Cat Grant stared down at the sturdy box that had just arrived at the door of her beach house. The note on the item had simply stated, “I know how much you wanted this. It is my privilege to find it for you. Thank you, for always being my hero. K.”
Carter came downstairs as the delivery driver left. “What did you order?” he asked.
“Nothing,” Cat said with a shake of her head. “Apparently, Kara thought she needed to send me a thank you gift for her promotion.”
Carter smiled brightly. “That does sound like her. What is it?”
Cat rolled her eyes. “Well, the driver needed a signature of someone over twenty-one, so I am assuming it’s alcohol.”
“Don’t roll your eyes,” Carter said. “That’s a nice gift. I’m sure she knows what you like as well as you do.”
“True,” Cat said as she carried the box to the table and then grabbed a knife to cut the tape holding the package closed.
Carter hurried alongside her.
Once Cat lifted the packing material, she gasped as she looked down on the custom leather case, deep brown with white stitching, golden words that explaining what it held.
SINGLE MALT WHISKY
Distillery Banffshire, Scotland
AGED 50 YEARS
“Holy crap! How much are you paying Kara?” Carter’s eyes widened.
“Not that much,” Cat said, her shock making her ignore Carter’s language.
It was the Balvenie 1962. The rare vintage had been put into its barrel on June 29th of that year. Cat knew that because she had wanted a bottle, but it had already been sold out ten years before it was even bottled.
It had aged in that same barrel until it was bottled in 2014. She hesitated to touch it, especially since Kara had ordered it. Which meant Kara clearly must have a very large second income.
Kara certainly had known of Cat’s desire to own it, and she had to have purchased it through a secondary market, meaning the price that had to be between 30 and 50 thousand dollars.
Carter smiled. “I knew she liked you.”
Cat glared at him even as she lifted the bottle out of the custom holder and placed it on the table.
“Mom,” Carter began, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I know Kara likes you.”
Cat shook her head, but quietly stared at the bottle.
Carter’s voice softened. “She looks at you like you’re the most incredible, precious gift she’s ever seen, and she’s seen most of the galaxy.”
“Neither of us is supposed to know the extent of her journeys.” She scowled at him. “And we are not discussing the hypothetical emotions Kara may or may not have again, young man.” She ran her fingers down the bottle. “Especially with this bottle just begging to be tasted.”
Carter chuckled and grabbed a whisky glass, handing it to his mother. “I’ll bet she even knows it was started by our relative,” he whispered.
“She probably does,” Cat whispered. She hadn’t told Kara that bit of information, but she wouldn’t put it past Kara to figure it out. William Grant had been born in Scotland in 1839. At 7 years old, he and his younger brother Charles - who was Cat’s great-great-great-grandfather - had become cattle herders to keep the family fed. William worked several jobs but ended up at Morloch distillery where he learned the trade. He left in 1886, bought the Balvenie Castle, and turned it into a distillery. That same distillery had made this bottle of scotch Cat was so eager to try.
Cat’s direct relative, Charles, born in 1841, left his job as a cattle herder after ten years, when he was 15 years old. Charles went to work as a cabin boy on a ship. He worked his way up the ranks and ended up owning seven merchant vessels by the time he immigrated to the US in 1887.
“Well, are you gonna try it?” Carter asked, breaking the spell Cat seemed to be under.
“Do you even need to ask?” she said with a laugh. She opened the bottle and poured herself a double. She took her time, lifting the glass to study the honey-colored liquid before bringing it under her nose and inhaling deeply. “Oh, my god,” she whispered as the notes of dried apricot and spices filled her senses.
“Don’t even try to get me to taste that,” Carter said with a laugh. “Scotch is gross.” He shuddered. “Alcohol is gross, but scotch seems to go out of its way to taste awful.”
“It’s an acquired taste, darling.” She eyed him with a playfully stern glance. “One you will not be acquiring until after college.”
“Aren’t you going to call Kara to thank her?” he asked.
Cat scoffed. “Kara’s first question is going to be whether I liked it or not.” She inhaled the aroma again. “It would be rude not to try it first.”
Carter patted her shoulder. “Whatever you say, Mom.” He turned and walked down the hall. “FYI, that is not a gift from just an employee. Maybe she’s reminding you she isn’t under your direct report anymore.”
Cat rolled her eyes. “I’ll let HR know you’ll be starting next week,” she called after him. She stared down at the glass and thought of the beautiful blonde who was never far from her thoughts. Maybe, just maybe, Carter was right. She reached out and moved her phone closer, and then took a slow draw from the glass. “Oh, my.” She placed the glass down and had to process what she was experiencing. It was the single best scotch she had ever tasted. “I should marry that woman.”
In the other room, Carter wasn’t waiting to make his call. He pressed Kara’s contact number and smiled when she picked up on the first ring.
“Carter!” Kara said excitedly. “It’s so great to hear from you. Everything okay?”
“Everything is fine,” he said with a smirk that would make his mother proud. “Congratulations on the best gift choice ever, by the way.”
“Wait, how do you know about that?” she asked. “Did your mom get an email from the airport?”
“No,” he said with a giggle. “She’s in the living room trying it right now.”
“Carter, tell me exactly what you mean.” Kara’s voice was suddenly all Supergirl.
“The Balvenie 1962?” he asked. “It was just delivered.”
“Stop her from drinking it, now!” She ended the call and spun into her suit. She was out the window of her loft in a millisecond, and she set off sonic booms across the entire flightpath to Cat’s beach house. Kara had ordered that exact whiskey for Cat, but it could only be purchased at the Hong Kong airport for some ungodly reason. Kara had planned to pick it up later in the week because the company did not ship the prized scotch.
As the beach house came into view, she heard Carter’s voice and he sounded terrified.
“Mom!” Carter rushed to Cat’s side. She was on the floor and he felt for her pulse, which was already weak and far too slow. There was a half empty glass on the coffee table. He looked up at the sound of a loud thud on the deck just in time to see Supergirl yank open the sliding glass door. “Kara! Her pulse is weak. What happened?”
Kara was at Cat’s side in a blur and quickly scanned her chest with her x-ray vision even as she tapped the Bluetooth in her right ear. “This is Supergirl. I have a MCIS 5 event. I’m bringing in one victim, probable poisoning, unknown toxin, MCIS category 55043. I’ll be there as fast as I can.”
Carter’s eyes widened.
Kara turned toward the boy. “Call Allison, she’s the on-call nanny today. I have to go. Will you be okay?”
Carter nodded even as Kara lifted Cat into her arms as if she were made delicate porcelain. She grabbed the bottle of scotch and flew out the open door. As she picked up speed, she tucked Cat closer to her body, accelerating as much as she dared.
Susan Vasquez’s voice cut through the sound of the wind. “Say again, Supergirl. Have you been poisoned?”
“Negative,” Kara responded. “I am en route with a 46-year-old human woman. She ingested an unknown amount of a poison. She was targeted because of me.”
“I copy. Inbound with a 46-year-old human woman exposed to unknown poison MCIS severity 5, category 55043.” Vasquez typed as she answered, sending off the information to the medical bay.
“Her pulse is weak and thready.” Kara’s voice cracked. “She drank the poison minutes ago, but she’s pale, and sweaty.”
“Supergirl,” Alex Danvers’ voice came over the Bluetooth. “What’s your ETA? I have medical on the way to the base entrance.”
“I have the base in sight. I’ll be inside before they can get to the door. Get them to the med-bay and I’ll bring her there myself.” Kara’s tears were blown out of her eyes.
Kara dove down to a soft-landing at the base entrance. “Door!” she yelled.
The two guards quickly opened the thick doors and barely moved out of the way just before she used superspeed to blur through the entrance.
Alex had the medical bay prepared. She knew if Kara was giving military designations the Kryptonian was trying to hold herself together. MCIS, the Military Combat Injury Scale was a fast way to give the receiving medical team a clear idea what to expect. Severity 5 was ‘likely lethal’ and death was expected within minutes of the injury. Category 55043 was all too well known at the DEO because of their frequent interaction with alien compounds. Category 55043 was the designation for “Toxic gas exposure w/immediate lethality.” The DEO had adapted it for any exposure to an alien compound that could lead to immediate death.
The door burst open, and Alex watched as Kara dropped out of superspeed. She was shocked to see her sister tenderly place Cat Grant onto the gurney.
Kara handed the bottle of scotch to the nearest technician. “The poison was in this. She couldn’t have had much.” She let out a sob. “They addressed it from me. Cat would never have opened it if she didn’t trust me so much.”
“Kara, you’re faster. Get it to the lab, now!” Alex quickly placed an oxygen mask over Cat’s nose and mouth. Alex glanced at Dr. Norris. “Get the crash cart open.”
Kara was gone in a blur and was back beside the gurney as Alex cut off Cat’s shirt and bra with trauma shears.
Lieutenant Casey started an IV and quickly filled what seemed like a dozen blood vials before she hung a liter of normal saline in the rapid infuser.
“The lab,” Lieutenant Casey told Kara as she shoved the vials at her.
