Nora didn't even bother to fight off the oncoming yawn. Sleep never came easy for her, and she had managed to snag a short nap after working a full twenty-four hour shift and then some. It was now mid-day; most of the professional world was well into their workday, and there she was, fishing out a clean (...enough) pair of jeggings and a hoodie and t-shirt when all she really wanted to do was crawl back into bed and make Grubhub do her bidding.
Sprocket had been dropped off at the groomer by her roommate earlier that morning, and so Pork Chop was her only responsibility for the next few hours. Though they had a backyard where he could run and roam freely, she knew that he needed more space every now and then and had promised him (in all of her goofy dog voice glory) a trip to the dog park. She, too, needed to be fed and watered, however, so she knew that their first stop on the way to the park would be for coffee.
About twenty minutes later, Nora emerged from her local coffee shop armed with a large mint mojito iced coffee (medium cream, light sugar — thanks, Philz). She freed Pork Chop's leash from the post he had been tied to for a mere few minutes and the Samoyed almost immediately began to pull her towards the direction of the park. She would've been surprised, but she knew he wasn't an ordinary dog.
By the time they arrived at the dog park, only half of her iced coffee remained. Eager to make new friends, Pork Chop pawed and whined at the entrance to the dog run. Juggling her drink and in her arms, she undid his leash and unlocked the gate, letting him in to frolic and run and play with some of the other neighborhood dogs. With one ear tuned to Pork Chop at all times, she pulled out her phone and rested both arms on the low wall, sipping away at her drink while she scrolled through a few unread emails and texts. None of it was of great importance or required prompt responses and so she moved onto her next mission: finding food.
She had been so engrossed in the task at hand that she didn't hear someone approach her, even with her Kryptonian hearing. Surprised and caught off guard, she inhaled sharply and closed her eyes, visibly startled by the interruption. The cheerful, excited voice and the eager look on the stranger's face was one who clearly had some familiarity with Nora, and yet she had no recollection of him.
Surely he was wrong.
The stranger rambled on. He had insisted that he had been a patient of hers several years ago while he had surgery and underwent rehab at UCSF. Just as she was about to interject and explain that she hadn't worked a single day in rehab in her life, she paused, remembering the three month rotation at the VA where she had, in fact, rotated through a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation unit. But that VA had been in Boston, not San Francisco.
She listened as he continued to talk, and soon enough it became obvious to Nora that this was one of the repercussions of this sudden relocation to San Francisco last summer. Some folks, like the entire staff at UCSF, had always thought these people had been here. And in some cases, those people thought the same thing; Nat, for example, seemed to have no memories of living in Boston. And then there were others, like Nora, who could vividly recall an actual life and career in Boston, a city that she knew she had lived in for over six years before someone took it upon themselves to transport a certain demographic to California and rewrite history in the process.
Nora was apologetic. She was genuinely sorry that she couldn't recall any of the same experiences that Sam could when the time that he remembered spending with her clearly meant so much to him — a glimmer of hope at a time when he couldn't see much at all. "I'm sorry, I just really don't...I see a lot of patients. Ruano, you said?" she asked. "What unit were you on?"
"Rehabilitation. You read me the entire Harry Potter series."
She took a deep breath and thought for a few moments. "Yeah, that sounds like something I would do. And I barely got through Amos Diggory's screaming?"
He gave her a half smile and nodded. "There was some crying involved, yeah."
"And with Dobby, too," she adds. Just because the memory wasn't real for her didn't mean that it hadn't happened somewhere out in the multiverse when Sam had clearly experienced it firsthand. That was enough to make it feel real to Nora. She had never met this person before, but somehow, she felt like she could trust him enough to know that he wasn't making it all up. "Did you ever end up watching the movies?"
The conversation continued, and Nora did her best to stay engaged when the reality was that she wanted to run home and Google the shit out of this Sam Ruano guy, whoever he was. Figure out his story, try to piece together what happened so that she could at least keep up appearances.
It had taken a bit of work, but she manage to extricate herself from that conversation so that she could hurry home and get to work. She had no shame in rushing Pork Chop out of the park by muttering some Kryptonese under her breath knowing that only he could hear and understand any of it. Within minutes, they were back at the house, and Nora was pulling out her laptop at the kitchen counter to figure out this guy's story. It didn't take very long.
Samuel Ruano, Captain, US Marine Corps. Critically injured by an IED that killed two men in his company in 2014.
Nora felt her stomach drop and she suddenly felt sick. She grabbed the edges of the counter to try to steady herself and took a few deep breaths, closing her eyes until she felt like she was actually standing upright again.
In all of this, someone or something had interfered with reality to the point where some memories were impossible to reconcile. She hadn't thought about it in months, not since Batman had casually mentioned it one night when they were out patrolling Manhattan shortly before her birthday. That carrying on felt like an exercise in futility when it could all be taken away by a Mad Titan on a power trip. The reality of it was too big to be able to process, ever, and so she didn't.
She was finally steady on her feet again, just in time for her to run to the bathroom to revisit her liquid breakfast.