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Unsteady

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Hold, hold on to me,

Cause I'm a little unsteady


 

Kara is trapped in place by the weight of Cat’s gaze, heavy on her skin, her eyes glowing in the low light of the balcony, so much brighter without the lenses of her glasses dulling her sight.

She’s breath-taking, and she’s so close that Kara’s heart would be racing even if Cat wasn’t standing in-front of her with awe on her face, even if she wasn’t presenting her carefully thought-out and damming evidence – even if she wasn’t about to lose everything.

Rao, she should have been more careful. How could she have forgotten who she worked for? The Queen of all Media, a woman who had gotten her start as an investigative reporter, becoming one of the best in the field?

Cat had begun her career by exposing secrets, and now she has everything she could possibly need to expose her.

And all Kara can think, in that moment, is about how hard it is to breathe with Cat mere inches away – she can almost still feel the tingle in her fingers from where she had brushed her arm earlier that day, to offer an assurance, and when she remembers the thoughtful, considering look on Cat’s face as she’d glanced at Kara’s hand, her stomach flips.

It’s a bad idea to have a crush on your boss, Kara knows that. She also knows that it’s never going to come to anything, that it’s safe, even if it’s sometimes tortuous, but now, as Cat levels her with a knowing gaze and raises her glass slightly towards her, Cat Grant just might be the most dangerous creature she’s ever met.

“Let me start by saying thank you, for all the help you’ve given me,” Cat murmurs, and the look on her face is something Kara has only ever caught glimpses of before, when she’s appeared in-front of her boss in the cape but now… now that awe and admiration is fully-focused on her and she doesn’t know how she’s supposed to think. “Supergirl.”

Cat says the name reverently, like it’s something to be savoured, and Kara’s heart thunders in her chest and in her ears because Rao, this cannot be happening.

Alex is going to kill her.

Because it’s one thing to tell her best friend about who she is, but Cat Grant? The woman who had stopped at nothing to get an interview with her, who had revealed her connection to Superman to the world?

Alex was going to kill Cat, or, at the very least, throw her in a deep, dark hole somewhere, and it’ll be all her fault.

She should have been more careful.

She wishes, more than anything, in that moment where Cat looks at her with something like expectation blooming in green, green eyes, that something, anything would happen – that her phone would buzz and her sister would need her, anything to get away from Cat’s gaze, anything to give her a minute to think, to come up with a story that’s anything but the truth.

But nothing happens, no-one comes to her rescue, and she’s alone with Cat and instead of her usual exhilaration she’s filled only with stone-cold fear.

“I… you must be mistaken, Miss Grant,” she tries, eventually, managing to speak even though her throat is tight and her tongue feels like lead. Her voice trembles and so do her hands, as she reaches up to shove her glasses back on her nose, as if they may offer her some form of defence from Cat’s gaze.

In that moment, it burns hotter than even Kara’s heat-vision, and she hasn’t vomited since she landed on Earth but Rao, in that moment she feels like she might be capable of it, after all.

“Oh, no,” Cat shakes her head, and her lips are pulled into a half-smirk of victory and when she advances another step Kara scrambles backwards like the space might clear her head. “No, I don’t think I am.” She takes another step, and doesn’t stop until Kara’s backed against the railing, and Cat’s looming in-front of her, trapping her in place. “There’s too much evidence. And I bet, if I went back into my office right now and cross-referenced Supergirl sightings with the times my assistant was conveniently missing from her desk, I’d get a few hits, don’t you?”

“M-Miss Grant, I - ”

“But what I would like to know, Kiera,” Cat talks right over her, gaze sharp as she narrows her eyes thoughtfully, “is why you’re here. Why National City’s hero spends her days fetching me lattes when she could be doing so much…” Cat trails off and gestures towards the city skyline behind them, “more.”

“Look, Miss Grant,” Kara calls on some of her Supergirl confidence, though her voice wavers when she makes the mistake of looking into Cat’s eyes, “I… I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not her. Like you said – what would a superhero be doing as your assistant?”

She tries to laugh it off, but her chuckle is weak, forced, and Cat’s eyes never leave her face as her lips purse thoughtfully.

Kara doesn’t tell her all of the things that had made her come here – that she’d wanted to change the world, and a company like this, working for a woman as remarkable as Cat, had been how she’d chosen to do it.

She doesn’t tell Cat how much this job means to her – not just because it offers her a chance at normalcy, but because of her. She doesn’t dare tell Cat how much she means to Kara, how much she admires her, how all her help over these past few months has helped her rise higher than she ever thought she’d be able to reach.

