started. "They've already been toyed with. A lot of us aren't supposed to be in San Francisco right now. My parents? They're supposed to be divorced. And they're supposed to be professors, that's it. None of these consulting gigs."
Nora stopped talking, though she was still visibly deep in thought. "Mister Mxy can do all of this, too. But he doesn't need the stones. So if they're working together, or even they're working against each other..." she trailed off.
".. Then we're all here to stop the worst from happening," Carol finished, resolute in tone as she sought Nora's gaze. It'd come out easier than half the points she'd had to make to a good portion of the people that'd come before Nora.. But it was also the most simple, because she believed it without second thought. "Yours, mine, and ours sort of deal," she offered as a bit of levity; it didn't come without a furrowed brow and healthy dose of conviction, but the intention was clear.
"Cara still has an old man. She has.. This," Carol indicated — eyes catching on that damned cat again before she looked straight at Nora. "She has you."
"We have this shot to keep this safe."
She had been spooning a scoop of ice cream into her mouth when Carol finished her thought out loud. It might not have been one of her most graceful moments, but she appreciated the gesture nonetheless. Nora caught a glimpse of her blue power ring light up for a moment in her peripheral vision. Hope.
She nodded. They may have just met not too long ago, but they could rely on each other. And there were others, too, who had been fighting all week like their lives depended on it — because their lives depended on it.
She set the spoon down and sat up straight. "So, how do we destroy this thing?"
"We can't destroy it," Carol supplied quickly, shaking her head as an immediate veto. "These stones exist because of the Big Bang itself; to destroy them would be to throw the entire multiverse out of balance," she explained, wetting her lips. "There's more than just Reality — if you eliminate Reality, that throws off Time and Space and.. You get it."
"Right," she sighed, pulling her free leg underneath her so that she was sitting on the chair cross-legged. "Of course. That would be too easy."
Carol exhaled, glancing over at Nora's glowing ring. If Nora wasn't paying it any mind.. Carol shifted her attention back to ice-cream and the gem dilemma with little-to-no difficulty.
".. But we can hide it. In theory," she offered, shifting her spoon between her teeth in thought. "I don't.. I mean, I used to be able to just hold the damned thing like a stress ball. Humans can't fight off the thrall of it — it changes states, takes hosts; feeds off of them and turns them into straight dark matter. Anti-matter. The inverse of existence," she explained, ".. Beyond death."
She traced her fingers on the table, tracing a circle around one of the ice-cream lids.
"Y'got any spare stars laying around?"
"Are we counting the Sun here?" she asked. "Because if so, we can make that happen if we have to." She picked up her spoon again and pursed her lips, this time taking aim at the pint of brownie. "Or I can solar flare, but I'd really rather not if I don't have to. Knocks me out for a couple of days and I lose my powers for even longer." Another spoonful of ice cream.
"You said humans can't hold it...but you can?"
Carol lifted a hand, waving awkwardly into the fray between them.
"I once threw a dead Kraken into the sun, that was pretty wicked," she reminisced, glancing down at her hands. "At max capacity and on a good day, I'm about six and a half feet tall and can throw a planet in a day's work," Carol explained. ".. Here in the now? I can smother a grenade pretty well, I figure. Lift a few tons." The feeling of being powerless was a blow, but there was a palpable sense of daring in her tone. Daring the universe to tempt her ambition.
"I absorb energy, Nora. If you shoot an infrared beam at me, for example.." Supergirl, right? That had to register somewhere. ".. If you shoot an infrared beam at me, my body takes those photons, rearranges them, and needs to emit a gamma ray. Follow?"
She nodded along. "That's how my powers work, too. Strictly with solar energy, but still, I get it."
Carol bit her lip. Nat hadn't questioned this theory earlier, but another sounding board wouldn't hurt.
"I haven't been able to do it here, but I figure that it's because I haven't had a big enough source," she postulated, looking down at the palms of Cara's hands. Her hands. "If I can get my hands on that stone, and I'm in a safe-enough environment.. I can blast that motherfucker lightyears away."
"So what exactly is a 'safe-enough environment'?" Nora asked, wiggling her spoon into the honey lavender for a change. "Space, I assume. But how do we get you there? Can you fly? Can you survive in space? I can share my force field with you if not," she offered, holding up her right hand and wiggling her fingers so as to call attention to the ring. She was getting a little head of herself here. "I have my star cruiser too, if that's any help at all. Can't fit too many people, but it works, and it should do the job if we need it."
"Space is the goal, yeah."
Her Alpha Flight, her NASA, was the thing 45's Space Force dreams were made of. That little thought tested her decorum, but Carol nodded carefully when Nora peppered her questions about space; all things she'd turned over in her mind, but hadn't necessarily worked out.
