Dark blue waves lapped against the sandy shore at a steady pace. Alisa could count the waves like a metronome. There was a mathematical pattern to them if you listened and watched closely enough, not quite linear, but a pattern nonetheless. The bright, half-full moon shone against the ocean, scattered constellations of stars reflecting off its glass surface. It was peaceful here, behind the mountain. There were no city lights to be seen, no evidence of Happy Harbor or even the team. Just the rush of waves and sand beneath her bare feet. This was a new body- a fact that startled Alisa- but she didn’t particularly care about getting sand stuck in it. It didn’t feel like hers quite yet.
Alisa was seated on a blanket many yards away from where the lapping waves began to recede. Some things, like her fear of water, never disappeared. Her knees were brought to her chin, her arms wrapped around her legs as she started thoughtfully at the ocean. Had it changed in the past two months? I don’t think so,
she thought. But she rarely came out here. How would she even know?
Warm sand crunched beneath Kassandra's bare feet as she slowly walked the beach toward the water. It was an exceptionally muggy night; air conditioning wasn't nearly enough for the young Atlantean. While she had doubled her water intake and worn as little clothing as she could get away with, she was still warm. Nothing for it but a good evening swim.
A sliver of moonlight bounced off of something that didn't belong, and she tensed immediately. Her orange eyes flicked to the left, as her hand moved reflexively for the knife tied to her skirt. "...wait."
She squinted, peering closer. "Alisa?"
While she was still getting used to Alisa's body being shaped differently, Daphne wouldn't have reflected the moon like that. She relaxed and trudged over."Hey. It's a surprise to see you here. Especially with the tide coming in soon."
Alisa turned around, briefly startled, but relaxed upon hearing Kassy’s voice. Truth be told, she had heard her coming… but hadn’t expected the other girl to see her. She stood, hurriedly. “Um. Hey.”
Her voice wavered. Everything had been so awkward
lately. “I didn’t think it was gonna rise until later, and not to all the way up here. I’m bad with the tide.”“... You probably come out here all the time, huh?”
Kassy looked concerned as Alisa rose hastily. She remembered that her teammate was still getting acclimated to being different. She could relate; it had taken a while to learn to walk properly once she'd started living at the Atlantis palace. "The tide will be here when the moon is about… there."
She reached out and pointed to a spot further out toward the water. "But you can relax. You are far enough from it. I just thought you were very afraid of getting wet."
She could sense the other girl's nervousness. "...is it okay if I sit with you, Alisa?"
Alisa seemed to relax a bit, keeping her wide-eyed look but no longer looking as if she was about to turn tail and dash away. She smiled lightly. “... Sure.”
She sat again and patted the space on the blanket next to her. It wasn’t a very large blanket- she had taken it from her bed. In retrospect, that was a bad idea, but she never used the bed, so why not?“I am,”
she admitted. “I think I’m meant to be waterproof, but I’ve never tested it out, so I’m not eager to try beyond the trip to Atlantis. Even with my old body, my mom kept child locks on the pool and the bathroom, and with this new one…”
She shrugged. “I’m not entirely sure what they did. Could be worse or better. I don’t know. You can’t really sense being waterproof.“… Well. Maybe you can.”"Honestly, I wouldn't know. We could always try a finger or two and go from there, if you want."
She settled down on Alisa's blanket, leaving her sandy feet off of it. Her gaze looked toward the watery horizon. "...are you feeling well, my friend?"“I’m fine,”
Alisa said. She stared out at the water with Kassy. “The new body is just… well, weird. I guess. I don’t know. Everything feels wrong.”
She ran her fingers through the sand, feeling the individual grains drop from her fingers. “Are you? I keep forgetting it’s been two months for you. What’s been going on?” "I am…"
The word 'okay' stalled on Kassy's tongue. One of the many things she had been working on in her sessions with Black Canary was being honest. It wasn't that she didn't trust the team, per se. It was that, compared to the majority of her life so far, hiding herself as much as possible had always been safer. The problem was that on the outside, it just made her into a liar. "I am taking it one day at a time. It's difficult, especially with everyone knowing what I am. It makes me feel naked. I… I hate it, if you want the truth."
While she spoke, her fingers toyed with the silver bracelet around her arm. Even after 2 months, it remained.
