Working at CatCo with Cat at the helm again is better than Kara could have hoped.
She hadn’t realized exactly how ground down she’d been getting, working under Morgan Edge – even if he was almost never physically in the building, his influence was everywhere. Her stories were constantly getting vetoed, the publication started taking a very specific slant, and Kara was constantly having to battle to get herself heard.
With Cat back, she still has to fight – but she’s fighting to make herself a better reporter, rather than to keep Edge’s right-wing xenophobic nonsense out of the press.
Even the bullpen has a different energy with Cat back in that glass-walled office. People still scatter to look busy when Cat comes breezing out of her reclaimed personal elevator in the morning, but it’s mostly out of fear and respect rather than the fear and loathing that followed Edge everywhere he went. There’s a palpable relief in the staff and Kara feels it too, even when Cat calls her into the office on her second day back, which used to be a sign of impending disaster. Now she just feels excited, and ready to work.
And it’s a good thing, too – work finally being satisfying again is a good distraction from the confusion of her current relationship with Lena.
On the surface, nothing has changed. They still work together, still see each other to interrupt whatever small plots of Lillian’s that Lena catches wind of and to strategize for their future endeavours with the DEO. She isn’t cold or rude, like she was when they met – she’s perfectly accommodating, even to Alex and J’onn. But ever since their road trip to find Cat, when Lena had climbed into her bed and then sprinted into the night when she realized what was happening, things have felt different. Lena is more reserved, less likely to laugh or even smile at Kara’s dumb jokes. And to be honest, Kara feels off, too. The change is almost welcome.
This connection she has with Lena is a lot of things. Unexplainable, mysterious, fascinating, exhilarating – she’s gone with the flow so far, content just to have the opportunity to be close to her, but the night Lena had slipped into her bed was different. It hardly felt like Kara had control over herself at all. All she’d known was that Lena was close, and Kara wanted her closer. As if Lena heard her call she had slipped between her sheets, and for a few wonderful moments Kara had felt whole and at peace in a way she could barely recognize.
And then Lena had panicked, and the rest of the night was plagued by anxiety and doubt. Over Lena, a bit, but also over herself – control isn’t something Kara can afford to lose. Feeling Lena’s emotions is one thing, but to actually lose track of the movement of her body? If she doesn’t have control of herself, people get hurt. Even Lena, with all her powers, isn’t invincible. Not unless she drinks Kara’s blood, which she has clearly refused to do again.
It’s all very confusing, and Lena’s lack of communication isn’t helping any.
For now, there are other things to worry about. No matter what uncertainty she’s wrapped up in, the most important thing is still their goal. Neutralize Lillian and her friends, and keep Lex in prison where he belongs.
Cat doesn’t miss a beat when Kara walks into the office, notebook held to her chest.
“We have a meeting in half an hour. You’re going to need to change, and I need a coffee.”
Kara blinks, looking down at her navy button-up and chinos. She isn’t sure what Cat is complaining about. She looks fine - better than she did when Cat left, at least. Ever since Lena pointed out that the pastels and cardigans aren’t hiding as much as she thinks they are, Kara has been leaning into the more daring but much more comfortable side of her wardrobe. Darker colours, sleeker looks. A look that Nia once casually called handsome, and it made Kara so inexplicably happy that she went out and bought 6 more button-up shirts.
“Miss Grant, I’m…not really your assistant anymore,” Kara says, folding her arms. “And do you even need coffee? Lena says caffeine doesn’t really effect vam – ”
Cat snaps back without looking up from the layouts she’s scrutinizing. “This has nothing to do with CatCo, and everything to do with the assistance you asked for. You need my help to make Andrea Rojas a viable candidate to run against Max Lord.”
“Oh,” Kara says, her eyes widening. “Oh! Lena’s friend? You mean – that kind of meeting. You want me to be Supergirl?”
Cat rolls her eyes, finally looking up from her work and giving Kara a once-over. “As if I care about your wardrobe otherwise. Suddenly grown-up as it’s become.”
Kara glances down at her outfit again, this time with a grin. “You think I look grown up?”
“Confidence in your appearance will do wonders. Now, go change. The location is on your desk.”
Cat breezes past Kara without a second glance, heading to the elevator as Kara’s coworkers stare very hard at their computer screens in an effort to look hard at work.
“Am I…still bringing you coffee?” Kara asks the empty air, but Cat is already gone.
Kara doesn’t bring the coffee. She does get changed, though, and when she zooms towards the address Cat scrawled and stuck to her computer screen she hardly has to tune her senses in before she can hear Cat’s haughty tone. It’s a building she’s never been to, a nondescript office with a 14th floor balcony – a neutral location, probably. Somewhere Lillian won’t easily sniff them out.
“I have to say, I didn’t expect you to abandon Lillian so easily,” Cat is saying, the click of her heels as she advances slowly on her conversation partner adding a thinly veiled threat to the tone. “She has a great deal of control over your company. It’s a big risk.”
A second voice chuckles, low and rich. “Well, Lena asked. I never could say no to her.”
Kara detects no third heartbeat in the room, no trace of Lena in the building. Part of her had been hoping that a meeting with Lena’s supposed old friend would involve Lena, too – no matter how weird things are between them, she still wants to see her – but no such luck.
“I remember hearing that through the grapevine,” Cat says, her voice laden with heavy meaning. “You two were rather close once upon a time, as I recall.”
Kara can feel the second heartbeat pick up, an irregular speeding rhythm that calms down again almost as quickly before Andrea replies.
“That was all a long time ago. I’m just glad we’re working together again. Although I never thought it would mean also working with the elusive queen of all media.”
Cat chuckles drily. Kara can hear her folding her arms. “Miss Luthor has a way of inspiring allegiance, even if she doesn’t realize it.”
“True,” Andrea says, almost in a sigh, and there’s a sort of longing in her voice that it doesn’t take Kara long to recognize.
It’s far too close to what Kara feels when Lena walks into a room.
This isn’t the first time that jealousy has risen like acid in her throat, but Kara tries to swallow it down. It’s an emotion she hates, one that makes her feel bitter and angry, and it tends to coincide with bad decisions or outbursts. She still remembers how it ate at her to see James and Lucy together, all those years ago before everyone realized they were better as friends. Jealousy makes her irrational, makes her lose control of her powers.
That’s the last thing she needs, right now.
She takes a few breaths to steady herself, and before the conversation can continue to other topics Kara doesn’t want to hear she zooms towards the balcony. She alights on it less gently than usual, making her presence known as soon as her boots hit the floor, and two heads snap towards the open balcony door.
Briefly Kara wonders if it’s intentional that every major building in National City has a balcony on the top floor, or if it’s a new development since Supergirl started being known to land there.
She doesn’t have much time to consider it. Her mind is drawn instead to the people in the room, and the jealousy she thought she’d successfully tamed comes roaring back.
Andrea is beautiful.
Kara can tell within the first few seconds of their eye contact that their working relationship is not going to be smooth sailing. Andrea carries herself like she knows exactly how she looks – her chestnut hair is silky, her outfit is perfectly pressed, her nails shiny and perfectly manicured where they rest on her crossed arms. Confident, composed, controlled. Everything Kara isn’t. Lena still refuses to disclose the exact details of her past with the woman, but Kara can almost feel the complication in the weight of the look Andrea pins her with. It’s laden with tension, but betrays nothing of Andrea’s thoughts.
Lena is composed like that too, but Kara has always been able to see the softness underneath. Andrea has no such vulnerability on her sleeve. She stares at Kara with a completely neutral expression, not sparing her so much as an eyebrow twitch.
“Ah, here she is. Almost late,” Cat remarks. Andrea’s eyes never leave Kara.
“You said half an hour,” Kara says, fighting to keep the annoyance out of her voice. The last thing she needs is for her first impression to be sounding like a petulant child being scolded. “It’s been 12 minutes.”
Cat gestures for her to step inside. “Andrea, this is –“
“Supergirl,” Andrea interrupts, rounding the desk she’s placed herself behind to lean against the front. She doesn’t approach Kara, doesn’t extend her hand to shake, but instead looks her up and down from her boots to her hair with a cool, calculating expression. Her eyes are a steely grey rather than Lena’s vibrant heterochromia, but all of it reminds Kara of Lena in a way that confuses her – Lena when they first met, before she warmed up. When her guard was up constantly. “I haven’t had the pleasure. You’re…shorter than I thought you’d be.”
Kara’s jaw twitches. Andrea’s eyes flick down to it, and the corner of her mouth quirks in the tiniest of smug grins. It makes Kara’s insides feel squirmy – and not in the good way, like when Lena stands too close and Kara can smell her perfume. This is bad, a bad feeling that leeches into her chest like anxiety. Her hands clench into fists, and she straightens her back as if better posture will help the situation.
