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Asking Too Much

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“Move my four o’clock to two. The three o’clock should never have been there in the first place, so cancel it and put security on alert. Cancel everything on Friday and don’t give reasons unless anyone actually threatens legal action. Are we clear?”

“Yes, Ms Grant.” Kara pushes her glasses back up on her nose, although there’s little point in clinging to her disguise this morning. It’s been 36 hours since Cat exposed her, and they’re both being quite careful to say nothing about it. “I got a reminder from your mother about-”

“Was she rude?” Cat snaps to attention, actually putting her phone down on the desk. That usually only happens when Carter is mentioned, or Lois Lane scoops CatCo on anything.

“No… more than usual? It was fine, she just wanted me to remind you that you haven’t RSVP-ed for the gala.”

“That’s not all she said, is it?”

“Can we please pretend that it was?” Kara is nothing if not hopeful.

“No doubt she pointed out that I’m lucky to even be invited, since every other new board member has an academic pedigree,” Cat sighs, massaging her temples. It knocks her reading glasses to a funny angle, and Kara has to suppress the urge to reach out and straighten them. “Oh, she won’t come right out and say I bought my place. But she’s thinking it loudly enough for half of National City to hear. Even without your hearing.”

“Right.” Kara cringes. Does she explain she can’t actually read minds? Or just ride out the first jab and try to impress Cat with her calm and collected attitude. “Do you want me to update your driver, or…?”

“He can pick me up at 8. Tell him to just circle the block a few times, I’ll be back out by 8:30.”

“But the museum director-”

“Will greet me at eight, once you tell him to. Honestly, Kiera. I thought you’d be super-attentive today. Really on the ball.”

“You’re not staying when the party is basically in your honor?” Kara is never going to get used to powerful people and their whims. “Won’t people talk?”

“I’m leaving early to prevent that. It means they won’t see me for long enough to wonder why I’m attending solo. I do not need another referendum on my romantic life, especially not with my mother there to chair it. Shouldn’t you be making calls?”

“Right,” Kara agrees, relieved to be banished to her desk again. “I can call around, if you need someone to stop them from talking…”

Cat’s glare sends her scurrying away, the look alone more effective as any rays that Kara could fire in return.

***

Three hours later, when she’s done fielding calls and firing off emails with just a little bit of super typing speed, Cat summons her with a quirk of her head that 99 people in 100 would have missed entirely. When Kara enters the inner sanctum, Cat nods at a large box some courier brought in while Kara was otherwise occupied.

“Try it on,” Cat announces. “There’s no cape, but it should fit.”

“Uh, here?” Kara looks around at the glass walls of the office.

“Take the box elsewhere. I’d avoid phone booths, though. Or the dry cleaning bill comes out of your next paycheck.” Cat is poring over a new layout, not bothering to look up as she issues her commands.

“Do you not like this shirt, or…?” Kara has never been told to change before, even if she favors a wardrobe more Forever 21 than anything Cat would usually wear.

“It’s perfectly harmless, bordering on bland,” Cat replies, pushing the layout aside. “It is not, however, suitable for a formal event. Like the one we’re leaving for at 8.”

“We’re… I’m … what?”

“You pointed out that having someone with me would shut people up. You are the nearest person, and your presence gives me the added bonus of getting actual work done in time that would otherwise be wasted.”

“No, I get that. It’s just…”

“You had plans? Saving the city?”

“Well, technically there’s nothing to save right now, no. And I’ve been thinking we should probably talk about the other night, and all the things you think you know but-”

“The dress.” Cat waves her fingers vaguely in front of her face. “We don’t have much time if we’re going to find something acceptable to do with that unconditioned hair. Sergio will be here any minute.”

“I didn't make an appointment with him-”

“I sent him a text when I decided you were coming with me. I’m not entirely dependent on you, and I was hoping to avoid this stuttering indecision. So for the last time, can you make your quick change?”

“Sure,” Kara grabs the box and tries to make it look cumbersome as she balances it on one fingertip all the way to the restroom.

***

So, okay. Either Cat Grant has a really good eye for figures, or a fancy enough dress will flatter anyone in the right range. The invoice was tucked into the box, the price tag already removed from the deep blue dress. It cost more than three months’ rent and the shade is way too close to Supergirl’s costume to be anything other than another nudge. Kara’s simply grateful that the shoes aren’t Kryptonian red to complete the mockery, but they’re stiletto heels that even Kara’s exceptional center of gravity needs a bit of practice with.

Thank God the office is all but empty. Winn, locked in some firewall rebuilding exercise, looks up just long enough for his jaw to drop. Kara gives him a nervous smile and keeps going until she hits Cat’s empty office. Not that it stays empty for long.

