Kara hasn’t seen Lena for two days.
That isn’t even the worst of it, really, because they’ve also barely talked since Kara kissed her goodbye and wished her luck with the board presentation before leaving for work early Tuesday morning. That was sixty-six hours ago, and now Kara is lying on the couch in front of a very accusing Netflix screen asking her if she’s still watching She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, there are popcorn kernels nestled uncomfortably in her sports bra, and she’s staring at her phone like somehow attempting telepathy will make Lena call her back.
The sound of the front door unlocking and opening is barely enough to make Kara look away as Alex and Kelly spill into the apartment, giggling, their arms wrapped around each other.
“Hey,” Kara says, sitting up and trying to brush some of the popcorn off her shirt.
“Holy shit, Kara!” Alex is gripping her chest. “You scared me. I didn’t think you’d still be here! Not that you shouldn’t be,” she adds when Kelly elbows her.
“Let me know if you want me to clear out, I know it’s a date night.” Kara looks around, grabs the bowl she was eating out of off the coffee table and moves to stand up as Alex and Kelly take off their shoes and walk over.
“You’re fine,” Kelly smiles. “It’s nice to see you—you’ve been spending so much time at Lena’s.”
Kara shrugs. “Yeah.” She glances down at her phone. It’s still stubbornly dark.
“God, you’re a mess, are you sick?” Alex asks, sitting down on the couch next to where Kara has just gotten up. “There’s popcorn everywhere and…” She reaches behind herself and pulls an empty bottle from between the couch cushions, “Kara, why did you drink an entire six pack of root beer? Did you and Lena have some sort of fight?”
Kelly takes the bowl from Kara and helps her gather up the rest of the empty bottles. They walk over to the kitchen together.
“I don’t think so.” Kara shrugs again, dropping the bottles into the recycling bin under the sink. She rinses her hands and leans against the counter. On the couch, Alex turns around and spreads her arms along the back of the cushions so that she can face the kitchen.
Kelly puts the bowl into the dishwasher, then turns to Kara. “What do you mean you ‘don’t think so’?”
“I mean, things were fine when I spent the night Monday. She’s got a lot going on at work, and that’s not new, but she cancelled on me for lunch Tuesday, Wednesday, and today.” Kara’s gaze falls to the floor and she scuffs her foot on a tile, crosses her arms. “I haven’t gone this long without seeing her since we got together. And, maybe it’s stupid, but I feel like she’s avoiding me and I don’t understand.”
“Have you tried asking her?” Alex’s forehead is furrowed when Kara looks over at her.
“Every time I’ve reached out to see if she wants to do something or if she’s free, she asks me if I’ve talked to Lex. It’s like she’s changing the subject.”
Kelly hums and purses her lips, leans back against the opposite counter and puts her hands in her front pockets. “I think what Alex means is, have you asked her if anything is wrong or if she’s avoiding you.”
“Not directly?” Kara answers, voice ticking up like it’s a question. Kelly raises her eyebrows. “Okay, no.”
It comes out in a rush. “Tuesday she had a big meeting and it was about Daybreak, and I’m a little worried that it didn’t go well, and maybe they’ve decided to fire me, and she’s waiting for Lex to tell me so she can break up with me.”
Alex lets out a cackle and falls over on the couch.
“It’s not funny!” Kara turns towards her sister. “I’m being serious!”
“I’m sorry, I know, I know.” Alex pops back up and puts up a hand as she tries to get her face under control. “But god, Kara, that woman might be as obsessed with you as you are with her. She’s not going to break up with you if you get fired. Have you talked to Lex?”
“No. Everytime I call, his secretary says he’s unavailable.”
“Well, if he was going to fire you, why would he avoid telling you?”
“I don’t know!” Kara throws up her hands. “I don’t know how any of this works!”
“Kara,” Kelly says gently. “Whatever is going on with Lex isn’t really the point. If you’re worried that something is up with Lena, you should be asking her.”
Kara pulls her lips into a line and then blows out a breath. “I know. I...I’m scared. She’s amazing, I think I…” she bites the inside of her lip. “I haven’t asked her because I’m worried that I won’t like the answer.”
“Avoiding the issue won’t change the answer.” Kelly gives her a small smile.
‘Yeah. I know.”
“Especially ‘cause the answer is that she’s in love with you,” Alex says, and Kara nearly chokes on her own tongue. “Don’t make that face, it’s gross.”
“Alex! You can’t just say that!”
“What? I’m sure she’s just swamped at work, Kara, stop catastrophizing.”
When the look of abject fear on Kara’s face doesn’t go away, Alex sits up properly. “Hey, kiddo, I’m sorry,” Alex says, giving her a small smile. “I know you’re worried, but, whatever’s up? I can’t imagine it has anything to do with your relationship—trust me, having to watch her moon over you everytime we get brunch or dinner with you guys is more than enough evidence for me. She spent Sunday night staring at you anytime the two of you weren’t having eye sex at the table.”
Kara doesn’t say anything, bites her lip instead, so Alex adds, “But you shouldn’t take my word for it, okay? Kelly’s right. You gotta ask her.”
“I hate it when you guys are reasonable.”
“It’s the worst, I know.” Kelly steps forward, slipping her hands free and walking over to Alex. She squeezes Kara’s shoulder as she passes. “Do you wanna watch a movie with us?”
“No,” Kara says, pushing herself off the counter and following Kelly back to the couch. “It’s pretty late. I’m going to see if Lena’s free.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Alex hands Kara her phone from the coffee table. “We’ll be out here if you want company.”
Kara doesn’t bother turning on the overheads in her bedroom, opting to flop onto her bed and click on the table lamp for light. She turns over onto her stomach and pulls up the text thread with Lena.
She’s tried asking how Lena is doing generally, and if there’s anything Kara can do for her, if they can go to lunch, or dinner, or if Lena wants to come over for brunch this weekend, or maybe see a movie. She’s barely gotten a reply, just different versions of the same answer every time: maybe, I’m swamped, have you talked to Lex? Kelly and Alex are right: she needs to be direct. This could all be as simple as Lena having a bad week. Kara could be all worked up over nothing.
Are you avoiding me? She types out.
It’s marked read almost immediately. Ellipses pop up, but no text appears. Kara stares at the screen until it goes dark, then drops it onto her comforter and smooshes her face into her pillow.
The phone buzzes.
It’s not you, it’s me. I’m sorry.
Kara tries not to panic. It’s not you, it’s me. Isn’t that how break up speeches normally start? A wave of nausea rolls through her stomach; her entire body suddenly feels like lead. Fingers shaking, she types out a reply.
Are you breaking up with me?
Her phone lights up almost immediately, a picture she’d taken of Lena curled up reading in one of the wingback chairs in her library filling the screen.
Taking a deep breath, Kara rolls over onto her back and swipes to answer.
“Oh god, Kara, no, I am not breaking up with you—god, I am so, so sorry, I would never, I mean—oh honey, I like you so much, I can’t imagi—”
Oh honey is apparently Kara’s tear trigger today.
“Shit, Kara are you crying? Darling, no…”
“What am I supposed to think?” She pulls her sleeve across the wetness on her cheeks, turns onto her side and pulls her legs up to her stomach. “I feel insane saying something like, I haven’t seen you for two days, but Lena: I haven’t seen you for two days.” Her voice is breaking a little and it’s embarrassing, but gosh, Kara has been more terrified than she’d admitted to herself, and now it’s all pouring out. “You keep asking if I’ve talked to Lex, but I don’t understand what me talking to Lex has to do with whether or not I can see you!”
“You’re absolutely right. Kara, I’m sorry. It’s—“ Lena cuts herself off. “I’m so sorry,” she repeats, softer this time. “I’m in a terrible position and I don’t really know how to handle it. Clearly I’ve picked the worst possible option since you’re crying and asking me if I’m breaking up with you...Fuck.”
“I just,” Kara hiccups, “Lena, just talk to me.”
Kara swipes at her nose. “Is this about the board meeting?”
Lena is silent. Kara sits up on the bed, takes off her glasses so that she can wipe her eyes in earnest.
“It didn’t go well, did it?”
“Kara, darling, you really need to talk to Lex, I can’t…” Kara scrunches up her face, trying to hear better as Lena trails off. “I honestly can’t tell you, contractually.” She sounds so defeated.
“Okay, but I’ve been trying. How am I supposed to talk to Lex if he isn’t taking my calls right now?”
Kara can hear Lena shuffling something on the other end of the phone, it sounds like she’s tapping on the screen.
“Tomorrow is Friday,” Lena’s voice comes back through. “Lex has a series of early meetings with our European division and a few partners, and he’ll have fifteen minutes free at eight a.m. If you can get away from the broadcast, go then; just walk in, don’t let Angela tell you he isn’t there.”
“Okay.” Kara sniffles.
“Kara, love?” Lena pauses. “I’ll be in my office, after your show, okay?”
The leaden feeling returns to Kara’s chest.
“We’re getting cancelled, aren’t we.” She doesn’t even bother phrasing it as a question. “I thought you said they weren’t making a decision.”
“I’ll be in my office. I’ll order lunch for us.” The lack of direct answer feels like confirmation.
They’re both quiet for a moment.
“Do you...do you want to come over tonight?” Lena finally asks. “I could send a car. I feel so awful, I’d really like to hold you.”
“As good as that sounds,” Kara switches the phone to her other ear, flops back down on to her pillows, “it’s already after eleven. Something tells me I should try getting some sleep.”
“Okay,” Lena says, and now it sounds like she might cry.
“I want to,” Kara hastens to reassure her, “I do. But I have to leave for work in like, five hours...I’ll see you tomorrow for lunch, I promise.”
“Okay. Kara, I’m unbelievably sorry; I handled this terribly. I care about you so much, you mean—you mean so very much to me.”
“You’re going to make me cry again,” Kara huffs out. “You mean a lot to me, too.”
They lapse into silence and Kara closes her eyes. There’s a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach about Daybreak, but now that the threat of losing Lena is over, she feels like she can breathe.
“I’ve gotta get ready for bed.”
“Right,” Lena sounds hesitant; Kara can hear her inhale and then blow it out. “Do you—I mean, would you want to video call while you get ready? I think I’ll feel better if I can see your face.
Kara hits the button to switch the call over and Lena answers it swiftly. She can’t help noticing that they both have puffy red eyes, but it’s such a relief to see Lena’s slightly watery smile. Her chest loosens.
“Is this your way of telling me you think I look cute with toothpaste all over my mouth?”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, darling.” Lena laughs and wipes at her eyes. “I missed you.”
“Missed you, too. Come on, let’s brush our teeth together.”
The Daybreak offices are buzzing by the time Kara walks into her office a little after five. One of the upsides to the energy that the show has started to take on is that people seem excited about the work they’re doing. Sure, not everyone has bought in, but it’s a far cry from Kara’s first day when she walked in and absolutely no one was doing any work whatsoever.
It only serves to make her angrier at Lex, at the Board, at LBC as a whole. She’s just getting started; Daybreak doesn’t deserve this.
She’s distracted all through the pre-show meeting. Luckily, the show segments are dialed in and there hasn’t been anything major overnight that has caused a change in direction for any of the news hour or transition pieces, so Kara being on autopilot goes unremarked, and probably unnoticed, most of the staff is still fighting their way through a haze of caffeine at this hour anyway.
The biggest moving piece is going to be in the middle hour. Andrea will be live on the plaza with Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum showcasing summer fashions and promoting their new show, which means eight o’clock will start off with Brainy and the weather, while Andrea goes to set up, and then Cat will be responsible for the segment transitions. Nia says she’s game to hold down the fort from the end of the news hour through the transitions and up until the beginning of Andrea’s interview at 8:30.
“Everything’s okay, though, right?” Nia’s frowning at her from across the table as everyone else walks out of the conference room for the final checks and blocking before they go to air.
“Yeah, I need to touch base with Lex about some of our upcoming story ideas,” Kara says, looking down at her notebook and scribbling down the final note for the show. She shrugs, aiming for relaxed, but with a touch of exasperation—which is what she imagines she’d be feeling if Lex had actually asked her to meet in the middle of the broadcast. “This was the only time he had free.”
“Augh, executives.” Nia rolls her eyes. “Always on their own timetables, am I right? I’ll keep an eye on my phone. If you run long just text, I guess, but we should be fine. James and the team have been great lately.”
“Thanks, Nia.” Kara stands up from the chair.
“No problem, boss!” Nia gets up to follow. “I mean, it’s only weather with Brainy, and then Cat giving a headline review plus a preview of the second half of the show. It’s not like anything major can go wrong.”
“Right,” Kara says as they walk out, but she’s not really listening. “Yeah. Nothing can go wrong.”
The show starts fine, and at 7:50 Kara excuses herself and heads out of the production booth. She weaves through the hallways that no longer seem quite so narrow or chaotic (the irate band manager had finally been allowed back in the building to retrieve for all those instruments, apparently he’d been calling frantically for weeks), then heads up the escalator to the elevator bank in the lobby and flashes her badge on the key reader, selecting the 45th floor.
Lena said that she couldn’t tell Kara anything more than she already had, so even though Kara feels like she knows what she’s walking into, she’s really flying blind. She’d tried rehearsing how to start the conversation as she rode the bus this morning, but all she wants to do is yell at Lex and tell him he’s ruining the network—which somehow doesn’t seem like the place to start.
The elevator comes to a stop, the doors slide gently open, and Kara steps out onto the C-suite floor. She doesn’t bother saying good morning to anyone, just heads straight to Lex’s office per Lena’s instructions, weaving between the seats set up in the hall as a waiting area. Angela is sitting at the desk outfront and she looks up as Kara approaches.
“Good morning, Ms. Danvers, how can I—wait, Mr. Luthor isn’t—you can’t—” But Kara is already past her and through the door; she closes it behind her before Angela can mount a sturdier defense.
Lex is at his desk, back to the window, and he startles visibly as Kara shuts the door and begins her advance.
“Kara? How did...?” Lex glances behind her, sees the closed door. “I’m in the middle of a whole mess of meetings, actually, if you talk to Angela, I’m sure she can find time on my—”
“You’ve been avoiding every single phone call and e-mail from me for three days and Angela said you’re booked until August.” Kara comes to a stop in front of Lex’s desk and puts her hands on her hips. “Lex, are you going to tell me to my face that Daybreak is cancelled or are you hoping none of us will notice when we show up and there’s a lock on the door?”
“Goddamnit.” A flicker of anger flashes across his face before he schools his expression. “I told her she couldn’t tell you.”
“Lena?” He nods, so Kara adds, “She didn’t.”
“So, you made an educated guess and I’ve just confirmed it, haven’t I? Well, fine.” He shakes his head and smiles ruefully, pushes himself away from the desk and leans back in his chair. “Cat’s out of the bag, so to speak.”
Lex chuckles at his own joke.
“We’re announcing in six weeks.” He holds up a hand to forestall any questions. “In the meantime, this isn’t public knowledge, Kara, and it’s covered by the NDA you signed when you started. I wasn’t lying about being between meetings, though, so if that’s all...”
“Wait.” Kara drops her hands down from her hips. “Not public as in you’re not announcing it? Or not public as in I can’t tell the rest of the show?”
“Both, I’m afraid. Timing isn’t right.” He swivels back to his computer, reaching for the mouse. “I’ll let you know when you can.”
“How can you do this?”
“I tried telling you Kara,” he isn’t even looking at her now, he sounds almost bored, “we aren’t public television. Daybreak doesn’t make money. You had a chance, but you haven’t been able to do anything about it—don’t feel badly, no one could’ve saved it.” The phone rings and Lex picks it up. “Yes, Angela, I’m ready, patch them through.” He turns his chair away from Kara to face the windows. “Hi folks, tell me what you’ve got for us…”
When Kara gets back down to the production booth, it’s chaos.
James looks like he’s about to have a heart attack, there are three interns frantically going through the news transition script, and Nia is nowhere that Kara can see. She grabs her headset and puts it on, then turns to James.
“Sound stage,” James says. At Kara’s confused expression he adds, “We’re on commercial, but Cat is having a problem with the next segment. She’s demanding it be re-written or she won’t do it on the air.”
“What?” Kara can’t handle this right now. “What's going on now?”
“Ms. Grant is offended by a word in the next story,” one of the interns pipes up.
“She's offended?” Kara screws up her face. The intern nods. “‘Offended.’” Kara says again, sure that she’s misunderstood. “That’s the word she’s using?” They nod again.
Kara makes eye contact with James, who shrugs.
“Ah,” James flips through the notes in front of him. “The one about the Guiness record-winning Angora wool producer upstate.”