Kara was gone and back and instant later, watching as Alex attached the EKG electrode pads and synched them with the monitor. The DEO used a wireless system that was faster than the traditional system. She then attached the wireless blood pressure cuff.
Alex’s expression was grim. Cat’s heart rate was 40 and unstable, and her blood pressure was a dismal 60/40. “Casey, use the infuser to get these onboard ASAP and get a second liter ready.”
Dr. Norris moved to the IV line. “One ML of 1 to 10K Epi?” he asked.
“Affirmative.” Alex used her penlight to check Cat’s eyes. “Pupils fixed and dilated.” Her tone was bleak, and her gaze shifted to the monitor as the drug was delivered. Cat’s heart rate increased to 55. “Start her on an Epi drip.”
Kara watched, frozen in place. She was startled into action when Lieutenant Casey rushed to her side and asked her a barrage of questions.
Lieutenant Casey asked questions as if she was firing at a range. Each question used only the fewest words, and she added the answers into the computer even as she asked the next.
Kara rattled off Cat’s age, height, weight, past medical history, medications, allergies, the route of exposure, the amount she ingested, time of ingestion, progression of symptoms, and the time between ingestion and arrival at the base.
Once the questions were answered, there was nothing else Kara could do. She stood helplessly and watched the woman she had secretly loved for years.
Alex moved as if she had superpowers. She checked and rechecked readings and adjusted the three IVs accordingly.
After what felt like hours, but had actually only been 20 minutes, the lab called. Alex answered the call and as she listened, her expression shifted between anger, fear, and then sadness as the lab tech explained that the toxin was a mix of alien compounds that included four that only existed, to their knowledge, in the locked DEO freezer. Most disturbingly, it included a chemical they had only ever found in the Black Mercy that had nearly killed Kara.
Kara listened with her heightened hearing, and her expression started with anger, shifted to rage, and then became calmly murderous.
Alex hung up the phone and turned to her sister, taking a step back when she saw that Kara’s eyes were glowing around the edges. “Kara, you need to calm down. Your heat vision is about to go off.” She knew her sister had heard every word.
Kara’s eyes didn’t change as she took a step toward Alex. “How did whoever did this get their hands on those compounds? Do you have antidotes?”
Alex spoke softly, hoping to calm her sister. “We don’t know how, but we only have an antidote to the Earth based poisons and two of the alien compounds.”
“Who has access?” Kara’s voice was devoid of emotion.
The door to the medical bay opened and Hank Henshaw, the DEO’s commander, who was also an alien from Mars, entered the room. He had felt Alex’s fear and hurried to intervene. “We’re tracing that right now,” he told Kara.
“The Black Mercy died.” Kara moved in a blur and stopped in front of him. “How can that toxin even exist?”
“We took samples and froze them while you were unconscious,” he said quietly.
“Who else has it?” Kara knew enough about the government to know they wouldn’t risk leaving something so valuable in only one location.
Hank looked down and took a deep breath before his eyes met hers. “The records show that only one vial, three milliliters, left the base.”
“Name,” Kara nearly growled. She saw him hesitate. “The name or I tear this base to the ground to find it. The only chance Cat has is if we know the exact compound concentrations.”
Alex moved closer and rested her hand on her sister’s arm. “We’ll get it,” she said gently. “I’m sure Hank has already requested it.”
Kara shrugged Alex’s arm away and her eyes remained locked on Hank. “I love her.” Her voice cracked. “You know what it’s like to lose your sun.”
Hank’s eyes widened, and then he nodded in understanding. The light had left his own heart when he lost his wife and daughters when his species had been exterminated. “I’ll go with you,” he said and then shifted into his Martian form. “You’ll need a witness, and I’ll be recording everything.”
“Who?” Kara asked as her features hardened until she looked like she’d been mainlining Red Kryptonite.
“He has access to all of the compounds.” Hank dipped his head. “General Sam Lane.”
“Where?” Kara demanded.
Hank held up one green arm and dialed his phone. He knew Kara was listening.
“This is President Marsdin,” the commander in chief of the United States said with a question in her tone.
“Hank Henshaw. Cat Grant is currently unconscious in our Med-bay. She was poisoned by compounds the DEO gave to General Sam Lane, Madam President.” He tried to maintain a professional tone but watching a woman who could destroy worlds tremble with loss and anger allowed some of his fear to enter his voice.
“How is she?” Olivia Marsdin may be the President, but she was also one of Cat Grant’s best friends. The two had shared a room in college and Cat had been an enormous supporter behind the scenes during Olivia’s campaign.
Hank sighed. “MCIS severity 5, category 55043, though the toxin was mixed into a rare bottle of whiskey.”
“How the hell did Lane get access to her vault?” Olivia demanded. She knew Cat kept her prized whiskeys and bourbons under Fort Knox level security.
“He had it delivered and forged a note that said it was from her former assistant, Kara Danvers,” Hank explained. He glared at Kara when he heard her teeth grinding together.
“Christ!” Olivia said. “So, he’s framing Supergirl?”
“It would seem so,” Hank said. “We need his location so we can get the precise compound to come up with an antidote.”
The President of the United States swallowed with an audible gulp. “Am I to understand that you are taking Supergirl with you?”
Hank gave Kara a fond glance. “Madam President, I don’t think the US or the entire world has enough Kryptonite to stop her.”
“Fuck.” Olivia inhaled a slow breath and then exhaled. “Cat swore Miss Danvers didn’t return her feelings.”
Hank rolled his eyes. “We’ll take that up after we get the antidote.”
“I want her word she won’t kill him.” Olivia wouldn’t sign off on a murder mission.
Kara nodded. “But that changes if Cat dies.” Her expression was dazed. The President had just suggested that Cat had feelings for her.
“You have it, Madam President.” Hank hoped Cat survived for them to bring the antidote, otherwise, not even Superman could stop Kara’s wrath.
“His lab is in Sublevel 16 at USAMRIID,” Olivia replied. “God speed.” The line went dead.
Hank looked at Kara. “Fort Detrick, Maryland.”
Kata nodded and sped toward the nearest exit.
Hank followed as quickly as possible. They were headed to US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. The first 10 sublevels contained the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center. Any floors below that level were off the books, and Sam Lane was sure to be researching the most dangerous bioweapons, as well as creating as many as he could.
Kara paused before taking off. “I’m faster than you. What speed can you survive?”
“Your cousin once took me at Mach 180,” Hank’s expression blanched to a pale green. “It wasn’t dangerous, but it wasn’t comfortable either.” He let out an undignified squeak as Kara lifted him into his arms.
“I’ll start at Mach 200 and increase until you tell me to slow.” She leapt into the air and shot toward the East Coast in a blur. Within 30 seconds, she saw the coast coming into view. She had increased her speed to what she estimated was around Mach 250. She slowed as they approached USAMRIID and allowed Hank to hover beside her. The flight had taken just over one minute.
The two landed at the building’s main security entrance.
Two armed guards came out, but their weapons were holstered. The taller of the two spoke quickly. “Supergirl, and uh… Mr. Manhunter… I just received Yankee White clearance from OSD. We’re to take you to sublevel 16 without anyone else knowing.”
“That’s for the best.” Hank nodded. Yankee White indicated Presidential level Clearance, and the OSD was the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He morphed into his human form dressed in combat fatigues. He scanned both officers’ minds and knew they could be trusted.
They were in the elevator within another two minutes, and Kara shifted anxiously. She watched the numbers indicating their level change slowly. It took all of her willpower to avoid crashing through the bottom of the elevator so she could appear next to Lane in a split second.
Hank couldn’t read her mind, but he read her body language. “Supergirl, when we arrive, you secure any weapons, and I will secure General Lane. Is that understood?”
Kara gave a curt nod. She stared at the walls and floors, enraged that both were lined with lead.
The elevator stopped and the doors opened. Kara took in the entire scene in a fraction of a second. The lab was vast and filled with alien technology. The back wall had rows of cells much like the DEO’s confinement area. The few aliens inside all appeared injured and were huddled as far from the doors as possible.
Kara entered in a blur, disarmed every staff member, and took General Lane in a chokehold before he could even begin to utter a word.
Hank sighed and rolled his eyes. He should have known Kara’s anger would drive her actions.
“Well, Miss Danvers, nice of you to join us,” Lane said calmly.
The two security officers came out of the elevator. The taller one spoke in a clear, commanding tone. “Supergirl and the Manhunter are here under Yankee White clearance from the OSD.”
Lane’s men froze in place.
Hank moved in front of General Lane. “The antidote?” he asked, even as he searched the man’s mind. Hank scowled. He walked over to a wall safe and punched in the code he’d taken from Lane’s mind.
Lane didn’t look remotely concerned. “How would I have an antidote to the poison Supergirl gave to Cat Grant?” He made a strangled squeak as Kara shifted position and lifted him into the air by his throat.
“We both know it was you,” Kara spit out. “You’re going to spend the rest of your miserable life behind bars. Tell us how to save Cat and maybe you’ll get basic privileges.”
“I need his retinal scan,” Hank said.
Kara walked toward Hank, never lowering Lane as she kept her grip at the edge of lethal. “Does the eye have to be attached to his head?”
