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9

Galas, boring and usually backhanded business cultivating events, had never struck Cat Grant as something to take children to.

Cat, despite the scant amount of time she’s spent in these circles, knows the Luthors.

In her time spent as Perry White’s assistant, she’d only ever heard about the Luthors through the opinions of others and had never had the benefit of meeting them herself, but things were changing. With a few years and multiple accredited articles to her name, Cat is now invited to these sorts of events as more than just a courtesy extended to her by her boss. People make sure to add her name to the guest list, knowing she will no doubt write a review about her experience—good or bad—and they make sure to step up their game once she returns her RSVP. She’s known not to pull any punches.

As a young accomplished journalist she knows that events like this can’t be wasted, any small detail could be the source of her next big headline, so she plays close attention.

The first few times she had gone to these events, back when she was just Perry’s assistant and he needed her there, the Luthors hadn’t seemed like they were anything too unusual to her untrained eye. When she’d first arrived on the scene, the Luthor children had been young; the boy was prepubescent and the girl couldn’t’ve been more than five. Their ages and quiet dispositions were the only odd things Cat noticed about them at first.

In the years after that, as she’d started to rise up the ranks, she started to notice little things she’d missed previously. The boy seemed to bask in any and all attention being thrown his way— chest out and preening at any opportunity to place himself at the center of attention as long as he was doing it in a dignified manner—which somehow, surprisingly, he always was. She’d she'd found such gracious behaviour to be uncommon in boys his age, but thought it typical of the child of a Luthor. But he wasn’t the one who piqued her interest. His younger sister, Lena Luthor,even more surprisingly, did not share his disposition and completely fascinated Cat. Her posture and facial expressions suggested that she wanted to shy away from it all: the cameras, questions, and even her own mother—Lillian Luthor. Her ticks were so minuscule that no one else seemed to notice. Lionel’s steady hand served as the one thing keeping the young girl a part of the group

Cat had pegged that as being overwhelmed rather than anything sinister.

After Lionel Luthor passed away, Cat watched as Lillian took over with the kids. Her hands, instead of his, leading them around and her grip on her young daughter just as steady as her husband’s had been, only a measure tighter, now, setting off alarms to Cat’s more trained eyes. The dark-haired girl looked uncomfortable at best with the whole situation. Looked like she wanted Lillian to be doing anything but touching her.

Now, Cat sees the cracks in the Luthor family more than ever.

Cat watched Lex Luthor grow up, watched him go from a vain, self-centered boy, to a vain, self-centered adult. Cat could easily say, she despises his two-faced ways. Watching from afar, she sees how often he’ll talk someone up—charming and persuasive as ever—just to sneer at the person the second they turn away. She supposes that’s politics.

Lillian is no better. Sharp and conniving, even in her looks. It’s become quite obvious, to Cat at least, that the woman holds no love for her daughter.

Cat never seeks any of the Luthors out, but eventually - and entirely accidentally - she finds one who becomes hard to let go of.

She’s thirty seven and exhausted by these sorts of events now. She storms up to the refreshments table, wondering why she hasn’t considered getting an assistant before this moment, when she swears she hears someone sniffle. She almost scoffs at the unprofessionalism of it. All adults are sad, but most know to only reveal that fact when alone.

Nonetheless, she freezes, taking a quick glance around herself to locate the disturbance when--

sniff

-- it comes again, but from under the table. So, like any good journalist, Cat decides to investigate.

Attempting not to draw attention to herself, Cat discreetly moves around to the side of the table facing the wall, squats down behind it, and lifts the tablecloth.

There’s a girl there, her arms wrapped around her small legs as she sits, looking lonelier than Cat’s ever seen her. The youngest of the Luthors jumps as the tablecloth moves, panic instantly setting in. Cat knows she has a reputation for being heartless, but she feels something snap inside her at the sight.

Adam would be about the same age as this girl. If he ever felt this horrible, especially because of her- Cat hasn’t cried in the eight years since she’d last seen her son and she’s not about to start now.

Cat tries to find some sort of semblance of a comforting phrase or something that at least won't cause the girl to cry any harder, but Lena speaks first.

“Please don’t tell them where I am.”

Cat doesn’t need to ask who ‘them’ is, not when Lena’s eyes are wide, wet and red, full of terror in a way that says she’s used to feeling this way.

Cat’s heart aches so bad that for once she’s rendered speechless, so instead of saying anything she just touches a finger to her lips.

It doesn’t seem to ease the girl’s worries.

So, Cat does something she would never, ever, faced with any other situation in her life, do and allows her knees and a hand to touch the filthy ballroom floor. Then, leaning further beneath the table, offers up her free pinky up to the girl, and hopes she understands what she means.

She doesn’t, moving only to flinch away from the contact. A horrible realization hits Cat. She’s never had anyone to explain this idea to her, this trivial concept most kids seem to just understand automatically. She’s never had a friend.

Cat takes a deep, steadying breath. Somewhere deep inside of herself, she promises to make the child feel at least a little less alone. “Pinky promise. It… It means I won't tell anyone. No matter what.”

