Kara Danvers learned that Cat Grant had returned to National City in the most awkward way imaginable: by strolling blithely into Lena Luthor’s office, a box of doughnuts in her hands, Super Hearing deactivated, and interrupting the two immensely powerful women in the midst of a furious, hissing fight about Supergirl.
“—seduce Supergirl into believing you’re not as bad as your brother—”
“—know you’re terrified I’m encouraging your pet superhero to step out of your shadow—”
“—can’t believe even she is naïve enough to trust a Luthor—”
“—that’s really something, coming from a Grant—”
“Um,” Kara said, and shrank back as both women whirled to face her.
She couldn’t decide where to look, almost as dazed and overwhelmed as she’d been back in that first year on Earth, when sensory overload was her worst enemy. She glanced at Lena, her friend, a fellow adoptee, who’d welcomed boring little Kara Danvers into her life as if she mattered. She’d never seen Lena scowl quite like this, even when Lex was trying his best to kill her.
Then Kara glanced at Cat—Cat Grant, the Cat Grant, Kara’s personal hero, her inspiration, the woman who’d made her who she was today. Cat’s eyes were still fiery with whatever rage had caused this confrontation with Lena, but Kara knew the older woman well enough to read the softening around Cat’s lips as pleasure at Kara’s presence.
“Kara!” Lena said, her scowl fading. “What an unexpected pleasure.”
Kara shifted awkwardly and lifted her box of doughnuts, which had gotten a little squished due to her fit of Super Nervousness. “The bakery had a deal, buy a dozen and get a dozen free, and I thought…”
She risked another glance at Cat, who was now glaring at Kara’s box as if it had personally offended her.
“It’s nice to know that I go away for a little while and my employees begin bribing potential story subjects,” Cat said in that snippy, judgmental tone Kara had missed so much.
“Oh, no,” Kara said, wondering at Cat’s definition of “a little while”. It had been almost six months. “I—”
“Kara and I are friends, impossible as that may be for you to believe,” Lena said, seizing Kara’s arm in a grip that could only be described as possessive.
Cat retaliated by tearing the box from Kara’s grip and tossing it in the trash. And then squashing it with a paperweight from Lena’s desk for good measure. Kara’s mouth fell open.
“Friends don’t let friends eat carbs,” Cat sneered.
Kara tried to sidle away, but couldn’t have extracted herself from Lena’s grasp without using her Super Strength. “I feel like maybe I should leave you two to talk—”
“Nonsense,” Lena said. “Cat was just leaving.”
“Leaving and taking you with me, Kara,” Cat agreed, grabbing Kara’s other arm and yanking as if Kara were a Super Tug-of-War Rope. “We have important work things to discuss.” She shot Lena a nasty grin.
“I’m actually off the clock right n—”
“I’ll walk you two out,” Lena said, with a rather predatory smirk. “After all, I’m now in the mood for something sweet.” And then she slowly and deliberately stroked the index finger of her free hand down Kara’s bicep.
Kara jerked out of both women’s grips in a burst of Super Mortification. “I’ll call the elevator!” she gasped, racing out of the office at a speed only a Nigerian Olympic sprinter could match and bashing her finger so hard against the elevator button that it cracked.
Lena and Cat stalked out at a more reasonable pace, snarling at each other like rabid dogs with their eye on the same helpless rabbit. The elevator doors opened just as they arrived, and Kara leapt inside, holding the doors open as the two women each jockeyed to enter before the other.
“Ladies first,” Cat said, sneering, and pushed past Lena to stand so close to Kara that Kara had to press herself against the elevator wall to avoid drowning in Cat’s much missed scent.
Lena glowered and took up position at the opposite wall, leaning against it with her arms crossed over her chest.
They rode down in utter, terrifying silence for about thirty seconds. Then the elevator jerked to a halt so suddenly that Cat staggered and would have fallen if not for Kara’s quick reflexes. The lights went out; before anyone had time to panic, the backup generator kicked in and low-level lighting illuminated the elevator in a cool blue glow.