“Good to finally meet you,” Kara says, planting her hands on her hips. Her cape flares behind her a little, and it makes her feel a little better when Andrea’s eyes follow it. Lena likes to poke fun at her for the cheesiness of the pose, but it’s better than fidgeting, which is what her hands want to do. “Lena has told me a lot about you.”
Lena has barely told Kara anything, actually. But Andrea picks up on the intonation of the statement – Lena trusts me – and unfortunately, she returns Kara’s serve with a single devastating word.
Well, that backfired. If this was a tennis match, Kara would be facedown on the court right now.
“All right, ladies, put them back in your pants,” Cat interrupts, rolling her eyes and walking right through their stalemate to take a seat on the black leather couch nearby. In her first display of emotion since Kara landed on the balcony, Andrea looks irritated by her frankness. “We have work to do. If Andrea is to make any real attempt at running for mayor, she’s going to need protection when it all comes to a head.”
“How bad do you think it will get?” Kara asks, and Andrea chuckles derisively.
“Bad,” she drawls, and it’s incredible how a single word can make Kara feel so small. “Lillian doesn’t take kindly to betrayal, or failure. The moment I defect, it’ll be open season.”
“Which is why I think we should avoid that route. The most efficient and safe way to do this would be to make Lillian feel like it’s all her idea, until the last possible moment,” Cat says, and Kara answers before Andrea can.
“How do we do that?”
“The old-fashioned way,” Cat says, with an almost gleeful smile. “Dig up dirt on Max, and have Andrea move in to fill the political vacuum left by a well-crafted exposé. Make it look like she’s moving in to help Lillian, to keep a human from winning Max’s lost votes.”
Andrea looks calculating, but impressed. “Clever. Unfortunately, it’s all about as easy as threading a moving needle.” Her fingers drum on her crossed arms, and again Kara is reminded of Lena. The details of her relationship with Andrea are still a mystery, but clearly they were close enough to pick up each others habits. The squirmy feeling comes back, and it makes her want to fidget.
“Well, we have access to government resources,” Kara pipes up, and when Andrea finally looks interested for the first time in the conversation, she hastily corrects herself. “Private government resources. I’ll work with Lena to find what we need, and keep Andrea as far from the action as possible.”
Andrea frowns, looking like she means to argue, but Kara speaks up again before she can. “To keep up appearances, you know? Can’t have you interacting with Supergirl publicly.”
Kara could almost convince herself that she’s telling the truth, if it weren’t for the ugly feeling in her stomach every time Andrea echoes Lena’s body language. She can’t tell whether Andrea subconsciously mimics Lena or the other way around, but either way it’s a reminder that they are – or were, at least – close in a way that Lena won’t allow herself to get with Kara.
At Kara’s shut-down, Andrea’s expression hardens. It’s like a frost has descended on her whole demeanour, the almost playful condescension replaced by actual anger, and this time she won’t be silenced.
“Lena should also be working harder to keep her cover,” Andrea snaps, surprising even Cat with her sudden seriousness. “If Lillian finds out she’s working with you –”
“Lena can take care of herself,” Kara fires back, holding her ground. “And if necessary, I can keep her safe. I will keep her safe.”
Andrea laughs, quick and arrogant. “Lillian will burn the world to the ground before she sees her daughter working with a Kryptonian –”
Cat’s voice is quiet, but the power behind it shuts both of them up. Kara’s hands ball into fists, and Andrea has the grace to at least look abashed for her outburst. Slowly Cat stands from her seat on the couch, somehow managing to tower over two women who are several inches taller than she is. It’s a talent that Kara has always marvelled at.
“I did not put myself and my son in danger again to come here and hear you bicker like two ends of a love triangle in some dime-store paperback,” Cat says evenly, but somehow the calmness is even more unsettling than Andrea’s anger. “Do you understand?”
“Sorry,” Kara mutters. Andrea doesn’t apologize, but she nods tightly, and Cat seems satisfied.
“Wonderful. Andrea’s campaign will need some time to ramp up, even with our help. In the meantime, Supergirl, go back to your people and find something we don’t know about Max Lord. Andrea,” Cat says, handing a small, massively outdated flip phone to the brunette, “if we need to contact you, we’ll do so on this. It’s almost as old as I am, and nobody will think to try to hack it.”
Andrea pockets it with a neutral expression. “Understood.”
There’s a few beats of awkward silence, and Cat’s attention turns to Kara.
“Well?” Cat says impatiently, gesturing out the still-open balcony. “Get to it!”
Having essentially gotten Cat’s permission to take the rest of the day off, Kara heads to the DEO straight from the meeting. She relays Cat’s idea to the team and after Brainy has gone to call Nia and J’onn has left to dig into the DEO’s classified files, she’s left alone in the briefing room with Alex, whose nose is buried in her phone.
No matter what Kara does, she can’t seem to get her sister’s attention. She sighs at steadily increasing volumes; she swishes her cape forlornly. She taps her fingers impatiently on the conference table, but Alex is still focused on her phone, and finally Kara just breaks.
“So, I met Andrea Rojas,” Kara blurts, startling Alex out of whatever she’s staring at on the little screen. She looks up at Kara and blinks a few times, like she’d forgotten she wasn’t alone in the room before looking back down.
“And?” Alex says distractedly. Kara sighs again, flopping not quite gently enough into the nearest chair. It creaks under the force, and she frowns at it.
“And…I think she has feelings for Lena.”
Alex, frustratingly, seems unsurprised.
“So?” she shrugs, only looking up for a brief moment. “So do you. It’s an epidemic, apparently.”
“Well, they have a past!” Kara argues, sitting up straight to emphasize her point. “A romantic one, I think. You should have seen the way Andrea talked about her. She even crosses her arms the same way.“
“Didn’t Lena say she and Andrea were just friends?” Alex says, her eyes still on her phone. She taps out what seems like a message, and then frowns and deletes it.
Kara shakes her head. “You didn’t see her. She’s gorgeous. And she and Lena have everything in common, why wouldn’t they –“
“Why is this your business?” Alex interrupts, finally looking at Kara for more than a few seconds. Kara almost wishes she hadn’t, because it’s much harder to justify herself when her sister is on the other side of the argument.
There are a lot of answers Kara could give. Because Lena is acting weird and I don’t know why. Because Andrea is hot and I don’t quite trust her. Because the night Lena asked Andrea for help, I felt her butterflies from across town.
Because I’m in love with her, and I hate imagining her with someone else.
But in the end, there’s only one answer that would be both true and fair to Lena.
“It isn’t,” Kara finally admits grudgingly.
Alex nods, seemingly satisfied. “So, leave it. No matter how you feel about her, Lena’s personal life isn’t yours to dissect.”
Alex’s attention wanes again and Kara spins in her chair, pouting at the otherwise empty room.
Alex is right. Kara is a little mad that her sister has apparently chosen now of all times to defend Lena’s privacy, but she’s right. Kara has no right to be jealous, as much as she wishes she did. Her feelings don’t give her any rights over Lena’s choices. It’s unfair to Lena and to Andrea, as standoffish and slightly mean as the latter is.
And Andrea is helping them out, at great personal risk. She should try to be nicer next time. No matter how much it makes her want to fly into the sun.
Alex swipes on her phone again, her face turning frowny, and Kara’s eyes narrow. It’s suspicious enough activity to pull her from her own problems, and she spins the chair back around to face her sister fully.
“Speaking of not my business. What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” Alex says quickly, slipping the phone into her pocket. Kara squints harder, standing up and moving closer just as Alex takes a step back.
“Not nothing,” Kara says, pointing at the rectangle in Alex’s pocket. “I’ve never seen you look at your phone for that long. Phones are utilitarian, isn’t that what you always say?”
“I was…playing a game,” Alex says, as if Kara doesn’t know that she’s never played a mobile game in her entire life. Her eyes are wide and guilty, but not in an overly serious way – just in a I don’t want my sister knowing what I’m doing way, which only feeds Kara’s curiosity.
“What game?” Kara asks, swiping at Alex’s pocket. She could grab it if she really wanted to, with her superspeed, but she doesn’t actually want to invade Alex’s privacy. She just wants Alex to tell her, and sometimes the only way to do that is to push a little.
“It’s – flappy bird!” Alex claims, removing the phone and holding it behind her and out of Kara’s reach.
“Flappy bird is tapping. You were swiping,” Kara points out, and Alex’s eyes dart around guiltily.
“Your phone was portrait and not landscape.”
Alex is holding her phone up and away but Kara can still see the screen, and while Alex panics, a banner lights it up. One Kara recognizes from the days when she was still trying to date like a normal person.
“Alex, are you on Tinder?”
“No!” Alex practically shouts, but even as she denies it another message banner appears. Kara raises her eyebrows pointedly, crossing her arms in a patented sister interrogation pose, and finally Alex cracks.