Cat emerges from her private en-suite with Sergio in tow. He’s fussing with some kind of clip that has Cat’s hair pinned up. That shouldn’t even be possible with hair that length, but more than once Cat has called the man a miracle worker. Focusing on the hair, with those few strategic rogue curls, and Sergio’s hands, stops Kara from having a little jaw drop of her own.

Cat’s dress is darker than midnight and the split high on her thigh seems just as dangerous. It’s strapless, bringing the pale, inviting angles of her collarbone and defined shoulders into sharp relief. So often Kara’s admired Cat’s outfits because of the fit, assuming the expensive fabrics were making the lines look so right. Now in the fluorescent lights of the office, Kara can see the structure is all Cat. All those Pilates classes in the calendar that cause such headaches to work around are very clearly paying off.

“Kara!” Sergio quits fussing over Cat to greet her like an old friend. They rarely meet in person but Kara has covered for a few double bookings on his behalf, letting him keep his most famous client happy, and saving herself from finding Cat another stylist. He’s almost as tall as James, though more slender in build. His brown skin glows even up close, shaming Kara into remembering how many nights she barely remembers to wash her face before bed. “I hear that tonight Cinderella is going to the ball!”
He’s working on her hair without waiting for an invitation, releasing the tight ponytail and tutting under his breath before Cat can get her shot in.

“That had better not make me the evil stepmother.”

“Of course not, Ms Grant,” Sergio replies with an ease that Kara envies. “I’m thinking a loose curl here is our night-saving option here. Kara, I’m coming at you with a hot-brush in thirty seconds. I’m warning you because you’ve clearly never encountered one before, darling.”

The hiss and scent of hairspray hits Kara next and she almost gags, catching herself just in time to watch Cat switch out her earrings for long strands of gold that catch the light from almost every angle. Her matching necklace looks like a slender rope, but connecting the clasp has her cursing under her breath. Before Kara can offer, unsure if that’s even appropriate, Cat has moved across the office towards her and turned her back right in front of Kara.

“Necklace,” Cat barks. “Yours are the only free hands,” she offers as explanation when Kara hesitates. It’s true, since Sergio already has a whole chunk of Kara’s hair wrapped around something hot. Kara swallows loudly enough for people ten rooms away to hear it, and takes the two ends of the necklace from Cat’s hands, brushing their fingertips in the process. It’s apparent with the shock of invisible electricity that this is what Kara has always feared: a full-blown crush. Every bit as bad as how she gets flustered around James, but here there’s no consolation friendship to relax into.

“Is that okay?” Kara asks when, miracle of miracles, she actually gets it fastened on the first attempt.

“You tell me,” Cat says, turning around in a tight spin that even Clark would envy. “It’s quicker than a mirror.”

“Looks great,” Kara gasps, using her super strength to force her hands not to give a cheesy thumbs up.

“Sergio, you might be a miracle worker,” Cat says with a nod. “Even half-done, that is a vast improvement.

“Don’t you mind Ms Grant,” Sergio teases from somewhere behind Kara’s head. “You looked plenty pretty before, Kara. It’s just with my help you’ll make a bigger impact on the room than Supergirl.”

The crackle of tension doesn’t halt his curling, but it puts tight smiles on Kara and Cat’s faces, as though pulled by an invisible connecting thread.

“You have three emails to finish that,” Cat declares, clacking off to the area behind her desk, tapping frantically on her iPhone. Kara feels Sergio pick up the pace, muttering in Spanish under his breath. Kara squirms under the rest of Sergio’s attention, her toes already starting to pinch in the pointed shoes. Sergio drops the last curl right as Kara’s phone signals that the driver is waiting downstairs. It’s Kevan tonight, and she’s glad of that at least because he’s definitely her favorite of the roster. He knows better that to play music or brake harshly. There’s no telling how mean Cat will get the closer they get to the museum, and Kara will take any help she can get.

Kara isn’t expecting to be nodded towards the private elevator, but she manages to step inside without stumbling. The mirrors on each side let her see the magic Sergio has worked with her hair, and in combination with the dress it’s the fanciest she has ever looked. Including being a bridesmaid and prom combined.

“Not bad,” Cat pronounces, looking up from her phone only when the doors have shut and the elevator is in motion. “But you need this.” She fishes lipstick in a gold tube from her bag, and Kara giggles when it’s offered to her.

“I can’t.”

“We have similar coloring, it won’t clash. And that dress overwhelms you with no color on your face.”

“You really know about all this stuff,” Kara sighs in response. “But it would be weird, I think. It’s already weird you’re dressing me up like a Barbie. No offense, I mean-”

“Oh for God’s… it’s because you don’t know how to apply it properly, isn’t it?”

Sometimes Kara which one of them has x-ray vision. Cat’s ability to cut to the heart of bluster and hiding the truth is really unsettling when it’s focused on Kara herself.

