Actions

Work Header

Nightmares and Empty Planets

Work Text:

Eleven Months and Three Weeks

Cat took in the sight on the balcony. From her own spot in the living room, she had the unique ability to see but not be seen; the advantages of her wealth allowing the floor to ceiling two-way glass on every exterior wall, providing her with the capability to witness moments money could never dream of buying.

Cuddled together on a wide lounge chair were the Danvers sisters. Not that they necessarily needed the added space that the two-person seat allowed, Kara had herself curled tightly into her sister’s side, head resting on Alex’s shoulder, both of them looking up at the night sky, Kara’s hands occasionally springing free to gesture to something Cat was sure no human was capable of seeing with the naked eye.

Cat had taken the initiative to invite the older Danvers over for dinner that evening. There was something going on with Kara that she couldn’t quite pin-down. She’d been waking up in the middle of the night, eyes glazed and searching, for three nights in a row, which had only happened once before, during a week when Supergirl had been tasked with bringing in an alien hostile who’d shapeshifted to take on the appearance of a ten-year-old child.

Typically, Kara’s nightmares were further apart, and even though Cat would regularly wake as well and check in to make sure the young woman beside her was alright, they were both usually asleep again within ten or fifteen minutes. This last week however, it’s taking upwards of an hour and a half before either of them would even attempt to shut their eyes, followed by Kara fitfully tossing and turning for the next few hours before they have to get up for work.

Cat really wishes she could be mad about it too, because she hasn’t had to function on such low levels of sleep since Carter was five and had pneumonia, but Kara had offered a few dozen times to return to the guest room, and despite almost impaling Derek with a letter opener in a sleep-deprived fit of rage at their morning meeting, Cat couldn’t find it in herself to be upset. Because every part of her that was usually filled with frustration and anger, was brimming instead with worry.

Kara hadn’t told her yet what was causing this abrupt change in her sleeping habits, which wasn’t necessarily unusual, she didn’t always share her nightmares with Cat, but Cat can’t remember a time since 10:15am on June 6, 2013 that Kara had kept something that was truly bothering her to herself.

Which is why Cat finally decided to call in reinforcements, hoping that if Kara wouldn’t tell her what was going on, maybe she’d find comfort with her sister. She knew she’d made the right decision when Alex passed through their door four hours ago, a look in her eyes that told Cat she knew exactly what was going on.

Dinner was a normal affair, Kara her usual bubbly self, excited to have her sister there despite having seen her other at the DEO mere hours before. Carter soaked it all up too, he and Alex had developed a strong bond in the past several months, the kind she’d always wanted for him and cursed being an only child for, because somebody would have to teach her baby to drive and there’s no way she’ll be emotionally stable enough to do it, and after ending up on the top of a mountain the last time Kara had transported her in a car, she was clearly off the list too.

After they’d finished eating, Carter insisted that Alex join them for their nightly reading time. Cat declined her own invite to get the dishes cleaned, but that didn’t stop her from leaning in the doorway and watching on as the three of them snuggled close in Carter’s bed, Alex in the middle, book propped in her lap because “No, Kara, that’s not what McGonagall sounds like-no, just, here let me do it.”

When they emerged nearly an hour later, she handed Alex a large glass of wine, and pushed the duo toward the balcony, saying she needed to shower but that they should enjoy the clear sky and the warm air.

Her curls were still damp when she returned to the living room in a pair of yoga pants that would make Baby Lane weep; they only clash slightly with the oversized Stanford tee-shirt that she’s pretty sure Kara had stolen from Alex before Cat had stolen it from her.

She sat and reached a book, her eyes glancing up to check on the pair outside, after a few minutes of distracted reading she sighed and set the book aside. Her gaze returning to Kara and Alex.

She’d never tried to delude herself when it came to Kara’s youth, but seeing her curled into her sister, eyes wide and full of something unnamable, she’d never looked more like a child, and not for the first time, Cat let her mind drift to thoughts of a girl Carter’s age, wondering how in the hell a child who’d lost everything and had been left with the expectations of a lost race on her shoulders could have grown to be the kind and compassionate young woman who was perfect at everything except apparently the McGonagall voice.

Cat was pretty sure the answer to that conundrum was the other woman on the balcony; her arms around her little sister, her hold tight and protective. Despite their slightly rocky start, Cat has Alex Danvers ranked very high on the list of people she respects most in this world because she too was a child with the weight of a lost world on her shoulders, yet where resentment would easily overtake most, Alex was able to temper it and use it to fuel her desire and ability to love and protect her sister.

Her thoughts were cut short by the sound of the door sliding back open, the two women she’d been thinking about shuffling back inside, Kara taking the now empty wine glass from her sister and moving toward the kitchen with it, and if her eyes looked a little red around the edges, Cat pretended not to notice.

She turned back to the older Danvers who was standing there smirking. “Nice shirt.”

