Getting fired, while not the worst thing that could have happened to Kara today, comes pretty darn close—and it isn’t even ten in the morning.
She’s been holding back tears ever since she walked out of J’onn’s office after he told her he had to let her go. She finally gives in and starts crying as soon as she’s out of the parking lot, pulling over just down the block from the TV station with her wiper blades going full tilt to combat the downpour outside. Kara has spent the last nine years on the local early news broadcast, ‘Morning Midvale, starting out as an intern between semesters at National City University, then working her way up to Junior Producer. And now, it feels like it’s all down the toilet just because Corporate wants someone with “more business experience.”
Like that even means anything when it comes to producing a television show.
The squeak of the wipers as they drag across the windshield pulls Kara back to the present. Her hatchback is a mess. She looks around, but there aren’t any clean tissues, just cheeseburger wrappers, so she takes her glasses off for a moment and wipes at her face with her bare hand. She really needs to clean the car out. Or better yet, drive it directly to the junkyard. With her luck, it’ll break down on the way.
When J’onn asked her to stop by his office after they wrapped this morning, Kara was excited. The show has been without a senior producer in the top spot for the last two years, meaning Kara was doing the job, but without the benefits of title and pay.
She’s done everything right; worked harder than anyone she knows. Always in first and out last—she goes to bed by six every work night so she can wake up at two in the morning because they’re on air at four. Kara doesn’t date, heck, she barely sees her family. When the rumor started going around the station that they’d finally budgeted for a senior producer, Kara had the nerve to think it might be going to her.
And then J’onn told her that the station needed to downsize and he couldn’t keep her at all.
To J’onn’s credit, he did seem to feel awful about the whole thing. J’onn is the guy who gave her the first break she had in the business, he’s the one who accepted her internship application, who hired her, who promoted her.
And today, he’s the one who fired her.
Breathing somewhat easier now that she’s let the worst of it out, Kara merges back into traffic and pulls up to a red light. Fudge, she thinks, dialing Alex as the light turns green, and putting her phone on speaker.
Alex picks up after two rings. “Hey Kara, I’m about to murder one of my R2s, can I call you back tonight, or I might have a lunch break in like four hours?”
Kara sniffles. “I got fired, Alex.”
“What?! No!” Alex sounds full of the righteous indignation Kara can’t quite muster. “That’s horsesh—crap. You’re the only thing holding that stupid news show together!”
“That’s not true, our staff is great!” Kara can’t help defending her colleagues—well, former colleagues. She wipes at her nose again and throws on her blinker. “It’s Corporate. The station wants someone with more business experience and an Ivy League degree.” Kara sighs as she goes through the roundabout to get on the highway. “Can I drive down tonight? I don’t want to wallow alone.”
“Of course! I won’t be home till about seven—the residents are a handful today, but Kelly will be there after work. Her four o’clock therapy client cancelled on her, so she’ll be home by five.” Kara can hear Alex shuffling something around, she’s probably in between patients at the hospital right now, cleaning up a mess made by one of her residents from the sounds of things. “Head over whenever and just use your key. We’ll help you figure it out.”
“Thanks, Alex. Love you.”
“Love you, too. I’ll see you tonight.”
Kara hangs up, feeling marginally better. She heads home and brings the boxes with her work stuff into the small apartment. She’d moved back in with Eliza for the first year after she graduated, but, as soon as she could, she found a place of her own. It’s 60 miles from Metropolis, so Alex is less than an hour and a half away with a little traffic. It’s been a great apartment, even has a high ceiling with a great big window where she has her easel set up. On a really clear day (and standing on her tiptoes), Kara can just make out the beach through the pine trees. She looks around, missing the view already.
Midvale only has the one local station, so moving is going to be inevitable. No sense in dwelling on things she can’t change.
Kara texts Eliza the bad news, saying she doesn’t want to talk about it just yet. Eliza sends back a heart and asks if she wants to come over for dinner, but Kara tells her she’s planning on driving down to see Alex.
She wanders over to her couch and sits down feeling a little aimless. She needs to find a job.
Kara yawns as she pulls out her laptop. Maybe she’ll start looking after a nap.
The nap is, unequivocally, the only good part of Kara’s day. There are a grand total of fifteen producer level openings of any kind posted online in the tri-state area, so she’d had to expand her search to the entire East Coast. The only spots she’s really qualified for are in Empire City (way further down the coast), or up in Amnesty Bay (who even knew they had their own station?). To top it off, she sleeps longer than she means to, and starts the drive up to Metropolis midafternoon. Leaving late means she gets stuck in awful traffic and, by the time she’s found parking on the street outside Alex’s and Kelly’s apartment, it’s a little after six thirty. Kara’s car gives a shudder as she puts it into park and she sighs, glancing up at the little service sticker on her windshield and then down at the odometer. Four thousand miles past due for an oil change. Her ‘check engine’ light twinkles ominously. That’s probably not good.
Kelly greets her at the door with potstickers. “Alex texted, she’s going to be late—something about the attending on shift after her. Do you wanna talk about it, or do you just wanna eat these and watch Hercules with me until your sister gets home?”
“Do you know you’re my favorite person in the whole world?” Kara throws her arms around Kelly and then relieves her of the potstickers. “Does Alex know we’re eating without her?”
“I picked these up for you on the way home, we’ll order dinner when she gets out of the hospital. Grab what you want to drink from the fridge” Kelly smiles. “Now come on, it’s sing-along time.”
Kara drops her bag by the door and stops by the refrigerator to grab a seltzer, while Kelly grabs napkins.
Alex gets home with the food while they’re still belting out “Zero to Hero” and she joins them for the rest of the film, sitting on the floor between Kelly’s legs. Over lo mein and sweet and sour pork, Kara takes them through her initial job search. She doesn’t want to move that far away from Alex and being driving distance to Eliza is important, but most of the producer positions in and around Metropolis are senior (which she doesn’t have the resume experience for) or entry-level (which she has too much experience for). There is a senior position in Happy Harbor at a small enough station that she might be considered, but who even knows how long the station itself will be around.
“The stupid economy is killing everything good in broadcasting right now,” Kara looks down dejectedly at the box of sesame chicken she’s holding, scoops the last of it onto her plate. “All the smaller stations are being snapped up by private equity firms and their parts are being sold for scrap. It’s all about profit these days instead of journalism.” She huffs and sets the box down, takes a bite.
“Basically,” Kara continues, swallowing, “unless you’re in Metropolis and at one of the four major networks they’re cutting everything. Even the big guys are transitioning away from their news programming in favor of syndication or dumb soap operas and tv re-runs because they make more money that way. Everyone just runs the same stuff all the time. It’s terrible.”
“That is terrible.” Alex frowns, setting her own plate back on the coffee table. “How long can you handle unemployment for? You know we have a guest bedroom. If you don’t want to move back in with Mom, I mean. You’re welcome to it if you need to crash here until you’re back on your feet.”
Kelly nods in agreement. Alex stands up and starts collecting their utensils and glasses.
“Thanks, you guys.” Kara smiles at them, feeling a new swell of gratefulness for her sister and Kelly. She sets her empty plate down, too, and picks up a pillow to hug, collapsing sideways on the couch. “I just, I’ve wanted to do this job since I was eight. I always thought by now I’d have made it somewhere big, you know, like The Today Show or Good Morning America. I’m starting to think I’m never going to make it to a real network. I couldn’t even keep a local junior producer gig.”
“Kara,” Kelly says, sounding thoughtful, “you know my brother James still works for Luthor Broadcasting Corporation here in Metropolis. He’s the lead director for their morning show.”
Kara nods and brings her legs up onto the couch, clutching the pillow to her chest and stretching out.
“Do you want me to give him a call, let him know you’re looking?” Kelly continues as she stacks the empty containers from dinner and hands them to Alex to take into the kitchen.
“Gosh, yes! LBC is one of the big four!” Kara practically yells and sits up. “I forgot he works on that. I already looked this afternoon, though,” she says, tempering her enthusiasm. “They’ve got a spot open, but it’s the Executive Producer position—I’m not even remotely qualified for it.”
“Hey, don’t sell yourself short,” Alex calls out as she loads the dishwasher, “you basically ran the entire early news show at Midvale!”
“Maybe,” Kara says, “but it doesn’t look that way on my resume. My job title never changed.”
“Well, I think you should consider applying anyway,” says Kelly. “James has been complaining for months that they’ve been having a lot of trouble filling the position. They might be willing to take a chance on you.”
“You know, you’re both right.” Kara puts the pillow down. She grabs their empty glasses from the coffee table. “I’ve been unemployed for less than twelve hours. No sense in giving up hope. Don’t call James just yet, but I appreciate the offer.”
“That’s the spirit,” Alex says, taking the glasses from her. “Now, I will graciously allow you to pick the next movie because you’ve had the worst day out of the three of us, but I reserve the right to veto if you pick—”
“The Goonies!” Kara shouts out as Alex groans.
Kelly is already queuing it up.
Maybe it’s been a terrible, no good, very bad day, but as long as she’s got family, Kara can’t help feeling like things will turn around. They have to.
It’s three weeks later when Kara starts feeling less sure that things are going to turn around.
If her life were a movie, this is where the depression montage would play. She wears sweatpants every day and barely bothers to brush her hair. In a fit of frustration at the tangles one morning, she gives herself bangs, and immediately regrets her choice. Alex flinches when they facetime, but Kelly’s really nice about it. Mostly, Kara spends every day sitting on her couch checking countless job websites and updating her LinkedIn profile with everything she’s ever done.
She’s applied to every entry-level and junior producer position out there, plus a few of the senior ones, and gotten exactly zero calls back. She’s out of flour and her kitchen is a disaster from all the grief baking. Eliza has also very gently started refusing to take any more cookies or brownies or cupcakes into work, so now Kara is out of tupperware, too, having filled all of hers with the extras she can’t pawn off on her neighbors.
She looks around her Midvale apartment and frowns. Kara can probably manage another month’s rent or so if she eats nothing but ramen. Eliza says her old bedroom is always open to her, but that smacks of a desperation Kara isn’t ready to embrace yet. It’s one thing when you’re fresh out of school. But now, at 30? She considers branching out to production assistant jobs, but finally decides that Kelly’s offer to reach out to James for her is worth a shot.
James calls Kara back on a Tuesday afternoon.
He lets her know that there’s actually a junior producer position that’s about to open up on his show, since their current guy is leaving for cable. When he offers to put in a good word for her with HR, Kara thanks him, but doesn’t feel particularly hopeful—there are going to be a million people applying for this job. Her resume still is what it is; even with someone helping to smooth the way, it’s unlikely she’ll get noticed.
Still, she clicks ‘submit’ in the online portal when the posting goes live on Thursday, then goes to bed, fully expecting to never hear from anyone at LBC again.
Kara wakes up on Friday morning, not to the sound of her alarm, but to the sound of her phone ringing. It takes her a moment to identify the sound, and then to remember where she put her phone last night. Finally seeing it on the floor several feet away, Kara squints blearily at the screen to see if it’s worth getting up to answer.
It’s a Metropolis area code.
Still wrapped up in her sheets, she falls off the bed in her haste to answer and nearly declines the call, picking up on what must be the final ring. “Yes, hello? This is Kara Danvers, hello?”
“Kara Danvers, hi,” a smooth voice comes through the line. “This is Lex Luthor over at Luthor Broadcasting Corporation. Have I caught you at a bad time?”
Kara tries not to squeal audibly, untangling herself from the comforter. “No, no bad time, I’m free as a bird. What’s up?”
What’s up? Kara hits herself in the forehead and bites on her fist, cringing. She gets off the floor and sits back on her bed, dragging the blankets with her.
“Terrific.” Lex laughs. “Listen, I'm calling because I received your resume, and it just so happens we’re looking for somebody at the moment.”
“I’ll take it!” Kara can’t help it, this is the first chance she’s gotten. He could be offering her a craft services job at this point, for all she cares.
“Well, wait,” Lex says. “I haven’t told you what it is yet."
“Sorry.” Kara puts her fist back in her mouth.
“Our morning show has a vacancy and—“
“I’ll take it!” Kara shouts again. It’s the junior producer job. She can’t believe it.
“And we’re interviewing a bunch of people,” Lex continues, undeterred by her interruption this time. “If you’re interested, I'd love to have you in so we can talk about it.”
“Sure, yes, absolutely.” Kara is practically bouncing in bed now. She’s great in interviews, and she’s been sketching out segment ideas and potential news stories for weeks (she’s had nothing better to do). “Just tell me where to go and who to talk to!”
“Let’s say three today, if you can?” Lex sounds like he might be typing in the background. “I’ll send you an e-mail shortly with the details.”
“Thank you, thank you!” Kara can’t believe her luck. “I’m looking forward to it!”
“Good, I wasn’t sure, you’re a little hard to read,” Lex says, chuckling. “We’ll see you at three.”
As soon as she gets off the phone with him, Kara calls Alex to tell her the news. “I mean, it's a little crazy to get a call from Mr. Luthor himself, normally don't they have minions to do that kind of this? But it’s the junior producer position James told me about, can you believe it? I can’t believe it!”
“Kara, that’s phenomenal!” Alex sounds just as excited as she is. “Hey, if you get the job, just move in with us until you figure something else out. No way can you commute from Midvale every day.”
“That would be perfect, thank you, Alex!” Kara’s phone vibrates with an e-mail—it’s from Lex Luthor with the details on the interview. “Okay, I gotta get ready, wish me luck!”
Rather than risk traffic and face the certain impossibility of finding an open spot in midtown Metropolis, Kara drives to Alex and Kelly’s apartment and leaves her car there. She takes a bus the rest of the way, watching out the window as the squat warehouse buildings and small bars of Alex’s hipster neighborhood give way to taller buildings, and then sleek skyscrapers when she reaches the center of the city.
She makes it to the LBC Tower in the heart of midtown with more than two hours to spare before her interview. LBC is the tallest building in a four block radius and, from this perspective, it’s inspiring and imposing at the same time. Stepping off the bus and cheerfully thanking the driver, Kara looks around the open plaza at the base of the limestone skyscraper. The space is dominated by two large fountains set on clean concrete pavers alongside tasteful, manicured planters. There’s a steady flow of important looking people in suits streaming in and out of the central revolving doors.
I look like I belong at this network, Kara thinks, adjusting her glasses and catching her reflection in a window as she wanders around the plaza. The tweed blazer and slim chinos she chose make her feel confident, her cross-body bag swung over a shoulder. She decides she’s going to kill time going over her show ideas. And maybe grabbing a bite to eat, she amends, eyeing the stands of food vendors on both sides of the busy crosstown street in front, separating LBC from a municipal park across the way.
Waiting in line at a hot dog cart on the corner where she got off the bus, Kara thinks about how cool this job would be. LBC has one of the oldest news departments in network television; they’ve won more journalism and broadcasting awards over the years than any of the other big networks—even ABC and NBC. Sure, the show she’s interviewing for, Daybreak, hasn’t won any awards lately, but it’s a real morning show on a real network. Who cares if it’s struggling a little bit? Not every network can have Good Morning America. A junior producer position here could be the start of great things.
She takes her food across the street to the beautiful park that takes up the whole block directly across from the plaza. The lush spring foliage makes a pleasant green barrier capable of absorbing all but the most enthusiastic honking and yelling from the nearby avenues. Surrounded on all sides by gleaming buildings and the bustle of the city, and ringed by a low stone wall with regular entryways, the tree canopy makes it feel like an oasis in the concrete desert.
Kara decides to eat her first hot dog at a bench midway down the block, looking back across the street at LBC. A pigeon lands on the bench next to her, cooing hopefully at the crumpled foil. Kara tries shooing it away. “Get your own hot dog,” she says. The pigeon just cocks a grey head at her, fluffs the iridescent feathers on its neck.
“Fine.” Kara sighs. She's always been susceptible to a good pout, even on a bird face. She breaks off a tiny corner of the bun and throws it on the ground. “The internet says bread isn’t very nutritional for you, you know.”
The pigeon hops down, grabs the scrap, and bobs away. “What, no thank you?” Kara can’t help laughing.
She finishes eating, people-watches for a few minutes, and then pulls out her notes to review.
After flipping through her notebook for a couple of hours (and making one return trip to the cart for a third hotdog), Kara finally glances at her watch and carefully wipes the ketchup off her fingers. She chucks the wax paper and foil into a trash can, and jogs across the street, then checks her outfit again in the windows just across the plaza from LBC’s main entrance. After adjusting her shirt collar, she wipes down her glasses before tucking her hem in straight. Lex Luthor isn’t going to know what hit him.
Kara walks into the cavernous lobby at ten minutes to three and makes her way across the dark marble floor, looking around and feeling like a kid on their first trip to DisneyLand. The enormity of the overall space is emphasized by the presence of evenly spaced structural columns with Art Deco motifs, and there are gorgeous pieces of art on the cream colored walls, above matching marble benches. The lobby is bisected about thirty feet in by a security desk with a line of turnstiles on either side, two banks of elevators and a double pair of escalators another twenty feet behind the barrier. Along the left wall is an exhibit of all the current show posters and stills from some of their famous broadcasts going back to the fifties.
She heads straight to the main desk, per Lex’s instructions.
“Hi,” Kara squints at the woman’s badge, holding out her own drivers license,” Vasquez! I’m Kara Danvers, I’m here for—“
“Danvers, Danvers,” says the woman behind the desk, scanning a list in front of her. “Oh, here you are. Daybreak, huh?”
“Yes ma’am!” Kara smiles.
“Sure.” The security guard looks at her license dubiously. “Okay, well, here’s your badge. Scan it at the turnstile to my left. Then head over to the right bank of elevators and scan it again at the kiosk. Check in at the desk once you’re on the right floor.”
“Thank you!” Kara flashes the woman a big smile.
“Good luck, Kara Danvers.” The woman gives Kara a distracted smile in return, already looking at the person who came in behind her, and waves her towards the elevators.
She follows Vasquez’s directions and is whisked up to the forty-fifth floor. As soon as she exits the elevator, an assistant seated at a massive desk greets her and directs her past a sitting area and through large double doors into an office labeled, Lex Luthor, President, Television & Streaming Programming.
Where the lobby is ornate, Lex’s office is minimalistic. To the left of the doors, there’s a modern couch in supple-looking light brown leather on a shiny steel frame and two matching chairs arranged around a low glass table, a tall set of identical glass shelves with more trophies and award plaques on them than books against the far wall, and a giant desk clearly from the same catalogue is in front of floor-to-ceiling windows on the right side of the office. It’s a little cold and impersonal for Kara’s taste, but maybe, when you’re an executive, warm and fuzzy isn’t the vibe you go for.
“Kara Danvers!” Lex gets up from behind the desk, the windows behind him affording Kara the best view of the Metropolis skyline that she’s ever had. “It’s great to meet you. No trouble finding us?”
“Nope!” Kara shakes his hand and Lex gestures for her to take a seat on the couch along the wall. It’s even softer than it looks. “It’s such a pleasure, Mr. Luthor.”
“Please, call me Lex.” He sinks into a chair opposite her and crosses one leg, balancing his right ankle on his left knee, and smoothing out his pants.
“Thank you for having me in, Lex.” She can't entirely contain her curiosity about getting a call from the man himself. "I'm so honored you called, I expected to schedule with a secretary or someone."
Lex chuckles. "Normally you would have. Let's just say I'm particularly invested in finding the perfect person for this position." He smiles. “So, I just got off the phone with one of your references, J’onn J’onzz. He says you’re very talented and an incredibly hard worker; the most promising producer he’s ever fired, in fact.”
“J’onn’s great!” Kara makes a note to send J’onn a thank you fruit basket. “I’ve worked for him for the last eight years. Couldn’t ask for a better boss.”
“That’s great, that’s great,” says Lex, nodding. “So, you’re a fan of our morning program?”
“Yes!” Kara smiles. “I think it has so much potential and—“
“Yeah, yeah, we know it's terrible.” Lex laughs as if this doesn’t matter to him. “Perpetually in fourth place behind The Today Show, Good Morning America, and that thing on CBS, whatever it’s called.”
“Well,” Kara hedges, “sure, it’s got room—“
“It’s a source of constant humiliation.” Lex interrupts her. “Last year, in the network softball league, the CBS team wore hats that said, ‘At least we're not Daybreak.’ Most of our small regional affiliates don’t even run the show after their own morning news program—they run infomercials instead. The anchors of the show are,” Lex spreads the fingers on his right hand and raises it a couple of inches from where it had been resting on his leg, tilts it back and forth, “semi-talented.”
“I think Andrea Rojas is a pro,” Kara tries.
“Heinous,” Lex counters.
“And Morgan Edge, he’s, ah, a solid reporter.” Kara knows she’s reaching. Edge is a notorious moron.
“He’s foul, and also a lawsuit waiting to happen.” Lex settles back in his chair, eyes on Kara. It feels a little like he’s trying to see how she’ll react.
“Okay,” Kara says, sitting up straighter on the couch and summoning as much enthusiasm as she can, “is Daybreak a crappy show right now? Yes, but it’s on a network.” Lex’s eyebrows go up, but he doesn’t stop her so Kara continues. “And not just any network. This is one of the most legendary news divisions in the entire history of television! Daybreak just needs someone who believes in it, who understands that a national platform is an invaluable resource, that no story is too low or too high to reach for!”
Lex is looking at her with his mouth slightly open, forehead wrinkled by how high his eyebrows still are. He waits for a second to see she’s done and, when Kara doesn’t continue, he asks, “Are you going to break out into song?”
“No,” Kara says, regretting a little of her energy. “Look, Mr. Luthor, Lex—“
Lex interrupts her again. “Daybreak's facilities are antiquated. It's understaffed, underfunded. And the pay. God. It's awful, about half of what you made at Hey, How The Hell Are You, Midvale.” He starts ticking the points off on his fingers. “You've never been an executive producer. You're too young. Nobody's ever heard of you.”
“Executive producer?” Kara asks, suddenly confused, she slouches back a tiny bit. “I’m not here for that job, I’m applying for the junior position.”
Lex waves his hand dismissively. “We’ve already filled that internally.”
Shoot. Kara can feel her heart sinking. She might as well make her case since she’s here, even though Lex doesn’t seem remotely impressed with her.
“Did J’onn tell you that I’ve basically been running ‘Morning Midvale for the last two years, that I’ve had experience directing, being the lead producer—that I’ve worked basically every position there is to work on a morning show?” Kara takes a breath, inching forward on the couch as she straightens again. Lex frowns slightly, but Kara’s just warming up. Impassioned speeches are what she does. “Daybreak needs what I need, Mr. Luthor, someone who believes that it can succeed. Trust me, I know you don't have any reason to believe in me, but I work harder than anyone else. I'm in first, I'm out last. I devote myself completely to my job. It's what I do. It's all I am. I...You can ask anyone—“
Kara doesn’t realize that she’s moved all the way to the edge of the couch until she almost falls off it. She immediately sits back, but she can see the small moue of displeasure on Lex’s face, and she already knows she’s come on too strong. The damage is done.
“Well, that’s embarrassing,” he says.
He’s giving her the same dubious look that the security guard had given her license—like maybe she’s counterfeit. Kara can’t help feeling a little angry. Why did he even call her in if he thinks she’s so unqualified? It’s just mean. Kara looks at her lap and decides to cut her losses. She stands up before Lex can tell her to leave, grabs her messenger bag from the floor, and heads to the door.
“Thanks for the opportunity,” she says, turning back to Lex, who’s still sitting in the chair, his brows just barely furrowed in confusion. She pulls the door open. “I’ll see myself out.”
As she walks back to the elevator bank, past the assistant, and then into an elevator in a daze, Kara wonders how exactly that went so wrong. How could she blow a chance like that? Now LBC probably won’t even consider her for a junior position, if one does ever open up again. Why can’t she ever just keep her mouth shut, just be normal, and not be too much?
Kara stands motionless in the middle of the elevator and stares, unseeing, at the back wall, then drops her shoulders and sighs. She hears the clip of heels as someone enters behind her, but she’s distracted, still replaying the disastrous final moments with Lex. She startles when the person behind her clears their throat.
“You know, the buttons are on the front wall, right?” a voice offers. It’s a lovely voice, a little amused but not mean.
“What?” Kara turns around.
Kara feels her mouth open again but no sound comes out. There’s a woman in the elevator with her, pointing towards the floor selection panel, and, normally, that wouldn’t be enough to make Kara’s brain white out like this, but this woman might be the most beautiful person that Kara has ever seen. Dark hair, perfect cheekbones, a jaw to die for...Kara looks down the woman’s body, tries processing the black skirt suit and red blouse (it matches her lipstick, her brain supplies unhelpfully), but then gets stuck on high heels that look like they could double as weaponry.
The woman clears her throat again and Kara looks back at her face. The woman’s eyes are laughing, Kara can’t decide if they’re green or blue, and she’s clearly resisting a smirk.
Kara feels herself kick back into gear. “Oh. Oh gosh. I’m sorry. I’m just. Yes. Lobby. I’m going to the lobby.” Kara closes her mouth as the woman hits the lobby button.
Great, apparently word vomit is just going to be a thing that happens to her today. First the job interview and now Kara’s making a fool of herself in front of someone too pretty to be real.
“Good day?” The woman asks.
Kara leans against the opposite wall and closes her eyes. “I don’t think so, no.”
The elevator doors start to close.
“Shame,” the woman offers and Kara opens her eyes again. The woman looks like she might be about to add something else when the movement of the doors is arrested by an enormous handbag being shoved violently between them at the last possible moment.
Kara looks at the small blonde woman struggling to pry the doors apart from the outside and feels her jaw drop open. It’s Cat Grant, quite possibly the most celebrated television journalist of the last two decades. Sure, there was that whole on-air breakdown a couple years ago where she cursed out some poor radio jock—now that Kara thinks about it, Ms. Grant hasn’t been on the air since. But, gosh. Cat Grant is stepping into an elevator with her and, honestly, it doesn’t matter that this day has been so crappy, because Ms. Grant is one of her heroes and now she’s here, standing in practically the same space.
Cat finally succeeds in getting the doors open and she steps into the elevator with a huff, smoothing down the front of her dress. Kara’s next thought is that she’s so much tinier in person than she appears on TV. Cat reaches past the other woman to press the ‘lobby’ button, in spite of the fact that it’s already illuminated.
Kara chews on the inside of her cheek for a moment. She has to say something, she’ll never forgive herself if she doesn’t.
“Ms. Grant,” she starts, breaking into a huge grin. Cat turns to Kara as if she’s just noticed there’s another person in the elevator. Kara barrels on. “I am such a huge admirer of yours. My whole family watched you growing up.” Kara takes a step closer as the elevator starts to descend. “Of all the anchors, you were, by far, the greatest reporter. I mean, when you were in Kosovo, it was like I was in Kosovo.”
Cat turns away from Kara, to the other woman in the elevator. “Should I assume you’re responsible for her?” Her voice is dripping with disdain.
“No,” the woman says, putting her hands up. “I’m just here to work the elevator.”
Cat turns back to Kara. “Are you done?” She couldn’t look any grumpier if she were actually trying.
“Yes,” Kara says, smile fading a bit. “Yes, sorry.”
They ride in silence for the next twenty floors, Cat furiously tapping away at her phone and Kara looking down at her shoes and tugging on the strap of her bag. The elevator dings as they arrive in the lobby.
“You’re in my way.” Cat gestures at where Kara had moved in her excitement: she’s standing directly in front of the doors.
“Right,” Kara says, shifting to the side. “Sorry about that.”
Cat sweeps out of the elevator and Kara hears a chuckle from the woman standing across from her. The woman offers a small smile and shakes her head in what might be commiseration, then moves to leave the elevator, too.
“Wait!” Kara says. “You know her!"
“Yes, I do.” The woman grimaces, one foot out of the elevator, glancing after Cat. “She’s the third worst person in the world.” She looks at Kara for a second, her expression softening. “I hope your day gets better,” she offers and then walks into the lobby.
The elevator doors close before Kara realizes that she needs to get out.
Kara leaves LBC in the beginnings of a funk. As she makes her way back through the lobby and then out the doors onto the plaza, she doesn’t even appreciate the warm afternoon sunshine—the hopeful mood she spent most of the day in is now firmly soured. Kara mentally ticks through everything that went wrong in the last hour. First, the interview itself, then Kara made a total fool of herself in front of a woman so gorgeous she should probably be in front of a camera instead of behind it, and, finally, it turns out Cat Grant is a real stick in the mud in real life.
Eliza always says bad things come in threes, so, with any luck, maybe that means the weekend will turn things around for her.
Kara is heading back to the bus stop, walking past an especially large planter near the edge of the plaza and absentmindedly admiring the meticulous pruning on the trees, but mostly thinking about how many potstickers it’s going to take to salvage this day, when her phone rings. She picks it up without even bothering to look at the caller ID.
“Kara Danvers?” Lex Luthor’s voice comes through.
“Yes?” Kara answers, putting on her best customer service voice. Kara’s not sure why he’s calling. She doesn’t need him to tell her it didn’t go well.
“Do you really think you can do this job?”
“I know I can do it,” Kara says firmly, hope rising in her chest. “I promise.”
“You start on Monday after the show. Be here by 10:30.” Lex hangs up.
The whoop of joy Kara lets out startles every single pigeon in earshot.
Kelly and Alex take her out for pizza to celebrate.
With Eliza’s help, they move all of Kara’s stuff into their spare room the next day. Before she leaves Midvale, Kara sells her car to the 16 year old daughter of her downstairs neighbors for $200, and throws in a bottle of automotive oil with a warning that the kid should “probably add the oil soon, like today.” She won’t be needing a car in Metropolis and she can always borrow Alex’s or rent one if she wants to drive to Eliza’s for dinner.
As Kara looks around on Sunday night at their guest bedroom—now her bedroom, she supposes—crammed to the ceiling with everything she owns, she can’t help the enormous smile on her face. If everything goes well, she’ll be able to find a place of her own soon, but for now, this is pretty much perfect.
She’s about to be the Executive Producer of a major morning show, on one of the most celebrated neworks of all time. Gosh, if only her parents could see her: working for the same network they all watched together when Kara was growing up. It’s almost too good to be true.
She spends forever deciding on the right outfit, finally settling on a navy blazer with a light blue oxford shirt, deep grey slacks, and dark brown loafers. There, Kara thinks, standing back to admire the outfit draped over her desk chair, that’ll tell everyone she’s ready to do this job right.
Laying in the dark, starfished on her bed and too excited to go to sleep, Kara plays through how her first day might go. She’s got so many ideas already. Daybreak has just gotten stale, and with a little effort and some encouragement, Kara has no doubt they can start turning things around.
Almost all of the show segments are done in the studio, which gets visually monotonous after too long, and they aren’t very imaginative with their bookings. It’s gotten boring to watch. Maybe she can get the anchors out for some fun ‘on the street’ style stories, broaden the entertainment they bring in, and inject some life back into everything. I mean, thinks Kara as she turns over underneath her sheets and tries to get comfortable, who wants to bake brownies with Celine Dion’s personal chef? Nobody’s heard of him.
So what if she’s never been an executive producer before? She’s going to be the best executive producer Daybreak has ever had.
Alex must have been needed at the hospital and Kelly has already left for an early morning client when Kara gets up on Monday morning. There’s a post it note on the fridge confirming that Alex was paged in and telling her to “eat whatever.”
Kara takes her time making coffee, then watches Daybreak when it comes on at seven as she eats cereal, grimacing at the programming during the intro package. The special guest teased in the first hour is some hockey mascot and the news coverage is fairly dismal—Andrea Rojas is making an honest effort as the main anchor, but her co-anchor, Morgan Edge, seems more interested in leering at the neckline of Andrea’s pinstripe shirt than he is in reading from his prompter.
This is exactly the kind of programming Kara will put a stop to—Andrea needs something to work with and Morgan could do with some better material to hold his attention.
She opens her e-mail on her laptop, puts the TV on mute in the background, and pulls up the budgets and general programming documents that Lex had his assistant send her on Friday night. Kara reviews everything one last time and jots down a couple of line item questions in her notebook.
At eight thirty, Kara shuts the TV off, throws everything she’ll need into her messenger bag, and heads to the bathroom to shower.
It’s a gorgeous morning when she steps outside, still cool but with the same hint of warmth in the air from Friday. Kara catches the bus at 9:15 and makes her way to midtown, pulling her notes out again and adding another segment idea as the buildings fly by. She’s still got about forty minutes to kill when she gets to LBC, so she drinks a second cup of coffee sitting at the same bench in the park and scopes out the falafel stand ten yards away.
At just after ten, Kara walks into the building and up to the same security guard from the previous week.
”It’s Daybreak, right?” Vasquez asks her. “You a new intern?”
“Uh, no!” replies Kara, a little startled. “I’m the new Executive Producer!”
“Huh,” Vasquez says, looking at Kara with the same skeptical expression as she had on Friday and handing her an ID. “Don’t unpack.”
Kara frowns. She’s about to ask why Vasquez would say such a thing, and whether that’s a first or last name, when a deep voice calls out from behind her.
Kara turns around to see two people making their way toward her across the marble floor. The first, a tall man dressed in a violet button down and grey slacks she recognizes immediately as Kelly’s brother James. They’ve met a few times—Kelly had even tried to set them up at one point, but it hadn’t gone anywhere. He’s flanked by a slim young woman in a loose, light blue linen dress.
“Hi James, it’s great to see you again. It’s been too long!” Kara says as they approach, smile stretching across her face.
“Agreed.“ James smiles back. “Well, I’m your—“
“Lead director for Daybreak !” Kara pumps his outstretched hand. “I’m so excited we’re going to be working together.”
“Likewise, Kara.” He turns to the women next to him. “And this is Nia Nal, she’s your junior producer.”
“Hi Ms. Danvers. It is so great to meet you!” Kara shakes her hand, too. “James has already told me all about you and I looked up old tapes from ‘Morning Midvale and I just have to say, the show really got so much better when you were bumped to producer four years ago, I mean, the breadth of stories really makes a local show, you know? Your segments were always the best—”
James clears his throat, and Nia turns bright red and lets go of Kara’s hand.
“Follow me,” says James. “They're just cleaning up the set, so we came up to grab you. We’ll give you a tour, introduce you to the anchors, and then you can join us for the post-show meeting and Monday round table.”
“So, Nia, right?” Nia nods at Kara as they start walking back through the lobby, scanning their badges at the security gates. “How long have you been with Daybreak?”
“Just under a year,” Nia says. “I was a production assistant until six days ago, but after William left us two weeks ago, and our senior producer quit, I got moved up! It’s so great to have you, I had to do the whole show by myself yesterday; at least they’d already planned it out.”
Nia sounds so excited that it takes Kara a moment to process the fact that she’s just revealed several worrying things, a major piece of which is that apparently Daybreak can’t keep a producer in any position for long. Kara swallows hard. She’s been hoping that there would be experienced staff to help her manage the transition; now she’s just worried about there being any staff. At least Nia hadn’t chosen the hockey mascot.
“Well, congratulations on your promotion,” she manages. Nia’s energetic and the fact that she’d searched out Kara’s old tapes sometime in the last two days probably means she’s pretty driven—Kara can work with that. James eyes her like he’s wondering how Kara’s taking the news and Kara turns to him. “James, if I’m remembering right, you’ve been at LBC for five years?”
“Sure have,” he says, nodding. The three of them make their way over to a set of down escalators hidden behind the elevator bank. “I was a director in the online media division for The Daily Planet for seven before that. That’s how I know your cousin.”
Kara hopes her sigh of relief is internal. At least James has some solid experience. She’s going to need the inside track on the show if she’s going to get up to speed quickly enough not to get fired her first week out. “You never entertained the idea of moving over the production side for Daybreak?” she finds herself asking. “Surely given your experience you’d be a good fit.”
“Oh, no,” James says, laughing. “No way.” He stops laughing. “It’s a great job, though, I’m sure you’ll love it.” The slightly pained expression his face when he says that does not inspire confidence.
On the escalator down to the basement where Daybreak is housed, James explains that the tech and off-camera side of the operation is mostly older hands like him, production being the exception.
As they get deeper into the tower, Kara can’t help noticing that the hallways and rooms they pass are a mess compared to the art-deco beauty of the lobby or the glass-corporate chic of the executive floor. Maybe industrial-apocalypse is a decorating style?
The ceiling is a mishmash of exposed ductwork and bundles of cords, the sporadically placed fluorescent lights buzz and flicker rather ominously. Stepping under a massive polyester palm tree that’s been shoved next to a styrofoam Santa, Kara almost trips over what looks like a human skeleton. She desperately hopes it’s a halloween decoration.
“Sorry about that,” Nia says, kicking a femur out of the way and under a filing cabinet. “The writers got forced out of their room when it flooded a month ago, and we had to move them into the prop room for a few weeks. Nobody’s had time to move anything back. The leak is fixed now, sort of? But, honestly, I kinda don’t want to tempt fate, you know?”
Kara nods and clutches the strap of her messenger bag tightly across her chest. She doesn’t want to ask what sort of means.
“Through here is the nerve center for Daybreak, ” James says, waving his hand at a massive fire door with a flourish as they approach it. “The entire team, more or less, has their desks on the other side of this door; and the writers room, producer offices, and the dressing rooms are also through here.”
“Damn,” he grimaces when the handle pops off as Nia tries to pull open the door, “that was one of our good doorknobs.”
Kara looks at James to see if he’s joking, but he’s just rubbing the back of his head in frustration.
So, not joking, then. Great.
As Nia tries to reattach the knob, James starts telling Kara about the on-air talent.
Of the two anchors, Andrea Rojas has been around for the last eight years, while Morgan Edge was hired last year (“To be honest, the second chair is kind of a revolving door,” James adds “the powers that be keep insisting that it be a man, but I’m not sure that’s worked out for them”). Kara catches some sarcasm in his tone at that, but before she can ask him what that’s about, James is already talking about the weather guy, Querl “Brainy” Dox (“Weird but great, pretty sure that’s a job requirement for weather guys, you know?”), and the color story reporter, Siobhan Smythe. She can’t miss Nia’s eye roll at Siobhan’s name and Kara finally interrupts James when he pauses for breath.
“What’s wrong with Siobhan?” She asks. Nia and James look at each other. The doorknob chooses that moment to pop back on with a satisfying click and Nia pulls the door open as if it’s made of broken glass.
“Well,” Nia starts, but James puts up his hand to stop her as they finally walk into the open bullpen of the Daybreak offices.
The space reminds Kara of every backstage area she’s ever seen—only somehow more crowded and chaotic. The room is actually two stories tall and the extra vertical is a relief to Kara after the claustrophobic, sub-basement hallways that preceded it. There’s a metal catwalk about twelve feet up which circles the entire room along the walls, providing access to half a dozen second floor offices and accessed by ladder-like staircases breaking up the corners on either side. The main floor is filled with tables, cubicles, clothing racks, and shelving placed so randomly that the overall effect is more like a horizontal anthill than anything conducive to work. Dozens of people are milling about, or sitting at desks and talking, and, somehow, absolutely none of them look like they’re doing anything productive.
“Kara, we want to give you a chance to form your own first impressions, okay?” James smiles at her when she finishes taking in the scene. “We’ll be happy to help you get a feel for anyone once you’ve met them.”
That sounds...exceedingly fair. It’s what Kara would hope for herself if she were a current employee. She nods. “Okay, who should I meet first?”
“Andrea Rojas, for sure,” Nia says. “She’ll be upset if she’s not your first stop.”
James nods in agreement, then clears his throat. “Find me before you see Edge, though, okay? I’ll go with you. And we’ve got the morning post-meeting in twenty. I’ll introduce you to the staff then and we can get rolling on the week.”
“Why would you go with me?” Kara furrows her brow, but someone is calling for James’s attention from across the room.
“Just find me, okay?” He flashes her another smile and jogs away.
“Andrea’s dressing room is right in that corner, past all the weird band instruments,” Nia says brightly. “That reminds me, I need to call that high school and see if they’re coming back for any of it. One of our writers almost broke his ankle on the tuba last week.” She smiles at Kara. “I’ll be in my cubicle if you need me. Just shout!”
And with that, Nia disappears into the warren of desks, leaving Kara to walk across to Andrea’s door by herself.
Kara steps over a pile of trumpets and pauses in front of the door, decorated with a framed glamour shot of Andrea competing in Miss Universe for Argentina. She tugs on her sleeves, then glances down at her front to make sure she hasn’t somehow spilled coffee on her shirt or gotten breakfast on her pants. Satisfied, she knocks once.
“Come in,” Kara hears from inside.
She opens the door, remembering what Nia had said about being gentle with the knob, and steps over the threshold into a cramped dressing room.
Andrea Rojas is sitting, back to the door, at a theater-style vanity, the rectangular mirror surrounded by round bulbs. She’s still in her outfit from the broadcast—a pinstripe button up with a wide collar and black slacks—and she’s perched on a low stool taking off makeup. She looks at Kara in the mirror.
“You’re not my postmates.” Andrea frowns.
“No, sorry, I’m not.” Kara offers a big smile to soften the blow and closes the door gently behind her, before extending her hand to Andrea. She spares a second to think that Andrea is even prettier in person, but reminds herself that she’s here in a professional capacity. “I’m Kara Danvers, the new Executive Producer! It’s great to meet you.”
Andrea rolls her eyes and makes no move to get up.
Kara lets her hand drop back to her side, feeling a little nervous now for reasons that have nothing to do with Andrea’s bone structure. She looks around the room quickly. The only other seating is a couch on the far side of the dressing room, but it’s covered in shopping bags. Kara decides to stay put by the door.
Andrea hums. “Do you know how many EP's I've had in the past eight years?” She goes back to looking at her own reflection in the mirror, tucks her long hair behind her ears, and continues taking off her mascara methodically as if Kara isn’t even there.
“Eleven.” Andrea interrupts her, without so much as a glance. “If they're stupid, they get fired, and if they're smart, they quit.” She gestures back at Kara. “And now look what I get.”
“Well,” Kara tries again, fiddling with the strap on her bag, “I can imagine it’s been a little rough with the ratings, but I’m confident that—“
“That’s cute.” Andrea tosses the wipe she’s using into a small trash can next to her stool and turns around. “You think we just need a little confidence to get us out of last place?“ She stands up and brushes past Kara as she walks over to a clothing rack set next to the door. “Do you think I enjoy working for a network that spends more on one episode of a dating show about zoo animals than it does on our entire weekly budget?”
“No,” Kara says, “But—“
“And I’ve never had a decent co-anchor, ever,” Andrea continues, steamrolling over Kara, and starting to unbutton her shirt. Kara averts her eyes. “It’s just a revolving door of cretinous morons, of which Morgan is simply the latest iteration. Our ratings are in the shitter. I mean, how long can the show even limp along like this?”
Kara risks a glance back down but Andrea is now in only her bra and underwear with her back to Kara. Kara feels her entire body blush. She covers her eyes and flounders for a moment, tries to remember what it was she was saying. She can hear Andrea moving hangers around.
“I know that everyone's been through a lot,” Kara starts, ”and I know that there's been so many challenges along the way. But, I really think—“
“Jesus Christ you can look now,” Andrea says, grumpy, as if she’d been hoping Kara was looking the whole time. She’s changed into jeans and a sleeveless black blouse. “Look, nothing against you, but you’re going to fail like everyone else and then you'll be gone, like everyone else.” Andrea adjusts the hem of her shirt, tucks in the front, and then gives Kara a withering glare. “And me? I will still be here, pulling the train up the hill with my teeth.” She looks Kara up and down. “I mean, come on, you’re what, fifteen?”
“We’re the same age!” Kara says, indignantly. “I looked you up on wikipedia.”
“Right, whatever.” Andrea rolls her eyes, walking past Kara to the door. “Welcome to Daybreak. Enjoy the pain, Gidget.”
Andrea grabs for the doorknob and lets out a cry of frustration when it pops off in her hand. Kara reaches over to help, but Andrea ignores her. “I’ve done this a thousand times,” she says, smacking Kara’s hand away.
“I’m going to fix that,” Kara calls after her, but Andrea is already down the hall, muttering something about a postmates delivery and vodka.
Kara sighs and steps back into the hall, pulling Andrea’s door closed behind her. Heading down the narrow path between cabinets of god knows what and a set of enormous shelves with old tapes, she spots the salt and pepper hair of Morgan Edge.
Kara looks at her watch, the morning meeting is in about ten minutes and she doesn’t have time to track down James in order to talk to Morgan. She’s sure it’ll be fine.
“Mr. Edge? Morgan?” Kara walks quickly to catch up with him as he reaches his own dressing room, an absolutely absurd life-size poster of him in a three piece suit affixed to the door. It’s been photoshopped in a couple areas that Kara would rather not think about. She looks away quickly and meets Morgan’s leer in person, instead.
“Yes?” He’s not even looking at her face right now.
“Hi! I’m Kara Danvers, your new EP.” Kara sticks out her hand and Morgan takes it. He doesn’t shake it, though, just holds it and runs his thumb over the back of her hand.
“Thrilled to meet you,” he says, still not letting go of her hand. Kara is getting the heebie jeebies.
“I was just thinking,” Kara says, disengaging awkwardly and figuring that what went wrong with Andrea was that she didn’t take initiative quickly enough, “maybe we could go over a few ideas. I’m hoping maybe we could get you on the street and do some remotes.”
“Yeah, that’s gonna be a no for me,” Morgan says, shaking his head. “I don't like to leave the studio. I like climate control.” Morgan is still looking somewhere in the vicinity of her chest. He reaches up and loosens his tie. “But, if you want, we could discuss this further privately. What size are your feet?”
“I’m sorry?” Kara says. She must have misheard him. Feet?
“You wear about an eight? Eight and a half?” He’s looking down at her loafers now. Kara wishes she’d waited for James. “How do you feel about having them photographed?”
“What?” Kara must have missed something.
“Good?” Morgan finally looks at her face, he seems hopeful. “Feel good about that? You should, I keep them very classy.”
“I...I don’t…” She’s is at a complete loss now.
“Can I show you my blog? ‘Sexy Feet?’” Morgan asks, gesturing to his dressing room. There is no way in heck Kara is entering that space.
“Um, no...” she says, laughing nervously, and taking a small step back. Maybe he’s joking. Her back hits the shelf with the tapes.
“Yes?” He asks, leaning toward her just a bit, his innocent smile completely at odds with this whole conversation.
“No!” Kara says firmly, straightening her spine and trying to make herself as physically imposing as possible.
“Fine. Your loss.” Morgan makes a face like she’s just kicked him, then turns and walks into his dressing room, slamming the door.
Kara stares at the door for a moment, wondering exactly how Morgan still has a job in broadcasting and thinking back to Lex’s comment about lawsuits. That’s going to be a problem she’ll have to deal with eventually—possibly sooner rather than later, if he’s like this with everyone.
She looks down at her watch. She’s got five minutes to find James or Nia to make sure she’s in the right place for the morning meeting. Remembering what Nia had said about just shouting for her, Kara takes another look around and then cups her hand to her mouth.
“Nia?!” She tries.
There’s a loud crash from somewhere across the space and Kara sees what appear to be books falling from a high shelf as Nia’s voice calls “Timber!” before she suddenly pops up in front of Kara like she’d been there the whole time.
“Ah, morning meeting? Where is it?” Kara is really struggling to keep her face neutral. Don’t look alarmed, project calm, she thinks to herself.
“Follow me!” Nia turns and leads Kara through the maze at the center of the room, weaving around cubicles and narrowly avoiding the piles of tapes and random props that are piled precariously on nearly every available surface. Kara is pleased to note that Nia seems to know everyone as they walk through, greeting folks and asking about family or weekends. If Nia is a little green in terms of experience, it’s nice to see that she clearly has the people skills Kara is going to need once they start changing the show around.
Nia leads her into a large room just off the bullpen. There’s an enormous rectangular table, with what must be fifteen chairs around it, and another twenty lining the walls. James pops in behind them.
“Sorry to disappear on you, Kara, I was going over layouts for tomorrow’s fourth segment. I’ll go with you to meet Edge after this.”
“Too late,” Kara says, rolling her eyes and not even bothering to hide her disgust. Normally she’s all about giving people more than one chance to show who they are, but sometimes you can just tell right off the bat.
“You okay?” James asks, looking a little concerned.
“Nothing I can’t handle.” Kara says, then smiles and brings her hands together. “Okay, how does this generally work?”
People are filtering in around them, clearly taking their usual seats and chit-chatting idly, and the room is filling up quickly.
Nia pipes up. “Usually, we do a round robin of issues in the upcoming week, plus a segment pitch from writers and talent. Any equipment issues or budget concerns, too.”
“Great,” Kara says. James gestures to a seat for her and she takes her bag off, pulls out a notebook and a pen, and tucks it under her chair. “Who normally attends?”
