Kara has just read Alex’s response when she hears the apartment door open. She turns to see Lena walking in, still wearing that red coat she looks ridiculously good on that every time she dons it, Kara feels the urge to paint how the crimson of the fabric contrasts delightfully with the soft paleness of her skin.
Lena’s cheeks have a faint flush in them from the brisk air outside, and her lips—shaded with that distracting hue that really should be illegal for the severe palpitations it causes Kara’s heart—are turned in a concerned smile, and she is looking at Kara half curiously, half worriedly, and she cocks an eyebrow in question.
Kara clears her throat as she pockets her phone, and she tries her best to look like she’s not just been staring; she doesn’t know if it’s working—because to be honest, staring is all she can seem to do around Lena these days—but that’s not really her main problem here.
(And it’s not like looking at Lena is a problem per se, because, hello.
Okay, Kara, focus now.)
“Hey, you,” Kara says, and she winces at how inane she sounds. “I was just going to call that you can come back now. I’m sorry for sort of kicking you out earlier, by the way, it wasn’t my intention, and I swear I won’t do that ever again. It’s just, well, Clark’s a bit of a prat on the worst of days, and it really would be easier for all of us if I deal with him alone.”
“I understand, Kara,” Lena tells her, and Kara isn’t sure but she detects a sort of subtle guardedness in her voice—and that, she’s sure she doesn’t like. Her eyes lack their usual vibrancy too, instead having a muted sort of grey that is worlds apart from their usual morning shade. “It’s a personal issue. I won’t hold it against you.”
“Thank you.” Kara tries for a smile, but some apprehension might still be etched on her face, for Lena again reaches out to rest a hand on her arm, and the weight of her touch even through layers of clothing offers better comfort than Kara could ever hope to explain.
“Are you . . . I mean”—Lena falters, her guardedness becoming more obvious with the way she averts her gaze, and it is such a rare sight that Kara can only look on in puzzlement because Lena is never unsure (that’s sort of Kara’s specialty, after all)—“that is to say, are you two okay?”
Now Kara is thoroughly confused. “Us . . . who now?” she asks, brows furrowing.
“Uh”—and Lena looks . . . flustered? And she retracts her hand to wrap her arms around herself, and Kara silently bemoans the loss of her touch—“you and your boyfriend, I mean.”
“Wha—?” It takes a few seconds for that to sink in—because, no, no, Lena can’t have just said that—and when it does, Kara cannot help but bark out an incredulous, and maybe slightly delirious, laugh. “Me and Clark? Psh, no, no, you got it wrong,” she says, waving a hand in the air emphatically and shaking her head so vigorously that she’s giving herself slight vertigo, but she doesn’t really care about that because Rao, Lena thought she’s with Kal El, of all people. “I am single. He’s single. We’re not together, and Rao, Lena, we’re not—it’s not like that.” She gestures to the space Clark occupied earlier (her sofa, and she’s still annoyed about that because no one just sits on her sofa, okay, unless it’s someone called Lena). “He’s my cousin, Lena.”
At that Lena meets Kara’s eyes, and she seems a bit taken aback. “Oh.” She blinks owlishly, as if she’s still sorting out that tiny bit of information (and Kara is kind of stumped here because she has seen Lena solve a whole lot of advanced calculus and physics problems in under a minute, okay, so for her to need a moment to process the relationship Kara has with Kal El doesn’t really make sense). “Oh,” she repeats. “I see.”
Kara smiles, still a bit bemused. “All right?” she asks.
“All right.” Lena shakes her head and clears her throat, and she lets her arms fall to the side, the tension slowly seeping out of her stance.
Kara doesn’t understand what’s happening, not really, and she doesn’t get why Lena looks almost comforted and why her shoulders slump as she releases a kind of (Why?) relieved breath. So no, it doesn’t make sense for Kara at all, but Lena’s eyes regain their former vivacity, and her guardedness is finally replaced with her usual warmth (which Kara has sorely missed in the hour and a half it’s been gone, okay, she’s grown addicted to it, apparently), and so she doesn’t question it.
Instead she nods to their sofa—her sofa, nope, not their, because referring to things as theirs is really problematic at the moment and Kara can’t deal with it yet, not on top of her family issues (but sharing things with Lena is about as easy as breathing—no, Kara, stop right there)—a silent invitation in her eyes.
