It is a dark and eerily quiet night, even for someone with superhearing, for someone who can listen in on hushed arguing several blocks away.
She bites her lip, returning her focus to her work. Her desk is illuminated only by the bright lights of Cat Grant’s office and the moonlight streaming from the window behind her, Ms. Grant’s furious typing at her computer only broken up by irregular tuts of impatience (as if annoyed her fingers couldn’t keep pace with her thinking). It’s as if the entire city has held its breath, as though everything has come to a standstill, people tense, taut as a drawn bowstring—waiting, she thinks, for the inevitable moment everything begins to fall apart.
National City is plagued by an assassin.
(That’s what the papers say, anyway, breathlessly reporting on each clean murder with a detachment Kara almost envies. Facts and leads are scarce. They only really know two things: first, the assassin is never seen, never heard, and the kills are quick and painless; and second, there seems to be nothing that connects the victims, nothing that can give way to motive or logic or insight into who will be next.
CatCo has dubbed the killer as ‘The Ghost’ and Kara rather thinks the name is apt, if only because the entire city seems to be haunted by it.)
“Keira!” Cat Grant calls, making Kara jump as she’s pulled out of her thoughts, rushing to get to her feet and into Cat’s office. “I need coffee. Good coffee. Maybe from that place that opened up a block away,” she said without looking up, still typing away.
“Ms. Grant,” Kara begins haltingly, “it’s almost one in the morning. I don’t think anywhere is open—”
“—Keira, I hear a lot of talking and not a lot of footsteps scurrying away to get my coffee. I don’t care how you do it, but do it .”
(The problem isn’t the coffee. It would be easy enough for Kara to fly anywhere in the world and get Cat the best cup of coffee she’d ever had.
The problem is there’s a killer out there and Cat Grant has been writing increasingly harsher pieces on them, and Kara’s almost positive her boss has made herself a target.)
“It’s just that...with everything going on...maybe I should stay here?” Kara tries, watching as Cat pauses her typing and looks up for the first time. There’s something other than annoyance in her eyes for once.
“Don’t be silly, Keira,” she says, waving her hand. “ You’re not in any danger. In case you haven’t noticed, the Ghost only goes after rich and powerful people. Like me,” she adds, like it’s an afterthought, as if Kara hasn’t noticed just that, worries about just that. “Now go. Coffee.”
Kara shuffles her feet, knowing she’s about to press too far. “I just think that maybe—”
“—Cat, Kara, I should’ve known you two would stay late as well.”
The interruption is enough of a distraction that Cat doesn’t immediately tear into Kara’s reluctance to leave. Instead they both turn their attention to James, who is smiling kindly, clearly unaware what he’s just stepped into.
“Ah. Mr. Olsen. Can you please explain to Keira that until she gets me a draft of an article I can actually use , she has not been promoted to a journalist, and if she continues to avoid getting my coffee, which is her current job, I will not promote her to journalist?”
It’s clearly not a question or request. After a moment of awkward silence, James lets out a strained chuckle and motions for Kara to follow him while Cat returns to her work.
They’re almost to the elevators before James finally speaks up.
“I’ll stay with her until you get back,” he offers, clearly trying to set her mind at ease.
Kara nearly groans. “We don’t even know if this killer is human , James. I know you can handle yourself, but if they’ve got powers—”
“—then you should get back as quick as you can with the coffee. And please remember to heat it when you get back. We don’t want a repeat of ‘does my assistant know coffee is supposed to be hot’ do we?”
“It was hot, she was just being picky,” Kara grumbles. James just grins at her then holds up a finger, jogs back over to her desk and jogs right back.
“Don’t forget this,” he says, holding out her camera. “A journalist should always carry their camera with them, you never know when you’ll stumble onto a good story.”
Kara takes her camera and pulls the strap around her neck, feeling better with the comfortable weight of her camera. “I’ll be back soon,” she promises.
(She hates that it turns out to be a lie.)
Two things distract her immediately once she’s in the alleyway behind CatCo. First, there’s a copy of the Daily Planet laying on the ground, the front page plastered with a giant photo of Supergirl, the headline beneath it reading, Why Can’t Supergirl Stop The Ghost? Second, it’s the sound of police sirens blaring in the distance, clearly headed in her direction.
(Kara only hesitates for a moment—risking Cat’s ire, her job, and her secret, she flies up to the rooftop of the building, hoping for a better vantage point for whatever is going on.)
From where she stands, she can see nearly a dozen police cars in the street, lights flashing red and blue, officers scrambling this way and that, clearly preparing for something. A helicopter roars overhead, a searchlight roaming over the CatCo rooftop.
