In two years of working for Cat Grant, Kara has experienced every conceivable emotion from despair to blinding rage.
That range of feeling turns out to be nothing compared to the worthlessness she feels every time she crosses paths with Snapper Carr. His lack of interest, his cynicism, his inability to see beyond the purity of the written word to the people behind it - all of it wears on Kara like a daily trudge through an emotional swamp.
Cat could be difficult and Cat could be mean, but she never failed to inspire Kara in one way or another. The insults were always peppered with moments of kindness and genuine interest, and that made the harsh delivery worth it. Cat’s latest criticism would usually turn out to be the very problem Kara was trying not to confront, only to feel much better when she did.
People probably think Kara is still dating James with how often she’s seen in his new office. If people were smarter they’d notice how often James isn’t there when Kara is, although their friendly chats are still a bright spot in difficult days. He’s withdrawing still, and Kara can’t blame him. His evenings are mysteriously full, although she never hears him mention other friends or even an occasional date.
But Kara isn’t spending time in James’s office, she’s spending time in Cat’s. Aside from a few cosmetic changes, James hasn’t dared to change much about the space. His photos hang on the walls where Cat’s eclectic art or snaps of Carter used to be, but otherwise CatCo is holding a collective breath while it waits for its erstwhile leader to return. Kara swears she can hear the steel bones of the building creak with the anticipation.
Tonight she blunders in with tears in her eyes, her latest submission so full of red pen that the article looks more like a murder victim than a piece of journalism. Maybe Snapper is right. Maybe Kara doesn’t have what it takes, and it’s just as well Cat isn’t here to see her so-called astonishing former assistant fall flat on her face.
“You’re never here when I need you,” Kara grumbles, leaning on Cat’s corner bar and trying to get ahold of herself. Apart from the balcony, it’s where Kara feels closest to Cat. Although weeks have passed she can’t bring herself to step out there yet, but she flies past as Supergirl on lonelier evenings, never getting quite close enough.
“Oh, that’s not true,” Cat replies, turning around in her chair. She looks relaxed, tousled even, and Kara almost pulls the counter off the bar in shock. She gathers herself, and drinks in the sight of Cat in front of her once more. “And you don’t need me, Kara.”
“Then I just want you,” Kara blurts. “Work used to be my sanctuary, my place to be normal. Now it’s…”
“Almost as bad as beating up aliens every night?” Cat suggests. “I might have come back sooner if you’d taken that last chance to tell me, you know.”
“Would you?” Kara gasps, stomach roiling at the secret finally exposed for good. “What would I have to say to stop you from going again?”
Cat smiles, standing to cross the short distance between them. “You could try pouring me a drink. Has James Olsen really not helped himself? I left that bourbon as a gift for him.”
“Did you tell him that?”
“Fair point,” Cat concedes, accepting the glass Kara pours just a little too fast. It’s a relief to use her speed without fear of detection, and Cat seems quietly impressed. “There’ll be a press release tomorrow, but I wanted to tell you first.”
“Okay, you had really better not be dying this time either,” Kara warns. Cat gives her one of those not now, idiot looks that Kara has missed so much. She feels some of the slump in her shoulders start to lift.
“I’m starting a foundation,” Cat explains, sipping at her drink as she waits for Kara’s reaction. Getting none, she continues. “I’d like your cape-wearing alter ego to be an ambassador. Or at least let me continue to use your image in the kind of copyright-defying free-for-all you allowed me here at CatCo.”
“What kind of foundation?” Kara feels the crackle of anticipation and tries to keep the hopefulness out of her voice. This could be a job offer, a way out of her miserable attempt to emulate Clark and Cat, the two people she’s come to miss the most. She wants the truth, and the connecting, and the growing, but she wants to be with the people who make her days exciting.
“Girls, education, opportunities,” Cat does that vague little handwave, but she’s fighting a very proud and determined smile. “Don’t let the First Lady get you drunk, Kara. It leads to all kinds of arm-twisting.”
“Well, after me I think when it comes to arms and twisting, FLOTUS would be the best at it, yeah,” Kara teases, her chest expanding fully at being able to make the joke in plain sight. “I thought you looked really pretty at the State Dinner. Your dress, I mean.”
Cat sets her glass down with a quirk of her eyebrow that says ‘did you?’ Kara nods in confirmation.
“I should go,” Cat announces. “Carter’s father is dropping him off in less than an hour, and it’s been too long since I’ve seen him.” Kara hasn’t dared to ask where Carter is while Cat is off finding a new quest, but she knows that wherever Cat ends up her son will be by her side as much as possible.
She strides off without further acknowledgment because hugs and shoulder bumps are only for the big goodbyes. Well, to hell with that. Every time Cat Grant says goodbye it’s a seismic event in Kara’s life, so she’s damn well going to say it properly.
“Cat?” Kara calls after her. Cat hesitates in the doorway, where the frosted band on the glass no longer bears her name.
