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Burn Part I

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Hank Henshaw looks especially Cyborg Superman-y in this wicked art by @supergaysupercat. Be sure to let her know how cool this is in the comments or in her Tumblr ask!

Chapter Text

TEASER

If he was counting the number of attempts, Winn might have lost heart about five or six ago. Luckily he had learned a long time back that the hits were that much sweeter when he didn’t focus on counting the swings. So maybe he’d never be hitting home runs for the National City Astros, but how many batters could resurrect the mechanically dead?

They’d only gotten Henshaw online for a few seconds last time, enough to get coordinates for their last Cadmus raid. But when that had left him burnt out and offline again, Winn had the impression everyone else had lost faith in their own personal T1000 ever being useful. Naturally, when he’d finally done enough creative rewiring to technically count as needlepoint, there wasn’t a soul around to witness his attempt to switch Henshaw on. He’d never tell Vasquez, but he was starting to miss even her elaborate and aggressive hazing pranks. Not enough to work in the desert base with her, though. Here in the city he could get sushi for lunch, even without Kara to fly and retrieve it. He ran the test data again, punching the air when it wasn’t a fluke.

It was going to work. Unlike last time, Henshaw would be going fully online and staying there, all within the security of his DEO cell.

Winn couldn’t wait for Alex to show up. Although they’d still managed to get Jeremiah back, he knew her well enough to be sure she wouldn’t settle until they rooted out every bit of Cadmus and destroyed it for good. With access to all of Henshaw’s files, they might finally be able to do that.

He glanced around the command center, struck by how much his life had changed the last several months. He was an agent in his own right now. Agent Schott, reporting for badass duty. So maybe he couldn’t slide half the control room on his knees, or shoot three people at once with two guns, but he had brought his own particular A game to the party.

“Who’s Dr. Frankenstein now, huh?” Winn muttered to himself as he signaled for the two agents outside to follow him to the containment cell. “Actually, that is not the message I want to be putting out in the world right now. Talking monsters and lightning bolts is just asking for trouble, and trouble is the last thing this guy signed up for today.”

The guards didn’t spare him a glance, probably used to Alex’s epic under-her-breath rants by now. Winn placed his palm on the entrance lock for the containment row and quietly geeked out one more time at how the walls shimmered and let him step through.

They had to navigate some construction on their way. Only a few of the nth metal walls had gone up so far, but they were stronger than any material on Earth. Winn smacked one as they passed, wincing when it stung the tips of his fingers. Not even Kara would be able to get out of one of these cells once they were all completed. That was both comforting and oddly disconcerting.

“Okay, Arnie,” he said, unable to resist one last cheap joke. He connected the first wire to Henshaw’s chest and listened for the hum of connection. “Time for you to be back.”

***

Lillian’s phone pinged quietly in the pristine, white expanse of her primary lab. She looked up with a frown, ignoring the restrained alien on the gurney for the moment. Sighing, she snapped off her gloves and plucked the phone from a nearby tray table. Those in her employ knew better than to interrupt her when she was working, so this had better be worth it.

Her furrowed brow lifted when she saw the alert. “Well hello there, old friend.”

Hank was about to rejoin the land of the living. It seemed someone at the DEO knew enough to activate his cyborg equivalent of safe mode, though they wouldn’t be seeing any signs of life just yet. She hurried to her main terminal, punching in her credentials with something approaching glee.

Unlocking her phone, Lillian called Sam. “That plan we’ve been waiting to execute?” she said when he answered, a sinister smile spreading across her features. “Looks like today is the day.”

***

ACT I

“This sucks.”

Maggie sounded petulant, but she really didn’t give a damn. She set her coffee mug on the kitchen counter, wishing it were something a hell of a lot stronger, and crossed her arms. “I should have told Lucy to go to hell.”

“Been there, done that. Lots of times, in fact. Doesn’t work.” Alex drifted closer, and Maggie couldn’t decide if her quiet understanding made the situation better or worse. “Dad needs someone to talk to, and Lucy’s right. I can’t push hard enough for the intel we need.”

“He’s only been home two weeks–”

“Don’t make excuses for me. If this were anyone else, you would have been here after two days.” Alex brushed a lock of hair away from Maggie’s temple. “You sure you’re up for this, though? I know this dredges up what Braden and Luthor put you through.”

“Me?” Maggie cupped Alex’s face between her palms. “Babe, I’m worried about you. He’s your dad, and you’ve all been through hell. I don’t want to add to that.”

Babe. You keep calling me that. Don’t think I’ve ever been someone’s babe before.” A sliver of a grin came to Alex’s lips.

“Sorry, I–” Maggie started to withdraw, but Alex caught her wrists, holding her there.

“I like it, actually.” With a tug, she pulled Maggie into a tender kiss before leaning their foreheads together. “Maybe tonight we can–”

A throat cleared from the doorway and they sprang apart, Alex’s fair skin reddening as Jeremiah eyed them with a soft expression. Maggie’s darker complexion hid the worst of her blush, but the tips of her ears felt like they were on fire.

“Hey!” Alex blurted. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“Obviously,” Jeremiah drawled as he took a few steps forward and pulled Maggie into his arms. She’d almost forgotten what a father’s hug felt like, all warm, strong, and safe. “I’m so glad you got away from them,” he whispered. Maggie reluctantly let him go as he turned his attention on Alex. “Eliza’s right, kiddo. You’ve got good taste.”

“Dad,” Alex whined, batting his arm gently, every bit the teenager busted making out on the porch. “I should get going. Winn’s been spamming me about getting Henshaw online today. I want to swing by before heading to the desert base.” Jeremiah gave her a one-armed hug and a kiss to the top of her head, and she turned back to Maggie with a smile. “You, I’ll see at training. Don’t be late.”

Maggie saluted playfully and considered going in for one more kiss, audience or not, but Alex was already grabbing her leather jacket off the back of a chair.

“We’ll be okay, sweetheart,” Jeremiah promised. Nodding once, Alex reluctantly left them alone.

“Ready to talk?” Maggie asked as Alex’s motorcycle roared to life outside.

“Ready as I’ll ever be.”

***

Kara woke herself up by falling out of bed.

Thankfully, somewhere between the edge of Cat’s luxurious kingsize and the floor, her floating senses kicked in and she avoided the embarrassing thud. It didn’t take much effort to shift herself up and back onto the mattress, the sheets in a state of disarray from their active night.

She’d never slept naked before these past two weeks. Sometimes they made it as far as dressing for bed, in borrowed silk pajamas or one of those sinful negligées Cat favored so much, but the nightclothes hadn’t survived till the morning yet. It felt domestic, but worldly in a way that Kara hadn’t expected. She turned over to say as much to Cat, but found herself alone.

Propped on her elbows, it took only a cursory investigation to find Cat bare-legged on the balcony, fresh juice in one hand, tablet with the morning headlines in the other. Kara bit back a quiet moan of arousal, and that first rush of love she now felt each day came on like a tidal wave. All it took was the sight of her… well, they hadn’t exactly settled on a word for that.

Two days ago over ice cream for lunch, a decadence Kara hadn’t expected when Cat had whisked her out of the office in the middle of the afternoon, the word girlfriend might have been casually uttered. The only acknowledgment from Cat had been what Kara privately referred to as her Lois scrunch: a brief but intense look of disgust.

How silly, that they could talk of love and want and need, but the idea of a simple noun for each other was too complicated by half. Cat liked grand titles well enough. Hard not to when most of them included terms like Queen or Empress. But getting her to talk about more… routine labels hadn’t been very successful so far. Still, Kara mused, there was no doubt how committed Cat was to this relationship, judging by how much time they spent together. Kara ran a lazy hand over her abs. It was nice to focus on mundane matters like this for a change. Her Supergirl duties had been unusually light as of late. Either the tide had finally turned against crime and invasion, or resources were being stockpiled for the next Cadmus attack. The optimist in her decided on the former.

With the morning slipping away, Kara used superspeed to splash some water on her face and brush her teeth, knowing the fastest way into Cat’s good graces was being minty fresh. Seconds later, she wordlessly approached Cat at a low hover, feet barely inches above the floor. Cat didn’t jump as Kara’s arms slipped around her waist, grazing the blue, crumpled shirt she’d chosen to cover up with.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” Cat greeted with a kiss to the side of her neck. “I didn’t hear your alarm.”

“Because we have time,” Kara said, settling on solid ground and pulling Cat close. “Seeing you out here reading, leaning over the balcony, I thought of some ways to use that time.”

Cat turned slightly in Kara’s embrace. “I see you’re enjoying the new dress code.”

“Think we should bring it in at the office, too? We’d have to turn the A/C down though.”

“I don’t share,” Cat reminded her with a faint growl in the base of her throat. “Now, were you planning on taking me back to bed, or…?”

“Out here is just fine.” Kara turned Cat back around to look out over her city. “It’s a beautiful morning, and no one can see us up here. Unless you know any other caped superheroes flying around?”

Cat set her iPad aside and gripped the balcony railing. “There’s always the CatCopters.”

“Lots of traffic on your roof, is there?” Kara teased. It was liberating, being able to joke and say anything that popped into her head now, after two years of biting her tongue around Cat. It felt almost as great as some of the more interesting things they’d been getting up to. Speaking of which, Kara put her fingers to the task of undoing the cursory few buttons securing her shirt on Cat. It only took a second to have her hands beneath the cotton, skimming over soft skin.

“Why are you wearing my shirt, anyway? When I wore it yesterday you said it was plainer than Natalie Portman’s face.”

“I think I’m going to have your blouses tailored from now on,” Cat hummed lightly. “This is far too loose on you. How else could I make it into a nightshirt? I do like that it smells of you, at least.”

“You know, we can stop talking about the shirt and start concentrating on this,” Kara whispered against Cat’s ear, moving her hand lower until Cat gave up on replying in favor of a contented little sigh. “And I see you’re already wet for me.”

Talking about sex had never been Kara’s forte, leading to more blushing and stammering than just about anything else, but with Cat she could barely shut up. Maybe it was the novelty of turning furtive dreams into constant, daily reality, but Kara felt the need to catalogue every thought and sensation as it crossed her mind.

Apparently, her text messages when Cat had been trapped in a board meeting a few days ago had been so explicit that Cat had resorted to something she hadn’t done since her first iPhone had been hand-delivered by Steve himself: she’d switched it to airplane mode. At least, that was the slightly melodramatic way she’d relayed it over dinner, for which Kara apologized profusely and not at all sincerely. They’d ended up fulfilling the idle texted daydream in the cloakroom of one of National City’s most exclusive restaurants. The coat check girl had almost walked in on them – twice – but Cat had left a healthy tip to buy a little discretion.

But none of that compared to a morning like this, having Cat in her arms and looking out over the city they’d both sworn to protect. Standing behind her, it was so easy to embrace Cat’s petite frame. Kara’s long arms wrapped around her, strength moderated so naturally she almost felt human. Once upon a time she had been terrified of this level of intimacy, of all the opportunities to bruise or break without ever intending it. Now, with Cat, she felt like a natural. Where to touch and how seemed pre-programmed in Kara’s brain, and she greedily recorded every new discovery on her own mental star chart of Cat’s body.

Not that it took much strength for what she wanted right now. Kara had let the open shirt slide enough to expose Cat’s shoulders, and she peppered every inch of skin with fluttering kisses. As Cat shifted in Kara’s arms, those kisses became more deliberate, open-mouthed and enthusiastic. With one hand stroking deftly between Cat’s thighs, the other cupping the deliciously faint curve of her breast, thumb strumming over a hard nipple in counterpoint to the gentle rubbing of her clit, it didn’t take long for Cat to come apart at her touch.

Kara nipped at Cat’s earlobe as she came down from her early morning high, giggling at the broken little sighs that were Cat’s only response for a moment or two.

“I could get used to this,” Cat murmured, turning around gracefully without Kara ever letting her go. “In fact, it’s entirely too late for that.”

“Good,” Kara said, drawing her in for their first proper kiss of the day. “Now some of us can be ready in three seconds flat, but I know the production that goes into The Cat Grant Effect.”

“I could almost hear the registered trademark on that,” Cat answered approvingly. “Is this your way of saying that if I want my wicked way with you, it’ll have to be in the shower?”

“Yup.” Kara kissed her again. “Poor me. Just you, a simulated waterfall, and that massaging shower oil of yours. I’ll find a way to cope.”

“I’m sure you will,” Cat agreed, a predatory glint in her eye as she guided Kara backwards through the bedroom to the ensuite.

***

Jeremiah hobbled forward unsteadily. Maggie eyed him with sympathy, but knowing she could have ended up in his shoes, shackled to Cadmus, left her chilled.

“How about we sit in the sunroom?” she suggested.

Jeremiah changed direction to follow her lead, and Maggie took his arm, helping him down two steps before settling him in a chair. She sat opposite him at a small table, the sun warming her back through her leather jacket and highlighting a handful of dust motes floating between them. She could only assume the windows were bulletproof. The safe house was a fortress, but for Jeremiah, it had to feel like trading one prison for another.

“Fate is funny, huh?” Jeremiah remarked. “What are the odds you’d cross paths with my kid, let alone date her?”

“When you consort with aliens the way we do, it narrows your social circle a bit.” Maggie laced her fingers to keep from fidgeting, before setting them on the table. “You should be proud of Alex. My life hasn’t really been full of people I could trust. That changed when I met her.”

Jeremiah’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “I’ve been catching up on a lot these last couple of weeks. You’re Alex’s favorite topic.”

Maggie ducked her head and swept a lock of hair behind her ear. “You… um… you okay with that? Her and me?”

“Maggie, I saw you at the drop-offs covered in cuts and bruises because you went after the dangerous aliens, the cruel ones, rather than handing over innocents. I’m very okay with you being in my daughter’s life.”

“Thanks,” she said in a hushed voice, his approval meaning more than she could have imagined. They descended into awkward silence, and Maggie finally broke it with a sigh. “It… helps… getting things off your chest. Knowing the truth could spare others.”

“So where do we start?”

Maggie pulled a small, well-worn notepad from her pocket and set it on the table. “Were you ever in their main base of operations?”

“Yeah, but they always tossed a hood over my head when they took me there. I told Alex about that, though.”

“Can you describe it for me?”

“Old but clean. We always took some sort of cart down what felt like a long tunnel to get there. Everything was metal, like a military bunker. Probably is. Cadmus got their start as a legitimate arm of the government.”