“Pretty much everyone—this is the one time of day for folks across the staff to be able to bring things up and troubleshoot, since our early meeting is just production and direction,” Nia answers. “You’ll have someone from every department for sure, the on-air talent, the writers, us, and occasionally an exec from upstairs will sit in, but that’s generally only during sweeps when they’re trying to pitch spots or guests related to other LBC shows.”
That’s perfect, Kara thinks. She’ll get to meet almost all the staff at once and start to get a sense for where the strengths and weaknesses at Daybreak are across the show.
The weather guy, Brainy Dox says hello to Nia as he comes in and then sits down across the table, rolling up the sleeves on his button down with precision. Kara doesn’t miss the blush on either of their faces, but this is clearly not the time to bring it up. Nia and James take the seats on either side of her. Siobhan Smythe is already seated halfway around the table, still wearing the tight, dark grey shift dress she’d had on during the show. Andrea is the last one to walk into the room. She’s holding a large coffee mug, but Kara doesn’t smell any coffee. Morgan remains conspicuously absent.
“Hi everyone!” Kara starts brightly, looking around. Half the staff are on their phones or still talking to each other. “If I could just have your attention? Hi!”
It seems to work. Everyone finally looks at Kara.
“I’m Kara Danvers, your new EP. It’s so great to meet you all!” She smiles and looks around. The room doesn’t really seem to know how to react. “Since I’m new, can someone tell me if we’re waiting on anyone besides Morgan?”
Andrea snorts. “Edge, not here? So shocking.” Everyone laughs.
James leans over to Kara. “Forgot to mention, Morgan doesn’t usually attend these things. It’s generally better for everyone that way.”
Kara pauses for a moment. There are two options here. She can go with the flow, keep things as they are, and try not to be too disruptive while she gets up to speed. Or she can rock the boat.
Deciding that rocking the boat is what she’s here for, Kara looks at Nia. “Can you tell someone to go get Morgan? It’s important we’re all on the same page.”
Nia’s eyes go wide, but she scoots back and tells someone near the door to find Edge and bring him down. Kara sees Andrea looking at her, her eyes narrowed slightly.
“Thanks,” Kara says looking around the room. “Okay, well, let’s just dive in shall we? If we could start by going around the room, just give me your name, department, and whether you have any issues that need to be dealt with today, that would be great.”
“Hi, Winn Schott,” a young guy in a green sweater vest to Nia’s right says. “I’m with booking. Tomorrow Emeril wants to make lasagna. I told him we did that last week with the Barefoot Contessa, but he's insisting. What do I do?”
Kara starts writing down Lasagna? But, before she’s even gotten to the punctuation, the next person starts and, from there, it’s a veritable free-for-all.
“Gayle Marsh, wardrobe, for the segment on miniskirts, do you want all size models?”
“Next week, I want to do a piece on juice cleanses,” Siobhan interrupts. “All the celebs are doing them and they have amazing powers of rejuvenization.” Powers of what?, Kara thinks, but Siobhan continues. “My idea is that I get a juice cleanse and then we can, like, measure my toxins…”
“Kenny, set design. For the Carville interview, do you want the living room set or the stools?”
“Vicki, I’m with Winn, ABC says we can't have Brie Larson until two weeks after she does G.M.A. What do we do?”
They’re all talking over each other now. Kara puts her left hand up as she tries to get all of this down, but it’s starting to feel like a losing battle and no one even seems to notice. She gives up trying to write down more than one word from each person. Their food guy asks about cooking squash inside or out on the plaza, but then Vicki is back, asking whether Kara wants to accept the third lead in the new Wonder Woman movie, and someone who hasn’t even introduced themselves is breaking in to talk about a story out of Florida on retirement accounts and does Kara want to send a team or use local talent.
Kara feels like she’s in the middle of a shiver of sharks, and they’re all scenting for blood.
Someone (Jim? Jonathan?) asks about a psychic animals segment and whether she wants to go with a parakeet or an iguana, and then Brainy is chiming in, asking if he can do a segment on weather vanes.
“Did you know the word ‘vane’ comes from the Old English ‘fana,’ which means flag or weathercock?” He asks and Kara winces. She’s about to say absolutely not, but already another person is speaking, introducing herself as M’gann and talking about a sound board that’s on the fritz and how it’s going to cost ten grand to fix. Kara starts to answer (going over the budget this morning was a good idea) but Winn breaks in about a piece on baby food scheduled for Wednesday.
“Do we want an actual baby, and if so, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, blonde hair, brown hair, teeth, or no teeth?”
“I have a black baby at home,” someone offers from the back of the room, but Kara can barely hear them over the din.
“I'm sorry,” she tries, “I can't hear what you're saying. I…”
And that’s when Morgan makes his entrance.
“Hello! Hi, hi,” he says, and could he sound any less sincere? “Does someone wanna tell me why I had to log off BangingGrannies.com for this?”
“Asshole,” someone coughs. The room falls silent, everyone swiveling to look at Kara and how she’s going to handle him.
First things first. Kara puts both of her hands flat on the table, closes her eyes and takes a breath. She opens them, looks down at her notes, and starts talking quickly so that no one can interrupt her.
“Tell Emeril,” she starts, looking at Winn, “that if he insists on making lasagna, he will be bumped.” She turns to Gayle. “Yes, all size models, but skirts not too short. Toxins?” Kara looks around. “Who said that?”
Siobhan raises her hand.
“They can't be measured,” Kara says, narrowing her eyes. “And ‘rejuvenization?’ Not a word.” She glances down at her notebook and starts to run down the list. “Tell Larson’s people that she can't plug her next film unless we get her within a week of G.M.A. The plaza for squash. I want Gal Gadot—tell her people we'll run her in the first hour and she can talk about whatever her thing is. Definitely local talent. Parakeet.”
Kara can see each person writing down her answers. She keeps going, picking up steam.
“Brainy, weathercock? Seriously?” Kara raises an eyebrow and Brainy’s face shifts to one of realization, he nods. Kara continues. “We've got to fix that sound board. Find ten grand in the budget somewhere—the hair and makeup numbers, those were too high—so, Andrea, could you share your hair person with Siobhan?” Kara can see Andrea blanche but she can deal with that later. “That'd be great. Asian baby, no teeth, lesbian parents.”
Kara looks back down at her list, crossing everything off. “Did I miss anything?” She looks up smiling.
The room looks like a bunch of bobble heads, everyone shaking their heads and looking fairly impressed. Kara hears someone say, “Finally,” with no small measure of relief in their voice.
“Oh! One more thing,” Kara says, turning to where Morgan is already trying to leave. “Morgan?” He stops and looks back at Kara. She squares her shoulders. “You’re fired.”
The room is suddenly absolutely frozen.
“You’re adorable,” Morgan says, clearly not taking her seriously.
“F. I. R. E. D. Fired, Morgan.” Kara says and turns back to her notes to write it down. She can feel the room reacting around her, people are pulling their phones out and taking pictures of Morgan as he slams the door. She glances up, suddenly wondering if that was too much. “I’m sorry,” she starts, “that was unprofessional…”
But almost everyone in the room is now clapping, Winn is mock-genuflecting, and Andrea’s expression has gone from apoplexy to something that might be grudging respect. James actually guffaws.
“You know, when Clark told me your nickname was Supergirl, I didn’t know what to think. But I gotta say, I can see it now,” he laughs out, clapping Kara on the shoulder. “I think you might be just what Daybreak needs.
Kara turns to Nia. “Let’s pull some tapes, see if we can’t find a new anchor, okay?”
Nia nods enthusiastically. “I can do that! What’s next?”
Two hours later, Kara is exhausted and starving. She tells James and Nia that she’s going out to grab food and asks Nia to meet her in the EP’s office at two o’clock to start talking about replacements for Edge.
Making her way out of LBC Tower and into the sunlight, Kara almost wishes she’d left her jacket inside. It’s only gotten nicer since this morning, turning into one of those gorgeous spring days with a hint of early summer to come. The sky is a beautiful blue and, flush with the success of her first half day, Kara decides to reward herself with hot dogs in the park.
She stops at the stand just off the plaza and grabs two loaded dogs and a coke, then dashes across traffic to find a place to sit and soak up the sunshine.
When she crosses the street, Kara stops short at the edge of a running path into the park. The brunette from the elevator on Friday is sitting on a nearby bench about ten feet away—the bench Kara had occupied on Friday afternoon, actually.
The woman is dressed impeccably again and Kara can’t help the way her eyes wander, even as she tries to focus on the outfit instead of the skin on display—those sharp heels, another black skirt, but no blazer this time, and a sleeveless green silk shirt. Kara finds herself suddenly grateful that it’s unseasonably warm for mid April. She’s contemplating whether or not she should risk introducing herself, when the woman looks up and sees her.
“Get stuck in any elevators lately?” She’s smirking at Kara, but there’s something a little unsure on her face, like maybe she thinks Kara won’t remember seeing her three days before. As if. Kara had assumed it would be the other way around if they ever ran into each other.
“Oh no, you remember me.” Kara feels her face heat up as she clutches the hot dogs in her hands, trying not to squeeze the ketchup out of the foil. She nearly fumbles the food struggling to keep the can of soda tucked under her arm.
The woman smiles. “Even without a performance like that, you’d be hard to forget.” Kara watches as the woman starts to blush, it makes her look even prettier. “I’m almost done here, you’re welcome to my bench.”
“ Your bench?” Kara walks closer, spins once trying to figure out how she’s going to sit down without dropping everything and making a mess.
“I eat lunch here practically every day; a friend of mine has bribed my assistant to lock me out of the office for at least fifteen minutes to make sure I get some fresh air.” The woman rolls her eyes, but it seems more fond to Kara than anything else. She sets her nearly empty salad container aside and motions for Kara to hand over the hot dogs. “Here, let me.”
“Thanks,” Kara says, and it’s just in time because the can drops as soon as she’s relinquished the hot dogs. Kara catches it and sets it on the bench between them as she takes a seat, spreading a napkin over her slacks. “Better not open that while you’re still here.”
The woman laughs; it’s a wonderful sound, rich and bright—it matches her voice. “Better not.” She returns the hog dogs to Kara.
“I’m Kara, by the way. Kara Danvers. I just started at LBC today.” Kara looks down at the two foil wrapped hot dogs. She sets one down next to the can and starts to peel back the wrapper on the other.
“You’re the Kara Danvers?” Kara looks back up. The woman has one eyebrow raised and it's...distracting. Kara feels ketchup drop onto the napkin.
“Yes?” Kara says, taking a bite. “I mean, I think so,” she mumbles through the food. It’s rude to eat and talk, but she’s starving. “I’ve never met anyone else with my name.”
The woman laughs again. It makes Kara feel warm. “I mean, from Daybreak. You fired Morgan Edge about an hour ago?”
When Kara nods, the woman looks impressed and a little amused. It’s a good look on her.
“Already a hero on your first day,” she says, and Kara feels like glowing.
Kara swallows and shrugs. “Anyone in my position would have done it. I’m surprised he was still working here at all.” She smiles and takes another bite as the woman looks back at the remains of her own food.
“Same. It’s about time someone shook things up down there…” The woman trails off as she glances back at Kara. “You have a bit of—” She gestures to her own mouth and, if Kara thought the raised eyebrow was distracting, it’s got nothing on being given permission to stare at the woman’s mouth.
Even clearly having finished lunch, her lipstick application is practically perfect. Kara can see where it’s starting to wear a bit at the corners, the creases as the color thins, but the deep red looks so good on her.
The woman clears her throat. Kara’s eyes snap up. “Ketchup,” she says to Kara. “You have a little ketchup at the corner.”
“Oh. Oh! Thank you.” Kara wipes hastily at her own mouth, laughing a little nervously as she licks the ketchup off her fingers. “I’m a messy eater, always have been.”
Kara wants to smack herself. Seriously, why would she share that with someone? Kara can hear Alex cackling at her in her head.
The woman laughs a third time and, gosh, Kara wants to get ketchup all over herself if it’ll mean hearing that sound again.
The woman picks up a small strapless purse and then her salad container, closes the lid, and moves to stand up. “I’ll see you around Kara Danvers,” she says, smiling and starting to walk over to a nearby trash receptacle.
The woman stops and looks back at Kara, wearing a startled frown.
“Sorry. What’s your name?” Kara lowers the last bite of her hot dog. “You know mine, it’s only fair.”
The woman shifts her weight, pursing her lips and seeming to think about it. “I’m Lena,” she offers at last, watching Kara’s face.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Lena.” Kara gives her an enormous smile.
“Likewise.” Lena smiles back, then takes a breath. “I hope this isn’t the last time we talk.”
Kara watches Lena go, sees her pause at the street, then dart across awkwardly in her heels.
“Lena,” Kara says to herself, trying it out. She goes to take another bite of her hot dog and feels the ketchup drip from her thumb, dropping into her lap. Kara looks down at it; the blob has completely missed her napkin.
“Shoot!” She sets the hot dog in the wrapper on the bench next to her and dabs at her pants with a clean napkin. “Shoot shoot shoot.”
By the time she looks back, Lena has disappeared into the LBC Tower.
Kara sighs and leans back on the bench, looking up at the dappled greenery above her. Another five minutes in the fresh air, and she’ll go back to work, but she’s in such a good mood that not even a little ketchup stain can get in her way today.
Things are definitely looking up.
Lena stops by the bathroom on her way back from lunch, washes her hands and checks her makeup—she always wants an extra bit of armour presenting to the board like she has to this afternoon. Even after three years in the position, she still feels like they have a hard time responding to a 29 year old Chief of Advertising & Revenue. She smiles to herself as she touches up her lipstick, thinking about the way Kara Danvers stared at her mouth at the park. Lena knows she looks good in red, but she’d been surprised to find herself enjoying the attention so much. Kara is... intriguing might be the right word, though Lena can’t for the life of her figure out why. Maybe it’s that she can’t imagine the eager, excited woman from the elevator mustering up enough steel to take down Morgan Edge after thirty minutes on the job.
Lena caps the tube and tucks it back in her clutch. She glances down at her watch, surprised to see that it’s nearly two—well that’s more than enough daydreaming for one day. She’s just crossing in front of the desk by the elevators on her way back to her office when she hears her brother call out her name.
“Lena! There you are.” He’s walking out of his office. “I dropped by your desk a few minutes ago, but your assistant wasn’t there and Jess said you’d stepped out. Do you have a sec?” He looks distracted, both hands on his phone tapping away, his tie loose and tugged slightly off-center.
Lena sighs. “Sure, Lex. Walk with me?”
Lex nods without looking up. “So, this is the make or break quarter for some of our programming decisions.” He falls into step beside her, frowning at the device in his hands.
“Are you telling me this because you think I don’t know or are you telling me this because you’re still pushing for us to cut the rest of our news-related programs in favor of another zoo animal dating spin-off?” Lena asks, rolling her eyes. It’s like slipping into a well worn groove these days, having the same argument over and over with Lex.
“I’m telling you this,” Lex says, slipping his phone into his pants pocket and finally glancing over at Lena, “because I need you to start thinking with our checkbook instead of your heart.”
“Lex, don’t you think we have a duty to maintain programming that—“
“No, Lena, I think we have a duty to our shareholders and that duty is to maximize profits.”
They’ve reached the open door to her office, Hector’s desk still vacant outside. Lena can see Jess inside on the couch, going through last month’s metrics, papers spread out all over Lena’s coffee table.
“Look, Lena,” Lex starts, pausing and pulling his phone out again when it chimes, but looking back at her almost as quickly. “I know we just announced the Fall cancellations and renewals, but we need to be looking ahead already. We’ve got about ten weeks until the quarter ends and, then, by the time we’re midway through Q3, the board will be expecting final calls for our Spring schedule. You know I don’t like making decisions when we disagree.”
“You mean you don’t like recommending changes unless you can defend them to Mother.” Lena looks at her brother, feeling, not for the first time, like he doesn’t particularly care one way or the other what runs on LBC as long as it makes him money. Their mother, Lillian, may be CEO, but she’s been letting Lex take on more and more responsibility as she heads for retirement, and Lena is starting to dread what LBC might look like with her brother at the top.
“Po-tay-to, po-tah-to,” Lex hums, winking at her. “I just need to know you’ll play ball.”
“You know, there’s more than one way to think about corporate governance, Lex, and, given that you’re in charge of running our current programming, you’re actually in a position to do something about this that doesn’t involve trading quality content—” Lena cuts herself off with a sigh, trying to quell the urge to return to this familiar rant. “But you also know I understand we’re vulnerable to a buy-out if we can’t get our advertising revenue up.”
“That’s the sister I know and love!” Lex claps her on the shoulder. “Gotta run, I won’t be in the four o’clock, but that’s all you on the numbers anyway. I need to deal with the fallout of Daybreak ’s new EP losing her mind and making the sudden decision to fire one of her anchors.” He gives her a mock salute then hurries away to god knows where.
“Of course you won’t be in the meeting,” Lena mutters as she walks into her office. Jess looks up as Lena crosses the threshold, and scoots over on the white leather couch to make room, smoothing her black slacks and rolling her white cuffs up over the sleeves of her purple cardigan. The most recent metrics for all of their seven day programming are spread out on the low table, stacked by day, and then hour slot.
Lena walks over to the sideboard and pours herself a glass of water, gesturing at it to Jess to see if she’d like some, as well, but Jess shakes her head.
“How much would you judge me if I had scotch instead, or is early afternoon drinking something you’ll frown upon today?” Lena asks, no real intent to start day drinking, as she walks back over. She sets the glass on the table and sits down next to Jess, smoothing her skirt out as she does so.
“Judging isn’t something I do.” Jess glances over and raises an eyebrow. “But in the spirit of being honest, I thought you’d be in a better mood right now.”
“Why’s that? Our numbers have been shit all day, surely that hasn’t changed just because I took your mandatory lunch break.” Lena reaches out and picks up the breakdown from their evening news program—it’s strong, generally number two in the slot, and she knows they lead NBC in several of the key demos so the fact that it isn’t number one doesn’t worry her. Advertisers seem to love it and their affiliates always run it. It’s a nice reminder that not everything at LBC is crap right now.
She flips to look at the demographic breakdowns. They’re slipping a little, to her surprise—no doubt a cascading effect based on their general programming woes right now. She places it back on the table with a frown and picks up the numbers for Daybreak. If anything, the numbers problem can probably be traced back to their morning programming: once people change the channel, they don’t change it back. Lena frowns.
“Maybe I thought the smile your lunch companion put on your face would last longer.”
Lena’s gaze snaps up and she narrows her eyes at Jess, who at least has the sense to temper her smirk a bit. “My lunch companion?”
“Blonde, earnest, ketchup everywhere.” Jess puts her hands up defensively. “I was grabbing falafel; I tried waving, but you didn’t even see me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Lena can feel the blush spreading down her neck.
“Sure,” Jess says, laughing. “Tell that to your face right now.”
“Another two affiliates have dropped Daybreak,” Lena notes, changing the subject. She can practically feel Jess rolling her eyes, but continuing to talk about how, apparently, Lena’s attraction to Kara Danvers can be seen from thirty paces is just going to make her feel itchy. It’s ridiculous, Lena shouldn’t be reacting at all—she’s met Kara twice and both times Kara has appeared bumbling and a little awkward, neither of which normally does anything for Lena. Sure, maybe Kara looks really good in a blazer (and maybe Lena is specifically weak for that), and clearly she’s got enough confidence to fire Edge her first day out, but...
Lena cuts off her internal monologue and silently flips to the third page of the metrics.
Jess sighs audibly, but accepts Lena’s deflection. “I saw that. Apparently infomercials are generating more revenue than our morning programming right now.” Jess pauses, then continues, glancing at a report Lena knows she already has memorized. “A friend of mine called from Good Morning America last week to ask when we were just going to ax the show already.”
Lena grimaces. This is exactly the kind of news Lex is looking for. It’s no secret that he’d just as soon cancel everything that wasn’t straight entertainment. The evening news gets a pass because revenue is strong, but affiliates have always run their own local early morning news followed by a network morning show. Lately, however, fewer and fewer of them are choosing to run Daybreak in the 7am to 10am slot.
Morning shows are full of their own challenges—not quite information-saturated news, but not altogether vapid-entertainment, they have to thread the needle for folks looking for a wide range of programming to fill the so-called breakfast hour.
“I know, I know,” Lena says to Jess. “I worry we’re getting close to that decision. Lex has been pushing me to make the recommendation to kill Daybreak for the last two quarters.”
“Look, you pay me to do metric and financial analysis, not programming, but the numbers are getting kind of hard to ignore here. Why don’t you just cut it?” Jess asks.
“I’ve been asking myself that question a lot.” Lena sighs and sets the packet back on the table, thinking.
“It’s one of the more dynamic spaces for programming—a good morning show is all things to all people,” she begins. She takes a sip of her water and then leans against the back of the couch shifting her body toward Jess. “The first hour is aimed at the commuting-set: it’s the best place to break emerging stories that happen overnight, it’s business and political reports, and, with a good producer, it provides solid analysis that may not yet have been possible the night before. The second hour is a little more of a mix as people transition, and the last hour is aimed at folks who stay home—think soft news, like entertainment, celebrity interviews, those concerts we have on the plaza every now and then.”
Jess nods, taking it in. “Okay, so a morning show is info-tainment, to be reductive.”
“Exactly” Lena’s smile is rueful. “And, done well, it brings important information into people’s homes and lives.” She reaches forward for her water, takes a sip. “I feel like, right now, that’s more necessary than ever. I don’t want to just give that up because Daybreak is having a bad moment.”
“More like a bad three years,” Jess says looking down at the numbers again. “An expensive, bad three years.”
“Well, maybe less expensive at the moment,” Lena says, a half smile on her face. “The new EP just fired Morgan Edge, so we can cross his bloated contract off the budget. And his absence might give us a lift with advertisers and partners.”
Jess gasps. “Oh my god, did he try feeling someone up on the air?”
“Not that I’ve heard.” Lena pauses, thinking back to Kara. “I think Lex might have finally hired someone with a backbone.”
“Lord knows that show needs it,” says Jess. “Okay, well, I’ve got the reports we’re going to use for the four o’clock. Do you want me to make sure that Lex’s assistant gets him a copy prior to the meeting?” She starts to gather the papers up, separating them into folders so that Lena can find them easily.
“Get him the copies, but no rush. He isn’t going to make it, apparently.”
“Of course not.” Jess snorts as she stands up. “We’re still on for drinks with Jack and Sam, right?”
“We better be, I’m going to need it.” Lena makes her way over to her desk. Her inbox is sure to be murder this afternoon, she might as well start sifting through it now. “I might be running a little behind, but Sam texted earlier that she should be there right at eight.”
Jess hums in response.
At the door, Jess turns back. “You know, I saw your lunch companion walk out of LBC before she got all those hot dogs.” Lena knows she’s being baited. The way Jess says ‘lunch companion’ makes it sound like some sort of terrible euphemism, the kind she’s more used to from Jack.
She refuses to look up at Jess. “Did you now,” she says, concentrating on her keyboard as she logs in, and trying to sound as disinterested as possible. She’s not going to admit to Jess that she already knows who Kara Danvers is. To do so is to ensure that it will be the only thing they talk about over cocktails.
“I’m just saying: for once your refusal to leave the building, except when I make Hector lock you out of your office, might work to your advantage.”
Lena looks up to defend herself, but Jess has already closed the door on her way out.
Opening her e-mail application, Lena briefly contemplates Jess’s point before dismissing it. It’s not like Lena ever has any contact with anyone on the creative or show teams anyway—that’s Lex’s domain. She can daydream about Kara in that blazer in peace.
Nobody has to know.
Fic title from Corinne Bailey Rae's Put Your Records On
chapter title from Some Days You Gotta Dance by The Chicks
the rest of the chapters will be 7-9k long(eta: that didn't work out) probably, but I couldn't end this chapter without Kara knowing Lena's name so here we are. Oh well. I fully meant to be writing something else entirely, but I needed a dumb movie to put on in the background while doing some busy work a few weeks ago and I picked this one because...Rachel McAdams...don't @ me. And my brain was like, HEY BUDDY GUESS WHAT YOU'RE GONNA DO RIGHT NOW? And I very hopefully said, Idk work? And my brain responded, NOPE! And then this happened. Apologies.
Look. I was going to wait to post this, but with SG being cancelled today, I just felt like sending more fanwork out into the universe. No matter how S6 ends things, this is our story now. It has been for a while. I hope you enjoy this version of them.
All my love.
Chapter 2: don't tell me that my master plan ain't coming through
The smell of coffee pulls Kara out of bed on Sunday morning two weeks later. She pushes the sheets off and swings her legs over the side, sitting up and stretching, then pulls her sleep shirt back down over her stomach and rubs the sleep from her eyes. Her room is a disaster—the desk chair covered by a mountain of dry cleaning that she hasn’t had time to drop off, her clothing rack nearly bare, and a dozen dvds spilling out of her messenger bag by the door.
Something crinkles underneath her sheets as she moves to stand up, and Kara pulls out her notebook and some crumpled segment pitches she’d been reviewing last night. She must have fallen asleep while working on them. She drops the notebook and the papers on top of the books laying on her desk, and makes her way into the kitchen and living area.
“There she is!” Alex calls out when Kara emerges. Alex has clearly already had at least one cup of coffee; she’s standing in front of the dishwasher, putting dishes away—she grabs a mug from the top rack for Kara and holds it out. “You know, when you moved in with us, I thought for sure I’d actually get to see you...Is that pen on your cheek?”
“Maybe.” Kara rubs at her face and squints around the apartment in the bright morning sunlight. “I fell asleep working last night. Where’s Kelly?” she asks, taking the mug from Alex’s outstretched hand and walking over to the coffee machine next to the stove.
“Yoga, but her class was over at ten and she should be back any minute with doughnuts. Cream’s in the fridge, sugar’s on the counter.” Alex closes the now-empty dishwasher and walks over to the table separating the kitchen and the living room, where she has the Sunday paper spread out, the crossword already half done.
Kara finishes making up her cup and walks over to join her sister. She blinks heavily as she takes her first sips and sits down opposite Alex. “It’s not my fault you’ve been on call so much.”
“I know, I know,” Alex says, filling in eight across. She puts the pen back down. “So, catch me up?”
Kara hums. Where to start? “I mean, I haven’t been fired yet, so that’s good.” Alex laughs and Kara smiles. “We still haven’t found a replacement anchor, and I’m this close to flinging Siobhan into the sun if she suggests one more pseudo-science medical intervention piece, but honestly? Everyone behind the camera has been really great.”
“Kelly was telling me that James seems pretty happy with you right now.”
“I think the whole crew is still riding high with Morgan gone. Although that’s turning into a bigger headache than I planned.”
Alex cocks her head. Kara pulls her feet up onto the chair and takes another sip of her coffee, thinking about how best to explain it.
“His contract had a huge severance clause, so although firing him frees up some budget, it’s not really a lot. I’m worried we won’t be able to afford anyone who’s any good. The tapes Nia and I have been going through are…” Kara pauses and takes a big gulp of her coffee. “Not ideal.”
“Well I’ve got a choice: I can try to buy an established name, nobody with a true national presence, but an anchor from the larger regional markets for sure, except that then I still have all the same budget problems I started with.” Alex nods, so Kara continues. “Or, I can try to find new talent, who’ll be cheaper, and that leaves me more money to start trying to fix any one of the million things wrong with our sets and equipment.” She sighs. “But I run the risk that they don’t connect with our audience and we can’t afford to lose any more viewers.”
Alex draws her eyebrows together and whistles. “I had no idea it would get that complicated.”
“Maybe J’onn had a point about me not having business experience.” Kara twists the mug back and forth between her palms.
“What? No way.” Alex says, pushing off the table to stand up and walking around to Kara. “There’s no problem you can’t solve.” She takes Kara’s mug and goes back into the kitchen to fill it up again. “So what about your new colleagues—other than James, who should I know about?”
“My junior producer, Nia, is amazing. I mean, she’s barely of legal drinking age, but she’s smart and she’s a great sounding board. She has some phenomenal programming ideas for how to pull in families with teenagers, especially in the Saturday morning slot, which would give us access to some key demos.”
The front door opens and Kelly walks in, pastry box in hand. “Hi Kara,” she says, walking over to Alex and giving her a kiss. “What am I interrupting?”
“Kara’s telling me about her staff,” Alex says, smiling at her girlfriend and taking the box. “Do you want coffee, babe?” Kelly shakes her head and walks back to the door to take off her shoes. Alex rattles the pastries at Kara. “You have to actually get up and come over here if you want one. If I put them on the table in front of you, you’ll just eat all of them.”
“Rude.” Kara sticks her tongue out at Alex, but slides off the chair and walks over. “So, yeah, Nia is pretty great. Obviously James is amazing. He’s got great vision when it comes to blocking and shooting. Our booking director, Winn is really nice, and he’s got some solid thoughts on guests that I think are really going to pay off in terms of viewership in the second and third hours.”
Kelly is grabbing things from the fridge now for a smoothie. “What was the name of that woman you mentioned to me the other day? The one who helped you decipher the budget?”
Kara is so busy pouring sugar into her mug that she misses Kelly nudging Alex’s hip and nodding to her. “That’s Lena. She’s really nice, too,” Kara says. She reaches past Kelly for the cream, hoping Alex is too distracted picking out the right apple fritter to look at her.
“Lena, huh?” Alex says, fritter now in hand, and a curiosity in her voice that Kara feels like she needs to quash. Kara feels her cheeks get warm for some reason, like maybe she doesn’t want to explain Lena to Alex just yet. Not that there’s anything to explain.
“Uh-huh. Brainy is also great—I’m thinking about using him for segments beyond weather.” Kara hands the cream back to Kelly to put into the fridge. “Especially considering it’s just Andrea anchoring right now, we need to spread the face-time around more, and, every time I try to give Siobhan something that isn’t celebrity gossip, she finds a way to turn it into absolute nonsense.”
“Right…” Alex is squinting at Kara now, but Kara decides not to make eye contact.
“Anyway, other than Siobhan, everybody is great, Kelly can you pass me a plate?”
They spend the rest of the morning together, Kara eating most of the doughnuts despite Alex’s protests. It’s nice, after the crazy two weeks she’s had, just be able to sit with Alex and Kelly and spend a couple of hours not worrying about Daybreak. Sunday is the only day of the week that Daybreak isn’t on—although their Saturday edition is an hour shorter than the weekday programming—and Kara is grateful that she doesn’t have to be in the office. She goes for a run before lunch, but by mid-afternoon she’s back to leafing through the segments on deck for the coming week, and scrolling through her twitter feed to see if there are any emerging stories she needs to be keeping an eye on for their news portion.
Kara hadn’t been lying to Alex when she said everyone is really nice, but it isn’t the whole truth, either. The first two weeks have been more than a little overwhelming. Andrea is a handful, even if she’s currently rising to the occasion of holding down the whole show, and Kara knows that she’s got to come up with some way to bring another anchor on soon. Giving Brainy more to do will help, but, at some point soon, Lex is going to call and ask her what the heck her plan is.
Right now, she doesn’t have one.
Mondays are absolutely the worst, Lena thinks, staring at her watch and counting down the minutes until this meeting is over. Her day began with a seven a.m. conference call to discuss a new partnership with an online streaming service, and it’s been just as hellish ever since.
As the presentation drags on and the clock creeps forward, though, Lena’s mind keeps drifting to things that have nothing to do with her work responsibilities. In fact, she’s currently wondering whether or not Kara will be on the park bench when Lena gets a break for lunch. Their schedules have managed to sync fairly often over the last two weeks, and, although Lena will deny it if asked directly, she had acknowledged internally that she was disappointed when they hadn’t run into each other on Friday.
It isn’t as if the five or ten or twenty minutes they’ve overlapped nearly every day are something that Lena is manufacturing. Kara is a nice person to eat lunch with—she’s funny, if mostly unintentionally, and smart, and hearing her talk about how Daybreak is doing makes Lena wish she wasn’t just on the revenue side of everything. They don’t talk about anything serious, mostly work actually. Kara hasn’t even asked for her last name, and Lena is fairly certain that Kara hasn’t put two and two together yet (not that she should, Lena has never been the face of the company: that’s all Lillian and Lex).
So, no, it isn’t like Lena is going out of her way to spend time with Kara. The forty-five minutes they’d taken together last Wednesday were an anomaly, and Lena had only stretched it on that long because Kara happened to mention that she was puzzling over some of the budget issues she’d inherited. Naturally, Lena offered to help.
Which is what anyone in her position would do—she has an MBA and one of her degrees is in accounting—and, really, it was for the good of LBC.
Kara is nice. And having a tiny, small, harmless crush on a very pretty, talkative blonde who seems sweet, has wonderfully broad shoulders, and insists on feeding pigeons is nice.
“That concludes the presentation,” someone at the front of the room says. Lena looks down at her copy of the agenda to find that she hasn’t taken a single note. She looks over at Jess, who is still furiously scribbling away, she’ll be able to follow up later. She glances at her watch again—it’s almost twelve thirty.
“Jess?” Lena says, as the room empties around them. “I’m going to run out and grab a bite, do you want me to bring you back anything?”
Jess closes her notes and looks up. “I was just about to ask if you wanted to go to that noodle place on 54th. I’m starved.”
“Oh,” Lena flounders for a moment. “I, ah, I don’t think I have time for that. I was just going to go down to the food carts and grab something.”
“Sure, want company?” Jess stands up and they start making their way around the conference table to the door.
It isn’t that Lena doesn’t want Jess to come with her, it’s just that, well, she’d rather go alone. “No, no, if you want noodles by all means go without me.” Lena is aiming for nonchalance, but knows she’s missed the mark somehow when Jess narrows her eyes.
She’s about to give in, when Jess surprises her by backing off.
“You know what? I actually have to get this proposal handled. I want to make sure the language is ready for legal to review.”
“Of course.” Lena tries not to relax too visibly. “Are you sure I can’t grab you anything while I’m down there?” Jess shakes get head no.
By the time Lena makes it out of LBC and onto the plaza, it’s 12:37. This is later than Kara is generally outside (if the seven times in the last two weeks they’ve run into each other are anything to go off of) and Lena sighs, feeling agitated as she waits in line at the Vietnamese cart. She almost takes it back up to her office, but the sun really does feel nice on her back, and it has been a draining day, so she walks across the street to find a quiet spot to sit down.
The weather means the park is busy—a mix of parents with small kids running around, folks in suits taking a break from the office, joggers, and a few buskers. Kara isn’t on any of the benches that Lena can see. Which is fine. She tries telling herself that the reason she’s disappointed is because she’s curious to hear about how the anchor search is going. The bench they’ve taken to eating on facing LBC is vacant, so Lena walks over to it and takes a seat.
And maybe she’s stabbing her papaya salad with a little more vehemence than usual, but Kara’s voice suddenly startles her so much that Lena nearly upends the entire container.
“Hi Lena!” Kara is walking towards her, she’s smiling—the size of it crinkling her eyes—and Lena feels her own face move to match. Kara’s wearing khakis today, with a light blue button-down, the sleeves rolled halfway up her forearms. She pushes her glasses up as she approaches Lena. “I was hoping I’d see you today,” Kara says and her cheeks go an adorable shade of pink, but she doesn’t take it back.
“Have you eaten yet?” Lena asks, so that she doesn’t say something ridiculous like, I was hoping I’d see you, too.
Kara stops just in front of the bench. “I have, actually.” Kara brings her left hand up to rub at the back of her neck, looks back at LBC briefly. “I was heading back in when I saw you cross the street. I just wanted to say...hello, and thanks, again, for helping me out last week.”
Lena waves her plastic fork in the air. “It’s nothing, I was happy to help.”
“I should probably get back inside,” Kara says, but she stands there looking at Lena for a moment and Lena suddenly wants to talk about the weather. The words ‘it’s a gorgeous spring day’ and ‘we’ve never had so much sun this early in the year’ are on the tip of her tongue, but the inanity of saying something like that grates on her, so Lena stays silent and looks down, moving the shrimp and green fruit around with her fork instead. Kara interrupts her thoughts, drawing Lena’s gaze back up. “I try to make everyone take a break at noon, but we’re still trying to nail down a co-anchor. I’ve got a bunch of new tapes to go over this afternoon.” She looks apologetic and she still doesn’t make a move to leave.
“Of course...I’m looking forward to hearing about it,” Lena says, finding that she means it. “Nice piece this morning, by the way. Having Brainy do a ‘New in Science’ segment was inspired.” There, not quite as idiotic as the weather. “Maybe I’ll see you later this week?”
“Thank you! Yeah, later this week.” The smile on Kara’s face is blinding in the best way. “Good. Great. I hope your Monday is going well.” Kara starts walking away backwards as she says it.
Lena laughs. “It’s going fine, thanks.”
“Good!” Kara backs into a no-parking sign and has to grab it for balance. She goes crimson, and all Lena can think as she bites her lip and tries not to laugh more is that the duality that must be Kara Danvers is something else.
When Lena gets back to her office, she sends Hector an e-mail, asking him to do his best to make sure that she’s free every day from twelve to twelve-thirty.
After the show on Tuesday morning, Kara asks Winn, James, and Nia to go through the last of the potential anchors with her. James had suggested pulling in Winn last week, and it had been a good idea—being in charge of guests and booking has translated into an eye for screen talent—and Kara is glad to have him in the room. So far, though, none of the people they’ve seen are hitting the right note, and she’s beginning to wonder if they’re ever going to find someone she’ll feel good about hiring.
They’re up in her new office on the second level of the main Daybreak room, just off the catwalk (which has got to be an ADA violation, but Kara has bigger problems right now). They’ve arranged themselves in a semi-circle around a circular table facing her wall-mounted TV on the left side. On the right is her desk and two low shelving units that are stacked with old show records and contracts. Right now, the meeting table is covered in resumes, dozens of torn sheets of lined paper that they’ve been writing down their impressions on, and snack wrappers. She sighs and futzes with the sleeves of her white polka-dot and navy button up.
Nia is grabbing the final box of tapes and James is refilling his water bottle, so Kara and Winn are left sitting together, taking a much needed break from show-work. Winn has just finished telling her about getting engaged to his long-term boyfriend—he seems over the moon about it.
“Kara, are you married?” Winn is leaning in his chair, balancing on the back two legs, and tossing an apple into the air repeatedly. He’s wearing a bright pink sweater vest today, with a white oxford underneath. It makes him look vaguely like a cosplay of cotton candy.
“No, do you see a ring?” Kara asks, wiggling her left hand in the air. She looks down at the table, trying to find her notes from an hour ago.
Winn shrugs. “Boyfriend?”
“Oh gosh no,” Kara says, laughing. She puts the papers into a stack, trying to keep them organized. “That was a phase.”
“Girlfriend?” Winn raises one eyebrow, tosses the apple again.
“I wish,” she says, shaking her head.
“I knew it!” He lets his chair fall forward and slams the fruit down on the table.
“What?” Kara looks at Winn askance. How could he possibly know she’s single? She’s only thirty. She can’t have spinster vibes yet.
“Nia and I thought you listened to ‘Girl in Red.’ James wasn’t sure. Although he did say it would explain something,” Winn says, huge grin on his face, “but he thought I was straight for the first year we worked together, even after I made out with John at the holiday party five weeks after I started, so his gaydar is shit.”
“Well, I hope you had money on it then.” Kara rolls her eyes and laughs, but she’s kind of pleased they didn’t think she was straight.
“Oh man, that would have been a great idea! But seriously, you’re single?” Winn is squinting at her like he doesn’t believe it.
“I don’t exactly have any women queuing up.”
“Right, yeah,” Winn says as Nia walks in carrying a small cardboard box of dvds labeled Audition Tapes: 29 of 29. He rolls his eyes and gestures up and down at Kara. “Ridiculous question, you’re clearly hideous, who would date you?”
“This is the last box, there’s only six tapes in here,” Nia says, interrupting. “Who’s dating Kara?”
“No one, currently,” Winn says in a sing-song tone. “But if someone were, that someone wouldn’t be a guy.”
“I knew it!” Nia crows as she sets the box down on the sideboard underneath the television and returns to her seat next. Kara can’t help laughing at both of them.
“So, Kara,” Nia says, reaching across the table and pulling a stack of resumes closer. “Does that mean you’re putting the moves on the Luthor?”
“What?! Lex is...I would never,” Kara splutters out. “We just established I’m not interested in guys!”
Nia laughs. “Oh my god no, ew, I’m talking about his sister.”
“I didn’t know he had one.” Kara frowns and picks up her pen to fidget with.
“But we saw you eat lunch with her almost every day last week!” Winn says.
“Lena?” Kara asks, putting the pen down and looking between the two of them for a clue.
Winn nods. James walks in the room and shuts the door behind him, sets his water bottle down on the table.
“Wait,” Kara says, still confused. “Lena is a Luthor? A Luthor as in Luthor Broadcasting Corporation?”
“Did you not know?” James asks, walking over to the box that Nia has set down and pulling out the first tape.
“She hasn’t said!” Kara is now looking around at the three of them. They’re acting like this is somehow common knowledge, but Kara’s only worked here for two weeks and this feels distinctly unfair. Oh gosh, if she’s been making a complete fool of herself in front of Lena Luthor… “I mean, I know Lena works here, but we’re really just getting to know each other. I had no idea about her last name.”
Winn looks like he’s dying from trying not to laugh. He pulls it together long enough to ask, “So, is that, like, a thing?”
“But would you like it to be a thing?” Nia chimes in.
“That’s not. What? Why?” Kara is aware that it comes out sort of strangled. So what if she finds Lena attractive. So what if maybe she’d actually turned completely around and jogged across the street yesterday just to say ‘hi’ when she’d seen Lena waiting at the corner. So what if she’s been entertaining very vague fantasies of asking Lena out on a...
“So if I told you that it’s twelve fifteen right now, you wouldn’t run outside to that bench?”
“It’s after twelve?!” Kara suddenly stands up, nearly knocking back her chair. She told Lena yesterday that she always takes a break at noon on the off-chance Lena might come see her on purpose and now, the first day that could happen, she’s blown it.
Nia nearly falls off her chair laughing “It’s barely eleven.”
Kara sits back down and shoots a glare at Nia, but it has no effect.
“Right, yeah,” says Winn, and even James is fighting a smile. “Not a thing at all.”
“That was mean,” Kara grumbles, sitting back down and throwing an empty chip bag at Nia. “She’s probably not even gay.”
Nia just rolls her eyes and mutters something under her breath that sounds suspiciously like “as a picnic basket,” but James has slid the next dvd into the player and is queuing it up.
The final tapes are uniformly horrible. One of them is more like a blooper reel than anything serious, and Kara has James stop all of them after only a couple of minutes. Kara puffs out her cheeks and lets out a gust of breath, ruffling the papers in front of her.
“Okay, I guess that’s it.” She looks at her watch, it’s almost eleven thirty. “Lets rank the ones we watched today separately, I want to see how our choices are stacking up before I have to sit down with Lex this afternoon.”
“Sounds good, boss,” says Nia, standing up and walking over to eject the last disc. She pauses in front of the cardboard box. “Wait, James, there’s one more in here.”
James looks up from where he’s still marking down notes. “Oh yeah, I saw that, I think it’s a mistake.”
“Who is it?” Winn asks.
“It’s Cat Grant,” James replies. “Must be an old tape or something, somebody forgot to take it out of the audition boxes.”
“It’s dated within the last two years,” Nia says, picking up the case and frowning. “I mean, she’s not on air right now...she still works for LBC, doesn’t she? It’s possible this is for real.”
“Play it,” Kara says, making a decision. “Real or not, we could all use a reminder of what an anchor is supposed to look like.” The three of them laugh at that, and Nia slides the dvd into the player, discarding the other disc.
The tape is a supercut of Cat’s best work from the last ten years. It has a mix of her in-studio and on-location, her poise and analytical skill on brilliant display. Watching Cat in her prime is mesmerizing and Kara can’t help wishing there were a world in which they could afford her.
The final clip plays and the menu pops back up, but nobody moves.
“Now that’s an anchor,” Winn says, breaking the silence.
James chuckles. “An anchor and a diva. Probably a good thing we’d never be able to afford her. Can you imagine trying to get her and Andrea to work together?”
“Her aura, though,” adds Nia. “I mean, you just listen to her and immediately believe everything she says.”
They turn to Kara, as if to see what she has to say. Winn and Nia are right—Cat has a presence on screen that’s undeniable. But having met Cat, even briefly in the elevator, she suspects that James isn’t far off. And even if Cat were available, which Kara isn’t convinced of, she’s sure to command an absurd salary. It’s a shame, because what Daybreak needs is someone who can stand up to Andrea, who has the experience and the gravitas and the analytical skill to pull off the morning hour, but also the magnetism to keep viewers tuned in till the end. And Cat has all of that in spades.
“If wishes were anchors, then producers would...well, I’m not sure, but we’d already have someone,” Kara says, finally. Proverbs have never been her strong suit.
Winn laughs at her as he stands up, claps her on the shoulder. “Hey, there are some not terrible options on the tapes we watched last week. What time is your meeting with Lex?”
“Not until one,” Kara answers, leaning back and stretching. “Okay, take a break for real this time, but get me your thoughts before then. I want to be able to tell him we’ve narrowed it down to a final pool.”
Kara is nervous as she walks across the street, her bag from the burger cart in one hand and a root beer in the other. It’s not that she didn’t realize Lena was a big deal at LBC—the second time they ate together, Kara asked her what her job was and you don’t get to be Chief of anything at Lena’s age without being connected. But a Luthor? Kara bites the inside of her cheek as she waits for the light to change. This is what she gets for not looking Lena up in the company directory. She’d briefly considered it, but it had felt weird to do so, and Kara hates feeling weird. Lena hadn’t volunteered a last name. So Kara had decided to respect the boundary.
As she steps off the curb, a new wave of mortification hits her. She’d asked Lena to help her decipher a budget. Lena’s name is on the side of the building, hell it’s on Kara’s business cards, and she’s practically in charge of the company, and Kara had taken up nearly an hour of her time going through obscure line-items. Oh gosh, Lena probably thinks she’s an idiot. And if Nia and Winn can tell that Kara has a crush on Lena, there’s no way the woman herself hasn’t figured it out.
This is terrible. Kara should turn around. She should eat lunch in her office and never, ever go outside during the day again.
She sees Lena sitting on the bench.
Lena’s hair is down today, blown straight, tucked behind each ear, and drawn over her right shoulder. She’s wearing a beautiful royal blue sheath dress and black pumps and Kara can see her picking at a salad in her lap. Just looking at Lena makes Kara feel like she’s jumped off a high dive.
So what if she thinks Kara’s an idiot? Kara told Lena that she takes her lunch at noon, and it’s 12:03 now, and here’s Lena, exactly where she knows Kara will be. That has to mean something, right?
“You didn’t tell me your name is on the building!” It isn’t what Kara means to start out with, but apparently her mouth has already decided to begin there before she’s even close enough to sit down. So much for finding a tactful way to mention that she knows Lena’s last name.
Lena looks up, obviously startled. “Discovered my secret identity, huh?” She chuckles and gives Kara a half smile, but it’s tinged with something that Kara can’t quite name. Lena looks...not upset, exactly, but worried? Unsure? Whatever it is, all Kara wants to do is wipe the expression off her face and preferably never see Lena look like that again.
Kara sits down, starts pulling her food out of the bag, and twists the cap off of her drink. “It’s not a bad thing. I’m just surprised, is all.” She glances at Lena out of the corner of her eye. “I mean, here I’ve been, talking your ear off about the show and how important I think quality programming is, and you probably don’t want to hear what some employee thinks about what LBC should be focusing on.” It isn’t the complete truth, but it’s as close as Kara wants to get right now. What she’s really thinking is closer to why on earth would you want to talk to me at all? But she doesn’t want to be so blunt in case it makes Lena realize that she doesn’t actually want to be talking to Kara.
“I do, though.” Lena says, putting her fork down in the salad container. She runs a hand through her hair and Kara can’t help tracking the motion. Lena looks over at her. “I...it’s nice to know that someone feels the same way I do. I’ve been starting to think that no one cares what we put on. It’s not my domain, of course, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care.”
“Oh. Well, good,” Kara says, smiling at her now. “I’d hate to think I lost my lunch buddy.”
“Your lunch buddy?” Lena laughs and this time it sounds genuine. “What is this, elementary school?”
“The best years of my life,” Kara smiles off into the distance, before looking at Lena again to see how the joke lands. Lena’s shaking her head, but fighting a grin, and she’s picked up her fork again. Kara takes a big bite of her burger and feels settled for the first time in an hour.
After that, Lena seems to relax in some imperceptible way, as if previously she’d been holding her breath around Kara. It’s nice. Kara is halfway through her burger and Lena has finished eating when she asks Kara how the anchor search is going.