“Okay, yes,” she hisses, glancing towards the door like someone could be lurking behind it. “Just – stop talking so loud?”
Kara quiets her voice, but there’s no way she’s letting her off the hook completely.
“Fine, but why didn’t you tell me you were dating again?” she asks, and Alex shrugs.
Kara stares at her, unblinking, until Alex sighs and relaxes her rigid posture.
“I mean – I’m trying, but I’m not really connecting with anyone,” she admits. She looks tired, sinking down onto one of the benches that line the walls and rubbing her face.
“Is it Maggie?” Kara asks, sitting gingerly beside her. “I thought you were feeling okay about the breakup?”
“I was – I am,” Alex insists, gesturing firmly with her hand. “I thought I was ready to date again, and I feel ready, I just…nobody feels right. I‘m realizing now that even though I loved her, even Maggie didn’t feel right. Not all the way.”
Kara knows this is Alex’s small crisis. She shouldn’t be thinking selfish thoughts. But even so, she can’t help but think about Lena, and how right she feels. Even now, when their strange relationship is on shaky ground.
Kara has known how she feels about Lena with such certainty from the moment they met that she didn’t even have to have some big realization of love. She just knows it, like it’s a law of the universe. She loves Lena. She feels like she’s always loved Lena, even before they met. Her wapow moment was when they first touched, and Kara’s world was reshaped. It was the first time Lena said Kara’s real name in that soft voice, the first time Lena smiled at her genuinely and without reservation. When Kara touched Lena’s soul, and knew her in a way she didn’t think was possible.
Lena is complicated, and their connection is messy. But every time Kara gets a sliver of the real Lena she knows is hiding underneath the layers upon layers of aloof façade, it’s worth all the trouble.
She knows she loves Lena. She knows they’re right. She just has to wait for Lena to accept it, too, however long it takes.
“I’m sorry, Alex,” Kara says genuinely, slinging an arm around her sister’s shoulders. “You’ll find your person. Whether it’s on Tinder or out in the world, she’s waiting for you.”
Alex puts her head on Kara’s shoulder, relaxing fully for the first time since this conversation began.
“And until then, I’m going to tease you mercilessly for getting Tinder when you once made fun of me for online dating,” Kara finishes, and Alex groans.
“Can we just let it go?”
“Nope. It’s my duty as a sister.”
One good thing that’s come of her confusing, complicated road trip with Lena – besides having Cat back, at least – is that Lena is much more welcome at the DEO afterwards. J’onn’s attitude has moved from distrust to begrudging respect, and Lena no longer needs Kara to accompany her to all corners of the headquarters. It extends so far that when Kara and Alex finally leave the conference room and head to the labs to help J’onn with his research, she runs almost headlong into Lena in the corridor, completely chaperone-less.
Lena, her head bowed as she scribbles in a notebook, bounces off Kara’s chest almost comically when they collide. Her fast reflexes mean she shoots a hand out to catch herself quickly, only to find that the only thing to catch herself on is Kara’s outstretched arm.
“Lena!” Kara breathes, eyes darting back and forth between Lena’s startled face and where her hand grasps Kara’s wrist. It’s easy enough to pull her arm up until Lena is upright again, and Lena lets go immediately. “What are you doing here?”
Lena, realizing how close they’re suddenly standing, takes a firm step back as she straightens her blazer. Her cheeks are dusted pink, Kara notes with a hint of joy. “Looking for you, actually.”
“No, I mean how did you – wait, really? Me?”
“I got in because J’onn gave me access,” Lena says, holding up one of the swipe cards Kara sometimes sees the DEO staff wearing on a lanyard. It has no name or picture, but clearly it works either way. “And yes, you. I’ve found something we can use.”
“J’onn gave you an access card?” Alex asks, but she sounds less accusatory than she usually does. Instead she just seems shocked at J’onn’s sudden and uncharacteristic compliance.
“Apparently getting Cat back was what he needed to trust me. At least, enough to let me into the building without an escort,” Lena says drily. “I came because Sam gave me an idea. Can we talk?”
When J’onn and Brainy have joined them again – and Nia, on speakerphone after being annoyed at being left out of the first meeting – Lena finally explains herself.
“So who is Sam, and what idea did she give you?” Alex asks, a strange curiosity in her voice that sets off something in Kara’s brain. Something she can’t identify, but files away for later.
“Sam is a financial analyst at LuthorCorp, and my closest friend. I trust her implicitly,” Lena says firmly. “And she reminded me that even fae have to get their backing money from somewhere. We can’t cut off the money supply to Max’s campaign, but we can call it into question in a way that destroys his public trust. People don’t want their Mayor taking dirty money.”
“Okay, who funds Max’s campaigns?” Kara asks, already excited for the new lead. “Besides LuthorCorp?”
Lena is quick to answer, tapping away at a keyboard and bringing something up on the screen with ease as if she’s always worked here. It’s a company logo, one Kara doesn’t recognize.
“His biggest backer is Graves Industries,” Lena says. Nia pipes up, her voice tinny over the phone line.
“As in, Mercy Graves? Who runs the prisons for Lillian?”
Lena meets Kara’s eyes, an amusement dancing in them at Nia’s interjection that gives Kara hope. It’s lighter than she’s seen Lena in a while. “One in the same.”
“So, we investigate Max by investigating another person? This is getting complicated,” Alex grumbles.
“Not all situations can be solved by pointing a gun at them, Alex,” Nia says, and Alex stiffens indignantly as her gaze snaps to the phone still held aloft in Brainy’s hand.
“Hey! Don’t make me hang up on you.”
“Brainy wouldn’t let you –“
Brainy shields the phone from Alex’s attempt to grab it, and before the situation can devolve Lena interrupts.
“Graves Industries might seem airtight on the surface, but the veneer is covering a lot of sins,” she says loudly, commanding the attention of the room again. “If we play our cards right and find proof that Mercy’s money is dirty, CatCo can run the story. There will be an inquest into Max’s donors. And then the floodgates will open.”
“Right,” Kara says, nodding. “Right. Two birds with one stone – Mercy, and Max. Do you have any suggestions on where to start?”
“Seeing as it was Sam’s idea, I think she’d be an asset.”
For the first time since this meeting started, J’onn speaks up.
“I’m not sure I want to add another person to our expanding visitors list,” he grumbles, rubbing his chin – and to Kara’s surprise, it’s Alex who defends Lena’s plan.
“I think it’s a good idea, actually.”
The room goes silent.
All eyes are on Alex, who turns crimson under the attention and rubs nervously at the base of her neck. She seems uncomfortable, but sure in her decision for reasons Kara can’t fathom.
“Since when are you open to outside help?” Kara asks, still flabbergasted at the sudden turn her sister’s attitude has taken lately. Alex just shrugs, moving her hands to her hips to rest on her weapon like a comfort object.
“I don’t know. I just have a good feeling about it, I guess. Lena trusts this Sam person, right?”
A week ago, Alex would probably have rather been waterboarded than work with one more person outside the DEO. The sudden pivot in opinion is surprising, even to Alex herself – she doesn’t seem to understand her own position, if the confusion written on her face is any indication.
Kara is going to have to investigate that, later.
Even with Alex’s support, J’onn insists that Sam not be invited to the DEO right away for security reasons. In another shocking turn of events Lena agrees gracefully, and instead she arranges to have Kara meet Sam for the first time a few days later.
The neutral place Lena suggested was Sam’s apartment, which turns out to be a condo not far from Lena’s (although considerably more modest). And Kara spends most of the preceding hours somewhat dreading it. She wants to go in with no preconceptions, but she can’t help it – her hackles are up from the moment she lands in front of Sam’s building and marches inside to knock on door 3B.
The last time she was introduced to one of Lena’s friends was Andrea, who had made her feel both horribly inferior and nauseatingly jealous. And Sam, at first glance, seems just as flawless despite her differences to the latter – instead of being curvy Sam is tall and willowy, with soft brown hair and a killer smile. The biggest difference Kara can see between Sam and Andrea, though, is in the eyes – even in the few seconds she has to contemplate it as she enters the room, she can see that Sam’s brown eyes are warm where Andrea’s grey ones were frosty and piercing.
That’s about all the time she has to make notes. When she strides in as Supergirl, hands on hips and ready to defend herself against more insults about her height, the stoic wind is taken out of her sails the second Sam lays eyes on her.
“Huh,” Sam says, grinning wide and putting her hands on her hips in a somehow flattering mirroring of Kara’s stance. “CatCo Magazine was right. You’re much cuter in person.”