Maggie knew all about that, having become an expert on the bastards out of necessity. She shifted, and her leather jacket creaked softly. “What about sounds? Traffic? Boats in the bay? Planes?”

Jeremiah frowned. “It was always quiet in the main labs. Unless an alien started…” He hesitated, scratching at the stubble on his cheek. “Just the ventilation system made noise. Every now and then you might hear a pop or groan from the metal, like a house settling, but on a larger scale.”

“Windows?”

He shook his head.

“How about the air?” Maggie asked.

“The air?” Jeremiah tilted his head, puzzled.

“Ever smell different? Always the same? Dry? Damp? Recycled like it was through a filter?”

“You really are a good cop.”

“Trying to be,” she admitted with a weak smile. “So, the smell?”

“Dry. Old. Recycled. Always the same temperature.”

“Underground, maybe?”

“Yeah,” he said slowly. “Now that I think about it. But not like a basement in a house. It felt…”

“Deeper?”

Jeremiah nodded.

Maggie jotted a few notes. “What were you working on these past few months?”

His grip tightened on his cooling cup of coffee. “Mostly harmless tests, but Lillian liked to give me… projects.”

“Like what?” Maggie kept her voice even and free of judgment. What Cadmus had put the two of them through wasn’t all that different on the surface.

“Experiments. Finding ways to weaponize alien abilities.” His jaw clenched so tightly she heard his teeth grind. “I figured out how to use the Black Mercy to…”

Now that Jeremiah was beginning to open up, Maggie prayed Eliza would stay upstairs in her lab and not interrupt. “No one gets it better than me, Doc. You can tell me.”

“They threatened them every damn day. My girls. My wife. And they had the means to kill Kara. She wasn’t even enough to stop them, and she’s the most powerful woman in the world.” Jeremiah gripped his mug harder. “I’m scared to death for them, Maggie.”

“I know, but the only way to protect them is to stop Cadmus. Tell me what you don’t want to tell them, what you’ve been afraid to say out loud,” she coaxed.

Jeremiah raked his hands through his hair, looking away while Maggie waited him out. Just when she thought she’d pushed too hard, he swallowed thickly and sighed. “Lillian has been working on a way to commit one fast, massive strike.”

“Against the alien population?”

“Yes. But I mean massive. One blow to rid the the city and eventually the world of aliens for good.”

That was unsettling but hardly surprising. “How does she do that without harming humans?”

“A virus. One harmless to earth physiology, but fatal to anyone… different.”

“Even Kara?” she asked softly.

He winced. “I don’t know. She and her cousin would likely survive. At least initially. But most… would not. They’d be dead in minutes. It would make the planet inhospitable to any aliens seeking refuge.”

“A biological weapon.” Maggie was suddenly glad she’d skipped breakfast. “How close are they to realizing it?”

“Not as close as they’d like. I determined how to preserve the human and animal populations. We just haven’t figured out how to take out all the aliens in one go. A lot of them, yes, but not all of them.”

“Jesus, Jay.”

“They’ll need another scientist to complete the virus. I warned Alex and J’onn to keep an eye on the country’s top biologists. Without one, Lillian can only tread water.” Jeremiah dragged his hands across the table in front of him. “Alex needs to be careful. Lillian has threatened to grab her before. At least Eliza is as safe as she can be here.”

Even the sun couldn’t combat the chill that swept through Maggie this time. “I’m gonna need you to write down everything you can remember about the virus, okay? And anything else you worked on. Listen to me,” Maggie pleaded, covering his hands with her own. “Now we can track purchases and shipments that could lead us right to them. It gives us a shot at a vaccine or an antidote if it comes to that. We’re gonna make this right, Jeremiah. As much as we can.”

***

“If you don’t stop fidgeting, I’m going to tape those damn spinners to your hands.”

“That would defeat the purpose. Besides, we’re late,” Kara pointed out for the fifth time since leaving the penthouse.

“I’m the boss. I can be as late as I like.” Cat was amused by the reflection of her own cheeky smile. Thank god she’d had the sheer good taste to put mirrored surfaces on the inside of her private elevator. “I didn’t hear you complaining when we were shamelessly making out in the back of my town car. In fact, you were the one who asked the driver to take 5th because it has construction. Of course, we wouldn’t have been late if you hadn’t seduced me by–”

Kara groaned. “Snapper is going to fire me. Or kill me. Or kill me and then fire me.”

“You’re being a tad melodramatic. It’s just fifteen minutes, darling. CatCo was an early adopter of flexible work hours.”

“I should have flown ahead. Not that I want to miss out on the making out. That is some of our best making out time, in the car.” Kara geared up into a ramble, and Cat rolled her eyes behind her sunglasses. “No one will say boo to you, but I have a boss who’s been in a bad mood since 1995, and not even my other job impresses him enough to keep him off my back. And last time I mentioned flexible working, he told me to tell it to my yogi. Day starts at eight, Danvers.

Cat watched the numbers climb for a silent moment. “You’re right.”

“Snapper is gonna fire me? Or the day starts at eight?”

“No. I’m the boss, and you’re a junior reporter. We’ve been surfing on a high of endorphins and the realized potential of a superpowered tongue the last couple of weeks, but at some point we need to stop being so… distracted,” Cat said, tucking a loose strand of Kara’s hair behind her ear, “and realize that the more people see us together without a work rationale, the sooner someone’s going to figure out that our relationship has changed.”

“Oh.” Kara went quiet, and Cat tried not to read anything into it.

“We’ve been largely discreet, but today we’re arriving late together. In my private elevator no less. Sooner rather than later, we’re going to be the topic of every gossip rag between here and Metropolis.” Cat had thought that would be obvious, but perhaps she’d misjudged. Not everyone measured their life decisions in tabloid impact, even a superhero who’d racked up more than thirty front pages already. They should have had this conversation at home, but there really was no time like the present.

“Aren’t we already? Since the gala, people keep trying to get photos of us together. And our coworkers have been speculating about us for years. At least now someone can scoop the dating pool.”

Cat pivoted to face her. “This won’t hurt my reputation. Taking a lovely thing like you into my bed is almost expected.” Kara predictably blushed, but she didn’t look away. “You on the other hand… God knows I try not to quote Kanye, but they’ll say you’re a golddigger. It will put your promotion – and any future advancement – under the microscope.”

“I know,” Kara said quietly, “but you’re worth it, Cat. I could have a dozen careers, and that’s just at CatCo. But I wouldn’t trade any of them for the chance to be with you, to love you like this.”

Things wouldn’t be so easy, but when Supergirl told you everything was going to be fine, you tended to believe her, Cat thought with a smirk.

“You ready for Adam today?” Kara asked, reminding Cat of the other reason she needed an extra shot of espresso in her latte. “I’m glad you two finally agreed on a role for him here.”

“As ready as I can be. We’ll see if he really wants a relationship, or if Lillian is up to some kind of game.”

“It could be both,” Kara mused. “Whatever happens–”

Cat cut her off with a kiss, far more interested in a last grab at pleasure before the day’s stresses settled in. Instead of darting back in fear of imminent discovery, Kara surprised her by curving her hands around Cat’s ribs, making her gasp softly as they pulled each other close. The memory of those hands all over her was still delightfully fresh and vivid, and Cat was tempted to really give her employees a show.

The elevator dinged, and Cat abruptly found herself a few feet away from Kara, skirt stirring in the breeze caused by the superspeed departure. The doors parted and they stepped out together, the bullpen growing suspiciously quiet.

“I’ll see you at lunch,” Cat said casually as Kara walked away. She savored the return of Kara’s tell-tale blush, ignoring a scowling Snapper across the office.

“Have a good day… Cat,” Kara one-upped her before turning on her heel and heading straight for Snapper and his ire.

And oh, that got the minions whispering. The sudden flurry of distorted noise left Cat feeling like she’d tapped into superhearing for a moment.

“Well played,” Cat said under her breath. She sauntered into her office, leaving a gobsmacked Eve in her wake.

***

“Close the door, Ponytail. We need to have a talk.” Snapper pulled off his glasses and scratched at his neck with the arm of them as Kara approached his desk. Although she liked to exaggerate his fury for the sake of complaining, he did genuinely intimidate her. Him finding out about Supergirl had been scary enough. The fact he’d found out about her and Cat on the same day? Was downright terrifying. He’d said nothing so far, but their late arrival was clearly the last straw.

“About?”

“Where do I start?” He leaned back in his chair and studied her. “You wearing it now?”

“Excuse me?”

“The…” Snapper waved his hand in the vague direction of her chest before drawing a lazy ‘S’ in the air.

“Oh. Yeah. Why?” She adjusted her glasses.

“Boggles the mind,” he grumbled.

Kara was fairly certain she’d just been insulted.

Snapper crossed his arms. “Look. I’m a newsman, and I’m being ordered by my boss and a bunch of men in black to sit on the story of a lifetime. I think I deserve to have a question or two answered.”

“Fair enough.” Okay, so perhaps keeping her biggest secret entitled him to some kind of repayment. She’d just have to be careful with what she gave him.

“Question one. What’s up with you and the puff princess?”

“None of your business,” Kara said firmly.

“She’s a friend of mine, Danvers. Despite outward appearances, I consider her to be a good one. I don’t care how many bullets bounce off you, there’ll be nowhere to hide if you’re in it to break her heart.”

Kara suppressed a smile; his protectiveness of Cat was a welcome surprise. “I would never hurt her,” she told him. “You want more than that? You’ll have to ask her, but I’ll give her my blessing to tell you if she wants to.”

The only indication Snapper gave that he’d heard her was the slight relaxing of his brow. She’d take it.

“Next question?” she prompted.

“Is this job a game to you?”

Kara bristled. “What?”

“You’re freaking Supergirl. Truth, justice and a Maybelline endorsement deal, whatever. But I have investigations to run. I need to know every member of my team is as committed to finding the truth and making the public aware of it as I am. Don’t get me wrong, I get why you need a secret identity. Hell, I’d be willing to protect it even without your sister’s colorful and terrifying threats.”

Her eyebrows arched, but Kara said nothing. Clearly Alex was back in top form.

“But if this job is nothing but a cover for you, I’d rather you find another one. You gonna tell me writing about garbage route changes compares to saving the day?”

“Chief…”

He stood up, and Kara went quiet as he stepped into her personal space. “This is a serious profession, and it requires professionals who take it seriously. That you, Blondie?”

“It is,” she said, squaring her shoulders. “Look, there will be times when I have to choose between saving a life or getting the story. The story will lose every time, but I’d like to think that would be the case even if I didn’t have… abilities.”

She bit her lip, deliberating. “I didn’t ask to be this way, Mr. Carr. There have been so many times I wished this planet didn’t give me these powers. So I can’t explain what it means, how special it feels, to make a difference as just… me. Plain old Kara Danvers. I’m learning in this job that I have just as much power to do good as a reporter as my alter ego does when she’s out helping people every day.”

Snapper’s eyes glittered in the fluorescent light as he stared at her, assessing. “Then be on time tomorrow.” He turned away, and Kara bit her bottom lip to keep from sighing audibly in relief.

“Yes, sir.” Having toed the line, Kara couldn’t resist sticking one foot over it. “You know… you could put me on more dangerous stories. Given the…” She drew a lazy ‘S’ of her own.

Snapper settled back in his chair, narrowing his eyes at her. “You have to earn those stories, Danvers. Pay your dues.”

“But–”

“You’re off to a decent start, kid. Better than I thought you’d be. But I’m not letting you skip the line. Too many people out there who’ve put in the time. Put in yours. You’ll get opportunities along the way.”

Kara turned to go, but she hesitated at the door before facing him again. “Chief?”

“What?” he muttered, sliding his glasses back on his nose and picking up a draft.

“Thank you,” Kara said, opting to keep it simple.

“I signed the paperwork. I’m not allowed to say anything about your super secret.”

“That’s not what I’m thanking you for.”

Snapper looked up at her, bored.

“Thanks for treating me like I don’t have a super secret to keep.” She winked at him as she walked out.

***

“How much do you love me?” Winn asked Alex as she stepped inside Henshaw’s cell, J’onn following behind her.

“If you have good news for me, I might like you. A little.”

“You’re a cold woman, Alex Danvers.” Winn handed her his tablet. “I think I got it.”

Alex skimmed Winn’s data, schooling her features as excitement grew in the pit of her stomach. Catching Winn by surprise, she kissed him on his freshly-shaven cheek. “Fine. I love you. A tiny, tiny bit.”

“It’ll work, yeah?”

“Looks like it. Nice job.” She handed the tablet back to him. “Take extra security precautions before you bring Henshaw fully online. We don’t know what Cadmus has lurking in those cybernetics. X-rays were clean, but we couldn’t see everything.”

“Wait. You’re not staying? Alex, we’ve been working on this for months.”

“I’m going to be late for training with Maggie.”

“Cancel!” Winn urged. “If this goes well, we could bring down Cadmus today.”

Alex’s gaze settled on Henshaw’s motionless form. Three weeks ago, she would have given anything to mine the data buried inside him. But the happy if complicated reality of finally having her father home and her growing feelings for Maggie left her with a new set of priorities. “You can do this without me, Winn.”

“But Alex…” he whined. “This is our moment!”

“Agent Schott, I think Agent Danvers has given up enough of her life to Hank Henshaw. Don’t you?” J’onn crossed his arms, angling almost protectively in front of her, and Alex couldn’t help but smile.

Winn floundered for an argument before he snapped his mouth shut. “Yeah. Yeah. Sorry, I…”

“When you get us the evidence to put Luthor and Lane in cuffs, I’m buying,” Alex promised. “Dinner and beers on me.”

“There better be steak,” Winn warned her. “It’s going to take a while to run the checks and up the security protocols, but I am Skyping you the minute the data is flowing.”

Alex slid her arm around his shoulders, and he leaned into her. She wasn’t sure when they’d gone from polite acquaintances to this, but she was grateful for his friendship. “Not just steak if this works, okay? Dessert’s on me, too.”

“Sold.” Properly mollified, Winn turned and got back to work.

Alex lingered a moment longer. If Winn pulled this off, did she really want to be thirty minutes away? Maggie would understand, could even rearrange her day to come downtown and then–

“We’ll keep you posted,” J’onn assured. “Tell Maggie we said hi.”

Snorting softly at the none-too-subtle dismissal, Alex left them to their cyborg-filled morning.

