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no one but you (got me feeling this way)

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Kara desperately wishes to rewind her afternoon and get back to an existence of blissful ignorance, where the worst thing she has to sort out involves fixing her articles and not mixing up the rules of CMS, APA, and MLA. She’s pretty sure mastering style guides and tracking down leads will be a better hell than the one she’s staring at right now—the smaller of two evils, as they say.

But Kara does have this ridiculous habit of ending up with the shorter straw, so.

She really has no other choice but to woman up and deal with it like a—

Well.

Like a queen.

 

(Oh, Rao.)

 

                               

 

“And when he said that there’s a development . . .” Lena trailed off, and Kara laughed, because of course Lena caught that.

“You’re too smart for your own good, you know that, right?”

“Yes,” Lena agreed, easily. She persisted, “So? What is happening?”

Kara laughed again at her inquisitiveness. “Well, my uncle Non, who’s been, like, a major pain in the butt ever since I can remember, decides to stick his nose into my business again. He’s from a family that had always wanted the throne, you know. It was one of the reasons why he and my parents didn’t really mingle a lot. Bad blood, or something like that. I remember my mother questioning more than once my aunt’s decision to marry him.”

Her smile turned wistful. “I also remember asking her why she didn’t simply command my aunt to sever their marriage, and she just laughed and explained that it would be an abuse of power, and she told me that even if she chose to do so, she didn’t have enough authority to dissolve the bond between two people.”

“How so?” Lena asked, curious. “Doesn’t the monarchy have, like, absolute control?”

“No.” Kara shook her head. “Our monarchy’s power is broad and far-reaching, but there are still limits. That’s why we have councils and guilds, to help with the laws and other affairs of state. And, besides, well, uhm”—Kara gulped, and she could feel the familiar rush of blood to her cheeks—“Kryptonians don’t believe in divorce.”

“You don’t?” Lena sounded dubious. “Isn’t that a bit archaic?”

“It is,” Kara acknowledged, fiddling with her glasses now. “But, uh, as with everything else, it’s tied to Rao. Anyone bound beneath Rao’s light shan’t be torn apart. The only times separation between spouses were recorded were if they died or, you know, had been untrue to their vows. Cheating is condemned, and those who break their promises are branded as pariahs.” Kara shrugged at Lena’s raised eyebrows. “We take marriage vows seriously.”

“It appears so,” Lena said, meeting her gaze, and there was something in her eyes that made Kara’s skin thrum—like the very air surrounding them was charged with an energy that was both new and ancient, both exciting and soothing.

It should alarm Kara, this power Lena had over her, exercised through a mere glance, yet instead she felt exhilarated.

Freed.

“Also,” Kara hurried to say, before she could blurt something out that would surely cause her own mind’s ruin, “my mother is not like, a full queen, so her authority is even more limited. She’s a queen in name, whilst my father was the king regent, since he’s the one directly descended from the House of El.”

“So you take your matriarchy seriously too, huh?” Lena said, teasing, but there was no malice in her tone.

“We take a lot of things seriously,” Kara played along, lips turning up. “My grandfather used to tell me that he’d be going to Rao’s light happy, assured that his legacy is secured—that legacy being me, seeing that for seven decades, the House of El had sired sons and no daughters. He was getting worried.”

“You’re the first daughter in seven decades?”

“Yes.” She chuckled mirthlessly, shaking her head. “The lack of heiresses is one of the points of contention in the war, to be honest. The throne is vulnerable, left to a regency that has grown weak from the time a proper queen has been absent in the realm. My grandfather had three sons, two of whom had sons of their own. My father was his last hope.” She sighed, tired, but there was a hint of fondness, a tinge of melancholy in her voice. “He said that when I was born, he was so ecstatic, and he swore he never felt as powerful as he did when he saw me swaddled in a blanket stitched with our family’s crest.”

And she remembered him well—remembered them well. Kara had fallen asleep to Jor El I’s deep rumbling laughter many a time, along with Grandmother Nimda’s lovingly sung lullabies, and they had always been the first ones she had run to when she made a new artwork, and even her sloppiest crayon doodles found their way to her grandparents’ office walls, proudly overseeing meetings with chancellors and diplomats.

She remembered how she sat atop her father’s shoulder whilst wearing a crimson blanket as her cape, pretending to be a hero defeating the armies threatening Krypton’s gates. Zor El had been her second-in-command, and they had slain many monsters and saved countless lives.