But she wants to.

She wants Cat to look at her like this more often, wants to believe that there’s something in Cat’s gaze that speaks of how much Kara might mean to her, too. Wants to believe that maybe her crush isn’t hopeless at all.

But Cat is looking at the woman she branded right now, not the assistant who’s been at her side for two years, and Kara knows that only one of those halves of her could ever be someone that Cat wanted like that.

And that person isn’t who she is.

“I don’t know, Kiera. You tell me.” Kara shrinks back against the railing and wishes more than anything that she were anywhere other than here, because she doesn’t know how to get out of this, doesn’t know how to steer Cat away from it, because she’s like a dog with a bone when she thinks she’s onto a story, and this one?

This one would be the biggest story of her career and Kara isn’t naïve enough to believe that Cat cares for her enough to be able to let that go.

“Are you really going to lie to me?” Cat prompts, gaze calculated as it rests on Kara’s face, as she continues to struggle to find something to say. “Because you know how much I hate liars.” Her eyes flash with something dangerous when Kara remains silent, and then she heaves out an exaggerated sigh. “Very well, then. You leave me no choice.”

Kara eyes Cat warily as she sets her drink down and walks away, watches with a frown of confusion on her face as Cat pushes one of her chairs towards the balcony railing, and it’s only when Cat steps on to the chair, takes a shaky breath and looks down at the ground far, far below them that Kara realises her plan and gasps, rushing towards Cat and just barely managing to remember to keep at a human pace.

“What are you - ”

“I know I’m right,” Cat announces, though she looks a little green as she takes another look down, and Kara knows she’s terrified of heights, terrified of falling, and Rao, this cannot be happening. “But if you won’t admit it, then I’m going to step off this balcony, and you’re going to either watch me die, or catch me.”

“Miss Grant - ”

“Or you can save us both the trouble and just tell me the truth right now.” She turns to Kara with that piercing gaze, and Kara can hear the pounding of Cat’s terrified heartbeat, spiking as a strong gust of wind has her swaying, and Kara watches some of the colour drain from Cat’s face and wonders if she can call her bluff.

“I can’t give you the answers you want, Miss Grant,” she says softly, apologetically, and the look of disappointment that flashes across Cat’s face makes her feel like she’s been punched.

“Very well,” Cat sighs, and then she turns towards the balcony, and Kara is just barely fast enough to reach for her, fingers closing around her wrist before she can step over the edge. She tries to ignore the way Cat’s skin feels beneath her fingers, soft and smooth, and the pulse she can feel beating a frantic rhythm under her palm.

She thinks she’ll be replaying Cat’s tiny gasp of surprise at the contact over and over in her head for weeks to come.

“Miss Grant, please.”

“You know what I want, Kiera.” Cat sounds remarkably calm, considering her heartrate suggests she’s about five seconds away from passing out from sheer terror, and her gaze is steady as she glances down at Kara again, one eyebrow raised expectantly, and Kara doesn’t know what to do.

If she tells the truth, Cat will expose her.

If she lies, Cat will jump, and she’ll have to reveal herself anyway if she wants to save her.

Then Cat will expose her, and probably never speak to her ever again.

Either way, she’s screwed.

“My name isn’t Kiera,” she says haltingly, and she tries to focus on the warmth of Cat’s skin instead of the fear that constricts her throat, because admitting this to Cat is a lot harder than she expected. “It’s Kara.” Cat rolls her eyes, like she already knew that (Kara knows she does, had spent her first day here correcting Cat’s mispronunciation of her name only to give up when Cat had looked her right in the eye and uttered  ‘Kiera’ at the end of every sentence for the rest of the day). “Kara Zor-El.”

Cat sucks in a sharp breath and her eyes go wide and Kara’s mouth is dry and she feels so dizzy that she wonders if she’s about to faint.

“Kara Zor-El.” Cat says it experimentally, like she’s trying out the way it sounds, and it very nearly makes Kara’s knees go weak.

“But you can’t - ” Kara pauses, sucks in a sharp breath when Cat shifts to wrap her hand around Kara’s wrist, forgets how to breathe until she realises that Cat’s using her as support to lower herself from the chair, breathes a sigh of relief when Cat is back on solid ground. “You can’t tell anyone about this, Miss Grant, I… there’s a reason I have a day job. If people knew who I was, my friends, my family… they’d be in danger, and  - ”

“Is that what you think this is about?” Cat interrupts, eyes narrowing more and more the longer Kara speaks. “Exposing you?”

“I… it isn’t?” She asks, head tilting to one side as she takes Cat in, suddenly confused about her motives.