“Yes, Kara?” The flip in Kara’s stomach hasn’t lessened at hearing her name said right, at hearing the name of the only daughter of the House of El finally pass the lips of the most powerful woman in National City, a privilege Kara has earned.
“Say you miss me? Even if you don’t, could you just lie? It would… It would really make me feel better.”
Cat sighs, and raises her hand to pinch the bridge of her nose, still half-turned away from Kara in the darkened office, the floor outside deserted.
“Lie?” Cat blurts around one of those devastating half-laughs she reserves for private conversation. “Kara, if I ever started to tell you the hundreds of ways I miss you… I don’t know if I’d be able to stop.”
The super speed decides for Kara, because she’s standing right in front of Cat when she looks across to Kara again.
“It’s not the same without you,” Kara whispers. “I want to rise to the occasion, I swear I’m trying but-”
“Maybe you need another occasion,” Cat suggests, moving in one more step, still just far enough for deniability. The hand that had been touching her own face is moving towards Kara’s now, landing on her cheek like a brush of a butterfly’s wing.
“I want to kiss you,” Kara declares as the knot in her chest unfurls in a blast of relief. She can’t bring herself to risk touching Cat, not yet, so her fingers grasp at the hem of her shirt where it’s coming untucked. “But if I kiss you and you walk right back out of my life…”
“You could no sooner be out of my life than I could stop looking fantastic in a pencil skirt,” Cat interrupts. “Distance doesn’t seem such a deal breaker when you outpace my jet.”
Kara wants to be bold, to initiate like she has with the hugs they’ve shared, but there’s something fragile in how tender Cat is being with her, how tender she has been for a surprisingly long time now.
“Kiss me, Kara,” Cat pleads. “I have to be sure.”
So Kara does, because it’s always easier to be brave knowing Cat believes in her. Her lips capture Cat’s as though some magnetic force is at work, and the tiny sigh of contentment that escapes against Kara’s mouth is enough to make even Kryptonian knees weak.
Cat seems genuinely remorseful when they part after countless minutes of seeking, soft kisses that make Kara’s head spin. “I really do have to go,” Cat says. The hint of teeth when Cat had sucked on Kara’s bottom lip has made stopping a very difficult prospect indeed, but Kara knows better than to get in the way of time with Carter.
“I know,” Kara admits. “Can I offer you a ride home? You know, bird or plane style?”
“If you fly me home, Supergirl, there’s no way I’ll let you leave.” Cat’s grin is downright predatory. “But I’ll call. I promise.”
“Please.” Kara doesn’t care if it’s desperate, but Cat rewards her with one last, lingering kiss.
“I had a feeling you’d be good at that,” Cat groans. “Goodbye, Kara.”
“Bye!” Kara calls after her, but this time it doesn’t stop Cat heading for the elevator. “But just for now, Miss Grant.”
“Carter!” Cat’s voice shrieks across the tarmac, where her plane’s engines haven’t even stopped spinning yet. Kara feels sorry for any of the plane crew who tried to stop Cat opening the cabin door while they taxied off the runway. “Oh, Carter,” she groans as she stumbles the last few steps, almost falling on her son as she pulls him close to her.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again!” Cat interrupts, checking Carter’s face for visible damage, running her hands through his hair to check for lumps or bumps. “God, I woke up and you were gone and I thought-”
“I wanted to come home, Mom,” Carter pleads with her, but he’s enveloped in another crushing hug. Kara stands by awkwardly. “I told you, I don’t like Washington. And Kara has been great! She let me stay at her place, even though I told her we have an account at the Plaza that I can use anytime.”
“That I can use anytime,” Cat corrects. “You are so grounded Carter that there isn’t even a word for it. You won’t have access to credit cards or any kind of electronics until the iPhone 11 is out. Do you hear me?”
“Mom!” He protests.
“He was no trouble,” Kara insists, laying a gentle hand on Cat’s upper arm. “We had a talk about some stuff. Carter wants to share some of that with you, I told him you’d be open to that.”
“Of course I am,” Cat softens towards her son for a moment, letting him out of her arms with some reluctance. “I was going to get straight back on the plane, I have to be in Buenos Aires tomorrow, but…”
“One more night in National City won’t kill you,” Kara suggests, trying not to get her hopes up when Cat’s gaze lingers a second too long on the scooped neck of Kara’s pale green sundress. “And Carter’s pretty tired, aren’t you, bud?”
“Don’t do the bud thing, Kara,” he scolds. “We talked about that.”
“Right,” Kara agrees, nodding and wondering how far she can organize two shell-shocked and emotional Grants before one of them pushes back. “You know, there is room at my place for all of us if-”
“The Plaza,” Cat interrupts. “Call my car service and make sure my suite is ready. I can’t face the house tonight, before you go summoning the staff.”