“Oh gosh, awful.” Kara says, swallowing. “It’s like watching youtube bloopers half the time. One guy included a clip that involved him saying the word ‘boner’ by accident...The only tape that was any good was Cat Grant, the Cat Grant, and I think that tape was in there by mistake.”
“I’d be surprised if it was a mistake,” Lena offers. “She’s on contract with us.”
Kara stops eating and lowers her burger. “What do you mean, ‘on contract’?”
“Lex hired her a few years ago for the special program slot. I don’t remember the terms, but I do know she’s still at LBC, even after he pulled her off the show. We’re on the hook for her salary whether she’s on air or not.” Lena steals a fry from the bag and Kara doesn't even blink—she’s too focused on the fact that LBC is already paying Cat Grant to do nothing.
“Are you saying—does that mean—if I hired Cat Grant, it wouldn’t affect Daybreak ’s budget?” Kara feels like she’s been hit by a train. This could be the answer to every single one of her problems.
“If you could get her to agree to it, then yes,” Lena says, but she’s frowning at Kara.
“She’s not doing anything else!” Kara feels like vibrating with excitement. “And maybe she wants to be back on air. I mean, can you imagine? Cat Grant could save Daybreak.”
Lena mumbles something that might be ‘you can save Daybreak,’ but Kara is too busy trying to process the fact that Cat Grant might be an actual possibility.
Lena sets her closed salad container on the bench beside her and turns towards Kara. “For the record, I think this is a terrible idea. But if you’re dead set on her, ask Lex to let you take a look at her contract. There’s probably something in there you can use for leverage.”
“You’re the best!” Kara says, and she means it in every way it’s possible to mean.
“I know.” Lena rolls her eyes. “Careful there,” she says, pointing at Kara’s burger.
“Oh shoot!” The tomato is trying to drop out of the back of the bun.
Lena laughs as Kara just turns the whole thing around and takes a bite of the back. “I have to get back to the office, but keep me posted on Cat.” Lena gets up to leave.
“I will,” Kara mumbles through the bite. She swallows. “I will. I’ll, um, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Looking forward to it,” Lena says, smiling.
Kara walks out of the elevator on the forty-fifth floor of LBC exactly one minute before she’s supposed to meet with Lex. She’s got notes from James, Nia, and Winn on five of the most promising potential co-anchors, but she knows who she really wants now: Cat Grant. And, thanks to Lena, she might have a way to make it happen.
Lex’s assistant Angela waves her through the waiting area and into Lex’s office.
“It’s been almost three weeks of the Andrea show and if I wanted the Andrea show I would have renamed Daybreak ‘The Andrea Show.’” Lex watches her shut the door behind her from his seat behind the desk. He doesn’t move to get up, so Kara walks over and takes the chair on the other side.
“I know,” Kara says. “I think we’re really close. I’ve narrowed the field down to five names and another possibility.”
Lex gestures for her to hand over the list she’s holding. He skims it. “Too expensive, too expensive, I’ve never heard of him, she’s got a reputation for drinking on the job, and he just got hired by the BBC.” He hands the paper back. “Tell me you have a better plan than that. The only reason I’ve given you this much leeway is that the numbers stabilized some after Morgan left—you’re still firmly in fourth during the first hour, but the softer stuff has shown some promise. You actually beat CBS for a few days in a row.”
“Well,” Kara shifts on the chair. “It’s come to my attention that LBC has Cat Grant under contract.”
“We do,” Lex says. He sounds bored. “Your point?”
“I’d actually like to offer the slot to her.”
“Cat’ll never do morning television,” Lex says, waving his hand like he’s trying to shoo away a fly. “Not in a million years. I can’t get her to do anything for us, can’t even use anything she pitches. It’s unfathomably boring—the climate crisis, human rights violations in US detention centers, Russian election interference—we’re LBC not ‘Democracy Now.’ I hired her to do stories for one of our magazine shows. Complete bust.”
“So you’re just...paying her to sit there?” Lex nods at her. “But she must have millions on her contract. You have a world-caliber anchor with nothing to do!” Kara is blown away, even though Lena had said as much.
“If I could get her to do something, I would.” Lex says, sounding exasperated and leaning back in his chair, steepling his fingers together. “Believe me, I’ve tried.”
“If it’s all the same to you,” Kara says, “I’d like to look at her contract.”
“Fine. You’re welcome to it. Angela can get you a copy on your way out.”
Kara takes the dismissal for what it is. She’s almost at the door when Lex calls after her.
“Oh, Kara,” he says, looking up at her and then back down at his screen. “I need you to start giving me a heads up on every emerging story for Daybreak—we’re trying to get more consistent coverage between programs and I want to be able to have the evening news follow up better on your stories, and vice versa.”
“Of course, Lex, I’d be happy to.” Kara pauses at the door. “Do you want me to talk directly to the EP?”
“No, no,” Lex shakes his head and looks back at her. “Just send it to me. I’ll coordinate. Thanks.”
“No problem.” She shuts the door behind her.
It seems a little inefficient to have Lex liaise between the producers of his main news shows, Kara thinks as she waits for Angela to pull up Cat’s contract. But she’s not about to challenge her boss—if he wants to spend his time playing gofer, that’s on him.
“Here you go,” Angela says, smiling at Kara and handing her half a ream of paper. Kara’s eyes go wide. “Let me know if you need anything else, okay?”
“Oh god, when I said I’d stay late to help you out, I didn’t think this much paperwork would be involved.” Nia is sitting across from Kara at the round table in Kara’s office again. The Daybreak offices are empty except for the cleaning crews, even though it’s only four in the afternoon. Perks of having to show up to work before five in the morning.
Kara has split Cat’s contract into two piles, one of which she’s making her way through with a yellow highlighter, while Nia tackles the other. As an apology, Kara has a bottle of Jack Daniels and a 2 liter of Vanilla Coke on the table, and they’re both drinking out of plastic solo cups Nia found in one of the kitchen sets. It doesn’t count as day drinking if it’s technically after the end of their day, right?
“What are we looking for again?” Nia asks, frowning as she drags a green highlighter over another clause about promo approval.
“Anything related to compensation, work requirements, performance bonuses, and termination clauses.” Kara hums and circles a section about story-refusal rights. “Apparently Cat is pretty shrewd. And also quite possibly not really interested in morning television, but you saw our alternatives.”
“That guy from Miami wasn’t completely awful. His tanner could probably have been power-washed off,” Nia says, giggling.
“The tan notwithstanding, you and I both know Andrea would eat him alive.” Kara stretches her neck and leans back for a second. “She was very clear with me—they’ve never matched the second chair to her talent.” She takes off her glasses and wipes them off on her shirt.
Nia hums in assent. “She’s not wrong. It’s almost like they haven’t been trying.” She twirls the pen as she thinks about it. “I mean, the last anchor was Morgan, and you met him...yikes. Before him, it was Ben Lockwood, who turned out to be a white supremacist and got caught trolling people on twitter. The guy before Ben was Otis Graves—I think he went to college with Mr. Luthor. Which is weird because Otis could barely read.”
“Exactly.” Kara looks back down at the small print in front of her. “I just...I want to get this right. Daybreak could be something special.”
“How’d you even get the idea to go through her contract? I mean, didn’t we think the audition tape was a mistake?” Nia flips to the next page and circles something.
“I asked Lena about it,” Kara says without thinking, biting her lip in concentration. Her eyes are tired and she’s beginning to wonder if she needs a new prescription, all the words are starting to blur together. It’s possible that the drink isn’t helping.
“At your lunch date today that totally isn’t a thing.” Nia’s voice is amused and Kara can feel herself blush, but she doesn’t look up, just squints harder and underlines something totally unrelated.
“Exactly. She’s very helpful.”
“Mhmm, I look at all my helpful friends the way you look at her.”
Kara whips her head up. “How would you know how I look at her.”
“Kara,” Nia says, puts the highlighter down on top of the stack in front of her. “You guys eat lunch every day on the same bench directly across from LBC. We all know how you look at her.”
“Yeah, well,” Kara flounders, “I know how you look at Brainy!”
To her credit, Nia goes just the tiniest bit pink, but she recovers quickly. “That doesn’t help you at all, I can admit when I like someone.”
“Whatever. Get back to work.”
“Yes, boss,” Nia says, but it’s said with such resigned affection that it makes Kara inexpressibly grateful Nia is with her at Daybreak. They may only have known each other for the few weeks Kara’s been here, but Nia is clearly phenomenal.
They work in silence for a while longer, before Nia breaks it by laughing out loud.
“Her rider requirements might break us, she’s more ridiculous than J. Lo.” Nia wrinkles her nose and sighs, her highlighter squeaking across the paper. “Who needs this many Le Labo candles in Santal 26? She’ll set her dressing room on fire. I mean, it’ll smell really good, but still.”
Kara hums, but she’s not really listening. She’s staring at the next paragraph in her half of the contract, a clause buried so deep on page one hundred and twelve that she isn’t even sure she’s reading it correctly. Nia is still listing off items from the rider, she’s moved on to something about hand-shelled pistachios and a tropical fruit plate—but Kara cuts her off.
“What?” Nia looks up, startled at the brusqueness of Kara’s tone. “What is it?”
“I might be reading this wrong…” Kara trails off, but Nia is already up and out of her seat, walking around the table to peer over Kara’s shoulder. “Take a look.” Kara draws brackets around the paragraph and points at it with the tip of her pen. “This one, here.”
Nia mumbles the words under her breath as she skims it, racing through the legal-jargon. Kara knows when Nia’s reached the bottom because she puts a hand on Kara’s shoulder and whispers, “Holy shit.”
Kara grins, triumphant.
“I think Daybreak just landed Cat Grant.”
Immediately after the show wraps on Wednesday, Kara takes Alex’s car and heads out of the city, leaving Nia and James to run morning meeting. Angela had been able to weasel out Cat’s whereabouts from Cat’s assistant, and when Kara had googled the place, she supposed it made sense. Where would one find a notoriously driven, ambitious, former news-power broker with nothing to do? At a secluded wellness retreat in one of the most expensive parts of North America, of course. So Kara’s destination is the Shou Sugi Ban House in Southampton, a fair drive from Metropolis, and even with the ferry that will make it so that she doesn’t have to drive around the Sound, it’s still going to take her close to two hours to get there.
Traffic feels interminable, but eventually Kara is pulling into a gravel parking lot and declining a valet. The aesthetic of the low front building is somewhere between Copenhagen and Kyoto, clean wooden siding framing underneath a irimoya-zukuri hip-and-gable roof, complete with a towering Buddha statue just before she reaches the reception desk. Thank goodness Angela called ahead for her, because a staff member informs her that Cat is in the culinary building (could they be any more pretentious? Kara thinks, but keeps it to herself), where she is enjoying the lunch service.
Kara walks out of reception and follows a winding pebbled pathway through manicured gardens dotted with trickling fountains and small reflective pools, until she comes to a converted barn—the large sliding doors pulled back to reveal several communal tables facing an open kitchen.
Cat is seated at the far table, alone. As Kara walks up, a staff member in a billowing white linen shirt and matching indigo pants walks up, asking her if she’s reserved a meal. Kara waves him off, her goal now in sight clearly picking away at what the chalkboard menu describes as ‘Grilled Avocado with Seaweed and Ponzu.’ Taking a deep breath, Kara slides onto the bench across from Cat. Here we go.
“Hi, Ms. Grant, I’m Kara Danvers. I’m sorry to interrupt your lunch, but I’m hoping you’ll be excited about what I have to say.”
Cat looks anything but excited, looking down her nose at Kara (a feat considering her diminutive size, even sitting) and showing no reaction to Kara’s presence beyond an infinitesimal thinning of her lips.
Kara stumbles, she’d expected some sort of response. “Right. We actually met a few weeks ago, at LBC—“
“What on earth are you doing here?” Cat has narrowed her eyes, and whether or not she remembers Kara, her reaction isn’t promising.
“I'm the producer of Daybreak and we're looking for a new anchor,” Kara says, deciding to jump right into the pitch.
Cat cuts her off and repeats her question. “Then why are you here?”
“Well, it's funny that you should ask, I’m—”
“Go away.” Cat looks back down at her plate, stabs a tiny piece of the avocado with a fork and brings it up to her mouth.
Knowing that she has an ace in her pocket, but not wanting to play it just yet, Kara tries a different tack. “Okay, just hear me out, because the show actually has a lot of potential. I don’t know how familiar you are with Daybreak but we're starting over basically, and with an anchor as esteemed and respected as yourself…”
Cat actually pushes the plate over and gets up, walking away from the table. Kara scrambles after her.
“Ms. Grant, Cat.” Kara struggles to catch up as Cat power walks out of the barn and into the gardens. “You've been a journalist your whole life, ever since your elementary school paper. You started at the Daily Planet in print, you had your own show on WGBS and later single-handedly put them on the map as a news broadcaster. You used to be known as ‘The Queen of All Media;’ I mean, you've got to miss it...when news breaks, it must just kill you not to be out there.”
Cat whirls around as they pass a reflecting pool and Kara has to stop short to avoid knocking into her. “Morning shows don't do news.” Cat spits out, leaning into Kara’s space. “Good god, Daybreak. Half the people that watch your show have lost their remote. The other half are waiting for their nurse to turn them over. If I wanted to come back, I could have any job I chose. What on earth possessed you to make you think I’d stoop as low as a morning television disaster?”
“But you can't work on another network for another two years!” Kara takes an involuntary step back.
“And until then, I'll continue to enjoy my life on the Luthor’s dime,” Cat says, gesturing around the bucolic space.
“All right.” Kara takes a deep breath and squares her shoulders, pushes up her shirtsleeves. ”I didn't want to have to do this: I looked at your contract.”
“What?” For the first time, Cat’s eyes flicker with uncertainty. “Why would you do that?”
Kara ignores the question. “And you're right. LBC does have to pay you for the last two years of your contract.” Cat’s face shows a flash of confidence, but it’s wiped away by Kara’s next words. “Unless six months have elapsed without you appearing on the air in any capacity,” Cat is now looking at Kara as if she wishes she were able to smite her, “which passed last year. Then, if the network offers you an official position and you don't take it, they can terminate your contract and the six million dollars that you have left on it. So, here's me with an official offer: Cat Grant, LBC would like to you to co-host Daybreak.” Kara smiles, trying to take the sting out of it.
“You're joking.” Cat’s face is a mask of poorly concealed rage and Kara wonders for a moment whether or not Lena is right about this being a bad idea. Too late now.
“No. Actually, I'm not.” She tries not to let her trepidation show, resists shifting her weight from foot to foot.
“Do you have any idea,” Cat starts, her voice in a low tone that Kara most associates with Eliza at her angriest, “what's going on in the world? And you want me to do stories about, what, baked Alaska and juice cleanses? After the career that I've had?”
“I mean, yes, the morning news has a wider range of stories—”
“A wider range?! Your program is in the news department, Tweedeldee!” If Kara is any character from Through the Looking Glass it sure as heck isn’t one of the twins, but Cat continues before Kara can register a complaint. “News is a sacred temple. And you're part of the cabal that's ruining it with horseshit!”
It’s one thing if Cat is just upset about being outmaneuvered, but now she’s telling Kara that morning news is worthless. And that won’t stand. “That's not actually fair.” Kara puts her hands on her hips. “Because the first half hour of a morning show is a damn fine news broadcast. Sure, we cover news and entertainment. That's everything a newspaper has ever done—it’s everything you did in your gossip column for The Daily Planet when you started out. There's nothing wrong with it!” Cat crosses her arms and leans back a hair as Kara picks up speed. “Think of it this way: We're like well-informed friends coming over to chat with people in the morning.” Cat hums but she’s no longer telling Kara to get lost. “You know, Brokaw did the morning news. And Charlie Gibson. Walter Cronkite did it at the beginning of his career. I mean, he co-hosted a morning program with a puppet named Charlemagne.” Kara gives Cat the biggest smile she can manage and waits to see how she’ll react.
“Well, then…” Cat says, looking her up and down. “Get a puppet.”
And with that, Cat walks away.
Nia comes up to Kara first thing on Thursday morning to ask if it really went as badly with Cat as Kara’s skull emoji laden text led her to believe. James offers his sympathies, then reminds Kara about Cat’s personality off-screen and suggests that they may have dodged a bullet. Winn tries to make her feel better about it, but he sounds disappointed and keeps saying that Cat’s Q Score would have been a huge boost. Honestly, Kara’s mostly upset about how quick Cat had been to dismiss the entire morning show world. Kara knows she isn’t exactly working for cable news or, heck, evening news, but that doesn’t make what she does any less important. And if it takes a baked Alaska recipe to get people to tune in for thoughtful political analysis, then Kara will have Andrea make a hundred baked Alaskas.
The Thursday show is fine, all things, considered, but Kara is fairly distracted as the segments play out. Nia takes point on the second hour, which means Kara doesn’t have to deal with Siobhan tripping over the living room set when they bring some youtuber in for an interview, but Kara is so focused on how she’s going to approach the anchor problem that she doesn’t even register it.
When morning meeting rolls around, Brainy stops her on the way in, saying that he heard about Ms. Grant and it’s a shame we won’t be graced by her mature presence. Nia probably told him. Kara cracks a smile at that, thinking about how angry Cat would be if she heard herself referred to as ‘mature,’ but Andrea’s take on the whole thing sends her right back into a spiral of worry.
“Are you okay?” Andrea asks her as they walk into the conference room, putting her hand on Kara’s forearm.
“What?” Kara stops short on the way to her seat and looks at Andrea. Andrea has fake concern all over her face.
“Don't beat yourself up. She was never gonna do it.” Kara blinks at her and Andrea raises her eyebrows. “Cat Grant?”
“How do you know that?” Kara can feel the crinkle in her brow. Gosh, does everybody know that she tried and failed? That’s going to be great for morale.
“Oh don’t kid yourself. Cat was never going to come to work at this little dog and pony show, especially not working for somebody with such little experience.” Andrea looks her up and down as if to underscore the point and somehow, Kara can’t help feeling that Andrea doesn’t mean producing experience. “Not in a thousand years. I mean, obviously, don't get me wrong, I would have welcomed her with open arms. Lord knows I could use…” Andrea suddenly trails off.
Kara looks at her, squinting and trying to figure out why Andrea’s suddenly gone quiet, when she hears James from behind her, his low voice unmistakable as he mutters, “Oh my god.”
“I heard she was coming in, but I didn't think...” M’gann whispers loudly to Gayle in the back of the room.
Andrea’s hand falls away from Kara’s arm as Kara turns around to the door.
“I've won eight Peabodys.” Cat Grant is standing at the threshold, looking directly at Kara as if no one else is present. She’s in a pink, vintage, tweed skirt suit, heels to rival Lena’s, her hair perfectly coiffed—not a strand out of place—and a vaguely murderous expression on her face. “A Pulitzer. Sixteen Emmys.” Kara takes a step towards her and Cat puts up a hand to stop her. “I was stabbed in the thigh in Russia. I pulled Colin Powell from a burning Jeep in Iraq. Greta Thunberg asked my advice on public speaking.”
“You're here for the money,” Kara says, taking a step closer anyway, and smiling, because this is the woman who could very well save Daybreak.
“That is correct,” Cat bites out.
“You start Monday.”
It’s nearly seven p.m. on when Jess walks into Lena’s office. She heads immediately over to the sideboard, pours herself a glass of whiskey, and then seats herself opposite Lena’s desk. “I came looking for you at just after noon today, Jack and I wanted to try out that new sushi place.”
“Hello to you, too.” Lena looks up from the contract she’s reviewing. Lex has always looked down on her for doing final read throughs in hard copy, but Lena feels better with the actual paper in front of her—it’s too easy to miss things on a screen. “How was it?”
“It was really good. We have to go again, but Lena, that’s not my point.” Jess is smiling and her eyebrows are raised.
“What is your point, did Jack do something at lunch?” Lena looks back down at the contract. She doesn’t like one of the target demo requirements. “He and Sam have that ridiculous bet going about his new neighbor, something about having to shave his head if the guy isn’t gay. Don’t tell me he’s lost.” She makes a note in the margin—general counsel will need to take a look.
“No, this isn’t about Jack.”
“Okay,” Lena drawls, not looking up. She really needs to finish this by the time she goes home so that it can be looked at first thing tomorrow. “I’ll bite, what’s it about.”
Lena can feel the crinkle on her forehead as she sets the pen down and finally looks up to give Jess her full attention. “Me?”
“You’ve been taking lunch.”
Lena can feel the blush start at the base of her neck. “Yes, well, you’re quite good at kicking me out of my own office.”
“I haven’t had to threaten you in the last two weeks.”
“You’ve trained Hector to do it in your absence.”
“Hector told me he doesn’t even have to prod you to leave. And you’ve been suspiciously regular about the time.”
“What?” Lena doesn’t know why she’s fighting this. Jess isn’t wrong, and the more Lena tries to act like nothing is going on, the more Jess is going to press. She’s like a bloodhound once she gets a scent. And leaving Jess and Jack unsupervised at lunch is probably what’s brought this on, but Lena still can’t help herself; the impulse to deny is just too strong. “Don’t be absurd. I read an article in the Harvard Business Review about the importance of regular breaks and their impact on productivity.”
“That article was six months ago and I’m the one who put it on your desk. This is new.” Jess is undeterred, she narrows her eyes at Lena.
“Well, maybe you’ve finally gotten through to me.”
“So this has nothing to do with making sure you’re conveniently on the same bench at the same time as a certain blonde EP with a penchant for spilling condiments all over herself?”
“Kara isn’t that messy.” Lena regrets it as soon as it’s out of her mouth.
“So you do know who she is!” Jess is gleeful, relaxing back in the chair, as if Lena has somehow tipped her hand.
“It’s come up.” Lena scowls down at the papers on her desk.
“Uh-huh,” Jess sings. “What else has come up. ”
“She got Cat Grant to agree to anchor Daybreak,” Lena says, picking up her pen and deciding to return to the contract. Maybe if she just ignores Jess, she’ll go away. “I really have to get this done.”
“You’ve been over it three times,” Jess says, dismissing her, “and holy shit, really? How?”
Three times or not already, Lena really does need to finish her final read through; on the other hand, Jess is clearly content to settle in for the duration. With a heavy sigh, Lena gives in, realizing that if she doesn’t tell Jess anything she won’t be left alone.
“She went through Cat’s contract and found a performance clause that Lex had missed.” Lena can’t help smiling. The look on his face when he came into her office this morning to complain had been priceless.
“She is,” Lena agrees, smiling and thinking about how excited Kara had been at lunch as she recounted finding it and then tracking down Cat.
“So when are you going to ask her on a date?”
Jess rolls her eyes so hard her head moves. “Oh come on. Don’t even try. You’ve spent three weeks now thirsting over her shoulders and staring at her forearms in the park anytime she rolls up her sleeves. It’s like a sport, watching you.”
“Yes, well,” Lena clears her throat, suddenly uncomfortable and shifting in her chair. “She called us ‘lunch buddies’ on Tuesday, so I’m not sure the feeling is mutual.”
“You cannot possibly be this obtuse.” Jess’s mouth is actually hanging open and Lena glares at her.
She’s saved having to make a response when Hector pops his head in. “Lillian is on line one for you.”
“We’ll continue this discussion later,” Jess says as she walks out and shuts the door.
“Lena?” Lillian sounds distracted when Lena picks up the phone. “Can you come down to my office for a moment? Hector said you might be in the middle of something.”
Lena looks down at the paperwork on her desk and tries not to sigh audibly. “Nothing that can’t wait. I’ll be down in a moment. Anything specific?”
“I’d like to touch base about Daybreak. Bring anything you have on revenue and advertising slots. I already have the demo breakdowns. This will take ten minutes.”
Lena can hear her brother’s voice in the background as she hangs up the phone. No doubt he’s pressing Lillian with the same argument he brought up to Lena a couple of weeks ago.
Say what you will about Lillian’s take no prisoners attitude toward profits at LBC, and Lena has said plenty over the past couple of years, but Lillian has always resisted moves to reduce their more serious programming. It’s one of the things that Lena appreciates about working for her adoptive mother, and one of the things she’s dreading about having Lex in the top spot whenever Lillian finally decides to give it all up in favor of retirement and charity work.
One of the other things Lena appreciates about Lillian is that she doesn’t play favorites between Lena and Lex—the best idea wins, no matter who has it. Lillian’s commitment to fair play goes beyond business. As a child, Lena never understood how Lillian could be so warm with her children and so cold to their father, Lionel. But learning the truth about her own parentage and her status as Lionel’s true daughter cured Lena of any misconceptions she had. She’ll be forever grateful that Lillian’s complicated response to Lena’s existence was focused where it should have been, on the man who had an affair, and not on the resulting child who couldn’t help it.
Still, Lena isn’t relishing the role Lex is forcing her into lately: trying to defend important, core programming even as the numbers are increasingly frail. He’s the one in charge of programming; he should be the one tasked with mounting a defense and then doing something about it.
When she arrives at Lillian’s corner office, Lena is surprised to find that Lex is no longer there. Lillian gestures for her to sit down. “Lena, I’d like you to walk me through Daybreak ’s revenue problems right now. The first quarter trends were consistent with last year; at what point does this become a negative revenue stream?”
So that’s a yes on Lex forcing the issue.
Lena hands her mother the advertising revenue breakdowns, along with demographic performance clauses modeled out on the current trend projections. “As you can see,” she says, “the trend through Q1 was similar to what we were seeing over the course of the past year. And I won’t sugar coat it: if that continues, Daybreak is in serious trouble. Given those projections, we’re estimating that several of the current advertising contracts trigger an escape clause sometime in Q3. However,” and Lena hands a single page over to Lillian now, “over the last few weeks, the viewership appears to have stabilized.”
Lillian is frowning at the packet that Lena handed her first, eyes flickering between it and the sheet of paper that she’s just produced. “To what do you attribute the change, and is it sustainable?
“There’s been a change in the anchor profile—Morgan Edge, who’s had several complaints that probably should have triggered the morality clause in his contract, was fired. His removal seems to have stemmed the exodus. It’s too early to say whether or not that’s going to continue. And my understanding is that Cat Grant has been selected for the open anchor chair, but she’s yet to be on air. Her reception will likely ultimately drive viewership.”
Lillian hums, setting the papers down and flipping through a folder on her desk. “I agree that it’s too early to tell right now and that therefore there’s no decision to be made presently.” Lillian looks back up at Lena. “You already know that Lex is pressing to get rid of Daybreak in favor of more lucrative programming, probably syndicated talk but perhaps one of his reality projects. News is what made LBC what it is, however, and I’m reluctant to sacrifice a platform like this that lets us straddle the line between important informational programming and entertainment.”
Lena waits patiently for Lillian to come to the point. Her mother glances back down at the papers on her desk, before stacking the pile neatly and pushing them away.
“I’d like you to prepare a presentation for the Board at the end of this quarter,” she says finally, fixing Lena with an intense gaze. “Take a position in favor of keeping Daybreak. Lex will present on the other side. Perhaps the next six weeks or so will allow us to fully evaluate whether or not the current trend will hold.”
“I’m happy to do it.”
“I thought you might be,” Lillian says as Lena stands up and makes for the door. “And go home already, I know you’ve been in since six this morning and I also know that your second pass on the contract on your desk was excellent. No reason to go through it again.”
Lena looks back, baffled as to how Lillian knows exactly what she’s working on, but, at the playful smile on Lillian’s face, Lena simply rolls her eyes at her mother. “I’m almost done and then I’m going home, I swear.”
It’s been a heck of a week, thinks Kara as she walks out of the Daybreak office at noon on Friday. Andrea is being snippy with her, but that’s not really new, and Kara suspects that it’s mostly about having been wrong regarding Cat. Cat won’t be on air for another week—they’re going to introduce her during the weekend programming and in the meantime there are promos to shoot, and the writers need to adjust to having someone else back on stage with Andrea. Kara could just go home right now—she’s actually sent everyone else home early as a reward for a great three weeks. And it’s a slow news day. She could just as easily monitor stories, review the budget, and plan assignments from the apartment. Their weekend show tomorrow is completely prepped, all of the paperwork for Cat has been completed, and Nia has been doing a phenomenal job on some of the segments with Brainy—he’s really taken to having more to do than just weather and Kara needs to spend some time thinking about how she can better deploy him.
But, as tempting as going home is, Kara wants to stick around on the off-chance that Lena will be at the park for lunch today.
It’s not really an off-chance anymore, or at least it doesn’t feel like it, Kara thinks as she takes the escalator up to the lobby. Wednesday was the only day they didn’t eat together this week, and that was because Kara had been tracking down Cat. She’d explained immediately when she saw Lena on Thursday. Not that she assumed Lena had been waiting for her or anything, but they have this thing going, even if it isn’t clear what the thing is. She hadn’t wanted Lena to think she’d blown her off.
There’s a new food vendor on the corner today who Kara hasn’t seen before—tacos and sopes featured prominently in pictures on the side of it—so Kara decides to try them out. From the smell of the styrofoam container she’s given, it seems like the right choice. She just barely holds off opening it up as she makes her way across to the park.
Lena is already on the bench when Kara arrives, wearing a beautiful black dress and matching heels, and she pulls her purse off the seat next to her as Kara walks up.
“Saving me a seat?” Kara can’t help teasing.
Lena ducks her head as she tucks her phone inside the bag, then places it underneath her legs. Her black dress riding up just a bit at the knees. “Couldn’t have just anyone sitting here,” she says, smoothing the dress out. “We’re lunch buddies.”
“You’re not going to let that go, are you?” Kara laughs as she sits down.
“Probably not, no,” Lena says, opening a container of salad that Kara recognizes as Lena’s go-to lunch. “I caught a bit of the show today. Andrea seemed especially good.”
Kara waves a hand as she opens her own lunch. “Maybe she’s trying to remind us all how excellent she can be when she wants to be.”
“Careful, it sounds like you might be about to have two competent anchors. That’d be a first.”
Kara digs out a taco, the filling practically bursting out of the soft corn tortilla, and smiles over at Lena. She enjoys their banter, likes it when Lena teases her about the show, knowing that Kara is working her butt off to make it better. Her attention drifts back to her food.
“Oh my gosh, Lena,” Kara says, chewing and practically groaning in delight, “you have to try this.” Whatever the meat has been marinated in is acidic and just a tiny bit sweet, and it has just the right balance of onions, avocado, and cilantro sprinkled over top. She sets the taco she just took a bite of back in the container and picks up one she hasn’t just had her mouth all over, holds it out to Lena, cupping a hand underneath, and gesturing for Lena to take a bite.
Lena’s flushed for some reason and she’s staring at the taco like it might try to bite her, instead. “Kara, that’s sweet of you to offer, but I don’t…”
“I know it isn’t salad,” Kara cuts her off, feeling oddly invested in this, “but I also know you’re not a vegetarian because you got that chicken Caesar last week. Trust me. The sauce is unreal.” Kara lifts the taco a little higher. She’s not going to try to force Lena or anything, but this might be the best street food she’s ever had and it would be criminal not to try to share it.
“I’ll get it all over myself,” Lena protests, but it’s half-hearted at best and she sounds like she’s considering it.
“I’ve got, like, a hundred napkins. And if it gets messy, it’ll just drop into my hand, so you don’t need to worry about your dress.” Kara’s eyes drop down to the dress in question as she says it. It’s form fitting, and Lena looks absolutely devastating in it, a very tasteful hint of cleavage that really just makes Kara wonder what color Lena’s bra is, which is not a good thought to have while she’s holding a taco out and trying to get Lena to take a bite. Lena looks so good today it’s distracting, and Kara really needs to be looking back up at Lena’s face before Lena realizes what she’s looking at right now.
Looking back up, it turns out, doesn’t help at all because Lena decides that she will, in fact, take a bite, and now Kara is watching Lena’s mouth as she leans in toward the taco in Kara’s hand.
“Oh wow, that is really good,” Lena says, her words a little muffled by the food in her mouth as she leans back. “You weren’t kidding.”
Kara nods, most of her higher brain functioning taking a sharp nosedive as she watches Lena wipe a tiny crumb from the corner of her mouth and then lick it off. “Good. Great. I’m glad you like it.” Belatedly, she realizes that she’s still holding the taco out over Lena’s lap and she pulls it back sharply.
“Maybe I should try new things more often,” Lena says, smiling at her before picking up her fork again and returning to her salad.
“Yeah,” Kara says, looking at the taco in her hand that Lena just put her mouth on, “trying new things is good.”
“So,” Lena continues, as if Kara isn’t having a small meltdown next to her, “when does Cat start?”
Work, right. A much safer topic than what Kara would like to do to Lena’s mouth. “Monday for background and prep. On the screen? A week from tomorrow.”
“I’ll save my condolences to you for Monday, then.” Lena is smiling at her and having to think about Monday is enough to knock Kara’s brain back into reality. She smiles back and finishes the taco as Lena starts complaining about some terrible contract that took the entire week to nail down.
Her crush is officially out of control.
please please please go look at this art created by @ekingston of Lena in the park waiting for Kara
WD au felt like a freaking speed run compared to this and I keep looking around going, Why is there all this plot? Is it not enough to just shove these two idiots together?
ch title from Joss Stone's Free Me
Additionally, I feel compelled to share that I had planned for a shorter chapter and then the characters all rebelled and insisted on taking their time with things. What’s an author to do. As jazz pointed out to me, I’ve officially lost all control of them. Like, Lillian isn’t even supposed to be here. But here she is, doing...businessy things.
Shou Sugi Ban House is absolutely a real place and I feel compelled to tell you that it seems like the type of establishment that would not have let Kara in to bother a guest. Ooops.
Cat really did call Kara ‘Tweedledee’ don’t @me
I have absolutely zero first hand knowledge of a) television production, b) media companies, c) advertising contracts, and d) how any of this would work in real life. Some judicious googling has helped, but all mistakes are mine AND WE ARE PRETENDING THERE ARE NO MISTAKES.
Also, Harvard Business Review writes that article at least once a year, sometimes more. It’s their version of the Cosmo relationship tips list: reused, redone, and recycled when they have nothing better to write. The point is, even bastions of capitalism sometimes acknowledge that we are not just semi-sentient meat sacks completing tasks, and getting a break is good for you. This chapter is how I spent mine.
“Hold that thought, Kara—I do wanna hear it, but I think the pizza’s here.” It’s six p.m. on Sunday evening and they’ve got the last season of Schitt’s Creek all ready to go on the screen, Alex smiles and squeezes Kara’s shoulder as she gets up from the couch to answer the buzzer. Kelly gets up, too, heads to the fridge and grabs drinks for everyone, before pulling an extra blanket off the reading chair.
“Can I grab anything?” Kara asks, starting to get up from where she’s sitting on the couch, but Kelly waves her down
“No, you’re fine, Alex has everything out already.”
The front door shuts with the sound of Alex kicking it closed, and then Alex is walking back to the couch with two pizza boxes. “Can someone clear a space for these, I’m going to knock over that bottle.” Kara helps her make room for the boxes out on the coffee table. “Okay, you were saying about Cat?” She turns to Kara as Kelly starts putting pieces onto plates.
“Oh, I’m done, really, just that Lena was warning me Cat can be difficult to work with, so I’ll have to balance keeping her happy with also making sure she’s not trying to run the show.” Kara nods when Kelly points to the box with sausage and peppers and raises her eyebrows.
“You know you’ve been talking an awful lot about this Lena person,’ Alex says, as Kelly puts two slices on a plate and hands it to Kara. “What does she do on Daybreak again?”
“Thanks, Kelly,” Kara takes the plate and sets her cream soda down on top of a magazine on the end table, then turns back to Alex. “Lena’s not on Daybreak, she’s in the C-suite upstairs.” She shuffles further into the corner of the couch and settles in, taking an enormous bite.
“Then how come you have so much contact with her?” Kelly asks, sitting back in the other corner of the couch now, Alex between them.
“Wait, C-suite? How old is she, Kara?” Alex is frowning.
Kara flaps one hand at Alex, balancing her plate on her lap as she picks up her soda again with the other, “She’s 29, Alex, she’s not Holland Taylor.”
Alex’s frown deepens. “If she’s 29, what is she doing in the C-suite at LBC?”
“It’s a family business,” Kara mumbles into the bottle.
“LBC is a family...oh my god you’re talking about Lena Luthor?” Alex’s voice gets a little high pitched. “And you have contact with her, how exactly? Is she in charge of your show?”
“Nothing like that, she’s not even on the programming side of the business.” Kara starts picking at the label, scraping off the top right corner so that she can peel it back. “Occasionally we eat lunch together.”
“How often is occasionally?” Alex pulls a leg up underneath her and rotates toward her. Looking at her sister, Kara thinks (not for the first time), that Alex may have missed her calling as a detective.
“Um,” Kara pauses, “whenever we run into each other? It’s accidental so far.” She blushes and knows, with instincts borne out of nearly two decades as Alex’s sister, that there’s no more avoiding this conversation. She’s not even sure why she wants to avoid it—she likes Lena, knows she likes Lena, and she wants to talk about her. So why is it so hard to admit that out loud? Because you aren’t sure if she likes you back, a small voice inside her head answers. “I feel like I’m not explaining this right. It’s not like we’re spending our lunch hour together, sometimes it’s only five minutes.”
“Your face says you wish those five minutes lasted all day.” Alex is grinning at her, but there’s nothing malicious about it. “Okay,” Alex says, “let’s take last week as an example. How many times did you run into each other last week?” Kara can hear the air quotes as Alex repeats her own words back to her.
“Uh-huh.” Alex glances at Kelly, who just smiles and shakes her head. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s every day you weren’t stalking down Cat Grant.” Kara doesn’t respond because Alex isn’t really asking anything yet. “And the week before that?”
“Well, also four. That Friday we had the kitchen fire and it took a while to deal with since Siobhan swore she didn’t understand how it had happened, and Lena wasn’t in the park when I made it out. But it isn’t what you’re thinking!” Kara looks down at the bottle in her hands. Time to just rip off the bandaid. “She’s gorgeous and smart and really kind,” Kara thinks about Lena helping her decipher the budget, “and maybe I try to eat at the same time every day so I’ll run into her.”
“No shit Sherlock.” Alex is raising a single eyebrow at her, and Kelly is trying to stifle laughter. Kara rolls her eyes and starts peeling back another piece. Getting made fun of for this at work is bad enough. “How are you this much of a cliche?”
Kara sticks her tongue out at her sister. “I don’t know. It’s a gift.”
“So, you think she’s gorgeous and smart and kind,” Alex ticks the points off on the fingers of her right hand.
“And clearly, because we’re having this conversation, you haven’t done anything about it.”
“But you want to?” Kelly asks, far more gently than Alex.
“Yeah.” Kara looks at Kelly. “I mean, I don’t know—we keep eating together, and I’m not great at telling when people are interested in me. I feel like she might be. But what if she’s not? What if I ask her out and she’s not interested and then I never see her again?”
Alex barks out a laugh. “You just told me she’s seen you eat and apparently that hasn’t sent her running in the opposite direction.” Kara chucks the fragment of the label she’s crumpling up in her hand at Alex, who laughs harder. It rolls off of her sister and into a crack between the cushions. “Come on, walk us through it. What makes you think she might like you?”
Kara scrunches up her mouth as she thinks about how to explain it. Finally she shrugs. “She always seems happy to see me. And, if she didn’t want to see me, she could avoid me pretty easily. But maybe she’s just like that with everyone. God I feel like some guy being like, she’s nice to me clearly she wants to bang. ”
“Oh my god, Kara. I’m still stuck on the fact that an actual executive at LBC is magically around every single day when you take lunch and apparently you believe it’s accidental.”
“Well it was! I only told her on Monday when I take lunch.”
“Hmmm.” Alex squints, taps her fingers on her knee. “Actually, that gives us a comparison point. Have you spent more time with her per run-in this week than the previous two weeks?”
“More, I guess.” Alex looks at her sceptically. “Fine. More, definitely. She, um, she saved me a seat the other day actually. And she waits for me to start eating.”
“This is like pulling teeth,” Alex says, rolling her eyes.
“Alex, be gentle,” Kelly says, nudging Alex lightly. “It’s scary liking someone and not knowing how they feel about you.”
“I know.” Alex relaxes into Kelly’s side. “But Kara? For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re off-base thinking she might like you. You said it yourself: she could avoid you easily if she didn’t want to see you, you see each other more days than not, and since you told her when you take a break, she’s spent more time with you.”
“What do you know about her, besides work?” Kelly asks.
“Not much, really,” Kara says, putting her drink back down and taking another bite of pizza. She swallows “But is it totally weird to say that I want to know everything about her?”
“Damn, you really like this woman.” Alex looks thoughtful.
“Yeah.” Kara says, looking down at her plate and smiling. “Yeah, I think I really do.”
“Well I think it’s sweet,” Kelly says as she reaches for the remote without dislodging Alex. “That’s enough interrogation for one night, I wanna know if Patrick and David get married.”
They only make it through a couple of episodes before it’s eight and Kara says goodnight. If Lena is right about Cat, she’s going to need to be on her A-game this week and not getting enough sleep isn’t how she wants to start off.
Laying in bed an hour later, though, Kara keeps thinking about what she’d said to Alex and Kelly: she does really like Lena. And if Alex is right, then asking Lena out might not be the major risk it feels like. If Lena says yes, then Kara will have the opportunity to get to know Lena for real, like she wants to. And if Lena isn’t interested, if Kara has somehow completely misread this, well, maybe Lena will still want to be friends. Finally acknowledging it all and laying out the options doesn’t make Kara any less nervous, though—there are a lot of ifs. Lunch tomorrow can’t come soon enough.
Cat arrives during the final five minutes of the show on Monday morning. It had occurred to Kara that maybe Cat wouldn’t show—that maybe she was more interested in a clean break from LBC than she was in taking Kara’s offer, but seeing her answers that question. For better or worse, Daybreak finally has a new co-anchor. Here we go, thinks Kara. Back on the soundstage, Andrea is just finishing the final piece.
“...and that’s what you have to look forward to tomorrow, on Daybreak. I’m Andrea Rojas and it’s a pleasure to spend the morning with you. Goodbye!” Camera one rolls away from Andrea on the center stage set as the final shot finishes, the monitor in the tech booth, where Kara is, holding Andrea center as she smiles at the camera one last time and sits back in her chair after signing off.
“Roll the outro package,” James says over the headset. Nia signals the switch and they can hear the credit music play over the speakers in the booth, as the monitor flips to Daybreak’s end package, split screened next to a pre-recorded teaser for tomorrow’s show.
“And we’re off-air,” calls James out over the PA system in the studio.
“That’s a wrap for today folks,” Kara says. “Let’s get the set cleaned up; morning meeting in thirty!”
Kara practically vaults her way down the stairs to the stage—no way Andrea didn’t see Cat and she needs to know how Andrea’s feeling about having a new co-anchor now that it’s a reality. Andrea is ripping off the lavalier mic and snapping at a sound assistant when she arrives, the veneer of her on-air personality fading as quickly as the last shot had, but as soon as she sees Kara, she redirects her energy.
“I don’t really see why she needs to be here, she’s not even on-air with me until the end of the week.” So, not feeling great, then. “God, does she cook? Does she...I don't know, do fashion segments and gossip?” Andrea finally finishes pulling the cord from her mic pack out from the back of her pink scoop neck dress. She thrusts the entire apparatus at the assistant and then gets up to stalk off stage, still talking to Kara. “Has she ever had three-year-old octuplets barf all over her like I did last year?”
“Well, unfortunately, someone gave her story refusal rights in the early aughts, so, no.” Kara flinches when Andrea whirls around to face her as soon as they’re out of the set and into the bullpen. She knew that Andrea wouldn’t be thrilled with having to share a screen with Cat given Cat’s obvious distaste for Daybreak, but Kara had honestly hoped that the promise of matching talent to talent would buy her a little forgiveness.
“How on earth is that woman going to handle a morning show? She better not come in here and expect me to do all the low-brow stories while she gets the good ones. Does she understand what it takes to do morning television?” Andrea spins back and continues to make her way to her dressing room.
“Yes, I think so, and you kept saying that you needed someone on your level—”
“I wanted someone who wasn’t going to spend all of their time looking down on what we do!” Andrea hisses at her. They’ve arrived at Andrea’s dressing room and she rips the door open—luckily the knob stays attached. Kara follows her in. “Face it! I'm going to end up making instant pot chicken stew with mommy vloggers for the rest of my natural life.” Andrea sits down at her makeup table and pulls out the wipes and remover.
“I really think that after a little bit of time, she's gonna want to do a mix of stories,” Kara says, unwilling to let Andrea ruin the hope she has for Cat. “We’ll spend this week getting her acclimated. I think that you two are going to make a great team.”
“Whatever.” Andrea is leaning into the mirror now, taking off her mascara. “Just know, I won’t be bending over backwards for her. I’ve been here for eight years. She hasn’t even been on air in the last two.”
“I’m sure she knows that.” Kara winces internally, nothing about Cat’s attitude so far has reflected any such awareness. “I want to give you two a chance to meet before we go into morning meeting, so I’m going to go see where she’s at, okay?”
Andrea waves a hand at the door and doesn’t look away from the mirror. “You can bring her in here whenever she’s available.”
Kara lets out an audible breath once she’s out of Andrea’s room. She starts making her way down the narrow space between shelves and stacks of props, picking her way over a pile of life jackets, and over to Morgan’s old dressing room which Nia is helping to turn into a space for Cat.
They’ve already got Cat’s title and headshot up on the wall when Kara walks up. Nia is inside, directing a flurry of production assistants and two movers, who are shifting furniture around the space under the watchful eye of Cat in the corner. “Okay, let's move it again,” Nia says, pointing to the couch as the two guys roll their eyes at each other; clearly this isn’t the first time they’ve rearranged everything. “You heard her, try the couch along this back wall. We’ll mount the television on the opposite side above the buffet.” Nia looks down at a checklist she copied from the rider. “We've got the hand soap, we got the candles, the newspapers, the tropical fruit...”
As soon as the couch is in place, Cat swans over to it and takes a seat, unfurling a copy of The Daily Planet as she does.
“Thanks guys, I think that’s it.” Nia dismisses the crew and walks over to the door to stand with Kara. She’s done a great job getting everything set up for Cat. There’s a tall floor lamp on the right by the door and a beautiful white marble-topped coffee table above a plush-looking Turkish carpet in the center of the room. The modern leather couch that Cat is perched on is along the far wall to the right, offset by a gorgeous leather wingback that might be an authentic 18th century Chippendale in the corner, and Nia has set up a veritable farmers market spread on the wide walnut buffet below an enormous wall-mounted television set on the wall to the left of the door. “Is there anything else I can get you, Ms. Grant?”
“No,” comes the reply, muffled by the paper.
“Good luck,” Nia whispers as she brushes by Kara and leaves. “She’s...a handful.”
Kara takes a deep breath and walks over to where Cat is sitting. “Hi Cat, I’m so glad to see Nia was able to get this set up for you in time.” She pauses to see if Cat is going to engage with her.
Cat turns a page.
“We’ve got about twenty minutes to morning meeting,” Kara pushes on, “and I’m really hoping I can talk with you and Andrea before that. Andrea is so looking forward to seeing you.” Kara clasps her hands together, internally hoping Andrea will at least pretend like she’s excited to meet Cat.
“Great, I’m happy to meet with her.” Cat still doesn’t put down the paper. “I'll be in here, you can let her know.”
Oh no, thinks Kara. Oh no.
Kara spends the next fifteen minutes running back and forth between Cat and Andrea, trying to coax one of them into making the ten yard walk over to the other’s dressing room, with absolutely no luck. She tries reasoning with Cat about Andrea being the face of the show, tries bribing Andrea with the promise of a tropical fruit plate of her own. Nothing works.
“Andrea, please.” She’s in Andrea’s dressing room for the fifth time, glancing at her watch as the minutes tick down to the start of morning meeting. “That woman might be our only hope. So I suggest you put pride aside and get in there!”
“That is such a good speech!” Andrea says, voice dripping with sarcasm. She’s changed into jeans and a grey t-shirt and is now sitting on her own couch, drinking some sort of green shake and shopping on a tablet. “Now that you’ve practiced it, go try it out on her.”
“Fine! Don’t help me out in any way!” Kara finally throws her hands in the air, exasperated. “If you really don’t want to work with her, I’m sure we’ll be cancelled soon, and then you won’t have to!”
Andrea looks up. “Don’t be dramatic.” She puts the smoothie on her side table and thins her lips, then stands up, leaving the tablet on the couch. “I’ll meet her in the hallway, but I am not going into her dressing room. She has to meet me halfway.”
“Thank you,” Kara sighs out.
