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The Strength in Her Arms

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She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible.
She walked with the universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.

—Ariana Dancu

“What are you over there smirking about, Sawyer?”

Detective Maggie Sawyer turned away from the vista passing outside her window, a languid smile deepening her dimples. She watched as her girlfriend shifted her gaze quickly between the road and her, and responded, “Just feeling silly again.”

“About what?”

“Being so jealous of Supergirl.”

Alex laughed brightly, reaching over and taking Maggie’s hand in her own. “I don’t know. I think it’s sweet. Usually, I’m the one tasked with putting Kryptonians in their place. It’s kind of nice to have someone else do it for me.” She squeezed gently before letting their hands settle on the armrest between their seats. “Plus, it’s going to make a great story to tell our mom. She’s going to think it’s a riot.”

Maggie rolled her eyes at Alex’s teasing. “Hey, I think it was a legitimate concern. I mean, who wouldn’t be jealous of the Girl of Steel always hanging around and hugging on their hot girlfriend?”

The detective watched as Alex crinkled her nose. “Y-you think I’m hot?”

“Do you even own a mirror, Danvers?” She smiled at the blush that crept through Alex’s cheeks. It still amazed her that this woman who took down violent aliens on a regular basis could become so flustered by something as simple as an honest observation. “I’m just glad I didn’t have to actually take her down. I suspect it wouldn’t have done much at all for her reputation at the DEO.”

Alex’s laughter reverberated through the cab of the SUV at the thought. “From what I saw, it looked like you pretty much did take her down without even having to touch her. Now that’s damn impressive.”

Maggie’s cheeks flushed a shade darker at the teasing, adding even more to the allure of her dimples. Truth be told, she was more than embarrassed by her assumptions about the Girl of Steel. It had been far too long since she’d found herself on the giving end of the green-eyed glare, and to choose the Hero of National City as its recipient?

Shooting an askance look toward Alex, she realized yet again how deeply she was falling for the brunette. How else could she explain something as impulsive as trying to intimidate Supergirl? She snorted softly in chagrined amusement, tangling her fingers with Alex’s as the other woman shot her soft, playful smiles.

Of course she had noticed right from her first interactions with Alex Danvers that the agent almost constantly had a very prominent shadow—a blonde, caped shadow, to be precise. In fact, she was certain they hadn’t worked a case together yet that didn’t somehow involve National City’s most high-profile alien resident. Since Supergirl had succeeded in protecting both Alex and her on several occasions, the detective couldn’t actually begrudge her presence.

And yet.

Something about the Kryptonian had constantly set her on edge. It was the way she looked at Alex—as though the DEO agent were the single most important person in the entire universe. It was a feeling Maggie realized she was beginning to share with the hero. It was also a feeling Maggie didn’t particularly enjoy sharing—a feeling about a person she most certainly did not want to share either.

If pressed about the day in question, the detective would blame the adrenaline still coursing through her for her decision to finally call out Supergirl. She and several NCPD officers had gotten into a rapidly escalating face-off with one of the nastier of Fort Rozz’s still at-large prisoners. As Maggie watched metal disintegrate under the stream of acid the alien had just vomited across the hood of a nearby cruiser, she realized that even NCPD’s finest were severely outmatched and sorely out of luck.

Still, she knew they had to do whatever they could to keep him from turning on any of the civilians still scurrying toward whatever shelter they could find. Touching unconsciously the edge of the bulletproof vest she wore and knowing it would do nothing to protect her from what was now sizzling its way through the nearby cruiser’s engine, the detective gave hand signals to the officers with her, to spread out and try to surround the alien. If they could cut him off and distract him just long enough…

It was then she heard two things that alerted her the odds were about to be once more in her favor: the steady slicing thrum of an approaching DEO chopper and the roar of wind she now knew signaled one of Supergirl’s speedier approaches. Before her brain had even finished processing this information, she and her colleagues watched as a blur of blue and red smashed into the prisoner, lifting him completely off the ground with shocking ease.

For as menacing and dangerous as this particular alien had seemed to Maggie and the other officers, Supergirl made quick work of incapacitating him, dropping him at the feet of several DEO agents, including Alex. At the whiff of unwashed unconscious alien rising up to assault her senses, the brunette grimaced. “I am not riding in the chopper all the way to Desert Containment with that smell.” Without pausing, she turned to Maggie and queried, “Would you mind dropping me off at the DEO on your way back to the precinct?”

Maggie nodded quickly, but her words fell away when she caught sight of the strange way Supergirl was watching her. Even though the Kryptonian stood several yards away, she smiled as though she could hear the interaction between her and Alex—which, given her powers, she probably could. Noticing the way the detective was now watching her, the hero waved in her direction and called out, “See you both back at HQ!” With a blinding smile and a whoosh of air that tousled Maggie’s hair, the oddly happy hero was up and away.

At the DEO, they found Supergirl telling Winn about subduing what Maggie now knew was a Dorlian who had been sentenced to Fort Rozz for raiding a Kryptonian merchant ship and killing all the crew. However, her attention quickly shifted the moment she saw their approach. “Hey! Maggie, do you mind if I steal Alex for a moment?”

The detective shrugged as nonchalantly as she could, although it hardly mattered. The hero had already latched onto Alex’s arm, looking as though she were close to lifting the agent completely off the ground with her enthusiasm. “Slow down, Supergirl,” she laughed, barely having the time to wave to Maggie before being pulled upstairs to the closest conference room.

Curiosity overcoming her need for subtlety, Maggie wandered up the stairs toward where the hero and Alex had gone, pausing when she was high enough to see into the conference room. Alex was leaning close to the Kryptonian, hand resting against her shoulder as she read something Supergirl was holding for her. If at all possible, the hero’s smile was brighter than Maggie had ever seen it as Alex laughed and pulled her into a hug that caused a muscle in Maggie’s jaw to twitch annoyingly.

Watching Alex pat Supergirl’s forearm before heading out the opposite side of the conference room, Maggie rose to her full height and quickly hurried in before the hero decided to leave as well. Even with as little noise as she knew she had made entering the room, she was startled by how quickly Supergirl turned to acknowledge her. “Maggie!” Her smile was achingly genuine, which almost made the detective reconsider her reason for approaching the alien. “Great work out there earlier. We really appreciate your help.”

We. The detective bristled, knowing it was not the entire DEO being included in that possessive plural. “Sure thing. Like I said, you guys are fun.” Her lips quirked downward slightly. “How long have you known Agent Danvers?”

Something shifted across Supergirl’s features—a flash of uncertainty that knocked the detective’s concern levels up several notches. “We’ve, um, we’ve known each other for a while.” She nervously rolled up the magazine in her hand. Maggie noted it was the latest CatCo issue.

“More good press for Supergirl?”

“What?” The hero looked down at the magazine, which she dropped to the table to keep from twisting it into shreds. Her smile was shy and strangely pleased. “I suppose.”

“Must have been something really good to want to share it with Alex,” she prompted. There it was again, the hero’s uncertainty about how to respond to mention of the agent. “You share a lot with Alex.” She smiled but she could tell from the blonde’s wary expression it was as unconvincing as it felt.

“Sh-she’s really easy to share things with.”

The detective moved closer, leaned her hip against the edge of the conference table. “She’s pretty hot, too.”

She watched in silence as the hero’s eyes widened, her mouth moving but failing to form any words for several beats. “I’m just wondering,” Maggie continued, “how long you’ve had a crush on her.”

What finally made its way out of the hero’s mouth was a surprising, unmistakable “Ew.”

“Ew?” Maggie watched shades of worry and panic pass across the hero’s face as she held one hand over her mouth. Maggie, however, saw only one thing. “Guess it’s the same across the galaxy with women like you.”

“Wha-w-women like me? Wh-what do you mean?”

The detective stepped dangerously closer, drew herself up to full height, and crossed her arms against her chest. It was the cold stare she leveled on Supergirl that made the hero honestly shrink back slightly. At that moment, Maggie Sawyer was five feet three and a half inches of pure intimidation. “Straight women who like to flirt with lesbians because you think we’re ‘safe.’ But you freak out when someone thinks you might be gay.” She aimed an index finger toward the Kryptonian. “I don’t give a damn who you are, Alex is not your safe zone and you’re going to stop flirting with her now.”

“N-no! You’ve got it all wrong! Th-that’s not—oh, that’s seriously not what this is, Maggie.” The Kryptonian began shifting nervously, and even for all her fury in the moment, Maggie couldn’t help but be unnerved by how totally flustered Supergirl was becoming. “Alex is going to kill me.”

“Hey.” Both women turned at the sound of Alex returning, box of donuts gripped in her hands. Concern furrowed her brow when she saw Maggie’s defensive posture and the way Kara was practically cowering away from the detective, her face a picture of pure apprehension. “What’s going on in here? Mags?” She drew closer and slid the box onto the conference table, stepping to Supergirl’s side and watching the detective warily. “Is everything okay?”

“Maggie thinks I’ve been flirting with you.”

Before the detective could even counter the hero’s barely audible explanation, Maggie was brought up short by the sound of Alex exclaiming “Ew” in almost the same cadence  the Kryptonian had used earlier, while wrinkling her nose disdainfully—the same expression Maggie realized Supergirl was making yet again.

She threw up her hands in confusion, the frown line between her eyebrows nearly as pronounced as her dimples. “Okay, what the hell is going on? Because I’ve been watching the two of you together for a while now, and I can assure you that you do not come across as just coworkers or even just friends. So, what? What the hell is it?”

She watched as Alex and Supergirl locked gazes. A soft blush crept up the alien’s neck and into her cheeks, but her eyes shimmered with what Maggie thought looked like the most agreeable combination of fear and excitement she’d ever seen. “Alex—”

However, the brunette held up one hand in warning, her head already shaking. “No.”

“Alex,” the Kryptonian began again, this time even more tenderly. She reached for the DEO agent, placing her hands on her biceps. “You know I trust whomever you trust.” She looked into Alex’s face, and Maggie was struck once more by the depth of emotion that shone openly on Supergirl’s face whenever she looked at Alex. “I trust Maggie, Alex. Besides,” she laughed, leaning in so she could whisper in Alex’s ear without Maggie hearing, “it’ll make things easier when you bring her with you for Christmas.”

She pulled back and winked playfully at Alex, who at first only rolled her eyes in response. However, Maggie could see the tension that had been holding Alex rigidly in place slip away. The brunette pulled Supergirl into a full-contact hug that looked like it would have knocked the breath out of a human. Supergirl, however, merely laughed as she returned the hug, her whole expression alight with joy.

When Alex finally released her hold and turned once more toward Maggie, the detective was surprised to see tears shimmering in her eyes. Alex cleared her throat quickly, one arm still wrapped around Supergirl’s waist, holding onto her so tightly that they looked like perfectly fitted puzzle pieces. “Maggie, I’d like you to meet my sister—again.”

The detective squinted slightly as she studied Alex and Supergirl—Alex and Kara—the words she’d just heard bouncing around her brain unprocessed for several seconds. Realization and a healthy dose of embarrassment finally cleared the detective’s thoughts. As she studied the Kryptonian’s face for the first time without the previous filter of jealousy distorting her observation, she couldn’t believe she hadn’t made the correlation herself.

With a shake of her head and a smile that deepened her dimples to perilous proportions, she sighed, “Well. Fuck me.”

Maggie pressed her lips together to stifle the smile that still managed to curve her lips upward at the memory of the stunned look on Kara’s face and her awkward stammering the moment she heard the detective’s response. “Poor Kara,” she laughed. She turned to meet Alex’s puzzled expression at the detective’s comment. “I was just thinking about how flustered she got by my response to learning who she was.”

Alex chuckled. “You do know you traumatized her with that remark. Kara does not get figurative language very well.”

“Yeah, but I made it up to her with your new nicknames.” They both laughed at how delighted Kara had been when, over lunch later that same day, Maggie teasingly declared that Alex and Kara Danvers were like their own superhero duo: Dangerous and Dynamic D.

As Maggie watched Kara nudge against Alex’s shoulder and the brunette roll her eyes playfully at the blonde’s glee, the detective couldn’t believe how she had been so blinded by jealousy she had completely missed the truth of whom she was watching with the brunette. She definitely had it bad for Alex Danvers.

When Alex had gone to buy more fries for Kara—because “do you even know how many calories body-slamming that Dorlian unconscious burned?”—the hero leaned closer to Maggie, such relief and happiness in her gaze, the detective almost didn’t feel worthy after her earlier treatment of the blonde.

“Thank you.”

Maggie frowned in confusion. “For what? Showing you what a territorial ass I can be and making empty threats against the Girl of Steel?”

Blonde ponytail swayed as Kara shook her head, her lips lifting in a lopsided grin. “No, for caring about my sister so much that you’d go toe-to-toe with Supergirl in her honor.” At the sight of the detective’s cheeks darkening in embarrassment, Kara understood how Maggie Sawyer could have made Alex finally come to certain realizations about herself. The detective was strong-willed, selfless, and stunning, and exactly the type of person Kara had always imagined her sister deserved.

“I’m so happy you know who I am,” she sighed. She glanced over at Alex, her smile growing soft and wistful. When she turned back to Maggie, the detective was struck once more by the total adoration that lit the hero’s eyes. “You’re the first person Alex has ever told about me.” She fell silent when she realized Alex was returning, satisfied Maggie would understand the implication of her statement.

“What are you telling Maggie,” the brunette queried cautiously as she slid the largest order of fries Noonan’s offered in front of Kara. She huffed in mock disapproval at the way the hero ignored her question, instead squealing in delight before shoving a handful of ridiculously hot fries in her mouth.

Alex grinned at the memory of the gleam in the detective’s eyes and the soft smile that lifted the corners of her mouth that day. Whatever she and Kara had been discussing, Alex had felt a sense of warmth overwhelm her at the sight of them getting along so well, so quickly that they were already apparently sharing confidences about her with each other—even if she was slightly unnerved by the prospect.

It had hit her in that moment how she had been keeping these two very important parts of her life separate so far—so nervous to protect Kara’s secret that she had been dishonoring her sister by shutting her out of this new, frightening, wonderful part of her life. Maggie now knowing was an immeasurable relief.

As Alex steered the SUV off the highway toward the exit for Midvale, she tightened her hold on Maggie’s hand and raised it to her lips to gently kiss her knuckles. Maggie’s laugh was melodious. “What was that for?”

“Just because,” she replied.

Leaning back into her seat with a smile and a sleepy sigh, Maggie tilted her head to look at Alex. “So, give me more prep for today. You know I don’t like going into situations blind.”

Alex rolled her eyes but her expression softened at Maggie’s playful grin. “It’s not a raid, Sawyer. It’s Christmas with my mom and Kara.”

“And Cat Grant.” The detective shifted in a rare show of nerves. “I’m still not fully through processing the fact that your sister is Supergirl—now I have to process the idea of Supergirl together with the Queen of All Media?” She snorted in laughter. “Too damn much.”

“Yeah, I guess it is pretty crazy when you think about it.”

“I’m just wondering what’s in the Midvale water.” She caught Alex’s curious squint. “You and Kara both hopping on board the Sapphic Express at almost the exact same time?” She reveled in the sound of Alex’s surprised laughter at her comment before she turned slightly more serious. “You don’t think Kara is—well, considering certain things regarding Cat because of you and me, do you?”

Alex gave a small shrug and chewed briefly at her bottom lip, considering how much she wanted to divulge in this conversation. Maggie watched in silence, understanding the conflict she saw in Alex’s eyes. The brunette was still learning to allow her in, to let down all the barricades she had constructed around herself and those she protected—and there was no one in the universe Alex protected more fiercely than Kara.

Finally, Alex replied, “When Kara arrived here, she was a total blank slate when it came to sexuality and intimate relationships.” A sad smirk tugged at her lips. “Things were very different in Kryptonian society. I guess you could say they didn’t have the same prejudices we have here regarding sexuality, but that was more because that wasn’t considered—important.”

Even peripherally, she could see the frown that creased Maggie’s forehead. “It wasn’t about love on Krypton. They believed in arranged partnerships designed to strengthen house standings and produce genetically advanced offspring. Kara was one year away from her own partner assignment when Krypton died.”

“Oh, wow,” Maggie sighed. “That sounds so—cold.” She felt her heart lurch at the thought of such a fate for someone so full of love as Kara.

“It took a lot of explaining to help Kara understand that she wasn’t going to be assigned to someone on Earth—that she was free to find someone she wanted to be with. I think in many ways, though, she still struggles with the idea of choosing a partner. Not that she hasn’t tried—but she always focused before on making choices that would help her fit in better.”

The brunette had initially thought things were different with Kara’s growing interest in James Olsen, and had been surprised when Kara told her she had broken off anything romantic with the photojournalist. She, of course, questioned whether Kara was simply afraid of moving into unknown territory when it came to a relationship like this, but Kara had quickly disavowed the idea.

“I thought I liked James like that. I really did. I care about him a lot and I know he cares about me just as much—and in this case, more,” she softly confessed. “The times we’ve kissed, I’ve always felt like I was convincing myself I felt a certain way about it rather than actually feeling it. Does that make sense?”

Having gone through more than her fair share of relationships that involved interactions just like what Kara had described, Alex couldn’t do anything but agree with her sister when she concluded that being friends with James would be more respectful than trying to fake being in a relationship with him.

“She’s never had any Earth prejudices about being with a woman. She’s just never—had reason to consider it before, I guess.”

“Well, clearly those days are over if she showed up at your apartment the way you described.”

Alex bit her lip to stifle the laugh at Maggie’s observation. She could still picture the way Kara had arrived at her place the night she had visited D.C.: arms full of carryout from House of Nanking—and lips stained with smudges of what Alex recognized immediately as Cat Grant’s particular shade of lipstick.

With great willpower, the brunette had watched her sister set down the bags of food while chattering excitedly about her evening—how Carter had figured out who she was by her laugh and how Cat had bought her clothes just to sneak her around the city and how they went ice skating and ate donuts still so fresh and hot the icing had yet to harden. Alex smiled quietly through it all and then as calmly and casually as possible suggested she go ahead and change into something more comfortable and wash up for dinner.

She glanced down at her watch while listening to Kara move around through the back rooms of her apartment. It took a total of 12 seconds before Alex heard Kara’s gasp and the telltale sound of water running. It took another 125 seconds before she finally made her super speedy way back to the living room, gaze downcast and wearing the most sheepish expression Alex had ever seen. She sank down on one end of the sofa, food forgotten, and immediately clutched one of Alex’s throw pillows securely against her chest.

The older Danvers sister flopped down beside her, resting her head against the fist she propped up against the back of the couch. “So…want to tell me more about D.C.?”

Crimson flushed all the way up Kara’s neck and face. “I can’t believe I went into a restaurant like that—in my suit!” She leaned her forehead down on the pillow. “There were kids there.”

Alex chuckled softly. “Kara, it’s not like Supergirl flashed anyone! You just—”

“Had another woman’s lipstick smudged all over my lips.” Her voice, already soft with embarrassment, barely made it past the pillow she held in front of her.

“And cheek,” Alex offered. That finally earned eye contact, even if it was a glare shot over the edge of the pillow. Alex lifted her hands in mock surrender. “Hey, I’m just stating facts here.”

“Not helping, Alex.”

The brunette chuckled, her expression conveying the concern she felt beneath her amusement. “So—talk to me?” She reached out, tucked a blonde curl behind her sister’s ear. “What happened out there tonight, Kara?”

Concern deepened when Alex saw the tears gathering in Kara’s eyes, shifted to curiosity when she realized it wasn’t sadness she saw behind those tears, but instead a tangle of nerves and joy and confusion and, most surprising of all to Alex, desire. In Kara’s gaze was a longing Alex was certain she’d never before seen in her sister’s expression.

Softly, she sighed, “I don’t know. It was just so good to see Cat and Carter again. I’ve missed them both so much.” She stared down at her hands, still gripping the throw pillow with such force Alex thought she might rip it apart. “Everything has felt so empty lately. But spending time with them tonight—everything finally felt right again.”

The brunette flinched slightly at the undertone to her sister’s words. “Kara,” she entreated, waiting until blue eyes finally focused on her. “Why haven’t you said anything to me before about feeling like this?”

Broad shoulders shrugged once, Kara’s gaze again drifting away from her sister’s. “You’ve been so happy focusing on Maggie. I didn’t want to screw that up.”

Alex moved closer and, without hesitation, pulled Kara into a hug. At the feel of Kara’s arms slipping tightly around her waist and the sound of Kara’s breath hitching at the contact, Alex felt her heart clench. “You aren’t ever going to screw anything up with me, Kara. I am always here for you. My relationship with Maggie will never change that, okay?” At the feel of Kara nodding in understanding, she rested her cheek against her sister's head. “I’m so sorry if I did anything to make you feel like you couldn’t come to me.”

The sound of Kara sniffling softly brought the sting of tears to Alex’s eyes. How long had her sister been keeping silent about things out of fear she would somehow interfere with Alex’s relationship with Maggie? And what else had she kept from telling Alex? “You didn’t make me feel that way, honest. I just—I just want you to focus on Maggie. You’ve spent enough time putting your own life on hold because of me. You deserve a break.”

“Hey!” The brunette instantly pushed back against Kara so she could take her sister’s face in her hands and entreat her to meet gazes. “Kara, you’re not some project I need a vacation from. You’re my sister and I love you no matter what, remember?” At the sight of tears finally releasing from Kara’s eyes, Alex gently swept them away with the pads of her thumbs. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily, ie te.”

Kara felt warmth spread through her at the sound of Alex speaking Kryptonese. The brunette had tackled the language on her own just for Kara, learning enough of it to comfort her Kryptonian sister through even the worst of the night terrors that had haunted her for years after her arrival. Hearing Alex speak it now reminded her of those nights, Alex’s arms wrapped as tightly around her as possible as she whispered to Kara in the language of her lost world that it would be all right, that she wasn’t alone, that Alex was there—Alex would always be there.

Settling back into the brunette’s embrace, Kara sighed and whispered, “Ukiemodh khap rrip, ie te.

Alex smiled, remembering the first time she ever heard Kara say those words to her, soft and shy as if afraid of Alex’s rejection. Instead, Alex held her, just as now, and returned the sentiment without hesitation. “I love you, too, my sister.”

She gently brushed blonde curls away from Kara’s face, the realization that she couldn’t remember the last time she had hugged Kara like this upsetting her deeply. She worked her lower lip between her teeth, ruminating once more on her sister’s earlier words. “Kara?” A soft hum let her know she had her attention. “What else—you said everything felt empty. Is that just because of Cat leaving and not feeling like you could spend as much time with me as before because of Maggie?”

She heard Kara sigh, felt the blonde ease back slightly. She leaned against the couch cushions while remaining close enough for Alex’s arm to rest around her shoulders. “Partly.” She shifted nervously while considering her next words. “It also feels like—like—” She spread out her hands in front of her, let them drop empty into her lap. “I just miss everyone,” she finally confessed.

Alex felt her heart clench again in sympathy. Sister night or game night with Winn and James or all the evenings Kara worked late with Cat—these were moments shared with the people whom Kara had grown to trust enough to allow into her small circle of confidantes. And these were all moments and people Alex realized sadly were now either gone from or virtually nonexistent in Kara’s life. In only a few short months, her sister had lost almost the entirety of her support group, including James and Winn, who were now off “playing superhero without me” as Kara had described it during one of her more frustrated moods regarding the Guardian.

“What about Mon-El?”

Alex was startled by the unconscious way Kara jerked back, as though pulling away from even the mention of his name. “What about him?”

“Well, you two were finally getting along, right? And Mom seemed pretty convinced after Thanksgiving that he wants to be your intergalactic Prince Charming.”

Kara grimaced at the mention of Thanksgiving—of Mon-El’s ingratiating behavior with Eliza and his uncomfortable attempt at impressing everyone at the table with words of thankfulness for Kara that in public didn’t match what he said to her in private.

“You’re no saint, Kara Zor-El! You fly around rescuing people like you’re just pure of heart. But that is crap. Because you love that attention. You love people loving you. You are not selfless. And you’re no hero.”

What he said in private diminished her in ways no one had ever done before, made her doubt herself in ways that left her feeling vulnerable to whatever capricious mood she would next encounter when dealing with him.

She shook her head sadly. “Mon-El isn’t—he’s not—he’s no prince,” she finally mumbled.

Worry spread through Alex as she absorbed her sister’s words, heard the whispered hint of what she left unspoken. Something had transpired between her and Mon-El that Alex had missed—something that, if Kara’s suddenly rigid body language was any indication, had shaken her in a way that deeply bothered the brunette.

She catalogued the moment for now, though, deciding to refocus Kara on the situation with Cat. However, she mentally noted she would be paying much more attention to how the Daxamite behaved around her sister.

“Even if he were,” she teased, “why settle for a prince when you can hold out for a queen?”

Alex rejoiced at the groan her joke earned from her sister, who playfully thumped her with the throw pillow. “Alex, that was awful,” she laughed, the tension visibly releasing her posture as she spoke.

The brunette smiled at the sight and sound of Kara’s joy, realizing in the moment how strained her sister’s expression had become in recent months. Once more, she hugged Kara close, wanting desperately to take away all that stress, make up for all the missed moments just like this. When she pulled back, she grinned mischievously. “So, now that we’ve talked about you missing Cat, why don’t we move on to you kissing Cat?”

Color instantly infused Kara’s cheeks and if she concentrated enough, she could still feel the strange electric tingle that Cat’s lips against hers had sent through her skin. “It was pretty amazing,” she sighed. Then, with a giggle Alex found too adorable, she corrected, “It was better than amazing. I’ve never felt so much from a kiss before.”

Expression gentling, Alex replied, “Must’ve been some kind of kiss. I’ve never seen you like this.”

The softest smile curled Kara’s lips. “I’ve never felt like this before, Alex. It’s—it’s a little scary,” she admitted, voice barely above a whisper.

Tucking a blonde curl behind Kara’s ear, Alex laughed, “Yeah, it is pretty scary. But, Kara, it’s a great scary—a totally worth it scary.”

A worried expression suddenly darkened Kara’s features. “So—so are you okay with whatever this is between me and Cat?”

Alex placed one of her hands over Kara’s, running a thumb across her knuckles soothingly. “I actually am, Kara.” She smiled at the shocked expression on the blonde’s face. “You know you two have never exactly shared a normal relationship dynamic, right?”

Their relationship, in fact, had always been one of the more complex Alex had ever witnessed. The boss whom Kara used to bemoan in her early days as the CEO’s assistant sounded volatile and vindictive.

However, with time, Alex began seeing beyond the persona of Cat Grant to the actual person, and whom she saw was exactly whom her sister needed: an unapologetic, unstoppable force pushing Kara out of her comfort zone and into situations that challenged her, taught her, and ultimately strengthened her. Cat’s methods were exacting, and Alex could see how the CEO was changing her sister in positive ways.

Kara grew resilient under Cat’s assertive supervision—bolder and more confident. Even when Kara came out as Supergirl, the CEO positioned herself as the newly minted hero’s adviser, guiding her in sometimes severe ways toward becoming more focused and ultimately more powerful and inspiring as the Hero of National City.

“Cat has always cared about you, Kara. She wouldn't push you so hard if she didn't. She’s always clearly wanted to help you be the best version of yourself you could be—whether as Kara Danvers or Supergirl.” Alex noted how, at the mention of Kara’s alter ego, her sister’s gaze shifted downward to stare at her suddenly fidgeting hands. She already understood the worry that creased her brow. “But you know that whatever is happening between you right now is about Kara Danvers, right?”

The hero’s gaze instantly snapped upward, startled by how perceptive her sister could be. Alex tightened her hold on Kara’s hand. “It wasn’t Supergirl she took out tonight with her son. It was Kara Danvers.” She smiled teasingly. “And I’m willing to bet it was Kara Danvers she kissed tonight, too.”

The shy way Kara bit her bottom lip, failing dramatically to hide her smile, made Alex ache with joy for her sister. “Supergirl got to get in on the action, too.” She tilted her head just enough to barely meet Alex’s curious stare. “I might have flown Cat up to see the city lights and maybe put some Super moves on her while we were there.”

Alex leaned back, a look of utter respect brightening her features. “Wow,” she breathed. “When the hell did my little sister get such game?”

The blonde laughed, her eyes growing slightly unfocused at the memory of her hands tracing along Cat’s body, her lips against Cat’s neck. “Must be who I was with. She’s a muse to the world, you know.”

“I think her focus is a little more local in this instance.” She caught the flicker of apprehension in her sister’s gaze. “Of course, her being out there and you being here does complicate things….”

She let her voice trail off to give Kara a chance to respond. The blonde nodded finally and replied, “She told me she’s coming back to National City in five days.”

“Really? For good?”

“I-I don’t know.” Concern creased Kara’s brow. “She said she was coming back for a meeting and I would be there. She even asked me to promise I would stay after the meeting to ‘let her explain.’ I can’t even imagine why she would need me there let alone need to explain anything to me.”

“You don’t think she’s selling CatCo, do you?”

Kara’s sharp intake of breath let Alex know she had, indeed, not considered this a possibility. “CatCo is her life! She sacrificed so much to build it. She wouldn’t just sell it.”

The brunette shrugged. “Yeah, but she did walk away from it earlier this year, and that’s something I’m willing to bet you never thought she’d do either. Maybe—maybe being away from it has made her realize she doesn’t want to run a company anymore.” She could see how deeply this thought was beginning to upset her sister. “Hey, just because Cat might be thinking about selling CatCo, that doesn’t mean she’s going to disappear completely.”

Kara shook her head disconsolately. “What reason would she have to stay in National City if she didn’t have her company?”

Alex nudged her sister in the arm. “I’m pretty sure I’m looking right now at the only reason she would need. After all, I don’t think Cat Grant makes a habit of marking all her employees with lipstick I’m sure cost probably three times what all that food going cold on my counter right now cost you.” She tempered her tone a little more seriously. “Also, Cat doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would instigate something without every intention of following through.”

Dark eyes narrowed slightly as Alex watched Kara’s blush deepen. “She definitely has intentions.” The subtle arch of Alex’s eyebrow caused the hero to grin shyly. “We—ah—things got a little intense before I left.” She shivered slightly at the memory. “But Cat stopped things. She said she wanted me to know everything about whatever is happening in five days so I can be sure about—whatever comes next for us.”