“Sam!” Lena hisses, stepping in front of the other brunette as if her small frame will somehow block the eyeline of someone who is pushing six feet in heels. “I told you to be on your best behaviour –“
Kara is grateful for the distraction of it, though, because the comment has her almost walking into (and directly through) the nearest wall, and she needs time to catch herself and get herself under control before she makes an idiot of herself.
“When did – CatCo never said –“ Kara tries to argue, but Sam just laughs at her sputtering.
“Maybe it was the comments section. Either way, I get it.” Sam ends the comment with a wink, and Lena huffs audibly.
“I didn’t bring her here so you could hit on her,” Lena mutters, crossing her arms almost petulantly. “Why does everyone always –“
She trails off before she finishes that sentence, but Kara gets the gist.
It’s sort of cute, honestly. Lena doesn’t feel genuinely upset, like Kara has experienced before. Lena’s anger always feels like black ice – shoved down deep until it gets so cold that it burns, searing anything it touches. This is barely a tickle, tinged with exasperated affection. She’s just being teased by a friend, and is adorably irritated about it.
And maybe even a tiny bit jealous.
“It’s just an added bonus,” Sam says, grinning conspiratorially at Kara. Kara smiles back, with much less confidence but at least relieved that this meeting looks to be going much better than this morning. Miles better. Sam is so different, so diametrically opposed to Andrea, that Kara almost forgets what she’s here for.
Sam is friendly, funny, kind. She teases Lena constantly, and Lena just rolls her eyes good-naturedly and looks to Kara for backup. Sam seems like a true friend rather than just an ally, bringing out a lighter side of Lena that Kara knew was there, but Lena had hasn’t often felt safe enough to show. Now that she’s seen it, she never wants to let it go.
All in all, the meeting goes better than Kara could have imagined. Sam is just as smart as Lena promised, and eager to help – if it were up to Kara, she’d be invited to the DEO immediately. Since it isn’t, they make a plan to meet again to start the investigation into Mercy, this time out of her Supergirl regalia to avoid suspicion. She’s pretty sure that Sam already knows her alter ego anyways, considering Lena seems to tell her everything.
Kara comes away from it with a smile on her face, and Sam pointedly pushes Lena out the door with her with a suggestion that she walk the brunette to her car.
“I’m sorry about her,” Lena says, the moment they round the corner towards the elevator. “She’s one of the smartest people I know, but often it only makes her more unbearable.”
Kara laughs, shrugging as Lena hits the call button. “No need to apologize. I really liked her.”
“Of course you did,” Lena sighs. The numbers above the elevator crawl down towards the third floor, and Lena’s fingers drum on her own crossed arm. “I was worried you two would get along. Like a house on fire.”
“I thought you were the arsonist, here?” Kara says, nudging Lena gently with an elbow and hoping against hope that her lightened mood is still in effect. To her intense relief, instead of shutting down like she has been lately, Lena very clearly suppresses a smile.
“I burnt down one meth lab. You’re never going to let me live it down, are you?”
The elevator finally dings, and Lena steps through as soon as the door opens. Kara follows, her cape swishing as she turns around to hit the button for the parking garage, and Lena notably makes no protest. She really doesn’t need to be walked to her car – Lena can take care of herself, as she’s proven time and time again – but Kara will take any opportunity to spend a few more moments with her, and if Lena doesn’t seem to mind, Kara will take what she can get.
“You two seem close,” Kara says, shifting her weight back and forth. She can feel the elevator creaking slightly with each movement, and she stops abruptly before she breaks something. “Have you known each other a long time?”
“We haven’t, actually,” Lena answers, to Kara’s surprise. The elevator slows, the doors sliding open, and Lena doesn’t look ready to bolt. She actually seems like she might want to talk. “About 6 years. I try to pepper LuthorCorp with sympathetic employees as much as I can, to loosen Lillian’s monopoly. Hiring Sam when we moved to National City was a no-brainer.”
“Are there a lot of other sympathetic vampires working for you?” Kara asks, and Lena frowns as she steps out and into the florescent lighting.
“Sam isn’t fae.”
Kara blinks. She hadn’t been expecting that, and for Lena to throw it off the cuff as she walks away throws her off. But her eyes adjust quickly to the light, and she steps out to follow as the click of Lena’s heels echoes against the concrete walls.
Lena shakes her head, her back still to Kara. “Is everyone you know an alien? No, Sam is human.”
There’s something about the way Lena says it, how she brushes it off with such practiced indifference, that tells Kara there’s more to it than that. She doesn’t feel like Lena is lying about Sam being human, but she isn’t telling the whole truth, either. Holding something back.
Whatever it is, she’s sure that pushing the issue won’t help. Lena will tell her if it’s necessary.
“Oh. I just assumed, since Andrea –“ Kara starts, but clears her throat when Lena stiffens at the woman’s name. Her pace quickens, and Kara almost has to jog to keep up. “And, she knows about you? About Lillian?”
“Sam knows just about everything,” Lena says, smiling tightly. “Even things I wish she didn’t, sometimes.”
“I get it,” Kara says, as Lena stops next to a nondescript black Beamer and unlocks it with a flash of the headlights. “Alex is like that. She just knows things, sometimes. She has a crazy intuition, when she’s not in ‘protective sister’ mode.”
“I’m sure they’ll be an absolutely insufferable team when they meet,” Lena says drily. Kara expects her to open the car door and get in, try to duck out of the conversation as quickly as possible, but to her surprise Lena leans against it instead, crossing her arms. “I’m glad you took to her so quickly. Any idea I offer to your friends is put under the microscope, and having Sam on board is going to be a huge asset. Your support…really helps. Especially given how I’ve been acting lately.”
Kara’s heart jumps. It’s not quite a thank you, just like the not-quite-apology Lena offered on the drive home from Cat’s cabin. But the intent is there, even if Lena is catastrophically bad at voicing it. Maybe it’s something they can work on, someday. Either way, it’s way more than Kara is expecting, and she swallows past a sudden lump in her throat before replying.
“Well, you know. I’m here for you,” Kara shrugs, kicking at a rock and watching it skitter across the pavement rather than meeting Lena’s eyes for what feels like a confession. “No matter what. I know how much pressure you’re under.”
Lena is quiet, but Kara can feel something working in her mind. Some complicated emotion that neither of them can parse. The closest Kara can come to identifying it is guilt, but that doesn’t make sense. Lena has nothing to be guilty for. Not in Kara’s eyes.
When Kara gets brave enough to glance up, she catches a look she wasn’t expecting – Lena is looking at her with something like tenderness. There’s a softness in her eyes that Kara has never caught before, something unguarded and raw in the way she stares that disappears almost the moment Kara looks up. But it was there.
Kara has felt it before, and now she’s seen it. At least for a heartbeat, Lena had thought about letting her in.
“I should go,” Lena says, more softly than usual. “So should you. Quickly, so nobody sees you here. Sam is mostly off my mother’s radar, but we don’t want to give her any reason to change that.”
“Right,” Kara says, clearing her throat. “Yeah. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
She can’t quite keep the hopefulness out of her voice, and Lena smiles almost imperceptibly.
Finally Lena opens the car door and slips inside, and Kara jumps out of the way as she pulls out and towards the exit. The Beamer stops before pulling out on the street, and Kara could swear that Lena is looking at her in the rearview mirror – but then she’s gone, the engine revving unnecessarily as she peals out and towards her own penthouse.
Kara knows that Lena can’t see her, but she smiles anyways as she waves goodbye to an empty garage.
It ends up being a godsend that Sam is so enjoyable to be around, because their investigation into Max Lord and Mercy ends up taking far longer than Kara expected.
She’s sure that if the three of them could just sit down for the better part of a day and hammer it out together, they’d have it figured out by now. But between Kara having essentially two jobs, Sam’s apparently jam-packed work schedule, and Lena needing to avoid being seen anywhere near Supergirl, the most they’re usually able to steal is an hour at a time scattered throughout the week.
It’s frustrating, but the annoyance is balanced out by the fact that Lena is finally acting normal again.
Well, normal for Lena is still fairly aloof by anyone else’s standards, but Kara feels less anxiety coming from her. Maybe it’s Sam’s influence, or maybe it’s some sort of internal struggle Lena is having - all Kara knows is that Lena smiles at her now the same way she did before their trip to find Cat, and she’s thrilled about it.
Even so, the campaigning season for the Mayoral election is looming and their time to pin Max with something damning is running out. As much as she prefers to have Lena around at all times, for the sake of the task at hand Kara ends up alone with Sam, her laptop, and a jumbo container of cheese puffs with Lena conspicuously absent.
For the first time they have a chance to really dig in without needing to interrupt the process, settling in for hours of research. And for the first time, Kara is alone with Lena’s best friend.