“Are you sure I’m allowed here?” Lena asks, teasingly tentative, though she does sit down beside Kara.
Well. Okay, then. Apparently, that Kara invited her to sit on the Rao-forsaken furniture will not escape scrutiny. Kara merely chuckles. “Yes, go on, what’s mine is yours,” she says unthinkingly.
“Oh, isn’t that right? I’ve only just ascertained that you’re single, Kara. Aren’t we moving a bit too fast?”
Kara groaned, throwing her head back on the cushion and putting an arm over her face to cover some of her blushing. (Not that she thinks it’ll help; it’s pure instinct at this point. Lena’s seen her blush far too many times for her to regain even a small piece of her scrapped dignity. Still, points for trying, right?) “Come on.”
“Fine, fine, I’ll let you off easy this time,” Lena allows. “You just had some family drama, after all.”
Kara grunts. “Understatement of the century,” she grumbles against her arm before dropping it. “I hate this.”
“Family almost always finds a way of making one feel awful, despite having one’s best interest in mind,” Lena says, and there’s something like regret in her voice, a certain kind of sadness with which Kara is intimately familiar.
It makes her heart ache, hearing Lena speak words that Kara knows to be true.
“It wasn’t always like this,” Kara says, before she realises that she’s indeed speaking out loud, and she almost retracts the statement, but it’s too late. Lena’s already looking at her inquisitively, the silent questions again swimming in her eyes, and this time, Kara finds that allowed or not, she’d want to tell her the truth.
About who she is, really, and about where she’s from.
And so, on a burst of careless inspiration, Kara does.
“I—” Kara gulps, before squaring her shoulders and facing Lena. “Lena, there’s something you need to know.”
Lena frowns, but she meets Kara’s gaze in quiet support. “Sure, okay.”
“It’s, well, it’s about me.” Kara sighs, and she clenches her hands tightly into fists, not really registering it until Lena takes them in her own grip. Her thumbs draw calming patterns on Kara’s skin, and Kara watches the movement in fascination, because wow, Lena really has pretty hands and her touch is so gentle and warm and Kara wants them to hold hands like, all the time, and okay, she’s getting distracted again.
(Not her fault, all right. Lena kills focus. She’s a focus-slayer. It’s like her superpower.
Lena must have sensed Kara’s inner turmoil, because she tips her head down to catch Kara’s gaze again, and she says, “Darling, whatever it is, I doubt it will have an immense effect on how I see you, okay? You’ll always be my Kara, no matter what it is you’re having trouble with. I’ll always be here.”
And maybe it’s the fact that Lena sounds so earnest and genuine and caring that strikes a chord in Kara’s heartstrings, combined with her soft touch and her sincere gaze and the affectionate way her voice coated the words “my Kara,” but Kara’s final defenses, which have been steadily chipped away since that first Wednesday afternoon, crumble into dust, and all that is left is an unwavering faith that Lena—Lena is worth everything.
And for her, well, Kara will risk everything.
So she takes a deep breath and exhales it along with her fears, and she tells Lena the truth.
“My name was . . . is Kara Zor-El,” she begins, her voice again getting that same authority it held earlier when she talked to her cousin. “When I was a child, my country, Krypton, was plunged into a civil war that resulted into the death of my family, leaving only me, my cousin Kal El—or Clark, as he came to be known—and my uncle Non. It also left Krypton without its queen, which, well, was my mother.” She sighs again, looking at Lena, and, of course, because Lena is the smartest person Kara knows, Alex notwithstanding, it doesn’t take her long to connect the dots.
“Yes.” Kara laughs a defeated laugh. “Krypton follows a matriarchy, and no man can ever hold the throne. This tradition goes way back to our ancient religion, the worship of Rao. And as it is, I am heiress to the throne and am the House of El’s future matriarch.” She scrunches her nose. “Which sounds really old-school and everything, but it’s better than like, future chief. Because that sounds badass and all, but I don’t see myself as a chief kind of person. That’s like, up there with warlord and stuff.”
At that Lena covers her mouth with a hand, and Kara freaks out inside because what if she ruined this friendship?—but Lena’s eyes still have that warm look in them that Kara lov-likes, and so she keeps herself from overreacting. Barely.