“You know what?” Kara purses her lips and hums. She can see Nia talking with Cat on the closed circuit feed from the soundstage. “No.” She shakes her head to herself. Not today Cat, not today.
Kara gets down to the stage so fast she might as well have flown.
“You’re simply going to have to re-write it in the next two minutes,” Cat is saying when Kara walks up to the set. She pauses behind Nia as Cat continues. “I'm not saying the words ‘fluffy’ or ‘bunny’ on air. I don’t really care if it’s the world’s fluffiest bunny or not. It's bad enough I have to do these ridiculous stories.”
“Cat, please,” Nia sounds exhausted. “Last week, Andrea had to use the words ‘rectal’ and ‘moisture’ in the same sentence.”
“Well, first dates can be awkward.” Cat looks down at the papers on her desk, makes a note in the margins.
“We’ve already got the b-roll, the segment is queued up,” Nia tries. Cat ignores her.
Kara has to admit that this is exactly how she’s tried to handle Cat over the last six weeks: a mixture of cajoling, pleading, comparisons, and near begging. It hasn’t exactly proved fruitful.
Nia plows on. “In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that bad!”
Cat opens her mouth to reply, but Kara’s had enough. Maybe it’s the knowledge that they’re being cancelled, maybe it’s the lack of sleep, heck, maybe it’s just that this really is the last straw.
“Cat!” Kara’s voice comes out loud and sharp, she’s a little past the point of caring.
“Kara…” Nia whips around, a hand over her heart.
“Nope,” Kara says, eyes on Cat. “That's it!” She steps up onto the elevated platform where Nia and Cat are.
“Kara, what are you doing?” Nia looks a little concerned; she’s glancing between Cat and Kara.
“I’ve got this, Nia.” Kara practically shoos the younger woman away and takes her place standing in front of the desk. “Cat? Listen very closely to what I’m about to say.”
“One minute warning, we're back in 60,” James’s voice comes in over the headset.
“I'm sorry, this'll only take a second.” Kara says into her mic, before pulling it away from her mouth and settling the earphones around her neck. She puts her hands on the desk and leans in. “I've looked up to you all my life.”
Cat’s eyes go a little wide, her nostrils flare; Kara nods.
“Did you know that? I actually idolized you. My parents and I used to watch you deliver the news. So, imagine my surprise when it turns out that you're actually the worst person in the entire world. Not the third worst! The worst!”
The sound stage has gone completely silent as everyone listens, but Kara doesn’t notice.
“This show means so much to so many people...Do you have any idea how hard everyone around you is working?” She shakes her head, her voice picking up in volume again. “None of it seems to matter to you! You don’t seem to care when we have to change a story or overload Andrea or shift a segment for the worse because you don’t feel like doing something. If we worked as a team, can you imagine? ‘Stronger together’ isn’t just some mantra,” Kara spreads her arms out in an expression of frustration, “that I came up with for staff meetings, Cat, it’s what Daybreak should be about. So it’s sucky, Cat. It really sucks that nobody can do their jobs well around here because,” (and now Kara’s shouting in earnest), “ you can't be bothered to do yours at all!”
“And we're back,” comes the voice of a production assistant from behind her.
She ducks down out of the shot as the camera light on twelve flicks to green and catches a glimpse of the stunned expression on Cat’s face, her eyes still on Kara as Kara crawls backwards to stay out of the shot, before the woman collects herself.
“Welcome back to Daybreak…”
Kara takes a seat next to Nia in the production booth when she makes it back, the interns having dispersed, and looks around. Cat’s chattering away on the monitor, James is seamlessly choreographing the ballet of camera shots and graphics. Andrea is on monitor two, having a mic pack threaded through her shirt as she talks to Tim and prepares for the plaza piece…
All of this will be over in six weeks. Six weeks.
“You okay, boss?” Nia breaks Kara out of her thoughts. “You, uh, kinda lost it on Cat there.”
“Not my finest moment.”
“Honestly?” Nia’s scrunches up her forehead, but her lips are curving into a small smile. “You didn’t say anything we’re not all thinking.”
“I’ll apologize to her after the show.” Kara shakes her head. Now that the adrenaline is wearing off, she can’t believe she did that.
“Probably not a bad idea.” Nia laughs lightly. “But, Kara, for real: you okay?”
“Yeah, Nia.” Kara gives her a smile, but knows it doesn’t reach her eyes. “Everything’s fine.”
“Thank you, Hector,” Lena says when her assistant walks into her office with two bags of food and a green bubble tea just before noon. “Just leave them on the table there. Has Kara called?”
“No, Ms. Luthor, no messages while you were in with legal.” Lena opens her mouth to ask him if her brother has called, but he beats her to it. “And I’ve made sure you won’t be interrupted when she arrives. I told Mr. Luthor’s assistant that you have an emergency meeting with finance about streaming revenue.” He bends over to set the food down on the low table in front of the couch and then turns back to her. “If that’s all?”
“How…never mind. Jess?” Lena guesses. Hector raises his eyebrows as if to say, Jess who? Lena laughs. “Feel free to leave early for lunch, if you want.”
“Will do,” Hector says, smiling.
Lena goes back to the document in front of her after he shuts the door, but the third time she tries reading the same paragraph, she admits defeat. If she can’t be productive, she might as well lay out lunch.
As she places the containers out on the table and arranges napkins (a lot of napkins), she can’t help fidgeting and looking up at her door every time she thinks she hears someone pass in the hallway. She has no idea how Kara’s talk with Lex went this morning—if Lex was free, if Kara got a straight answer out of him—and the nervousness is driving her up the wall. She’s already decided that if he’s managed to avoid coming clean to Kara, she’ll have to tell Kara herself and deal with whatever fallout there is with HR and, inevitably, Lex and Lillian.
One look at Kara’s face when she walks into the office ten minutes later and Lena knows immediately that she’s not going to need to get HR involved.
For the first time since they met, Kara looks tired. Her hair is in a loose braid down her back, the blue button down she’s wearing is wrinkled—her sleeves pushed up with none of the usual precision—hell, even her glasses are obviously smudged. Still, the moment she sees Lena, she smiles.
“Hi, darling,” Lena greets her softly, straightening up from where she’d been re-arranging the utensils and walking over to the doorway to meet Kara.
Kara opens her arms, asking wordlessly for a hug. She sinks into Lena’s arms, pulling slightly at Lena’s silk blouse, and buries her face in her neck. “It’s better than you breaking up with me,” she says, voice muffled and lips tickling Lena’s skin, “but not by much.”
“Oh god,” Lena’s chest feels tight just remembering their tear-filled call, “I really am sorry about that.”
“It’s fine.” Kara pulls back. “Lex made it perfectly clear that he’d told you not to tell me. I might not have loved how you went about it, but I get it; guess this is why they always tell you not to dip pens in the company ink, or whatever.” She laughs and glances down at the plastic takeout boxes. “Although if I’m smelling pork belly gua bao from Dynasty, consider yourself completely forgiven.”
“You’ve been very clear that the way to your heart is through your stomach.” Lena smiles. “Let’s get some food in you and then we can talk about it, okay?”
“Best idea I’ve heard all day,” Kara says, leaning in to kiss Lena softly before taking her hand and leading her around the table to the couch.
Two orders of the bao later (Lena can’t help letting Kara eat her’s too), Kara seems much better than she had when she’d walked in. The tight line of her shoulders has loosened and her face is less pinched. She picks up the bubble tea and sits back on the couch, angling herself toward Lena.
“So,” Lena starts, putting down the fried chicken bian dang she’s been picking at and laying her chopsticks across the top of the container, “what did Lex tell you?”
“That LBC is cancelling Daybreak in six weeks, but that I’m not allowed to tell anyone about it.” Kara takes a sip from the honeydew-flavored drink, pulling up some of the tapioca balls and chewing on them for a moment. “Do you have any idea, I mean—can I ask you why all the secrecy?”
“Now that you know, I don’t think there’s anything I’m not allowed to tell you...Lex was only clear about the initial reveal.” Lena crosses her legs and turns to face Kara, smoothing her skirt and leaning an arm against the back of the couch. “I didn’t lie to you when I told you I thought they weren’t going to cancel Daybreak. I thought—I think,” she corrects herself, “it’s too soon.” Kara smiles at her but it’s muted. “Lex jumped the gun a bit in pushing for a vote so quickly; right now, he doesn't have a more profitable alternative to offer them. So the show is in a sort of limbo.”
Kara’s eyes catch at the word ‘limbo.’
Lena continues, even if it feels terrible to douse Kara’s obvious hope. “The question is, does the cancellation happen in six weeks, or does it take another quarter? All of that rests on what Lex is able to mock up in the meantime.”
“Wait a second, Lena, there’s a third option: if we can become more profitable than anything Lex can pitch, there’s a chance we won’t be cancelled then, right?” Kara is sitting at attention now. She puts the bubble tea down on the table amidst the debris from lunch. “Daybreak still has a shot.”
“Kara, I really don’t—”
Kara cuts her off. “No...I’ve been playing it safe. This might be exactly what we need.” Her gaze shifts to her lap and she pulls her lips into a thin line, then raises her head and fixes Lena with a stare that is nothing but determined. “I yelled at Cat today.”
Lena can’t help the surprised laughter that escapes.
“What?” Kara’s features shift into something that looks a little wounded, but it’s adorable. “I can yell.” Lena can’t believe it, she’s actually pouting.
“I’m sure you can, darling.” Lena scoots closer and places a hand on Kara’s knee, sweeping her fingers across the soft khaki, “It’s just hard to imagine.”
“Well, I can and I did. She was being ridiculous—not that that’s anything new,” Kara rolls her eyes and Lena huffs out a sympathetic noise, “but I got back after talking to Lex and she was trying to get out of reading a story and...I don’t know. If we go down, it’s not going to be because I didn’t try hard enough, right?”
“Of course not.” Lena nods.
“I think I’ve been treating her like she’s something special because she reminds me of my parents. We used to watch her all the time—my mom thought she was brilliant.” Kara takes Lena’s hand from her knee, looks down as she threads their fingers together. “I think maybe that’s part of why I wanted to bring her on so badly.”
Lena squeezes her hand. “So, what happened today?”
“It hit me how hard everyone is trying, everyone but her really, and how I’ve been letting her get away with murder because she’s Cat Grant.”
“I’m sure that was a sight a lot of people would pay good money to see.”
Kara blushes and adjusts her glasses with her free hand. “I might have done it in front of the whole crew.”
Lena’s eyes go wide.
“I also might have told her she’s the worst person in the world,” Kara winces, “but I blame that on you telling me she’s the third worst. It stuck.”
“Of course this is my fault.” Lena can’t help laughing again. “Let me know how tomorrow goes....”
Kara starts laughing, too, her eyes crinkling. “What’s the worst that can happen? We’re probably cancelled.” She sobers up then. “But if there’s even a chance—” she shakes her head, brows knitting together as Lena tries to respond, “no, I know you said there isn’t, but we’ve got at least six weeks. If we give LBC the best six weeks of Daybreak they’ve ever had…” She trails off. “I’m not giving up.”
The earnest expression on Kara’s face and the hope in her voice are so potent a combination that Lena feels an enormous swell of some unidentifiable emotion deep in the center of her chest. “Well, you’ve made a believer out of me, Kara Danvers.”
“If only it were as easy to make a believer out of your brother.” Kara gives her a lopsided smile and pulls at Lena’s hand, tugging her across the small gap between them on the couch. She narrows her eyes. “Now, I have a very serious question for you.”
“Is that right,” Lena breathes out as Kara maneuvers Lena onto her lap, rucking up the skirt she’s wearing slightly so that she can straddle her. “How serious?” She asks, her head dropping back.
“Very serious,” Kara says, placing a wet, open-mouthed kiss on Lena’s neck and letting her hands drift to Lena’s hips, tightening her grip. And even though she knows where this is going, Kara’s next words still turn Lena’s insides to liquid. “I’m having a terrible day. How do you feel about office sex?”
Lena feels just fine about it—as soon as Kara locks her door, of course.
Waking up on Saturday, Kara decides the changes she needs to make have to start immediately—as in, this-morning-during-pre-show-prep immediately.
“We’ve got Brainy off-site today, right? Is he in place?” She looks around the table at the group.
“Yes, he is,” answers Nia. “Demos already has all the releases signed from folks who are taking the first ride, so Brainy will be interviewing people as they come off the coaster.”
“No, he won't.” Kara crosses an entire line out of the show segment mock up in front of her.
“What?” James sounds confused. “Why not?”
“Not anymore. We're gonna put him on that coaster.”
The room goes silent.
She pulls her attention away from the mock up. Andrea’s eyes are wide, Winn has blanched, and even Cat is looking up from her phone.
Kara sets her pen down. “We're gonna strap a handheld to the car in front of him, run a lavalier up his shirt, and then go live. Boom.” Kara mimes dropping a mic and Nia shakes her head, mouth open. “It's called ‘picking up the game,’ okay? From now on, every single story that we do, it's got to be sensational. We're going to be better than everyone else. We're going to work harder. And we're going to do it starting right now! Stronger together, am I right?”
“Are, are you gonna sing?” One of the interns looks a little worried.
“Wha—no! I'm not gonna sing!” Kara shakes her head, frustrated that no one is matching her energy. “Why do people always ask me that?”
“No idea,” says Nia, although her eyebrows say otherwise. “I’ll call Brainy and tell him the new plan. I think he’s afraid of heights.”
As they settle into the tech booth to start the show, James cues up the intros. “So the big question is,” he says, turning to Kara, “are we gonna be able to hear his mic? We didn’t have time for a test. Any idea what you want me to do if we can’t?”
“We’ll be fine, those mics pick up everything.” Kara scribbles another change to the teleprompter script for Andrea to lead in the segment and hands it to a runner. “Actually,” she pauses, “they really do pick up everything. We’ll need to go to a five-second delay—we can’t do it live.”
“Why not?” Nia takes her seat. “He’s prepped. Nervous,” she puts out a hand, fingers spread, and wiggles it back and forth, “but prepped.”
“Well, if he screams curse words we need to be able to bleep it out. I don’t have room in the budget for FCC fines.”
“Oh, good call.” Nia leans over to Kara. “Kara? If he has a heart attack before asking me out, I’m going to kill you.”
Half an hour later and Kara feels like she might be the one to have the heart attack as they count down to Brainy’s launch.
“Cue Andrea,” James says when they cut back from commercial.
On the sound stage, Andrea starts the segment. “Thrill-seekers have something to look forward to this summer as Six Flags unveils a brand-new roller coaster. The ‘Livewire’ is the fastest coaster in the U.S. with speeds up to a hundred and thirty-five miles an hour…”
“Stand Brainy by. Here we go.”
“...pulls over six G’s and has two turns of ninety-five degrees. Our own Brainy Dox is getting a sneak peek at this amazing new ride, isn't that right, Brainy?”
“Go split screen, standing by. Open his mic.”
“Brainy, can you hear us?” Andrea asks, peering at the live feed from the amusement park. There on the screen is Brainy, strapped in via a fixed, over-head harness, with the camera about three feet from his face.
His complexion is a little green.
“Yes, Andrea, I am here.” Brainy’s voice comes through, a little staticky but otherwise clear as the coaster leaves the platform and begins to climb up the first incline. “And so far, I am happy to report that it is a beautiful ride. The view from up here is quite stupendous.” He squints, his hair rustling slightly as the car climbs. “Mostly blue skies. Cumulus clouds on the horizon, always a good sign this time of year. I am preparing to head into our first dip. Oh…Oh, my. Oh, fu—”
They bleep out the next seven seconds of dialogue.
On the monitor, Cat and Andrea are wearing matching expressions of surprise and light horror as the feed from Brainy’s camera and audio capture the full two-minute ride from start to finish. Miraculously, Brainy doesn’t throw up, and he rallies about the one-minute mark, returning to a somewhat breathless narration of the sights and thrills.
“Thank god for that delay,” Kara says, feeling like her face might break from the size of the smile she’s sporting.
James and Nia just laugh.
By the time the broadcast is over, several unprecedented things have happened: a social media intern has turned Brainy into some sort of internet meme that Kara doesn’t understand (but Nia assures her “it’ll be all good for the bottom line”), the minute-to-minutes hit an all time high following the roller-coaster segment (“number two in the slot! For less than a minute, but still, number two!”), and Brainy has called Nia to ask her to dinner, confessing that as he hit terminal velocity over the final curve, all he could think of was her.
It might be their most successful show since Kara started. Overall, she’s feeling pretty good, and so is everyone else on the set.
Well, everyone but Cat.
“What are you going to do to him next?”