Lane’s eyes bulged as he realized how far he had pushed the Kryptonian.
“Yes,” Hank insisted.
Kara slammed his forehead into the wall and then pried open one of his eyes for the scanner. When the safe opened, she tossed him aside, sending him toward the closest wall, where he impacted fifteen feet from the ground and then landed painfully on his knees.
Hank grabbed a vial and turned toward Lane.
“It’s real,” Lane swore as he scrambled to his feet.
“Is it?” Kara asked Hank.
“Yes, but--” the vial was gone before he could finish his sentence and Kara ripped open the elevator doors and burst through the top of the elevator. Hank listened as he heard a few more crashes and then shattering glass that he was certain was Kara making a rushed exit so she could get the antidote to Cat.
Lane laughed. “I just wish I could see Supergirl’s face when she realizes the limitations of that antidote.”
Hank dragged him to the security officers. He pressed their minds, ensuring they would carry out his orders. “Get him in a cell and stand guard until the DEO comes for him.”
“You should have warned her.” Lane was smirking.
“I’d rather you live to see your career crumble.” Hank pressed two fingers to Lane’s temple and sent a command for absolute silence and outward calm, and then he convinced Lane that he was engulfed in flames, knowing he would be unable to show any signs of pain. “Gentlemen,” he said to the officers.
They took Lane and nodded at Hank.
Hank hurried to the main computer and looked at the woman standing next to it. She was giving him a murderous glare. He did a cursory scan and found what he expected. She hated all aliens and she was every bit the zealot as Lane. “You’re going to help me,” he said calmly.
“Not in this lifetime,” she said. One side of her mouth twisted into a snarl.
As he took her by her right bicep and he moved to touch his fingers to her temple, she spit in his face. He ignored it and pressed his fingers just in front of her ear. She froze as he scanned her memories, thoughts and emotions. She was a medical doctor specializing in neurology. More specifically, she studied neurotransmitters and the way the brain communicated with the rest of the body. Once he found what he was looking for, he pressed her mind and commanded her to send all of her research on the toxic compound directly to Alex at the DEO.
When he stepped back, he watched as she accessed her mainframe, and began emailing the files to the DEO in California.
As she sent the last file, she stared down at her hands and then up at Hank. “You’re a fucking monster,” she said coldly. “You control us and there’s nothing we can do. This is why General Lane started this unit. You and your kind are dangerous. You pretended to be heroes, but we know the truth.”
Hank folded his arms over his chest. “The truth is, the aliens that live on earth are refugees. Yes, we have powers, but we mostly just want to live our boring lives.” His expression was sad. “You, and people like Lane, hunt us like animals, cut us up on your dissection tables, and experiment on us like rats. You are the threats, and we are forced to use our powers to defend ourselves.”
He grabbed her arm and then touched her temple again. This time he gave her a command to cooperate with investigators, and another that made it impossible for her to try to escape or harm herself. Once that was done, he turned and lifted into the air, returning to his natural form, and then floated into the elevator to follow the path Kara’s exit had caused.
Once he was in the air, he contacted Alex and explained what he knew from Lane’s mind about the supposed antidote. It would counteract all of the toxins except one. That final compound couldn’t be removed because it had bound with the cells of a specific part of Cat’s brain, which it altered. Kryptonians, and anyone else from Kara’s galaxy, could metabolize the compound. Humans could not, and it changed Cat’s brain in a way that Hank knew would bring Kara even more heartache.
Alex was at Cat’s side when Kara whooshed to a stop next to the bed. “We need to test that first,” Alex said even as Kara tried to hand the antidote to her.
Kara was frantic. “Hank scanned him. It is the antidote.”
Alex could see the hope in her sister’s eyes, and it stabbed into Alex’s heart like a dagger. “We test it first,” Alex said firmly. “Cat is stable right now. Her heart rate is staying between 56 and 60. She’s breathing on her own, and I will not risk trusting Lane’s word on this.”
“There’s no time,” Kara whispered.
“Get it down to be tested,” Alex said gently. She blinked, and when she opened her eyes, Kara was dropping out of superspeed, already back from the lab.
Kara pulled a chair to Cat’s side and took her hand. “It won’t be much longer,” she whispered. “You’ll be up and terrorizing incompetent staff in no time.” She looked up at Alex and then smiled. “She looks better.”
Alex nodded. “We’ve dealt with two of these compounds before, so we gave her the same drugs we used when our guys were poisoned with them.”
“When will she wake up?” Kara asked as she held Cat’s hand.
Alex closed her eyes and then rubbed her hands over them. When she was finished, she looked at her sister. “I spoke with Hank. He’ll be here shortly. When he scanned Lane’s mind, Hank realized the antidote was incomplete. There’s one compound that can’t be removed. It’s from the Black Mercy.”
Kara’s eyes widened and she turned to look at Alex, never releasing Cat’s hand. “Well, you can find a way, right?”
Alex’s gaze drifted to the floor.
“Right?” Kara asked in a tiny whisper that made her sound like the young girl who had first landed on Earth so many years before. “I mean… I woke up, so it wears off…” Her lower lip trembled.
Alex stepped closer and rested a hand on Kara’s shoulder. She leaned down and pressed a kiss to the top of her younger sister’s head. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. When she stood, she shakily took a breath before continuing. “It wore off for you because the Black Mercy is from the same solar system as Krypton. Your biology, your chemistry, is fundamentally different. The Black Mercy compounds have bonded with Cat’s thalamus. It’s part of her brain now.”
Kara aimed her x-ray vision at Cat’s head and quickly examined the structure of her brain. “I don’t see any compound.”
“It’s there,” Alex said quietly. “And it has altered her. The thalamus is like a relay station. Every sensory signal, except smell, comes through it. It’s critical for processing and redirecting those signals to the cerebral cortex to be processed.”
Kara leaned her face next to Cat’s and then moved her own hair close to Cat’s nose so the scent of her shampoo drifted into Cat’s nostrils. “I’m right here,” she whispered.
Alex closed her eyes briefly. Watching her sister suffer was physically painful. It pierced her like a knife to the gut. She focused, and then continued, because Kara needed to know that there was no hope. “The thalamus has another function,” she whispered. “It regulates sleep, consciousness and alertness.”
Kara turned toward her sister and her expression went pale. “So… she literally can’t wake up?” Tears slid down Kara’s cheeks. “Ever?” She knew that being trapped in her mind would be Cat’s worst nightmare. “There’s nothing we can do?”
Alex shook her head. “There’s no way to break the chemical bonds between the Black Mercy and Cat’s brain cells without destroying both.”
Kara shook her head. “No. Cat’s the strongest person I know. She thinks sleep is for slackers.” She leaned down and pressed a kiss to the back of Cat’s hand. “If anyone can beat this, it’s Cat.” She turned and smiled sadly at Alex. “I’m still not convinced Cat isn’t an alien… or at least a meta-human.”
Alex nodded. “So, her superpower is what? Super-snark?”
“Hope. She instills hope,” Kara said reverently. “More than I ever have.”
Alex could only watch, her throat suddenly tight. She knew Kara would eventually have to give up on her current hope, and she would be broken.
Kara had other concerns. She pulled her phone out of her boot and called Carter.
He answered on the first ring. “Is she okay?”
Kara let out a slow breath. “She’s stable, but she hasn’t woken up.”
His voice sounded much younger than his thirteen years. “Did you find out what was in that scotch? When will she wake up? When can I see her?”
“We know what it was,” Kara said gently. “We don’t know when, or if she’ll wake up.” She wouldn’t lie to him. Not when he could lose his world at any second. She’d experienced that lie from adults she loved and wouldn’t inflict it on him.
“Oh,” he whispered.
“I’m going to come get you and bring you here,” Kara said. “I think you’ll be the best medicine. First, I’ll take you back to the penthouse. We need to get some of your mom’s papers.” She dreaded sending him to live with his father if Cat was incapacitated.
Carter knew the type of papers she meant. “Kara, you know my mom and I talk about everything, right?”
“Of course, buddy.” Kara envied the open, honest relationship Cat and her son shared.
“She always prepares for any outcome,” he said. “She made you my temporary guardian if she can’t be there for me.” His voice softened. “And if the worst happens, well, if you’re willing, it would become permanent.”
“Of course, I’m willing.” Kara’s voice broke. “But I will move mountains to bring her back to you.”
“Start with Mount Rushmore,” Carter insisted. “It’s a bullshit piece of racist graffiti put on Native land by interlopers.”
“I’ll put it on the top of the list,” Kara swore.
Six hours later, Kara was at the side of Cat’s bed. Carter was dozing in a cot less than six inches from her chair.
She had watched every breath, every rise and fall of Cat’s chest. She had watched as Alex injected the antidote, watched as Cat’s color improved enough to take her off of the medications that had been needed to keep her heart rate steady, and then watched as she made no move to wake. Throughout her vigil, she had whispered to Cat, imploring her to wake up.
Kara leaned closer and pressed a kiss to Cat’s forehead. “Carter’s here. I know you will wake up, but just so you don’t worry about anything, of course I will be his guardian.” she promised, not missing the sound of Alex’s groan.