“I admit, the thought crossed my mind.” Cat reaches for her glass of abandoned scotch and takes a long sip, fingers trembling and heart still racing, before she turns to face Kara, leaning one hip against the railing. “Supergirl: Exposed.” She raises a hand to imitate the imaginary headline, and Kara gulps nervously. “But…  I assumed you had a reason for hiding. And judging from the look of absolute panic on your face when I confronted you, I was right.”

“I don’t want to endanger anyone,” Kara says quietly, staring down at her hands. “I… you knowing… it puts you in danger, too.”

“I publically endorsed you in the media, named you, made you a part of the CatCo brand – I don’t see how me knowing your true identity puts me in any more danger.”

“You haven’t met my sister.” Cat’s lips twitch into one of those full, rare smiles, and Kara’s breath catches in the back of her throat.

“Why do you work here, Kara?” She doesn’t think she’ll ever get used to Cat saying her name, the way she enunciates each syllable so carefully. “What do you possibly have to gain from running around as my assistant? Can you give me even one good reason for why I shouldn’t fire you?” Kara’s earlier panic slams back into her so hard that it knocks the breath from her lungs, because she can’t lose this job.

“Please, Miss Grant, I - ” Cat’s eyes widen as she takes note of the desperate look in her own, “please don’t fire me, I… I need this job. I can’t be Supergirl all the time.” She thinks the weight of it would kill her, suffocate her slowly until there was nothing of herself left, until she’d given it all away to save the city. “I wouldn’t survive it. You even told me, once, that I shouldn’t take on too much at once, and being a full-time hero?” She shakes her head. “That’s not me.”

In the early days, when she was still growing into her cape, she’d run herself ragged over the city, barely stopping for long enough to sleep or even to eat, because she was so desperate to save every person that she could.

She’d spent so many years hiding, let so many chances to help people slip through her fingers because she’d always hear Jeremiah’s voice in her head, telling her to be Kara Danvers, and no-one else.

Nothing extraordinary.

(When Cat had used that word to describe her, despite her terror, Kara had felt a flash of elation that had almost made her float a foot off the ground).

So she’d tried to make up for it, by trying to help everyone she possibly could, no matter the personal cost. And then she hadn’t been able to be in two places at once, and she’d watched a mother die in-front of her children because Kara hadn’t been quick enough to save her.

Alex had taken her aside when Kara had gone back to her apartment with her hands still wet with blood, haunted by the look in young, sad eyes, and told her that not everyone was meant to be saved, not even by her.

It didn’t make up for the injustice of it, for the number of people who died every single day, and that night they’d argued worse than they ever had, until Alex had broken down and admitted that she was terrified she was going to lose her little sister, because she was focused on everyone else but herself.

She’s struggled to find the balance, since – the balance between being there when she’s needed, without exhausting herself in the process, and she thinks she finally has it covered.

But she won’t without this job, with the way it allows her to cling to Kara Danvers in a way that the rest of her life cannot.

“And besides,” she manages a weak smile, tries to distract from her anxiety at the thought of losing this job, her place in the world she’s carefully carved for herself, “I think the only reason I’ve lasted so long as your assistant is because of my powers.” Cat doesn’t laugh at the joke, at Kara’s obvious attempt to deflect, only narrows her eyes as she takes a long sip of her drink.

“Hmm. I suppose… I suppose that you can keep your job.” Kara’s heart leaps, and her smile becomes more genuine – at least until Cat holds up a hand to silence the ‘thank you’ on her lips. “For now.” It sounds like an ultimatum, and Kara gulps nervously. “But if one job ever interferes with the other…”

“I won’t let it,” Kara promises, though there’s a small part of her that wonders, with the unpredictability that being Supergirl brings to her life, whether it’s one she’ll be able to keep.

She’s going to do her damnedest to try, though.

“Yes, well, we’ll just see how it goes, shall we?” Cat asks, and Kara nods hesitantly. “Excellent. Now – I have a few questions for you.”

“Q-questions, Miss Grant?” Her stomach ties itself in knots as Cat considers her with that razor-sharp gaze once again.

“Mm. Nothing related to your identity, of course, or anything about your powers that could help any of your enemies, but… perhaps a little more about you? Where you come from?” Kara wavers, and Cat sighs. “It’s not a requirement of you continuing to work here,” she offers, though Kara can see the disappointment in her eyes. “I’m not interested in blackmailing you.”

“Just in selling more copies of the Trib.” Her voice is flat, and Cat looks taken aback for one long moment, pursing her lips once more as she eyes Kara curiously.

