Promises

a Supergirl fan fiction by

Douglas Neman

The tap-tap at her window startled Cat so much that she cried out in alarm, but her heart calmed down when she saw it was Supergirl. Cat took off her glasses, stood, and opened the sliding glass door which led to her balcony. The night air was cool and pleasant.

"You just about scared me to death," Cat said crossly.

"I'm sorry about that, Miss Grant. But I thought about what you said. For whatever reason, our paths keep crossing, so I wanted you to have this."

Supergirl held out a piece of paper with a phone number. Computer printed, not handwritten, Cat thought. Smart girl. She doesn't want me to analyze her handwriting.

"It's a burner phone, so don't try to trace the number," Supergirl said. "And don't use it frivolously. I'm not giving you this so we can chit-chat."

Cat nodded. "I'll only use it if I absolutely have to."

"I'd appreciate it," Supergirl said, and took off.

Cat entered the number into her phone, under the name SG, then put the paper in her safe.

 

It was a whole ten days before Cat needed that number. In the back of her limousine on the way home, she dialed. Supergirl picked up after two rings. "Hello?"

"This is Cat Grant."

"Hello, Miss Grant." In the background, Cat could clearly hear the noise of many conversations and a mariachi band. Cat filed this observation away and got right to the point.

"I've got an investigative reporter deep under cover at Shorewell Industries. He's about to blow the lid off their cover-up of the pollution they've been dumping into Lake Kelson for the last two decades. Tonight, he sent me proof that they've been bribing at least two government inspectors and our own district attorney for the past three years. I'll probably run part one of this story Monday, and when I do, heads will roll."

"Okay."

In the background, Cat heard a woman say, "It's my birthday!" Cat then heard what sounded like a waitress, with a distinct high-pitched voice, offer to bring everyone sopapillas. So Supergirl likes Mexican food, Cat thought. Good to know.

Cat said, "My reporter also found evidence that they're going to arrange an accident for one of these inspectors, because they think he's close to telling everything he knows."

"You should call the police."

"The same police who work hand in hand with the corrupt district attorney?"

"The FBI, then."

"I don't trust anyone to handle this right. They'll just barge in, Shorewell will destroy the evidence, my reporter's life will be in danger, and worst of all, I'll lose the story."

"Nice to know you have your priorities straight. Look, if I stop them from killing the inspector, your reporter's life will still be in danger because they'll know someone talked."

"But you could make it look like you were just passing through when you save him. That's perfectly plausible. And I trust you completely. I know you won't screw up my operation."

"Thanks for the confidence." Supergirl sighed. "All right, shoot me the info you have on this guy and how they plan to kill him. I'll see what I can do."

"Thanks, Supergirl." Cat hung up and sent the data, then called Kara.

Kara also picked up after two rings. "Hello, Miss Grant," she said.

Cat was momentarily taken aback. "Kara?" she asked tentatively, for it sounded like she had just called Supergirl again by accident. It wasn't just the voice, it was the way she had said, "Hello, Miss Grant." The inflection had been precisely the same.

"Yes, I'm here," Kara said. "What can I do for you, Miss Grant?"

In the background, Cat could clearly hear the noise of many conversations and a mariachi band. They were playing the exact same song she had heard when talking to Supergirl seconds earlier.

"Kara, are you at a Mexican restaurant?" Cat asked.

"Yes! My sister's celebrating her birthday."

"Which restaurant?"

Kara was clearly puzzled, for her boss wasn't one for small talk. "Cantina Tostada. Why?"

Cat considered asking Kara to stand up and scan the restaurant to see if she could spot Supergirl, since they were obviously at the same place, but quickly dismissed the idea. Kara wouldn't know what to look for, and even if she did spot Supergirl, what would she do about it?

Cat thought about pursuing this lead herself. But the restaurant was on the other side of the city, so it was very likely that Supergirl would be gone before she got there. And if Cat did go there and identify her, the only thing that would accomplish would be to ruin her tenuous relationship with Supergirl. And maintaining that relationship was paramount.

"Never mind, it's not important," Cat said. "I'll be in at seven AM tomorrow, and when I get there, I want you and all department heads in my office ready to go. And by all department heads, I mean everyone important. Not classifieds, not sports, not the guy who does the crossword puzzle. We're starting a massive new project across all platforms."

"Any hints on what that project is?"

"You and everyone else will find out tomorrow morning."