Kara winces at the ease with which Cat slips back into boss and assistant mode, but she can’t fault the muscle memory, because her phone is already in her hand. Maybe later, they’ll get to talk when Carter is asleep. Right now, Kara’s willing to do whatever it takes to soothe Cat’s ragged nerves.
Their chance comes two hours later, when Carter is asleep in the junior room of the suite, and Cat has been persuaded not to call the concierge and ask for wood, nails and a hammer to barricade him in there.
“I can hear him breathing,” Kara reminds her, defaulting to the bar again and pouring Cat a large Scotch this time. “I’ll know if he goes anywhere. So,” she continues, sitting on the opposite end of the leather couch from Cat. “How have you been?”
Too bright, too obviously breezy. Cat has the decency to look a little guilty.
“I meant to call,” she says eventually, smothering the lie with a mouthful of alcohol. “But I ended up leaving early. My travel plans these days are much more complicated, what with the lack of a competent assistant. But I know you expected…”
“I didn’t expect anything,” Kara lies in return, wishing she’d poured herself a drink of something, maybe over Kryptonite ice cubes to let it work for once. “I mean, sure. You said you wouldn’t kiss me and just leave, and then you left, so I can see where you might think I’d be hurt but-”
“Kara,” Cat sighed the interruption. “You deserved better. I could give you some noble - and no doubt inspiring - speech about how I thought I could save you from the chaos of being with me, but I’ve been up for 48 hours and spent half of that thinking my son had been kidnapped and murdered. So if you don’t mind, I’ll cut the crap: I panicked.”
“Why?” Kara blurts in response. “You don’t panic, Cat. You face down supervillains with nothing more than your Prada clutch and a knowing smile, but being with me makes you panic?”
Cat downs the rest of her drink and drags herself across the small expanse of sofa between them until their thighs are touching, through Cat’s designer denim and the thin cotton of Kara’s dress. It’s a bigger jolt than anything Livewire ever directed at Kara.
“I want nothing more than to kiss you again,” Cat admits. “But we’d be no better off this time around. I still have to go. The foundation is rewarding, maybe the best thing I’ve ever done apart from that runaway in there and his brother. There’s no point in making a fresh start only to drag the past with you in your wake. I know better than that.”
“I’m your past?” Kara thinks that might be the cruelest thing she’s ever heard Cat say. “Wow. And I thought it couldn’t get worse than the time you called me a ‘blonde Lea Michele’.”
Cat smirks at her own wit, just for a moment. Kara really wishes she found that quality less attractive.
“I have to sleep.” Cat looks at Kara like she’s challenging her to make a better offer.
“I thought that was for slackers?”
“I make exceptions now and then.”
“Then go to bed,” Kara sighs. “I’ll hang out here, make sure Carter stays put.”
“Don’t you have to…?”
“Only out of habit,” Kara explains. “Helps you feel more human if you keep human hours. Goodnight, Miss Grant.”
“Kara, I-” Whatever Cat is thinking, she keeps to herself. “Thank you. For taking care of my boy.”
“Any time,” Kara says, hoping Cat knows how much she means that. “I’ll head out in the morning, you two should talk before your flight.”
Cat stands, and makes her way to the other bedroom with sluggish steps. She pauses around the back of the couch, reaching for Kara and grabbing the piece of furniture instead.
It’s absolutely not a big deal, Kara tells herself as she tries to remember which fork to start with. The crab cakes are tormenting her with their crispy perfection, but nobody else seems to be eating anything, which seems especially dumb at an award ceremony that’s also a sit-down dinner.
James is sitting next to her, guilted into being her date for the night since she’s technically on CatCo magazine business. The guy can wear a tuxedo, there’s no debating that, and men and women from tables all around them are not-inconspicuously checking him out. Kara pats his hand where it rests next to an unused Canon, the habit of carrying it everywhere not lost with his promotion.
“Miss Danvers?” Is whispered along with a tap on her shoulder. It figures her category would be early, but she doesn’t know if Stacy from the event crew coming to fetch her is a good sign or not. Kara’s also been asked to make a short speech about millennial women in media, and there’s no indication in the program when that will be. “If you could just follow me?”
Kara places her napkin back on the table, swipes a crab cake with imperceptible super speed, and munches happily as she follows Stacy around the side of the room and into the backstage area.
“Am I up next?” Kara asks.
“Just wait here until you hear your name,” Stacy says with a kind but harassed smile, her red hair reminding Kara of Kelly with an unexpected pang. “Then you’ll know what to do.”
“Sure,” Kara agrees, but it’s lost in the crowd’s lackluster applause for the opening speaker. The evening’s presenter, a Vegas reject in a shiny suit, comes back out to introduce the next event of the evening.
“Now we usually present this later in the evening, but thanks to a very special guest this category has been moved up in our program,” he tells the restless crowd. “The CCMAs don’t often get a guest of this caliber, so to present the award for Most Promising Newcomer in Print, please welcome Cat Grant!”