She remembered how she toddled around, following her mother’s steps, watching with wonder as she sat on the throne and ensured that justice was served swiftly and honorably. She had been her mother’s second-in-command, and she jotted down the difficult words Alura used during the day so that Kara could ask about them later, learn the ways of the law, learn about their heritage.

She remembered Aunt Astra, how she taught her the language of the stars. She had been Kara’s shield, and she told her that when the time came, Kara herself would be sitting on the throne with the crimson cloak of the House of El around her shoulders, ready to bring glory to the family and to Krypton. She promised that she’d be with Kara every step of the way, making sure she won’t fall, making sure she’s safe.

Kara didn’t realise she’d been crying, not until she felt a hand cupping her cheek, a thumb swiping away the tears. She looked at Lena, who was staring at her with compassion and understanding, and when Lena offered her a smile—a little bit sad around the edges, but still warm (always warm)—Kara finally crumbled, falling into Lena’s embrace.

 

(Yes, she crumbled. Yes, she fell.)

 

 

(But Lena was there to catch her, and falling felt like flying.)

 

                                                               

 

Alex storms into the apartment, her expression one of righteous fury, and Kara doesn’t even have the time to ask how she got in because she can’t remember giving her keys when Alex asks, in an almost-screech if not for the fact that Kara knows Alex never screeches, “You told her?”

“Hello,” says Lena, looking up from her couch, impassive but for the slight quirk in her brow. “You must be the sister. I heard so much about you.”

 “Yeah, same,” Alex grumbles. “Agent Alex Danvers, FBI. Nice to meet you.” She sighs, rubbing her hands over her face. “Shit, sorry, I’m not usually this rude.”

“Right,” Kara says, because she’s obviously wishing for a slow and painful death at her sister’s extremely, frighteningly capable hands.

To be sure, Alex’s head snaps up to level a glare at her, and Kara sort of feels bad for the agents Alex trains, because, whoa, that is a terrifying glare. If she weren’t Alex’s sister, she’s pretty sure she’d be a puddle on the floor melted through her sheer force of will. As it is, Kara thinks that even their filial bonds would not be enough to save her from Alex’s wrath. “You do not get to sass me right now, Kara,” she grits out, pointing a threatening finger at her, and Kara’s survival instincts are kicking up at last, it seems, for she currently feels very much threatened.

“Sorry,” Kara says in a small voice, and she wants to sink right into her pillows and only surface when Alex is like, not here.

Preferably thousands of miles away. Back in their base in Quantico. On the other side of the country.

Rao, save me.

Alex snatched up a doughnut from the box on the coffee table, quickly eating and finishing it just as she retrieves a bottle of beer from the fridge—Kara keeps some in her stash for when her sister visits, though that hasn’t happened until now.

Honestly, Kara could have done without this particular visit at all.

When she’s done, Alex sits on Kara’s sofa, pushing Kara’s legs off, and Kara doesn’t have enough courage to summon any kind of indignation. Alex is looking at her the same way she has always done when Kara finds herself in exceptionally stupid situations, which, she’s ashamed to admit, happens far more often than she’d like.

Alex crosses her arms. She glares at Lena, who meets her eyes calmly. “My sister trusts you enough to tell you about her family, and though she’s got this annoying tendency to get into trouble without even trying, I trust her judgment.” She sighs again, and though she’s still glaring, it’s less sharp now. “So I figure whatever we talk about now won’t make it out?”

Lena nods, serious as can be. “I hold your sister at high merit, Agent Danvers. I won’t do anything that will put her in harm’s way.”

Alex scrutinises Lena, and Lena allows her to, and Kara’s heart is apparently in a marathon by the way it’s beating in her chest, for Lena’s words are full of conviction and sincerity and Rao, how do people actually deal with these feelings?

Kara doesn’t have the chance to get an answer to that, because just then, in the same tone Kara used at Kal, Alex commanded the heiress to Krypton, “Talk.”

And seeing as there’s no way to get out of this alive unless she follows her sister, Kara talks.

 

                                               

 

“Talk,” Kara told Kal El, in a tone brooking no argument.

Kal El complied. “Your claim is being threatened, Your Highness,” he told her in that matter-of-fact way he had.