Fortunately, Cat agrees to that. A few minutes later, both women are standing in front of Kara halfway between their respective dressing rooms while Kara reads from her notebook to get them up to speed.
“So this week will be about shooting the promo packages and marketing.” She looks at both of them to make sure they’re paying attention, and then back down at her notes. “Cat, you’ll be in all our show and story meetings, and we’re introducing you on this Saturday’s show—it’s got a less rigid format than the weekday show, and it’s shorter so we’ll have an easier time with the segments for your first go.
“You mean it’s even more devoid of news and gravity than usual,” Cat hums out under her breath.
Kara tries to keep her sigh internal and ignores Cat in favor of finishing this before they have to get to the meeting. “As I was saying, we'll be working on the promo material and the new intro and outro packages all week, and then we'll finalize the format of the show on Friday. Friday after the show we can rehearse Cat’s openings and segues, and then on Saturday—“
“Excuse me.” Kara looks up from her notes to see Andrea tapping her foot with her arms crossed over her chest. “Who’s going to say goodbye?”
“I’m sorry?” Kara knows exactly what Andrea is talking about, but she’d hoped to put this off—possibly forever.
“At the end of the show,” Andrea says, fixing Kara with a glare. “Who is going to say ‘goodbye’ to end the show?”
“I’m sure it doesn’t really matter,” Kara starts, knowing already that it’s absolutely going to matter but maybe they can have this fight later, or not at all. But gosh, Andrea has already practically accused Kara of throwing her under the bus to bring Cat on, this could be a gesture of goodwill. “I mean, Cat, you don't mind if Andrea says goodbye? She’s been saying it for eight years.”
“Well,” Cat says, a look of mock thoughtfulness on her face, “who do you think the public would rather hear from last? Someone who's won every broadcast award on the face of the planet or the former loser of a beauty pageant?”
“I won Miss Argentina,” Andrea bites out, dropping her arms to her sides, and Kara really hopes nobody punches anyone else, “in case you care about being accurate. And I was runner up at Miss Universe! If you’re not interested in taking the show seriously, the least you can do is take your colleagues seriously!” Andrea turns around and stalks off.
Cat rolls her eyes and does the same.
Well, at least no one threatened to quit, Kara thinks. Maybe they can alternate who says goodbye. After all, they’re professionals; this will be fine.
Morning meeting goes about as well as Kara expects after that exchange. Andrea and Cat barely look at one another, choosing instead to spend the entire time sniping passive aggressively, while the department heads look on in fascination.
“Well they’ve certainly got chemistry,” Nia offers as she and Kara walk out afterwards. “Oh, that reminds me, Brainy was telling me the other day about a science segment he wanted to do—the pitch is bringing science home for the family. We could get kids at every level, elementary through high school and do like, a science fair type thing. I was thinking it could work well for when summer break kicks off in a month.”
“Nia, that’s great!” With all of her focus on the host situation, Kara’s practically forgotten what it’s like to think about segments. Thank goodness for Nia. “Tell him to start working it up with you and let me know if you’re thinking a one-off or maybe a summer series? Could be a good midweek draw.”
“Can do boss.” Nia grins. “Also, you’re gonna wanna fix your shirt collar.”
“What?” Kara tries to look down. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Here, hang on.” Nia shakes her head and reaches over with one hand to smooth out the collar of Kara’s white button-down where it’s gotten ruffled. “Can’t have Lena thinking you’re more of a mess than you are.”
“Hey!” Kara runs her fingers over the offending spot to double check it. “For all I know I won’t even see her today. And what’s with everyone thinking I’m always a mess? You, my sister...”
“So only people who adore you.” Nia smirks at her, then steps back and gives Kara a once-over. “A white shirt is a bold choice for you, but it does look great with the pants. Try not to spill anything.”
Kara wants to be offended, she does, but Nia isn’t exactly wrong. Climbing up the metal stairs and ducking into her office to drop off her notes and pick up her wallet, Kara looks down at the outfit she chose today. Soft brown loafers and a matching belt, a white button-down tucked into cuffed olive chinos—it’s the type of outfit she puts on when she wants an extra boost of confidence.
Hopefully, Lena will think she looks good, too.
Making her way above ground and out onto the sun-drenched plaza, Kara eyes the food carts. Nia’s got a point about spilling, so maybe today isn’t a messy food kind of day, and actually, it’s the tiniest bit cool and breezy so a panini sounds about right. Kara’s stomach growls in agreement.
Sandwich in hand, she takes a seat on the bench she’s come to think of as theirs and starts unwrapping the foil, the smell of mustard, pickles, ham, and swiss swirling up in a warm burst. She’s so distracted by the food for a moment, that she nearly drops it when Lena sits down.
“Hmmm, you don’t look like you’ve been crying.” Lena’s face is all mischief as she puts a small black clutch down and smooths her dress out—it’s dark green today, in a heavy sort of fabric that just makes Kara want to run her hands over Lena’s hips. “Am I to take that to mean Cat’s first day is going well?”
“‘Well’ might be a stretch,” Kara admits, taking a bite and swallowing. “But I have high hopes for tomorrow. She just needs to settle in and Andrea needs to realize that this is good for all of us.”
Lena laughs. “Andy’s just worried you’re going to treat her as number two now that you have Cat. Make it clear you won’t play favorites and she’ll come around.” She opens her salad and starts poking at it with a fork.
“That’s what I figured…” Kara trails off. “Wait, you know Andrea?”
“Yes.” Lena goes pink, keeps her eyes on the clear plastic container of greens she’s holding.
Kara lowers her sandwich onto the foil in her lap. “Like because she works at LBC, or…” There’s a funny twisting in her stomach right now and she doesn’t want to investigate it too closely.
“We went to school together,” Lena says, skewering a radish slice, “and we dated, but that was ages ago.”
Ages ago, that’s good. Lena having dated Andrea? Not as much. Andrea is gorgeous, she looks like a model, and she’s always put together, even when having a meltdown on set. Whereas Kara has to check herself after eating to make sure her food isn’t somehow preserved on her person...
“So,” Lena says, breaking Kara out of her thought spiral, “has Cat gifted you with a nickname yet?”
“A nickname? No, I don’t think so. Why would she give me a nickname?” Kara draws her eyebrows together, starts eating again.
“She thinks calling people by the correct name breeds too much familiarity or something,” Lena waves her fork in the air. “Remember, I warned you, third worst person in the world.”
“What does she call you?” Kara asks between bites.
Lena’s delivery is so dry that Kara can’t help laughing and she nearly inhales the bite in her mouth. Coughing lightly, but grinning, she looks over at Lena who is rolling her eyes.
“Gosh, Lena, why would she do that?”
“I don’t think she needs a reason, but, if I had to guess, I’d say it’s my pale skin and the fact that I don’t take her shit.” Kara can see Lena biting the inside of her cheek, trying to limit the size of her smile as she adds, “She’d probably say it’s because my family is trying to suck the news out of broadcasting.”
“I thought that was just Lex,” Kara offers, her smile growing as Lena gives in and grins.
“I don’t think Cat makes that distinction.”
“Well that’s not fair, you’re nothing alike.” They’re just looking at each other now, smiling like idiots, food forgotten on their laps. This is it, thinks Kara. I should ask her right now if she wants to go to dinner. “Lena, I—“
The woman in question whips around, before placing her salad on the bench and standing up. She throws her arms around a tall brunette who is somehow right in front of them. Kara hadn’t even noticed anyone approach.
“Sam!” Kara can’t help tracking Lena’s body language as she steps out of Sam’s embrace—Lena’s hand runs down Sam’s arm and lingers at Sam’s fingertips for a moment. “I’ve missed you,” Lena says.
“I’ve been gone for a week, Lena, don’t be ridiculous.” Sam turns to Kara and lets go of Lena’s hand. “Who’s this?”
Now that Sam is facing her straight on, Kara can see that Sam might actually be a model—the drape of her shirt and her pants is so elegant that they must be tailored, and god, do her legs ever end? Kara wipes her hand on a napkin and sets the sandwich aside, standing up to shake Sam’s hand. “Hi, I’m Kara.”
“Wonderful to meet you, Kara,” Sam says, and she’s smiling, but she’s also looking Kara up and down, and to be honest the whole thing is throwing Kara for a loop. She wants to ask Sam how she knows Lena, but feels like that’s going to seem weird, but there was that hug and the hand thing, and, oh gosh, now she’s overthinking. Maybe Sam is just Lena’s friend; there is absolutely no reason to panic. Sam turns back to Lena. “I’m actually running late, my dear, but I couldn’t help stopping to say hello. I’ll see you tonight, right?”
“I can’t wait,” Lena says, and now Kara feels like there might be reason to panic. Of course Lena isn’t single. And gosh, does she have a type, apparently, and it isn’t Kara at all.
Kara pastes on a smile as they sit back down.
“As I was—“
“So is that—“
Lena gestures for Kara to go first and Kara takes a breath. “Sam seems nice.” Kara’s hands feel clammy and her heart is beating oddly, it feels loud and off rhythm in her chest.
“She is...she’s one of my best friends, actually, we’ve known each other since undergrad.” Lena bites her lip and Kara can’t help tracking the movement, but also now she’s got best friends on a loop in her head, and people don’t normally introduce someone they’re dating as one of their best friends. “There’s four of us,” Lena continues, looking down again at her salad and trying to spear the last cherry tomato from her now nearly empty container, “we do drinks every Monday. Sam missed last week, and I haven’t seen her since she got back. Um, Kara—“ Lena is interrupted by a shrill ringing emanating from her clutch. “Shit, hang on.” Lena fishes the phone out. “Fuck, it’s Lex.”
“No, no, you’re fine, take it,” Kara says, “I’ll grab your trash.”
Lena smiles gratefully, already answering. “Thanks,” she whispers to Kara, covering the mouthpiece. “See you tomorrow?”
“Of course.” Kara waves her away.
Tomorrow. She’ll ask Lena out tomorrow.
“God, am I happy to see you lot,” Jack says, dropping heavily onto the red leather cushion of the corner booth. “I’ve ordered the first round, so drinks are on their way.” He rubs his hands together and looks between Jess and Sam, sitting on either side of Lena. “So, have you started without me?”
“No,” says Jess. “We waited.”
Lena looks sharply between the two of them, seated on either side of her. She wonders now if that was intentional. “Started what?”
“The intervention,” Jack says, but he’s immediately distracted by the appearance of an attractive young man in a blue waistcoat who has appeared with a tray of full glasses. Lena frowns at Jack’s words, but accepts the martini. "Don’t worry, it has lillet blanc,” he assures her.
“So, Lena,” Sam says, turning towards her and setting her glass of bourbon down. “Jess texted the chat on Friday and said that she saw you, in the park, taking a bite of street taco that Kara offered you.”
“What?’ Lena feels her neck getting red—the sensation is uncomfortably familiar lately. “You have a group chat without me?”
“It’s recent,” Jess dismisses, trying to fish the cherry out of her Manhattan. “I couldn’t be in this alone anymore.”
“A bite of her taco, Lena, really? I thought public indecency charges were my thing,” says Jack, sipping at his gin and tonic.
“No, Jack, an actual taco,” Jess corrects absently, finally stabbing the fruit with a fork. Lena gets the feeling this isn't the first time Jack has made that joke.
“That’s even more concerning.” Jack looks over at Lena, eyeing her like maybe she’s been body-swapped.
“I know,” replies Sam, a serious expression on her face as she looks between Jess and Jack, but Lena can already tell she’s being mocked. “She hasn't eaten messy food like that in public since we got her drunk at that baseball game in business school and the picture of her with relish all over her face surfaced online.”
“You mean this one?” Jack asks, pulling up his phone and holding it out toward Sam. “I use it as her contact picture.”
Sam barks out a laugh and nods, Jack passes the phone to Jess so she can look, too.
“I’m right here.” Lena frowns at her drink.
“Yes, we’re aware, but clearly this is a problem you’re not equipped to deal with,” Jack replies, tucking his phone away. “So. How do we handle this?”
“Wait. First things first, Jack,” Sam says in an admonishing tone. “Tell us about her.” She looks at Lena, expectant.
“I don’t know Kara well,” Lena hedges, but as she says it, she realizes it’s true. She really doesn’t know anything significant about Kara. They talk for however long it takes to eat and no longer, Lena excusing herself back to the office once the pretense of her lunch break is gone.
“You’ve eaten lunch with her for three weeks, surely you know something,” Jack says.
“We talk about work,” Lena shrugs, toying with the stem of her glass. At Jack’s harumph, she adds, “She’s mentioned a sister and having recently moved to Metropolis. We just eat together! And, since I can tell where this conversation is heading, I don’t even know if she’s interested in anything else with me.”
“Oh thank god,” Jess says, and Lena glares at her. “I was worried you were going to say you don’t know if she’s interested in women.”
“Well, in point of fact, I don’t,” Lena starts, but she puts up a hand at Jess to stop her from interrupting, “but I’m not blind to the possibility.”
“And yet, you’re apparently blind to the way she looks at you.”
Lena feels her blush making a comeback. “Maybe she just enjoys my aesthetic!”
“Yeah, the aesthetic of your cleavage,” Jess mutters into her glass.
“How much time have you spent watching us in the park?”
“Long enough. What else am I supposed to be doing at lunch?”
Sam saves her. “I think Jess’s point is that the two of you have visible chemistry. And, having seen you in person, I can attest to it. So the question is, are you going to ask her on a date?”
“We’ve just established that I don’t know anything about her.”
“Lena,” Jack says, leaning forward and putting his elbows on the table, “that’s the point of a date.”
Lena is starting to feel a little hysterical and she can’t quite place why. She’s not blind—no matter what she’s just tried telling Jess—to the way that Kara looks at her. Kara isn’t exactly subtle, and the frisson of excitement that Lena feels when Kara stares at her tells Lena everything she needs to know about her own feelings toward Kara, at least physically. But that’s not why she’s scared.
“What if she says no?” Lena’s voice comes out small. She takes a sip of her drink.
“She’s not going to, but is there something specific you’re worried about?” Sam asks softly. Jess’s manic energy has faded, and even Jack is sitting back in the booth now. They’re all looking at Lena like they’re finally paying attention to her, instead of the spectacle of it all.
“This is going to sound absolutely absurd,” Lena says, dropping her hands into her lap and twisting at the napkin there. “And please don’t ask me to defend it.” She takes a deep breath and lets it out, stares at where she’s twisting the cloth around her thumb. “I like her. I really like her. I realize I don’t know anything about her, and that I’ve spent very little time in her company, relatively speaking. But everything I do know tells me that she’s sweet and smart and so gorgeous. And what if she’s not interested in me like that? What if she just finds me physically attractive, or what if she doesn’t want to get to know me beyond this? If I ask her out and she says no, or it doesn’t go anywhere, she’s not going to keep eating lunch with me.” She pauses and untwists the napkin, rubs at her thumb where the cloth left a red indent from the pressure. “It’s pathetic, I know. But there it is.”
There’s silence at their table for a minute. The ambient noise from the rest of the bar is the only thing Lena can hear.
“Lena,” Jack starts, “love, that’s not pathetic. Or absurd.”
“It’s not,” agrees Jess. “I didn’t realize.”
Lena drains the rest of her drink, stares down at the twist of lemon in the otherwise empty glass.
“So,” Sam says, gently, “I think you already know what we think you should do.”
“I do.” Lena says. And she does. She’s thought about it every day for two weeks. “You really think she’ll say yes?”
“Oh my god,” Jess says, laughing, “if she doesn’t, I’ll let you skip your lunch break for two weeks.”
Lena smiles. “Fine. Next time I see her, I’ll ask her if she wants to get dinner or something.”
“Excellent. And now we have more pressing matters to attend to.” Jack signals the waiter. “Sam, I slept with my neighbor. Pay up.”
Kara doesn’t leave the studio until 4 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday—not even for lunch. Andrea and Cat are competing to see who can be more ridiculous about the whole situation, and Kara finds herself putting out fires (only one of which is literal, thank goodness, and Siobhan isn’t allowed to do another cooking segment ever again) and hoping that they all make it to Cat’s debut on Saturday without bodily harm. Asking Lena out will just have to wait.
First, it’s Cat’s refusal to be remotely reasonable about approving any sort of teaser package for her first appearance. It’s two p.m. on Wednesday now and Kara is sitting in Cat’s dressing room, watching the umpteenth version for the trailer that she spent her Tuesday lunch hour re-working, since Cat completely vetoed the one Kara had prepped on Monday. Cat hadn’t been happy with any of the Tuesday afternoon takes, so they’d had to try filming again on Wednesday.
Cat and the second direction team spent all of this morning re-shooting in locations all over Metropolis until she was satisfied, which meant asking folks to work through lunch (which Kara had done in solidarity) to get the darn thing finished, but the post-production team worked absolute magic in the last three hours to give them an air-worthy piece in less time than even seems possible.
The teaser starts with Daybreak ’s graphics and their intro music, then cuts to tape of Cat, carrying a briefcase and walking up the plaza to the LBC Tower—looking intent and polished, as if she’s there for her first day. Kara had even found a clause that allowed her to borrow LBC’s best sports announcer to record the voiceover she wrote. “Coming soon to Daybreak, one of the most legendary reporters of all time. This Saturday, she'll be bringing her experience to morning television. Let Cat Grant show you the world over your first cup of coffee!” The promo cuts to Daybreak ’s outro music over a clean graphic advertising the time slots.
It’s good. Really good.
“Oh, for Christ's sake.” Cat’s shaking her head, a disgusted expression on her face.
“What?” Kara can’t help the frustration that bleeds into her tone. She sets her notebook down on her knees and tries not to glare at Cat. “What is it now?”
“Honestly, Kiera, it’s like you weren’t even watching. What's in the briefcase? Special anchor papers? My lunch?”
“The briefcase.” This is how Kara is going to get fired: she’s going to fling Cat Grant into the sun. “The briefcase that you insisted on? It doesn't matter what’s in the briefcase. Viewers aren’t going to care about the briefcase.” Is shaken-adult syndrome a thing? “All they’re going to care about is that it’s you.”
“Well this makes me look ridiculous.” Cat picks up the remote to play the segment again.
“Has it occurred to you, that maybe you are ridiculous?” Kara mutters under her breath. Cat flicks one eyebrow up but doesn’t say anything as the voiceover sounds through the speakers.
“And why do we have to mention the first cup of coffee? Why not just ask” Cat says, folding her arms across her chest and finding a deeply sarcastic register that she hasn’t used on Kara yet, “‘Watch Cat Grant before your morning toilet time?’ ”
Kara closes her eyes tightly and narrowly resists screaming. “We’ve been through eight different packages. You’ve found something objectionable in all of them—I realize that your contract gives you promo approval, but you, personally you Cat, approved every single element of this package. What else would you like me to do with it so that you’ll approve it and let me run it?”
Cat hums. “Let’s try filming at City Hall again.”
And that’s just Wednesday.
Kara has the production and booking team stay on after Thursday morning meeting to pitch stories and divide up the Saturday show amongst the talent. Andrea, Cat, Brainy, and Siobhan are at the table to give input (or in Cat’s case, refusals), along with Winn, Vicki, and Nia. They’ve finally got the first hour set and they’re working on the second.
“So, we've got the bird whisperer confirmed for Saturday?” Nia asks, reading from the mock schedule they’ve got up on a whiteboard Kara had a production assistant roll in.
“Yes,” says Winn, circling something on the paper in front of him. Vicki passes him a post-it. “And Ke$ha confirmed, as well.”
“That’s two songs, right?” Kara glances at her own notebook. “Do we go studio or plaza for her?”
“I have forecast the weather for Saturday between nine and ten to be most excellent,” Brainy offers.
Kara smiles at him. “The plaza it is, then. Andrea or Cat: who wants to do the interview between the songs?” Kara looks up at the two of them. Andrea is glaring daggers at Cat, who is picking lint off of her shirtsleeve.
“Oh, let me,” Cat says in a simpering tone of voice, rolling her eyes.
“Right.” Andrea gives a brittle laugh. “I’ll take that one, too, then.”
“Thanks, Andrea.” Kara looks back down, makes a note. “Ok that’s Andrea maxed out on content since she’ll be transitioning to the plaza and back between eight forty-five and nine thirty.” Kara looks up at Cat. “Cat, we have this great story on children's water safety. That's the—“
“Not my thing.” Cat sounds bored.
“No problem. How about a rundown of the new shows on LBC’s streaming services?”
“Let me think,” Cat offers in a tone that suggests no thinking is about to occur. “That's a no.”
“Okay,” Kara says, keeping her voice neutral. “What about the rise in teen activism via apps like TikTok. Very hot topic right now. That's newsy, right?”
Cat just laughs.
Kara runs into James as she walks through the bullpen afterwards, heading to a meeting with accounting that she’s had to reschedule twice. She takes one look at his face as he falls into stride beside her and sighs.
“What do you want me to do? Fire another anchor?” She steps gingerly over a pile of closed umbrellas. “Then we're gonna be stuck with spray-tan boy.”
“I know, I know,” he says, ducking under a fake street sign that reads Daybreak Avenue, “but Andrea can't do every story that's not hard news.”
“It's Cat Grant, James. She's a legend. What am I supposed to tell her? And even if she weren’t a legend, her contract—“
“Speak of the devil,” James cuts her off quietly as Cat appears around the corner just before they reach the exit.
“Hi Cat,” Kara says, putting on a smile, “did you need something before I have to go upstairs?”
“No, Kiera.” Cat turns down the aisle that leads back to her dressing room, then looks back at Kara. “Interesting that Lex hired you. No polish. No pedigree. Those bangs.” She looks Kara up and down. “I wonder, what was he thinking?”
Kara has to resist making a face at Cat’s back as she walks away.
“She’s a peach.” James puts a sympathetic hand on Kara’s shoulder.
“Yeah.” Kara looks at her watch. “Crap, it’s twelve fifteen. I’m late for the budget meeting.”
“Don’t forget to eat,” James says as Kara pushes through the exit.
“I’ve got trail mix in my desk, I’m sure I’ll have time for it eventually. See you tomorrow, James.”
Lena heads back up to her office after the third lunch in a row without Kara, wondering whether her fears of this all being one-sided might actually be true.
Jess is standing outside Lena’s door talking with Hector when Lena gets off the elevator and makes her way back. She smiles at them, but honestly, she’s feeling a little sad about the whole thing, and she really just wants to get back to work and try to forget it. It’s Cat’s first week, after all, surely Kara is just swamped. There’s no reason to think otherwise.
Jess follows her in and sits down on the couch, leafing through a program pitch on the table Lena had grabbed from Lex’s assistant earlier in the day. “Am I to take it from that frown that she wasn’t there again?”
“You do realize that this frown could mean she said no, right?” Lena can’t help grumbling as she takes a seat at her desk.
Jess laughs. “Right, like that’s what happened. So, she didn’t show up again, huh?”
“No, she didn’t.” Lena logs in and opens up her calendar.
“Alright, what’s your plan?” Jess sets the portfolio down on the coffee table and makes her way over to Lena’s desk, stands in front of it.
“To figure out how I got double booked for tomorrow morning,” Lena squints at the screen, “and then to have Hector fix it, why do you ask?”
“Stop being difficult.”
“Well, I can’t ask her to dinner if she isn’t there.” Lena clicks open two of the tabs.
“Lena, so help me god, that is not an excuse.”
“What do you want me to do, Jess?” Lena pushes her chair back from the desk and glares up at her friend. “I can’t make her appear at lunch.”
“You have a genius IQ and a terrifying ability to solve practically any problem put in front of you.” Jess sits down on the chair in front of Lena’s desk and crosses her arms. Lena just crosses her own to match—she feels like being petulant right now.
Jess rolls her eyes, but it’s fond. “Fine. You could call her, or email her, or, god forbid, go downstairs and see her”
“Jess…” Lena relaxes her arms and looks away.
“Come on,” Jess says, leaning forward a bit and putting her own hands on her lap. “I know you’re nervous, but you don’t know what it’s like to watch the two of you. A hurricane could happen and I’m not sure either of you would notice.” Now it’s Lena’s turn to roll her eyes, and Jess just chuckles. “Besides, if you don’t do it soon, Jack is going to look her up in the company directory for you and I won’t be held responsible for his actions when he figures out what her e-mail address is.”
That draws a laugh from Lena. Jack wouldn’t do anything too embarrassing, but the sheer idea that he might try something is enough.
After Jess leaves to go back to her own office, Lena tries to get back to her work, but finds she can no longer completely focus on the minutiae of her calendar. Jess has a point (as she often does)—Kara works for the same company. If Lena really wanted, she could look up Kara’s e-mail and send a message, or find her office phone number in the directory and give her a call. Hell, she could go down to Daybreak right now and see if Kara is free.
Maybe if she’d seen Kara since Monday, the first two options would have more appeal (though maybe not, both seem like invasions of Kara’s privacy). But, either way, Lena isn’t feeling confident enough to reach out to Kara without Kara having shared her contact information, and, somehow, dropping by the studio on the off-chance she can catch Kara seems less risky. If Kara seems distant, or uninterested, or doesn’t have time for her, Lena will let it go and content herself with being lunch buddies.
At least this way, Lena can evaluate the situation for herself.
Mind made up, Lena stands and smooths out the purple dress she’s wearing, then tells Hector she’ll be back shortly, and heads for the studio.
Truth be told, Lena’s never really spent much time on the show levels—she doesn’t need to, after all, this is Lex’s kingdom. Still, as she takes the escalators down from the lobby and winds her way through the sub basement corridors with their flickering lights and exposed wiring, she can’t help thinking that things didn’t look quite so derelict when she started at LBC six years ago.
The duct-taped handle of the fire door labeled Daybreak at the end of the hall gives her particular pause.
On the other side, it’s like walking into a beehive—the main room is enormous, at least a dozen offices along the far walls and the second level, and a mass of desks in the center of the room surrounded by what might be every single prop that’s ever been on air. She looks around, but she doesn’t see Kara’s ponytail anywhere.
Just as Lena’s reconsidering whether or not this is actually a good idea, a young woman pops up in front of her. She’s got an enormous smile on her face, a white cardigan over a teal dress with pink flowers all over it, and a badge that reads ‘Nia Nall, Junior Producer.’
“Hi!” Nia says. “Can I help you find anything?”
Lena takes a breath. “Yes, actually, is Kara Danvers available right now?”
“Shoot,” Nia says. “She’s actually up on seventeen for a meeting, and I’m not sure when she’s coming back. Do you want me to give her a message?”
“No,” Lena starts, heart falling a little even though she really thought she’d managed her expectations, “just thought I might try catching her. Thanks.” Lena turns to go, but Nia stops her.
“You’re Ms. Luthor, right?”
Lena nods, a little confused, but perhaps it isn’t unreasonable that people know who she is.
“I’ll tell her you stopped by, she’ll be sad she missed you.”
There’s something about how honest Nia sounds when she says that, and it gives Lena a tiny burst of confidence. Never mind how Nia knows Kara will be sad—the fact that she apparently does is enough. “Actually, Nia—it’s Nia, right? Could you, I mean, would you give her my number and tell her, if she wants, she should call me if she’s free for lunch tomorrow?”
“I’d be happy to!“ The size of Nia’s smile rivals ones Lena has seen from Kara. “Hang on just a sec, let me get a piece of paper and I’ll write it down.”
By eleven forty-five on Friday morning, Kara is ready to take a break. She’s spent the last week running around, trying to get everything set for Cat’s debut, juggling the active show, and she’s still only four weeks into the job. Cleaning up the absolute financial disaster that her erstwhile predecessors have left her is like trying to untangle a Gordian knot—in the dark, with her hands tied behind her back. The last twenty-four hours have been especially miserable—she’s been so busy that she hasn’t even been able to stop by her own office. The trail mix is still sitting forlornly in her top drawer.
She and the studio team have been running Cat and Andrea through a mock-up of the show, practicing transitions and camera angles. It hasn’t been entirely horrendous—when Cat wants to be, she’s capable of brilliance, and Andrea has been rising to meet her. That seems to be the trick: wherever Cat goes, Andrea will follow. Kara can tell everyone is tired, though, and rehearsal has gone well enough that Kara decides she’s going to call it for the day; everything else is just going to have to happen live.
“Great,” Kara says, clapping her hands together and taking her headset off. She walks up to the foot of the living room set where Andrea and Cat are seated next to each other on a small couch. “Good rehearsal. Good stuff. I want to spend ten minutes on how you might handle the transition points after the headlines, and then we’ll let everyone go for the day.”
“Sure.” Andrea nods. “What do you have in mind?”
“Let's just alternate the voiceover intros of the headlines,” Kara starts, “You’ll have time during the cutback to go back and forth a little. Say we're doing a story about, I don't know, a financial scandal, Cat—"
“But we won't.” Cat cuts her off. “Because the morning shows don't do news.”
Oh no, Kara thinks, here it comes.
“Pompous,” Andrea says, turning to Cat and humming. “That's really interesting. That's a different color for you.”
Cat opens her mouth to reply and Kara knows that if she doesn’t head this off now, they’ll be right back where they were two hours ago at morning meeting.
“Ok! So, you two should just sort of, you know, banter back and forth a little bit.” Kara waves her hands between Andrea and Cat.
“Banter, from the Latin word, meaning ‘to gibber like a moron?’” Cat appears undeterred.
What is happening, Kara wonders, she was fine five minutes ago. “Just, you know, talk about the headlines. That's... that's what I mean.”
“I'm not gonna sit here and rehearse like I'm in community theater.” Cat gets up. “I've been on the air for thirty years, for Christ's sake. I think I know how to ad-lib.”
“Well if she’s not going to,” Andrea follows suit, “I certainly don’t need to.”
They walk away in opposite directions. Kara sighs and glances at her watch. It’s ten to noon. The bright side of all of this going to heck so quickly is that she might finally get to see Lena. Kara turns to James and his team. “Thanks guys, that’s all. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
“Most of that was good,” James says, smiling at her as he puts his show notes into a leather crossbody bag. “They’ll be fine.”
Lena’s not on their bench when Kara makes it outside, and she doesn’t show up even though Kara waits until twelve forty before heading back in. She runs into Nia walking out of the conference room as she heads for her office.
“Hey boss, we’re all set for tomorrow. I’ve done damage control on Siobhan’s piece so at least it’s not completely trash. I mean, as non-trash as celebrity zodiac readings can be.”
“Hey, why do you look like someone stole your food?” Nia’s frowning at her. “Didn’t you just eat with Lena?”
“She didn’t show.” Kara shrugs and thins her lips. “I mean, it’s fair, I haven’t been around all week.”
“But you called her, right?” Nia cocks her head to the side, puts a hand on her hip.
“Called her?” Kara frowns back. “I don’t have her number.”
“Oh my god.” Nia hits herself in the forehead. “Kara, she came by yesterday and had me take down her number, I left it on your desk! I didn’t see you again yesterday and this morning was mental.”
“Lena was here?” Nia nods at Kara. “And she left her number?” Nia nods again.
“She said to call if you wanted to do lunch today.”
“I have to go.” Kara will just go up to security and hope Vasquez doesn’t think she’s crazy when she asks where Lena’s office is.
“Kara, wait!” Kara stops and turns back to look at Nia. Nia seems to know what she’s thinking without Kara even having to say. “She’s on the forty-fifth floor, just down the hall from Lex.”
Nia gives her a double thumbs up as Kara yells back her thanks.
Five minutes and the longest elevator ride of her life later, Kara walks straight past an empty assistant desk outside the office labeled Lena Luthor, Chief of Advertising & Revenue, and pushes open the door. The office set up is almost the same as Lex’s, spartan and catalogue-like, and it just serves to draw Kara’s eyes directly to where Lena is sitting at her desk in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, the remnants of yet another salad in a container next to her elbow.
Lena looks up at the noise, and Kara can’t help thinking that she looks gorgeous today. Lena’s wearing a teal silk blouse, her hair up in a clean knot, her lips painted perfectly bright red. She’s so pretty she doesn’t seem quite real. “Kara! What are you doing up here?”
Kara can hear the door swing gently shut behind her.
“You left me your number.” Great intro, what a perfect time for her brain to stop working.
“I did.” Lena looks unsure, a little like she had the first time Kara had seen her in the park, before they started getting to know each other, and that just won’t do.
“I didn’t know until just now.” Kara says, taking a deep breath and walking about half way to Lena’s desk. “You weren’t at lunch, and I thought maybe you were busy, but then Nia told me about the note and I’m going to go out on a limb here and hope that I’m not reading this all wrong: I like you. And not in a let’s be lunch buddies way, although to be clear, I really like being lunch buddies and if you’re not interested in anything else then hopefully we can still be lunch buddies, because sometimes lunch with you is my favorite part of the whole day—“
“Go to dinner with me?” Lena pushes her chair back and stands up, smooths out the wrinkles in her grey skirt, but she doesn’t take her eyes off Kara’s.
“What?” Kara can’t help smiling, even as she tries to protest. “Hey! I’m trying to ask you out here.”
“I know.” Lena walks over to where Kara is standing. Lena fidgets with her hands when she comes to a stop, and it’s adorable. “You’re taking too long. I was going to ask you out yesterday, but you weren’t there when I went by your office.”
“I was going to ask you out on Monday!” They’re both smiling now.
“Why didn’t you?”
Gosh, thinks Kara, what’s the right way to say I didn’t ask you out because your ex is drop dead gorgeous and looks nothing like me and also I thought you might be in a romantic relationship with Sam and I freaked out? “I panicked.” Well, that’s part of it. “And then Sam showed up, and then your brother called, and I haven’t seen you since.”
“Okay, so let's start over.” Lena is standing practically in Kara’s space. Kara doesn't know if she stepped forward or if Lena did, or both.
“What do you mean?” She’s having a hard time keeping her eyes on Lena’s—keeps glancing down at Lena’s mouth. Kara had a hard enough time not thinking about kissing Lena before today, and it’s worse now that she knows Lena wants to go to dinner (with me!, she thinks), and can lipstick look soft or is that just a Lena thing?
“Ask me out.” Lena’s voice draws Kara back up.
“But you already beat me to it.” And gosh, why is Kara protesting?
“You’re ridiculous.” Lena laughs and it makes Kara feel warm absolutely everywhere. “Fine. There’s a great Chinese place by my apartment...I’ve wanted to ask you to go ever since you spent twenty minutes last week talking about potstickers." She takes a deep breath. "We'll take things slowly, just a date. How does that sound?”
“That sounds perfect,” Kara says.
Somehow they’re even closer now, and Kara’s stomach is starting to feel a little like a helium balloon—if she took half a step, she could kiss Lena. And, judging by the way Lena’s no longer looking at Kara’s eyes, Kara thinks they might be on the same page...
“Lena—“ Kara starts.
The door opening startles them apart.
“Ms. Luthor, your one o’clock is here, shall I ask him to wait?”
“Just give me a moment, Hector, thank you.” Kara can hear the latch snick shut again, and maybe she’s imagining it, but Lena looks as disappointed as Kara feels. Lena bites her lip, and Kara has to stop herself from stepping forward again—she takes a deep breath instead.
Lena seems to find her equilibrium quicker than Kara can. “Probably for the best,” Lena says, giving Kara a slightly rueful smile.
“Probably.” Kara laughs.
“If you give me your number, I’ll text you the address.” Lena starts making her way back to her desk. “Would six thirty be alright? I imagine you want an early night with Cat’s first show tomorrow.”
“Six-thirty is perfect.”Midnight would be perfect if you wanted it, Kara thinks. “I can’t wait.”
Kara spends the next four hours trying to burn off some of her nervous energy by looking for door knob money in the budget, going over Saturday’s segments (even though Nia already went through them and did a great job), and walking through the set to make sure everything is in place. The Daybreak offices are long empty, the hallways silent, and even maintenance has already come through and gone. She’s about to head home to get ready for dinner, when she hears noise coming from Cat’s dressing room as she passes by on her way out.
“Knock-knock,” Kara calls out, inching Cat’s door open and poking her head in. “Can I come in?”
The noise is coming from a wall mounted television like the one in Kara’s office, but the overheads are off and the only other source of light is the dim floor lamp near the door. Cat is barely illuminated, seated on her couch against the opposite wall, a large wine glass in hand and watching the set, so Kara eases the door open further and steps into the room.
“Oh. Wow.” Kara’s eyes widen as she looks at the massive bottle on the coffee table in front of Cat. It’s roughly the size of Cat’s torso. “I didn’t realize wine came in bottles that size.”
“It’s a magnum,” Cat says, frowning, glancing at Kara before taking a sip. “I left the Jeroboam at home—it wouldn’t fit in my Birkin.” Kara has the sense not to ask. She can google that later.
Cat sets the wine glass down and uses two hands to refill a crystal decanter sitting in front of her, the unwieldy bottle obviously heavy. A few drops miss and leave tiny, inky circles on the pristine white surface of the coffee table.
Kara stays near the door, one hand on the knob, unsure of whether she’s invited in or not.
“Have you ever had a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Kiera?” Cat puts the bottle down with a heavy, solid-sounding thunk.
“Ah, no.” Kara thinks Cat might be a few glasses in already. But...it’s the end of the week (or nearly), well after hours, and—bottle-size aside—Cat’s not alone in ending Friday with a drink in the office. “I can’t say that I have.”
“Pity.” She waves her free hand for Kara to approach.
Kara leaves the door cracked open and walks over, as Cat grabs for the stem of the wine glass. She takes a seat on the couch next to Cat, thinking that maybe she’ll be able to tell how much is left in the bottle once she’s closer, but the dark green glass and the low-lighting in Cat’s dressing room make an accurate assessment difficult.
“Some would argue this wine represents one of the truest expressions of terroir.” Cat continues, gesturing at the bottle, the liquid sloshing around dangerously inside her glass. It’s as if she thinks Kara is here for a drinking lesson, rather than to check in the night before her first show. And, actually, this wouldn’t be a bad idea for a segment at some point. Maybe she can talk Cat into doing an ‘Intro to Wine’ piece, they could bring in local vintners and do food pairings...Cat interrupts her thoughts. “The note of herbs in particular, the french have a term for it— garrigue—after the low-growing, aromatic vegetation of the Southern Rhône region.”
Southern Rhône is delivered with just enough of a slur for Kara to notice. So. Probably not the second glass, then, but necessarily three-sheets to the wind, either...
Kara frowns and glances at her watch, trying to decide whether or not she should be concerned. It’s only about 5 p.m. Cat will still have time to sober up before they have to be on air in the morning, even if she does drink the whole bottle. Kara really has to leave soon if she’s going to have time to go home and change before she meets Lena for dinner.
“Smell that, Kiera.” Cat thrusts the glass under Kara’s nose.
“Wow, sure,” Kara, says, leaning back to avoid having wine poured over her lap. She takes a delicate sniff. “That is nice. Smells like...wine?”
“Yes. Wine.” Cat makes a disgruntled face and pulls the glass back. “I see your brilliant powers of observation extend to beverages. Get out. I'm preparing for tomorrow."
“Actually, that’s what I came in for,” Kara starts, but Cat isn’t looking at her anymore—she’s focused on the television which is running a promo spot for the evening news. “I wanted to wish you—“
“That’s where I belong,” Cat interrupts, and this time she does spill a little of the wine on herself. It starts soaking into her dress, and the fact that she doesn’t even look away from the television is what finally pushes Kara into realization.
“Cat, are you drunk?”
“Insufficiently.” Kara watches as Cat takes another drink, still focused on the screen and continues, “that’s my chair, those motherfu-”
“Ok!” Kara claps her hands together—she's been doing that a lot lately. “Okay, I think maybe it’s time for you to go home.” She reaches across for the decanter, but Cat smacks her hand away.
“I’ll go home when I’m ready, Kiera.”
Kara sits back and looks around the office. There’s no other alcohol she can see and, at least in here, there’s a limit to how much trouble Cat can get into.
“Right. Okay. Fine. I’ll see you here tomorrow at five thirty for show prep,” Kara says and Cat nods, tips her glass at Kara in some sort of salute. “I’m going to go now. We’re really excited to have you—“
“Close the door on your way out.”
Kara does close the door, leaning back against it a moment after she exits as she tries to make sense of Cat. The sheer size of the bottle is concerning, but maybe Cat’s nervous about being back on air? Kara knows Cat has a driver on call, so it isn’t like she has to worry about the new co-host of Daybreak getting a DUI. She looks down at her watch again. She’s meeting Lena in a little less than an hour and a half, which gives her a ten minute window at the apartment to change and still make it to the restaurant in time—but only if she leaves right now.
Cat’s a professional, a fact she’s been going on about all week; she shouldn’t need Kara to babysit her.
Making her decision, Kara pushes off the door. Everything is going to be fine.
chapter title from stuck in the middle with you by Steelers Wheel
I have thoughts about this chapter. I do. Mostly they're some variation of, Fucking finally, you know?
Chapter 4: what is your next move (all I know is that I want you)
“Oh my god, you need to get a grip,” Jack is saying, his voice tinny over the phone. “Sam is here with me and she agrees, don’t you, Sammy?”
Despite the noise of traffic and the busy sidewalk around her, Lena can hear a muffled sound of assent over the line. Sam's agreement does nothing to mollify her. “Jack! I’m being serious!” She tugs on the zipper of her jacket, the leather in a shade of green so dark it’s practically black. “What if this outfit is wrong, what if she doesn’t like the food, what if I—“
“Lena, for the ninetieth time,” Jack interrupts her, “you look devastating; Kara may eat more than just the food. While I maintain that the first seven outfits were equally attractive, I must admit that the leather gives you a rather delicious edge and your ass looks phenomenal in those jeans—which I said when you facetimed me from your closet. As for your second concern, to hear Jess talk about it, Kara’s never met food she didn’t immediately inhale.”
“So you’re saying it’s going to be fine?” She tugs on the zipper again.
“I’m saying, it’s going to be great,” Jack says, sounding confident. “Even Ruby agrees. Ruby! Tell Auntie Lena it’s going to be great!”
Lena hears shuffling and then Sam’s teenage daughter is on the phone. “Is Jack giving you a hard time?”
“No,” Lena exhales, “I’m afraid it’s the other way around.”
“Okay, well, just so you know: whoever this Kara woman is, she’s lucky to get to go on a date with you. Also your boobs look great in that shirt, Jack took a screenshot.” Lena barks out a laugh. “What? It’s true and I should say it.”
“Thank you, Ruby. Can you pass me back to Uncle Jack?”
Jack’s smooth tone comes back on the line. “See? I told you that v-neck was the right decision. All of Kara’s favorite assets are on full display.”
“Stop it,” Lena says. “Okay. You’ve talked me off the ledge....thanks.”
“Anytime love, anytime. Now, my watch reads six twenty-seven, so I’m going to hang up on you because Kara is sure to be there any moment. Just send a text if you need me to fake an emergency if she ends up being terrible somehow.”
Jack says goodbye and Lena slides the phone in her back pocket. Without the phone to hold, she starts worrying her fingers together, before realizing that she’s doing it and forcing herself to still. She doesn’t know which direction Kara will be coming from, so instead of driving herself nuts looking up and down the block, Lena stands next to the entrance of the tiny restaurant tucked between a liquor store and a tattoo shop, and watches people walk by.
She’s just about to reach for her phone again when Kara’s voice calls out.
“Lena? Hi, gosh, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place at first, but wow, you look, I mean, I’m sure you know—“
Kara reaches up to adjust her glasses as Lena takes her in. “You look great, Kara,” she says, and Kara does—criminally, almost, in chambray button up, the sleeves rolled half-way up her forearms, a pair of dark wash jeans on, and chelsea boots in dark brown suede. Her hair is up in a messy bun, a few strands escaping to frame her face.
Lena swallows hard, trying to remember why it’s inappropriate to suggest they just go back to her apartment right now, to hell with dinner. They stand there for a moment, looking at each other, before someone pushes between them to enter the shop.
The door opening and closing releases a rush of steamy air, fragrant with garlic and chili oil, and it jolts Lena into remembering why they’re here.
“I have to confess something before we go inside,” Lena says, putting a hand on Kara’s arm, mostly to stop her from entering the shop, but also because she just really wants to touch. Kara raises her eyebrows at Lena. “I lured you here with promises of potstickers, and these are really dumplings, so let me know if that’s a deal breaker for you.”
“Lena, potstickers are dumplings.” Kara looks very serious. “Although not all dumplings are potstickers. I can assure you, I don’t discriminate.”
“Good,” Lena says and Kara breaks into a smile. “You grab seats and I’ll grab the food.”
After dinner, they walk down 6th and then east along Houston, their arms bumping into each other every other step, trying not to be too close or too far, until Kara finally takes a deep breath and slides her hand into Lena’s, intertwining their fingers loosely. Lena can’t help the way her mouth moves into a smile, not that she wants to help it at all.
“Is this okay?” Kara asks, swinging their hands a little, one side of her mouth drawn up into a hopeful half smile of her own. The other side rises to match it when Lena nods and grips her hand more firmly.
“More than okay,” she says. “Although you’re going to have to let go in a minute, so we can get our ice cream. It’s on the next block.”
“Mmm, I don’t know about that,” Kara’s smile is even bigger now, all teeth and crinkled eyes, “I’m a pretty good multi-tasker.”
“You’re a pretty big dork, is what you are,” Lena says, laughing.
“Maybe.” Kara looks away, down the street, and then at Lena. “But you like it.”
And Lena doesn’t have anything to say to that, because it’s true.
Kara does not, in fact, let go of her hand when they get to the ice cream shop. She holds the door open for a gaggle of college age students who are leaving, then uses their joined hands to push Lena in front of her, so that Lena pulls her inside. There are maybe a dozen other people milling about the cramped space, trying samples or sitting on the low stools in front of the window and eating. It smells wonderful, a mix of warm, buttery toast and slightly burnt sugar from the waffle cones.
“I always love the way ice cream parlours smell, you know?” Kara says, eyeing the menu above the lavender-colored counter as they take their place at the end of a small queue. “It makes me think about being a kid and going to the boardwalk with Alex—I used to beg her to take me.” They shuffle forward. “Although the boardwalk didn’t have flavors like these. What on earth is ube and why is it purple, or is purple just the theme of this whole shop?”
“Don’t quote me on this," Lena scrunches up her face trying to call this obscure fact to mind, "but I’m pretty sure ube is a root vegetable, like a yam.”
“Lena, no! Don’t tell me there are vegetables in all these ice creams!” Kara looks scandalized, takes a step away from Lena, as if to flee—but she doesn’t let go of Lena's hand, which undercuts her position somewhat.
“There aren’t, I promise.” Lena puts her free hand on Kara’s forearm and pulls her back, pressing their sides together and leaning her head on Kara’s shoulder—now that they’ve broken the touch barrier, Lena finds she just wants more and Kara seems to feel the same, if the way she squeezes Lena’s hand is any indication. “I think you’re pretty safe with milk-chocolate-birthday-cake, and there’s always strawberry or chocolate to fall back on.”
Kara turns into her, eyes her skeptically. “You better not be tricking me into something here.”
Lena just laughs.
After being assured by the young woman behind the counter that there are no unexpected plant-based ingredients, Kara ends up ordering a scoop of the birthday cake and of the standard vanilla (“how good the vanilla is tells you if it’s a good shop, Lena”). Lena gets the ube-coconut flavor, just to see the look of horror on Kara’s face. Taking a lick, she has to admit it’s really good—nutty and rich—and even though Lena says it's delicious, Kara refuses to try it on principle.
Kara does admit defeat on the hand-holding front when they make it to the register—it turns out that with ice cream in one hand and Lena’s hand in the other, she can’t figure out how to pay. The second she's put her wallet away and they’re out of the shop, Kara tangles their fingers together again, and pulls Lena into her.
They wander across the neighborhood like that, turning off of busy Houston and onto the quiet cobblestones of Greene Street. Lena points out things she likes about her neighborhood as they go—the bubble tea place on the corner that Jack is obsessed with, the burger place with wine on tap, the cafe with the best croissants in the city. Their ice cream is long gone when the sun starts going down, leaving the buildings awash in pink and orange and purple, and still neither one of them brings up the time.
“I love living in the city,” Lena says as they cross Spring. “Luthor Manor,” she rolls her eyes at Kara’s eyebrow raise, “pretentious, right? It was outside of the city. I felt lonely out there in the country. It was better when Lex was home, but he’s so much older than me and eventually I think he outgrew playing with his little sister.” Kara squeezes her hand. “Not that I fault him for that; Lillian and Lionel were always working. So, when I graduated, I moved here.”
“I get that,” Kara offers. “When I was a kid, before my parents died, we moved around a lot. I think that’s one of the reasons I stayed in Midvale after graduation...the idea of having roots, of having something safe and the same, was appealing.”
