There were many drawbacks to having promoted your superhero assistant.
Cat had an extensive list of those now.
Her coffee was always lukewarm at best, everything got to her desk at human speed which she now found was too slow. In truth, it felt like everything was done at a glacial pace. She had to call for her assistant an average of three times before any of them reacted. She actually had to raise her voice to be heard and she had to repeat herself. It was a fireable offence as two of them had discovered.
The list of drawbacks of not having Kara Danvers as her assistant was even longer.
She had never given too much thought about the things Kara accomplished that she didn't ask for directly, but now that the girl no longer did them, there seemed to be an endless number tasks that her current assistant couldn’t even begin to tackle.
In the same order of idea, she had to ask for things now, whereas Kara had always known what she desired before Cat could even vocalize it. It had become second nature to Cat to expect whatever she demanded to be delivered to her with a cheerful smile. Now, she was faced with fearful stuttering or the Siobhan like arrogant self-importance she had always despised and that they had yet to earn.
All the content she received seemed to be three steps behind what it used to be and she had been forced to realize that the young hero had always revised it before Cat saw it. Whether it was to keep her from being too annoyed or to keep her from firing the incompetents who produced that substandard drivel was anyone's guess.
Her schedule, mail and office were a mess. There suddenly seemed to be twice as many inconsequential decisions to make and Cat became aware of how many questions Kara had fielded perfectly without her knowledge. The sheer amount of what ought to be done without Kara was almost overwhelming. Almost.
However, beyond what Cat had to admit, to herself if no one else, had been admirable work ethic, the things she missed the most were the Kara touches.
Her bar was almost bare. She’d run out of M&Ms twice so far. No one took the time to text Carter's drivers to know his whereabouts at all times. No one picked up the brand new issues of her son’s comic books before they hit the shelves. No one picked up Carter's favourite cookies for days of school assembly or flyers for things they knew would fascinate him to do on his days off. No one greeted him with a juice box, a snack and genuine interest when he came to Catco. He went to Kara's office to get those things.
No one brought her a snack at the exact time her Lexapro had to be taken and she missed the attention even if she had complained about it at first. Now, it was back to being a chore and an annoying crutch (the destructive thought sounded oddly like her mother) rather than the five minutes Kara insisted she use to relax and take care of herself.
She missed the ridiculously tiny jars of Nutella Kara used to leave in her top drawer for a pick me up. She missed the home fragrance Kara had ordered so her office would always smell subtly of lilacs or jasmine. She missed the Genmaicha tea Kara had always had waiting when she came back from lunch meetings. She missed the cupcake and mint tea left on her desk as a treat after seeing her mother, the tray adorned with a single spray of gillyflowers.
She missed so many things so fiercely, it was a constant ache in her chest. It felt as if something had been pressed against her heart for so long that it had made a permanent dent in it and the tissue was struggling vainly to find it again.
On nights like tonight, alone on her balcony with a glass of bourbon, Cat could admit those things were trivial compared to the biggest drawback. On evening like this, when the glass in her hands was simply a prop to keep them from fidgeting; when it was an excuse to keep from admitting that the condensation wasn't the reason her palms were moist and it was something to hold to stop herself from reaching for her phone. It was during uncomfortable nights like this that Cat had to face the fact that the worst thing about no longer having Kara Danvers as her assistant was the endless worry eating at her gut.
She had thought she could handle it, could handle not having complete access to Kara, but she had discovered early into their new arrangement that she had no grasp on the situation at all.
She could endure the clean up missions relatively well. There was always pride in witnessing the compassion with which Kara took care of reckless motorists. There was joy in seeing how grateful families hugged the dashing hero for saving their loved ones. The bashful smiles and blushes that invariably suffused Kara's face were relief enough for Cat to go on about her day.
The problem became obvious with rescue missions.
The first fire Kara had extinguished after her promotion had led to the building collapsing while the young woman had still been inside. She had come out clutching a puppy and covered in soot, laughing when the animal had licked her nose before reuniting it with its little owner. It should have been enough for Cat to have seen that, but a tension she couldn’t identify had started to tighten in her gut. As the day moved on, it had coiled tighter and tighter inside until her hands had started shaking. She'd been ready to snap until Kara had walked into the bullpen, her phone held aloft with a puzzled sort of expression on her face.