The room erupts with far more fervor than they’ve shown all night, and from the opposite side of the stage, Cat emerges in a perfectly-tailored black pantsuit and killer red heels. The rubies on the necklace at her throat are the only adornment on the bare skin exposed by her tuxedo lapels.
If Kara had human biology, this would absolutely be the moment that she’d faint.
Cat quiets the crowd with a smirk and a lift of her eyebrow, leaning in a little to make sure the microphone picks her up.
“I’m very honored to be here tonight with the future of journalism,” she begins. “The California College Media Association has produced many fine members of CatCo staff in recent years, and I’m pleased that 2016 will be no exception.”
A pause, another smattering of applause.
“But tonight I get to do something that means a great deal to me,” Cat continues, her tone conspiratorial, as though everyone in the audience is a close personal friend. “It’s rare I get to see someone on the first day of their career and know that they’re something special. It’s even more unusual for me to keep an assistant for five minutes.” Some knowing laughs ring out. “Never mind two years.”
Kara grabs a black curtain for support. She can’t believe this is happening.
“But even the best of us have to let go of those who are destined for bigger and better things. At CatCo Magazine, Kara Danvers has proven herself to have a flair for reporting, and her intimate portrait of alien refugees that won her this award tonight-” Thunderous applause breaks out then, stunning Kara and making Cat smile indulgently at the crowd. “Is one of the finest pieces of journalism that I’ve read this decade, never mind from a new reporter in her first year on the job.”
“So with no small amount of pride, and a huuuuuge ‘I told you so’, I’d like to give you this year’s winner of Most Promising Newcomer in Print... Ms Kara Danvers!”
Stacy nudges Kara in the back and she strides out to meet Cat at the podium in the middle of the stage. The lights are blinding, but Kara never loses sight of Cat’s encouraging smile. Their fingers brush as Cat hands over the glass trinket that is apparently the award itself, and to Kara’s heart-fluttering surprise, Cat pulls her close and kisses her firmly on the cheek. If it lingers a second too long, that does nothing to dissuade the crowd’s reaction. They know this is a big deal because a celebrity showed up, and it’s not like Cat is just around the corner these days.
“You came,” Kara whispers as Cat lets her go. “I didn’t even think I’d win!”
“Make your speech,” Cat instructs, withdrawing to the safety of the wings again with a hand over her heart.
Kara turns to face the room and her mind goes completely blank. She looks out at the sea of faces, realizes she had Cat Grant as her opening act, and basically loses her entire command of the English language. A glance at James gets her nothing but a big thumbs up, and the other strangers in the crowd are starting to fidget in their seats.
Finally, Kara thinks to glance to the side, seeing Cat watch on with a beaming smile. You deserve this Cat mouths to her, and Kara feels her strength and competence return in a heady rush.
“Thank you all for this great honor. I’d like to thank my boss, James Olsen, who makes sure I get these opportunities. And Snapper Carr, who obviously wouldn’t be here tonight if you paid him,” Kara says to the room full of industry insiders who chuckle in recognition. “He might not make it easy, but he does make me a better reporter.”
It isn’t clear if a band will play her off, so Kara continues on as much as she dares.
“My sister Alex makes it possible for me to do any of this, and she’s the best friend anyone could ever have. But I wouldn’t be standing here tonight if not for… for the woman who introduced me. Not just to you, but to journalism, and how to be a professional woman, and how to dress… although I’m still working on that one,” Kara looks down at her red cocktail dress with a guilty stare, but the mix of laughter and applause is kind. “I won’t ruin her reputation, but if every person who told me they were sorry when I said I worked for Cat could understand what that really means… I’ve been really lucky in my life, like right now. But I’ve never been luckier than the day I walked into Cat Grant’s office.”
Kara glances to the side again, but Cat is gone. She panics, and sees the movement just in time. Cat is standing by the fire exit on the far side of the room, ready to make her escape. She catches Kara’s eye and blows her a kiss.
“So uh, thank you,” Kara blurts, rushing from the stage and fighting her way out of the backstage area to run after Cat. By the time she reaches the fire exit it’s closed again, and a blast of x-ray vision shows the town car has already exited the alleyway it must have been waiting in.
Thank you for coming Kara texts, after scrambling to put her award in her purse while also retrieving her phone from it. It was really great to see you.
She expects a reply within minutes, honestly, because Cat Grant would go without her left arm before she’d be without her phone, but nothing happens. Not even the three dots of a message being typed but not sent.
Kara checks for the rest of the night, before and after her speech which is well-received, but no word comes until she’s lying awake on her bed at almost 4am.
I couldn’t stay, is all it says at first, but five minutes later a second message beeps and shatters the silence. Please forgive me.