Chapter Text


Cat and Kara started their morning off right in this lovely piece from @pinkrabbitpro! Let her know you love it in the comments or her Tumblr ask!

Chapter Text

One of the greatest myths at CatCo was that Cat’s glass-walled office was her way to supervise all that she owned, leaving nowhere for her employees to hide. Rumors of the levels of surveillance were greatly exaggerated. While the security teams could see the whole building at any given time, Cat rarely availed herself of the feed in her office.

Well. Maybe once or twice when gathering evidence on a certain hero who insisted on leaving behind random items of clothing in stairwells and on balconies. Stopping short of tidying herself, Cat increased the pay of her most loyal janitor and gave him a list of daily hotspots to personally check for discarded polyester. If Kara wondered how her clothes ended up with Cat’s dry cleaning, she never said.

Perhaps now that the two of them were occasionally putting clothes back on in each other’s company, Cat could talk Kara into a shopping trip. Stella’s new range alone was practically crafted for Kara’s particular curves, and lingerie was the one gift both Kara and Supergirl would get to appreciate beneath their clothes.

As though to guilt her for getting lost in yet another idle workday fantasy, Cat’s thoughts were interrupted by a gentle rapping of knuckles against her glass door. She hadn’t even seen anyone heading in her direction, disproving her fabled omniscience once more.

“Hey.” Every time Cat looked at him, so tall now, handsome and kind around the eyes like his father, her heart stuttered a little. All those nights of dreaming that she’d fought a little harder, that she’d really tried to win her son back, and here he was. Even if it did turn out to be at Lillian’s behest, Cat couldn’t bring herself to regret it.

“Adam.” Every time she said his name out loud she remembered the very first time, back in the hospital bed with a small, screaming bundle. “Please, come in.”

“Wasn’t sure if I should do the I know the big boss thing or play it cool,” he admitted, slouching a little as he took a seat in front of her desk.

“If anyone asks, I’ll be very proud to tell them my oldest son works here. You’re not a secret, Adam. I know we’ve had some difficulty getting on the same page about all this, but I am trying, I promise. You’re finding everything okay?”

“Oh sure, there’s a whole induction day.” His smile was tighter than it needed to be for this easy small talk. “You sure know how to brand things, don’t you? I’ve got the mug, the pencil eraser… Do I want to check the toilet paper or…?”

“People don’t tend to take things if you put your name all over it. I wish I’d learned that before I let your father give you his surname over mine.” Cat straightened in her chair. She’d apologize for most things – she owed him that much – but not for being proud of what she had built. “Is there anything else you want to talk about? Before I officially welcome you into the fold?”

He hesitated, letting the nagging voice in Cat’s head start on conspiracy theories all over again. “Nah. I think it might be a good fit. Way more fun than running around for Lillian.”

It shouldn’t have been enough to soothe her ego, but Cat’s quiet need for his approval soaked up the favorable comparison like a thirsty little sponge.

“You’ll be a great fit, but if you need anything, you know where my office is,” she reminded him. “I’m having lunch with Kara today, but it might be a good idea for you to join us. There is something I need to talk to you about.”

“And we can’t do that without Kara playing peacekeeper, right?”

“No, I–”

He held his hands up in apology. “Force of habit, sorry. Lunch sounds great, but one condition?”

“Yes?”

“You have to try Korean barbecue. Trust me.”

Cat rolled her eyes just a little, flagging Eve down to make the arrangements. Cooking on the balcony might be a little tricky, but the girl shared Kara’s flair for achieving the impossible.

“I’ll have them set up in here. Check your calendar for a time.” Cat winced at her own formality. “Enjoy your first official day,” she added, the automatic darling sticking in her throat. She tried desperately not to think of all the other occasions she hadn’t been able to say that to him, but he was already on his way to the door, not seeing her unspilled tears.

***

“Wish I could say I’m surprised,” Lucy murmured when Maggie finished debriefing. “We knew they were ramping up to something big.” She handed Maggie’s handwritten notes to Susan. “Get started on these ingredients and supplies. Find out who is ordering them and where they’re being delivered.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Vasquez gave Maggie a parting nod and returned to her workstation.

“You did good,” Lucy told Maggie. “Between Henshaw’s cybernetics and the information you managed to pull from Jeremiah, the noose is tightening on Cadmus. I’m sorry I had to ask that of you, though.”

Maggie stuffed her hands in the pockets of her leather jacket. “I was the right asset to leverage. I just hope it helps.”

“You’re an asset for a lot of reasons, Maggie, but you’re also a friend. You got Jeremiah talking. The rest will be easier for him, and his knowledge of Cadmus will help us immeasurably.”

“You going to report all this to Director J’onzz?”

“I’ll take care of it. You off to train with Alex?”

“Yeah.”

“Want me to talk to her first?” Lucy offered. Alex would probably have some choice words for her decisions, but it would hardly be the first time.

“She should hear it from me, but thanks.” Maggie started to leave only to hesitate. “What Jeremiah went through? It has to matter, Lucy.”

“It will,” Lucy vowed. She reached out, snagging Maggie’s hand and squeezing it. “We’re going to make Cadmus pay for what they did to both of you. I know you feel guilty right now, but don’t let Alex beat you up too much, all right?”

“I never let her. She just makes my NCPD training look like a cakewalk.” Maggie offered Lucy a fleeting smile. “Listen… I don’t think I ever really said thanks, you know, for the whole saving my ass thing. The gig here.”

“You deserved another chance. I’m glad you’re getting it with us. Something tells me Alex is too.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Maggie grumbled, but she looked almost bashful. “I’ll catch you later, Major.”

Lucy watched her walk away. Maybe she could lure her away from the NCPD full time. “Agent Sawyer” had a nice ring to it.

***

“So there are dorms based loosely on gender. Of course, unlike close-minded parts of Earth, we don’t restrict ourselves to two,” M’gann explained as she led James through the light and airy space that comprised the new refugee center.

More creative reassignment from Cat’s property portfolio had provided the perfect site, and a foundation was already in place to gather funds for everything that would be needed. Cat’s guiding hand and Kara’s attention to detail had served M’gann well as in getting the place up and running, and Maggie had been a constant fixture in the evenings, helping with the grunt work.

“Of course not,” James acknowledged with a slow grin, stepping out of the way as a young family passed by on their way to the dorms in question. “Our alien cousins are more advanced that way. So when’s the grand opening?”

“We’re trying not to make too much of a splash.” M’gann held her breath for the expected reaction.

“Well, this coverage alone won’t get to all the people who need it. A big gala opening brings in the donors, the rest of the media… I thought Cat would have insisted.”

“Oh, she has. You don’t get it, do you? You’re a nice guy, Mr. Olsen, and living in the skin you do, I know you’re familiar with lazy, tone-deaf bigotry. I didn’t have to look far to find that when I arrived here, Martian or not.”

“I don’t get how giving people a public place to get help is a bad thing?” He laid a careful hand on her forearm, and M’gann could tell from the soft background hum of his thoughts, only good intentions lurked there. “You should be proud.”

“Think about it tactically. I was… a soldier, for lack of a better term. At first, we struck at random, a Green family here, a lonely worker out in the fields there.” M’gann clasped her hands together, twisting her fingers in quiet shame. “Our leadership found that method inefficient. They invented reasons to gather: free things, festivals, celebrations. Green Martians would flock there and instead of capturing and killing a handful…”

“Lots of them at the same time.”

“So part of me wonders if we’re not doing Luthor’s legwork for her. It would save her a lot of time and manpower to lash out at aliens who are gathered in one place. She did it once with the bar until Maggie made her deal with the devil. How do I tell them this is a sanctuary, a home, when she could have weapons pointed at us the minute we open the doors? Especially with that level of attention on us.”

“I guess you can’t know for sure.” James picked up his camera and gestured towards the creche area. “But in the meantime, you just have to give people the best you can. Kara, J’onn, Alex and Maggie, they’ll get it done. You might want to talk hiring security with Cat. Or Lena Luthor. She has some ideas that might be what you need.”

“Luthor?” M’gann repeated, skeptical. “A little wary of that name under the circumstances, but I’ll think about it.” She motioned toward the back, where she could hear the monotonous beep of a truck backing into the loading bay. “Sorry. I have a shipment coming in.”

“I’ll be fine,” James assured her. “I’ll help unload once I get enough shots.”

***

“Can’t stay away?” Cat greeted without looking up from her desk, habitual frown at being interrupted giving way to a fond smile.

“Does that count as a superpower?” Kara asked, getting an amused glance over Cat’s glasses. “Whatever you’re reading must be pretty interesting. I could have implemented that new dress code we talked about this morning, and you’d be none the wiser.”

“Didn’t I tell you that I don’t share?” Cat shoved her reading matter aside but didn’t remove her glasses, a sure sign she didn’t plan to be interrupted for long. “Snapper didn’t make you cry, did he?” she asked, her tone softening.

“Snapper’s fine,” Kara insisted, taking a seat in the visitor’s chair and crossing her legs. She leaned forward. “Not thrilled about sitting on the story of the century, but he’ll live.”

“Live to complain, that’s for sure. Did he warn you about the perils of sleeping with the boss?”

“Oh no.” Kara shook her head emphatically. “He was too busy giving me a shovel talk. Seems you have a fan.”

Cat scoffed, an adorable little sound she’d deny ever making. It was just one of a million things about her Kara wanted to catalog, to replay in her mind at will. She knew all too well the value of memories, of consciously making and holding onto them. Beyond pictures and videos and what they got to write down, those little memories would outlast everything.

“Do you want to work in here? No one would think anything of it, but you do still have your own office.”

“Nah, I just wanted to stretch my legs.” Kara stood up, unwilling to overstay her welcome. “Plus, it’s kinda fun to listen to the whispers. You should hear what they think you’re into.”

“Just me?” Cat pouted. “Little do they know what lurks behind that angelic image you project to the world, hmm? Speaking of us, there’s something we need to discuss.”

Kara sank back dramatically onto the chair. “Oh?”

“I invited Adam to join us for lunch. I had the frankly brilliant idea to come clean with him about our relationship right off the bat, before the office gossip got to him. He’s having a hard time trusting me, and if it looks like I deliberately kept this a secret…”

“Right.” Kara tried not to react, but Cat’s reassuring smile made it clear she saw right through her. “Well, if you think that’s best.”

“Your lack of enthusiasm doesn’t have anything to do with your disastrous dating attempt, does it? I had hoped we were over the Jerry Springer portion of all that. Not that I’m above throwing down to stake my claim, but…”

“I just meant, are you sure you want to tell him today? Watercooler chat is one thing, but admitting it to your family… you can’t take that back.”

“It’s a relationship, darling. Not a murder spree in Florida. Besides, Carter already knows, even if he thinks it started before it truly did.” Cat stood up, rounding the desk. “Did you think I was going to deny the rumors and keep you as my secret mistress?”

“That’s… an option,” Kara said. “One of many. I mean, you didn’t like when I used the word ‘girlfriend’ last week, so I thought maybe–”

“I don’t like the word because I’m not seventeen,” Cat interrupted, perching on the desk in front of her. Close enough now to touch, it took considerable willpower for Kara to keep her hands folded on her lap. They had sat in these positions so many times, no one would think anything of it. Only this time they were discussing their grand coming out, not the paucity of cover options for fall.

“I know we started talking this morning, but this is so much more than a headline to me,” Cat continued, leaning in to gently tilt Kara’s chin upwards. “What you are to me? How I feel about you? We’re going to have to invent language for it, Kara. You deserve so much more than trite little words that I’ve wasted on other people. You deserve everything.”

Kara’s chest soared in the way that it did when she swooped low from a high takeoff point. It never failed to astound her that loving Cat – being loved by Cat – could trigger so much emotion in her.

“Then we’ll think of something,” Kara said, clearing her throat around what felt suspiciously like the start of an old-fashioned happy cry. “And I think it’s a good idea to tell Adam, but it should come from you without me there. This is about the two of you now, and I know you can make it right with him.”

“I’m glad one of us has faith in my maternal ability,” Cat teased, and for a moment Kara thought she was going to lean in for a kiss. It would certainly be one way of breaking the news fast and wide. Instead, Kara got up from her chair. “See you at lunch,” Cat told her.

“Can’t wait,” Kara replied, before dashing back to her own office where she could replay Cat’s words on a loop.

***

“Director Lane?” One of the rookies on perimeter duty rushed in, sweating under his standard issue helmet.

“Yes, Agent?”

“You have an unscheduled visitor, ma’am,” he continued, a little out of breath. “We asked him to wait in the public area, but he has clearance to enter almost every level of the base. The agent in charge told me to get down here first.”

“My father.” Lucy sighed. “I suppose it was just a matter of time. You did good, rook, now get back to your post. And don’t let the General or anyone else distract you from your duties. He does not feature in your chain of command, but I do. Got that?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He practically sprinted from the room, almost colliding with her father on the way out.

“Dad,” she greeted him with a warmth she didn’t feel before shifting to more comfortable sarcasm. “Or since I’m on active duty, should that be General Lane, sir?”

They exchanged brief salutes. Though it wasn’t required for a DEO agent, they’d been doing it since Lucy gained the motor function to salute back at him. She bit back the nostalgic pang for that version of her father, for the one she’d considered the most honorable man in the world. Instead she had a sour taste on her tongue and the incipient drone of a headache behind her temples.

“You’re running a tight ship here,” he said, with no small amount of fatherly pride. Lucy wished she could buy it.

“Despite you scrambling my perimeter guards just to announce your presence.” She folded her arms over her chest. “You need my help with something? Or are we going to keep pretending you weren’t defending a Cadmus base when I last saw you? The fact that you fired on your own daughter?”

“That was a military facility,” he said, not even a twitch in his poker face. “You and your team were intruding on classified property. And you laid down cover fire right back, Lucy. Despite your mistaken assumptions, you were being a good soldier.”

“Oh, I’m a good soldier, all right. It’s just I’m a little busy, since there’s a terrorist organization targeting aliens all over National City.”

“Now, hold on a minute–”

“You going to tell me they’re not terrorists? Because I’ve pledged my resources to help round them up when they’re finally exposed.”

“You did what?”

“I have a responsibility, Daddy. You remember what that felt like, right?”

She tuned out his reply, knowing it would be more of the same anti-alien rhetoric that poisoned so many dinners with Lois and Clark, or with James. Waiting for a pause in his self-righteousness, Lucy took her chance.