“I can’t believe you brought a kid to a top-secret base full of alien tech, not to mention actual aliens!” Alex rushed towards Kara. “No wonder he figured out you’re Supergirl.”
Kara turned and looked at her sister. She took a deep breath and let out a sigh with a world class eye roll thrown in as well. “Both Cat and Carter figured that out ages ago.
“Totally,” Carter said without opening his eyes. “I figured it out on the douche-train. Mom said she knew the first night when you botched the plane catch.”
Kara smiled. “I saved that plane.”
“The fishes, Kara.” Carter hadn’t even opened his eyes.
“I can’t believe she told you that,” Kara grumbled. “And they were fine. The fishes,” she clarified. “It wasn’t the plane that worried her about the fish. It was the oil tanker and I made sure every ounce of oil was removed.”
Carter yawned and sat up. “Any change?” he asked, the mirth gone from his tone.
“No sign of her waking up,” said quietly. She turned to Alex and cleared her throat.
Alex moved closer.
She met Alex’s eyes. “I need to talk to Carter, in private.”
“Sure.” Alex nodded and started toward the door.
“Wait,” Kara said quickly. “I mean somewhere that is actually private. I don’t want a dozen agents listening in on us.”
Alex nodded. “Go into the room with your mom’s hologram. If you bring her online, her tech is advanced enough that no one can eavesdrop.”
Kara moved to Alex and pulled her into a hug. “You’re the best sister,” she whispered. She broke the hug and held a hand out toward Carter. “Come on. I’ll show what my mom looked like.”
Once they were in the holographic projection room, Carter’s eyes scanned every inch of the mostly empty blue room. He stared at the tiles on the wall and tried to determine if they were projectors. He hadn’t asked any questions yet. He was waiting for Kara to take the lead.
“Mother?” Kara asked.
The room darkened and then was lit by soft blue lights as a woman dressed in blue appeared.
“Kara Zor-El,” the image stated in a cold, emotionless tone. “How can I be of assistance?”
Carter took Kara’s hand and squeezed it.
She smiled down at him, then looked at the projection of her mother. “How do I create a new House with Kryptonian privileges?”
The hologram tilted her head to one side and then answered. “Krypton is gone, but so long as any of her people survive, our culture does as well. As the only known Kryptonian from a ruling house who reached the age of majority on our world, you are the highest-ranking citizen.”
Carter’s eyes bulged.
The hologram continued. “You can, by official decree, add new houses.” She studied Carter. “He is not Kryptonian.”
“There are only a few of us left, scattered across the galaxies,” Kara said defensively. “This is Carter Grant. He is acting as his mother’s proxy. Her name is Cat Grant and she has been a steadfast and loyal friend to the House of El. I wish to extend my protection to Cat Grant and her line in a formal manner.”
“The House of Grant has battled at your side?” the hologram asked.
“It has,” Kara said firmly. “And at great personal risk to its political, financial, and physical safety. Cat has repeatedly stood by me in battle, despite the fact that she has no powers like mine. She is a mentor, a sounding board, and a critic of my actions when needed.”
The hologram nodded. “An excellent ally.” She faced Kara directly. “You, as head of the House of El, can bring the Grant line under your banner. They will formally become the House of Grant, and they will be your bannermen. If they were called into a formal battle, their members would be addressed as Grant-El.”
Kara nodded. “Then I, Kara Zor-El, the last member of my house to reach the age of majority on Krypton, the last to speak the oaths beneath Rao in his temple in Argo City, last child whose parents sat on the great Council, name the House of Grant formally as my bannermen. They will have all the rights of any Kryptonian house, but they will hold no seat on the ruling council. They will be addressed in times of war or battle as House Grant-El, but they will otherwise be known as the House of Grant.”
Carter’s eyes were as wide as an owl’s.
Kara turned and addressed him. “Carter Grant, son of Cat Grant, and proven ally of the House of El, as second in the line of Grant, will you accept the role for your House to become bannermen to the House of El, with all of its associated responsibilities?”
Carter took time to consider the question. “What about Adam?” he asked.
Kara nodded. “The first born of Cat Grant chose to follow his father's house and renounced the Grant name when he took the name Foster.”
Carter let out a relieved breath. “Then, yes. I, Carter Grant, son of Cat Grant and second in line in the House of Grant, formally accept the honor of being named bannermen to the House of El.”
The hologram nodded. “I have recorded this information. Kara Zor-El, you should make certain that this information is added to the database belonging to the man born as Kal-El.”
“I will,” Kara promised. “Thank you, Mother.”
“Do you require anything else?” the hologram asked in the same monotone voice.
“Not at this time. End program,” Kara said sadly. She turned and knelt next to Carter.
“Does this give you Kryptonian authority to be my guardian?” Carter asked.
Kara smiled. “It would, but it also might mean I won’t need to.” Kara bit her lip before continuing. “You know that I care a great deal for your mom,” she started, and then paused, suddenly nervous.
He smiled. “Yeah, I barely ever noticed the lovestruck expressions and the way you sighed any time my mom was ‘Cat Granting’ around the office.” He rolled his eyes. “Also, the way you stare at her ... um… ‘extreme lower back’ when she wears pencil skirts totally didn’t scream ‘hot for teacher’ or anything.”
Kara blushed. “I thought I hid that better,” she whispered.
“Please, I’m a Grant. We see things.” He cleared his throat. “You mentioned maybe not needing to be my guardian?”
She nodded and took a deep breath and then spoke without pausing.
“Okay, so you know the poisons formed an unbreakable bond with the human thalamus, and that it doesn’t do that to Kryptonians, and well, when my cousin and I got sent here, our parents didn’t want us to have to be alone forever so they kind of sent technology to make whoever we choose to marry into Kryptonians but there can only be one for each of us, and I needed you to be officially a part of a Kryptonian House because your mom can’t agree to marry me while she’s unconscious but since you’re thirteen, the age of majority on my home planet, and the acting Head of the House of Grant, you can offer me her hand in marriage so I can change her into a Kryptonian and maybe heal her.” She took a deep breath and waited for his answer.
He scrunched his eyebrows. “There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence,” he said slowly. “Um, it’s really weird that your people had a way for an unconscious person to get married.”
“Oh, gosh no!” Kara insisted. “I could never actually marry your mom unless she gave consent.” She shook her head so fast her hair appeared to blur. “It’s enough that we are betrothed,” she insisted. “If it works, and your mom wakes up, I would never hold her to an engagement made without her knowledge or permission.”
“But you only get one,” he said slowly. “That technology to make your partner Kryptonian… you and Superman only get one each.”
“She’s worth it,” Kara insisted. “She is the most amazing person I have ever met, on any planet.”
Carter tilted his head slightly as he studied Kara.
It was so much like Cat it made Kara smile.
Carter’s gaze shifted. “You’re in love with my mom.”
Kara’s eyes widened and she blushed.
“It’s okay.” He raised a hand. “It’s actually a really good thing.” He smiled. “I’m pretty sure she feels the same way.”
Kara shook her head. “Please, don’t even suggest that unless you absolutely know it’s true.” Her lips trembled. “Hope is an amazing gift, but false hope is the most devastating thing in the universe.”
“Okay,” he agreed. “You’ll have to ask her yourself after she gets all Kryptonified.”
Kara smiled fondly. “We are not calling it that.”
“You may not call it that, but that is the official term according to the House of Grant.” The shadow of worry was gone from his eyes. “So, how do we do this betrothal?”
The betrothal was straight forward. Kara left Carter with Alex, who had no idea what Kara was planning. Kara used the same bank account she’d used to buy Cat the expensive scotch to purchase platinum and tungsten carbide and then picked up some depleted promethium from Kal-El’s fortress. Once forged, promethium was something even Kara couldn’t break.
Kara had been adding to the account since she had turned eighteen in Earth years. She would take trips to Northern California and use a small, floating gold dredge in the public-use rivers that had once been the sites of the California Gold Rush. Of course, it felt like cheating, but it was a way to provide for herself without asking Eliza for money. Kara would spend a day snorkeling and using the suction hose to draw sand out of crevices in the rivers. She used her Kryptonian powers to find the areas rich in gold, and it gave her a traceable income that could be taxed so the money didn’t raise any flags if anyone went looking.
Once Kara had the materials for the bracelets, she used her heat vision and her artistic skills to make a platinum betrothal bracelet for Cat. Kara used the promethium and tungsten carbide for her own bracelet.
If everything went according to plan, Cat would be awake, healthy, and free to break the betrothal.
Kara, on the other hand, only intended to put on a betrothal band once. She would wear it until her death. Tungsten carbide had the highest melting point and the highest tensile strength of any element on Earth. Kara used the raw promethium to cover the tungsten carbide, which she could melt with her heat vision. Once it was cast into her bracelet, and the promethium solidified, the resulting metal should survive her Supergirl battles.
Alex sat in the chair next to Carter. They had been discussing science, and Alex was a little in awe of the young boy’s mind. She had expected him to ask about Supergirl or maybe her powers. Instead, he had asked dozens of detailed questions about the toxins coursing through his mother’s body. That hadn’t really been the biggest surprise. No, what had shocked her was that he was asking questions at the PhD level. His questions were narrow in focus and he had asked a few that hadn’t even occurred to Alex. The kid was brilliant, and he reminded Alex of Kara when she first arrived on Earth.