In the background, Cat heard that same waitress with the high-pitched voice arrive with everyone's sopapillas.

"I'll let everyone know, Miss Grant. Is there anything else?"

"Tell your sister happy birthday," Cat said, and hung up.

For the rest of the ride home, Cat sat in the quiet luxury of her limousine and thought, and thought, and thought. And the more she followed her train of thought, the more she didn't like its destination.

When the car came to a stop in her driveway, she said, "Take me back to CatCo."

"Yes, ma'am," the driver said. Without question, he smoothly turned around and drove his employer back to her building.

 

Cat strode into her office and turned the lights on, her stomach churning with emotion. The IT people two floors down would be running their nightly backups. Somewhere, the cleaning staff would be emptying trash cans and raiding people's candy jars, but none of them were in sight at the moment. The entire floor was deserted, which suited Cat just fine.

She had a lead to pursue. It was an impossibility, but she had learned long ago that when facts pointed in a certain direction, even the impossible needed to be tested in order to rule it out. Because every now and then, the impossible turned out to be true.

She pulled up the company photo ID of Kara Danvers and a photo of Supergirl, and arranged them side by side. She stared at them for several seconds.

She played the recording of her interview with Supergirl. She tried to imagine someone else's voice saying the words. She pulled up the video of last year's company Christmas party, at which Kara had given a short introduction for her boss. Cat watched Kara on the video, then played the Supergirl interview again.

No. It wasn't enough. It was still impossible. Extraordinary claims required extraordinary proof.

CatCo had the latest face- and voice-matching software. With it, they had identified a terrorist at the airport two years previously, and six months ago they had used it to expose a state senator who liked to talk about God and family during the day and pick up prostitutes at night.

Cat started the application and instructed it to compare the photos. It scanned the faces of Supergirl and Kara Danvers. The answer came back immediately: Match 100%.

Her hands shaking, Cat isolated a clip of Kara at the Christmas party and told the application to compare the audio track to the Supergirl interview.

Match 100%.

Cat slowly sat back in her seat and stared. Faces could be similar, but voice matches did not lie.

Cat shut down the computer and returned to her car. "Take me home," she said.

As she rode home for the second time in an hour, she stared out the window and wondered how she could be so stupid. Right in front of me the whole time.

She thought about Kara asking, "If Supergirl were here, what would you suggest she do?"

When Reactron attacked her party, Supergirl had appeared almost instantly. Because, of course, she was already there.

She thought about Supergirl's oh-so-timely arrival to save her from Livewire, even though Livewire's attack had only just begun. In her mind, she relived every moment she and Supergirl had worked together to capture Livewire. The fact that it had been Kara the whole time just stunned her to pieces.

She shook her head as she realized that Kara had transcribed her own interview. And Kara had been unhappy with the article. "You're taking her out of context." During her critique, Kara had acted as if she knew what Supergirl really thought.

When Cat got home, she called Carter, who was staying with his father that night. Then she ate a carton of yogurt for dinner and went to bed. She made up her mind to be thoroughly angry in the morning.

 

Kara met Cat at the door of her office with a latte. Cat took it, took one look at the team assembled in her office, and snapped, "Kara – when I said everyone important, I did not mean for you to include the person in charge of the comics page."

"You said everyone but sports, classifieds, and crossword."

"I said everyone important." She pointed at the man in question. "You. Out. Go play with Snoopy and Dilbert, we have work to do."

"Yes, ma'am," he said, glaring at Kara as he walked out. Kara gave him a sheepish, apologetic look in return.

As Cat strode to her desk, she said, "Change of plan. Everyone except Kara, wait outside until I call you back in." She dumped her purse on the desk and turned to face them. Everyone stood there looking surprised, so she said, "Come on. Chop chop."

Her weary staff trudged out of her office, none of them daring to look at Kara, who stood with her hands clasped as they all filed past her. Cat shut the door behind them.

"Sit," Cat said.

Kara sat on the couch facing the window. Cat sat opposite her and glared at her.

"I don't know whether to be more furious at you or at myself," Cat said.

"In other words, it's a typical workday!" Kara said with a smile, attempting to lighten the mood.

Cat's face tilted a fraction and froze into a You did not just say that look.

Kara sighed, her smile disappearing.

"I called you twice last night," Cat said. "Two different phone numbers. The same person answered each phone. In the background, the same song was playing, and the same waitress was serving the same food."