“Regardless of what happens, you will owe me nothing. But whatever you may still choose to give me, I promise you, I will claim.”

Alex studied her sister. “But you’re already sure, aren’t you?”

As Alex watched, the swirling surfeit of emotions she’d seen in her sister’s expression earlier that evening returned, desire once more burning brightest of all. Eyes shining in a way Alex had never seen before, Kara slowly nodded, her lips pulling back into a brilliant smile. “Yeah,” she laughed. “I am.”

With a responding laugh, Alex wrapped Kara in her arms again, hugging her with a fierceness she hoped conveyed all the joy and excitement she felt for what she knew was a huge step for her sister. Finally, Kara had listened to her heart—and her heart had chosen Cat Grant.

Chapter Text

“Kara, honey?” At Eliza’s soft entreaty, Kara shifted her gaze from the kitchen window with a restless sigh. Her foster mother studied her knowingly and teased, “I’m going to have to take back that bowl if you aren’t going to actually stir what’s in it.”

The hero looked down as though she had completely forgotten that she was supposed to be helping Eliza with cookies, which Eliza suspected wasn’t at all far from the truth. “I’m so sorry, Eliza. I’m not really helping you all that much, am I?”

Eliza gripped Kara’s shoulder, smiling at the feel of her leaning instinctively into the touch. “You know you can talk to me, sweetie. I might be able to help with what’s got you using your telescopic vision every five minutes.”

A flush of red rose up her neck at Eliza’s astute observation. “I guess I’m just a little nervous.”

“Just a little?” She laughed at the way Kara dipped her head shyly. She swept a lock of Kara’s hair behind her ear. “You know your sister and I will welcome Cat and Carter into this home without hesitation, right?”

She saw the flicker of apprehension across Kara’s features at the mention of Cat. Taking the bowl from Kara and placing it to the side, she pulled a stool over so she could sit next to her younger daughter. She held one of Kara’s hands. “Sweetie, I thought we talked about all of this last night.”

Even before sitting with Kara on the porch swing after dinner and listening as her younger daughter stammered out nervously how there was something more growing between her and Cat than just friendship, Eliza had already suspected. It was her job—her nature to observe and to analyze her observations. And just as Alex had been as opaque as air about her feelings for Maggie, so, too, had Kara always been in her evolving feelings for Cat.

Eliza’s observations of the CEO the night of Myriad, however, revealed to her that the evolution was apparently mutual. Ever since that night, Eliza had wanted to know more about this woman who had not only earned Kara’s devotion but was now clearly earning her heart as well.

“It’s not you or Alex I’m worried about.” She chewed nervously on her lip. “It’s—it’s this whole thing with CADMUS. And Cat—and what she’s done and is doing.” She hung her head and softly finished, “All because of me.”

A hand firmly pressed up on Kara’s chin, immediately informing her that Eliza expected eye contact. Obediently, she looked up to meet her foster mother’s concerned gaze. “For you, Kara,” Eliza corrected. “She is doing this for you—because of how much she cares about you.”

“But doesn’t she see that it’s too much!” Even Kara seemed startled by the volume of her words. “She’s put her whole life on hold—a life she spent years building!”

Eliza nodded, understanding the grand scale of what such a decision actually meant. After all, Cat Grant was one of the most influential media moguls, not just in the States but also on a global scale. With brands that encompassed digital, print, television, and radio, Eliza suspected that the sun never set on the CatCo empire. That was power.

Yet Cat had walked away from all of it. She’d relinquished her throne, left behind the daily grind of layouts and edits and board meetings and gala schmooze events designed to let the glitterati shine while showcasing their benevolence in Prada pumps and Versace gowns.

She’d walked away from it all for one person.

Eliza’s hand dropped to Kara’s shoulder, which she gripped tightly. “Listen to me, Kara. Yes, Cat has made some extraordinary decisions recently—but she has made them for an extraordinary person.” She offered a comforting smile at the sight of tears brimming in Kara’s eyes. “I know how scared you must be for her, but you need to have faith in her, just like she has faith in you.”

Kara nodded with great reluctance, still clearly struggling with how to deal with the truth of Cat’s sabbatical. “I don’t know what I would do if something happened to her.”

Eliza heard the pain in Kara’s quiet confession—heard, too, the darker inference. She understood better than almost anyone else the magnitude of Kara’s power and precisely what she could do if she were to ever unleash it in full. She pulled Kara into a solid embrace. “So you protect each other, just the same as Alex and you do.”

“But Cat—”

“Cat,” Eliza quickly interrupted, knowing already Kara’s argument, “might not be a Kryptonian or even a trained DEO agent like Alex, but she has her own uniquely honed powers.” She eased back to meet Kara’s gaze. “Her intellect and her instincts are her strengths, and don’t you underestimate them, Kara.”

A knowing smile tugged at the hero’s lips. “I would never, ever dare underestimate Cat.”

Her foster mother laughed in agreement. “Wise choice, my daughter.” She tempered her teasing. “Everything you told me last night about what Cat is working on—it is a lot to process, Kara. But I hope you can accept this for what it is: Cat Grant doing what Cat Grant does best, and doing it all for the best possible reasons.”

The hero swallowed roughly, not trusting her voice enough to respond. She knew Eliza was right—knew that Cat was helping them in ways they desperately needed. And while it was a lot to process, Kara felt like she had done nothing else since the unexpected revelations of Cat’s sabbatical and subsequent, albeit temporary, return to National City.

The last-minute Presidential order for a meeting at the DEO with Supergirl and a specially selected group of agents had taken them all by surprise. It had also left the hero in such a state of nervous excitement that J'onn and Alex both ordered her to take the time before the meeting to patrol the city—and hopefully fly off some of the energy that was making the Kryptonian practically vibrate.

A few hours later found her gliding back in through the bay doors that the DEO had installed especially for Supergirl’s comings and goings. She touched down with a happy sigh in the main hall in front of her sister and J’onn. “Good patrol, Supergirl?”

The hero smiled at J’onn. “Yeah, everything was quiet and I’m a little calmer.” She blew air through her lips in an anxious sigh. “Kind of.”

Alex wrapped an arm around Kara’s waist for a sideways hug. “Stop being nervous, Ambassador.” She chuckled at the responding shy smile. “Whatever President Marsdin needs, we’ve got this. Together.”

The hero nodded, but Alex could see the anxious curiosity bright in her eyes. “I still don’t understand why I couldn’t escort Air Force One in.”

Her sister couldn’t resist the opportunity to tease. “Maybe if President Marsdin wanted her plane dumped in the river, she’d have taken you up on the offer.”

“Hey!” The hero swatted Alex’s arm. “That was my first plane save!”

Alex smiled warmly, her eyes bright with playfulness and gratitude. “Excuses, excuses, Supergirl.” She laughed at the hero’s eye roll. “Besides, the President was very clear. She wanted us all to meet her here at the DEO: no special escorts.” She shrugged. “I guess she’s trying to keep as low a profile as possible, and having Supergirl leading your entourage kind of blows that.”

The hero was preparing for a rebuttal, but at the sight of Lucy Lane walking toward them through the main hall, her words instead morphed into a delighted squeal. She zoomed across the corridor, scooping up the major for a strong hug that inevitably resulted in Kara completely leaving the ground and spinning them both. The Kryptonian simply couldn’t help it, although no one who had ever been the recipient of one of these more zealous hugs had ever complained.

Lucy swatted Kara playfully and laughed despite herself. “You’re really not helping to solidify my standing as a hard-ass boss in front of my second-in-command, Kara.”

The hero settled back onto her feet, reluctantly releasing her hug on the diminutive Lane. “I’m sorry,” she laughed, “it’s just, it’s been so long since I’ve seen you!”

“And whose fault is that, Supergirl?” The major crossed her arms, her expression scolding but playful. “You find out about this cushy DEO outpost right here in National City and suddenly the Girl of Steel is too lazy to fly out to Desert Containment?”

Kara’s expression turned appropriately contrite. “You’re right, Luce. I need to fix that. I miss seeing you all every day.” She turned her attention to the agent standing quietly at ease to Lucy’s left, noticeably gearing up for another hug.

The major stilled her with a touch to her forearm. “Feet on the floor, Supergirl. That’s an order.”

Teeth flashing in a brilliant smile, Kara wrapped Vasquez in an enthusiastic hug, acquiescing to Lucy’s playful order. To Lucy’s surprise, the hero began speaking in rapid and impressively fluent-sounding Spanish. Though she had no idea what Kara was saying, Lucy smiled at the pleased look on Vasquez’s features as she responded to Kara.

“Show-off,” Alex huffed as she sauntered over to join them. Kara rolled her eyes and Alex was certain her sister was now saying something specifically about her. “Be nice or I’ll order Vasquez to tell me what you’re saying.”

Lucy laughed before lowering her voice conspiratorially. “Throwing your seniority around? Someone’s gotten cocky now that they’re getting—lucky.” Lucy could definitely enjoy the sight of a brilliantly blushing Alex Danvers.

“How do you—how did—who?”

“Please, you think I don’t have informants who keep me in the know?” She punched the brunette in the bicep. “Which sucks, by the way, that I have to hear this from someone other than you. You and Kara both are so on my shit list.” She punched Alex’s arm again. “And that’s for shipping that disgusting smelling Dorlian to us without even having the courtesy to come with the transport—or at the very least to spray him down with Febreze first.”

Alex held up her hands in surrender. “Okay, okay! Talk about throwing your seniority around,” she huffed while rubbing her bicep, although the joyful gleam in her eyes betrayed her amusement. Truth was, Alex missed the feisty major, too. “Why don’t we all get together tonight at Noonan’s?”

“All? Like ‘get to meet the hottie detective Agent Danvers has snagged’ all?”

Oh, yeah. Lucy could watch that blush all day. “Maggie’s working a double shift, but I could see if she can swing a break to join us.”

“Awesome,” she smiled, hoping that she would get the opportunity to meet the woman who was slowly cracking the code to the enigma of Alex Danvers. “What about you, Kara? You gonna join us? You know I love watching the wait staff try to keep up with you during ‘free wings’ happy hour at Noonan’s.”

Before Kara could reply, Vasquez inhaled sharply. “Ma’ams?” The other agents and Kara all turned to follow her gaze. In an instant, Kara felt herself stop breathing, felt the startled uptick in her heartbeat and heard the same in those around her. Incomprehension clouded her mind and no words surfaced that could possibly explain to her the reason why President Marsdin was approaching them—with Cat Grant perfectly in-step beside her.

Alex turned to face her sister, any question she might have thought to ask failing at the sight of distress blazing in Kara’s eyes. Clearly, the hero was just as bewildered by this unexpected arrival as everyone else.

The expressions that faced her from the DEO agents and Supergirl slowed Cat’s approach briefly. However, she quickly tamped down her nerves and worries, locking them away behind the well-practiced poker face she could conjure with ease. As she and Marsdin drew to a halt before the group, she allowed her gaze to meet Kara’s, her breath briefly catching at the hurt she saw within the azure depths.

President Marsdin stepped forward, shaking hands with the agents. “Director J’onzz, Agent Danvers, it’s a pleasure to see you again. And it’s a pleasure to meet you, Director Lane, Agent Vasquez.” She moved down the line to take Kara’s hand, resting her other hand on the hero’s shoulder for extra support. “Ambassador, I’m pleased to see you again so soon. I’m sure that you are going to have quite a few questions after our briefing today.”

Kara nodded absently, having barely heard any of the President’s words to her. She couldn’t stop staring at Cat as though she could somehow see the truth behind her presence with her visual powers. The CEO was far too skilled at concealment, however, giving away nothing in her inscrutable expression. It was only the telltale quickness of her heartbeat that in any way betrayed her nervousness.

President Marsdin squeezed Kara’s shoulder to draw her attention once more. Her expression conveyed to Supergirl her understanding over the hero’s confusion. “Why don’t we get started? We have a lot to discuss.”

J’onn stepped forward in response to the President’s statement, which served to break the stillness that had settled over the other agents. “Of course, Madam President. If you and Ms. Grant will follow me, we will be using the conference room on the second floor. Secret Service has already performed a security sweep of the room and my staff assisted your attaché in setting it up accordingly.”

Once everyone had settled into their respective seats, President Marsdin leaned back in her chair and glanced around the table, making eye contact with each DEO agent before her. When her gaze met Supergirl’s, the hero caught the slightest upturn of her lips into a gentle smile before she began addressing the room.

“I know that my order for this meeting was cryptic and unexpected, but I believe you will better appreciate the sensitive nature of this briefing after we finish here this morning. We have been working on the information we will be sharing today for the past four months.” She paused, glancing to her left. “Rather, I should say that Cat has been working on this. I will be deferring to her to lead this discussion, as she is the one most familiar with the information we will be sharing.”

Marsdin refocused her attention on J’onn J’onzz. “Director, I have been sharing my DEO access with Cat. However, after this meeting, I will need you to allow her onsite Alpha-One clearance—temporarily, of course. For the indefinite future, I believe that she will be working very closely here at the DEO with several of your agents. She has already signed all the standard forms and passed TS/SCI clearance.”

The Martian nodded, the surprise he felt at the President’s order only moderately showing in his expression. “Yes, ma’am.” He focused on the CEO. “Ms. Grant, we will make sure you have the appropriate credentials before you leave today.”

Cat offered him a reserved smile. He noticed the slight shift of her eyes, the struggle she was barely winning to keep from looking toward the woman J’onn could tell peripherally was watching the CEO with unnerving focus. Even without reaching out to her mind with his own, he could feel the strength of Cat’s emotions for the hero, pulling him in just as they had during his attempted impersonation of Kara Danvers.

“Thank you, J’onn.” Marsdin turned and nodded deferentially toward the woman beside her. “I apologize for foregoing formal introductions earlier, but I’m sure everyone here is already very familiar with Cat Grant.” She glanced at Cat, who smirked wryly at Marsdin’s understatement.

“Approximately four months ago, Cat contacted me with an offer of assistance that she said would help me protect the aliens living in this country better than even my Amnesty law. I listened to her proposal and realized that she not only was correct but also that, given her extensive investigative skills and source pool, she would be the best choice to accomplish what she was proposing. I accepted her offer and she has since been helping us uncover the trail that will lead us to CADMUS. It hasn’t been an easy trail to follow, but she’s gotten us further than we’ve ever been in finding out the powers that protect this project so that we can finally shut it down.”

“And what happens when they find you?”

All eyes turned toward Kara, whose stare remained locked solely on Cat. “Supergirl,” Alex began, her voice low with warning.

However, Cat held up a hand. “It’s all right, Agent Danvers. This is the place to air concerns.”

“You think this is just a concern?” Cat instantly noted the frightened pitch of the hero’s voice. “This is what they do. They did it to me.” A wave of fear visibly shook her. “I was powerless to stop them. What do you think they would do to you? Or to Carter?”

The final blow of using Carter was low, Kara knew, even before seeing Cat flinch at the name.

Marsdin interceded. “Supergirl, I promise you that Carter Grant is well guarded. My assurance of his safety was Cat’s top priority before she would agree to take the lead on this investigation, and I intend to ensure that above all else. I have assigned agents to watch him 24/7. Plus,” and she offered a poignant look, “I believe you’ve had the DEO watching out for him as well, correct?”

Cat shot a confused look at the hero. “What? What does that mean?”

Struggling to resist the urge to look away, Kara confessed, “When I learned where Carter was going to school, I asked Winn to track any questionable activity within a 20-mile radius of the campus and send me anything that comes up.” She blushed slightly. “I’ve also taken to flying up there at least twice a week, just to be sure.”

“You’ve been protecting him.”

Kara leveled her gaze on Cat. “I will always protect Carter and you. Besides, it doesn’t take me that long to fly to his school from National City.” Her tone hardened. “But what if I can’t get to him in time to protect him? And you—you’re out in D.C. frequently. What if I can’t get to you in time?”

Alex gripped Kara’s shoulder at the sound of her voice rising. “Hey,” she whispered, waiting until she had her sister’s full attention. Looking into Kara’s eyes, she could see the fear that threatened to overwhelm her. What she could also see—what she knew Kara was not able to see in the moment—was that same fear in Cat’s eyes. It was a fear that Alex recognized far too well, especially in light of what CADMUS had done to her sister: Cat was terrified for Kara.

“We need all the intel we can get on CADMUS. Now, I’ve heard you tell me a million times over that Cat Grant is one of the best investigative journalists around. If you really believe that, then you know that she’s also one of the best people to help us right now.” She tightened her grip and whispered, “And the faster we find CADMUS, the faster we can find my dad.”

Kara’s eyes misted over and her hard swallow was all the noise in the room for several beats. With a hesitant nod and a shaky breath, she turned back toward the President and Cat. “Agent Danvers is right.” She made herself meet Cat’s gaze. “I’m sorry. Please, continue.”

The smaller blonde nodded once, her expression impressively controlled. She accepted several files from President Marsdin’s attaché, placing them in front of her and checking their order quickly before beginning. She surprised Kara by capturing her gaze once more and replying, “Thank you.”

She then shifted to address everyone. “As you all know, four months ago CADMUS released a video officially announcing its existence.” She nodded and the attaché activated the wall-mounted monitor behind her, the video she’d memorized a thousand times over beginning to play.

“People of National City: The Earth has been stolen from us. And the enemy has come to us in the guise of heroes. They say they come in peace, to protect us from ourselves. But how long will it be before these gods decide to rule instead of serve? We are the antidote to their poison. We are the scientists who will show them what humans are capable of. Those who have sided with the invaders will not be spared. You cannot stop us. We are everywhere. We are CADMUS.”

When the video ended, Cat resumed, “We have confirmed through voice analysis that Lillian Luthor is the person speaking. She released only one version of this video, directly addressing the residents of National City. She has targeted no other city—not even Metropolis received a similar warning from her about their own ‘god.’” She caught the uncomfortable shifting across from her at her use of this word.

“Furthermore, she created this video almost entirely of footage of Supergirl.” In fact, the CEO had recognized most of the video as comprising footage taken from CatCo news coverage or images culled from CatCo magazine articles. “She speaks of ‘invaders’ in the plural, but her focus is clear.” Cat directed her gaze finally toward where the Kryptonian sat.

Kara shifted once more under the attention she was now receiving. Beside her, Alex queried, “But why Supergirl? Why isn’t she going after Superman? He’s the one who helped send Lex Luthor to prison.”

Cat shook her head. “Lillian Luthor has done nothing to reveal CADMUS or go after Superman since her son’s incarceration.” She looked once more directly at Kara. “It’s no coincidence, however, that not even a full week after you saved us all from Myriad, Dr. Luthor released this video aimed almost exclusively at you.”

The hero shook her head in confusion. “I don’t understand. I didn’t do anything wrong with Myriad.”

“And I believe that’s precisely what set her off. What you did, the sacrifice you were willing to make that day, brought you a global scale of recognition and appreciation that you hadn’t garnered yet. Not that you don’t deserve it,” she added softly, pleased to see the slightest hint of a blush from Kara in response.

Lucy leaned forward, her gaze passing between Kara and Cat. “Why would it matter to Lillian Luthor if Supergirl started receiving the same level of attention that her cousin gets?”

“Because you can’t simply make a globally recognized superhero ‘disappear.’” She watched the apprehension grow in Kara’s gaze. “Lillian Luthor wants a Kryptonian for her weaponization research. She tried to capture your cousin before his ascension to global status and she failed. She’s tried the same with you more times than you realize, and each of those times she has failed. Your decision to become your own hero only means one thing to her: her opportunities are running out.”

She pulled the top folder from her stack. “General Lane has been incredibly helpful in supplying information from Army Intel and in providing me with additional military contacts.” She caught the smile of pride that curled Lucy’s lips.

“According to what he has given me and what I have been able to corroborate, the Army approached Superman not long after he first made his presence known, under the guise of him training a specially selected platoon of soldiers in advanced alien defense tactics. They claimed that it would be a show of good faith from him and would help the Army know how to support him if he ever needed it.

“The truth, though, was that the captain in charge of the training was under orders from one of CADMUS’s Army operatives, Colonel Geoff Burnham. He was collaborating with CADMUS to determine how to capture Superman and deliver him to Dr. Luthor.”

Kara shuddered at the thought of Kal-El captured and dissected by that frightening woman. “What stopped her?”

“The captain in charge of the ruse training underestimated your cousin’s range of hearing. He overheard enough to figure out what was happening and to learn about the existence of CADMUS. He didn’t yet know the extent of what they did, but he knew enough to get the hell out of there before anything happened to him.”

Kara recalled what James had told her after she learned that Alex and J’onn were being transported to the project. “According to James Olsen, CADMUS is why Kal-El—my cousin refuses to work directly with the government ever again.”

Cat arched a brow, both at the statement and the sound of Superman’s Kryptonian name from Kara’s lips. “Must make fun family conversation between you that you work with the DEO.”

Broad shoulders shrugged slightly. “My story, my decisions.” She was pleased to see her response earned an approving hum from the smaller blonde before she pressed on.

“Superman’s awareness of CADMUS meant that they had lost the element of surprise. His rapid gains in popular support meant that capturing him would mean possibly revealing the project at a time when Dr. Luthor still believed in the protection of secrecy. So she turned her attention instead toward gaining a greater level of control within the DEO. She believed that if she had someone on the inside, she would be able to secure the next Superman for her own research without anyone knowing what she was doing.”

She focused on the familiar visage of the current director as she opened the folder in her hand and pushed it across the table. “Lillian Luthor was responsible for Hank Henshaw becoming director of the DEO. She wanted direct and instant access to whatever aliens and alien technology the department brought in rather than waiting in the DEO’s shadows for whatever scraps the previous director deigned her project worthy of receiving.”

The Martian picked up the folder, studying the photo of the man whose face he had worn for more than a decade while Cat continued her debriefing. “Hank Henshaw was once a highly decorated Marine, but he was also well-known for his belligerence and volatile temper. The Marine Corps was delighted to be rid of him, and Dr. Luthor found his anger made him a perfect ally when that rage was realigned with her anti-alien ideology.”

She pointed to the folder in J’onn’s hands.“DEO records from the real Henshaw’s time as director are riddled with inconsistencies, including missing technology and improperly transferred prisoners who just disappeared from all records.”

“Disappeared?” Kara’s eyes widened at the implication.

“No one outside the DEO and CADMUS knew any of these aliens even existed, let alone that they were disappearing. Henshaw ran the department with ironclad precision and secrecy. He weeded out any agents whose views of aliens didn’t align with his own, ensuring total loyalty when it came to what was going on within the DEO. All those ‘inconsistencies’ added up though.” She sighed remorsefully. “My tally indicates that more than a hundred aliens simply vanished from DEO records during his tenure.”

Supergirl gasped softly, looking toward J’onn. The Martian grimaced, his features tightening in grief. “And yet he called me a monster,” the director growled, his eyes flickering red so quickly that Cat wasn’t certain of what she’d just seen.

The reporter waited to give the director a moment to collect himself. Catching the slight nod of gratitude from J’onn for her pause, she moved on. “Then came what Dr. Luthor had only dreamed could one day happen. DEO satellites tracked a vessel as it crash-landed 500 miles northeast of National City. Henshaw dispatched retrieval units as quickly as possible, but by the time they reached the crash site, all they found was an empty pod.

“When the DEO confirmed that the pod was of Kryptonian origin, Dr. Luthor ordered Henshaw to stop at nothing to find the occupant. He led a team of agents to search Metropolis, figuring that Superman had intercepted the pod and had the occupant with him. However, they had no way of locating him or the new Kryptonian as long as they refrained from using their powers.”

Kara’s shifting drew the smaller blonde’s attention. “Kal-El actually never got the chance to bring me to Metropolis. He took me from the crash site straight to the Fortress of Solitude—his base of operations.” She sighed at the memory. “He didn’t know who I was at first, so he felt it best to quarantine me from the general population until he could confirm that I was safe. He also thought that seeing Kryptonian artifacts might calm me down.” Her voice grew small. “I-I didn’t react well to my powers hitting me all at once.”

Cat’s gaze grew instantly sharper, the onslaught of questions that slammed into her thoughts at Kara’s statement irresistible. “Your cousin didn’t know who you were? How is that possible?”

Swallowing nervously, Kara stammered, “H-he’d never met me before.”

Cat caught herself shaking her head, Kara’s answer only stoking her journalistic curiosity even more. “I don’t understand.”

The hero licked apprehensively at her lips, aware of the scrutiny of everyone at the table, but feeling the stare of her sister most heavily of all. If anyone else at the table had read her DEO file, then they would know of what had happened to Kara during her journey to Earth.

Only Alex, however, would know of the dark truths that words in an official file could never capture. Alex reached out, taking the hand that Kara had unconsciously extended toward her sister. When the hero began to speak, Cat was startled by the low, strained cadence of a voice normally so full of light.

“There is an expanse of space between Krypton’s and Earth’s galaxies. Humans who know of it refer to it as the ‘Phantom Zone.’ That makes it sound almost like a-a carnival ride.” Her gaze grew distant and pained. “There is nothing fun about vrrosh :dokhahsh.” Cat felt a thrill rush through her at the sound of Kara speaking Kryptonese. “It is a dimensional rift that exists outside of the space/time continuum. Time does not pass there. Those who enter do not age, do not have any hope of death, and there is almost no escape.

“The reason Kal-El did not know me when I finally arrived is because I was already thirteen when our parents sent us away, but he was only a baby. And while his pod made it to Earth as scheduled, my pod wasn’t far enough out of range when Krypton exploded, and the force knocked me into vrrosh :dokhahsh.” Her eyes lost focus as she stared into the abyss of her memories. “I was trapped there for 24 Earth years.”

Alex’s grip on her sister’s hand would have broken human bones in that moment as she fought to keep Kara tethered against memories dark and terrifying. “I was—my pod was programmed to place me in stasis for my journey to Earth. However, the impact that knocked me off-course also damaged the pod enough that the stasis systems worked only intermittently. I wasn’t awake the entire time I was trapped there—but I was awake for enough of it.”

Silence pressed down upon the room, all eyes on Kara. The hero bowed her head, eyes closed and mind focused on the sensation of Alex’s hand gripping hers—the warmth of her skin, the tension of her tendons, the weight of her bones, the rush of her blood in her veins. Kara focused on all this, just as she had when they were younger and Alex had hugged her just as tightly after nightmares filled with the pitch-black nothingness of the dimension that had once held her captive.

Turning her chair completely toward her sister, Alex placed her hands on either side of Kara’s face, drawing her gaze upward, and softly whispered, “You are safe, ie te.” She smiled gently and wiped away the tear that slipped down Kara’s cheek.

The hero slowly nodded, struggling to push back the memories that always shadowed the perimeter of her thoughts. With a shaky exhalation, she turned from Alex’s hold and finished, “Krypton’s prison ship, Fort Rozz, was in vrrosh :dokhahsh as well. A prisoner onboard figured out how to use my pod to free both the prison ship and me. Fort Rozz crashed not far from where I did. When I finally arrived here, I was still a child and Kal-El was a grown man.”

The silence that settled unnerved Kara as she stared back into studious jade eyes. She knew Cat well, knew she already had follow-up questions queued up in her mind before the hero had even finished talking. Yet when she finally spoke, she simply stated, “I can’t begin to imagine how scared you must have been.”

Kara blinked once in surprise, blinked once more in relief. She understood from the sharp glint in Cat’s eyes that the reporter was holding back, accepting that now was not the time to satisfy her need to know all the answers she craved.

The hero nodded in appreciation. “I was terrified. Kal-El wanted to help me on his own, but there was no way he could take me with him to Metropolis and hope to hide me or help me while juggling everything else going on in his life.

“That was how I ended up with Eliza and Jeremiah Danvers. They were bioengineers who had helped Kal-El understand his own powers. He took me to them and asked if they would help me the way they had helped him. He trusted them to protect me and keep me safe.” She looked to her left, a tender smile lifting her lips. “Plus, he knew they had a daughter near my age who would be able to help me adapt to life here in ways that he couldn’t.”

Cat observed the wordless communication between the hero and the agent beside her—the shine of adoration in Kara’s eyes and the softening of Alex’s expression in a way the CEO suspected she reserved solely for her sister.

“The first thing Eliza and Jeremiah taught me was how to control my abilities. They both warned me never to use them intentionally—that it wasn’t safe.” She looked down. “I disobeyed them, though, and that’s how the DEO found me.”

“The night you took Alex flying?” Cat instantly found herself under the surprised scrutiny of both the Danvers sisters. “According to Hank Henshaw, your flight that night was merely final confirmation of what the DEO already suspected.” She opened the next folder in front of her, pulling out a stack of printouts. “This is just a part of the file that Henshaw kept on you while he was here at the DEO.”

“Where did you get that?” J’onn leaned forward to scan the top page of the stack, curiosity bright in his gaze. “When I came to the DEO as Henshaw, I found that someone had removed the hard drive from his office system. He refused to allow anyone to connect his CPU to the main server, so there was nothing beyond general DEO reports left from his tenure as director—no personal logs, no backups, no retrievable files at all.”

Slipping a photo from the bottom of the printouts, Cat queried, “Look familiar?”

“Colonel Harper.” Lucy blushed as she glanced remorsefully at Alex and J’onn.

“Yes, Colonel James Harper—retired now.” The CEO looked toward J’onn. “I’ve read your debriefing on what happened the night that Colonel Harper tried to transport you and Agent Danvers to CADMUS. Whatever you did to him altered him in a way that, among other changes, made him surprisingly repentant about all he did while working with CADMUS. When I reached out to him, he was a willing wealth of knowledge when it came to my questions about Henshaw—not to mention, an unanticipated data source.

“When Henshaw disappeared, Colonel Harper was the one who came to the DEO and removed all of his files. It was CADMUS’s way of securing the secret of their role in Henshaw’s actions while he was director. What CADMUS didn’t know was that Harper made a backup of Henshaw’s files before he turned them over. He very generously shared that backup with me.”

Respect shone in J’onn’s gaze as he absorbed Cat’s words. “Those records would be invaluable to us, Ms. Grant.”

“And you will have them today, Director. I’ve brought my security backups of all my research with me. I would also like to work with the DEO to set up an encrypted connection between my systems and yours. Everyone in this room right now should be able to access my research as I gather it. We all need to be on the same page from this point on.”