“I don’t want to hear it, Dad. I’m not going to stand here and act like I don’t know about your new wife and her organization. How you’re defending them, and god knows what else. Enough to exchange fire with your own child. What if you’d hit me? What the hell cause is that important?”

Running his fingers over the name tag on his BDUs, he looked down at the floor for a moment. “I’m sorry you choose to listen to people who would hand our city – our country – over to an invading enemy, Lucy. I thought your mother and I raised you better than that.”

“Don’t bring Mom into this, don’t you dare.” Lucy had long since learned to keep her temper in check, but this was on the very edge of her self-control. A deep breath in. A steadying breath out. “Did you need anything else?”

“I’ll see myself out,” he grunted. “I really did try and keep you out of all this. I want you to remember that.”

“Well, I’m in it now.” Lucy turned away, unable to bear the changed man in front of her. She listened to his footsteps retreat and blinked away tears. They had to make some real progress with Cadmus, and soon. Maybe seeing Lillian hauled off to prison would finally get through to her father, although it was more likely he’d be shackled right along with her.

Once, Lucy would have done anything to defend her family, but her dad had crossed one line too many. If it came to it? She’d slap the cuffs on herself, family be damned.

***

Kara changed back into her clothes with a burst of superspeed, having stepped out to deal with a robbery in progress just a few blocks away. She’d been in the middle of the editorial meeting when she’d heard the alarm. Snapper had scolded her for being so obviously distracted, before granting a nod of permission to go. Having him in her corner, even reluctantly, was going to make life easier.

So much had changed these last several weeks, but rather than feeling thrown and unsteady, Kara was simply happy. She and James were on good terms again. Jeremiah was back where he belonged. Alex was finally letting herself be happy with Maggie. And then there was Cat…

Cat.

Kara nearly giggled as she sat on the edge of her desk, slipping her glasses back on. Being in love felt so much like floating, and she often caught herself glancing at her feet to make sure they were still on the ground. She’d never imagined she would have this, but now that she did, she was equally terrified of losing it.

Cadmus had given them a reprieve the last few weeks, but Kara could sense another attack coming in her bones. Each moment of happiness was marred by the feeling they’d pay for it later. Lillian had gone underground, and it was just as well. Kara wasn’t sure what she’d do if they came face to face again with so much more at stake.

Taking a deep breath, she focused on Cat, listening to the sound of her steady heartbeat. It was the one thing that never failed to soothe her.

Kara tried to tamp down her growing suspicions about Adam and his sudden immersion in Cat’s daily life. Was it really a coincidence he showed up now that she had much better protection than before the kidnapping? Having her son back in her life meant so much to Cat, and Kara wanted to relax and just be happy for them. But Adam didn’t even have to be consciously part of a plot; they’d all seen Lillian’s methods of persuasion. Did he have a trite little quote that would set him off, like Cat’s little ditty about walruses? Would he even suspect before it was too late?

Worst of all, there was no guarantee Adam would even need Mercy or some kind of conditioning to turn against Cat. His resentments were real, lifelong issues, and they ran about as deep as Kara had ever seen. But Kara didn’t need to know the motivations. She would step between Cat and trouble every time, even if the threat came from Cat’s own son. What worried her most was whether Cat would ever recover from that kind of betrayal.

That was her justification for stopping outside his office on the way back to the newsroom. Not to spy, exactly, but to make sure everything was just as it seemed. Kara had been blindsided by Cadmus too many times already. Like hell was she letting it happen again.

“I’m here like you wanted,” Kara overheard, her hand halfway to knocking on his door. “What do I do now?”

Her heart sank like a stone. All she needed was confirmation of the voice on the other end of the phone, something she was uniquely placed to overhear. Sure enough, Lillian’s vague reply did nothing to soothe Kara’s worst fears.

***

Adam’s office wasn’t nearly as big or as nice as the one he’d had with Lillian, but the more he settled in, the more it felt like a space he could make his own. With Lillian, he’d been afraid to put so much as a plant on his desk. The pristine white surfaces at Cadmus were so clinical that they seemed contaminated by his very presence.

The job Cat had found him here was a good fit for his experience, and while Adam was pleased she was willing to show a little nepotism, his mother’s generosity had limits. Both his title and office sent a clear message to him and anyone who might think he’d have it easy here. Cat had gotten him in the door, but where he went from there would be up to him.

Adam respected that, even valued the idea he’d only succeed on his own merits. It showed a certain faith in him, and Adam didn’t want to let Cat down.

No. He wasn’t here to build a relationship with his biological mother, even if part of him badly craved the connection. CatCo might pay his bills now, but he was working for the only woman who’d ever treated him like a son, and that wasn’t Cat Grant.

He shut his door and retrieved his cell phone from his pant pocket. Lillian took longer than expected to answer, and Adam glanced out his small window at the city below as he waited. It was a nice view. One he could get used to.

“Yes, dear?” Lillian answered impatiently, and Adam’s ego wilted. She sounded like Cat the few times he’d called around the holidays, like the very fact of the phone ringing was an inconvenience. He wondered if he would ever feel like enough to either of them.

“You asked me to check in,” he reminded her, unable to keep the pique from his voice.

“I suppose I did. Enjoying your first day with mommy dearest? Is it everything you hoped it would be?”

Adam closed his eyes, rubbing his forehead as a headache began to bloom. It was one thing when Lillian mocked his mother, another thing entirely when she turned that cruel streak on him. “I’m here like you wanted,” he snapped. “What do I do now?”

“I’ve had a rather long-awaited project suddenly spring to the fore this morning. I’m going to be unavailable for you today.”

“But–”

“You’re a big boy, Adam. I’m sure you can handle one day without my supervision. Perhaps you’ll even enjoy it.”

He scowled. “What’s the project?”

“If all goes well, you’ll see soon enough.”

***

Maggie swung Alex over her shoulder, slamming her onto the floor with enough force that the practice mat shuddered beneath them. Peeling her tank top away from her damp skin, she towered over Alex with a pleased smirk. “Told ya I’d get it. Suck it, Danvers.”

Her gloating was short-lived. Alex swept her legs out from under her, and Maggie landed on the mat. Again.

Alex crawled over her, chuckling breathlessly. “What was the first lesson?”

“Never assume your opponent is no longer a threat,” Maggie huffed with a roll of her eyes. “You know they teach us that in the academy.”

“Skipped that class?” Alex goaded. “But for the record? Yeah, you got it that time.” She leaned down and claimed Maggie’s mouth, stoking a different kind of heat. The kiss was too short for Maggie’s liking, but she appreciated the reward.

“Mmm. You know, if I got one of those every time I did something right…”

“We’d be making out more than working out.” Alex stood and offered Maggie a hand.

“You finished beating up on me for today?”

“For now. We have some other training we need to run you through.” Alex hopped off the platform and tossed Maggie a towel as she joined her.

“Sounds like lots of protocols and procedures,” Maggie grumbled as she wiped the sweat off the back of her neck and took a pull from her water bottle.

“By the end, you’ll wish I was beating you up, Sawyer.”

“Know what I wish?”

Alex arched a curious eyebrow, but a knowing grin curved her lips. The hint of arrogance in that smile was irresistible.

Maggie snared a fistful of Alex’s tank top and tugged her into a hungry, heated kiss. Alex’s body was hot and solid against her, and Maggie was tempted to push her down onto the practice mat and explore every inch of her.

They broke apart slowly, breathing hard. “I’ve missed that these past few weeks. Not to mention what usually comes afterwards,” Maggie teased.

Alex’s eyes sparkled, but Maggie didn’t miss the hint of apology in them. “Sorry. All this stuff with Dad…”

“It’s okay, Alex. He needs you right now. Your whole family does.”

“Yeah, well. I need you, okay?”

Maggie’s grip wound playfully tighter in Alex’s shirt. “In general or right this moment?”

“If there weren’t cameras in here, I’d take you up on that offer. Half a mind to do it anyway.” Alex reluctantly stepped back, her gaze sweeping the space around them, and Maggie caught a glimpse of something wistful in her expression.

“What?”

“I kinda miss working here. I trained Kara in this room.”

“You trained Supergirl?”

“I trained my sister.” Alex gestured to the walls. “Kryptonite emitters. We were able to spar without her punching me to Mexico.”

“Ah.” Maggie stepped forward and deliberately brushed against Alex, not ready to behave just yet. “That’s kinda hot, Danvers.”

“My sister punching me to Mexico?” Alex joked, letting Maggie push her against the wall.

“Knowing my girlfriend trained Supergirl.” Maggie kissed her again, her hands wandering a little. Security could probably do with a show rather than staring at drills and sand all day. “Tell me she was awful when she started.” Maggie nibbled Alex’s neck just below her right ear, and Alex twitched, dragging her closer.

“So awful,” Alex said with a snort of laughter. “But she learned. She worked hard. I told her I’d teach her to fight better than me.”

“Does she?” Maggie tilted her head, running her thumbs over Alex’s hips. She loved how proud and protective Alex was of Kara.

“Not yet, but she will. And so will you by the time I’m done.”

“She’s lucky to have you as a sister.”

“I’m the lucky one.” Alex leaned in this time, stealing a final kiss. “Very lucky,” she whispered when they parted.

They’d avoided talking about Jeremiah, throwing themselves into Maggie’s training from the moment Alex had arrived. Wallowing in this deepening thing between them, the last thing Maggie wanted to do was bring it up. She sensed the shift in Alex, though, could read all her tells by now. “You ready to hear about your dad?” she asked gently.

Alex nodded reluctantly. “Experiments?” she guessed.

“Lot of them sounded harmless. Well, as harmless as getting your blood and tissue samples taken without consent can be. Plenty of things he worked on likely benefited the DEO for years before Cadmus went completely off the reservation.”

“Ever since I learned he was alive, I’ve thought of the horrible things Cadmus could have done to him, the things they could have forced him to do. I just… wasn’t ready to hear them. I wanted my dad for a while, you know?”

Maggie wished she could spare her from all of this. “I know.”

“Tell me what he told you.”

With a heavy sigh, Maggie did.

***

Winn studied Henshaw’s face as his final scans ran their course. He totally got Alex’s reasons for choosing Maggie over this, but he would have felt safer with her there. He kept expecting Henshaw to sit up like a reanimated corpse in the morgue. The dude was creepy as hell.

His tablet beeped, and Winn studied the results, punching the air when all systems showed green across the board. All he had to do was throw the power, and Henshaw would be fully online with his cybernetics bypassed and non-functional. Winn had to admit, this project was some of his best work. The challenge had nearly broken him once or twice, but now he was going to hit this out of the park.

“Cadmus are going down,” Winn said as he flipped the switch. Henshaw’s cybernetic eye flickered blue before sputtering and going dark. “Now give me your secrets, you son-of-a-bitch.”

The monitors lit up as the data began to transfer, and Winn grinned before giving a little whoop of excitement. The guards both flinched, going for their weapons, but he waved them off. “Sorry. Sorry. I just got… it’s fine. Everything’s fine.” He sat down on the stool next to Henshaw and pulled out his phone, ready to give Alex the news.

A soft whine tickled his ears and Winn hesitated, leaning in closer to Henshaw, who seemed to be the source. Worried something was starting to overheat or overload, Winn checked his tablet, but nothing seemed to be amiss.

So what was that whine and why was it getting louder?

Instinct kicked in and had him moving before his conscious thoughts knew why. The tablet dropped from his fingers as he scrambled toward the door, yelling a warning to the guards to get the hell out of there.

Winn ran as fast as he ever had down the row of cells. Empty. Glass. No wall. The whine increased. Louder. Higher. He reached the new nth metal cell and lunged towards it as Henshaw detonated behind him. The blast gathered him up, his world going white and silent before he slammed into something with brutal force.

The darkness that followed swallowed him whole.

Chapter Text



Cat and Kara are caught in an explosive situation in this stunning scene depicted by @pinkrabbitpro. Please let her know how much you appreciate her work in the comments or in her Tumblr ask!

And check out a second work of art after the chapter!

Chapter Text

“It could be nothing,” Kara explained as she relayed what she’d overheard. “No evil cackling, nothing specific to say it was anything other than two people who… care about each other, checking in on how the first day was going.”

“Hmm,” Cat acknowledged, leaning against the balcony rail and tapping her lips with one finger. “Of course, I have to give Adam the benefit of the doubt for now. I suppose telling him about us will be one way to see where his loyalties truly lie.”

“He’s crazy if they’re anywhere but with you. Lillian might have been nice to him as a kid, but Adam knows a bad person when he sees one, I’m sure of it.”

“I hope you’re right, but we both know that it might not be his own choice, if it ever comes to that. I don’t want to suspect him until we have something concrete. I’ve made no secret of the standard of proof required for an article. You can imagine how much higher that bar is for turning against my own flesh and blood.” Cat turned to look out over the city. She realized after a moment that it was a near-perfect recreation of that morning at her penthouse. This time Kara didn’t slip into place behind her, but took up the spot at Cat’s left elbow, just as she had that night Cadmus turned their worlds upside down and inside out. Cat shivered for a second beneath her creamy blouse and skintight gray pencil skirt.

“You okay?”

“Okay?” Cat repeated, bumping Kara’s shoulder playfully, just as she had a few months ago under much different circumstances. Now she understood the level of resistance in those finely-sculpted biceps far more intimately. “I’ve never been better.”

Later, she would kick herself for tempting fate so boldly.

The blast was deafening. Cat stumbled into the rail, the ground rumbling faintly beneath her high heels. Kara pulled her in protectively as they turned toward the explosion that had rocked the downtown skyline.

Car alarms blared to life throughout the city as a cloud of black smoke billowed from the DEO, flames chasing after it. Even this high above the ground, Cat could pick out screams among the din. Suffering had its own soundtrack, and a new act had just begun.

She witnessed another world flicker and die in Kara’s eyes. Cat reached for her, but Kara was already gone, a streak of red and blue across the skyline of National City.

***

The sudden, shrill bleat of the alarm jangled Lucy’s nerves. Swearing under her breath, she sidestepped a handful of agents and climbed the tiered platform to stand next to Susan, grimacing as the red warning lights kicked on. “Another damn drill?”

“No, ma’am.”

Lucy did a double take. Susan was rattled, and Susan didn’t get rattled. “What’s wrong?”