Kara blinked, her mind racing. Of all the things she had thought her boss was about to say, that had been nowhere near the top of the list.

"Did you think it was funny?" Cat continued. "Running around as Supergirl while standing right in front of me as someone else? Did you and your friends get a big laugh out of it?"

Kara stammered. "Uh...Miss Grant, I don't know what you're-"

"Stop it!" Cat snapped, quiet and intense. "Just stop it, Supergirl!"

They stared at each other, Cat fuming, Kara trying to rein in her emotions.

Kara licked her lips and took a slow, deep breath. "All right, let's deal with one thing at a time," she said. "Yes, I'm Supergirl." She shrugged, raised her hand, and said meekly, "Hello."

Cat didn't say a word.

Kara said, "I think the next thing we need to deal with is your belief that this is all about you."

Cat gave her a puzzled look.

"Let me tell you what really happened," Kara said. "As a person with superpowers, it's dangerous for me here on Earth. When I arrived, I was a thirteen-year-old girl, and all I wanted was a life. I had just lost my entire world, including my parents." Kara's voice was filled with pain. "All I wanted were friends and family. I was vulnerable in many ways.

"As I grew up, I wanted to continue my normal life. Every now and then, I thought about using my powers to help people, but I was always afraid. I wasn't ready. I was still immature. In some ways, I still am.

"I came to work for you because you are an incredible person-"

"Oh, stop it!" Cat snapped, her face full of scorn.

"Miss Grant, I am not lying!" Kara snapped back. "You are an incredible person. I worked hard to get your attention, to become your assistant. I knew the job would be hard, and I knew you had an abrasive personality, but I wanted the job anyway. I wanted to be around you, to learn from you. That's why I work here. And when I took the job, I had no idea that I would one day change my mind about using my powers. That was sudden. It just happened one night. When flight 237 was going down, something inside me snapped, and I acted. And when I did that, my life changed, and the feeling of helping others was glorious, and once I got a taste of it, I didn't want to stop. But that made everything complicated. See it from my point of view. I was suddenly trying to be Supergirl while simultaneously working for a powerful woman obsessed with Supergirl. I didn't plan for that to happen, it just did, and I dealt with it the best way I knew how. Telling you my secret identity was out of the question.

"So stop thinking that I orchestrated all of this just to play some kind of elaborate practical joke on you for my amusement. That's just absurd!"

Cat was thoughtful. Kara's words had definitely found their mark, and her anger had abated. "Fine," she finally said. "You're right. I admit, it was foolish of me to think that this was somehow all about me. But see it from my point of view. I feel like the biggest fool on the planet, not being able to see something that's right in front of me. It's humiliating. I've done everything I can to tie myself and CatCo to Supergirl, to ride her to greater heights. If word ever got out that she was secretly my assistant all along, right in front of my nose, I would be the greatest laughing stock of the twenty-first century."

"If word ever got out that Supergirl was secretly your assistant all along, my life would be destroyed and my family would be dead within hours," Kara said. "So, sorry, I'm not really feeling any sympathy for your embarrassment."

Cat stood up and paced around the room. "Fair enough," she said after a moment. "I probably deserved that." She glared at Kara. "So let's talk about the other reason I'm angry, at myself. How did I not see you standing in front of me? Is it some kind of Kryptonian mind power?"

Kara sighed. "Worse. It's ordinary human mind power."

"What the hell does that mean?"

Kara stood up also. "It means that sometimes a person can hide in plain sight because people see what they expect to see. It's not just you, Miss Grant. My face is on the news, but I walk past the people of this city every day and no one notices. I attended a party surrounded by posters of me; I stood next to those posters, and people still looked right at me without seeing.

"But I've never seen that phenomenon work on anyone the way it works on you, Miss Grant. You separate people into two categories: the important people, and everyone else. And once you've made up your mind that someone isn't important, you never look at them again. It doesn't matter who they are, or what hidden talents they have. You just look right past them because you think they can't contribute to your world. It's a narrow and dangerous way to look at people, and it's a lonely way to look at people.