The Martian nodded in agreement. “We can meet with Agent Schott after we secure your credentials.” He smiled at the way Cat’s eyes widened slightly in recognition of the name. “I’m sure you will find him as competent as always.”

The CEO arched an eyebrow at the comment. “I’m sure he’ll be just as skittish as well.” She caught the barely stifled laugh from across the table as she returned her attention to the pile of printouts beneath her hands. She tapped the top sheet and continued, “According to Henshaw’s logs, the DEO finally triangulated the area where they needed to look for their missing Kryptonian through satellite sweeps programmed to search based on Superman’s power signatures.

“Because it was such a broad-spectrum scan and there were no regular power signatures coming from anywhere other than wherever Superman was, it took nearly a year before they could even confirm that they should be looking on the U.S. West Coast. From there, it was just a matter of time before they narrowed their search.”

“It must have been my heat vision,” Kara offered softly. “Extreme emotional response can still sometimes trigger it.” She blushed at the memories of uncontrolled bursts of her heat vision searing across the walls of the Danvers home.

Cat looked at Kara and reaffirmed, “Whatever it was they finally detected, the DEO was able to narrow the parameters of their search to Midvale. Because they knew of your foster parents’ relationship with your cousin, they immediately began surveillance of the Danvers house. According to Henshaw’s logs, your flight that night simply accelerated their timeline by a few weeks.”

Kara saw the shift in the smaller blonde’s expression to one of regret. “That night, Henshaw took a small team with him—only his most trusted agents. His orders were clear: Apprehend you and leave no witnesses.”

The sudden weight of Cat’s words pressed down, forced Kara to draw in air around the crush of their meaning. Beside her, she heard Alex’s sharp inhalation and when she met her sister’s gaze, she could see how pale Alex had become and heard the increasing speed of her heart rate.

Licking her lips, Cat continued, “Jeremiah Danvers saved you all that evening. Henshaw recognized the value of his offer of cooperation. His logs indicated that Jeremiah underwent extensive interrogation concerning his knowledge of Kryptonian physiology. Both Henshaw and Dr. Luthor were in agreement that this would continue until they were certain they had gained as much from Jeremiah Danvers as they could—and then Henshaw would return and complete his original mission.”

She shifted her gaze back to the director. “However, Hank Henshaw never got to complete either this mission or the mission he led to Peru to locate you.”

The Martian frowned. “When I arrived at the DEO, I never encountered any agent who knew that Henshaw was connected with CADMUS, and no one ever approached me in regard to the project.”

“Nor would they. Dr. Luthor knew you were an impostor because she had the real Henshaw back with her—along with Jeremiah Danvers.”

She turned her attention to Alex. “I wish I could tell you more about what has happened to your father since Dr. Luthor brought him to CADMUS, Agent Danvers. I tried to get information on him from Colonel Harper, but as you know, Dr. Luthor never even shared with him that the Hank Henshaw he thought was his friend was really J’onn J’onzz. However, Senator Miranda Crane is trying to arrange a meeting for me with someone involved in the funding of some of Dr. Luthor’s more recent projects. If the meeting actually happens, I promise you I will do what I can to find out where CADMUS has relocated.”

She watched Alex process this as Kara laced her fingers together with her sister’s. “We're going to get him back, Alex.” The brunette gripped Kara’s hand tightly, her jaw clenching against any sound that might betray her, and nodded gratefully in Cat’s direction.

“According to Miranda’s new source,” Cat continued, “there are several CADMUS supporters who are displeased with Dr. Luthor. They think her choice to reveal the project was a mistake, and they are concerned that she has become erratic and sloppy in her decisions. A few are even questioning whether she should continue to lead the project in light of her most recent failure.”

“Project Medusa?”

“Yes. Miranda’s source confirmed that Dr. Luthor’s attempt to spread the Medusa virus without first consulting with any of her supporters has them all believing that she is overstepping her boundaries.”

Kara clenched her fists reflexively atop the conference table, her eyes dark with sorrow. “She took an extremely dangerous gamble when she tried to unleash this virus. My father bioengineered it to kill any non-Kryptonian life, which includes human.”

“Lucky for us all that her daughter proved to be uncooperative in supporting her this time.”

Every time,” Kara corrected, inciting a curious glance from Cat. “Lena’s not like her mother or Lex. She’s doing her best to prove herself different—better than her name.” She looked down toward her still-clenched fists. “I will never judge her for the sins of her family.”

“Nor will we.” Supergirl met President Marsdin’s gaze. “We all begin as clay for our parents’ sculpting, but inevitably we must become our own sculptors. I trust your faith in Ms. Luthor, Supergirl.”

The hero nodded, grateful for the President’s restraint against reviling Lena simply for being a Luthor. “Thank you, Madam President.”

Marsdin offered a comforting smile before turning her attention to the Martian beside her. “I trust, J’onn, that Project Medusa will be the last surprise we’ll face from the recent security breach here at the DEO?” Her normally tempered voice carried a surprising underlying steel.

The Martian’s jaw clenched regretfully. “Agent Schott did confirm that, in addition to the kryptonite that Agent McGill stole, he also accessed all the record summaries we keep on Superman’s Kryptonian files. Superman confirmed, though, that Hank Henshaw only accessed his mainframe for information on Project Medusa.”

From the end of the table, Lucy queried, “So with all of this erratic behavior, does this mean Lillian Luthor is totally off the rails now with her vendetta against Supergirl?”

Cat shuffled down to her final folder. “More recent intel indicates that her brief incarceration seems to have sharpened her focus once more on CADMUS’s primary purpose. She also has grown more merciless in her experiments, and she has found a way to be guaranteed a constant supply of test subjects without a direct DEO connection. I believe you all have already encountered her provider, Veronica Sinclair.”

“Roulette.”

“Yes, she’s quite pedantic with that little nom de guerre. However, she also is dangerous and extremely well protected. Dr. Luthor was the one who arranged with one of her contacts for Ms. Sinclair’s release when you helped get her arrested. In return, Roulette’s pop-up fights continue, only now she ships the losers off to CADMUS.” Cat shifted her attention. “Agent Danvers, I believe that Detective Maggie Sawyer has been tracking several alien disappearances through NCPD?”

It took Alex a few beats to overcome her surprise at Cat’s question and mention of Maggie specifically to her. “Yes, that’s correct. At least a dozen aliens have gone missing in the past few months—but that’s all that NCPD knows of based on aliens who have started their application for citizenship. It could actually be a much higher number.”

“It more than likely is.” She slid the final folder across the table, directly to the agent. “This is a victim not currently listed as an applicant. After you review the information in there, you will want to give it to Detective Sawyer the next time you see her.” She noted the soft blush that tinted Alex’s cheeks. 

Cat raised her hand in warning when Alex began opening the folder. The brunette met Cat’s gaze, instantly left breathless by the heartache she saw within the reporter’s eyes. She nodded her understanding but knew she needed to proceed. “If we are all in this together to stop CADMUS, we all need to know what we’re up against.”

She turned her gaze to Kara, whose terrified expression filled her with fury at having to expose her sister to whatever she was about to show her. With a hard swallow, she flipped open the folder—and promptly dropped it to the table, her stomach lurching uncomfortably at what was now laid open for everyone to see.

Next to her, Alex heard J’onn growl in his native language something the brunette would willingly repeat if it had been at all possible for her to duplicate the alien words.

Cat tapped her finger against the table next to the photos spread out between them all, their horror made all the worse in full color. “This is Lillian Luthor letting us all know that she has no qualm with showing us what she is doing—and no fear of getting caught.” She turned her attention to J’onn. “Riverside PD found this body yesterday. We’ve arranged to have it shipped here to the DEO for identification.”

“She’s a Jorvanian.” Everyone turned toward Kara, whose gaze was locked on the photos. She slid a hand closer only to quickly withdraw it, as though the images were kryptonite. “Her skin tone indicates she’s female. Jorvanian women are a lilac color. The men are mauve. Jorvas was in Krypton’s solar system, so she came from a red star system like me. I-I don’t know what abilities the Earth’s sun would have given her though.”

Cat reached out and turned over the photo that Kara couldn’t stop studying, instantly finding the hero’s pained gaze focused on her. “The surgical damage she suffered would indicate that she shared some of the powers that you have. If this is true, then Dr. Luthor might be trying to create a new boutique hybrid, like Metallo, specifically designed to take you down. In addition to having had her eyes and optical nerves removed, she was also missing the portion of her brain that Dr. Luthor must have deduced controlled her vision.”

She clenched her jaw briefly, took a steadying breath. “The way her skin was removed along her arms and legs and the antemortem inflammation of the wounds and underlying muscles would indicate that Dr. Luthor performed tests on her musculature while she was conscious.”

“Vivisection?” Alex swallowed convulsively at the thought, her grip on Kara’s arm tightening.

“How is she able to get away with all this?” Kara looked pleadingly at the President. “I don’t understand—why can’t you just order that the project be shut down?”

“Because by all legal accounts, Project CADMUS does not officially exist. Presidents have come and gone through the White House without even knowing of its existence. Its roots run so deep that, even with all of Cat’s work so far, we still don’t even know a fraction of the people who are supporting it right now.”

“But how is that even possible? Don’t they have to be accountable to someone?”

“They are accountable to their benefactors, whose shared hatred of alien life on this planet is what has kept the project alive and funded since its formation. Right now, anti-alien sentiment within some parts of the government is stronger than ever thanks in part to my Alien Amnesty law. As long as there are people within the upper ranks who feel this way, there will always be funding and support for Dr. Luthor’s work.”

Cat nodded. “And for every Sam Lane or Miranda Crane who comes around to the realization that there are good, decent aliens who are willing to fight—and die—for our protection, there are people who believe that the only thing aliens should be is detained and dissected for their powers. People like Spencer Graves.”

Alex frowned. “Spencer Graves? He’s a council member here in National City.”

“He’s also whom you can thank for getting both Veronica Sinclair and Lillian Luthor released from NCPD custody as quickly as they were. Since his election, he has grown more and more vocal in his anti-alien rhetoric.”

Kara nodded. “The Tribune reported for weeks on his attempt to introduce legislation that would have allowed private businesses the right to refuse service to aliens if they believed that their presence was unnatural. His argument against those who claimed that the bill was blatantly discriminatory was that anti-discrimination laws only applied to humans.”

“That bill never made it out of committee thanks to Olivia signing the Alien Amnesty Act into law, but it allowed Graves to test the waters. He rallied a lot of support from his constituents behind that bit of bigotry.”

Cat’s eyes narrowed in barely concealed fury. “His next proposed legislation is even pettier. He wants to pass punitive levies against companies that openly do business with or support aliens. His claim is that any kind of support is tantamount to colluding with the enemy.

“He’s already selected CatCo as his primary windmill for this quixotic little tantrum.” She glanced at Kara. “My contacts on the council are telling me that Graves is being particularly vehement in his accusations against CatCo’s relationship with Supergirl. He’s dubbed CatCo magazine ‘pro-Kryptonian propaganda’ for using Supergirl as a source and is accusing me personally of blatant bias. He believes this means that my news outlets cannot be trusted to report the truth about our ‘alien invaders’ as long as I’m in any way involved. He is asking the council to support him in calling for me to step down completely from CatCo.”

Kara hung her head in contrition. “I’m so sorry, Cat.”

“I’m not.” The hero glanced up at the resolute reply, instantly captured by the golden flecks of fire in Cat’s jade gaze. “My news outlets have never reported anything but the truth about Supergirl—both supportive and, shall we say, corrective.” Kara found herself smiling at the way Cat arched her brow to punctuate her word choice.

“You put yourself at the front line of danger without hesitation or question, saving us all countless times. If you were human, that unctuous little troll would be doing everything possible to turn your courage into positive collateral for his own career. Instead, he’s aligning himself with—the dangerous and delusional side of history.”

Cat’s gaze grew regretful as she continued to look at Kara. “My council contacts have also already confirmed that his next move will be directly against you. He wants legislation that will force all aliens residing in National City to reveal their aliases to public record or risk exile.”

“Are you kidding?” Alex shot forward in her chair, hands gripping the armrests in white-knuckled fury. “He’d try to have her exiled after all she’s done for this city—hell, for this entire planet!”

“Which is why,” President Marsdin interceded, “I named Supergirl my Ambassador of Alien Amnesty.” She smiled reassuringly toward the hero. “Of course, I loved the idea from the moment Cat pitched it for obvious reasons. However, I also acknowledged Cat’s rationale that granting you even an honorary role in my Administration would both increase the amount of positive coverage you receive and extend to you a certain amount of federal leverage. We had hoped that both of these outcomes would increase public support for you and decrease Spencer Graves’s chances of ever getting such a bill passed into law.”

Kara stared down at the table, blinking rapidly for several moments. When she looked up, Cat inhaled softly at the tears shining in the hero’s blue eyes. “You—” but she choked on the word and instantly fell silent, unable to collect herself enough to continue.

There was no need, for Cat could see in Kara’s expression everything the hero couldn’t say. Returning her unwavering stare in kind, Cat stated, “Whatever it takes, Kara.”

In the ensuing silence, President Marsdin lightly touched Cat’s shoulder, drawing the woman’s attention. “I believe we have discussed everything you’ve collected so far?” Cat nodded once in confirmation.

The President refocused on the agents and Supergirl. “I know this is a lot of information to process. Cat is nothing if not thorough—and persistent,” she added with an appreciative smile. “Director, we can provide your Agent Schott with Cat’s files now. I’ll have one of my agents retrieve the backups from our caravan. First, though, would you and your agents be so kind as to join me? I would love to take some time to meet again with the rest of your team here.”

J’onn nodded in understanding. “Of course, Madam President.” Once everyone around the table had risen in tandem with Marsdin, he smiled and extended a hand toward the conference room exit. “Your last visit had my agents buzzing for days afterward.”

She laughed at the comment, giving Cat one final glance and nod before moving to rejoin her Secret Service contingent outside the room. The rest of the DEO agents fell in line to follow, but Alex held back slightly, turning to her sister with a concerned frown. “Come find me when you’re finished, okay?” Kara nodded, forcing a smile that Alex knew was only for her benefit.

As she turned to leave, she let her gaze linger on the woman standing on the other side of the conference table. Cat couldn’t help but be equal parts impressed and unnerved by the brunette’s indecipherable expression as she studied the CEO. Finally, she offered a slight nod, her gaze softening fractionally before she pivoted and strode off to rejoin the other agents.

Exhaling slightly, Cat shifted her attention toward Kara. The hero stood, feet planted firmly apart and arms crossed tightly across her chest. Cat noted how different Kara’s expression was from her sister’s—nothing hidden or unreadable, everything blazing and open for the CEO to read. Azure eyes still shimmered with a jumble of warring emotions, but Cat could tell by the set of Kara’s jaw that displeasure currently was winning the battle.

Kara finally broke the silence. “Why are you doing this?”

Hands set on her hips, Cat replied in a tone infuriatingly reasonable, “Because CADMUS needs to be stopped.”

“And they will be. The DEO is—”

“The DEO is clueless on how to stop them, Kara! You heard what Olivia said during the meeting: CADMUS’s roots are buried so deep underground that even Presidents have no power over them!”

The hero stopped herself from replying immediately, inhaling a deep, quaking breath in an effort to calm herself. “This is too dangerous.”

“I’m fully aware of the danger, Supergirl.” Kara’s gaze shifted up at the cool, dismissive tone. “I was reporting from war zones before you even arrived on this planet.”

“Were you ever captured while in these war zones? Were you ever strapped to a table and left terrified of what was going to happen next?” She watched the muscles along Cat’s throat ripple against a hard swallow. “I have, and I can assure you that it’s not worth putting yourself at risk like this! This isn’t a story you need to chase!”

If it weren’t for the fear that bled from every inch of the hero before her, Cat might have taken deeper offense at the accusation. As it was, though, she knew the fear that Kara felt at that moment paled in comparison with what had been growing inside her for months.

“Is that what you think this is to me?” She grabbed one of the photos of the Jorvanian’s corpse from the table. “You think I look at something like this and think only of getting the story? I look at something like this and think that this could be you!”

Both women startled at the sharp crack of Cat’s voice. Pushing through the roiling emotions that blurred her vision and threatened to break her, the smaller blonde continued, “Lillian Luthor has made her intentions crystal clear: She will not stop until she has you laid out on a slab, subjected to whatever her perverse curiosities can contrive until she kills you. I cannot bear that, and I won’t.”

Dropping the photo back onto the table, she crossed the distance between them, cursing the unsteadiness of her legs. She placed her hands on either side of Kara’s face, coaxing the woman to meet her gaze. “The thought of anyone hurting you destroys me every time I think about it. There is no fucking story here for me, Kara. Only doing everything I can to protect you.” She cut off the hero’s protest. “And don’t you dare say that you don’t need protecting. I read the debriefing report on what Lillian Luthor did to you. I can’t stop seeing these photos—these horrible images of what she does—what she could have done—”

Imagined images of Kara, strapped to an operating table, sliced open while still conscious, her life spilling in crimson rivers from her wounds and in tortured cries that haunted Cat’s darkest nightmares shuddered through her, wracked her body as she fought against the sob she steadfastly refused to release, for fear that it would break her right there. The barely suffocated sound tore through Kara, who instantly reached out to take the smaller blonde into her arms.

Cat latched on to her with startling strength, her arms locking her in place against the hero and her hands clutching her cape in desperation. The relief she felt every time she could wrap Kara in her embrace, feel the strength and life within her hold, helped push back against her darkest thoughts and fears.

“Cat, it’s all right,” Kara gently muttered, pulling the smaller blonde as close against her as she dared. “I’m here. I’m safe.” She rested her cheek against Cat’s temple, felt the shuddering warmth of Cat’s breath against her neck as she struggled to maintain composure.

“I can’t lose you, Kara.” She pulled back to meet the hero’s gaze. “I need to do this. I need to know that I am doing everything in my power to help you. For all that you’ve done for me and for Carter—for all that you mean to both of us, please let me do this for you.”

Kara studied the worry that tightened the edges of Cat’s eyes, the shimmer of tears she stubbornly refused to let fall. In her expression, Kara could see the raw truth of Cat’s deepest fears, and an openness she never imagined the smaller blonde capable of revealing to anyone other than perhaps her son. In the truth of that moment, Kara couldn’t imagine she had ever seen Cat more beautiful.

Slowly, she nodded her head. “What you’re doing—it’s a lot to process,” she confessed, licking her lips nervously. “But I will never doubt why you are doing it, or how much it means to me.”

Closing her eyes, Cat leaned once more into Kara’s embrace, exhaling more of the worry that she’d been carrying far longer than she realized. “Whatever it takes,” she repeated, resting her head against the hero’s chest.

Kara’s hands moved along Cat’s back in comforting patterns, a smile curving her lips at the feel of Cat humming appreciatively. She focused on all the familiarities of the woman in her arms—on the strong, steady thrum of Cat’s heart, on the delicate ripple of her spine beneath Kara’s fingers, on the scent of shampoo and perfume and that underlying trace that was uniquely Cat filling her lungs.

Leaning back, her expression morphed slightly, nervousness dancing in her bright gaze. “I know everything now, right?” She smiled at the way Cat nodded, eyes instantly full of understanding and, surprisingly, apprehension. She raised a hand to trace her thumb softly along Cat’s lips before leaning forward and pressing a kiss against them. She drew back enough to whisper, “Then Kara Zor-El is still yours to claim.”

Apprehension shifted to relief, darkened to desire as Cat’s gaze trailed along the lines and curves of Kara’s face before she pulled her down for a kiss that left even Kryptonian lungs aching for air. When she let her tongue skim Kara’s lips and dip inside the honeyed warmth of her mouth, she smiled at the responding moan and the feel of the hero’s fingers flexing around the curve of her hips.

With great effort, however, she halted her explorations, placed her hands against Kara’s chest and pushed back slightly—although not far enough to miss the feeling of the hero’s sigh against her cheek. “As tempting as it is to dabble in a little public indecency with you right now,” she teased, relishing the instant blush that lit Kara’s cheeks, “I believe Olivia might take a bit of umbrage at me delaying us with such a dalliance.”

Kara laughed in reply, her hands relaxing their hold on Cat’s hips while keeping her close. “Yeah, but it would definitely help my street cred here at the DEO.” A brighter, fuller laugh flowed from her at the sound of Cat clicking her tongue in admonishment.

The smaller blonde reached up, fingers tracing along the strong jaw, across the smiling arc of supple lips. The hero’s smile diminished slightly, her gaze turning pensive. “I wish you could stay longer.”

Cat bowed her head against Kara’s shoulder, sighing in understanding. “Unfortunately, I have several interviews lined up in D.C. throughout the next week—and a rather unpleasant task to take care of here before we leave National City today.” She knew Kara would be studying her curiously at that last statement, but it wasn’t a topic she wanted to broach with her now.

“But you’ll be back soon.” Cat heard the forced certainty of Kara’s tone, wondered how often she had reminded herself of those words after Cat’s unexpected departure—wondered how often she’d doubted them, feared they were never true.

“I promise I will always come back to you, Kara.” She ran her fingers through silky blonde waves. “Besides, I believe Carter and I have a standing invitation to be in Midvale soon, correct?”

The responding smile that lit Kara’s features was dazzling, and Cat found herself questioning yet again how she ever convinced herself that she wouldn’t miss this remarkable woman every damn day. Drawing Kara closer, Cat whispered against the curve of her lips, “Be safe, Supergirl.”

At the sound of those familiar words, Kara shifted her gaze to the smaller blonde’s lips, just as she had done on that final meeting shared on the balcony of Cat’s office. This time, however, she wouldn’t ignore the pull of desire she had felt that night—felt again right then with aching clarity. “You, too,” she sighed before capturing Cat’s lips once more, sealing the promise that, from that moment forward, their safety would always be found in each other's arms.

Chapter Text

Watching his mom drive had always been one of Carter Grant’s secret delights. The fact that it so rarely occurred was part of his fascination. His mom loathed city driving. She had no patience for the wasteful impertinence that gridlock imposed upon her time while there were emails to answer, calls to make, articles to write, a business to run.

Instead, she longed for the open stretch of road before her—no traffic, no distractions, no worries. Carter loved watching his mother’s transformation behind the wheel of a car once they were free from the city’s limits. All the tensions and frustrations from her work sloughed away as she effortlessly shifted up and down through gears, her feet working against the pedals in perfect syncopation as she pushed herself in her driving skills, pushed the car in its limits—always pushing as only Cat Grant could do.

Such longing, Carter knew, would never be his compulsion. He was Cat Grant’s son in many ways, but he accepted willingly that he hadn’t inherited that particular vein of daring that fueled her willingness to jump headfirst into whatever challenge lay before her, to grasp at whatever brass ring she craved, to fly off the edge into the open abyss of possibilities, never doubting that she would find purchase somewhere.

These were his mother’s traits—a truth that she never once missed the opportunity to reiterate with him whenever she could. She never wanted him to think that she expected him to be like her. He was his own person and she would love him exactly as he wished to be. In turn, Carter loved her for her unwavering acceptance of him, and for how she taught him through her own strength of character to never let another person diminish him for being himself. His mother’s daring made him feel brave, her fierceness made him feel protected, and her faith in him made him feel strong—and this was more than enough for him.

So it was that he lived vicariously through her as she soared along straightaways and slipped around switchbacks with practiced ease. On this particular morning, as they zipped along the coastal highway toward Midvale, the Jag’s engine like a furious roar through the open windows, he could tell that she hadn’t yet escaped the work stress that she normally would have left behind by that point.

If the firm set of her jaw that had taken several glasses of scotch to finally relax upon her return home the day before was any indication, he knew that her meeting with CatCo’s board of directors hadn’t gone well. Sighing softly, he finally queried, “Should I text Kara?”

The non sequitur was enough to jar Cat from her dark ruminations. She turned toward Carter long enough for him to catch a glimpse of sunlight setting fire to the gold in her green eyes. “For what?”

“To let her know that she might need to bail you out of jail for excessive speeding.”

Cat’s gaze flicked down to the speedometer, her breath catching in her throat when she realized that she was nearly tipping the gauge past 100. She quickly and smoothly slowed down, taming the roar to a more appropriate purr. “I’m so sorry, Carter. That was completely irresponsible of me.”

He shrugged his thin shoulders. “It was actually kind of fun,” he replied, pressing his lips together to hide the smile at his mother’s disapproving glare. “I just think that needing Kara to post your bail might be a bad first impression on her family.”

Shadows shifted along the suddenly tight lines of Cat’s neck. “I was going to leave the first impressions to you,” she teased, though Carter could hear the undertone of tension in her words.

He knew the reactions inspired by mention of the “Queen of All Media”—how they were often a jumble of conjecture, rumor, and hearsay, perhaps with a hint of truth if the source in question was being particularly benevolent. He knew, too, how keenly aware his mother was of these responses, particularly the more vitriolic ones that struck low and personal blows against her for daring not to be demure or deferential or to conform to expectations of how she should behave as a woman—even when she happened to be the woman in charge.

She took the strikes, both professional and personal, in stride. Each one, however, added another brick to the barricade around the beautiful, scarred heart her son knew she tried so hard to hide. With Kara, though, Carter could see the slow surrender of her defenses and the subsequent terror such an abdication inspired within her. Meeting Kara’s family meant dropping those defenses even further, allowing them to see the truth of Cat Grant—and to hope that it would be enough to prove her worthy. 

Deciding to shift his mother’s attention to something other than the worries surrounding Kara and her family, Carter queried, “So is everything okay at CatCo?”

He watched sunlight glint off the intricate lines and curves of the ring always on her right hand as she waved dismissively. “It will be now,” she replied, her tone hardening along the edges. Carter could tell by the sharp protrusion of tendons in her left wrist that she was gripping the steering wheel too tightly.

“Are you going to fire James Olsen?”

“I’m sure Mr. Olsen will wish I had fired him once I’m finished with him,” she retorted, her expression formidable even in profile, “but, no. He is still my acting CEO. The Christmas spirit clearly is in his favor.”

In truth, she had considered firing James for his disastrous performance thus far as her acting CEO (along with the more deviously entertaining thought of having Kara physically hurl him all the way back to Metropolis). However, she harbored a galling partiality for James Olsen she would never willingly admit to anyone. She had witnessed firsthand his transformation from inexperienced intern to the Pulitzer-winning photojournalist whose value inspired her to snatch him away from the Daily Planet at the first opportunity. She saw in his photography unrepentant truth and unflinching beauty, and knew in her bones that his was a vision that would continue to shape new media in ways that would one day make her irrelevant. She saw in him untested potential that begged to be proven. She hoped this recent disappointment was nothing more than an anomaly that she could encourage him to curtail in her own unique way.

So it was with no small amount of fire and fury in her veins that Cat Grant returned to her kingdom. She reveled in the stunned hush that rushed through the lobby upon her entrance, that shadowed her as she stalked to her personal elevator, and that clearly preceded her arrival as the doors parted into the midst of a bullpen frozen in shock.

Striding out of her elevator with the same elegant gravitas as always, she removed her sunglasses and glowered at the startled expressions before her. Hand pressed against the sharp line of her hip, she tilted her head and queried, “Oh, I’m sorry, did I interrupt a Mannequin Challenge?” Her gaze cooled as she rotated her glasses by one temple distractedly. “The last person to start moving is the first person I fire.”

The stentorian statement jostled such immediate motion throughout the bullpen that, even if Cat had been serious in her threat, there was no way she could have pinpointed who flinched last.

Satisfied, the CEO fell back into step toward her office. She slowed, however, at the still-disconcerting sight of anyone other than Kara occupying the desk outside her office. With a practiced flick of her wrist, she sighed, “Ms. Tessmacher, how—unexpected to see you still here.”

The assistant frowned in confusion at the comment. “I would never leave this early in the day, Ms. Grant.”

Eyes narrowed as Cat studied the woman before her. “Yale’s prestige grows ever more suspect with every interaction, Ms. Tessmacher.” Ignoring the curious downturn of the other woman’s lips, Cat pressed, “Where is Mr. Olsen?”

“He said he would be back soon—but I’m afraid that was an hour ago.”

“Is there anything on his calendar? A meeting? A spine adjustment perhaps?”

“Mr. Olsen doesn’t have me keep a calendar for him. He says he prefers keeping things more casual.”

“And yet here I stand, casually unable to speak with the person I entrusted with my company while you continue to provide me with no definitive idea of where he is or when he will return.”

At the sight of tears beginning to sparkle in Eve’s eyes, Cat pressed her lips together to keep from saying something that might send the woman into undesirable paroxysms. She imagined Kara’s calming presence there instead, encouraging her with a gentle smile and unflappable Sunny Danvers politeness. 

With a pointed lift of one eyebrow, the CEO stated in a tone calm enough to spook the assistant more than her fury, “I will be in my office, Ms. Tessmacher. I recommend you locate Mr. Olsen in whatever way he prefers and let him know I am here. Waiting.”

Even in her flustered state, Eve understood the damning implication of this final word. “Y-yes, Ms. Grant. I will find him right away.”

The frenzied hustle that moved toward her through the bullpen fewer than ten minutes after her arrival admittedly impressed the CEO. However, she refrained from turning in acknowledgement, even when she could hear the sound of nervous shifting behind her. Instead, she continued to take in the vista of National City while savoring the three fingers of scotch she’d poured herself to smooth her pique. While not her favorite view from CatCo, she accepted how certain events from the past year had definitely raised her level of appreciation for her office’s balcony. Lips curled into a private smile at memories of red, blue, and gold suspended before her against the backdrop of star shine and city lights. 

With another slow sip of scotch, she settled her expression into one more appropriate to the task at hand and finally turned to face the other occupant of the office. “Mr. Olsen, my office has a door. I recommend you shut it.”

With anxious alacrity, James obeyed the CEO’s statement, pointedly refusing to make eye contact with any of the staff members he was certain was watching the events about to transpire with shameless curiosity. Instead, he turned and made his way back to the center of the office, swallowing against the tang of fear coating his throat.

Cat now leaned against the edge of the desk, one hand absently swirling what was left of the scotch in her crystal tumbler as she scrutinized the man standing before her. ”Do you know why I chose you to take my place, James?” At the hesitant shake of his head, she replied, “Because I trusted in what I thought were certain assurances about you. I trusted that my publications would benefit from your expanded creative influence over layouts and design. I trusted that you would foster a sense of camaraderie with my employees in the way that I have fostered loyalty. I trusted that giving you the chance to experience what it’s like to run a multi-billion-dollar global company, even with me as your safety net, might inspire you to consider your own entrepreneurial potential.”