Even with the sizable chunk of dedicated time, Kara finds that she’s not getting much work done – but they’re seated facing each other at the kitchen island, so the fact that Kara’s screen is blank is at least not obvious. Sam is typing away, staring intensely at her screen and intermittently stuffing her mouth with Kara’s offered cheese puffs and coffee, and Kara torn between wanting to make a good impression on her and the desire to soak up every scrap of information she can about Lena while she has the chance.
She’s still undecided on which route to take when Sam sits up straight, stretches out her long limbs, and looks up at Kara with a knowing grin.
“You’re thinking so loudly that I can practically hear it. If you have a question about Lena, you can just ask.”
Kara drops her handful of cheese puffs.
“That’s not what I was thinking about!” Kara tries to bluster, scooping the puffs up from the floor and almost putting them in her mouth before remembering she has company. Regretfully dropping them in the trash instead, she tries for nonchalance. “I was thinking about…Mercy.”
“Right,” Sam drawls. “And I’m a magical unicorn.”
“Hey, you very well could be for all I know,” Kara points out, and Sam laughs. “I know this is hypocritical coming from an alien, but this whole vampire thing is way too complicated. I only just found out you’re not fae.”
“Did Lena tell you anything else?” Sam asks, further solidifying Kara’s theory that Sam is somehow unique. She still doesn’t know how, but Sam seems like the type to reveal it when the time is right.
“No, just that you were human,” Kara answers instead. “And annoyingly knowledgeable, in her words.”
“Well, that’s a matter of perspective,” Sam says, throwing a cheese puff in the air and catching it perfectly in her mouth. “I prefer wise. Which is why I can smell your bullshit from a mile away.”
She points at Kara with a cheese-dusted finger, and Kara groans.
“Of course you can,” Kara mutters, letting her head fall forward to hit the table. “I’ve never been a good liar, Alex has always said so.”
“You can’t be that bad, considering you’ve kept up a secret identity. Kara Danvers, CatCo reporter, and all that.”
“Clearly I haven’t kept it up very well, if you knew without me telling you,” Kara points out, still facedown. Sam laughs, poking her in the shoulder until she raises her head. Oddly, it reminds her of Alex.
“I have Lena, so it doesn’t count. She talks about you more than she realizes.”
“She does?” Kara asks, immediately straightening up. It’s painfully obvious, but somehow with Sam she doesn’t care. There’s something understanding in her eyes. Something comforting.
“She’d be mortified if I told her, but yes,” Sam says, planting an elbow on the table and putting her chin in her hand. “It’s been like that since you met.”
Kara wasn’t expecting it, but knowing that Lena talks about her as much as she talks about Lena is the biggest relief she’s felt in a long time. It comes out of her in a big exhale, and she slumps down on her stool, mirroring Sam’s position.
“I didn’t realize. She’s not exactly the easiest person to read,” Kara says, still reeling. Imagining Lena thinking about her, bringing her up unprompted. Kara knows that Lena is fond of her, can feel it often, but fondness is different from the depth of feeling that Kara holds for her. She’s always felt like Lena is holding back, but to know that there are times when she doesn’t? It’s game-changing.
Sam nods, taking a sip of room-temperature coffee and wincing. “That’s intentional. It’s a mask she puts on every time someone else is around, besides me. She wants people to think she’s so tough, but underneath it all…”
“Yeah,” Kara says, grinning absently at her empty computer screen. “She’s not what people think she is.”
“Total softie,” Sam says. There’s affection in her voice too, but of another kind. More like the way Alex talks about Kara when she thinks Kara can’t hear.
“Why is she like that?” Kara asks, thinking over all the times Lena has clammed up and shut her out. The way she insisted on being brusque and borderline rude to everyone at the DEO at first. How she wouldn’t even tell Kara her name, when they met. “It’s like she wants people to dislike her. She’s built a brick wall between herself and the world.”
“It’s comfortable for her, being hated. She thinks it’s easier than disappointing people.”
“Why would she think people would be disappointed?”
Sam shrugs. “The world has hurt her. A lot. It’s not really my place to say, but she’s been through more than most people realize.”
Kara nods thoughtfully. “I mean, I can sense that, a little. That there’s stuff she keeps inside. Dark things. Sometimes when I concentrate hard enough, I can sort of…feel it?”
She lilts her voice into a question at the end, testing the waters for Sam’s reaction. And Sam responds in exactly the way Kara expected – she’s thoughtful, but not surprised.
“And that doesn’t bother you?” Sam asks, seeming genuinely curious. “That connection?”
The use of that word – connection – tells Kara everything she needs to know. Sam is aware of the situation in detail, whether because Lena told her or because she has some kind of strange and mysterious omniscience. She probably knows even more than Kara herself. It seems strange, but that comforts Kara more than it bothers her. At least someone knows what’s going on.
Kara shrugs. “There’s a lot in this world that can’t be explained. It confused me at first, but I decided I just need to go with it. If I’m going to be inexplicably connected to anyone, I’m just glad it’s her.”
Sam seems pleasantly surprised by the admission. She smiles, slow and warm, and Kara feels like maybe she just passed some kind of test.
“It’d be nice to have an explanation someday, though,” Kara says, turning back to her laptop. “If one exists.”
Sam just smiles enigmatically.
“Again, not my place. Give her time. She’ll explain it all to you eventually.”
Kara wasn’t expecting any closure on the subject out of this conversation, but Sam’s words are comforting anyways. There is something to her connection with Lena, something beyond normal, and eventually she’ll get an explanation. That’s more than good enough for her.
“Okay. Back to work, then.”
Sam nods, seeming surprised but impressed by Kara’s acceptance.
“Back to work.”
They work in companionable silence again for a while, the only sounds being the tapping of keys and the crunching of the last remaining cheese puffs. Kara actually makes some headway this time, much less distracted by thoughts of Lena, but even with her renewed focus, finding anything of real substance is still almost impossible.
“I don’t understand how someone so clearly corrupt can run a company so successfully,” Kara mutters, scrolling through yet another thinkpiece featuring a glowing interview with Mercy Graves. “How does she do it?”
“It happens more than you think.”
“But there has to be something, right?” Kara says, throwing her hands up. “She can’t be completely clean, especially if she’s laundering money and basically sending indentured servants to LuthorCorp.”
“Laundering money,” Sam says, looking suddenly thoughtful. “Shit. Laundering money. God, I’ve been so stupid –“
“What do you mean?” Kara asks, scooting out of her chair and moving to stand behind Sam. Her computer screen is full of open tabs, and she pulls one up to start typing.
“We’ve been trying to get to Mercy Graves’ financials, but they’re locked down tight,” Sam says, entering a password so quickly that even Kara can’t follow it. “We should be looking into possible sources. A trail goes both ways. And what’s the most likely source of dirty money in Lillian’s network?”
“…Corben?” Kara suggests, but Sam is already typing lightning-fast. Feeling like maybe they just made exactly the breakthrough they need, Kara pulls out her phone.
“Let me make a call. We have him in custody, I’ll get Brainy to –“
“No need, I’m in.”
In seconds Sam has bank statements pulled up, and Kara slowly puts the phone back down on the table. “Wow. I can see why Lena likes you.”
“This, and my handsome face,” Sam grins, her eyes darting across the screen. The further down she scrolls, the more gleeful she seems at what she finds. “Corben is much less careful than he needs to be with his money. If I had to guess, Lillian and Max fund Corben’s criminal activities through untraceable offshore accounts, and the money Corben makes in turn gets passed as private donations through Mercy’s prisons and handed back to them.”
“That sounds…complicated,” Kara says, firing off a text to Alex and Lena to tell them their progress. “They really go that far just to make money?”
“It’s a genius little system. But now that I know, I just need to find the names of their shell corporations so we can dig in and trace the transfers,” Sam says. Kara has no doubt that she’ll succeed.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to pin anything on Lillian, she’s too smart,” Sam admits. “Even with your fancy government technology. But Corben is rotting in a cell and Max is an idiot, and Mercy doesn’t handle her finances directly. She uses intermediaries. There has to be a mistake somewhere.”
Sam clearly doesn’t need any help, absorbed as she is in her work, so Kara leans back against the counter to answer the simultaneous texts from Lena and Alex asking for updates.
“Alex will be happy we’ve found something useful,” Kara says, as she taps out an answer to her sister. “She’s not usually comfortable working with people she doesn’t know, but this time she seemed to trust Lena’s judgement. It sets a good precedent for her.”
“Who’s Alex?” Sam asks distractedly, still typing. But her fingers slow as Kara answers, and she actually looks up from her screen for the first time in minutes.
“I didn’t know Supergirl had a sister,” Sam says, and the attention she’s suddenly pinning on Kara seems odd given what they just found. But Kara shrugs, answering offhandedly while she answers Lena’s text.
“Human sister. Adopted. Her family brought me up after I landed on earth. She’s one of the most important people in the world to me.”