Lena doesn’t move towards her, but she does stop cowering a bit.

“See, you do-” Cat maneuvers her hands, locking her pinkies together to demonstrate “-this and it means I’ll keep the secret. See,” she offers her hand again, “now you try.”

It’s a shock, to both of them, when Lena unhooks one of her arms from around her leg and does it .

“I’ll keep people away from here as much as I can.” Give you some safety.

The small girl’s lips tug up at the edges.

She’s really quite adorable when she looks happy, even if it’s only for a second.

Cat takes her duty very seriously for the rest of the night: warding off various business executives and assistants retrieving refreshments for their bosses and Perry White himself from the table, usually with a vague threat or insult (that she believes wholeheartedly) and causing distractions when they did somehow get close enough that the Luthor could be discovered, such as ‘accidentally’ knocking over dishes or splashing wine across pressed white shirts. She adds some fuel to the fire already surrounding her as a public figure, but it’s worth it.

Later, as the party is winding down, the little girl walks over to her and before Cat can get a word out, she sets a tiny scrap of paper down in front of her on the table and scurries off.

Cat flips it over to read a shaky ‘thank you’ scribbled on the back.

 

10

The next time she sees the Luthors, it’s at the Daily Planet.

Cat walks in, coffee in hand, too big sunglasses hiding her face. Other employees, even more experienced ones, get a glimpse of her and speed walk in the opposite direction. She’s just setting her things down on her desk when Perry appears by her side.

“I need you to do something for me.”

“I’m not your assistant anymore, Perry.”

He glares, obviously offended by her decision to act as though they are on a first name basis. “Yes, but I am still your boss, Cat .”

She sighs, leaning against her desk as she turns to him.

“I’m doing an interview with Lillian Luthor. I need you to watch her daughter.”

Cat perks up at this, remembering the gala from months prior and the crumpled ‘ thank you ’ resting nicely inside of one of her desk drawers.

Normally, she’d tell him that she’s not a babysitter but this is different, so instead she asks, “Why me?”

“I don’t trust anyone else to do it,” he says knowingly, turning away before she can respond. “They’ll be here in fifteen, Grant! Be ready!”

They are there in forty-seven and Cat is more than annoyed with Lillian’s delay. Cat gets up when she sees the elevator door open and walks to meet Perry and the Luthors there. She does her best to conceal her distaste for the older woman.

“Hello, Lillian. Wonderful to see you as always,” Perry greets.

Cat bites her lip to hide a smile. When she’d been his assistant, she’d gotten quite an earful about how much he disliked the Luthor family as well.

“Mr. White.”

Her eyes are unblinking and cold. Cat briefly wonders if some of the other reporters’ lizard people theories aren’t as ridiculous as she previously thought.

“This is my friend Cat.”

She snaps out of her thoughts at the sound of her name, catching Perry’s gesture towards her. “She can watch Lena if you’d like. Don’t worry, she’s very trust-”

“Fine.”

Cat feels a surge of anger at that. Any good mother would at least spare the person watching their child a glance if not an entire interrogation to find out if they are really trustworthy. Cat would never have so easily handed her child- she feels a stab of pain at the memory. Adam.

“Then I guess we can get this interview started.”

Perry forces a smile, and before Cat knows it, she’s alone with the kid again.

Deep breaths, Cat reminds herself, before turning to acknowledge her.

“I’m Cat.”

Lena doesn’t respond, clutching a worn-out teddy bear to her chest as she looks around anxiously.

“What’s your name?”

She’d just heard Perry say it for the first time moments ago, but she’d still like a proper introduction.

She shakes her head to indicate she doesn’t want to say it.

“Do you want it to be a secret?”

No response.

“Come on, you can tell me. I’m a good secret keeper.”

She’s not. At all. As a journalist she’s usually the one doing her best to reveal secrets to the public, but for Lena she thinks she can make an exception.

The little girl stares up at her, shifting back and forth in her tiny shoes.

“Lena.”

They stand awkwardly for a few more moments as Cat tries to figure out what she can do to ease the young girl’s tension. Then, she remembers the fridge in the office kitchen and the various stashes other employees have there, like Lois.

“You want ice cream?”

Lena’s eyes light up for just a second before falling back to the floor. She shakes her head no. Cat knows the problem and bends to be close to eye level with Lena.

“I won't tell your mom if you won’t.”

They stare at each other for a few long moments. For a split second Cat thinks she isn’t going to get an answer or that the girl is going to go bolting away and Cat is going to end up playing a very real version of hide and seek for the better part of an hour, but then, in a moment that makes Cat’s heart feel like putty, Lena lifts up her little finger.

“Promise?”

Cat’s eyes tear up for just a second before she allows herself to huff out a laugh.

“Promise.”

 

11

Her last press conference with the Daily Planet happens to be significantly less aggravating than Cat had expected.

Lex Luthor is announcing the launch of LexCorp’s next planet betterment initiative, spouting fresh bullshit out of his ass to conceal the fact that this is all some kind of long con (Cat knows the Luthors well enough by now to know that nothing they do is without gain), when he falters in his speech for just a moment, eyes focused down on the front row.