“Something at the downtown base… exploded. They’re completely offline. I don’t have communications, surveillance feeds, nothing.” Susan looked up at her, worried. “Do you know how big of an explosion it would take to disable all the feeds from there, ma’am?”

A series of deep, metal clangs reverberated through the base, and Lucy’s ears popped as the pressure in the room changed.

“Lockdown protocols in effect,” Susan informed her needlessly. “Exterior doors are secure.”

Lucy took an uneven breath, brushing aside a surge of claustrophobia. “Get me surveillance video from outside the building. Let’s see what we’re dealing with.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

***

“This doesn’t feel like a drill, Danvers.”

The closer they got to central command, the more Alex had to agree with Maggie’s assessment. As they threaded through another batch of men in black, Alex longed for her usual boots and tactical vest. In her tank top and workout pants, she and Maggie looked more like girlfriends fresh out of yoga class than a skilled detective and federal agent.

“What’s going on?” Alex demanded as they arrived.

“Nothing good,” Lucy said as Alex joined her. Maggie lingered a few steps behind, out of the way. “The downtown base is offline.”

“What?” A familiar tang of fear settled on the back of Alex’s tongue. “That’s not possible.”

“Something exploded. That’s what triggered our lockdown. Susan is working to get us a look outside.”

Alex’s mind flashed to Kara, but her sister should be at CatCo and out of harm’s way. “You heard from J’onn?”

“Not since I briefed him an hour ago. Let’s hope he just has his hands full,” Lucy said meaningfully.

“Ma’ams.” Susan put the surrounding video feeds of the DEO on the monitors. Alex’s breath caught at the damage, far worse than she’d imagined.

There was a gaping hole in the side of the building. For several floors, the glass was gone, the metal charred and twisted amidst fire licking toward a cloudless sky. Alex’s recent nightmare of the DEO in flames resurfaced, leaving her shaken.

“Cadmus?” Lucy speculated. “A direct strike of some kind? A missile maybe?”

“No. Whatever it was, it came from inside.” Maggie pointed to a section of the carnage. “The metal juts outward, not inward.”

“It’s Cadmus.” Alex knew it in her gut. “Any reports from our agents?”

“No, ma’am,” Vasquez said. “We’re deaf and blind in there. Everyone I’ve tried calling won’t pick up.”

“Supergirl?”

“Not yet.”

Maggie stepped closer, her heat soothing the ragged edges of Alex’s nerves. “I’m sure Kara is okay.”

“Kara isn’t who I’m worried about. Winn was going to reactivate Henshaw’s cybernetics this morning.” Alex retrieved her phone from her gym bag.

“You think…” Vasquez turned slightly in her chair before meeting Lucy’s gaze.

“Come on,” Alex murmured as she waited for someone to answer. “Pick up, Winn. Pick up.”

***

Smoke clogged the halls, the emergency lights sputtering weakly. J’onn pushed a heavy section of debris aside, trying to get to his people who’d been in the holding cells. Most of the floor had given way, and he crawled over the piles of rubble to reach the part that’d stayed intact. There was no sign of his cybernetic double, but the scorch marks in that area suggested a detonation point.

Son of a bitch.

J’onn scrambled higher, finding one cell almost intact. It had previously been a whole row with a walkway outside them. The smoke grew thicker and more acrid, despite the wide hole torn open in the side of the building. Flames sparked and roared around him and he shied away, fearful of what fire could do to his kind. He didn’t want to transform now. If he could rescue his people, or even just carry them out and lay them to rest, he wanted to do so in the body of the director they had known and trusted all these years.

He hoisted himself up into the cell, his grip on the floor resonating at a strange frequency. The nth metal. They’d been preparing a cell for Kara to test its containment capabilities. A more humane alternative to the sickening effects of kryptonite, a metal stronger than even a Kryptonian. As he crawled through more rubble, a sound caught his attention over the flicker of fire and the intermittent alarm. It came again, a little closer that time. J’onn used his Martian strength to throw hunks of ceiling out of the way. When he flung the last piece aside, he found Winn, who took another ragged breath and went still.

His left arm twisted at an awkward angle, blood oozed from a nasty cut above his temple. J’onn knelt by his side, carefully laying a hand on Winn’s chest and waiting for his lungs to inflate and contract again. Dread curled inside J’onn with each second of stillness.

Then Winn sneezed.

“Ow!” Winn howled. He tried to rise, only to let out another yelp of pain when he jostled his left arm. J’onn held him down to keep him from hurting himself.

“Help is on the way. Lie still.”

Winn looked up at him, dazed, his pupil blown wide. Concussion, J’onn deduced, but the nth metal walls had probably saved his life. It was just a shame they hadn’t also shielded him from the concrete and steel they’d yet to replace.

J’onn considered ignoring the buzzing of his phone, but on a day like this every call was urgent. Seeing Alex’s name on the display, he took a deep breath and answered it.

“Thank god,” Alex gasped. “Are you okay? We’ll override the lockdown. I’ll head back…”

“Stay,” J’onn told her. “It’s bad, Alex. For now, consider main operations transferred to the desert base. You know the protocol. I trust you and Lucy to handle things.”

“Yes, sir,” she ground out after a moment. “I’ll call in all off duty agents to assist you. What about Winn? I’ve tried calling him…”

“I just found him. He’s alive. Those nth metal walls you recommended were between him and the blast. I think we can consider them tested.”

“H–Henshaw,” Winn groaned. “Bomb… Someone detonated him when I powered him on.”

“Lillian,” Alex muttered. “There might be a second attack coming. She chose now for a reason.”

“Stay there and stay safe. If she’s striking out at one location she might come after the other.”

“Understood, but you’re more vulnerable than we are.” A moment of heavy silence hung between them. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“That makes two of us. Secure your base, Agent Danvers.”

“Yes, sir. And, sir? In case it’s going to be one of those days, I just…”

“I love you too, Alex,” J’onn said before disconnecting the call.

***

The command center was unrecognizable. Every pane of glass was shattered, and portions of the walls had buckled and collapsed. Smoke obscured the few flickering, working monitors hanging in disarray.

There was death all around her. Not only could Kara see it, she could feel it, the cold certainty sinking into her bones. Friends and colleagues lay still everywhere she looked.

Kara heard groans and soft pleas for help, but she listened frantically for one voice in particular. One heartbeat she wasn’t ready to never hear again.

Panic rising when she didn’t detect it, Kara blindly shoved debris aside as she hurried to Alex’s lab, only to find it decimated. Had she told Alex she loved her when they last spoke? Had she left too many things unsaid like those final moments on Krypton?

Tears blurred the destruction as Kara tore through every room. When she finally stumbled upon J’onn and Winn, she was ready to come apart at the seams.

“Kara,” J’onn murmured, climbing unsteadily to his feet. She threw herself into his arms, unable to stop a terrified sob from bursting out of her chest.

“She’s all right,” he whispered. “Alex isn’t here. She was training with Maggie in the desert.”

Kara shuddered in relief. She should have remembered that, but one look at the damage, and all reason had fled. Leaning back, she wiped at her tears as she struggled to regain her composure.

“I just spoke with her. She’s fine. Worried, but fine. There are a lot of others who need your help, though,” J’onn reminded her, and Kara nodded jerkily, turning her attention to Winn, who was barely conscious at her feet.

Kara sank to her knees. “If this is where it happened, how is Winn still…”

“That nth metal your sister’s been working with. The one you can’t bend. He got behind a wall of it somehow. About the only shelter there was.”

“Did Lillian do this?” Kara had to ask, even though she already knew the answer.

“Through Henshaw. He had some kind of explosive device in his cybernetics our scans didn’t detect. Cadmus detonated him remotely when Winn powered him up. That’s our best guess at the moment.”

Kara examined Winn with her x-ray vision for any additional injuries before she gently rolled him over and gathered him in her arms. “Let me get him to the medics.”

“If any survived,” J’onn said, rubbing his hand over his face in grief and sudden exhaustion. “If Luthor is responsible…”

“Let’s save the living first. Then we make Lillian pay for the dead.”

***

Cat was crawling out of her skin. She paced her office with cell phone in hand, waiting for word. As the minutes ticked by, her fear grew. Clearly everything wasn’t fine, or Kara would have called by now. That meant people were hurt, or worse. Perhaps people Cat had come to care for.

J’onn. Winn. That cute, short-haired agent who always scrambled to meet Cat’s needs during her voluntary incarceration. But if something had happened to Alex, Kara wouldn’t be able to bear it.

She paced back to her bar, tempted to pour herself a drink, but she needed to keep a clear head. If Cadmus were lashing out, this was the first round of many to come. Lillian did so enjoy inflicting misery in layers. She glanced at her phone again, cursing when it remained notification-free. A ten second call. A damn text message. As the Queen of All Media, it was maddening not to have even a sliver of intel.

“Screw it.” Cat pushed through the door and stepped onto her balcony. Her thumb hovered over Kara’s number before she scrolled past, searching through several more until she got to the primary source of her anxiety. With a wince, she dialed, bringing the phone to her ear and waiting with growing impatience for someone to pick up.

“Cat?” Alex answered sharply, and Cat’s knees nearly buckled.

“Are you all right?” she snapped, irrationally furious with Alex for scaring the hell out of her. “I haven’t heard from Kara and I–” She blinked away unexpected tears.

“This isn’t exactly a good time,” Alex groused, an obnoxious alarm bleating in the background. “Is Kara okay?”

“She’s gone to the DEO. Haven’t you seen her?”

“I’m at the desert base.” Alex paused. “Were you worried about me?” Disbelief was heavy in her tone, but Cat didn’t miss the faintest hint of surprise.

“Don’t let it go to your head,” Cat huffed as she sank onto a chair, her knees suddenly too weak to hold her. Whatever Kara was facing at the DEO, at least her sister would be able to help pick up the pieces. “I’m sure you’re busy. I’ll let you go.” She hung up before Alex could say more, rolling her eyes at herself.

Smoke lingered pungent in the air, but the fire at the DEO was out now. She wanted to see the damage with her own eyes, but she’d never make it past the roadblocks. There was one person who might have answers, though, even if Cat was afraid of what she might hear. Rising to her feet and twitching her skirt back into place, she went to find her son.

***

“J’onn!”

He grunted as M’gann slammed into him, nearly knocking him off his feet with the force of her hug. J’onn found himself hugging her back, her strength and warmth more than welcome after the horrors of the morning.

“You didn’t have to come,” he murmured, but he was touched she did.

“Don’t be an idiot.” M’gann squeezed him a little tighter, bringing the faintest smile to his lips before she stepped back. Agents were searching for survivors in the rubble around them, and M’gann took in the enormity of the damage. “Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine. I wish I could say the same for all my agents.”

“Maggie?”

Of course. J’onn had almost forgotten about their connection under the circumstances. “At another base with Alex.”

“Thank god.” M’gann’s body lost some of its tension. “I’m sorry, J’onn. I know how much your people mean to you. If there is anything I can do–”

Kara arrived in command with a burst of superspeed, dust and glass stirring across the floor in her wake. “Winn is with the medics. I told the fire department we’ve got things under–” She broke off awkwardly when she spied M’gann. “Hey,” she blurted.

“M’gann was worried about Maggie,” J’onn explained.

“I’m worried about all of you,” M’gann corrected with a pointed glare before turning her attention on Kara. “Your friend James was with me when the explosion happened. You should call him. He wasn’t terribly amused when I left him behind.”

“I–” Kara looked between them again, clearly unsure if she should return to the search, or linger and referee. While J’onn had told her he was making an effort with M’gann, he hadn’t shared much more than that.

M’gann crossed her arms. “I came to help, if I can, and to offer sanctuary. You’re welcome to use the refugee center to regroup.”

“Thank you,” Kara said sincerely. “We could probably use it.”

“We could,” J’onn agreed. “But only if you think those utilizing it won’t be bothered by our presence.”

“They might be bothered, but if we’re ever going to trust each other we have to start somewhere, right?” M’gann arched an eyebrow, a silent challenge.

“No time like the present, then. I could use some help.” Kara took a few steps back and gestured for M’gann to follow. “There’s at least two levels I still need to search if you’re up for it.”

“Whatever you need.” M’gann brushed by J’onn and he caught her arm, letting all his thoughts and emotions pass wordlessly between them. “You’re welcome,” she said with a soft, sad smile.

***

“This is crazy, huh?” Adam gestured to the screen when Cat appeared in the doorway of his office. She studied him for signs it was scripted, planned in some way. Was his rapt attention borne of genuine surprise? Or was he enjoying seeing a nefarious plan come to fruition? How could she suspect the sweet boy with the dark eyes and the soft lisp that she’d given up all those years ago? Had she really done that much damage?

“It’s a tragedy,” Cat concurred, stalking closer to his desk. It was still bare of personal effects, only the Mac, mouse and keyboard in evidence on the white wood. “The people who did this? They’re monsters. But they’ll be brought to justice. There’s nowhere they can hide.”

Adam looked up. “You say that like you’re gonna round them up yourself. Joined the NCPD while I wasn’t looking?”

Cat circled his desk, getting as close as she dared, given their estrangement. They still hadn’t made it past awkward, stilted hugs. Glancing at the footage over his shoulder, she decided to try her luck once and for all.

“Sorry about lunch, but obviously Kara’s new job means she’s down there reporting from the scene. We can reschedule, of course.”

“Sure, you’ve got nothing but time, right?” Adam had that edge in his voice, the one that raised her hackles in anticipation of another apology she didn’t particularly want to give. “You should give Kara a break though. She already dumped me once, can’t imagine she’s dying to share a table with me.”

“About that.” Cat could have asked him outright if he was in bed with Lillian, or pulled surveillance tapes, or even hacked his phone if she’d thrown her ethics out of the window altogether à la Piers Morgan. “Kara is off the market.”

“And you’re telling me this because…?” Adam got up, moving away from Cat to pace across the office floor. “No wait, I think I can guess. When I was here before, and you tried to push us together–”

“I may have been ushering Kara along the wrong branch of the family tree, yes. I don’t think it can come as a complete surprise. You know I’ve dated women before?”

Adam’s pacing sped up a little, his shoulders hunching with increased tension. Cat had been manipulating men into telling her what she needed for years, but it was uncomfortable to turn the tactic on her own flesh and blood. Nevertheless, like Elizabeth Warren without the Wall Street rants, Cat persisted.