“It was my first acquisition in building this company,” Cat murmurs, glancing away from Kara and looking out at the city instead, “and I’d go to great lengths to keep it.” She turns back to Kara, eyes bright in the darkness that surrounds them. “But not at the cost of alienating you.” It’s a big concession for Cat to make, and Kara gasps quietly as the weight of it settles into her bones. “I shouldn’t have asked that of you – I’ve made you uncomfortable enough tonight.”

She turns away again, and makes to step towards her office, giving Kara the out she’s been praying for ever since Cat had cornered her.

She finds that she no long wants to take it.

“Wait,” Kara calls before Cat can leave, reaching to grasp her wrist before remembering the way the earlier contact had set her alight, dropping her hand back down to her side before they can touch. “I… you’re not making me uncomfortable. You never have.” When Cat faces her once more, there’s a soft smile on her face that makes it hard for Kara to think. “You inspire me, you advise me, you… you keep me grounded.” She watches Cat’s throat bob as she swallows, something in her eyes that makes Kara shiver. “I know that if I ever had a bad day I can come up here and you’ll help me out. Because you’re a hero too, Miss Grant. You’re a hero to me.” Her voice breaks, the tiniest amount, and she swears that she sees tears glittering in Cat’s eyes for a brief second before they’re carefully blinked away. “And I… I’d like to help you, with the Trib. As long as it doesn’t put me or anyone I care about in danger,” she shrugs, already wondering how the hell she’s going to get Alex to agree to any of this.

She’s probably going to have aneurysm when she finds out that Cat Grant knows who she is.

“I just… I don’t talk about my past very much. About Krypton.” She had when she’d first come to Earth – she’d shared stories with Kal-El in the brief time they’d spent together, wanting him to know where he’d come from.

But he didn’t remember any of it, hadn’t been able to grasp the language, and while he enjoyed the stories, they were just that to him – stories – whereas for Kara, they were her everything.

She’d shared a little of it with Alex, too, on those long nights where Kara couldn’t sleep. Alex would regale Kara with tales of her childhood, and Kara would do the same, and they’d compare the differences, but after a while, it had been too painful for Kara to think about everything that she’d lost when it had settled in that she’d never get it back.

“You grew up there?” Cat asks, voice soft, and Kara nods and takes a trembling breath.

“I was twelve when my parents sent me to Earth, to protect my baby cousin. Who you know as Superman.” Cat’s eyes widen, and Kara can see her doing the math, noting the disparity between their ages. “It’s a long story.”

“We have time. If you’d like to tell it.”

Kara bites her lip as she thinks about it – about what it would be like to tell someone like Cat Grant all about her past.

It doesn’t terrify nearly as much as she thought it would, so she nods, albeit hesitantly, feels a flash of relief when Cat doesn’t immediately reach for a recorder or a piece of paper – instead she appears content to listen, as she directs Kara to one of the chairs on her balcony.

Kara sinks down onto the soft leather, takes a deep breath, and starts her story.

x-x-x

Over the next few weeks, things are… different.

Well, not entirely – by day she is still Cat’s assistant, and the woman herself treats Kara no different, for which she is grateful.

She doesn’t know if she could handle Cat calling her Kara and looking at her with gentle, glowing eyes and a soft smile like she does on those nights that she and Supergirl spend on her balcony.

It’s that part of their relationship that is different, and Kara has lost count of the number of hours she has spent by Cat’s side. At first she had done most of the talking, Cat coaxing details about her life on Krypton and what it had been like for her when she had first arrived on Earth (with Alex and Hank-approved versions of those stories appearing semi-regularly in the Trib), but when Kara had started to run out of things to say, she’d started to ask Cat about things she’d never dared to before.

It only seemed fair, she’d pointed out, that Cat tell Kara a little of how she’d gotten to where she is today, if that was what Cat expected of her.

Cat had levelled her with a thoroughly unimpressed look, but had, albeit reluctantly, started to open up in return.

Kara would almost call them friends.

The thought makes her giddy.

It’s almost… freeing, to be able to stop the lies. She can disappear for an or two, swoop in to save the day somewhere in National City, without worrying too much about what Cat was thinking about her assistant’s absence.

There’s still that worry in the back of her mind, of whether she’s balancing things well enough, whether Cat is growing tired of relying so heavily on someone who often disappears without warning, even though she admitted, one night, after she’d had one too many glasses of whiskey, that she’d sooner hire a second assistant to share Kara’s abilities than fire her, because she didn’t know how she could stand to lose her.

Even though Cat had undoubtedly only meant that it was because Kara was so good at her job, and not because of anything else, Kara had still smiled the whole flight home.