A year ago, or even a few weeks ago, Kara might have replied in a flurry of messages to reassure Cat that all is well, all is forgiven. Instead she hurls the phone at the wall, knowing she’ll regret it when she picks it out of the hole in the plaster and probably has to replace the whole thing.
She isn’t going to beg. The last daughter of the noble House of El will not reduce herself to pleading with someone to care about her, to take a chance on her. She expected so many things from Cat, but cowardice was never one of them.
Maybe Kara will be just fine without her. It’s not like a bulletproof girl can really get hurt.
Kara opens her eyes.
The howl of pain terrifies her, and she scrambles to get away from it only to discover two things. One, she is restrained in some kind of hospital bed by flimsy straps that should snap at the tiniest flex of her muscles. Two, the howling sound is coming from her.
When the shock of consciousness wears off the pain crests over her like a wave. Kara is never sure whether the pain is so much worse when it finally can hurt her, or if she just has no threshold for it. She tries to rationalize that until Alex comes into view, dark eyes serious. There’s a glint of a needle and she’s saying something Kara can’t hear.
“-okay?” Alex is nodding, reassuring when some sound finally breaks through. Whatever she wants to do is right, Kara trusts that implicitly. In the sea of agony a fresh stab of pain appears on her forearm, and everything fades peacefully to black with only the faintest tinge of green around the edges.
Before long, the dreams are worse than being awake. Kara relives the worst moments of her life in an endless loop and imagines new and horrible ways to lose everyone she loves most.
When she wakes up screaming, she finds her physical pain has retreated to a dull ache. Her mind feels raw and threatening, and she’s scared to close her eyes again.
“That’s quite the set of lungs,” says a familiar voice. “Have you considered opera?”
The restraints give when Kara lunges into a sitting position, but with far more effort than it should take her. No powers yet, then.
“You’re not here,” she accuses.
Cat gets up from the high stool she was perching on, the same one Alex uses to write her reports, and it’s terrible for her posture. Her heels click in just the right rhythm; Kara would know those terse, skittish steps from the other side of the planet.
“You’re wrong,” Cat takes Kara’s hand carefully as though the brushing of knuckles might detonate a nuclear bomb. “And not for the first time, Kara.”
“If you won’t come back when you’re supposed to, when you’re invited,” Kara argues. “Then you’re not here when I’m laid out sick in a top secret government facility. Now, be a good hallucination and get my imagined sister to come and pretend to knock me out. Maybe that will wake me up.”
“This is Black Mercy levels of cruel,” Kara wails into her hands, slumping forward. “When is this going to stop? I’m not strong enough for another game of ‘look at the life you could have had.’ It’s messed up.”
“I’m here,” Cat grips Kara’s shoulder, and she can feel it. She can smell the undertone of sandalwood in Cat’s favorite hand-blended shampoo. The heartbeat that used to be the soundtrack of Kara’s workday thunders on in Cat’s chest, and Kara feels her resolve begin to slip. Would it really be so bad to give in and believe for a second? There’s no one in her dream to witness the foolishness of it all.
“No.” Kara lays her hand over Cat’s and opens her eyes again. “You can’t be.”
“I came because I saw what they did to you,” Cat’s face arranges itself in a perfect scowl. “It took three days of stalking your sister and signing more non-disclosures than the staff on The Apprentice to get in here, but Kara I am absolutely here. For you.”
“Really?” Kara keeps her eyes squeezed shut. She trusts that sense least of all. “Because if you came back now that would… oh.” She has no energy left to be stoic, instead she lets months of exhaustion and frustration and feeling like not enough spill out in scalding tears. Cat is here, and she’s real and she came back. Just when even Kara had almost given up hope.
“I’m here,” Cat soothes, reaching for the box of tissues on a metal cart next to the bed and methodically dabbing at Kara’s tears until they slow. Each touch makes Kara want to float up and off the bed, but as quickly as relief washed over her, so comes the wave of anger.
“Until morning?” She bites back. “Where do you have to run off to this time, Cat? I haven’t heard from you in weeks, not since the awards dinner. If your foundation didn’t have an active Twitter account, you could have been dead as far as I was concerned.”
“Don’t say that!” Cat snaps. “Not when I watched your cousin carry…” It dissolves into a sob of her own. Not the controlled, faintly tearful emotions of their previous moments, but an ugly, painful sound that makes Kara pull Cat closer on sheer instinct.
“Hey,” she soothes. “I’m not that mad at you.”
“They said you were dead.” Cat hits her fist against Kara’s arm as a dull form of emphasis. “And it really looked like you were this time.”
“I still don’t remember,” Kara confesses.
“Giant green lasers shooting you out of the sky,” Cat grumbles, crawling up onto the bed as Kara wriggles to make room for her. It shouldn’t be possible in a skirt that fitted, but Cat kicks off her heels and manages anyway. She kneels then, cheeks wet with tears, and holds Kara’s face in both hands. All too aware that her hair is greasy and she smells like antiseptic, Kara tries to shy away from Cat’s scrutiny, but it’s too intoxicating to be seen by her. “Don’t do that again.”
