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Falling to Rise

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"You could be so much more."

The words were starting to haunt Kara; no matter how she tried, they wouldn't leave her head. The voice that said them had seemed mocking and dismissive at the time, but replaying them in her head now, Kara heard another note underneath: desire. Or maybe that was just her imagination.

She ran into Laurel again two weeks later, while trying to stop a gang of thieves from high-jacking a shipment of opioids. Laurel was in her Black Siren get-up and apparently their muscle, but she looked bored by the job. She stood there watching as Supergirl incapacitated and tied up the thieves, not even attempting to fight on their behalf.

Kara turned to her in puzzlement. "Don't you work for these men? You're not going to defend them?"

Laurel eyed her up and down. "As much as I'd enjoy the fight, they're really not worth the effort. I only took the job hoping I'd run into you again."

Kara shook her head. "What? Why? I'm just going to turn you over to the police."

"Are you really?" Laurel seemed amused.

Before Kara could respond, the sound of sirens reached them. Clearly the police had noticed what was happening here. Laurel frowned in annoyance, and then she shrieked. The sound was overwhelming, accosting Kara's superpowered hearing and slamming into her with the force of a freight train.

When her head cleared, Kara looked around but Laurel was gone.

***

The next time, Laurel approached her instead. By showing up at her apartment door. Just standing there as Kara opened it in response to Laurel's knocking. As Kara Danvers opened the door, not Supergirl.

Kara's jaw dropped, as she tried to regain her composure and maintain her secret identity. "Um, hi, can I help you with something?" Her voice went weirdly high at the end.

Laurel just looked amused, like this was a fun game they were playing. "Really? That's what you're going with? Pretending that we don't know each other?"

She reached out and ran a hand along the collar of Kara's shirt. Kara didn't know what to make of it, so she just stood there dumbly.

"I like this look, all innocent and sweet." Laurel ran her tongue over her teeth, as Kara followed the motion. "It hides what we both know is underneath."

With that, Laurel leaned forward quickly and kissed Kara. Kara tried not to respond, not knowing how she wanted to anyway. There was need from Laurel, but controlled. She was holding herself back, like this was a question more than a statement. Only a question Kara didn't know how to answer. Though she couldn't deny that Laurel knew how to kiss. Kara's mouth moved of its own accord, giving back a little bit of something in return. Laurel's hand trailed from Kara's collar down her side and ended at her hip, moving back and forth slowly in a small circle. Kara felt more turned on from that one small motion than she would have thought possible.

Then Laurel pulled back, no longer touching her at all. She almost seemed to be studying Kara, trying to figure out what to make of her.

Kara found her voice. "Is this what you meant by I could be so much more?"

Laurel barked a laugh and shook her head. "No." She turned and walked down the hallway, looking back as she did so. "I'll show you what I meant tomorrow night. Meet me at the corner of Elmwood and Baker at 11:30, on the roof."

***

Right on the dot, Laurel appeared by Kara's side, at the edge of the roof. Kara was already focused on the meeting taking place in the building across the street, which she could see right in to from this vantage point Laurel had suggested.

"Already one step ahead, I see. Did you figure out what this is all about?"

Kara frowned. By how secretive the men were acting, she'd guessed it was some criminal activity, but she didn't recognize them. She could make out bits of their conversation, but it didn't make sense. Something to do with real estate. "Who are they?"

Laurel looked a bit disappointed, like it should have been obvious. "Three city councilmen. Two are up for reelection and desperate to win. They've been taking bribes to make exceptions to zoning regulations. Allowing anyone to build anything anywhere they want, if the price is right. And the price is almost always right. A month ago they allowed a chemical storage facility to open up shop in a low-income neighborhood. Turns out the safety inspector was being paid off too. Ten people have already been hospitalized."

Kara felt outraged. "Why hasn't this been in the news? Why isn't the mayor doing something?"

"You mean, why hasn't someone like Kara Danvers, plucky girl reporter, cracked the story and exposed these shockingly shady politicians—which includes the mayor, by the way—to the light of day?" Laurel was mocking, an undertone of bitterness riding beneath the words. Kara felt shame that she hadn't even realized this was going on in her city. The past four weeks had been overwhelming. Metahumans, terrorists, mass murderers, aliens: all seemed to descend right on National City, with Supergirl the only force capable of stopping them. It was like the world had gone mad, overnight, and just kept getting worse. She had been consumed with fighting against an ever-growing wave of cruelty and violence. And doing most of it on her own, as she increasingly pulled away from friends and family. Kara felt like she was drowning in brutality, disconnected from the ties to the people she loved.

Laurel continued, softer this time. "You've been fighting off alien invasions and superfreaks trying to destroy the planet. The way you're doing things, superhero-by-night, newbie-reporter-by-day, you can't take on every fight. Supergirl can handle the big picture, but she can't keep track of everything, even in one city. Especially not if she's also Kara Danvers."

"What do you suggest?"

Laurel stepped into Kara's personal space, not touching her, but staring intently at her face. "I told you. Be more than you are."

"I don't know how to do that."

"I'll show you." Kara could feel the tickle of Laurel's breath on her skin as she spoke. "Maybe start with those assholes across the street."

