For a person with super hearing, Kara could be pretty oblivious, so, what with her earbuds in and her mind on her latest story and the tube of cookie dough in her freezer, she didn't realise there was someone in her apartment when she got home. Not until Daisy came into the kitchen to say hi.
Then, because she had super strength as well as super hearing, Kara accidentally crushed a cookie sheet between her hands in surprise.
"I'm sorry," said Daisy. "I should have called, but I didn't trust the phone lines."
Daisy was a mess: her clothes were rumpled, her eyes under all the black make-up were hollow, and her forearms were wrapped in smudged bandages that desperately needed changing.
"Oh my God – what happened?" Kara glanced down at the crumpled metal in her hands, threw it into the sink, then rushed around the kitchen counter to give Daisy a hug. "You look – I mean, you look like you've had a really bad day."
"Ouch," said Daisy. She tried to extract herself without using her hands, but gave up, standing entangled with Kara. "It's pretty complicated – is it okay if I crash here? Just for the night, I promise."
"Of course!" said Kara. "What do you need? Do you want me to call anyone? Or… are you hurt?" Daisy had stopped moving, and sagged against Kara's chest.
"No," said Daisy, and tried to straighten herself up. "I – I need to sleep, and I can't think straight. I ended up here, and you're the only person I know in National City, and so I came here but then you weren't here, which I should have anticipated…" Words spilled out of her in one long running sentence.
"Stop," said Kara. Taking care of someone was something she could definitely deal with. "First you're taking a shower. Then we're changing those bandages. And you're going to eat something decent with some vegetables in it." This was what her mother would tell someone in Daisy's state to do. Of course, then her mother would pull something delicious out of the oven, and Kara hadn't had time to shop in, like, well, she couldn't remember the last time she shopped. It might have been when her mother last came to visit, actually. Oh, well. At least there was frozen cookie dough.
Daisy seemed happy to be bustled around the apartment, though, and while she was in the shower, Kara could scan the take-out menu for something that qualified as having vegetables, and more than the vegetables on pizza.
She heard the water stop, but even after half an hour, Daisy didn't emerge from the bathroom. Kara slipped her glasses down her nose to check through the door that she was okay. Then she remembered it was wrong to do that, and knocked on the door instead.
"Hey, Daisy, how are you doing in there? Should I order dinner?"
There was no sound from behind the door. Kara waited a few seconds, doing the silent dance of 'This is so awkward but I think you need help!'
She knocked again. "Daisy? I'm coming in – I'm worried about you."
Inside the bathroom, Daisy stood, clumsily wrapped in a towel held close to her body by one arm. She stared at Kara, miserable and ashamed. "Sorry, I think I ran out of energy. It's just – my wrists hurt so much, and I couldn't move them any more. And then I guess I didn't know what to do next."
Kara's heart melted for her: she remembered this feeling, of being so tired and afraid and hopeless that you simply stopped moving completely. She'd only been a child in the last days of Krypton, but she remembered the endless futility of arguments and rumour and anger that came when nobody knew what was going to happen.
"Here," said Kara. "Let me." She reached for her robe and draped it over Daisy's shoulders, held the sleeves so that Daisy could ease her injured arms into it, and wrapped a towel around Daisy's hair. "I'm going to find you some clothes, and then I'm going to help you get dry and dressed."
Daisy opened her mouth to protest, and Kara summoned her best Mrs Danvers look to quell it. She was surprised that it worked: Daisy closed her mouth again, and simply nodded, wan but relieved.
Kara patted Daisy dry, ran a comb gently through her tangled hair, and helped her dress. Daisy apologised again and again, until Kara told her to stop.
"I want to help you," she said. "Please let me – you're my friend and you're in trouble, and you came here because you knew you'd be safe. So let me keep you safe and make you comfortable." She reached for her softest sweater, which had a big fluffy kitten on the front, but it had been her mom's and then Alex's and finally Kara's, and it was worn and soft and cosy. She expected Daisy to make some quip, but she didn't seem to notice, which made Kara even more worried.
Once she'd eased a pair of thick warm socks over Daisy's feet, Kara propped her on the sofa and wrapped her in a blanket. Whenever Kara brushed against Daisy's wrists, which she tried really hard not to, but getting dressed kind of involved arms – Daisy winced and made a really sad noise, but didn't even try to stop Kara. Again, all very worrying, and not the Daisy that Kara met falling out of the sky with glorious abandon.
"Do you want me to check them out?" she asked, when Daisy was curled up with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. "I don't know if you know, but I have x-ray vision."
Daisy shrugged. "There's not much point," she said. "I can tell they're messed up."
That wasn't a firm no, Kara reasoned, so she pushed her glasses down and scanned Daisy's arms, then gasped. The radius and ulna seemed to be shattering in slow motion: lines of stress fracture spread upwards to Daisy's elbows and into the humerus. "What happened?" she said, crouching down to gaze up at Daisy. "Why are you here, and not in a hospital?"