Kara sighs as Cat comes up behind her in the bullpen, catching up as Kara heads back to her office to grab notes for morning meeting.
“Make him zip line off the Burj Khalifa? Swim with sharks?” She manages to sound sympathetic and condescending at the same time. “I actually felt sorry for the weather-boy, screaming like that on national television.”
“Well then, you’re the only one.” Kara can’t help letting out a sarcastic laugh, because how does this woman not understand a thing about broadcasting? “Maybe it’s not the high-brow pulitzer-winning content you’re used to, but we got half a million hits on YouTube already. And Brainy is absolutely thrilled—he says he’s not afraid of anything anymore. Oh! And, and we had another bump in the minute-to-minutes!”
“Kara, good stuff!” M’gann flashes her a double thumbs up as she walks by in the hallway.
“Thank you!” Kara grins after her, then looks back at Cat as they wind their way through the stacks. “Lighten up, Cat.”
“Would you like to hear something I've noticed, Kiera?” Cat frowns at her. “People only say, ‘Lighten up’ when they're trying to stick their fist up your ass.”
“Oh my gosh, ew, could you have said anything other than that?” Kara shivers, then shakes her head to clear the mental image. “No one is asking you to do anything, okay Cat? And I hate to break it to you, but the fact is—”
“Oh. My. God. Amazing segment.” Winn is practically bouncing up and down as they walk past him. “Genius.”
“Thanks, Winn!” Kara gives him a fist bump. “Cat, the fact is, the world has been debating news versus entertainment for years and guess what? No one wants news all the time. It’s depressing and giving people a little of both isn’t the end of the world.”
“You know what?” They’ve reached Cat’s dressing room and she pauses in her doorway.
“You're wrong. People are smart. They want information. Not junk, which is all you're willing to give them.”
“We have to get the ratings up, Cat, surely you understand that.” Cat’s frown deepens and she narrows her eyes at Kara. “Or, we can have a lot of high-minded ideas and not be on the air. The show may go down,” Kara knows she’s skirting a line here, although if anyone should be able to read between the lines of her actions already, it’s the woman in front of her, “but if it does, it’s not because I'm not trying my hardest.”
Cat doesn’t reply.
“You hear me?” Kara raises her eyebrows. “I'm not giving up.”
“Kara?” Andrea is speed-walking up to her, sidestepping a set of large orange traffic cones. Cat ducks inside and shuts her door. “I want to talk to you. I want to talk to you right now about—”
“Oh my gosh, you, too?” Kara throws her hands up and lets them fall back down. She doesn’t have time for another lecture from a discontented anchor worried about the most successful segment that Daybreak has ever had.
“Yes and I—” Andrea has stopped directly in front of her.
“Why are you worried about Brainy? You know, he's a grown man,” Kara starts on her defense of the decision to strap him to the ride.
“Worried about Brainy?” Andrea puts her hands on her hips and gives Kara a look like she’s missed something entirely. “Are you kidding me?”
“He signed release forms. He agreed!” Kara bites her lip. “Well, I had Nia do the asking, so that might count as coercion, but I’m pretty sure legal says we’re covered.”
“Whatever,” Andrea shakes her head and waves a hand dismissively, “he’s good, he killed that segment. I’m saying that I see what you're doing.”
“Okay?” Kara cocks her head to the side, clearly she’s missing something. Andrea doesn’t sound mad at all, in fact, if Kara didn’t know better, she’d say Andrea sounds excited.
“I see what you’re doing and I think it's great!” Andrea now appears genuinely thrilled. It’s confusing. “This is exactly what I've been waiting for, so just, you know, sign me up. Put me in. Whatever you want to call it.”
“Really?” Kara can feel the crinkle forming on her forehead. If this is a joke...
“Yeah.” Andrea’s looking at her again like she’s concerned Kara isn’t understanding her.
“Okay.” Kara wracks her brain, what do they have coming up? “Do you have any preexisting conditions?”
“Are you kidding? Look at me.” Andrea gestures down the length of her body. “I'm a rock.”
“Speaking of rocks,” Kara says, trying not to examine Andrea too closely, “next weekend you’re supposed to interview Alex Honnold on the living room set about what’s up and coming in the world of competitive climbing.” Andrea nods and gestures for Kara to get to the point. ”How do you feel about learning to climb with him on the plaza instead? We could set up a wall—“
“Done,” Andrea says, cutting her off, “I’ll do it in spandex shorts and a sports bra.”
“You don’t ha—”
“Oh no, I’m doing it.” Andrea pulls her phone out of her pocket and starts texting something furiously. “It’ll be good for the show.”
“Well,” Kara starts, “if you’re su—”
“I’m sure.” Andrea pockets her phone, crosses her arms, and fixes Kara with a look she can’t quite place. The word appraising comes to mind. “You know, when you started, I was pretty sure you were going to be the final nail in our coffin. I mean, especially after you brought Cat on. But now…” She taps at her lips with a finger. “There’s a chance I was wrong. If you meant what you said today, then I’m in. I’ll do whatever you need me to, and Cat can go fuck herself. I’m done sinking to her level”
“Really? You thought...okay, that’s okay, but you’re onboard now, great!” Kara tries to process what Andrea’s just told her. She pauses, thinks about the best way to put it. If Andrea is going to level up for good, well, Kara does need at least half her anchor team on her side for this to work, but… “Um, in the spirit of things that will help the show—I’m glad that you’re over the whole Cat thing—but also, can you keep fighting with her on air? The internet is kind of obsessed with you two.”
“It’ll be my pleasure.”
The change in Andrea’s attitude manifests less than twenty minutes into the Monday show. They’re wrapping up the first news segment, and Andrea is reading a story off the teleprompter that Cat had declined to do on the grounds that it involved bodily functions.
“...turns out the burger patties were contaminated with E. Coli, which can cause cramping and diarrhea.” Andrea shakes her head sympathetically and glances down at her notes before finishing. “Be careful with those summer barbecues, folks, always follow the FDA recommended cooking temperatures.” She looks to Cat for the transition.
“Lose the ticker, music in…” James says over the closed audio.
“We'll be right back, on Daybreak.” Cat smiles as the camera pulls away.
“Dissolve the logo. And mark. And we're out.”
“Great, a story about uncontrollable shitting and look who gets it,” Andrea bites out as soon as the light goes off, indicating they’re no longer live. The speakers in the tech booth continue to pick up the stage audio as the crew bustles to move to the next piece.
“Well, it's not my sort of thing.” Cat doesn’t even glance over at her, just motions for a makeup artist to blot at her forehead.
On the monitor, Kara can see Andrea nod to herself, mouthing not my sort of thing, before putting her hands on the news desk, pushing back, and rotating her chair toward Cat. She nudges Nia to watch.
“Can I say one thing?” Andrea starts, and she doesn’t wait for a response. “That may not be your thing, but that's our job. I know you think you're above it and, of course, you were above it before you got fired. But now, guess what, you're down in the muck with the rest of us, Cat. Time to pull your head out of your ass and do the work or get the hell out.”
Cat opens her mouth to reply, but apparently Andrea isn’t done.
“You know, you might’ve been a great anchor once upon a time.” Andrea shrugs. “I’m not old enough to know. And, maybe I’m being charitable, but Daybreak could be great, if you let it. If not? That’s fine. Play out your contract, get paid, and move on. You’re just another in a long line of co-hosts who can’t keep up. And when you’re off the air for good? I’ll still be here.” She turns her chair back to the desk away from Cat and taps her notes. “I hope you like watching me work.”
“I can’t tell if they’re going to kill each other or fuck each other,” Nia whispers.
“Well, they’re not really allowed to do either on air,” Kara hums, “but I think both would work for the numbers.”
Cat’s staring at Andrea with an expression on her face that wavers between shock and disbelief when James cues them back in, and Kara’s pretty sure that the venomous smile Andrea is giving her co-host can be seen from space. Andrea practically glows when she breaks eye contact with Cat and looks directly into the camera, reading Cat’s line off the prompter: “Welcome back to Daybreak!”
Andrea’s right: showing herself off in a sports bra and spandex shorts while a goofy, lanky rock climber tries to teach her the difference between a jug and a crimp is good for the show. If Kara gets a little grumpy when Lena says she liked the segment, well, she’s only human.
Four weeks passes in the blink of an eye. The scoops still haven’t stopped, but they feel less frequent. It’s almost as if the person (“or persons,” Alex helpfully points out one night, and Kara’s glad her sister is capable of endless suspicion, even if she herself doesn't have the energy for it) is busy with something else, or has decided not to care as much. And when they do find out that The Today Show or GMA has undercut them, the whole team is joining in and coming up with better plan b’s. Winn always seems to have a potential guest waiting in the wings, and even Siobhan’s pitches start to become more coherent (really, Kara should have pointed her at fashion and astrology exclusively much sooner, but then, that wouldn’t have been possible without Brainy’s transformation into a guy who can handle even the wackiest color-piece—they get the fab five to make him over on a Wednesday show and it’s brilliant).
All of this means that even when they don’t get The Story, they get something relevant—or at least something that’s worth watching. Over the next several weeks, and for the first time since she took the job, Kara feels like she’s finally delivering on what she told Lex they could do: Daybreak is fun and light, but capable of covering the news in a way that even seems to make Cat less grumbly.
In fact, the only real downside is that all the uptick in energy and morale has the whole staff getting excited about their work, unaware that Daybreak has an execution date and no stay in sight.
“Oh my god, that’s so cute!” Nia and Winn are sitting at the conference table when Kara walks into pre-show meeting one morning. He’s flipping through pictures on his phone, Nia perched on the chair next to him and peeking over his shoulder.
“I know, right? I mean, it’s a lot. Metropolis Water Works is, like, the place to get married, and you do not want to know the size of the deposit I had to put down, but can’t you just picture it?”
“Ugh, yes. Flowers? Colors?” Nia looks up. “Kara, you absolutely have to see where Winn is getting married in the spring.”
Winn tilts his screen so that Kara can see it. “Isn’t it perfect?” he gushes, swiping through the pictures so fast that Kara can barely process them. “You’re both invited, of course.”
“I call dibs on helping organize your bachelor party!” Nia claps in excitement. “I can host, I’m moving into a new apartment soon that’s actually sized for people.”
“You’re moving?” Kara tries to shape her face into something that matches Nia’s excitement, but she’s having trouble.
“Yeah, I mean, I’ve been searching off and on since I got the promotion, but I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger yet. It seemed too good to be true, you know?” Nia rolls her eyes, and Winn nods sagely. “But things are finally going well! So, I decided, if I can afford a place that isn’t the size of a broom closet, then I should just do it, you know?” She fist bumps Winn then turns to Kara. “Kara, you understand; when are you moving out of your sister’s place?”
“Oh.” There’s a stone in Kara’s stomach, dragging it down to the floor. “Yeah. Moving. It’s um, not the right time.” She shrugs and takes a seat at the table as other people start to filter in around them. “I’ve been so busy with work.”
“Or are you waiting for Lena to send a u-haul…” Winn snickers into his hand.
Kara’s too distracted by the thought that everyone around her is making plans for the future based on how Daybreak is doing to respond to Winn’s joke. Sure, things are going well—great, even, some days—but it all might come crashing down in less than two weeks.
And Lex still won’t let her tell anyone.
“I’m so glad we keep doing this, it’s way nicer to go out to dinner and have my sister steal someone else’s dessert instead of mine.” Alex walks through the open restaurant door and out into the warmth of mid-evening in summer Metropolis, catching up to where Kelly, Lena, and Kara are standing on the sidewalk.
“Hey! There was no stealing involved this time! Lena gave that to me.” Kara looks to her girlfriend for back-up, but knows she isn’t going to get it when Lena cocks an eyebrow and folds her arms across her chest. She’s standing across from Kara in the fading light, her hair down in gentle waves, wearing a white v-neck and navy linen shorts. For a moment, Kara gets distracted; she can’t help thinking how beautiful Lena is.
“I said you could have a bite, not half.” Lena narrows her eyes.
“And then I got dessert envy!” Kara knows she sounds ridiculous, but the idea that Alex and Lena are ganging up on her for being a dessert thief, when everyone knows she didn’t steal anything, is too much to bear. “You know how I feel about tres leches cake.” She steps in towards Lena, starts prying Lena’s arms apart.
“I do, darling. And maybe next time, you’ll remember how you feel about tres leches cake and order it for yourself.” Lena’s chewing on her bottom lip and fighting a smile, her right cheek beginning to dimple. She’s clearly trying to pretend like she’s serious about this dessert-stealing thing, which is just ridiculous. Lena doesn’t even order dessert unless they’re out together.
“But why would I do that when you’ve ordered it! It doesn’t make sense.” She gets Lena’s elbows loose, runs her fingers down Lena’s forearms until they’re holding hands and staring at each other, standing barely a foot apart. “It’s not an efficient application of game theory to dessert ordering.”
Nerd, Alex coughs out, but Kara ignores her.
“Dessert ordering efficiency doesn’t factor into my decisions.” Lena bites her lip and Kara tracks the movement.
“Well, it should.”
“There’s only one solution.” Lena looks playful, she swings their joined hands lightly. “Next time we’ll simply have to order two.”
“See? This is why I—” Kara stops herself, feels her cheeks going red. “Why I like you so darn much,” she finishes.
It’s been happening with increasing frequency lately: Lena will do or say something cute, or sweet, or silly (it doesn’t really matter what, actually, Kara’s been tracking it, trying to figure out if there’s a pattern, and it’s occurred to her that Lena might be the pattern), and all of a sudden in response Kara’s overloaded with feeling—a very specific, four-letter-starts-with-a-capital-L feeling. There’s something holding her back from saying it out loud so far, but she knows it’s really only a matter of time until she blurts it out.
Still, she’d prefer if it didn’t happen in the middle of the sidewalk with her sister looking on.
“Mmmm, is that why you like me?” Lena is very clearly staring at Kara’s mouth now, starting to lean forward.
“Children!” Alex breaks in. “Keep it in your pants until you get home.”
“Speaking of home,” Kelly says, taking Alex’s hand and leaning into her, “Kara, are you coming with us?”
“Oh, um, no,” Kara breaks eye contact with Lena, focusing (with effort) on her sister and Kelly. “I was planning on going to Lena’s…” she glances at Lena, who’s nodding.
“Just checking,” Kelly says, giving them both a warm smile. “Have a good night, you two.”
Alex mimes throwing up as Kelly guides her to a waiting rideshare.
“Do you want to walk, or should I call for a car?” Lena steps in fully to Kara’s space and drops her hands in favor of wrapping her arms around Kara’s waist, lays her head on Kara’s shoulder.
“Walk,” Kara says, bringing her own arms around Lena’s shoulders and pressing a kiss to her temple. She squeezes Lena once and steps back, running one of her hands down Lena’s arm again as she does so and taking her hand.
They cut over to the greenway and start making their way back uptown along the waterfront, watching the sun set. It’s still warm out despite being nearly seven-thirty, the ambient heat of the day slowly releasing from the asphalt walking path that winds along the Hobb’s River here on the west side of the city. With the river on their right, and a wall of trees separating the path from the roadway, blocking out the noise of traffic until it’s more of a far-away hum, it feels as if they’ve left the city for a moment.
“So,” Lena breaks the comfortable silence they’re walking in, “I was thinking.”
Kara looks over when Lena doesn’t continue. “Yeah?” She squeezes her hand gently.
“You’ve been spending a lot of time at my apartment lately.”
“Can you blame me?” Kara laughs at that. “You’re there.” She nudges Lena’s shoulder as they walk.
“Well,” Lena smiles, pleased, “what would you think about my clearing out a drawer for you or something? I’m not—I’m not asking you to move in or anything, just...I like when you’re there,” Lena gazes further down at the path, watching a group of cyclists until they’ve left her line of sight and studiously avoiding Kara’s eyes, which are now fixed on her, “and I noticed this morning when I got the drycleaning back that I’ve accumulated rather a lot of your clothing and I thought, if you wanted, you could keep some of it at my place. On purpose.”
“I love that idea,” Kara grins, the warm bubbly feeling swelling up inside her again. The idea of keeping things at Lena’s, that Lena wants that, is enough to make her feel like she can fly.
“Good.” Lena exhales as if she’d been holding her breath. “AlsoIhadthemmakeakeycardforyou.”
Kara bursts out laughing, steps off the asphalt, pulling Lena to a stop, and tugs her into a kiss. She slides a hand into Lena’s hair as their bodies slot together, tilting her head slightly and deepening the kiss to something just short of indecent; Lena tastes like sugar, a hint of their dessert still on her lips.
When Kara pulls back, she rests their foreheads together, unwilling to move out of Lena’s space.