It doesn’t take a genius to put it together. The police response, the helicopter overhead, it could only mean one thing: the Ghost has struck again.
Kara takes a careful step forward, relieved that she can hear James and Cat Grant chatting several floors below, most of her focus on narrowing all the heartbeats in the city to a single one that is currently sharing the roof with her. She takes another step, nearly closing her eyes as she strains to focus, and then:
She looks up, all thoughts of finally stopping the Ghost, of maybe taking James’ advice and snapping a photo, of finally getting that promotion to journalist Cat promised her, flying straight out of her head.
Because the assassin is not what Kara expects.
(The Ghost is human, but quite unlike any human Kara’s ever encountered. The assassin holds themself in what has to be the most uncomfortable position, hidden from view by perching on the uppermost level of the roof, crouched so lowly that Kara feels sorry for their knees, bathed in dark shadows.
They’re wearing all black, a hood pulled over their head that’s shaped like an eagle head, a mask which covers most of their face, and there’s something shiny on the inside of their wrist.
And then there’s their eyes—vibrant green as the assassin meets Kara’s gaze.)
If someone had told Kara that time had stopped right then, she wouldn’t find it hard to believe. The moment the green eyes meet hers, everything seems to freeze and slow, and her hands—which had been slowly reaching for the camera hanging from her neck—fall limply against her sides.
Then the assassin breaks the eye contact, looking down into the alleyway, and time starts up again. Kara opens her mouth—to say something, to call for help, to demand the killer stop right there, she doesn’t quite know—but the Ghost just turns once more towards her, adjusts the hood, winks , then gracefully straightens into the light.
And jumps off the roof.
Kara watches, horrified, for a whole second before her body catches up with her brain, and she rushes to the side of the roof, ready to follow, but the assassin is gone.
And not for the first time, Kara figures Ghost is an aptly-given name.
In stark contrast to CatCo, the DEO is not at all silent, even with the clock inching ever closer to four in the morning.
“Maybe they got spooked because Kara was there,” Alex suggests, rubbing her eyes tiredly and leaning against Kara, head dropping onto her shoulder. “I don’t think we can rule out they’re an alien either. They probably flew away.”
“They sounded human,” Kara says, shaking her head, thinking of the steady pound of the assassin’s heart, the distinctive sound of gushing blood in veins and creaking joints she associates only with humans. “And they didn’t fly, they dropped. I heard the landing.”
Alex lets out a disbelieving grunt, as if she doesn’t doubt Kara’s hearing, but definitely doubts who—or rather, what—this assassin is. “Humans don’t survive that.”
“Kara says there was a dumpster full of old newspapers. Maybe that cushioned the fall,” Nia suggests, shrugging when Brainy looks unimpressed by the suggestion.
“Humans are remarkably fragile,” he reminds them all unnecessarily. “The chances that a human could fall from that height and land in a pile of old papers and survive is...well, very low. I agree with Alex. Our killer is likely not human.”
J’onn gets up from where he’s sitting, listening to them brainstorm in silence. He crosses his arms over his chest and studies Kara carefully. “If it’s human, the DEO can’t get involved,” he says slowly. “The president has made it clear where she wants us to expend our resources.”
“Can I have Alex and Brainy at least?” Kara asks, answering J’onn’s unasked question. Yes, she’s sure their killer is human.
J’onn sighs. “Alex can volunteer her free time, but I’ll need her here.”
“What about me? Or Kelly? Or James?” Nia demands. “We can help.”
“You’re not technically DEO,” Alex reminds her with a small smile. “We won’t need to clear it with J’onn first. Obviously Kara will need as much help as she can get.”
Kara doesn’t acknowledge Alex’s comment, just continues to look at J’onn steadily, eyeing his frown.
“Five people are dead, Supergirl,” he says solemnly. “Whoever this killer is, they’re wanted by nearly every law enforcement agency, but they’re still out there. And I don’t think I need to tell you what will happen if this city starts to believe Supergirl can’t protect them anymore.”
Kara feels her jaw clench, nodding tightly, once again answering J’onn’s unasked question. “I can stop them. I’ll stop them.”
The building is impeccably clean, minimalist in design, and filled with employees who genuinely seem to enjoy being there—all except for one harried looking secretary who follows Kara through two heavy doors, all the while half-shouting, half-whispering protests behind her.
“Ma’am, you don’t have an appointment, you can’t just—”
“—Jess? Who is this? What’s going on?”