Alex was explaining why the Black Mercy toxin had bound so completely to Cat’s human brain when the door opened.
“Kara!” Carter’s eyes lit up and he jumped to his feet. He ran to her and slammed into a tight hug.
“Hey, buddy.” She ruffled his hair with one hand and held him close with the other. “Alex hasn’t been boring you with her science stuff has she?”
Carter smiled as he eased back. “Science is never boring.” He raised one eyebrow at her in a silent question. He was so like his mother. Kara could practically hear the question in his eyes. ‘Did you get the bracelets? Can we fix my mom now?’ She smiled and nodded.
Carter pressed against her and squeezed as tight as he could.
Alex stood, suddenly feeling like she was intruding on the tender moment. “So, I should go check in with… uh, Hank.”
“Not yet,” Kara said softly. “I need you here for something.”
Carter eased away and went to Cat’s side and held her hand.
“Please don’t go.” Kara’s eyes filled with resolve as she moved closer to Alex. “I need my sister right now, not the DEO agent,” she said softly.
Alex narrowed her eyes but she nodded.
Kara smiled at Alex. “I need you to act as my second,” she explained.
Alex’s expression made it abundantly clear Kara had explained nothing.
Kara rolled her eyes. “It’s a Kryptonian thing,” she said petulantly. “Just stand next to me and support me.” She paused. “Support me quietly.”
“Oh,” Alex said with a smile. “So, stand here and do nothing?”
Kara beamed as she nodded. She reached behind her back and retrieved a velvet bag that had been secured inside a pocket in her cape. She handed it to Alex.
Alex opened her mouth, then closed it, raising her hands in surrender.
Kara stood directly in front of Carter, then motioned for Alex to come closer, which she did. Kara cleared her throat, took a step forward, and knelt on one knee. “Carter Grant, acting head of the House of Grant, I, Kara Zor-El, last member of the House of El to reach the age of majority under Rao’s light and in his temple, Head of the House of El, humble myself before you and ask that you hear my request.”
Alex’s eyes widened comically.
Carter stood ramrod straight. “The House of Grant stands with the House of El in all things. We are your bannermen and are honored to hear any request you might have.” He saw Kara smile, and he relaxed, thrilled to have remembered the sacred words.
Alex looked like she might have an aneurysm, but to her credit, she remained quiet.
Kara turned toward Alex pointed at the velvet bag.
Alex almost dropped it as she handed it to her sister.
Kara held the bag as if it were a holy relic. In a way, it was. It held the last bit of Kara’s history and tradition. She lifted out the two bands and tossed aside the bag. She cradled the two bands in her cupped hands and whispered a prayer to Rao, then faced Carter.
Alex stood frozen in place, too shocked to even consider speaking. She had never seen bands like the ones Kara was holding, but she’d heard Kara describe them enough times to know exactly what they were. Many nights in her shared room with Kara, Alex had listened as Kara sobbed that she would never have a bonding ceremony, that she would never know what it was to feel the marriage bracelet close and seal permanently, to know she had a partner for the rest of her life.
Kara lifted the platinum band. “Carter Grant, I ask that you give me your blessing so that I can place this token of my fealty to Cat Grant upon her wrist so that all who see it will know that she is mine and I am hers.”
Alex had stopped breathing.
Carter smiled and accepted the beautiful, simple band. “Kara Zor-El, you honor the House of Grant with your request. I, acting head of my house, accept this token and say to all who may ask, that House Grant and House El will be joined.”
Kara’s expression glazed over. She extended her hand and took the band back from Carter. She then lifted Cat’s hand and pressed a kiss to her wrist. “I swear my life, my heart, and my soul to defend you, support you, and love you forever. In this life and any that follows in Rao’s light.” She attached the bracelet and it closed with a hiss. There was a fair amount of Kryptonian technology in the band, and once it closed, it glowed red briefly.
Carter reached out and took the second bracelet. “I speak these words because my mother cannot at this time say them. She swears her life, her heart, and her soul to defend you, support you, and love you forever. In this life and any that follows in Rao’s light.”
He attached Kara’s band to her wrist. As soon as the red light glowed and faded away, he let out a huge breath. “So, are you going to kiss her now?” he asked.
“No!” Kara said in a shocked tone. “I would never kiss someone without their consent.”
That broke Alex out of her daze. “You won’t kiss her, but you’ll marry her? What kind of bullshit logic is that?”
Kara narrowed her eyes. “I didn’t marry her! I got permission from the acting head of her House to take her as my betrothed. Once she wakes up, she is within her rights to decline that betrothal.”
Alex’s expression shifted from angry to pity in an instant. “Kara, we talked about this. She won’t ever wake up. There is no way to remove the Black Mercy toxin from her brain.”
“But there will be,” Kara said firmly. “I have the right to place my betrothed into a chrysalis chamber and I am doing that right now.”
“No,” Alex said firmly. “That is for the person you marry, the person you love. It’s not for a woman you worked for and looked up to for a few years.”
Kara took a deep breath and started toward her sister, but Carter’s hand on her forearm stopped her. She looked down at him, and she saw determination in his young eyes. She nodded to him.
Carter turned toward Alex. “Why can’t both be true?”
“What?” Alex asked. She looked from Carter to Kara, and then back to Carter. “What are you talking about?”
Carter smiled. “Kara worked for and looked up to my mom for a few years.” He shrugged. “It’s true.” He stepped closer to Alex and lowered his voice to whisper. “That doesn’t exclude the possibility and that she and my mom have been afraid to admit they love each other.”
Alex stared at him, frozen in place. Her eyes darted to Kara and then to Cat before returning Carter. His calm demeanor had her perplexed.
“He's right,” Kara said. “At least, he’s right about me.” She moved behind Carter and rested her hands on his shoulders. “I love her Alex. I have since… Well, since the day I walked in to my first interview.”
Alex ran a hand through her cropped auburn hair and sighed. She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you do love Cat,” Alex said reasonably.
Carter immediately said, “She does.”
“I do,” Kara said, her words overlapping his.
Alex raised her hands in surrender. “Even if that is true…” She pointed a finger to silence the pair. “Kara, I know you. You just put on a betrothal bracelet. I know what that means to you. What if Cat wakes up - with powers - and says ‘thanks for the miracle,’ then runs off into the sunset?”
“She won’t!” Carter insisted.
“Then I will wish her the best,” Kara said.
Carter spun toward Kara. “What?”
“I want your mom to be safe, and healthy, and happy.” Kara smiled. “Even if it’s not with me. All I have ever wanted is for her to be happy.” She looked at Alex. “As for the powers, she won’t have them. That’s not why the chrysalis was sent with us. It was sent so we didn’t have to live a lonely existence.”
“Ah!” Alex grumbled. “You will live a lonely life if you waste your one chance on Cat and she doesn’t want to be with you!”
Kara shook her head. “You don’t get it, Alex. Just knowing that Cat is out in the world somewhere, alive and happy, will be enough.”
“Is that all you want?” Carter asked.
Kara blushed. “Um, well, I…”
He grinned. “If you can’t say it, how will you ever get it?”
Kara smiled. “You’re just like her.” She sighed and gave him her complete attention. “I want more. I dream of more. I want the ‘more’ so much it feels like the wanting will kill me. But having her alive is worth that pain.”
“Idiot,” Carter said with an eye roll. “How can you expect her to know your value if you don’t even know it yourself?”
Kara tilted her head and looked at Carter, then slowly turned toward the bed where Cat rested. She turned back to him, and then Alex. “Are you sure that toxin didn’t switch Cat’s mind with Carter’s?”
Alex smiled sadly. “It didn’t,” she said quietly. “But I’m beginning to see why you think so highly of Miss Grant.” She shook her head. “Kid, are you sure you’re only thirteen?”
He looked at Alex and shook his head, clearly disappointed in her.
“Okay!” Alex said, backing away. “No need to go all Cat Grant on me.” She looked at her sister. “Go. Take her, and I will take Carter home and stay with him.”
“I need to be there!” Carter insisted.
Alex cleared her throat. “Dude, if these two idiots actually do have feelings for each other? Do you really want to be there once they figure out that it’s mutual?”
Carter stared at Alex.
Alex made kissing noises.
“Oh! No!” He shook his head. “I do not need to see that.” He turned to Kara. “Well?”
“Huh?” Kara asked.
Carter rolled his eyes again. “Chop. Chop.”
Kara smiled brightly and then took off her cape, draping it over Cat. Only then, she picked her up into her arms. “Wish me luck.” She headed out the door.
Carter looked at Alex. “Maybe you should have given her some written instructions?”
“What the hell do I know about romancing women?” Alex asked in a high-pitched squeak.
Carter gestured at her with one hand. “The hair and the swagger suggest you might know quite a bit.”
“What?” Alex blushed from the roots of her hair right down to her toes.