There had been a release of adrenaline, as if Cat had just stopped running for her life. She’d felt dizzy, her legs and arms heavy. She had stared so hard as the cardigan hobbit had taken the phone from Kara that her eyes had felt hot. She hadn't dared blink while the back of Kara's phone was popped open least the hero disappear. Her heart had been beating hard enough to break free of her chest. She had observed the wet hair hastily pulled into a ponytail, leaving a slightly damp spot on Kara's blue sweater. Her belt had missed a hoop in the back of her jeans and one of her shoelace was coming undone. She had never looked more beautiful, alive and whole to Cat than in that moment.
The feeling in her limbs had started to come back slowly, her mouth dry as Walt fixed whatever the hardware problem had been and she willed him to take his time. She had hoped to keep looking at Kara, watching her hands move as she tried to explain what she had done. She had wished to keep counting every precious breath the girl took and try to match her erratic rhythm to it. She had only managed it when the phone was put back together and Kara turned to leave, their eyes meeting through the glass. The smile and wave sent her way had been blinding, the simple joy on beautiful features enough to put the world back on its axis.
Cat had taken her first full breath since watching the footage and she had waved back, forgetting for once that she was supposed to be cold, bitter and above human emotions. Instead, she had smiled at Kara, her lower lip quivering, eyes stinging at the corners. There had been a brief flash of concern before the phone in Kara’s hand had chirped a reminder and she'd been gone with one last easy smile. Cat had exhaled long and slow before taking another deep breath, the pressure in her throat easing with each passing second she knew Kara was fine.
The realization had been hard for Cat. She had walked into the balcony, pressing her hands flat on the stone of the railing, the texture grounding her in the moment. Years of therapy and the sheer exhaustion of it had taught Cat that lying to herself was ultimately not worth it and she was self-aware enough to know that she cared about her former assistant. Perhaps she didn't want to delve into just how much during the daylight, but it didn't stop her from it. It also didn't stop her from worrying. She had never gotten the unfortunate opportunity to see how much before.
When she was still her assistant, Kara would run out to save the day, would come back to the office as if nothing extraordinary had just happened and she would bring Cat whatever item she had allegedly gone to retrieve. It had been a routine they had perfected over time. If it had been a night event, there had never been a doubt in Cat’s mind that her assistant would be waiting for her the next morning, latte in hand and a sunny smile on her lips, ready for a new day. Maybe she had been more attentive to the details of her assistant’s appearance on those days. Maybe she had covered her assessment of the hero's bulletproof body by being sharper in her fashion criticism than usual, but that had been the end of it.
There never had been this intense worry before, this breathless anxiety that Cat had only ever associated with Carter. It felt the same and different all at once, the source somewhere else in her heart, but no less deep. The feelings had sneaked up on her since that 10:15. She could remember Kara claiming to be as ordinary as the sky was blue. There was nothing ordinary about Kara Danvers, least of all the softness she brought out of Cat. But softness was a vulnerability she couldn't afford so it would have to be handled. And quickly.
So she had. Perhaps with less grace and subtlety than she would have liked, but it was working for her. It was a simple matter of opportunity and Cat Grant knew how to make the most of them. Snapper Carr left his reporters a significant amount of leeway, but he insisted on at least one check in email a day. It had been simple to log into Kara's email account. The girl was a creature of habit and she sent the message at the same time everyday. She also rarely changed her passwords, which, while lax in security, worked in Cat's favor.
And if she had suddenly developed an annoying tendency to text the wrong person when Witt looked particularly worried and kept glancing up at the screens above his desk, it was surely her new phone's fault.
The incessant parade of imposters that graced Kara's old desk couldn't know about specific files and couldn't be trusted with certain phone numbers. It was only right that she get them from her former assistant. No one needed to know those visits happened to coincide with Supergirl’s most spectacular missions. Nobody ever dared question Cat when she walked to the out of the way office in a huff, her heart racing in her chest, her hand twirling the lock of hair at the base of her neck. If her steps were slower than her usual determined stride and if her hand hesitated briefly before knocking sharply on the door, there was no one to see it so far from the bullpen. Only Kara's x-ray could see the relief on her face when she was bid to enter, a whole second before the mask of annoyance slid over her features. She was never irritated with Kara, she simply had to sound like she was. Her tirade always lasted long enough to count Kara's limbs and 10 of her breaths before whatever she required was handed to her with an indulgent smile on pink lips, as if Kara knew her secret. The fist around her heart would unfurl, the beats back to slow and steady instead of the frantic, shallower beats they had just enough room for around her anxiety. She would then leave the tiny office with a thanks and a hand on the hero's shoulder, the solid muscle under her fingers warm and real and alive and she would be fine until the next time.