Cat follows his gaze to find his eleven year old little sister, in the front goddamn row , is reading The Great Gatsby .

Lillian Luthor is out of town for some other sort of business endeavor, so there’s no one sitting next to Lena to control her every move. This might be the first taste of freedom the girl has had in months and she’s using it to completely humiliate a rising star in his prime.

The way Lex huffs and tightens his jaw at the sight of her has Cat biting her lip to repress a laugh. She clicks her pen up and down as she watches, wholeheartedly endeared, as he shoots his sister venomous glares that don’t even enter her orbit of attention. It gets him frazzled, has him pulling at his tie, tugging on his cuffs, and running a hand through his already thinning hair. He’s never done well with attention not being completely focused on him.

The reporters around her have picked up on this, too, so Lex is very slowly losing his crowd to a girl that’s just sitting there reading .

Lena Luthor at eleven is truly something else.

When the presentation is over and everyone else stands to clap, Cat stays seated like Lena, and watches as she turns the page, completely unaware of the politics of it all.

Cat is still smiling until she watches Lex jump down from the stage and grab Lena by the arm, dragging her towards one of the side doors, the ones only certain people can get through. She follows on their heels as fast as she can. With her press pass and unsettling glare, it only takes about a minute to convince the security guard to let her into the hall, but when she rounds the corner Lena is already getting an earful.

“Are you kidding me, Lena? Do you have any idea how embarrassing -”

“Lex!”

Cat forces the greeting, slowly approaching the siblings.

“Give the girl a break. Plus,” she turns to Lena, “it’s a great book.”

“I don’t think it’s entirely appropriate during a presentation,” he says through his teeth.

“She’ll have plenty more opportunities to hear you brag, I’m sure.”

He shifts on his feet, eyes narrowing angrily.

“Excuse me, Miss Grant, but are you supposed to be back here?”

“I’m convincing when I need to be.”

His smile is snide: “I’m sure you are.”

“That and your security is subpar.”

A deep inhale. “Yes, well… I can see that. Now why don’t you go throw your opinions at someone else; I canceled my subscription to the Daily Planet a few months ago. I find I still don’t care much for your opinions, so it seems I made a good choice.”

“I’m leaving the Daily Planet.”

“Great. Now it will be even easier to avoid that attitude of yours. Did Perry fire you for being a-”

“How professional of you, Mr. Luthor. I’ll have you know that I’m starting my own magazine.” Given, that’s quite a few years out (Perry had promised to help her start in a few years time after she got a bit more work for him under her belt. She’ll be taking charge over a huge portion of the Daily Planet in just a few weeks), but Lex doesn’t have to know how much time there is between then and now.

“Oh? An even bigger platform for your little gossip column, how exciting .”

“I haven’t written a gossip column in nearly ten years, Lex.”

He offers a tight smile.

“Yes well… You sure don’t act like it. Now do me a favor and wait here for security to come fetch you.”

Then he spins on his heel to go, leaving Lena behind.

“Thank you,” the girl whispers up to her.

“You’re very welcome… Now do me a favor and distract security while I get a few more quotes from staff.”

Lena giggles.

“Yeah, I’m just kidding. But if they do catch me you’ll get me out, right?”

She loops her pinky into Cats, “Promise.”

“Okay… Now go before you have to listen to another lecture.”

Cat watches Lena go, an extra skip in her step now, and feels her lips curl upwards, her heart warming at the unexpected carefree attitude Lena gains from the interaction.

 

12

“They’re sending me to boarding school.”

She’s advanced for her age. The school is near college level in its academics, and Cat hates to say it, but it’s probably better for Lena than staying home.

She continues adding her, few, edits in the essay Lena had sent her for class.

“Well.” She leans to pull her phone closer to her, “You never know. You might like it there. Make some friends.”

“I have friends!” Lena protests.

Cat hums, fingers clicking against the keyboard. “Sure you do.”

“You’re my friend!”

Cat smiles fondly. “Yes, but I’m also quite a bit older than you.”

“Lex is my friend!”

Cat frowns. Lex isn’t even remotely nice to Lena. She’s not sure she would count him as a brother, let alone a friend, but she won’t dash the poor girl’s spirit by saying that.

“I mean friends your own age.”

There's a pause, and then a sniffle. The response comes out strangled, as if fighting tears. “I’m going to miss it here.”

Cat can hear the I’ll miss you underneath it, and she understands. She’ll miss Lena too, but she knows Lena will be happier when she’s far, far away from the Luthors.

“You can always call me.”

“You won’t be too busy?”

“Never for you. I promise.”

She means it.

 

14

Makeup a lot heavier than usual, Cat spots Lena in the corner of another gala, wearing a dress equally as dark as her eyeliner.

It’s near Christmas, so Cat figures Lena’s been sent home for break and that Lillian had dragged her out for an appearance here, to show that she did still in fact have a daughter, but Cat can’t be sure. Lena’s calls have become less frequent in recent months.

Her hair’s been cut, oddly choppy and uneven past her shoulders. There’s a stud in her nose and a spiral through the top of one of her ears.

