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A Breathing Space in the Battle

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If she’d thought about it for a moment, Cat would have realized that CatCo was going to have a reporter at this event - obviously. A global conference on Alien rights? If there hadn’t been any CatCo reporters present, she’d have jumped on the next flight back to National City to smack James upside the chin.

But she hadn’t thought about it, she’d been too busy thinking about other things, and so the sight of Kara Danvers standing in the hotel lobby smacks into her like a baseball bat.

The lobby is massive, and Cat is settled at the classiest of its three bars. She has a clear view across the marble expanse to where Kara is standing next to a column, balancing a coffee in the crook of her elbow as she frantically scribbles in a notepad.

She’s dressed like a middle schooler who is pretending to be a reporter for Halloween, and Cat places a private bet that more than half that wardrobe came from the clearance rack at Target, but still, she looks beautiful. Cat wonders if Kara knows that she’s here - if maybe she’s hoping to run into Cat, even. Or maybe hoping to avoid her?

It would be fair. Cat takes a longer pull from her martini to balance out the thought. But yes, Kara might want to avoid her. Might be mad at her, or hurt.  She hadn’t meant to lose contact with Kara - it was just that somehow, a little bit of Kara was harder to have than none at all. The texts and emails went unanswered for reasons that Cat would struggle to articulate if she ever wanted to try, until eventually they petered out.

Would Kara be brave enough to ask about it, if they ran into each other? Or would she just give Cat that bright smile of hers and pretend it was fine?

Most likely, Cat decides, she would give that bright smile and it actually would be fine. Kara’s tough and brilliant, and once given the shove, it won’t have taken her long at all to realize that she doesn’t need any hand-holding from Cat to succeed. She’ll have moved on entirely, and that thought is worth draining her martini and ordering another.

When she looks back toward the lobby, almost unable to stop herself, Kara is speaking earnestly with a handsome man in a suit, and it only takes Cat half a beat to recognize him as Derek Westford, the keynote speaker from last night’s opening event.

Safely out of sight, Cat grins and raises a glass in their direction, a silent toast. Go get’em, Kara. Westford’s speech had been the kind of bland toe-the-political-line dribble that Cat loathes, and she hopes Kara is planning to very sweetly eviscerate him.

That comfortable bittersweet pride gives way rapidly to something disturbingly like panic as Westford takes Kara’s arm and leads her directly toward the bar where Cat is sitting. This isn’t a reunion that she’s ready for. She downs the second martini in a one long pull, and ducks into the lady’s room.

It’s classy, as restrooms go. There’s a couch, and actual light fixtures. Cat is very fond of lying to other people, but never to herself, so she takes a moment to look herself over in the ornate mirror and self-castigate for running away. Running didn’t used to come so easily to her - she’d made CatCo, made herself into a queen, by standing her ground and refusing to be anything less. But maybe she’s been running for awhile now - running to a yurt, running to Washington DC, and maybe without realizing she has let herself develop a habit of cowardice.

Or maybe she’s just getting old, she thinks ruefully, and can’t help but see the way lines are starting to appear in the corners of her eyes despite the multitude of chemical treatments she has paid for to keep them at bay.

Certainly she is too old to linger in a hotel bathroom and be heartbroken over a 25 year old girl with big doe eyes and a ridiculous do-gooder smile.

When she exits the bar, she has every intention of going back to her room and drinking until she falls asleep, but she can’t help one last side glance at Kara on her way out.

She glances, and pauses. Kara looks extremely uncomfortable, and it isn’t difficult to see why: Westford’s hand is on her thigh and slowly inching upward.

Kara looks paralyzed, one hand clenched around her drink, and Cat can almost hear the calculations in her head. The fear of making a scene, that losing a quote to protect her own safety will hurt her budding career… it’s familiar, and Cat would have intervened even if it wasn’t Kara, even if she hadn’t drunk two martinis in fifteen minutes.

The fact that it is Kara adds an entire extra dimension of rage as she comes in from behind, and she doesn’t think the calm timbre of her voice fools Westford even slightly as she tells him, “remove your hand or I will ruin your life.”

He removes his hand immediately. “Ms Grant,” he starts, all gracious smarm, “I was hoping I’d have the chance to run into you here.”

“Of course you were,” she agrees, considering her angle of attack. “I think you gave one of the speeches last night, didn’t you? Nothing memorable, but I suppose -”

“Cat!” Kara’s interruption is loud and a little manic, and so is the fake high pitched laugh that accompanies it. “I’m so glad to have run into you - this is Derek Westford, one of the key speakers at the conference. He’s been kind enough to offer me a few minutes of his time, but I know how busy his schedule is - if you don’t mind waiting a little bit, you and I could still get that drink we planned on afterwards?”