“I mean, it’s not a competition, darling.” This time the term came easily, without the sentiment behind it. “Sometimes the heart just… wants what it wants. Or whatever that old cliché is.”

“And god knows you always go after what you want, right? Unless you just don’t want it enough.” Adam turned on her then, reducing the distance between them in an instant. “Lillian told me you had a thing for Kara, but I shot her down. All these months, she’s been right.”

Months. A chill ran through Cat’s veins like the blood had been replaced with a bottle of Grey Goose fresh from the freezer. It had barely been weeks since the semi-official date in Metropolis, and before that there had been nothing for Lillian to know. Except those taunts when she’d been spraying Cat with that evil concoction of hers. If Lillian had been discussing Cat with him then, there was a chance he’d known about Lillian’s unique access to her. It wasn’t like their paths had crossed much in recent years.

Meaning her own son really could be working against her, against Kara, and against every last one of them who wanted to make aliens welcome. Did he really hate her that much? Or was this a more effective version of Mercy at work, like the dose that had overwhelmed Snapper’s best instincts? Less confident people might have let their smile flicker, might have given the game away with a panicked look, but Cat had a poker face for the ages, and she shrugged it off as though it were nothing but small talk.

“Lillian’s always been weirdly curious about me,” she pointed out. “I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to hear she was one step ahead all this time, so you can tell her she was right if you get a chance. Now, I have a major news event and four different types of media reporting on the explosion, so I’ll be in my office if you need me.”

“Sure.” Adam looked to have his temper flare under control, that easy smile back in place. But Cat glanced at his hands to see they were still clenched into fists. “Good luck with that.”

“Oh, and Adam?” Cat called out before leaving his office.

“Yeah?”

“Thank you,” she finished. “It’s a good thing, you coming to work here. I think it’s going to make such a difference. For all of us.”

She was off and marching down the hallway before he could answer.

***

Alex itched to be at the downtown base. The security protocols were in place for a damn good reason, but she despised being locked up and protected while people she cared about suffered. Too many men and women who’d had her back over the years were likely gone, and Alex vowed to make Lillian pay for every last one of them. She just hoped Kara was okay. This whole situation couldn’t be easy on her.

With a frustrated sigh, she finished securing her tactical vest and slammed her locker closed.

“I don’t know, Danvers,” Maggie grumbled as she came around the corner. “You make this stuff look sexy. I just look like a kid playing black ops in my aunt’s backyard or something.”

Huffing out a laugh at the image, Alex glanced up only for her mouth to go dry. Maggie stood there with her hair swept back in a loose ponytail and her trim figure outfitted in standard black DEO attire. Oblivious to Alex’s appreciation, she fussed with her tactical vest.

“Um… may I?” Alex licked her lips and pointed at the collar rubbing high on Maggie’s neck. Maggie nodded, and Alex resecured the velcro strips on her sides, snugging the vest tighter and lower. “Trust me. You look… badass.”

Maggie arched a skeptical eyebrow. “Good to know,” she murmured, an edge to her voice that sent a pleasant shiver down Alex’s spine.

A handful of agents left, and they were finally alone.

“What can I do?” Maggie asked. “You’re having the day from hell.”

“Would be a lot worse if it weren’t for you.”

“Don’t deflect on me, okay? This business with your dad, and now the explosion…” Maggie stepped forward, her hands curving over Alex’s hips. “Let me help.”

“I’m not deflecting.” Alex hesitated, studying Maggie quietly. “I likely would have been in that room with Henshaw today when that bomb went off.”

Maggie’s breath hitched.

“But when I had to choose between getting my revenge on him and Cadmus, or being here with you? It wasn’t even a contest.”

“Alex,” Maggie whispered.

“I’m alive because I wanted time with you.” Alex cleared her throat. “I mean, yeah, I needed to talk about Dad, but–”

Maggie silenced her with a kiss that somehow conveyed all the things Alex had been trying to say, with a side of I’ve got you. Alex pressed closer, the gear on their tactical vests making the moment uncomfortable, but she didn’t break away until she had to breathe.

***

Kara pulled each fallen agent free with the same care and delicacy she would have used for a newborn baby. Carrying Kashfa, the lab tech who’d taken Kara’s blood with a kryptonite-tipped needle on more than one occasion, made every step feel like a hundred miles. It could have been Alex, Kara’s brain kept repeating, her own personal funeral dirge.

Had Krypton been like this? Did the first big blast end it all, or were there residual waves of destruction after her pod had been knocked towards the Phantom Zone? Kara pictured her mother, tending to the wounded in the rubble of the spaceport, waiting for another boom, another crack. Had her father cried out in fear? Or had he been stoic to the last, trying to shield her mother until there was nothing left to protect?

When the last of the body bags were slowly zipped on the lobby floor, Kara lowered her head and placed a hand over her heart. The firemen formed a protective circle around her and the victims.

Through quiet tears, Kara focused on the memories of each of these souls who’d shared their smiles, their expertise, and more often than not, their home-cooked lunches with her. The DEO had once been directed to detain her, and yet these agents had become her allies and friends. It would be harder on Alex, who’d worked closely with them for longer, and J’onn, who would carry the losses of those under his command until his dying day.

With no help left to offer, Kara intoned the Kryptonian prayer for the dead. It hadn’t been long ago since she’d said those bittersweet, beautiful words for her aunt, but they came back to her with the same stuttering clarity. It was small comfort at least, to say them aloud in her own native accent instead of Kal’s rougher one when he’d spoken for Mon-El. Though the firefighters and medics didn’t understand the words, they recognised the sentiment. They joined her in removing their hats and bowing their heads in remembrance. Prayers in Earth languages followed, the message broadly similar from each faith and nationality spoken.

Cadmus’s darkness had cast a long shadow today, but the light of the people who called National City home would not be diminished for long.

***

Cat watched the firefighters somberly carry out the dead on live television. It was ghoulish to count, but she couldn’t help it, faintly surprised there were only fifteen. She’d been terrified the number would be five times that.

Her phone buzzed on her desk and she spun in her chair to retrieve it, her chest loosening when she saw Kara’s name on the screen. Bracing for more bad news, Cat picked up in a hurry. “I love you,” she blurted, needing Kara to know that above all else.

A shaky exhalation on the other end of the line. “You have no idea how much I needed to hear you say that,” Kara said quietly. “Alex is safe.”

“I know. I might have called your sister in a fit of blind panic. She knows I give a damn about her now. I’m not sure my reputation will recover.”

“She may have had an inkling,” Kara said, and Cat was pleased to hear a faint smile in her voice before she fell silent again.

“Winn? J’onn?” Cat asked hesitantly.

“J’onn is fine. M’gann is here helping, actually. Winn…” Kara swallowed roughly, and Cat’s grip tightened on her phone as she prepared for the worst. “He shouldn’t be, but he’s alive. He got damn lucky today.”

“Thank god,” Cat breathed. Seeing James appear in her doorway, she motioned him into her office.

“We’re relocating to the refugee center as soon as we finish up here. The desert base is on lockdown for now, but at least I know Alex and the others are safe.”

James settled in the chair opposite Cat, waiting expectantly.

“I’ll fill James in. And whatever you need, Kara, we’re here.”

“I love you,” Kara whispered. “I might need a hug later.”

“You’ll get one. You’ll be lucky if I ever let go.”

They reluctantly said their goodbyes and Cat hung up, taking a moment to gather herself before she met James’s worried gaze. “This has gone on long enough. I want every reporter we have on Cadmus. From our Pulitzer Prize-winning investigators to the damn fashion bloggers, we’re shutting Lillian down.”

Chapter Text



@pinkrabbitpro brings another SGVS moment to life as Alex and Maggie make DEO training a little more interesting.

Chapter Text

Kara faces the destruction at the DEO in this gorgeous piece from @ofpensandcupcakes! Please let her know how much you appreciate her work in the comments or in her Tumblr ask!

Chapter Text

As the agents bundled up the last of the equipment to take to the refugee center, Kara stared at her lockscreen. She’d been resisting the urge to call Alex all morning. Her sister would be busy securing the desert base, and Kara had lives to save, but as each new victim was unearthed, the compulsion had only gotten worse.

If she came across a little needy now, she’d risk it. Kara dialed. Even if all she got was Alex’s voicemail, Kara desperately wanted to hear her voice.

“Hey. You okay?” Alex answered abruptly.

Kara stopped walking, swaying in place with simple relief. “Yeah.” She cleared her throat when her voice broke. “I just…” She hung her head and wearily closed her eyes.

“Kara?” The abruptness gave way to the warm, familiar way only Alex said her name. Kara heard the love in it so clearly that tears started to well. Thank Rao she hadn’t lost this. Losing Alex would have meant losing another home, and Kara didn’t think she’d ever be ready to face that day.

“I’m sorry. I just needed to talk to my big sister, I guess.”

Alex murmured a few words to someone, then the noise on her end faded away as she stepped somewhere more quiet. “Don’t be sorry. Your big sister kinda needed to talk to you too.”

Leaning against a charred wall, Kara let herself relax for a few seconds. Alex’s voice was sleepovers and ice cream, sneaking in after curfew and arguing over the last potsticker. It took a lot to make an invulnerable superhero feel protected, but Alex got it right every time. With her panic tamped down, Kara turned her mind to other nagging concerns. “Is Maggie okay?”

“Yeah. She’s right here, in fact. She’s loving her first ever DEO lockdown.”

Kara heard Maggie’s scoff, and she grinned through her tears. They were adorable together, but she didn’t dare say so in case Alex hung up on her.

“How’s Winn?”

The question sobered Kara again. “Lucky. He broke his left arm in two places and he has a concussion, but he’ll be okay.”

Alex sighed. “I should have–”

“No, Alex. In fact, kiss Maggie for me. You chose her today, and that’s why you’re safe. I owe her a hug.”

Alex went silent again, and Kara half wondered if her sister had taken her literally and was currently making out with her girlfriend. “You still there?” she asked uncertainly.

“Yeah. Just… yeah. Mom and Dad okay?”

Kara had checked in on them after talking to Cat. “They’re fine. Eliza said Maggie came by.”

“She did. Dad gave her some info about Cadmus’s main base of operations. We don’t know much, but it’s underground. Some sort of military bunker.”

“He gave her more than that, though, didn’t he?” Kara could always tell when Alex was holding out on her.

“He did, but it’s not something we’re going to talk about over the phone, and it’s… it’s not easy to hear.”

Kara wanted to push, but now wasn’t the time. “Over ice cream later?” she suggested, couch time with her sister long overdue.

“Deal,” Alex promised.

“I won’t keep you. I just–”

“I’m glad you called, Kara.”

A series of pops came from Alex’s end of the line, and for a moment it sounded like the Fourth of July, when a bunch of kids had set off fireworks in the alley behind Kara’s apartment. She frowned. “What was that?”

Maggie yelled, and Alex’s phone clattered onto the concrete. Kara got her answer, with the unmistakeable sound of gunfire, right before the call cut off.

***

Pain flared down her right arm. Alex made a grab for her phone, barely getting her fingers around it as bullets punched into the floor and through the agents around them. Maggie gripped the collar of Alex’s tactical vest and yanked hard, and Alex stumbled and nearly fell before getting her feet under her.

“Go!” Maggie ordered, hauling Alex around and shoving her out front to protect her six. Their boots pounded down the hallway as they made a run for it, gunfire and screams echoing behind them.

“Seal the command doors!” Alex shouted into her two-way. Muzzle flashes flickered dizzyingly off the walls. “Hostiles have breached the lockdown. Seal the command doors!”

Alex pivoted and pulled Maggie into a lab, engaging the blast door behind them. Not as thick or bulky as those used to shield the entrances and exits, it clanged into place quickly, and she secured it as bullets clanked harmlessly off the other side.

“Kara?” Alex brought the phone back to her ear. “Cadmus found a way in. It’s like they crawled out of the damn rocks. Kara?” Her phone beeped twice and Alex glanced down to find she had no signal. She tapped the two-way in her ear again. “Vasquez? Director Lane?” Silence beat back at her. “Goddamnit, they’re jamming us.”

“Babe, hold still. You’ve been shot.” They were both trembling with adrenaline, and Alex winced as Maggie tore her sleeve away to get a closer look at the wound making her right bicep sting like a bitch.

Alex studied the injury clinically. “Just a graze. I’ll be fine.” Her head dropped back against the door as Maggie continued to fuss over her anyway. “I wonder if Kara heard me.”

“She’ll come, Alex. We just have to hold out for a few more minutes.”

“Her coming is what I’m afraid of.”

***

“You heard her!” Lucy shouted. “Seal us in!”

Another alarm sounded, and more lights began to flash. The first round of doors started to swing closed at all the access points to high clearance areas. Lucy stepped off the platform and drew her sidearm, advancing on the nearest open entrance as other agents assumed similar positions around operations.

“Jesus,” Susan muttered, hands flying over her keyboard. “Where they hell are they coming from?” The security feeds were full of men in desert camo fatigues overwhelming the DEO agents by sheer numbers.

Gunfire crackled from the hall, and Lucy raised her weapon, sighting down the barrel and waiting for the first son-of-a-bitch brave enough to show his face. Cadmus weren’t getting command of this base. Not on her watch.

Susan joined her as the remaining doors started clanging shut, first from above and then below. The last to close was the one that Lucy was guarding, and the heavy doors were easing shut inch by torturous inch. When they were barely halfway, Lucy spotted her father rounding the hall with a tac team.

Her finger twitched on the trigger.

So this was why he’d been trying to pull her away earlier. The gunfire they’d exchanged at the Cadmus facility weeks ago had been warning shots at best. Surely he wouldn’t test her resolve again?

Between the two of them, she’d never have thought she was the better soldier until that moment. With her people, her friends, and everything she had dedicated her life to fighting for on the line, Lucy fired. There was simply no other choice. Her father had made his when he chose the cause of evil and bigotry over protecting their country.

Her gun bucked once, twice, as Susan opened fire beside her, their shots echoing off the high walls. Lucy’s father spun as the first bullet struck him in the shoulder, but she lost sight of him as the doors finally slammed into place.

Lucy had known in her gut she could do it, but cover fire and actually targeting her own dad were two wholly different things. She refused to wonder if she’d killed him.

“Report!” Lucy ordered, breaking everyone out of their stupor. She followed Susan onto the platform as several monitors filled with static, Cadmus cutting their surveillance feeds.