From across the room, Cat watches her pluck an abandoned champagne flute off a table and then duck away.

Oddly, rebellion suits her. Normally Cat would call behavior like that bratty, but with a mother like Lillian Luthor, Cat admires it. Plus, it makes her unexplainably joyous to think about just how angry it must make Lillian.

Cat makes the decision to approach just as Lena is about to start the drink. “We've got to stop meeting like this.”

The girl turns to look at her, hesitance showing on her features, as if she’s evaluating how much trouble she might get in.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Cat questions teasingly. She’s not going to lecture her. She’d started drinking much earlier and with a family much less suffocating.

Full of teen angst and defiance, Lena narrows her eyes and gives Cat a tense mocking smile.

“You’re a reporter. What does it look like I’m doing?”

It looks like she’s finally lashing out, which is fine, it doesn’t bother Cat. She expects this attitude is giving Lillian Luthor a hell of a time at home, which is enough of a pass for the behavior in Cat’s mind, even if she wasn’t already remarkably fond of the youngest Luthor.

Cat doesn’t have a response to Lena, so she turns to go when a hand catches her wrist.

“Don’t tell her. If they know I’ve been drinking, they won't send me back.”

Won’t send her back , the sudden fondness of a place Cat has always known Lena to find nerve-wracking, a place where she has struggled the previous few years, is surprising. Cat wonders if the lack of calls is because she’s made friends. Friends who drink, but friends nonetheless.

Cat lifts her free hand, offering her pinky up. “Promise.”

Lena apparently must not find it childish and stupid, or still finds it meaningful enough to make an exception, because she immediately makes the deal.

 

15

With the development of CatCo and the piecing together of her own company, Cat has grown accustomed to people running in the opposite direction when she approaches.

Her employees that she hired right before the grand opening had learned quickly not to question Cat, or to really even talk to her unless spoken to first.

That is, all of her employees except Lena Luthor.

When she comes storming into her office, ready to begin berating someone, Lena doesn’t bother to look up from her book, or to even get out of Cat’s chair.

Cat clears her throat and instead of standing, Lena turns and props her feet up on the desk, her lip upturned in a poorly hidden smile.

“I got your coffee.” She nods her head towards a cup.

Lena had grown out of her angry, all black wearing teen phase months prior. Cat had seen her plenty in the months since, but some of the attitude lingers in teasing sort of ways.

Cat rolls her eyes and moves around the desk to shove the girl’s feet off her papers, gathering them up back into stacks.

Thank you,” she responds sarcastically, picking the coffee up and sipping it, unsurprised to find that it’s her exact order.

Lena watches, amused, and Cat, surprisingly, is more than happy to see her not working.

Lillian had, haphazardly, offered up Lena’s help during CatCo’s opening week back in June and now, with it nearing the end of August, Cat realizes she’s taken up almost all of Lena’s summer.

She has spent a good number of days winding Cat down from fits of stress and rage at her other, more incompetent, employees, saving a few jobs while she was at it, but Lena goes back to school in just a few weeks and Cat feels a little guilty for landing her with an internship that she never seemed to do anything outside of.

“You know you aren’t needed here, right?” Cat asks, leaning with her hand on the top of her desk.

Lena’s eyes widen and she straightens up in the chair. “Cat? I’m not… I haven’t done anything wrong, have I?”

Cat starts to respond, but Lena, cuts her off. “I’ve been doing everything I get asked to do!”

“Lena-”

“Of course I could be doing more, but-”

“Lena-”

“Please don’t fire me, Cat. I love being here and-”

Lena,” she says more firmly, placing her hands on the young woman’s shoulders, “You’re doing great. I’m lucky to have you.”

She takes a deep breath. “I just wonder if working here has stopped you from doing other things.”

“Other things?”

“You’re a teenager, Lena. I mean… Going out and… Doing something fun! You know?”

Cat is well aware that other kids Lena’s age have summer jobs, but for someone like her, someone that has to deal with so much already… Cat wants her to be able to enjoy life while she can.

“I, uh… I don’t have many friends here. There’s not much I can do.”

It only serves to make Cat feel more guilty. She’s been staying in the Luthor’s National City penthouse for the previous three months, she can’t imagine how lonely that must’ve been.

“Lena-”

“But… That’s not to say I have many friends anywhere.”

The sound of humor being forced into Lena’s voice makes Cat feel like her heart is going to shatter.

“At school, I have friends… But most of them go on trips over break… And it’s a good excuse to get away from home, you know?” Lena stares up at her. “I like being here. You’re my friend.”

Cat softens her gaze. “Promise you aren’t going to regret the months of your time I wasted?”

A laugh bubbles up from her. She sticks out her pinky, “You were rather difficult at times, but no. I don’t regret it.”

Cat hooks her own finger into Lena’s and lets her own smile follow. “Good… Now, I heard your birthday is coming up after the summer ends. Anything special planned?”

“I don’t think I’m really getting anything for my birthday,” Lena murmurs, wiping her hands off on her jeans as she stands.

What?

“Well, my brother just has so much going on, what with the company and all, that I’m pretty sure they’ve forgotten.”