She stood and, setting down her glass, sauntered toward the photojournalist, a predatory starkness lighting her gold-green eyes. “What I also trusted in was the fact that you would actually take running my company seriously.”

Eyes widening at the accusation, James quickly stammered, “Ms. Grant, I-I absolutely take this job seriously! I would never—I wouldn’t let you down like that.”

“Revenue across the board is down. CatCo magazine’s layouts look more like undergraduate semester projects each issue. Snapper Carr checks in with me with more frequency than you have in months—same with all my other division heads. Seems I have to learn about my company from everyone but my acting CEO. Directors from all my international offices have informed me that you have become increasingly unavailable for regular check-ins with them—something about the time differences being ‘inconvenient.’” James flinched at the hard cadence of Cat’s voice on this final word. “Is this how you aren’t letting me down?”

Broad shoulders slumped forward and James struggled to keep from hanging his head under the CEO’s withering glare. “I’ve let things get a little out of my control recently. I should have—”

At the sight of Cat’s manicured index finger raised before him, James’s mouth instantly clicked shut. “I do not want to hear should have. You are far too into this for a ‘come to Jesus’ moment now, Mr. Olsen.” Hands once more placed decisively on her hips, Cat narrowed her eyes and allowed the silence to settle in her office.

The only thing worse than Cat Grant yelling was Cat Grant saying nothing at all. Her ability to hold a stare was inhumanly unnerving, her every feature locked in a rictus of displeasure. James had often heard rumors of how Cat’s glare had the power to level celebrities, heads of state, even royalty to shuddering sobs. Finding himself now the focus of that stare, he realized there was only truth, no rumor, to these stories.

When she was satisfied by the sight of James visibly struggling to keep from writhing under her glare, she continued, “What I want to hear is your assurance that from this point on, you will do whatever it takes to bring my company back up to the level at which I left it with you, because I will not accept anything less than what I had before my departure. Am I clear on this?”

“Y-yes, Ms. Grant.”

“And this obsession with National City’s Dark Knight knockoff? It ends now.” At the sight of argument flaring in James’s expression, Cat’s jaw tightened enough to silence him. “If you seriously believe that you will have any spare time while actually running CatCo, Mr. Olsen, then you have not been listening to a word I have said. You will leave future coverage of the Guardian to reporters at the Tribune. As CatCo’s acting CEO, it is not your job to write articles on this vigilante, period.”

“But you wrote articles about Supergirl all the time.”

Even as he muttered the words, James knew his mistake and quickly deflected his gaze to anything other than the scornful expression he knew he had just earned.

“Yes, I did personally write all our articles on Supergirl. I also built a media empire from nothing, that now spans hundreds of locations on every continent except for the one where those goddamned penguins refuse to accept my subsidiary offers. My skills are vast, Mr. Olsen, and sharply honed. Also, my articles on Supergirl did not read like lovelorn fan mail. If anything, I was more critical of her than she sometimes deserved.”

She caught the flicker of surprise that passed across James’s features. “But I would like to think that I encouraged her to become a better hero—and for our readers to become better people through her example. Your articles are encouraging low-rent fantasy fulfillment. I will not abide you using CatCo to inspire someone to take to the streets and possibly die in their misguided attempt to mimic the Guardian.”

“Yes, Ms. Grant.”

Circling around her desk, she glanced at the layouts that James had been reviewing. She suppressed the urge to smile when she realized it was a special holiday edition of CatCo magazine highlighting Supergirl’s first national appearance as President Marsdin’s Ambassador of Alien Amnesty—just as Carter had predicted.

Next to the layouts sat several photos from that evening, which Cat shuffled through, pausing noticeably at two images in particular. James caught the slight shiver that arced through the CEO, his brow furrowing at what could have provoked such a response. He watched as Cat lifted the photos in question, walking back to where she had set her bag and tucking them inside without comment. She looked up, choosing not to acknowledge the questioning way James was watching her. “These layouts look promising. Glad to see you’re playing to the crowd again.”

With a decisive click, she closed the latch on her bag, letting it slip partly up her forearm. “I have a meeting with the board of directors soon. You can take some small comfort in knowing that they will be doing to me what I have just done to you.”

Her expression became less severe though no less serious. “We are standing at the precipice of something portentous, James—something that will demand vigilance and resolve from those of us tasked with bringing the truth to the public at any cost. I believe you are capable of being the leader CatCo will need when the time arrives. Prove me correct.”

Nothing more needing to be said or heard, Cat swiveled smoothly on her heels and departed, passing her former assistant’s desk with a crisp “Ms. Tessmacher,” before disappearing behind the doors of her awaiting elevator.

Cat knew from a politely probing text from Kara the next day that the CEO’s unexpected appearance at CatCo had sent rumors rippling throughout the company at speeds even the fastest woman alive found impressive. Cat alleviated Kara’s curiosity without details, knowing that the hero’s affections for James, even of the once more friendly variety, might cloud her ability to understand the hard line that Cat had taken with him. The end result, however, was precisely what she had anticipated. Already, she’d received several communications from James, including a status report he claimed would become a weekly occurrence. Division heads and directors were all reporting renewed awareness from him as well. It was cold comfort when it came time for Cat’s excoriation before her board, but it was still progress. 

With a deep breath, Cat glanced to her right. Carter stared out his window, teeth pressing pensively into his bottom lip. Sensing his mother’s focus, he turned once more toward her with a hopeful smile. “I’m sorry, Carter,” she sighed, smiling at how quickly his features relaxed at the sound of her apology. “I promise that I will keep business matters in check for the day.”

His eyes shone gratefully at his mother’s words. He knew how hard she always fought to keep the pressures of her work outside of their shared time—how, even when she sometimes slipped in her attempts, she always regained her focus on him. With an accepting nod, he instantly launched back into stories he had been telling her about his friends at school, reveling in the small victory felt each time he could get her to laugh—a sound he was certain couldn’t happen enough. When they finally found themselves on the final part of Kara’s directions, Carter was relieved to see the loose grip his mother held on the steering wheel and the easy way she down-shifted as she slowed their approach along the quiet Midvale back roads.

As Cat turned into the driveway that wound toward the Danvers home, she smiled at the sight of Kara already there, leaning against the back of a black Denali—a DEO service vehicle if ever Cat saw one. The reporter noted curiously how Kara wore her glasses and ponytail. The hero cocked her head to one side, a smile of such brilliance already parting her lips that Cat could instantly feel the remaining frustrations from the previous day slip from her muscles.

The moment Cat slipped the Jag securely into park, Carter swung open his door, tumbling out and scurrying toward the hero. “Hey, Kara!”

The smaller blonde exited the car just in time to watch Kara wrap her son in her arms, lifting him easily in her embrace. “Merry Christmas, Carter,” she laughed brightly before setting him back down but keeping him in her hold. “Sorry I can’t give you a proper Supergirl hug,” she whispered, “but I need to keep grounded when I’m where neighbors can see me.” She rolled her eyes to punctuate the point.

Carter laughed, blushing slightly. “It’s okay. Any hug from you is great, Kara.” His blush darkened at this admission before he stumbled on, “Is it okay to wish you a Merry Christmas? Like, do you have a-a Kryptonian holiday you celebrate instead?”

Running a hand through his curls, Kara smiled softly. “I do honor my home and my family on this day, but I celebrate Christmas, too, to honor my Earth family—so wish away.”

“Merry Christmas,” he grinned, tightening his hug on her briefly before stepping out of her hold. At the sound of his mom popping the catch release on the trunk, he began moving toward the back of the car to unload suitcases, warning as he did, “Watch out. Mom’s in a mood.”

The hero’s eyes widened at the insinuation. Having personally experienced the entire spectrum of Cat Grant dispositions, Kara was intimately aware of what such a warning could herald.

With a theatrical roll of her eyes and hands planted firmly on tilted hips, Cat sighed, “I am not in a mood.” She lifted one hand, rolling it regally at the wrist. “I’m simply not—sufficiently Christmassy yet.”

Kara pressed a finger against her lips, barely concealing a smile that was equal parts nervous and playful. With decisive moves, she circled around the front of the Jag to close the space between her and the smaller blonde. She settled warm, strong hands low on Cat’s waist to pull her close and touched her lips softly against the other woman’s. The kiss was admittedly demure in comparison with kisses shared the night she had taken them high above D.C.—but it was enough to elicit a delightfully surprised sigh from the now soothed CEO.

She pulled back slightly, eyes crinkled by the smile once more adorning her lips. “Better?”

Cat reached up, placing a firm grip against the back of Kara’s neck and pulling her down for another kiss, deeper this time and slower so that Cat could better appreciate the supple give of Kara’s lips against her own, the luscious vibration of Kara’s moan as Cat traced her tongue teasingly along the ridges of her teeth. When finally she felt sated enough for the moment, she drew back and sighed, “Ho, ho, ho.”

Kara laughed although the tint in her cheeks gave away to Cat how effective her kiss had truly been. “So, tell me what has you not in a mood.”

Cat clicked her tongue in irritation although the sharpness was now noticeably blunted. “I had a meeting with the CatCo board before we left National City, which only served to remind me what a mistake I’ve apparently made leaving James Olsen in charge of my company.” Kara frowned, unsure of whether she was more disappointed in Cat’s loss of faith in James or in how he was apparently continuing to earn that disappointment.

“At least they’re all still subdued enough by the fact that Dirk Armstrong is sitting in a prison cell for the next six to eight years that they aren’t looking to start another coup.” She closed her eyes for a three-count, breathing deeply and willing herself once more into compartmentalizing her CatCo worries away from this moment of being with Kara.

At the feel of Kara’s lips once more against her own, she couldn’t resist smiling into the hero’s kiss. When they parted again, Cat smirked playfully. “Is this how you plan on stopping me from complaining about work from now on?”

Kara teased, “It’s not only effective, it’s also quite addictive.” Before Cat could reply, Kara’s head cocked slightly to the side, a shy grin slipping along her lips. She looked back into Cat’s eyes and laughed at the questioning arch of the smaller blonde’s eyebrow. “My sister and Maggie have been talking about us since you arrived, and they’ve just decided that we’ve had enough time to greet each other.” At the sound of the porch door slamming against the jamb, she whispered, “And here they come.”

The sound of gravel crunching beneath two sets of feet moved closer until Kara knew that both Alex and Maggie were standing right behind them. She gave Cat one more smile, this time tinged with a hint of nervousness, before letting her hands drop from the smaller blonde’s waist and turning to face their new arrivals.

The agent and the detective both studied Kara in silence for several beats, quickly unnerving the hero with their tandem scrutinizing stares. Finally, Maggie spoke. “You’re right, Alex. That is a really nice shade of lipstick on Kara.”

With an open-mouthed gasp, Kara quickly raised her hand to her lips. Cat clicked her tongue in playful disapproval. “Honestly, Kiera, you let things fluster you so easily.” Her eyes sparkled as she wiped away her lipstick from Kara’s lips.

Carter smiled at his mom’s effortless affection with the now-blushing hero. “You must have been really easy to tease growing up.”

Alex shifted her attention to the young man who had moved to Kara’s other side. She watched as her sister reached out to wrap her arm around his shoulders and tug him close. “You have no idea, buddy,” she chuckled, her expression softening as she looked down into his bright blue eyes.

Nervously brushing his hands along the sides of his jeans, Carter reached out a hand toward the brunette, his cheeks tinting pink slightly. “I-it’s a pleasure to meet you, Alex. Kara talks about you all the time.”

Alex accepted his hand with a solid shake and a casual grin. “Likewise on both fronts, Carter.” She gestured to the woman next to her. “This is m-my girlfriend, Maggie.” She cleared her throat quickly at the sound of her slight stutter over introducing Maggie—something the detective acknowledged with a sideways glance and a comforting smile.

As Maggie and Carter shook hands, Alex shifted her attention to the CEO, a sudden and surprising realization causing her to laugh. At the expectant arch of Cat’s eyebrow, she explained, “All the times we’ve been around each other, and I don’t think we’ve ever formally met.”

The arched brow rose higher as she shifted through memories of past encounters with Kara’s sister, including their recent interaction at the DEO, and realized that the brunette was quite correct. With an assenting hum, she extended her hand. “Cat Grant.”

Alex accepted the proffered hand, pleasantly surprised by the power of Cat’s handshake. “Alex Danvers.” She caught the eye roll from Kara and added, “Clearly, we failed at teaching my alien sister basic Earth etiquette.”

Kara snorted in rebuttal while secretly delighting in the already easy rapport between Cat and Alex. The smaller blonde shifted her attention to the dark-haired woman beside Alex. “Detective Maggie Sawyer,” she acknowledged with another solid handshake. “It’s a pleasure to meet one of CatCo magazine’s police sources.”

Instantly put at ease by the CEO’s acknowledgement, Maggie’s dimples deepened with the bright smile she flashed the blonde to Cat’s left. “Yeah, well, you’ve got a pretty insistent reporter on staff. It’s either answer her questions or be forced to move around her on-scene since none of us can figure out how to move her out of the way.”

Kara dipped her head at the detective’s comment, mostly out of acknowledgement of her unique persistence in getting quotes for her articles. “Sometimes being immovable has unexpected perks.”

Next to Maggie, Alex nodded in the direction of the car that Cat had noticed the brunette quietly eyeing since joining them. “Is it at all kosher to make a joke about you driving a Jaguar?”

Cat sniffed in amusement at the brunette’s clearly exploratory teasing. “I embraced the inevitability of feline puns a long time ago, or perhaps you never noticed the hot pink cat statue I have on display at CatCo. I admit it is rather understated.” She pursed her lips at the amused shine in Alex’s eyes. “Besides,” she continued, flicking her wrist back toward the car, “I knew full-well the implications of choosing this car. One test drive, though, was all it took for me to fall in love.”

“It’s true,” Kara nodded. Her expression faltered slightly as she continued, “One very harrowing test drive.”

An incredulous huff was followed by, “Says the woman who can break the sound barrier.”

“You drive very fast. I’m pretty sure if you check the passenger seat, my hand prints are visible along the sides.”

Alex held up a hand to stop the easy volleying of comments between the two blondes. “Wait, Kara went with you on a test drive?”

Cat hummed affirmation, waving casually toward the car. “I thought it only fair. I provided certain technical specifications for the car but left all other choices up to Kara.” She noted the curiosity that lit Alex’s gaze at the thought of Cat entrusting her sister with such decisions. “She even selected the color: dark sapphire, I believe?”

Lips lifted shyly at Cat’s question. “I’ve always been partial to this particular shade of blue.” She laughed then while gesturing toward the back of the car. “I still can’t believe you actually took me seriously regarding that.”

Alex followed in the direction of where Kara pointed, immediately laughing at the sight of a personalized plate that read “CHP CHP”—the infamous phrase that Kara claimed she heard so frequently throughout the workweek that it sometimes surfaced even in her dreams.

Cat’s lips quirked into a half smile. “Yes, I realized that you were being facetious when you suggested it. However, I confess it amused me greatly.” She still savored the memory of Kara’s laughter, equal parts delighted and surprised, the first time she saw the tag.

Placing one hand on her hip and gesturing with the other in the general direction of the crate still in the trunk, she continued, “I know that Kara stated you all don’t do gifts. However, I do not do ‘empty-handed guest.’ I’ve brought wine for dinner and,” she moved to collect the wooden box secured inside the crate, “I understand from Kara that both of you are fans of scotch. I thought I would share with you something from my personal collection.”

Alex reached out to accept the proffered box, her eyes widening just as much as Maggie’s as she read the label on an incredibly decadent aged single malt scotch. She traced a finger across the engraved lines of the maker’s name. “Glen Grant?”

Cat hummed in delight at the brunette’s catch on the name. “Yes. My affinity for excellent scotch is literally genetic.”

“Cat, this is incredibly generous. Thank you.”

The CEO shrugged a slim shoulder. “Merely doing my part to keep National City’s defenders happy.”

She turned to Kara, whose expression over Cat’s gift instantly made her want to do whatever it took to have that smile offered to her every day for the rest of her life. Pushing down the sentiment as best as she could, she reached out and straightened Kara’s collar, noting with a soft tsk the way Kara bit her bottom lip at the motion. “I know alcohol does nothing for you, so your gift is in the back seat.”

The confusion in Kara’s eyes melted instantly at the sight of familiar green, red, and white Krispy Kreme boxes stacked in another crate in two columns of six. With a sound of delight that almost surpassed human hearing, she opened the passenger door and reached in, snagging a box and popping it open, the sweet scent instantly assailing her. Before she could even think about taking a bite, however, Alex interrupted with a quickly whispered, “Incoming, Comrade Kara.”

Both Cat and Carter wore matching looks of confusion at the brunette’s odd warning and the instantaneous reaction it sparked from Kara: blue eyes scrunching shut and something foreign-sounding and, Cat assumed from the tone, definitely profane passing from her lips as she sighed wearily.

When she reopened her eyes and saw how the Grants were looking at her, she offered a slightly strained smile and rolled her eyes before placing the box back in the car and moving to Alex’s side. “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Tillman,” she called out in her cheeriest tone while nudging her sister to do the same.

“Yes,” Alex offered with her best fake smile, “Merry Christmas.”

The woman who was steadily trudging up their driveway smiled and waved, lines spoking out from the corners of her eyes as she did. “Merry Christmas, girls. It’s so lovely to see you home—although you both should be visiting your mother far more often than you do,” she chided. “Leave that city life behind every now and then.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Kara smiled, but from where Cat stood, she could see the hero’s hands fidgeting nervously behind her back.

“Always so polite,” Mrs. Tillman laughed. “And how are you doing, Kara?” Cat noted that the woman’s speech became slightly more enunciated as she addressed Kara, causing a pink flush within the hero’s cheeks. “Your mother mentioned you had a new job? Not the one at the coffee bar anymore?”

“No, ma’am, I left that job after I graduated college. I’m a reporter now.”

“A reporter?” Delight flared within the woman’s deep-set gray eyes. “That’s wonderful, Kara! It’s so important, coming from where you did, that you fully experience the right to freedom of the press we have.”

“Yes,” she nodded, “it’s a great learning experience for me.”

“And where might I read some of your articles? Are you writing for the National City Tribune?”

“No, ma’am.” She hesitated just slightly enough for Cat to notice, her lips twitching downward before finishing, “I write for CatCo magazine.”

When Mrs. Tillman’s expression brightened to almost blinding levels, Kara knew she wasn’t escaping this conversation without long-term repercussions. “Oh, you’re kidding!” She turned her attention once more toward Alex, and laughed, “Remember how Kara used to spend hours, right there on that swing,” and she gestured toward the covered porch that wrapped around the house, “poring over every page of the latest issue of CatCo magazine the moment it arrived?”

“I do remember,” Alex smiled, glancing up at her sister before shooting a quick, pointed look toward the increasingly amused blonde behind her.

Mrs. Tillman refocused on Kara. “I swear, you must have memorized every article you read.”

Licking her lips, Kara forced a polite grin, her deepening embarrassment painfully evident. “It helped my English and taught me a lot of different things about my new—country.”

“Well, if you’re now writing for them, you must have learned a great deal from all that reading. Are you in the special holiday edition they just released?”

“Cover-to-cover,” Cat whispered in the lowest volume possible, knowing that Kara would hear her. As she suspected, Kara’s features brightened in amusement, her eyes cutting quickly to her right. “No, Mrs. Tillman, not that issue.”

She reached up and patted Kara’s shoulder. “No matter, dear. I’ll be buying a few copies anyway. You know how much my grandkids love Supergirl.” She backed away, once more looking at Alex. “It’s wonderful seeing you again, Alex. Tell your mother Merry Christmas for me.” She then waved to Maggie, Cat, and Carter, “Lovely meeting you all,” she smiled and promptly turned and began trudging back up the Danvers’s driveway.

Kara caught the slight huff of incredulity from Cat at the woman’s final comment. However, she was more concerned with the conversation that she knew was about to happen.

As Kara’s head fell forward and she reached up to rub nervously at her forehead, Alex wrapped an arm around her sister’s shoulder and kissed her temple. “You did well, Comrade Kara,” she teased.

Kara sighed, leaning into Alex’s embrace and whispering, “Is this what dying from embarrassment feels like? It is, isn’t it?”

Her sister laughed knowingly. “You know, I used to be jealous of the fact that she only ever used to acknowledge you. Now? Not so much.”

Even with her hand still on her forehead and covering her eyes, Kara could practically feel Cat’s stare. “Kara?” She could hear the pure amusement in Cat’s voice. “Would you be so kind as to explain what just happened?”

Beside her, she could feel Alex shaking with barely suppressed laughter.

Pressing her lips together and scrunching her eyes tightly shut long enough to take a deep, calming breath, the hero softly explained, “My oh-so-brilliant, quick-thinking sister may have told the neighbors that her parents had adopted an orphaned Russian circus performer.”

Maggie was the first to start to chuckle, with Carter trying very hard though failing not to follow suit. The detective swatted at Alex’s arm. “Oh my god, Alex! Why would you do that to Kara?”

The brunette flinched slightly at the unexpected contact, failing as well not to laugh. “What? She spoke with a thick accent when she first started speaking English and she spent hours on the trampoline in the back yard, doing flips and spins that, frankly, only gymnasts and aliens with superpowers should be able to do. I think I came up with a damn good cover under the circumstances.”

“You didn’t have to pick the circus, though,” Kara sighed. “You know she asked me once if I’d ever worked with a dancing bear.”

And that was all Cat could absorb before finally losing control. Kara had never heard the CEO laugh quite so fully, her head back and teeth gleaming in the sunlight as tears began to gather in the corners of her eyes.

Carter now laughed openly as well, although Kara wondered if it was completely at her expense or mixed with delight over how amused his mother was at the situation. Whatever the reason, the joint joy from both Grants somehow made this latest encounter with Mrs. Tillman worth it.

With a resigned sigh, Kara adjusted her glasses and looked to Alex. “Can we get everything and go inside now? I’ve had enough neighborly interactions for today.”

As the group made their way to the house with luggage, donuts, and alcohol in tow, Cat moved closer to the hero’s side and remarked, “Perhaps later you can tell me more about all those hours you spent reading CatCo magazines.”

Kara’s eyes slid shut at the sound of Alex once more failing to stifle her laughter and she was certain that this was, indeed, what dying of embarrassment would feel like.

Chapter Text

It had never occurred to Eliza that she would one day find occasion to meet her daughters’ bosses. When she had watched Alex and Kara leave for National City University, one nervously yet impatiently behind the other, she knew it was time to pack away all those parental instincts and duties that quickly shifted from acceptable to intrusive now that they were becoming adults.

So Eliza quietly watched her girls as they went in search of who they would become. She ached as she watched one temporarily stumble under her own impossibly high expectations, desperately needing to prove to herself that she could be worthy. She worried while the other timidly tried to discern how, if ever, she might find a way to be useful while trying her best to ignore the answer that lived within her bulletproof skin.

Alex, of course, was first to find her path, settling into what she told her mother was a promising position in one of National City’s research labs. When Eliza heard the news, she realized that beneath her pride was a wistful wisp of hope that Alex would have come to work with her. But Alex would never have thought to depend on anyone else—even her mother—to help her find work after graduation. She also never would have considered leaving Kara behind again. Once was almost too much.

When Kara graduated and spent several months afloat in indecision, Eliza had almost intervened. Then September arrived with an excited call from Kara that she would be working at CatCo Worldwide Media—as personal assistant to Cat Grant herself.

To Kara, Eliza had been quintessentially supportive and excited in the way she believed Kara needed her to be. To Alex, she knew she had been harsher than was fair in criticizing her failure to protect her sister from making this damning decision. However, Eliza had grown to expect that Alex would always be able to be harder on Kara than she could ever bring herself to be. And she needed Alex once more to do what Eliza couldn’t—to protect Kara, this time from the mistake of working for the one person in all of National City she should be avoiding at all cost.

After all, Eliza thought she knew Cat Grant, in that way many think they know the famous. And Eliza thought she knew how dangerous Cat Grant would be. Her success came from ferreting out secrets, and the more deeply buried they were, the more tenacious she became. Kara’s secrets would be like Christmas morning.

It wasn’t until the night of Myriad, when Eliza found herself suddenly and surprisingly in the presence of both her daughters’ bosses, that she realized how wrong her opinion of Cat Grant had been.

She had first noticed the CEO watching in alarm as Eliza entered the television studio with her arms wrapped tightly around Kara’s waist, Alex trailing closely behind with her own hold on a nearly drained J’onn J’onzz. She knew she should be concerned the moment she saw Cat there, should be on her highest guard, but all Eliza could think about in the moment was the terrifying weight of Kara against her as the hero struggled to stay upright.

Eliza had never before seen the consequences of kryptonite. Knowing that something like this existed was upsetting enough to her in the abstract; having now witnessed how much it could make her daughter suffer—could even kill her—left her feeling queasy and terrified.

So lost in these thoughts, it took her several steps to realize that Kara’s weight had redistributed, now shared by the CEO on her other side. Cat had wrapped Kara’s arm around her shoulder, using her other hand against the middle of Kara’s back to steady her while admonishing the hero for looking so bedraggled “so close to air time.” Her tone was cool—almost dismissive—but Eliza could see the tension in the set of her jaw and the wideness of her eyes that betrayed her fear and concern for Kara.

The realization of something deeper registered then in Eliza’s mind: of the moment Cat first saw Supergirl supported in Eliza’s hold, her lips silently forming a name that Eliza knew the CEO shouldn’t have known in relation to her daughter.

In true Cat Grant fashion, the CEO quickly took charge of Supergirl’s care, cautious not to overstep what Eliza understood was Cat’s concession to whom she knew Eliza was. She made a casual comment about staying with Supergirl so that Eliza could check on “Task Force X,” but in her eyes, Eliza saw Cat’s admission and oath: Kara will always be safe with me.

Eliza moved on to tend to Alex, comforting her as much as the brunette would allow in the moment (she noted from the blame that burned in Alex’s broken stare that she would need much more from her mother and sister once they were all beyond the pressing danger of Myriad). However, she continued to observe the CEO as much as possible. She found surprising comfort in the sight of Cat resting a hand on Kara’s forearm, saying something that made Kara snort in amusement and roll her eyes.

Eliza could tell the smaller blonde held total sway over the Girl of Steel, but she observed how equally transfixed the CEO was with Kara—the way she leaned in to their conversation, her whole body turned toward Kara, or the way her eyes constantly shifted over Kara’s form, searching for signs of improvement or distress.

Only when Eliza returned to her younger daughter’s side did Cat finally pull away from any contact, hastening a retreat back into the studio control room that startled Eliza. Again Cat’s eyes betrayed her, filled with a sense of undeserving that Eliza at first couldn’t comprehend. It was when she watched the smaller blonde continue to slip uncharacteristically into the background, resignation darkening her gaze, that Eliza understood.

Hers was a hurt that unmasked Cat in ways Eliza suspected the CEO would keep tightly in check under normal circumstances. But normal was a whisper lost beneath Myriad’s piercing drone, and Eliza could see Cat laid bare by every moment forced to fake immunity to the pain of being denied into Kara’s confidence yet again.

When Kara grabbed hold of Alex and spun her off her feet with her exuberance over breaking Myriad’s hold on National City, Eliza saw Cat’s eyes slip shut, silently willing a barrier between herself and this unguarded moment to which she knew she had no right. And when the CEO found herself next in the hero’s embrace, Eliza watched her flex her hands into fists, determined for the briefest of moments not to betray herself any further.

But the feel of being in Kara’s embrace was magnetic, drawing Cat’s arms around her and burying her hands in the thick folds of Kara’s cape. Cat’s eyes slid shut once more, a muscle jumping along her neck as Eliza watched her start and then resist resting her head against Kara’s shoulder.

With a hard swallow and a pat on the back, the CEO pushed away, offering something about Supergirl proving herself to be an adequate protégé. The hero’s response was a brilliant smile and a look of unmistakable adoration.

Eliza continued to observe the CEO even after Kara had moved on to hug J’onn. She struggled to retreat once more, eyes misting momentarily, before she became aware of the scrutiny being directed her way. Before Eliza could stop watching, Cat had locked gazes with her. It was the briefest of moments before Cat looked away, but it was long enough for Eliza to see the startling emotion that surged within her gaze.

Cat Grant was afraid.

This was the first, and admittedly only thing to register in Eliza’s mind for several long beats. However, as she began to analyze this new piece of information, she realized with even greater surprise that Cat Grant was afraid of her.

It was a fear tangled among what Eliza recognized as the devastation of a mother’s perpetual disapproval—of refusing to buckle under the weight of “failed potential” and of bearing the strikes of a thousand criticisms until finally learning how to deflect in kind.

It was a fear of once more failing to live up to a mother’s expectations for her daughter—only this time it was Eliza’s expectations she feared. Eliza, who had the power to turn Kara against her before she could ever prove that, if finally given the chance, she could be...enough.

It was the same barely contained fear she observed now in Cat’s gaze as the CEO walked up the porch stairs behind her son. Eliza wondered at how many rejections it took to carve such a scar so deeply.

The young man in front of Cat shyly reached out his hand, brilliant blue eyes watching her studiously. “Thank you for letting my mom and me join your family for Christmas, Dr. Danvers.”

Eliza took Carter’s proffered hand, her face lighting up in response to his graciousness. “It’s my pleasure, Carter. And, please, call me Eliza.” She felt a dangerous tugging at her heart at the sight of Carter’s delighted smile and tender blush, made all the more perilous by the sight of Kara’s own expression softening so fondly for the young man that Eliza’s breath stuttered in her chest.

Turning to face Cat, Eliza’s smile brightened even more and before the reporter could consider the implications of the sight, she found herself engulfed in an embrace that felt surprisingly familiar. It was Kara’s embrace: strong and solid, and capable of unmistakable meaning without a word.

When she pulled back to arm’s length, Eliza grinned, “It’s a relief to finally get to thank you properly.” She noted the way Cat’s eyes instantly sparked with curiosity. “Thank you for helping me take care of my daughters the night we shut down Myriad. And,” she continued, needing Cat to understand the depth of her gratitude, “thank you for what you are doing now.”