“Operations is secure,” Susan replied, eyeing Lucy with both respect and concern.

Lucy’s hand trembled faintly as she holstered her weapon, the only outward sign she was affected. “Let’s see if we can keep it that way.”

***

“What’s wrong?” J’onn asked when he saw Kara coming.

“Cadmus. They breached the desert base.”

On his knees securing equipment for transport, J’onn scrambled to his feet. “What?”

“I was on the phone with Alex. There was gunfire…” Kara headed toward the ruins of the launch pad, painfully aware with each passing moment that Alex could already be dead.

“Kara, wait.” J’onn caught up and gripped her arm, spinning her round to face him. “You’re not going alone. This could be a trap.”

“They need you here,” Kara told him, “but Alex needs me. I’m going.”

“I’ll go with her,” M’gann volunteered, striding across the command center. “Stay with your people,” she said to J’onn before gripping Kara’s elbow and steering her toward the stairs. The exchanged a wordless nod, and Kara was grateful for the backup.

“Be careful,” J’onn called after them as they hurried up the steps. “Report in the second you know anything.”

“Move your team to the refugee center. Let us worry about the others.” M’gann didn’t wait for his answer, leaping with Kara toward the the sky above.

Kara prayed to Rao they wouldn’t be too late.

***

Lillian glowered in disgust at the cells around her in the DEO’s desert base. She’d eschewed her office wear for the far more comfortable black cargo pants and black v-necked t-shirt her mercenaries favored. As looks went, it was certainly commanding. When the people of National City looked for a leader to save them from the alien scourge, Lillian was more than ready to step up. Just as Lex had been back in Metropolis, with the tech and the money and the genius to rid humanity of its latest invading force.

“Ma’am.” The soldier afforded her a salute she technically hadn’t earned but couldn’t help enjoying. He followed at her side as they moved down the row. “Supergirl is inbound with company. Operations was secured before we could seize command, but most remaining agents are being rounded up and contained. Agent Danvers and Detective Sawyer are sealed in one of the labs on level two. We should have them shortly.”

It wasn’t all good news, but nothing they hadn’t planned for. Sawyer’s presence was a surprise, however, and Lillian smiled. Alex Danvers had just gotten easier to control.

“And, ma’am? I have orders to take you straight to General Lane. He was wounded while trying to take operations.”

Lillian stopped walking. “He what?”

“The general and three others were shot by Agents Lane and Vasquez.”

Lucy shot her own father?” Lillian failed to keep the refrain of Lena would, Lena would from her mind. “Well, Sam will have to wait. I have other matters to attend to.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And tell me our defenses are ready for our incoming Kryptonian?”

The soldier fiddled with his collar, pulling his firearm’s strap away from his neck. “Everything is in place. I helped myself, ma’am.”

“Then get moving. And stop calling me ma’am.”

***

A few ominous thunks and clanks reached them through the blast door. Alex prowled the lab while Maggie sat, resigned and silent, on the floor. There was nothing Alex could use as a weapon. No other means of escape. No way to stop Cadmus from getting their hands on Maggie again. She kicked a metal trashcan across the room.

“Babe,” Maggie pleaded.

Alex slammed her back against the wall and slid down it to sit at Maggie’s side. “I’m sorry,” she ground out.

Maggie eyed her profile for a moment. “You’ve got nothing to be sorry for.” She picked up the gauze and peroxide she’d raided from the medicine cabinet and began to disinfect the bullet graze on Alex’s arm.

Her touch was achingly gentle, almost reverent. Alex turned her head, watching her work. Maggie had her lower lip caught between her teeth, her brow furrowed with concern and concentration. She was utterly beautiful.

Maggie glanced up, regret heavy in her eyes as she smoothed a bandage over the wound. “Day from hell continues, huh?”

Alex smiled grimly. “I’ve had worse. At least I have good company.”

Maggie snorted and shook her head. With a sigh, she shifted until her back was against the wall before lacing their fingers. “How’d they get in?”

“I don’t know.”

“You think it’s a trap for Kara?”

“I don’t know,” Alex said again, but worry gnawed at her. “All this feels… bigger than her, somehow.”

“Yeah.” Maggie swallowed roughly. “Listen… um… for what it’s worth, I’m… I’m glad we…” Her thumb stroked Alex’s hand. “You’re about the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“Don’t,” Alex choked out. “Don’t start with the goodbyes. Not yet.”

“They’re almost in, Danvers.”

“They are,” Alex allowed. “But we didn’t go through hell to get you clear of Cadmus for it to end here.”

“Lillian is going to kill me, Alex.” Maggie’s relatively calm acceptance of her fate was clear in her eyes, but the thought threatened to shatter Alex completely. “Since this whole thing with Cadmus started, I knew how it was going to end. I’m just glad I got this extra time. With you,” she added as her voice broke.

Alex tightened her grip on Maggie’s hand, the noise outside intensifying. “You trust me?”

“With my life.”

Leaning in, Alex pressed her lips to Maggie’s, the kiss brief but breathtaking. She couldn’t lose this, not when she just found it. She wouldn’t. Alex dragged herself to her feet, pulling Maggie with her. “Ride or die?” She drew her sidearm.

At her side, Maggie nodded and did the same. “Ride or die.”

***

“Lillian has Alex.”

Cat jumped up from her chair, and Snapper and James scrambled to stand too, after seeing her reaction. She knew she must look horrified, and she tried to get her expression back under control. Shifting her cell phone to her other ear, Cat turned away from them before she answered. “What happened? Where are you?”

“Cat…” Kara sobbed, and Cat’s heart clenched. She heard the telltale whistle of wind whipping by, confirming Kara was in flight.

“Where is she?” Cat tried to think of some way she could help. Someone to send, something to throw money at. She came up empty-handed, and she couldn’t even take her place at Kara’s side. The lack of effectiveness made her want to kick something.

“Cadmus got in. They breached the desert base somehow. I haven’t been able to reach her. Lucy, Maggie, anyone.”

“Fuck,” Cat couldn’t help cursing, the stakes ratcheting exponentially higher. All of Lillian’s former machinations now seemed like child’s play. “Kara, listen to me.” She knew better than most how to handle her superhero. “You know how mad Alex will be if you fly right into a Cadmus trap to save her. Promise me you’ll be careful.”

“My sister–”

“Needs you alive. And free. Is anyone with you?”

“M’gann. We’re here. I have to go. But Cat?”

“Yes?” She expected a confession in advance. It was no secret what Kara feared she would do to anyone who hurt her sister. Cat knew how much Kara had suffered, that it would be a test on her restraint too far. Worst of all, she felt a selfish certainty that if it came to it, Kara would sacrifice her own life for Alex’s in a heartbeat. The thought alone made Cat feel torn between crying and throwing up. She couldn’t lose Kara now, not after all this.

“Whatever happens here, I love you, and I have loved you for longer than I knew. You’ve made me a better person, and a better hero.”

“Kara, don’t you dare say that as a goodbye,” Cat warned, choking back tears. She ignored James’s broad hands as they gripped her shoulders, offering support. “I love you, too. I trust you to do the right thing, the sensible thing, and bring everyone home safely. That includes you, so don’t get any ideas. Have I made myself clear? If not, I can have Lois write it out at third-grade level, her specialty.”

She tried, but Kara couldn’t quite summon a laugh. “I’ll try,” she promised, and the line went dead.

“What’s happening?” James asked as Cat lowered the phone.

“We’re losing,” she whispered.

***

Kara wasn’t surprised her usual entrance was sealed with a sickly green glow around the edges, but after the shock of the downtown carnage, she was relieved to find the desert base intact. She scanned the structure, but didn’t get far thanks to the lead-lined walls.

M’gann landed at her side before promptly dissolving through the external wall of the vehicle depot. Kara tensed, twitching to follow. She hurried to the main entrance but found it sealed as well, the blast doors thick enough to slow down nearly anything the military could throw at it. The kryptonite was stronger here, and Kara reeled, trying not to retch in the scrubland as M’gann reappeared.

“J’onn feared my kind more than most. Even if it limited his own powers, he kept the base secure from White Martians.”

“Dammit!” Kara scraped the toe of her boot across the sand. “Maybe if I dig, you know like a drill?”

“The floor had defenses for me, so I’d assume they’re in place for you too. This is a human outpost, meant for humans to defend themselves… or launch attacks. We’re not exactly going to be welcomed.”

“Quite correct, Martian,” Lillian Luthor’s voice sent a chill down Kara’s spine, and she spun to see a crisp, translucent image of her. A hologram, but not the same technology as her mother’s. No, this looked more like the one they’d duped Red Tornado with, only not quite as convincing. “You’re not welcome here, or anywhere else on this Earth. You’re monsters who burned your own planets, or did nothing while watching them die.”

“You’re a fine one to judge,” M’gann sneered, stepping protectively in front of Kara. “But that invitation is not yours to retract. Humans have welcomed us, helped us, even married us. You want to tear families apart and banish us to the nothingness of space?”

“Oh no,” Lillian corrected with a chuckle that made Kara want to vomit. “That was yesterday’s plan. I have something much more complete in mind now. And your sister is going to help me, Supergirl.”

“Alex would rather die!” Kara snarled.

“I’m sure she can be… persuaded.”

Kara tried to fire her heat vision at the projection, but the laser beam only sparked and fizzled. Too much kryptonite. “Let them go,” she warned all the same. She would find reserves from somewhere. She had to.

“I don’t think so, and if you try to take her from me, I’ll kill her. Now if you’ll excuse me, Alex and I need to chat. If she cooperates, maybe – maybe – your sister lives to see the end of aliens on Earth.” With one last smirk, she vanished.

***

A flash bang bounced off the floor and rolled when Cadmus broke through. Maggie and Alex spun away, closing their eyes and covering their ears. It detonated, and white flashed behind Alex’s eyelids.

Rough hands grabbed at her, knocking away her gun. Alex lashed out blindly, landing a clumsy blow or two. She sucked down a sharp breath when a hand clamped around the wound on her bicep. Rather than make her docile, however, it only pissed her off. She headbutted the sonofabitch who’d grabbed her, and he collapsed at her feet in a heap on the floor.

Seeing double, Alex staggered forward as Maggie was tackled to the floor. She kicked out at the more solid target, catching the guy in the stomach and knocking him off Maggie, but there were simply too many of them to fight.

Seconds later, it was over. Alex’s arm was twisted behind her as she was forced to her knees, facing Maggie. Gun muzzles jammed into the back of their heads as their gazes met. Alex prayed Kara wouldn’t be the one to find them.

“Well, well.”

Maggie flinched when Lillian Luthor strolled into the lab like she owned it. Lillian eyed Alex, as if sizing up her potential, before dismissing her to focus on Maggie.

“Detective Sawyer,” Lillian purred as Maggie and Alex were jerked to their feet. “I gave you more credit. I thought you’d run and hide instead of trying to play the vengeful hero after you betrayed us.”

Lillian towered over her, but Maggie didn’t back down. Her chin hitched higher, daring Lillian to do her worst.

“Of course, I didn’t realize you’d crawled into bed with the enemy. Literally and figuratively.”

“You sure like to hear yourself talk, don’t you? Get it over with, Luthor,” Maggie challenged.

Alex strained to get free. “You touch her, and I swear to god–”

“Save your prayers, Agent Danvers. You’re going to need them. Although you might spare one or two for your so-called sister. She’s here, prowling around on the surface with that bartender. They won’t be coming to your rescue, however. I took plenty of precautions, and I’ve got plans to keep them both busy if they become any more of nuisance.”

“What do you want?” Alex wished she could wrap her hands around Lillian’s long neck and squeeze.

“I like you, Alex. You know how to get right to the point.” Lillian drifted closer, toying with the items on Alex’s tactical vest. “What I want is for you to finish your father’s work. I assume you know all about that by now? Disappointed in dear ole dad?”

“Babe, don’t listen to her–”

“It’s simple,” Lillian continued as if Maggie hadn’t spoken. “Help me save mankind, and your girlfriend lives. Refuse? Well, you’re a smart woman. I think you know what happens next.”

“Alex, no,” Maggie pleaded.

“I’ll make her death a prolonged affair. Force you to watch every excruciating moment. Perhaps I’ll feed Detective Sawyer to that Dvorgian on level five. He’d start with her feet and work his way up. I understand the louder their meals scream the more they enjoy it, so we’ll make sure to pick a room with good acoustics.”

This woman had tortured her father. Had threatened Kara. Had put Maggie and Cat through hell. “I’m going to kill you,” Alex spat.

“Gentleman,” Lillian said. “Take the good detective to level five containment.”

“Wait,” Alex snapped, glaring at Lillian. “Maggie stays with me. You want my help? That’s the deal. You don’t touch her, and you don’t take her out of my sight.”

Lillian smiled before turning to the men at the door. “Escort them to my lab.”

Chapter Text

Another stunner from @supergaysupercat. One big part of this season was about elevating characters fans love more than the showrunners seem to. We're thrilled to see some Lucy/Vasquez art!

Chapter Text


A moment of zen in the desert with M’gann and the incoming Kara. How does @supergaysupercat keep stunning us? Love on the art in the comments or hit the Tumblr ask.

Chapter Text

“You’re getting worse.”

“I can handle it,” Kara said, clenching her jaw as she paced in front of the DEO. There had to be a way in. She couldn’t let the remains of one world stop her from saving another, but the kryptonite weakened her with every pass.

M’gann sat in the lotus position on the desert floor, seemingly unconcerned with the sand drifting over her legs or the heat shimmering around her. It had been nearly half an hour since they’d landed, and she almost looked bored.

“You should go, get away from the kryptonite. I’ll stay. Check in with your people and see what they can do to help.”

“What can they do? Both bases are compromised now, and we don’t know who to trust. Pick a branch of the government and Lillian might have gotten to them. Paid them off. Mercied them. It doesn’t matter. This has been the problem from the start: every move we make it always feels like she planned for it five steps back.”

“What does that crest mean?” M’gann asked, jerking her chin at the ‘S’ on Kara’s chest.

Kara skidded to a stop, sand stirring in the wind she’d kicked up with her boots. “El Mayarah.”

“Stronger together,” M’gann murmured. “Your friends can help you now. Let them.”

Slowly, Kara nodded and reached for the two-way in her ear, but M’gann shook her head.

“Go heal. Be at your best when it’s time to save Alex, Maggie, and the others.”