Cat’s stares at her disbelievingly.

“Or they just don’t care.” Lena waves her hand, forcing a laugh, “Either way I’m fine -”

“Your own family forgets your birthday and you think it’s fine?”

“Oh, Miss Grant, it’s quite alright-”

“Lena, you only turn sixteen once.”

“It’s not a big deal. I think I’ve got quite a few more opportunities to celebrate birthdays, don’t you?” Lena retorts, raising an eyebrow, moving out of Cat’s office and beyond her reach before Cat can get another word in.

Cat thinks back three years, to when Lena had been twelve and had Lex on the verge of a breakdown because she’d had a book in her hands while he was talking, and just moments earlier when she’d been reading at Cat’s own desk. She’d once explained to Cat when asked that reading was a way for her to escape.

The realization that working at CatCo has been as cathartic for Lena as reading has Cat melting a bit.

Lena deserves a good birthday.

So, feeling the same rush of confidence and conviction she feels when she’s hot on the heels of a story, Cat loads up an Amazon cart with books.

A month or so later, the stack of books arrives at the office and Cat has them boxed up and wrapped with a note that reads, ‘Thank you for being my friend these past few months. Take some time out with these. Promise not to lose yourself in school work.

She gets a nice email back a week later, one where Cat can tell Lena is attempting to be indifferent, but knows she was crying while she typed it.

 

16

It’s three A.M. on a Thursday night in February when Cat’s phone starts to ring, Lena’s name shining bright through the darkness of her apartment.

Lena is usually very careful about when she calls. With the three hour time difference between them being a problem, she's always making sure only to call when it won't interrupt anything, so Cat figures it must be important and picks up.

Between sniffles and muffled sobs, Cat picks out ‘dumped’, ‘I loved-’, ‘I should’ve known”, and ‘I couldn’t’. Cat pieces it all together and- oh. Lena is in the middle of her first heartbreak and her first instinct had been to call Cat.

She feels her own tears start to form at the notion, but just mutters soothing responses back into the phone, knowing that if Lena hears she’s upset, too, it will only worsen the situation.

Cat can’t get much information about the person out of Lena.

“Can I at least have the first letter?”

A hushed laugh passes through the phone. “V.”

“Victor?

“You are… Way off.”

“Vernon. Is it Vernon? Because Lena, honey, if his name is Vernon than you really dodged a bullet there-”

Lena laughs loudly, likely waking her roommate, but Cat doesn’t care, it’s good just to hear her happy.

They talk for a few more hours. Cat doesn’t get any more out of Lena about the person who had dumped her, but it’s nice to hear from her at least.

“Feel better?”

“Yeah…”

“You’ll take care of yourself, right? Don’t do anything reckless just because some stupid boy doesn’t realize what he’s lost.”

“I promise, Cat.”

She can hear the barest hints of a smile.

“Pinky promise?”

Another laugh and then a sniffle. “Pinky promise.”

“Okay, good… Now get some rest.”

“I will.”

“And don’t go to class tomorrow, either. Eat some ice cream and watch shitty TV. Take a you day.”

“My mother would kill you for suggesting that.”

“I’d like to see her try.”

 

17

Lena graduates early because of her advanced intellect and Cat couldn’t be more proud or anxious to see what she chooses to do next.

She knows it's only a matter of time before Lena comes up with something that will change the world and she’s not wrong.

Lena is in her office, filling up her time now that she’s not in school, and is completely buzzing with the kind of excited energy Cat has seen so rarely in her.

“I can tell you’ve got something to say.” Cat breaks the silence between them, halting Lena’s excited movements. “You’re moving around too much, just tell me.”

“Oh.” Suddenly, the younger woman looks nervous. “Uh, okay…”

Lena shakes her hands out, taking a deep breath before forcing, “I’m creating a startup!” out in a rush.

Cat stares at her warily.

“With?”

“A friend.”

Cat glances up, eyebrow raising as she slowly sits back. “Is this a male friend?”

Lena blushes, stumbling over her words.

“Is it the one who you called me crying about a few months ago?”

“No! They’re… Very different people.”

“Do you like this new person?”

“Jack? I don’t… He’s twenty.”

“And? That doesn’t mean you don’t like him.

“I don’t know how I feel about him,” Lena says and Cat can hear the truthfulness in it. The way that there are layers of conflict beneath it. It bothers Lena, that she doesn’t have it figured out. Cat is attempting to formulate a response when Lena continues, “But I do know that I want to cure cancer… And so does he.”

Cat watches as she shuffles back and forth on her feet, obviously nervous under Cat’s gaze.

If Lena trusts him, Cat trusts him.

“I’ll write you a check,” she says, reaching for her bag without even glancing at it.

“What? I didn’t tell you because I wanted-”

“I know you didn’t, Lena… But I want to support you and it’s a good cause. I want to help.”

She writes it out with no more protest from Lena and holds it out for her. Before she can take it though, she jerks it back. “Wait!”

“Yeah?

“Promise me I’ll get to meet this Jack at some point? That you won't just hide him away from me like you do with all your other friends.”