Cat’s throat moved slightly as she swallowed against emotions Eliza respectfully overlooked. “Thank you, Eliza—for everything.”

The doctor smiled warmly, brushing her hands along Cat’s forearms in a soothing motion before releasing her hold. She glanced over at her younger daughter, whose face practically glowed with joy, before turning and holding open the door for everyone to enter. As Kara passed by her last, Eliza caught her arm and pressed a tender kiss against her temple before shooing her on through the door.

Once inside the safety of the house, Kara placed down Cat’s and Carter’s bags, removed her glasses, and released her hair from its ponytail. Alex waved a carrot stick that she’d grabbed from a nearby cutting board at her sister. “See? Aren’t you glad you put on your disguise, Comrade?”

At the sight of her mother’s instant understanding, Alex finished, “Mrs. Tillman asked me to wish you a Merry Christmas—once she was finished grilling Comrade Kara on all the latest things she’s been doing in her new motherland.”

Blue eyes no longer hidden behind lenses narrowed in mock threat. “YA rad, chto ty dumayesh’, chto eto smeshno, Sashenka.”

“Yeah, that doesn’t really help your case, Karinka,” the brunette teased, bumping into her sister’s shoulder with a huff of laughter and a slight wince.

Eliza sighed. “I’m so sorry, Kara. I should have warned you. She’s been asking for the past week about when you were coming home.” She shot a pointed glance at her other daughter. “And you should be far less amused by this than you always are, Alexandra.” She smiled at Alex’s chafing at her full name.

Chuckling as she slid onto one of the stools around the kitchen island, Maggie asked, “So, Eliza, how long did it take you to find out what Alex had told the neighbors about Kara?”

“Not even a week. As I’m sure you just learned, Mrs. Tillman can be quite excitable about certain things. She was overjoyed to tell us how kind we were to have saved Kara from whatever Red Scare-era Communist bloc gulag scenario her imagination had conjured.”

She rolled her eyes at the sound of her older daughter failing to stifle a snicker. “I wanted to correct her right away, but Jeremiah thought it was hilarious.” Her expression turned wistful as she focused her attention on Kara. “He was the one who started calling you ‘Comrade Kara,’ correct?”

“Yeah,” the hero smiled at the memory. She hadn’t understood the meaning of the nickname at first, but she loved the sense of belonging she’d felt at his and Alex’s happy teasing.

She started to say more only to realize that both Cat and Carter were staring at her with disconcertingly similar looks of surprise. Brow furrowing under the scrutiny, she laughed nervously while reaching up to adjust her glasses, only to remember she already held them in her hand. “What?”

Carter finally broke his silence. “You speak Russian?”

Alex snorted at the profuse blush that instantly tinted her sister’s skin. “Among many other languages.”

Cat cocked her head at this statement. “And just how many languages do you speak?”

Fingers fidgeting briefly with the glasses in her grip, the hero shyly replied, “Fluently? Twenty-three—Earth languages,” she added with a smile. When she met Cat’s gaze, she flushed at the look of astonishment she saw. “I was a little overzealous.”

The CEO clicked her tongue. “Funny how no one ever talks about the Kryptonian power of understatement.”

“I think that’s all Kara,” Alex joked, slinging an arm across her sister’s powerful shoulders.

The hero chewed at her lip, a bashful gleam in her eyes. “I just love all the nuances of Earth languages. Kryptonese is formal and direct and—dispassionate. We had a very exact way of communicating—no slang or idioms.”

Alex chuckled. “And no gift for figurative language at all. Made trying to explain to someone with X-ray vision phrases like ‘looks can be deceiving’ a pain in the ass.”

With a frustrated huff, Kara turned to glare at her sister and countered, “Yeah, but then you also say things like ‘what you see is what you get’ or ‘seeing is believing.’ All this obfuscation—”

“I think you just called it ‘nuance,’ which you said you loved,” Alex ribbed, smirking at how quickly and deeply her sister blushed. “Such contradiction—you sure you’re a reporter?”

With a pout that Cat noted accentuated her already tempting lips, Kara grumbled, “You sound like Snapper. It’s bad enough he’s always on my case about my spelling.”

Alex pulled her closer with a playful smile. “He just doesn’t realize that you’re juggling seven alphabets and more than thirty languages in that big alien brain of yours.”

Eliza smiled knowingly at how Kara crinkled her nose in response to Alex’s comment, struggling as always to accept how remarkable her many talents made her. “Speaking of reporting, I forgot to thank you for telling your science reporter about Janya’s recent grant from the Arroway Foundation. I didn’t realize you were keeping track of the lab now that you wrote for the magazine,” she teased.

Kara’s eyes narrowed in confusion. “Eliza, I-I didn’t tell anyone at CatCo about any funding.”

Eliza perked in surprise at Kara’s statement. “Arroway is going to fund additional research Janya proposed to her work with NASA and NCI for the Early Detection Research Network. It’s a very promising theory and could have a huge impact on cancer biomarker research.”

“That sounds amazing, Eliza.” She frowned slightly. “I should have been paying attention to something like that. Janya deserves all the attention she can get for her work.”

“Well, the reporter who contacted Janya said that a very reliable source had given her the tip and urged her to follow it.”

Kara rolled her eyes in an amusingly dramatic fashion. “I don’t even have enough sway in my own group to get a chair during editorial meetings. Someone with way more—”

The hero paused, looking to the opposite side of the kitchen island. Cat was already meeting her gaze, expression set at its most indecipherable. “Did you—” but seeing the minute hitch of Cat’s eyebrow was all the confirmation she needed. “How did you know about this funding?”

With a flick of her wrist, the CEO explained as casually as she could, “I have an alert tool—separate from the ones you used to watch for me and under a burner email account—that monitors West Coast news for the name ‘Danvers.’”

She switched to meet Eliza’s equally inquisitive gaze. “One of Midvale’s local papers recently quoted you on the funding since you’re the head of the lab. I thought giving the story a little more national attention might inspire additional funding offers, so I contacted one of my science reporters and suggested that she follow up on the local article.”

Eliza bowed her head slightly, smiling at Cat’s understated explanation of her influence over her reporters. “Thank you, Cat. I really believe that Janya’s project is going to have revolutionary effects on cancer research.”

The CEO nodded brusquely, swallowing against a sorrow that she suspected would always be raw, no matter how much time passed. “We need all the advances we can find with this kind of research.”

Kara shook her head, confusion flaring brightly in her eyes. “You scan the news for mention of Danvers. Why?”

“It’s strictly precautionary. If anyone ever reported a link between Kara Danvers and Supergirl, I wanted to be able to get in front of the story.” She rolled her eyes as she continued, “Of course, when I set all this up, I never thought that Kara Danvers would intentionally link Supergirl to herself as a ‘source.’”

Kara grimaced and she began to stammer, “Get in front of—I don’t—get in front of what? And why?”

“When I realized you were Supergirl, I pre-wrote two articles: One adamantly denies any connection between you and your alias and one confirms it. The choice of which one would run would be yours alone, of course, and I would make sure it ran across all CatCo media outlets immediately and on constant rotation.”

Muscles rippled along Kara’s throat as she absorbed Cat’s explanation. “You—you’d do that for me?”

Oblivious to anything other than the astonished expression of the woman before her, Cat locked green gaze to blue. Her voice when she spoke was gentle yet resolute. “Have I not yet made myself clear, Kara? Whatever it takes.”

Seeing the oncoming shimmer of tears in Kara’s eyes and admittedly feeling moved as well by Cat’s revelation, Alex turned to Carter and queried, “So how long has your mom been so head over heels over my sister?”

Kara’s breath hitched in shock and Cat arched an eyebrow provocatively toward the brunette, although Alex could see the amusement lighting the gold flecks in her eyes.

The young man chuckled at Alex’s boldness. “Not sure. She’s pretty good at hiding things. I’d say at least since the Binder Artists Ball the year she hired Kara.”

Cat’s mouth moved several times before her voice finally caught up with her thoughts. “The Binder Ball? Carter, that was only four months after Kara became my assistant.”

Amusement shone in Carter’s gaze. “I know,” he laughed. “I’m honestly amazed you made it that long before you started being so obvious about how you felt about her.”

Before Cat could respond, everyone turned at the sound of Kara softly replying, “I remember that ball.” Her cheeks turned a vivid shade of pink as she struggled with whatever memory rose to mind. “You had me come to your penthouse—you’d forgotten your invitation on your desk.”

Her eyes widened as she contemplated the veracity of that “forgetfulness” and she swallowed at the sudden dryness in her throat. “You—that was the first time I saw you in evening wear.”

Cat remembered well the outfit she wore to that ball. It was one of her more daring ensembles: a fitted hourglass Fendi gown in the most sinful shade of red, with high slits on the sides and a neckline that plunged into a provocative “V” on the front and back. Pairing the gown with red suede Manolo Blahniks with gold-tipped stilettos and what her hairdresser had dubbed his “sex-tousled” style, Cat knew her look would be the fiercest of the evening.

However, watching her assistant’s response when she opened the door to greet her was the confirmation she truly craved. “I was the one in six-inch heels, but you were the one who nearly fell through my front door,” she teased.

“I just—you always looked impeccable in the office. I’d just never seen you look so—perfect.”

From the kitchen island, Maggie hummed in agreement. At the curious glance from Alex, the detective turned the phone in her hand around so others could see the screen. “Sorry. The detecting part of me couldn’t resist.”

Kara stared in silent awe. She hadn’t seen a picture of Cat in that particular outfit since all the photos that had appeared the day after the ball, across every tabloid and tablet—not that she couldn’t easily conjure it with exquisite detail in her mind. Intentionally looking it up, however, always felt somehow—unsuitable as Cat’s assistant.

Now, she couldn’t help staring, remembering what it was like to see Cat that evening, to breathe in her perfume, to feel her skin, soft and warm, beneath her fingers as she fumbled to fasten Cat’s pendant around her neck.

“I remember this outfit, too, Kara.” The hero was surprised to see a dark tint in Maggie’s cheeks. She cleared her throat. “Several photos of Cat wearing this dress appeared in a local lesbian magazine I subscribe to.”

“You mean Labrys?”

Cat’s lips curved upward at Maggie’s surprise over Carter’s question. “Yeah,” the detective laughed. “Are you a subscriber, too?”

He grinned bashfully at her teasing. “Kind of, I guess. Mom bought the publishing house several years ago when she learned they were near bankruptcy.”

“You?” Maggie huffed in astonishment. “When the magazine announced that they were going to be able to continue publishing, they stated that an anonymous third-party acquisition had saved them.”

Cat hummed nonchalantly. “I purchased the publisher through a broker as a personal investment, separate from CatCo.” Seeing the pensive narrowing of the detective’s eyes, she explained, “Purchasing the publisher as a private acquisition meant protecting the LGBTQ community’s dedicated news sources both from bankruptcy and interference from any of the more prudish members of the CatCo board.

“Besides,” Cat teased, “I couldn’t risk anyone at Labrys knowing I was the buyer and disqualifying me from the annual ‘Power Crushes of National City’ list.” Maggie’s dimples deepened with laughter at the roguish grin Cat flashed her.

Both Danvers sisters stared with matching open-mouthed confusion, much to Maggie’s and Cat’s combined delight. “There’s still so much I need to introduce you to in the community, babe,” the detective teased as she playfully pressed up on Alex’s chin. She inclined her head toward the CEO. “You’re looking at the Power Crush list topper for, what was it? Twelve years in a row?”

Cat shrugged though Kara could see the preening shine in her eyes. “It was a satisfactory run.”

Was?” Kara bristled at the past tense. “Why not anymore? Who took the top spot?”

Reaching up to sweep a blonde curl behind the hero’s ear, Cat relished the warmth she felt at Kara’s incredulous tone. Her hand rested against Kara’s neck, fingers tangling in soft strands of hair. “You did, darling.”

Kara’s response was precisely what Cat had hoped it would be: bashful and stammering and thoroughly adorable. “M-me?”

Cat laughed. “It smoothed the blow significantly, knowing that my reign could only be brought to an end by the most powerful woman on the planet.” She could feel the flush of Kara’s skin beneath her hand, still curled along the curve of the hero’s neck.

The detective frowned at the crease she saw forming between Alex’s eyes. “What’s wrong?”

With a shudder and a deep breath, Alex grimaced, “My sister is a lesbian power crush. That’s slightly—”

Kara quickly chimed in, “Awkward much?”

Maggie chuckled at how the sisters’ discomfited expressions mirrored each other perfectly. She patted Alex’s abs. “Sorry, babe. I know one of them is your sister, but these two,” gesturing between Cat and Kara, “are the biggest obsessions of National City’s lesbian population.”

Kara snorted incredulously. “That’s not—I mean, I’m not even in the same league as—”

She instantly fell silent at the sight of Cat’s unwavering stare. “Not owning our power yet, I see.” She waved aside Kara’s protests. “It really shouldn’t be that difficult to understand why Supergirl would be a ‘Power Crush,’ Kara. You are strong, compassionate, hopeful, and courageous in ways that can’t help but inspire.” With a suggestive arch of her brow, she added, “The uniform doesn’t hurt either.”

“Definitely.” Maggie caught the wicked gleam of amusement in Cat’s eyes and impulsively reached out for a fist bump, which the CEO gave without hesitation.

“Okay, never would have anticipated this alliance,” Alex muttered, meeting Kara’s equally surprised gaze.

“Hey, we’re just pointing out the facts,” Maggie laughed. “As a former beat cop, I can confirm that some ladies can’t resist a uniform. I got more—uh, dates than I could handle some weeks.” She blushed at the knowing smirk Cat shot her over her stumbled edit. She grinned sheepishly at Carter. “Sorry, kid. This whole conversation must be a ton of uncomfortable for you.”

Carter shrugged. “It’s okay. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t heard stuff way worse than this before. Teenage guys can be…gross.” He shuddered and blushed.

Deciding to have pity on both Carter and her daughters, Eliza nodded toward the suitcases setting by the back door. “Kara, why don’t you help Cat and Carter with their luggage and show them where they’ll be staying.”

“Actually,” Alex interrupted, “if Cat doesn’t mind, Maggie and I are kidnapping Carter. We have very important things to share with him.”

Kara narrowed her eyes at the conspiratorial grins that both Alex and Maggie were sporting. “Like what?”

“Like where we’ve hidden a batch of cookies where even Supergirl can’t find them.”

The hero gasped in mock horror. “I knew it! I knew there were missing cookies!” She frowned suddenly. “I’ve scanned everywhere—are you—did you bring a lead-lined box with you? For cookies?” Blue eyes widened when she realized how correct she was. “Alex!”

The older Danvers sister shrugged, her lips quirking into a smirk that Maggie found irresistibly adorable. “Hey, Mom makes most of the cookies for you, but the snickerdoodles? Those are totally mine—to be shared at my discretion, of course.” She bumped her fist playfully against Carter’s bicep. “Come on, kiddo, we’ll show you how we’ve defeated the Girl of Steel in her quest for total cookie domination.”

Eyes sparkling at Alex’s playfulness, Carter shrugged in Kara’s direction while backing toward where the agent and Maggie were heading. “Sorry, Kara, but I’m being kidnapped.” His laughter folded warmly around the hero as he disappeared around the corner.

Seeing the pout beginning to form on Kara’s lips, the smaller blonde wrapped her fingers around the hero’s wrist to reclaim her attention. “Come on, Girl of Steel. I’m certain there will be other cookies to conquer.”

“To go along with the two batches you ate last night and the two you’ve already eaten this morning.”

Eliza’s softly uttered teasing received a knowing sideways glance from Cat and a suitably chagrined blush from Kara. “Detouring by the Big Island on my way here last night took a lot out of me,” she grumbled.

The hero pressed her lips together to hide her grin at Cat’s sharp intake of breath. “The Big Island?” She shook her head in a combination of confusion and disbelief. “You went to Hawaii last night?”

“Kara likes fresh macadamia nuts for her favorite cookie.” Eliza paused long enough to meet Cat’s gaze before refocusing on her daughter. “You should take Cat to the farmers’ market on Kauai that you like so much.”

Scooping up Cat’s and Carter’s suitcases in one hand, Kara shyly took one of Cat’s hands in her other and began heading toward the stairs. “I still need to convince her I’m the safest way to fly before that happens,” she joked.

Eliza shook her head, noting before she returned to her chopping the unchecked curiosity in Cat’s gaze before she acquiesced to Kara’s steady pull.

On the second floor, Kara deposited Carter’s bag in the room farthest down the hall to the left of the stairs, swinging around to place Cat’s luggage in the bedroom across from it. The smaller blonde stepped in after the hero, giving an appreciative sweep of the bedroom. “So, where was your room?”

Unexpected crimson lines shot up through Kara’s cheeks. “This was my room f-for one night,” the hero stammered. “A-after that, I shared a room with Alex.”

Cat arched a questioning brow, intrigued by this information. “You gave up having your own room?”

The speed in which Kara’s expression transformed startled Cat. With a forced swallow, she softly explained, “When I first arrived, b-being alone terrified me. Even b-being able to hear Alex, Eliza, and Jeremiah nearby w-wasn’t enough. I-I had a horrible p-pa-panic attack on m-my f-first night.”

Hearing the pronounced stammer that was spreading through Kara’s words, Cat rested her hand flat against Kara’s chest, worry rushing through her at the furious pulse beneath her palm. “Your time in vrrosh :dokhahsh.”

Kara startled at the sound of those words, almost more from Cat speaking them with perfect inflection than from the fear they conjured within her. Even after all the time that had passed since her arrival to the Danvers home, Kara could still feel the terror that pressed into her at the memory of that first night—of Eliza speaking alien words in a soothing tone and shutting the door to Kara’s room, plunging her once more into horrifying solitary darkness.

Nights still came when Kara would wake up swallowing back the same scream that had hunted her through the emptiness of vrrosh :dokhahsh—the same scream that ripped not just from her lungs that first night on Earth but also from her eyes in terrifying streams of fiery light.

“I sc-scorched every w-wall in this room.” She shut her eyes against the memories of that night, still burned into her mind like the fire and char she had unleashed.

“They’re walls, Kara.” The hero opened her eyes at the simple statement. Cat’s hand moved up from her sternum, fingers brushing through her hair in calming patterns. “Walls are easy to fix.” She gestured around with her free hand to accentuate the point before raising it to caress Kara’s cheek. The hero leaned into the touch, her eyes sparkling with grateful understanding. ”Show me the room you shared with Alex?”

With a nod, Kara took Cat’s hand and led her to the room nearest the stairs. Cat noted the larger size and the full-length windows that took up most of the exterior wall of the room. “Much airier,” she agreed.

Kara smiled, her expression once more relaxed, her speech losing its frightened hesitation. “S-some nights even this room felt too constricting, even w-with the windows open. So Alex bought two sleeping bags so she could sleep out on the roof with me when she knew I n-needed more space.”

“You used to sleep outside on the roof?” Cat paled at the thought. “I suppose it wouldn’t have been so bad if you’d rolled off, but wasn’t Alex scared?”

Admiration and adoration lit Kara’s eyes. “Alex Danvers has always kicked fear in the ass,” she grinned. “Besides, she knew I would never let anything happen to her.”

Cat saw the moment Kara’s words sparked a particularly unnerving thought in the hero’s mind. “You can pack that idea away right now, Kara,” the CEO warned, although the slight shakiness in her warning reduced its fierceness significantly.

“You’ve gone flying with me, Cat,” she chuckled. “What’s standing with me on a rooftop compared to that?” Without waiting for a reply, Kara floated off the ground, passing backward through the open window and setting down softly on the roof. She looked at Cat from the other side of the window with a bright smile and extended hands.

Cat sighed at the knowledge that those beseeching blue eyes were going to be the whole undoing of the carefully cultivated Cat Grant image of control. Stepping closer, she gasped at the feel of Kara lifting her up effortlessly and drawing her out through the window.

Hands instinctively latched onto Kara’s shoulders, gripping with a strength that clearly did not go unnoticed by the hero. Settling the smaller blonde down next to her with a satisfied smirk, she let her hands drift down along the lines of Cat’s hips. “Best view in the house, right?”

Jade eyes never losing focus on the hero, Cat hummed in agreement. “Definitely my all-time favorite view.” Pleased to see the way her comment affected Kara, Cat finally turned her attention out over the vista before them. She inhaled at the sight of the Pacific just beyond the soft slope of yard and a well-traveled path that led straight to a small strip of beach.

Kara gestured toward the gently rolling waves. “Alex taught me how to swim and ride a surfboard out there.” She pointed toward a small bench in the yard that overlooked the water. “And Jeremiah gave me my glasses there.” She swallowed against the memory, smiling at the feel of Cat’s fingers intertwining with hers. She finished, “And that’s the infamous trampoline that gave life to yet another of my many aliases.”

For a moment, Kara slipped back into the bittersweet memories always conjured by her return to her first Earth home, her face tilted slightly upward in a stream of winter sun. Briny ocean breeze whispered by, tousling her hair, and her lips lifted into a contented grin.

She turned back to the sight of Cat looking at her with an expression that instantly made her feel like she was falling from the stratosphere. It was a look of reverence and desire, tempered by the flicker of something much too soon to name, but never too soon to long for from this magnificent woman. With the slightest cock of her eyebrow, the smaller blonde curled her fingers around the back of Kara’s neck, drawing her close with an encouraging smile.

The way Kara kissed was the way she was with Cat in every other capacity: eager, gentle, and achingly attentive. Cat could tell with each press of her lips against Kara’s how the hero was adapting to her responses, learning from her lead.

When she felt Kara’s tongue slip for the first time past her lips, she relished the moan it drew from a place within her left dormant for far too long—a place awakening with an insatiable need that Cat knew she should temper.

When Kara nipped at Cat’s lower lip and sucked it into her mouth with slightly too much pressure, tempering her response became a forgotten notion. Hands moved instinctively, one disappearing into thick golden tresses, the other molding to the curve of Kara’s back and pulling her closer. She devoured the surprised gasp that curled coolly from Kara’s mouth.

As the kiss deepened, Kara’s hearing amplified, filling her head with the overlapping chatter of conversations all through Midvale and slightly beyond. Her brow furrowed, irritated by the aural jumble distracting her from focusing on the sensations blasting savagely beneath her skin.

Slowly, she forced her hearing back under control, until it was only Alex’s voice she noticed from below. “Look at them. They’re shameless. You’re shameless, Kara.”

The sound of Alex addressing her directly caused Kara to smile into the kiss, which instantly made Cat halt and draw back slightly. Without turning around, Kara explained, “We’ve attracted an audience again.”

The smaller blonde peered around Kara, instantly greeted by the matching grins of Alex, Maggie, and Carter standing in the yard below them. With a huff of laughter and a shake of her head, she leaned her forehead against Kara’s shoulder, her hand flexing against the hero’s back. She could feel her pulse reverberating with an almost unpleasant ferocity as she brought her breathing back under control.

Kara’s already flushed cheeks darkened at the sound of Carter chuckling, “So busted.”

With a sigh tinged with disappointment, Cat straightened her posture, locking gazes with the smiling hero. “Points earned for this being one of the more unique places I’ve ever been caught making out with someone.” She hooked a finger inside the collar of Kara’s shirt to pull her in for one final quick kiss, whispering against her lips as she withdrew, “And bonus points for introducing me to the potential of that delightfully talented tongue of yours.”

Rather than the self-conscious uncertainty she expected to see, Cat instead felt the slightest unraveling of her composure at the glimpse of hunger and promise within Kara’s dark gaze. The moment broke far too soon with a slow blink and the slight tilt of her head that signaled she was hearing something Cat couldn’t.

“You know Mrs. Tillman is going to tell Mom what she saw you doing on the roof, right? Because you know she’s watching.”

Kara laughed at the insinuation, finally turning around to face the trio of interlopers watching her and Cat from below. At the familiar sight of her resting her fists against her hips, Maggie pointed out, “Well, if she is watching, right now she’s probably thinking Supergirl is a Russian spy.”

Carter’s face lit up with amusement. “Yeah, Kara, you might not want to stand like that with your hair down and your glasses off.” He laughed at how the hero quickly shifted position, reaching up nervously to confirm that she was, in fact, missing her glasses.

“Jeez, sis, pull yourself together—and then get your alien ass down here. We’re getting on the trampoline and Carter needs a super spotter.” The hero could see the sudden guilty shift in her sister’s expression. “And don’t tell Cat I just cursed in front of her son.”

“You’re kidding, right? I hear Mom say worse than that to jars she can’t open.”

Glancing to her left, Kara saw Cat silently studying her, amazement almost overwhelming her impatience at wanting to know what her son, Alex, and Maggie were saying to the hero. With an acquiescent smile, Kara stated, “My sister is being a horrible influence on Carter, and I believe he just made a valid case for me to come over and open all the jars in your home.” The hero laughed at the overzealous eye roll her explanation earned. “Also, Carter wants me to go on the trampoline with him.”

Kara caught the expected apprehension that flitted across Cat’s features, but was pleased to see consent as well. “I guess knowing that Supergirl has his back is all the encouragement he needs to try new things lately.”

She pursed her lips, eyes shifting slowly across the planes of Kara’s face. “Must be a Grant thing.” Without waiting to see Kara’s response, Cat turned back to the house, waving toward the window. “You got me out here, so time to reverse the process. Chop, chop.”

Sniffing out a soft laugh, Kara wrapped her arms around Cat’s waist, floating them both through window as quickly and inconspicuously as possible. She continued to hold Cat against her even when they had landed once more, pressing her lips against the smaller blonde’s ear and whispering, “I always follow your orders, Ms. Grant.” Her teeth grazed the soft flesh of Cat’s earlobe, eliciting a full-body shiver and suggestive sigh from the woman in her hold.

With a decidedly unsteady breath, Cat grabbed Kara’s hands, which had settled low on Cat’s hips and were beginning to trace paths down along her thighs. “Kara, I am not ravaging you in your childhood room while Eliza is downstairs and my son is waiting for you outside.” She playfully swatted at Kara’s hands at the feel of her laughing against her neck.

Turning in the hero’s hold, she cupped a hand against one cheek while softly kissing the other. “I can see that Alex isn’t going to be the only horrible influence on the Grants.” Breathing deeply, she interlaced her fingers with Kara’s and began toward the stairs, resolutely ignoring the smirk that confirmed that Kara could hear the rapid beat of her heart.

Back in the kitchen, Cat eyed the piles of vegetables that Eliza had already chopped as well as the piles still remaining. With a pat against Kara’s stomach, which Cat swore she could hear growling just from the sight of food, she stated, “I’m going to stay here and help Eliza.” At the appreciative smile and nod she received from the other woman, she gestured toward the door, “You go and make sure my son doesn’t somehow bounce his way into the ocean.” She halted Kara’s departure with a grip on her wrist. When their gazes met once more, she finished, “And turn off your hearing.”

Kara’s nose crinkled in an adorably confused manner. “Y-you know that’s not actually how it works, right?”

Leaning forward, she pressed a soft kiss against the hero’s cheek. “Only a reporter for a few months and already you want to argue semantics with me?”

Kara’s gaze shifted down to the smaller blonde’s lips, shifted back up just as Cat smirked knowingly at the sight of Kara’s suddenly glassy gaze. “Go, Supergirl. My son is waiting to learn Russian circus tricks.”

With a noticeable stumble, Kara breathed deeply and nodded. “Right, time to, um, go—going outside is good.” She blushed at the random words burbling from her mouth before pressing her lips shut and forcing herself to start moving.

“Glasses, sweetie,” Eliza quickly reminded, “Especially if you’re going to be on the trampoline. You know Mrs. Tillman will be watching.” She laughed at the sound of Kara’s disgruntled sigh as she disappeared a little too swiftly into the back yard.

Cat slipped over to the kitchen sink, washing up before joining Eliza at the center island. She pulled a cutting board close and slipped a satisfactory knife from the nearby block, beginning to demolish the pile of carrots nearest her with impressive efficiency.

After a few moments of an easy silence, Eliza decided to take advantage of the fact that she was alone with Cat. Getting straight to the point, she stated, “I’m going to talk with Alex and Kara later this evening about the visit I received recently from J’onn. I want them to enjoy as much of today as possible, though, before pulling them back into this CADMUS mess.”

With a resolute nod, Cat replied, “I was pleased when he informed Olivia that you accepted his offer.”

“It wasn’t really his offer, though, was it?”

Cat halted her chopping to meet Eliza’s already knowing gaze. “I may have planted the idea in his mind.” Eliza huffed in amusement at the reporter’s casual concession. “I’m not a Martian, but I do know a thing or two about planting thoughts in other people’s heads.”

“Please thank President Marsdin for the security detail as well.”

“It’s unnerving, isn’t it?” Cat made a small circular gesture with the tip of her knife. “I thought it was hard enough getting used to a bodyguard, but a whole group, always watching? I honestly don’t know how Olivia stands it.”

Eliza tilted her head inquisitively. “You have a bodyguard?”

Cat flicked the fingers of one hand in a dismissive motion. “Briefly, back when I had my talk show. I attracted the attention of what I believe Carrie Fisher once described as a ‘small merry band of stalkers.’ Most of them were harmless, but one became—disturbingly creative in his threats. Until the police could find him, I employed my own protection.”

“What happened—if you don’t mind me asking?”

Darkness flitted across Cat’s features. “My bodyguard found him in my dressing room with a backpack full of things that made his intentions unnervingly clear.” She pushed aside the memory as swiftly as possible. “He’s been in and out of jail and psychiatric facilities several times since then. My lawyers at CatCo keep track of his movements and renew my restraining order against him regularly.” She tried to shrug it all off with a barely convincing nonchalance. “Just one of the less pleasant prices of fame.”

“Does Kara know any of this?”

“No. She—I never wanted this to become a distraction to her. I know how protective Kara can be.”

Her expression becoming more thoughtful, Eliza conceded, “Kara is struggling to accept what you are doing regarding CADMUS. She wants you safe.”

With a slow shake of her head, Cat softly replied, “I want her safe.”

Eliza nodded, the fresh shine in her eyes revealing to Cat the depth of her gratitude. “Thank you. For caring about Kara the way you do.”

“How could I not?”

With one look, Cat allowed the woman before her to see the full truth of her question—of how caring for Kara was no longer even a choice for her, but something rooted deeper even than the fear that still curled itself too comfortably around her heart. There was no fear that Cat wouldn’t face for Kara.