Daisy smiled a crooked smile and shrugged deeper into the blanket. "I happened," she said. "And I'm not in a hospital because I don't want to be found right now. I'll get by."
"Oh, Daisy," said Kara. "I don't want you to just get by. I want you to be safe."
Daisy swallowed, and shook her head. "I don't get the luxury of safe right now," she said. "People are in danger."
Kara sat gently on the sofa beside her. "What about Mac? Can I call him, maybe?"
"Kara, I'm on my own," Daisy said, more gently than Kara expected from her expression. "I'm not in SHIELD anymore, I don't have back-up. I don't have anyone."
Kara slipped an arm around her shoulder, so softly that it would be hard to believe she could punch a hole through a brick wall. Being super strong was easy; being super gentle took care and practice. "You have someone. You have me. Let me take care of you for a little while, at least."
Chopsticks were definitely not an option, so Kara got some containers of soup from the local deli, and whipped up some grilled cheese to go with it. Daisy managed pretty well with a big mug she could hold against her chest and sip from. They didn't talk work or SHIELD or anything important, until Kara noticed Daisy's eyes were drooping between sentences. She lifted the cup away from Daisy's hands carefully.
"Hey, do you think you'd be more comfortable in the bed than on the sofa?" she said.
Daisy shook her head. "If you had seen some of the places I've been sleeping lately… Let's say the sofa is luxurious in comparison."
Kara laughed, mostly because this was the closest Daisy had come to her former quippy self. "Okay, but let me get a bunch of pillows for you, so you can get your arms comfortable."
Kara's hearing must have picked up the game a little, because she woke in the night to the sound of all the doors rattling faintly. She sat upright in her bed, trying to figure out what was happening. Then she heard a muffled cry of distress, as if someone had their face pressed to a pillow, and she leapt up, running to the living room.
Daisy's nightmare had set all the fixtures in the apartment rattling: the lights swayed, the glasses clinked in the kitchen, and a pile of books lay on the floor where they'd been jounced from the shelf.
Kara perched on the arm of the sofa and gently stroked Daisy's hair. "Wake up," she said, softly. "It's only a bad dream, you're safe, I'm here."
Even though she had tried to be gentle, Daisy woke with a start and with a final rumble, the television fell from the fixture and smashed.
"Oh, shit, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," said Daisy, then the pain hit and she curled her knees to her chest and wailed, an anguished, hopeless sound. To Kara, the cry was thin and reedy and everything that Daisy shouldn't be. She slipped behind Daisy on the sofa and wrapped her arms around her, careful not to touch her wrists, but holding her tight while she cried.
"It's okay," said Kara, even though it really wasn't, even though she didn't understand what was happening in Daisy's life right now. "It's just a TV, it's only a thing, it doesn't matter. You're what matters, keeping you safe is what matters. Shhh."
After a long time, Daisy went quiet in Kara's arms, lying still and heavy and warm. "I lost someone," she said, eventually. "I made some really bad mistakes, and I'm trying to make up for it, but it's impossible. You can't make up for what I did, and now the world is slipping away from me."
Kara kissed the top of her head and rested her chin there. "Mistakes happen," she said. "I've made plenty of them. Maybe not like yours, but guess what?
Daisy moved her hand to swipe at her nose, moaned in pain and frustration. "What?"
Kara reached behind her for the box of Kleenex, and passed Daisy a couple. "This is the truth about mistakes, the real truth. You make mistakes and you keep trying. That's the whole truth. I keep trying because I know for sure that the world won't end, not by my mistakes. I've been there, Daisy, when the world was ending, and the thing that did the most harm was not trying. Are you with me?"
Daisy dabbed her nose. "Um… it's kind of a complicated metaphor, and it's the middle of the night."
"So," Kara kept going with her explanation. "If you're doing something instead of nothing, you're basically saving the world. It helps to think about that, when you feel small and useless and nothing changes ever. You do something, you take a step towards saving the world. Look at how much you've done, think about what that means."
Daisy nestled back in her arms. "You know, you're full of wisdom. For a dork."
Kara smiled, her lips against Daisy's head. "Wait, I am not a dork."
"First rule of Dork Club," said Daisy, sleepily. "Never deny your dorkdom."
"Wouldn't that be the second rule of Dork Club?" asked Kara. "Because the first rule would be 'Never talk about Dork Club', right?"
Daisy was so nearly asleep that if Kara didn't have super hearing, she wouldn't have heard the soft laugh.
Kara was sure, as she was drifting off herself, that Daisy would be gone in the morning. She wished there was a way to convince her to stay, but making sure Daisy knew she could always find refuge here was a second prize she could live with. Do what you can. Save the world in small steps.