Today had been different though. Today had been hell on earth and she was still at the office. It was long past quitting time, long past Carter's bedtime and edging just past her own because she couldn't leave.
If she left, it would be giving up hope to see Kara in one piece and her fear would swallow her whole. Sitting here on the balcony gave her the illusion of normalcy, that any moment Kara could walk in, apologizing and fumbling with her glasses. She'd give anything to be able to see that happen right now. Hope made her glance back in her office, willing the young woman to show up, but it remained empty, the space echoing with unfulfilled wishes and memories.
The screens behind her desk were finally dark, but all day they had replayed over and over the images of Supergirl staggering away from the enemy she had just defeated, a glittering green dagger protruding from skin Cat had believed bulletproof, until the images had been burned in her brain. She could close her eyes and still see every nuance of that stagger, the incredulous hands raising up to touch the handle, the graceful sideways fall and the black clad government agents who whisked away the fallen hero.
Kara had been still on that gurney, suddenly a breakable young woman rather than the invincible superhero she was supposed to be when she was wearing the cape. The last shot had been of disheveled blond hair, stark against the black vinyl it laid against, its vibrancy fading in the dim light.
Cat had been home when the fight had occurred, already in bed when her phone had started to ping with urgency, the Catcopter on the scene to catch every move of this new threat. She had turned the TV on and had kneeled scant inches from the screen, to be closer to the scene, yearning to bleed through the television and shield Kara from the alien she was battling.
She'd held her breath at every blow, breathing out only when the cape had swirled away from the assailant, both of them safe for a second. The relief always lasted only the fraction of a heartbeat until vicious fists found their target again and again. The fight seemed to last forever until the alien was done playing and pulled the dagger from a thigh sheath she hadn't noticed. He stabbed Supergirl as she gave the last almighty punch that brought him to his knees. Cat hadn't noticed the knife until he had fallen, until she'd seen the shock on Kara's face. She had followed the path of delicate fingers on the hilt and her throat had closed on a scream, her hand flat against the screen as the girl she'd named was whisked away from her view. She had been replaced with news anchors who could only speculate until Cat wanted to fire each and every one of them. Cat couldn't remember how long she’d been there, kneeling on the hardwood floor, hoping the image would change. She'd finally risen to her feet, reaching for her phone.
Come to my office in the morning.
The text she had sent Kara had been purposefully vague, giving herself some time to think of a reason her brain couldn't formulate just then. It seemed to be unable to hold onto the most basic concepts and was frozen on the image of slender fingers stained with blood. At a loss, she'd laid down in the middle of her bed, the TV on at low volume with a hand clutching her phone, hoping for a reply that never came. She had slept fitfully, jerking awake every time she had lost her grip on her phone. She had looked at both screens, hoping one of their content would have changed and give her news, but they never did. The long hours stretched into an eternity and when the sun had peaked on the horizon, Cat had risen, unable to stay in bed any longer.
By the time Cat had made it to the office, she had a pounding headache and everything inside her had been tied into slippery knots. It felt like boa constrictor had replaced her organs and were smothering her from the inside. She'd walked out of her elevator with sunglasses on, scanning the empty office, barely registering the latte handed to her. She had expected Kara to be here, waiting for her with a smile and shaking her head in mock reproach at Cat's dismissal of her assistant. But the space remained empty, muffled voices coming from the bullpen tickling her ears; devoid of the one she wanted to hear.
There had been a hesitation before she turned on her wall. The minute she did, she had wished to turn it off again. Kara had been staring back at her from every screen, that disbelief chipping at her hope. She'd looked away, a breath rushing past her lips and had sat in the big chair, suddenly dwarfed by it. Opening her laptop, Cat had ignored her own mailbox to see the last email Kara had sent. It had been less than twenty minutes and whatever relief seeing it brought, it had provided disappeared with the first word.
Have been injured while chasing a lead. Taking the day off. Will communicate further on recovery.
Whoever had sent that email had known enough about Kara's day-to-day to think of sending it in the first place, but not enough to make it sound like the young woman. It had looked like one of the black clad agents had covered for her, that she hadn't been well enough to do it herself. The thought had sent a slight tremor to Cat's hands, her fingers clenching in fists on her lap and she had wondered who was taking care of her.