Kara kept Cat tucked close to her body so the petite woman wouldn’t get chilled. The cape, with its insulating properties, helped. Once Kara saw the Fortress of Solitude, her heart began to race. She landed quickly, and placed Cat down briefly so she could open the door.
Once inside, Kara called for Kal-El’s robotic butler. “Ka-lex?”
“Kara Zor-El, greetings,” he chirped. “How may I be of assistance?”
“I require the Chrysalis Chamber for my betrothed,” Kara said in a formal tone.
“Of course,” the floating robot responded. “Has she been injured?”
“Yes,” Kara said. “One of my enemies took advantage of the fact that Cat is still human and poisoned her with venom from the Black Mercy.”
“You need not worry, Kara Zor-El.” Ka-lex said. “Once her body has been altered, her Kryptonian cells will purge any remaining toxin.”
Kara blinked back tears. “Thank Rao,” she whispered.
“Follow me,” he said in the same cheerful tone. “I am awakening the chamber and it will be ready in twenty minutes.”
Kara followed him with Cat in her arms, but she muttered, “Of course Kal keeps time in minutes.”
Ka-lex chuckled. “I apologize, Kara Zor-El. The room will be ready in 12.5 dendahr.”
“Thank you,” she said with a smile.
Once there, Kara asked Ka-lex to change Cat into a Kryptonian gown. It was finished in an instant with a flash of light. Kara took time to settle Cat into the chamber and then caressed Cat’s cheek. “Please be okay,” she begged. She stood guard as the chrysalis built up enough energy for the task.
Once Ka-lex told her it was time to begin the transformation, Kara nodded solemnly. “Do it.”
The clear crystal chamber closed and then glowed as it filled with red light. Kara backed away and used Superspeed to change into her own Kryptonian gown. She stood watch as the chamber emitted a low hum.
Kara waited one wol, a Kryptonian measurement that was the equivalent of 2.78 Earth hours. The red light began to fade. Kara moved closer, anxiety filling her body. The red light shifted from inside the chamber until it filled the room outside the chrysalis. Kara stumbled as the red light of Rao dampened her powers.
“Ka-lex!” Kara called out.
“Do not worry, Kara Zor-El,” Ka-lex said at once. “The light of Rao will ease her transition. When she awakens, she will feel human, just as you do under Rao’s light.”
Kara flexed her arms and smiled. She looked around the minimalist space and it reminded her of the temple in Argo City at midday. She turned to Ka-lex. “Is she okay?”
“Of course,” he replied. “The transformation is complete. As you requested, her powers are not fully active. I should warn you, while she does not have the same powers as you and your cousin, she does have enhanced strength and senses.”
Kara nodded and then bit her lip before turning to the attendant. “So, could you maybe give us some privacy?”
“Of course,” he said. “Kryptonian custom allows betrothed couples to consummate their bond before the actual wedding ceremony so long as they have exchanged bonding gifts.”
Kara blushed and moved closer to the chamber. There was a prolonged hiss as the door lifted up.
Cat looked even more radiant than normal. More importantly, she looked healthy.
Cat took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. She groaned and stretched like an actual cat, moaning happily. Her eyes fluttered open, then filled with confusion.
“Kara?” Cat sat up and looked around the strange room. “What in the name of Las Vegas is this monstrosity?”
“It’s okay,” Kara said gently.
“I find that highly unlikely,” Cat said. “Get me out of this thing. Why in God’s name was I sleeping in some Michael Jackson Oxygen chamber?”
“It’s a long story.” Kara scooped Cat into her arms and placed her carefully on the floor.
“That is an entirely unacceptable explanation.” Cat raised one eyebrow. “The last thing I remember was tasting that scotch you sent me…” Her eyes widened. “Oh, dear god!” she pointed at Kara.
Kara backed away.
“I must have called you!” Cat said. “Tell me we didn’t get drunk and fly to Vegas!” She lifted her left hand and checked her ring finger, then checked Kara’s as well. “At least we don’t need an annulment.”
Kara shook her head.
“That scotch must be high quality. I don’t even have a hangover.” She turned to Kara. “I’m still waiting for an explanation as to why we are in a 1970’s science-fiction-themed sex room. I don’t do camp, Kara, so you’ve got a lot of explaining to do. Now.” She pointed at the nervous woman. Then her eyes fell on the bracelet.
“It’s not a sex room!” Kara said in a panic.
Cat ran her hand over the bracelet. “Clearly, this is high end.” She gave Kara a questioning look. “Platinum?”
“From you?” Cat asked as she noticed Kara’s bracelet. The two had the same design, but Kara’s was made of a metal Cat didn’t recognize.
“Yes,” Kara said. “I made them.”
Cat marched to Kara and looked her up and down. “Well, that gown is too prim and proper for a camp-themed sex romp, that’s for sure.” She looked at her own matching gown. “It’s not Prada, but I don’t hate it.”
Kara’s face was redder than the lighting. “Stop saying we’re in a sex camping room!”
Cat laughed, a full body laugh that was deep and hinted at secrets and scandal. “God, you’re just so adorable.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe I dragged you to Vegas and took advantage of you.” She paused and smiled. “Or we took advantage of each other?”
Kara’s expression darkened. “We didn’t have sex, Cat.”
Cat spun and paced, but Kara heard her whisper, “An opportunity lost.”
“Cat, I really need you to listen to me,” Kara said gently.
“Alright.” Cat turned and sauntered to a stop in front of the taller blonde. “I’m listening.” She reached out and cupped Kara’s cheek. “I always hear you, Kara.” She figured if she and Kara got black out drunk together, surely they were moving past platonic friendship.
“The bottle of scotch that you received, I did order you a bottle, and the message is what I had put on the note, but the bottle I bought was still at the Hong Kong airport waiting for me to pick it up.” Kara picked up Cat’s right hand and ran a finger over the bonding bracelet.
“Who sent the bottle I received?” Cat’s voice was a mere whisper.
“Sam Lane.” Kara practically spit the name out. “The fact that you are here with me and alive is the only reason I haven’t pulled the bones from every one of his limbs.”
Cat’s eyes widened. “Supergirl doesn’t kill.”
A cold smile twisted Kara’s lips. “I had no intention of letting him die.”
“Dark,” Cat said. “Exactly how sick was I?”
“He added a poison to that bottle, knowing you trusted me enough to drink it without question.” Kara took a calming breath and reminded herself that Cat was safe. “Carter called to let me know the bottle arrived. I told him to stop you, because I knew it couldn’t be the one that I had purchased.”
Cat looked down at the floor. “He found me?”
“Yes,” Kara said. “But I broke the sound barrier and was there in seconds. I told him to call Allison, and then I flew you to… um, to… a top-secret military base that doesn’t exist and that may or may not deal with extraterrestrial threats.” She held up both hands. “I took him to your side later, and he knows everything that’s going on. I promise.”
Cat put her hands on her hips. “You took me to the DEO and I wasn’t even awake for it?” Cat yelled. She sighed, but the sound morphed into a muttered curse. “Damn it.” She spun and pointed at Kara. “Was it the boring office downtown or the really top-secret one outside the city in the desert?”
“How do you know about that?” Kara gasped.
Cat raised one eyebrow. “I’m Cat Grant, darling. Did you forget so soon?”
Kara grinned. “Never.”
“So, how long was I out of commission?” Cat asked. “Should I worry about a hostile takeover?”
“It happened this morning,” Kara said. “They, the um…” she rolled her eyes. “The DEO stabilized you… in their top-secret base in the desert, and no, there is no hostile takeover. Other than Carter, no one has any idea what happened.”
“How did you find Lane? Did you call Olivia?” Cat asked.
“Who don’t you have on speed dial?” Kara shook her head.
“Robin Thicke,” Cat said calmly. “He ruined Hannah Montana. Oh, and not his father either.”
“What did Alan Thicke do?” Kara’s eyes widened.
“Oh, Kara, trust me, Alan Thicke knows what he did.” Cat began pacing.
“You can’t tell me these things, Cat.” Kara ran her hands through her hair and tugged at the golden locks. “I’m honor-bound to avenge whatever wrong he did to you. Canada is, like, the nicest country ever, and now I have to go make Alan Thicke think about what he did.” She crossed her arms. “Damn it, Cat. They make the best maple syrup. They’ll probably cut me off.”
Cat’s eyes widened and she hurried closer. She knew a scoop when she heard one. “Exactly why would you be ‘honor-bound’ to avenge a wrong to me?” She held up her bracelet and then pointed at Kara’s. “Do these have anything to do with your current predicament?”
Kara sighed and smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “They have everything to do with it.”
Cat looked around the cavernous room. “I guess Kryptonians don’t sit? Here I just thought Superman always stood because his underwear on the outside were too tight.”
Kara snorted. “You cannot tell him that,” she insisted. “He thinks he looks noble and aloof and mysterious.”
Cat rolled her eyes. “Well, he is not pulling that off.” She shook her head. “He looks like he needs more fiber.”
Kara smiled and the skin at the edges of her eyes crinkled. She cleared her throat. “Ka-lex, I need two chairs, please.”
Two chairs morphed out of the floor along with a table
“So, the bracelets?” Cat asked. She sat and waited for Kara to join her.