“Oh, Kara,” Lena says, and there’s a sort of adoration in her tone that Kara cannot deal with right now without her brain frizzling out, “here you are, telling me you’re an actual princess, and yet—” She sighs, smiles that half smile, and her tone is full of fondness directed at Kara, holy Rao. “Did you honestly think this is going to change anything?”
“I, uhm”—Kara shrugs—“I was so used to keeping this part of me hidden that it’s become second nature, and when I do tell anyone, it’s sort of always followed with change on how they treat me, so.”
Lena’s eyes soften even more, their colour now like Kryptonian spring, and Kara wants to spend her life in their depths. “Then you’re very brave, to willingly tell me, and I feel honoured that you trust me enough to share this part of you with me.”
“Yes, well”—Kara grins, and it’s like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders because Lena’s being Lena, and so she’s confident enough to be able to tease—“I told you, didn’t I? What’s mine is yours.”
And then, well, Lena looks flustered again? It’s twice in a single conversation, and Kara is really perplexed.
Lena clears her throat once more and nods, like maybe she’s looking for inner strength, before managing to smile back. “Yes, yes, so you said,” she agrees, though it sounds a bit strangled. “So Clark—Kal El, I mean, he’s your cousin and what, like a lord?”
“That’ll be correct.”
“Why did you change your names?”
“I can’t be left unprotected,” is Kara’s reply. “That’s . . . That’s the last thing I remember my mother saying. I couldn’t be a ward of Krypton, you see, because that’d be—well. The Council felt that if the heiress were raised by a noble house, she might grow to hold biases still prevalent in some of Krypton’s aristocracy. She must—I must be fair and impartial, so an outside family that holds no clout within Krypton seems to be the best option.
“That’s where the Danverses come in. They’re a family friend, and they kinda took me in so that they’d have a say in decisions concerning my welfare. It’s this whole legal mess, since I wasn’t officially adopted nor fostered, but we made do.” Kara gives Lena a small smile. “So, legally, I still have my birth name, but some arrangements were put into place so that I won’t be, like, exploited and stuff, politically.”
Lena frowns, obviously not just a little bit confused. “But if . . . if you’re the only heiress left, shouldn’t you be already crowned? Like, ages ago?”
“Krypton doesn’t believe in child rulers,” Kara explains. “The heiress”—she points to herself drolly, smiling when Lena rolls her eyes good-naturedly because of course it’s you, Kara—“should be at least 21 and not a day younger before she can lawfully claim the throne. That helps ensure that she’s already equipped with enough knowledge and skills to navigate the court and actually reign over her subjects justly and righteously. So that, you know, the monarch would be well-adjusted and mentally and emotionally mature.”
Lena smirks. “They’re going to have wait a long time then.”
It takes a second to land. “Wow, rude,” Kara says, gasping in mock offense, but she can’t help laughing when Lena does too.
“Krypton’s monarchy vastly differs from other world monarchies, all things considered.” Lena hums, contemplative. “Yours is the only strictly matriarchal one I’ve heard of.”
“If other world governments had at least half the women in their ministries and cabinets as Krypton does, we’d all have lesser problems in society.”
“No arguments there. It must have been tough,” Lena says carefully, “assimilating to a nation with innately patriarchal values, then.”
“Yeah, no kidding.” Kara shrugs. “But it’s not that bad, since Alex is the best sister ever and she helped me out a lot in adjusting. And well, I did have Kal.”
Lena doesn’t offer some banal statement, doesn’t apologise for Kara’s lot, and Kara’s heart grows even fonder of her because of that.
What Lena offers is her presence, quiet and steady, and her hand is solid in Kara’s, a tether of sorts in this world, and that is enough.
And for once, Kara thinks, thoughts of her past and her parents don’t hurt as much.
“Where are you?” Kara asks as soon as the call goes through.
“Hello to you too,” Alex grumbles. “Twenty minutes tops, okay, I was on a mission when you texted. I’m on my bike now.”
“What?” Kara shrills. “Alex, using phones while driving, especially a motorbike, is not safe!”
“Chill the fu-reak out. Honestly, what do you even take me for?”
“Oh, right. Right.” Kara sighs. “FBI gadget thingies. Sorry. I just worry.”