“Luthor,” Cat snarled, holding on to Kara’s shoulder as if to steady herself. “What have you done?”
Lena rolled her eyes. “As if I would trap myself in the elevator with you if I were planning something nefarious. Your paranoia has gone beyond the point of absurd, Cat.”
Kara tried the emergency phone, but it was dead. She took out her cell and tried calling Alex, but couldn’t get a signal. “There’s no service,” she told them.
“Of course not,” Cat said. “This is obviously a well-planned trap.”
“A trap for whom?” Lena scoffed. “You? Get over yourself.”
Cat’s eyes narrowed. Her grip on Kara’s shoulder tightened to the point where it would have bruised a human. “A trap for Supergirl.”
Kara really hoped they couldn’t see her flaming cheeks in the low lighting.
“Clearly,” Cat went on, “once I arrived you rigged the elevator so it would stall with me inside, knowing Supergirl would come to my rescue as she has so many times before.”
“Please,” Lena growled. “If Supergirl were going to rescue anyone in this elevator, it would be me. You’re old news, Cat Grant. Supergirl’s probably forgotten you exist by now.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Cat sneered. “It’s a better thought than the truth: you’re just a distraction for Supergirl. Someone to keep her entertained until I came back.”
Kara cleared her throat so forcefully the elevator rattled. Uh-oh. Now her Super Irritation was coming into play. “Um, not to get in the middle or anything, but I don’t think either of you is really being fair to Supergirl if you think—”
“You’ve got one thing right, Cat,” Lena said in a low, deadly voice that make the hairs on the back of Kara’s neck stand up. “Supergirl and I probably wouldn’t have become friends if you’d been here, warning her away from me. But you weren’t, were you? You abandoned her, just like you abandoned Kara.”
Kara sucked in a breath, cringing as Cat looked at her as if actually seeing her for the first time. She seemed to realize how tightly she was holding Kara’s shoulder and jerked away as if burned. Some of the anger leaked out of her frame.
“I didn’t abandon Supergirl,” Cat said, looking Kara in the eye. “Or Kara, for that matter.”
There was a hint of question in her tone, as if to say, Did I?
Kara bit her lip and looked at the floor. “I don’t think Supergirl is coming,” she mumbled. “She’s been really busy lately.”
“Ah yes,” Cat said acerbically, the uncertainty vanishing from her voice as if it had never been. “You know, Kiera, I’ve been meaning to ask…when did you and Supergirl become such good friends? You never mentioned the two of you hanging out, braiding each other’s hair, back when you were my assistant. Yet the minute I leave, she becomes the primary source for your articles?”
Kara froze. “Um, I—” she Super Stuttered.
“Is it any wonder the two of them became friends?” Lena asked, her timely interruption making Kara sag with relief. “They both missed you.” Somehow, without Kara noticing, she’d circled the elevator to stand on Kara’s other side, and now she took Kara’s hand in her own, twining their fingers together.
Kara’s heart pounded. A burst of heat seemed to originate from that point of contact and spread through her whole body.
“I never really left them,” Cat said, directing her words at Lena even though they were clearly intended for Kara’s benefit. “The moment I realized they needed me—the moment I saw that they were being pulled into your web—I came to talk them out of it.” And then Cat was taking her other hand as if she did it every day, long nails scraping gently against Kara’s palm before sliding through the gaps between her fingers to press against the back of her hand, and oh, Kara was going to die.
This, right here, right now, was so much worse than Kryptonite. Super Crush One and Super Crush Two were on a collision course, and Kara was trapped, helpless, between them.
She had to protect herself. So she did the only thing she could think of.
“I just remembered that I’m claustrophobic,” she gasped, and, in a burst of Super Cowardice, pretended to faint.