Did they knew her well enough to know that she wore fuzzy socks to sleep? That she stole all the spare pillows from Cat's hotel room to make herself a cocoon because she liked to be snug? That she slept with the TV on so she wouldn't feel alone? Those things were details that made Kara and that, as her boss, she shouldn't have paid attention to, but she had traveled with the girl enough to memorize. Did they know these things? Was she alone now, in a lab? A broken asset to be fixed rather than the wonderful young woman who put everyone's needs before her own? The thoughts had swirled in her head at dizzying speed and they had come to a halt when Will had sat at his desk.
Cat had stared at Winn, had watched him glance up at the screens, worry etched on his face and she had wished he would look into her office and catch her eye and understand. Understand that he needed to play his part in this farce they kept living and lie to her. She didn't care what the lie was; photocopier, coffee run or legal department, she had just needed to hear it. Had just needed to know that there had still been an obligation to hold the secrecy. That Kara's secret identity still had to be protected from the Queen of all media. But he didn't. He avoided looking at her all day until he had claimed to be feeling unwell and went home. She had been left alone with her anxiety and her terror to run the empire that seemed so insignificant at the moment.
She had sent texts to Kara at first every other hour, then every hour until she couldn't stop herself from sending one every 20 to 15 minutes, demanding her presence at the office. She had pretended not to know the girl was injured, no longer a relevant person to be informed that she was out sick.
The last one was open on her phone, unsent. A simple word: Please.
Cat Grant didn't beg, didn't plead, but she would tonight if only would get her a sliver of knowledge. She didn't know if she was pleading to Kara or the universe, but she would worship at the altar of whoever got her the knowledge she craved. She had considered using her sources and the phone numbers she wasn't supposed to have to find out, but she didn't want to bring attention to why she was involving herself in the quest for information when her journalists were already doing it.
Instead she was sitting on her balcony, hands rolling a glass of bourbon between her palms, pressing on the glass hard enough that she was afraid to break it. She didn't drink the alcohol, couldn't stomach it long enough to send herself into the sweet oblivion of forgetfulness, but the excuse was necessary, that pretence of why she was still sitting here, long after everyone was gone.
Cat was looking down at the softly sloshing liquid when she heard hesitant steps behind her. She turned in her seat, and saw the sweatpants and t-shirt clad hero, standing painfully in her office, hair in a messy bun, glasses crooked on her face.
Relief stole Cat's breath and she stood still, afraid she was hallucinating. Her trance was broken when Kara put a hand on the white couch to steady herself, and grimaced in pain. The bourbon spilled on the table as the glass tipped over, hastily abandoned. Cat rushed into her office, hands going to Kara's upper arm. The minute she touched bare skin, her heart rate tripled its normal speed, the skin warm and real and she couldn't let go. She turned Kara around, sat her on the couch and kneeled in front of her, much like she had done last night in front of the TV. Her thumbs stroked the soft skin she still held, the tip of her fingers sparkling with sensation, her eyes glued to the face she had hoped so much to see. She took in every flicker of movement on Kara's face, every emotion that made her tangibly herself.
“What are you doing here? You should be in bed resting.” Her voice was barely above a whisper, afraid the legitimate concern would make the young woman disappear.
“I’m going, but you texted…”
Cat didn't have it in her to be contrite about the incessant barrage of texts. It got her what she needed and that made it all worth it. Her eyes fell from Kara's face and found the spot where she knew the dagger had pierced the skin. There was a small bulge there, barely an inch below the precious heart. Air came out in a tremulous exhale as long fingers slid down Kara's biceps to the tender spot on her inner elbow. Cat grasped the edge of the ragged t-shirt and lifted it up gently past the stark white bandage. She traced the medical tape with her index, looking up and asking for permission. Kara nodded and winced when the tape was pulled back. There were three shades of bruises around the healing gash, but Cat's heart constricted in her chest, the evidence of how close she came to losing the hero was millimetres from her fingertips. She didn't dare touch it, but she wanted to. Wanted to slide both her hands over the wound until it disappeared and Kara was whole once more.