Cat rolled her eyes but bit her tongue, because it wouldn’t take Kara long to wash out the glass and return. “Is she okay?” She asked instead.

Alex released a breath that told her it wasn’t the kind of question that she could really answer, and Cat wondered what she should have asked instead. “She’ll talk to you when she’s ready.” Alex promised instead.

“That’s not-” Cat sighed in frustration because she always had words and she hated it when she couldn’t figure out the right thing to say. “She doesn’t need to, that’s why I called you, I just want to know if she’s okay, if there’s something I should be doing-”

“She’ll talk to you when she’s ready.” Alex repeated, but there was a softness this time that told Cat she was already doing the right thing. “Thank you for calling me.”

Cat nodded, before she had the chance to say anything else Kara reentered the room, arms stretched high above her head, a yawn falling out of her mouth, Cat couldn’t tear her eyes away if she tried.

“Argh, thank god it’s Friday tomorrow, ‘m so tired.” She mumbled through her yawn, coming to stand next to Cat, her fingers absentmindedly reaching out to play with the hem of Cat’s tee.

“Yeah,” Alex sighed through a yawn of her own, “I should let you guys get to bed.”

“You’re welcome to the guest room, if you’d like.” Cat offered and she could practically feel the wave of pride radiating off of Kara because she and Alex really had come a long way since their first meeting inside the Justice of the Peace’s office.

“Nah, I haven’t seen the inside of my apartment in almost two days, and Suze is going to meet me there in the morning for a run so…” She declined, already walking backwards toward the door.

After saying their goodnights, Kara making Alex promise to text her when she got home, she shut the door, clicking the locks into place.

“Meet you there in a minute?” Kara asked, and Cat nodded, knowing Kara needed to do her nightly sweep to make sure all the doors and windows were secure before she’d be able to settle in for the night.

Cat made her way back toward their room, stopping only briefly to check in on Carter, pulling his blankets back into place and placing a kiss on his temple. She could hear Kara do the same as she climbed into bed a few minutes later, her yoga pants now folded neatly and sitting on her vanity.

Kara came in and went right to the en suite, emerging a few minutes later in a pair of baggy cotton pants and a tank top, hair down in loose curls.

“Did you sign Carter’s permission slip?” She asked as she climbed between the sheets.

“Permission slip?”

“For the field trip next week, one of us needs to sign it. I was going to leave myself a note to do it in the morning if you hadn’t.” She explained, already reaching for her phone to do just that. “Alex is home.” She said as the she clicked the screen on, quickly typing out a response to her sister and a note to herself, setting the phone and her glasses on her nightstand before flopping back down onto the bed, rolling onto her stomach only for Cat to nudge her.

“Flip.”

“Don’t snore.” She protested but did it anyway. The only response she got was the lights clicking off before she felt Cat settle down, barely registering the hand coming to rest on her hip before she was pulled away toward sleep.

///

Cat woke up when she felt the bed shifting, the arm that had been draped around Kara falling back to the mattress. She could hear Kara trying to suck in deep breaths, her eyes sweeping from side to side, like she was trying to find something that clearly wasn’t there.

“Shh, just breathe.” Cat whispered, still half asleep, reaching up to rub tight circles across Kara’s lower back, managing to pull herself up without breaking contact so they were side by side, she made a mental note to write a nice bonus to her pilates instructor.

“’m sorry.” Kara mumbled, voice tight.

“You have nothing to be sorry for.” Cat told her, resting her forehead against Kara’s shoulder, just as she had for the last three nights.

They sat like that for a few more minutes while Kara regained her breath, Cat occasionally pressing a kiss between her shoulder blades, just another addendum on that list of Things Not To Be Talked About™. Finally, Kara shifted, reaching for Cat’s hand on her back, giving it a small squeeze before standing from the bed.

“I’m just going to get some water real quick.” She said, moving toward the door. Cat didn’t mention the full glass on her nightstand or the perfectly good tap in their bathroom, knowing Kara just needed an excuse to stretch her legs for a moment and catch her breath.

Cat adjusted the blankets that had been thrown half off the bed when Kara woke before laying back down. A couple seconds later, she heard footsteps coming back down the hall, stopping for a minute or two outside Carter’s door before continuing to the master suite. She could feel cool air hit her legs for a few seconds before the bed dipped, she didn’t hesitate before reaching and pulling Kara close to her so that a head of dirty blonde curls rested on her chest.

“So, you never did tell me where your ‘snuggle rule’ came from.” Cat spoke into the darkness, it was something that she’d been curious about for months and she’d found that giving Kara something to talk about helped her fall back asleep easier.

“Alex.” Kara breathed her sisters name out in a happy sigh, and Cat shouldn’t be surprised because she’d learned that at least ninety percent of the things that made Kara feel happy and safe were a direct result of her sister.