The problems with pretending to faint in an elevator, Kara found, were as follows:
1. Cat had never really bought Kara’s protestations that she was not Supergirl, and therefore she did not now appear to buy that Kara had actually fainted. In order to prove her hypothesis, her amazing hands—hands Kara had often fantasized about—were attempting to tickle Kara into revealing herself. It was only the Super Cowardice that enabled Kara to remain still when Cat poked her under her armpit. A tiny snort did manage to escape, however. Kara hoped Cat hadn’t noticed.
2. Lena also seemed to have some suspicion that Kara was more than she appeared, since her reaction to the supposed fainting was a poorly written and appallingly acted monologue begging Supergirl to come to the rescue.
“Oh, Supergirl, if ever there was a time for you to rescue me, that time is now. I fear our dear friend Kara is on the verge of expiring. If you can hear me, Supergirl, I beg of you—don’t ignore my plea! Or have you truly forgotten our friendship already? Supergirl, please…” And on and on and on. Kara was tempted to reveal herself just to get Lena to stop, but, again, Super Cowardice.
3. Perhaps due to Points 1 and 2 above, neither woman attempted to give Kara mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
4. When the elevator finally started working again twenty minutes later, nobody seemed convinced by Kara’s immediate recovery, or her attempts to convince them they should just let her go home. By herself.
“Nonsense,” Cat said briskly. “You fainted in an elevator, Kara. You need to be seen by a doctor.”
“Yes,” Lena agreed. “They’ll probably want to draw some blood.”
They had matching gleams in their eyes. Kara had the sudden, horrible feeling they had formed an unholy alliance while her eyes had been squeezed shut.
5. If the elevator had seemed tight, the ambulance, filled with Kara, Cat, Lena, a lot of unnerving equipment, and two EMTs, was positively stifling. They’d forced Kara to lie on the cot and once again Cat and Lena had each claimed a hand. If she were dying, Kara reflected, this would be a nice way to go. Since she wasn’t dying, it was unbearably awkward. And tempting.
6. The doctor did try to draw blood. Kara had to scream bloody murder and make up a story about a phobia of needles stemming from a traumatizing childhood encounter with a porcupine to get him to give up. Cat and Lena looked like they were trying not to laugh the whole time.
7. Even after the doctor said she was free to go, Cat and Lena insisted she take an hour to “finish recuperating”.
“I’ll get us all some coffee,” Cat said, unusually solicitous, and patted Kara’s foot through the thin blanket a nurse had draped over her. (“For the shock,” the nurse had said, and given Kara such a sympathetic look that Kara had shriveled up a little inside.)
Lena waited until the door closed behind her to say, reluctantly, “She really cares about you, you know. That’s what this all has been about.”
Kara twisted the blanket around her fingers. “I care about her, too,” she said. “She’s important to me.” She shrugged. “I don’t like that you two don’t get along.”
Lena huffed a laugh. “We get along just fine most of the time, Kara. But you can’t blame us for butting heads when we’re competing for the same thing.”
Kara frowned. “Competing? For what? Your businesses don’t have anything in common.”
Lena smiled and ran her thumb along the frown-crease on Kara’s forehead. “You’re something else, Kara Danvers,” she said, and refused to elaborate.
Cat returned a little later with two steaming cups of coffee and one that might have been over a day old. She presented the latter to Lena.
Kara sipped her cup, watching the two women furtively, wondering if another explosion was imminent.
“How long are you back in town?” Lena asked politely as she dropped her cup, untouched, into the trash.
Cat looked significantly at Kara. “As long as I need to be.”
Lena studied the older woman. Apparently satisfied, she nodded. “In that case, I do believe the gauntlet has been thrown down.”
Cat smiled slowly. “And the challenge has been accepted.”
Lena arched an eyebrow. “May the best woman win.”
“Don’t worry,” Cat said, and reached down to brush a strand of hair out of Kara’s face. “Whatever the outcome, she will.”
8. Oh God, Kara realized the next day when two massive bouquets showed up at her apartment within minutes of each other. They were talking about her.
9. Alex was never going to let her live this down.