It took Alisa a moment to realize what Kassy was referring to. A frown tugged at her lips. Even after three months, she was still distraught over that? She had always thought everyone’s reaction to that was overblown, but it hurt her heart that she was still so upset. “About the mind control thing?”
she asked, probing gently. “I can’t believe they’re still upset about that. I’m sorry. I think I know how it feels- not to have magic that people don’t like, but to be something that people don’t like. That they’re scared of because they don’t understand.” "Of course they're- oh, wait. You were down when I…"
She exhaled deeply, running a hand through her white curls. "The team understands quite well. I told them everything, Alisa. And I'll tell you too. My power is incredibly dangerous. What happened in Atlantis could have happened at any time. It wasn't so much that I have mind control, I think. The problem is that I have mind control and I am very good at it."
Her orange eyes stared out at the ocean. A cloud passed over; though whether that was in the sky or in her heart was unclear. "I manipulated Ja and didn't think twice. I hurt Viktor, and… and at the time, I meant it to hurt. That green-eyed woman with Kobra, that poisonous bitch? We are the same. That's why the team is angry."“... Oh.”
Alisa was quiet for a moment, processing what Kassy had said. She hadn’t realized the extent of the other girl’s abilities, and while seeing her be essentially arrested had been alarming, she had thought it was mostly because of prejudice. It had been, in her mind, deeply unfair. “I’m not angry. Tell me. Did you kidnap, drug, and force fifteen vulnerable teenage boys to fight trained superheroes for you?”"Well, of course, you're not angry. You're actually completely immune."
She snorted mildly, before answering the question. "No, I did not do those things. But I could."
Kassy shut her eyes, taking a very deep breath. It was clear she was wrestling with something. After a few moments, it appeared she had won. She opened her eyes and looked back at Alisa with calm consideration. "I apologize. I asked about you and wound up making it about myself." “I don’t mind talking about you, Kassy. You’re interesting.”
Truth be told, Alisa did not want
to talk about herself, but if Kassy insisted… she could probably turn it back on her. “Have I ever told you that I’ve been arrested? Like, about how I got here in the first place?”"You, arrested?"
Kassy raised her brows. "Were you driving again?"
A faint giggle slipped from her lips. "No, I'm kidding. I didn't know that. Tell me!"
Alisa flicked her eyes to Kassy’s, a smile flitting across her lips. “No. I wish. My mom didn’t let me out of the house, let alone go driving. This was before. I… ran away, and got picked up by the police. There was a metal detector, and… you know.”
She gestured to her body and tapped on her forearm. There was a hollow ringing noise. “They found the off button, and I woke up seven months later in a closet with a sheet over my head. I was dusty. My limbs were stiff. I don’t know what happened in those seven months or what they did with me, but they woke me up and offered me a place here or… well, something else, and now I’m here. So.”
There was a long, awkward silence. “Sorry. That was depressing. I’ve been feeling very reflective lately. Thought it might help, to know that everyone else isn’t perfect either.”
Kassy's smile faded slowly as Alisa told her story. She looked quite horrified by the end. "Alisa… I'm so sorry. I was arrested too, when I reached Atlantis, but at least I didn't lose time. That's…"
She shifted, as if to hug the cyborg. Then she stopped. "Erm. May I hug you? If you're not up to it right now, that's okay."
Alisa blinked, looking a bit flustered. “Sure! I’m not very good at it, though. My only practice is Viktor.”
Kassy's mouth opened, a sharp comment springing to her lips. She snapped her teeth and swallowed it just in time. "...then I will help."
She slowly wrapped Alisa up in a careful hug. Her skin was not as cool as usual due to the summer heat, but it would still be a relief.
Alisa stayed quiet for a moment, wrapping her arms around Kassy in turn. “... Your skin is very smooth, Kassy. Do you not have arm hair? I thought most people did.”
A soft chuckle escaped Kassy as she gave her friend a careful, gentle squeeze. "Arm hair is kind of a human thing. Most Atlanteans lack the excess hair that humans grow in many places. Like, Viktor has little hairs on his hands - it is so strange! I asked him once, if he needed to shave those like he did his face. He got… very confused."
Alisa cackled, staying in the hug. “It’s so gross! And he has so much of it. Have you seen his legs?! Or his chest?! It’s awful. I tease him about it sometimes. I’m glad I just have a wig, you know? Easier to manage.”
The Atlantean burst out laughing at the subject of boys being weirdly hairy. "Ja does too! His chest is so fuzzy-looking it's almost as if he has fur! Even Daphne sprouts them on her legs. Though, she got very red when I asked her about it. I felt bad afterward."
Alisa withdrew from the hug, still giggling. “Maybe he does have fur…”
That sparked another laugh. But, after, she let their conversation lapse into silence, yet again staring out at the lapping waves and the moon reflected against them. This time, her smile was more content.