“—I’m so sorry, Miss Luthor, I told her she can’t just come up here, but she’s so fast , I’ll get security right away, I—”
“—Miss Luthor,” Kara cuts in, speaking over the secretary, “my name is Kara Danvers, I work at CatCo,” no need to tell her that it’s as Cat Grant’s assistant, that she has absolutely no business being here, “I just wanted to ask you a few questions for a piece about the new cancer center LuthorCorp is donating to.”
Lena Luthor gets to her feet and rounds her desk, studying Kara intently. She seems sure of herself, cool and poised despite heels that would’ve been murder for Kara and a dress that Kara hopes she can breathe in. Her dark hair is pulled back in a tight bun, one of her dark brows is raised imperiously as she gazes at Kara, and her eyes—her very green eyes—don’t waver once from Kara’s.
“Last I heard, Cat was pursuing more hard-hitting journalism. A puff piece about LuthorCorp donations doesn’t seem like the meshes well with the new direction of your boss’s magazine.”
“Cat Grant gives her employees a great deal of creative license,” Kara lies. Lena smiles benignly.
“Hmm,” she starts, and even though she doesn’t move at all, something about her changes, as if she goes from wary to positively guarded. “That doesn’t sound like the Cat I know at all,” she adds lightly, but she motions for Jess to leave them, then points to a couch tucked in the corner of her office. “All right, Ms. Danvers. Ask away.”
Kara pulls out a legal pad and a pen from her messenger bag, waiting until Lena’s poured them both water and has settled down on the other end of the couch before she begins. “So, I lied,” she says bluntly. Lena’s head tilts to the side, and though her expression remains politely curious and ever-vigilant, her eyes flicker with something like uncertainty.
“I gathered as much,” Lena says slowly. “Who are you and why are you really here?”
“I really am Kara Danvers and I do work at CatCo, but I—look, there’s no easy way to say this. I think you’re in danger.”
“From you?” Lena asks, raising one eyebrow wryly. She seems utterly disaffected, totally in control, all except for the slight increase of her heart rate, the whitening of the skin around her knuckles as she clenched her hand into a fist. It’s an odd response for someone like Lena Luthor.
“From the Ghost.”
At that, Lena lets out a laugh. “You mean the new folk tale used to scare children into listening to their parents? I’m hardly in danger from the figment of someone’s imagination, Ms. Danvers.”
“Five people are dead.”
“Yes, apparently at the hands of someone who can walk through walls and disappear at will,” Lena says, laughing again. “I’m in more danger crossing the street for my afternoon coffee.”
Kara grips her pen a little more tightly. “So how do you think those five people died?”
“I believe investigating that would be the job of detectives and journalists, not me. So pardon me if I refuse to speculate.” Kara would’ve thought Lena really believed her words and disaffected attitude if it wasn’t for the fact that her eyes no longer remain focused on Kara’s, instead drifting towards the door and window.
“What if I told you that the five people who’ve died are all in some way connected to LuthorCorp?” Kara asks, tearing out a page from her legal pad then scrawling several names and handing it over. “What if I told you all of them had either financial or personal ties to this company and to your brother?”
“I don’t know any of these people.”
“You’re the CFO, Miss Luthor. Unless your brother is keeping you in the dark, how wouldn’t you know?”
Lena’s eyes flickered from the paper to Kara’s face and then to the doors of her office. “I’m not quite sure what you’re suggesting, Ms. Danvers.”
“I’m suggesting that there should be another name on that list, another person with financial and personal ties to LuthorCorp and your brother: you .” The pronouncement is met with nothing but silence, and for a long moment, Kara thinks maybe she misread everything, maybe she’s wrong. But then Lena shakes her head and hands the paper back, almost forcefully careless.
“My brother is a lot of things, but a killer is not one of them,” she says coldly, getting to her feet, clearly indicating that the conversation is over. “You can leave the same way you came in.”
“That’s just the thing, Miss Luthor,” Kara says as she stands, shoving her pen and legal pad in her bag, leaving the list on the couch, “whoever this killer is, they’re targeting people who work with your brother. How much longer before they go after you to get to him?”
Lena’s jaw is tight when she speaks. “If I ever see you in this office again, Ms. Danvers, I assure you, CatCo will be your very last job in journalism.” Kara nods, accepting defeat and refusing to admit she’d never had a job as a journalist in the first place, and she’s on her way out when Lena speaks once more. “By the way, you should be more careful when wearing those button ups. I was able to see the collar of your suit as soon as you sat down.”
Kara turns her head, adjusts her glasses, and gives Lena Luthor a searching look. “Well, if you hadn’t seen it, it would’ve defeated the whole purpose of coming here. Have a good day, Miss Luthor.”
It’s not until she’s several blocks away from the building that the earpiece in her ear crackles to life and Brainy’s voice comes through loudly and clearly.