Which is the only problem with this new facet of her relationship with Cat – the closer she and Cat become, the harder it becomes for her to convince herself that she’s not hopelessly falling for a woman who will never feel the same way.

Kara finds herself getting lost in green, green eyes whenever Cat turns to her (the same eyes that haunt her dreams, and Kara could happily drown in them and never again come up for air), her heart racing whenever Cat leans close, her perfume assaulting Kara’s senses.

More than once, she’s found herself staring at Cat’s lips when she’s talking, her heart racing fast in her chest. More than once, their fingers have brushed or their knees have touched when they’ve sat too close together, and Kara doesn’t know how Cat can be oblivious to the way she feels when Kara’s breath catches every time she feels silken skin against her own.

She’s never been very good at keeping secrets, and she wonders if, when it comes out, this one will destroy their relationship in a way she’d feared that revealing herself as Supergirl would.

She almost, almost ruins it all anyway, when she reaches out to Adam on Cat’s behalf. She knows it’s stupid, knows that Cat will hate her for it, but she thinks it might be worth it, if she can get them in a room together and make them reconnect, because she’s heard the pain and aching loss in Cat’s voice whenever she talks about him.

She’ll throw away what they have if she can help Cat get back something that she thought she’d lost for good a long, long time ago.

Except… Cat doesn’t hate her. She glares and she threatens to fire her but there’s a softness in her eyes before she blinks it away that speaks of a gratitude she’ll never express. It doesn’t go well when they have dinner and she yells some more and Kara goes with her, the second time, because Cat seems to be at ease around her and maybe if Adam can see that it’ll help.

This time it works and Cat’s fingers wrap around her wrist before Kara can leave, hot against her skin, and she whispers ‘thank you’ with a weight behind it that takes her breath away.

And then Adam ruins it all by asking her out within Cat’s earshot, and Cat encourages him, and all Kara can do is stare at the side of Cat’s head as she busies herself with papers both she and Kara know aren’t really important to her, because she’d thought… she’d actually thought that there might be something there, between them, after all.

But there’s no way there can be, if Cat’s trying to set Kara up with her son.

She turns him down, loudly, and tries to ignore the disappointment she sees on his face and the inscrutable look that Cat shoots her before Kara excuses herself and walks away.

Cat doesn’t talk to her much after that, and Kara has no idea why.

It isn’t enough to stop her from landing on the balcony outside of Cat’s bedroom after the Black Mercy, after Astra… after Astra died in her arms and whenever she blinks all she can see is her aunt’s face, wondering if maybe she could have won her over to their side if only they’d had just a little more time.

She’d find someone else to go to, but she doesn’t have anyone. Her friends have done their best to distract her at her apartment earlier, but things are still too awkward with Winn after he’d kissed her, James was called away by Lucy, who has no idea who she is, and Alex has been weird with her ever since she’d dragged Kara away from Astra’s body and she doesn’t know why.

Cat is her safe place, and tonight she needs her more than she ever has.

“Next time you need a few days off for an alien emergency, can you just take a sick day?” Cat calls, a second after Kara hears the balcony door creak open, and Kara turns and sucks in a sharp breath when she realises that Cat must have been in bed when she touched down. Her hair is mussed even though her gaze is sharp, and the white robe that looks like it’s been hastily pulled on only falls to her mid-thigh, revealing miles and miles of smooth skin to Kara’s eyes, and it’s more effort than she’d like to admit to drag her gaze away. “That shapeshifting replacement was awful, Kara. He put whole milk in my latte!” She sounds outraged, but Kara watches as that indignation is replaced by something else as she looks at Kara’s face for the first time. “What… what happened?” Kara just laughs, bitterly, glances down at her hands, which not too long ago had been covered in Astra’s blood. “I was worried about where you were but… they wouldn’t tell me anything. They don’t trust me.”

“You are a reporter,” Kara points out, but Cat looks so wounded that she immediately regrets it.

“That may be true, but I’ve never done anything to put you in danger. I’ve never done anything that proves I can’t be trusted.”

“I… I know. I’m sorry.” She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and chokes on a sob, because with her anger at Non leached away, all she has left is pain – the pain of losing her whole world all over again, and the pain of losing one of the few people left who could remember it like she could.

“Kara, are you… are you okay?”

“No.” Tears fall from behind her closed eyes, and she opens them when she hears Cat move, padding towards her on bare feet – she shivers from the cold, but she doesn’t stop until she’s in-front of Kara, and seems to surprise them both when she pulls her into a fierce hug.