"If I can hold enough of that little thing's residuals, I might be able to push it deep-enough to shake up the big purple guy," she mused.. Giving Nora a look. "I haven't flown yet. Yet. I can jump like a human grasshopper, but having triple-digit vertical leap isn't exactly going to get me to space," Carol reasoned, cautiously setting out to try the cheese flavor and vetoing it seconds later in a gesture that was nothing short of comical.
Nora smirked as she changed her mind about the cheese ice cream. "It's not bad," she piped up. "It's not really savory. More on the sweet side, almost like a cheese danish, I guess." She took another bite of ice cream and waited until she was finished to speak up again. "I'm Kryptonian. And you are...?"
"Half-human, half-Kree, all badass," Carol replied. "Alien on my mom's side, entirely too optimistic on my father's." Humble.
"So Kree can usually fly, and you just haven't been able to yet?" she repeated, trying to get her head around where Carol might be in this whole process. It worked differently for everyone — some people seemed to gain more abilities all at once than others — but there were more things in common than not. The lost time, the lost memories, the memories that seemed to come out of nowhere and certainly weren't their own.
"Yes," Carol clarified, retreating to the brownie ice cream and nodding along with Nora. "If I can get my hands on that stone, I can take whatever it radiates and not get caught up in what it'll try to do to me," she elaborated; ".. I'll take whatever it radiates and throw ten times that back at it; in all likelihood, it'll take Thanos far longer than he ever wanted to dedicate to this whole operation just to get near it when I'm done."
"We can get you into space somehow. Simon and I can help with that. We just have to find the damn thing."
If it works. It's going to. It's going to work.
"I've got a few seismological reports and meteorological graphs from the last few days, trying to track the damn thing, but it keeps blipping," Carol offered; "The Black Widow, you know.. Scarlett Whatsername in the movies? She's real too, and one hell of a woman," she continued, reaching for Cara's cell phone — the second one she'd gotten the poor physicist. Thank God for AppleCare.
"She sent me these," Carol continued, setting the phone horizontally between them. ".. Mean anything to you?"
"She's one of my best friends," she replied with a soft smile. Of course Nat had had a hand in this. She slid the phone closer to her and zoomed in, her brow furrowed as she studied the graphs and tried to make sense of them. "Not really. Can't really read these. But these things, these gems, if they give off energy, then someone should be able to feel them."
She propped one elbow onto the table and idly tapped her mouth with her fingers while she tried to think through some kind of strategy. "I can scan the area and look for any unusual electromagnetic activity. Kryptonian vision," she shrugged. "Simon can probably do the same with his ring. Elementals might be able to sense this thing, too. Or the Spiders. Telekinetics, maybe? And Maddy, my cousin, she should be able to help with locating this."
"Anyone who can detect time and space ripples, disturbances in the Force, for lack of better phrasing" Carol advised, nodding with a few of her new compatriot's suggestions. "The spiders'd be good. You know Peter.. Parker?" That was a strange mouthful; two first-names. "Parker," she clarified.. Following Nora's lead from earlier. "And Jess Drew; they're the best at what they do," Carol offered, taking the phone back to flip toward texts.
Still nothing from Jessica. Not a damned thing, and it sunk like a pit in her stomach. Her friend hadn’t spoken to her in over 24 hours, and with a life that operated one week at a time, no news was bad news.
"Mhm, I know both of them," she nodded. "We all work together. You know, as regular people, not...like this. Though, I guess we do now, too."
"Maddy can read the signatures too," Carol offered, laughing a little at the mention that she was Nora's cousin. "Of course she's your cousin," she mumbled, massaging her own temple while she used a foot to lazily entertain Noodles.
"She's my cousin. We got switched this week," she said rather glumly, rolling her eyes at that mess and all of the overshare that had come of it. She dug through the pint of brownie and had to grin at the amount of work they had done on that flavor in particular, tilting it to Carol as if she were proudly showing off their work.
"So we've got a Widow, a Storm, a Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Green Lantern, a Phoenix, a Supergirl, an Iron Man, Wonder Woman, and a me," Carol inventoried, snorting a little at the sheer volume of recognizable figures she'd named. ".. I think we're gonna be alright," she added, digging in to take a large scoop of the strawberry ice-cream.
".. We find the rock, get me to space, I take the rock for a ride, and then come back down."
A brow lifted to a sharp arch, expectant and trusting of Nora’s capabilities both as a contemporary and The Actual Supergirl. There was something telling in the way Carol held out her hand, as if they’d struck a deal.
She finished chewing through the last bit of brownie and set her spoon down once again, staring at Carol's outstretched hand. Nora made eye contact with the other woman and smiled. “I’m in.” This whole thing was serious business, but at least they were finding new allies in this fight. She gave her a firm handshake before turning her attention back to the ice cream. "So, find any time to date these days?"