In that look, Eliza saw all that she would ever need to know about Cat Grant.

Chapter Text

At the sound of the back door clicking open, Cat and Eliza paused their conversation, turning from where they sat at the kitchen island to the sight of Kara and Carter entering side by side. Cat noted with a soft smile the closeness of the pair as they laughed over some shared secret, Carter’s cheeks wind-chafed and rosy and Kara’s hair falling haphazardly from her ponytail in golden tendrils.

Seeing his mother, the boy instantly moved to her side, his eyes shining with excitement. “Mom, it was so cool! Kara taught me all kinds of ways to drop and spin, and then she flipped me a bunch of times!”

The high hitch of Cat’s eyebrow worried Kara enough that she started to stammer out an apology and explanation, but the smaller blonde instead smiled at her son’s enthusiasm. “I’m sorry I missed seeing that.”

“No worries,” Alex responded as she and Maggie made their way inside, Alex waving her mobile phone victoriously. “I have it all on video and photos.”

Eliza waved a hand in Kara’s direction. “First, Kara, could you check on the oven? I think the latest batch of cookies should be ready.”

Before Eliza had even finished her statement, Kara had slipped to the other side of the kitchen in a blinding blur of motion. Eliza chuckled, shaking her head at her younger daughter. After a quick X-ray peek through the door, Kara popped open the oven with an elated squeal, reaching in to pull out the tray, which was full of white chocolate macadamia cookies.

“Kara!” The blonde whirled, mouth already full of cookie and startled wide eyes directed toward the detective watching her from the doorway. Alex gently gripped Maggie’s shoulder, an understanding smile playing across her lips. After all, it wasn’t everyone who could grab a tray out of a 350-degree oven with bare hands. “Right,” Maggie finally sighed, shaking her head in embarrassment. “Sorry, Dynamic D. Still getting used to-to—”

“To her impatience? Or to her eating all the cookies before anyone else has a chance at them?” Alex winked at Maggie, tugging her slightly closer. Cat huffed a soft laugh while watching Carter select cookies from the tray Kara still held, bringing one to both Eliza and his mother when he returned.

Finally swallowing her Kryptonian-sized mouthful of cookies, Kara whined, “Come on, Alex! You know these are my favorite!”

Her sister and Maggie collected their own cookies, Alex giving Kara a playful smirk. “They’re cookies, Kara. They’re all your favorite.”

Eliza shook her head in amusement at her older daughter. “Be nice to your sister, Alex. You know Kara doesn’t like all cookies. She still hates pizelles.”

The full nose crinkling that Kara offered in response delighted Cat. “And what, do tell, is so awful about pizelles?”

“Star anise. It tastes just like ghertahk root.” She could practically hear the journalistic curiosity coming to life in Cat’s brain, could see the slight twitch of her lips and the arch of her brow. With an appeasing smile, Kara continued, “There are some Earth foods that remind me of Kryptonian foods.”

Alex hummed in agreement while licking a crumb from her lip. “Like when you wanted mashed pumpkin with every meal for like a year.”

The older sister chuckled at Kara’s wistful sigh. “It tastes just like sokorath.”

“And what does chocolate pecan pie taste like?”

“Uh, the best dessert in the galaxy!”

With a warm laugh, Alex slung an arm around Kara’s shoulders for a quick hug while grabbing another cookie. “And you should know because you’ve been to several planets,” she teased, kissing Kara’s temple. Kara leaned into Alex’s embrace, flushed with embarrassment and delight, joy shining in her eyes.

“All right, you two,” Eliza warned, “take the rest of those cookies and get out of the kitchen so I can make more without Kara eating all the dough.”

All Eliza heard was Kara’s grunt of protest before she allowed Alex to usher her along, passing the tray between Maggie, Cat, and Carter to empty it before leaving it on the island.

In the living room, Alex settled onto the love seat, pulling Maggie gently down beside her. The smaller woman fit perfectly against the curve of Alex’s hip as she leaned back and took a bite from Alex’s cookie. The indignant spark in Alex’s eyes drew a hearty laugh from the dimpled detective. “The Danvers girls do not share cookies well at all, huh?”

“Pfft,” Kara huffed, slipping down in between Carter and Cat on the couch while extending her last two cookies to both Grants as a show of further disagreement. Cat accepted the gift happily, but at the realization that Carter had not taken his, Kara turned questioningly toward him. The boy stared off into the middle distance, pensively nibbling at his bottom lip.

She broke his concentration with a gentle shoulder bump. “Hey, buddy.” He refocused quickly, embarrassed when he realized everyone was watching him. “Everything okay?”

Kara shifted nervously at the undiluted awe she saw in Carter’s gaze. “You’ve been to other planets beyond here and Krypton?”

From the love seat, Maggie chuckled softly while Alex grinned with joy at the unchecked admiration she could see in the boy’s expression for her sister.

The Kryptonian nodded shyly. “Many other worlds sought my father’s scientific counsel with their own research. Sometimes he would take me with him when he went to help them.”

“How many planets did you get to see?”

Kara pursed her lips, mentally tallying her list. “Ah, I think maybe a dozen? Give or take a few,” she smiled.

“What were they like?”

Kara tilted her head to one side, her eyes focusing on memories long pushed from thought. “Beautiful. Unique. There was one planet we visited with air that smelled like cinnamon.”

“Of course you’d remember the planet that reminds you of food.” She glanced over to where Alex was smiling at her, her expression conveying the strength and understanding that the blonde knew she would always find with her sister.

“Don’t make me show Maggie what a great shot I am with a pillow.” Alex smiled at Kara’s playful response while reveling at the feel of Maggie laughing beside her.

Kara turned back to Carter, seeing the familiar Grant concentration strong at work across his features. When he looked up into her eyes, however, she recognized a reticence at asking what he wanted to next. She gently brushed back a dark curl from his forehead. “It’s okay to ask me about Krypton, Carter,” she reassured him.

With a hesitant nod, he queried, “If there were so many other inhabitable worlds near Krypton, why did your parents send you all the way here, to Earth?”

Sorrow dimmed Kara’s expression. “When Krypton exploded, it wasn’t just my planet that perished. The shock wave and corresponding debris destroyed or damaged several other planets in our solar system.”

“Daxam is still there, but it was ravaged by solar storms. It’s a wasteland now. Your home—my home—they’re gone.”

She licked suddenly dry lips, her eyes shifting down from Carter’s gaze. “My parents and Kal-El’s knew that we would bear the stigma of being Kryptonian on any world we went to in our own region of space. Instead, they wanted to send us somewhere safe, where no one knew about Krypton or what had happened. My uncle chose Earth because he knew your yellow star and lower gravity would change us—grant us abilities that would let us do extraordinary things.”

Raising her eyes once more, she found herself under Carter’s careful scrutiny. His expressions, so unlike his mother’s often indecipherable masks, were always so revealing, so direct. In his expression now, she saw a kindness and understanding that overwhelmed and comforted her in equal measure. Without hesitation, he scooted back so that Kara could wrap her arm around him, resting his head against her shoulder and softly saying, “I’m so glad your uncle chose Earth, Kara.”

The hero swallowed quickly and pulled him closer into her embrace, resting her head against his and whispering, “Me, too, Carter.”

At the press of fingers against her other shoulder, Kara smiled and glanced over at Cat, who brushed a wisp of hair behind the hero’s ear. Without looking away from Kara’s gaze, she called out, not the least bit ashamed of the noticeable coarseness to her voice, “Agent Danvers, I believe you have reconnaissance to share on Kara and my son?” A half-smile tugged at her lips as she twirled a lock of Kara’s hair around her fingers.

Kara heard Alex quickly clear her throat before replying, “All the evidence you need is right here.” She waved her phone, eyes asking permission before tossing it across into Cat’s ready hand.

With an appreciative nod, the smaller blonde slid closer to Kara, settling against her side. Absently scratching her nails through the soft hair under Kara’s ponytail, she pulled up the photos and videos on Alex’s phone.

Both Carter and Kara immediately began offering narration, Cat absorbing it all with such rapt attention that when Eliza entered the room to join them, the trio on the couch remained heedless. With a knowing smile, Eliza settled into the recliner beside the love seat, sharing a look with Alex that didn’t require any of Maggie’s detecting skills for her to decipher.

Talk about Carter’s trampoline adventures somehow slowly turned into stories about Kara and Alex and the trouble the two sisters could stir when they were younger. Eliza made certain to leave out the more embarrassing elements, although the sisters were equally quick to tease each other about parts their mother politely chose to leave to them to tell.

During a particularly embarrassing retelling of how, while sneaking out after curfew, Kara had ripped part of the gutter off the house trying to help Alex disentangle herself from a loose spike, the hero paused, tilted her head to listen. Cat wondered at all the times she’d ever noticed Kara adopt this particular pose—wondered at all that Kara overheard, all that she trained herself to ignore.

At that moment, however, whatever had caught her attention was lighting up her face with a curious excitement that only her sister seemed to understand. “Already?” Alex laughed knowingly at Kara’s shy nod. “I swear they come earlier every year.”

Quickly recovering from the barely controlled speed with which Kara had sprung from the couch and was heading toward the front door, Cat cocked an eyebrow at the brunette and queried, “Who?”

Alex huffed in mock exasperation as she and Maggie got up and started in the same direction Kara had just zoomed. “Kara’s fan club.” At the way Cat’s eyes narrowed in silent entreaty, the brunette teased, “Kids might love Supergirl for all her powers, but the kids in this neighborhood love Kara for hers.”

Alex and Maggie continued out onto the porch, Cat, Carter, and Eliza behind them, to watch as Kara practically floated to greet a group of neighbor kids and parents coming down the driveway. Eliza smiled at the comfortable way Alex looped an arm across Maggie’s shoulders as they watched, and how the detective naturally leaned into the embrace. Maggie snorted softly at Kara’s unrestrained joy. “Was she this excitable as a kid?”

“Worse,” Alex chuckled. “You should have seen what she did to the previous front door at the sound of the ice cream truck.”

Cat rolled her eyes at the image Alex’s comment conjured while watching Kara greet the kids with hugs and her beautiful laugh. With a smile that Cat couldn’t help but notice held the subtlest touch of melancholy, the hero scooped the youngest child into her arms and began an animated conversation with him over the stuffed rhino the little boy clung to happily.

Curiosity at its breach point, Cat turned to Alex to press for more information—froze in mid-breath at the sound that suddenly rose in answer to her question.

Kara had begun to sing.

Alex made certain to memorize the moment that left Cat Grant speechless, suspecting that, like so many other universal rarities, it might be a moment she never witnessed again. Turning her attention once more to Kara, Alex leaned closer against Maggie, eyes closing and lips hinting at a bittersweet smile as she listened to the sound of her sister’s voice.

It was Kara’s first Christmas on Earth the first time Alex heard her sing—back before Kara knew any of the carols about Rudolph or Frosty or even the hymn she sang now in perfect a cappella. It was before Kara had even begun to speak much English, when she had spent most of her time in silence, tucked into herself with a desolate stare and her hands held against her chest in a nervous tangle.

Alex knew that Kara’s anxious fidgeting was partially her fault. She knew that Kara was trying her hardest to control strength so overwhelming that it still slipped through, trailing a wake of damage behind the constantly penitent girl. Alex was convinced that “sorry” was the only English the Kryptonian had learned to speak after three months on Earth.

The brunette tried as best as she could to be forgiving and patient whenever it was one of her belongings demolished. Even the slightest hint of frustration from her, however, and Kara would retreat inward, never understanding that the frustration Alex felt was mostly at herself—for wanting to help but never knowing what to do or how to be whatever it was Kara needed so desperately.

That first Christmas with Kara was quiet, with Eliza and Jeremiah trying to make it enjoyable for Alex but not overwhelming for Kara. Alex’s gifts that year were mostly replacements of things she demonstrably regretted losing to Kara’s wake of accidental destruction: an iPod, a microscope, a wakeboard, a surfboard leash, a tire for her mountain bike.

For Kara, Eliza and Jeremiah bought several photography books, of wildlife and art and architecture and nature scenes—images to help teach her more about her new home planet while they waited for her to learn enough English to tackle reading.

The young girl didn’t understand the reasons for the gifts, but Alex couldn’t help chuckling at Kara’s look of wonder over the images that Eliza showed her before leaving her to peruse the books on her own. Hours passed after that in silence as Kara sat curled in the living room recliner, taking tortuous care with each page turn, poring over each image with exacting attention.

Alex noted how she kept returning to the scenic photo book, spending more and more time on one image in particular—one image that painted sadness in her gaze, etched sorrow across her lips.

Curiosity finally too compelling, Alex moved to look over Kara’s shoulder. She noted the way the younger girl tilted her head inquisitively at the sound of her approach. “Hey,” the brunette smiled. She pointed at the book in Kara’s lap, open to a photo of a radiant red sky reflected against a lake’s glassy surface. “That’s really pretty.”

The Kryptonian bit nervously at her bottom lip before pointing at the photo and softly saying, “Like home.” Her eyes instantly misted with tears.

Instead of looking back at the photo, Alex continued to study Kara’s face. Within the Kryptonian’s gaze, Alex could see the surge of inconsolable memories conjured by those two simple words. It was a gaze that made Alex feel childish and petty in her frustration over the loss of things—items so insignificant in comparison with the crushing entirety of loss Kara bore within her heart. She bowed her head and sighed, “I wish you could tell me more, Kara.”

The brunette turned to leave, froze at the sight of Kara reaching out, her hand halting just shy of actually touching Alex. Kara never initiated contact. At first, Alex thought this was from fear that her strength might hurt someone. However, her observations of Kara left her believing instead that the girl didn’t want any kind of physical contact. The few times that Alex had seen her mother try to comfort Kara in any way had drawn a hollow expression to the girl’s features—a resignation that seemed to Alex to hint at some deeper void.

Looking at Kara’s hand now, so close to Alex’s arm that the brunette could feel the Kryptonian’s perpetual warmth, she frowned curiously. Kara wanted contact of some kind—wanted it enough that she was trying to initiate it herself. “Do you want to sit with me, Kara?” Not waiting for an answer, Alex instead went over and sat on the love seat, patting the empty spot next to her. “Bring your book. We can look through it together.”

Alex was certain she’d seen the slightest hint of a smile slip across Kara’s lips as the girl obeyed the brunette. Carefully settling in next to Alex, she turned with a quizzical tilt of her head and a comprehension in her expression that surprised Alex. The brunette nodded toward the book. “Show me more?”

When Kara instantly flipped to the beginning, Alex snorted softly in amusement. It was becoming rapidly evident that the Kryptonian’s comprehension of English was progressing just fine, contrary to the worries she heard her parents voice often. You’re just not ready to talk, the brunette mused. She shrugged at the thought, realizing that only Kara would know when she was finally ready to start reaching out with words. Right now, the older girl was more than content to take whatever communication Kara could handle.

The two girls sat huddled together until it was time for dinner, Alex offering extra details on the images Kara seemed to like the most. She did the best she could to hide her delight at realizing how much of what she was saying Kara seemed to understand.

At dinner, however, Alex noted how Kara withdrew completely from the conversation going on around her, focusing instead on inward thoughts that darkened her expression. After dinner, Alex tried to persuade the younger girl to show her more of her books. She only shook her head sadly, whispering “Sorry, Alex,” before turning and disappearing up the stairs toward the room they shared.

The brunette pondered following, but just as quickly decided against it. She understood better than most the need for space and time alone. With a sigh, she settled back onto the love seat, already missing the solid, warm presence of Kara beside her.

Flipping through the book that Kara had spent the most time with, Alex found that the pages already naturally fell open to the photo of the sunset with the deep ruby sky.

Like home.

The brunette knew all the basics about Krypton, such as it had been part of a red dwarf system, from all the times she’d questioned Clark during his visits. Basics, however, were all that he could offer, having only what he could learn from his father’s AI as a frame of reference for his home. It wasn’t really his home, though, Alex smirked. Genetically, yes, he was Kryptonian. In all other ways, however, he was no more Kryptonian than she was, his experiences just as human as any other resident of Earth.

Krypton’s final moments and last memories lived only within Kara—they were her rite and her lament, and not even the “Man of Steel” could ever make the same claims. Kara bore them alone, the last daughter of a planet now spread across the stars in ash and rubble.

Glancing toward the stairs, Alex worked her bottom lip pensively for a moment before deciding that space and time were highly overrated. Kara might not be ready to talk, but Alex wanted—needed to do something to let Kara know that when she was ready, Alex would be as well.

She gathered together Kara’s books and jogged up the stairs, noting the curious glances her parents exchanged. Her lips curled into a secret smile, pleased to know that she had confounded even the ever-observant doctors with her behavior.

At the room she shared with Kara, Alex knocked softly, more as a courtesy than anything else, and nudged open the door with her hip, surprised to find the lights off. Then again, Kara could see in the dark, she mused. She flicked the switch by the door, freezing in place at the sight of the empty room. Nervously looking back toward the stairs, she swung the door shut, in case her parents decided to make an inopportune appearance. “Dammit,” she muttered, seeing the curious sway of curtains in the breeze coming through the open bedroom window. Climbing out onto the roof, she cursed again at the realization that Kara wasn’t there either.

With a quick look around and a steadying breath, she moved to the roof edge and shimmied as quietly as she could down the gutter, dropping to the ground with a soft oomph. As she made her way across the back yard, she stumbled slightly at the sudden depression of earth right below their bedroom window. She sniffed at the realization that it was two depressions—footprints from where Kara had clearly dropped down from the roof.

The brunette squinted into the moonlit night, trying to make out any sign of the Kryptonian. Seeing no sign of her on the porch or in the yard, Alex jogged down to the beach trail. The rush of the waves pulled her closer as always, but soon another sound, surging and harmonizing with the surf, urged her along the sandy path more quickly than before.

Reaching the point where the trail met the beach, Alex froze at the sight before her. Bathed in moonlight, Kara faced the ocean, arms outstretched slightly from her sides with palms up and her feet clearly not touching the earth. She tipped back her head to look up into the clear night sky and once again began to sing.

It was the most beautiful voice Alex had ever heard, filled with so much sorrow and loneliness that she felt tears burning her eyes as she listened. The young Kryptonian trembled as she began to sing a litany of what Alex realized were names.

The names of the dead.

The names of Kara’s family.

Jor-El. Lara. Astra. Zor-El. Alura.

Her voice broke, the last name ripped from her mouth by a jagged sob. Alex had never heard sounds so raw, so shattered, so savage that even Kara’s strength couldn’t steady her. The brunette watched her collapse onto the shore, wrapping her arms tightly around her knees and rocking herself back and forth. She ached at the terrible cries that wrenched free from Kara with every breath. Softly, she shuffled across the sand, uncertain of what she wanted to do or say, but suddenly unable to bear the thought of Kara alone.

When Kara realized Alex was near, she scrambled to her feet, wiping quickly at the tears that streamed down her cheeks and backing away from the brunette. Alex could see the wild wideness of Kara’s eyes, even in the subdued light. She knew that the girl was beginning to panic, unable to disentangle herself from the crush of emotions surging once more within her. At the fear that Kara might try to run, Alex instinctively reached out, grabbing her around her waist.

She gripped tightly, knowing that even at her strongest, she was no match if the Kryptonian girl really wanted to get away from her, but also knowing that she needed to do her best to stop Kara from running. “Please, Kara. Please don’t leave!” She knew that anyone else would have cried out by now in pain at the feel of Alex’s crushing hold. Instead, she felt Kara go completely still.

Kara studied Alex, her eyes wide with surprise, and whispered reverently, “Kolirodh kahp rrip.”

The brunette frowned at the fact that Kara had completely reverted to Kryptonese, understanding only that whatever Kara had just said meant a great deal to her. “I’m sorry, Kara. I don’t know what you’re saying.” She started to pull away, but Kara gripped her by her forearms and held her in place. Alex winced at the other girl’s hold, letting Kara know she needed to adjust her strength. “Please,” Alex began again, “can you tell me in English what you just said? I want to help you. Please, just tell me how.”

“I-I…feel you, Alex.” She patted Alex’s arms, still holding Kara in place as tightly as she could. Tears began streaming once more down Kara’s pale cheeks. Her lips trembled but Alex could see gratitude flickering in those sad, haunted eyes. “I feel you.”

The air rushed from Alex’s lungs and she could feel her own tears rising as Kara’s words took hold. Her parents had already confirmed to her that Kara’s abilities here on Earth matched her cousin’s in every way, including impenetrable flesh. What Alex didn’t realize—what she didn’t think her parents realized either—was that Kara wasn’t now impervious just to pain or harm but also to regular levels of physical sensation. Maybe even Clark didn’t realize that their impenetrability came at such a cruel cost. He did, after all, grow up on Earth. Maybe this was what he thought was normal.

One look at Kara’s expression confirmed for Alex that it most assuredly was not normal for her. Alex noted sorrowfully one more item to be added to all that the young girl had lost. “I understand, Kara.” She smiled reassuringly before wrapping Kara in a hug, concentrating all the strength in her arms into her hold.

The younger girl choked out a half sob/half laugh. Alex gasped softly at the feel of her returning the embrace, the press of her arms solid and strong around the brunette as she struggled not to hold her too tightly. Tears soaked hotly through Alex’s shirt where Kara now rested her head, and she could feel soft tremors shake through the younger girl’s body as she held her close.

After several moments, however, Alex felt Kara tense in her hold and begin to pull away. Seeing the older girl’s confusion, Kara nodded toward the beach path, nervously whispering, “Jeremiah.”

A beam of light sweeping along the back yard toward the beach path was quickly followed by the sound of Jeremiah calling both girls’ names. Alex frowned at the familiar tone, but looking back into Kara’s face, she smiled while reaching up to wipe away the remaining tears on her cheeks. “It’s okay, Kara.” She pulled the girl close for one more hug before turning around to a full blast of light right in her face. “Dad!” She stepped in front of Kara, to shield her from the light. “Don’t shine that in Kara’s eyes!”

The brunette was surprised at how quickly her father listened, nearly dropping the flashlight in his haste to lower it. “Alex, what are you doing out here?”

She quirked her lips to the side, deciding in the time it took to shrug nonchalantly that she would accept his assumption that she was the reason they were outside. “I wanted to come down to the beach. It’s almost a full moon tonight.”

“And you couldn’t let us know? Or use the door?” He sighed at her silence before pressing, “You didn’t have Kara fly you down from your room, did you?”

Alex bristled. “Kara isn’t supposed to use her powers.”

Something in his daughter’s tone caught him by surprise—a vein of protectiveness hidden beneath the clear hurt she felt at his insinuation. With a quick flick of his wrist that made the beam from the flashlight slice along the sand, he finally replied, “Just get back to the house now, okay? Your mother is not happy.”

That statement was enough to earn a shudder that Kara instantly noticed. She placed her hand tentatively on Alex’s forearm, but the brunette patted her hand before taking it into her own grip and tugging the younger girl along beside her.

The moment Alex swung open the back door, Eliza pivoted from where she had been pacing, locking onto her daughter with a gaze mixed with disappointment and concern. ”Alexandra Danvers, what were you thinking?”

Alex felt Kara shrink against her at the sound of Eliza’s sharp tone, and she saw the worry that returned to the girl’s expression. The older girl could almost find it amusing that one of the lessons Kara had learned in her time with the Danvers was that when Eliza called her “Alexandra,” things were about to get ugly.

Squeezing Kara’s hand tightly to coax her to look up, she smiled. “Kara, go to our room, okay?” She quickly drew Kara into another hug as tight as she could manage. Already, she could feel the sting in her muscles, but the feeling of Kara relaxing completely in her hold and the delighted smile on her face when Alex finally let go were worth it. “Go on,” she repeated. “And no listening,” she warned. “Don’t worry. Everything is okay.”

Once she could no longer hear Kara on the stairs, she waited long enough to get herself as under control as she could. She then spun toward her parents, leveling her angry glare at them both. “Did he tell you what our sun does to their sense of touch?” She could see her mother’s expression morph into confusion at the question. “Or wasn’t there enough time for him to mention it when he breezed through and dumped her off?”

“Alex, that’s not what he did. Kal-El is her family.”

“No!” Alex could feel the acid of emotion at the back of her throat but pushed forward with as steady a voice as she could. “Family doesn’t abandon you. She’s been here for almost three months and he’s never come to see her! Does he even ask you about how she’s doing? How hard everything has been on her? How much she struggles every day? How she-how she—” but her voice betrayed her with a hiccuped sob caught in her throat. She felt herself teetering dangerously close to completely losing control. Already she could feel tears burning twin paths down her cheeks, something that made her angrier than she already was. Gathering her resolve with a long steadying breath, she finished, “How she can’t feel touch anymore the way she used to?”

Eliza moved forward a step, concern furrowing her brow. “Alex, we’ve run numerous tests on Kara, including on the tensile strength of her skin. It’s identical to Kal-El’s.”

“Give me your hand.” If Eliza had any concerns about the demanding tone her daughter had adapted, she pushed it down in deference to her growing curiosity. Obediently, she reached out her hand, which Alex clutched with an unexpected strength. “This is what she needs to actually feel us when we touch her.”

Eliza flinched, swallowed against the unexpected surge of emotion this revelation caused. She glanced at Jeremiah, saw the matching gleam of contrition in his gaze. In all their interactions with Kal-El, the topic of physical sensation had never been a focus of any of their tests. Whatever his sense of touch was, he’d had enough time on Earth to adapt and accept it for what it was.

For Kara, however, they should have been more aware—more sensitive to the one sense most important to a child in such need of comforting as she was. Instead, they had both tried to be as gentle as possible with her. Eliza in particular kept her physical interactions with the girl soothing and soft, admitted overcompensation for the guilt that bit into her heart every time she needed to subject Kara to yet another test at the lab.

Kara would sit in silence, never reacting to any of what Eliza said to her, never answering any questions, never responding to any touch. Never once did Eliza consider that Kara’s lack of response to physical interaction was because she simply couldn’t feel it.

“Alex—honey, we didn’t know. Kara’s never said anything to us about this.”

Pulling her hand back quickly, Alex stiffened with anger. “Of course she hasn’t! She hardly speaks at all! But maybe she would have told him. He could have translated this for us, but he hasn’t set foot here since he left her! I don’t give a damn who he is or where he’s from. He’s not her family.” She wiped at her face with one hand while pressing her other against her chest. “I am.”

Without waiting to hear what repercussions she had earned, Alex pivoted on her heels and fled up the stairs. She did pause outside the entrance to her room—to their room, she corrected—wiping away the rest of her tears and forcing her lip to stop trembling. She didn’t want Kara thinking she was upset at her for any reason.

Once she felt more controlled, Alex moved into the room she shared with Kara, smiling at the sight of the Kryptonian sitting on her bed, arms wrapped around knees tucked tightly against her chest. She slowly unfolded herself from the position, expression instantly worried. “Trouble, Alex?”

Alex shook her head as she sat down next to Kara. “No, Kara, I’m not in trouble.” It probably wasn’t the truth at all, but the brunette didn’t really care at the moment. She took Kara’s hand and began to apply pressure, all the while studying the younger girl’s expression. “Is this okay? I mean, can you feel my grip?”

Kara nodded and smiled at Alex, something the older girl had now seen her do more in one evening than she had since Kara had arrived at their home. She thought once more of the sound of Kara alone on the shore singing, her voice so broken and beautiful. She wished Kara could tell her what the song had meant, but in her heart she already knew. It was Kara releasing the sorrow that she had carried with her across galaxies—sorrow for lives lost before Alex was even a notion in her parents’ minds.

Again, Alex marveled at how, by all rights, Kara should be nearly the same age as the brunette’s parents. Instead, here she sat, younger than Alex, displaced from her own time and orphaned from everyone and everything she’d ever known as home.

“Kara, I’m sorry.” The younger girl swallowed nervously, unsure of why Alex was apologizing. However, she let Alex continue to hold her hand. “I’m so sorry for what happened to your mom and dad, to your home. And I’m sorry that I haven’t been taking care of you the way I was supposed to. I promise you, that changes now.”

She bit her bottom lip, hoping that Kara really was able to understand what she needed to tell her. “I can’t imagine what your nightmares must be like.” She dropped her gaze toward their hands, unable to keep looking into those wide, watery blue eyes. “When you have a nightmare and wake up scared, it’s okay to come to me.” She looked up once again, nearly gasping at the sight of comprehension and gratitude growing within Kara’s stare. “Wake me up, okay? I-I can’t make the nightmares stop or take away your sadness, but I will always hug you when you need to be hugged.”

Tears that had pooled within Kara’s eyes slipped down her cheeks. Alex instantly wrapped her arms around the girl, pulling her close and hugging her with every last bit of strength she could muster. It was enough to push Kara beyond the already tenuous control she had over her emotions.

The sob that escaped Kara rattled Alex to her bones, broke the brunette’s heart with its raw power. This girl with strength and speed and senses beyond compare, and in that moment Alex realized that none of these extraordinary powers was enough to help her bear the pain of so much loss and heartbreak. “It’s okay, Kara,” she whispered, voice thick and breaking, “I’ve got you. I promise I will always be here for you.”

Chapter Text

There were many different forms of tension that required decoding. In her time as Cat’s assistant, Kara had learned how to identify and treat almost every iteration to tighten and transform the normally elegant line of the CEO’s shoulders. She knew the tension that called for chamomile, the one that craved M&Ms, the one that demanded scotch.

Then there was this intractable tension. The tightness of muscle impervious to any attempts at alleviation—a tightness always wound by its instigator right to the edge of breaking. This was the tension Kara could see now, coiling between Cat’s sharp shoulder blades and pressing her fingers harshly into her biceps as she stood, arms crossed, before the windows of the sunroom.

This was the tension that Kara hated the most—not for its persistence but for its very existence.

“You don’t have to hover in the doorway.” The smaller blonde waved one hand absently in the air. “Phone call is over. I’ve retracted my claws.”

The hero startled at Cat’s words, surprised that she knew Kara was there. More surprising was the gentle tone that she knew the smaller blonde was purposefully using. Kara knew this tension often left only sharpness to Cat’s words, harshness on her tongue. She also knew that Cat had started making an effort to temper her treatment of Kara, even when the hero was still her assistant, whenever under this particular strain.