“I really wasn’t trying…”
Cat kisses her, the gentlest press of her lips against Kara’s chapped ones. It provokes another sob, but this one is Kara’s and it comes from somewhere very deep inside her.
“I ran,” Cat confesses, leaning back on her heels and folding her hands in her lap. “I told myself it would be selfish to pull you from this new path when I just opened it up for you.”
“That’s crap,” Kara sniffles, mourning the loss of contact and taking Cat’s hand in her own. It settles the last nagging doubts: warm, soft, pulse beating beneath the skin. This is no cruel dream. “What’s really been going on with you? I knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as one kiss and it all falls into place, but Cat...”
“You got me all fired up!” Cat’s voice is ragged. “There you were with your potential, and your dream, and your goddamned enthusiasm! I felt about a hundred years old, and so trapped in all my accomplishments that I just… I had to do something. I’m not the person who gets lazy and complacent, that is not Cat Grant. I thought a new challenge would suffocate this anxious feeling that I should be doing more. Instead it’s just making me miserable.”
“Then why not come home?”
“Because the only thing less likely than me quitting something, is me admitting I made a mistake!”
Kara can’t help it, she laughs. She still feels fragile, bruised around the edges, and wary of the shadows, but Cat’s daily dose of drama has been sorely missing from Kara’s life.
“You could have told me,” Kara says as she gets her giggles back under control at Cat’s exasperated glare. “And you had all the stuff with Carter, I was leaving room for you to get that under control, couldn’t you see that?”
“It brought into sharp relief why a superhero with the journalism world at her feet did not need a single mother in her 50s to drag her off course,” Cat points out, running her thumb over Kara’s knuckles. “Oh, I know I’m still quite the catch. I don’t doubt that for a long time I could have had you just by snapping my fingers.” She hesitates for just a second, a challenge in the tilt of her jaw, a glimpse of ego seeking confirmation.
“You still could,” Kara reminds her. Cat preens for a second, but then something in her shifts, that faintly predatory glint to her eyes that makes them seem more green than brown, that makes Kara shift away just a little. It’s one thing to be bold, to tell Cat that she wants her. It’s quite another to see that reflected back at her. Kara has stamina and strength to outstrip any human but that fierceness in Cat still gives Kara pause about whether she could keep up.
“There’s a responsibility that comes with knowing that,” Cat continues, her smile a little tired now. She’s used to being wanted, to being pursued. But Kara realizes now that Cat is also used to being left; it’s one of the things they have most in common. “To think about what comes next. When you have what you wanted, where does that leave us? What am I to you then?”
“Cat,” Kara points out. “I lasted ten times longer than anyone else who’s ever worked in close proximity with you. I was two weeks off outlasting both of your marriages when you promoted me. Sticking around is not my problem. I don’t do well with change, remember?”
“This is a huge change,” Cat argues. “And although the foundation is doing great work, I’m not sure I’m done changing on that front, either. Not to mention that the way you care for me… the enthusiasm, the patience, the kindness… Kara, that terrifies me.”
“I’m going to do it anyway,” Kara answers with a shrug. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to at least enjoy the non-terrifying side of it while I do?”
“I hate when you use logic on me,” Cat groans, but a smile is playing at her lips. “You’re not even going to mock me a little?”
“For what?” Kara’s brow furrows as she loses Cat’s thread.
“The role reversal,” Cat clarifies. “You, the millennial, should be angsting over which path to take and where you belong in the world. A woman my age, a CEO no less, should be the one who knows exactly what she wants. It’s all backwards.”
“There are times I’m still not sure about reporting,” Kara confesses. “I’m learning a lot, I’m pushing myself… but sometimes I think it’s more about trying to be close to you, trying to tread the same path. Clark, too. It seems everyone I can’t have in my life is tied up in the Fourth Estate somehow.”
“Clark?” Cat looks puzzled again, for the first time in months. “Wait… Kara, no.”
“He’s… my cousin. Not just Jimmy’s friend.”
“But you’re… and that means… oh, no way! No way did Lois bag herself Superman. Kara!”
“I’m sorry!” Kara holds her hands up in surrender.
“But you’re wrong about one thing,” Cat gets her outrage back under control with a deep, shaky breath. “You can have me in your life.”
“I don’t know yet,” Cat confesses. “I won’t leave a job unfinished. But I can accept I need to line up a better challenge for after it, sooner than I expected. Which means I should be available for this,” she leans in to kiss Kara again, lingering with a contented sigh. “And anything else you had in mind.”
“Kara?” Alex speaks from the doorway. “Is there a reason your former boss is making out with you? Or did I just give myself some of the good stuff without realizing?”