And so Kara did, flying straight through the window of the meeting, and turning them all over to the police.

***

The politicians, and the most of the real estate developers, were free on bail by the next morning. None ever saw trial. When, only a week later, the DA's Office announced that they'd dropped the changes against the councilmen, Kara decided to seek out Laurel.

Kara had suited up and gone looking for the Black Siren, expecting Laurel to be ready for justice, with a plan to hunt down the councilmen and put a stop to them. She'd expected violence, was prepared to have to talk Laurel down from it, to argue for a more peaceful solution. Maybe threaten the men if they had to but to stop short of anything more. They were just humans, after all.

Instead, Kara found Laurel at the back of a warehouse in a sketchy industrial park, dressed in what seemed to amount to street clothes for her (still mostly black leather), sipping a cup of coffee, and staring at a wall covered with photos and notes.

"I take it you heard the news?" Laurel didn't even turn around at her approach.

Kara sighed as she walked toward her. "Yes. They're all free, with no consequences. What's your plan to stop them?"

Laurel shrugged and gestured toward the wall. "Those three are small potatoes. Their crimes have harmed maybe a few dozen. You could spend your entire life cleaning up scum like them and get nowhere near any real change."

"You said ten people were hospitalized!" Kara was angry at the dismissal of such wrongs. "Those people matter!"

"Sure they do. But look at this." She led Kara over to the wall and pointed at a woman's photo. "This is Diane Haskins. She made a fortune convincing elderly people to buy life insurance policies that had so many exceptions and loopholes built in that their families were left with nothing. Or here is Connor Silton. He's gotten the FDA to approval more than sixty drugs on behalf of various pharmaceutical companies that hire him as a 'consultant,' all of which have a laundry list of side effects and dubious efficacy. I don't even want to try and calculate the harm people like them have caused. And they're only two." Laurel swept her arm, encompassing the entire wall. "I've been on your world for five weeks and found hundreds like them here in National City alone. All have figured out how to make the system work for them, with no consequences or any real possibility of the law stopping them."

"I'm not naïve. I know the world has problems, that's why I fight the way I do. You make it sound like you have some genius plan to what? Fix society? Eliminate crime?"

Laurel sipped her coffee. "Did Oliver or Barry tell you about my world?"

Kara shook her head. "Just the bare bones. You worked for some homicidal mad man and then ended up in their universe, where you worked with other homicidal man men."

If the dig bothered Laurel, she didn't show it. "Zoom conquered my world with fear. He killed those who stood against him, until no one else dared. I followed him to survive. It worked. But I'm not looking for you to become another Zoom."

"Then what are you looking for?" Kara was frustrated. With this game Laurel was playing, with all the awfulness she couldn't fix, with all the people she couldn't save.

Laurel looked right at her, seemed to see Kara in a way no one else had before. "I'm looking for something better, someone better. You don't need to conquer the world; you need to lead it. You need to make it better."

Kara knew that she could do it. If she wanted to. She'd seen that possibility in the way some people looked at Superman. She had the same power within her. To lead, not rule. To guide. But she had too many doubts. There was too much danger. "And if people won't follow?"

A genuine smile broke across Laurel's face. She leaned into Kara's space, the same as she done before. There was energy radiating off of her: excitement and yearning. Laurel touched Kara's face, softly, then cupped her cheek more firmly. "You. Make. Them."

Kara swallowed hard, a mess of emotions running through her. "You mean kill them."

"No, not at all. You simply show them that following you is their best option. I'll take care of those so far gone that they would refuse you." Laurel leaned further and brushed her cheek against Kara's, whispering in her ear, "Just like I did those councilmen this morning."

Part of Kara wanted to pull away, in outrage and righteousness. But then she thought of the photos she'd seen of the people who were hurt in the consequences of such petty, selfish crimes. She felt torn. She wouldn't mourn those men's deaths. This seemed something like justice, after all.

Kara pulled back a few inches and looked again at Laurel's face. "Is that what you'll do then? Kill the ones who don't fall in line? Because I don't want that."

Laurel moved her hands to Kara's shoulders, her thumbs lightly tracing Kara's collarbones. Kara shivered. "Not the ones who don't fall in line, no. I don't want you to become a tyrant. I want people to follow you because you are the one who should be the one leading them." She smiled again. "I'll kill those who can't be stopped any other way, those who only seek to cause harm, those who only prey on the innocents. I'll kill them so you don't have to wade into the pain and corruption that people like them wallow in. You'll shine bright, a beacon of hope for all to follow." Laurel gradually leaned forward again, as she whispered, "With me at your side. You won't do this alone, Kara. I'll always be there, as you rise to your rightful place. You'll remake the world the way it should be, with you guiding it to its future."

Laurel finally kissed her then. Lips and tongue no longer holding back, but determined and eager. Kara could picture the vision she'd offered and, as Laurel's fingers trailed down her sides to her waist and Kara's own hands explored Laurel in turn, she wanted it all to be true. To make the world better than it was. As Kara drew her hands up under the back of Laurel's shirt, while Laurel deftly undid Kara's skirt, she knew she could have all of this.

She could be more than she'd ever dreamed possible.