Kara gasps, because this is the closest she and Cat have ever been. The material of her robe is thin, and beneath it, as Cat wraps her arms around Kara’s back, fingers of one hand gripping tightly at her cape, Kara can feel the heat of Cat’s skin, and she falls into the embrace and never wants Cat to let her go.

Her arms wind around Cat’s waist and her head falls onto Cat’s shoulder, tears soaking her robe and her body shaking with the force of her cries, and Cat doesn’t say a word, just holds her close until the tears have stopped falling and Kara feels like she can breathe again.

Cat shivers, fragile and human in her arms, and Kara pulls quickly away and wipes at her eyes with the sleeves of her suit, knowing that she looks a mess in-front of a woman who is always so perfectly put-together.

Even now, like this, dragged out of bed at a ridiculous hour of the morning, Cat is so beautiful that it hurts.

“I-I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come here, shouldn’t have bothered you. You should go and get some sleep, I’ll just - ”

“Kara.” Cat’s voice is achingly soft, and the concern in her eyes makes Kara breathless. “I’m not letting you go anywhere when you’re this upset. Come on.” She takes Kara’s hand and tugs, and Kara lets herself be pulled into Cat’s bedroom, somewhere she never thought she’d see.

She’s been in this apartment before, of course, to run errands, but never in this room, and she’s always wondered what it looked like (sometimes innocently, sometimes… not so innocently, and Kara wonders if, the next time Cat creeps into her thoughts and fantasies, she’ll be imagining her in the king-sized bed with the crisp white sheets that sits in-front of her now).

The walls are a deep blue, and pictures of Carter are dotted everywhere. Kara pauses, as Cat lets go of her hand to shut the balcony door behind them, to admire one of them, of Cat with a bundle of blankets in her arms, a look of awe and adoration on her face as she gazes down at Carter’s red face and chubby cheeks.

“That was the happiest moment of my entire life,” Cat murmurs as she comes to stand by Kara’s shoulder, glancing up at the photo with a soft smile.

“I can tell,” Kara murmurs, because she doesn’t think she’s ever seen Cat look like that before in the two years that she’s known her.

A voice in the back of her mind whispers that there had been something close to it, that night on the balcony where everything had changed, but she quickly pushes it away.

“Do you… can I get you something to eat? Or to drink? Carter and I are partial to hot cocoa on particularly trying days, but I don’t know what works on superheroes.” Cat tries to keep her voice light, and Kara appreciates the effort, especially after things have been so strained between them lately.

“Cocoa sounds good.” In truth, she still feels sick and doubts it’ll settle her stomach, but Cat is trying and Kara thinks that she should, too, seeing as the woman’s been gracious enough to invite her into her home at – Kara winces when she glances at the clock on Cat’s wall – three o’clock in the morning.

“I’ll go and make some. In the meantime,” Cat steps over to her closet, rustles around until she re-appears holding a worn college sweatshirt and some yoga pants, “why don’t you change into these?” Kara blinks at her, confused, and Cat worries at her bottom lip as she sets the clothes down at the foot of the bed. “You… you have blood on your suit.” She says it apologetically, like she’s afraid that bringing attention to it will upset Kara again, and when Kara glances down and notices the splashes of red against blue, her breath catches as she thinks of Astra and she bites the inside of her cheek to stop herself from crying again. “And if we happen to wake Carter up, I don’t want to explain to him why his hero is bloodied in our kitchen.”

“But you do want to explain to him why your assistant is in your kitchen wearing your clothes?” Kara asks, because that sounds like a much worse idea, but Cat merely shrugs.

“He thinks that I like you,” Cat says, completely nonchalant, even as Kara is left gaping, “so it won’t take much explaining. In fact, he’d probably be overjoyed, he’s been pestering me to ask you over for dinner for months.” Cat doesn’t look at Kara as she says this, and Kara is relieved because she’s sure her wide-eyed expression of shock isn’t in the least bit attractive. “So, get changed,” Cat indicates the clothes with a flourish of her hand, “and use my bathroom,” she nods towards the closed door on Kara’s right, “to clean up, if you like. I’ll meet you in the kitchen.”

She strides away without another word, leaving Kara staring after her with a blank expression because what had just happened?

She wonders if she’s dreaming.

But that just makes her think of the Black Mercy, of seeing her parents and her cousin again only the relive the agony of letting them slip through her fingers all over again.

Tears threaten once again, and this time, Kara lets them fall.