“Alex!” She calls to her sister. “We have some catching up to do. I’m sorry, I-”
“I knew something was up,” Alex comes across to fuss with Kara’s IV like Cat isn’t kneeling on her bed. “And I’m not an idiot, Kara. I noticed the timing. I just figured you’d talk about it when you were ready.”
“I will,” Kara promises, smiling at Cat who seems completely unfazed by Alex’s presence or her judgement. “Is this anything that can wait, Alex?”
“No, I’ll go,” Cat insists. Kara’s heart sinks faster than Trump’s approval ratings. “But Kara?” She reaches out, tucks a strand of hair behind Kara’s ear. “I’ll be back.”
“I’ll call her when you’re ready to go,” Alex interrupts. “I can’t leave the DEO for at least a few days with all the damage, and someone has to get you through waiting for your powers to return. Rather her than me, honestly.”
“You’re really okay with this?” Kara asks her sister. “I can’t believe you let Cat Grant into the DEO. Even the fancy city base.”
“Oh we had to put Hank in a sensory deprivation tank to calm him down,” Alex jokes. “But she did everything we asked, just to check on your recently-zapped self. I suppose I can respect that.”
“Not to interrupt the Divine Sisterhood of the Traveling Danvers, but I really do have to go,” Cat announces after scrambling off the bed and stuffing her feet back into the discarded heels. “Alex, you’ll call as soon as she’s ready?”
“Look at you two all…” Kara feels a wave of nausea rise up unexpectedly. The rush of having Cat back is wearing off in the face of what her body has been through. “Um?” She gestures to Alex, who ushers Cat towards the door while grabbing a basin for Kara.
“I’ll call tomorrow,” Alex promises, and Kara waves pathetically, unable to speak in case she throws up in front of Cat. She has no idea how humans deal with this weakness on a regular basis.
When Kara looks up again, Cat is still lingering in the doorway, her lips are pursed but her eyes are fond as she watches Kara try not to heave. Kara stares at the metal basin for a long moment, and when she looks up again, Cat is gone.
Three long days pass, and only on the third does Kara get a replacement phone that reconnects her recovering mind and body with the outside world. She’s slept a lot, more than any other time since she’s been on Earth, and under Alex’s warm yellow lights the recovery is less painful that it might be.
Her powers are still blown, so when Kara pulls on the clothes that Alex retrieved for her - ripped jeans and a worn gray sweater - she’s grateful for the softness of the fabrics against her skin. She does the best she can with braiding her hair into submission, settling for two loose pigtails that handle the most unruly of her curls. Asking Alex for makeup was clearly a mistake, but between her and Lucy they scrounge up enough from their lockers that Kara can cover the worst of her paleness. She looks almost like herself by the time she strides out of the DEO’s anonymous corporate lobby towards the waiting town car.
“You’re here,” Kara can’t help but sigh after the door is opened and she slips into the backseat next to a frantically texting Cat. “Good job on coming back when you said you would.”
“Being normal makes you punchy,” Cat snarks right back, but then she’s shoving her phone into her purse and the soft smile she treats Kara to is breathtaking. “Hello,” Cat adds, apropos of nothing. She leans in to kiss Kara on the cheek.
“Hi,” Kara replies, blushing like she’s on a first date. Maybe she is. “Did you get everything up and running back at the house?”
“We’re staying at yours,” Cat replies. “You’ll feel better amongst your own things.”
“Does that mean you’re leaving really soon?” Kara asks, and she’s still too tired to keep the crackle of hurt out of her words. “Like, after you drop me at my apartment soon?”
“No,” Cat replies, narrowing her eyes as she decides how pissed to be about the accusation. “It means I’m trying to do what’s best for you. My house is ready any time I need it, and I have no immediate plans to flee the state of California. My parole officer is thrilled.”
“You know you joke about that,” Kara reminds her. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d gone and gotten yourself a criminal record without me to keep you in check.”
“For some noble crusade?” Cat retorts. “Defending the First Amendment, going down in a blaze of glory to protect my source from the overreaching Feds?”
“Honestly?” Kara drinks in the sheer Cat Grant of it all and gets giddy. “I’d be more concerned about your temper. You know that the Legal department had a bail account just in case, right? They topped it up every time your massage therapist canceled on you.”
“Oh, they did not.” A hint of a pout plays at Cat’s lips. “I could be a hero too, if I wanted. You don’t have the monopoly on that.”
“You already are,” Kara assures her, reaching across to take Cat’s hand and place it on Kara’s thigh. “I’m really glad you’re here.”
Cat’s response is to press the button for the privacy screen. Kara could swear the driver shoots her a wink before disappearing from view.
“Not as glad as I am,” Cat insists, and then she’s the rest of the way across the space between them and pressing Kara back against the leather seat. The kiss isn’t gentle this time, but Cat hesitates after a moment to make sure Kara’s injuries have no complaints. Kara answers the unspoken concern by grabbing at the lapels of Cat’s navy blazer. She looks every bit as attractive as she did at the office every day, and Kara isn’t sure she can survive actually being touched by Cat when she’s dressed to kill.