Lena scratches at her neck, clearing her throat. “Yeah, I promise.”

 

18

This time, it’s Lena’s gala that Cat is attending. She’s raising more money for research and Cat couldn’t be more proud that she’s advanced this far in only a year.

It is strange to think they met at an event like this and now Lena is grown enough to host her own.

Cat’s eyes find Lena easily enough, even in the large space. She’s so familiar with her that even the flourish of her hands as she excitedly explains something is enough to grab Cat’s attention.

Immediately, she recognizes the man next to Lena as Jack. She’s described him to her before, but Lena hadn’t given him enough credit.

He’s even more handsome than she’d ever told Cat.

Lena laughs at something he’s said, eyes turning to search him out as she grins. His expression is similar as he slips an arm around her.

Something about it catches Cat off guard.

Lena looks at the man with a fondness, love, but there’s something else. For as bright as Lena looks at him, it mirrors her eyes the way she looks at Carter. It’s not love the way Cat was expecting to see from her in this situation. She loves Jack, but she’s not in love with him. The look is too comfortable, too stable for it. There’s not near enough passion or gentle longing and adoration. Maybe Lena doesn’t realize it yet and it feels wrong to Cat that she figures it out before Lena herself, but it’s there and it’s obvious, and Cat can’t quite put her finger on it.

She watches them for a long while before walking over.

They meet and Cat likes him. He’s charming and funny and everything Lena deserves.

But even to her it feels off, like something about them just doesn’t quite fit.

They break up four months later for reasons Cat can’t quite pull out of Lena.

 

21

In the hallway just outside of the banquet hall where they’d first met, Cat finds Lena crying.

It’s not under a table this time, but leaning up against the wall as she wipes at her tears with shaking hands.

“Well, don’t you look beautiful tonight,” Cat, sort of, compliments, coming to a halt beside her young friend.

Lena shoots her an angry look, dark lines of mascara streaking down her face.

Cat sighs, deflating slightly. “You know I’m joking.”

Lena rolls her eyes. “I know, I just don’t wanna hear it right now.” It’s not angry, or even resentful, just tired.

Cat can see how much whatever it is that’s hurting her is affecting her by the simple change in her usually perfect posture.

“Fine, I’ll shut up. You talk instead.”

“Cat.” Lena shakes her head.

“We’re friends. Friends tell each other things.”

“No. Not things like this. I don’t want to even think about it, let alone have someone else know.”

“Lena. Let me rephrase what I said. We’re family. Not family like that bitch who doesn’t give a damn about you and your feelings” Lena’s eyes widen at Cat’s blatant disrespect for her mother, “but family that would do anything for each other. Now, I know neither of us are experts on that, but we could start learning now.”

Lena’s lip quivers and she starts to cry even harder.

“Well, that’s not at all what I was trying to do.”

“I know. I just can’t talk to anyone about this.”

“Why not?”

“I just… I don’t want it to be real, I guess.”

“Did someone hurt you?” Cat asks, suddenly fiercely protective and ready to lose a heel to someone’s internal organs. “Jack?”

“No! God, no! He’s… He’s my best friend. He would never…”

“Then what’s the big deal?”

“I could lose everything.”

Cat touches her shoulder. “But you won’t lose me, alright?”

Lena sniffles, casting a sideways glance at Cat, lifting her hands one last time to wipe more tears and mascara away. Then she turns, shoulder still leaning against the wall as she asks, “Promise?”

Cat smiles gently at the fragile looking girl and without thinking, lifts a pinky in front of their faces. “Promise.

Lena looks away from Cat for a moment and takes a deep, shuddering breath. “I’m gay.”

Cat lets her shock show for only a moment before immediately pulling the young woman into a hug. Suddenly, it makes so much sense and Cat gets it . Lena is twenty one and confused and there is so much going on with her brother that there is no room for her to even begin to piece her own life together, especially with a mother like hers.

Cat remembers back to when Lena was sixteen and called her crying about someone who’d broken her heart. That was an explosion compared to the casual manner in which Lena had informed her that her relationship with Jack wasn’t going to continue as more than just friends. Cat wonders if that first heartbreak had been at the hands of a woman, but waylays the question for later.

She can feel tears and makeup soaking up into the expensive fabric on her shoulder, but only pulls Lena in tighter. She was never going to wear this dress again anyway. Cat’s motherly instincts kick in and she begins to rub slow calming circles into Lena’s back. “Shhh, it’s gonna be okay. I promise you, it’s going to be okay.”

Finally, Lena moves away, once again using her forearm to wipe her eyes. “So you don’t hate me?”

Cat chuckles at little, her own eyes becoming teary. “You’re like a daughter to me. I could never hate you.”

“Seems like my mom never got that memo.”

“That woman is no mom,” Cat says. “She may have raised you, but that doesn’t mean anything if she doesn’t love you.”

A few men in suits walk past, suspiciously eyeing the two women as they go.

Cat shoots them a glare that has them speeding down the hallway. She doubts they will mention it to anyone if they want to keep their careers.