Since they obviously had no prior plans for drinks, her message is clear: DON’T fuck up my interview, but for god’s sake don’t leave me alone here.

Cat smiles her most sugary smile. “Of course, darling - you take your time, I’ll be right over here checking my email.” She doesn’t bother to acknowledge Westford again, keeps her eyes trained on Kara in a deliberate slight. The gratitude is evident in Kara’s face, and, Cat is already planning how she is going to wreck this man’s career through the power of judicious texting, but: if she had to run into her embarrassingly captivating ex-assistant in a bar, this is the way to do it. There’s nothing more soothing to the ego than playing hero, she thinks, and saunters a little as she finds a chair a couple feet back from Kara’s interview.

She really does end up checking her email, but she keeps one eye on them. Kara’s obviously got things well in hand, and fifteen minutes later she wraps it up with a firm handshake. She makes her way over to where Cat is sitting, and Cat obligingly puts her phone away.

“Tell me you know how to handle these rip-off Harvey Weinsteins when you need to, Kara - I can’t be around for every interview you have,” she drawls, and she’s not actually looking to hurt Kara’s feelings, but she needs to hear the reassurance. It’s going to happen again, and Kara has the ability to throw them through a building if she has to. Cat wants to know that she will.

“I could have handled it, yes,” Kara says, sitting down across from her, “but you came along and offered a better solution.” The look she gives Cat is bold and direct. “I figured a rescue was the least you owed me, after ghosting me for eight months. You couldn’t have taken the time to answer one email?”

“I was busy,” Cat answers, and lets the lie hover between them for a moment, understood by both of them for what it is. “Did I blow your interview out of the water, or did you still wrangle something quotable out of it?”

Unexpectedly, Kara’s eyes fill with mirth. “Actually, he was completely understanding,” she says. “He apologized to me after you left - he didn’t realize I was taken.” All mischief, she reaches out and clasps Cat’s hand in her own. “Thank you for clearing that up for him, darling.”

For once, Cat is genuinely dumbfounded. “You smoothed things over by saying you were dating me?” she asks.

“No,no - he just assumed.” She blinks innocently at Cat. “He’d heard the rumors, after all - he just didn’t put any stock into them.”

“The rumors,” Cat sputters, and tries to regain her equilibrium before she gives anything away. Had she been so obvious that it caused rumors? “Well - I’m glad I can be so good for your reputation,” she decides on, though it’s not much of a front.

Kara lets her have it, grins tolerantly at her and says, “it’s very impressive that I’ve bagged the Queen of all Media. Practically makes me royalty, don’t you think?”

Cat needs this conversation to end before she says something stupid, before Kara figures out that she could “bag” Cat any time she liked.

“Well, since you’re such an expert now, tell me about your interview with Meryl - I was impressed by how much you squeezed out of her, she’s tough.”

“You read my article?” The astonished pride in Kara’s voice sends a wave of unabashed fondness through Cat. Kara may be growing into herself, but there are some things that are never going to change. She’s always going to be wholesome, always going to expect everything of herself and expect nothing in return.

And Cat - no matter how far Cat runs, she is always going to be at least a little bit in love with her.

“I’ve read every single one,” she tells Kara honestly, and lets herself stop running.

After that it’s easy. They talk for hours, until the bar closes and the bartender politely ushers them out into the emptied lobby.

“Where are you staying?” Cat asks, suddenly loathe to say goodbye. It’s almost 3 o’clock in the morning and she can’t possibly justify extending their conversation, but - how long will it be before she sees Kara again?

“Oh, uh….” Kara fidgets a little uncomfortably. “I mean, they were sold out of rooms when I went to book actually, but I’ll be fine, I’m just going to … I mean…”

“You don’t have a place to stay?” Cat demands, and then puts the pieces together just a moment too late. Kara was planning to fly home for the night, obviously - it would be a matter of minutes to get back to National City for her. She just can’t tell Cat that, because of course Cat has no idea that Kara can fly.

Well - Cat hasn’t gotten to where she is by squandering opportunities. “Don’t tell me you thought you’d be able to come to one of the biggest conferences in the country and just book your room day-of. You’re getting too good to make these rookie mistakes, Kara. Come on - you can stay with me, I’m not going to leave you napping in the hotel lobby overnight.”

To her surprise, Kara doesn’t put up even a token protest. “That would be great,” she says, “thanks Cat.” She follows her toward the elevator, and Cat entertains the very pleasant thought that maybe Kara isn’t ready to part company either.

Cat’s room is on the 34th floor, and has a gorgeous view, but it’s not a suite, and they are going to have to share the king-size bed. She leads Kara in,turns to make a comment about how Kara had better not snore, and finds herself cut off by Kara’s mouth.