“These are the most sacred things in my society.” Kara ran her fingers over her own bonding bracelet. She looked into Cat’s eyes. “You were unconscious. We had treated you for every toxin in the poison that we could, but there is no antidote for the last one.”
Cat waited quietly, but the sorrow on Kara’s expression demanded she act. “I’m fine, Kara.”
“But you weren’t!” Kara stood, knocking her chair over in her haste. “The final toxin came from a plant from my galaxy. It’s a horrible creature that traps you in a dream of a perfect life so you stop fighting it while it sucks the life from you.” She took a few gulps of air. “Then… just when you think you have everything you could ever want, everything you lost… if you break out of its grasp… you lose it all over again!” Tears ran down Kara’s cheeks. “You lose your family and friends and planet and who you were supposed to be.” She hiccupped as she fought to calm herself.
“I don’t remember anything like that,” Cat said quietly.
“Thank Rao, that part didn’t happen to you,” Kara whispered.
Cat reached and took Kara’s hand. “It happened to you.”
Kara nodded. “The day I tried to give you whole milk, that wasn’t actually me. I was trapped in my mind because of the Black Mercy.” She sniffled. “A friend took my place at work, the shape shifter that helped defeat Myriad.” She smiled. “You scared him. You’re the only person that has ever intimidated him.”
Cat preened. “Well, I do try.”
Kara took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “So, the bracelets.” She bit her lip again. “I should start at the beginning. As the last Kryptonian from one of the prime ruling Houses to reach the age of majority on Krypton, I am in effect, um, well… nobility.”
“O-kay,” Cat said slowly.
Kara smiled. “Since you were incapacitated, and there was no way to remove the Black Mercy toxin from your body, I formally established a new lesser House. You are now the leader of the House of Grant,” she said. “I can do that because as the head of the House of El, which is a ruling house, I can elevate my bannermen to house status.”
Cat raised a hand. “Putting aside the fact that mine is a ‘lesser House’ - which we will circle back to - and that my family are your ‘bannermen,’ why would you need to do that?”
“Because there wasn’t anything I could do to save you,” Kara said. “I had a way, but I couldn’t use it because it is forbidden except for a specific exception.” She stared at the table afraid to meet Cat’s eyes.
“But you could use it for one of your bannermen?” Cat asked gently.
Kara shook her head. “I needed you to be part of a Kryptonian House because Carter is of age according to my custom. Since you were unable to rule, he took command of the House of Grant and could enter into legal contracts.”
“You’ve saved CATCO too many times for me to think this was the world’s shrewdest takeover attempt,” Cat said.
“Of course not,” Kara said with a smile. She finally looked back into Cat’s eyes. “When I came out of the Black Mercy’s grip, I was able to metabolize its toxins because I am not human. I came from the same galaxy as the Black Mercy and my people evolved alongside it.”
“And?” Cat’s expression was perplexed.
Kara stood and paced. “When our parents sent us to Earth, they knew that our powers would set us apart. Not only do our powers give us strength and gifts beyond compare, they give us extended life.” She turned toward Cat. “Our cells repair with the power of the yellow sun. We can’t age once we reach adulthood. Our parents didn’t want us to be alone forever, and they didn’t want us to watch everyone we loved die, again and again.”
Cat swallowed nervously. “Kara, what did you do?”
“The only thing I could,” Kara said. “I couldn’t leave you trapped in a body that would never awaken. I couldn’t leave Carter alone.” She held up a hand. “We both know his father is not up to being a single parent.”
Cat nodded in agreement.
“Our parents sent a chamber to Earth for us. Once we found a partner, they could go into the chamber.” She sighed. “There was no divorce on Krypton. A bond is unbreakable.”
“The chamber I was inside?” Cat asked.
Kara nodded, then leaned forward. “You weren’t raised on Krypton. You are not bound by our laws.”
“Are we married?” Cat asked.
Kara shook her head. “No! I would never marry someone without their informed consent.” She held up her bracelet. “However, your acting Head of House could approve a betrothal. Parents did it all the time on Krypton. Kids wore bracelets of the finest silk, but if the match wasn’t meant to be, the parents could remove it without dishonor.” She smiled. “Your bracelet is enough for the chamber to recognize you as my match. Now that you’re okay, you can break the betrothal and have your freedom.”
“So, Carter acted as the head of my House?” Cat asked as her eyes widened.
Kara snorted. “You are the head of the House of Grant. Since you were incapacitated, the authority went to the Grant that has reached the age of majority, Carter.”
“Why not Adam?” Cat felt a lump in her throat.
Kara’s eyes narrowed. “I know that you love him with every cell in your body, Cat. But he renounced the House of Grant by taking his father’s name and treating you like dirt.” She didn’t add that his treatment of Cat showed enough dishonor to ensure he could never lead the House of Grant.
“And that only left Carter,” Cat said. “He’s just a boy.”
“He is thirteen,” Kara corrected. “The same age I was when I came to Earth. At thirteen, I had reached the age of majority on my planet. My ceremony in the temple of Rao in Argo City was one of the last held. It’s why I head the House of El and not Kal-El.”
Cat paced. “Carter must be so worried.” She gave Kara a muted glare. “And despite what your planet believes, he is a still child.”
Kara smiled. “First, as soon as you woke, Ka-lex sent texts to Alex and Carter, so they would know the chrysalis worked.”
Cat’s shoulders relaxed. “You always were an amazing assistant.” She paced and took in the small chamber. “Why the red lighting? It simply screams Vegas.”
Kara smiled and then tilted her head back and closed her eyes. She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. When she opened her eyes again, she looked more relaxed than Cat had ever seen her.
“This light has the same effects as Rao, the sun from my solar system.” Kara moved to Cat and stared at her with a serene expression. “I love the shade of red it gives your skin. It’s called the kiss of Rao.” Her eyes shined with tears. “I didn’t think you could ever look any more beautiful, but apparently you were born to wear the kiss of Rao.”
Cat had to turn away. “You’re just caught up in the romance of saving my life with a loophole that sounds more like a fairytale than science.” She spun and appraised Kara. In her Kryptonian gown she actually looked like a fairytale princess. Cat tilted her head to one side. “You look different.”
Kara grinned. “More than a few tourists fell in love when they visited my world. The kiss of Rao didn’t just affect Kryptonians.”
“No, that’s not it.” Cat moved closer to Kara. “Your posture, your bearing, is different. As Kara, you clearly hide yourself, but as Supergirl there’s quite a bit of acting the role of hero.” Cat gestured at Kara with a flick of her wrist. “Dressed like this? You look comfortable in your own skin for the first time.”
Kara’s smile was dimmed by sadness. “This feels like home. It’s because of the light of Rao upon me, and the feel of Kryptonian silk against my skin.” She looked down. “Even at thirteen years old, on my planet, I was valued and respected. I was the youngest person to ever be accepted to the Science Academy and the Law Academy.” She lifted her gaze. “I intended to eventually take the seat as the Counselor of Science.”
“You would have been an amazing teacher, Kara.” Cat could see Kara surrounded by laughing children in her mind’s eye.
Kara laughed. “As Science Counselor, I would have shared the ruling of our planet along with the rest of the High Council. We had Counselors of Law, Religion, Art, Labor, and Military, as well as the Ruling Council which was a group of elected officials, one from each guild.” Her eyes sparkled. “Like the United Nations, except we actually ran the planet.”
“What about Kal-El?” Cat asked.
Kara shook her head. “He was only a few months old when we fled our dying world. I suppose he would have excelled in Science, like his parents, but he wasn’t old enough to take the aptitude exams.”
“And now?” Cat asked. “What does he think about you being the head of your House?
Kara rolled her eyes. “Kal has no idea what it means to be Kryptonian. He was raised on Earth and is more human than Kryptonian except for his powers.”
Cat stared at the band on her wrist. “So do I have superpowers?”
“Cat, you always had superpowers,” Kara said with a laugh. “However, the process didn’t give you any new ones.” Kara narrowed her eyes. “Well, unless you consider no aging and extended life to the point of near immortality a superpower.”
Cat’s eyes widened. She nodded. “I think that qualifies.” She looked down at the bracelet and ran her fingers over it. It looked as if the metal was braided, but the side against her skin was as smooth as the Kryptonian silk gown she was wearing. “This is stunning. You said you made it?”
Kara blushed. “My parents chose for me to go to the Law guild and the Science guild. But I also attended the Arts guild. One of my first sculptures was of a bird, even though they had been extinct on Krypton for hundreds of years.”
Cat examined the bracelet. When she turned it, she could just make out glyphs. The only one she recognized was the symbol Kara wore on her chest as Supergirl. “Isn’t it a bit risky having Kryptonian writing on a bracelet meant to wear in public?”
Kara moved to Cat’s side. “May I?” she asked, holding her palm toward Cat.
Cat placed her wrist on Kara’s palm. She felt her own heart race, but she could also feel Kara’s increase as well.
Kara ran her finger over the bracelet. “These are glyphs.” She pointed to the Supergirl crest. “This is for the House of El. It represents shahrrehth, which roughly translates to hope.”
“Of course, it does,” Cat said with a smile.