“You don’t get to talk to her like that.”

With a steadying breath, Kara padded across the sunroom, taking a place behind the smaller blonde and following her gaze out the windows. Out on the beach, Carter and Maggie stood side by side, each trying to steer their own kite into the ocean breeze. Alex and Eliza sat to one side, laughing at their efforts while gesturing what Kara knew was some form of encouragement or advice to help them keep their kites aloft.

“Carter refuses to willingly spend any time alone with her.” Kara stiffened at the unexpected statement. “Not that there are many such opportunities.” Cat released a displeased sigh. “She’s never bothered to see what an exceptional grandson she has.”

She’s never bothered to see what an exceptional daughter she has.

Kara’s mouth moved, froze as she swallowed back the response that Cat’s statement had conjured. If her conversation with her mother followed its normal patterns, she had already absorbed enough harshly spoken words. More to the fire, even in repudiation of Katherine Grant, would serve no positive purpose.

Instead, she carefully placed her hands along Cat’s shoulders and began to massage the tense line that held her rigid. “We see him,” she finally replied. “I’m pretty sure, in fact, that Alex and Maggie might try to kidnap him for real if you’re not careful.”

Cat hummed in response and Kara felt the first trace of uncoiling beneath her steady touch. “Carter Grant: The Littlest Lesbro. That has all the makings of a top-rated reality show.”

The smaller blonde’s lips curled mischievously at the sound of Kara’s snort of laughter. As the hero’s hands continued to sweep slow arcs across her shoulders and back, however, she soon caught herself humming once more—a low contented sound that Kara felt through her fingertips. “I can practically feel you purring,” she teased.

Cat glanced scathingly over her shoulder, but Kara could see the playful golden glint in her gaze. “Careful. I do have a daily cap on cat puns.”

Hands ceased their circling, slid slowly downward and around, fingers fanning out along her sides. Kara’s mouth brushed against the edge of Cat’s ear as she leaned closer. “I’m sure you’d make an exception for me, no?” She nuzzled into Cat’s hair, relishing the rhythm of the smaller blonde’s heartbeat, now so strong the hero could feel it pulsing deep within her abdomen. “After all, it is Christmas.”

Cat knew it wasn’t right to let herself be so selfishly indulgent. This was neither the time nor the place. And yet there were Kara’s hands—hands that could make her bend, could make her break—curled so gently around her, fingers now tracing the lines of her ribs, setting her alight with the barest of touches. These hands could rend mountains in half and never even bruise, and they were holding her now as if she were precious, irreplaceable.

Kara’s touch made her feel as though she mattered in a way she’d never felt before—not in the way she mattered to Carter or mattered to those associated with her company. This was a way that made her feel insignificant and unconquerable in one dizzying rush.

It had been an unmentionably long time since Cat had focused on anything more than satiating physical wants. Failed marriages and disregarded relationships had led her to the conclusion that it was simpler to treat her brief dalliances as a la carte affairs, with sexual gratification being the only option she allowed herself the occasional indulgence of selecting.

With Kara, however, she knew she was not indulging in some passing want. This was need, keening in her veins for relief, for response. It was a call for completion that she loathed—not for the person she craved but for the craving itself. Craving was vulnerability, and Cat abhorred feeling anything less than invincible—even when it was only a feeling and not the truth.

With a controlled breath, she turned in Kara’s grip so that she was facing her hero—looked up into eyes filled with longing and fear and an openness that terrified Cat in equal measure. The smaller blonde drew Kara down for another kiss, lips fitting together with an increasing familiarity that curled low and warm in Cat’s stomach. Feeling the eager tug of more growing within her, however, she pressed a hand against Kara’s chest, pushing enough to get her attention.

The hero refocused her vision, slightly more intense than normal, with a determined blink and a confused frown. “Are you okay?”

Nodding affirmatively, she took one of Kara’s hands and began backing toward the couch. “Sit with me.” She smirked at the confused pout that followed her. “Some of us need to rest our feet now and again, Supergirl,” she teased, “even when wearing shoes more sensible than my normal preference.”

The hero grinned, myriad moments flashing through her memory of Cat striding elegantly into her office and immediately slipping out of whatever gravity-defying heels she’d selected for that day. “Fair enough,” she allowed, sinking down into the comfortable hug of leather cushions while Cat nestled beside her with a contented sigh.

The smaller blonde glanced over to meet Kara’s gaze, eyes narrowing slightly when she saw an errant blonde curl hanging in front of her face. Without hesitation, she reached up to push the strand back behind Kara’s ear, and smiled when it revealed the small scar that punctuated the hero’s left eyebrow.

The glasses Kara Danvers always wore did a fair enough job of distracting from the scar, but now nothing hid the anomalous imperfection. Seeing the look of confusion growing in Kara’s eyes, Cat brushed her fingers across the uneven skin. “I’ve always wondered: How does someone who’s bulletproof end up with a scar?”

The question earned a soft chuckle. “I haven’t always been bulletproof, remember? When I was six, I fell while chasing after my Aunt Astra. I gashed open my forehead and cracked the corner of the shelf I hit.” She knocked a knuckle against her temple. “Superpowers or not, I have always had a hard head. Most of the scar responded to dermal regeneration, but this one patch remained for some reason. Like I told you, I was a very clumsy child.”

Cat ran her finger across the scar once more, committing it to memory. “I bet you were a very beautiful child.”

A sad smile darkened the hero’s features. “I suppose. There are no images of me before I arrived here to test your theory.”

A flash of the walls of photos throughout the Danvers house flickered through Cat’s mind. Most of the pictures were of teenage versions of Alex and Kara, sometimes on their own but usually together. She felt her throat tighten with emotion at the thought of Eliza and Jeremiah putting up those photos, proudly documenting Kara’s new life with them and letting her know with all the certainty they could that she would forever be a part of their family history.

She refocused her attention when Kara started to speak again. “I-I know that there were other more important things to consider when my parents were preparing what they would include when they sent me away from Krypton, but I wish they had included some of the images of us together.”

Truth was, it cut Kara more and more deeply to the quick of her heart each time she interacted with the AI holograms of her parents—empty reminders of the sources of her very life in this universe. Even with all the imperfections and terrible truths she had learned about them both since she had become Supergirl, Kara would have traded in every last breath remaining to her if she could only hug them one more time.

It wasn’t until she felt Cat gently stroking her cheek that Kara realized she had begun to cry. Embarrassed, she tried to turn away, but Cat placed both her hands firmly on Kara’s cheeks. “Kara, please don’t be ashamed of crying.”

The hero shook her head slightly, averting her gaze. “It’s breaking the number one Cat Grant rule.”

“No. Rules at CatCo and rules with me are two different things. Besides, the CatCo rule exists only because I was tired of dealing with overly emotional millennials who needed gold stars and cookie breaks every five minutes.”

She smiled at being able to earn a laugh from Kara. “With me, though, you never need to hold back whatever you are feeling. And, Kara?” She paused to wait for the hero to meet her gaze. “The sorrow you bear is incomprehensible. The fact that you choose joy and kindness the way you do every day—I don’t know how you do it.”

“How could I not?” Her eyes glistened in the fading light. “Every second, every breath—everything from the moment my parents put me in that pod has been a gift. Yes, it hurts, sometimes so badly that all I can feel is rage and sorrow and pain.”

Her breath snagged on the sharp agony of that word, but she pressed on, “I will never stop feeling the loss of my family or my home—but to only mourn and never give myself the chance to experience happiness again? My parents saved me because they wanted me to live—and that means opening up my heart and mind every day to all the beauty and joy that surrounds me. I could never bring to the House of El the dishonor of anything less.”

Cat gazed at Kara tenderly as she ran her fingers along the hero’s jawline. “You are so extraordinary, Kara.”

Kara laughed even as a tear trickled down her cheek. “I love hearing you say my name.” She blushed at the way Cat tilted her head to the side, brow arched inquisitively, and softly confessed, “It-it makes me feel like you’re finally seeing me.”

She raked her fingers through the hero’s golden tresses, interlocking them at the base of her neck. “I have always seen you, Kara.” Leaning closer, she sighed, “Kara,” with a kiss to the hero’s forehead; “Kara” again, with a kiss to her nose; “Kara” once more, with a kiss to her lips.

Moving back to make eye contact, she instantly felt an intoxicating twist in her stomach at the joy lighting Kara’s eyes. “Do you know why I called you Kiera?”

“You told me: I made it irresistible to tease me,” she joked, teeth flashing brightly as she grinned.

“Well, yes,” the CEO conceded with a roll of her eyes, “that was why I started. But it soon became more than that. Even when I named you Supergirl, I knew it would rapidly become another name—another part of you I would have to share. But when you were Kiera, you were only mine.” By the time she finished speaking, her voice had dropped to a level that only Kara could have heard completely.

Fingers strong as steel, soft as silk curled under Cat’s chin, pressed up so Kara could once more capture her lips in a kiss. Pausing with mouth barely a breath away, Kara whispered, “No matter what name you use, every part of me is only yours, Cat.”

The weight of this confession grounded the smaller blonde, slowed her thoughts and stilled the growing ache within her. In that moment, she understood: With Kara, there were no demands, no pretenses, and no hesitations. There was only time—to release the missteps and mistakes of the past and to allow Kara’s hopeful light into all the places in her serrated heart she’d long ago shuttered.

Resting her forehead against Kara’s, she breathed deeply, sighing as she exhaled, “Thank you for seeing me.”

She felt the soft press of the hero’s lips against her forehead before hearing her whispered response: “Always.”

With purposeful moves, Cat placed her hands on strong, broad shoulders and pushed the hero backward. She smiled at the feel of Kara giving in to her direction, lying back so that Cat could curl easily into her embrace. With a contented sigh, she rested her head against Kara’s chest, the lullaby of her solid heartbeat instantly soothing her.

It took a shockingly short amount of time for Cat to drift off to sleep in this position, contrary to her typical assertions that she needed far less rest than the average mortal did. In truth, the reporter had been pushing herself far beyond even her “two hours of sleep” rule for far too long. That combined with the delicious fanfare of dishes Eliza had prepared for their meal and the feel of Kara’s comforting arms now wrapped around her meant there was no way Cat could fend off the drowsiness that pulled her in like a siren’s song.

Shadows lengthened and light waned, and in time, the smaller blonde stirred slightly, the sound of a familiar click rousing her from her light slumber. However, the feel of Kara’s arms still holding her snugly and the hero’s cheek resting against the top of her head made it impossible for her to imagine wanting to move any time soon.

“Cat Grant is asleep in your sunroom.”

“Cat Grant is asleep on my sister.”

The woman in question sighed softly in amusement and, without opening her eyes, replied, “Clearly, neither of you specializes in covert operations. Your observational skills are top-shelf, though.”

Lips curved upward at the sound of Alex and Maggie both chuckling at her reply as the CEO finally opened her eyes. Barely stifling a yawn, she shifted enough to see Kara now watching her from beneath eyelids still weighted by sleep. “Kryptonians nap, too?”

She felt the play of muscle beneath her as Kara chuckled in response. “We do when presented with the right incentive.”

With a gentle smile, the smaller blonde sat upright, allowing Kara to shuffle up into a seated position. Slowly, she stretched, her body arching backward into a question mark curve. She hummed contentedly at the solid crack of her back before rising and turning toward the agent and detective. “And where is my wayward son?”

Alex tilted her head in the direction of the back door. “He said he was going to call his dad.” Her lips quirked into a sheepish grin. “Hope you don’t mind, but we left the rest of the snickerdoodles with him. Sounded like he needed them.”

Cat painted dismissive arcs in the air with an elegant flick of her fingers. “It’s better than the scotch and venom I usually drink before dealing with my mother.” Kara snorted slightly, although she filed for later consideration the curious shift of Cat’s expression at the mention of Carter’s father.

A more appropriate and pressing question, however, rose to her lips for the moment: “Is it time for dessert?”

“Almost.” Alex rolled her eyes at the way Kara’s expression instantly deflated. As her sister moved toward the doorway a few steps behind Cat, she draped her arm across Kara’s shoulders and teased, “Come on, Cosmic Casanova. Mom wants to talk with the four of us in the living room.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kara grumbled, already missing the feel of Cat’s warmth in her arms. Suddenly, she turned and whispered, “Oh, and if I don’t have a copy of that photo you just took the next time I check my phone, I will melt your face off.”

As Kara moved out of her sister’s embrace, Alex swiftly swatted at her hip, wincing slightly at the sting to her fingers. “You know it’s my job to corral violent aliens, right?”

The hero responded by sticking out her tongue before following after Cat into the living room.

Moving to where the smaller blonde had already settled on the couch, she couldn’t help but feel as though she had interrupted a silent conversation passing between the CEO and Eliza. Her foster mother quickly shifted her gaze to Kara’s, her expression gentle but reserved. “Good nap?”

“Great nap,” she replied, cheeks flushing slightly as she descended next to Cat. She heard Alex and Maggie both snickering as they entered and sat down beside the two blondes.

With a resolute nod, Eliza shifted her gaze between her daughters and stated straightway, “I’m going to be coming back with you to National City tomorrow morning.” At the instantly confused glances shared between Alex and Kara, she continued, “The day Cat debriefed you all on her CADMUS research, J’onn came here to see me afterward—to offer me protection in one of the DEO’s safe houses in National City. Considering the reasons, I’ve agreed to accept.”

“Protection? I-I don’t understand.” Kara looked to Alex, who frowned and shrugged.

“It’s a routine preemptive.”

At Cat’s explanation, realization broke from Alex’s throat in an alarmed growl. “She knows.” Seeing confirmation first in Cat’s gaze and then in her mother’s, Alex clenched her jaws, grinding out a furious, “How the fuck did I not think of this?”

“Language, Alexandra.” Eliza’s voice held its usual edge whenever she corrected Alex, but she placed a hand on her daughter’s knee in reassurance. “I asked J’onn to refrain from discussing this with either of you until I had the chance to tell you. I wanted us to have today here.”

She glanced knowingly at Cat. “And I promise you both, I have been safe in the interim. President Marsdin was kind enough to assign me a detail similar to Carter’s security until they logged Kara’s arrival last night.”

Kara stiffened at Eliza’s statement. “You had Secret Service here when I arrived last night?” Her expression grew frightened. “I-I still don’t understand.”

Linking her fingers with the hero’s to draw her attention, Cat replied, “Kara, Lillian Luthor knows who you are. She’s known since before Hank Henshaw walked through that front door when you were a young girl and tried to take you from the Danvers.” She ached at the sight of fear distorting the hero’s expression. It was clear to the smaller blonde that Kara had never considered this truth—or the damning implications it could have if Luthor ever chose to act on this knowledge.

Cat tightened her hold to keep Kara focused and finished, “She has made no threats or indications that she’s considering targeting Eliza. However, the role Eliza played in devising the Medusa antidote combined with Dr. Luthor’s increase in CADMUS’s threat level means that we take no chances with her safety.”

Seeing Kara begin to withdraw, she quickly reached out and gripped the hero’s chin firmly to establish eye contact. Her heart compressed at the sight of guilt surging within Kara’s gaze. “Do not ever assume any blame for the actions of Lillian Luthor, Kara. Her actions reflect only on the depth of her own corruption.”

“But—”

No.” Cat faintly registered how even Alex flinched beside Kara at the severity of her declaration. “You will not allow that fearmongering sociopath to make you doubt the choices you have made as Supergirl.”

Releasing Kara’s chin, she brushed her fingers through the hero’s hair. “These are her choices, and until we can finally stop her, our choice will be to protect the people we love.”

Kara swallowed roughly, Cat’s words not fully registering through the fog of worry clouding her thoughts. “It’s all right, honey.” Eliza reached out, squeezing tightly when Kara took her hand. “J’onn has already told me that the DEO labs will be fully at my disposal, so I’ll be able to continue my regular work—and I could even be of use to the DEO again, like I was with the Medusa virus. I’m going to still be able to oversee most things at the lab here, and Janya will be picking up whatever I can’t do until I return.”

Her gaze shifted down the couch, from Kara to Alex to Maggie, her expression warming. “Plus, with the NCPD, the DEO, and the Hero of National City all looking out for me, I’m going to be one of the safest people on the planet.”

“For how long?” Distress furrowed Kara’s brow, her eyes brimming with tears. “How long are you going to have to put your life on hold?” She rose as though wanting to leave, but the grip that Eliza still held on her hand steadied her in place.

Her foster mother stood, pulling her into her arms, her hold strong and secure around the hero’s now trembling shoulders. “My sweet Kara,” she soothed, feeling tears soaking into her shoulder, “I’m not putting my life on hold. I’m making adjustments—that’s all. Whether it’s for a month or a year, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I will be one less distraction to you and Alex while you focus on bringing down CADMUS.”

She reached down for Alex’s hand, pulling the brunette up and wrapping an arm around her as well. “And I get to be close to my girls again, even if only for a little while.” She laughed jestingly. “Whether or not that’s something you’ll enjoy is an entirely different question.”

The sight of Kara and Alex both grinning at her comment relieved some of the tension that had pooled between her shoulders. Kissing both her daughters’ foreheads, she finished, “We’re going to get through this. El Mayarah, right?”

El Mayarah,” Alex responded without hesitation, and Kara felt her heart swell with love for Eliza and Alex’s unwavering devotion. She pulled them both closer to her, whispering in reply the oath of her House—a lineage of blood that love had expanded.

When the hero finally released her foster mother and sister from a hug slightly too strong, Eliza wiped away the remaining trace of tears from Kara’s cheeks. “Now, I think it’s time for that pie, don’t you?” She caught Alex’s eye roll at how Kara’s eyes instantly lit up at the mention of dessert.

Leaning in, she kissed Kara’s forehead once more before looking at the two women still seated on the couch. “I’m assuming I should make a pot of coffee first?”

Maggie was quick to her feet at the offer of caffeine. “My double shift yesterday is definitely kicking my ass,” she laughed, “so coffee sounds great right now.”

Eliza glanced over at Cat, read the pensive expression on the CEO’s face and understood that there was more she needed to say to Kara before closing this conversation. “We’ll let you know when coffee’s ready, okay, Cat?”

Snapping out of her reverie at the sound of her name, Cat quickly refocused and offered Eliza a grateful nod. “Thank you,” she replied, her lips hitching into a trace of a smile. As Eliza led Alex and Maggie back toward the kitchen, the smaller blonde turned to meet inquisitive blue eyes and a worried frown. “Come here, Kara,” and she patted the spot next to her on the couch.

The hero obediently sat once more, facing Cat with an anxious swallow. “Cat? What is it?”

The smaller blonde entwined their fingers. “There’s one more thing we need to discuss—about us.” She locked onto Kara’s eyes, noting the rapidly growing apprehension within the already cacophonous twist of emotions. “We need to keep our relationship private, Kara. I will not risk my sons’ safety or become a liability that Lillian Luthor can use against you.”

Kara nodded almost instantly, her expression betraying a melancholy resignation that surprised Cat. “It’s all right,” she began, her eyes shifting downward and her smile small and clearly forced. “Even without Lillian Luthor knowing who I am, I kind of figured that you would want to, you know, keep us a secret anyway.”

“Kara Zor-El, look at me.” The hero, startled by the sound of Cat using her true name, instantly looked up into jade eyes focused on her with unnerving intensity. “You will never think yourself less than deserving of anything, including acknowledgement, when it comes to us, do you understand?”

To soften the sting of what she knew was a severe tone, Cat tangled her fingers in Kara’s hair, drew her in for a quick, soothing kiss. “You are never going to be my dirty little secret or my backroom affair, Kara. In this relationship, you are my partner—my equal. I fully intend to treat you as such.”

“But people will talk—and-and what about the tabloids?” She grimaced, the flood of malicious conjecture they often wrote about Cat rushing through her mind.

“Oh, the gossip rags can collectively go fuck themselves with their opinions of me.” Kara blushed at Cat’s statement even as she grinned at her fervor. “They’ve eviscerated me in every way imaginable—my success, my status, my sexuality, my relationships, my looks, my body. It’s all part of the ugly celebrity game.”

Her tone turned apologetic. “You will unfortunately bear the brunt of this round as well once we are able to go public. For that, I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right,” the hero shrugged. “It’s all about the news cycle, right? I’ll get bullied by a few tabloids for a week or so, and then they’ll move on.” She chuckled. “I get punched through buildings on a regular basis—I can survive this.”

The reporter smirked, squeezing Kara’s hand in gratitude. “As for people talking,” she continued, “the only opinions other than our own that will ever matter to our relationship belong to your family and my sons. Everyone else can go to hell.”

“What about your mother?”

With a characteristic snort of disdain, Cat sneered, “I will refer you back to my final statement.”

At the laughter that lit the hero’s features, Cat couldn’t resist kissing her once more, relishing the sigh she felt against her lips as she pulled back. “I’ve made all the mistakes imaginable when it comes to relationships—and probably even some that most would categorize as unimaginable.” Her lips quirked at the way Kara tried to stifle a grin at this. “The silver lining to that, I suppose, is that I’ve at least learned what doesn’t work.”

She looked into Kara’s eyes, so blue and beautiful. “I want us to work, Kara.”

Cat was certain of all the wonders she would ever see, there would be nothing to compare with the beauty of Kara’s shy, sunny smile that stole the air from her lungs whenever she saw it. “Now, come on,” she continued, rising to her feet and tugging Kara up beside her. “I need to experience this ‘greatest dessert in the galaxy.’”

Hands still intertwined, the two began toward the kitchen, pausing at the sight of Alex leaning against the doorway. The agent’s expression was placid, but Cat understood how much she had heard from the fond way she studied them both. Quickly clearing her throat, she nodded toward the kitchen. “Mom sent me back to ask if you’d give the pie a quick zap.”

Kara nodded, her lips arching upward in delight. As the two blondes moved out of the living room, Cat hitched an eyebrow appraisingly toward Alex. “I take it back. Covert operations might be within your wheelhouse after all, Agent Danvers.” She narrowed her eyes in teasing consideration and gave the brunette’s shoulder a squeeze as she passed.

Alex blinked in surprise at the action, the tender smile returning to her lips as she watched her sister and Cat walk hand-in-hand into the kitchen.

Chapter Text

“You always seem incredibly fascinated by them together.”

Cat’s gaze drifted away from watching Kara and Eliza set up a telescope while Carter and Maggie stared up into the clear night sky from a nearby blanket, focusing instead on the brunette who had silently sidled up to her side. Alex nodded once in the direction of her sister and mother while handing a tumbler of scotch to the reporter. “I saw you watching them the same way the night of Myriad.”

Cat hummed thoughtfully as she accepted the glass, clinking it against Alex’s with a coy smile. “Actually, I was thinking about you just now.” Alex’s eyes widened slightly at the confession. “It must be strange, how much more your mother resembles Kara than you.”

Alex huffed in amusement at the observation. “It is pretty weird,” she agreed. “Even weirder? We still can’t say definitively why Kara went blonde.”

A muscle in Cat’s neck twitched slightly. “Wait. You mean that’s not her real hair color?”

“No and yes. Dark hair and light-colored eyes were predominant traits among Kryptonians. It was a genetic variant they all carried that increased their sensitivity to sunlight. When Kara arrived, her hair was a deep shade of brown.”

She shrugged while taking a sip of scotch, sighing appreciatively as she did. “Our mom says her hair color change was likely a side effect of how Kara’s body adapted to processing our yellow star system’s increased radiation.”

“So why isn’t the Man of Steel rocking golden locks, too?”

“Kara’s body processes sunlight—differently than her cousin.”

The brunette’s hesitation instantly increased Cat’s interest. When Alex continued her silence, she pressed jokingly, “Is this difference a matter of security? Because I do have the proper clearance now.”

With an amused snort, Alex inclined her head in acquiescence toward the reporter. “Because she matured on Krypton, Kara’s cellular absorption levels had time to adjust for a red star environment. Here, in our yellow star environment, her absorption rate surpasses Kal-El’s almost threefold, which means she can absorb energy faster, store more, and utilize it to greater effect.”

“How, exactly, do they store this energy and process it?”

Alex grinned at the journalistic curiosity rising within her companion. “Kryptonian physiology differs from ours in significant ways, as you can imagine. Their internal organs mostly parallel ours, but not enough to be transplant-compatible. They also have two more organs than we have, that were part of their evolutionary adaptation to the lower output of their sun. One increases their body’s absorption level and another filters that energy to concentrate its potency.

“The organ responsible for filtering and concentrating solar radiation evolved in response to Krypton’s environmental decay, which is part of the reason why our sunlight affects them so powerfully. They are able to filter it down into its purest form of energy and then store it throughout their cells. That, in turn, is what enhances their senses and produces and sustains their biomatrix.”

“Biomatrix? What is that?”

“It’s a-a force field of sorts that Kryptonians can produce around themselves. You’ve been flying with Kara. Do you remember feeling a sort of electrical tingle against your skin?”

Cat nodded, hoping there was no tell to give away how the memory still made her feel. She noted the slight narrowing of Alex’s eyes, but sighed in relief when the brunette simply continued.

“That was Kara securing you in place with her biomatrix. It’s also what she and her cousin manipulate to fly.”

Nodding contemplatively, Cat turned over all this information in her brain, sifting through until lighting upon the follow-up question that interested her the most. ”So, Kara can process and store more energy than Kal-El. What kind of impact do these differences have in relation to how their powers compare?”

Something about the prideful shine in Alex’s eyes lit excitement within her. ”It means Kara’s powers are actually measurably greater than Kal-El’s.” She couldn’t resist the satisfied smirk that crooked her lips at Cat’s surprise. “His advantage is that he’s had more time to hone his abilities, but she has more raw power. She’s stronger, faster, and more versatile—and she’s improving all the time. She also has the benefit of denser bones, stronger musculature, and thicker skin from growing up under the higher gravity of Krypton.”

Face now practically glowing, she grinned, “She’s already close to perfecting a move with her biomatrix that Kal-El hasn’t been able to master yet.”

“Tell me, is she as competitive about this as you are?”

Alex chuckled at Cat’s question. “Of course not. She spends most of the time feeling like she’s trying to catch up. I make sure to remind her that he’s the one who needs to catch up to her.”

Mischief sparked against the dark flint of her eyes. “I make sure to remind him of this, too.” At the way Cat shook her head, lips curling into a mysterious grin, Alex laughed, “What?”

“You speak about him with an almost annoyed familial familiarity.”

The exasperated huff Alex emitted amused Cat even more. “Probably because I’ve known him since I was ten.” Cat’s eyes widened at this unexpected revelation, her expression entreating the brunette to continue.

“Kal-El spent most of his life suppressing his powers. He didn’t learn why he had them or anything about his true heritage until he was a grown man. When he finally decided to use his abilities as Superman, he sought out my parents to help him understand how his powers worked. He even stayed with us for a while.”

“So getting an alien sister wasn’t the weirdest thing to happen to you when you were a kid. Good to know.”

“Not by a long shot,” she laughed. “My parents worked with Kal-El for a full year, measuring and testing his powers and helping him learn how to stop suppressing and start harnessing them. After that, he would drop in for dinners or just to get away from Metropolis for a little while. He and my dad spent a lot of time stargazing, actually, using that telescope they’re setting up.”

Cat hummed in understanding of Alex’s soft tone. “Well, at least Kara got to see him a lot even though she was living here with you all.”

The hard shift in Alex’s mood was almost palpable. “Actually, no. He only came here a handful of times after he brought Kara to us.”

Something about the outrage this sparked in Cat’s expression felt like reaffirmation to Alex. “He had a justifiable reason, actually, for staying away,” the brunette conceded, although her noncommittal tone hardly proved convincing at all.

Truthfully, there were still moments when Alex needed to remind herself to leave behind her youthful anger for the more tempered tolerance she’d developed toward Clark out of respect for Kara. However, she suspected there would always be a part of her that would remain displeased with him for how he handled Kara’s arrival on Earth, regardless of his reasons.

The one thing she would always grant Clark, however, was his willingness to face the consequences of his actions, even when it meant meeting the ire of a surly teenager as he had done a few days after Alex’s revelation regarding Kara’s sense of touch.

The brunette, still on winter break from school, hadn’t anticipated any visitors that afternoon when the knock at the front door interrupted her lunch prep. The realization of who was on the other side was even more jarring. Throwing open the door, she narrowed her eyes reproachfully at the sight of the last person she expected to see. “Clark. What are you—Kara isn’t here. She’s with my parents at the lab.”

“I know.” He forced himself to smile. He knew that if Alex were Kryptonian, the glare she was shooting him at that moment would have surely incinerated him. “I’m here to see you, Alex.”

The young girl’s glare hardened even more, much to his surprise. “You can’t visit Kara in the three months since you left her here, but you can fly here to see me?” She turned abruptly and started walking away, his super-hearing detecting her muttered “Pathetic” as she marched back toward the kitchen.

With a deep, calming breath, the Kryptonian moved inside the house, trailing a respectful distance behind the brunette. He watched her from the kitchen entrance as she went back to making herself a sandwich for lunch.

Refraining from eye contact, she gestured toward the container of lunch meat and other sandwich fixings on the kitchen island and stated, “You should make yourself some sandwiches before you leave. I’m sure flying here from Metropolis depleted your energy levels.”

He couldn’t help but smile at her awareness and acknowledgement of the needs of his Kryptonian physiology—even when presented in tandem with a very obvious dismissal. Taking her statement as allowance to move the rest of the way into the kitchen, he slid onto a stool near Alex and began putting together his own sandwich. “Actually, I am pretty famished,” he agreed, his tone unconvincingly lighthearted even to his own ears. “Although, I didn’t fly here—I drove here from Riverside.”

At this final statement, Alex paused in mid-slice of a tomato, her brow instantly furrowing in confusion. She glared at him for making her lose focus on her lunch. “Why did you drive? And why do you even have a driver’s license?”

He laughed at her abruptness, welcoming the release of tension that had been building within him. “I might live in a big city now, but I did grow up on a farm, Alex. I did a lot of driving back then.” He nodded in relief when he saw some of the pique in her gaze diminish. “And I drove because—because I didn’t want to use my powers anywhere near Midvale.”

Glare now morphing into grudging curiosity, Alex frowned and gestured impatiently for him to continue. “My powers have distinct energy signatures that I suspect are being traced.” He paused, adjusting his glasses out of habit. “Alex, there are people who are looking for Kara. People who want to study her in ways that would hurt her—maybe even kill her.”