The streetlights are starting to flicker on, and the heat of the day is finally dissipating. Lena looks over at Kara. “Your parents, is it alright if I ask what they did? Why you moved so much?”
“Sure,” Kara says, squeezing Lena’s hand, “they were both journalists, actually. My mom was a foreign correspondent and my dad was a photographer. I spent my childhood traveling with them on long-term assignments and going to expat schools. We were—that’s how they died, actually.” Kara pulls her lips into a thin line, lets out a breath. “I was twelve. We were living in Algiers that year, and they were covering the end of the civil war—” Lena slows down, about to tell Kara that she doesn’t need to talk about this if she doesn’t want to, but Kara squeezes her hand and gives a small head shake. “My mom kept saying it was totally safe, that the violence was winding down…”
Kara takes another visible breath, lets it out. “Anyway, we went shopping at a market one Friday and a bomb went off. They’d just put the bags in the car, and all of a sudden my mom was shoving me in the back seat and she shut the door. That probably saved my life.” Kara clears her throat, glances at Lena and then quickly away. “I’m sorry, that wasn’t what you were asking.”
“No,” Lena says, tugging her to a stop and stepping so that she’s standing in front of Kara and looking up at her, “no, that was perfect. I didn’t want to ask about them if you didn’t want to tell me yet...you’d mentioned being adopted by the Danvers.” She looks at Kara for a long moment—the clear blue of her eyes, the slope of her nose, the round of her chin. She wonders if Kara resembles her parents. “I’m sorry that happened to your parents, and to you.”
“It’s not really first date material, I know.” Kara gives a rueful half-smile, rubs the back of her neck with her free hand. “They’re kind of why I went into the business. It’s a way of staying close to them, I guess.”
“I watched my mother drown when I was four,” Lena finds herself saying.
Kara's eyes widen and she opens her mouth slightly, like she's going to say something, but Lena keeps going. “I don’t mean that as a comparison, or as a woe is me, I just. I mean, I didn’t even really know what was happening. I didn’t understand for a long time. I think what I’m trying to say is, I get it: I never know how to bring it up. I’m glad you told me.”
“Same,” Kara says. “I mean, I wish you didn’t get it, but...same.”
They’re standing so close together now, and, despite the sobriety of the moment, the feeling of near gravitational attraction that Lena’s had for weeks whenever she looks at Kara is back. It's almost tangible now, solidified by the trajectory of the evening. The last two hours have felt like something clicking into place—each new thing she learns about Kara drawing her in deeper.
There are still plenty of people around, walking into and out of the restaurant on the corner, but Lena is only peripherally conscious of anyone beyond the two of them. Instead, she’s hyperaware of Kara’s fingers still intertwined with her own, of the diminishing space between their bodies, of how Kara has the tiniest smear of chocolate still at the corner of her mouth.
“Oh gosh, are you cold?” Kara brings her free hand up to rub Lena’s arm over her jacket. “I didn’t even realize the sun went down. Can I walk you to your apartment?”
“We’re actually standing in front of my building,” Lena says, and Kara’s face falls. “But, um, would you like to come up for a cup of coffee or something?”
“I love coffee,” Kara breaks out into a smile again, “lead the way.”
Lena tugs Kara inside, past the front desk, and into the lift. She waves a keycard over the pad, the floor selection happening automatically.
“So this is how the other half lives,” Kara says, amusement clear in her voice, as they walk out of the elevator directly in Lena’s living room.
Lena laughs and steps away to put her cell phone and wallet down on the small table just inside—sometimes it’s easy to forget how her apartment must look to someone who didn’t grow up with Luthor money. It isn’t as if she isn’t aware that a 1500 square foot room with a high ceilings is a lot to walk into, more that she doesn’t really ever bring new people here. The first section of the apartment is loosely divided into four quadrants, three of which are open: a comfortable seating area in the first, the kitchen beyond, and a dining area to the left of the kitchen. The last quadrant, which is to the left of the elevator, is a bump out which houses a media room, accessed through the hallway next to the dining room, which leads to the bedrooms.
“I know it’s a lot for one person, but I fell in love with the views.” Kara follows her across the open floor, to where two long couches face each other across a huge oak coffee table. The couches are bounded on one end by a long chaise, and by a series of large windows on the other—bookshelves and cabinets filling the wall space between them.
The enormous kitchen is beyond the second couch, framed by two metal structural columns, and separated from the seating area by an island that runs down it lengthwise. It’s on a raised platform, rather than behind a wall, and the dining space next to it has a fireplace and a full-size table along with eight chairs.
“Take a seat anywhere you like,” Lena says, gesturing to the couches and moving towards the kitchen, “I’ll make coffee—I’m assuming you want decaf?”
Kara catches her hand as she starts to walk away. “I don’t really want coffee.”
“No,” Kara shakes her head, pulling Lena back towards her. “I’d like to kiss you, but I didn’t know how you’d feel about kissing me on the street.”
Lena’s heart does a backflip and her stomach suddenly feels as if she’s fallen off a high dive. “For the record,” she starts, as Kara lets go of her hand to rest her fingers on Lena’s hip, just below her jacket, “you can kiss me wherever and whenever you—“
And then Kara is kissing her.
Lena’s only thought before her brain shuts down is that she’s glad that Kara waited until they were inside because, now that they’re kissing, Lena feels like she might never be able to stop. Kara has pressed her entire body against Lena, holding Lena tightly against her, and it’s as if every nerve ending she has is suddenly alive. Kara’s lips are warm and soft, and when she parts them slightly to deepen the kiss, Lena feels weak in the knees.
By the time Kara pulls back to check in with her, Lena is absolutely a wreck.
“Is this okay?”
“God, yes, don’t stop.”
They end up making out on the nearest couch like teenagers, Lena straddling Kara’s lap, giggling as Kara helps her pull off her jacket in between kisses that grow heavier with intention, until Kara is pulling Lena’s t-shirt up over her head and Lena is struggling with the buttons on Kara’s shirt.
Of all the ways this night could have possibly ended, thinks Lena, this is definitely the best.
“Fuck, that feels so good,“ she manages when Kara ducks her head down to drag her mouth down Lena's throat. Kara has one hand on her ass and the other on her bare back, nails running up and down Lena's spine and slipping underneath her bra strap. The whole effect is enough to make Lena want to grind down on Kara until she comes like this, half-clothed on the couch, but she wants it to last longer.
“You smell so good,” Kara says, voice muffled below Lena’s jaw, “taste good, too.”
Lena opens her eyes in an effort to ground herself, inadvertently catching a look at the clock mounted on the wall behind them by the elevator. “Shit,” she breathes out, “Kara, it’s after nine, don’t you have—fuck—the show…” but Kara is doing something absolutely earth shattering with her tongue, and it’s making it impossible for Lena to string words together, let alone actually protest.
“I don’t want to go home,” Kara says into her neck, moving her mouth up to the corner of Lena’s jaw. She kisses her there, then bites lightly at Lena’s earlobe, and Lena feels it absolutely everywhere. She opens her mouth to reply with thank god, but Kara keeps talking as she urges Lena's hips into a slow grind. “If I go home, all I’m going to do is worry about whether Cat’s going to show up drunk tomorrow and this,” she pauses to drag her teeth along a tendon in Lena’s neck again, “is infinitely preferable.”
Distantly, a small alarm bell starts going off in Lena’s head— why would Cat be drunk in the morning? Before it can take hold, though, Kara replaces her mouth on Lena’s neck with a firm hand, using it to guide Lena’s lips back to hers. For a moment, all higher brain function ceases as Kara sucks on her tongue, fingers flexing on her neck. Lena’s so wet, she’s about ten seconds from unbuttoning her own pants and dragging Kara’s hand down herself.
But the alarm won’t stop.
Kara’s shirt is unbuttoned, her chest heaving, and it takes every ounce of will-power Lena has to focus. She pulls back and blinks heavily at Kara, trying to get a grip on the situation for at least a moment so that she can get reassurance, move on, and have guilt-free sex.
Kara looks down, like she’s just realizing that she’s removed Lena’s shirt. As Lena tries to get her bearings, Kara dips down to start kissing the top of Lena’s left breast above the cup. “Wait. Kara, wait.” Lena puts a hand on Kara’s chest to push her back slightly.
“Oh gosh, is this not alright?” Kara’s eyes go wide as she lets Lena push her away gently, dropping her hands to Lena’s hips and resting her back against the couch. “I’m sorry, I thought we were on the same page, do you want to stop?”
“No, no, I don’t want to stop.” Kara looks relieved and her gaze drops back to Lena’s chest as Lena closes her eyes and tries to slow down her heart rate. “You said...fuck.” One of Kara’s hands has moved back up to cup Lena’s breast, thumb circling over the thin fabric covering her nipple and it’s making her throb. “Fuck,” Lena repeats, putting pressure on Kara’s chest. “Kara focus.”
“I am focusing,” Kara says, teasing Lena’s nipple into hardness.
Lena leans back slightly further, moving her torso away from Kara, and keeping one hand on Kara’s chest to prevent her from following. She can feel Kara's heart hammering away underneath. “Why would Cat be drunk tomorrow morning?”
Kara looks at her blankly.
“Oh. That.” Kara blinks, glances down at her breasts and licks her lips, then looks back up. “When I left the office today, Cat was in her dressing room with a bottle of wine the size of my quad. But that was hours ago, I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Kara leans back in to kiss her, but Lena keeps her hand firmly on Kara’s breastbone.
“Kara, I want you to think very hard. Do you know what year the wine was from?”
“Um.” Kara scrunches up her face. “I'm not sure?”
“Okay.” Lena breathes in—Kara smells so good and all Lena wants to do is give in to this, but she knows she’s going to feel guilty if she doesn’t run Kara's comment to ground. “Okay, that’s not the end of the world. Did you see the label?”
“Yeah. It looked a little like parchment.” Kara closes her eyes like she’s trying to imagine it. She drops her hand from Lena's breast and brings it to rest on her hip again, instead. “It was all in French? But it definitely said ‘Cuvee da Capo’ which feels more Italian than French, but I don’t really know wine, or French, and—” but Lena’s already gone stiff, and Kara’s eyes go wide, ”wait, Lena is that bad? Why is that bad?”
There goes my orgasm, Lena thinks. “Kara that’s a two thousand dollar bottle of wine and Cat only drinks stuff that expensive when she’s about to go on a bender.”
“I’m going to regret asking this,” Kara drops both hands down to the couch, head flopping back to look at the ceiling, “but how do you know that?”
“Lex used to complain about it all the time.” Lena puts her hands on Kara’s shoulders, leans in to kiss her jaw softly, and then pushes up and off of Kara’s lap. “When she first got to LBC and was part of the evening news desk for a minute, if there was something that she didn't want to do, like the Oscars or the Olympics,” Lena shakes her head, looking around for her t-shirt, “something that people might actually get a tiny twinge of pleasure from, the night before, she would go on a bender and it always started with some absurd wine. Then she'd call in sick for work the next day.”
“No. No, this is ridiculous.” Kara closes her eyes and drops her chin to her chest. “If she wants to screw this up, that’s her problem. I’m not, I’m not going out there and chasing her around…” But the way Kara’s left leg is starting to bounce tells Lena otherwise.
“Yes, you are.” Lena puts a knee on the couch and tips Kara’s chin towards her. Kara’s eyes are already filled with regret, like she knows Lena is right, and they both know there’s no way the night is going to end like they’d hoped. Still, she leans in and kisses Kara once more, before letting go and standing up. “Start at Elaine’s. If she’s not there, they might know where she went.”
“Thank you.” Kara hands Lena her shirt and stands up, looks around, patting her pockets. “I’ll text you when I find her. Unless you don’t want me to text you, in which case, I won’t.” She retrieves her glasses from where she’d chucked them on the coffee table.
“Of course I want you to text me.” Lena slides the soft v-neck back over her head, pulls it into place. Kara’s already walking over the elevator and Lena follows her. “Kara, you need to button your shirt.”
Kara looks down and blushes furiously. “Right. I know that.” Lena steps closer and starts to button it for her. “You know, this is much more fun going the other way.”
Lena laughs. “Well, text me and we can find a time to repeat this experience, without the interruption.”
The elevator dings as the doors open.
Lena finishes the final button and, leaving one hand on Kara’s chest while looping the other around the back of her neck, pulls Kara into one last kiss. It’s just as intoxicating as their first, and when Kara’s arms circle her, holding her closely, Lena has to resist deepening it. She pulls back with a reluctance that’s mirrored on Kara’s face. “Go, okay?”
“I had a great time,” Kara says as she steps backwards into the elevator. She reaches out to stop the door from closing. “Can I see you tomorrow?”
“Call me after the show.”
Lena takes a very long shower after Kara is gone.
Cat is not at Elaine’s.
It takes Kara four more bars, three cabs, and one emergency text to Lena for the entry passphrase for a ridiculous, speakeasy-themed establishment (that Cat turns out to have recently vacated), before Kara finally lays eyes on her wayward host.
The final bar is located beneath a nine-story Victorian atrium in a ludicrously expensive hotel in Metropolis’s financial district—and, if she were here for any other reason, Kara might be inclined to sit down and have a drink herself: the plush seats and low-lighting make for an inviting space. Thankfully, since it’s now nearly midnight, the crowd has thinned out and Cat is easy to spot.
She's seated at a table in the back corner with three other women on the same side of middle age—two Kara recognizes as former anchors in their own right, one of whom she doesn’t. She takes a deep breath and makes her way over, weaving around the armchairs and couches scattered throughout the space.
Cat sees her coming.
“Well, if it isn’t my latest zoo keeper,” she drawls out when Kara gets close, and the other women laugh. Cat gestures at Kara when she comes to a stop. “Do you see what I mean?”
Kara puts her hands on her hips and fixes Cat with a glare.
“I don’t know, Catherine, she tracked you down,” the woman on Cat’s right says, looking Kara up and down. “She may be on the young side, but she can’t be nearly as incompetent as you said.”
Kara can’t even muster any outrage in response. “You,” she points at Cat, “with me, now.”
“Oooh, someone’s in trouble,” sings the woman on Cat’s left.
Cat looks at Kara for a moment, seeming to debate how much of a fight she’s going to put up, before she knocks back the remaining liquid in the tumbler in front of her. “Fine, Kiera. I suppose you’ve earned this.” She waves for a server, but the third woman flaps a hand at her and shakes her head. “Thank you, Rhea,” Cat says, nodding at the woman, before sweeping up her coat and purse.
“I will have you know that this show is very important to a lot of people, including but not limited to me,” Kara hisses at Cat as they make their way to street level. “My butt is on the line here.”
“Actually, your butt is irrelevant,” Cat replies. “You're just a footnote. It's my ass, my reputation, my integrity, mine!”
“‘Mine! Mine! Mine!’” Kara’s just tired enough that she gives in to the impulse to mock Cat. “Oh my gosh. You're such an egotistical, selfish person!”
“I'm on-air talent!” Cat bites out, as if that somehow justifies her attitude.
The doorman at the hotel motions them to a waiting cab.
“Get in,” Kara points at the car. Cat does as directed, then starts to shut the door after her. “Hey!” Kara grabs the handle to stop her. “I’m taking you home!”
Cat rolls her eyes, but gives the driver her address and then, miracle of miracles, scoots over to let Kara slide in.
As they sit in silence on the ride, Kara sends Lena a text confirming that she’s found Cat. The single heart she gets in response brings a smile to her face and gives her hope, maybe Lena really will be up for a do-over tomorrow. The smile lingers even when Cat tries to shut the car door on her when they get out in front of her house.
Cat’s brownstone might as well have its own issue of Architectural Digest; Kara has to stop herself from gasping out loud when they make it inside. Cat has a more traditional layout, unlike Lena’s massive open-plan space, but from the foyer to the formal dining room, Kara can see art—sculptures and paintings, carvings and pottery—on every conceivable surface and wall. And there’s a lot of space to cover; the ceilings must be twelve feet high. The overall effect reminds Kara of a museum in Philadelphia that she’d dragged Alex to on a family trip.
“I'm home, Kiera.” Cat drops her things on a shallow table next to the door. “You can leave,” she says, starting to walk down her front hall. But Kara is already walking past her and heading further into the house. “Oh, no,” Cat trails after her, “absolutely not. What are you doing?”
“Wow.” Kara stops in front of a painting in the living room, just off the main hallway—she takes a step towards it. It’s one of the larger pieces in the room, oil for sure, a series of abstract shapes and muted colors... “Oh, my God. Is that a real—“
“Yes,” Cat huffs from the doorway. “Are you done here?”
Kara nods, but she’s still looking around at the art. “Look at all the stories you could be doing here! About art, about design, about—“ Kara sees a series of pictures in small, silver frames on a low table in the corner. She walks over. They’re all of Cat and people that share her features. There are two pictures in particular, one with Cat and a young man around Kara’s age, the other of Cat and a teenager wearing a Cornell sweatshirt. “Oh my gosh. Do you have kids? We could be doing parenting segments! You should invite them down to the show.”
“No.” Cat's firmness startles her a little. “Tour’s over. Time to go back to your sad little life.”
“I'm not going anywhere until we are on the air.” Kara wanders over to a built in bookcase. She turns her head sideways to read the spines.
Cat hums with displeasure. “If you insist on spending the night, please don't snore. I'm a light sleeper.”
“I'm not going to be sleeping.” Kara pulls out a book on mid century architecture, and plops herself down on a large leather couch. She finally looks back at Cat, who has her arms crossed and is squinting at Kara as though her stare alone should be enough to cause damage. “We have to leave in about four hours anyway.”
“Fine. Good night.” And with that, Cat whirls out of the room.
Kara stretches out on the couch and starts to read.
A terrifyingly loud boom that might be thunder startles her awake. It startles her so much that she rolls off the couch, the hardback hitting her hip with a muffled ‘thunk’ as it, too, takes a tumble. She looks around, trying to remember where she is and what she's supposed to be doing.
The sound turns out to be Cat, standing two feet from the sofa holding a set of antique brass door knockers.
“Up and at ‘em, Supergirl!” She’s wearing a dressing gown and grinning somewhat manically as she sets the knockers down on the coffee table that Kara narrowly missed in her tumble. “I hope you drink coffee because I’m all out of other beverages.”
Kara rubs the sleep from her eyes and gingerly lifts the book up checking for damage. It’s fine, though her hip might not be. She blinks heavily and goes to check her phone, but it’s out of battery.
“Shoot.” She looks at her watch: 5:57 am. “Oh god.” Even with no traffic at this hour, it’s going to take them twenty minutes to get to the studio. She was supposed to be there nearly half an hour ago to start prep, they’ve got pre-show meeting at seven, and Cat did not look ready to go at all…
Kara scrambles off the floor and makes her way to the kitchen where she can hear Cat moving around.
“What are you doing?” Kara asks, bursting into the kitchen, even though the answer to her question is obvious. Cat has pulled eggs, greens, and hard cheese out of the fridge and put them on her marble countertop. Kara can hear and smell bacon on the stove.
“Have you ever seen a real egg?” Cat asks, ignoring the question and taking a sip from a mug of what Kara hopes is coffee and not whatever it is that Andrea puts in her mugs. “These are from pastured hens in Maryland.”
“We have to go.”
“I have them delivered once a week,” continues Cat, clearly in no mood to be rushed, directed, or otherwise handled by Kara.
“We have to go!”
“The beauty of a frittata is that it can be made with any ingredient.” Cat moves with practiced ease around her kitchen and it’s all Kara can do not to scream. “Anything that's in your refrigerator.”
“Good, excellent, it sounds delicious. Get dressed.” Cat’s small, but Kara is pretty sure that, if push comes to shove, she can just throw the woman over a shoulder and carry her down to LBC. “Not that I don’t care about your epicurean breakfast, but we do not have time for this.”
“What?” Cat finally looks over at Kara, spatula in one hand, a bowl with egg mixture in the other. “You want me to starve? I've got to be in tip-top shape. I'm going to appear on national television in front of...what, six or eight people?”
“Cat,” pleads Kara, “come on.”
“Have some coffee.” Cat turns back to the stove and starts pouring the eggs onto a hot pan. “Now, what few people know is that the frittata was meant to be eaten at room temperature. It was invented in Italy for the afternoon repast.”
“I’m calling a car,” Kara says, giving up. “You have ten minutes or I’m picking you up and carrying you out. Up to you.”
“Where the hell have you two been?” James asks, clearly frazzled, when Kara and Cat finally make it into the conference room at Daybreak an hour later (even though Cat took significantly longer than ten minutes, Kara hadn't felt up to committing assault). “We’re on air in fifty-five!”
“Yes, well, someone was difficult to wake up this morning,” Cat says, swanning over to her seat.
The entire staff starts ping-ponging back and forth between Cat and Kara, Kara can feel the blush creeping up her neck, and she barely resists the urge to start laughing hysterically. She hands her phone to a production assistant and tells him to go up to her office and plug it in. They don't have time for this.
“Oh my god did you two spend the night together?” Siobhan asks. She puts both arms on the table and leans forward like this is the best thing to ever happen at a pre-show meeting. Maybe it is.
“No!” yells Kara, just as Cat responds in the affirmative. “I spent the night on the couch, by myself!”
“I woke her up with my enormous knockers,” adds Cat, off-handedly, as if the wording she’s chosen for this fact isn’t absolutely intended to make everything worse. Kara is filled with the desire to drop Cat off a balcony.
“I’ve got nice knockers,” mutters Andrea from where she’s sitting at the table, as Nia runs in breathless.
“Oh, thank god Kara, you’re here! I can’t find Ms. Grant.”
Kara just points to where Cat is sitting, filing her nails like she’s alone in her dressing room and refusing to look at the notes that James has placed on the table in front of her.
“Kara and Ms. Grant spent the night together,” Brainy explains to Nia. “They arrived late.”
Nia gives Kara an incredulous look, but Kara can only shrug helplessly. She’ll just have to deal with the fact that the entire staff is going to spend the morning wondering whether or not she and Cat slept together; they’ve got a show to put on in less than an hour.
“Okay, get me up to speed, where are we?”
“Bad news first,” Nia says, taking a seat. “The Today Show has Blackpink on their plaza today, which is going to hit the numbers even with Ke$ha, and Good Morning America has James Corden and Nicole Kidman from The Prom.”
“Shoot, K-pop is where it’s at these days,” Kara frowns, “that’ll keep Today at number one in the nine am slot for sure. But I thought we had Kidman next weekend, it was supposed to be her first promotional appearance!” She can’t believe it.
“I know, I know. I don’t understand what went wrong, but we got scooped somehow.” Nia is frowning, leafing through her notes. “Not sure what they promised her.”
“As exciting as this is,” Andrea breaks in, “I’d really prefer it if we could focus on our show, seeing as we’re on air soon?”
“Right, right.” Kara shakes her head to clear it. “Ok folks, let’s go through the lineup from the top; we’ll start with the headlines.”
It’s tight, but they get through the pre-show meeting and Cat makes it to hair and makeup in time to start the show without the heart attack that Kara was expecting. Up in the tech booth, she takes her seat next to Nia and pulls on the headset to hear James’s smooth tones prepping the first shot for air.
“We start with eight, full track. We'll be cutting to nine with announce. Nine will reveal the jib.”
“Jib, start a little wider,” Kara breaks in. Over the studio feed, they can hear Andrea and Cat at the main desk, talking to each other.
“Try not to bore the nation into a coma with your dull news crap, ok?” Andrea simpers, looking over at Cat.
“I’m sure whatever vapid nonsense you’ll be reciting will do the job just fine.” Cat doesn’t even look up from her notes.
Kara can’t help wincing. “Well, they look great together, so that's promising.”
“Thirty seconds to air,” James calls out.
“Everybody ready?” Nia asks.
“Wait!” Kara says. “Do they know about the cake? Everybody does? Stage manager's got that covered?”
“Cat’s welcome cake is good to go. I prepped Andrea on it before you got here, the stage manager has it, it’ll be the first thing out after the intro.” Nia puts a hand on Kara’s shoulder. “Now breathe. The rest of this is out of our hands.”
Nia’s right, so Kara takes a deep breath, and lets it out.
“Stand by, announce,” James says.
“Ready to roll nine,” a camera guy responds.
“Here we go and roll nine.”
The intro package plays and Kara watches as the monitor flicks over seamlessly to the studio feed. The camera starts in a two shot on Andrea and Cat, as Andrea reads off the morning lineup in preparation for the transition to the news segment.
“And that’s what we’ve got for you this morning on Daybreak.” She finishes with a smile.
“And go on four,” James says over the headset.
“Good morning, everyone,” Andrea continues, shifting her gaze to the next camera. “Before we begin, today is a historic moment here on Daybreak. Today's the day that Cat Grant joins our little show.” She turns to face Cat. “We are so lucky to have a journalist of your caliber here and we’re just so happy to have you join us... what can we say except, welcome, welcome!” If Kara hadn’t heard her in pre-show meeting, or all of last week for that matter, she might actually believe that Andrea’s excited to have Cat on board. It’s a great performance in salesmanship.
“Yes.” Cat looks at Andrea, and then down at her notes. There’s silence on the sound stage, Andrea looks at someone off camera.
“She said ‘yes’?” Nia’s face is pulled into an exaggerated frown.
“That's it?” Kara asks. What is happening? What the heck is wrong with Cat? “‘Yes’? This is a morning show, she needs to play with Andrea…”
“Cue the cake,” Nia says into her mic.
“Yes,” Kara says, mimicking Cat and shaking her head. “You have got to be kidding me.”
Somehow, Andrea is still smiling and has managed to retain her poise. “We have a little surprise for you! The cooking crew put together a first day cake, happy first—”
“Thank you,” Cat interrupts Andrea and looks up into the camera for the first time. “Now on to today's top stories. In Texas today, severe weather continues to plague the Gulf Coast…”
“I need twenty two,” James says, directing the feed to cut to a single shot of Cat who is now going through the morning news items.
“She's really not buying it.” Kara runs a hand through her hair. The entire tech booth is in disbelief. She looks over at Nia. “I told her she needed to be warm!”
“Yeah, I know.” Nia sits back in her chair, blows a breath out through her mouth. “So far, she's a cozy blanket.”
Kara looks back at the show feed as Cat motors through the stories. “...report that the sexual offender is a Caucasian male in his late thirties, approximately six feet tall. He apparently works alone, gaining access to homes through unlocked windows and doors...” The monitor has a straight shot of Cat with the police sketch in a small box in the right hand corner, a line of text below reading ‘Sexual Assault Suspect.’
“Stand by to change graphic, ready to roll on six” James says, cuing up another camera change at the same time.
“...local police in Milwaukee are asking anyone who recognizes this sketch to contact them immediately.”
“Change your graphic. And up on six.”
Cat switches seamlessly to the new camera, at least she hasn’t forgotten how to do her job entirely, thinks Kara. “...In other news, former President Jimmy Carter continued his campaign for human rights in Beijing this week.
“Hey!” Kara shouts into her headset, staring at the feed.
“What?” James and Nia say at the same time.
The sketch of the alleged sexual offender to Cat’s right has been swapped out for a head shot of Jimmy Carter, but the text below remains unchanged. Just perfect: anyone looking up at their television right now is seeing a picture of former-President Jimmy Carter with the title ‘Sexual Assault Suspect.’
“The...the thing. The words. The thing!” Kara points at the feed. “Oh gosh, the graphic!”
“Change the graphic!” Nia yells, as James barks out “Lose the graphic!”
Cat continues on, hopefully oblivious. “...China has been accused by detractors of backsliding...
“Shoot, crap.” Kara puts her head down on the desk. First the welcome, then the cake, now the graphic. She ran better shows on the college channel in journalism school. “Crap, shoot, fudge.” She punctuates each word by lifting her head and letting it drop onto the desk. Nia puts a hand on her back.
“Stand by to change,” James calls. “Twelve in. We're going to weather.”
“For a first look at weather,” comes Andrea’s smooth tone now that Cat has finished the headlines, “here's Brainy Dox.”
“Thank you, Andrea.” Brainy is standing on his weather set, his hands steepled together, green screen behind him showing a temperature map of the country on the monitor. “I'd like to take a moment to welcome Catherine Grant to her first broadcast.” He raises one eyebrow and grins. “As one hurricane said to another, I have my eye on you!”
Off camera, Cat rolls her eyes.
Somehow the next hour and forty-five minutes pass without a major hiccup. The concert on the plaza goes well, Andrea does an excellent job with the interview, and she and Cat make it back to the desk set in one piece for the final segment. They’re just two minutes away from the outro package and Kara finally feels like she can breathe again.
Andrea kicks off the wrap up. “Monday on Daybreak, we'll show you eight things you didn't know you could do with potatoes. Should be fun,” she smiles at Cat and looks back at the camera.
“Also,” Cat answers, “we'll talk to some relief workers who say the international community has abrogated its duty to protect…”
“What the hell is abrogated?” Nia says. “That wasn't on the teleprompter.”
Kara feels her heart rate spike.
“Ready to widen on two,” James calls.
“...And that's our show for this morning.” Andrea finishes as the shot widens and pulls back from the set. She looks over at Cat again. “Welcome to the Daybreak family, Cat.” Andrea turns back to the camera and starts her signoff. “And thank you—“
“Thank you, everyone.” Cat cuts her off. “Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” Andrea echoes.
“Goodbye,” repeats Cat. Oh fudge, thinks Kara. Oh fudge, oh no, oh gosh...
“Goodbye,” Andrea says again, her smile beginning to look a little strained.
“Goodbye.” Cat picks up the papers and front of her and taps them against the desk to straighten them.
Up in the tech booth Kara is vaguely wishing for a meteor or an earthquake or an alien invasion. “How many is that?” She asks Nia.
“Goodbye” Andrea says again.
“Three each,” Nia says, staring blankly at the feed. “Assuming they stop.”
“Bye!” Cat says cheerfully.
“And we're out!” James finally cuts it off and cues the outro package. “Fade to black.”
Even though the sound has been cut from the stage, Kara can see Andrea and Cat squabbling.
Fudge, indeed. She looks at Nia. “Can you start morning meeting without me? I need to have a word with Cat.” Nia nods.
Kara goes to her office and does Alex-approved deep breathing exercises for ten minutes, before she goes back downstairs and storms into Cat’s dressing room.
“You said you would banter!”
“No, no, no, no.” Cat is sitting down at her desk, makeup wipes out in front of her. “You said I would banter. I said I would anchor a news show. That's what my contract calls for. And that's what I'm going to do.”
“But Cat! You can't just go out there and give monosyllabic answers and talk about natural disasters!”
“Are you sure, Kiera? Because I think that's what I just did. Now leave. You have to get back to your office and wait for your phone call from Jimmy Carter.”
“What?” Kara stops her rant short.
Cat turns towards her. “Jimmy Carter, sexual assault suspect.” So, Cat had seen the monitor. Great. “Go away, I'm busy.”
“But Cat, can you just promise—“
Kara slams the door on her way out.
As soon as morning meeting is over, Kara is on her way out the door before Andrea can catch her (Kara is sure that whatever Andrea has to say to her will keep until Monday). Jogging up the escalator and walking quickly through the empty lobby, still wearing the same shirt from the night before, she thinks about going home, but decides she’d rather not have to endure sympathy from Alex or Kelly at the moment.
She pauses outside on the plaza and sends Lena a text, asking if she’s free. Lena’s affirmative reply is so quick that Kara can’t help assuming she must have seen the broadcast, but, hopefully, Lena still likes her after that, because there’s only one thing that is going to make this day salvageable: finishing what Cat interrupted last night. She flags down a cab.
Stepping out of the elevator and into Lena’s living room, she sees her on one of the couches. Lena’s watching LBC on a large, wall-mounted flat screen tucked into a cabinet between two of the windows, so that’s a yes on her having watched the disaster first hand. Kara stops short of the seating area.
"It wasn’t that bad,” Lena says as she eases off the couch and walks over to greet Kara. She’s still in sleep shorts and a t-shirt, and she looks so soft that Kara’s chest feels funny—constricted and expansive at the same time.
“It absolutely was,” Kara shakes her head when Lena comes to a stop less than a foot from her. She wants to pull Lena into her, but clenches her fists at her sides to avoid it, at least until she can make sure that Lena is okay with it, too. “But I don’t wanna talk about work. I want to kiss you. It’s fine if you’re not in the mood, or—”
This time, it’s Kara who’s cut off as Lena pulls her in, slotting their mouths together and pressing her body against the length of Kara’s. She wraps her arms around Kara’s shoulders, one hand on the back of Kara’s head, and Kara’s arms wrap around Lena with no intervention from her brain.
It’s just as electric as it had been last night. Lena’s lips are soft, her mouth warm and wet, and Kara loses herself in the sensations: the way Lena’s tongue feels against her own, the way she shudders in Kara’s arms when Kara bites gently at her lower lip, the clean sleep smell of her—only the barest hint of the perfume she’d been wearing last night. The scent makes Kara want to nose into Lena’s neck again, makes her think about how Lena’s hips canted into her when she’d done it last night.
She adjusts and drops her head down.
When Kara tightens her grip and starts pressing open mouthed kisses down the side of Lena’s neck, Lena moans and shifts, the movement causing Kara to adjust her grip, one hand sliding down over Lena’s shorts. As her fingers slip over the thin cotton, Kara is hit with the realization that, underneath, Lena isn’t wearing any underwear. It makes her want to drop to her knees, to drag the fabric down Lena’s legs and...
“I made myself come in the shower after you left,” Lena pants out, fingers flexing against Kara’s shoulders and neck.
Kara whips her head up to look at Lena. She’s breathtaking like this—no makeup, hair unstyled, her chest heaving, pupils blown, lips full and shiny—and something inside Kara snaps.
“Can I go down on you?”
The first time Kara makes Lena come is right there in the living room—the shorts shucked to the floor, Lena still in her t-shirt laid out on the wide chaise like a painting, and Kara kneeling with her mouth between Lena’s legs.
She lifts Lena’s right leg over her shoulder and slides her arm underneath, pulls Lena in as close as she can get. Kara uses her other hand to hold her hips in place, pressing Lena’s leg out slightly to spread her open. At the first touch of Kara’s tongue, one of Lena’s hands winds into Kara’s hair, fingers knocking Kara’s ponytail loose, while her other scrabbles for grip on the flat cushions. Kara buries herself in Lena’s wetness, and sets to making a mess of them both.
It doesn’t take long; neither one of them seems capable of dragging it out. Lena is so wet for her, arousal coating Kara’s lips and chin as she works her up. The moment she finally takes Lena’s swollen clit into her mouth, Lena’s grip tightens in her hair—clit twitching under her tongue—and then she’s coming, hard, with a beautiful broken sound that zips down Kara’s spine.
“Fuck,” Lena says, trying to catch her breath a few moments later, still on her back after finally pushing Kara away. “I’ve been dreaming about that ever since you got ketchup all over your face and told me you were a messy eater.”
Kara crawls up onto the chaise and flops down next to Lena. She props herself on an elbow, grins down. “Did I live up to your expectations?”
Lena hums and turns towards her, pulls Kara in for a kiss.
“Well, this time, I’m all over your face darling,” Lena says when she lets her go, “so, god, yes.”
“Good.” Kara can’t help the size of her smile. Her eyes drift down to Lena’s still-covered chest. “Can I take off your shirt now?”
Lena laughs, but she’s sliding it over her head and unclipping her bra before Kara can fully sit up.
The second time, they at least make it down the hall to Lena’s bedroom. But just barely.
An hour later, after Lena’s come twice more and done her best to even out the count, they’re making out softly in Lena’s massive bed, the white sheets in sweaty disarray around them. Now that the edge has been taken off, Kara feels like she could lay here all day, trading kisses and running her hands all over Lena’s back and sides, with no intention at all beyond wanting to feel the softness of her skin. It’s hard to consider a kiss chaste when both parties are naked and still slightly sticky from the most recent round of enthusiastic sex, but that’s exactly how these kisses feel—they’re leading to nowhere, except an excuse to stay wrapped up in each other.
The show that morning feels like a distant nightmare, the bad taste of it receding further every second she spends with Lena. Something wonderful has settled in Kara’s chest, and she realizes that she wants to ask Lena if they can make this thing they have into something official—there’s something here that just feels right, and Kara doesn’t feel like she needs to wait longer to ask for more.
Kara pulls back slightly, but makes no move to unwind their bodies. She brings her right hand up to Lena’s face, tucks a wayward strand of hair behind Lena’s ear. “I know you said on Friday that you wanted to take things slowly,” she starts.
“Darling,” Lena laughs softly, a fond smile on her face, “I think we threw ‘slow’ out the window when you ate me out in my living room.”
“Yeah, okay, possibly…” Kara blushes. “I’m trying to say something.”
“Sorry, couldn’t resist.” Lena leans forward and pecks her on the lips. “Go ahead.”
“I like you.” Lena’s whole face lights up and, if Kara had any doubts about whether Lena feels the same, she doesn’t anymore. “Like, a lot, actually. And I want to date you for real, exclusively.”
“I’d love that,” Lena replies, an utterly charmed expression on her face. Kara can’t resist leaning back to kiss her, but it’s made difficult by both of their smiles.
“Good because—” Kara’s stomach interrupts with a terrifically loud gurgle, and it makes Lena laugh again. “Well, that’s actually related,” Kara continues, undeterred, “because I’m starving and I’d like to take you out to lunch.”
They shower separately for the sake of expediency, Kara marvelling at the size of Lena’s guest bathroom which is double the one she shares with Alex and Kelly.
When Kara voices the desire to put on something other than the shirt she wore to their date yesterday, Lena gives her an oversize sweater to borrow (the jeans she can’t do anything about, she and Kara simply aren’t the same size), and they decide to head to a sushi restaurant just down the street from Lena’s building. Kara twines their fingers together as they walk down the block, and feels, on the whole, like she could leap tall buildings in a single bound if the need arose.
When the host asks if they’d like to be seated at the bar or at a table, Kara looks to Lena. “Any preference?”
“Bar, please,” Lena answers. She keeps ahold of Kara’s hand as a server leads them back, tucking them at the end of the sushi counter. “I hope this is okay,” she says to Kara, “some people like sitting at a proper table, but I like ordering directly from the chef, and…” the server pulls back their chairs and they separate briefly to sit down, before Lena reaches back over and puts her hand on Kara’s thigh, “at the risk of sounding ridiculous, I wanted to sit next to you.”
“I don’t think that’s ridiculous,” Kara says, her now permanent grin widening further. She places her own hand over Lena’s. “I don’t think that’s ridiculous at all.”
Kara doesn’t think she’s ever had a better omakase experience—and maybe it’s the restaurant, but it’s definitely the company.
When Lena gets up to use the bathroom near the end of their meal, Kara takes her phone out. She glances down absentmindedly at it, at first, really just checking to see if Alex has called since she put it on Do Not Disturb. She nearly chokes when the display reads 27 messages, 2 missed calls, Nia and Winn having completely blown up her phone in the last thirty minutes. Opening the thread, Kara skims the texts, her eyes widening and heart starting to thump.
Apparently there’s a whistleblower out on the West Coast who’s coming forward with information about why the wildfire season has been so bad, and a major part of the answer involves criminal corporate negligence. It’s all over twitter, but no one has the identity of the whistleblower, yet—except that Winn’s fiance was the whistleblower’s college roommate.
And he’s willing to come on Daybreak.
Kara is texting furiously when Lena comes back to her seat. “Everything ok?” she asks, when Kara glances up.
“Major breaking news. Our Monday show might actually put us back on the map,” Kara looks down again as her phone vibrates. “I’m sorry, if it were anything else…”
“You know,” Lena laughs, sliding back into the chair, “usually I’m the workaholic.”
“Hang on, I’ll be done in a sec, I promise,” Kara says, tapping away, “I just have to e-mail your brother actually.” She glances back over at Lena, who gives her a confused frown. “He’s been having me keep him posted about everything we cover...something about synergy—which is a made up word, by the way—with LBC’s other programs. Let me just shoot this off....” Kara’s phone goes wild in her hand, Nia and Winn back with more information.
“This isn’t going to be done once you e-mail Lex,” Lena says, shaking her head, but she’s smiling. “Go. It’s okay, I know you want to.”
“But the check…” Kara looks around, and Lena puts a hand on Kara’s arm.
“I’ve got it. Land the story.”
“Are you sure?” Kara asks, already starting to get up.
“I’m sure. Call me later?”
“I will!” Kara bends down. “Can I kiss you goodbye?”
“You better,” Lena says, laughing and reaching out to put her hand on Kara’s neck, as Kara leans in. “Now get out of here. Go save Daybreak.”
Good Morning America gets the whistleblower.
“Fuck,” says Kara during the Monday morning pre-show. The entire room goes silent and looks at her. “Er, fudge. Sorry everyone. We’ll get the next one.”
“Right,” scoffs Cat at the other end of the table.
They don’t get the next one. Over the next six weeks, it starts to feel like they can’t get any story. No matter how early Kara flags something, or how dogged Nia is, or how hard Winn works his contacts, they can’t seem to catch a break. GMA or The Today Show, or (on two embarrassing occasions) that thing on CBS, always seem to be a step ahead of them.
After a brief initial decline in viewership following Cat’s introduction to the show, their numbers stabilize. Two weeks after her debut, though, Cat makes a joke about “washed up beauty queens,” and Andrea responds by saying “Okay, boomer.” It’s no different than any of their bickering so far, except that it happens when they’re live. Kara leaves the tech booth after the show wraps, already preparing a speech in her head on how their behavior is unacceptable, when an intern intercepts her on her way down, breathlessly handing her the show’s live-tracking numbers.
She blinks. Rubs her eyes. Blinks again.
But the numbers don’t lie—and if the piece of paper she’s holding is to be believed, their audience actually liked it: there’s a spike in viewership right after the incident, and it holds through to the end of the show.
At the end of morning meeting that day, Kara asks Andrea and Cat to stay behind. “This should be fun,” mutters Andrea. Cat crosses her arms and looks at the ceiling.
“So,” says Kara as soon as she’s closed the door and turned back to face them. “I’m not going to lecture you.” Cat looks over sharply and Andrea’s mouth falls open, but Kara just nods. “You two are responsible professionals. It’s not up to me to tell you how to behave when you’re on air.” And, with that, she walks out.
From then on, the gloves seem to be off. Every show becomes marked by at least one segment in which the two trade some barb, whether it’s Cat remarking on the naivete of youth, or Andrea asking Cat what it was like to grow up before the invention of electricity.
“Huh,” says Nia, examining the minute-to-minutes from their Memorial Day show in Kara’s office. “People really seem to tune in when they go at each other. Did you see that Buzzfeed listicle? The Twenty-Three Best RojasCat Moments or something. I mean, they’ve gotta work on the name...”
“I know, Alex sent it to me. I thought that first time might’ve just been a novelty effect, but this is actually working.” Kara says. She sits back in her chair and stretches. “Thank goodness, because I don’t think I could get them to stop anyway. And we need all the help we can get pulling people in right now. How the hell did The Today Show manage to scoop us, again?”
“Well, they are The Today Show.” Nia looks up at her. “I mean, you don’t get to be number one in the country by sleeping on everything, right? God, I’d love to work there.”
Kara balls up a piece of paper and chucks it across the table.
“Oh come on, like you wouldn’t jump at the chance,” Nia says, batting it away. “Think about it: an actual budget, co-anchors who aren’t actively trying to commit murder on air, door knobs that probably work.”
“Yeah yeah yeah.” Kara looks back down at the numbers. “I think I’ll be happy if I don’t get fired. I don’t know what else I can do to get our numbers up anymore than this.”
And that’s the real trouble: Kara is running out of ideas.
The only bright spot is Lena. Maybe Kara is struggling at work, and maybe Cat is trying to destroy Daybreak (or at least doing her best to break Andrea’s spirit on and off air), but at the end of almost every day she has Lena to look forward to.
Three weeks after their first date, Lena asks Kara if she’ll come to Monday drinks to meet her friends. Kara is still intimidated by Sam, but she gets along with Jack and Jess like a house on fire, prompting Lena to wonder out loud if introducing them is something she’ll come to regret.
When Kara gets home that night, Alex is waiting up for her.
“You know, if you’re meeting her friends, then it’s time she meets me and Kelly.” The smirk on her sister’s face when she suggests it gives Kara pause, but she does want Lena to meet Alex.
They end up planning brunch for the following Sunday and it goes even better than Kara had hoped: Lena keeps a perfectly straight face when Alex greets her with a hug and threatens bodily harm if she hurts Kara, and by the time they’ve ordered the second round of mimosas, she and Lena are engrossed in some absurd discussion about the medical ethics of human enhancement while Kelly and Kara watch with affection.
So sure, maybe the show is one step away from being a tire fire. Maybe almost nothing is going right (well not nothing, because Brainy might be single handedly keeping them together right now—Kara really has to figure out how to get him more material). But Kara’s doing her best, and Lena keeps reminding her that she’s been on the job for less than three months.
There’s bound to be a learning curve for all of them—it’ll be enough, it just has to be.
The first week of summer is always one of Kara’s favorite times of year. It’s late June, the sun is permanently out, the sky is blue, the trees are green, and even having to walk Cat Grant back from lunch to get the woman to listen to pitches isn’t enough to dampen her spirits.
“How about profiles?” Kara dodges a lamp post as they walk through one of the crowded trails in the park across from LBC, and looks over at Cat. “Asma Khan is going to be in town to promote her cookbook, she’s got an incredible story.”
“Does it end with me in the kitchen making fish curry?” Cat doesn’t look up from her phone.
“No,” Kara hedges. Cat glances over. “Chicken chaap.” Cat’s withering stare is enough of an answer—another segment for Andrea. “Okay, forget that. How about an interview with Hozier, Winn thinks we can land him. He’s political.”
Cat hums dismissively. “If he becomes Ireland’s Prime Minister or cures cancer, let me know.” She slips her phone into the oversize purse she’s never without. “I do have one good lead, though.”
“Yeah?” Kara will take practically anything. She steps off the path to avoid a cyclist, then has to jog to catch Cat. “Yeah, really?”
“I hear you're dating the vampire princess.” Cat looks over and raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t slow down. How she walks that quickly in heels is beyond Kara.
Wait. Kara practically trips over a child on a skateboard. “What?”
“How did you make that happen?” Cat shakes her head.
“Who told you that?”
“Her and you, really?” Cat continues, ignoring Kara, as is her custom. “I wouldn’t have thought the scruffy-professor look was her type.” Kara adjusts her glasses self-consciously, but before she can respond, Cat’s changing the subject. “There is actually a developing story coming out of the state capital, though. Governor Lane's tax returns are being audited.”
“Of course we’ll run that, Cat. If you want that in tomorrow’s show, I’ll give you a headline spot. You can have the full three minutes to lead in the segment.”
“Story isn’t ready yet.” Cat’s phone dings and she pulls it back out.
“Well then, why are you pitching it to me?!” She tries to keep the frustration out of her voice.
“And it will certainly take longer than three minutes to cover,” Cat continues. “I don’t see why we can’t cover news instead of baking brownies.”
“You know what our format is like.” Kara groans. “Look, Cat, news is fine, but I also want people to get to know you, that’s an important part of a morning show—they have to connect with you. Hence the brownies!”
“No, they don't need to connect with me.” Cat pauses for a moment when they reach the street, before walking out into traffic with what Kara can’t help thinking is an outsize amount of confidence for someone so small. “You just want me to pander so you can sell kitchen gadgets and financial products.”
Kara follows her and almost gets hit by a taxi trying to catch up. “Oh, no I don't. I want—“
“Well, I won't do it.” Cat says, stepping up onto the opposite curb and onto the plaza. Cat looks like she’s about to add something else when a woman her age wearing a velour tracksuit and sneakers runs up to her holding out a cell phone.
“Oh, my God! It's you, you're that lady!”
The expression on Cat’s face might be funnier if Kara wasn’t worried about watching murder in broad daylight. The woman, however, doesn’t seem to notice the expression at all, she grabs Cat’s arm and keeps chattering away. “I just saw you this morning watching with my kids, and everyone was eating stuffed zucchini, and you were cranky about it. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, there's that lady!’ You used to do news, right? Like a while ago? It's—“
“Please, remove your hand from my person.” Cat’s tone is probably enough to stop a bear in its tracks, but it doesn’t deter this suburban mom. Instead the woman just holds her phone in front of them and starts snapping pictures.
“This is great! Thank you! I can't believe it!” The woman is looking down at the pictures she’s just snapped. Cat starts walking away as fast as she can toward the tower, when the woman finally seems to recall Cat’s name. She yells after them. “Katie Couric! It’s great to meet you, Katie Couric!”
“Okay, maybe she doesn’t know who you are exactly, but see?” Kara tries as they reach the revolving doors. “People want to like you. You're… you're in their home every day, and, you know, it's an honor and why can't you just do stories people might enjoy?”