The only other person of comparable importance is Lena, which Kara doesn’t mention – but she gets the idea that Sam knows anyways. Sam’s eyes get a little unfocused, and she reaches up to rub absently at her chest.
“She must be a great person, to have you talk so highly of her.”
“She is,” Kara says, finally putting her phone down to focus on the conversation. “You’ll like her. She can be a little high strung, but you’re used to Lena, so next to her –“ Kara chuckles, and Sam smiles in a distracted sort of way. She’s still rubbing her chest, long fingers leaving red marks on her collarbone like there’s something under the skin that she’s trying to get to.
“Right,” Sam whispers. There’s a little crease between her brows, but she doesn’t seem upset. She just seems like she’s somewhere else completely.
“You okay?” Kara asks tentatively, and Sam shakes herself out of it with a small smile.
“Yeah. Just…have a good feeling.”
The statement seems familiar, but before Kara can remember where from Sam has typed a few final words and is gasping in delight.
“Oh, Mercy, you clever little minx. Too bad I’m cleverer. Call your boss, Kara. I’ve found what we need.”
When Lena gets the text that Kara and Sam have found a thread to follow, it feels like a month’s worth of tension leaves her all at once.
A few weeks ago, she never would have brought Sam into a potentially dangerous relationship with the DEO. She didn’t trust anyone there, with the exception of Kara – and since her trust in Kara is something she can’t exactly control, it doesn’t count. J’onn, Alex, Brainy, Nia – she didn’t trust a single one of them the first time Kara brought her to their headquarters. She’s still half-paranoid that they’d have her in a cage just like Corben’s so they could dissect her vampire biology if Kara weren’t around. But they’ve proven themselves good allies so far, and the moment Mercy and Max and their dodgy financials became their focus, she knew there’d be nobody better suited to help them than her best friend.
And now, she and Kara are apparently getting along swimmingly. They chat like old friends. Which is a good thing. Completely beneficial, and not at all giving Lena heart palpitations.
She knows that Sam would never tell Kara anything that Lena didn’t give her permission to. But that doesn’t mean she won’t subtly nudge Kara in the right direction, and that possibility makes Lena nervous.
It’s safer, she thinks, to bring Sam to the DEO and have her interact with everyone rather than just Kara. More distractions. And it seems like her work with Kara has earned Sam some sort of pass, much like Lena (although much faster, Lena thinks somewhat peevishly. It took her ages to be allowed in and out of the DEO whenever she pleases), because an invitation to come to the site in person gets extended almost as soon as Sam provides the information they need.
Sam’s eyes dart around in that fast, intelligent way she has as they descend the stairs into the atrium, taking in the agents in combat gear staring at screens and moving around with purpose. Lena can see Kara and Alex talking across the bay of computers, and Kara is already looking her way, raising a hand to wave with a grin.
Suppressing the smile that wants to appear at Kara’s presence, Lena waves back.
“I thought you were trying to keep your distance?” Sam murmurs under her breath, following Lena’s eyeline to Kara. “The less attached you get, the less painful it will be?”
“I have the situation perfectly under control,” Lena whispers back. Sam laughs, and it echoes slightly across the cavernous atrium - and then Alex’s head turns to look in the direction of the sound, and as they take the last few steps down the stairs Sam’s hand clamps onto Lena’s arm so hard that she actually hisses in pain.
“Lena,” Sam gasps, and all of her weight is suddenly on Lena’s arm as her knees seem to give out on the last step. “Lena, that’s – oh my god –“
Sam’s voice isn’t loud, but it is urgent. Almost panicked, in a way that’s completely foreign to Lena. She’s breathing in short gasps, and the suddenness of her episode seems to alarm everyone else as much as it does Lena. Kara is at her side in an instant, her hair rustling with the wind of her superspeed, and she helps a shaky Sam to her feet with clear concern. Alex takes a few seconds longer, and she’s a little bit breathless when she slows down her sprint and reaches them.
Sam is silent, now. Her mouth is trembling slightly, as are her hands, and she and Alex seem to be staring at each other with something unreadable and confused – it’s completely wordless, but Lena has learned to read Sam over the years. And right now, Sam’s book is reading absolute shock.
After a few seconds of silence that are almost uncomfortable, Alex gives an awkward smile and rubs the back of her neck.
“Watch those stairs,” she says, the tips of her ears turning pink. She seems baffled, and thrown off her usual guard. “Kara trips down them all the time. At least you, uh. Don’t make an indent in the concrete like she does, right?”
Sam, glassy-eyed and mute, nods silently. At the quiet response Alex clears her throat and hurries away, a blush creeping up her neck to her buzzed hairline, and Lena feels like her entire world has just been hauled up by the feet and dangled upside-down.
“Sam, what on earth –“ Lena starts, but Sam is already gone, almost running towards the open-air balcony nearby and mumbling something about needing air.
“Is Sam okay?” Kara asks quietly, looking between her fleeing sister and Sam’s retreating back with a furrowed brow. “She looks like she saw a ghost. Or got hit by lightning.”
Lena has not a goddamn clue if Sam is okay. All clues point to the negative, but she has no idea what happened to set her off besides meeting Kara and Alex -
It all comes together in Lena’s mind in an instant, and she could hit herself with how long it took to puzzle out. It’s so obvious, looking at Sam’s hunched-over form on the balcony. The way Sam had seemed to shut down for a second when she spotted Alex. The weirdness of Alex’s reaction. The way, even before meeting her, Alex had agreed so readily to bringing Sam on board without seeming to know why.
Lena can still remember the white-hot lightning that Kara’s first touch to her bare wrist had brought. How it weakened her knees. Made her shake. It’s the only thing that makes sense. But what she can’t seem to figure out is why Alex hardly reacted at all.
“I’m going to go check on her,” Lena says, leaving Kara behind. The blonde doesn’t follow, for which she’s deeply grateful. This seems like a moment Sam won’t want to share.
She’s proven right when the closer she gets to the balcony, the more she can see that Sam’s shoulders are shaking. There’s a set of glass doors separating the balcony from the rest of the DEO, and Lena practically slams them closed as she’s met with quiet, soul-wrenching sobs.
“Sam,” Lena whispers, putting a hand on her friend’s back, “that was her. Wasn’t it? Your soulmate. It’s Alex.”
Sam doesn’t reply, but the lack of response is answer enough. She just clings to the balcony, her knuckles white with the pressure. It looks like she’s going into shock, and Lena takes a firm hold of her arm until Sam turns and gives in to a tight, crushing hug.
“She doesn’t know me,” Sam gasps into Lena’s neck, sounding like her chest is too tight to speak. “She doesn’t know me, Lena, I don’t know what to – two lifetimes in a row I haven’t found her, and now she’s here and she doesn’t – “
Lena has no idea what to do, besides hug her. She’s never seen Sam lose it, in all their years of friendship. She’s always calm, so put together in contrast to Lena’s fits of temper – but now she’s shaking, practically speechless, still crying into her shoulder.
“Is that possible?” Lena asks quietly, and the question seems to give Sam something to focus on. Her breathing evens a little, even if she keeps clinging to Lena. “Isn’t she an Old Soul, like you?”
“Sometimes,” Sam starts, pausing to take a few painful breaths. “Sometimes for Old Souls, it takes something to make us remember what we are. Like…like a trigger. I’ve just…never met her before that. She’s always known, when we find each other. We both have.”
“Why don’t you just tell her?” Lena asks, offering advice even though Sam asked for none. “What she is, who she is to you. Instead of being in pain.”
“You’re one to talk.”
Lena is taken aback at Sam’s unexpected jab, but can’t deny that she’s right. Lena doesn’t like admitting it, but it’s true. Telling Kara what they are to each other would probably end both of their unnecessary suffering – but at the cost of her autonomy.
Sam sighs, her shoulders sagging as she pulls back from the hug and wipes her eyes on the cuffs of her very expensive shirt. Lena is sure there’s a huge wet spot on her shoulder as well, but that’s not important right now.
“I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair. I just - I can’t,” Sam says raggedly. “If she hasn’t been triggered yet and it isn’t the right time, she’ll think I’m insane. Plus, being reminded before her time could hurt her. Too many memories at once trying to fit in her head. I can’t do that to her. I can’t be selfish.”
Lena nods, rubbing Sam’s back in little circles as she calms herself down. “I’ve never seen you like this.”
“This has never happened before,” Sam sniffles, her breathing still uneven. “Imagine…imagine your bond with Kara. But when your soul reaches out to hers, there’s just…a wall. And you hit it going 100 miles an hour. No matter how much you try, how much you scream and throw yourself at it, she doesn’t let you in. There’s just nothing. Emptiness.”