“I know, and it’s sort of unwarranted because duh.” There’s someone yelling something vaguely threatening in the background, and Kara just wisely chooses not to comment on how Alex has a habit of putting herself in situations that contradict everything she says. “So what happened, exactly?”
“Well, Kal El told me he heard that Non did something shady—”
“‘Shady’?” Alex snorts. “Does he even know how to use that word?”
“Well, no, I’m paraphrasing.”
“I’m focusing, I’m focusing.”
“All right, so he checked with Lucy, okay, and Lucy has some connections with Krypton’s Judicial Council, and so she managed to sneak a peek at some documents, and”—Kara takes a deep breath, and she mutter’s darkly, “Non’s brewing some nefarious plans.”
Alex startles out a laugh. “Okay, shady I can overlook, but did you really just use nefarious in a sentence?”
“Alex,” Kara groans, because “Seriously? That’s what you’re commenting on?”
“Okay, okay.” Alex huffs. “It’ll just be easier for me to think if you try and avoid sounding like you’re describing a shitty comic supervillain.”
“And, to be fair, Non is behaving like a villain,” Kara gripes. “It’s not my fault he’s acting like an utter tool, okay.”
“He’s not acting like a tool, all right, because let’s be honest here, your uncle is an actual tool.” She can hear Alex mumbling a stream of words that Kara really doesn’t want to interpret in lieu of preserving her hard-kept morality. “Makes me think it’s a real miracle you and Clark managed to turn out sort of okay.”
“Fine, carry on with what you’re saying about Non’s nefarious schemes.”
“Well, right, about that, that’s why Kal El chose to personally deliver the message actually.”
“Why.” The sound of revving engines intensifies, and Kara’s pretty sure Alex just made a sharp turn that is illegal, Alexandra, can you be more careful with your life, and Kara’s fairly certain that’s Eliza’s voice in her mind. “What is it that your villain uncle’s got brewing?”
“Uhm.” Kara sighs, fiddling with her glasses. “Something about marrying me off for the throne.”
“Apparently”—and Kara cringes, bracing herself to say the words that are sure to leave a bad taste in her mouth—“Non managed to track down a match for me.”
“AlsoImaybetoldLenaaboutmeandKrypton,” Kara rushes out in a single breath.
There’s a sound of tires squealing to a sudden stop, and Kara grimaces, squeaks out a “Bye!” and ends the call before her sister manages to talk her ear off about the consequences of her actions.
She’s pretty sure she’s going to get an actual, personal scolding when Alex arrives, anyway.
No need to suffer through the same thing twice, right?
alexpecto patronum: called clark in a secure line
alexpecto patronum: must work on one between the two of you soon, why have we not done that yet
alexpecto patronum: also i retract my previous statement about you two being sort of okay
alexpecto patronum: i wanna bump your heads together and lock you up in my basement until you learn your goddamn lesson about being MORE BLOODY CAREFUL WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU
alexpecto patronum: ALSO before you berate me (which you are in NO position to do right now, god, kara), no, i am not driving right now. i stopped for a latte because it’s either that OR I GO TO YOUR PLACE WITH INTENT TO KILL AND WE NEED YOU ALIVE TO FIGURE THIS OUT
(huff-le-puff danvers is typing . . .)
huff-le-puff danvers: i have doughnuts
alexpecto patronum: THERE BETTER BE SOME LEFT WHEN I GET THERE
once-and-future queen: WHAT DID YOU TELL HER
ex-kal-ibur: i am so sorry
ex-kal-ibur: just the basics, i swear
ex-kal-ibur: it’s alex
ex-kal-ibur: i can’t exactly lie my way out of her rage
ex-kal-ibur: even if it is on the phone
ex-kal-ibur: your sister is scary, your highness
once-and-future queen: oh Rao i’m gonna die aren’t i
ex-kal-ibur: there’s like less than 20 percent chance of that happening at the moment, i believe
once-and-future queen: that’s not enough, kal el
ex-kal-ibur: i’m truly sorry
once-and-future queen: ugh
once-and-future queen: whatever
once-and-future queen: by the way, if alex does end up murdering me
once-and-future queen: the fall of krypton and the house of el will be solely your burden to bear
ex-kal-ibur: please don’t make me feel guiltier than i already do, your highness
once-and-future queen: yeah well
once-and-future queen: sucks to be you
once-and-future queen: but sucks to be me more