“Katie Couric. For Christ's sake.” Cat shakes her head and pushes through the door, leaving Kara standing on the plaza.
She takes a step to follow, but her phone rings. She swipes to answer automatically.
“Your numbers are stagnant.”
“Hello, Lex,” she sighs into the phone and steps aside to get out of the doorway. “How can I help you?”
“Help me by helping yourself. You're getting scooped like, every morning. Any idea how that’s happening? I mean, do you have any kind of plan?”
“Well, the show still needs some fine-tuning,” Kara kicks at a paver, “but I really think—“
“Fine-tuning?’ Lex cuts her off. “Really? Can you tune something when nothing is working?
“That’s not fair. Our numbers have actually seen a bump since Cat and Andrea started to find their chemistry on camera,” Kara says, starting the pitch she’s been giving herself lately. “Cat’s been on air for less than six weeks; we’re still making adjustments.”
“You haven't got much time for fine-tuning. You know that, right? This is a business, not public television.”
“Yeah.” Kara squints over at the park, wishing she were still standing in the sunshine instead of the shadow of a skyscraper. “I'm not worried.”
“You're...Really?” Lex sounds surprised.
“We’re getting there, Lex. We stopped the decline, now we just need some time.”
“Keep me posted,” he says, and hangs up.
Kara takes a deep breath. At least he isn’t telling her they’ve got a deadline or anything.
“You only invited me over because you knew I’d do all the dishes.” It’s four days later and Kara is standing in Lena’s kitchen, washing up after dinner.
Lena laughs and looks over at Kara. Kara knows the grin she’s sporting undercuts her complaint, but she can’t help it: Lena looks so cute in an old university sweatshirt, the sleeves rolled up, surrounded by papers laid out all over her formal dining table. It makes Kara wonder what Lena would have been like in college.
“In my defense,” Lena says, shuffling papers around, “you invited yourself over. I told you I have this massive presentation to the board tomorrow—it's on your show, as you well know, and I’d really like to make sure I do a good job. Programming recommendations aren’t exactly my métier. ”
“You’re going to do great,” Kara flaps a wet plate at Lena, then goes back to drying it, stacks it on top of the others. “Besides, I knew you weren’t going to eat if I didn’t cook.”
“Who can say?” Lena looks up at her, a cheeky smile on her face. “Let me finish this, and I promise I’m all yours.”
Kara sets the kitchen towel down on the counter and walks the now dry plates over to the right cabinet, then reaches for the bottle of wine they started with dinner. She holds it up for Lena to see, and, when Lena nods, grabs clean glasses.
“You aren’t actually nervous about giving this presentation, right?” She asks, pouring the wine. “In the last ten weeks, we stopped the slide the ratings had been on—we even got a bump! We haven’t lost any more advertisers, and the affiliates have stopped pulling out. We’re right where we want to be.”
“Kara,” Lena sighs, running a hand through her hair to push it off of her face, “it isn’t just about the last three months. It’s more about the last three years.” She sounds tired.
Kara frowns as she steps down from the kitchen and walks over holding the glasses. She sets one down in front of Lena, who smiles up at her, and then pulls out the chair next to her and sits down. “But you’re not recommending Daybreak get cancelled, right?”
“No, of course not,” Lena says, taking a sip. She puts the wine down, lays a hand on Kara’s arm. “But ultimately the decision isn’t entirely up to me.”
“What do you mean? You’re a Luthor, you own LBC.”
“I own part of LBC.” Lena leans back in her chair. “As a family, we’re majority stakeholders, but I only control eleven percent of the shares, same with Lex. Lillian controls forty percent since Lionel died, and the remainder is publicly traded. The idea was to never allow a single person to control the direction of LBC.”
“But your mom sees the value in having news programming like Daybreak, right?” Kara can feel the crinkle between her eyes.
“Kara, at the end of the day, we’re a publicly traded, for-profit corporation.” Lena fidgets with the stem of her glass. “This isn’t public television,” she says, unconsciously echoing Lex.
“You don’t think we’re going to get cancelled, do you?”
“No, I don’t.” Lena reaches out for Kara’s arm again and squeezes. “I think that decision would be precipitous, considering how new you are and how recently Cat has joined. And I don’t think that’s what the board is really asking for right now anyway, I think they just want to know where we stand.”
“Good, because I swear we’re getting there,” Kara says looking down at her own glass. “I think I’m finally getting through to Cat. She actually did the stories I asked her to do last week.”
Lena chuckles, looks back down at the papers in front of her and makes a note in the margins.
“Well. Not all of them.” Kara frowns, amending her statement, and takes another sip. “But she covered that piece on Disney filming in China—which is practically entertainment coverage, so, you know, I really think I’m getting through!”
“I’m sure you are, darling.” Lena kisses Kara’s cheek. “Now, I need you to finish putting those pans away while I wrap this up. I’d like to get into bed as soon as possible.”
“It’s only seven, why would you want to go to bed so soon—“ Kara starts to ask but cuts herself off at the look on Lena’s face. It makes her blush. “Oh. Right. Yeah. We should get into bed as soon as possible. Definitely. I agree.”
She gets up to walk back to the kitchen, but pauses on the step. “Just to clarify, you want to go to bed so we can have sex, right? Because that’s why I want to go to bed now.”
Lena laughs. “Put everything away and you’ll find out.”
Little more than twelve hours later, Lena walks back to her office in disbelief.
She doesn’t even acknowledge Hector, just pushes through the door, walks over to the buffet, and pours herself a glass of scotch, then sits down heavily on the couch. It’s a gorgeous day outside, Lena’s office is bathed in beautiful mid-morning light, her south facing windows letting in every ounce of sunshine. It might as well be pouring rain.
Jess bursts through the door a moment later.
“What happened? I got your SOS text.”
“Get a drink,” Lena says.
Jess looks confused, but follows Lena’s direction, then joins her on the couch.
“Why do you look like someone died?” Jess asks as she sits down.
“They’re cancelling Daybreak.”
Jess chokes on the mouthful she’s just taken. She coughs once. “I’m sorry, they’re what?”
“Cancelling Daybreak,” Lena repeats. She drains her glass. This is it, the final nail in the coffin for LBC’s direction under Lex. Kara is going to be devastated.
“Start from the top. What the fuck happened?”
“I presented first. I went over everything you and I put together, broke down the periods of instability, of showrunner difficulty and staffing changes, the anchor problems—all mapped against advertising contracts and viewership.” Jess nods and Lena continues, looking down at her now empty glass. “I highlighted the last three months—the impact of losing Edge, scaled against the general predictions for audience break-in periods on new anchors and how they’re outperforming projections and what that might look like over the next year.”
“Right, right, we went over this,” Jess says, impatient. “What the fuck went wrong?”
“Lex is what went wrong.” She sighs. “He said the company has a responsibility to shareholders, and argued that he’s given the show three years to reverse the trend and it hasn’t happened. He’s the one in charge of programming, so Lillian listened to him when he said it couldn’t be done.”
“I didn’t think they were actually going to make a decision today, though,” Jess interrupts.
“Neither did I. Lex called for an executive session and then moved for a vote.” In the end, it wasn’t Lex’s position that surprised Lena, it was Lillian’s deferral. “And she let the vote go forward.”
“I thought your mother agreed with you!”
“I thought she did, too.” Lena gets up and walks back to the buffet, continuing to talk to Jess over her shoulder. “The full recommendation is that a formal announcement to cancel the show should happen when they announce the Spring Line Up in six weeks, which gives Lex time to mock up profitable alternatives. If he can’t come up with something that quick, they’ll hold off another quarter since Daybreak isn’t actively losing money, but essentially?” She pours herself another glass; drinking right now feels appropriate, morning or not. “The decision has been made. Whether it’s in six weeks or eighteen, Daybreak is done.”
There’s a knock at Lena’s door, and before she can yell for Hector to cancel the rest of her morning, Lex pops his head in.
“Oh good, you’re here.” Jess gets up to leave, but Lex waves her down. “You’re fine, Jess, this’ll just take a sec.” He pivots toward his sister. “Lena, I know you’re seeing Daybreak’ s EP, so I realize this decision is kind of awkward.” Lena lets out a strangled sound. “I hate to pull rank on you, but I’m going to ask you not to tell her until I get a chance to meet with her. I’m in charge of programming; you understand, right?”
“Are you going to meet with her today?” Lena looks at her brother.
“Today is no good, my schedule is a mess—I’ve got pitch meetings for the replacement angle already. And, even if I didn’t, I need to line some things up in case she has a bad reaction, after all, we’re keeping this under wraps until we have the replacement ready to go. But I need you to agree that you’ll let me do my job—don’t have me get HR involved.”
“Fine, Lex,” Lena can’t keep the frustration from her tone. “Please tell her as soon as you can. You’re putting me in a terrible position.”
“Of course, I am sorry about that,” he waves his hand dismissively, then checks his watch. “Anyway, thanks, I knew you’d understand. I’ve gotta run, but we’ll catch lunch soon.”
“Fuck,” says Lena, turning back to Jess after Lex leaves.
“Yeah,” agress Jess, finishing her drink. “Fuck.”
chapter title from Mantras by Ellen Winter
Is this metropolis or new york city? WHO CAN SAY (don’t @ me, you don’t come here for DC accurate lore). Xian Famous Foods exists and their spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped noodles haunt me to this day. Van Leeuwen is similarly worth a stop for ice cream. Have I spent too much time in Greenwich Village and Soho? Lena lives at 158 Mercer in 10B. The bar is at the Beekman.
The museum Cat’s brownstone resembles is The Barnes, but the painting is de Kooning’s Untitled (the cow jumps over the moon).
Gaby, if you’re reading this, I already hate everything you’re going to say.
Lex is a dick. Executive session is a fancy way of saying “private” meaning that the decision wouldn’t be public knowledge yet. Although hey, we’re pretending that a board would exercise control over a major programming decision like this on the sole basis that I think it’s a reasonable assumption since it’s a core part of their portfolio (NO ONE TELL ME IF THAT’S WRONG I REALLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW).
In summary: Guess what, I DO WHAT I WANT.
Chapter 5: fuck it i’m all in
In which everyone yells at Cat, Kara and Lena yell at each other, and, somehow, everyone lives happily ever after (except for Lex).
It’s been a fucking month+ so I feel like I owe you a summary of the fic up until now in case you don’t feel like reading an entire book today (just like, a third of a book)...
The story begins in chapter 1 with our intrepid heroine, Kara Danvers, being unceremoniously fired, and entering a brief depression spiral (during which she makes a questionable decision involving her hair). She gets a break and blows it, having a truly terrible interview at the Luthor Broadcasting Corporation, immediately after which she meets two (2) people in an elevator: the third worst person in the world, Cat Grant, and quite possibly the most beautiful person in the world, Lena Luthor. She makes a fool of herself in front of both, but somehow ends the day with a job. Turns out nobody wanted that job for a reason because the show she’s now in charge of is in the shitter, but the chapter ends with one bright spot - Lena may be as gay for Kara as Kara is for her, and is definitely just as dumb about it. We learn Lena’s brother, Lex, is kind of a dick, even if he did give Kara that job.
Over the course of chapter 2 (aka, is it dating if it’s accidental?): Kara realizes two (2) things: first, she needs to hire a co-anchor for her show, and second, she would absolutely give her left tit to sleep with Lena Luthor. We learn that Lena would also sacrifice a body part (hopefully not her left tit) to sleep with Kara. Neither handle it particularly well, neither handle it particularly badly, & neither one of them brings it up to the other one. Kara decides that her job isn’t challenging enough as is, and figures out how to blackmail/bribe the third worst person in the world into coming on the show. Lex’s dickishness intensifies.
In chapter 3, both Lena and Kara have separate anxiety attacks in front of family/friends about the feelings they’ve caught for each other. The universe conspires against them doing anything about it, however, as Kara’s got her hands very full at work because Cat Grant turns out to be a giant jerk about everything. Lucky for us (and the show?) Kara’s optimism springs eternal. Our girls finally agree to go on a date. Sadly, there is no office make out, because Kara has to go give Cat a pep-talk for her debut. Cat drinks some wine.
Which gets us to chapter 4, which picks up later in the evening that chapter 3 ended on as the date happens, but, holy coitus interruptus batman!, it is ruined by the third worst person in the world needing babysitting because she’s gone and gotten hammered. Things on the show take a brief turn for the worse, but sex generally makes everything better so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ luckily for all involved, dating ensues. Television shenanigans also ensue, and somehow, someway (it’s because of Kara, and also Brainy) the show starts to turn around a bit (even if Andrea and Cat can’t seem to keep their claws sheathed on air, and even if there seems to be a mysterious leak involving all their best stories)...and then, at the eleventh hour, the worst thing in the world happens (nooooo, they don’t break up, this isn’t that kind of fic, and wouldn’t you have remembered that??): Lex convinces the board to cancel the show, and he tells Lena that she can’t tell Kara....
And that’s what you missed on Glee!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kara hasn’t seen Lena for two days.
That isn’t even the worst of it, really, because they’ve also barely talked since Kara kissed her goodbye and wished her luck with the board presentation before leaving for work early Tuesday morning. That was sixty-six hours ago, and now Kara is lying on the couch in front of a very accusing Netflix screen asking her if she’s still watching She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, there are popcorn kernels nestled uncomfortably in her sports bra, and she’s staring at her phone like somehow attempting telepathy will make Lena call her back.
The sound of the front door unlocking and opening is barely enough to make Kara look away as Alex and Kelly spill into the apartment, giggling, their arms wrapped around each other.
“Hey,” Kara says, sitting up and trying to brush some of the popcorn off her shirt.
“Holy shit, Kara!” Alex is gripping her chest. “You scared me. I didn’t think you’d still be here! Not that you shouldn’t be,” she adds when Kelly elbows her.
“Let me know if you want me to clear out, I know it’s a date night.” Kara looks around, grabs the bowl she was eating out of off the coffee table and moves to stand up as Alex and Kelly take off their shoes and walk over.
“You’re fine,” Kelly smiles. “It’s nice to see you—you’ve been spending so much time at Lena’s.”
Kara shrugs. “Yeah.” She glances down at her phone. It’s still stubbornly dark.
“God, you’re a mess, are you sick?” Alex asks, sitting down on the couch next to where Kara has just gotten up. “There’s popcorn everywhere and…” She reaches behind herself and pulls an empty bottle from between the couch cushions, “Kara, why did you drink an entire six pack of root beer? Did you and Lena have some sort of fight?”
Kelly takes the bowl from Kara and helps her gather up the rest of the empty bottles. They walk over to the kitchen together.
“I don’t think so.” Kara shrugs again, dropping the bottles into the recycling bin under the sink. She rinses her hands and leans against the counter. On the couch, Alex turns around and spreads her arms along the back of the cushions so that she can face the kitchen.
Kelly puts the bowl into the dishwasher, then turns to Kara. “What do you mean you ‘don’t think so’?”
“I mean, things were fine when I spent the night Monday. She’s got a lot going on at work, and that’s not new, but she cancelled on me for lunch Tuesday, Wednesday, and today.” Kara’s gaze falls to the floor and she scuffs her foot on a tile, crosses her arms. “I haven’t gone this long without seeing her since we got together. And, maybe it’s stupid, but I feel like she’s avoiding me and I don’t understand.”
“Have you tried asking her?” Alex’s forehead is furrowed when Kara looks over at her.
“Every time I’ve reached out to see if she wants to do something or if she’s free, she asks me if I’ve talked to Lex. It’s like she’s changing the subject.”
Kelly hums and purses her lips, leans back against the opposite counter and puts her hands in her front pockets. “I think what Alex means is, have you asked her if anything is wrong or if she’s avoiding you.”
“Not directly?” Kara answers, voice ticking up like it’s a question. Kelly raises her eyebrows. “Okay, no.”
It comes out in a rush. “Tuesday she had a big meeting and it was about Daybreak, and I’m a little worried that it didn’t go well, and maybe they’ve decided to fire me, and she’s waiting for Lex to tell me so she can break up with me.”
Alex lets out a cackle and falls over on the couch.
“It’s not funny!” Kara turns towards her sister. “I’m being serious!”
“I’m sorry, I know, I know.” Alex pops back up and puts up a hand as she tries to get her face under control. “But god, Kara, that woman might be as obsessed with you as you are with her. She’s not going to break up with you if you get fired. Have you talked to Lex?”
“No. Everytime I call, his secretary says he’s unavailable.”
“Well, if he was going to fire you, why would he avoid telling you?”
“I don’t know!” Kara throws up her hands. “I don’t know how any of this works!”
“Kara,” Kelly says gently. “Whatever is going on with Lex isn’t really the point. If you’re worried that something is up with Lena, you should be asking her.”
Kara pulls her lips into a line and then blows out a breath. “I know. I...I’m scared. She’s amazing, I think I…” she bites the inside of her lip. “I haven’t asked her because I’m worried that I won’t like the answer.”
“Avoiding the issue won’t change the answer.” Kelly gives her a small smile.
‘Yeah. I know.”
“Especially ‘cause the answer is that she’s in love with you,” Alex says, and Kara nearly chokes on her own tongue. “Don’t make that face, it’s gross.”
“Alex! You can’t just say that!”
“What? I’m sure she’s just swamped at work, Kara, stop catastrophizing.”
When the look of abject fear on Kara’s face doesn’t go away, Alex sits up properly. “Hey, kiddo, I’m sorry,” Alex says, giving her a small smile. “I know you’re worried, but, whatever’s up? I can’t imagine it has anything to do with your relationship—trust me, having to watch her moon over you everytime we get brunch or dinner with you guys is more than enough evidence for me. She spent Sunday night staring at you anytime the two of you weren’t having eye sex at the table.”
Kara doesn’t say anything, bites her lip instead, so Alex adds, “But you shouldn’t take my word for it, okay? Kelly’s right. You gotta ask her.”
“I hate it when you guys are reasonable.”
“It’s the worst, I know.” Kelly steps forward, slipping her hands free and walking over to Alex. She squeezes Kara’s shoulder as she passes. “Do you wanna watch a movie with us?”
“No,” Kara says, pushing herself off the counter and following Kelly back to the couch. “It’s pretty late. I’m going to see if Lena’s free.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Alex hands Kara her phone from the coffee table. “We’ll be out here if you want company.”
Kara doesn’t bother turning on the overheads in her bedroom, opting to flop onto her bed and click on the table lamp for light. She turns over onto her stomach and pulls up the text thread with Lena.
She’s tried asking how Lena is doing generally, and if there’s anything Kara can do for her, if they can go to lunch, or dinner, or if Lena wants to come over for brunch this weekend, or maybe see a movie. She’s barely gotten a reply, just different versions of the same answer every time: maybe, I’m swamped, have you talked to Lex? Kelly and Alex are right: she needs to be direct. This could all be as simple as Lena having a bad week. Kara could be all worked up over nothing.
Are you avoiding me? She types out.
It’s marked read almost immediately. Ellipses pop up, but no text appears. Kara stares at the screen until it goes dark, then drops it onto her comforter and smooshes her face into her pillow.
The phone buzzes.
It’s not you, it’s me. I’m sorry.
Kara tries not to panic. It’s not you, it’s me. Isn’t that how break up speeches normally start? A wave of nausea rolls through her stomach; her entire body suddenly feels like lead. Fingers shaking, she types out a reply.
Are you breaking up with me?
Her phone lights up almost immediately, a picture she’d taken of Lena curled up reading in one of the wingback chairs in her library filling the screen.
Taking a deep breath, Kara rolls over onto her back and swipes to answer.
“Oh god, Kara, no, I am not breaking up with you—god, I am so, so sorry, I would never, I mean—oh honey, I like you so much, I can’t imagi—”
Oh honey is apparently Kara’s tear trigger today.
“Shit, Kara are you crying? Darling, no…”
“What am I supposed to think?” She pulls her sleeve across the wetness on her cheeks, turns onto her side and pulls her legs up to her stomach. “I feel insane saying something like, I haven’t seen you for two days, but Lena: I haven’t seen you for two days.” Her voice is breaking a little and it’s embarrassing, but gosh, Kara has been more terrified than she’d admitted to herself, and now it’s all pouring out. “You keep asking if I’ve talked to Lex, but I don’t understand what me talking to Lex has to do with whether or not I can see you!”
“You’re absolutely right. Kara, I’m sorry. It’s—“ Lena cuts herself off. “I’m so sorry,” she repeats, softer this time. “I’m in a terrible position and I don’t really know how to handle it. Clearly I’ve picked the worst possible option since you’re crying and asking me if I’m breaking up with you...Fuck.”
“I just,” Kara hiccups, “Lena, just talk to me.”
Kara swipes at her nose. “Is this about the board meeting?”
Lena is silent. Kara sits up on the bed, takes off her glasses so that she can wipe her eyes in earnest.
“It didn’t go well, did it?”
“Kara, darling, you really need to talk to Lex, I can’t…” Kara scrunches up her face, trying to hear better as Lena trails off. “I honestly can’t tell you, contractually.” She sounds so defeated.
“Okay, but I’ve been trying. How am I supposed to talk to Lex if he isn’t taking my calls right now?”
Kara can hear Lena shuffling something on the other end of the phone, it sounds like she’s tapping on the screen.
“Tomorrow is Friday,” Lena’s voice comes back through. “Lex has a series of early meetings with our European division and a few partners, and he’ll have fifteen minutes free at eight a.m. If you can get away from the broadcast, go then; just walk in, don’t let Angela tell you he isn’t there.”
“Okay.” Kara sniffles.
“Kara, love?” Lena pauses. “I’ll be in my office, after your show, okay?”
The leaden feeling returns to Kara’s chest.
“We’re getting cancelled, aren’t we.” She doesn’t even bother phrasing it as a question. “I thought you said they weren’t making a decision.”
“I’ll be in my office. I’ll order lunch for us.” The lack of direct answer feels like confirmation.
They’re both quiet for a moment.
“Do you...do you want to come over tonight?” Lena finally asks. “I could send a car. I feel so awful, I’d really like to hold you.”
“As good as that sounds,” Kara switches the phone to her other ear, flops back down on to her pillows, “it’s already after eleven. Something tells me I should try getting some sleep.”
“Okay,” Lena says, and now it sounds like she might cry.
“I want to,” Kara hastens to reassure her, “I do. But I have to leave for work in like, five hours...I’ll see you tomorrow for lunch, I promise.”
“Okay. Kara, I’m unbelievably sorry; I handled this terribly. I care about you so much, you mean—you mean so very much to me.”
“You’re going to make me cry again,” Kara huffs out. “You mean a lot to me, too.”
They lapse into silence and Kara closes her eyes. There’s a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach about Daybreak, but now that the threat of losing Lena is over, she feels like she can breathe.
“I’ve gotta get ready for bed.”
“Right,” Lena sounds hesitant; Kara can hear her inhale and then blow it out. “Do you—I mean, would you want to video call while you get ready? I think I’ll feel better if I can see your face.
Kara hits the button to switch the call over and Lena answers it swiftly. She can’t help noticing that they both have puffy red eyes, but it’s such a relief to see Lena’s slightly watery smile. Her chest loosens.
“Is this your way of telling me you think I look cute with toothpaste all over my mouth?”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, darling.” Lena laughs and wipes at her eyes. “I missed you.”
“Missed you, too. Come on, let’s brush our teeth together.”
The Daybreak offices are buzzing by the time Kara walks into her office a little after five. One of the upsides to the energy that the show has started to take on is that people seem excited about the work they’re doing. Sure, not everyone has bought in, but it’s a far cry from Kara’s first day when she walked in and absolutely no one was doing any work whatsoever.
It only serves to make her angrier at Lex, at the Board, at LBC as a whole. She’s just getting started; Daybreak doesn’t deserve this.
She’s distracted all through the pre-show meeting. Luckily, the show segments are dialed in and there hasn’t been anything major overnight that has caused a change in direction for any of the news hour or transition pieces, so Kara being on autopilot goes unremarked, and probably unnoticed, most of the staff is still fighting their way through a haze of caffeine at this hour anyway.
The biggest moving piece is going to be in the middle hour. Andrea will be live on the plaza with Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum showcasing summer fashions and promoting their new show, which means eight o’clock will start off with Brainy and the weather, while Andrea goes to set up, and then Cat will be responsible for the segment transitions. Nia says she’s game to hold down the fort from the end of the news hour through the transitions and up until the beginning of Andrea’s interview at 8:30.
“Everything’s okay, though, right?” Nia’s frowning at her from across the table as everyone else walks out of the conference room for the final checks and blocking before they go to air.
“Yeah, I need to touch base with Lex about some of our upcoming story ideas,” Kara says, looking down at her notebook and scribbling down the final note for the show. She shrugs, aiming for relaxed, but with a touch of exasperation—which is what she imagines she’d be feeling if Lex had actually asked her to meet in the middle of the broadcast. “This was the only time he had free.”
“Augh, executives.” Nia rolls her eyes. “Always on their own timetables, am I right? I’ll keep an eye on my phone. If you run long just text, I guess, but we should be fine. James and the team have been great lately.”
“Thanks, Nia.” Kara stands up from the chair.
“No problem, boss!” Nia gets up to follow. “I mean, it’s only weather with Brainy, and then Cat giving a headline review plus a preview of the second half of the show. It’s not like anything major can go wrong.”
“Right,” Kara says as they walk out, but she’s not really listening. “Yeah. Nothing can go wrong.”
The show starts fine, and at 7:50 Kara excuses herself and heads out of the production booth. She weaves through the hallways that no longer seem quite so narrow or chaotic (the irate band manager had finally been allowed back in the building to retrieve for all those instruments, apparently he’d been calling frantically for weeks), then heads up the escalator to the elevator bank in the lobby and flashes her badge on the key reader, selecting the 45th floor.
Lena said that she couldn’t tell Kara anything more than she already had, so even though Kara feels like she knows what she’s walking into, she’s really flying blind. She’d tried rehearsing how to start the conversation as she rode the bus this morning, but all she wants to do is yell at Lex and tell him he’s ruining the network—which somehow doesn’t seem like the place to start.
The elevator comes to a stop, the doors slide gently open, and Kara steps out onto the C-suite floor. She doesn’t bother saying good morning to anyone, just heads straight to Lex’s office per Lena’s instructions, weaving between the seats set up in the hall as a waiting area. Angela is sitting at the desk outfront and she looks up as Kara approaches.
“Good morning, Ms. Danvers, how can I—wait, Mr. Luthor isn’t—you can’t—” But Kara is already past her and through the door; she closes it behind her before Angela can mount a sturdier defense.
Lex is at his desk, back to the window, and he startles visibly as Kara shuts the door and begins her advance.
“Kara? How did...?” Lex glances behind her, sees the closed door. “I’m in the middle of a whole mess of meetings, actually, if you talk to Angela, I’m sure she can find time on my—”
“You’ve been avoiding every single phone call and e-mail from me for three days and Angela said you’re booked until August.” Kara comes to a stop in front of Lex’s desk and puts her hands on her hips. “Lex, are you going to tell me to my face that Daybreak is cancelled or are you hoping none of us will notice when we show up and there’s a lock on the door?”
“Goddamnit.” A flicker of anger flashes across his face before he schools his expression. “I told her she couldn’t tell you.”
“Lena?” He nods, so Kara adds, “She didn’t.”
“So, you made an educated guess and I’ve just confirmed it, haven’t I? Well, fine.” He shakes his head and smiles ruefully, pushes himself away from the desk and leans back in his chair. “Cat’s out of the bag, so to speak.”
Lex chuckles at his own joke.
“We’re announcing in six weeks.” He holds up a hand to forestall any questions. “In the meantime, this isn’t public knowledge, Kara, and it’s covered by the NDA you signed when you started. I wasn’t lying about being between meetings, though, so if that’s all...”
“Wait.” Kara drops her hands down from her hips. “Not public as in you’re not announcing it? Or not public as in I can’t tell the rest of the show?”
“Both, I’m afraid. Timing isn’t right.” He swivels back to his computer, reaching for the mouse. “I’ll let you know when you can.”
“How can you do this?”
“I tried telling you Kara,” he isn’t even looking at her now, he sounds almost bored, “we aren’t public television. Daybreak doesn’t make money. You had a chance, but you haven’t been able to do anything about it—don’t feel badly, no one could’ve saved it.” The phone rings and Lex picks it up. “Yes, Angela, I’m ready, patch them through.” He turns his chair away from Kara to face the windows. “Hi folks, tell me what you’ve got for us…”
When Kara gets back down to the production booth, it’s chaos.
James looks like he’s about to have a heart attack, there are three interns frantically going through the news transition script, and Nia is nowhere that Kara can see. She grabs her headset and puts it on, then turns to James.
“Sound stage,” James says. At Kara’s confused expression he adds, “We’re on commercial, but Cat is having a problem with the next segment. She’s demanding it be re-written or she won’t do it on the air.”
“What?” Kara can’t handle this right now. “What's going on now?”
“Ms. Grant is offended by a word in the next story,” one of the interns pipes up.
“She's offended?” Kara screws up her face. The intern nods. “‘Offended.’” Kara says again, sure that she’s misunderstood. “That’s the word she’s using?” They nod again.
Kara makes eye contact with James, who shrugs.
“Ah,” James flips through the notes in front of him. “The one about the Guiness record-winning Angora wool producer upstate.”
“You know what?” Kara purses her lips and hums. She can see Nia talking with Cat on the closed circuit feed from the soundstage. “No.” She shakes her head to herself. Not today Cat, not today.
Kara gets down to the stage so fast she might as well have flown.
“You’re simply going to have to re-write it in the next two minutes,” Cat is saying when Kara walks up to the set. She pauses behind Nia as Cat continues. “I'm not saying the words ‘fluffy’ or ‘bunny’ on air. I don’t really care if it’s the world’s fluffiest bunny or not. It's bad enough I have to do these ridiculous stories.”
“Cat, please,” Nia sounds exhausted. “Last week, Andrea had to use the words ‘rectal’ and ‘moisture’ in the same sentence.”
“Well, first dates can be awkward.” Cat looks down at the papers on her desk, makes a note in the margins.
“We’ve already got the b-roll, the segment is queued up,” Nia tries. Cat ignores her.
Kara has to admit that this is exactly how she’s tried to handle Cat over the last six weeks: a mixture of cajoling, pleading, comparisons, and near begging. It hasn’t exactly proved fruitful.
Nia plows on. “In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that bad!”
Cat opens her mouth to reply, but Kara’s had enough. Maybe it’s the knowledge that they’re being cancelled, maybe it’s the lack of sleep, heck, maybe it’s just that this really is the last straw.
“Cat!” Kara’s voice comes out loud and sharp, she’s a little past the point of caring.
“Kara…” Nia whips around, a hand over her heart.
“Nope,” Kara says, eyes on Cat. “That's it!” She steps up onto the elevated platform where Nia and Cat are.
“Kara, what are you doing?” Nia looks a little concerned; she’s glancing between Cat and Kara.
“I’ve got this, Nia.” Kara practically shoos the younger woman away and takes her place standing in front of the desk. “Cat? Listen very closely to what I’m about to say.”
“One minute warning, we're back in 60,” James’s voice comes in over the headset.
“I'm sorry, this'll only take a second.” Kara says into her mic, before pulling it away from her mouth and settling the earphones around her neck. She puts her hands on the desk and leans in. “I've looked up to you all my life.”
Cat’s eyes go a little wide, her nostrils flare; Kara nods.
“Did you know that? I actually idolized you. My parents and I used to watch you deliver the news. So, imagine my surprise when it turns out that you're actually the worst person in the entire world. Not the third worst! The worst!”
The sound stage has gone completely silent as everyone listens, but Kara doesn’t notice.
“This show means so much to so many people...Do you have any idea how hard everyone around you is working?” She shakes her head, her voice picking up in volume again. “None of it seems to matter to you! You don’t seem to care when we have to change a story or overload Andrea or shift a segment for the worse because you don’t feel like doing something. If we worked as a team, can you imagine? ‘Stronger together’ isn’t just some mantra,” Kara spreads her arms out in an expression of frustration, “that I came up with for staff meetings, Cat, it’s what Daybreak should be about. So it’s sucky, Cat. It really sucks that nobody can do their jobs well around here because,” (and now Kara’s shouting in earnest), “ you can't be bothered to do yours at all!”
“And we're back,” comes the voice of a production assistant from behind her.
She ducks down out of the shot as the camera light on twelve flicks to green and catches a glimpse of the stunned expression on Cat’s face, her eyes still on Kara as Kara crawls backwards to stay out of the shot, before the woman collects herself.
“Welcome back to Daybreak…”
Kara takes a seat next to Nia in the production booth when she makes it back, the interns having dispersed, and looks around. Cat’s chattering away on the monitor, James is seamlessly choreographing the ballet of camera shots and graphics. Andrea is on monitor two, having a mic pack threaded through her shirt as she talks to Tim and prepares for the plaza piece…
All of this will be over in six weeks. Six weeks.
“You okay, boss?” Nia breaks Kara out of her thoughts. “You, uh, kinda lost it on Cat there.”
“Not my finest moment.”
“Honestly?” Nia’s scrunches up her forehead, but her lips are curving into a small smile. “You didn’t say anything we’re not all thinking.”
“I’ll apologize to her after the show.” Kara shakes her head. Now that the adrenaline is wearing off, she can’t believe she did that.
“Probably not a bad idea.” Nia laughs lightly. “But, Kara, for real: you okay?”
“Yeah, Nia.” Kara gives her a smile, but knows it doesn’t reach her eyes. “Everything’s fine.”
“Thank you, Hector,” Lena says when her assistant walks into her office with two bags of food and a green bubble tea just before noon. “Just leave them on the table there. Has Kara called?”
“No, Ms. Luthor, no messages while you were in with legal.” Lena opens her mouth to ask him if her brother has called, but he beats her to it. “And I’ve made sure you won’t be interrupted when she arrives. I told Mr. Luthor’s assistant that you have an emergency meeting with finance about streaming revenue.” He bends over to set the food down on the low table in front of the couch and then turns back to her. “If that’s all?”
“How…never mind. Jess?” Lena guesses. Hector raises his eyebrows as if to say, Jess who? Lena laughs. “Feel free to leave early for lunch, if you want.”
“Will do,” Hector says, smiling.
Lena goes back to the document in front of her after he shuts the door, but the third time she tries reading the same paragraph, she admits defeat. If she can’t be productive, she might as well lay out lunch.
As she places the containers out on the table and arranges napkins (a lot of napkins), she can’t help fidgeting and looking up at her door every time she thinks she hears someone pass in the hallway. She has no idea how Kara’s talk with Lex went this morning—if Lex was free, if Kara got a straight answer out of him—and the nervousness is driving her up the wall. She’s already decided that if he’s managed to avoid coming clean to Kara, she’ll have to tell Kara herself and deal with whatever fallout there is with HR and, inevitably, Lex and Lillian.
One look at Kara’s face when she walks into the office ten minutes later and Lena knows immediately that she’s not going to need to get HR involved.
For the first time since they met, Kara looks tired. Her hair is in a loose braid down her back, the blue button down she’s wearing is wrinkled—her sleeves pushed up with none of the usual precision—hell, even her glasses are obviously smudged. Still, the moment she sees Lena, she smiles.
“Hi, darling,” Lena greets her softly, straightening up from where she’d been re-arranging the utensils and walking over to the doorway to meet Kara.
Kara opens her arms, asking wordlessly for a hug. She sinks into Lena’s arms, pulling slightly at Lena’s silk blouse, and buries her face in her neck. “It’s better than you breaking up with me,” she says, voice muffled and lips tickling Lena’s skin, “but not by much.”
“Oh god,” Lena’s chest feels tight just remembering their tear-filled call, “I really am sorry about that.”
“It’s fine.” Kara pulls back. “Lex made it perfectly clear that he’d told you not to tell me. I might not have loved how you went about it, but I get it; guess this is why they always tell you not to dip pens in the company ink, or whatever.” She laughs and glances down at the plastic takeout boxes. “Although if I’m smelling pork belly gua bao from Dynasty, consider yourself completely forgiven.”
“You’ve been very clear that the way to your heart is through your stomach.” Lena smiles. “Let’s get some food in you and then we can talk about it, okay?”
“Best idea I’ve heard all day,” Kara says, leaning in to kiss Lena softly before taking her hand and leading her around the table to the couch.
Two orders of the bao later (Lena can’t help letting Kara eat her’s too), Kara seems much better than she had when she’d walked in. The tight line of her shoulders has loosened and her face is less pinched. She picks up the bubble tea and sits back on the couch, angling herself toward Lena.
“So,” Lena starts, putting down the fried chicken bian dang she’s been picking at and laying her chopsticks across the top of the container, “what did Lex tell you?”
“That LBC is cancelling Daybreak in six weeks, but that I’m not allowed to tell anyone about it.” Kara takes a sip from the honeydew-flavored drink, pulling up some of the tapioca balls and chewing on them for a moment. “Do you have any idea, I mean—can I ask you why all the secrecy?”
“Now that you know, I don’t think there’s anything I’m not allowed to tell you...Lex was only clear about the initial reveal.” Lena crosses her legs and turns to face Kara, smoothing her skirt and leaning an arm against the back of the couch. “I didn’t lie to you when I told you I thought they weren’t going to cancel Daybreak. I thought—I think,” she corrects herself, “it’s too soon.” Kara smiles at her but it’s muted. “Lex jumped the gun a bit in pushing for a vote so quickly; right now, he doesn't have a more profitable alternative to offer them. So the show is in a sort of limbo.”
Kara’s eyes catch at the word ‘limbo.’
Lena continues, even if it feels terrible to douse Kara’s obvious hope. “The question is, does the cancellation happen in six weeks, or does it take another quarter? All of that rests on what Lex is able to mock up in the meantime.”
“Wait a second, Lena, there’s a third option: if we can become more profitable than anything Lex can pitch, there’s a chance we won’t be cancelled then, right?” Kara is sitting at attention now. She puts the bubble tea down on the table amidst the debris from lunch. “Daybreak still has a shot.”
“Kara, I really don’t—”
Kara cuts her off. “No...I’ve been playing it safe. This might be exactly what we need.” Her gaze shifts to her lap and she pulls her lips into a thin line, then raises her head and fixes Lena with a stare that is nothing but determined. “I yelled at Cat today.”
Lena can’t help the surprised laughter that escapes.
“What?” Kara’s features shift into something that looks a little wounded, but it’s adorable. “I can yell.” Lena can’t believe it, she’s actually pouting.
“I’m sure you can, darling.” Lena scoots closer and places a hand on Kara’s knee, sweeping her fingers across the soft khaki, “It’s just hard to imagine.”
“Well, I can and I did. She was being ridiculous—not that that’s anything new,” Kara rolls her eyes and Lena huffs out a sympathetic noise, “but I got back after talking to Lex and she was trying to get out of reading a story and...I don’t know. If we go down, it’s not going to be because I didn’t try hard enough, right?”
“Of course not.” Lena nods.
“I think I’ve been treating her like she’s something special because she reminds me of my parents. We used to watch her all the time—my mom thought she was brilliant.” Kara takes Lena’s hand from her knee, looks down as she threads their fingers together. “I think maybe that’s part of why I wanted to bring her on so badly.”
Lena squeezes her hand. “So, what happened today?”
“It hit me how hard everyone is trying, everyone but her really, and how I’ve been letting her get away with murder because she’s Cat Grant.”
“I’m sure that was a sight a lot of people would pay good money to see.”
Kara blushes and adjusts her glasses with her free hand. “I might have done it in front of the whole crew.”
Lena’s eyes go wide.
“I also might have told her she’s the worst person in the world,” Kara winces, “but I blame that on you telling me she’s the third worst. It stuck.”
“Of course this is my fault.” Lena can’t help laughing again. “Let me know how tomorrow goes....”
Kara starts laughing, too, her eyes crinkling. “What’s the worst that can happen? We’re probably cancelled.” She sobers up then. “But if there’s even a chance—” she shakes her head, brows knitting together as Lena tries to respond, “no, I know you said there isn’t, but we’ve got at least six weeks. If we give LBC the best six weeks of Daybreak they’ve ever had…” She trails off. “I’m not giving up.”
The earnest expression on Kara’s face and the hope in her voice are so potent a combination that Lena feels an enormous swell of some unidentifiable emotion deep in the center of her chest. “Well, you’ve made a believer out of me, Kara Danvers.”
“If only it were as easy to make a believer out of your brother.” Kara gives her a lopsided smile and pulls at Lena’s hand, tugging her across the small gap between them on the couch. She narrows her eyes. “Now, I have a very serious question for you.”
“Is that right,” Lena breathes out as Kara maneuvers Lena onto her lap, rucking up the skirt she’s wearing slightly so that she can straddle her. “How serious?” She asks, her head dropping back.
“Very serious,” Kara says, placing a wet, open-mouthed kiss on Lena’s neck and letting her hands drift to Lena’s hips, tightening her grip. And even though she knows where this is going, Kara’s next words still turn Lena’s insides to liquid. “I’m having a terrible day. How do you feel about office sex?”
Lena feels just fine about it—as soon as Kara locks her door, of course.
Waking up on Saturday, Kara decides the changes she needs to make have to start immediately—as in, this-morning-during-pre-show-prep immediately.
“We’ve got Brainy off-site today, right? Is he in place?” She looks around the table at the group.
“Yes, he is,” answers Nia. “Demos already has all the releases signed from folks who are taking the first ride, so Brainy will be interviewing people as they come off the coaster.”
“No, he won't.” Kara crosses an entire line out of the show segment mock up in front of her.
“What?” James sounds confused. “Why not?”
“Not anymore. We're gonna put him on that coaster.”
The room goes silent.
She pulls her attention away from the mock up. Andrea’s eyes are wide, Winn has blanched, and even Cat is looking up from her phone.
Kara sets her pen down. “We're gonna strap a handheld to the car in front of him, run a lavalier up his shirt, and then go live. Boom.” Kara mimes dropping a mic and Nia shakes her head, mouth open. “It's called ‘picking up the game,’ okay? From now on, every single story that we do, it's got to be sensational. We're going to be better than everyone else. We're going to work harder. And we're going to do it starting right now! Stronger together, am I right?”
“Are, are you gonna sing?” One of the interns looks a little worried.
“Wha—no! I'm not gonna sing!” Kara shakes her head, frustrated that no one is matching her energy. “Why do people always ask me that?”
“No idea,” says Nia, although her eyebrows say otherwise. “I’ll call Brainy and tell him the new plan. I think he’s afraid of heights.”
As they settle into the tech booth to start the show, James cues up the intros. “So the big question is,” he says, turning to Kara, “are we gonna be able to hear his mic? We didn’t have time for a test. Any idea what you want me to do if we can’t?”
“We’ll be fine, those mics pick up everything.” Kara scribbles another change to the teleprompter script for Andrea to lead in the segment and hands it to a runner. “Actually,” she pauses, “they really do pick up everything. We’ll need to go to a five-second delay—we can’t do it live.”
“Why not?” Nia takes her seat. “He’s prepped. Nervous,” she puts out a hand, fingers spread, and wiggles it back and forth, “but prepped.”
“Well, if he screams curse words we need to be able to bleep it out. I don’t have room in the budget for FCC fines.”
“Oh, good call.” Nia leans over to Kara. “Kara? If he has a heart attack before asking me out, I’m going to kill you.”
Half an hour later and Kara feels like she might be the one to have the heart attack as they count down to Brainy’s launch.
“Cue Andrea,” James says when they cut back from commercial.
On the sound stage, Andrea starts the segment. “Thrill-seekers have something to look forward to this summer as Six Flags unveils a brand-new roller coaster. The ‘Livewire’ is the fastest coaster in the U.S. with speeds up to a hundred and thirty-five miles an hour…”
“Stand Brainy by. Here we go.”
“...pulls over six G’s and has two turns of ninety-five degrees. Our own Brainy Dox is getting a sneak peek at this amazing new ride, isn't that right, Brainy?”
“Go split screen, standing by. Open his mic.”
“Brainy, can you hear us?” Andrea asks, peering at the live feed from the amusement park. There on the screen is Brainy, strapped in via a fixed, over-head harness, with the camera about three feet from his face.
His complexion is a little green.
“Yes, Andrea, I am here.” Brainy’s voice comes through, a little staticky but otherwise clear as the coaster leaves the platform and begins to climb up the first incline. “And so far, I am happy to report that it is a beautiful ride. The view from up here is quite stupendous.” He squints, his hair rustling slightly as the car climbs. “Mostly blue skies. Cumulus clouds on the horizon, always a good sign this time of year. I am preparing to head into our first dip. Oh…Oh, my. Oh, fu—”
They bleep out the next seven seconds of dialogue.
On the monitor, Cat and Andrea are wearing matching expressions of surprise and light horror as the feed from Brainy’s camera and audio capture the full two-minute ride from start to finish. Miraculously, Brainy doesn’t throw up, and he rallies about the one-minute mark, returning to a somewhat breathless narration of the sights and thrills.
“Thank god for that delay,” Kara says, feeling like her face might break from the size of the smile she’s sporting.
James and Nia just laugh.
By the time the broadcast is over, several unprecedented things have happened: a social media intern has turned Brainy into some sort of internet meme that Kara doesn’t understand (but Nia assures her “it’ll be all good for the bottom line”), the minute-to-minutes hit an all time high following the roller-coaster segment (“number two in the slot! For less than a minute, but still, number two!”), and Brainy has called Nia to ask her to dinner, confessing that as he hit terminal velocity over the final curve, all he could think of was her.
It might be their most successful show since Kara started. Overall, she’s feeling pretty good, and so is everyone else on the set.
Well, everyone but Cat.
“What are you going to do to him next?”
Kara sighs as Cat comes up behind her in the bullpen, catching up as Kara heads back to her office to grab notes for morning meeting.
“Make him zip line off the Burj Khalifa? Swim with sharks?” She manages to sound sympathetic and condescending at the same time. “I actually felt sorry for the weather-boy, screaming like that on national television.”
“Well then, you’re the only one.” Kara can’t help letting out a sarcastic laugh, because how does this woman not understand a thing about broadcasting? “Maybe it’s not the high-brow pulitzer-winning content you’re used to, but we got half a million hits on YouTube already. And Brainy is absolutely thrilled—he says he’s not afraid of anything anymore. Oh! And, and we had another bump in the minute-to-minutes!”
“Kara, good stuff!” M’gann flashes her a double thumbs up as she walks by in the hallway.
“Thank you!” Kara grins after her, then looks back at Cat as they wind their way through the stacks. “Lighten up, Cat.”
“Would you like to hear something I've noticed, Kiera?” Cat frowns at her. “People only say, ‘Lighten up’ when they're trying to stick their fist up your ass.”
“Oh my gosh, ew, could you have said anything other than that?” Kara shivers, then shakes her head to clear the mental image. “No one is asking you to do anything, okay Cat? And I hate to break it to you, but the fact is—”
“Oh. My. God. Amazing segment.” Winn is practically bouncing up and down as they walk past him. “Genius.”
“Thanks, Winn!” Kara gives him a fist bump. “Cat, the fact is, the world has been debating news versus entertainment for years and guess what? No one wants news all the time. It’s depressing and giving people a little of both isn’t the end of the world.”
“You know what?” They’ve reached Cat’s dressing room and she pauses in her doorway.
“You're wrong. People are smart. They want information. Not junk, which is all you're willing to give them.”
“We have to get the ratings up, Cat, surely you understand that.” Cat’s frown deepens and she narrows her eyes at Kara. “Or, we can have a lot of high-minded ideas and not be on the air. The show may go down,” Kara knows she’s skirting a line here, although if anyone should be able to read between the lines of her actions already, it’s the woman in front of her, “but if it does, it’s not because I'm not trying my hardest.”
Cat doesn’t reply.
“You hear me?” Kara raises her eyebrows. “I'm not giving up.”
“Kara?” Andrea is speed-walking up to her, sidestepping a set of large orange traffic cones. Cat ducks inside and shuts her door. “I want to talk to you. I want to talk to you right now about—”
“Oh my gosh, you, too?” Kara throws her hands up and lets them fall back down. She doesn’t have time for another lecture from a discontented anchor worried about the most successful segment that Daybreak has ever had.
“Yes and I—” Andrea has stopped directly in front of her.
“Why are you worried about Brainy? You know, he's a grown man,” Kara starts on her defense of the decision to strap him to the ride.
“Worried about Brainy?” Andrea puts her hands on her hips and gives Kara a look like she’s missed something entirely. “Are you kidding me?”
“He signed release forms. He agreed!” Kara bites her lip. “Well, I had Nia do the asking, so that might count as coercion, but I’m pretty sure legal says we’re covered.”
“Whatever,” Andrea shakes her head and waves a hand dismissively, “he’s good, he killed that segment. I’m saying that I see what you're doing.”