“I should give you a key every day,” Lena finally says, her arms wrapped solidly around Kara’s waist.
“You’re adorable.” Kara’s vaguely aware of other people on the path passing by them, but she doesn’t really care. She feels like a balloon, buoyant to the point of floating away. “All nervous about giving me a key.”
“I’ve never given anyone a key before. I wasn’t sure about the protocol.”
“How are you this much of a dork?” Kara leans back so she can see Lena better. “Alex thinks I’m the dork. This is so unfair.”
Lena hums in sympathy, kisses Kara softly on the mouth. “It’s just, you start so early and you finish before me. If you have a key, you can come over without having to wait for me to be done at the office.”
“This is just a ploy to get me to do your dishes more often, isn’t it?” Kara twines their fingers together as they start moving again. They’re closer now, Lena’s left shoulder bumping her right one; Lena’s right hand on Kara’s bicep, keeping them pressed against each other.
“Alex says you’re a terrible roommate, apparently you don’t do her dishes at all.”
“What? That is such a lie. I do them...sometimes” Kara rolls her eyes. “Also, how did that even come up?”
“You were late to brunch last weekend, remember? She made a joke about how nice it’s been to have the apartment back to her and Kelly—it was clear she was making a joke, Kara,” Lena hastens to add when Kara looks over, a little worried. “Apparently you’ve stopped talking about moving out.”
“Is that why you’re giving me a key?” Kara tries not to feel wounded. It isn’t like she doesn’t know that she’s imposing on Alex and Kelly, but with everything up in the air, how is she supposed to make any plans?
“No, darling,” Lena says, squeezing her arm. “I’m giving you a key because I want you to be able to come and go as you please.”
They’re quiet again for a few blocks as they cut across the path to leave the greenway and walk through midtown back to Lena’s apartment on city streets, but Kara keeps thinking about Alex making that joke. It kicks around her mind like a pebble stuck in her shoe: annoying, a little painful, and impossible to ignore.
“When we pull it off, I’m moving out.” She says it as they cut across through stand-still traffic on West Houston.
Lena hums. “Pull what off?”
“Saving Daybreak.” Kara glances at Lena and then drops her line of sight down at the sidewalk. “I stopped talking about moving out when it seemed like we would definitely be cancelled. But the numbers are up across the board, we hit targets in one of our key demos a week ago—Daybreak hasn’t seen those numbers in years! Lex hasn’t mentioned it, but we’ve gotten some of the affiliates back...I know we’re revenue positive in the second half of this quarter, and we broke even in the first half, so really that’s a net—”
“Kara,” Lena cuts her off in a gentle tone. “I know you’re still trying, and I’d never tell you not to, but I want you to be realistic about this.” The street lights are just starting to come on when they turn down Mercer. “The decision has been made.”
“Has it though?” Kara can’t help herself. “Lex still hasn’t called me to say that we’re cancelled for sure, he won’t let me tell the staff, there’s been no announcement...no one has heard any rumors about anything new getting added to LBC’s line up.” The arguments she’s making are a little thin, but it’s something. “I know it’s only been a month, but come on! We’ve had new advertiser inquiries, we’re even out of the woods on almost all of the performance clauses. There’s no way the board can look at all that and not see that we’re worth keeping.”
“The board doesn’t review these things on an ongoing basis.“
“Okay, then maybe your mom. She’s CEO.” Kara holds the door open to Lena’s building so that Lena can enter ahead of her. “She cares about this. Does she know?” Kara waves at the concierge as they walk to the elevator.
“I don’t know what Lillian knows.” Lena says a little flatly as she pulls out her keycard and scans it.
“Well, have you talked to her?” They step into the lift.
“Kara, you know that programming isn’t remotely part of my job.” Lena leans heavily against the back of the cubicle, Kara moves to stand next to her. “The board presentation was a one time thing.”
“But Lillian trusted you to be able to deliver on it, surely she’d listen to you if you brought it up.”
The doors open and Kara steps out into the living room.
“Lena?” Kara stops a foot into Lena’s apartment and turns around when she doesn’t hear Lena exit behind her. Her girlfriend no longer looks relaxed—in fact she’s folded in on herself, staring at the floor of the elevator.
Kara realizes, with a sinking feeling in her stomach, that she hasn’t been paying attention to Lena’s body language since they started talking about this, has missed the frustration in her voice—obvious now that she’s thinking about it. She’s been too wrapped up in pressing the point. “Hey,” she sticks out a hand to stop the door from sliding shut, “I’m sorry. Forget it.”
“I know it’s important to you. It’s important to me, too.” Lena looks up at her. “But there’s a limit to what I can do; you know that, right?” She pushes off the back wall and steps out next to Kara, who wraps her arms around Lena as the doors slide into place. “Can we stop talking about work?” Lena’s voice is muffled as she buries her nose in Kara’s shirt collar.
“Of course,” Kara says, and Lena practically melts in her arms, the tension bleeding out of her. “Wanna take a bath and do absolutely zero talking instead?”
“God, yes.” Lena nuzzles in, tucking her head into the space between Kara’s neck and shoulder. “Can we open some wine?”
The next week finds Lena miserable in her office.
What Kara doesn’t know is that she’s been after Lex for the last three weeks, trying to get his attention about the bump in advertising interest and the demos Kara had referenced several days ago. There’s a clear shift in Daybreak ’s audience and reception, too big to be a blip, and she wants to talk to him about strategy. But he’s been dodging her since he broke the news to Kara, and he’s clearly given up on Daybreak, if he ever cared about it in the first place. Every email she sends him is marked open, every text is left on read, none of her voicemails returned—all her efforts to no avail.
So Lena decides to do something she’s been waffling about for two weeks, the exact thing she told Kara she wouldn’t do: meet with Lillian.
With Jess’s help, Lena puts together a folder with everything highlighted and marches down the hallway to her step-mother’s office. It takes half an hour to go through everything
“Well, this certainly is promising.” Lillian purses her lips and hums, closing the folder on her desk and pushing her chair back slightly. “Nothing he’s pitched has been all that impressive, actually. So far, the front-runner is simply replacing Daybreak with infomercials until he can present a pitch package the board is interested in.” At the expression of displeasure Lena makes, Lillian shakes her head—a moue of distaste on her own face. “I don’t love it either, but, on aggregate, infomercials would be more lucrative than Daybreak has been over the last few years.”
Lena sits back in her chair. “What would it take for you to overrule Lex, or at least to go back to the board with all of this?”
“The trends are promising, I’ll give you that.” Lillian sighs. “But I’m simply not sure that they’re sustainable. This could be nothing more than a momentary reaction to some of the more...novel segments they’ve run.” She leans forward and reaches again for the packet that Lena prepared, pulling it to the edge of the desk and flipping through the final pages. Frowning at something, she puts it back down on the desk and closes it.
“Lena, I hate to ask, but I have to: how much of your defense of Daybreak is predicated on your relationship with the EP?”
“What?” Lena loses her composure momentarily, can’t control the shock that must be showing on her face as she sits up straight. “None of it! This is about our programming and trying to prevent LBC from making a decision that will ruin us in the long term.”
“I only bring it up because your brother mentioned that he thought it might be coloring your view.” Lillian leans back in her chair and steeples her fingers in front of her. “It can be frightfully easy to blind ourselves to the weaknesses in those we care about. Lex was very frank about her shortcomings...honestly I’m surprised the segments have been any good at all.”
Lillial waves her fingers dismissively. “Lex took responsibility for making a mistake in hiring her. It’s her first senior position and there was bound to be a lack of polish.”
Lena can’t believe what she’s hearing.
“The lack of polish is on Lex, not on Kara.” She shakes her head in disbelief. “She’s the only reason we’re seeing this improvement! She’s managed to wrangle Cat Grant, pulled Brainy Dox out of weather and teamed him up with her junior producer to mold him into something resembling the best color-reporter on any morning show out there, completely shifted the way they cover practically everything—and she’s done it with Lex micromanaging every single step of the way!”
Lillian frowns, but she doesn’t interrupt Lena.
“Did you know that he has Kara personally keep him apprised of every story they run—whether it’s news or entertainment?” And if Lena feels badly talking about her brother in this way, the alternative—letting Lillian think poorly of Kara—is enough to overcome it. “It burns valuable time and makes them less proactive—and honestly he needs to vet his distribution list because they’ve been getting scooped since he started this ridiculously inefficient bastardization of synergy. And Kara might have faith that no one is trying to sabotage the show, but I sure don’t and I’ve noticed that no matter who she keeps in or out of the loop, they lose their biggest stories,” Lena shakes her head, a bit more worked up than she meant to get, “which means the problem might be in one of the other shows or in his office, but when I tried asking him about it he dismissed it as a run of bad luck. That was weeks ago.”
Lena crosses her arms and tries to will her heart to slow down as she sits back in the chair. Lillian examines her thoughtfully.
“I hear that you’re frustrated,” Lillian starts, and Lena opens her mouth to say that frustrated doesn’t cover it, but Lillian puts up a hand to stop her, “and I will take this under advisement. But for now, Lena, you need to let Lex do his job.”
“Fine.” Lena stands up to leave. “But that’s the point I’m trying to make, mother: I don’t think he is.”
Lex e-mails Kara shortly after one in the morning on the Thursday of the sixth week to tell her that he’s announcing the cancellation on Friday, and that he’ll make the announcement himself after the final show.
She knew it was possible (probable, a small voice in her head says), but seeing the words there on her phone screen in black and white still hits like a punch to the gut. Cancelled. It sticks in her head as she drinks her coffee, and when she kisses a sleepy Lena goodbye. It’s there in the background during the early prep meeting; it hovers over the monitors as the broadcast airs.
By the time they’re wrapping up the post-show morning meeting on Thursday, ending on pitches for spots the following week that will never be seen, Kara feels like she might cry. As the weeks had passed with no word, she’d really started to believe he might be changing his mind. All of this work, all of the effort; all of it for nothing.
“Well that just about wraps up our next week of spots.” Kara looks down at her notes. “Winn, have we confirmed that GMA is definitely covering the boat show tomorrow?”
Winn nods. “That’s affirmative.”
Kara sighs. Scooped on a relatively stupid story for what may well be their final broadcast. How fitting. Not that it makes a difference, but she doesn’t want to end like this: competing for viewers when she knows they can’t win.
“Okay folks, you know what that means. We need to find something to fill a longer human interest-type story or event on short notice. It would be great if it’s something nobody else covers, so if anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.” She taps her pen on the table and glances around expectantly.
The room is conspicuously silent as everyone avoids eye contact.
Kara is about to end the meeting when Cat clears her throat.
“Yes, Cat?” Kara tries not to sound tired. Fighting with this woman is not something she feels up to at the moment. “Is something wrong with your assignment for tomorrow?”
Cat has the grace not to rise to the bait in Kara’s tone. In fact, she looks a little nervous.
“I have a story that might work.”
The whole room seems to sit up straighter. Uncharacteristically, Cat seems loath to continue without encouragement, and Kara has to prompt her.
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“There’s a festival, upstate, that starts on Friday and goes through Sunday. It’s the Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally Expo—,” at Kara’s confused expression, Cat stumbles a bit, “Spiedies, you know, those regional sandwiches with the marinated, grilled meat; Bon Appétit magazine did a piece on them a couple of years ago as one of America’s great undiscovered foods…” she trails off.
“Anyway, the festival is quite something, actually—a slice of Americana just an hour outside Metropolis—a rather lovely celebration of local culture complete with a cooking competition and a truly wide variety of categories for entry. I, ah, I took my younger son one year and it...wasn’t unpleasant. Viewers might enjoy it. It would certainly be novel.”
“Sandwiches?” Kara can’t help echoing. “And a balloon rally?”
“Yes,” Cat crosses her arms, a bit of her familiar bite returning, “do you have a problem with that?”
“No,” Kara hastens to reassure her—the whole exchange is making Kara feel wildly off-balance, but this is the sort of story that she’s been begging for since she essentially blackmailed Cat into joining Daybreak, and it seems fitting that she’s pitching it right when it no longer really matters. “No, not at all. I’m just...surprised.”
“So, it’s okay?” Cat lifts her eyebrows, affecting an almost hopeful expression. The whole exchange is deeply unsettling, but Kara can’t quite put her finger on why.
“Sure. Um,” Kara looks around. “Take Demos and the second production crew. Do you want Brainy or Siobhan along for some of the color? We can shuffle the assignments around.”
“No.” Cat shakes her head. “I’m okay handling the piece myself.”
Kara knows her own eyebrows must be halfway up her forehead, but she can’t really help it. They’re getting cancelled, but—somehow, some way—she’s finally gotten through to Cat, and their final show might have a really nice segment as a result.
“Well? May I do it?” Cat’s looking at her expectantly.
“Yeah. I mean, yes.” She nods and Cat smiles. Kara can’t help the grin her own face breaks into; it’s bittersweet, for sure, although maybe this means that her tenure here at Daybreak has had a lasting impression. “Sandwiches and hot air balloons, great.” She looks around the room. “That’s our Friday show then. Good work people, I’ll see everyone tomorrow morning.”
“Can you believe that?” Kara asks, her mouth full of lamb, cucumber, and the sharp, garlicky toum from her shawarma. She swallows. “Cat Grant is covering a country festival where the main attractions are cubes of meat on hoagie rolls and hot air balloons.”
“Careful of the couch darling.” Lena hands her a napkin from the coffee table. They’re sitting in Lena’s living room, Kara in sweatpants and Lena in leggings, with the Netflix menu up on the TV waiting for them to make a selection. Lena’s wearing an NCU sweatshirt that Kara left over at her place a while ago. “And no,” she adds, shaking her head, “I can’t believe it. Did you put something in her water?”
Kara laughs and takes another bite, catching a piece of tomato that falls. She looks at Lena, who is eyeing Kara’s wrap with concern. “I know, I know—I need a dropcloth.” She wipes her hand on the napkin Lena’s just given her.
“Now there’s an idea.” Lena rolls her eyes but it’s fond. She pours lemon-tahini dressing over her falafel salad, then adjusts two of the pillows and sits back on the couch, holding the container over her lap and curling her legs onto the leather, shifting slightly to face Kara better. “But, really, Cat agreed to cover a cooking competition?”
“Not merely agreed to cover it,” Kara says between bites. “She’s the one who pitched it.”
“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” Lena raises both of her eyebrows, “but it sounds like you may have managed to tame the beast. How does it feel to know that you got the third worst person in the world to do her job?”
“It would feel a lot better if we weren’t getting cancelled tomorrow.” Kara sets her wrap down on a plate Lena got out for her. “We’re finally making headway, if I had even a few more weeks…” She picks up her water glass and takes a sip.
“I know.” Lena pokes at her food with a fork, speaking more to the container than to Kara. “I wish you did.”
“Lena...why can’t you tell them I need more time?”
“Kara, please.” Lena puts the fork down in the container. “Let’s not.”
“But what if the board would change its mind, what if Lex isn’t looking at the metrics anymore, what if—“
“Well, I can’t do anything about either of those things, can I?”
Kara puts her water glass back on its coaster. She can tell that Lena’s upset, but every time she’s tried to have this conversation over the last few weeks, they don’t get further than this. Knowing that it’s all going to be over tomorrow, unless something drastic changes, makes her want to push through the discomfort—on both their parts.
“Just hear me out, please.” Kara looks up at the ceiling to give her a second to try to marshall her thoughts. She tries to keep the desperation out of her voice. “You know the trends are in the right direction; heck, setting aside the current partners and contracts, we’ve even had inquiries on potential new advertisers. You’re a major shareholder; you could call an emergency board meeting or something and present them with the new evidence! They might reconsider!”
“It isn’t that simple, I keep trying to tell you.” Lena leans forward and puts her salad on the coffee table next to Kara’s water. “I can’t call a board meeting solely because my girlfriend asked me to.” Kara opens her mouth to ask why not, but Lena keeps going. “I’ve already done more than I should—I went to Lillian a week ago.”
Kara’s forehead crinkles at that.
“And after she listened to everything I had to say, she accused me of defending the show because we’re dating and told me that I needed to let Lex do his job.”
“You didn’t tell me you went to Lillian.”
“I didn’t want to get your hopes up.” Lena lets out a heavy sigh. “It didn’t work anyway, and I sent her the updated breakdowns this morning as soon as I got your message about Lex.” Kara’s eyes brighten, but Lena shakes her head. “Her response was to ignore the e-mail and have her assistant set up a meeting with me for tomorrow morning. So, before you tell me I’m not doing enough, consider that I’m about to get reamed out by my step-mother for overstepping.”