“Look, Lena. I wouldn’t care if you like girls even if I didn’t know you, because it’s perfectly natural. But I do know you, so I only care about your happiness. So, I only care that you like girls because I want you to end up with one who will treat you the way you deserve.”

Despite her wet eyes, Lena’s lips turn up.

“I’m not going to be any less critical of the people you like just because they are women, Lena. I’m going to treat them the way I treat all new people.”

“You’re going to scare all the girls away.”

Cat laughs. “No, only the bad ones.”

Lena grins.

“Plus, me pushing you away for being gay would be a little hypocritical of me, don’t you think?”

The younger girl’s eyes widen comically. “Wait. What? You- You…”

“Why do you think I hate Lois Lane so much?”

“Shut up! No way!”

Cat just nods conspiratorially, enjoying the way Lena’s eyes widen.

“Holy shit.”

Cat shakes her head fondly before pulling Lena in for one last hug. “You’re gonna be fine.”

“Thank you,” Lena whispers back.

“Don’t thank me just yet. We have to get you cleaned up first.” Cat grabs Lena’s hand and drags her towards the nearest bathroom, digging through her bag for her concealer as they go.

 

22

“You came.”

Cat grabs her hand. “I promised, didn’t I?”

She might not like Lex Luthor, but Lena does, so that makes this just as important to her as it is to Lena.

They sit side by side in the courtroom, Lillian on the other side of Lena, their bodies inches apart. The tense air sitting between them makes Cat seeth. She doesn’t get how anyone could hate their child, let alone a girl like Lena, so much. People behind them yell, scream, and borderline riot when the police walk Lex, in chains, into sight. Lena takes a deep breath that Cat knows means tears are not far behind. She squeezes her hand.

They reach a verdict in a day. 592 consecutive life sentences.

Lena shakes with the weight of it, feeling overwhelmed with the news and all the eyes on her. She’s not surprised and it hurts in all the ways she expected it to.

Lena leaves Lex’s hearing with Cat instead of Lillian. They drink wine in Cat’s office, forcing laughter until finally Lena stops trying to be collected and flings herself into Cat’s arms.

She sobs like a child for three hours. Cat never once tells her to stop or to suck it up. She lets her get it out and makes sure she has someone there to understand and experience and hurt with her, because it does hurt Cat. It hurts to see Lena, the girl she’d watched grow from childhood, lose the last member of her ‘real’ family that had ever truly shown her compassion.

Lena falls asleep with her head buried into Cat’s shoulder and Cat’s hand brushing her hair soothingly.

When she wakes up on Cat’s couch, blanket draped over her and makeup already carefully removed from her face, with Cat laying on the ground beside her, Lena feels the definition of family finally click.

 

23

They’re meeting up at one of their bi-monthly catch up dinners when Cat’s worries hit her full force.

Lena has been in her house for all of half an hour when they surface, making her feel sick to her stomach.

Suddenly, unable to keep them down, she blurts, “I’m worried I’m becoming like your mother.”

There is a silence that follows.

Silverware clicks softly against a plate, a sigh and then, “What?”

Cat glances up to see Lena’s worried eyes on her instead of her salad.

“I feel like I’m becoming like your mother. My parenting, that is,” she says, open and honest.

Normally, she’d need more than one glass of wine to share her insecurities, but Lena’s not the only one who’s grown from their relationship.

Lena shakes her head disbelievingly. “That’s impossible. You’ve modeled your parenting to be the exact opposite of Lillian’s.”

“I know,” she says, eyes averting from Lena’s. She wants to drop this, not liking how vulnerable she feels, but she pushes on, factual and to the point. “I’m not around enough. I’m always at the office or-”

“You’re working. You’re doing what you need to do to support your children. I’ve seen you with Carter. The time you spend with him is well-spent, loving, and supportive. He knows you love him and that you’re doing what needs to be done.”

Cat shudders, tears starting to fall. “Carter is eleven and I don’t know where the time has gone! I feel like I missed so much. And Adam… We all know how awfully I fucked that up.”

“You were young when you had Adam, you did what you believed would give him the best life.”

“And Carter?” she presses,  “I’ve never raised a kid before and he’s special. He needs more and I know I’m messing it all-”

Lena chuckles, stopping Cat in her tracks. “You think this is funny?” She snaps at Lena for the first time.

Lena, surprisingly, takes it in stride. “No. I don’t find all of it funny, but the fact that you think you never raised anyone is.”

“What do you-” Cat stops herself this time.

Across from her, Lena smiles kindly. Across from her is a woman, beautiful and mature. A vast change from the nine year old girl Cat had found crying beneath a dinner table fourteen years ago. She’s an adult, a somehow functioning and well adjusted adult, despite her horrible family life. Then it hits Cat. The Luthors aren’t her family.

“Lillian is a mother. You’re a mom. There’s a difference, remember? You raised me more than she ever did and I’m doing fine.” Lena leans forward to wipe tears off of Cat’s cheek. “You’re a good mom, Cat. Carter, Adam, and I are lucky to have you.”

Cat captures Lena’s fingers in her own. “Promise?”

“Pinky promise.”

Cat lunges forward and cries even harder into Lena’s shoulder.