“I can’t leave my sister–”

“What would Alex want you to do?”

Kara hung her head.

“I’ll keep an eye on things here.” M’gann stood and dusted herself off. “If Lillian makes a move, you’ll be the first to know.”

***

J’onn came to a halt by the large doors of the loading bay. Given the circumstances, it hadn’t felt right to march in the front doors of M’gann’s Alien Refuge Center. Only a few blocks from the DEO, which he suspected Cat Grant had a deliberate hand in, it was their best choice for any kind of field operation. That didn’t mean he was without reservations. Behind him, the remaining staff waited patiently, bowed but not broken by the events they’d witnessed. They would continue to mourn the loss of their friends and colleagues, but right now they were all on the job.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he addressed in his usual gruff manner, setting the crates of supplies he was carrying on the ground for a moment. “I appreciate that we’re having a very bad day, one of the worst in the history of the DEO. For the time being, we have a base of operations, a safe shelter where we can work and rest. Most importantly, we’ll still have access to everything we need to bring those bombers to justice. To do that, we’re going to need to accept the help of our hosts.”

Some murmuring broke out, but he persisted. They needed to move and quickly, so they could do something about Alex and their colleagues in the desert. “I know it wasn’t easy for you all, when I revealed my true form just a few months ago. That feels like another lifetime, but you have all rallied around and accepted me. I only ask that we do the same for whoever we encounter inside these walls. Even those who may instinctively not trust us.”

“Yes, sir,” came a lone voice, but the group caught on and chorused another, louder, “Yes sir,” that brought the first faint smile of the day to J’onn’s face.

“Then let’s defend our city and help our fellow agents,” J’onn ordered, and when they walked en masse into the center, he could feel the renewed sense of purpose in every step.

***

“Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?” Cat teased as much as she could muster, reaching for Kara the very second she got close. Dear god, those arms were more steadying than any dose of Valium, and Cat lost herself in the enthusiastic embrace. “Was it really necessary to meet on the helipad?”

“I can’t stay long,” Kara warned, the words murmured against Cat’s cheek. The wind whipped around them despite the sunny day. “Also, Lillian is throwing around some serious tech, probably alien. She might have this place bugged.”

“I’m sure one day my ribs might even recover,” Cat wheezed as Kara forgot her strength for a moment, but she regretted it the second Kara moved back. “The fact that Alex isn’t with you, I take it that’s not a good sign?”

“I can’t get to her. Lillian has her hostage, Maggie too. She needs something from her, but in the meantime I’m locked out. Is this what it feels like to be human? For walls and doors and weapons to stop you getting to the people who need you most?”

“Listen to me.” Cat cupped Kara’s face between her palms. “You said Lillian needs Alex right now. That’s good news. As long as Alex is useful, Lillian won’t kill her.”

“What about Maggie? She wiped out Lillian’s control over the NCPD. You really think they’re going to let her live?”

Cat swallowed, the worst of her fears for the detective going unspoken. “She’s a pain point for Alex. Something Lillian can exploit to keep her in line.” At least Cat hoped so. “So long as she still needs Maggie to get Alex to cooperate, that buys them both time.”

Kara tore herself away, crossing to the edge of the roof and looking over the city. “These last two weeks have felt like a dream with you, but now it’s like I’m waking up to one of my worst nightmares.” She shook her head. “I know Alex isn’t blood, but…”

“She’s your sister, Kara. What you two have defies blood. It runs deeper than that.” Cat privately envied them their closeness, but she’d never once been jealous of Alex’s role in Kara’s life. She was too necessary to Kara’s wellbeing and balance.

“I should have taken Mxyzptlk up on his offer. Alex would be safe. You would be safe. None of this–”

“Kara,” Cat said firmly, changing tactics. Patient and loving wasn’t cutting it. “Alex needs you right now. Stop wallowing and start fighting.”

Kara stared at her, and Cat saw the spark of hope rekindle in the blue of her eyes. She stepped forward and kissed Cat soundly. “Thank you.”

“I’m a muse,” Cat said with a shrug.

“To the world. Yeah. You are.” Kara kissed her again.

***

“Director Lane?”

Lucy jerked out of her thoughts. She glanced away from operations below and turned her attention on Susan as she joined her at the rail. Susan held out a plastic cup of water and offered Lucy a tight smile.

“Thought you could use it, ma’am. Sorry it’s not something stronger.”

Lucy accepted the cup and brought it to her lips, her hands steady again. “Any luck with the feeds or getting a line out?” she asked after a sip.

“They’ve got their bases covered. I just can’t figure out how they got in.”

“I tried and tried to get my father’s security clearance revoked. Even went all the way up to the president.” Sighing, Lucy settled her elbows on the rail. “He could have been mapping our defenses and strategies all this time. Hell, he probably requested the damn blueprints.”

Susan copied her pose, their arms brushing lightly. “Even with that knowledge, there are only so many ways in and out. This shouldn’t have happened. It makes no damn sense.”

They lapsed into pensive silence, watching the agents milling about below.

“Do you think they’re all dead?” Lucy took another sip of her water, swallowing past the growing lump in her throat. “All those agents we locked out? Maggie? Alex?”

“I don’t know. I only know if they are, that was a risk they were willing to take.”

“It is,” she agreed. “I just feel like I let them–”

“Lucy, don’t.”

Her name snapped Lucy’s attention off the litany of recriminations on the tip of her tongue. “Now?” she teased weakly. “Now you use my name?”

“Just waiting for the perfect time, ma’am.”

Snorting, Lucy shook her head. “For what it’s worth, if I have to be trapped in an underground bunker with the wolves at the door, I’m glad it’s with you.”

“Likewise.”

If they got out of this day alive, Lucy was asking Susan Vasquez on an honest-to-freaking-god date. “They haven’t tried to get in yet. Why?”

“The base isn’t their high priority target,” Susan said after a moment.

“Then what is?” Lucy turned away from operations and leaned her back against the rail, her gaze skimming over the metal, lights, and rock around them. “Maggie said Lillian needed scientists. Is she coming after ours? Is she here for Alex?”

Susan flinched. “Agents Danvers is likely a bonus if she’s…”

“Still alive?”

“Yes, ma’am. Agent Danvers’ schedule has been pretty varied lately. We don’t even know when she’s coming in. Not sure how Luthor would, either.”

“Then what? What the hell do we have that they want? They have their own stash of kryptonite. Plenty of weapons. Was this just a strike to take out their enemy? Get the DEO out of the way?” Lucy rubbed the back of her neck, trying to loosen the iron bands of tension there. “Are we going to unlock the doors and find Cadmus gone?”

“There’s only one thing our base has more of than the downtown facility and Cadmus.”

Lucy eyed Susan again, unnerved by the dark thoughts roiling behind her pretty eyes. “What?”

“Prisoners. The downtown base has maybe twenty right now. We have hundreds.”

“Lab rats?”

“I think it’s worse than that, ma’am. Detective Sawyer said Jeremiah Danvers was working on a virus to kill the alien population while leaving humans unharmed. What better place to test that virus than an underground bunker with human enemy agents and the biggest supply of aliens in National City?”

“Mother of god,” Lucy breathed.

***

“Lillian!” Sam gasped as he tried to sit up on the makeshift operating table. “What took you so damn long, woman?”

“Someone had to keep our operation running, Sam.” Lillian made her way across the room, dismissing her operatives with a brisk nod. They knew better than to linger by now. “We can’t lose our window because you were careless enough to get yourself shot.”

“That damn Vasquez, the insubordinate–”

“I know it was Lucy.” Lillian stepped in closer, fussing with the folded blanket under his head, just a loving wife adjusting her husband’s hospital pillow. If a requisitioned laboratory and basic surgical supplies could pass for a hospital. “How disappointing. There’s no betrayal quite like that of your own flesh and blood.”

She surveyed the injuries. That shoulder wound was going to be responsible for some serious nerve damage. He was paler than usual, still sweaty despite the field injection of painkillers, and his breathing was ragged. She lifted the bloodstained sheet to see that the second bullet had entered through his ribs. Lucy had clearly paid attention in her marksman training.

“I hear you told our forces to fall back once you were injured,” Lillian continued, keeping it light and conversational. “A tactical decision, General?”

“I thought we should call this off,” Sam wheezed. Fluid in the lung. Blood, most probably. A simple chest drain wouldn’t take her long. She’d done them for decades, after all. The surgical gloves were waiting in their box, the supplies dotted across every surface in the room. He interrupted her idle thoughts, persisting with cowardice. “Come at them again once we’ve regrouped. Danvers never did finish the virus. I always said it was a step too far, not knowing how it would affect humans, and I couldn’t convince Lucy to leave.”

“Oh, we have a new Danvers now,” Lillian reminded him. She sighed, pushing the trolley aside after selecting an empty syringe. Yet another one had failed her, shown the backbone of a jellyfish when she most needed them to hold firm. Why were she and Lex the only ones who could see a plan through to fruition? “Alex and all the leverage we need to control her are mine for the taking. She has her father’s brains, thank god for that.”

“You’re going ahead?” He tried to sit up, but the blood loss had clearly taken its toll.

“For what it’s worth, it really was a beautiful wedding. Thank you for that.” She almost considered swabbing the injection site first, old habits dying hard. Infection would be the least of Sam’s problems.

She injected the air right above the bullet wound, giving it less distance to travel. He barely had time to react before the embolus did its work. Muting the monitors, she watched his body seize and shut down. Clean, efficient, relatively painless. It was the least she could do for an ally, for a husband.

Lillian bowed her head once the room fell silent, pinching the bridge of her nose. The battle had been long, but in the end hadn’t she always known it would come down to her, and her alone? It would be lonely, again. No one to confide in, no go-between with the particularly knuckle-headed troops. No Hank, no Sam, and the monthly visit to Lex with its ten layers of security was hardly any consolation at all.

She’d need help to see this through. Adam would be required after all, and Lena would have to be persuaded at any cost. First though, it was time to keep Supergirl and her Martian gal pal off the damn lawn.

***

They didn’t go up.

Maggie frowned as a Cadmus agent pressed the button for the bottom floor. A moment later, the elevator lurched and began its descent. “I thought we were going to Luthor’s lab,” she muttered.

“Where are you taking us?” Alex asked, her voice raspy and tight.

No one answered her.

Alex wouldn’t meet Maggie’s eyes, hadn’t since she’d made her deal with the devil. It was a Faustian bargain Maggie knew all too well, one she didn’t deserve, but knowing Alex cared enough to make it took her breath away.

The doors opened on level seven and Maggie was shoved out. She’d never been this deep into the facility before, and she could almost feel the weight of tons of earth and rock pressing down on them from above. She shivered. “Where are we?” she asked Alex when she was shoved out as well.

Alex licked her lips, the air cool and dry. “Containment.”

“The prison,” Maggie murmured, and Alex nodded once in affirmation. They were pushed toward a small, secure holding area between containment and the elevator, and Maggie caught a glimpse of the first cells beyond the glass.

They watched as an operative entered a code into the door, unsealing it and swinging it open. Alex scowled as they were urged through.

“They shouldn’t have that access,” she grumbled.

It was quiet as they passed the cells, and Maggie looked into them curiously. All manner of species looked back, their gazes vacant or broken, and another chill touched the base of her spine. “How long have they been in here?”

It was Alex’s turn not to answer, but she pursed her lips, looking guilty.

The ventilation unit kicked on overhead, filling the space with white noise. Maggie went still as an agent brushed past them, going to the end of the row and kneeling on the grate. The sounds. The air. The depth. Jeremiah’s description came back to her in a rush, the dots connecting to form a sick, terrifying picture. “Oh Jesus, Alex,” she whispered.

“What’s wrong?” Alex asked as the agent hefted the grate up, revealing a hatch beneath.

“They are taking us to Luthor’s lab. It’s under us. Cadmus is under us.”

***

Kara landed hard, hoping on some level Alex would hear it and know she was close. She was going to get her sister back, and when she did, Lillian would wish she’d never come for the people Kara loved.

“Sorry to call you back so soon,” M’gann greeted, “but Lillian is up to something.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Some kind of hatch just–”

“Oh, Supergirl…” Lillian’s voice managed to sound both breezy and snide, and Kara and M’gann pivoted and glared as the hologram formed behind them.

“Oh, so only you rate the face-to-face taunts. I see how it is.” M’gann crossed her arms as Kara stepped past her.

“Why don’t you come out here and talk to me in person?” Kara goaded Lillian.

Lillian smirked. “Later, perhaps. I’m a little busy right now. Your sister says hello.”

Kara’s hands balled into fists, and she tried not to think about what Lillian could be doing to Alex. “If you hurt her–”

“Spare me your empty threats. Alex is alive for now, and so is her pet detective. They’ll remain that way as long as they serve a purpose.”

“And what purpose is that?” M’gann asked.

“You’ll see soon enough, Martian. But for now, Alex and I have work to do, and you’re both a distraction, hanging around out here. Allow me to give you a project.”

A metal clang sounded from a hundred yards away, and Kara tensed when she realized the emergency hatch above containment was open.

“No,” she breathed.

“Have fun, girls. Plenty more where these four came from.” The hologram dissolved as three forms leapt from the hatch and flew toward National City.

“One of them is a White Martian,” M’gann warned. “I’ll handle that one.”

“She said four. She only released three. Where–”

Electricity arced over the vehicles around them before sinking into the desert floor, seeking a stronger, more potent source of power.

“No, no, no,” Kara pleaded after another massive flash near the powerlines miles away. “Livewire.” She froze, torn between protecting Alex and Cat.

It was a choice she didn’t know how to make.

Chapter Text

Gorgeous gifset courtesy of mitski (ao3 | tumblr). Be sure to let her know how much you love it!

Chapter Text

NEXT WEEK ON SUPERGIRL VIRTUAL SEASON: OUR FINALE!

The final showdown with Cadmus leaves no one untouched

Kara struggles between duty and family.

Alex must work on a virus that could end all alien life on Earth.

Cat’s plan to stop Lillian could come with a steep price for them all.

Don’t miss episode 12 - Burn Part 2 by @inspectorboxer and @fictorium! Beginning Monday on the Supergirl Virtual Season!

DON'T MISS THE LAST WEEK!

Immense thanks to @reginalovesemma (ao3 | tumblr) for the lovely gifset!! You can leave comments about it here, or hit the tumblr ask box.