“Okay, I hear you,” Kara says, leaning in. “And I’m grateful you did that, but Lena, you agree with me, right? You’ve told me you think this kind of programming is important!”
“You’re not listening.” Lena looks around the room, as if something there will help her make her point to Kara. “I’ve done everything I reasonably can!” Her voice is slightly elevated and she sounds truly frustrated.
Up to now, hearing that tone in Lena’s voice has been more than enough for Kara to back down, but, this time, all she feels is her own frustration, her own impotence boiling over. Lena’s worried about getting yelled at by Lillian; Kara’s worried about her entire staff losing their livelihoods. They aren’t the same thing. How can Lena not see that? Maybe she doesn’t get it, maybe she doesn’t understand...
Maybe Lena doesn’t think she’s worth fighting for.
“I’m sorry your mom might yell at you,” and Kara knows there’s an edge to her voice, doesn’t particularly care anymore, “but I need you to do more because my career is over if Daybreak ends—”
“No, it’s not,” Lena scoffs, “don’t be so dramatic. You’ll get a job on another show. You’ll be fine.”
“What would you know?” Kara stands up, too upset to remain stationary on the couch. She walks towards the wall of windows. “Your career is secure because of your family. You don’t know what it’s like to try to carry on a legacy by yourself.” She starts pacing in front of the television. “You know, even Cat is trying to help save Daybreak, and she doesn’t even know we’re in trouble. She volunteered—volunteered!—to cover a small town festival. The least you can do is pretend this is worth the fight!”
Pretend I’m worth the fight, she doesn’t say.
“Stop putting this all on me!” Lena rises to follow. She makes her way over to Kara. “I went to bat for you, even when it wasn’t my job, even when it put me at odds with my family. Lex isn’t even speaking to me right now, Lillian is pissed. Am I gutted that Daybreak is ending, do I think it’s bad for journalism and media in general? You already know I do.” Lena comes to a stop standing in front of Kara, folds her arms across her chest. “But there’s something you overlook every time it isn’t convenient: LBC is a corporation—we have financial obligations, we have shareholders, this isn’t public television—”
“You’ve said that before,” Kara spits out. She feels a little out of control—mad in a way she hasn’t felt for a very long time. She’s about to lose everything and Lena is talking about bottom lines? “Some things are more important than money, and you should know that. I know LBC isn’t public television. You know who else keeps telling me that? Lex.” Kara lets out a brittle laugh, throws up her hands and lets them drop by her sides. She looks at Lena and shakes her head. “But I guess it’s a family line, huh? Maybe Cat’s right, the Luthors really are trying to ruin broadcasting and I guess you’re content to let it happen as long as it doesn’t hurt your bottom line.”
She regrets it the moment she sees Lena’s expression crumple, but the words are already out of her mouth and she can’t figure out how to take them back.
“You’re upset,” Lena says in a completely even voice. It’s jarring, compared to the heat from a moment ago. “And you’re saying things you don’t mean and I think you need to leave right now.”
In the second it takes Kara to realize the size of her mistake, Lena’s face has shuttered. She turns around, away from Kara, and is already leaning over the coffee table, packing up the food.
“Wait, Lena...” Kara’s whole body feels like ice. Her heart has stopped. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that, I just meant—”
“Not right now.” Lena doesn’t turn around, just gathers up some of the food and makes her way to the kitchen. She pauses on the step up. “Please leave.”
So, even though it’s the last thing she wants to do, Kara does.
Kara walks out of Lena’s building in a daze.There’s a terrible hollowness in her chest, her mind stuck on the look of betrayal that took over Lena’s face the moment she accused her of letting Lex win. It’s dark out, and starting to rain, but as the first drops hit her, she doesn’t even notice.
A car drives over the cobblestones, lights reflecting on the water already gathering in small puddles and, for a moment, she considers going back upstairs and asking Lena to let her apologize. She turns around and takes a step toward the front entrance, then spins on her heel and takes a step away. The truth is, she doesn't know why she got so angry at Lena—Lena isn’t Lex, has been nothing but supportive of Kara even as she’s been realistic about Daybreak ’s chances…and in return, Kara has asked Lena to challenge her family and take on a responsibility for Daybreak that Kara knows, deep down, isn’t Lena’s to bear.
The shock of their fight is wearing off now and in its place is settling a heavy sense of inevitability. Daybreak is ending, that much is clear. And there’s a chance she’s pushed Lena far enough that she might lose her, too.
Her eyes burn and she blinks to clear them. The hollowness in her chest has morphed into a tightness that’s making it hard for her to breathe.
She pulls out her phone and texts Lena, I’m sorry. It’s marked read almost immediately, but there’s no reply.
Kara’s about to put her phone back in her pocket when it buzzes in her hands, a picture of Alex surfing lighting up the face of it. She swipes to answer.
“Alex?” Kara tries not to drop the phone. It’s raining in earnest now and her hands are wet. She can feel the drops seeping into her t-shirt—she left without grabbing a jacket.
“Hey Kara, I’m sure you’re with Lena, but I’m leaving the hospital and I literally just got your message from earlier about Cat doing a balloon festival?” Alex sounds a little far away, she must have Kara on speaker as she drives. “Wanted to make sure that wasn’t a weird autocorrect.”
“I fucked up.”
“Okay that makes more sense, I mean, look, Cat’s been almost—I don’t know—approachable lately but that seems wildly—”
“No, Alex, I fucked up with Lena.” Kara’s still trying not to cry, but her voice catches when she says Lena’s name. The rain is really coming down now. Kara can feel the water trickle down her neck. “We got in a fight, I—I—”
“Where are you?” Alex goes from playful to serious at Kara’s obvious distress.
“Outside Lena’s apartment.”
“Stay there. I’m coming to get you, okay? I’m stuck a few blocks over anyway, the bridge is backed up through midtown.”
Kara’s thoroughly soaked by the time Alex pulls up. She knows that she could have waited underneath the awning, but something in her wanted to punish herself. Alex squawks when she sees her, though, makes her get a towel out of the trunk to put on the seat. Once she’s in the car, Alex turns down the a/c and pulls a u-turn.
They drive without talking for a minute, the pounding of the rain on the car and the intermittent thwack of the wipers the only sounds breaking the silence. Kara stares out the window at the cityscape, darkened by night and blurred by the rain. The few people still out are moving quickly, umbrellas deployed and jacket collars pulled up, obscuring their faces.
“So,” Alex says, pulling up to a traffic light. She shifts into neutral and looks over at Kara. “Do you wanna talk about it or do you wanna play really loud music or do you wanna sit in silence? I’m up for whatever, but I need you to tell me.”
Kara’s quiet for a long minute.
“We’re getting cancelled.” She looks at her sister, who glances over—mouth turned down into a confused frown.
“Daybreak?” Kara nods. “Did Lena have something to do with it? I thought she wasn’t part of your division. Is this related to you freaking out about her breaking up with you like two months ago?”
The light changes and Alex eases the car back into gear, but traffic is so bad they don’t go far before stopping again. Someone honks up ahead.
“No,” Kara says. “I mean, no, she didn’t have anything to do with it—Lex and the board decided weeks ago.” She can see Alex’s eyebrows go up. “I was under an NDA. Still am, I guess, but Lex is announcing it tomorrow. What’s he going to do, fire me?” She can’t keep the sarcasm out of her voice.
It all pours out then, about how Lex wasn’t even going to tell her, about how unclear the whole thing seemed, and about her plans to try to save the show. She tells Alex everything from start to finish, right through Lena asking her to leave earlier tonight. When she’s done, Alex is quiet for a beat. They’ve finally made it onto the bridge, and traffic is moving again.
“So, let me get this straight,” Alex finally says. “The board decided to cancel the show because Lex told them to.”
“And even though no one told you that saving it was even possible, you tried to save it anyway.”
“Yeah,” Kara says again.
“And this whole time, despite telling you that Daybreak can’t be saved, Lena still went out of her way to talk to her brother and her mother about reversing the decision, even after making it clear to you that it made her uncomfortable to do so.”
Kara picks at the left knee of her sweatpants. If she didn’t think it was possible to feel worse about the situation earlier, she’s being proved wrong right now. “Alex…” She doesn’t know how to complete the sentence.
“What’s this really about.” Alex throws on her blinker, glances over her shoulder, and gets into the exit lane as the bridge ends.
“I—” Kara starts and then stops. “I lose everything, Alex. She—” Kara turns to stare out the window again, the streetlights barely more than blurry haloes through the sheets of rain.
She seems to understand where Kara is going anyway. “Has Lena said or done something to make you think that she’d break up with you because Daybreak is cancelled?” Alex glances over quickly, before looking back at the taillights in front of them.
“No,” Kara admits. “She hasn’t, but why wouldn’t she? I spent eight years at a dead end job and barely made it up to a junior spot before getting fired, and now I’ve had this job for barely three months and, not only am I about to lose that, but the entire show is cancelled. I’m a mess, I live with my sister and her girlfriend, I have no savings, no plan, no future…” She trails off as Alex turns onto their street and pulls up to the curb. Her chest is starting to get tight again and she feels a twinge of panic crawl up her spine.
Alex shuts the car off, but doesn’t move to get out. She turns to Kara and waits patiently for her to say what she’s been building toward.
“I just.” Kara inhales shakily. “I’ve been trying to find a purpose for so long, some reason that I’m here. I thought saving Daybreak might be it, you know? But I wasn’t enough...what if I’m never enough?” She feels the first hot tears roll down her cheek.
“Let’s table the pushing Lena away thing for a second—and we will be getting back to that—but Kara, you don’t have to earn being here.” Alex purses her lips. “You’re enough, exactly as you are—you always have been and you always will be. I know—” her sister lets out a breath like she’s not sure how to say the next part. “I know you feel like you owe your parents something for saving you, or that you have to justify being alive. But I promise you, Kara, I promise you living is enough for them.”
By the time Alex finishes, Kara is sobbing, pulling great gulps of air into her lungs. Alex reaches over and rubs her back as she cries, until Kara is exhausted and there are no more tears left.
Kelly is waiting for them when they make it out of the car and into the apartment. She pulls out a third place setting and serves Kara an enormous helping of pasta. It isn’t the food that helps so much as the company. After dinner, Kara tells them about the last show she might ever produce.
“You should go with her,” Kelly says, when Kara shares Cat’s final segment. “I mean, you finally got her to do what you’ve been asking for since she started, you should be there when it happens. Nia can handle the studio.”
“You know what?” Kara pushes the spaghetti left on her plate around with her fork, nodding to herself. “You’re right. She’s supposed to be back in time for the post-show meeting and Lex’s announcement anyway.”
“And talking to Lena?” Alex asks.
Kara’s gaze is drawn to her phone on the counter, silent since Alex called her two hours ago. “I’ll try again after the show.” She gets up to clear, but Alex stands up, waves her off.
“We’ve got this. Get to bed.” Alex walks around the table and wraps Kara in an enormous hug. “I love you so much, you know that?” Kara nods into her shoulder. “You won’t lose me. Stronger together.”
“Stronger together.” She grips her sister tightly. “I love you, too, Alex.”
Lena puts her phone face down on the kitchen counter as soon as she opens the text.
Kara had looked devastated when Lena asked her to leave, so much so that she’d almost reconsidered, but she’s hurt and angry right now. Hurt and angry enough to say something she’ll regret, and that’s not something she wants to do to Kara—not when she knows that Kara is already hurting. Luthors are scorpions, Lena, Lex had once said to her, when someone hurts us, we sting. She wonders briefly if Kara knew what she was doing, throwing all of Lena’s fears about herself in her face, but she dismisses the thought as quickly as it runs across her mind.
Kara is many things, but intentionally cruel isn’t one of them.
It’s a particular weakness, part nature, part nurture, to be able to lock in on a person’s biggest fears and lash out with the aim of causing maximum damage. Lena grew up witnessing Lionel and Lillian take each other apart, had seen Lex do it and been on the receiving end of it enough to hone the skill herself, enough to make it reflexive. It’s a habit she’s tried to break, and certainly it isn’t one she wants to start with Kara. So sending Kara away before Lena’s hurt got the best of her was the right thing to do, even if part of her rebels at it.
Lena walks over to the liquor shelf near the windows to the right of the kitchen after she’s put the food away and pours two fingers of scotch into a heavy crystal tumblr.
It burns going down, the cask-strength single malt leaving a tingling sensation in its wake, but at least that gives her something physical to focus on. She goes to pour more, then reconsiders. There are two ways this evening ends in all probability; one, she turns her phone off and gets blackout drunk, feeling helpless and angry and sad at Lex, and LBC, and Kara. Or, two, she calls someone and talks this out.
A voice that sounds suspiciously like her college therapist congratulates her for putting the bottle down in favor of calling Sam. She settles in on the couch that faces the elevator, her back to the kitchen while the phone rings.
Ten minutes into the conversation, Sam hits at the crux of what Lena’s unable to get past, and why what Kara said had stung her so sharply.
“I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s totally inappropriate for her to ask you to do things that aren’t part of your job, but weren’t you just telling me a few weeks ago that you thought you should be doing more? What happened to meeting with Mercy or another board member?”
“It’s not that easy, Sam, it’s family—it’s—” Lena stumbles over her words, trying to identify what her block has been. “What if there’s something I’m missing, what if Lex is right? Am I letting my relationship with Kara blind me to what’s best for LBC? I never would have pressed the point with Lillian if it weren’t for Kara...”
“That doesn’t mean you're wrong.”
“But what if—”
“Lena, forget Kara for a second.” Sam pauses, perhaps sensing a need to shift strategies. “Pretend we’re back at Sloan and this is a case study: how would you evaluate it?”
Lena purses her lips, drums the fingers on her free hand against the shin she’s tucked under herself. Sam is asking her to think critically about this, to judge the situation by removing emotion from it. In spite of how she’s feeling, pushing some of the emotion aside isn’t the stretch it seems—all she has to do is think about the presentation she made to the board and update it with information from the last six weeks. She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes.
“Lex is approaching this like it’s a structured decision, but it isn’t.”
“He’s positioned this to the board and to Lillian as if the risk is a fixed-variable with limited uncertainty because of the time-horizon—a three-year analysis might be able to provide that kind of model under normal circumstances, but none of the moving pieces for Daybreak, on-screen or off, from Executive Producer to co-anchor, have been static during that time; doubly so now that they’ve got a quarter of more than promising performance under new direction.” Lena stills her fingers.
“And?” Sam prompts her.
“And he’s banked on the bounded rationality of the board in backing this decision, which was made prior to the stabilization and rebound. He promised them novel replacement programming, which he doesn’t have yet.” She opens her eyes. “Sam, that’s the part of this that makes the least amount of sense. If he had something to replace it with, I mean, I still think he’s wrong, but cancelling and putting in a placeholder—”
“Slow down, Lena. Humor me,” Sam says. “Based on the assessment you just gave me, would you feel comfortable letting a decision be made without trying to intervene?”
“No, of course not.” Lena doesn’t have to think about it, the facts are clear now that she’s laying them out again. How has she gotten so twisted around about this?
“And tell me, does any of that have to do with the fact that you’re dating Kara?”
“No.” There’s a small measure of relief there, but if she’s right, then Kara is absolutely correct: Lena is letting something happen that she knows is wrong. Sam interrupts her train of thought.
“Do you think it’s possible,” Sam sounds like she’s thinking out loud, “that he sees what Kara’s doing and he’s worried the board won’t back him if he doesn’t cut the cord now?”
It’s something Lena hasn’t considered, she’s never known her brother to be so irrational, but he seems to have fixated on ending Daybreak.
“I mean, it makes more sense if this is part of a longer-term plan and he’s worried about losing his window, but Lena, think about it. It would help explain why he’s so intent on announcing even though he doesn’t have a replacement yet.”
There’s a disorienting sinking feeling in Lena’s stomach. The feeling deepens as she thinks about the last few years—Sam asking her to evaluate the situation from the outside has triggered something. All the hiring decisions that never worked out, the downward spiral of quality and support for the show. Lena hadn’t inserted herself into the process, not until Kara, but now that she has, the irregularities are piling up with startling force. “I want to tell you you’re wrong, that Lex wouldn’t do that, but Sam, he lied to Lillian.”
“What?” Sam sounds surprised.
“About Kara,” Lena resumes fidgeting, “about her management of the show. And now I’m wondering if he’s lied about anything else”
Sam is quiet for a few seconds. Lena chews on the inside of her cheek.
“Real talk, Lena? I think Kara makes you brave, not blind. If this were any other company, if it weren’t your brother we’re talking about, you’d be all over this.”