“Shh,” Kara said playfully. “This one? This is shokh.” She looked into Cat’s eyes. “I chose this to represent the House of Grant. It means truth.”
“And the ones between them?” Cat’s voice was rough with emotion.
“Zehdh. That represents unity and belonging.” Kara was blushing furiously. “And, uh, well, this one?” she said. “It says ‘zhoa.’ It’s, well… in this context it means romantic love, and physical attraction.” She quickly looked into Cat’s eyes. “Which is totally traditional on a bonding bracelet.”
Cat smiled knowingly. “You specified ‘in this context.’ What does it mean in other contexts?”
Kara sighed, and her blush darkened. “It also can mean lust, and it can be used in place of the word ‘fuck.’” She cringed. “But it really is the traditional word to link the House glyphs,” she insisted.
Cat smiled at Kara embarrassment. “So, what you are telling me is that you handmade us gorgeous bracelets that basically announce to the world that, ‘Supergirl fucks Cat Grant?’ Is that what you’re saying?”
“The world can’t even see it,” Kara said indignantly. “It’s in a spectrum that only Kryptonians can see. Even the DEO hasn’t found a way to view this spectrum.”
“So, this is your message for me?” Cat asked playfully.
“It’s tradition,” Kara said with a smile, then frowned. “And now that you’ve recovered, you can break our betrothal.”
“Why can’t you break it?” Cat challenged.
Kara stood tall, with her chin out as if standing in front of the High Council. “I am Kryptonian. I cannot, will not, break a bonding oath that I initiated.” She met Cat’s eyes. “You are not bound by our laws. All you have to do is remove it. Then you can go your own way. Hell, you could marry someone else if you wanted to.”
“And what about you?” Cat challenged. “What will you do?”
“I will not break my vow. I will not seek comfort from another. I will be true to my oath and to you.” Kara took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. She looked into Cat’s eyes and spoke softly. “I will wear this betrothal band until the day I die. And when I die, it will stay on my arm as I am placed in a funeral pod and launched toward the nebula left behind after Rao exploded.”
“So, no pressure, my little drama queen?” Cat said angrily. “You expect me to break the engagement knowing you will be all mopey for the rest of eternity?” She rolled her eyes. “I saw how petulant you got when I hired Siobhan. I can’t even imagine what would happen if I went on date with someone else.”
A tear ran down Kara’s cheek. “So long as the person was good to you, and you were happy with them, I would wish you all the happiness in the world.”
“Really?” Cat demanded. “So, there’s nothing between us, is that what you’re saying?” Cat moved closer. “All our late-night talks? The lingering looks? Hell, even Carter sees the way you look at me.”
“I’m saying that I would never expect you to honor my one-sided feelings,” Kara choked out.
“You’re an idiot!” Cat yelled.
“Ah!” Kara scowled and put her hands on her hips.
Cat rushed forward and grabbed Kara’s face and pressed a lingering kiss on her mouth but didn’t try to deepen it. “How the hell could you think I wasn’t insanely attracted to you?” She poked Kara’s chest.
Kara stood ramrod straight, her eyes wide as saucers.
“How can you possibly even think I haven’t fallen for you?” She shoved Kara back a few steps.
“You fired me dozens of times!” Kara said furiously.
“I knew you would come back the next day,” Cat insisted. “I was flirting!”
“Who flirts like that?” Kara yelled. “Were you flirting with Brad from accounting when you fired him and then told him to ‘kindly get the hell out’ of your office?”
“No! Of course not,” Cat said. “He kept looking at your ass. Add that to the fact that he uses a calculator to figure out what to tip and he definitely had to go.”
Kara was taking deep breaths, her chest heaving.
“Don’t look at me that way,” Cat said. She folded her arms across her chest and sighed. “You know me better than anyone in the world except for Carter,” she said quietly. “How could you not know?”
Kara moved closer until she could feel the heat coming off of Cat’s skin. “Do you want to take off the bonding bracelet?”
“Don’t ask what I want.” Cat said fiercely. “For once in your life, be honest about what you want.”
“You,” Kara said quietly.
Cat smiled proudly and nodded. “Then we’re in agreement.”
“Zhoa!” Kara whispered. She leaned closer and pressed a gentle kiss to Cat’s lips.
Cat groaned and deepened the kiss. After a few minutes they were both breathless as they broke apart.
Cat’s smile was dazed.
Kara picked up Cat’s right hand. “So, I think a long engagement is in order, so we can actually date before the wedding.”
Cat frowned. “Please don’t tell me Kryptonians wait for the wedding night.”
“Even if they did, which they didn’t…” Kara said as she moved closer. “We would make our own rules.”
“Wicked.” Cat licked her lips. “I may just have to fire you again.”
“Please do,” Kara said cheekily. “Now, that I know it’s the only way you know how to flirt, I’m looking forward to it.”
“Trust me, Kara, I know many ways to flirt.” Cat smiled meaningfully. She pulled Kara closer and kissed her.
“What’s taking so long?” Alex asked as she paced across the living room in Cat’s penthouse. “Your mom woke up ages ago.”
“Maybe there’s more to it than just her waking up.” Carter looked up from his phone. “How long does it usually take?”
“It’s never been done before,” Alex said quietly.
“So, there’s no Mrs. Superman?” he asked. “Or a Mr. Superman, if he likes boys that way.”
Alex smiled. “Nope. No Mister or Missus Superman.” She shook her head. The kid was adorable. It caused an ache in her chest. She wanted children, but she also knew that with her job, she was unlikely to survive long enough to raise them.
“Well, if this is unprecedented, it makes sense there’s a lot to work out.” Carter smiled. “Maybe they’re finally going to admit that they have feelings for each other.”
“Do you think your mom will admit she has a crush, too?” asked Alex.
“Please,” Carter waved off her question with a flick of his wrist. “It’s not a crush. Any idiot can see that.”
“Are you saying it’s love?”
Carter rolled his eyes. “She is completely gone for Kara. It’s why she was always so rude to her.” He laughed. “She thought she could scare Kara away. It never occurred to mom she was trying to frighten a superhero.”
Alex groaned. “Man, I think I owe Lucy Lane a hundred bucks.”
Carter raised an eyebrow, clearly expecting an explanation.
“She made a bet with me about your mom,” Alex said. “She was sure that your mom… um, likes Kara… romantically.” What Lucy had actually said was, ‘Cat wants to bend Kara over the glass desk in her office and make Supergirl beg for mercy.’ Alex shuddered.
“Right,” Carter said with a smile. He was sure the bet had involved something more lascivious, but he certainly didn’t want to know the details.
They both turned when they heard the door to the balcony slide open.
“Mom!” Carter sprinted to his mother and grunted as he collided with her. “I’m so glad you’re okay,” he said as he began to cry.
Kara watched the two of them with a look of awe in her eyes.
Alex cleared her throat.
Kara hurried to Alex’s side. “Hey,” she said nervously.
“So?” Alex smirked. “I see you’re both still wearing your friendship bracelets.”
Kara nodded as she looked down at her betrothal band. “Yeah,” she whispered. She lifted her gaze to Alex’s face. “It’s more amazing than I could have ever imagined.”
Alex punched Kara’s shoulder. “Dang, Danvers. Way to give the milk away for free.”
“Alex!” Kara hissed. “We did not have…” She turned to make sure Carter was out of earshot, then looked back to her sister and whispered “…sex.”
“Yet.” Alex waggled her eyebrows.
Kara groaned. “Stop it,” she muttered under her breath.
“Stop what?” Alex said loudly.
Cat focused on Alex. “Stop teasing my betrothed, Alexandra. Otherwise, I might decide to do an exposé on J'onn J'onzz and the fact that the man can’t get a decent latte to save his life.”
“Kara,” Alex growled.
“She didn’t say a word,” Cat said as she and Carter crossed the room toward the sisters. “You forget, my best friend is the leader of the free world.”
“Oh… my… god!” Carter said. “You have superhearing?”
Cat shrugged. “Minor superhearing.”
Carter pointed at his mother. “You cannot use it to spy on employees!”
“God, you really are going to work in HR” Cat said.
Alex’s eyes widened as she turned to her sister. “Anything else?”
“She can see in the Kryptonian spectrum,” Kara said excitedly. “And she’s more powerful than even the strongest human.” Kara lifted off the floor in her excitement. “And I can hug her with my full strength and not hurt her!”
“Down, girl,” Cat said as she tugged Kara until her feet rested on the carpet.
“I have so many questions,” Carter said excitedly.
Cat cleared her throat. “We don’t interview family members,” she said firmly. “But if you write out your questions, I’ll try to answer them.”
“Sure thing, Mom,” he said brightly. “So how strong are you really?” he asked her.
“Strong enough,” she said, and then scooped him into her arms and spun in circles.
“Mom!” he squealed.
“If you vomit on me, I will ground you for a year,” Cat said with a laugh, but she continued spinning.
Kara put both hands to her chest and sniffled.
Alex hugged Kara and leaned up to whisper into her ear. “You look happy.” She watched the two Grants and sighed. “Cat does, too.”
Not the end; the beginning of their happily ever after.