It sounds fucking horrible, in Lena’s opinion. She tries to repress her bond with Kara, but to reach out and find nothing? Or worse, to find a barricade that she can’t cross? It would be even worse. The soulmate bond is a curse, Lena thinks, in more ways than one. A bane that she wishes had never infected her life, or Sam’s. It causes too much pain.
But even as those thoughts cross her mind, another one forms too, even stronger than the rest. After watching Sam cry in her arms over a soulmate who won’t answer her soul’s call, Lena starts to let herself realize - for what she’s ashamed to admit is the first time - that she’s been monstrously selfish.
Kara is as much a part of this soulmate business as Lena is, and all Lena has been thinking about is herself. Seeing Sam like this, shaken to her core in a way she’s never seen before, is eye-opening. Sam is in almost physical pain because her soulmate doesn’t know her, can’t love her the way she’s capable of.
This is what she’s doing to Kara.
Ever since they met, Lena has had a wall up. A line she won’t allow herself to cross. She and Kara have connected on such a deep level, shared a consciousness, tangled together at the atomic level - and in response Lena had brought down a guillotine and cut her off completely.
Kara has been feeling all the same deep, confusing feelings that Lena has – only Kara has no idea what’s going on. Kara doesn’t know why her soul is calling out to Lena, or even that that’s what’s happening. She just gets the pain, and none of the context. None of the choice. The one thing Lena has pursued so rabidly for herself.
She holds Sam until the tears subside, and through the glass doors she can see the object of her thoughts sitting on the stairs, watching over them like a guardian. She looks worried, for both of them. It makes Lena’s heart ache, makes it want to reach out to Kara to soothe. To connect.
For the first time, Lena lets it. And even from across the building, Lena can feel Kara’s smile.
Work proves to be the best distraction Lena could hope for in the days following. She’s been slacking lately at LuthorCorp, preoccupied as she is with trying to slowly dismantle the political control of its CEO, and if she puts it off for much longer Lillian will start to take notice. So she stays late at the office for almost a week, exchanging occasional texts with Kara but never fully reaching out to see her in person. It seems too risky, right now.
Ever since seeing Sam break down over Alex, after seeing the depth of her pain, it seems like her willpower is softening whether she likes it or not. She’s always missed Kara’s presence when they aren’t together, even if she doesn’t like admitting it to herself, but it’s gotten to the point where she can’t put it out of her mind. She’s always prided herself on her compartmentalization, but now all of the little boxes she shuts her thoughts into are spilling open and disgorging all of their contents into the larger part of her mind. Her thoughts are a confusing jumble, where they used to be sorted with military precision.
In short, Lena has no idea what she wants anymore, and it scares the hell out of her.
“You know, I almost wasn’t expecting you to actually pull it off.”
Andrea’s voice is quiet in the doorway of Lena’s office, but it’s enough to pull Lena out of her thoughts – of Kara, always of Kara, now - and back to reality. The clock reads 9pm, and she definitely wasn’t expecting visitors, least of all Andrea Rojas.
“Visiting me here is a bit of a risk right now, don’t you think?” Lena says, shutting her laptop on the same project status update she’s been ignoring all day. “I thought we were trying to keep you on Lillian’s good side.”
Andrea shrugs, leaning against the doorjamb.
“Lillian left two hours ago for visitation hours with Lex, and everyone else has gone home. We’re as safe as we can be.”
“How do you know she doesn’t have the place bugged?” Lena challenges, and Andrea rolls her eyes, stepping inside and heading to the white leather couch.
“As if you wouldn’t have found all her hiding spots by now.”
“Fair point,” Lena concedes. “Did you at least avoid the cameras?”
“You ask like I’m an amateur. I snuck into your building every day for months, once upon a time.”
“That ended badly, if you remember,” Lena says, already regretting it before it’s left her mouth. As if reminding Andrea of her betrayal is in any way helpful.
Andrea looks penitent, her joking tone gone, and Lena pushes past the spike of remorse. Andrea brought it up, after all, and the point is still valid even if Lena has mostly forgiven her.
“So, what brings you here so late?” Lena says, quickly changing the subject, and Andrea latches on gratefully.
“I knew you’d still be working, and I wanted to talk. Cat told me you’d found what we need.”
Lena nods. She pushes her desk chair out and moves to take a seat on the couch instead, pausing to pour two glasses of scotch. She sets one on the coffee table in front of Andrea and sits down on the opposite end, making sure to keep a professional distance between them. She still has a vivid memory of last time they sat on a couch together and she’d rather spare them both the mortification of the reminder.
“We have. Hard evidence of Mercy’s money laundering, and a paper trail linking Max’s accounts to Corben in several ways. Sam is a wizard with that sort of thing. She thinks we can pin him with embezzlement.”
She can’t keep the pride out of her voice and Andrea gives a grateful smile, taking a sip of her drink.
“Then, remind me to send her a fruit basket. How are you planning on making sure it isn’t just buried?”
“Going straight to the police is too risky,” Lena agrees, crossing her legs and smoothing the wrinkles in her lap. “I don’t doubt that Lillian has moles there. We’re breaking the story to the media first, making it into a circus that can’t be ignored, and then bringing the hard evidence to a detective friend of Supergirl’s.”
The gratefulness Andrea showed towards the mention of Sam is nowhere to be found when Kara enters the conversation. Her back straightens a little, and she sets the glass down to pick at her skirt for lint that Lena knows isn’t there.
“Friends in high places, this Kryptonian of yours.”
“It’s her sister’s ex-fiancée,” Lena explains shortly. Something about the way Andrea says Kryptonian rubs her the wrong way, however benign it is. It’s nowhere near the vitriol with which Lillian or Lex say it, but it’s definitely flavoured with resentment, and she feels protective of Kara in a way she usually tries to repress. “And it’s a messy connection. It’s friends in medium places, really.”
Andrea nods, her lips pursing. “When should I expect to be putting my name forward?”
“We have Cat and a few other connections at CatCo as a news outlet, so -“
Lena feels Kara nearby before she sees her.
She can feel that warm glow, the excitement and nervousness that Kara always seems to feel at the idea of seeing Lena. Lena has steadfastly ignored it for almost the entire time they’ve known each other, but it feels different now. Terrifyingly different. And of course Lena also detects the instant drop of her mood when she presumably hears a second presence in the office. Kara is hesitating, probably nearby, unsure of whether to interrupt. Lena can practically visualize her half-in and half-out of the elevator, frozen with indecision until the doors close on her.
Ordinarily, the last thing Lena would want is for Kara to interrupt a meeting with her ex. But despite the confusion of the last few days she finds herself craving the blonde’s presence, now that she knows she’s close by. That alone should be a sign that she needs to be careful, but Lena coasts past it with barely a thought now.
The real issue on her mind is how to let Kara know that she wants her here.
She could send Kara a text, but it would be both rude and terribly obvious if she pulled her phone out in front of Andrea. Instead, she hesitantly tests out their connection in a way she hasn’t dared to before – she concentrates her feelings of relief and welcoming, and tries to send them Kara’s way.
She’s not even sure if it works, until a few moments later when there’s a light knock on the door. Lena’s heart seems to beat with the rhythm of it, for a moment, and she calls out in as measured a tone as she can manage.
Lena stands up as the door opens, while Andrea politely tries to hide her clear disappointment.
Kara’s hair is half-up when she pokes her head around the door, falling in waves over her shoulders but not obscuring her face, which lights up when she sees Lena standing by the couch. She looks a little skittish as she glances back and forth between Lena and Andrea, but she holds up a paper bag in what seems like an offering.
“Sorry, I just – um, I picked up that pie I told you about? I know you don’t really need to eat, but you mentioned that you wanted to try it, and I thought – I saw your office lights on.“
Kara takes a deep breath after her speech, looking mortified at her own lack of confidence, but a genuine smile finds Lena’s face at the earnestness of it.
“It’s all right. Andrea and I were just wrapping up.”
Relief floods Lena’s system from Kara’s direction, and she steps into the office fully with the diner takeout bag in her hand. It’s just as grease-spotted as Lena thought it would be when Kara had told her about her absolute favourite chocolate pecan pie in the universe from a dingy place uptown, and it’s sweet that Kara remembered Lena mentioning that chocolate was one human food she actually enjoys.
And now that Kara is fully in the room, Lena has to look away from the way her crisp maroon dress shirt accentuates the strong line of her shoulders before she completely throws what remains of her principles out the 60-storey window.
Andrea stands as well as Kara approaches them, looking between them with a confused, thoughtful look on her face, and Lena hurries to draw attention away from what she’s sure is a very uncharacteristic blush on her face.