“Very good work, Kara. We’re accessing LuthorCorp files now, and they’ll never be able to trace the data breach. Though Alex is not happy you gave your secret away to one of the Ghost’s potential victims.”
Kara turns her head, eyeing LuthorCorp in the distance. “Let me know what you find. I’ll be patrolling the city. I have a feeling about tonight.”
She hears the sound of a grappling hook, the gentle whir of a mechanical zip line, and then soft boots landing on the balcony. She waits patiently until the newcomer has reattached their tools to their belt before stepping out of the shadow and revealing herself, a neat trick she thinks Bruce Wayne would be proud of.
“She isn’t here,” she says, unsurprised when the newcomer’s hand goes back to their belt, throwing a knife straight towards Kara’s face. She lets out a sigh, stepping slightly to the side, letting the knife whirl past her and land harmlessly on the balcony floor. “She’s in custody. The DEO got a tip earlier today that she’s been promising alien refugees work, but then forcing them into illegal fighting rings.”
“It’s worse than that,” says the hooded, masked newcomer, arms crossed over their chest. “She’s been smuggling alien weaponry to the highest bidder.”
“She’ll answer for her crimes in court.”
“Don’t be so naïve, Supergirl,” the Ghost says with a derisive snort. Kara watches as they step closer to her, their hood pulled so low that the mask on their face isn’t at all necessary; Kara wouldn’t have been able to make anything out anyway. “What you and I do isn’t all that different you know. If anything, you should be helping me.”
Kara’s voice is hard and cold when she answers. “Killing people is never the answer.”
The assassin lets out a laugh, casually jumping onto the balcony’s balustrade, legs dangling over the side of the building. “Veronica Sinclair is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. Where do you think those weapons she sells go? And she’s more deserving of life than the ones who died for her greed?”
“Killing her won’t bring back those who died. And it makes us no different from her.”
“But we’d be putting a stop to it, don’t you see? A stop to the hurt and the loss.”
Kara takes a step closer. “There are other ways of stopping people like her.”
“Right, right,” the Ghost says, shaking their head, shifting their gaze from Kara to the city below them. “The hero of National City. What’s it you stand for? Hope, help, and compassion for all?” They sigh, turning to Kara, hood shifting just enough that Kara can see the gleam of very green eyes. “So you’re here to what? Stop me?”
“You’ve killed five people. You’re a wanted woman.”
The assassin laughs, what sounds like a genuine laugh, and they remove their hood and mask, eyeing Kara with some amusement and a great deal of curiosity. “You figured it out, how clever.”
“I knew it was you when I walked into your office, Lena,” Kara says gently, hands on her hips.
“Your eyes are pretty distinctive and very hard to forget,” Kara says without thinking, the eyes in question searching her expression for something, seeming disappointed when it isn’t there.
“I assume this is where you take me in, right? Hand me over to the authorities?”
Lena shrugs a little listlessly, raising an eyebrow. “See, that’s great. I admire your work ethic. But as you know, there are more names on that list, names of people who are doing terrible things, and I can’t really afford wasting my time playing cat and mouse with you. So what about a deal?” She gets to her feet in one fluid motion, standing on the balustrade, arms splayed wide. “I’ll play by your rules. No more killing. In return, you leave me alone.”
“That’s not how this—” Kara doesn’t get to finish what she wants to say. Without even the slightest bit of fear in her eyes, Lena Luthor tips backwards and plummets off the edge of the building.
Kara jumps after her, is barely centimeters away from her, when there’s a burst of light and a plume of smoke, blinding Kara. In the split second it takes to fly through the smoke and regain her bearings, Lena is gone.
She eats her ice cream sullenly, Alex watching her with pursed lips, like she’s holding back saying something.
“I should’ve waited for backup,” Kara mutters, knowing she has a crinkle when Alex curls on the couch next to her, tugging the ice cream out of her hands.
“Yeah, you should’ve.”
“I just figured...she’s one human. How hard would it be to stop one human? But she’s sneaky , Alex. So sneaky. She just...went poof. How did she go poof?”
Alex is clearly working hard to hold back her laughter, and she reaches out to smooth over the crinkle with her thumb. “I want to know when billionaire Lena Luthor had time for parkour lessons and apparently free falling from massive heights.”
“It’s kinda cool.”
“ So cool,” Alex agrees, waving her spoon. “If, you know, she hadn’t also killed five people.”
“At least they were bad people?” Kara tries weakly, tugging the ice cream back towards herself and taking a massive bite of it. Alex watches her with some disgust.