“If it were any other company, I’d never have access to all this information.” Sam starts to interrupt her, so Lena concedes the point. “I’m not saying you’re wrong. But I’m not sure there’s anything to be done at this point—Lex is breaking it to the show tomorrow, he’s got a press release planned for the afternoon. I’ve left it too late.”
“The timing isn’t ideal.” Sam hums. “What if you went to Lillian tomorrow and threatened to quit if she doesn’t at least re-evaluate or let the board review? She’s still Lex’s boss. True or false: if she said he couldn’t do it, he’d have to hold off.”
“True, but…” She switches the phone to her other hand.
“What if I give her an ultimatum and she chooses Lex?” What if she thinks I’m ungrateful, what if she thinks I’m choosing Kara over family...
“Honey,” Sam's tone is soft, “listen to me—you’ve been afraid that Lillian’s love is somehow conditional since you found out about your dad. I get it, childhood trauma is a bitch, but Lena? Your mom loves you and she’s still going to love you even if you don’t work for her.”
Sam lets that sink in. Lena flops over sideways on the couch, it’s both deeply annoying and deeply gratifying that Sam knows her so well.
“You said you’re sure there’s a leak on the show?”
“Yes,” Lena says, stretching her legs out so that she’s lying lengthwise, “and I already told Lillian. Lex hasn’t gone after it at all, it’s like there’s something I’m not seeing.” Or is it that there’s an answer you don’t want to contemplate, a small internal voice offers. Lena shakes her head to herself.
“Well, if you want a different tack,” Sam says, not realizing she’s giving Lena an out by dropping it, “or maybe an additional option, tell her you want another quarter to track it down and see what happens. Pitch it like you’re looking into something that’s a potential liability for LBC, rather than a reversal of the decision if you feel better about it. I was mostly trying to stop you from freaking out when I told you to walk me through an analysis of the decision, but Lena, a quarter extension with Daybreak doing well might be an easier sell than asking for a complete reversal at this point. And then you’d have some breathing room.”
“Okay.” She stares up at the exposed beam work on the ceiling. “What if it doesn’t work?”
“Then it doesn’t work and we find you a new job.”
“What if—” The words get stuck in her throat. “What if Kara blames me for it.”
“None of this is your fault,” Sam says immediately, her voice confident.
“You didn’t hear her Sam, she basically accused me of letting my family ruin LBC as long as it kept me comfortable.” It stings now, as much as it had when Kara had said it. It would be easier to dismiss if Lena wasn’t afraid that Kara was right...
“Honey, we all say and do things we don’t mean when we’re scared. I’m not absolving her of guilt here, but what are you so worried about?”
“What if she’s right? What if I’ve been a coward and Daybreak ends and that’s it for LBC and what if it’s my fault?” Lena puts her free arm over her eyes. “I could have gone to Lillian weeks ago. I could have been more aggressive in following up with the board; Mercy Graves would have taken a meeting with me. I could have investigated the leak. I could have—”
“Lena, I’m not saying you couldn’t have done those things,” Sam cuts her off before she can spiral completely, “but give yourself a break. You tried staying in your own lane. You trusted Lex to see the same things you saw and to act appropriately, and you trusted Lillian to check up on him. I feel like a broken record, but you’ve always had a bit of a blind spot when it comes to your brother.”
Lena is silent. She knows Sam is right—Lex has always been larger than life to her. He’s her big brother. She’s had him up on a pedestal since she was adopted and it’s only over the last six or so months that she’s started wondering whether or not he deserves to be up there.
Speaking of pedestals, her thoughts drift back to Kara.
“What if the things she accused me of are true, Sam.”
“They’re not true.”
“What if she believes them anyway?” Ultimately that’s the real problem: does Kara believe in her, or does she really think Lena’s just a Luthor?
“You’re going to have to talk to her about that—she crossed some boundaries, even if she doesn’t see it that way right now. Just,” Sam pauses, “don’t do what you usually do.”
“What do I usually do?” Lena asks, drily.
“Avoid talking about anything that might end in someone rejecting you.” Sam pauses. “Falling in love is scary. But, for the record, I don’t think you have to be scared with her.”
Falling in love.
It isn’t as if Lena doesn’t know she’s been falling in love with Kara. Whenever they’re together, or even when Lena just thinks about her, she’s filled with a sense of utter and complete rightness, as if Kara has slotted into some hole in her life that she didn’t even realize was there and now she can’t imagine being without her. It’s a major part of why this evening hurts so badly. But god, hearing it outloud, said so matter-of-factly…
She blinks rapidly, feels her heart speed up.
“I gotta go make sure Ruby is getting ready for bed soon; how are you feeling right now?”
Jesus Lena’s certainly feeling something right now. ‘Better’ might not be the right word. Aren’t people usually over the moon when they realize they’re in love? Here Lena is, terrified.
“I won’t pour a drink when I get off the phone with you, if that’s what you’re asking,” she says, instead. Sam laughs. “...I’m going to sleep on it,” Lena adds, sitting up on the couch and swinging her legs over the edge of the cushion, “but I already have that meeting with Lillian first thing tomorrow. I’ll go from there.”
She may not be any less scared for having a plan, but she goes to bed feeling like at least she won’t have done nothing. Kara will have to decide whether or not that’s enough for her.
Lena doesn’t know what she’ll do if it isn’t.
Kara is waiting outside the entrance to the underground parking garage at LBC when Demos and his team pull the Daybreak van onto W Cordova Street. The street is empty, save for a few garbage trucks trundling along, the sun just beginning to peek between the skyscrapers. Kara had presided over her last morning meeting and then told everyone that Nia was calling the shots today since Kara would be riding along with Cat. She’d texted Demos to let him know and now, as Kara flags him down, he’s grinning at her and rolling down the passenger side window.
“Room for one more?” She smiles back at him and waggles the box of donuts she nabbed from the conference room.
“You got it, Supergirl, hop in the back.” He stretches across to grab the maple bar she pulls out for him. “Tell Hix he has to ride up front with me.”
Kara pulls open the sliding door and delivers the message. Hix nods, takes two of the danishes, and then hops out, shutting the van behind her. Cat is on her phone, the screen lighting her face up with a blue glow in the dark of the van, and her eyes track Kara briefly when she clambers in. The inside of the outside broadcast van is a mass of technology, a mini, mobile version of the tech booth from which Kara usually oversees their broadcasts. Cat is seated on a sideways bench seat opposite the door, and the second unit’s cameraman, Taylor, is asleep next to her. The rear-facing jump seat that Hix just vacated is the only open spot with a seatbelt so Kara slides into it as Demos pulls away.
“So! Let’s talk this through,” Kara says, tucking the donut box under her seat after Cat declines. “It’s about an hour drive and that gives us an hour and a half to set up and rehearse before we go live at nine.”
“Mmhmm,” Cat hums—she’s still tapping away.
“Nia told me that you’ve handled all the contact with the festival organizers, which is great,” Kara continues, smoothing out her chinos and brushing a few stray crumbs away, “I was thinking we could interview some of the chefs—I googled last years winner—and maybe you could try your hand at grilling before sitting down to eat and chat. We can cut back to the studio between five minute segments, it could make a nice back and forth as you move between activities, but we’ll be able to fill the twenty-minute gap we have. Then we finish with you taking a balloon ride? The storm we got last night has cleared out of the area so it should be really nice.”
“I’m sure it’ll be riveting.”
“Okay...” Kara frowns. Cat’s barely listening to her. “Cat, I know this is your first time out of the studio for us, but we need to have the segment plan down to the minute.”
“I’m sure you’ll manage,” she replies, raising her eyebrows without looking up in a way that manages to convey that she does not think Kara will manage, and that she doesn’t particularly care.
Kara feels her patience slipping. This is supposed to be something fun and light, and Cat is acting like she doesn’t want to be here. She’s being flippant and dismissive, and while that may be par for the course, for once, Kara isn’t the driving force behind the story. Cat pitched this segment herself!
Taylor lets out a deafening snore, then snuggles up against the console desk next to him.
“Cat, it might seem like a long drive, but we have less than an hour at this point,” Kara tries to stay sanguine, keeping her voice down for the sake of their clearly exhausted cameraman, “and I promise you we are going to run out of time to prep everything unless we start now.”
“Good thing I don’t need to prep then,” Cat mutters.
“Don’t need to prep?” Kara finally throws up her hands, a small anguished sound making its way out of her throat, and lets her head bang against the partition between them and Demos and Hix upfront. She really hoped this might be her moment with Cat, but it’s crystal clear now that was only wishful thinking. She can feel the crinkle in the middle of her forehead and she reaches up, pushes her glasses hard against it. “How are you so—fine. Fine! They’re going to cancel the show! This could be the last time you’re ever on air! Why are you so intent on screwing me over?”
“I’m not screwing you over,” Cat says, with distaste. Her phone lights up again in her hand.
“And who are you texting all the time? Can you put the phone down for one minute and just do your job, just this once?”
Cat finally looks at Kara, seems to weigh her next words. “I realize that functional memory can be difficult to access under stress, but please, try to recall a story I pitched you earlier this summer: Governor Lane and the tax audit.”
Kara nods, then scrunches up her forehead even more. “But we’re not heading to the state capital.” The van goes over a bump, Taylor twitches.
“Brilliant observation,” Cat rolls her eyes and drops them back to her phone again, fingers tapping away furiously. “We are not heading for the state capital, because Governor Lane isn’t there today.”
Kara looks at her blankly, so surprised her face smooths out. “Is he at the festival?”
“No, we are not heading—” Cat sighs. “Governor Lane is at his summer home, at the shore,” she continues, squinting at the screen. Her face breaks into a slightly malevolent smile when it vibrates in her hands again. Kara leans over to see if she can read the message. “Demos has the correct address in the GPS, I don’t think he realized it wasn’t the festival.”
“And you want to ask the Governor about his taxes?” It hits Kara that the Spiedie Festival was only ever a distraction to get the crew and the van out. “Cat, I—“
“Oh, I’ll definitely be asking about his taxes, but I doubt he’ll answer.” She pockets her phone, then meets Kara’s eyes, a twinkle in her eyes that Kara hasn’t seen before. “It won’t matter. He’s about to be arrested by federal officers for embezzlement, bribery, and RICO violations.”
“Yes,” Cat sounds gleeful, she leans forward on the bench toward Kara, as if inviting her into the joke, finally. “We’re going to be there when it happens. Watch and learn, Kiera,” she settles back. “This is how you cover the news.”
Kara spends the next thirty minutes texting with Nia as the show starts back in the studio, drafting a lead-in for Andrea to handle, and trying to practice the deep-breathing exercises that Alex is always going on about. According to Cat, the arrest is supposed to happen at 8:15 a.m. and they’re going to arrive at the house at 7:40 or so. Her plan is to knock on the door and ask the Governor a few questions that they’ll get on tape for later use. Neither of them expects Governor Lane to answer questions for very long, so they’ll probably have to retreat to the end of the driveway until the arrest happens, but Cat will be able to broadcast from there as everything goes down, close enough that it will still be riveting and they should have a clear shot of the perp walk. By the time Demos is making the turn onto the sprawling property, Kara has woken Taylor up and briefed everyone on the plan.
Demos, Hix, and Taylor roll with the change spectacularly—they’re like a strike team, suiting up and getting Cat wired and the dish up and running within moments of parking just in front of the carriage house. She gets Nia on the phone to confirm that the satellite link is working. Kara is about to hang up, but at the last second, she decides to keep Nia on the line since there are so many moving parts to nail down in the twenty-five minutes between now and when the arrest is supposed to happen.
While Hix and Demos take point in front of the consoles to manage the recording and ensure that they have a connection to the studio for when they do go live, Kara follows Taylor and Cat onto the wraparound porch, directing Taylor to film everything for right now; they’ll be able to cut it later.
It starts as they expect. Governor Lane answers the door in his bathrobe, holding a mug of coffee. For a moment he’s pleased to see Cat, until she opens with a question about his alleged financial improprieties. The accusation sends the conversation south quickly and Kara jogs back to the van to let Demos know they may have to get back up the driveway sooner than planned.
“Nia, hang on—Demos?” Kara calls out, peering into the van. Hix and Demos have their headsets on, but Demos leans back in his seat at the console and lifts one of the ear cups.
“We’re uploading to the Daybreak server right now,” he says, “and Cat’s coming through fine. Recording levels are great right now. I’ll want to test it again when we’re in place for the live broadcast, but so far, so good, what do you need?”
A siren cuts through the quiet morning from somewhere close by, pulling Kara’s attention from Demos.
She turns away from the van, tracking the sound up the road and through a line of trees, and then has to stifle a gasp. Red and blue flashing lights are visible through the foliage, a line of unmarked vehicles turning down the long drive.
“Oh shit,” Kara says to herself.
“What?” Nia asks over the phone. “Kara I’m going to have to bring Andrea up to speed in a sec, she’s wrapping the segment and we’re about to cut to commerci—“
“Tell Andrea we’re going live right now.” She turns back to Demos and Hix. “We’re going live.” She spins around to face the house. “Cat! We’re going live!”
Jess is next to Hector’s desk, holding two disposable demitasse cups, and clearly waiting for Lena when she gets to work at 7:30. Lena takes the double shot Jess hands her as if it’s vodka instead of espresso, shooting it back before handing the drained cup to her startled friend. She heads straight to her desk.
“Okay,” drawls Jess, looking down into the now empty container, “so that’s the kind of morning we’re having then.” She tosses it into the trash under Hector’s desk, and glances up at Lena, following her inside. “When Sam texted that you were going to need a friendly face today, I thought she was just being the mom-friend. What’s going on?”
“I’m going to tell Lillian that if she doesn’t give Daybreak another quarter,” Lena rifles through the perfectly stacked papers, knocking them across the floor, trying to find the print-outs she’d sent Lillian, “then I quit.”
Jess makes a choked sound.
“Where the fuck is that folder…” Lena spins in a circle, one of her heels piercing clean through a page on the floor. She hops on the other foot, pulling the lacerated sheet off and letting it flutter back to the ground.
“I’m sorry, I thought I heard you say you were going to quit, but that can’t be right.” Jess is at the desk now. “What folder?”
“It’s dark green, says Daybreak on the front. And I did. I did say that.” Lena laughs, it comes out shrill. She feels a little manic, perhaps knocking back the coffee wasn’t a great idea. “Kara and I had a horrible fight and she said a bunch of things…” she trails off and stares down at the desk. “A bunch of things that are a little bit true. And I don’t want them to be true at all anymore.”
“Lena,” Jess lifts up a pile of papers that Lena has disturbed in her frenzy, and points to the folder she’s uncovered, “you’re not being particularly clear.”
Lena picks up the folder and starts leafing through it. Jess shifts next to her, clearly itching to ask another question, but letting Lena scan through the documents first.
A long minute passes while Lena skims the pages. Finding what she’s looking for, she snaps the folder closed and turns to her friend.
“Lex is announcing the cancellation of Daybreak this afternoon.” Jess’s eyes widen. “He doesn’t have a replacement plan, but he’s pulling the plug. Starting tomorrow, LBC no longer has a morning news show. And you and I both know that means eventually we won’t have news at all.” Lena glances down at the mess of papers on floor and then back up at Jess. “And I can’t work here if that’s going to happen. So, yes, unless my mother is willing to listen to reason, I quit.”
Jess purses her lips into a frown and nods, more to herself than to Lena. “Okay, great. Who’s going to give us jobs?”
“As if I’m going to work here under your brother without you.” Jess sits down in the chair opposite the desk and points at Lena’s chair. “But that’s a future-us problem. What’s your plan?”
Twenty minutes later, Jess walks Lena down the hallway to her mother’s office. It’s almost eight, and despite being aware of her own increasing heart rate and clammy hands, Lena feels a mostly encompassing sense of calm descend over her. The calm recedes a little when Lillian’s assistant waves her through, but not far enough to make her doubt the path she’s choosing.
Her step-mother is seated behind her desk, and she looks up when Lena enters, giving her a warm smile.
“Lena, thanks for stopping by. I’m about to have a very busy day so I appreciate you making time to meet early.”
“It’s fine,” Lena says, coming to a stop at the chair opposite Lillian. She puts a hand on the back of it, but doesn’t sit down. Lillian tilts her head in question, her smile melting into a small frown. “Before we begin, mother, I need to say something, if that’s alright.”
Lillian waves a hand, the gesture some approximation of go ahead and I’m confused At the invitation, Lena takes a deep breath and squares her shoulders, using the chair as an anchor.
“If you’re going to tell me to forget Lex and Daybreak, I won’t. I don’t care if you think I’m being unprofessional, or if you think I’m overstepping, because some things are more important, and the integrity of our programming is one of those things.”