“Miss Danvers, this is Andrea Rojas,” Lena says, fully prepared to play the fake identity game since Kara isn’t here in her Supergirl regalia. Andrea already knows that Supergirl’s name is Kara, and she feels like she should at least make the effort. “An old friend –“
“We’ve met,” Kara says easily, switching the bag to her left hand and extending her right with a smile that manages to be mostly friendly. It’s a bit forced, but Kara is trying, at least. And Lena is staggered, both by Kara’s sudden friendliness and by the sudden, casual reveal of her identity.
Andrea frowns suspiciously as she takes Kara’s hand, shaking it slowly. “Have we?”
“You can call me Kara. Cat Grant introduced us.”
At the confirmation, Andrea’s grip tightens a little. Lena can see her knuckles go white around Kara’s hand, but Kara doesn’t flinch.
And this is exactly why Lena wishes they had never met.
“Ah. Kara. Of course,” Andrea says, her eyes tracking over Kara from head to toe. It’s something Lena has seen a thousand times, Andrea sizing up someone she views as an opponent to find their weaknesses, and her expression is completely unreadable. Even Lena can’t discern it. Andrea is a viper coiled to strike, and Kara either doesn’t notice or isn’t bothered.
She’s not sure which scenario is better.
“I’m surprised you’re here,” Andrea says, as their hands continue their stalemate shake. “This building is a bit dangerous for you, isn’t it? And for Lena, having you here.”
The comment is barbed, targeting Kara’s capability to keep Lena safe, but Kara takes it gracefully. She shrugs, with no indication that it bothers her at all.
“Not like this. I’m just a reporter, here to talk to Lena about an article on women in STEM.” Kara winks at Lena, and she finds herself smiling warmly back. “Totally harmless.”
It’s Kara who lets go first, letting her hand drop to her side and slide into her pocket. It’s a bit strange, how normal Kara seems. She’s perhaps being a little more openly flirtatious than usual, but she’s being cordial to Andrea, which is surprising considering the turmoil Lena usually feels coming from Kara when she’s even mentioned. There’s no resentment, no anger. It’s like Kara did some sort of magical meditation before she came.
Or maybe, a much smaller and more logical part of Lena’s brain suggests, Kara has simply processed her negative emotions in a healthy way and moved on instead of ignoring them until they fester. The exact opposite of what Lena usually does.
The voice sounds irritatingly like Sam. Lena tries to bat the realization away, but like an insect it still seems to hover nearby anyways.
“She’s been here before,” Lena admits, ignoring Kara’s slightly-victorious grin. “As long as her identity stays a secret, it’s perfectly safe.”
“I try to limit the amount of people who know my real identity, but I’d like to think I can trust you,” Kara says, the sudden and bare honesty shining through her friendly demeanour. “We both want to keep Lena safe, and the best way to do that is to work together.”
That shocks Andrea enough for her mask to fall a little. She softens, and her body language eases into something slightly less defensive. Something thoughtful. More like the Andrea that Lena knew all those years ago, who looked at her with such kind understanding. All Lena can do is watch it unfold, her nails dug into the flesh of her palms.
“I guess I can agree with that,” Andrea finally says with a tight nod. She looks between them again, seeming to come to an internal decision, and then she does something Lena has never seen in all the years they’ve known each other. She backs down.
“Well. The three of us being seen together in the same building your mother works in will probably open a rift through which Cat Grant will somehow appear to scold us, so…I should go,” Andrea says, clearing her throat and picking her purse up from the coffee table.
“You don’t have to - “ Lena starts half-heartedly, but Andrea is already shaking her head.
“It’s all right. Give me a call when you’re planning on breaking the story.”
Andrea hesitates for a split second, but then leans in and gives Lena a brief kiss on the cheek before heading to the door at a quick clip. Lena feels a blip, a tiny moment of negative emotion from Kara – but it’s cut off quickly, replaced by contentment.
Kara is just happy to be alone with her.
When she hears the ding of the elevator and the click of Andrea’s heels disappearing, Lena sits again, kicking her shoes off and tucking her legs underneath her this time. Kara watches the movement intently, before clearing her throat and sitting on the cushion next to her.
She’s so close that their legs are almost touching, and Lena can’t find within her the willpower to move away.
“So. You really needed to bring me pie at 9pm?” She settles for saying, and Kara shrugs as she opens the bag and lays out two paper plates on the coffee table.
“I thought you might be lonely.”
It’s said with an air of nonchalance, but Lena can feel otherwise. Kara clearly feels like she’s on thin ice right now, and were Lena in any other mood maybe she would be - the comment hits a little closer to home than she’d like. But the late nights at work and the days of distance and the endless cycle of her thoughts has her throwing caution to the wind.
Maybe this is what opening up feels like.
“Did you bring forks, or are we eating with our hands?” Lena asks, avoiding the question but allowing for a subject change. Kara relaxes, grabbing two plastic forks from her back pocket and holding them up with a grin.
“I always come prepared!”
Lena laughs, snatching a fork and poking Kara with it. “Last week you had to stop a robbery barefoot because you forgot your boots.”
“That’s different,” Kara says with a grumpy sigh. “I always come prepared for pie.”
Kara busies herself with setting two pieces of pie on the paper plates without the crust falling to pieces, and Lena watches her, chewing her lip.
“I’m surprised you decided to trust Andrea,” Lena says, fiddling with the prongs of the fork. One of them snaps off, and she quickly flips it before she’s left with a useless plastic stick. “You seemed nervous to involve her, before.”
Kara pauses, dusting the crumbled pastry from her hands.
“I was unfair to her. I let other things get in the way.”
“And now you’re completely objective?” Lena asks, knowing even as she says it that the answer could take her down a slippery slope. She feels reckless, almost self-destructive in her curiosity, but she can’t stop digging into Kara’s reasoning.
“Do you trust her?” Kara asks, point-blank. The directness of it is almost shocking, but Lena nods.
“Yes, I do.”
“Then, so do I,” Kara shrugs, and turns back to the pie. As if it’s that easy. As if she isn’t the first person to ever completely take Lena at her word.
“Just like that?” Lena says, shaking her head. “I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s always just like that, with you. I’ve never really had that. Someone who just trusts my judgement with no qualms.”
“Well, now you have someone who does that, and brings you delicious pie.” Kara punctuates the statement with a gigantic bite of the crust side, and the serious part of the conversation is clearly over as she hums with delight over the taste.
“We’ll see about that,” Lena chuckles, spearing her own smaller piece. She holds it up and makes a show of inspecting it under the light, and Kara clutches her chest.
“Do you not trust my judgement?”
“When it comes to food? Absolutely not,” Lena deadpans. “I’ve seen the trash you eat first-hand.”
“I do not eat trash!”
“I sat in the passenger seat while you devoured 3 full Big Belly meals in succession.,” Lena says, shuddering at the memory. “I bought you gas station pastries, and you enjoyed them.”
“I burn a lot of calories!” Kara says indignantly, gesturing with her fork. “You try feeding my metabolism on a reporter’s salary. I have to take what I can get. If you want me to eat better, maybe you should take me to dinner.”
Kara freezes, her fork in mid-air, clearly immediately regretting the word choice. Lena can feel the panic coursing through her, and she curses Sam for making her stupid heart so soft because now she feels guilty all the time. She felt it after their botched sleepover at Cat’s, she felt it in Sam’s parking garage when Kara had seemed grateful just to stand next to her after being frozen out for a week, and she feels it now, when a single flirtatious comment has Kara in a tailspin. And instead of boxing it up like usual, it just sits in her gut like a rock.
Kara walks on eggshells around her, half-expecting her to clam up at all times, and it’s Lena’s fault. Kara deserves better. She always has, and all Lena has given her is self-absorbed bullshit.
“Maybe I will. But only if I can write the bill off as a charitable donation,” Lena says lightly, finally bringing the bite to her mouth. Kara laughs, loud and relieved, but the moment the chocolate hits Lena’s tongue the situation becomes completely secondary to what’s happening in her mouth.
“Oh, god,” Lena moans, hearing Kara’s laugh choke off with a squeak and knowing, somewhere in her mind, that she sounds completely inappropriate. But that doesn’t matter, because this pie is fucking divine. “I take back everything I said.”
“I told you!” Kara says, pushing her glasses up on her crimson face and taking another huge bite. “My judgement is sound.”
Lena doesn’t doubt it. In fact, it’s probably more sound than Lena’s own, at the moment. But for now, Lena puts it out of her mind. Lillian, Andrea, fate, soulmates, the very building they’re in - for just a sliver of time, practically the span of a heartbeat in the grand scale of her life, she lets herself be fully in the moment. Just here, with Kara. Eating chocolate pecan pie.
She can go back to overthinking this tomorrow.
Lena takes another dainty bite of the admittedly delicious pastry, and Kara abandons the fork entirely to pick hers up like a slice of pizza and cram it into her mouth. Lena snorts, the pie goes up her nose, and the stress of Lena’s week melts away with Kara’s delighted laughter.