 

24

“What a coincidence it is that you’re leaving National City just as I’m relocating,” Lena mutters as she straightens her papers on her brand new desk. She rolls her eyes exasperatedly. “You know one of the big reasons I came here of all places was to be closer to you and Carter.”

“You can always call,” Cat teases, earning an eyeroll.

Right.

Cat sighs, “This will be good for me and him.”

Lena shoots her a look, but nods. “I know. I’ve been saying you need to get away for how long?”

“I think it’s always been me who has been telling you to get out of the limelight.”

The dark-haired woman snorts as she pushes papers around on her desk. “There’s no way the media would ever let me escape, not after what my brother did.”

“Unless I told them to.”

Lena just shakes her head. “You know I need to reclaim the Luthor name. Make it mean something good.”

Cat still doesn’t truly understand why Lena insists on using that name, after all it had only ever brought her pain. Cat had even offered to allow Lena to take her last name, make her legally a part of the Grant family, but she will always respect the younger woman’s wishes, no matter what they may be.

“And I know you will. Your plans to remake this company are better than most might hope for… Maybe I’ll even get to intern for you this summer.”

Lena lets out a high laugh, looking embarrassed.  “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Cat hums back. “Fine, just thought I’d repay you after that summer you wasted working for me.”

“I already told you-”

“I know! I know! I’m kidding.” Cat raises her hands in surrender.

Lena shakes her head, but settles her gaze on Cat, looking sad for a long moment. “Do you have any idea when you’ll be back?”

“No. I just… I need to find something. Figure out what makes me happy.”

“I understand.” She stares across the office at her for a long beat. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I’m going to miss you, too.”

Then, they’re crossing to each other and hugging. Lena squeezes and refuses to let go for a long while, wanting it to last her for however long Cat will be gone.

When they finally separate, Cat takes a deep breath and begins a new conversation with: “I need to ask you a favor.”

Lena stares at her for a long moment, but eventually sighs. “Anything for you, Cat.”

“My assistant, Kara… I’ve become rather fond of her-”

Lena gives her a look, half scandalized, half impressed. “Your assistant?

“Not like that, Lena, really. She’s barely older than you .”

“Damn, Cat. I think we might need to change your name to Cougar-

“Lena…” Cat warns.

“Okay, okay, sorry… What do you need me to do?”

“I want you to watch out for her.”

“Oh?”

“She’s a little…” Cat thinks about it for a minute. “Odd… Smart, but at times odd. And I’ve always had an inkling that she’d be a great reporter.. And now I'm sure of it. She just needs a gentle nudge in that direction.”

“And you can’t do that?”

“It needs to be her decision. I can’t make it for her. I’m going to offer her a choice, I need you to help her see it.”

Lena sighs and goes back to rearranging her desk. “Her name?”

“Kara Danvers. You’ll like her, I promise.”

Lena’s eyes slowly drift up and a brow raises, challenge written obviously in her eyes.

Cat smiles to herself. To say that she never thought about how Lena and Kara would be good together would be a lie. She’d thought about it rather carefully actually and found that somehow, she suspects they might balance each other out. Something about the fit of them together seems nearly perfect.

(But if Kara were to ever hurt Lena there would be hell to pay.)

With a slow nod, Lena agrees. “Then I guess I promise I’ll watch out for her.”

Less than two days later, Kara comes rushing back into Cat’s office with a decision. “I wanna be a reporter. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.”

Cat is surprised, even if she doesn’t show it. She’d expected Kara to be more tentative, less sure of herself.

“Being a reporter is about connecting with people, it's about finding hidden truth and sharing it with the world… It's about service, and telling stories that need to be told in order to make the world a better, more comprehensible place. And it's going to make me the best version of myself, because it will definitely push me out of my comfort zone… This is it for me. This is my calling.”

Cat nods and pulls out her old resume, explaining how she’s always known that this would be the best course of action.

She tops off the pep talk with: “You inspire me, Kara. I can see the hero within you. Now get out and make me proud.”

As much as she doesn’t want to admit it, she could see Kara becoming a part of her family, too.

“Thank you, Ms. Grant… You know, you do have a really good instinct about other people, just letting them know how to live their best lives.”

Cat thinks back, all the way back, to when Lena was nine years old and scared out of her mind and hopes that Kara is right. Hopes that she’s done everything to better Lena’s life in all of the years she’s known her.

“Please. I'm just glad that you decided to take the plunge. It's actually good advice for all of us.”

If she was feeling hesitant about leaving before, it’s wiped away by Kara’s observation.

After Kara walks out of her office and Cat stops feeling wistful about the fact that she’ll be leaving all she’s built, she’s hit once again with just how fast Kara came to this realization and-

Cat rolls her eyes, pulling her phone from her bag and dialing Lena’s number.

“You’ve slept with her already?” she hisses the second it stops ringing.

Lena laughs. “No! But… there is something about her. I think she might be important somehow.”

Cat thinks back on Kara’s words, you do have a really good instinct about other people, just letting them know how to live their best lives, and thinks that maybe she’s just started something that will help Lena grow even further into the woman she’s meant to be.