It’s the last thing she expects, this bold kiss, but Kara’s lips are soft on hers. She brings a hand up to brush back Cat’s hair, and Cat abruptly has to hold back tears, overwhelmed by the simple gesture.

She takes too long to respond and Kara pulls back, wide-eyed uncertainty replacing the bravery of moments before.

“Cat?” she questions. “This is why you invited me back with you, isn’t it?” She starts to blush. “I mean, we don’t work together anymore, so I thought -”

It’s decidedly not why Cat brought her here. She never would have thought Kara was interested - didn’t even know that Kara was interested in women! Even if she had known, she still wouldn’t have expected Kara to engage in a one-night stand. Not with anybody, and especially not with someone twice her age.

But she’s been silent for too long, and if she doesn’t react soon Kara is going to pull back and this isn’t going to be on offer anymore, so she surges forward, grabs Kara’s shoulders and pulls her back in for a second kiss.

She deliberately makes it rougher than the first, demanding as she presses herself against Kara’s muscular form. She wants to lose herself in it. This isn’t going to be any good if all she can think about is how she only gets to have Kara once, when she wants a lifetime of her.

It needs to be so fast that Cat doesn’t have time to think.

Kara seems entirely on board with the pace, edging the fabric of Cat’s blouse up from where it’s tucked into her skirt so that her hand can run up Cat’s back, can come around to rest on her stomach. The warmth of her skin is enough to make Cat shudder with the possibility - that it’s Kara touching her so intimately, Kara trading fast kisses, momentarily losing the rhythm of them when Cat reaches around to squeeze her ass.

They get each other unbuttoned as quickly as they can manage, and even as eager as she is to throw fabric aside, Cat can’t help but notice the mossimo tag inside Kara’s button-up. Target. Cat has won her bet.

She is immediately distracted from that victory by the sight of Kara’s abs, and she’s a good feminist who loves Kara for her mind and her soul, but hwe body is a perk. Golden skin and muscles that shift sleekly beneath it as Cat walks Kara backward to the bed. She leans in to kiss Kara’s shoulder, using her weight to leverage Kara onto the mattress, and feels her go stiff.

“Stop, please.”

Cat stops immediately, freezes and then takes a step back. Kara’s voice is tremulous, and the look on her face is something like panic. It’s certainly enough to freeze Cat’s libido entirely.

“Kara?”

“I’m sorry,” she says. “I thought I could do this but I can’t.” She picks her shirt up off the floor and starts to rebutton it, while Cat’s brain tries to catch up with the whiplash. In ten minutes she’s gone from thinking Kara was straight, to thinking they were about to fuck in her hotel room, to this. She feels like scum - how did her evening begin with stopping a predator and end with becoming one?

Then a tear slips down Kara’s cheek, and there’s no time left for thinking.

“Kara, come here,” she says gently, takes Kara’s hands into her own. “You don’t owe me any apologies - I would never ask you to do anything you don’t want to. You know that, right?” She hears the uncertainty in her own voice, and winces internally. It’s not the moment to beg for reassurance.

“I know!” Kara assures her immediately. “I wanted to want this. I do want it, you’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.” She sits down on the edge of the bed, and Cat relaxes a little, assured that Kara is not going to run crying out of her room and flee into the night. She sits down next to her, waits for her to continue.

“I just can’t do this with you once, Cat.” Kara looks her in the eyes, wetness still pooling in her own. “Not when I’ve wanted so much more.”

There’s a beat of silence while Cat tries to process it. “Kara….” she breathes, and feels the tremulous smile forming on her own face at this unlooked for gift. She reaches out uncertainly, brushes the tears from Kara’s cheeks with her thumbs. When Kara doesn’t stop her, doesn’t jump out with any “gotchas” or retractions, Cat dares to lean in and kiss her again, gentle and slow.

Kara trembles beneath her, and Cat rests their foreheads together. “This isn’t one time,” she promises, and feels the weight of her own words. “If you let me have you, you’d better believe that I’m going to do whatever I can to keep you.”

“You mean - “ Kara pulls back to look her in the face, as though trying to gauge her truthfulness, and Cat can’t hold back her smile anymore.

“I mean,” she promises, and sits beside Kara on the bed, creating some much-needed distance for recovery. “I never would have dared to ask you for this,” she admits. “You’re half my age. I have children, for god’s sake…”

“You’re everything I want,” Kara retorts, and the joy on her face is breathtaking. “We’re - we’re really going to do this?” she asks.

“Well, how hard can it be, really?” Cat teases, deciding abruptly that she’s going to start this with every card on the table. “Long distance relationships must get a lot easier when the person you’re dating can fly.”

Kara’s mouth drops open in genuine shock, and Cat falls back to the mattress and lets herself laugh and laugh.