“Okay?” Kara cocks her head to the side, clearly she’s missing something. Andrea doesn’t sound mad at all, in fact, if Kara didn’t know better, she’d say Andrea sounds excited.
“I see what you’re doing and I think it's great!” Andrea now appears genuinely thrilled. It’s confusing. “This is exactly what I've been waiting for, so just, you know, sign me up. Put me in. Whatever you want to call it.”
“Really?” Kara can feel the crinkle forming on her forehead. If this is a joke...
“Yeah.” Andrea’s looking at her again like she’s concerned Kara isn’t understanding her.
“Okay.” Kara wracks her brain, what do they have coming up? “Do you have any preexisting conditions?”
“Are you kidding? Look at me.” Andrea gestures down the length of her body. “I'm a rock.”
“Speaking of rocks,” Kara says, trying not to examine Andrea too closely, “next weekend you’re supposed to interview Alex Honnold on the living room set about what’s up and coming in the world of competitive climbing.” Andrea nods and gestures for Kara to get to the point. ”How do you feel about learning to climb with him on the plaza instead? We could set up a wall—“
“Done,” Andrea says, cutting her off, “I’ll do it in spandex shorts and a sports bra.”
“You don’t ha—”
“Oh no, I’m doing it.” Andrea pulls her phone out of her pocket and starts texting something furiously. “It’ll be good for the show.”
“Well,” Kara starts, “if you’re su—”
“I’m sure.” Andrea pockets her phone, crosses her arms, and fixes Kara with a look she can’t quite place. The word appraising comes to mind. “You know, when you started, I was pretty sure you were going to be the final nail in our coffin. I mean, especially after you brought Cat on. But now…” She taps at her lips with a finger. “There’s a chance I was wrong. If you meant what you said today, then I’m in. I’ll do whatever you need me to, and Cat can go fuck herself. I’m done sinking to her level”
“Really? You thought...okay, that’s okay, but you’re onboard now, great!” Kara tries to process what Andrea’s just told her. She pauses, thinks about the best way to put it. If Andrea is going to level up for good, well, Kara does need at least half her anchor team on her side for this to work, but… “Um, in the spirit of things that will help the show—I’m glad that you’re over the whole Cat thing—but also, can you keep fighting with her on air? The internet is kind of obsessed with you two.”
“It’ll be my pleasure.”
The change in Andrea’s attitude manifests less than twenty minutes into the Monday show. They’re wrapping up the first news segment, and Andrea is reading a story off the teleprompter that Cat had declined to do on the grounds that it involved bodily functions.
“...turns out the burger patties were contaminated with E. Coli, which can cause cramping and diarrhea.” Andrea shakes her head sympathetically and glances down at her notes before finishing. “Be careful with those summer barbecues, folks, always follow the FDA recommended cooking temperatures.” She looks to Cat for the transition.
“Lose the ticker, music in…” James says over the closed audio.
“We'll be right back, on Daybreak.” Cat smiles as the camera pulls away.
“Dissolve the logo. And mark. And we're out.”
“Great, a story about uncontrollable shitting and look who gets it,” Andrea bites out as soon as the light goes off, indicating they’re no longer live. The speakers in the tech booth continue to pick up the stage audio as the crew bustles to move to the next piece.
“Well, it's not my sort of thing.” Cat doesn’t even glance over at her, just motions for a makeup artist to blot at her forehead.
On the monitor, Kara can see Andrea nod to herself, mouthing not my sort of thing, before putting her hands on the news desk, pushing back, and rotating her chair toward Cat. She nudges Nia to watch.
“Can I say one thing?” Andrea starts, and she doesn’t wait for a response. “That may not be your thing, but that's our job. I know you think you're above it and, of course, you were above it before you got fired. But now, guess what, you're down in the muck with the rest of us, Cat. Time to pull your head out of your ass and do the work or get the hell out.”
Cat opens her mouth to reply, but apparently Andrea isn’t done.
“You know, you might’ve been a great anchor once upon a time.” Andrea shrugs. “I’m not old enough to know. And, maybe I’m being charitable, but Daybreak could be great, if you let it. If not? That’s fine. Play out your contract, get paid, and move on. You’re just another in a long line of co-hosts who can’t keep up. And when you’re off the air for good? I’ll still be here.” She turns her chair back to the desk away from Cat and taps her notes. “I hope you like watching me work.”
“I can’t tell if they’re going to kill each other or fuck each other,” Nia whispers.
“Well, they’re not really allowed to do either on air,” Kara hums, “but I think both would work for the numbers.”
Cat’s staring at Andrea with an expression on her face that wavers between shock and disbelief when James cues them back in, and Kara’s pretty sure that the venomous smile Andrea is giving her co-host can be seen from space. Andrea practically glows when she breaks eye contact with Cat and looks directly into the camera, reading Cat’s line off the prompter: “Welcome back to Daybreak!”
Andrea’s right: showing herself off in a sports bra and spandex shorts while a goofy, lanky rock climber tries to teach her the difference between a jug and a crimp is good for the show. If Kara gets a little grumpy when Lena says she liked the segment, well, she’s only human.
Four weeks passes in the blink of an eye. The scoops still haven’t stopped, but they feel less frequent. It’s almost as if the person (“or persons,” Alex helpfully points out one night, and Kara’s glad her sister is capable of endless suspicion, even if she herself doesn't have the energy for it) is busy with something else, or has decided not to care as much. And when they do find out that The Today Show or GMA has undercut them, the whole team is joining in and coming up with better plan b’s. Winn always seems to have a potential guest waiting in the wings, and even Siobhan’s pitches start to become more coherent (really, Kara should have pointed her at fashion and astrology exclusively much sooner, but then, that wouldn’t have been possible without Brainy’s transformation into a guy who can handle even the wackiest color-piece—they get the fab five to make him over on a Wednesday show and it’s brilliant).
All of this means that even when they don’t get The Story, they get something relevant—or at least something that’s worth watching. Over the next several weeks, and for the first time since she took the job, Kara feels like she’s finally delivering on what she told Lex they could do: Daybreak is fun and light, but capable of covering the news in a way that even seems to make Cat less grumbly.
In fact, the only real downside is that all the uptick in energy and morale has the whole staff getting excited about their work, unaware that Daybreak has an execution date and no stay in sight.
“Oh my god, that’s so cute!” Nia and Winn are sitting at the conference table when Kara walks into pre-show meeting one morning. He’s flipping through pictures on his phone, Nia perched on the chair next to him and peeking over his shoulder.
“I know, right? I mean, it’s a lot. Metropolis Water Works is, like, the place to get married, and you do not want to know the size of the deposit I had to put down, but can’t you just picture it?”
“Ugh, yes. Flowers? Colors?” Nia looks up. “Kara, you absolutely have to see where Winn is getting married in the spring.”
Winn tilts his screen so that Kara can see it. “Isn’t it perfect?” he gushes, swiping through the pictures so fast that Kara can barely process them. “You’re both invited, of course.”
“I call dibs on helping organize your bachelor party!” Nia claps in excitement. “I can host, I’m moving into a new apartment soon that’s actually sized for people.”
“You’re moving?” Kara tries to shape her face into something that matches Nia’s excitement, but she’s having trouble.
“Yeah, I mean, I’ve been searching off and on since I got the promotion, but I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger yet. It seemed too good to be true, you know?” Nia rolls her eyes, and Winn nods sagely. “But things are finally going well! So, I decided, if I can afford a place that isn’t the size of a broom closet, then I should just do it, you know?” She fist bumps Winn then turns to Kara. “Kara, you understand; when are you moving out of your sister’s place?”
“Oh.” There’s a stone in Kara’s stomach, dragging it down to the floor. “Yeah. Moving. It’s um, not the right time.” She shrugs and takes a seat at the table as other people start to filter in around them. “I’ve been so busy with work.”
“Or are you waiting for Lena to send a u-haul…” Winn snickers into his hand.
Kara’s too distracted by the thought that everyone around her is making plans for the future based on how Daybreak is doing to respond to Winn’s joke. Sure, things are going well—great, even, some days—but it all might come crashing down in less than two weeks.
And Lex still won’t let her tell anyone.
“I’m so glad we keep doing this, it’s way nicer to go out to dinner and have my sister steal someone else’s dessert instead of mine.” Alex walks through the open restaurant door and out into the warmth of mid-evening in summer Metropolis, catching up to where Kelly, Lena, and Kara are standing on the sidewalk.
“Hey! There was no stealing involved this time! Lena gave that to me.” Kara looks to her girlfriend for back-up, but knows she isn’t going to get it when Lena cocks an eyebrow and folds her arms across her chest. She’s standing across from Kara in the fading light, her hair down in gentle waves, wearing a white v-neck and navy linen shorts. For a moment, Kara gets distracted; she can’t help thinking how beautiful Lena is.
“I said you could have a bite, not half.” Lena narrows her eyes.
“And then I got dessert envy!” Kara knows she sounds ridiculous, but the idea that Alex and Lena are ganging up on her for being a dessert thief, when everyone knows she didn’t steal anything, is too much to bear. “You know how I feel about tres leches cake.” She steps in towards Lena, starts prying Lena’s arms apart.
“I do, darling. And maybe next time, you’ll remember how you feel about tres leches cake and order it for yourself.” Lena’s chewing on her bottom lip and fighting a smile, her right cheek beginning to dimple. She’s clearly trying to pretend like she’s serious about this dessert-stealing thing, which is just ridiculous. Lena doesn’t even order dessert unless they’re out together.
“But why would I do that when you’ve ordered it! It doesn’t make sense.” She gets Lena’s elbows loose, runs her fingers down Lena’s forearms until they’re holding hands and staring at each other, standing barely a foot apart. “It’s not an efficient application of game theory to dessert ordering.”
Nerd, Alex coughs out, but Kara ignores her.
“Dessert ordering efficiency doesn’t factor into my decisions.” Lena bites her lip and Kara tracks the movement.
“Well, it should.”
“There’s only one solution.” Lena looks playful, she swings their joined hands lightly. “Next time we’ll simply have to order two.”
“See? This is why I—” Kara stops herself, feels her cheeks going red. “Why I like you so darn much,” she finishes.
It’s been happening with increasing frequency lately: Lena will do or say something cute, or sweet, or silly (it doesn’t really matter what, actually, Kara’s been tracking it, trying to figure out if there’s a pattern, and it’s occurred to her that Lena might be the pattern), and all of a sudden in response Kara’s overloaded with feeling—a very specific, four-letter-starts-with-a-capital-L feeling. There’s something holding her back from saying it out loud so far, but she knows it’s really only a matter of time until she blurts it out.
Still, she’d prefer if it didn’t happen in the middle of the sidewalk with her sister looking on.
“Mmmm, is that why you like me?” Lena is very clearly staring at Kara’s mouth now, starting to lean forward.
“Children!” Alex breaks in. “Keep it in your pants until you get home.”
“Speaking of home,” Kelly says, taking Alex’s hand and leaning into her, “Kara, are you coming with us?”
“Oh, um, no,” Kara breaks eye contact with Lena, focusing (with effort) on her sister and Kelly. “I was planning on going to Lena’s…” she glances at Lena, who’s nodding.
“Just checking,” Kelly says, giving them both a warm smile. “Have a good night, you two.”
Alex mimes throwing up as Kelly guides her to a waiting rideshare.
“Do you want to walk, or should I call for a car?” Lena steps in fully to Kara’s space and drops her hands in favor of wrapping her arms around Kara’s waist, lays her head on Kara’s shoulder.
“Walk,” Kara says, bringing her own arms around Lena’s shoulders and pressing a kiss to her temple. She squeezes Lena once and steps back, running one of her hands down Lena’s arm again as she does so and taking her hand.
They cut over to the greenway and start making their way back uptown along the waterfront, watching the sun set. It’s still warm out despite being nearly seven-thirty, the ambient heat of the day slowly releasing from the asphalt walking path that winds along the Hobb’s River here on the west side of the city. With the river on their right, and a wall of trees separating the path from the roadway, blocking out the noise of traffic until it’s more of a far-away hum, it feels as if they’ve left the city for a moment.
“So,” Lena breaks the comfortable silence they’re walking in, “I was thinking.”
Kara looks over when Lena doesn’t continue. “Yeah?” She squeezes her hand gently.
“You’ve been spending a lot of time at my apartment lately.”
“Can you blame me?” Kara laughs at that. “You’re there.” She nudges Lena’s shoulder as they walk.
“Well,” Lena smiles, pleased, “what would you think about my clearing out a drawer for you or something? I’m not—I’m not asking you to move in or anything, just...I like when you’re there,” Lena gazes further down at the path, watching a group of cyclists until they’ve left her line of sight and studiously avoiding Kara’s eyes, which are now fixed on her, “and I noticed this morning when I got the drycleaning back that I’ve accumulated rather a lot of your clothing and I thought, if you wanted, you could keep some of it at my place. On purpose.”
“I love that idea,” Kara grins, the warm bubbly feeling swelling up inside her again. The idea of keeping things at Lena’s, that Lena wants that, is enough to make her feel like she can fly.
“Good.” Lena exhales as if she’d been holding her breath. “AlsoIhadthemmakeakeycardforyou.”
Kara bursts out laughing, steps off the asphalt, pulling Lena to a stop, and tugs her into a kiss. She slides a hand into Lena’s hair as their bodies slot together, tilting her head slightly and deepening the kiss to something just short of indecent; Lena tastes like sugar, a hint of their dessert still on her lips.
When Kara pulls back, she rests their foreheads together, unwilling to move out of Lena’s space.
“I should give you a key every day,” Lena finally says, her arms wrapped solidly around Kara’s waist.
“You’re adorable.” Kara’s vaguely aware of other people on the path passing by them, but she doesn’t really care. She feels like a balloon, buoyant to the point of floating away. “All nervous about giving me a key.”
“I’ve never given anyone a key before. I wasn’t sure about the protocol.”
“How are you this much of a dork?” Kara leans back so she can see Lena better. “Alex thinks I’m the dork. This is so unfair.”
Lena hums in sympathy, kisses Kara softly on the mouth. “It’s just, you start so early and you finish before me. If you have a key, you can come over without having to wait for me to be done at the office.”
“This is just a ploy to get me to do your dishes more often, isn’t it?” Kara twines their fingers together as they start moving again. They’re closer now, Lena’s left shoulder bumping her right one; Lena’s right hand on Kara’s bicep, keeping them pressed against each other.
“Alex says you’re a terrible roommate, apparently you don’t do her dishes at all.”
“What? That is such a lie. I do them...sometimes” Kara rolls her eyes. “Also, how did that even come up?”
“You were late to brunch last weekend, remember? She made a joke about how nice it’s been to have the apartment back to her and Kelly—it was clear she was making a joke, Kara,” Lena hastens to add when Kara looks over, a little worried. “Apparently you’ve stopped talking about moving out.”
“Is that why you’re giving me a key?” Kara tries not to feel wounded. It isn’t like she doesn’t know that she’s imposing on Alex and Kelly, but with everything up in the air, how is she supposed to make any plans?
“No, darling,” Lena says, squeezing her arm. “I’m giving you a key because I want you to be able to come and go as you please.”
They’re quiet again for a few blocks as they cut across the path to leave the greenway and walk through midtown back to Lena’s apartment on city streets, but Kara keeps thinking about Alex making that joke. It kicks around her mind like a pebble stuck in her shoe: annoying, a little painful, and impossible to ignore.
“When we pull it off, I’m moving out.” She says it as they cut across through stand-still traffic on West Houston.
Lena hums. “Pull what off?”
“Saving Daybreak.” Kara glances at Lena and then drops her line of sight down at the sidewalk. “I stopped talking about moving out when it seemed like we would definitely be cancelled. But the numbers are up across the board, we hit targets in one of our key demos a week ago—Daybreak hasn’t seen those numbers in years! Lex hasn’t mentioned it, but we’ve gotten some of the affiliates back...I know we’re revenue positive in the second half of this quarter, and we broke even in the first half, so really that’s a net—”
“Kara,” Lena cuts her off in a gentle tone. “I know you’re still trying, and I’d never tell you not to, but I want you to be realistic about this.” The street lights are just starting to come on when they turn down Mercer. “The decision has been made.”
“Has it though?” Kara can’t help herself. “Lex still hasn’t called me to say that we’re cancelled for sure, he won’t let me tell the staff, there’s been no announcement...no one has heard any rumors about anything new getting added to LBC’s line up.” The arguments she’s making are a little thin, but it’s something. “I know it’s only been a month, but come on! We’ve had new advertiser inquiries, we’re even out of the woods on almost all of the performance clauses. There’s no way the board can look at all that and not see that we’re worth keeping.”
“The board doesn’t review these things on an ongoing basis.“
“Okay, then maybe your mom. She’s CEO.” Kara holds the door open to Lena’s building so that Lena can enter ahead of her. “She cares about this. Does she know?” Kara waves at the concierge as they walk to the elevator.
“I don’t know what Lillian knows.” Lena says a little flatly as she pulls out her keycard and scans it.
“Well, have you talked to her?” They step into the lift.
“Kara, you know that programming isn’t remotely part of my job.” Lena leans heavily against the back of the cubicle, Kara moves to stand next to her. “The board presentation was a one time thing.”
“But Lillian trusted you to be able to deliver on it, surely she’d listen to you if you brought it up.”
The doors open and Kara steps out into the living room.
“Lena?” Kara stops a foot into Lena’s apartment and turns around when she doesn’t hear Lena exit behind her. Her girlfriend no longer looks relaxed—in fact she’s folded in on herself, staring at the floor of the elevator.
Kara realizes, with a sinking feeling in her stomach, that she hasn’t been paying attention to Lena’s body language since they started talking about this, has missed the frustration in her voice—obvious now that she’s thinking about it. She’s been too wrapped up in pressing the point. “Hey,” she sticks out a hand to stop the door from sliding shut, “I’m sorry. Forget it.”
“I know it’s important to you. It’s important to me, too.” Lena looks up at her. “But there’s a limit to what I can do; you know that, right?” She pushes off the back wall and steps out next to Kara, who wraps her arms around Lena as the doors slide into place. “Can we stop talking about work?” Lena’s voice is muffled as she buries her nose in Kara’s shirt collar.
“Of course,” Kara says, and Lena practically melts in her arms, the tension bleeding out of her. “Wanna take a bath and do absolutely zero talking instead?”
“God, yes.” Lena nuzzles in, tucking her head into the space between Kara’s neck and shoulder. “Can we open some wine?”
The next week finds Lena miserable in her office.
What Kara doesn’t know is that she’s been after Lex for the last three weeks, trying to get his attention about the bump in advertising interest and the demos Kara had referenced several days ago. There’s a clear shift in Daybreak ’s audience and reception, too big to be a blip, and she wants to talk to him about strategy. But he’s been dodging her since he broke the news to Kara, and he’s clearly given up on Daybreak, if he ever cared about it in the first place. Every email she sends him is marked open, every text is left on read, none of her voicemails returned—all her efforts to no avail.
So Lena decides to do something she’s been waffling about for two weeks, the exact thing she told Kara she wouldn’t do: meet with Lillian.
With Jess’s help, Lena puts together a folder with everything highlighted and marches down the hallway to her step-mother’s office. It takes half an hour to go through everything
“Well, this certainly is promising.” Lillian purses her lips and hums, closing the folder on her desk and pushing her chair back slightly. “Nothing he’s pitched has been all that impressive, actually. So far, the front-runner is simply replacing Daybreak with infomercials until he can present a pitch package the board is interested in.” At the expression of displeasure Lena makes, Lillian shakes her head—a moue of distaste on her own face. “I don’t love it either, but, on aggregate, infomercials would be more lucrative than Daybreak has been over the last few years.”
Lena sits back in her chair. “What would it take for you to overrule Lex, or at least to go back to the board with all of this?”
“The trends are promising, I’ll give you that.” Lillian sighs. “But I’m simply not sure that they’re sustainable. This could be nothing more than a momentary reaction to some of the more...novel segments they’ve run.” She leans forward and reaches again for the packet that Lena prepared, pulling it to the edge of the desk and flipping through the final pages. Frowning at something, she puts it back down on the desk and closes it.
“Lena, I hate to ask, but I have to: how much of your defense of Daybreak is predicated on your relationship with the EP?”
“What?” Lena loses her composure momentarily, can’t control the shock that must be showing on her face as she sits up straight. “None of it! This is about our programming and trying to prevent LBC from making a decision that will ruin us in the long term.”
“I only bring it up because your brother mentioned that he thought it might be coloring your view.” Lillian leans back in her chair and steeples her fingers in front of her. “It can be frightfully easy to blind ourselves to the weaknesses in those we care about. Lex was very frank about her shortcomings...honestly I’m surprised the segments have been any good at all.”
Lillial waves her fingers dismissively. “Lex took responsibility for making a mistake in hiring her. It’s her first senior position and there was bound to be a lack of polish.”
Lena can’t believe what she’s hearing.
“The lack of polish is on Lex, not on Kara.” She shakes her head in disbelief. “She’s the only reason we’re seeing this improvement! She’s managed to wrangle Cat Grant, pulled Brainy Dox out of weather and teamed him up with her junior producer to mold him into something resembling the best color-reporter on any morning show out there, completely shifted the way they cover practically everything—and she’s done it with Lex micromanaging every single step of the way!”
Lillian frowns, but she doesn’t interrupt Lena.
“Did you know that he has Kara personally keep him apprised of every story they run—whether it’s news or entertainment?” And if Lena feels badly talking about her brother in this way, the alternative—letting Lillian think poorly of Kara—is enough to overcome it. “It burns valuable time and makes them less proactive—and honestly he needs to vet his distribution list because they’ve been getting scooped since he started this ridiculously inefficient bastardization of synergy. And Kara might have faith that no one is trying to sabotage the show, but I sure don’t and I’ve noticed that no matter who she keeps in or out of the loop, they lose their biggest stories,” Lena shakes her head, a bit more worked up than she meant to get, “which means the problem might be in one of the other shows or in his office, but when I tried asking him about it he dismissed it as a run of bad luck. That was weeks ago.”
Lena crosses her arms and tries to will her heart to slow down as she sits back in the chair. Lillian examines her thoughtfully.
“I hear that you’re frustrated,” Lillian starts, and Lena opens her mouth to say that frustrated doesn’t cover it, but Lillian puts up a hand to stop her, “and I will take this under advisement. But for now, Lena, you need to let Lex do his job.”
“Fine.” Lena stands up to leave. “But that’s the point I’m trying to make, mother: I don’t think he is.”
Lex e-mails Kara shortly after one in the morning on the Thursday of the sixth week to tell her that he’s announcing the cancellation on Friday, and that he’ll make the announcement himself after the final show.
She knew it was possible (probable, a small voice in her head says), but seeing the words there on her phone screen in black and white still hits like a punch to the gut. Cancelled. It sticks in her head as she drinks her coffee, and when she kisses a sleepy Lena goodbye. It’s there in the background during the early prep meeting; it hovers over the monitors as the broadcast airs.
By the time they’re wrapping up the post-show morning meeting on Thursday, ending on pitches for spots the following week that will never be seen, Kara feels like she might cry. As the weeks had passed with no word, she’d really started to believe he might be changing his mind. All of this work, all of the effort; all of it for nothing.
“Well that just about wraps up our next week of spots.” Kara looks down at her notes. “Winn, have we confirmed that GMA is definitely covering the boat show tomorrow?”
Winn nods. “That’s affirmative.”
Kara sighs. Scooped on a relatively stupid story for what may well be their final broadcast. How fitting. Not that it makes a difference, but she doesn’t want to end like this: competing for viewers when she knows they can’t win.
“Okay folks, you know what that means. We need to find something to fill a longer human interest-type story or event on short notice. It would be great if it’s something nobody else covers, so if anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.” She taps her pen on the table and glances around expectantly.
The room is conspicuously silent as everyone avoids eye contact.
Kara is about to end the meeting when Cat clears her throat.
“Yes, Cat?” Kara tries not to sound tired. Fighting with this woman is not something she feels up to at the moment. “Is something wrong with your assignment for tomorrow?”
Cat has the grace not to rise to the bait in Kara’s tone. In fact, she looks a little nervous.
“I have a story that might work.”
The whole room seems to sit up straighter. Uncharacteristically, Cat seems loath to continue without encouragement, and Kara has to prompt her.
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“There’s a festival, upstate, that starts on Friday and goes through Sunday. It’s the Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally Expo—,” at Kara’s confused expression, Cat stumbles a bit, “Spiedies, you know, those regional sandwiches with the marinated, grilled meat; Bon Appétit magazine did a piece on them a couple of years ago as one of America’s great undiscovered foods…” she trails off.
“Anyway, the festival is quite something, actually—a slice of Americana just an hour outside Metropolis—a rather lovely celebration of local culture complete with a cooking competition and a truly wide variety of categories for entry. I, ah, I took my younger son one year and it...wasn’t unpleasant. Viewers might enjoy it. It would certainly be novel.”
“Sandwiches?” Kara can’t help echoing. “And a balloon rally?”
“Yes,” Cat crosses her arms, a bit of her familiar bite returning, “do you have a problem with that?”
“No,” Kara hastens to reassure her—the whole exchange is making Kara feel wildly off-balance, but this is the sort of story that she’s been begging for since she essentially blackmailed Cat into joining Daybreak, and it seems fitting that she’s pitching it right when it no longer really matters. “No, not at all. I’m just...surprised.”
“So, it’s okay?” Cat lifts her eyebrows, affecting an almost hopeful expression. The whole exchange is deeply unsettling, but Kara can’t quite put her finger on why.
“Sure. Um,” Kara looks around. “Take Demos and the second production crew. Do you want Brainy or Siobhan along for some of the color? We can shuffle the assignments around.”
“No.” Cat shakes her head. “I’m okay handling the piece myself.”
Kara knows her own eyebrows must be halfway up her forehead, but she can’t really help it. They’re getting cancelled, but—somehow, some way—she’s finally gotten through to Cat, and their final show might have a really nice segment as a result.
“Well? May I do it?” Cat’s looking at her expectantly.
“Yeah. I mean, yes.” She nods and Cat smiles. Kara can’t help the grin her own face breaks into; it’s bittersweet, for sure, although maybe this means that her tenure here at Daybreak has had a lasting impression. “Sandwiches and hot air balloons, great.” She looks around the room. “That’s our Friday show then. Good work people, I’ll see everyone tomorrow morning.”
“Can you believe that?” Kara asks, her mouth full of lamb, cucumber, and the sharp, garlicky toum from her shawarma. She swallows. “Cat Grant is covering a country festival where the main attractions are cubes of meat on hoagie rolls and hot air balloons.”
“Careful of the couch darling.” Lena hands her a napkin from the coffee table. They’re sitting in Lena’s living room, Kara in sweatpants and Lena in leggings, with the Netflix menu up on the TV waiting for them to make a selection. Lena’s wearing an NCU sweatshirt that Kara left over at her place a while ago. “And no,” she adds, shaking her head, “I can’t believe it. Did you put something in her water?”
Kara laughs and takes another bite, catching a piece of tomato that falls. She looks at Lena, who is eyeing Kara’s wrap with concern. “I know, I know—I need a dropcloth.” She wipes her hand on the napkin Lena’s just given her.
“Now there’s an idea.” Lena rolls her eyes but it’s fond. She pours lemon-tahini dressing over her falafel salad, then adjusts two of the pillows and sits back on the couch, holding the container over her lap and curling her legs onto the leather, shifting slightly to face Kara better. “But, really, Cat agreed to cover a cooking competition?”
“Not merely agreed to cover it,” Kara says between bites. “She’s the one who pitched it.”
“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” Lena raises both of her eyebrows, “but it sounds like you may have managed to tame the beast. How does it feel to know that you got the third worst person in the world to do her job?”
“It would feel a lot better if we weren’t getting cancelled tomorrow.” Kara sets her wrap down on a plate Lena got out for her. “We’re finally making headway, if I had even a few more weeks…” She picks up her water glass and takes a sip.
“I know.” Lena pokes at her food with a fork, speaking more to the container than to Kara. “I wish you did.”
“Lena...why can’t you tell them I need more time?”
“Kara, please.” Lena puts the fork down in the container. “Let’s not.”
“But what if the board would change its mind, what if Lex isn’t looking at the metrics anymore, what if—“
“Well, I can’t do anything about either of those things, can I?”
Kara puts her water glass back on its coaster. She can tell that Lena’s upset, but every time she’s tried to have this conversation over the last few weeks, they don’t get further than this. Knowing that it’s all going to be over tomorrow, unless something drastic changes, makes her want to push through the discomfort—on both their parts.
“Just hear me out, please.” Kara looks up at the ceiling to give her a second to try to marshall her thoughts. She tries to keep the desperation out of her voice. “You know the trends are in the right direction; heck, setting aside the current partners and contracts, we’ve even had inquiries on potential new advertisers. You’re a major shareholder; you could call an emergency board meeting or something and present them with the new evidence! They might reconsider!”
“It isn’t that simple, I keep trying to tell you.” Lena leans forward and puts her salad on the coffee table next to Kara’s water. “I can’t call a board meeting solely because my girlfriend asked me to.” Kara opens her mouth to ask why not, but Lena keeps going. “I’ve already done more than I should—I went to Lillian a week ago.”
Kara’s forehead crinkles at that.
“And after she listened to everything I had to say, she accused me of defending the show because we’re dating and told me that I needed to let Lex do his job.”
“You didn’t tell me you went to Lillian.”
“I didn’t want to get your hopes up.” Lena lets out a heavy sigh. “It didn’t work anyway, and I sent her the updated breakdowns this morning as soon as I got your message about Lex.” Kara’s eyes brighten, but Lena shakes her head. “Her response was to ignore the e-mail and have her assistant set up a meeting with me for tomorrow morning. So, before you tell me I’m not doing enough, consider that I’m about to get reamed out by my step-mother for overstepping.”
“Okay, I hear you,” Kara says, leaning in. “And I’m grateful you did that, but Lena, you agree with me, right? You’ve told me you think this kind of programming is important!”
“You’re not listening.” Lena looks around the room, as if something there will help her make her point to Kara. “I’ve done everything I reasonably can!” Her voice is slightly elevated and she sounds truly frustrated.
Up to now, hearing that tone in Lena’s voice has been more than enough for Kara to back down, but, this time, all she feels is her own frustration, her own impotence boiling over. Lena’s worried about getting yelled at by Lillian; Kara’s worried about her entire staff losing their livelihoods. They aren’t the same thing. How can Lena not see that? Maybe she doesn’t get it, maybe she doesn’t understand...
Maybe Lena doesn’t think she’s worth fighting for.
“I’m sorry your mom might yell at you,” and Kara knows there’s an edge to her voice, doesn’t particularly care anymore, “but I need you to do more because my career is over if Daybreak ends—”
“No, it’s not,” Lena scoffs, “don’t be so dramatic. You’ll get a job on another show. You’ll be fine.”
“What would you know?” Kara stands up, too upset to remain stationary on the couch. She walks towards the wall of windows. “Your career is secure because of your family. You don’t know what it’s like to try to carry on a legacy by yourself.” She starts pacing in front of the television. “You know, even Cat is trying to help save Daybreak, and she doesn’t even know we’re in trouble. She volunteered—volunteered!—to cover a small town festival. The least you can do is pretend this is worth the fight!”
Pretend I’m worth the fight, she doesn’t say.
“Stop putting this all on me!” Lena rises to follow. She makes her way over to Kara. “I went to bat for you, even when it wasn’t my job, even when it put me at odds with my family. Lex isn’t even speaking to me right now, Lillian is pissed. Am I gutted that Daybreak is ending, do I think it’s bad for journalism and media in general? You already know I do.” Lena comes to a stop standing in front of Kara, folds her arms across her chest. “But there’s something you overlook every time it isn’t convenient: LBC is a corporation—we have financial obligations, we have shareholders, this isn’t public television—”
“You’ve said that before,” Kara spits out. She feels a little out of control—mad in a way she hasn’t felt for a very long time. She’s about to lose everything and Lena is talking about bottom lines? “Some things are more important than money, and you should know that. I know LBC isn’t public television. You know who else keeps telling me that? Lex.” Kara lets out a brittle laugh, throws up her hands and lets them drop by her sides. She looks at Lena and shakes her head. “But I guess it’s a family line, huh? Maybe Cat’s right, the Luthors really are trying to ruin broadcasting and I guess you’re content to let it happen as long as it doesn’t hurt your bottom line.”
She regrets it the moment she sees Lena’s expression crumple, but the words are already out of her mouth and she can’t figure out how to take them back.
“You’re upset,” Lena says in a completely even voice. It’s jarring, compared to the heat from a moment ago. “And you’re saying things you don’t mean and I think you need to leave right now.”
In the second it takes Kara to realize the size of her mistake, Lena’s face has shuttered. She turns around, away from Kara, and is already leaning over the coffee table, packing up the food.
“Wait, Lena...” Kara’s whole body feels like ice. Her heart has stopped. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that, I just meant—”
“Not right now.” Lena doesn’t turn around, just gathers up some of the food and makes her way to the kitchen. She pauses on the step up. “Please leave.”
So, even though it’s the last thing she wants to do, Kara does.
Kara walks out of Lena’s building in a daze.There’s a terrible hollowness in her chest, her mind stuck on the look of betrayal that took over Lena’s face the moment she accused her of letting Lex win. It’s dark out, and starting to rain, but as the first drops hit her, she doesn’t even notice.
A car drives over the cobblestones, lights reflecting on the water already gathering in small puddles and, for a moment, she considers going back upstairs and asking Lena to let her apologize. She turns around and takes a step toward the front entrance, then spins on her heel and takes a step away. The truth is, she doesn't know why she got so angry at Lena—Lena isn’t Lex, has been nothing but supportive of Kara even as she’s been realistic about Daybreak ’s chances…and in return, Kara has asked Lena to challenge her family and take on a responsibility for Daybreak that Kara knows, deep down, isn’t Lena’s to bear.
The shock of their fight is wearing off now and in its place is settling a heavy sense of inevitability. Daybreak is ending, that much is clear. And there’s a chance she’s pushed Lena far enough that she might lose her, too.
Her eyes burn and she blinks to clear them. The hollowness in her chest has morphed into a tightness that’s making it hard for her to breathe.
She pulls out her phone and texts Lena, I’m sorry. It’s marked read almost immediately, but there’s no reply.
Kara’s about to put her phone back in her pocket when it buzzes in her hands, a picture of Alex surfing lighting up the face of it. She swipes to answer.
“Alex?” Kara tries not to drop the phone. It’s raining in earnest now and her hands are wet. She can feel the drops seeping into her t-shirt—she left without grabbing a jacket.
“Hey Kara, I’m sure you’re with Lena, but I’m leaving the hospital and I literally just got your message from earlier about Cat doing a balloon festival?” Alex sounds a little far away, she must have Kara on speaker as she drives. “Wanted to make sure that wasn’t a weird autocorrect.”
“I fucked up.”
“Okay that makes more sense, I mean, look, Cat’s been almost—I don’t know—approachable lately but that seems wildly—”
“No, Alex, I fucked up with Lena.” Kara’s still trying not to cry, but her voice catches when she says Lena’s name. The rain is really coming down now. Kara can feel the water trickle down her neck. “We got in a fight, I—I—”
“Where are you?” Alex goes from playful to serious at Kara’s obvious distress.
“Outside Lena’s apartment.”
“Stay there. I’m coming to get you, okay? I’m stuck a few blocks over anyway, the bridge is backed up through midtown.”
Kara’s thoroughly soaked by the time Alex pulls up. She knows that she could have waited underneath the awning, but something in her wanted to punish herself. Alex squawks when she sees her, though, makes her get a towel out of the trunk to put on the seat. Once she’s in the car, Alex turns down the a/c and pulls a u-turn.
They drive without talking for a minute, the pounding of the rain on the car and the intermittent thwack of the wipers the only sounds breaking the silence. Kara stares out the window at the cityscape, darkened by night and blurred by the rain. The few people still out are moving quickly, umbrellas deployed and jacket collars pulled up, obscuring their faces.
“So,” Alex says, pulling up to a traffic light. She shifts into neutral and looks over at Kara. “Do you wanna talk about it or do you wanna play really loud music or do you wanna sit in silence? I’m up for whatever, but I need you to tell me.”
Kara’s quiet for a long minute.
“We’re getting cancelled.” She looks at her sister, who glances over—mouth turned down into a confused frown.
“Daybreak?” Kara nods. “Did Lena have something to do with it? I thought she wasn’t part of your division. Is this related to you freaking out about her breaking up with you like two months ago?”
The light changes and Alex eases the car back into gear, but traffic is so bad they don’t go far before stopping again. Someone honks up ahead.
“No,” Kara says. “I mean, no, she didn’t have anything to do with it—Lex and the board decided weeks ago.” She can see Alex’s eyebrows go up. “I was under an NDA. Still am, I guess, but Lex is announcing it tomorrow. What’s he going to do, fire me?” She can’t keep the sarcasm out of her voice.
It all pours out then, about how Lex wasn’t even going to tell her, about how unclear the whole thing seemed, and about her plans to try to save the show. She tells Alex everything from start to finish, right through Lena asking her to leave earlier tonight. When she’s done, Alex is quiet for a beat. They’ve finally made it onto the bridge, and traffic is moving again.
“So, let me get this straight,” Alex finally says. “The board decided to cancel the show because Lex told them to.”
“And even though no one told you that saving it was even possible, you tried to save it anyway.”
“Yeah,” Kara says again.
“And this whole time, despite telling you that Daybreak can’t be saved, Lena still went out of her way to talk to her brother and her mother about reversing the decision, even after making it clear to you that it made her uncomfortable to do so.”
Kara picks at the left knee of her sweatpants. If she didn’t think it was possible to feel worse about the situation earlier, she’s being proved wrong right now. “Alex…” She doesn’t know how to complete the sentence.
“What’s this really about.” Alex throws on her blinker, glances over her shoulder, and gets into the exit lane as the bridge ends.
“I—” Kara starts and then stops. “I lose everything, Alex. She—” Kara turns to stare out the window again, the streetlights barely more than blurry haloes through the sheets of rain.
She seems to understand where Kara is going anyway. “Has Lena said or done something to make you think that she’d break up with you because Daybreak is cancelled?” Alex glances over quickly, before looking back at the taillights in front of them.
“No,” Kara admits. “She hasn’t, but why wouldn’t she? I spent eight years at a dead end job and barely made it up to a junior spot before getting fired, and now I’ve had this job for barely three months and, not only am I about to lose that, but the entire show is cancelled. I’m a mess, I live with my sister and her girlfriend, I have no savings, no plan, no future…” She trails off as Alex turns onto their street and pulls up to the curb. Her chest is starting to get tight again and she feels a twinge of panic crawl up her spine.
Alex shuts the car off, but doesn’t move to get out. She turns to Kara and waits patiently for her to say what she’s been building toward.
“I just.” Kara inhales shakily. “I’ve been trying to find a purpose for so long, some reason that I’m here. I thought saving Daybreak might be it, you know? But I wasn’t enough...what if I’m never enough?” She feels the first hot tears roll down her cheek.
“Let’s table the pushing Lena away thing for a second—and we will be getting back to that—but Kara, you don’t have to earn being here.” Alex purses her lips. “You’re enough, exactly as you are—you always have been and you always will be. I know—” her sister lets out a breath like she’s not sure how to say the next part. “I know you feel like you owe your parents something for saving you, or that you have to justify being alive. But I promise you, Kara, I promise you living is enough for them.”
By the time Alex finishes, Kara is sobbing, pulling great gulps of air into her lungs. Alex reaches over and rubs her back as she cries, until Kara is exhausted and there are no more tears left.
Kelly is waiting for them when they make it out of the car and into the apartment. She pulls out a third place setting and serves Kara an enormous helping of pasta. It isn’t the food that helps so much as the company. After dinner, Kara tells them about the last show she might ever produce.
“You should go with her,” Kelly says, when Kara shares Cat’s final segment. “I mean, you finally got her to do what you’ve been asking for since she started, you should be there when it happens. Nia can handle the studio.”
“You know what?” Kara pushes the spaghetti left on her plate around with her fork, nodding to herself. “You’re right. She’s supposed to be back in time for the post-show meeting and Lex’s announcement anyway.”
“And talking to Lena?” Alex asks.
Kara’s gaze is drawn to her phone on the counter, silent since Alex called her two hours ago. “I’ll try again after the show.” She gets up to clear, but Alex stands up, waves her off.
“We’ve got this. Get to bed.” Alex walks around the table and wraps Kara in an enormous hug. “I love you so much, you know that?” Kara nods into her shoulder. “You won’t lose me. Stronger together.”
“Stronger together.” She grips her sister tightly. “I love you, too, Alex.”
Lena puts her phone face down on the kitchen counter as soon as she opens the text.
Kara had looked devastated when Lena asked her to leave, so much so that she’d almost reconsidered, but she’s hurt and angry right now. Hurt and angry enough to say something she’ll regret, and that’s not something she wants to do to Kara—not when she knows that Kara is already hurting. Luthors are scorpions, Lena, Lex had once said to her, when someone hurts us, we sting. She wonders briefly if Kara knew what she was doing, throwing all of Lena’s fears about herself in her face, but she dismisses the thought as quickly as it runs across her mind.
Kara is many things, but intentionally cruel isn’t one of them.
It’s a particular weakness, part nature, part nurture, to be able to lock in on a person’s biggest fears and lash out with the aim of causing maximum damage. Lena grew up witnessing Lionel and Lillian take each other apart, had seen Lex do it and been on the receiving end of it enough to hone the skill herself, enough to make it reflexive. It’s a habit she’s tried to break, and certainly it isn’t one she wants to start with Kara. So sending Kara away before Lena’s hurt got the best of her was the right thing to do, even if part of her rebels at it.
Lena walks over to the liquor shelf near the windows to the right of the kitchen after she’s put the food away and pours two fingers of scotch into a heavy crystal tumblr.
It burns going down, the cask-strength single malt leaving a tingling sensation in its wake, but at least that gives her something physical to focus on. She goes to pour more, then reconsiders. There are two ways this evening ends in all probability; one, she turns her phone off and gets blackout drunk, feeling helpless and angry and sad at Lex, and LBC, and Kara. Or, two, she calls someone and talks this out.
A voice that sounds suspiciously like her college therapist congratulates her for putting the bottle down in favor of calling Sam. She settles in on the couch that faces the elevator, her back to the kitchen while the phone rings.
Ten minutes into the conversation, Sam hits at the crux of what Lena’s unable to get past, and why what Kara said had stung her so sharply.
“I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s totally inappropriate for her to ask you to do things that aren’t part of your job, but weren’t you just telling me a few weeks ago that you thought you should be doing more? What happened to meeting with Mercy or another board member?”
“It’s not that easy, Sam, it’s family—it’s—” Lena stumbles over her words, trying to identify what her block has been. “What if there’s something I’m missing, what if Lex is right? Am I letting my relationship with Kara blind me to what’s best for LBC? I never would have pressed the point with Lillian if it weren’t for Kara...”
“That doesn’t mean you're wrong.”
“But what if—”
“Lena, forget Kara for a second.” Sam pauses, perhaps sensing a need to shift strategies. “Pretend we’re back at Sloan and this is a case study: how would you evaluate it?”
Lena purses her lips, drums the fingers on her free hand against the shin she’s tucked under herself. Sam is asking her to think critically about this, to judge the situation by removing emotion from it. In spite of how she’s feeling, pushing some of the emotion aside isn’t the stretch it seems—all she has to do is think about the presentation she made to the board and update it with information from the last six weeks. She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes.
“Lex is approaching this like it’s a structured decision, but it isn’t.”
“He’s positioned this to the board and to Lillian as if the risk is a fixed-variable with limited uncertainty because of the time-horizon—a three-year analysis might be able to provide that kind of model under normal circumstances, but none of the moving pieces for Daybreak, on-screen or off, from Executive Producer to co-anchor, have been static during that time; doubly so now that they’ve got a quarter of more than promising performance under new direction.” Lena stills her fingers.
“And?” Sam prompts her.
“And he’s banked on the bounded rationality of the board in backing this decision, which was made prior to the stabilization and rebound. He promised them novel replacement programming, which he doesn’t have yet.” She opens her eyes. “Sam, that’s the part of this that makes the least amount of sense. If he had something to replace it with, I mean, I still think he’s wrong, but cancelling and putting in a placeholder—”
“Slow down, Lena. Humor me,” Sam says. “Based on the assessment you just gave me, would you feel comfortable letting a decision be made without trying to intervene?”
“No, of course not.” Lena doesn’t have to think about it, the facts are clear now that she’s laying them out again. How has she gotten so twisted around about this?
“And tell me, does any of that have to do with the fact that you’re dating Kara?”
“No.” There’s a small measure of relief there, but if she’s right, then Kara is absolutely correct: Lena is letting something happen that she knows is wrong. Sam interrupts her train of thought.
“Do you think it’s possible,” Sam sounds like she’s thinking out loud, “that he sees what Kara’s doing and he’s worried the board won’t back him if he doesn’t cut the cord now?”
It’s something Lena hasn’t considered, she’s never known her brother to be so irrational, but he seems to have fixated on ending Daybreak.
“I mean, it makes more sense if this is part of a longer-term plan and he’s worried about losing his window, but Lena, think about it. It would help explain why he’s so intent on announcing even though he doesn’t have a replacement yet.”
There’s a disorienting sinking feeling in Lena’s stomach. The feeling deepens as she thinks about the last few years—Sam asking her to evaluate the situation from the outside has triggered something. All the hiring decisions that never worked out, the downward spiral of quality and support for the show. Lena hadn’t inserted herself into the process, not until Kara, but now that she has, the irregularities are piling up with startling force. “I want to tell you you’re wrong, that Lex wouldn’t do that, but Sam, he lied to Lillian.”
“What?” Sam sounds surprised.
“About Kara,” Lena resumes fidgeting, “about her management of the show. And now I’m wondering if he’s lied about anything else”
Sam is quiet for a few seconds. Lena chews on the inside of her cheek.
“Real talk, Lena? I think Kara makes you brave, not blind. If this were any other company, if it weren’t your brother we’re talking about, you’d be all over this.”
“If it were any other company, I’d never have access to all this information.” Sam starts to interrupt her, so Lena concedes the point. “I’m not saying you’re wrong. But I’m not sure there’s anything to be done at this point—Lex is breaking it to the show tomorrow, he’s got a press release planned for the afternoon. I’ve left it too late.”
“The timing isn’t ideal.” Sam hums. “What if you went to Lillian tomorrow and threatened to quit if she doesn’t at least re-evaluate or let the board review? She’s still Lex’s boss. True or false: if she said he couldn’t do it, he’d have to hold off.”
“True, but…” She switches the phone to her other hand.
“What if I give her an ultimatum and she chooses Lex?” What if she thinks I’m ungrateful, what if she thinks I’m choosing Kara over family...
“Honey,” Sam's tone is soft, “listen to me—you’ve been afraid that Lillian’s love is somehow conditional since you found out about your dad. I get it, childhood trauma is a bitch, but Lena? Your mom loves you and she’s still going to love you even if you don’t work for her.”
Sam lets that sink in. Lena flops over sideways on the couch, it’s both deeply annoying and deeply gratifying that Sam knows her so well.
“You said you’re sure there’s a leak on the show?”
“Yes,” Lena says, stretching her legs out so that she’s lying lengthwise, “and I already told Lillian. Lex hasn’t gone after it at all, it’s like there’s something I’m not seeing.” Or is it that there’s an answer you don’t want to contemplate, a small internal voice offers. Lena shakes her head to herself.
“Well, if you want a different tack,” Sam says, not realizing she’s giving Lena an out by dropping it, “or maybe an additional option, tell her you want another quarter to track it down and see what happens. Pitch it like you’re looking into something that’s a potential liability for LBC, rather than a reversal of the decision if you feel better about it. I was mostly trying to stop you from freaking out when I told you to walk me through an analysis of the decision, but Lena, a quarter extension with Daybreak doing well might be an easier sell than asking for a complete reversal at this point. And then you’d have some breathing room.”
“Okay.” She stares up at the exposed beam work on the ceiling. “What if it doesn’t work?”
“Then it doesn’t work and we find you a new job.”
“What if—” The words get stuck in her throat. “What if Kara blames me for it.”
“None of this is your fault,” Sam says immediately, her voice confident.
“You didn’t hear her Sam, she basically accused me of letting my family ruin LBC as long as it kept me comfortable.” It stings now, as much as it had when Kara had said it. It would be easier to dismiss if Lena wasn’t afraid that Kara was right...
“Honey, we all say and do things we don’t mean when we’re scared. I’m not absolving her of guilt here, but what are you so worried about?”