“I sometimes wear a clear gloss-”

“Here,” Cat tucks her clutch under her arm (toned, bare, instantly fascinating when the bicep flexes). She uncaps the lipstick and twists it once. With her other hand she clutches Kara’s chin, and isn’t particularly gentle about it either. “Stop pouting, or I’ll miss half your lip.”

Kara tries for a smile but it’s more like a grimace. Thankfully Cat is deft in applying the creamy coating, and it’s lightly perfumed in a way that Kara likes very much. It reminds her distinctly of Cat, though she’s certainly never been close enough to smell the lipstick on her. Maybe it’s just that it smells like money, like being perfectly put together and never being caught putting the effort into it. Either way, when Cat steps back and puts the lipstick back in her purse, offering a tissue to Kara, she’s genuinely smiling.

“Blot,” Cat commands, and there’s no denying she’s pleased with her handiwork as the elevator pings and they’re striding out across the foyer, Kara feeling as confident as she did the first time she flew in the finalized suit. She tosses the used tissue in the trash as they pass, and on impulse she quickens up and opens the door for Cat before Kevan can get out of the car to do it instead. If Cat has an opinion on the change she doesn’t mention it. After Kara folds herself and her dress into the other side of the backseat, the car slides effortlessly into motion, Kevan meeting her eyes in the rearview mirror and nodding at her new look.

“Stay by my side the whole time,” Cat says when the silence has stretched out to breaking point. “And keep at least you between me and my mother. More buffers are preferable, so work on that.”

“Got it.”

“You gave him the 30 minute instruction?”

“Yup.” Kara flashes an apologetic look towards Kevan. He smiles and shrugs his shoulders. “So once you’re done with the ropeline, I’ll stick to you like glue.”

“Well, that’s unfortunately… sticky sounding.”

“Sorry.” Kara looks out of the tinted window at National City flying past, a blur of neon and the last of the evening light.

“And show some initiative, Kiera. Do you think I wasted that dress on you to stand in the shadows? You walk in there with me. Which means lose the glasses.”

“But…”

“Yes.”

“You’re not taking me, your assistant, to this event. Are you?” Kara feels the rage build behind her eyes and she slams the button for the privacy screen. “You’re taking Supergirl.”

“I thought if I asked for that, you’d say no. What’s that saying about permission and forgiveness? Going with my mousy assistant makes nobody talk. Showing up with Supergirl, that will be headline news. Mother can suck on that.”

“I didn’t agree to this.” Kara is dismayed. She was worried all the glamor would rub away her Kara Danvers disguise, but to be dragged to an event as Supergirl outright is not a good idea. Alex will have an actual fit, just as soon as she’s done watching over Hank while he recovers. “I want to go home.”

“I think you know there’s nothing stopping you.” Cat turns to her in the backseat. “You can overpower me and any locks on these car doors. Transport is hardly an issue. But I am asking you now to do me this favor.”

“And you’ll owe me?”

“And I won’t reveal, for now, that Supergirl has an alter-ego. Seems fair, doesn’t it? I get access to Supergirl for making sure that nobody else does.”

“I suppose I don’t have a choice,” Kara answers, her throat tight. “Does it bother you that everyone will assume you’re, you know, a lesbian? And Supergirl too, by default?”

“People can assume all they want. At least in my case they’ll be half-right. And if you don’t want people to think you like women, you should probably stare at them less. Did you really think the woman who uncovered Supergirl can’t spot a harmless crush at twenty paces?”

“I, well, I uh…”

“It’s sort of comforting to discover this bumbling thing wasn’t an act the whole time,” Cat sighs. “Unfortunately, it’s also quite attractive. Still, this is a business arrangement. No need to even hold hands, and Supergirl’s heteronormative story will live to fight another day. I’ll make sure our coverage makes you as straight as you pretend to be.”

“I’ve had enough of my life exposed to public scrutiny,” Kara defends herself. “And I don’t even know what’s going on with… that. Do I really need to throw myself to the wolves?” Complaining about her own situation is a handy distraction from Cat’s admission of her own bisexuality.

“Remember I’m one of those wolves. Maybe even the pack leader. But I don’t need to tell you what even the speculation could do for a lot of people out there forced to remain in the closet. You’d never have to actually come out, but like I said this is business. You’re safe, Supergirl. Unless you choose not to be,” Cat finishes as they pull up in the line of cars depositing people on the red carpet.

Kevan gets the door this time, letting Cat step out first and the camera flashes go off like cosmic rays. Kara knows she can stay in the car, knows she can make her escape through her own side without anyone ever noticing, but Cat is waiting in a way that gives her pause.

Sure enough, Cat extends her hand towards Kara. It’s an invitation that feels like both a threat and maybe some kind of opportunity. Kara takes a deep breath, deeper than the valleys of Kandor, and makes her decision.