“Kara…” the name was said in prayer, in admonition and in pain. “You have to be more careful, I did not promote you for you to kill yourself chasing leads. I will…”
The retribution part of the lie died on her lips as she looked up. She'd missed the movement, but Kara had taken off her glasses and she was looking at her with fondness. A hand came up to touch her face, cupping her cheek tenderly. The touch sent a shiver down Cat’s spine and warmth bloomed in her heart. She'd really expected this moment to come with celestial trumpets and grandiose gestures, this moment with the blue eyes staring at her free of their usual barrier was more than enough.
“We don't have to do this,” She was fine with keeping up the charade if it meant that Kara stayed and looked at her like this again.
“We do,” Kara was determined even as she slumped a little further into the couch, her hand faltering on Cat's face, her thumb trembling as she traced the high cheek bones.
“Because you already know, because I trust you, because I know you worry and because you texted me more than Eliza and Winn together.”
The last brought a smirk to Cat's lips. “I've never done well with not knowing.”
“I know that, I really do,” the affection in the voice couldn't hide Kara's exhaustion and Cat sighed. She really belonged in bed.
The older woman put a hand over the one still covering her face and squeezed it tenderly. Still holding that hand, she rose to her feet and gently tugged on Kara. “Come on, you're going home. Do you want me to give you a lift? Will you have someone at home with you?”
Kara rose to her feet slowly, standing Converse to Louboutin with Cat. “My sister's downstairs, she'll stay with me.”
“Alright,” Cat tried not to show her disappointment, more than willing to bring Kara home with her and supervise her recovery. She tried to step away to pick up her purse, but Kara still held her hand and kept her in place. Cat looked up, her question stopped by the earnestness on Kara's face.
“When I'm healed, will you have dinner with me? To talk about why you're so worried?”
“Yes.” Her answer came without hesitation, without fear, just with the desire to have more of this moment with Kara. There was something about this quiet, with the truth of who they really were that slid along her skin like warm honey and she wanted more of it. She turned her wrist and her fingers found their home between Kara's. “Whenever you want.”
The delighted smile she received was belied by the pallor of Kara's face. Cat stroked her thumb on the hand she still held and gave it a quick squeeze before releasing it.
“Come on, we're leaving so I can assess if your sister is sufficient help.”
Kara giggled in response while Cat grabbed her purse, shooting a text at her driver at the same time. She walked back to Kara and hesitated a second before she passed an arm around the slender waist. She supported Kara on their way to the private elevator, grateful to have the comforting weight of her against her side.
They stood silently in the enclosed space, Kara leaning closer to Cat, the pain weighing her down. She still found the strength to turn her head and press her lips to Cat's temple. Her eyelids slid closed and Cat pressed her lips together, her arm tightening around Kara, wishing to stop time itself, hoping to live in this precise second forever.
“Thank you for texting.”
Cat heard what she really meant and smiled. She looked up at Kara, her eyes glittering and her heart lighter than it had been in years. “How could I not?”
They looked at each other, the silence stretched between them comfortably yet filled with promises and expectations. Lips tingled in anticipation and the elevator dinged before the doors opened. They shared a frustrated huff as Alex walked toward them, the worry written across her face. She took Kara's other side and the two women who lived her best almost carried her out of the building. It hit Cat just how serious the injury was and how much Kara cared for her to have stopped by when she shouldn't have.
She shot Alex a look behind the blond head, silently asking if the selfless idiot would be all right. Alex nodded solemnly and bit the inside of her cheek, her unease and stress obvious. It had been as close a call as Supergirl ever had.
They led her to an unmarked black van illegally parked in front of the building and Alex opened the passenger side while Cat held Kara up. She let her fall on the passenger seat and stroked the top of her head, unwilling to let her go. She slid her hand down to Kara's neck, her palm resting on the strong heartbeat, her thumb stroking the underside of her jaw, raising goosebumps in her wake. “Get better, we have plans.”
There was nothing subtle about Kara's sly grin. Before she could give herself away, Cat turned the CEO on back full force and pinned Alex with her best withering glare. “I’ll expect progress report on her recovery.”
“Hey, there’s something I didn't expect,” Alex rolled her eyes, started the engine and gave Cat a pointed look. The older woman stepped back, her hand cold now that it no longer touched Kara. Before she could close the door, Kara looked at her, her eyes soft. “Soon.”
“I'll hold you to it,” Cat closed the door and watched the van drive away from her, blond hair still the last thing she saw of Kara, but this time it shined in the dark, a beacon calling her to a better place.