His breath stuttered slightly at the sight of Alex’s expression: fear tangled with a protective fury that filled him with awe. “Who?”

“It’s best if you don’t know too much.” At the sight of Alex preparing to protest, Clark reiterated, “No, Alex.” Her mouth clicked shut at the sound of some of the superhero resolve seeping into his voice. “Eliza warned me against telling you too much. She wants to keep both you and Kara as safe as possible from this. However, Eliza also informed me that I needed to come here and—fix some things.”

He grimaced slightly at the memory of Eliza’s call the day after Christmas. “Your mom told me about what you figured out about Kara’s loss of feeling.” His blue eyes shone with contrition. “Alex, I’m so sorry. We were all so busy focusing on how similar Kara’s abilities were to mine that we completely forgot to focus on all the ways her life on Krypton might have made her different.”

The young girl caught the reverence as well as the undercurrent of envy within Clark’s voice at his mention of Kara’s time on their home planet. “But I’m here now to try to help.” He glanced down at his watch, nodding at the time. “Your mom is bringing Kara home early today. I’m going to head over from here to the lab so Jeremiah can run some additional tests on my skin, which they’ll use in comparison with the same tests they’ll run tomorrow on Kara.”

He frowned, clearly hating the thought of Kara subjected to more tests. “Maybe there’s something different about her skin that we can address—maybe there’s something we can do to help her.”

His frown abated as he studied the girl before him. “No matter what, though, you figured this out, Alex. You got through. Eliza told me that Kara’s already starting to respond more to them and to the tutor who has been teaching her English. It was the best news I’ve received yet about her, and it’s all thanks to you.”

“You get updates about Kara?”

“Yeah,” Clark smiled. “I asked your parents to keep me informed about her progress and any problems she might be having. They’ve been emailing me since I brought Kara here. I knew they were having a hard time getting her to respond. It was almost impossible at times not to fly out here and try to help. But with the email I got the day after Christmas? I got photos of the two of you together.”

Alex flushed at the realization that her father must have been sneaking pictures of her showing Kara how to do cartwheels and handstands while he pretended to figure out his new digital camera. “We must have looked like total dorks.”

Clark chuckled tenderly. “Alex, in every photo, I saw only two things that mattered: Kara looking at you and smiling.”

Steeling himself, he finally reached out for Alex’s hand, relief washing over him that she didn’t pull away. “I know you think what I did to Kara by just leaving her here was horrible. I think it was horrible, too, but I also believe it’s what I needed to do to keep her safe and to give her the same chance I had to integrate into her new home. I wish more than anyone in this universe that things had worked out differently for Kara. I can’t imagine the pain and loss she carries inside her—the horrible things she must have witnessed as our planet died.”

He quickly swallowed down the emotion threatening to choke his words. “But all I have to do is see those photos to know that I made the right choice in bringing her to your parents—to you.”

The brunette averted her gaze, embarrassed by the sudden tightness in her throat and the tears that annoyingly stung her eyes. Giving her a chance to compose herself, Clark finished building his sandwich, quickly wrapping it in a paper towel. He grinned in pleasure as only a Kryptonian could over the promise of food. “This should tide me over until I reach the lab.”

“It’s a ten-minute drive,” she huffed, her voice only slightly cracking once.

“Time is irrelevant to Kryptonian hunger,” he teased.

Considering the fact that Alex was fairly certain leftovers had gone extinct in the Danvers home since Kara’s arrival, she could only sigh in agreement.

Laughing again, Clark rose from his stool, slipping the sandwich into his satchel. At the sight of him getting ready to leave, however, Alex suddenly blurted out, “Wait.” She shifted awkwardly, the first time since his arrival that Clark noted any uneasiness within her. “How hard—would I—I mean, is it difficult to learn Kryptonese?”

Clark’s gaze gentled as he studied Alex. “It is a complicated language,” he allowed, “but its structure is formulaic—a lot like the precision of mathematical equations.” He knew this would instantly appeal to Alex. “Are you interested in learning?”

He watched as Alex pensively chewed her bottom lip, the skin blanching white under the pressure as she weighed her response. “What you were just saying—about the things Kara might have seen. I think you’re right. She-she has awful nightmares every night,” she finally offered, her voice low and anxious.

When she looked up, she saw a knowing sadness in Clark’s eyes. “It’s okay, Alex. Your parents already told me this.”

Alex sighed in relief that she could talk about this without feeling as though she were betraying Kara’s privacy. “The way she screams some nights—I-I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone scream like that.” She shivered at the memory of the feral pain that tore some nights from Kara’s lungs. “Sometimes it’s like she can’t move, like she’s locked in whatever horrible memories she’s reliving.” She swallowed roughly, eyes shimmering with sorrow for what her sister suffered every time she slept.

“S-sometimes she doesn’t recognize me or understand me when I try to speak to her in English. I thought, maybe-maybe if I could speak to her in Kryptonese, it might help reach her faster, help her understand that she’s with us and safe.”

The brunette startled slightly at the feel of Clark’s hand on her shoulder, entreating her to look up. His face alight with gratitude, he nodded. “I will create a data crystal for you that contains the language module I used to learn Kryptonese. I’ll send it to your parents—they can provide you with the means to use the crystal. I’ll also make sure the first lesson contains some phrases that might be the most useful in reaching Kara during one of her episodes, okay?”

With a shaky breath, Alex nodded. “Thank you.”

Clark drew her into a hug of precise, practiced pressure. “Just keep taking care of her, Alex.”

It was an unnecessary entreaty even then. The young Kryptonian with the broken heart and beseeching stare had already found her way so deeply into Alex’s heart that there was no way she could do anything but take care of Kara.

And now, that meant taking care of those for whom her sister cared.

The agent savored another sip of scotch and stated, “When we get back to National City, I want to have an agent bring you and Carter to the DEO.” When Cat turned to study her expectantly, she explained, “All DEO agents have a location tracker implanted subcutaneously.” She indicated a spot at the top of her left arm, which she allowed Cat to press so the reporter could trace the faint outline of the embedded device.

“As you can feel, it’s not that large, but it has an enhanced signal range and shielding that makes it invisible to most scans. Even if someone were trying to locate it, they would have a hard time. My mom doesn’t know this yet, but I’m outfitting her with one tomorrow, first thing when we arrive. I want to do the same with you and Carter.”

Without hesitation, Cat nodded. “Of course—but I could just follow you to the DEO from here.”

Alex arched an eyebrow jokingly. “Our status as a clandestine government agency might be a little compromised if anyone were to see Cat Grant’s Jaguar rolling up in search of valet parking.”

The blonde clicked her tongue at the teasing, her jade eyes sparkling in the dim light of the evening. “Point made.” She tilted her head inquisitively. “Does Kara have a tracking device?”

“It would be impossible to fit her with a subcutaneous tracker since her body would mark it as a foreign object and destroy it, so in addition to tracking her power signatures, we embedded a tracker into her ear piece. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.”

Cat hummed softly while mulling over this new information, her attention straying to the woman in question. She stood beside Carter as he peered through the telescope, whispering what the smaller blonde could only imagine were insights into the stars that only Kara Zor-El could share.

“She should take you both to the planetarium some time.” At the inquisitive tilt of Cat’s head toward her, Alex continued, “She could show you Krypton’s star system.”

“Doesn’t it upset Kara to look at where her planet once was?”

Alex offered a nod of concession. “She still sometimes cries at the sight of her solar system without Krypton. But she also sees Rao and that brings her peace.”

“What is Rao?”

“Rao is the name of Krypton’s sun.” Cat turned at the unexpected voice beside her, captured instantly by Kara’s gentle gaze. “He is also our most exalted deity. We prayed to Rao daily for his guiding light and strength.”

A tremor rippled the edges of her voice. “We also prayed to him to protect our dead—to always be the light to guide them home where they will wait until we can join them once again.” She bowed her head in reverence. “Getting to see Rao and to know that he still guides our journey back to him—it gives me hope.”

“Then show us Rao.” Kara’s head snapped upward at Cat’s words, gentle and resolute and offered without hesitation. The smaller blonde reached out her free hand, intertwining her fingers with the hero’s. “We could all use more hope.”

“It’s a date,” she grinned, pulling Cat closer and slipping an arm around her waist. “Right now, though, come look at the stars in this system with us.” Before she turned toward the telescope, she glanced over at Alex. “I think Maggie’s down for the count, by the way.”

Alex glanced over at the blanket the detective had been sharing with Carter. Now, however, she was curled on her side, arm tucked beneath her head and part of the blanket drawn over her prone form. Kara watched the way her sister’s expression warmed at the sight. “I can carry her inside now if you’d like.”

With a shake of her head and a shy grin, she began walking toward the blanket. “Keep stargazing. I’ll take care of Maggie until you’re finished.” Kara and Cat watched as Alex settled in on the blanket beside Maggie, whose only response was to stretch and curl into the brunette’s side with a sleepy sigh.

The night was perfect for stargazing, the moon a waning sliver in a cloudless sky untouched by city lights. Kara guided the Grants through the same tour of the winter sky that Jeremiah had taught her, Eliza and Alex both listening with wistful smiles and hearts harboring unspoken hope that soon enough, perhaps, Jeremiah would be with them once more.

Before long, however, Kara noted the way Carter struggled to stifle yawns that refused to abate. She drew his attention with a gentle squeeze to his shoulder. “Hey, buddy, we can call it a night, okay?”

Even on the heels of yet another yawn, Carter frowned in disappointment. “I wish today didn’t have to end.” His voice rasped with the thickness of fatigue.

“But tomorrow means French toast and bacon and Krispy Kreme donuts for breakfast,” Kara teased, drawing the boy in for a hug and a kiss to his curly crown. “All that’s ending is this day, Carter.” She looked up, her vision letting her see Cat’s face with perfect clarity. “There will be many more just like this one.”

The smaller blonde moved forward to place a guiding hand on Carter’s shoulder as he pulled back from Kara’s embrace. “Come on, I’ll show you where Kara placed your bag, Carter.”

As the young man finally acquiesced with sleepy “good nights” to Alex and Eliza, Cat took the opportunity to reach out, pulling Kara close with a hand against the strong line of her neck, and kiss her. Aware of their surroundings, the smaller blonde kept the kiss only slightly less than chaste, but more than acceptable. As she pulled back, she breathed against Kara’s lips, “So many more days just like this.”

The hero practically glowed as the words wrapped, bright and promising, around her heart. Cat slowly trailed her fingers around the curve of her neck before pulling completely away and leading Carter back toward the house.

Chapter Text

“Mind some company?”

Lips lifted in a welcoming smile as Eliza focused on the smaller blonde moving toward her across the porch, refreshed tumbler of scotch in hand. “Not at all.”

Settling onto the swing next to Eliza, Cat sipped at her drink before commenting, “We seem to be missing the Danvers sisters.”

With a gesture toward the rush of waves in the distance, she replied, “Kara and Alex go down to the shore every Christmas night so Kara can pay honor to her family.”

Cat nodded, accepting without hesitation that this would be something Kara would share only with Alex. “Their connection is extraordinary.”

Eliza’s expression warmed at Cat’s comment. “Alex has always been Kara’s protector and closest confidante. Jeremiah and I knew how to help Kara understand and control what was happening to her physiologically, and we knew how to love her and let her know that she would always belong with us—that she was now a part of our family. Alex was the one who figured out how to become everything else Kara needed.”

Her eyes misted at the memory of her brave girl, standing before her, gripping her hand tightly, fighting to make her and Jeremiah understand Kara’s needs, claiming Kara as family with unwavering conviction.

Cat heard the woman beside her breathe deeply, saw peripherally as she wiped away a tear. When Eliza spoke, emotion sharpened the edges of her voice. “Alex was the one who taught us that we needed to always hold Kara as tightly as we could.”

She looked into Cat’s curious gaze, pushing aside the instinct that warned her not to say more, the instinct to protect Kara at all cost—because the fragile young girl she’d once tried to shield from any more pain had grown up, grown stronger at all the places loss had broken her. She pushed aside all instinct in that moment because neither of her daughters would ever be normal, and she thanked the universe with every breath that they weren’t—that they would always be extraordinary, one with fire in her bones and the other with starlight in her veins, and they demanded nothing less than extraordinary in return.

“Bulletproof skin comes at a cost,” she finally explained, “and Kara’s sense of touch is even more muted than Kal-El’s because of her exposure to Krypton’s higher gravity. She’s learned how to lower the output of her biomatrix when not using it, which helps, and there are—certain circumstances under which her response to physical sensation could be heightened further.”

An involuntary shiver surprised Cat at the suggestion carried by this last bit of information. “However,” Eliza pressed on, not disposed to delve more deeply into that particular territory, “the general rule is: the stronger your hold, the better.”

Silence settled between them as Cat focused on the liquid she swirled in her tumbler. In truth, every single time she’d ever hugged Kara, in whatever persona the woman presented in the moment, it had been with a strength she’d never have used with anyone else. It had always felt right to hold on as tightly as she could—as if by sheer will, she could somehow hold Kara in place just as easily as she could still the wind or arrest the tide.

She shook her head in amusement. “I actually apologized to her once for holding onto her as tightly as I had.” She glanced at Eliza and shrugged. “Apparently, I’m a nervous flier when not inside a plane.”

Eliza nodded in understanding. “Kara is actually very steady, although she does need to work on smoother turns. My first flight with Kal-El was much bumpier—but I think that had a lot to do with his nervousness.” She laughed at the memory. “I was his first female passenger.”

With a tip of her glass toward the woman beside her, Cat flashed a wicked grin. “Bet he was nothing but pure corn-fed Midwestern chivalry.”

The reporter indulged in a satisfied smirk at the sound of Eliza’s unsurprised laughter. “Does Kara know?”

Cat waved her hand in small dismissive circles. “Clark—Kal-El doesn’t even know. Lois prefers it that way—she loves watching him try to navigate my teasing about his Super competition for her affection.”

“Kara thinks you hate Lois.”

The reporter pursed her lips at the statement. “Lois and I met each other at a time when workforce alliances between women were viewed as—dangerous.” She met Eliza’s gaze, saw the immediate flare of understanding. “Nothing scares men in charge more than the possibility that the people they treat so disrespectfully might one day join together and overthrow their reign.”

She rolled her eyes, causing Eliza to chuckle. “So we decided to play the ‘catty coworkers’ game to keep the men around us calm. If we were at each other’s throats, then the men had nothing to worry about and they could play the noble mediators to our hysteria.”

“If it was all just an act, then why continue it now?”

“Because business is business. Controversy sells more papers and garners more publicity—and, as we all know, there is no such thing as bad publicity. So Lois and I continue to play our parts.” She sighed. “The truth, though, is that Lois is fiercely loyal and one of my closest friends.”

“Did Lois tell you about Kal-El?”

“No, she would never disregard his need for secrecy, even for me—and I would never want her to.” With an easy shrug, she sighed, “What gave him away were the same things that gave away Kara, really. They’re both too kind, too happy, too polite, too patient, too...everything. There’s no way either of them could be anything but alien.” Eliza smiled beside her at the comment.

Cat took another sip of scotch and bowed her head, thinking about how leaving behind Kara had proven to her that the hero’s too much was, in truth, something of which Cat could never get enough. “Being away from Kara for four months—I never imagined it would be as hard as it was.” She breathed out a pained laugh. “She made me forget what my life was like before I met her.”

The reporter flinched at the unanticipated feel of Eliza’s hand on her forearm. Eliza merely squeezed in reassurance. “All the more reason to hold onto her as tightly as you can.”

Throat muscles contracted as Cat struggled to swallow back her reaction to Eliza’s words. Knowing from both Kara and her own observation of the emotional reticence of the woman beside her, Eliza slowly withdrew her hand with a reassuring nod. She settled back in the swing, the two falling into a steady rocking rhythm and a comfortable silence.

It was then that Cat heard it once more—Kara’s voice, rising and falling with the rolling tide. Even diminished in volume by distance, she could hear its crystalline beauty. This time, however, every note seemed weighted, burdened by a damask of sorrow that no amount of time would ever be able to temper. The ache that bloomed in Cat’s chest pierced deeply, roughened her breath and shuttered her eyes against unbidden tears.

Down on the shore, Kara hovered above the sand, her lithe body suspended against the star-flecked darkness surrounding them. Alex watched in silence as her sister lost herself to the melody and words of the khazorehd kheth, the sacred song of remembrance that Kara offered up to Rao every year on this night. Even in the darkness of a waning moon, she knew the sorrow contorting her sister’s face—the sorrow normally tightly bound behind the sunny disposition and pastel personality of Kara Danvers.

In this moment, however, Alex knew she was looking not at Kara Danvers but at Kara Zor-El, the Last Daughter of Krypton, the weight of obliteration borne upon her shoulders and the tears of the damned flowing from her eyes. Her voice, rich in timbre and transformed by the regal inflections of a now nearly extinct language, rose strong and vibrant in its supplication to Rao’s benevolence—to remember his people and to keep them in his warm embrace until whatever day he would welcome her home as well.

As the final words of her prayer left Kara, she descended once more onto the shore, folding into herself with a disconsolate sob. Alex moved instantly to her side, gathering her sister into her arms and hugging her as tightly as she could. She whispered in the language Kara Zor-El needed to hear most in that moment, her tongue forming the foreign words as eloquently as a true Kryptonian. The words of comfort were a reflex for Alex, as deeply entrenched as the muscle memory of knowing precisely when to wrap her arms tightly around her sister.

Time passed on the steady shifting of the waves as Kara clung to Alex, the brunette’s soothing murmurs pulling her once more into the present. When the brunette heard Kara’s breathing steady out, felt Kara finally relax into her embrace, she shifted her language back to English, knowing that Kara Danvers was once more regaining control.

“Thank you for not including Dad this year.” She reached out, knowing that, even in the darkness surrounding them, Kara would see and respond. Sure enough, she felt her sister’s fingers tangle with her own, warming at the familiar strength within her grip.

“I know we’re going to find him, Alex. We’re going to bring him home.”

“I hope you’re right, Kara.”

“I am.” She leaned back from Alex’s embrace, speaking this last word with the purest conviction Alex had ever heard. “I know that Cat isn’t going to stop until she uncovers everything about CADMUS, including where Jeremiah is.”

Alex wiped away the remaining tears from her sister’s face, already aware of how Kara Zor-El had once more fallen into place behind the mask of Kara Danvers. She forced a smile to cover her secret heartbreak at knowing that this was partly her doing—that she had helped condition Kara into believing that her true self would always be a liability to be hidden.

“Because Cat Grant is the greatest investigative journalist alive?” She smirked at the way Kara ducked her head shyly at her sister’s teasing, knowing even without having to see that she was blushing furiously.

“You bet your ass she is,” she laughed. “She’s got two Pulitzers and a whole wall of awards to prove it.”

At the feel of Alex’s grip tightening even more, Kara turned to study her sister. The brunette smiled, knowing that Kara would see it. “You’ve got it so bad,” she teased, leaning against Kara’s shoulder.

She waited as Kara shifted into a seated position beside her. She knew her sister well, knew that she was preparing herself for whatever it was she wanted to tell Alex next. When finally she spoke, her voice barely lifted above the cresting crash of waves along the shore. “I’ve been thinking about—about what it would be like—”

The words stuttered into silence as Kara pulled her knees up against her chest and rested her head so that she was facing Alex. Her sister brushed blonde curls off the hero’s shoulder, her expression understanding in a way that always comforted Kara. Somehow, Alex always knew. “It’s all right to be nervous, Kara.”

She heard Kara’s hard swallow, the tremor in her voice when she responded. “What if I can’t keep control? I don’t—I-I could hurt her, Alex. I could—I could kill her.”

Alex rubbed Kara’s back soothingly, pressing hard into the corded muscles beneath the heel of her hand. “Your powers are amazing, Kara. But more amazing is how well you have learned to control them. This is just another situation in which you will need to learn how to adapt your control.”

She felt the tremble beneath her hand. Pulling up against Kara’s shoulders, she opened her arms for the blonde to snuggle close into her hold. As she rested her head against Kara’s, she heard the soft sniffle and the even softer confession. “I want this so badly, but I’m so scared, Alex.”

Swallowing the anguish that surged in response to Kara’s fear, Alex wrapped herself tightly around her sister and replied, “Talk with her, Kara. Be honest.”

She felt Kara’s incredulous laugh. “That actually sounds even scarier.”

“It is. But, like I told you, it’s worth it. Cat is worth it, Kara. You’re worth it.”

Feeling the tension through Kara’s body at her last words, Alex pressed a kiss against her hair and reiterated, “You are worth it, Kara.” She punctuated each word decisively.

When Kara finally nodded in agreement, Alex released the breath she had been unwittingly holding. “You’re going to be fine, you know that, right? Cat isn’t going anywhere. This isn’t going to scare her away or put her off.”

“Our choice will be to protect the people we love.”

The brunette resisted the urge to point out Cat’s unwitting confession, instead offering, “She cares about you so much, Kara. But you need to be honest with her. You need to communicate with her. I’ve heard rumor that she’s kind of big on words.”

Delighted at the snort of laughter she was finally able to raise from her sister, Alex patted her back and gave her one final strong hug. With a relaxed sigh, Kara easily floated them both up to their feet, smiling at how moves like that rarely ever fazed Alex.

The sisters stood at the edge of the waves that inched ever closer along the shoreline, taking a moment to enjoy the tranquility around them. Kara stared out into the darkness, an expectant grin tugging at her lips. Beside her, she knew Alex wore the same smile. “You ready?”

“Born ready,” the agent replied, eagerly taking the hand Kara proffered her and letting the Kryptonian help her swing up onto her back. Alex’s arms locked around her sister’s shoulders, just like the first time Kara had taken her flying. Before they had even left the ground, Alex could feel the pull of Kara’s biomatrix around her, holding her in place against Kara’s back. It was an exhilarating sensation—that warm almost electric tingle that Alex knew meant that no matter what maneuvers Kara might pull, she would stay in place. Kara would never let her fall.

“I expect some barrel rolls, Supergirl,” she teased, relishing the roller coaster flip-flop feeling she felt in the pit of her stomach as Kara shot upward into the sky.

The Kryptonian’s laughter trailed back to reach Alex’s ears, which were already popping at the rapid change in air pressure. On the rare occasions that Kara had carried someone with her, she’d always been extra mindful of her speed and altitude, never wanting to frighten her passenger more than she suspected they already were.

None of that applied with Alex. Alex, who constantly goaded her to go faster, higher, dip and roll and shoot like a rocket across the sky, her own peals of laughter flowing behind them like contrails. This was Alex at her most uninhibited and Kara never felt stronger or freer.

Without the disguise of her suit, Kara stuck to the cover of darkness over the ocean, giving Alex the fast-paced thrill ride she craved, even throwing in several maneuvers the hero had been practicing in secret just for this night—her gift to her sister for always holding on as tightly as she could.

Just beyond the line of light emanating from the Danvers home, Kara finally landed, bending her knees slightly so that Alex could slip off her back. When Kara turned to face Alex, the brunette pulled her into her strongest full-body press. Kara heard the soft huff that Alex released at the feel of her own grip tightening slightly in response. Alex was the only one she ever dared to hug this tightly, and the brunette wore this fact and any bruises it might cause as though they were the highest medals of honor bestowed upon her.

As they separated, surprise flitted across the sisters’ faces at the sight of Eliza and Cat descending the few steps from the porch and padding over to where they stood. Eliza sighed at the sight of her daughters, ocean spray glinting in the porch light and dripping from their hair and clothes. “Sometimes I think you go wave skimming instead of flying with your sister, Kara.”

Alex snickered at the way Kara scrunched her face in response. “Still not used to that constructive criticism, huh?” At the sight of her sister’s playfully reproachful glare, Alex leaned in and kissed her temple. “Good night, ie te.”

She moved aside, Eliza quickly filling the space to kiss Kara’s cheek and hug her tightly despite the hero’s soggy condition. “I love you, Kara.”

The porch light reflecting in the hero's eyes shimmered with the oncoming of tears. “I love you, too, Eliza.”

Eliza warmed as always at the way Kara said her name, the sound soft and warm and as close to Mom as Eliza would ever want Kara to call her. Wrapping an arm around Alex’s waist, she sighed, “My girls,” hugging tightly as Alex leaned into her embrace. As she passed Cat, she once more squeezed the reporter’s forearm, smiling at the feel of Cat responding with a hand holding hers in place briefly.

Once the two were alone, Cat turned her full attention to Kara. Sorrow still scattered like stardust in the hero’s eyes as she studied the smaller blonde, her expression weary in a way Cat had never seen before. It occurred to the smaller blonde in that moment how Kara’s greatest strength was not in her physique but in the self-discipline of concealment and denial demanded of her every day without reprieve. It was in that moment as well that Cat wanted nothing more than to release Kara from the obligation of her secrecy, let her be known and accepted in her truth and loss, even if only between each other.

“Sleep with me tonight, Kara Zor-El.” At the sight of Kara’s eyes widening, she pressed a hand flat against the hero’s chest, felt the flutter of the strong heart beneath her touch. “Just sleep.” Leaning up, she kissed the corner of Kara’s mouth. “I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to expect anything more until both of us were ready.” She stared intently into Kara's eyes. “I just need to feel you close tonight.”

Kara’s eyes shone almost preternaturally in the dim light, her emotions laid bare and beautiful. “I-I need to—I need to feel everything with you.”

Rubbing her thumb along the line of muscle just below Kara’s clavicle, eyes shifting to take in every detail of Kara’s hopeful expression, Cat softly replied, “Me, too.” She stilled her movements, melting silently at the unrestrained joy that her response evoked. 

Arms then snaked around and up as Cat latched on to Kara’s ocean-sprayed shoulders, clutching her more tightly than Kara had ever felt from Cat before. Her breath stuttered in surprise at the feel of Cat pressing her fingers more deeply against her skin. The hero’s hands trembled slightly against the elegant jut of Cat’s shoulder blades as she returned the embrace. “You know.”

Leaning back, Cat met Kara’s curious gaze with a smile. “I’ve learned a lot about you today, thanks to some rather generous sharing from your sister and Eliza.” She saw the mixture of gratitude and apprehension reflecting in Kara’s eyes. “From here on, though, why don’t we decide together the things you share with me? The primer course on you was useful, but I think I would prefer you to be in charge of advanced lessons.”

Even in the dim light, Cat could see the beautiful flush of color spreading through Kara’s cheeks at the insinuation. She silently observed the hesitant way the hero parted her lips to speak, quickly changing her mind and instead offering an agreeing nod. The smaller blonde withheld any comment for the moment, taking one of Kara’s hands and guiding her toward the house. 

Once at the top of the stairs, Kara pulled the smaller blonde into her arms, surprising her with a swift kiss and beautiful smile. “I can give you however long you need to get ready for bed.”

“Come to our room whenever you're ready, Kara.” She patted the hero’s chest before turning and heading down the hall.

Gathering her things, she began for the bathroom to take care of her nightly ablutions, startled to see Kara already standing in the doorway. She shifted nervously and Cat couldn’t resist the eyebrow arch earned at the sight of the infamous CatCo Supergirl pajama pants. However, she would never dare complain about the cobalt tank top that hugged the hero’s physique in sinfully perfect ways. “Super speed is definitely one of your abilities I envy,” she laughed.

Some of the tension from Kara’s posture slipped away at Cat’s teasing. The smaller blonde moved closer, her fingers tangling in the soft hair along the base of Kara’s neck. “Why don’t you open the window?” She gave the hero a pointed look. “It will help open up the space a bit and make it more comfortable for you.”

“But won't you be cold?”

“Not likely, with you in bed with me,” she teased, and Kara visibly shook at the thought. As the smaller blonde passed, she couldn’t resist running a hand along the tempting curves of Kara’s bicep.

When she returned, minty fresh and makeup free, she was surprised to see Kara still up, standing at the now-open window. The smaller blonde padded across the room, setting down her clothes and toiletry bag before joining Kara.

The hero remained still a moment longer, letting the sound of the ocean settle her, before reopening her eyes. She turned and instantly felt it once again, that sensation of freefalling, at the sight before her. 

Cat swallowed, focused on stilling the nerves that shuddered through her under Kara’s silent scrutiny. She had expected to feel somehow defenseless in this moment; instead, Kara’s expression left her feeling nothing less than exalted. 

The hero lifted her hands, pausing briefly at the sight of how much they shook, before placing them along the curves of Cat’s hips, covered now in emerald silk that shifted and conformed to Cat’s body in ways that overwhelmed and enticed Kara in equal measure.

Entranced by the sensations rushing through her with an almost deafening ferocity, she moved her hands higher, along the delicate undulation of ribs and over the soft swell of breasts that fit perfectly within her palms. 

A soft swipe of thumb pads across the silken fabric beneath her hands drew an instant response that caught Cat’s breath in her throat and arched her body instinctively deeper into Kara’s touch. Every cell of her body felt active, awake, and desperately yearning. As if to accentuate this point, Cat’s hips rolled almost of their own volition, drawing her close against Kara. 

The hero’s hands twitched before instantly releasing and retracting to barely touching at all. Never once did Cat look away from Kara’s gaze, never missed how it pleaded so intensely—for guidance, for patience, for permission, for forgiveness.

The smaller blonde nodded once in silent understanding, coaxing the hero close once more, pressing their lips together to steady them in the moment. In Kara’s kiss, Cat tasted the newness of her desire, the absolute willingness to give herself in ways that Cat recognized as sacred and humbling. 

With more willpower than she had ever used before, Cat pulled away, settling her hand atop the hammering rhythm of the hero’s heart. “Sleep, Kara,” she husked, her pupils wide and unfocused. The hero finally nodded, wrapping her arms around Cat and floating them backward toward the bed. Positioning herself as a barricade against the open window, she drew the sheets and comforter over Cat before opening her arms so the smaller blonde could huddle as deeply as she wanted into her encompassing warmth.

As Cat’s hand slipped around Kara’s waist, she snuggled closely and softly whispered, “Sweet dreams, my darling.”

Eyes slipping shut, Kara sighed contentedly. Tomorrow, she knew, would be unpredictable at best, bringing with it the uncertainty and dread of CADMUS’s growing threat. In the bliss of this moment, however, none of it mattered, so long as she held securely to the strength in her arms.