It’s ten minutes before Kara feels presentable enough to face Cat in her kitchen. Nine minutes of crying, most of them spent in-front of the huge mirror in Cat’s bathroom, barely able to recognise the bleak look in her eyes that had made Cat so worried, and sixty seconds of splashing water on her face to clear away her tears and the grime and dirt and sweat from fighting Non.

She uses a burst of superspeed to change out of her suit, which she hangs on the back of Cat’s bathroom door, hopefully far away from Carter’s prying eyes, and into the clothes Cat had given her. They’re soft, if a little short (the sweatshirt is fine but the pants sit low on her hips and rise high above her ankles), and they smell of Cat’s laundry detergent and Kara wonders if the scent will linger on her skin when she gets home.

Cat is taping away at her phone whilst she waits for Kara, sitting on a stool pulled up to the kitchen island, a frown on her face as her eyes scan across whatever she’s reading. Kara catches a glimpse as she sits in the seat opposite Cat, in-front of a mug with the symbol of her house emblazoned across it, of herself in her cape, and Cat glances at her apologetically as she quickly closes the page.

“Sorry. I know I shouldn’t have pried, but you were taking a while and I thought… I thought I’d see if anyone knew what happened to make you so upset.” Kara doesn’t know if she can talk about it yet, so instead she gestures to the mug as she curls her fingers around the handle and lifts it to her lips.

“Cute.”

“It’s Carter’s,” Cat says with a small smirk, and Kara smiles for the first time in what feels like forever. “I thought you might appreciate it.”

“Have you told him what it means?” Kara had told Cat, one night, when she’d leant close and traced a finger over the symbol on her chest. She’d been close enough to kiss, close enough for Kara to see the flecks of gold hiding in Cat’s eyes, but she’d smelt the whiskey on Cat’s breath and known that she couldn’t.

She’d settled for telling Cat what the symbol stood for in a shaky voice, instead.

“Stronger together,” Cat murmurs, and Kara’s smile grows even though she’d known that Cat would have remembered. “I did. I think it’s his new favourite motto.” Kara chuckles quietly, remembering the look on his face when he’d come face-to-face with Supergirl for the first time. “He adores you.”

“Apparently not just the caped version of me, according to you.” She tries to keep her voice light, but judging from the guarded look that crosses Cat’s face, she thinks she might have failed, takes a sip of the cocoa to buy herself a little time.

It’s delicious, and she almost moans at the taste of it.

“I know alcohol doesn’t work on you,” Cat says, ignoring Kara’s statement completely, “but I usually feel better after a shitty day if I spike mine.” She nods towards the bottle of scotch that sits on the counter between them, and Kara chuckles and shakes her head. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not… not in detail. Not yet.” The wounds are too fresh, but she thinks she needs to get some of it off her chest before the weight of it suffocates her. “I wasn’t at work because… I was put into a kind of coma. And while I was asleep I was… I was back on Krypton. Back with my family.” Her voice breaks, and Cat reaches over the counter to take her hand, squeezing gently and rubbing her thumb over the back of Kara’s knuckles. “It was so real, Cat. It was like I was really there, like I’d never left at all. But it wasn’t real,” her voice turns bitter, some of her earlier rage returning at the thought that it had all been a part of Non’s plan. “And if I stayed there I would’ve died.”

“Did you want to stay?” Cat asks, quietly, and Kara takes a deep breath before she replies.

“No.” Cat looks surprised, and Kara gives her a small smile because it’s not often she gets one over on Cat Grant. “I… I miss it there, I do, and when I was younger I would have given anything to go back, but it’s… here, Earth, is my home now. I can make a difference here, I can help people, and I might have left a family behind but I have one here, too.”

She knows that Cat thinks that the family she’s speaking of doesn’t include her, and Kara can’t quite find the words to tell her that she’s wrong.

“But leaving it all behind again, it was still… I wanted to come back here, but it…” She closes her eyes, remembers being ripped from the fantasy, coming to in a hospital room in the DEO, disorientated and angrier than she had ever been before in her life. “It was hard.”

“I’m so sorry, Kara.”

“And that’s not even the worst part.” Her lips twist into a bitter smile, and she stares hard at the marble countertop, desperately avoiding Cat’s gaze. “I went to find the person that did this to me, my Uncle Non, and while we were fighting… my Aunt Astra… she was hurt. And by the time I got there… she died in my arms.” Her voice catches, and Cat lets go of her hand, steps around the side of the counter, and Kara rests her head on Cat’s chest as warm arms wrap around her once again. “And we’d fought a lot, since she came back into my life, but…”

“But she still meant a lot to you.” Kara nods, closing her eyes against more tears that threaten to fall.