“We weren’t close,” Kara admitted, “when I first landed here and Kal-El brought me to them. I was new and different, and I needed a lot, even when I tried not to.”

Cat wondered if that was why Kara had such a hard time asking for things as an adult, as though she were trying to make up for what she couldn’t help but ask for as a child. She didn’t voice this thought, but strung and hand into Kara’s hair and scratched lightly at her scalp, encouraging her to continue.

“That first year, Alex pretty much avoided me, she would do what her parents asked, but beyond that she mastered a way of avoiding me without being express about it. Except for one time when I convinced her to go flying with me; we got caught, by our parents and the DEO, and it was bad.” She said, drawing the last word out.

“The DEO, before Our Hank got there, hunted aliens. They wanted to take me in, Kal had become too powerful, not only in strength but in image, so he was untouchable, but they wanted to know more about Kryptonians. Jeremiah offered himself in return, he had compiled more research than anybody else on our biology, in exchange for my safety, he went to work for them.”

Cat knew bits and pieces of this story already. A few months earlier, the DEO had orchestrated an alien capture that required a bait and switch routine, Hank shifting to look like Supergirl while Kara waited to trap their target from the other side. They’d been forced to tell Cat about the whole Martian thing.

“A year later, the real Hank Henshaw got intel about a Martian in Peru. He led a strike mission, with orders to kill on sight, Jeremiah tried to reason with him but he was unwavering in his loathing. Jeremiah died to save J’onn, and in return he’s spent the last ten years reforming the DEO, dedicated to keeping Alex and I safe.”

“Alex and I didn’t know until recently about the events surrounding his death, we were always told it was some kind of accident. Eliza knew though, and I think for just a little bit she resented me for it. She was never cruel, but she pulled back for a while, I always just thought she was grieving, which she was, but now…” Kara trailed off.

“It wasn’t your fault.” Cat said firmly.

Kara just nodded, and turned her face in toward Cat’s neck. “I had a really hard time back then, all of my powers were new and overwhelming, I could see through everything, and every small noise sounded like a shout right in my ears, if I breathed too hard I’d freeze everything, and if I laughed too hard I’d laser whatever was in my path, and I couldn’t touch anything without breaking it.

“Jeremiah helped a lot. Glasses lined with lead, specially designed noise cancelling headphones, weighted blankets to keep me from floating in my sleep. And he was they only one other than Kal who could hug me hard enough for me to feel it, even if I couldn’t hug him back. He worked with me, every day to help me learn how to filter everything.

“After he died – Alex stepped up. Eliza was a little distant and Alex knew how important it was to her dad that I was safe so she took over where he left off. She designed a special dummy from one of those kick-boxing guys that calculated how many pounds of pressure I exerted to teach me how to hug somebody without crushing them. I broke the first three, but after two-weeks, Alex declared it a success, and she made it a point to hug me every time we saw each other, even if I’d only been out of the room for five minutes.

“After that she said she wanted to try something. I liked stories, but the TV was too overwhelming for me to watch it for more than fifteen minutes at a time, so she decided we would read together, she said it’d help my English too.

“So, a month after Jeremiah died, we started the tradition of reading together every night. We’d curl up in my bed, and Alex told me that, on earth, there was a rule that you had to snuggle really close when you read together so that the words wouldn’t get lost on the way to your ears. It wasn’t until I was twenty that I realized she’d made it up so that I wouldn’t feel self-conscious when she whispered the words so that I wouldn’t become overwhelmed.”

She stopped for a minute, lost in a memory, before breaking the silence again. “We started with Harry Potter.” She said, turning her head so she could look Cat in the eyes.

Cat’s eyes fluttered shut, and the hand that wasn’t tangled in Kara’s hair came up to her cover her mouth in gentle surprise, because her son didn’t even know what an incredible gift Kara had given him. She shared with him something that had made her feel safe and loved when she was his age, something that she’d probably intended to save for her own children but didn’t even hesitate in including Carter in. If she hadn’t already been sure that she loved this woman, this would have been the moment that really did her in. And it hurt and it was beautiful, and she wouldn’t trade any of it away because even if Kara decided tomorrow that it’d all lasted long enough and she wanted that divorce that they never talked about, she’d only ever feel grateful that she’d even been given a minute to bask in the gift that was this girl.

“What do you need?” Cat asked, voice raw with desperation.

“What do you mean?” Kara asked, face turning to confusion.

“What do you need? What can I do? Something is obviously causing you pain, I promise this isn’t my way of making you tell me, because you don’t have to, I don’t need to know. But if there’s something I can do, something you need to help you, just name it. A new mattress? Or we can fill the whole pantry with that sleepy-time tea; or if you just need somebody to talk to, I can set something up with Dr. Shulman; I’ll buy the floor below us for Alex, so you can have her close, if you want.” She offered. Later, Kara will tell her that this was when she realized, beyond a shadow of a doubt that she wasn’t alone in her feelings.