“What if she’s right? What if I’ve been a coward and Daybreak ends and that’s it for LBC and what if it’s my fault?” Lena puts her free arm over her eyes. “I could have gone to Lillian weeks ago. I could have been more aggressive in following up with the board; Mercy Graves would have taken a meeting with me. I could have investigated the leak. I could have—”
“Lena, I’m not saying you couldn’t have done those things,” Sam cuts her off before she can spiral completely, “but give yourself a break. You tried staying in your own lane. You trusted Lex to see the same things you saw and to act appropriately, and you trusted Lillian to check up on him. I feel like a broken record, but you’ve always had a bit of a blind spot when it comes to your brother.”
Lena is silent. She knows Sam is right—Lex has always been larger than life to her. He’s her big brother. She’s had him up on a pedestal since she was adopted and it’s only over the last six or so months that she’s started wondering whether or not he deserves to be up there.
Speaking of pedestals, her thoughts drift back to Kara.
“What if the things she accused me of are true, Sam.”
“They’re not true.”
“What if she believes them anyway?” Ultimately that’s the real problem: does Kara believe in her, or does she really think Lena’s just a Luthor?
“You’re going to have to talk to her about that—she crossed some boundaries, even if she doesn’t see it that way right now. Just,” Sam pauses, “don’t do what you usually do.”
“What do I usually do?” Lena asks, drily.
“Avoid talking about anything that might end in someone rejecting you.” Sam pauses. “Falling in love is scary. But, for the record, I don’t think you have to be scared with her.”
Falling in love.
It isn’t as if Lena doesn’t know she’s been falling in love with Kara. Whenever they’re together, or even when Lena just thinks about her, she’s filled with a sense of utter and complete rightness, as if Kara has slotted into some hole in her life that she didn’t even realize was there and now she can’t imagine being without her. It’s a major part of why this evening hurts so badly. But god, hearing it outloud, said so matter-of-factly…
She blinks rapidly, feels her heart speed up.
“I gotta go make sure Ruby is getting ready for bed soon; how are you feeling right now?”
Jesus Lena’s certainly feeling something right now. ‘Better’ might not be the right word. Aren’t people usually over the moon when they realize they’re in love? Here Lena is, terrified.
“I won’t pour a drink when I get off the phone with you, if that’s what you’re asking,” she says, instead. Sam laughs. “...I’m going to sleep on it,” Lena adds, sitting up on the couch and swinging her legs over the edge of the cushion, “but I already have that meeting with Lillian first thing tomorrow. I’ll go from there.”
She may not be any less scared for having a plan, but she goes to bed feeling like at least she won’t have done nothing. Kara will have to decide whether or not that’s enough for her.
Lena doesn’t know what she’ll do if it isn’t.
Kara is waiting outside the entrance to the underground parking garage at LBC when Demos and his team pull the Daybreak van onto W Cordova Street. The street is empty, save for a few garbage trucks trundling along, the sun just beginning to peek between the skyscrapers. Kara had presided over her last morning meeting and then told everyone that Nia was calling the shots today since Kara would be riding along with Cat. She’d texted Demos to let him know and now, as Kara flags him down, he’s grinning at her and rolling down the passenger side window.
“Room for one more?” She smiles back at him and waggles the box of donuts she nabbed from the conference room.
“You got it, Supergirl, hop in the back.” He stretches across to grab the maple bar she pulls out for him. “Tell Hix he has to ride up front with me.”
Kara pulls open the sliding door and delivers the message. Hix nods, takes two of the danishes, and then hops out, shutting the van behind her. Cat is on her phone, the screen lighting her face up with a blue glow in the dark of the van, and her eyes track Kara briefly when she clambers in. The inside of the outside broadcast van is a mass of technology, a mini, mobile version of the tech booth from which Kara usually oversees their broadcasts. Cat is seated on a sideways bench seat opposite the door, and the second unit’s cameraman, Taylor, is asleep next to her. The rear-facing jump seat that Hix just vacated is the only open spot with a seatbelt so Kara slides into it as Demos pulls away.
“So! Let’s talk this through,” Kara says, tucking the donut box under her seat after Cat declines. “It’s about an hour drive and that gives us an hour and a half to set up and rehearse before we go live at nine.”
“Mmhmm,” Cat hums—she’s still tapping away.
“Nia told me that you’ve handled all the contact with the festival organizers, which is great,” Kara continues, smoothing out her chinos and brushing a few stray crumbs away, “I was thinking we could interview some of the chefs—I googled last years winner—and maybe you could try your hand at grilling before sitting down to eat and chat. We can cut back to the studio between five minute segments, it could make a nice back and forth as you move between activities, but we’ll be able to fill the twenty-minute gap we have. Then we finish with you taking a balloon ride? The storm we got last night has cleared out of the area so it should be really nice.”
“I’m sure it’ll be riveting.”
“Okay...” Kara frowns. Cat’s barely listening to her. “Cat, I know this is your first time out of the studio for us, but we need to have the segment plan down to the minute.”
“I’m sure you’ll manage,” she replies, raising her eyebrows without looking up in a way that manages to convey that she does not think Kara will manage, and that she doesn’t particularly care.
Kara feels her patience slipping. This is supposed to be something fun and light, and Cat is acting like she doesn’t want to be here. She’s being flippant and dismissive, and while that may be par for the course, for once, Kara isn’t the driving force behind the story. Cat pitched this segment herself!
Taylor lets out a deafening snore, then snuggles up against the console desk next to him.
“Cat, it might seem like a long drive, but we have less than an hour at this point,” Kara tries to stay sanguine, keeping her voice down for the sake of their clearly exhausted cameraman, “and I promise you we are going to run out of time to prep everything unless we start now.”
“Good thing I don’t need to prep then,” Cat mutters.
“Don’t need to prep?” Kara finally throws up her hands, a small anguished sound making its way out of her throat, and lets her head bang against the partition between them and Demos and Hix upfront. She really hoped this might be her moment with Cat, but it’s crystal clear now that was only wishful thinking. She can feel the crinkle in the middle of her forehead and she reaches up, pushes her glasses hard against it. “How are you so—fine. Fine! They’re going to cancel the show! This could be the last time you’re ever on air! Why are you so intent on screwing me over?”
“I’m not screwing you over,” Cat says, with distaste. Her phone lights up again in her hand.
“And who are you texting all the time? Can you put the phone down for one minute and just do your job, just this once?”
Cat finally looks at Kara, seems to weigh her next words. “I realize that functional memory can be difficult to access under stress, but please, try to recall a story I pitched you earlier this summer: Governor Lane and the tax audit.”
Kara nods, then scrunches up her forehead even more. “But we’re not heading to the state capital.” The van goes over a bump, Taylor twitches.
“Brilliant observation,” Cat rolls her eyes and drops them back to her phone again, fingers tapping away furiously. “We are not heading for the state capital, because Governor Lane isn’t there today.”
Kara looks at her blankly, so surprised her face smooths out. “Is he at the festival?”
“No, we are not heading—” Cat sighs. “Governor Lane is at his summer home, at the shore,” she continues, squinting at the screen. Her face breaks into a slightly malevolent smile when it vibrates in her hands again. Kara leans over to see if she can read the message. “Demos has the correct address in the GPS, I don’t think he realized it wasn’t the festival.”
“And you want to ask the Governor about his taxes?” It hits Kara that the Spiedie Festival was only ever a distraction to get the crew and the van out. “Cat, I—“
“Oh, I’ll definitely be asking about his taxes, but I doubt he’ll answer.” She pockets her phone, then meets Kara’s eyes, a twinkle in her eyes that Kara hasn’t seen before. “It won’t matter. He’s about to be arrested by federal officers for embezzlement, bribery, and RICO violations.”
“Yes,” Cat sounds gleeful, she leans forward on the bench toward Kara, as if inviting her into the joke, finally. “We’re going to be there when it happens. Watch and learn, Kiera,” she settles back. “This is how you cover the news.”
Kara spends the next thirty minutes texting with Nia as the show starts back in the studio, drafting a lead-in for Andrea to handle, and trying to practice the deep-breathing exercises that Alex is always going on about. According to Cat, the arrest is supposed to happen at 8:15 a.m. and they’re going to arrive at the house at 7:40 or so. Her plan is to knock on the door and ask the Governor a few questions that they’ll get on tape for later use. Neither of them expects Governor Lane to answer questions for very long, so they’ll probably have to retreat to the end of the driveway until the arrest happens, but Cat will be able to broadcast from there as everything goes down, close enough that it will still be riveting and they should have a clear shot of the perp walk. By the time Demos is making the turn onto the sprawling property, Kara has woken Taylor up and briefed everyone on the plan.
Demos, Hix, and Taylor roll with the change spectacularly—they’re like a strike team, suiting up and getting Cat wired and the dish up and running within moments of parking just in front of the carriage house. She gets Nia on the phone to confirm that the satellite link is working. Kara is about to hang up, but at the last second, she decides to keep Nia on the line since there are so many moving parts to nail down in the twenty-five minutes between now and when the arrest is supposed to happen.
While Hix and Demos take point in front of the consoles to manage the recording and ensure that they have a connection to the studio for when they do go live, Kara follows Taylor and Cat onto the wraparound porch, directing Taylor to film everything for right now; they’ll be able to cut it later.
It starts as they expect. Governor Lane answers the door in his bathrobe, holding a mug of coffee. For a moment he’s pleased to see Cat, until she opens with a question about his alleged financial improprieties. The accusation sends the conversation south quickly and Kara jogs back to the van to let Demos know they may have to get back up the driveway sooner than planned.
“Nia, hang on—Demos?” Kara calls out, peering into the van. Hix and Demos have their headsets on, but Demos leans back in his seat at the console and lifts one of the ear cups.
“We’re uploading to the Daybreak server right now,” he says, “and Cat’s coming through fine. Recording levels are great right now. I’ll want to test it again when we’re in place for the live broadcast, but so far, so good, what do you need?”
A siren cuts through the quiet morning from somewhere close by, pulling Kara’s attention from Demos.
She turns away from the van, tracking the sound up the road and through a line of trees, and then has to stifle a gasp. Red and blue flashing lights are visible through the foliage, a line of unmarked vehicles turning down the long drive.
“Oh shit,” Kara says to herself.
“What?” Nia asks over the phone. “Kara I’m going to have to bring Andrea up to speed in a sec, she’s wrapping the segment and we’re about to cut to commerci—“
“Tell Andrea we’re going live right now.” She turns back to Demos and Hix. “We’re going live.” She spins around to face the house. “Cat! We’re going live!”
Jess is next to Hector’s desk, holding two disposable demitasse cups, and clearly waiting for Lena when she gets to work at 7:30. Lena takes the double shot Jess hands her as if it’s vodka instead of espresso, shooting it back before handing the drained cup to her startled friend. She heads straight to her desk.
“Okay,” drawls Jess, looking down into the now empty container, “so that’s the kind of morning we’re having then.” She tosses it into the trash under Hector’s desk, and glances up at Lena, following her inside. “When Sam texted that you were going to need a friendly face today, I thought she was just being the mom-friend. What’s going on?”
“I’m going to tell Lillian that if she doesn’t give Daybreak another quarter,” Lena rifles through the perfectly stacked papers, knocking them across the floor, trying to find the print-outs she’d sent Lillian, “then I quit.”
Jess makes a choked sound.
“Where the fuck is that folder…” Lena spins in a circle, one of her heels piercing clean through a page on the floor. She hops on the other foot, pulling the lacerated sheet off and letting it flutter back to the ground.
“I’m sorry, I thought I heard you say you were going to quit, but that can’t be right.” Jess is at the desk now. “What folder?”
“It’s dark green, says Daybreak on the front. And I did. I did say that.” Lena laughs, it comes out shrill. She feels a little manic, perhaps knocking back the coffee wasn’t a great idea. “Kara and I had a horrible fight and she said a bunch of things…” she trails off and stares down at the desk. “A bunch of things that are a little bit true. And I don’t want them to be true at all anymore.”
“Lena,” Jess lifts up a pile of papers that Lena has disturbed in her frenzy, and points to the folder she’s uncovered, “you’re not being particularly clear.”
Lena picks up the folder and starts leafing through it. Jess shifts next to her, clearly itching to ask another question, but letting Lena scan through the documents first.
A long minute passes while Lena skims the pages. Finding what she’s looking for, she snaps the folder closed and turns to her friend.
“Lex is announcing the cancellation of Daybreak this afternoon.” Jess’s eyes widen. “He doesn’t have a replacement plan, but he’s pulling the plug. Starting tomorrow, LBC no longer has a morning news show. And you and I both know that means eventually we won’t have news at all.” Lena glances down at the mess of papers on floor and then back up at Jess. “And I can’t work here if that’s going to happen. So, yes, unless my mother is willing to listen to reason, I quit.”
Jess purses her lips into a frown and nods, more to herself than to Lena. “Okay, great. Who’s going to give us jobs?”
“As if I’m going to work here under your brother without you.” Jess sits down in the chair opposite the desk and points at Lena’s chair. “But that’s a future-us problem. What’s your plan?”
Twenty minutes later, Jess walks Lena down the hallway to her mother’s office. It’s almost eight, and despite being aware of her own increasing heart rate and clammy hands, Lena feels a mostly encompassing sense of calm descend over her. The calm recedes a little when Lillian’s assistant waves her through, but not far enough to make her doubt the path she’s choosing.
Her step-mother is seated behind her desk, and she looks up when Lena enters, giving her a warm smile.
“Lena, thanks for stopping by. I’m about to have a very busy day so I appreciate you making time to meet early.”
“It’s fine,” Lena says, coming to a stop at the chair opposite Lillian. She puts a hand on the back of it, but doesn’t sit down. Lillian tilts her head in question, her smile melting into a small frown. “Before we begin, mother, I need to say something, if that’s alright.”
Lillian waves a hand, the gesture some approximation of go ahead and I’m confused At the invitation, Lena takes a deep breath and squares her shoulders, using the chair as an anchor.
“If you’re going to tell me to forget Lex and Daybreak, I won’t. I don’t care if you think I’m being unprofessional, or if you think I’m overstepping, because some things are more important, and the integrity of our programming is one of those things.”
The pleased expression on Lillian’s face almost throws Lena for a loop, but she’s spent the morning rehearsing this in her head and she’s not about to stop simply because the reaction isn’t what she anticipated.
“There are three major problems with pulling the plug today: one, I am convinced we have a leak, likely have for a while actually, and if we don’t find that leak, it may well damage LBC in some other way; two, there isn’t a viable replacement on deck, which was one of the major considerations in the board’s decision; and three, this has implications for LBC long-term that go well beyond a single show: our ethical obligation to providing a range of quality programming is at stake.”
Her mother makes no move to interrupt when Lena pauses, which is good because Lena isn’t quite done. There’s one more thing she has to say.
“And…” She steels herself and lets go of the chair. “And if this is where you tell me that I need to back off or consider a reassignment, then I need to tell you something—I’ll resign before I let LBC turn into the home shopping network.”
Lena’s breathless by the time she finishes, her heart thumping like a jack rabbit in her chest, but she feels strangely weightless, relieved in a way she hadn’t expected. Now that she’s crossed her Rubicon, there is no going back, and the decision is no longer up to her; the next move will be determined by whatever Lillian says in response.
She tries not to fidget as her mother fights a smile.
“Actually, dear,” Lillian starts, steepling her fingers and putting her elbows on the desk as she leans forward, “it’s quite the opposite. Take a seat, we have a lot to discuss.”
Lena pulls the chair out to sit down, just as Lillian’s assistant bursts into the office, startling both of them.
“Mrs. Luthor? I apologize for interrupting, but you need to turn on Daybreak right now.”
Lillian takes the remote from her desk drawer and turns slightly to a wall-mounted television set opposite the door. She turns it on and there on the screen is Cat Grant, not covering a rural food festival as Lena expects, but standing on the covered porch of a beachside mansion, Governor Lane in handcuffs at the edge of the shot.
Cat looks resplendent, narrating for viewers the extent of a sealed grand jury indictment against the Governor, a large graphics ticker splashed across the bottom of the screen with the words World Exclusive: Governor Lane faces federal charges.
Lena can’t help the gasp that escapes. Lillian smiles.
“Well now I’m very glad we didn’t contribute to his last campaign.” Lena nods reflexively, eyes fixed on the screen. “It would be a shame to cancel a show capable of this kind of coverage. Wouldn’t you agree, Lena?”
Lena snaps her head around to look at her mother, prepared to start yelling that this is exactly the point she’s been trying to make for months, but Lillian is smiling again, eyes twinkling with an expression so amused that Lena can’t find the words.
“Have you eaten?” Lena shakes her head mutely, Lillian picks up the phone. “I’ll send out for breakfast. We need to talk about your brother.”
“...We’ll have updates on LBC throughout the day as they come in. I’m Cat Grant, reporting live for Daybreak. Back to you, Andrea.” Cat smiles beatifically as Demos kills the live feed. Taylor flicks off the camera, and Hix calls from the van, “We’re out!”
Kara feels like collapsing on the ground, all of the adrenaline from the last thirty minutes finally dissipating. She wants to run around in a circle, she wants to yell, “We did it,” she wants to cry.
She wants to know if Lena watched it.
Kara busies herself helping to coil some of the wiring that Hix is trying to wrangle into the back of the van. When she accidentally ties one of the cords in a knot, Hix waves her off, saying that he’s got it, so Kara wanders off across the lawn, at loose ends without anything to do until they get back.
Now that the broadcast is over, she can appreciate the property more. The classic, shingle-style house is massive, two floors punctuated by small gabled windows along the roof. The weathered-grey wood of the sides mirrors the rocky grey beach visible between the main building and the carriage house, and, without the sirens or the distraction of getting Cat ready to go, she can hear the waves. She closes her eyes and listens to the water crash on the shore, breathes in the salt air, still cool, with only a hint of the heat to come.
“I know you think I don’t care,” comes Cat’s voice from behind her. Kara turns as the smaller woman steps up next to her and stares out at the surf. “Maybe in the beginning you were right.” Cat shrugs, squints a little in the sunlight. “But I do see how hard you work, and how you inspire everyone to bring their best.”
She pauses and Kara holds her breath.
“I wanted to show you that I could do that, too.”
Kara breaks into a smile, it crinkles her eyes. She chances another glance at Cat, but the woman is looking firmly into the distance.
“Was that a compliment?” She can’t help the unadulterated joy in her tone, and, sure, maybe she’s spent the last three months dreaming about all of the ways she could murder Cat, but she’s still Cat Grant. Kara’s just seen—in real time—the Cat Grant of old, the whole reason she wanted her on Daybreak. It’s probably the emotional gauntlet she’s run in the last twenty-four hours, but she feels a little punch drunk. “Did you just compliment me?”
“Don’t let it go to your head,” Cat huffs, a little grump creeping back into her tone. She brings her arms across her chest. “But...Kara,” Cat looks at her out of the corner of her eye to gauge Kara’s reaction to her actual name, “what we pulled off this morning is rather amazing.”
“It is,” Kara says, nodding and shifting her gaze back out to the horizon. In the distance she can make out a handful of boats making their way lazily across the bay. “So. Why didn’t you tell me this,” she gestures to the house, “is what you wanted to cover? You know I would have said yes.”
Cat lets out a soft harumph. “It’s no secret Daybreak has leaked like a sieve since you started. I’m not accusing you,” Cat shakes her head and cuts off Kara’s protest, “I’m simply observing a fact. Given that I have no reason to believe we’ve located the leak, I decided that it was best that I didn’t share what I actually wanted to do this morning.”
They stand there for a minute, the rhythmic crashing of the surf in front of them and the muffled sounds of the team continuing to pack up behind.
“Besides,” Cat says, breaking their reverie. “I didn’t get confirmation from my source at the FBI until yesterday morning.” She laughs lightly, as if considering something for the first time. “I have no idea what I would have done to convince you had GMA not decided to cover the boat show.”
“I’ve never been so glad to get scooped.” Kara can’t help laughing.
“But…” Cat fidgets, bites at her cheek and purses her lips together. “You said we’re being cancelled.”
She nods. “Lex is announcing it today.”
“That bastard.” Cat’s tone is venomous.
“I know,” Kara says, shaking her head and feeling a little of her good mood dissipate at the reminder. “I know. But if we have to go out, I’m glad we did it like this. Thank you, Cat.”
“No, Kara.” Cat turns to her. “Thank you.”
They arrive back at LBC a few minutes after 10, and Kara heads straight to her office to debrief the show with Nia before she leads her last morning meeting. It feels important to at least tell Nia what’s happening before Lex joins them and breaks the news. When she and Cat walk into the bullpen, though, the entire show seems to be waiting for them. Nearly every staff member is there, and as soon as Kara is through the door, they break out into a standing ovation. It’s so overwhelming that Kara’s heart starts to break at the idea that this—this amazing team that’s been welded into something like family—is about to be broken up.
She leaves Cat to bask in the attention and signals for Nia to follow her up the ladder to her office. Kara has just shut the door behind them when her landline rings.
Motioning for Nia to take a seat at the table, Kara walks over to her desk and picks up the handset.
“Kara Danvers, Daybreak.”
“Hello Ms. Danvers, I have Lillian Luthor on the line, please hold for a moment.”
Kara’s eyes bug out and Nia frowns at her. Kara covers the mouthpiece. “Lillian Luthor,” she mouths.
Nia’s eyebrows go up in tandem.
“Kara?” Lillan’s smooth voice comes over the line.
“Yes, this is, well, you know, hi Mrs. Luthor, it’s a pleasure, how can I help you?” Kara winces as Nia doubles over in (mostly) silent laughter, nearly falling out of her chair.
Kara can’t be sure, but she thinks Lillian might be stifling a giggle of her own. She puts a hand over her mouth and puffs out her cheeks to prevent any more words from escaping.
“I’m calling with some good news.”
Kara's traitorous heart starts to pick up speed—it can’t be...
“I believe Lex communicated to you that Daybreak is being cancelled today? We’ve changed direction somewhat.”
“We’re not being cancelled?” Kara barely gets it out. Nia stands up sharply at that, eyebrows drawn together in concern this time.
“Not for another year, at least. LBC values the space that Daybreak fills in our programming,” there is the barest of pauses, “and your tenure with the show has shown promise. Promise that we’d like to invest in. I wasn’t sure about keeping you on, but my daughter believes in you. And after this morning, I have to say, I’m willing to believe in you too. Show me what you can do.”
“Absolutely!” Kara can’t keep the relief out of her voice. “Yes, ma’am, we—I won’t let you down.”
“See that you don’t.”
And then there’s only a dial tone. Kara sets the receiver down, feeling as if the brief conversation was some sort of fever dream. One look at Nia, though, and she knows it wasn’t.
“Oh my god, Kara, what do you mean we were almost cancelled?” Nia hits her with a clipboard she picked up from Kara’s desk. “You let me sign a lease when I was almost out of a job?!”
“In my defense, I would have gotten fired for telling you.”
Morning meeting goes well, the entire staff riding high from Cat’s story, and from Kara sharing that they’re getting a budget boost over the next year (she doesn’t mention the almost cancellation). Still in a daze, Kara makes her way up to street level afterwards, wandering out into the blinding sun on the plaza.
She wonders if Lena knows about Lillian’s change of heart, and she can’t imagine Lillian hasn’t looped Lena in, but Lena hasn’t reached out. Could she be waiting for Kara to call? Kara digs her phone out of her pocket and pulls up Lena’s contact info. Kara knows she’s the one who messed up badly last night, she needs to be the one to fix this—assuming Lena still wants that.
She’s about to hit ‘call’ when her phone starts to ring in her hand, it’s a Metropolis number she doesn’t recognize. She answers.
“Speaking,” Kara says, a little wary.
“This is Lauren Haley over at The Today Show. How are you?”
“I’m...fine?” She’s confused, actually, but fine will do. “How’re you?” Gosh why is she always so awkward over the phone.
“I’m great. Nice job on the Governor this morning,” Lauren continues, “listen, I’m calling because we recently learned we’ve got you to thank for half of our major stories over the last four months. Any chance you’re interested in talking about bringing that talent over here?”
“What?” Kara says.
“Your work is great, and, honestly, we think you’d be a huge asset over here. Imagine what you could do with a proper news room and a real budget.”
“I’m, uh, flattered?” What is even happening right now. “I’m not sure I’m looking at the moment, but, thank you.”
“I bet Lillian’s throwing a lot at you to keep you,” Lauren says, laughing. “Well, let us know if anything changes, we’d love to sit down with you.”
Kara leans against a nearby planter after Lauren hangs up, staring at her phone in disbelief. The Today Show. Her dream job just called and instead of feeling excited about it, instead of leaping at the chance, the only thing she wants to do right now is see Lena.
Kara knows what she needs to do.
Kara shuts the door to Lena’s office gently behind her and steps into the room.
“I brought you lunch,” she says, walking the bag over to the couch. Lena watches her from the desk. “I wasn’t sure you’d stop to eat today. And you don’t have to eat with me if you don’t want to, and I get it, totally, if you’re not ready to listen to my apology yet,” Kara turns away from Lena to put the bag down on the low table, starts unpacking the contents, “but I love you, and I know you don’t take care of yourself when you’re stressed, and seeing as I’m the cause of that stress right now, it only felt fair that I do something about the whole you-not-meeting-your-needs thing. So.” She nods down at the table and then looks back at Lena. “I brought you lunch.”
Lena is standing next to her desk when Kara finishes, backlit by the midday sun streaming through her office windows, all of Metropolis on view behind her. She’s twisted her hands together, is pulling at her left thumb, rubbing it between the fingers on her right hand, and looking like she’s about to cry. Kara panics a little.
“It’s fine, if you don’t want to see me right now, or if you’re still mad.” She steps towards Lena without even thinking about it. All she wants to do right now is make Lena feel better, to fix this thing she feels like she’s broken, and proximity feels like the only way to do that. “I just, tell me what you want, and I’ll do it. I’ll leave or I’ll stay, or you can call me…”
Lena shakes her head.
“Okay, does that mean you don’t want to call me, or you want me to stay, because I’m not really sure—”
“You love me.”
Kara freezes. I love you. She said that, didn’t she? Blurted it out without even realizing it. For a second, she thinks about saying that it doesn’t matter right now, but she knows that’s not true and, moreover, the fragile expression on Lena’s face isn’t unhappiness, it’s hope...
“I do,” Kara says. “I do love you. And it kills me that I hurt you.” She starts walking towards Lena again. “Everything that’s happened today—this morning with Cat, your mom letting me know that Daybreak is safe, a super weird call from The Today Show offering me a job—all of it happened, and each time, the only person I wanted to share it with was you. You’re the only thing that’s felt a hundred percent right in my life over the past few months…” She’s standing in front of Lena now, and she reaches forward for Lena’s hands, still twisted together. She gently prises them apart and holds them loosely in each of her own. “Sometimes, it feels like I lose everything I love—I think, maybe, I got mad at you because it was easier than having you realize I’m not enough and deciding to walk away.”
The laugh that Lena lets out is wet, and a tear escapes down her cheek. “Don’t you see what you’ve accomplished?”
Kara shakes her head. “I just know it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not there with me when it happens.” She tugs Lena into her, dropping their hands in favor of wrapping her arms around Lena’s shoulders, holding her close.
“Lex was sabotaging the show.”
Lena says it into Kara’s neck, as she sags against her, and Kara’s jaw drops. Lena moves her head so her voice is less muffled, but she doesn’t let go. “Lillian figured it out. Apparently he was sending your stories to all three other networks through contacts in exchange for information on what shows they have in development. She fired him. And there’s a morality clause in our inheritance, so he loses his shares, too.”
“Wow,” Kara says. “Holy crap, I mean, what—your brother?” She’s flabbergasted, although she gets the sense that Lena isn’t.
Lena nods, her nose rubbing at Kara’s collarbone through her button up.
“She caught onto him after I confronted her about you.”
“He was blaming you for Daybreak ’s difficulties, said that you’d been constantly reaching out to him for direction, asking for stories and leads, and that you were completely unable to generate ideas.”
Kara pulls back, indignant, but Lena tightens her hold on Kara’s waist. “He what?” From this close, Kara can see that her lashes are wet, Lena’s heels bringing them nearly eye level.
“I defended your honor convincingly enough that she started wondering what else he’d been lying about.”
“Good to know you’re on my side.”
Lena drops her head back down to Kara’s shoulder. “I’m always on your side.”
Over plastic containers of vermicelli and lemongrass beef, Lena takes Kara through her meeting with Lillian that morning, starting with Lex’s duplicity and ending with watching Cat pull off what might be the story of the year. She puts into context the magnitude of Kara’s success in the face of an active crusade on Lex’s part stemming back more than a year to cut Daybreak, beginning with a pattern of purposeful poor hiring, budget cuts, and transfer of key personnel to other shows within LBC.
“—and even if none of that were true,” Lena says, putting down noodles and laying her chopsticks over the container, “even if Daybreak failed and you left LBC, none of that matters because I fell in love with who you are, Kara Danvers, not what you do.” Kara’s heart wants to burst as Lena pauses and looks across the office, but she continues before Kara has a chance to reach across the couch, and what she says next stops Kara in her tracks. “I think that’s why it hurt so much, when you accused me of letting Lex do this, because I was trying and,” her eyes are just the slightest bit watery as she looks back at Kara, “it felt like you were telling me that unless I could do more, unless I was willing to sacrifice more, then I wouldn’t be enough for you.”
“No!” Kara does reach for Lena now, grasping her hand and pulling it into her lap, holding it between her own. “Oh gosh, no, Lena I was upset and mad at your brother and LBC, and like I said, I reacted by trying to push you away. I was asking you to do things that weren’t your job, that I never—I was grasping at straws.”
“You helped me see that I needed to try harder,” Lena admits. “I told my mother this morning that I was going to resign if she let Daybreak get cancelled...and I’d never have done that if you hadn’t convinced me that this was worth fighting for.”
“You threatened to quit if Lillian didn’t save Daybreak?”
“And is that why it’s saved?”
“No.” Lena laughs, and runs a finger on her free hand underneath each eye, catching her mascara where it’s started to smudge. “That was all you, and your staff. In the end, Lex never could see past his own plans—he hired you figuring you’d tank the show and, when you didn’t, he panicked. If I didn’t idolize him so much, I would’ve realized he was the leak a lot sooner.” She gives a lopsided sort of shrug. “He’s my brother and I didn’t want it to be him, even though I think part of me knew...But, ah, it’s good to hear that you know you crossed some boundaries.” Her fingers twitch inside the hold that Kara has on her hand. “Because Lillian asked me if I’d be interested in taking Lex’s position now that he’s out.”
“Lena, that’s amazing!” Kara can barely contain her excitement, she practically bounces. “Your vision for LBC—“
“I want to take it,” Lena continues, eyebrows knitting together and looking inexplicably nervous, “but Kara, I can’t do that job if, when we end up disagreeing on things—which will happen, you take it out on me…”
“No, Lena, I promise we’ll figure it out. We can talk to HR about whether or not there are rules I should follow, and you need to know: Kelly gave me the name of someone who specializes in grief and I,” she tugs at Lena’s hand gently and Lena takes the hint, shuffling sideways until she’s tucked under Kara’s arm, “I don’t ever want you to feel like you have to choose between me and your family or anything else that’s important to you, and I don’t ever want to make you feel like I did, just because I’m hurting.”
“Good.” She can feel Lena relax into her, the remaining tension leaking out of her.
“So…” Kara presses a kiss to Lena’s hairline. “You’re in love with me?”
“Yes,” Lena says, starting to play with Kara’s fingers, twisting their hands together and dragging her fingers along Kara’s. “I’m glad you’re paying attention.” Kara can hear her smile, even if Lena is looking down at her lap.
“I’m in love with you, too.”
“Well that’s lucky,” Lena says, laughing beautiful and bright, and it fills Kara to the brim.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d caught that,” Kara teases, marveling at how unbelievably, incandescently happy she feels. She knows the size of her smile is ridiculous but it can’t be helped. She’s in love with Lena. And Lena’s in love with her, too.
“Mmm. I did.”
Lena starts running her thumb and index finger along Kara’s palm, tracing the lines. They sit in comfortable silence for a while, content to hold and be held, until Lena brings her fingers to a stop on Kara’s palm and returns to something she said earlier.
“The Today Show? My mother is going to be so pissed at Lauren.” She sounds amused.
“I didn’t say yes.”
Kara nudges Lena with her shoulder until Lena looks up at her. “What about Daybreak?”
“Well, you’ve saved it.” Lena’s tone makes it seem like it’s obvious. “You’ve started the show in the right direction again; in the absence of active sabotage, I think it’ll be okay...not number one, but okay.”
“I don’t know,” Kara says, the corners of her mouth ticking down slightly. “Don’t you think I have an obligation to it now?”
“Darling, on a personal level, I want you to be wherever you can do the most good.” Lena looks dead serious, her eyebrows even and forehead smooth. “And, whether I like it or not, The Today Show is the biggest morning platform there is.”
She says it so earnestly, as though her biggest concern in the world is that Kara might not reach her full potential. It makes Kara fall in love with her even more: Lena wants what’s best for her, no matter what it means for LBC.
“At least consider it,” Lena says, and Kara nods. “Professionally, though,” Lena narrows her eyes, “I’m going to fight tooth and nail to keep you.” She grins at Kara. “How do new doorknobs sound?”
“Doorknobs, you say?” Kara lets out a snort. “That’s a start.”
Two weeks later, Kara is seriously considering calling Lauren Haley back and seeing if that offer is still open.
Cat is being completely untenable—she won’t do anything Kara asks, she’s dismissive, insulting, even downright rude. It’s a regression to their earliest days, the magnitude of which is simply stunning. When Kara confronts her about it, Cat looks at her cooly and says, “You don’t like working with me? I hear The Today Show has an opening for you.”
And that’s the last straw really, because, if Kara’s being honest, the reason she turned the offer down in the first place is that she thought Cat finally turned a corner, really thought that they were on the cusp of something special.
But Cat’s made it clear that the only thing they’re on the cusp of is Kara’s nervous breakdown.
So, with Lena telling her it really is okay, Kara calls Lauren Haley back and says she’s interested, asks if they’d still like to talk to her. Lauren invites her in for a chat with their executive team the following week at 8:00 a.m., right in the middle of the morning show broadcast.
Over potstickers and red wine, Lena explains that it’s a tactic meant to see if Kara is serious about leaving, and tells her to take the interview. Kara accepts it, but finds she wants to tell her senior staff ahead of time, not wanting to lie about where she’s going.
“No hard feelings,” Winn says, after she breaks the news. “We love you, like, totally love you, and, god, do I wish you were staying, but also, wow, The Today Show, you know?” Nia hits his arm to shut him up.
“Damn, Kara,” James says, nodding in agreement, and sitting back in his chair. He rubs at the back of his head. “I mean, I get it, but damn.”
Nia turns to Kara. “You’re going to kill the interview and they’re going to give you the job and I am going to hit Lauren Haley with my car if I ever see her in person.” Nia smiles, as if imagining it. “What does she look like again?”
“I don’t really—” Kara starts, but Nia waves her off.
“Never mind, this is what LinkedIn is for.”
“Totally,” Winn nods. “Plus, asking you to come in while our show airs? That’s playing dirty.”
“Nah, you guys have this.” And Kara means it, they do. “Anyway, their building is, like, five minutes away. I’ll be back before we even hit the third hour.”
On the day of the interview, Kara waits as long as she possibly can before leaving. They’ve cut to commercial when she makes her way down from the production booth and sneaks out through the emergency exit off the soundstage. As she slips through the fire door, Kara overhears Andrea leaning over and telling Cat, in no uncertain terms, that this is all Cat’s fault.
“Finally a decent executive producer, a decent show,” Andrea hisses as Cat tracks Kara’s exit, “they’re going to hire her, you know that, right? They’re going to hire her and it’ll be all your fault.”
Andrea’s words and Cat’s stare occupy most of Kara’s conscious thoughts during the three block walk over to NBC. Lauren is there to greet her at security and they walk upstairs, making small-talk about their end-of-summer and Memorial Day plans, but Kara can’t push Daybreak from her mind. Even when she meets the rest of the NBC executive team, she finds she can’t remember their names less than two minutes after the introductions.
Lauren sets them up in a large, brightly lit conference room with a view that includes LBC Tower and four televisions on mute along the back wall—each of the morning shows playing silently. The team seems really excited to meet her, and Kara tries, really, she does, to be present. After nearly every question, Lauren nods and looks around at her colleagues as if to say, See? This is the one we want, and Kara wants to match their excitement...but she just can’t.
“In respect to sports,” Kara says, trying to concentrate on the latest question, something about her approach to sports programming given morning television’s general demographics, “I think that it's really important to reach out to women through their kids because it's not that big of a step to go from being a soccer mom to, you know, a…” Her eyes flicker to Daybreak.
That’s weird, she thinks to herself, why are they on the kitchen set? The camera pans away from a hand drying several mushrooms and Cat Grant comes into view. Kara’s heart stops.
“Oh, my God. What is she doing?” She gives up all pretense, gesturing at the televisions. “Sorry, I’m so...this is...we’re not supposed to have a kitchen segment today, Cat Grant might be having a nervous breakdown on air. That's kind of big news.” She gives a slightly manic laugh. Maybe Cat isn’t the only one having a nervous breakdown. “Can you, I’m so sorry, but can you…” Kara stands up and walks over to a small table by the monitors with remotes on it. She finds the correct one and unmutes Daybreak.
“...a meal for their afternoon repast,” Cat says, partially grating a block of cheese before breaking a series of eggs into a metal bowl, “something they could make using whatever ingredients they had available.”
“Holy shit,” says Lauren, turning around in her chair. “Cat Grant does a cooking segment for you guys?”
“I've been making frittata for about twenty years now,” Cat continues as she whisks, “ever since I was taught how to, on a positively sybaritic weekend with a gorgeous Italian movie star, who shall, of course, remain nameless.” She winks at the camera. “Occasionally, I make them at home. But only for people that I...people I really care about.” Cat clears her throat and takes a breath as she sets the bowl down next to a cast iron pan, heating up over an open flame. She holds her palm over the pan briefly and adjusts the burner. “Now, the key to a great frittata is a very hot pan, because that, friends, is what makes it,” Cat looks directly into the camera, flashing a small smile, “fluffy.”
Kara’s phone starts vibrating in her pocket. With the entire NBC team glued to the television, she pulls it out and glances down. It’s Lena. She swipes to answer without thinking, eyes already back on Cat, but doesn’t say anything. She’s been rendered speechless by the scene unfolding over at Daybreak.
“Kara?” Lena’s voice sounds mildly concerned. “I know you’re at your interview, but Kara. Is there a TV around, can you turn on Daybreak?”
“I’m watching her right now,” Kara breathes out.
“She’s not going to ask you twice, darling.” Lena pauses. “What’s your answer?”
Apologizing profusely to a very confused Lauren and the rest of the interview panel, Kara leaves. She practically flies back to LBC, dodging pedestrians and cutting through traffic rather than wait for the lights. Is Cat going to be perfect after this? No, no way, and she knows better than to expect that. But Kara doesn’t need perfect ; she just needs to know that Cat wants this, wants Daybreak, wants Kara to be the one leading the way.
And this? Making a frittata on morning television, saying the word fluffy on a national broadcast, sharing personal details about herself with viewers? Cat may as well have painted it on a billboard or written it in the sky.
James greets her at the door of the booth when she bursts back into the studio, Cat continuing to hold court in the kitchen. He’s obviously flustered. “It was nuts,” he starts, not even bothering to ask her how the interview went, “she started running around yelling for eggs, what the fuck is she doing?”
“She’s asking me to stay,” Kara says, grabbing her headset and walking over to her chair. “I can’t believe it. She’s asking me to stay.”
“Oh my god, Kara, you should have seen it,” Nia whispers, holding her mic away from her face as soon as Kara’s taken her seat. On the monitor, Cat is gesturing to the oven and talking about optimal temperatures. “As soon as you left, it was like a pool of piranhas. Piranhas, Kara.” Nia shakes her head like she can’t believe it. “Andrea said something to her, and the next thing I know, Brainy walks right up to Cat and tells her that there is, and I’m quoting here, ‘a one hundred percent chance that they extend you a job offer’ and a ‘ninety-nine point five percent chance’ that you take the offer.”
Kara feels a swell of affection for Brainy as Nia keeps going.
“And as soon as he finished, Gayle walks up like she’s been waiting for this moment, and says that she finally has a decent makeup and wardrobe budget, and would Cat prefer to be dressed in burlap with a drugstore lip liner instead. Burlap!”
“She didn’t!” Kara’s eyes widen, and she turns away from the monitor to see Nia nodding.
“She did,” Nia confirms. “And then Winn! Winn asked her if she wanted to end her career interviewing the losers of school board races, because that’s who he used to be able to book before you came along.”
“I know.” Nia’s expression is deadly serious. “And then I delivered the,” she affects a french accent, “pièce de résistance: I walked right up to the desk and said, ‘Kara always says stronger together, Cat. We’re stronger when she’s part of this team.’” She mimes dropping a mic. “And then James cut back from commercial, and it was her segment, but she froze so we cut to Andrea, and that’s when Cat lost her shit and ran off the soundstage asking for eggs.”
Nia’s eyebrows are practically at her hairline, like she can’t believe that’s how it played out.
Kara is still gobsmacked herself, but she turns her attention back to Cat, who is beginning to wrap up.
“...many people like a glass of dry white wine to pair with it, a Gavi di Gavi, perhaps. I, myself, like a Barolo to match the leek, fontina, and mushrooms I’ve chosen.” Cat has taken the pan out of the oven, her hands covered by blue oven mitts, and she’s holding it at an angle so that the camera can get a close up. She takes a spatula to the sides. “I'll just free up the edges,” she says, sliding it onto a plate on the counter, then looking back up at the camera and slipping off the oven mitts.
“Next week on the show, I'll show you how to make a fantastic beignet, using a recipe shared with me by the family that founded the famous Cafe du Monde in the New Orleans French Market. You won’t want to miss it.”
Kara wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Lena is waiting on the sound stage when they wrap the broadcast, beaming at Kara while she walks down from the booth. The tech guys are already moving the sets into place for cleaning, shifting cameras and boom mics around, while staff scurry about to put everything away. Andrea and Cat are talking, seated at the final news desk, and, for once, it doesn’t seem like murder is imminent.
Kara wonders if she should feel as conflicted as she does about that. The ratings...
“You know,” Lena says when Kara’s within earshot, “she's still the third worst person in the world.” But she’s grinning at Kara when she says it and her voice is light.
“Yes, I know.” Kara rolls her eyes, a smile stretching her face. She can feel the corners of her eyes crinkle, and she reaches out a hand that Lena grabs without hesitation.
“Great show!” Someone calls out to her as they pass.
Andrea finally stands up from the desk, pushing her chair back and picking up her show notes. She walks over to where Lena and Kara are standing between cameras.
“Lena, Kara.” She nods at them.
“Hi Andy,” Lena says, giving her a genuine smile.
Andrea seems to think about what she’s going to say for a moment and Kara braces herself. When it finally comes, she has to struggle not to laugh.
“I want a tropical fruit plate,” Andrea huffs out, before whirling off in the direction of her dressing room.
“You heard the woman.” Lena squeezes her hand and leans into Kara’s side. “You know, if a tropical fruit plate satisfies her, then I’ve grossly underestimated your capacity for talent management.”
Kara grins wider. “I’ll have to see if it’s in our budget.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll find room for that,” Lena says, rolling her eyes. “It’s whatever comes after that I’m not so sure about...”
“Whatever comes after what,” Cat asks, making her way up to them.
“We’re about to be overrun by papaya,” Kara offers. Cat narrows her eyes, probably trying to gauge whether or not Kara’s making a joke at her expense.
“Yes, well,” Cat shifts her weight, trying to appear disinterested, “I wanted to see how your interview went.”
Kara considers playing with her for a moment, but it doesn’t seem like the right foot to start out on, considering the size of the olive branch that Cat just extended. Instead, she goes for something she knows will answer Cat’s question.
“Only for people you care about, huh?”
“Yes,” Cat’s cheeks go pink, her blush visible even beneath the heavy foundation she wears on camera, “well, ‘care’ can be a relative term, but...yes.”
“I’m going to ask you to rehearse the beignet segment.”
“I don’t need to rehe—” Cat takes a deep breath. “Fine. That isn’t unreasonable. I’m also not averse to finding some way to make this a regular thing, but it’s over the moment someone calls me Julia Child,” she says, her eyes flashing. Kara doesn’t doubt it. Cat starts to turn away. “If that’s all, I’d like to change before the meeting?”
“Sure, Cat. And…” Kara thinks about all the things she wants to say. She settles on something simple, after all, they’ve got time. “Thank you.”
Cat pauses. “I meant what I said, Kara, at Governor Lane’s, about what you do, how you inspire people to bring out their best.” Lena’s eyes go wide, possibly at the right name coming out of Cat’s mouth. “...I think I might be ready to let you bring out my best.” And then, with what must be truly monumental effort, she glances over and adds, “It’s not unpleasant to see you, Lena. I hear LBC has good things in its future.”
She’s gone before Lena can recover, and Kara nearly falls over laughing. “Your face, oh my gosh, Lena, your face.”
“I swear to god, Kara, what are you putting in her water?”
Kara can only shake her head and pull her girlfriend into a kiss, heedless of the bustle around them. As she pulls back, her eyes taking in Lena’s pleased smile and the organized chaos of the studio, she can’t help laughing again.
“What is it?” Lena asks, her expression fond.
“Nothing,” she replies, overwhelmed with something she can’t quite put into words right now. “Or everything, maybe. Walk me to my office?”
Lying in bed that night, with Lena fast asleep beside her, and thinking about the last five or so months of her life since she was fired from Morning Midvale, Kara finally puts a name to the overwhelming feeling: fulfillment.
It’s been a very long journey to get to this place, literally and metaphorically; sometimes it feels like she’s traveled light years, as if her life with her parents was on another planet. She pictures them, tries to imagine what they’d look like now—tries to imagine them older—but finds that she can’t: they’re forever as they were on the day they died, old only in the way that all parents seem to their children.
There are so many things she never got to ask them, so many things she wants to show them. She wonders, going over the same questions she asks herself everyday, would they love Lena as much as she does? Would they see Daybreak and be proud of her? Is this all—everything she’s done and who she's become—enough for them?
She thinks back to what Alex said to her in the car when she thought everything was falling apart: living is enough.
Today, something about those questions is different. There’s still no answer to any of them, there never will be. Sometimes life is like that.
But today, for the first time in a very long time (in her entire memory, in fact), the lack of answers doesn’t drive her toward the pain of losing her parents. Instead, it drives Kara to a different question entirely:
Is her life—and all of the people and places and work she’s brought into it—enough for her?
And that question has a very easy answer.
IT’S DONE. FINITO. EL FIN. AS THE SWEDES WOULD SAY, SLUT.
I fucking did it, friends: I finished my second ever fic. The process could not have been more different than wd au—certainly this one required more work to adapt—and I had a few moments where I was like, OH GOD OH FUCK WHAT HAVE I DONE I CAN’T DO THIS. Honestly, had the news of supergirl being cancelled not come out when it did, I probably would have waited until I’d written more instead of throwing it at you that night, and there’s a chance I would have abandoned this for being too difficult. The threat of public shame is obviously highly motivating to me. I promised a double chapter to end it, though, and I delivered (the original chapter split, for anyone wondering, was set to be when Lena asks Kara to leave...and I didn’t want to do that to myself).
As usual, however, none of this would have been possible without other people: @jazzfordshire, for talking me off about a billion ledges and also for laughing at me when I told her how many words I thought this would be; and @vampire-chunks & @thesaltycrocodile (AND THEIR CAT MUFFIN), without whom the final chapter would probably read like a coked-up third grader had access to one of those voice-to-text software things, given the number of questionable comma choices etc. All remaining mistakes are mine and are probably a product of my ignoring some good advice I was given.
Is it possible that writing fanfic is just an elaborate ploy to spend time thinking about my favorite foods? Go find some pork belly gua bao, and then answer me. Spiedies are so good and that festival is real. Binghamton is actually three hours outside of the city, but guess what IT’S METROPOLIS NOT NYC I DO WHAT I WANT and what I wanted was for Kara to be able to get there and back in time for morning meeting. Chapter title from better days by Fia Moon.
in case you missed it in ch 2, easter (@ekingston) made this incredible art of Lena in the park waiting for Kara and I will never be over it.
It’s nice to come to this fandom and be unhinged with all of you. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and for leaving comments and kudos - I cannot convey what they mean to me (although I do try). If you feel like yelling at/with me more, you can find me on tumblr at i-am-robie where I mostly just meltdown in the tags.
All my love to each of you.