“I’m sorry I’m such a mess,” she says around a sniffle, and Cat leans back only to cup the side of Kara’s face to tilt her head up, forcing their eyes to meet, and Kara falls and falls into Cat’s gaze and thinks that this time, she won’t be able to stop.

Her palm is warm where it cradles her cheek, and her thumb is gentle as it swipes away any tears that have managed to fall.

“Don’t apologise,” Cat says, her voice soft. “You never need to explain yourself to me. You’ve been through so much, Kara Zor-El.” She always says Kara’s full name reverently, and today is no exception – Cat’s so close that it’s practically breathed against Kara’s lips, and she shivers at the sound of it. “So much pain and loss and suffering. It’s a miracle you’re even still standing, let alone facing the day with a smile.” Her thumb traces across her lower lip, and Kara stops breathing. “You amaze me.”

“Y-you’re pretty a-amazing yourself.” Kara manages to say, as Cat drops her hand back down to her side, and she prays that Cat can’t tell how frantically her heart is pounding inside of her chest. “Thank you. For being here when I need you.”

“Always,” Cat murmurs, and Kara knows that it’s true, that no matter what, Cat will always make time for her.

That, coupled with the remembrance of could-have-beens and how quick a life can be snuffed out for good, makes her brave.

Much braver than she normally would be, and when Cat shifts to take a step back, to put some distance between them, Kara reaches out and halts Cat by resting a hand on her hip.

“Can I ask you something?” Cat glances down at the fingertips splayed across her hip, and Kara tries to ignore the sharp outline of her pelvis beneath the palm of her hand, tries not to think about what it would be like, to dig her fingertips into both of Cat’s hips to hold her place while she –

“Mm.” Cat’s eyes are dark as they meet her own, and Kara swallows thickly, shaking her head to clear it of thoughts she should not be having while Cat’s half-dressed and trying to comfort her.

“I… Did I overstep? With Adam?” Cat’s expression, which has been open for pretty much the entire night, suddenly shifts to something much more guarded. “Because you… you’ve been kind of distant ever since, and I – well, no, not really ever since, but… ever since he asked me out.” Cat freezes, and Kara wouldn’t have noticed had she not been watching her so closely. “And I’ve been wondering why, ever since. And then you mentioned those things that Carter said to you, and I wondered if… maybe… they were true.”

Cat’s eyes never leave her face, and her expression never changes, and Kara would give anything to know what she’s thinking.

“Kara…” Cat says it almost warningly, and Kara hurries on before Cat can quell her new-found bravery.

“Because if they were true… I would like that. A lot. Because I… I like you, a lot.” She looks away from Cat’s face as she says that, down into her lap, and when she next raises her head Cat is looking at her with something like disbelief, the first crack in her armour she’s shown so far.

“You… you don’t know what you’re saying.” The hope that Kara had felt bloom in her heart crashes and burns. “You’ve just lost everything, and you’re… projecting.”

“I am not,” Kara huffs, offended. “I… I’ve felt this way about you for a long time, Cat. A really long time. It just… it took being faced with losing everything to realise that maybe it’s worth the risk of admitting it.” Cat takes a shaky breath, and Kara ploughs on. “And I get it, if you don’t feel the same. You’re Cat Grant and I’m… me.”

“Don’t ever say something like that again.” Cat’s voice is sharp, her eyes flashing, and Kara gulps as she blinks up at her, watching Cat’s expression soften as she sighs, and then she’s reaching for the side of Kara’s face again. “You are… extraordinary.” Her hand curls around the back of Kara’s neck, fingers delving into her hair, and Kara stops breathing. “And you could do so much better than me.”

She sounds so sad when she says it, so certain, and Kara almost wants to laugh because how can Cat think that? How can she believe that there’s someone better than her out there?

“I don’t see that,” Kara tells her, voice no higher than a whisper because she’s terrified of breaking this spell that they’re under. It’s like they’re walking on a tightrope, swaying in the wind, and she doesn’t want loud voices and harsh words sending them hurtling towards the ground. “Because for me, there’s only you.” Cat’s still holding her so gently, and Kara can hear the pounding of her heartbeat, matching the rhythm of her own, and knows that Cat is just as affected by this as she is. “Tell me you feel it, too.”

Cat gazes at her for one long moment, fingers tangled in Kara’s hair and palm hot against the skin of her neck, with an expression that she can’t read.

It’s the single most terrifying moment of her entire life, because she knows that they’re balancing on a knife’s edge, and tonight has the power to ruin everything.

But then Cat tightens her grip and ducks forward to kiss Kara as her answer, and Kara thinks that the risk was more than worth it, after all.