Kassy relaxed as well, closing her eyes and basking in the sea air. She was quiet for a while, finding the silence comfortable. They sat for some time like that. Then, without warning, the Atlantean spoke again. "I probably know the answer to this, but I will ask anyway.""...have you ever been in love, Alisa?"
The question made Alisa turn to Kassy, looking at her curiously. She thought she knew what she was asking. “... Love? Like, romantic love?”"Mhm."
Kassy’s eyes were still shut. She sounded calm - maybe too calm.“I…”
The question had caught Alisa off guard. Sure, she had thought about it- but had she ever felt it? Could she? “I’m not sure I’m capable of that,”
she admitted. Kassy had hit on a sore subject. “I’m not like you and everybody else, Kassy. I’m… I don’t think I can… I mean, maybe. I’m not sure I’m built for that, and it’s not like I can ask anyone if I was. And isn’t the purpose of love… well, something I actually can’t do?”
She sighed. “I’ve always thought it could be nice, having a boyfriend and all that, but I don’t think it’s… ugh. I couldn’t be what someone else wants me to be, so what’s the point? I’m not warm and human and squishy, and I can’t be what they want me to be.”
She looked sullenly to the side for a moment. “You’re the first people besides my mom and her friends that I’ve met, anyways. How would I know?”
There was silence from Kassy, for a moment longer than was comfortable. "Alisa, my friend."
Then there was a cool softness around Alisa's hand as Kassy reached out and held it tight. "Look at me."
There was a gentleness in her voice, but her orange eyes were fierce. "I will tell you what my cousin told me before he left. The purpose of love is to love. And the one who loves you, will love you for what you are, not a notion of what you're supposed to be."
The fire drained out of her gaze as she squeezed Alisa’s hand and let go. "Granted, he was freshly engaged at the time, he's always been good-looking and surrounded by admirers, and for some reason he thought I was the best baby cuz in seven seas. So. Your Leagues Likely Differ or something."“But…”
Alisa hesitated on her next words, unsure if she wanted to say them. How could someone ever love something that can’t love them back?
Instead, she smiled wanly. “Thanks, Kassy. You’re sweet.”
There was no need to be any further amount of depressing. “Are you in love with Ja?”
Kassy chuckled softly, shaking her head. "Have I gotten so obvious? Yes, I am very in love with Ja. Unfortunately, I can't seem to shut it off. Even knowing that he's in love with someone else, and even though she's currently absent, I still don't have a chance."“Wait, Ja’s in love with someone else?!”"Um. Yes? Haven't you seen him around Daphne? He's smitten. I mean, it's hard to blame him. I can't compare."
Alisa stared at Kassy, incredulous. Then, she burst into laughter, tucking her face into her knees as she giggled. “That’s maybe the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard you say!”
Kassy stared back, confused, and then startled when Alisa began to laugh. "W-what's funny? I don't understand."“They’re friends, dummy. Ja’s… he’s like a big puppy. Half the time, anyways. I think that’s just how he treats his friends. He’s attached to her because she’s his friend, but… he doesn’t look at her like he looks at you.”“Also, she’s a tree. You can definitely compete with a tree.”"She's still Daphne underneath the leaves, that doesn't ma- waaaaait back up."
Kassy's brain stopped so hard it was almost audible. "Ja doesn't look at me the way he looks at Daphne at all."“Yeah, he looks at you like you’re a delicious slice of cake. And he loves cake.”"You're ly…"
The accusation drifted away before she could make it. Alisa wasn't that type of person. She was much like Viktor; very truthful, but much gentler about it. "I'm sure there's some other explanation that makes more sense."
Alisa stopped laughing, but a twitch of her lips confirmed she was finding it difficult to hold back. Kassy was so oblivious! “Do you have another explanation for why he stares at your butt during training? Or why he learned how to make salmon just so? Or why I saw him looking up the best seafood restaurants in Happy Harbor?”"He likes to EAT, Alisa! The food is obviously for him! And…"
Her face was going deep red, hopefully unseen in the dark. "The first thing is a mistake. He's very respectful."“You don’t stare at someone’s butt for sixty one seconds instead of your combat instructor as a mistake, Kassy.”
Kassy shook her head vigorously. "Alisa, please! D-don't get my hopes up needlessly."
Alisa smiled and rested a hand on Kassy’s shoulder. “I’m not. Promise. Plus, I’m a computer. I’m very objective.”"You can see and still be wrong though."
She was obviously flustered.“Sure, but I’m very observant. And I have a perfect memory, so just trust me. I can replay the entire thing in my head like a YouTube video. I’m sure.”"I'm talking about interpretation, not observation… Nevermind."
She reached up and patted Alisa's hand fondly. "It's good to have you back, no matter what."