The pleased expression on Lillian’s face almost throws Lena for a loop, but she’s spent the morning rehearsing this in her head and she’s not about to stop simply because the reaction isn’t what she anticipated.
“There are three major problems with pulling the plug today: one, I am convinced we have a leak, likely have for a while actually, and if we don’t find that leak, it may well damage LBC in some other way; two, there isn’t a viable replacement on deck, which was one of the major considerations in the board’s decision; and three, this has implications for LBC long-term that go well beyond a single show: our ethical obligation to providing a range of quality programming is at stake.”
Her mother makes no move to interrupt when Lena pauses, which is good because Lena isn’t quite done. There’s one more thing she has to say.
“And…” She steels herself and lets go of the chair. “And if this is where you tell me that I need to back off or consider a reassignment, then I need to tell you something—I’ll resign before I let LBC turn into the home shopping network.”
Lena’s breathless by the time she finishes, her heart thumping like a jack rabbit in her chest, but she feels strangely weightless, relieved in a way she hadn’t expected. Now that she’s crossed her Rubicon, there is no going back, and the decision is no longer up to her; the next move will be determined by whatever Lillian says in response.
She tries not to fidget as her mother fights a smile.
“Actually, dear,” Lillian starts, steepling her fingers and putting her elbows on the desk as she leans forward, “it’s quite the opposite. Take a seat, we have a lot to discuss.”
Lena pulls the chair out to sit down, just as Lillian’s assistant bursts into the office, startling both of them.
“Mrs. Luthor? I apologize for interrupting, but you need to turn on Daybreak right now.”
Lillian takes the remote from her desk drawer and turns slightly to a wall-mounted television set opposite the door. She turns it on and there on the screen is Cat Grant, not covering a rural food festival as Lena expects, but standing on the covered porch of a beachside mansion, Governor Lane in handcuffs at the edge of the shot.
Cat looks resplendent, narrating for viewers the extent of a sealed grand jury indictment against the Governor, a large graphics ticker splashed across the bottom of the screen with the words World Exclusive: Governor Lane faces federal charges.
Lena can’t help the gasp that escapes. Lillian smiles.
“Well now I’m very glad we didn’t contribute to his last campaign.” Lena nods reflexively, eyes fixed on the screen. “It would be a shame to cancel a show capable of this kind of coverage. Wouldn’t you agree, Lena?”
Lena snaps her head around to look at her mother, prepared to start yelling that this is exactly the point she’s been trying to make for months, but Lillian is smiling again, eyes twinkling with an expression so amused that Lena can’t find the words.
“Have you eaten?” Lena shakes her head mutely, Lillian picks up the phone. “I’ll send out for breakfast. We need to talk about your brother.”
“...We’ll have updates on LBC throughout the day as they come in. I’m Cat Grant, reporting live for Daybreak. Back to you, Andrea.” Cat smiles beatifically as Demos kills the live feed. Taylor flicks off the camera, and Hix calls from the van, “We’re out!”
Kara feels like collapsing on the ground, all of the adrenaline from the last thirty minutes finally dissipating. She wants to run around in a circle, she wants to yell, “We did it,” she wants to cry.
She wants to know if Lena watched it.
Kara busies herself helping to coil some of the wiring that Hix is trying to wrangle into the back of the van. When she accidentally ties one of the cords in a knot, Hix waves her off, saying that he’s got it, so Kara wanders off across the lawn, at loose ends without anything to do until they get back.
Now that the broadcast is over, she can appreciate the property more. The classic, shingle-style house is massive, two floors punctuated by small gabled windows along the roof. The weathered-grey wood of the sides mirrors the rocky grey beach visible between the main building and the carriage house, and, without the sirens or the distraction of getting Cat ready to go, she can hear the waves. She closes her eyes and listens to the water crash on the shore, breathes in the salt air, still cool, with only a hint of the heat to come.
“I know you think I don’t care,” comes Cat’s voice from behind her. Kara turns as the smaller woman steps up next to her and stares out at the surf. “Maybe in the beginning you were right.” Cat shrugs, squints a little in the sunlight. “But I do see how hard you work, and how you inspire everyone to bring their best.”
She pauses and Kara holds her breath.
“I wanted to show you that I could do that, too.”
Kara breaks into a smile, it crinkles her eyes. She chances another glance at Cat, but the woman is looking firmly into the distance.
“Was that a compliment?” She can’t help the unadulterated joy in her tone, and, sure, maybe she’s spent the last three months dreaming about all of the ways she could murder Cat, but she’s still Cat Grant. Kara’s just seen—in real time—the Cat Grant of old, the whole reason she wanted her on Daybreak. It’s probably the emotional gauntlet she’s run in the last twenty-four hours, but she feels a little punch drunk. “Did you just compliment me?”
“Don’t let it go to your head,” Cat huffs, a little grump creeping back into her tone. She brings her arms across her chest. “But...Kara,” Cat looks at her out of the corner of her eye to gauge Kara’s reaction to her actual name, “what we pulled off this morning is rather amazing.”
“It is,” Kara says, nodding and shifting her gaze back out to the horizon. In the distance she can make out a handful of boats making their way lazily across the bay. “So. Why didn’t you tell me this,” she gestures to the house, “is what you wanted to cover? You know I would have said yes.”
Cat lets out a soft harumph. “It’s no secret Daybreak has leaked like a sieve since you started. I’m not accusing you,” Cat shakes her head and cuts off Kara’s protest, “I’m simply observing a fact. Given that I have no reason to believe we’ve located the leak, I decided that it was best that I didn’t share what I actually wanted to do this morning.”
They stand there for a minute, the rhythmic crashing of the surf in front of them and the muffled sounds of the team continuing to pack up behind.
“Besides,” Cat says, breaking their reverie. “I didn’t get confirmation from my source at the FBI until yesterday morning.” She laughs lightly, as if considering something for the first time. “I have no idea what I would have done to convince you had GMA not decided to cover the boat show.”
“I’ve never been so glad to get scooped.” Kara can’t help laughing.
“But…” Cat fidgets, bites at her cheek and purses her lips together. “You said we’re being cancelled.”
She nods. “Lex is announcing it today.”
“That bastard.” Cat’s tone is venomous.
“I know,” Kara says, shaking her head and feeling a little of her good mood dissipate at the reminder. “I know. But if we have to go out, I’m glad we did it like this. Thank you, Cat.”
“No, Kara.” Cat turns to her. “Thank you.”
They arrive back at LBC a few minutes after 10, and Kara heads straight to her office to debrief the show with Nia before she leads her last morning meeting. It feels important to at least tell Nia what’s happening before Lex joins them and breaks the news. When she and Cat walk into the bullpen, though, the entire show seems to be waiting for them. Nearly every staff member is there, and as soon as Kara is through the door, they break out into a standing ovation. It’s so overwhelming that Kara’s heart starts to break at the idea that this—this amazing team that’s been welded into something like family—is about to be broken up.
She leaves Cat to bask in the attention and signals for Nia to follow her up the ladder to her office. Kara has just shut the door behind them when her landline rings.
Motioning for Nia to take a seat at the table, Kara walks over to her desk and picks up the handset.
“Kara Danvers, Daybreak.”
“Hello Ms. Danvers, I have Lillian Luthor on the line, please hold for a moment.”
Kara’s eyes bug out and Nia frowns at her. Kara covers the mouthpiece. “Lillian Luthor,” she mouths.
Nia’s eyebrows go up in tandem.
“Kara?” Lillan’s smooth voice comes over the line.
“Yes, this is, well, you know, hi Mrs. Luthor, it’s a pleasure, how can I help you?” Kara winces as Nia doubles over in (mostly) silent laughter, nearly falling out of her chair.
Kara can’t be sure, but she thinks Lillian might be stifling a giggle of her own. She puts a hand over her mouth and puffs out her cheeks to prevent any more words from escaping.
“I’m calling with some good news.”
Kara's traitorous heart starts to pick up speed—it can’t be...
“I believe Lex communicated to you that Daybreak is being cancelled today? We’ve changed direction somewhat.”
“We’re not being cancelled?” Kara barely gets it out. Nia stands up sharply at that, eyebrows drawn together in concern this time.
“Not for another year, at least. LBC values the space that Daybreak fills in our programming,” there is the barest of pauses, “and your tenure with the show has shown promise. Promise that we’d like to invest in. I wasn’t sure about keeping you on, but my daughter believes in you. And after this morning, I have to say, I’m willing to believe in you too. Show me what you can do.”
“Absolutely!” Kara can’t keep the relief out of her voice. “Yes, ma’am, we—I won’t let you down.”
“See that you don’t.”
And then there’s only a dial tone. Kara sets the receiver down, feeling as if the brief conversation was some sort of fever dream. One look at Nia, though, and she knows it wasn’t.
“Oh my god, Kara, what do you mean we were almost cancelled?” Nia hits her with a clipboard she picked up from Kara’s desk. “You let me sign a lease when I was almost out of a job?!”
“In my defense, I would have gotten fired for telling you.”
Morning meeting goes well, the entire staff riding high from Cat’s story, and from Kara sharing that they’re getting a budget boost over the next year (she doesn’t mention the almost cancellation). Still in a daze, Kara makes her way up to street level afterwards, wandering out into the blinding sun on the plaza.
She wonders if Lena knows about Lillian’s change of heart, and she can’t imagine Lillian hasn’t looped Lena in, but Lena hasn’t reached out. Could she be waiting for Kara to call? Kara digs her phone out of her pocket and pulls up Lena’s contact info. Kara knows she’s the one who messed up badly last night, she needs to be the one to fix this—assuming Lena still wants that.
She’s about to hit ‘call’ when her phone starts to ring in her hand, it’s a Metropolis number she doesn’t recognize. She answers.
“Speaking,” Kara says, a little wary.
“This is Lauren Haley over at The Today Show. How are you?”
“I’m...fine?” She’s confused, actually, but fine will do. “How’re you?” Gosh why is she always so awkward over the phone.
“I’m great. Nice job on the Governor this morning,” Lauren continues, “listen, I’m calling because we recently learned we’ve got you to thank for half of our major stories over the last four months. Any chance you’re interested in talking about bringing that talent over here?”
“What?” Kara says.
“Your work is great, and, honestly, we think you’d be a huge asset over here. Imagine what you could do with a proper news room and a real budget.”
“I’m, uh, flattered?” What is even happening right now. “I’m not sure I’m looking at the moment, but, thank you.”
“I bet Lillian’s throwing a lot at you to keep you,” Lauren says, laughing. “Well, let us know if anything changes, we’d love to sit down with you.”
Kara leans against a nearby planter after Lauren hangs up, staring at her phone in disbelief. The Today Show. Her dream job just called and instead of feeling excited about it, instead of leaping at the chance, the only thing she wants to do right now is see Lena.
Kara knows what she needs to do.
Kara shuts the door to Lena’s office gently behind her and steps into the room.
“I brought you lunch,” she says, walking the bag over to the couch. Lena watches her from the desk. “I wasn’t sure you’d stop to eat today. And you don’t have to eat with me if you don’t want to, and I get it, totally, if you’re not ready to listen to my apology yet,” Kara turns away from Lena to put the bag down on the low table, starts unpacking the contents, “but I love you, and I know you don’t take care of yourself when you’re stressed, and seeing as I’m the cause of that stress right now, it only felt fair that I do something about the whole you-not-meeting-your-needs thing. So.” She nods down at the table and then looks back at Lena. “I brought you lunch.”
Lena is standing next to her desk when Kara finishes, backlit by the midday sun streaming through her office windows, all of Metropolis on view behind her. She’s twisted her hands together, is pulling at her left thumb, rubbing it between the fingers on her right hand, and looking like she’s about to cry. Kara panics a little.
“It’s fine, if you don’t want to see me right now, or if you’re still mad.” She steps towards Lena without even thinking about it. All she wants to do right now is make Lena feel better, to fix this thing she feels like she’s broken, and proximity feels like the only way to do that. “I just, tell me what you want, and I’ll do it. I’ll leave or I’ll stay, or you can call me…”
Lena shakes her head.
“Okay, does that mean you don’t want to call me, or you want me to stay, because I’m not really sure—”
“You love me.”
Kara freezes. I love you. She said that, didn’t she? Blurted it out without even realizing it. For a second, she thinks about saying that it doesn’t matter right now, but she knows that’s not true and, moreover, the fragile expression on Lena’s face isn’t unhappiness, it’s hope...
“I do,” Kara says. “I do love you. And it kills me that I hurt you.” She starts walking towards Lena again. “Everything that’s happened today—this morning with Cat, your mom letting me know that Daybreak is safe, a super weird call from The Today Show offering me a job—all of it happened, and each time, the only person I wanted to share it with was you. You’re the only thing that’s felt a hundred percent right in my life over the past few months…” She’s standing in front of Lena now, and she reaches forward for Lena’s hands, still twisted together. She gently prises them apart and holds them loosely in each of her own. “Sometimes, it feels like I lose everything I love—I think, maybe, I got mad at you because it was easier than having you realize I’m not enough and deciding to walk away.”
The laugh that Lena lets out is wet, and a tear escapes down her cheek. “Don’t you see what you’ve accomplished?”
Kara shakes her head. “I just know it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not there with me when it happens.” She tugs Lena into her, dropping their hands in favor of wrapping her arms around Lena’s shoulders, holding her close.
“Lex was sabotaging the show.”
Lena says it into Kara’s neck, as she sags against her, and Kara’s jaw drops. Lena moves her head so her voice is less muffled, but she doesn’t let go. “Lillian figured it out. Apparently he was sending your stories to all three other networks through contacts in exchange for information on what shows they have in development. She fired him. And there’s a morality clause in our inheritance, so he loses his shares, too.”
“Wow,” Kara says. “Holy crap, I mean, what—your brother?” She’s flabbergasted, although she gets the sense that Lena isn’t.
Lena nods, her nose rubbing at Kara’s collarbone through her button up.
“She caught onto him after I confronted her about you.”
“He was blaming you for Daybreak ’s difficulties, said that you’d been constantly reaching out to him for direction, asking for stories and leads, and that you were completely unable to generate ideas.”
Kara pulls back, indignant, but Lena tightens her hold on Kara’s waist. “He what?” From this close, Kara can see that her lashes are wet, Lena’s heels bringing them nearly eye level.
“I defended your honor convincingly enough that she started wondering what else he’d been lying about.”
“Good to know you’re on my side.”
Lena drops her head back down to Kara’s shoulder. “I’m always on your side.”
Over plastic containers of vermicelli and lemongrass beef, Lena takes Kara through her meeting with Lillian that morning, starting with Lex’s duplicity and ending with watching Cat pull off what might be the story of the year. She puts into context the magnitude of Kara’s success in the face of an active crusade on Lex’s part stemming back more than a year to cut Daybreak, beginning with a pattern of purposeful poor hiring, budget cuts, and transfer of key personnel to other shows within LBC.
“—and even if none of that were true,” Lena says, putting down noodles and laying her chopsticks over the container, “even if Daybreak failed and you left LBC, none of that matters because I fell in love with who you are, Kara Danvers, not what you do.” Kara’s heart wants to burst as Lena pauses and looks across the office, but she continues before Kara has a chance to reach across the couch, and what she says next stops Kara in her tracks. “I think that’s why it hurt so much, when you accused me of letting Lex do this, because I was trying and,” her eyes are just the slightest bit watery as she looks back at Kara, “it felt like you were telling me that unless I could do more, unless I was willing to sacrifice more, then I wouldn’t be enough for you.”
“No!” Kara does reach for Lena now, grasping her hand and pulling it into her lap, holding it between her own. “Oh gosh, no, Lena I was upset and mad at your brother and LBC, and like I said, I reacted by trying to push you away. I was asking you to do things that weren’t your job, that I never—I was grasping at straws.”
“You helped me see that I needed to try harder,” Lena admits. “I told my mother this morning that I was going to resign if she let Daybreak get cancelled...and I’d never have done that if you hadn’t convinced me that this was worth fighting for.”
“You threatened to quit if Lillian didn’t save Daybreak?”
“And is that why it’s saved?”
“No.” Lena laughs, and runs a finger on her free hand underneath each eye, catching her mascara where it’s started to smudge. “That was all you, and your staff. In the end, Lex never could see past his own plans—he hired you figuring you’d tank the show and, when you didn’t, he panicked. If I didn’t idolize him so much, I would’ve realized he was the leak a lot sooner.” She gives a lopsided sort of shrug. “He’s my brother and I didn’t want it to be him, even though I think part of me knew...But, ah, it’s good to hear that you know you crossed some boundaries.” Her fingers twitch inside the hold that Kara has on her hand. “Because Lillian asked me if I’d be interested in taking Lex’s position now that he’s out.”