Kara’s apartment is mercifully close to the DEO, which she still hasn’t grumbled about enough. Ten city blocks is way easier than being out in the desert. Cat ends their kissing somewhere around Kara’s clavicle, swirling her tongue and then pulling back with a huff of frustration.
“I suppose I can wait to get you inside,” she announces before the door opens, stepping right out unruffled but with a wicked grin. Kara feels her thighs clench in pure anticipation. “Come along,” Cat ducks her head back through the door to rush Kara along, motioning for Kara to grab Cat’s purse in the process.
“No walking away this time?” Kara asks, using the ancient elevator in her building for the very first time. Five floors of stairs seems like a waste of energy she desperately needs to conserve. “I mean, after this. You won’t just disappear on me again?”
“I do have a job to get back to eventually,” Cat acknowledges. “But Kara,” she continues, stepping in and pressing Kara up against the iron bars of the elevator cage. “I’m not in any hurry.”
She kisses Kara’s neck, and Kara thinks maybe it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the elevator stopped right there. Instead she stumbles out on her floor, dragging Cat in her wake and trying not to sing from the sheer exhilaration.
They hesitate at the door, Kara fumbling for her keys.
“Welcome back?” Kara tries as she finally gets the door open. “National City is really thrilled to have you.”
“Not as thrilled as you’re about to be,” Cat promises. “Really, Kara. Chop, chop.”
“You came back,” Cat murmurs against Kara’s ear, slipping her arms around Kara’s waist from behind.
“Well, one of us should be good at it,” Kara teases. “I just wanted to check everything was okay before the doors open for the first time.”
“And is it?” Cat is on edge, pulling away from Kara and snapping into business mode in an instant. “I know the scale of this project is small, but that only magnifies anything that goes wrong. If this is going to work-”
“It will work,” Kara reassures, swiping a canapé from one of the waiting trays. “And ten minutes from now the bus from the INS center will be here. You’ll officially be open for business. Or at least your staff will.”
Cat swipes a savory snack of her own, winking at Kara’s surprised expression. The confidence is returning, and Cat is ready to be queen again.
“I made the right call on no press,” Cat says, trying to convince herself. “These people have been through so much already, they deserve some peace and privacy. This might be the first career move I’ve made in 20 years that hasn’t required a press conference,” she muses. “I can’t say I miss those.”
“Don’t lie,” Kara checks her phone for last-minute crises. “And besides, I’m still here to represent the press.”
“I don’t see Snapper running an exclusive on a new residential village for refugees, do you?” Cat teases. “Sorry, Ms Danvers. Your days of using me for access to the hot scoop are well and truly over.”
“Well, maybe I should just head back to National City then,” Kara pretends to be offended. “Leave you all alone with your fundraising.”
“Well, it’s a short flight for you,” Cat points out, circling around the reception room before settling again at Kara’s side. Waiting has never been Cat’s strong suit, and she taps her foot with impatience. “But I suppose it is nice to be back on the same coast. All the better to keep an eye on my empire. And my girlfriend.”
“I thought you hated that word?” Kara doesn’t hide her amazement; she doesn’t have to hide much of anything around Cat these days. “You didn’t even scrunch your nose that time!”
“It’s a brave new world,” Cat groans, tracing a finger over the belt of Kara’s peach-colored dress. “Did I tell you that Random House upped their offer?”
“I thought you didn’t want to write your memoirs?” Kara is confused. They’d discussed this at length in Cat’s bed just last week.
“Different project,” Cat informs her. “More of a guide to conquering the business world as a woman. It’s a little… something, but I think I might be able to reach people. And frankly, I’m tired of Sheryl getting all the credit. Lean in, my ass.”
“Someone obviously told them to appeal to your competitive streak,” Kara risks pointing out that Cat might have been played, just a little. “I hope the offer was just as lucrative as you expected.”
“It will keep this place running for a while,” Cat confirms with a sly grin. “And two or three others just like it. There’s a Trump hotel going cheap that I could repurpose as well, if I want.”
“You’re mean,” Kara reminds her. “Although if any loser deserves to have his property turned into a space to help new immigrants to this country… I’m really proud of you, Cat.”
Cat basks in the glow for a moment, never shy about accepting a compliment.
“Well, you’ve made me very proud too.” Cat looks around, then glances towards her new office to run the charity from in back. “You don’t suppose we have time for-”
“Bus is coming up the hill,” Kara interrupts with no small amount of regret. “But I can fly you back to the city in a couple of hours, we’ll make a night of it?”
“I like the sound of that,” Cat confesses, pulling Kara close for a searing kiss that promises so much more. “I’m glad I came back, you know.”
“Well, as long as you keep doing it,” Kara says into their next kiss. She listens to the rumble of the approaching bus, and smiles.