Kara’s eyebrows shot up at his statement—of all the things she’d been expecting to hear, that didn’t even place anywhere near the top 10 because of the sheer absurdity of the very notion. “My claim?” she repeated, a combination of incredulity and disdain dripping from her tone, and under all of it, she could feel a familiar rage rising like a tide that was threatening to wash ashore everything she’d been fighting to bury deep within. “How can it even be put into question? Last time I checked, I’m the last heiress of Krypton, and we’re the only ones left in the family because of the stupid war he supported!”

Kal flinched, obviously ill at ease for being the one to bring her the news, but Kara couldn’t find it in herself to feel particularly bad for his discomfort. “Non is urging the Council to review the situation, citing an article in our constitution,” he explained. “It appears that in the old laws, penned during the time of the Kryptoniad, the princess must be married before ascending the throne. Now, I know it seems a bit backwards, especially in light of the recent developments in our society, so I asked Lucy to reach out to her friends within our Judicial Council to assess the validity of his argument.”

He sighed. “In all of Krypton’s history, there is no record of an unmarried princess being crowned a queen. Tyra El came close, but even she succumbed to tradition and took a Daxam prince as her husband, if only to quiet the capitol’s dissent.”

Kara scoffed. “He’s asking the Council to discredit my ability to rule because I am unmarried?”

“Something like that.” Kal rubbed his temple, and Kara could see his weariness at the subtle slope of his shoulders. “He’s saying that you can’t be allowed to claim the throne because you’re, and I quote, ‘an unmarried girl who barely knows our realm’s history, being a ward of a lowly outside family that is undeserving of Krypton and all it has to offer.’”

Kara’s anger flared, and she said through gritted teeth, “He dares dishonor me after driving my family to ruins.” Kal took a step back, seeing the intensity of the emotions roiling in her eyes. “This is the last time he’s ever going to try to take anything that is mine, Kal.”

“I’m afraid the damage has already been done, Your Highness,” Kal told her, putting up his hands as if to ward off her temper. It was a futile gesture. “The seed has been sown, and tendrils of discord have already begun to take root. As we speak, the Supreme Council is making motions for the regent to bring you back. Regent Ze will probably be asking you to make an appearance at the World Capitol Building in a month.”

“In a month—” Kara looked aghast. “Kal, I have school.”

“I know, but perhaps you can ask them to wait until winter break,” Kal suggested. “It’s only a couple of weeks later, so it won’t make much of a difference.”

“Will I be allowed to go back for the rest of the term if I showed up?”

Kal winced. “That depends entirely on you—or more specifically, how you’re going to handle Non’s pawn.”

“What pawn?” Kara asked, distracted by the idea that her winter break would probably have no Lena, oh Rao, no. Then there would be all the campus paper meetings she’d be missing, and Snapper would surely be going for her neck, and fudge her life would be over.

(But mostly it’s the no Lena thing that she’s worried about. That’s just . . . no. It’s incomprehensible. She could barely last a day without Lena. How was she going to stay sane through the whole break?)

“Non’s found a prince with El blood in Daxam. He’s asked the Council to consider him as your betrothed, and the Council had all but agreed.”

That shook Kara out of her thoughts. “What?

Kal bowed his head. “I’m sorry, Your Highness,” he said, in the most defeated voice Kara had heard from him yet, “but should you fail to find a way to escape it, you are to be betroth to Prince Lar Gand of Daxam.”

 

                                                               

 

ex-kal-ibur: are you alive?

once-and-future queen:  trust me, kal

once-and-future queen:  you’d know if i weren’t

once-and-future queen:  you’d be the first one i’d haunt

ex-kal-ibur: thanks

ex-kal-ibur: i feel honoured, i guess

ex-kal-ibur: or as much as a dead man walking can feel honoured

(once-and-future queen is typing . . .)

once-and-future queen: send an official missive to the regent

ex-kal-ibur: what shall i say, your highness?

once-and-future queen: that the future queen of krypton will be back for the holidays and that she won’t stand for any more disgrace

ex-kal-ibur: you have a plan?

(once-and-future queen is typing . . .)

once-and-future queen: i don’t

once-and-future queen: but i will

ex-kal-ibur: i understand.

ex-kal-ibur: may rao’s light bless you.

once-and-future queen: we’ll know soon enough.