“Lena, that’s amazing!” Kara can barely contain her excitement, she practically bounces. “Your vision for LBC—“
“I want to take it,” Lena continues, eyebrows knitting together and looking inexplicably nervous, “but Kara, I can’t do that job if, when we end up disagreeing on things—which will happen, you take it out on me…”
“No, Lena, I promise we’ll figure it out. We can talk to HR about whether or not there are rules I should follow, and you need to know: Kelly gave me the name of someone who specializes in grief and I,” she tugs at Lena’s hand gently and Lena takes the hint, shuffling sideways until she’s tucked under Kara’s arm, “I don’t ever want you to feel like you have to choose between me and your family or anything else that’s important to you, and I don’t ever want to make you feel like I did, just because I’m hurting.”
“Good.” She can feel Lena relax into her, the remaining tension leaking out of her.
“So…” Kara presses a kiss to Lena’s hairline. “You’re in love with me?”
“Yes,” Lena says, starting to play with Kara’s fingers, twisting their hands together and dragging her fingers along Kara’s. “I’m glad you’re paying attention.” Kara can hear her smile, even if Lena is looking down at her lap.
“I’m in love with you, too.”
“Well that’s lucky,” Lena says, laughing beautiful and bright, and it fills Kara to the brim.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d caught that,” Kara teases, marveling at how unbelievably, incandescently happy she feels. She knows the size of her smile is ridiculous but it can’t be helped. She’s in love with Lena. And Lena’s in love with her, too.
“Mmm. I did.”
Lena starts running her thumb and index finger along Kara’s palm, tracing the lines. They sit in comfortable silence for a while, content to hold and be held, until Lena brings her fingers to a stop on Kara’s palm and returns to something she said earlier.
“The Today Show? My mother is going to be so pissed at Lauren.” She sounds amused.
“I didn’t say yes.”
Kara nudges Lena with her shoulder until Lena looks up at her. “What about Daybreak?”
“Well, you’ve saved it.” Lena’s tone makes it seem like it’s obvious. “You’ve started the show in the right direction again; in the absence of active sabotage, I think it’ll be okay...not number one, but okay.”
“I don’t know,” Kara says, the corners of her mouth ticking down slightly. “Don’t you think I have an obligation to it now?”
“Darling, on a personal level, I want you to be wherever you can do the most good.” Lena looks dead serious, her eyebrows even and forehead smooth. “And, whether I like it or not, The Today Show is the biggest morning platform there is.”
She says it so earnestly, as though her biggest concern in the world is that Kara might not reach her full potential. It makes Kara fall in love with her even more: Lena wants what’s best for her, no matter what it means for LBC.
“At least consider it,” Lena says, and Kara nods. “Professionally, though,” Lena narrows her eyes, “I’m going to fight tooth and nail to keep you.” She grins at Kara. “How do new doorknobs sound?”
“Doorknobs, you say?” Kara lets out a snort. “That’s a start.”
Two weeks later, Kara is seriously considering calling Lauren Haley back and seeing if that offer is still open.
Cat is being completely untenable—she won’t do anything Kara asks, she’s dismissive, insulting, even downright rude. It’s a regression to their earliest days, the magnitude of which is simply stunning. When Kara confronts her about it, Cat looks at her cooly and says, “You don’t like working with me? I hear The Today Show has an opening for you.”
And that’s the last straw really, because, if Kara’s being honest, the reason she turned the offer down in the first place is that she thought Cat finally turned a corner, really thought that they were on the cusp of something special.
But Cat’s made it clear that the only thing they’re on the cusp of is Kara’s nervous breakdown.
So, with Lena telling her it really is okay, Kara calls Lauren Haley back and says she’s interested, asks if they’d still like to talk to her. Lauren invites her in for a chat with their executive team the following week at 8:00 a.m., right in the middle of the morning show broadcast.
Over potstickers and red wine, Lena explains that it’s a tactic meant to see if Kara is serious about leaving, and tells her to take the interview. Kara accepts it, but finds she wants to tell her senior staff ahead of time, not wanting to lie about where she’s going.
“No hard feelings,” Winn says, after she breaks the news. “We love you, like, totally love you, and, god, do I wish you were staying, but also, wow, The Today Show, you know?” Nia hits his arm to shut him up.
“Damn, Kara,” James says, nodding in agreement, and sitting back in his chair. He rubs at the back of his head. “I mean, I get it, but damn.”
Nia turns to Kara. “You’re going to kill the interview and they’re going to give you the job and I am going to hit Lauren Haley with my car if I ever see her in person.” Nia smiles, as if imagining it. “What does she look like again?”
“I don’t really—” Kara starts, but Nia waves her off.
“Never mind, this is what LinkedIn is for.”
“Totally,” Winn nods. “Plus, asking you to come in while our show airs? That’s playing dirty.”
“Nah, you guys have this.” And Kara means it, they do. “Anyway, their building is, like, five minutes away. I’ll be back before we even hit the third hour.”
On the day of the interview, Kara waits as long as she possibly can before leaving. They’ve cut to commercial when she makes her way down from the production booth and sneaks out through the emergency exit off the soundstage. As she slips through the fire door, Kara overhears Andrea leaning over and telling Cat, in no uncertain terms, that this is all Cat’s fault.
“Finally a decent executive producer, a decent show,” Andrea hisses as Cat tracks Kara’s exit, “they’re going to hire her, you know that, right? They’re going to hire her and it’ll be all your fault.”
Andrea’s words and Cat’s stare occupy most of Kara’s conscious thoughts during the three block walk over to NBC. Lauren is there to greet her at security and they walk upstairs, making small-talk about their end-of-summer and Memorial Day plans, but Kara can’t push Daybreak from her mind. Even when she meets the rest of the NBC executive team, she finds she can’t remember their names less than two minutes after the introductions.
Lauren sets them up in a large, brightly lit conference room with a view that includes LBC Tower and four televisions on mute along the back wall—each of the morning shows playing silently. The team seems really excited to meet her, and Kara tries, really, she does, to be present. After nearly every question, Lauren nods and looks around at her colleagues as if to say, See? This is the one we want, and Kara wants to match their excitement...but she just can’t.
“In respect to sports,” Kara says, trying to concentrate on the latest question, something about her approach to sports programming given morning television’s general demographics, “I think that it's really important to reach out to women through their kids because it's not that big of a step to go from being a soccer mom to, you know, a…” Her eyes flicker to Daybreak.
That’s weird, she thinks to herself, why are they on the kitchen set? The camera pans away from a hand drying several mushrooms and Cat Grant comes into view. Kara’s heart stops.
“Oh, my God. What is she doing?” She gives up all pretense, gesturing at the televisions. “Sorry, I’m so...this is...we’re not supposed to have a kitchen segment today, Cat Grant might be having a nervous breakdown on air. That's kind of big news.” She gives a slightly manic laugh. Maybe Cat isn’t the only one having a nervous breakdown. “Can you, I’m so sorry, but can you…” Kara stands up and walks over to a small table by the monitors with remotes on it. She finds the correct one and unmutes Daybreak.
“...a meal for their afternoon repast,” Cat says, partially grating a block of cheese before breaking a series of eggs into a metal bowl, “something they could make using whatever ingredients they had available.”
“Holy shit,” says Lauren, turning around in her chair. “Cat Grant does a cooking segment for you guys?”
“I've been making frittata for about twenty years now,” Cat continues as she whisks, “ever since I was taught how to, on a positively sybaritic weekend with a gorgeous Italian movie star, who shall, of course, remain nameless.” She winks at the camera. “Occasionally, I make them at home. But only for people that I...people I really care about.” Cat clears her throat and takes a breath as she sets the bowl down next to a cast iron pan, heating up over an open flame. She holds her palm over the pan briefly and adjusts the burner. “Now, the key to a great frittata is a very hot pan, because that, friends, is what makes it,” Cat looks directly into the camera, flashing a small smile, “fluffy.”
Kara’s phone starts vibrating in her pocket. With the entire NBC team glued to the television, she pulls it out and glances down. It’s Lena. She swipes to answer without thinking, eyes already back on Cat, but doesn’t say anything. She’s been rendered speechless by the scene unfolding over at Daybreak.
“Kara?” Lena’s voice sounds mildly concerned. “I know you’re at your interview, but Kara. Is there a TV around, can you turn on Daybreak?”
“I’m watching her right now,” Kara breathes out.
“She’s not going to ask you twice, darling.” Lena pauses. “What’s your answer?”
Apologizing profusely to a very confused Lauren and the rest of the interview panel, Kara leaves. She practically flies back to LBC, dodging pedestrians and cutting through traffic rather than wait for the lights. Is Cat going to be perfect after this? No, no way, and she knows better than to expect that. But Kara doesn’t need perfect ; she just needs to know that Cat wants this, wants Daybreak, wants Kara to be the one leading the way.
And this? Making a frittata on morning television, saying the word fluffy on a national broadcast, sharing personal details about herself with viewers? Cat may as well have painted it on a billboard or written it in the sky.
James greets her at the door of the booth when she bursts back into the studio, Cat continuing to hold court in the kitchen. He’s obviously flustered. “It was nuts,” he starts, not even bothering to ask her how the interview went, “she started running around yelling for eggs, what the fuck is she doing?”
“She’s asking me to stay,” Kara says, grabbing her headset and walking over to her chair. “I can’t believe it. She’s asking me to stay.”
“Oh my god, Kara, you should have seen it,” Nia whispers, holding her mic away from her face as soon as Kara’s taken her seat. On the monitor, Cat is gesturing to the oven and talking about optimal temperatures. “As soon as you left, it was like a pool of piranhas. Piranhas, Kara.” Nia shakes her head like she can’t believe it. “Andrea said something to her, and the next thing I know, Brainy walks right up to Cat and tells her that there is, and I’m quoting here, ‘a one hundred percent chance that they extend you a job offer’ and a ‘ninety-nine point five percent chance’ that you take the offer.”
Kara feels a swell of affection for Brainy as Nia keeps going.
“And as soon as he finished, Gayle walks up like she’s been waiting for this moment, and says that she finally has a decent makeup and wardrobe budget, and would Cat prefer to be dressed in burlap with a drugstore lip liner instead. Burlap!”
“She didn’t!” Kara’s eyes widen, and she turns away from the monitor to see Nia nodding.
“She did,” Nia confirms. “And then Winn! Winn asked her if she wanted to end her career interviewing the losers of school board races, because that’s who he used to be able to book before you came along.”
“I know.” Nia’s expression is deadly serious. “And then I delivered the,” she affects a french accent, “pièce de résistance: I walked right up to the desk and said, ‘Kara always says stronger together, Cat. We’re stronger when she’s part of this team.’” She mimes dropping a mic. “And then James cut back from commercial, and it was her segment, but she froze so we cut to Andrea, and that’s when Cat lost her shit and ran off the soundstage asking for eggs.”
Nia’s eyebrows are practically at her hairline, like she can’t believe that’s how it played out.
Kara is still gobsmacked herself, but she turns her attention back to Cat, who is beginning to wrap up.
“...many people like a glass of dry white wine to pair with it, a Gavi di Gavi, perhaps. I, myself, like a Barolo to match the leek, fontina, and mushrooms I’ve chosen.” Cat has taken the pan out of the oven, her hands covered by blue oven mitts, and she’s holding it at an angle so that the camera can get a close up. She takes a spatula to the sides. “I'll just free up the edges,” she says, sliding it onto a plate on the counter, then looking back up at the camera and slipping off the oven mitts.
“Next week on the show, I'll show you how to make a fantastic beignet, using a recipe shared with me by the family that founded the famous Cafe du Monde in the New Orleans French Market. You won’t want to miss it.”
Kara wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Lena is waiting on the sound stage when they wrap the broadcast, beaming at Kara while she walks down from the booth. The tech guys are already moving the sets into place for cleaning, shifting cameras and boom mics around, while staff scurry about to put everything away. Andrea and Cat are talking, seated at the final news desk, and, for once, it doesn’t seem like murder is imminent.
Kara wonders if she should feel as conflicted as she does about that. The ratings...
“You know,” Lena says when Kara’s within earshot, “she's still the third worst person in the world.” But she’s grinning at Kara when she says it and her voice is light.
“Yes, I know.” Kara rolls her eyes, a smile stretching her face. She can feel the corners of her eyes crinkle, and she reaches out a hand that Lena grabs without hesitation.
“Great show!” Someone calls out to her as they pass.
Andrea finally stands up from the desk, pushing her chair back and picking up her show notes. She walks over to where Lena and Kara are standing between cameras.
“Lena, Kara.” She nods at them.
“Hi Andy,” Lena says, giving her a genuine smile.
Andrea seems to think about what she’s going to say for a moment and Kara braces herself. When it finally comes, she has to struggle not to laugh.
“I want a tropical fruit plate,” Andrea huffs out, before whirling off in the direction of her dressing room.
“You heard the woman.” Lena squeezes her hand and leans into Kara’s side. “You know, if a tropical fruit plate satisfies her, then I’ve grossly underestimated your capacity for talent management.”
Kara grins wider. “I’ll have to see if it’s in our budget.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll find room for that,” Lena says, rolling her eyes. “It’s whatever comes after that I’m not so sure about...”
“Whatever comes after what,” Cat asks, making her way up to them.
“We’re about to be overrun by papaya,” Kara offers. Cat narrows her eyes, probably trying to gauge whether or not Kara’s making a joke at her expense.
“Yes, well,” Cat shifts her weight, trying to appear disinterested, “I wanted to see how your interview went.”
Kara considers playing with her for a moment, but it doesn’t seem like the right foot to start out on, considering the size of the olive branch that Cat just extended. Instead, she goes for something she knows will answer Cat’s question.
“Only for people you care about, huh?”
“Yes,” Cat’s cheeks go pink, her blush visible even beneath the heavy foundation she wears on camera, “well, ‘care’ can be a relative term, but...yes.”
“I’m going to ask you to rehearse the beignet segment.”
“I don’t need to rehe—” Cat takes a deep breath. “Fine. That isn’t unreasonable. I’m also not averse to finding some way to make this a regular thing, but it’s over the moment someone calls me Julia Child,” she says, her eyes flashing. Kara doesn’t doubt it. Cat starts to turn away. “If that’s all, I’d like to change before the meeting?”
“Sure, Cat. And…” Kara thinks about all the things she wants to say. She settles on something simple, after all, they’ve got time. “Thank you.”
Cat pauses. “I meant what I said, Kara, at Governor Lane’s, about what you do, how you inspire people to bring out their best.” Lena’s eyes go wide, possibly at the right name coming out of Cat’s mouth. “...I think I might be ready to let you bring out my best.” And then, with what must be truly monumental effort, she glances over and adds, “It’s not unpleasant to see you, Lena. I hear LBC has good things in its future.”
She’s gone before Lena can recover, and Kara nearly falls over laughing. “Your face, oh my gosh, Lena, your face.”
“I swear to god, Kara, what are you putting in her water?”
Kara can only shake her head and pull her girlfriend into a kiss, heedless of the bustle around them. As she pulls back, her eyes taking in Lena’s pleased smile and the organized chaos of the studio, she can’t help laughing again.
“What is it?” Lena asks, her expression fond.
“Nothing,” she replies, overwhelmed with something she can’t quite put into words right now. “Or everything, maybe. Walk me to my office?”
Lying in bed that night, with Lena fast asleep beside her, and thinking about the last five or so months of her life since she was fired from Morning Midvale, Kara finally puts a name to the overwhelming feeling: fulfillment.
It’s been a very long journey to get to this place, literally and metaphorically; sometimes it feels like she’s traveled light years, as if her life with her parents was on another planet. She pictures them, tries to imagine what they’d look like now—tries to imagine them older—but finds that she can’t: they’re forever as they were on the day they died, old only in the way that all parents seem to their children.
There are so many things she never got to ask them, so many things she wants to show them. She wonders, going over the same questions she asks herself everyday, would they love Lena as much as she does? Would they see Daybreak and be proud of her? Is this all—everything she’s done and who she's become—enough for them?
She thinks back to what Alex said to her in the car when she thought everything was falling apart: living is enough.
Today, something about those questions is different. There’s still no answer to any of them, there never will be. Sometimes life is like that.
But today, for the first time in a very long time (in her entire memory, in fact), the lack of answers doesn’t drive her toward the pain of losing her parents. Instead, it drives Kara to a different question entirely:
Is her life—and all of the people and places and work she’s brought into it—enough for her?
And that question has a very easy answer.