"There's a guy in the mailroom named Sam. You see him once a day when he delivers your mail. You have no idea that he plays one of the meanest saxophones I've ever heard. He plays a club called Jerry's Jazz Joint on weekends. Todd, the guy in charge of ad sales, was a member of the 1988 Olympic team. Amanda does stand-up comedy; she's not great, but she's not bad, either, and she's getting better. Jeff and his wife do a magic act for free for sick children, and they're really good, and they make those children laugh and smile! I think all of these things are incredible, but they're not part of your environment, so you dismiss all of these people. You just see them as mindless sheep, and that is your loss, Miss Grant. It's your blind spot, and it's huge. It's the blind spot that leads you to look at your assistant and see nothing more than a dweeb who's still learning, even though she has exactly the same face and voice as the hero you admire so much."

Cat stared at her for a long, long moment, utterly transfixed. Then she looked away, swallowed hard, and nodded. "I see," she said quietly, clearly shaken. She walked to her desk and sat down.

"Well," Cat said, regaining her composure. "I came here this morning furious with you and with myself. Now, I'm no longer angry with myself, just very disappointed. I've always said that there's no such thing as being fooled, only being a fool. In order to accomplish great things, I've always had to make snap judgments about people, because if I spent time interacting with everyone who wandered into my field of vision, I'd never get anything done. But clearly, I have taken that too far, and it has left me extremely vulnerable, as you have just demonstrated.

"And I am still angry at you, Kara, but now for a completely different reason. I care about you. About Supergirl. I need Supergirl, but more importantly, the world needs Supergirl. Women need Supergirl. Little girls need Supergirl. So what in the flying hell were you thinking last night?"

"I...I don't understand."

"You say your life and your family would be destroyed if your secret identity were compromised. So why the hell did you play fast and loose with your secret identity?! That's like a normal person going a hundred miles an hour in a car without a seat belt! I couldn't be more angry at you right now than I would be at Carter if I discovered him dodging traffic on the freeway!"

Kara nodded, looking suitably abashed.

Cat continued. "Last night, your life and Supergirl's life overlapped, and the common elements gave you away! You could have, and should have, prevented it with the tiniest bit of common sense. Be better. Be smarter. Because the next time you expose your identity, it might be the last mistake you ever make."

"I understand," Kara said. "There's no way to prevent Kara and Supergirl from intersecting completely, because they're me! They aren't two people. I'm not a split personality. It's just me. You, and everyone, have set Supergirl on a pedestal and demanded greatness from her. And that's fine, because I demand greatness from myself, and I try to live up to it. But I'm going to make mistakes. You've seen that. And...I don't know, something inside me changes when I put on that S. I feel different. I feel more confident. But it's still me. Kara Danvers. Superhero." She shrugged. "But I hear what you're saying, and I promise I'll do a better job of protecting my identity in the future. May I assume that my secret is safe with you?"

"Your secret is safe with me, Supergirl."

"Thank you," Kara whispered.

"I like your promise, and I'll give you one in return. I promise I will do a better job of seeing people for who they are. Even the ones I think are the little people. I'll keep my promise if you keep yours."

Kara smiled. "That sounds like a deal." She took a deep breath and let it out. "Does this change anything? Am I still your assistant?"

"Do you still want to be?"

"Absolutely. When you gave me the advice to start small and work my way up, you were mentoring me, mentoring Supergirl, even though you didn't know it. I followed that advice, and it worked. I value my relationship with you, and my job here. And I still need to pay my rent."

"You're Supergirl! You could make millions! You could own the world!"

"I don't want to own the world. I can't think of a lonelier existence than being at the top."

Kara could tell immediately that that statement pierced Cat's heart. Cat nodded, her face working with emotion. "Some of us want to be at the top because we're already lonely," she whispered.

"I know," Kara said softly. "I know it's tricky. But you're a good person, and I think in the end, you'll be just fine."

Cat gave her a small smile.

James Olsen opened the door while knocking on it and poked his head in, clearly trying to be delicate as he disturbed them. "Sorry for the interruption, but we have breaking news. Some gunmen have taken the mayor and his staff hostage. There's a standoff at City Hall. I took the liberty of sending Vans 2 and 3." His words were for Cat, but his eyes were for Kara. Kara gave him a tiny nod to show that she understood and was on her way.

"Thank you, James," Cat said. "Good work."

James nodded and left them alone again, closing the door.

Kara turned to her boss. "You'll have to excuse me, Miss Grant. I'm afraid I have to miss your meeting."

"You have a personal emergency, I know." She smiled and made a quick shooing motion. "Go save the day, Supergirl."

"I will. Thank you, Miss Grant."

Cat sat back in her chair and smiled as she watched her assistant hurry from the room.

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