“This is why I hate sharing ice cream with you, you’re the worst at actually sharing .” She snatches the ice cream carton out of Kara’s hands. “And no, we can’t justify what she did. You said it yourself, killing isn’t the answer.”
Kara sighs, throwing her head back and staring at her ceiling. “She’s such a sneaky human. Ghost is a good name for her.”
Alex doesn’t respond immediately, just pulls Kara in for a one armed hug, the tug of war over the ice cream momentarily forgotten. “Hmm, yeah. A sneaky human with very distinctive eyes, right?” she teases. And even when Kara throws a pillow at her face, she doesn’t stop laughing.
Rain platters against her window, the occasional strike of lightning lighting up the stormy night sky.
She likes nights like this, with the rolling thunder, the rain soothing her to sleep, almost like a gentle lullaby. Just as she’s about to doze off, an unnatural click against her window has her shooting up straight in bed.
Kara doesn’t bother grabbing her glasses, getting out of bed and walking slowly towards her living room window with clenched fists, waiting for her intruder to make the next move.
The window flies open, something rolls in heavily, and rain begins to soak her rug.
“Lena?” Kara asks in astonishment as she finally recognizes her intruder, rushing forward to shut her window, then dropping to her knees where Lena still lays. “What’s going on, why are you—oh Rao , is that blood?”
It’s a dumb question. Swirling in the rainwater that’s gathered on her floor is unmistakably bright red blood. Lena lets out a groan, pressing against her side, and Kara drops to her knees, trying to assess the injury as quickly as possible.
“I don’t see any broken bones or damaged organs. You got really lucky,” Kara tells her, momentarily thinking of using her freeze breath on the wound before she changes her mind. She gently picks Lena off her floor, cradling the surprisingly small and frail body in her arms, and slowly places her on the couch, resting her back against the armrest. “Alex—my sister,” she explains unnecessarily, “keeps a first aid kit here, her job is almost as dangerous as yours. Hold on.” Kara is gone and back in a flash, getting to work cleaning then dressing the wound as carefully as she can. “What happened?”
“Police officer got a lucky shot,” Lena says quietly, accepting the painkiller Kara hands her without argument. “Thank you for...well, all this,” she gestures to her freshly bandaged side, “I wasn’t sure you’d help me or turn me in, but I figured I’d take my chances. I mean, you’re the only one who knows it’s me, and seeing as though my name isn’t plastered all over the news, I figured I could trust you.”
“You haven’t killed anyone since I last saw you,” Kara says quietly, avoiding Lena’s unasked question. “Different outfit too, way more noticeable.”
Lena swings her legs off the couch, leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees. She looks remarkably out of place in Kara’s apartment. Her hood is down, but the soft fabric of her suit, which was once all black, is bright white, the only splash of color being the red sash around her waist and the streak of red on her cloak. Between the suit and the boots, Kara’s fairly sure Lena would fit in in Renaissance Italy, or at the very least, a very serious renaissance fair. “I only killed those five people because they gave me no other choice. There were others who just...were persuaded...to stop associating with my brother.” She eyes Kara with some amusement. “Besides, a very pretty woman masquerading as a journalist who is actually National City’s caped superhero asked me to stop. Who am I to disappoint?”
Kara lets out a breath, finally understanding why Maxwell Lord just left National City without a single word—much to Cat’s bewilderment and amusement. “So you’re saying you stopped for me?” Kara asks sarcastically, shaking her head.
“I see what the Daily Planet says about you,” Lena says, placing a hand against her side and getting to her feet. “Considering Supergirl purposefully outed herself to someone she thought was in danger from a masked assassin, I don’t think that Perry White is being very fair.”
“Well, Perry White thinks he can make their caped hero in Metropolis look good if he cuts me down. Cat has pretty strong opinions about those who try to make others look small so they can look big.” She wrinkles her nose. “She also has a lot of jokes.”
Lena nods slowly, inching her way back to the window she dropped in from, clearly not wanting to push her luck and stay with Kara any longer than necessary. “What about a new deal, Supergirl?” she asks with a small smile, her eyes watching Kara follow her every movement. “The list of those people who work with my brother is long. And they’re all dangerous for a lot of different reasons. So what if we joined forces? Think of the good we can do, a Super and a...well, a Luthor turned assassin.” She bites her lip as she ponders her next words. “We’ll do it your way. Hope, help, and compassion. All that hero stuff.”
Kara can’t help it, even though she knows Alex will kill her.
“Deal,” she says, unsurprised when Lena just grins at her, throws the window open, and leaps out into the stormy shadows of the city.
Kara closes the window, fighting a smile, already looking forward to the next time the Ghost slips out of the shadows and towards the light—towards her.