Present-Day Kara just looked at her with awe, studying her face for a few seconds before dropping her head back to Cat’s shoulder and moving closer so that she could feel their ribs pressed together, their legs tangled.

They were both silent for some time, just when she was about to drift off again, Cat heard Kara speak up, voice soft and sad. “The anniversary of my landing here is on Sunday.”

“Oh, my darling.” Cat sighs out and tightens her grip.

Kara can feel that rush that she always gets when Cat is like this, bursting from her heart and pushing through the rest of her body until her fingers and toes tingle, and sometimes it surprises her that she doesn’t just float away in the joy of it all. The fact that Cat is secretly so affectionate didn’t surprise Kara at all, her interactions with Carter and even her attempts with her mother made it clear, her own inclusion into such a limited group of people who were granted access to this side of Cat, however, had been a little mind-blowing at first.

“It’s always been hard, a little bittersweet, but I guess this year is just worse.” She admits, and Cat prepares herself for what comes next. This year, that’s been hijacked, spent playing wife and step-mom, when I should be building my life for real, with somebody I actually want to spend it with. It makes what Kara says all the more confusing.

“I’ve just been so happy.” Her voice dripped with guilt. “I almost forgot about it until somebody at the DEO mentioned it a few days ago.”

Cat’s eyes fluttered closed in understanding.

“I started to think about it. I’ve always wondered what my life would have been like if I’d never been sent here, if, by some miracle, Krypton had never exploded. I don’t know what I’d be doing or who I would have become without my experiences here to shape me, but I do know that I’d be ordinary, no superpowers, no worldwide recognition. I like my life here, who I get to be, who I get to be with.” She said shyly, eyes glancing up to Cat.

“You shouldn’t feel guilty for being happy, or for liking the recognition that comes with what you can do here. Everybody wants to feel loved and appreciated; you do so much good for the people here, for the people in your life, it’s okay to like the attention that comes with it. Why do you think my office is a giant glass box? I like knowing that they can all see me, see what my hard work earned.” Then her voice dropped into a conspiratorial tone. “Between you and me, that tele-broadcast last week about The Planet was partially a power move and partially because my hair looked really good.”

“Your hair always looks really good.” Kara whispered, absentmindedly bringing her hand up to twirl a few stands between her fingers.

They were silent again, Kara milling over Cat’s words, Alex had said pretty much the same thing, and it was nice to know that the two most important women in her life didn’t think any less of her.

“In my dream,” Kara started again after a minute, “I’m standing there, my family and friends from Krypton on one side, and all of you guys on the other side, and my mom tells me I have to choose, but before I can say anything, I’m in my pod and I can feel the explosion behind me, knocking me back into the Phantom Zone, except nothing pulls me out this time and I’m stuck there knowing I couldn’t save any of you.” She doesn’t mention the divorce papers that Cat’s always holding in the dream.

“You’re being unfair to yourself.” Cat told her. “You always say that you’re not Supergirl and Kara, you’re both, together. You love Krypton and Earth; you can’t separate them.”

“Even if I would choose Earth?” Kara asks, and the guilt is back.

“Yes, because you say that with all of the experiences here to inform you. This has become your home, and you’ve grown as an adult here. If you had stayed on Krypton and had different experiences, who’s to say you wouldn’t choose that, not knowing what you’d be missing here. It’s an impossible choice, and it’s one that you don’t have to make. Embrace both, love both.”

“I don’t know how.”

Cat reached over her, rolling to reach the alarm clock on Kara’s nightstand, flipping the switch so it was off.

“What are you doing?” Kara asked, about to reach over and click it back on, before Cat grabbed her hand and stopped her.

“You are going to stay home tomorrow, you’re going to sleep in, and then you’re going to go enjoy a late breakfast on the balcony and I am going to call your sister and have her bring your aunt here.”

“Astra?”

Cat nodded. “She’s probably the only person who really understands what you’re going through, you keep saying you want another chance at a relationship with her. Let this be a start. You can tell her about everything you love here, and ask her about the things you can’t remember about Krypton. Maybe it’ll be a way for you to bring your two worlds together.”

“You’ll be here?” Kara asked, more of an assumption than an invitation because of course she wanted Cat there.

“Well, I suppose Hank won’t allow Alex to leave Astra unattended and I really should get her input on paint colors should you change your mind about moving her in below us.”

Kara couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped her, already feeling lighter than she had in days, her heart was screaming at her to say the words that’d been on the tip of her tongue for nearly six months, but what came out instead was a quiet “Thank you.”

But she decided, as she felt Cat slip a hand under her tank top to drag her nails soothingly across her back that it wouldn’t hurt to ask her Aunt Astra about Kryptonian marriage rituals, just in case.